Human rights activist Kerry Kennedy, ex-wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, stands to rake in millions from her seemingly selfless defense of the oil-drilled rain forest in Ecuador. An Ecuadorean appeals court recently upheld a ruling that Chevron Corporation, the U.S. oil giant, should pay $18 billion in damages (which the company is now appealing) to plaintiffs who accused the company of inflicting environmental damage on the Amazon jungle — in what Kennedy called "the biggest corporate environmental disaster on the face of the Earth."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce targeted the Obama administration Thursday with a call to authorize the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to southern parts of the United States. TransCanada’s 1,700-mile pipeline has been battling an ongoing review by the State Department, and while a final stamp of approval was expected last fall, the Obama administration folded to Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups in November, deciding to suspend its verdict until 2013.
The Chamber’s plea arrived a day after Obama held a White House meeting with U.S. business leaders to announce a new plan designed to boost job "insourcing." "In the next few weeks, I will put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America — and eliminate tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas," the President declared. "Because there is opportunity to be had, right here."
At a press conference Thursday, Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, referenced Obama’s job-creation rally cry. However, Josten affirmed, "The president missed the biggest in-sourcing opportunity yesterday and it’s called the Keystone Pipeline."
The Obama administration’s track record with taxpayer-funded, green-tech subsidies is severely flawed, and according to new documents obtained by CBS News, its failures were all too predictable. The Energy Department's $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra is, at least publicly, its most illustrious investment blunder, as the company went bankrupt last year leaving taxpayers with a hefty bill and putting more than 1,000 employees out of work.
All in all, 12 green energy companies are in financial disorder after collectively receiving more than $6.5 billion in government assistance, five of which have already filed for bankruptcy, including Solyndra, Beacon Power, SpectraWatt, Evergreen Solar, and AES’ subsidiary Eastern Energy. According to CBS News, these green-tech ventures were junk-bond-rated companies with red flags planted all over them.
The first company under the spotlight is Beacon Power, a flywheel-based energy storage company which reaped $43 million from the Energy Department’s green energy program. The documents obtained by CBS News show that Standard & Poor’s had confidentially branded the Beacon project with a dismal "CCC+" rating, previous to the loan’s completion.
President Obama lauded the hard work and dedication of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees on Tuesday, assuring them that he will stand by their side amid a burgeoning sentiment from congressional Republicans that the EPA's environmental regulations will devastate the economy and kill American jobs.
He also told EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the roughly 800 EPA employees who gathered at the headquarters in Washington that new government regulations on power plant emissions will save "thousands" of lives and inhibit "cases of childhood asthma."
"Just a few weeks ago, thanks to the hard work of so many of you, Lisa and I were able to announce new common-sense standards to better protect the air we breathe from mercury and other harmful air pollution," Obama professed, referring to new federal rules adopted in December to regulate mercury and other emissions from coal power plants. "And because we acted, we’re going to prevent thousands of premature deaths, thousands of heart attacks and cases of childhood asthma."
In his succinct monologue, the President added that EPA regulations can help generate jobs and promote economic growth, such as through jobs wherein people work to restore contaminated areas and through fuel-efficient vehicles that will ease the burden of high gas prices so that consumers can "go spend on something else."
In 2007, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). In keeping with Bush’s 2006 State of the Union pledge to make ethanol “not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks of switch grass … practical and competitive within six years,” the law included subsidies for ethanol production and mandates for its use. By 2011, oil companies were required to blend 250 million gallons of this cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline. The mandate doubled for 2012, and by 2022 it will be 16 billion gallons.
Like many other Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior Senator, has been a vocal critic of President Obama’s support for Solyndra, the bankrupt California solar panel manufacturer. Once a prime showpiece of “green energy” and one of the top technology darlings of the Obama administration, Solyndra failed spectacularly last year — after having been lavished with $535 million in federal loan guarantees, as well as a $25-million tax break from the state of California.
Sen. Orrin Hatch can be seen here calling Obama’s support for Solyndra a “disgrace” on a September 22, 2011 program with Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren.
And a costly disgrace it is, one that Republicans are eager to turn into a political albatross around President Obama’s neck in this election year. However, Sen. Hatch, who also stands for reelection in 2012, has his own Solyndra albatross to contend with. And unlike President Obama, Sen. Hatch has the added embarrassment of having a failed, federally financed “green” showcase facility named after him. In gratitude for his unstinting support, Utah-based Raser Technologies named its major geothermal plant in his honor. Sen. Hatch was on hand for the company’s 2008 groundbreaking ceremony for “The Hatch Plant,” another federally financed model of “clean” energy which has filed for bankruptcy.
A failed southeast Georgia ethanol factory was sold Tuesday for pennies on the dollar after squandering tens of millions in federal and state tax dollars. Range Fuels, a bankrupt U.S. cellulosic ethanol company, sold its only factory, located in Soperton, Georgia, to LanzaTech, a biofuel company based in New Zealand.
Backed by California billionaire Vinod Khosla, who also bankrolled Range Fuels and lobbied for its federal loans, LanzaTech paid a meager $5.1 million for the deal — a tiny fraction of the financial support it received — and plans to convert the ethanol plant into a factory that will generate chemicals from biomass, in another effort to "transform" the alternative energy industry.
"We have been doing a lot of work on steel mill gases and other gases to ethanol mostly, but in the laboratory we have shown that we can make chemicals," LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday in a phone interview. "We don’t have any assets where we can control the feedstock that are large and are able to help us scale up." While the company plans to use the factory to produce biochemicals, it has partnerships in Asia that deal mainly with converting steel mill gases into ethanol, Holmgren added.
The Washington Post’s editorial celebrating the ending of ethanol subsidies iterated the same free-market positions taken by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and other Austrian school economists about those subsidies. Calling the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit supporting U.S. corn-based ethanol production and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol “two of the most wasteful subsidies ever to clutter the Internal Revenue Code,” the Post estimated that ending those subsidies will save the U.S. taxpayer approximately $6 billion this year.
German airline carrier Lufthansa warned passengers on Monday that the European Union’s (EU) new carbon tax on airlines will translate into higher fares, as the carrier plans to avoid shouldering new costs generated from an EU carbon trading scheme. Analysts say Lufthansa is among the airlines most influenced by the measure, along with rival carriers British Airways, United Continental (the two have merged), Air France, and Singapore Airlines.
Beginning January 1, 2012, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requires airlines to hold emission rights in the form of CO2 certificates for all flights traveling in and out of Europe. Under a directive intended to tackle alleged climate change, airlines flying in and out of the 27-nation European Union and three neighboring countries will be subjected to CO2 regulations as part of an expansion of the world’s largest carbon market. Any emissions beyond selected allowances must be paid for, while airlines are allowed to trade permits among themselves.
India, China, and a handful of other nations including the United States have protested the measure, as the Obama administration, the aviation industry, and various free market groups have expressed firm discontent. A legal challenge against the ETS, triggered by a handful of U.S. airlines, failed in December when the European Court of Justice shot it down. Some opposing countries have taken actions to combat the initiative:
An environmental group claiming to represent the stewardship concerns of evangelical Christians handed pro-abortion politicians and the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency a huge present just before Christmas. On December 21, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency’s long-awaited stringent new regulations on mercury, the Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), was standing alongside her to show his organization’s support.