Rep. Fred Upton

Fri, 2010-12-10 11:10Bill Hewitt
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PART TWO: The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

(Cont’d from Part 1) As far as the credibility of the U.S. and Canada in international climate negotiations, the Sierra Club’s Kate Colarulli thinks that continued tar sands oil production and consumption hurts both countries badly.  Canada’s reputation is particularly poor in this context.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, feels the same way.  Canada, in her view, has been completely discredited at the table as a direct consequence of the tar sands.

In Cancún, Canada has been an extremely visible target because of the tar sands.  Protesters there have made the salient point that Canada is dragging its feet on robust greenhouse gas reduction targets because of their desire to continue and radically expand the tar sands extraction.

Canada was also being tarred in Cancún – pun intended – by being the recipient of three “Fossil of the Day” awards, as voted by over 400 international organizations.  Canada was similarly dishonored at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties for “…years of delay, obstruction and total inaction.”

Thu, 2010-12-09 11:24Bill Hewitt
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The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

America is addicted to oil,” said the arch-environmentalist and fervent renewable energy advocate George W. Bush in his State of the Union address in 2006.  Good thought.  His successor, Barack Obama, has actually acted on that perception, though, and worked to reduce America’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.  He and his administration have negotiated a long-term agreement to significantly increase gas mileage; issued a directive to radically improve the environmental performance of federal buildings and vehicles; and designated a large portion of the economic stimulus package for green initiatives.  Obama said in March that “…for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”

Looming over the border in Canada, however, is the specter of the tar sands.  Production of crude oil from the tar sands is tracking at 1.5 million barrels a day for 2010.  Of this, over a million barrels is exported to the U.S.  The environmental and public health impacts of the extraction, processing and transportation of tar sands have been well documented and reported.  These are concerns that have been expressed by environmental groups in North America and Europe, but now the economic and security implications of increasing tar sands development are being addressed by key members of the U.S. Congress as well as analysts working on the critical interface between energy, environment and security.

Barring Tar Sands Oil 

Congressman Henry Waxman, the outgoing chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the driving force behind Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [PDF].  Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuel unless its life cycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.  This provision set off alarm bells in Canada.  The Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates [PDF] within a couple of months of EISA becoming law to say that “Canada would not want to see an expansive interpretation of Section 526, which would then include commercially-available fuel made in part from oil derived from Canadian oil sands.” 

Fri, 2010-11-12 09:51Mitchell Anderson
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Assessing the Midterm Damage in DC

As the dust settles on DC, many are now wondering what toll the midterm results will take on climate science and energy policy. The initial signs are ominous.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas is angling for chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee where he could further favor his friends in the fossil fuel industry. Barton strongly apposes Congressional efforts to cut carbon emissions, telling NPR last week, “There will be no cap-and-trade bill … It’s not just endangered, it’s extinct.” He also accepted almost $400,000 in contributions last year from electrical utilities and the oil and gas industry.

Barton embarrassed even some of his Republican colleagues when he apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward during his testimony to Congress after the Gulf oil spill. If the optics of Barton chairing the energy committee are too odious, the runner up will likely be Fred Upton of Michigan - perhaps not a major improvement.

Both men voted against clean energy legislation. Upton has also vowed to kill the Congressional Select Committee on Climate Change, saying “the American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world. We must terminate this wasteful committee.”

But is Congress considering the implications of climate change really such bad investment? The climate committee cost about $8 million per year. This is less than one percent of what scientists believe climate change could cost the US economy - about $1.8 trillion per year - if we chose to ignore it.

Thu, 2010-11-11 17:32Nathanael Baker
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God Will Not Allow Global Warming Proclaims Rep. John Shimkus, Seeking Top U.S. Congress Energy Position

U.S. House Representative John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), who has opposed cap and trade legislation because he believes God will not allow the earth to be destroyed by global warming, is running to become the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman.

In 2009, at a congressional hearing on cap and trade legislation, Rep. Shimkus said, “The Earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over.  Man will not destroy this Earth.  This Earth will not be destroyed by a Flood.”  This week in an interview with Politico, Shimkus reaffirmed these views:  when asked about climate change he stated once again that God will not allow the world to be washed away in a flood.

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