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The Senate Votes in Favor of Science, Oil Savings, and Climate Action

Frances Beinecke

Posted June 10, 2010

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Today the Senate made the smart choice of voting down Senator Murkowski’s resolution to undermine the EPA’s authority to reduce global warming pollution. Now we can move to the real work at hand: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

Murkowski’s resolution was a dangerous distraction from the start, an anti-science folly that would have reversed the widely supported Obama Administration clean car measures that will save Americans 19 billion gallons of gasoline. To increase demand for gasoline even as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico is unfathomable.

Rather than offer solutions, Murkowski seemed to want to turn America’s back on the pressing challenges of oil dependence, climate change, and hazardous pollution.

The Senate refused to step backward. It moved instead toward a cleaner future.

Today the Senate voted for science. Although Senator Murkowski claimed she doesn’t dispute climate science, the very nature of her resolution asked the Senate to nullify the EPA’s findings, as well as the overwhelming consensus of the National Academy of Sciences and numerous other sources. Senators chose instead to stand by the scientific evidence.

Today the Senate voted for the Clean Air Act. Rather than letting polluters police their own global warming pollution, the Senate affirmed that the same successful EPA model that reduced lead, acid rain, and ozone-depleting chemicals should be used for carbon emissions as well.

Today the Senate voted for climate action. It confirmed that America must begin reducing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming.

This is good start.  Now we must take the next step: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

And we will need all hands on deck to get it done. I will be keeping my eye on those Senators, including Senator Collins and Senator Rockefeller, who voted for this resolution even while saying they accept the science and the urgent need for action. The burden is now on them to demonstrate their seriousness, and I hope to see them roll up their sleeves and get to work building a 60-vote majority for passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this summer.

This bill has become a top priority legislative priority. Last week, President Obama made his strongest case yet for enacting a comprehensive bill. He said, “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone from either party to get this done.  But we will get this done.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, urged the Senate Chairmen to focus on comprehensive clean energy legislation so they can bring a bill to the floor during the July work period.

There are several clean energy and climate proposals circulating in the Senate right now. Just yesterday, Senator Lugar introduced a bill that, while it has some problematic elements, has many strong pieces that could be integrated into a comprehensive bill. I hope Senators use the next few weeks to compile the best components of all the proposals.

But above all else, the comprehensive bill must include a cap on carbon emission--the pollution that most Senators agreed today was a hazard that must be reduced.


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George M. WoodwellJun 11 2010 10:48 AM

When Does Sedition Become Treason?

One can understand a Republican wish to return to holding a majority in the Congress of the United States. One can also understand, and even encourage, argument as to Republican as opposed to Democratic, ideals and methods. But office holders of both parties have been elected to conduct the business of the United States in the interest of all the people according to the laws of the land. One can argue that the laws of the land should be changed and object to them, “sedition”, but sedition quickly becomes treason when the laws and the governmental systems are perverted, the public interest displaced for political or financial gain. A political party that makes the failure of the elected majority’s leadership of government its primary objective is moving well beyond sedition. The overtly stated purpose of the Republican minority in frustrating every initiative by the Democrats in the Senate crosses that margin.

The recent vote on the Murkowski bill has thrown this issue before the public in clear terms. The bill proposed to abrogate the Clean Air Act and strip from the EPA its power to do its job under well established law written clearly in defense of the public interest in protecting the environment, air, water and land. The bill itself was corrupt and should never have been advanced in that it was designed to frustrate any a further attempt by the administration through the EPA to control the further poisoning of the atmosphere, land and water with fossil fuels. The bill attracted forty-seven votes in the Senate! Who can honestly think at this moment, with an uncontrollable and unmeasurable torrent of oil poisoning the Gulf of Mexico and ultimately the global oceans that the US Environmental Protection Agency should have its abilities to regulate poison in the environment abridged in any way?

It is time to call these outrageously seditious diversions plain and simple treason and hope that further argument can be diverted into constructive discussion if not outright support for improved regulatory effectiveness, obviously required.

George M. Woodwell
Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 11 2010 06:22 PM

Wow George,

You seem to be a lot more impressed with the EPA than I am.

Have you noticed that their sense of regulation does not extend to action to stop the spill?

They can not even make the reach that the limited capacity of the collecting ship on scene means that about 15,000 of oil not collected is oil onto the shore or elsewhere in the ocean.

And they accept that we should wait for a tanker to come from the North Sea? Someone needs to tell them that the Navy has tankers, they call them oilers, and the lack of such on the scene is call for a court martial. Then they need to learn that the disaster is going on almost in the way of sea lanes for tankers going in and out of Houston.

Hm, I guess we should hand a lot of authority to the EPA. Questioning that is seditious?

