Recently in Environmental Stewardship Category

A billion dollars a day

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Check this video out.

Puts a slightly different light on energy consumption and supporting the troops. Don't think I realized that there was quite such a direct connection before.

You know what to do.

Paul Krugman makes a good point

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Listen up. Paul Krugman expresses just what I've been feeling after hearing about the new climate change report.

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you've been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we're hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here's the thing: I'm not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren't the delusional raving of cranks. They're what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What's driving this new pessimism? Partly it's the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it's growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.

The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras -- gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.

And we're not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won't take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.

[...]

But the larger reason we're ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don't.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It's also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

So here we are, with the greatest challenge facing mankind on the back burner, at best, as a policy issue. I'm not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.

And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.

So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it's long past. But better late than never.

It is long past time so get ready. Next up, climate change action. And you thought the health care reform was tough? I suspect that it will seem like a cakewalk next to the climate change initiatives that need to be implemented.

What Astronauts Discovered in Space

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Do yourself a favor and go read this diary about what the astronauts discovered in space.



Thank you Tim DeChristopher

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Thank you Tim DeChristopher. Who is Tim DeChristopher you ask?

Well, here's what he did. [via]

He didn't pour sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank. He didn't spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder's paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won't be opened to drilling anytime soon.

Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy -- and he's not sorry. [...]

The auction had been under way for a couple of hours when energy company representatives became suspicious of a man wearing an old red down parka after he won bids on more than 10 parcels numbered consecutively, all around Arches and Canyonlands.

They told BLM officials that the man, brandishing bidding paddle No. 70 and unknown to the regular buyers, also seemed to be bidding up on parcels, raising prices on leases that others eventually won.

The auctioneer took a break and police asked the man, later identified as DeChristopher, to leave the room. After questioning him for more than an hour behind closed doors, BLM and law-enforcement officials requested assistance from the U.S. Attorney's Office. [...]

After the auction, Kent Hoffman, the BLM's state deputy director for lands and minerals, announced there had been a bogus bidder. ... Hoffman said successful bidders who believed their offers had been run up illegally due could withdraw their bids.

BLM official Terry Catlin said the agency didn't want to reopen the bidding on the parcels DeChristopher snagged unless all interested parties were able to compete for the leases. That means the parcels won't be available again until at least February -- after Obama takes office -- during the next scheduled auction.

DeChristopher, who acknowledged upping other bids by about $500,000, said he would be willing to go to jail to defend his generation's prospects in light of global climate disruption and other environmental threats.

"If that's what it takes," he said.

Here's Tim's statement on why he stepped up at the auction. He's eloquent. Go thank him here and if you've got the resources, donate a little to his legal defense fund. He could use the help.

CO2, Climate Change and the value of Daily Kos

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One of the things I value about dkos aka Daily Kos, is being part of a community that is home to people whose understanding of the internals of climate change and the changes in human behavior and technology which need to occur in order to save this planet that we all live on. One of those people is a diarist named greenmama whose post about CO2 and its impact on our planet and what we need to do to address it, was another learning experience for me.

The discussion in the comments on the diary provides so much more food for thought and links to other reading material and learning opportunities that I suspect a thorough search and read session could take the better part of 4-5 hours, especially if one followed the links that were found in the secondary and tertiary sources. Seriously, if you're interested in catching up on the current discussion and science and practical "do at home and work now" tips, this isn't a bad place to start. Just follow all the embedded links in the diary and in the comments.

But that's not even the most interesting aspect of this particular post. I found this post because greenmama commented on another diary by a brand-new kossack (interesting all on its own for a different reason) and described her dkos experience.

I'm very new to dKos. I'll start with the negative - it's addicting. I've been meaning to clean out the home office all week, but in my spare time I end up here instead. Tomorrow we have 50 people coming over for a party. I'm supposed to be cooking and cleaning, but stopped at my computer for a look, and here I am, sucked in again. Dishes stacked in the sink, bills and magazines piling up in the office - it's a little bit of a problem.

The positive and how it's helped me - it's an amazing, vibrant community. I love the diversity of informed dialogue, debate and commentary. I feel like I get my news a little early and am extra informed. I always learn something new when I come here and always find that I'm questioning my own beliefs - some become stronger, some I have to rethink. I like that.

