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Archive for the ‘Peak Oil’ Category

Laurel Krause, MendoCoastCurrent, September 10, 2011 ~ 9/10/11

PRESIDENT OBAMA promised on October 27, 2007: “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the FIRST THING I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”

On Peace

President Obama has been in office for 32 months and there are still 45,000 troops in Iraq and 100,000+ troops in Afghanistan.

When we voted for Obama we expected our future President to keep his word, not involve us in FOUR MORE WARS!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’re ON NOTICE ~ Next election Americans will come out in great numbers to vote for a peace-focused presidential candidate that will keep his word.

On Commercial-scale Renewable Energy

We felt validated that we voted for Obama when early in his presidency our President pledged to begin to develop safe, sustainable and renewable energy. We saw it as an excellent way to put the American workforce ‘back to work’ and begin to build a renewable energy future for America. Since then NOT ONE significant renewable or sustainable energy project has been created nor backed by the federal government. If there is one, please name it! The validation we felt back then has expired long ago into distrust and disrespect.

On the BP Gulf Oil Leak

Mostly based on watching our President minimize and shield his eyes (along with Energy Sec Chu) as the BP Oil Leak continues to leak and spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, to this day. We are beyond disappointed that no significant or innovative remedial (as in clean up) action has been taken in the Gulf or poisoned coastal areas.

On Fukushima & Nuclear Reactors

Then we were shocked when our President in his address to the nation, moments after Fukushima went into melt-through in March 2011, disbelieving our President’s pledge of allegiance to more, new nuclear development in America. Except for President Obama’s corporate backers, the rest of us DO NOT WANT MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY REACTORS in the U.S. We demand our President begin to close down all U.S. nuclear reactors now, also a position very far from our President’s nuclear energy corporate BFF’s.

THE NATIVES ARE BECOMING RESTLESS MR. PRESIDENT!

PUT AMERICA BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK

STEP 1) Immediately BRING ALL TROOPS HOME to be re-deployed in cleaning up the affected areas, as in making whole again, at the on-going BP Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

STEP 1-A ~ Fire & replace Energy Secretary Chu with a qualified, earth-friendly, safe renewable energy visionary.

STEP 2) Segment a significant portion of your new Jobs Bill towards sustainable and renewable energy R&D to create a VISION & PLAN FOR AMERICA to become the world leader in these new, safe technologies.

STEP 2-A ~ Consider and fund Mendocino Energy, a fast-tracked commercial-scale renewal/sustainable energy thinktank to get started TODAY. Learn more about Mendocino Energy ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

Mr President, let us live in peace on a healthy planet.

JOIN US, JOIN IN at the Peaceful Party: http://on.fb.me/hBvNE3

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SETH SHULMAN for Grist, part of the Guardian U.K., August 23, 2010

The ocean has been our savior.

Besides generating about two thirds of the oxygen we breathe, oceangoing phytoplankton — those floating microscopic plants that form the base of the aquatic food chain — absorb about a third of all the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. In this way, the oceans have managed to slow the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and stave off even more dramatic warming of the planet.

But John Guinotte and colleagues are discovering that the critical role of “carbon sink” comes at a potentially devastating cost for the world’s oceans: acidification.

Guinotte is a coral specialist at the Marine Conservation Biology Institute in Bellevue, Wash. The changes he sees in ocean chemistry spell trouble for the coral that he studies closely. If the acidification process continues on its current trajectory, it poses a dire threat to the whole marine ecosystem.

“What I’m really concerned about with ocean acidification is that we are facing the prospect of a crash in marine food webs.” says Guinotte. “There is no question that many of my colleagues in marine science are scared about what is happening. We know we need a more precise understanding of the changes and biological responses now under way — and we need it as quickly as possible, before it is too late to turn things around.”

Guinotte has dedicated his life to the study of coral, especially the less well understood deep-sea varieties. Growing up in rural Kansas, his only exposure to corals was through the pages of National Geographic. But that changed when he learned to scuba dive at his grandfather’s winter home in the Florida Keys. The experience, plus his interest in biology and geography, led him to Australia, where he earned his Ph.D.

Guinotte still remembers the thrill of exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for the first time. “I was absolutely blown away by the abundance and diversity of coral,” he recalls. At that time, back in the late-1990s, scientists were increasingly concerned about coral bleaching caused by environmental stresses such as warming ocean temperatures. Those threats remain, Guinotte says, but ocean acidification may be an even more serious and intractable problem.

On the macro scale, Guinotte explains, the chemistry of ocean acidification is relatively clear. Based on some 25 years’ worth of measurements scientists know that oceans absorb about 22 million tons of carbon dioxide every day. The oceans are vast. But even so, the absorption of CO2 is now occurring at such an unprecedented rate that ocean chemistry is approaching a state not seen in many millions of years. Guinotte fears that many marine species might be unable to adapt quickly enough to survive these dramatic changes.

As carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater, hydrogen ions are released. This lower the pH, making the water more acidic. Measurements indicate that Earth’s oceans are already about 30 percent more acidic than they were before the industrial revolution. As the number of hydrogen ions has risen, the number of carbonate ions available in seawater has gone down. This carbonate deficit makes life more difficult for the “marine calcifiers,” species such as coral and shellfish that use carbonate to build their skeletons and protective shells.

“Ocean water becomes increasingly corrosive to calcium carbonate,” says Guinotte. “A reduction in carbonate ions not only impedes corals’ ability to build their skeletons, but once the calcium carbonate drops below critical levels, the ocean erodes the framework they have built up previously — the reefs upon which corals live.” Even if select coral species can survive ocean acidification, Guinotte says, when the coral reefs begin to dissolve, the effects on the entire marine ecosystem are likely to be devastating.

Scientists know from the fossil record that reefs which sustained damage from high atmospheric concentrations of CO2 in the geologic past took millions of years to recover. “Given that we need to think in human time scales, it means we’re playing for keeps here,” says Guinotte. “To me, it sometimes seems like a school bus full of children heading for a cliff. Somehow we have to slow it down enough to find some real solutions.”

Because of the very clear potential for ocean acidification to effect everything from the tiniest oxygen-providing phytoplankton to the larger fish that feed in the coral reefs — or, as Guinotte has written, “from the shallowest waters to the darkest depths of the deep sea” — the threat to humankind is immense.

To figure out precisely how much acidification many varieties of coral can tolerate, and what we can do to preserve the health of the marine ecosystem, Guinotte argues for a coordinated research effort that tackles every aspect of the problem. That includes better monitoring of ocean carbon; closer tracking of calcifying organisms and more laboratory and field studies of their physiological responses to increasingly acidicity; and more detailed studies that model the threat to the marine ecosystem as a whole. Some of this work is under way, but too much of it has been conducted in piecemeal fashion. Only a more intensive, coordinated effort, says Guinotte, can provide the detail necessary for policymakers to develop strategies that protect critical species, habitats, and ecosystems.

“From the standpoint of the oceans,” Guinotte says, “there is no escaping the fact that we are going to need major reductions in our CO2 emissions — something like 80 to 90 percent. When we see governments arguing about reductions of 10 to 15 percent, I think all of us in the marine science community need to say that CO2 reductions of this scale are simply not going to be sufficient. We have to get off fossil fuels.”

The fossil record shows that high CO2 concentrations have likely played a big role in mass extinctions of marine life in the past. “If marine systems start to crash, it may well be too late to stop the train,” says Guinotte. “Governments are likely to panic and make irrational decisions; international tensions could certainly heat up. These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night. I continue to hope we can get it turned around. But it will take political will, and so far, that has been in short supply.”

