Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

by David Arkush

Next week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold field hearings in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., on the carbon pollution rule it proposed on June 2. The EPA calls it the Clean Power Plan. We care a lot about the rule, and you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming year. Also, Public Citizen members, activists and staff will be attending and speaking at the hearings. You’ll hear more about that next week.

Right now, I just wanted to note something odd in this story from The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky.) is complaining about the ID requirements to get into the federal buildings in which the hearings will take place. The ID requirements mean that some of his constituents won’t be able to attend!

Ahem. Voter ID laws, anyone? It’s really rich to hear a Republican leader complaining about ID requirements in a disenfranchisement-y way. Also, the requirements are from the 2005 REAL ID Act, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president.

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Domestic Fossil Fuel Abundance Fails to Deliver Cheap Energy For Americans

House Republicans plan votes before July 4 on at least three bills (HR 6, HR 3301, HR 4899) to increase domestic fossil fuel production and facilitate their export, with a “Drill Baby Drill” mantra designed to inspire a return to lower gas prices. Political parties can be forgiven for failing to update their rhetoric in the face of changing market dynamics. But the antiquated bombast designed during a period of relative energy scarcity is downright silly in today’s era of energy abundance. Domestic fossil fuel production is at record highs, and in less than two years we’ll be the largest oil producer in the world. Despite the fact we’re awash in domestically-produced fossil fuels, Americans continue to pay more for gasoline. That’s because petroleum prices are set by energy traders based on global events—so our prices will go up even if these GOP bills pass as long as Chinese demand and Middle East unrest fuel speculation. Particularly problematic is HR 6, which will make it easier to export natural gas, threatening higher prices for American consumers.

Lost in the House effort to reduce regulations over oil drilling is their willful amnesia of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy: why on earth is the House GOP trying to relax offshore drilling safety and environmental standards that the bipartisan commission found to be too weak? And of course none of the legislation recognize the need to deal with greenhouse gas emissions.

Eviscerating regulations over fossil fuel production and encouraging their export is a poor excuse for an energy policy. Progressively pricing carbon and investing billions into a sustainable energy infrastructure is the most cost-effective path to get our energy system working for families.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum

As the White House, Congressional leadership and energy regulators at FERC are fast-tracking natural gas exports, they’re forgetting one important fact: it’s against the law. First, a little background. Less than a decade ago, natural gas prices were at record highs and folks like then-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan were saying that the US had to make it easier to permit Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports. Fast forward to today, where fracking has resulted in booming domestic natural gas production, fueling calls to make it easier to permit LNG exports. But fracking poses enormous risks to the environment, nullifying emissions benefits when it is burned as a fuel. We’ve raised these concerns about LNG exports in the past, but new research shows that exporting LNG is illegal.

In 1975, President Ford signed the Energy Policy & Conservation Act into law. In order to protect consumers, Section 103(b)(1) of the EPCA (S.622) directed the President of the United States “to promulgate a rule prohibiting the export of crude oil and natural gas produced in the United States, except that the President may…exempt from such prohibition such crude oil or natural gas exports which he [sic] determines to be consistent with the national interest.” While the Department of Commerce promulgated rules banning crude oil exports, the agency never got around to writing rules banning natural gas exports. This oversight not only means that proposed LNG exports are most likely illegal, but that consumers are at risk. That’s because of supply and demand: the more fracked natural gas we export, domestic supplies will get tighter, pushing up gas prices for households and businesses.

Public Citizen will ask the Department of Commerce to issue this long-dormant requirement to ban natural gas exports (stopgasexports.org)not just to protect consumers, but to discourage the additional fracking that would occur to meet expanded demand wrought by LNG exports.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal for the first-ever standard to reduce carbon pollution from our existing fleet of fossil fuel-fired power plants – the largest source of U.S. climate changing emissions.

It has been labeled an historic moment for clean air regulation but was met by a classic knee-jerk reaction from industry and  the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose lack of credibility on the proposed rule begins with its continued refusal to acknowledge human activity as a contributor to climate change.

Despite being widely considered modest and highly achievable, even by many electric utilities, the carbon standard was greeted – like all the clean air regulations that have preceded it – with the same unfounded hysteria by a few invested industries and political operatives looking out for their narrow self-interest.

The fossil fuel industry has been predicting economic doom and gloom as a result of Clean Air Act safeguards for decades, but those predictions have never come to pass.  In fact, a series of studies led by Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson has found that implementing the CAA has actually increased the size of the U.S. economy.

Moreover, the total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the costs of regulation. For every one dollar we have spent, we get more than $40 of benefits in return.

And the regulation to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants is getting the same doomsday predictions but will likely have the same positive returns. The draft rule, based on EPA analysis for public health benefits alone, would yield between $55 billion to $93 billion in benefits when it is fully implemented, with 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths avoided and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks a year avoided. The cost, by contrast, would be $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion. That’s a bargain.

Even before the standard was introduced, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was making wild claims that the regulation of carbon would result in skyrocketing prices and devastating job loss. The Chamber even issued a report outlandishly claiming the rule

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TysonCNBCRecently I appeared on CNBC to discuss whether to lift the 39-year old ban on exporting US produced crude oil. Ending the ban is bad policy for 5 reasons.

I. Allowing the export of crude oil will raise gasoline prices for American consumers. As I’ve argued before, while the oil boom can’t lead to affordable energy for Americans, it has led to a very slight discount for US refiners, which in turn lowers gasoline prices just a tad.

II. It doesn’t make sense to start exporting crude oil when we’re still importing 7.6 million barrels of oil every day, and we’ll continue to be dependent on imports for a long time.

III. Exporting crude will provide incentives to produce more oil, further straining environmental concerns from fracking and deepwater drilling, and exacerbating the impacts of global climate change from its overseas consumption. While we are currently exporting record amounts of refined petroleum products like diesel and gasoline, allowing the export of the raw crude oil will significantly increase the rate at which we export domestically produced oil. That’s because right now crude oil producers must first ship their product to a refiner, where it can take a while to turn the crude into end products. Allowing for direct crude exports will allow producers to bypass the refineries altogether, and will expand the number of export ports from which to unload the crude.NA-BZ765_OILEXP_G_20140122181803

IV. Crude oil exports won’t be effective as a diplomatic tool to counter influence of, say, Russian or Saudi energy exports because the United States simply lacks adequate spare capacity to meaningfully dilute those countries’ dominance over certain markets.

V. Focusing on whether to export crude oil or not misses the larger point: we can’t have this debate in a vacuum separate from the need to establish a national energy and climate policy that comprehensively establishes a clear path for consumers to enjoy access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for generations to come.

Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow him on Twitter @TysonSlocum

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