Then, I wrote a diary the other day about an article from my absolute hero, Bill McKibben. Well, he actually visited the diary and wrote a very nice comment. I wrote back, he replied, etc. I had a mini conversation with this person whose every book I've read and who has had a profound impact on my life. That's amazingly cool and never would have happened without this site.

I know what she means about addiction. Her description of her office sounds eerily familiar. But the real point is her encounter with an author that she's been familiar with for a long time. Here's his comment and her response in the CO2 diary:

Bill McKibben: Many thanks for this diary

And for sending people to 350.org.

We've had great successes in Poznan, Poland at the climate meetings the last two days. Both the Least Developed Countries, and the Intl Youth Climate Network, have endorsed 350 as a target in the last 48 hours. This will help sharpen the debate in the year ahead as we head to Copenhagen.

And though we won't officially announce it till next week, Kossacks deserve an early heads-up: circle Oct. 24 on your calendars for next fall. It's going to be a huge global day of action, designed to make the number 350 absolutely ubiquitous in people's minds. We'll have climbers on high mountains, divers on the Great Barrier Reef, and a thousand other things--if you guys put your minds to it. If you sign up now at 350.org we'll get you details as they develop.

As to the argument that it's too late--maybe. Though Hansen makes clear that if we get to work now we can actually make the target, though only by the incredibly difficult job of kicking coal globally in short order. Humans have undertaken no bigger task--but then, they've faced no greater challenge.

Thanks again to all at dkos for the informed debate on this question over the years. Time for action!

greenmama: wow - thank you

you are truly my hero - and I don't throw that term around lightly. I read The End of Nature years ago and it became a personal bible for me - it really got me started on my own sustainability journey. The Deep Economy, Maybe One (we have just one child too and you really helped make me feel at peace with that), all your articles, etc. - if you write it, I read it and try to live it.

What I love most about your work is that you take the incredibly complex and break it into readable, digestible and understandable words. Thank you for all you do.

So you've work ahead of you. There's greenmama's diary to digest, Bill McKibben's original article on CO2, "The Most Important Number on Earth", and his website 350.org. Plus you've now received advance notice of something that will be happening world-wide next year. Plenty of time to think about how you're going to participate and contribute.

Oh, and one more bit of trivia about the interesting people you'll meet at Daily Kos. You know the economist who was just named to Vice President-Elect Biden's staff, Jared Bernstein? Yep, he's a kossak.

Climate is 'Not the Story of Our Time'

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Andrew C. Revkin of the NY Times dotearth blog recently received the 2008 John Chancellor Award for sustained achievement in journalism and spoke at a gathering of "graduate students in journalism at Columbia University". He blogged about it on dot earth and highlighted this Q&A out of the video clip that he posted.

Q. Obviously climate change is the biggest story on your plate right now, but looking ahead what do you see?

A. My coverage has evolved. Climate change is not the story of our time. Climate change is a subset of the story of our time, which is that we are coming of age on a finite planet and only just now recognizing that it is finite. So how we mesh infinite aspirations of a species that's been on this explosive trajectory -- not just of population growth but of consumptive appetite -- how can we make a transition to a sort of stabilized and still prosperous relationship with the Earth and each other is the story of our time.

And it's a story about conflict. It's a story about the fact that there are a billion teenagers on planet earth right now. A hundred thirty years ago there were only a billion people altogether -- grandparents, kids. Now there are a billion teenagers and they could just as easily become child soldiers and drug dealers as innovators and the owners of small companies in favelas in Brazil. And little tweaks in their prospects, a little bit of education, a little bit of opportunity, a micro loan or something, something that gets girls into schools, those things -- that's the story of our time. And climate change is like a symptom of the story of our time, meaning our energy choices right now come with a lot of emissions of greenhouse gases and if we don't have a lot of new [choices] we're going to have a lot of warming.

This pulls together many of the elements that Obama talked about in his campaign - that green technology and working with our finite and infinite resources is critical to our future in economic terms, in national security terms, in environmental and quality of life terms. Obviously Mr. Revkin has spent more than a little time thinking about this.