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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 2009

article_photo1_smWhen giving his slide presentation on America’s new energy direction, Jon Wellinghoff sometimes sneaks in a picture of himself seated in a midnight blue, all-electric Tesla sports car.

It often wins a laugh, but makes a key point: The United States is accelerating in a new energy direction under President Obama’s newly appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). At the same time, FERC’s key role in the nation’s energy future is becoming more apparent.

Energy and climate legislation now pending in Congress would put in FERC’s hands a sweeping market-based cap-and-trade system intended to lower industrial greenhouse-gas emissions.

Besides its role granting permits for new offshore wind power, the agency is also overseeing planning for transmission lines that could one day link Dakota wind farms to East Coast cities, and solar power in the Southwest to the West Coast.

“FERC has always been important to power development,” says Ralph Cavanagh, energy program codirector for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group. “It’s just that people haven’t known about it. They will pretty soon.”

That’s because Mr. Wellinghoff and three fellow commissioners share an affinity for efficiency and renewable energy that’s not just skin-deep, Mr. Cavanagh and others say.

Wellinghoff started his energy career as a consumer advocate for utility customers in Nevada before being appointed by President Bush in 2005 as a FERC commissioner. He was a key author of “renewable portfolio standards” that require Nevada’s utilities to incorporate more renewable power in their energy mix. Now he’s the nation’s top energy regulator.

It’s clear that FERC has a mandate to speed change to the nation’s power infrastructure, Wellinghoff says.

When it comes to the extra work and complexity FERC will encounter if Congress appoints FERC to administer a mammoth carbon-emissions cap-and-trade program, Wellinghoff is eager, yet circumspect.

“We believe we are fully capable of fulfilling that role with respect to physical trading [of carbon allowances],” he says during an interview in Washington. “We’ve demonstrated our ability to respond efficiently and effectively to undertake those duties Congress has given to us. Unfortunately, the result of that is they give you more to do.”

While the US Department of Energy controls long-term energy investment decisions, FERC’s four commissioners (a fifth seat is vacant) appear determined to ensure that wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean power get equal access to the grid.

The commissioners are also biased against coal and nuclear power on at least one key factor: cost.

Many in the power industry believe that renewable energy still costs too much. Not Wellinghoff, who says: “I see these distributed resources [solar, wind, natural-gas microturbines, and others] coming on right now as being generally less expensive.”

That might sound surprising. Yet, with coal and nuclear power plants costing billions of dollars – and raising environmental issues such as climate change and radioactive waste – others also see renewable power as the low-cost option.

Wellinghoff’s outspoken views have irritated some since his March selection as chairman.

Last month, for instance, he drew fire from nuclear-energy boosters in Congress after he characterized as “an anachronism” the idea of meeting future US power demand by building large new coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

“You don’t need fossil fuel or nuclear [plants] that run all the time,” Wellinghoff told reporters at a US Energy Association Forum last month. Then he added: “We may not need any, ever.”

That set off a salvo from Sen. Lind sey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a staunch nuclear-power advocate. “The public is ill-served when someone in such a prominent position suggests alternative-energy programs are developed and in such a state that we should abandon our plans to build more plants,” he said in a statement.

But to others, Wellinghoff is the epitome of what the US needs: a public servant zeroed in on energy security, the environment, efficiency, and keeping energy costs down.

“Wellinghoff has been a longtime supporter of efficiency and consumer interests,” says Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, an energy advocacy group. “I would call him a visionary. He’s not just content with the status quo.”

In Wellinghoff’s vision of the future, where the cost of carbon dioxide emissions is added to the price of coal-fired power plants and natural-gas turbines, it may be less expensive for consumers to set their appliances to avoid buying power at peak times. Or they may choose to buy power from a collection of microturbines, fuel cell, wind, solar, biomass, and ocean power systems.

“We’re going to see more distributed generation – and we’re already starting to see that happen,” Wellinghoff says. “Not only renewable generation like photovoltaic [panels] that people put on their homes and businesses, but also fossil-fuel systems like combined heat and power,” called cogeneration units.

To coordinate and harmonize this fluctuating phalanx of power sources, customers will need to know and be able to respond to the price of power, Wellinghoff says. They will also need a new generation of appliances that switch off automatically to balance power supply and demand peaks.

But there are huge challenges with a power grid that provides energy from a mix of wind, solar, and other renewable power.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid [along the East Coast], he says. “You can’t just move [wind and wave power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability – Florida to Maine.”

As the percentage of renewable power rises toward 20 to 25% of grid power from around 3% today, there must be a backup to fill gaps when intermittent winds stop blowing or the sun doesn’t shine.

In a decade or more from now, Wellinghoff, says millions of all-electric or plug-in electric-gas hybrid vehicles could plug into the grid and supply spurts of power to fill in for dipping wind and solar output.

“There are new technologies,” he says, “that in the next three to five years will advance the grid to a new level.”

Gesturing to a drawing board on the wall, he hops up from his chair, his hands flicking across a sketch of the eastern half of the US with power lines fanning out from the Plains states to the East Coast.

“This is another grid option that would take a lot of power that’s now constrained in the Midwest, that can be developed – wind energy there – and move it to all the load centers [cities] on the East Coast,” he says.

Similarly, lines could be built across the Rockies to connect wind power in Montana and Wyoming to the West Coast. Instead of building power lines from the Midwest to the East Coast, “a lot of people would say, ‘No, no, let’s look first look at the wind offshore,’ ” he says.

Whether it’s wind from the Plains or the ocean, the resulting variability will have an impact on grid reliability if action isn’t taken, Wellinghoff says.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid here,” he says, gesturing to the East Coast. “You can’t just move [power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability.”

Reliability of the grid remains paramount – Job No. 1 for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But if boosting renewable power to 25% by 2025 – the Obama administration’s goal – means spreading Internet-connected controllers across substations and transmission networks, then cybersecurity to protect them from increasing Internet-based threats is critical.

Yet a recent review by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation overseen by FERC found more than two-thirds of power generating companies denied they had any “critical assets” potentially vulnerable to cyberattack. Those denials concern Wellinghoff.

“We are asking the responding utilities to go back and reveal what are the number of critical assets and redetermine that for us,” he says. “We want to be sure that we have fully identify all the critical assets that need to be protected.”

It would be especially troubling if, as was recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, Russian and Chinese entities have hacked into the US power grid and left behind malware that could be activated at a later time to disable the grid.

But Wellinghoff says he has checked on the type of intrusion referred to in the article and denies successful grid hacks by foreign nations that have left dangerous malware behind.

While acknowledging that individuals overseas have tried to hack the grid frequently, he says, “I’m not aware of any successful hacks that have implanted into the grid any kinds of malware or other code that could later be activated.”

But others say there is a problem. In remarks at the University of Texas at Austin in April, Joel Brenner, the national counterintelligence executive, the nation’s most senior counterintelligence coordinator, indicated there are threats to the grid.

“We have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids,” he said in prepared remarks. “Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do.”

In an e-mailed statement, Wellinghoff’s press secretary, Mary O’Driscoll, says the chairman defers to senior intelligence officials on some questions concerning grid vulnerability to cyberattack: “The Commission isn’t in the intelligence gathering business and therefore can’t comment on that type of information.”

