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President Obama's Energy Policy Spells "Disaster"
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of the Gulf of Mexico on April 25, 2010 using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument. With the Mississippi Delta on the left, the silvery swirling oil slick from the April 20 explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform is highly visible. The rig was located roughly 50 miles southeast of the coast of Louisiana.
Credit:  NASA

As a 42-mile long oil slick hits the shores of Louisiana tonight, it is dooming more than coastal habitats and sea life in the area. The spill also threatens the Obama’s administration’s push for a comprehensive energy and climate policy—which has been debated for months behind closed doors in the Senate.

The sinking of the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, whose explosion took the lives of 11 workers, appears to be shaping up as one of the worst environmental disaster in the history of this country. The federal government on Thursday finally announced it as a matter of  “national significance” mobilizing its full power to try to stem the flow of more than 5,000 barrels a day from the ocean floor. This action comes almost a week after it capsized on Earth Day.

But the damage is done and it will take months to cap the well and several years to mitigate its environmental impact, costing taxpayers millions and permanently altering the future of President Obama’s controversial energy policy. The Senate version of the Waxman-Markey bill--which passed the House--proposes to finalize a cap and trade policy, set emission standards, as well as environmental and energy policy for decades, is expected to be introduced next week.

The new senate version will include billions of taxpayer guarantees for development of new nuclear power plants, so-called “clean coal” technology and exemptions for some manufacturers from the cap and trade system altogether.

Mother Jones recently published an article quoting a conference call from Sen. John Kerry who outlined portions of the Senate version of the energy bill.

• The bill would remove the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, and the states' authority to set tougher emissions standards than the federal government.

• There will be no fee—or "gas tax"—on transportation fuels. Instead, oil companies would also be required to obtain pollution permits but will not trade them on the market like other polluters. How this would work is not yet clear.

• Agriculture would be entirely exempt from the cap on carbon emissions.

• Manufacturers would not be included under a cap on greenhouse gases until 2016.

• The bill would provide government-backed loan guarantees for the construction of 12 new nuclear power plants.

• It will contain at least $10 billion to develop technologies to capture and store emissions from coal-fired power plants.

• There will be new financial incentives for natural gas.

• The bill would place an upper and lower limit on the price of pollution permits, known as a hard price collar. Businesses like this idea because it ensures a stable price on carbon. Environmental advocates don't like the idea because if the ceiling is set too low, industry will have no financial incentive to move to cleaner forms of energy.

• The energy bill passed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year will be adopted in full. This measure has sparked concerns among environmentalists for its handouts to nuclear and fossil fuel interests.

 The heavily compromised bill seems to be as alive as part of the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Even moderate Republicans, like co-sponsor Lindsay Graham are running away from it.

Let us review some of the strangest moments in his failed bid to gain bi-partisan support for an energy policy that resembled more the ideologies of his predecessor—George W. Bush---than those of Al Gore--who actually supported Candidate Obama’s campaign in 2008.

 In February of this year, President Obama held a press conference and announced that he was approving $18.3 billion in loan guarantees for construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors in Burke, Georgia, with plans of tripling those incentives to $54.4 billion in the future.

Many news articles expressed outrage at President Obama’s change of heart on nuclear power and pointed to his staff for giving him bad advice. Hmmm…some bad advice or just the same old Chicago-style politics to line their own pockets?

An excerpt from Forbes magazine article about Exelon C.E.O John Rowe might help explain his change of heart. For those readers who don’t know, Exelon is the nation’s largest nuclear utility with 17 power plants around the U.S.

“So lately Rowe spends more time wearing out shoe leather in Washington than he does gazing at the sparkling lights of downtown Chicago. He has emerged as a lobbyist for cap and trade, a scheme that would limit carbon emissions to the amount spelled out in tradable carbon permits. If such a scheme is enacted, utilities without the need to buy permits will be at a competitive advantage to utilities that need to have them.

It doesn't hurt that, while Rowe is a Republican, Exelon has very deep ties to the Obama Administration. Frank M. Clark, who runs ComEd, helped advise Obama before he ran for President and is one of Obama's largest fundraisers. Obama's chief political strategist, David Axelrod, worked as a consultant to Exelon. Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, helped create Exelon. Emanuel was hired by Rowe to help broker the $8.2 billion deal between Unicom and Peco when Emanuel was at the investment bank Wasserstein Perella (now Dresdner Kleinwort). In his two-year career there Emanuel earned $16.2 million, according to congressional disclosures. His biggest deal was the Exelon merger.