Reason #1 or the most important reason why your vote matters

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In the 2000 election, one line often heard was that there was no real difference between voting for the Democrat versus voting for the Republican and many voted for Nader to vote their protest. It was fallacious reasoning and I can but hope most of those who voted for Nader have come to appreciate how much damage they did to our country and the world.

But that was then, this is now. And Thomas Friedman reminds of the huge difference between the two candidates despite McCain's attempt to wrap himself in "green".

With his choice of Sarah Palin -- the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change -- for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

He did try to wrap himself in "green language" while ducking all the votes in the Senate supporting renewable energy source development but his actions in the last few days have shown his true colors. Carl Pope of the Sierra Club has a unique way of putting it.

"Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up. ... One of the unbranded cattle -- a wizened old maverick name John McCain -- finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big 'Lazy O' -- George Bush's brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.

"One of McCain's last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," added Pope, "yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, 'The jury is still out on global warming.' She's the one hanging the jury -- and John McCain is going to let her."

So in a way, we should be thankful that McCain picked Palin because in doing so, he's declared his true colors. He is most definitely not serious about climate change, energy independence and renewable energy resources and technology. Thomas points out the important part:

By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to "drill, drill, drill," McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.

Why? Because renewable energy technologies -- what I call "E.T." -- are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass "I.T." -- information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.

That's part of reason #1 to vote for Obama. Our country's security and prosperity depend on leadership that will take us into the E.T. future. The other, of course, is the survival of life as we know it on this planet. Both are motivations for Americans to pay attention. Others certainly are.

This anecdote that Friedman quotes brings the point home in a different way. The rest of the globe is waiting to see if we screw ourselves or not.

Palin's nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness "reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attach├ęs," global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. "After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia."

So, ... don't let anyone tell you that on the issue of green, this election is not important. It is vitally important, and the alternatives could not be more black and white.

This is reason #1. Our future, our children's future, our country's future, our world's future depends on getting this one right. And Thomas is right this time. The alternatives could not be more different.

Please ... choose green. Vote Obama. For reason #1.

White House to Eviscerate Endangered Species Act

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Via LithiumCola, It seems that Bush has decided to that agency officials have enough knowledge to replace scientists in evaluating impact of actions on species. Per the AP:

Under current law, federal agencies must consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or to damage habitat, even if no harm seems likely. This initial review usually results in accommodations that better protect the 1,353 animals and plants in the U.S. listed as threatened or endangered and determines whether a more formal analysis is warranted.

The Interior Department said such consultations are no longer necessary because federal agencies have developed expertise to review their own construction and development projects, according to the 30-page draft obtained by the AP.

"We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations," the proposal said.

Right. And I own a bridge in Brooklyn.

There's more good detail in LithiumCola's post as well as in another post by Patriot News Daily Clearinghouse which has more analysis:

Bush's proposed rules would allow federal agencies to determine for themselves "whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants." This means any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize (e.g., federal agency approval or permits needed) would no longer have independent, scientific review.

Under existing law, mandatory and independent reviews have been conducted by government scientists for the past 35 years. Under current law, federal agencies must consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service which must determine whether a proposed project is "likely" to jeopardize any endangered species even if no harm appears likely. This initial review enables experts to require accommodations or mitigation measures that provide protection to the threatened or endangered species and determines whether more extensive analysis is needed. A federal government handbook from 1998 concluded that consultations are "some of the most valuable and powerful tools to conserve listed species."

To get some idea of impact, government wildlife experts currently conduct "tens of thousands of such reviews each year:"

Between 1998 and 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service conducted 300,000 consultations. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which evaluates projects affecting marine species, conducts about 1,300 reviews each year.

[...]

Bush knows that the new ESA proposed rule will be litigated and will likely be overturned by the courts. In 2003, Bush issued similar rules to allow agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks without the pesky inconvenience of needing to obtain consultation from government scientists on whether threatened or endangered species or habitats may be affected by the project. The pesticide rule was rejected by the court and the wildfire prevention rule is currently being litigated.