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Washington Post Editorial, February 12, 2009

Interior Secretary Salazar Keeps his Options Open on Offshore Drilling 

17transition2-6001Here’s the ultimate midnight regulation: On the very last day of the Bush administration, the Interior Department proposed a new five-year plan for oil and gas leasing on the outer continental shelf. All hearings and other meetings on the scope of the plan, which would have opened as much as 300 million acres of seafloor to drilling, were to be completed by March 23, 2009. On Tuesday, Ken Salazar, President Obama’s interior secretary, pushed back the clock 180 days, imposing order on a messy process.

Mr. Bush’s midnight maneuver would have auctioned oil and gas leases without regard to how they fit into a larger strategy for energy independence. More can be done on the shelf than punching for pools of oil to satisfy the inane “drill, baby, drill” mantra that masqueraded as Republican energy policy last summer.

Mr. Salazar’s 180-day extension of the comment period is the first of four actions that he says will give him “sound information” on which to base a new offshore plan for the five years starting in 2012. He has directed the Minerals Management Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to round up all the information they have about offshore resources within 45 days. This will help the department determine where seismic tests should be conducted. Some of the data on the Atlantic are more than 30 years old.

The secretary will then conduct four regional meetings within 30 days of receiving that report to hear testimony on how best to proceed. Mr. Salazar has committed to issuing a final rule on offshore renewable energy resources “in the next few months.” Developing plans to harness wind, wave and tidal energy offshore would make for a more balanced approach to energy independence. It would also have the advantage of complying with the law. Mr. Salazar helped to write a 2005 statute mandating that Interior issue regulations within nine months to guide the development of those offshore renewable energy sources [the Energy Policy Act of 2005], a requirement that the Bush administration ignored.

Mr. Salazar’s announcement was also notable for what it didn’t do. Much to the chagrin of some environmental advocates, it didn’t take offshore drilling off the table. Nor did it cut oil and gas interests out of the discussion.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

images2At his first White House press conference, President Obama declared “the days of Washington dragging its heels are over” and ordered an immediate review of the Bush administration’s refusal to give California authority to enforce tougher emission and fuel efficiency standards on gas and diesel automobiles.

For more than two years California Governor Schwarzenegger has sought to impose stricter standards on automobile manufacturers in an effort to spur adoption of plug-in electric cars.

President Obama’s order may signal his interest in granting California’s request in a matter of weeks. Eighteen other States, representing nearly half the nation’s population, have indicated they wish to follow California’s lead, calling for the establishment of a national electric car-charging network.

President Obama’s push for electric cars is closely linked to his $11 billion high voltage “superhighway” that was passed last night by the House included in the $819 billion economic stimulus.

The newly-chosen, Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Jon Wellinghoff, is calling for regulators and automobile manufacturers to plan integration in the car-charging networks for electric vehicles into the national power grid. “If you’re an automobile company, you’d better get on the bandwagon…because there is definitely going to be a move toward electrification,” said Wellinghoff.  Chip manufacturers and power companies may also wish to jump in.

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STEPHEN POWER, The Wall Street Journal, January 28, 2009
images1Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated Tuesday that the Obama Administration could be open to expanded offshore drilling and is considering doing away with a controversial program that allows oil companies to pay in kind for oil and natural gas taken from public lands.

Salazar inherited a Bush Administration plan that would open tracts off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts where drilling had previously been prohibited. Environmental groups want the Obama administration to re-impose a ban on expanded offshore drilling that President George W. Bush lifted last year.

Asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal whether President Barack Obama might try to reinstate the ban, Salazar paused 18 seconds before saying: “I don’t know.”

“We have significant drilling already in many places of the Gulf coast. We have drilling in many places off the Alaska shorelines. There are other places that hold potential for exploration. We’ll develop our guidelines as to how we’re going to look at it. But we’re still at the beginning of an information-gathering process,” he said.

Asked about the Bush administration’s proposal to open certain areas of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling and whether he saw any opportunities for expanded development of the nation’s offshore areas, Salazar said: “When you look at the whole [outer continental shelf], it’s a huge potential. And it has to be done carefully. We don’t want to ruin the beaches of Florida and the coastlines of other places that are sensitive.”

“On the other hand, there are places where it may be appropriate for us to have reconnaissance and exploration and even development. Those are questions that we are exploring and hopefully over the months ahead we’ll have answers to these questions,” he said.

Salazar left the door open to curtailing the “royalty-in-kind” program, under which the government receives oil or natural gas instead of cash for payments of royalties from companies that lease federal property for oil and gas development, and then sells the product into the marketplace and returns the proceeds to the Treasury. “We’re going to put everything on the table — I think everything needs to be looked at,” Salazar said.

Meanwhile, Salazar said new legislation may be needed to overhaul the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, a bureau of Interior that manages the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas reserves.

Salazar said his top priority is to restore confidence in the agency, and in particular the MMS, which was rocked last fall by a report from the department’s inspector general that accused some MMS employees of accepting gifts from and having sex with oil and gas industry representatives whose activities they were supposed to regulate.

Although the Bush administration late last year announced disciplinary action ranging from warnings to termination of more than a half-dozen workers implicated in the report, Salazar said he is mulling “whether additional actions are required.”

Many environmental groups are looking to Salazar to reverse certain policy changes made in the final months of the Bush administration, including new regulations on commercial oil-shale development that the groups say lock in inappropriately low royalty rates for energy firms. Salazar said he and his aides intend to review “all those issues” and that “I expect that there will be changes.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 27, 2009

bio_wellinghoff_j_highWashington, D.C. — On January 23, 2009, President Barack Obama has named Jon Wellinghoff acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Wellinghoff responded that he looks forward to serving the president and the nation in this capacity.

“I thank President Obama for the opportunity to lead FERC at a time when our nation faces the challenge of providing consumers with access to clean, renewable energy and ensuring that our nation can deliver that energy in the most efficient, smart and technologically sophisticated manner possible. I look forward to working with my FERC colleagues, FERC staff, the public and the energy industry to turn these energy challenges into a reality,” said Wellinghoff.

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SIOBHAN HUGHES, Dow Jones News, January 26, 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to consider allowing California to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles, a policy that could spur the development of new vehicles.

“The federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions,” Obama said at a press conference filled with environmental activists and members of his cabinet. He ordered the EPA to “immediately review” a 2007 decision to deny California the waiver it needs to go forward.

The action marks a sharp reversal from the administration of President George W. Bush, which concluded that California wasn’t entitled to its own standards as global warming wasn’t unique to the state. In putting the U.S. on a different course, Obama was signaling a broader commitment to reshaping U.S. energy habits.

“America’s dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced,” Obama said. “It puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation, and sets back our ability to compete.”

It isn’t clear how quickly the EPA will make its decision — or how quickly the Obama administration can move the U.S. away from fossil fuels. The new administration already faces a severe economic recession, something that could make it harder for car companies to finance innovation. On Monday, General Motors Corp. (GM) said in a statement that while it was “ready to engage” with the Obama administration, any talks should take into account “economic factors” and the pace at which new technologies can development.

“We hold no illusion about the task that lies ahead,” Obama said. “I cannot promise a quick fix. No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done. But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy.”

Obama acted with the backing of the environmental wing of his base, which rushed out press releases to praise his action. Environment America, an environmental group, estimated that applying the California standard in just 13 other states would save 50 billion gallons of gasoline by 2020, for a total savings of $93 billion, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 450 million metric tons in total by 2020.

Obama separately ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to finalize new automobile fuel-efficiency standards so that they will be in place for the 2011 model year. The Bush administration was supposed to implement the rules, mandated by a 2007 law, but left the issue to Obama.