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 11 2010 06:43 PM

One sign that a person knows nothing about what he or she speaks is when they use the word 'carbon' instead of CO2. Our EPA leader, said to be a chemical engineer, should know better but doubt is growing. Anyone who has actually calculated the magnitude of CO2 that comes from burning a ton of coal develops a natural antagonism to the use of the word carbon. We can of course guess that when Congress talks of 'tons of carbon' in the air, they mean CO2. Carbon itself gets into the air as soot, but it does not seem that this is what they mean.

But the kicker is this: A ton of CO2 has way less than a ton of carbon in it, so when they talk about $25 per ton of CO2 as a penalty, they are talking about 44/12 times that, per ton of carbon. Do you suppose that our elected folks realize that 44/12 times $25 is $91.66? And do you suppose that our EPA Administrator knows that? How that works out for the various kinds of coal is a little complicated.

Don't snort and say of course they do. It might be better to ask. We might also wonder how many at NRDC understand this. And why?. Well, the way this ripples through the economy is not without an impact, and that will indeed affect the environment.

When we start hearing about CO2 instead of 'carbon' in the rhetoric, at least I will gain a little confidence in our regulators.

Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.Jun 12 2010 05:04 PM

The oil gushes on today, June 12. the tanker is somewhere on its way from the North Sea, maybe. The collection ship tankage still seems limited. And we are on to the subject of energy and climate like everything was under control.

My efforts today include the following response to an article in the Economist magazine that asserts that Pres. Obama will not be held to blame for the disaster, since he could not have magically cleaned it up.

Is the Economist trying to spin and reframe to create nonsense that this spill is a natural disaster? By not putting blame on Pres. Obama for failure to act decisively, it also might lessen the anger against BP? Could the Economist actually think that? Might this be a conservative position? I hope not.

This voter holds Pres. Obama responsible for inaction, though it is probably his lack of sound advice that is responsible for this. He did pick his advisors. I value Pres. Obama for his diplomatic approach to problems, but we seem to have ended up without an administration that understands the industrial kinds of things that are going on here.

This spill is very likely the fault of BP for failure to be prudent, it is on-going due to failure of BP to have provided for adequate tools to deal with such events and for failure to come up with stop-gap kinds of engineering solutions that we should expect from a competent staff. Such a competent staff appears to not be something kept on hand through the BP cost cutting waves.

It is true the the Economist and much of the public is bamboozled by the gee whiz deep ocean stuff, but this is only because they never were aware of the status of such technology. I report from experience back as far as 1966 that deep ocean operations, robotics and all that were in existence then. We used the Alvin to inspect mile deep research structures at that time. If one could find the old Artemis Project reports, (big science of that era) some pictures might be there to see.

But it really does not have to be that difficult to see that we are under the care of stumble-bums of BP. Basic machine shop skills would have been sufficient to ward off the diamond saw breaking situation; duh, circular saws do not handle side pressure of any kind, especially that associated with a huge flow of oil behind it. Oil does not have to be separated in order to hold it in tankage. So any tanker could be used to take up all oil that could possibly be brought up. And no, the North Sea is not the place to get a tanker to help out.

Yes, the super sized corporate structure might be the real culprit here. Just look at the video on the Leakonomics article of a few days ago in this magazine, and one might get a clue of the problem. There were high officers of several giants there, including COB of BP. He was articulate in extolling the wonders of the corporation in promoting innovation, but when he explained that such was done with a framework, it started to become clear how things work. From several years of watching, I conclude that the framework for BP is to spend absolutely nothing on anything that is not obviously necessary, plan nothing and provide nothing for contingencies, and stand ready to absorb losses in the giant structure a few tragic accidents, now and then. That is not unique to BP; it is straight out of the Jack Welch rule book. Be ready with PR, including talk about 6-sigma methods, whether or not you have any knowledge of the statistical meaning of such. The result of the cost cutting is that the remainder staff is mostly sycophants who will always report progress, profits, and readiness, regardless of the reality of such; while extolling the wonders of the organization's mission statement.
So as to the appropriate action on BP, tar and feathers, drawn and quartered, and so forth are warranted, but just a joint action by UK and USA to dismember the corporation, leaving it in sound operating but smaller groups is appropriate.

As to Pres. Obama, his inaction does not make the grade. This comment writer is one who will remember his disenchantment. And he is fully intending to hammer out comments for years to come to keep as much of this anger alive as possible. A president must be more knowledgeable of the backbone of our developed world, namely the nature of our industrial system. Then advisors who also know key, important things about the country will be on hand when needed.

404Jun 20 2010 02:03 AM

In regards to this blogger's appointment to the Spill Root Cause Panel, I'm uneasy. There is one panel for the entire Spill Root Cause mostly made up of policy makers? There is no pragmatic grounding here. All that will result is more useless policy because it's easier to write that than actually make real solutions, implement them, AND monitor these things.

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