In the pesticide case, the federal district judge concluded that "to ignore the wildlife agencies is to ignore the law." The judge was also concerned that the pesticide rule was drafted with a "total lack" of "scientific justification" and that there were "disturbing indications" that the Bush administration "deliberately muted dissent from government scientists." This new Bush rule to kill ESA similarly was drafted by attorneys without any input from government scientists, who were first briefed on the new rule last week.

So the Bush administration attempts another backdoor strike at our natural resources on behalf of their business cronies who complain that evaluating impact slows down their projects. Per the Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse post, what's most important to note is how quickly the administrative rule change could be put into place.

The new rules will be formally proposed in the near future. If Bush abides by the usual regulatory rule-making process, then the federal government must publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register to enable the public to read and review the proposed rule.  The public then has 30 days to submit comments on the proposed rule, and the government must consider and provide responses to the public comments.  

The proposed rule could be accepted by the Interior Department as a final rule in only 60 days. This means a final rule could be issued before the November election.

Keep your eyes open for action alerts on responding to this assault on endangered species.

And if you're wondering why it's important, here's another reminder that I saw just yesterday. Basically, the brown snake "all but destroyed bird life on the northern Pacific island of Guam" after its introduction in the 1940s. But what's of interest now is the recognition that the impact of the snake population has changed the way forests grow and may lead to some trees becoming extinct or nearly so which will impact other species.

Learning to Speak Climate

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Thomas Friedman earns his money today. This is another credit where credit is due post about Friedman's column summing up his trip to Greenland.

Sometimes you just wish you were a photographer. I simply do not have the words to describe the awesome majesty of Greenland's Kangia Glacier, shedding massive icebergs the size of skyscrapers and slowly pushing them down the Ilulissat Fjord until they crash into the ocean off the west coast of Greenland. There, these natural ice sculptures float and bob around the glassy waters near here. You can sail between them in a fishing boat, listening to these white ice monsters crackle and break, heave and sigh, as if they were noisily protesting their fate. [...]

Alas, though, I do not work for National Geographic. This is the opinion page. And my trip with Denmark's minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland's ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day.

We've charged their future on our Visa cards. We've added so many greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for our generation's growth, that our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy. And now our leaders are telling them the way out is "offshore drilling" for more climate-changing fossil fuels.

Madness. Sheer madness. [...]

Greenland is one of the best places to observe the effects of climate change. Because the world's biggest island has just 55,000 people and no industry, the condition of its huge ice sheet -- as well as its temperature, precipitation and winds -- is influenced by the global atmospheric and ocean currents that converge here. Whatever happens in China or Brazil gets felt here. And because Greenlanders live close to nature, they are walking barometers of climate change.

That's how I learned a new language here: "Climate-Speak."

There's more about how speak "climate speak". It's very easy to learn according to Thomas.

Grab your tire gauge - Obama's right

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John McCain and the RNC have once again demonstrated their inability to deal with reality. And no less than Time magazine has stepped up to do the honors in highlighting their silliness.

But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

Time goes on to point out:

The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis -- the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

The RNC is trying to make the tire gauge a symbol of unseriousness, as if only the fatuous believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil without doing the bidding of Big Oil. But the tire gauge is really a symbol of a very serious piece of good news: we can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle. [...]

We can use those twisty carbon fluorescent lightbulbs. We can unplug our televisions, computers and phone chargers when we're not using them. We can seal our windows, install more insulation and adjust our thermostats so that we waste less heat and air-conditioning. We can use more-efficient appliances, build more-efficient homes and drive more-efficient cars, preferably with government assistance. And, yes, we can inflate our tires and tune our engines, as Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have urged, apparently without consulting the RNC. While we're at it, we can cut down on idling, which can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cut down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, which can increase mileage as much as 20%.

And that's just the low-hanging fruit. There are other ways to reduce demand for oil -- more public transportation, more carpooling, more telecommuting, more recycling, less exurban sprawl, fewer unnecessary car trips, buying less stuff and eating less meat -- that would require at least some lifestyle changes. But things like tire gauges can reduce gas bills and carbon emissions now, with little pain and at little cost and without the ecological problems and oil-addiction problems associated with offshore drilling. These are the proverbial win-win-win solutions, reducing the pain of $100 trips to the gas station by reducing trips to the gas station. And Americans are already starting to adopt them, ditching SUVs, buying hybrids, reducing overall gas consumption. It's hard to see why anyone who isn't affiliated with the oil industry would object to them.