Emanuel e-mailed Rowe on the eve of the House vote on global warming legislation and asked that he reach out to some uncommitted Democrats. "We are proud to be the President's utility," says Elizabeth Moler, Exelon's chief lobbyist. "It's nice for John to be able to go to the White House and they know his name."

Critics have pointed out these facts to explain President Obama’s sudden embrace of the nuclear power industry. Many environmentalists who supported the Obama candidacy are appalled and it seems if his staff is great at anything, it is really bad timing.

Just days after announcing the new “nuclear renaissance”, several states gave the industry a smack down. The State Senate of Vermont voted 26-4 to close the Vermont Yankee reactor when its license expires in 2012, after the plants owner Entergy, lied about the carcinogen tritium leaking into the Connecticut River from the plant. In West Virginia, a bill to repeal that state’s ban on new nuclear construction was defeated in the state legislature and in Arizona, a bill to classify nuclear power as renewable energy was withdrawn.

And those two new reactors in Georgia trumpeted by President Obama and given billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed financing may never get approval due to a serious flaw in its “shield design”. This highlights another serious problem--besides having nowhere to permanently store the radioactive waste--just one serious meltdown on par with BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill (i.e. Chernobyl) could possibly kill thousands of nearby residents.

Now if that wasn’t bad enough, President Obama came to the “Show Me” state yesterday and announced the administration’s support of the “biofuels” industry, highlighting POET’s Macon, Missouri ethanol plant. This is not really news, as I have written about the subject extensively here at KCTribune.com.

Let’s review from a previous article…

Corn-based ethanol’s profitability without government assistance—subsidies and tariffs on foreign ethanol-- are years off in the distant future, if not impossible to achieve. The industry received $3 billion in 2007 -- almost twice as much as solar, wind, geothermal and other biomass combined. Recently, the Environmental Working Group analyzed data from the Energy Information Administration, and found corn-based ethanol received three-quarters of all tax benefits doled out by Washington for renewable energy.

A Stanford University study on alternative energy proposals claims that bio-fuels—like ethanol--actually cause more air pollution, requires more land to produce, generates less horsepower than regular gasoline and costs the consumer more, despite being priced less at the pump.

Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, recently published the first comprehensive study of major alternative energy proposals in Energy & Environmental Science magazine stating that “Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply and land use than current fossil fuels."

Jacobson’s study is being called “the first quantitative, scientific evaluation” of the currently proposed U.S. alternative energy-related solutions. He assessed not only their potential for delivering energy for home and vehicles, but also scientific data on their impact on human health, global warming, national energy security, water and land allocation, wildlife displacement, water and air pollution, reliability and sustainability.

Among the top rated choices are, in order, wind, concentrated solar, geothermal, tidal, solar panels, wave and hydroelectric, all based on his assumption that all vehicles would be using that particular fuel source.

Bringing up the rear—again—is corn and cellulosic ethanol which Jacobson calls “the most damaging choice we could make in our effort to move away from fossil fuels” and that this energy source would continue to be a factor in the more than 15,000 air-pollution related deaths each year in the U.S.

This might explain why agriculture is going to be exempted from cap and trade policies on CO2 emissions in the Senate version of the Energy bill. The ethanol industry is spending millions on lobbying on the Energy bill for higher federal requirements for the use of E-85 and for loan guarantees on an ethanol pipeline from Iowa to New York City.

Obama told the workers at the Macon, Missouri plant the Recovery and Re-investment Act “included $800 million in funding for ethanol fueling infrastructure, biorefinery construction, advanced biofuels research to help us reach the goal that I’ve set, which is to more than triple America’s biofuels production in the next 12 years,” he said. “That is a goal that we can achieve, and it’s being worked on right here at POET.  And we’re very proud of that.”

“So, I may be the President these days, but I want to remind everybody I was the senator from Illinois.  I didn’t just discover the merits of biofuels like ethanol when I first hopped on the campaign bus,” President Obama told the crowd. “This was not the first ethanol plant I visited.  And I believe in the potential of what you’re doing right here to contribute to our clean energy future, but also to our rural economies.”

It’s contributing something to rural economies all right. Rising feed prices for cattle and rising food prices for consumers across the U.S., as corn producers feed the expanding ethanol plants popping up across the corn-belt.

According to a story in the Kansas City Star, “ethanol refiners are using more of the corn harvest than ever. About 33 percent of last year’s crop will be used for fuel, up from 23 percent in 2008, according to Agriculture Department data.”

The Star article quoted Tim Stroda, president and chief executive of the Kansas Pork Association as saying tighter feed supplies have translated into higher feed prices. To compensate, livestock producers had to cut back on their herds or go out of business altogether.