EPA staff has already told Congress that allowing California to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles could spur technological innovation not just in California, but across the country. That is because states are free to stick with federal standards or adopt the California standard. Fourteen other states have already adopted the California standard and four more are considering doing so.

The California rules apply to greenhouse-gas emissions, and aren’t fuel- efficiency standards. But California regulators have said that their standard would result in vehicles that average 44 miles per gallon. That compares with a 35 mile-per-gallon standard established by Congress for 2020.

Among the possible new technologies to be developed: electric cars. As part of a broad rule-making on greenhouse-gas emissions last year, the EPA staff said that between 2020 and 2025, vehicle fuel-efficiency standards could be well above the 35-mile-per gallon mandated by Congress, based on technologies such as plug-in hybrid vehicles, which run partly on rechargeable batteries. As if to underscore the point, acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said Monday that regulators and the automobile industry must integrate electric vehicles into the national power grid.

“If you’re an automobile company, you’d better get on the bandwagon, because if you don’t, you’re going to be left out of the band because there is definitely going to be a move toward electrification worldwide,” Wellinghoff said.

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Let Your Voice Be Heard by March 23, 2009

by MendoCoastCurrent and pointarenabasin

Beginning January 22, 2009 and ending on March 23, 2009, a 60-day Public Comment Period opened regarding new offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling in the pristine waters off northern California.

And while this is a multi-step process and before things are cast in stone, NOW is the time to share your views.

FROM THE FEDERAL REGISTER – REQUEST FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR – Minerals Management Service

Request for Comments on the Draft Proposed 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2010-2015 and Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed 5-Year Program

AGENCY: Minerals Management Service, Interior.

ACTION: Request for Comments.

SUMMARY: The Minerals Management Service (MMS) requests comments on the Draft Proposed 5-year OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2010-2015 (DPP). This draft proposal is for a new oil and gas program to succeed the current program that is currently set to expire on June 30, 2012, and forms the basis for conducting the studies and analyses the Secretary will consider in making future decisions on what areas of the OCS to include in the program.

DATES: Please submit comments and information to the MMS no later than March 23, 2009.

LINK:  Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Under the tab “More Search Options,” click “Advanced Docket Search,” then select “Minerals Management Service” from the agency drop-down menu, then click the submit button. In the Docket ID column, select MMS-2008-OMM-0045 to submit public comments and to view related materials available for this Notice.

Mail or hand-carry comments to the Department of the Interior; Minerals Management Service; Attention: Leasing Division (LD); 381 Elden Street, MS-4010; Herndon, Virginia 20170-4817. Please reference “2010-2015 Oil and Gas Leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf,” in your comments and include your name and return address.

Summary of the Draft Proposed Program

In developing the DPP for 2010-2015, the MMS considered oil and gas leasing in the areas of the OCS that are included in the current 5-year program for 2007-2012 and additional areas off Alaska, Pacific coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic coast. Some of these additional areas had been subject to annual congressional moratoria prohibiting oil and gas leasing. However, the moratoria expired on September 30, 2008. The DPP includes lease sales in offshore areas that have the highest oil and gas resource values and highest industry interest.

It has been promoted that 47 comments from oil and gas companies or associations nominated specific planning areas to be included in the new 5-Year program; some nominated all planning area.  

Wave energy reporter Frank Hartzell claims that the nominations may have been fabricated, see In Last Days, Bush Inflicts North Coast Offshore Oil Plan.

Table A–Draft Proposed Program for 2010-2015–Lease Sale Schedule

———————————————————————

Sale Number Area Year

———————————————————————

236…………………… Northern California………..2014

Pacific Region

The Pacific Region consists of 4 planning areas–Washington-Oregon, Northern California, Central California, and Southern California. The DPP schedules one sale in the Northern California Planning Area and two in the Southern California Planning Area. The proposed sales are in areas of known hydrocarbon potential – the Point Arena Basin in Northern California.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Preparation

Pursuant to section 102(2)(C) of NEPA, the MMS intends to prepare an EIS for the new 5-year OCS oil and gas leasing program for 2010-2015. This notice starts the formal scoping process for the EIS under 40 CFR 1501.7, and solicits information regarding issues and alternatives that should be evaluated in the EIS. The EIS will analyzethe potential impacts of the adoption of the proposed 5-year program.

The comments that MMS has received in response to the August 2008, Request for Comments, and the comments received during scoping for the 2007-2012 5-Year EIS have identified environmental issues and concerns that MMS will consider in the EIS. In summary, these include climate change as an impact factor in cumulative analyses, the effects of the OCS program on climate change, potential impacts from accidental oil spills, potential impacts to tourism and recreation activities, and ecological impacts from potential degradation of marine and coastal habitats. Additionally alternatives will be developed and analyzed during the EIS process based on scoping comments and governmental communications. Alternatives may include increasing or decreasing the number or frequency of sales, coastal buffers, limiting areas available for leasing, and excluding parts of or entire planning areas.

Scoping Meetings

Meetings will be held between now and March 23, 2009 to receive scoping comments on the EIS including –

Ft. Bragg/Ukiah, California; TBA

Next Steps in the Process

The MMS plans to issue the proposed program and draft EIS in mid-summer 2009 for a 90-day comment period and plans to issue the proposed final program and final EIS in spring 2010. The Secretary of the Interior may approve the new 5-year program 60 days later to go into effect as of July 1, 2010.

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JANE KAY, San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 2009

ba-drilling0117__sfcg1232159552_part1The U.S. Interior Department, acting in President Bush’s final days in office, proposed on Friday opening up 130 million acres off of California’s coast to drilling for oil and natural gas, including areas off Humboldt and Mendocino counties and from San Luis Obispo south to San Diego.

After a hands-off policy for a quarter-century, the administration submitted plans to sell oil and gas leases for most of the U.S. coast, from the Gulf of Maine to Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast.

New drilling also was proposed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, one of the nation’s most plentiful sources of fish, and the Arctic Ocean.

Washington, Oregon and protected parts of Florida were excluded along with waters off San Francisco Bay that lie within national marine sanctuaries.

On Friday, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups greeted the news with praise, saying it is time for domestic energy supplies to be released from the moratorium.

But environmental groups and some Democratic leaders who oppose California drilling criticized the 11th-hour move, vowing to work with the Obama administration to promote energy independence based on clean, renewable technologies.

“President Bush’s last-ditch effort to open our coasts to new drilling is nothing more than a parting gift to his buddies in the oil and gas industry,” said Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.

On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the platform blowout that spilled 3 million gallons of black crude oil on 35 miles of beaches around Santa Barbara, Capps said, “New offshore drilling would not lower gas prices, make us more energy independent or get our economy back on track.”

Richard Charter, a longtime environmental lobbyist who now works for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, called the government’s move “an extremist act.”

“What we see today is the political equivalent of a rock star trashing the hotel room right before checkout,” he said.

The Interior Department used a lapse in the congressional moratorium in October and a cancellation of a presidential prohibition in July to set in motion the lease-sale program – which the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama could cancel or proceed with.

Obama has said he would consider some offshore oil drilling as part of a comprehensive energy plan. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Obama’s pick for interior secretary, hasn’t given his views on offshore drilling in California. He said in his confirmation hearings Thursday that he will confer with the administration’s team.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with the governors of Oregon and Washington, opposes new offshore oil drilling despite the new revenue it would offer the cash-strapped state.