In fact, Obama's actual energy plan (pdf) is much more than a tire gauge.

Yesterday he gave a policy address in Lansing, Michigan, on dealing with the energy crisis in the US and our dependence on foreign oil. Here's the video - approx. 34 min.; the transcript of prepared remarks is below the fold.



McCain and the Safety of Offshore Drilling

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Dear John,

I see you're telling people "at every campaign stop that offshore oil drilling is safe, playing down the risk of environmental accidents, even when faced with the power of a hurricane." Here's one more tidbit to remember about offshore drilling that you're shilling for and have apparently overlooked as you have these other facts which you are failing to share with the American people.

In fact, Katrina and Hurricane Rita caused damage to oil rigs and storage facilities in the Gulf, according to press reports and government studies.

The hurricanes totally destroyed 113 oil rigs, according to the government's Minerals Management Service, and damaged 457 pipelines. The resulting oil spills were large enough to be seen from space, according to several reports.

A review by the Houston Chronicle reported that the two storms in the summer of 2005 caused 595 oil spills that released an estimated 9 million gallons of oil into the gulf, much of that from oil storage facilities on the shores. The government said there were a total of 146 small oil spills in federal waters caused by the storms.

Doesn't it bother you that you're lying to the American people? Evidently not or you wouldn't be doing it. Lying and misrepresenting the facts by omission are definite disqualifiers for the presidency in my book.

Well, here's one American telling you to stop lying.

Regards,

vbdietz

Just the facts on offshore coastal drilling

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I had an email from someone I know and among the other things this person said, there was this statement to which I devised the following reply.

"We need to drill along the coasts and including ANWAR."

We actually do drill along the coast; in fact, most of it is available. The US Interior Dept's Minerals Management Service tells us that about 80% of fossil fuels available in offshore are currently available for development.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently did a detailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling for their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, "Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)." The report was issued in May 2008.

I should first note that the term, "ban on off-shore drilling", is misleading and erroneous. There is authorized off-shore drilling in most of coastal mainland US. There is a moratorium on off-shore drilling in certain specified areas including the Florida coast, certain areas off the Atlantic coast and certain areas off the Pacific coast. These areas include vital fisheries and marine resource areas as well as coastal tourism areas.

Per the report mentioned above, in the area open to off-shore drilling, permits and leases have already been issued and only 17% of the area ALREADY leased is in production. In other terms, 33 million acres of offshore coastal areas are already leased, available for immediate drilling and are not being drilled.

Combine that with the onshore acreage which is already leased but not being drilled and per Sen. Feingold in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Oil companies collectively are not producing on 68 million acres, or about three-quarters of the federal lands and waters they have under lease.


Also per the EIA report, between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. Over 10,000 permits are currently 'stockpiled' by industry. What does that mean? Stockpiled as in permits were taken out but no drilling activity is underway.

It has been estimated that if all of those currently inactive leases were drilled, the USA would produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas EVERY DAY, accounting for a doubling of US oil production and a 75% increase in US natural gas production.

Now why are all those permitted leases just sitting there inactive? Because the oil companies that hold them can list them as untapped assets, adding significantly to their financial statements, particularly as the limitations on the amount of oil and gas actually available on the market drives up the price per barrel. There is no requirement from the federal government forcing the companies to actually do anything with the land that they've leased. And then the leases can be renewed without any commitment to actually drill.


Let's set that aside for the moment and talk about what would be available from drilling in ANWR.

This chart about the impact of drilling in ANWR can be summarized in a different way. Based on an EIA analysis done for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, the price of a barrel of oil would drop between $0.50 and $2 over a 30-year time horizon. Since all oil is sold on a global market, impact on price at the pump is estimated to be 1-5 cents lower in 2025-2035. Not very timely and not much payback for all the investment and the desolation of a pristine wilderness area.

Okay, now combine the information about the inactive already-leased acreage and the minimal impact of ANWR with this piece of news that came out on July 3rd of this year.