President Barack Obama’s gamble to turn his back on environmentalists who helped elect him, and entice Republicans to support his energy bill is a big loser. By  throwing his support behind more off-shore oil drilling on the East Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, to subsidize a bankrupt ethanol industry and guarantee billions in tax credits for more nuclear power plants, he has placed a permanent blot on his presidency. It is taking the shape of an oil slick.

No amount of  “green-washing”, scrubbing oil off of sea lions, dolphins and rocks—or building wind farms in the Atlantic---will make the reality of an energy policy financed by the American taxpayers on behalf of the utility, gas and oil companies, the nuclear power lobby and Agra-conglomerates any greener.

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Comments 15 comments for this article
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Added: May 19, 2010. 03:36 PM CDT
Clap Trap
This entire article is nothing more than election year anti-Obama clap trap. Any time you see someone write about what some bill in Congress will do, it's a good bet they have absolutely no idea what it will do. It's just right wing gibberish! CLAP TRAP
Uncle Reggie
Added: May 05, 2010. 11:41 AM CDT
Added: May 05, 2010. 08:25 AM CDT
Show me the stats!
How about some statistics to back up the claim it's worse for the enviroment? xxx parts per million increase due to bio fuel as compared with yyy for fossil fuels and zzz use of solar to build the arrays. Lets have some apples to apples comparison
Added: April 30, 2010. 10:42 AM CDT
4 Star General Wesley Clark..says support our Troops buy etanol
"We're engaging our armed forces to secure America's access to energy," said retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, Growth Energy co-chairman and former supreme Alled commander of NATO. "We're importing almost 13 million barrels of oil a day and most of that import is going to transportation
Added: April 30, 2010. 10:39 AM CDT
Support our Troops
Support our Troops by buying domestic ethanol..provides Jobs here in the United States ..slows the money flowing to the Middle East and lowers the need for our Troops to be in the Middle East..

Added: April 30, 2010. 10:37 AM CDT
911 reason for Military?

Give it a break ..911 was nutcases that wanted the US out of Saudi Arabia.. (Bin Laden) ..and why are we in Saudi Arabia?..crap that's right a ..


We have no other reason to be in Saudi Arabia...or Iraq, or any other Middle Eastern Country.. take the garbage elsewhere..

Added: April 30, 2010. 10:32 AM CDT
I think 911 may have had at least a little to do with our cucrrent involvement in the Middle East. The military protects our very existence and even our right to make and sell ethanol. I don't think the production of a little ethanol is going to lead to cutting the size of our military, at least I hope not. The military protects our very existence and our all of our freedoms even the freedom to make and sell ethanol.
Added: April 30, 2010. 10:32 AM CDT
Would you send your child off to kill for Oil ?
Another subsidy for Oil..sending our kids off to kill for Oil.. just makes you feel good all inside doesn't it.. what a wonderful way to raise children

No child has ever killed another person for ethanol
Added: April 30, 2010. 10:29 AM CDT
Would you donate your childs life for Oil ?
That's the cost of Oil ..thats the cost to American families sending their kids off to protect "Oils Interest" over seas

Ethanol subsidies.. no child has ever died Protecting the corn fields...many a child has learned the ethics of hard work working in the corn fields though

Added: April 30, 2010. 10:23 AM CDT
The federal government subsidizes the oil industry with numerous tax breaks and government protection programs worth billions of dollars annually. These benefits are designed to ensure that domestic oil companies can compete with international producers and that gasoline remains cheap for American consumers.

Our dependency on oil from countries that are either politically unstable or at odds with the U.S. subjects the American economy to occasional supply disruptions, price hikes, and loss of wealth, which, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, have cost us more than $7 trillion present value dollars over the last 30 years. That is more than the cumulative cost of all of the wars fought by the U.S. since the Revolutionary War. The transfer of wealth to oil-producing countries - $1.16 trillion over the past thirty years - significantly increased our trade deficit. The Department of Energy estimates that each $1 billion of trade deficit costs America 27,000 jobs. Oil imports account for almost one-third of the total U.S. deficit and, hence, are a major contributor to unemployment.

The cost of securing our access to Middle East oil - deploying U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, patrolling its water and supplying military assistance to Middle East countries - is estimated at $50 billion per year, which adds additional dimes to each gallon of gasoline we purchase

Political instability in the region breeds wars and embroils the U.S. in costly military actions. The 1990-91 Gulf War broke out as a result of an oil dispute between Iraq and Kuwait. The cost to the international
community reached almost $80 billion. The cost of the 2003 Iraq war and the following occupation of the country is estimated at $200 billion.

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