The federal government has failed to make a case for a new program because energy resources are insignificant in the Atlantic, Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico, already-sold leases aren’t being used, and no protections are in place to protect the environment, the governors said.

In Friday’s announcement, Interior Department officials proposed three new lease sales, one in Northern California and two in Southern California in “areas with known hydrocarbon potential.” The proposals, which were based on requests from seven oil companies that weren’t named, would include:

— As many as 44 million acres of federal waters, which start 3 miles from the shoreline, off Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

— As many as 89 million acres off of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. One lease would require equipment operating at a diagonal to drill within the Santa Barbara Ecological Preserve. In Southern California, there are 79 existing leases with 43 producing and 36 undeveloped.

There will be a 60-day comment period, with hearings in Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego. Dates for the hearings have not been announced.

If sales are allowed, they could occur as soon as 2014.

About 60%  of California citizens who commented on new oil-and-gas development were opposed to new drilling, according to the Interior Department’s oil-drilling agency, the Minerals Management Service.

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NEIL KING, The Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2009

pickens372Dallas billionaire T. Boone Pickens and FedEx Corp. chief executive Fred Smith are now duking it out—over, of all things, the virtues of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Since announcing the Pickens Plan in July, the oilman-cum-wind power booster has spent over $60 million, along with countless hours zig-zagging the country in his corporate jet, to promote his plan for using wind power and natural-gas vehicles to break the country’s foreign-oil habit. The Oklahoma-born oil magnate insists the U.S. could cut its oil imports by one-third in 10 years by mandating that all new long-haul trucks dump diesel in favor of liquefied natural gas.

He just unveiled yet another TV ad and is building up his Pickens Army online—now 1.35 million strong and counting—in order to pressure the new Congress to translate his plan into law.

But Mr. Pickens has his opponents, including FedEx CEO Fred Smith, who favors electrification of the transporation fleet. Mr. Smith argues that hybrids are the way to go, and is putting his money where his mouth is. With 80,000 motorized vehicles, FedEx now boasts the largest fleet of commercial hybrid trucks in North America.

Without naming Mr. Pickens, the company’s director of sustainability, Mitch Jackson, upped the ante on Sunday with a blog item blasting natural gas as transport fuel of the future.  After citing a list of reasons against using natural gas instead of diesel, Mr. Jackson concludes that “substituting one fossil fuel for another may mean we’re shifting our energy supply, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going anywhere.”

Mr. Pickens then let it rip with a rebuttal that accuses Mr. Jackson of making a “flawed argument” by misunderstanding the country’s natural-gas reserves and overstating the value of diesel hybrids.

“Not only does Jackson need to do more homework on the domestic availability and clean air benefits of natural gas,” Mr. Pickens writes in his Daily Pickens blog, “he needs to realize that deploying vehicles that use slightly less foreign oil – vehicles that have little testing or are not available in the marketplace – will not solve America’s energy crisis.”

Mr. Pickens has won allies in his natural-gas fight, including an array of lawmakers in Washington and army of online supporters. Fedex rival UPS is turning some of its fleet over to natural gas, and WalMart is eyeing a similar plan.

But along with FedEx, the American Trucking Association is not keen on the idea. And ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson took his own swipe at it in a speech on Thursday, saying the plan “has a number of flaws in its assumptions” and could end up increasing U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

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CBS 5 with MendoCoastCurrent edits, January 8, 2009

oil_rigNew legislation may prevent oil drilling off the California coast in Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Growing concern about the nation’s reliance on foreign oil has led to rekindled enthusiasm in some quarters for coastal oil drilling, and renewed efforts to protect the Northern California coast.

Two bills introduced when Congress convened this week place a ban on coastal oil drilling in Northern California, one by creating a marine sanctuary off the Sonoma coast. 

Rep. Lynn Woolsey of Marin and Sonoma counties attempted to push the marine sanctuary bill through when a 26-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling expired last year. 

Another bill by Rep. Mike Thompson of Northern California permanently bans drilling off the coasts of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties. 

Both said without quick action, new oil rigs may soon dot California’s coast.

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JANE KAY, The San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 2008

ba-drilling1229__sfcg1230351957The federal government is taking steps that may open California’s fabled coast to oil drilling in as few as three years, an action that could place dozens of platforms off the Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt coasts, and raises the specter of spills, air pollution and increased ship traffic into San Francisco Bay.

Millions of acres of oil deposits, mapped in the 1980s when then-Interior Secretary James Watt and Energy Secretary Donald Hodel pushed for California exploration, lie a few miles from the forested North Coast and near the mouth of the Russian River, as well as off Malibu, Santa Monica and La Jolla in Southern California.

“These are the targets,” said Richard Charter, a lobbyist for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund who worked for three decades to win congressional bans on offshore drilling. “You couldn’t design a better formula to create adverse impacts on California’s coastal-dependent economy.”

The bans that protected both of the nation’s coasts beginning in 1981, from California to the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic Coast and the Straits of Florida, ended this year when Congress let the moratorium lapse.

President-elect Barack Obama hasn’t said whether he would overturn President Bush’s lifting last summer of the ban on drilling, as gas prices reached a historic high. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Col., Obama’s pick as interior secretary and head of the nation’s ocean-drilling agency, hasn’t said what he would do in coastal waters.

The Interior Department has moved to open some or all federal waters, which begin 3 miles from shore and are outside state control, for exploration as early as 2010. Rigs could go up in 2012.

National marine sanctuaries off San Francisco and Monterey bays are off-limits in California. Areas open to drilling extend from Bodega Bay north to the Oregon border and from Morro Bay south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Drilling foes say the impacts of explosive blasts from seismic air guns that map rock formations, increased vessel traffic and oil spills should be enough to persuade federal agencies to thwart petroleum exploration. California’s treasured coast, with its migrating whales, millions of seabirds, sea otters, fish and crab feeding grounds, beaches and tidal waters, are at risk, Charter and other opponents say.

According to the Interior Department, coastal areas nationwide that were affected by the drilling ban contain 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in what the agency called yet-to-be-discovered fields. The estimates are conservative and are based on seismic surveys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before the moratorium went into effect.

California’s Share

The agency’s last estimate puts about 10 billion barrels in California, enough to supply the nation for 17 months. That breaks down to 2.1 billion barrels from Point Arena in Mendocino County to the Oregon border, 2.3 billion from Point Arena south to San Luis Obispo County and 5.6 billion between there and Mexico.

“If you were allowed to go out and do new exploration, those numbers could go up or down. In most cases, you would expect them to go up,” said Dave Smith, deputy communications officer of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which oversees energy development in federal waters.

In California, any exploration and drilling would be close to shore, experts say. In contrast to the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling could occur in waters 10,000 feet deep, California’s holdings lie on its narrow, shallow continental shelf, the underwater edge of land where creatures died over the millennia to produce the oil.

If the Interior Department decides to explore off California’s coast, it could probably do so, some attorneys say. If a state objects to a lease plan, the president has the final say.

Once an area has been leased, the California Coastal Commission may review an oil company’s plan to explore or extract resources to assess if it is consistent with the state’s coastal management program. Conflicts can end up in court, said Alison Dettmer, the commission’s deputy director.

Californians have generally opposed drilling since a platform blowout in 1969 splashed 3 million gallons of black, gooey crude oil on 35 miles of beaches around Santa Barbara, killing otters and seabirds. The destruction of shoreline and wildlife sparked activism and led to the creation of the Coastal Commission.

But when gas prices peaked a few months ago amid cries of “drill, baby, drill” at rallies for GOP presidential candidate John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin, 51 percent of Californians said they favored more offshore drilling, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

In July, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne jump-started the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program and pushed up possible new coastal activity by two years.