While the U.S. oil industry wants access to more federal lands to help reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, American-based companies are shipping record amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel to other countries.

A record 1.6 million barrels a day in U.S. refined petroleum products were exported during the first four months of this year, up 33 percent from 1.2 million barrels a day over the same period in 2007. Shipments this February topped 1.8 million barrels a day for the first time during any month, according to final numbers from the Energy Department. [...]

The 1.6 million barrels a day in record petroleum exports represented 9 percent of total U.S. refining capacity of 17.6 million barrels a day. However, with refiners operating at 85 percent of capacity during the January-April period, the shipments represented a much a larger share of total U.S. oil products produced.

The exports were also equal to half the 3.2 million barrels of gasoline, diesel fuel and other petroleum products the United States imported each day over the 4-month period.

The US oil industry is not being operated for the benefit of US citizens but for the benefit of the shareholders of those companies. Those companies currently hold active, viable permits to drill that would produce 4.8 million barrels of oil PER DAY and they choose not to exercise them at this time.

Anyone who calls for drilling in the areas affected by the moratorium without first addressing all of the currently leased but unused acreage is not playing it straight with the American public. In fact, if you wanted to be cynical about it, you could say that the oil companies are simply using the energy crisis to force open the protected areas without regard to impact on other industries, knowing full well that the access will make no difference to the overall energy costs.

In any case, it should be made clear that action now will NOT have a significantly measurable effect on energy prices, either now or in the future as anything that we do gain, will be bought and sold on the global market and the additional amount will be a drop in the bucket compared to the total amount in the global market.

Those aren't Democratic facts or Republican facts. They're just facts.

The new Bush energy plan: "Get more addicted to oil."

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Readers of past dwahzon's village posts will know that I don't think much of Thomas Friedman's reasoning ability or rather his ability to ignore large parts of reality in coming up with some of his columns. But this time he got it right.

Two years ago, President Bush declared that America was "addicted to oil," and, by gosh, he was going to do something about it. Well, now he has. Now we have the new Bush energy plan: "Get more addicted to oil."

Actually, it's more sophisticated than that: Get Saudi Arabia, our chief oil pusher, to up our dosage for a little while and bring down the oil price just enough so the renewable energy alternatives can't totally take off. Then try to strong arm Congress into lifting the ban on drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It's as if our addict-in-chief is saying to us: "C'mon guys, you know you want a little more of the good stuff. One more hit, baby. Just one more toke on the ole oil pipe. I promise, next year, we'll all go straight. I'll even put a wind turbine on my presidential library. But for now, give me one more pop from that drill, please, baby. Just one more transfusion of that sweet offshore crude."

It is hard for me to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy this is. But it gets better.

The Right-Wing Offshore Drilling Scam

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Bush and McCain are pushing a lifting of a ban on off-shore drilling. What they are really doing is taking advantage of the average citizen's ignorance of the actual state of affairs with regard to oil prospecting and production in the United States.

Environmentalist points out:

First of all, there is no "ban".

"Ban" is just more GOPer-speak. In reality, there is a moratorium on drilling in certain coastal areas. Other areas are not only open to drilling but leases and drilling permits have already been issued.

And they are not being drilled.

In fact, only 17% of the leased areas is in production. So, with about 33 million acres of offshore areas already available to drill and not being drilled, why does the oil and gas industry need to have access to still more?

The fact is that nearly 25 BILLION barrels of oil off the coast of the United States is currently available for drilling...and industry is not drilling it.

Not to mention natural gas. Most of the natural gas occurring offshore (over 328 TRILLION cubic feet - an eleven year supply at current consumption rates) is currently available for leasing and development.

And they're not going after it.

This is the story throughout the country, more than 44 million acres of onshore public lands are leased for oil and gas development and yet most of it is not being drilled. All told (onshore and offshore), 68 million acres are leased and sitting idle. Over 10,000 permits are currently 'stockpiled' by industry. But still they want more.

Between 1999 and 2007, the number of drilling permits issued for development of public lands increased by more than 361%. And did you see your gasoline costs drop? How about your electricity costs? Propane? natural gas? Uh...no. There is absolutely no correlation between the industrialization of public lands and the price of fossil fuels.