The Interior Department is reviewing comments about which coastal areas to include in the next five-year leasing plan. Oil companies want all of the nation’s coastal areas open and say they can produce oil offshore in a way that protects the environment. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who opposes new offshore development, has offered comments, as have environmental groups.

Obama’s Energy Plans

Obama’s administration and Congress will have the final say over which regions, if any, would be put up for possible lease sales. In Congress earlier this year, Salazar, Obama’s nominee for interior secretary, supported a bipartisan bill allowing exploration and production 50 miles out from the southern Atlantic coast with state approval. The bill died.

“We’ve been encouraged that the president-elect has chosen Sen. Salazar,” said Dan Naatz, vice president for federal resources with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group with 5,000 members that drill 90% of the oil and natural gas wells in the United States. “He’s from the West, and he understands federal land policy, which is really key.”

During this year’s presidential campaign, Obama was bombarded by questions about high gas prices and said new domestic drilling wouldn’t do much to lower gasoline prices but could have a place in a comprehensive energy program.

After introducing his green team of environment and energy chiefs recently, Obama said the foundation of the nation’s energy independence lies in the “power of wind and solar, in new crops and new technologies, in the innovation of our scientists and entrepreneurs and the dedication and skill of our workforce.”

He spoke of moving “beyond our oil addiction,” creating “a new, hybrid economy” and investing in “renewable energy that will give life to new businesses and industries.”

Obama didn’t mention oil drilling. When a reporter asked him if he would reinstate the moratorium, he said he wasn’t happy that the moratorium was allowed to lapse in Congress without a broader thought to how the country was going to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

He reiterated his campaign position that he was open to the idea of offshore drilling if it was part of a comprehensive package, adding that he would turn over the question to his team.

In the 1970s and 1980s, before the moratorium on offshore drilling fully took effect, the federal government produced a series of maps showing areas in California of prospective interest to the oil industry. Those maps offer clues to where oil companies would bid if they had the opportunity.

North Coast

The last proposed lease sale in 1987, thwarted by the moratorium, would have opened 6.5 million acres off the North Coast. Off Mendocino and Humboldt counties, the tracts for sale lay from 3 to 27 miles offshore, and some of the 24 planned platforms, some of them 300 feet tall and each with dozens of wells, would have been visible from land.

Tourism and commercial fisheries would have been affected, according to an environmental review then, while as many as 240 new oil tanker trips from Fort Bragg and Eureka to San Francisco Bay refineries were predicted under the full development scenario. The probability of one or more spills occurring would be 94 percent for accidents involving 1,000 barrels or more, according to documents.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, recently said oil drilling will be part of a comprehensive energy policy focusing on renewable sources, but she would like to see drilling occur only on land and in the Gulf of Mexico where infrastructure is in place.

Capps well remembers the Santa Barbara spill almost 40 years ago.

“I was living in Goleta. I just had two children, and my husband was a young professor at UC Santa Barbara. It was a devastating experience,” she said. “The birds and other animals got trapped in the oil. So many people waded out in boots just inch by inch trying to rescue our wildlife. It ruined our tourism for many years.

“I think about it all the time, especially last week when we had had a spill at the same platform. It was a small spill, 1,000 gallons, but it was a wake-up call.”

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DEBORAH CHARLES, Reuters, December 10, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama’s team to address climate change emerged on Wednesday as Democratic officials said he had chosen a Nobel laureate for U.S. energy secretary and was likely to pick an environmental veteran to serve as coordinator of climate policies.

Announcements to come in the days ahead include several key environment-related appointments — Steven Chu as energy secretary, Carol Browner as energy and climate coordinator, Nancy Sutley to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Lisa Jackson to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

They will be charged with developing policies to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming, develop new sources of energy and create new jobs — a top priority for Obama.

Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics. He was an early advocate for scientific solutions to climate change.

Browner was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. A principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, she heads Obama’s advisory team on energy and the environment.

Sutley has a long history in the environmental community. She is currently deputy mayor for energy and environment for Los Angeles and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board earlier this decade.

Jackson has served as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in New Jersey.

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RYAN RANDAZZO, The Arizona Republic, November 12, 2008

tboonepickensBillionaire T. Boone Pickens said that his Texas wind farm is on hold because natural gas prices have dropped but that his plan for wind power and natural gas vehicles is still viable to reduce foreign oil imports.

The Texas oil tycoon spoke Tuesday to about 650 utility and investment officials gathered in Phoenix for the Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference.

Pickens launched an advertising campaign last summer to promote wind farms to generate electricity and to use natural gas to power vehicles. “I’m the only person in the United States that has a plan,” he said. “Senator Obama and his people have been in touch with mine. They see the merits of what we are doing.”

Pickens said the U.S. needs to exploit all its resources, from solar power in Arizona to coal and nuclear energy, but that few things could cut foreign oil imports quickly.

He said neither Obama’s plans for 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles nor John McCain’s plans for 45 more nuclear plants would make a dent in oil imports, but semitrucks fueled by natural gas could reduce oil demand for the next 20 years before better transportation technology is available.

“It’s a bridge to the next generation, which will probably be the battery, the fuel cell,” he said. “It won’t be the hydrocarbon.”

But the current drop in oil and natural-gas prices is slowing things down.

Until natural gas prices rise, Pickens said his wind farm and most others in the country will not go forward because electricity from gas plants will be more economical. Still, he was confident prices would rise.

He said Americans haven’t understood the nation’s energy challenges because prices have been low, until last summer when oil hit a record $147 a barrel.

“You haven’t had the leadership in Washington to tell us what the problem was,” he said. “The American people did not realize where we were. When oil went to $100, I had a story to tell.”

Steven Dreyer, managing director at Standard and Poor’s, credited Pickens for raising awareness.

“Arguably, for the first time, ordinary people were able to connect the dots between carbon reduction and energy,” Dreyer said.

Ron Insana, managing director of SAC Capital Advisors and former CNBC commentator, questioned Pickens about how he will benefit financially by such a plan through his wind farm and large stake in Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a natural gas, vehicle fueling company.

Pickens described his potential to profit from wind and natural gas but said his motivations are patriotic.

“I’d rather be playing golf at the Del Mar Country Club this afternoon,” Pickens said. “But I truly believe this is good for the country.”

Pickens believes that global oil production has already “peaked” and that it will continue to become scarcer and more expensive, despite the current lull in gas prices.

He is founder and chairman of energy-investment company BP Capital and founded Mesa Petroleum, a natural gas and oil producer. He is a geologist by training.

“When I launched my plan July 8, gas prices were $4.11 a gallon, and now they’re half that. I think I’ve done a pretty good job,” he said to chuckles from the audience.

He predicted oil, which closed Tuesday at $59, to be $100 a barrel within a year, and could be $300 a barrel by 2018.

Pickens supports domestic drilling but said that can’t come close to meeting daily U.S. oil demand.

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PETER S. GOODMAN, The New York Times, November 2, 2008

Newton, Iowa – Like his uncle, his grandfather and many of their neighbors, Arie Versendaal spent decades working at the Maytag factory here, turning coils of steel into washing machines.

When the plant closed last year, taking 1,800 jobs out of this town of 16,000 people, it seemed a familiar story of American industrial decline: another company town brought to its knees by the vagaries of global trade.

Except that Mr. Versendaal has a new factory job, at a plant here that makes blades for turbines that turn wind into electricity. Across the road, in the old Maytag factory, another company is building concrete towers to support the massive turbines. Together, the two plants are expected to employ nearly 700 people by early next year.

“Life’s not over,” Mr. Versendaal says. “For 35 years, I pounded my body to the ground. Now, I feel like I’m doing something beneficial for mankind and the United States. We’ve got to get used to depending on ourselves instead of something else, and wind is free. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use.”

From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel.

This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks. In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers.

Amid a presidential election campaign now dominated by economic concerns, wind turbines and solar panels seem as ubiquitous in campaign advertisements as the American flag.

No one believes that renewable energy can fully replace what has been lost on the American factory floor, where people with no college education have traditionally been able to finance middle-class lives. Many at Maytag earned $20 an hour in addition to health benefits. Mr. Versendaal now earns about $13 an hour.

Still, it’s a beginning in a sector of the economy that has been marked by wrenching endings, potentially a second chance for factory workers accustomed to layoffs and diminished aspirations.

In West Branch, Iowa, a town of 2,000 people east of Iowa City, workers now assemble wind turbines in a former pump factory. In northwestern Ohio, glass factories suffering because of the downturn in the auto industry are retooling to make solar energy panels.

“The green we’re interested in is cash,” says Norman W. Johnston, who started a solar cell factory called Solar Fields in Toledo in 2003.

The market is potentially enormous. In a report last year, the Energy Department concluded that the United States could make wind energy the source of one-fifth of its electricity by 2030, up from about 2 percent today. That would require nearly $500 billion in new construction and add more than three million jobs, the report said. Much of the growth would be around the Great Lakes, the hardest-hit region in a country that has lost four million manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Throw in solar energy along with generating power from crops, and the continued embrace of renewable energy would create as many as five million jobs by 2030, asserts Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and an adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

The unfolding financial crisis seems likely to slow the pace of development, making investment harder to secure. But renewable energy has already gathered what analysts say is unstoppable momentum. In Texas, the oil baron T. Boone Pickens is developing what would be the largest wind farm in the world. Most states now require that a significant percentage of electricity be generated from wind, solar and biofuels, effectively giving the market a government mandate.

And many analysts expect the United States to eventually embrace some form of new regulatory system aimed at curbing global warming that would force coal-fired electricity plants to pay for the pollution they emit. That could make wind, solar and other alternative fuels competitive in terms of the cost of producing electricity.

Both presidential candidates have made expanding renewable energy a policy priority. Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, has outlined plans to spend $150 billion over the next decade to spur private companies to invest. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, has spoken more generally of the need for investment.

In June, more than 12,000 people and 770 exhibitors jammed a convention center in Houston for the annual American Wind Energy Association trade show. “Five years ago, we were all walking around in Birkenstocks,” says John M. Brown, managing director of a turbine manufacturer, Entegrity Wind Systems of Boulder, Colo., which had a booth on the show floor. “Now it’s all suits. You go to a seminar, and it’s getting taught by lawyers and bankers.”

So it goes in Iowa. Perched on the edge of the Great Plains — the so-called Saudi Arabia of wind — the state has rapidly become a leading manufacturing center for wind power equipment.

“We are blessed with certainly some of the best wind in the world,” says Chet Culver, Iowa’s governor.

Maytag was born in Newton more than a century ago. Even after the company swelled into a global enterprise, its headquarters remained here, in the center of the state, 35 miles east of Des Moines.

“Newton was an island,” says Ted Johnson, the president of local chapter of the United Automobile Workers, which represented the Maytaggers. “We saw autos go through hard times, other industries. But we still had meat on our barbecues.”

The end began in the summer of 2005. Whirlpool, the appliance conglomerate, swallowed up Maytag. As the word spread that local jobs were doomed — Whirlpool was consolidating three factories’ production into two — workers unloaded their memorabilia at Pappy’s Antique Mall downtown: coffee mugs, buttons, award plaques.

“If it said Maytag on it, we bought it,” says Susie Jones, the store manager. “At first, I thought the stuff had value. Then, it was out of the kindness of my heart. And now I don’t have any heart left. It don’t sell. People are mad at them. They ripped out our soul.”

When the town needed a library, a park or a community college, Maytag lent a hand. The company was Newton’s largest employer, its wages paying for tidy houses, new cars, weddings, retirement parties and funerals.

As Whirlpool made plans to shutter the factory, state and county economic development officials scrambled to attract new employers. In June 2007, the local government dispatched a team to the American Wind Energy Association show in Los Angeles. Weeks later, a company called TPI Composites arrived in Newton to have a look.

Based in Arizona, TPI makes wind turbine blades by layering strips of fiberglass into large molds, requiring a long work space. The Maytag plant was too short. So local officials showed TPI an undeveloped piece of land encircled by cornfields on the edge of town where a new plant could be built.

Although TPI was considering a site in Mexico with low labor costs, Newton had a better location. Rail lines and Interstate 80 connect it to the Great Plains, where the turbines are needed. Former Maytag employees were eager for work, and the community college was ready to teach them blade-making.

Newton won. In exchange for $6 million in tax sweeteners, TPI promised to hire 500 people by 2010. It has already hired about 225 and is on track to have a work force of 290 by mid-November.

“Getting 500 jobs in one swoop is like winning the lottery,” says Newton’s mayor, Chaz Allen. “We don’t have to just roll over and die.”

On a recent afternoon, workers inside the cavernous TPI plant gaze excitedly at a crane lifting a blade from its mold and carrying it toward a cleared area. Curved and smooth, the blade stretches as long as a wing of the largest jets. One worker hums the theme from “Jaws” as the blade slips past.

Larry Crady, a worker, takes particular pleasure in seeing the finished product overhead, a broad grin forming across his goateed face. He used to run a team that made coin-operated laundry machines at Maytag. Now he supervises a team that lays down fiberglass strips between turbine moldings. He runs his hand across the surface of the next blade for signs of unevenness.

“I like this job more than I did Maytag,” Mr. Crady says. “I feel I’m doing something to improve our country, rather than just building a washing machine.”

Ask him how long he spent at Maytag and Mr. Crady responds precisely: “23.6 years.” Which is to say, 6.4 years short of drawing a pension whose famously generous terms compelled so many to work at the Maytag plant. “That’s what everyone in Newton was waiting on,” he says. “You could get that 30 and out.”

But he is now optimistic about the decades ahead. “I feel solid,” he says. “This is going to be the future. This company is going to grow huge.”

The human resources office at TPI is overseen by Terri Rock, who used to have the same position at Maytag’s corporate headquarters, where she worked for two decades. In her last years there, her job was mostly spent ending other people’s jobs.

“There was a lot of heartache,” she says. “This is a small town, and you’d have to let people go and then see them at the grocery store with their families. It was a real tough job at the end.”

Now, Ms. Rock starts fresh careers, hiring as many as 20 people a week. She enjoys the creative spirit of a start-up. “We’re not stuck with the mentality of ‘this is how we’ve done it for the last 35 years,’ ” she says.

Maytag is gone in large part because of the calculus driving globalization: household appliances and so many other goods are now produced mostly where physical labor is cheaper, in countries like China and Mexico. But wind turbines and blades are huge and heavy. The TPI plant is in Iowa largely because of the costs of shipping such huge items from far away.

“These are American jobs that are hard to export,” says Crugar Tuttle, general manager of the TPI plant.

And these jobs are part of a build-out that is gathering force. More than $5 billion in venture capital poured into so-called clean energy technology industries last year in North America and Europe, according to Cleantech, a trade group. In North America, that represented nearly a fifth of all venture capital, up from less than 2 percent in 2000.