It has been estimated that if all of those currently inactive leases were drilled, the USA would produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas EVERY DAY, accounting for a doubling of US oil production and a 75% increase in US natural gas production. The Minerals Management Service tells us that about 80% of fossil fuels available in offshore are currently available for development.

What's going on here is yet another cynical attempt by the GOP and the oil and gas robber barons to increase and assure huge industry profits at the expense of the American people. These companies don't want to drill these areas. They want to hold them as assets to limit the amount of oil and gas on the market so that prices rise still further - and they make more money. They want to hold on to these areas so that they can drill them ten or fifteen years from now and make an even bigger fortune. [...]

Source: Some of the numbers cited in this post came directly from these documents:

Energy Information Administration, Analysis of Crude Oil Production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,May 2008.

Inventory of Onshore Federal Oil and Natural Gas Resources and Restrictions to Their Development, U.S. Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Energy; May 2008.

What is amazing to me is that we have had almost 8 years of an administration with 2 oilmen in charge and did they use their time to set up a wise plan for peak oil and weaning this nation away from fossil fuels? No. Instead we get mouthings like we got from George Bush the other day.

Digby put up a chart that makes part of the point in graphic form. But aside from the point that drilling in ANWR is so far from productive and would do nothing to lower the rates when it eventually did come online many years from now, the real issue is why aren't the oil companies drilling in the areas that they already hold permits for?

As DIgby said:

Private corporations have potentially billions of barrels of oil sitting in capped wells and untapped leased fields, some of which have been lying fallow for as much as thirty years. They won't open them because they are more profitable as untapped reserves, which inflates the stock price and goes directly into the execs' wallets. Bush and McCain say they want more drilling, but the oil companies don't. They want more untapped reserves so they can pump up their balance sheets.

This is all a game. Bush and McCain want to funnel oil services contracts to corporate boardrooms, not oil to consumers. They either have some polling about how fear of higher gas prices will allow them to gain some populist support for these measures, or they're just following the Republican playbook since the energy crisis of the late 1970s. Whatever it is, they certainly aren't interested in delivering more oil.

Via Jerome a Paris, Climate Progress reports:

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently did a detailed study of the likely outcome of offshore drilling for their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, "Impacts of Increased Access to Oil and Natural Gas Resources in the Lower 48 Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)." The sobering conclusion:

The projections in the OCS access case indicate that access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.

And the impact of the projected 7% (!) increase in lower-48 oil production that might result in 2030 thanks to opening the OCS is ... wait for it ...

... any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.

We need to be focusing on reducing our energy consumption, developing technology dependent on renewable energy sources and weaning our nation off its dependency on fossil fuels. Any other priority is anti-American. It does not have our country's long term interests at heart. They're gambling with our children's future for more short-term profit and gain for the oil company execs. I think that I've had enough of Exxon-Mobil's record profits and horribly over-compensated executives.

Back to the future of gasoline

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KerryVision has a post on Bush's press conference moment where he had no clue about the projections on the future price of gasoline. What a loser. Go check it out.

But Faith uncovered something else. "And here's an oldie but goodie. Two years ago, Barack Obama recorded this message to the American people about the cost of gasoline." So check out what Barack had to say in 2006 about gasoline, energy and what we as a country should be doing.


UPDATE: From Dan Froomkin's White House Watch

Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post about Bush's surprise upon hearing from a reporter yesterday that Americans are facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline: "You could've knocked Bush over with a feather. 'Oh, yeah?' he said. 'That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.'

"Uh-oh. The president, once known for his common-guy skills, sounded eerily like his old man, who in 1992 appeared surprised that supermarkets had bar-code scanners. On Wednesday, the $4-a-gallon forecasts had been on the front page of the New York Times, and on NBC's 'Today Show' and CBS's 'Early Show.' In the days before that, the prediction -- made by AAA, among others -- was in the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the New York Post, the Dallas Morning News, even the Kansas City Star. The White House press secretary took a question about $4 gas at her Wednesday press briefing. A poll last month found that nearly three-quarters of Americans expect $4 gas."


Cross-posted from Dwahzon's Village