“Everybody involved in the wind industry is in a massive hurry to build out capacity,” Mr. Tuttle says. “It will feed into a whole local industry of people making stuff, driving trucks. Manufacturing has been in decline for decades. This is our greatest chance to turn it around. It’s the biggest ray of hope that we’ve got.”

Those rays aren’t touching everyone, though. Hundreds of former Maytag workers remain without jobs, or stuck in positions paying less than half their previous wages. Outside an old union hall, some former Maytaggers share cigarettes and commiserate about the strains of starting over.

Mr. Johnson, the former local president, is jobless. At 45, he has slipped back into a world of financial hardship that he thought he had escaped. His father was a self-employed welder. His mother worked at an overalls factory.

“I grew up in southern Iowa with nothing,” he says. “If somebody got a new car, everybody heard about it.”

When Maytag shut down, his $1,100-a-week paycheck became a $360 unemployment check. He and his wife divorced, turning what once was a two-income household into a no-income household. He sold off his truck, his dining room furniture, his Maytag refrigerator — all in an effort to pay his mortgage. Last winter, he surrendered his house to foreclosure.

Mr. Johnson has applied for more than 220 jobs, he says, from sales positions at Lowe’s to TPI. He has yet to secure an interview. His unemployment benefits ran out in May. He no longer has health insurance. He recently broke a tooth where a filling had been, but he can’t afford to have it fixed.

When his teenage daughter, who lives with him, complained of headaches, he paid $1,500 out of pocket for an M.R.I. The doctor found a cyst on her brain. And how is she doing now? Mr. Johnson freezes at the question. He is a grown man with silver hair, a black Harley-Davidson T-shirt across a barrel chest, and calloused hands that could once bring a comfortable living. He tries to compose himself, but tears burst. “I’m sorry,” he says.

He signed up for a state insurance program for low-income families so his daughter could go to a neurologist.

Although the United States is well behind Europe in manufacturing wind-power gear and solar panels, other American communities are joining Newton’s push, laying the groundwork for large-scale production.

“You have to reinvest in industrial capacity,” says Randy Udall, an energy consultant in Carbondale, Colo. “You use wind to revitalize the Rust Belt. You make steel again. You bring it home. We ought to be planting wind turbines as if they were trees.”

In West Branch, Acciona, a Spanish company, has converted the empty hydraulic pump factory into a plant that makes wind turbines. When the previous plant closed, it wiped out 130 jobs; Acciona has hired 120 people, many of them workers from the old factory.

Steve Jennings, 50, once made $14 an hour at the hydraulic pump factory. When he heard that a wind turbine plant was coming in a mere five miles from his house, he was among the first to apply for a job. Now he’s a team leader, earning nearly $20 an hour — more than he’s ever made. Ordinary line workers make $16 an hour and up.

“It seemed like manufacturing was going away,” he says. “But I think this is here to stay.”

Acciona built its first turbine in Iowa last December and is on track to make 200 this year. Next year, it plans to double production.

For now, Acciona is importing most of its metal parts from Europe. But the company is seeking American suppliers, which could help catalyze increased metalwork in the United States.

“Michigan, Ohio — that’s the Rust Belt,” says Adrian LaTrace, the plant’s general manager. “We could be purchasing these components from those states. We’ve got the attention of the folks in the auto industry. This thing has critical mass.”

In Toledo, the declining auto industry has prompted a retooling. For more than a century, the city has been dominated by glass-making, but the problems of Detroit automakers have softened demand for car windows from its plants. Toledo has lost nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs since 2000.

Now, Toledo is harnessing its glass-making skills to carve out a niche in solar power. At the center of the trend is a huge glass maker, Pilkington, which bought a Toledo company that was born in the 19th century.

Half of Pilkington’s business is in the automotive industry. In the last two years, that business is down 30% in North America. But the solar division, started two years ago, is growing at a 40 percent clip annually.

Nearby, the University of Toledo aims to play the same enabling role in solar power that Stanford played at the dawn of the Internet. It has 15 faculty members researching solar power. By licensing the technologies spawned in its labs, the university encourages its academics to start businesses.

One company started by a professor, Xunlight, is developing thin and flexible solar cells. It has 65 employees and expects to have as many as 150 by the middle of next year.

“It’s a second opportunity,” says an assembly supervisor, Matt McGilvery, one of Xunlight’s early hires. Mr. McGilvery, 50, spent a decade making steel coils for $23 an hour before he was laid off. Xunlight hired him this year. His paycheck has shrunk, he says, declining to get into particulars, but his old-fashioned skills drawing plans by hand are again in demand as Xunlight designs its manufacturing equipment from scratch, and the future seems promising.

“The hope is that two years from now everything is smoking and that envelope will slide across the table,” he says. “The money that people are dumping into this tells me it’s a huge market.”

In Newton, the tidy downtown clustered around a domed courthouse is already showing signs of new life, after the pain of Maytag’s demise.

The owner of Courtyard Floral, Diane Farver, says she saw a steep drop in sales after Maytag left, particularly around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, when she used to run several vanloads a week to the washing machine plant. Times have changed since that decline. When TPI recently dispatched workers to a factory in China for training, the company ordered bouquets for the spouses left at home.

Across the street at NetWork Realty, the broker Dennis Combs says the housing market is starting to stabilize as Maytag jobs are replaced.

“We’ve gone from Maytag, which wasn’t upgrading their antiquated plant, to something that’s cutting-edge technology, something that every politician is screaming this country has to have,” he says.

At Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House, talk of unemployment checks and foreclosures now mixes with job leads and looming investment.

“We’re seeing hope,” says Mr. Allen, the mayor.

The town is hardly done. Kimberly M. Didier, head of the Newton Development Corporation, which helped recruit TPI, is trying to attract turbine manufacturers and providers of raw materials and parts for the wind industry.

“This is in its infancy,” she says. “Automobiles, washer-dryers and other appliances have become commodities in their retirement phase. We’re in the beginning of this. How our economy functions is changing. We built this whole thing around oil, and now we’ve got to replace that.”

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Keith Johnson, Environmental Capital in WSJ, September 15, 2008

Most of the renewable-energy business is busy fretting about the extension of federal tax credits, which expire at the end of this year. But the real story, it seems, is how clean energy’s biggest historical handicap is coming to be seen as one of its biggest selling points: its predictable cost.

Take offshore wind power, the holy grail of big renewable-energy projects. There’s lots of wind a few miles out at sea; go out far enough, and even Kennedys will stop complaining about eyesores. The U.S. Minerals Management Service, lately notorious for opening other things up, is opening up chunks of the U.S. coastline for wind-farm development.

The problem with offshore wind has always been the cost: The turbines cost more, and installing them and maintaining them costs more than their onshore cousins. That helped torpedo efforts in the U.S. to build offshore wind farms in the past. Or, as the NYT phrased it in its lengthy review of Delaware’s battle to become the first U.S. state to embrace offshore wind with the Bluewater Wind Park:

Offshore marine construction was wildly, painfully expensive — like standing in a cold shower and ripping up stacks of thousand-dollar bills.

How did a cold shower turn into an offshore wind farm blessed by same the local power company that had actively lobbied against it? Two words: energy prices.

From the NYT: “Energy markets went significantly higher — and scarily so, particularly in the last six months,” [Bluewater Wind boss Peter Mandelstam] said. Indeed, oil has skyrocketed, and the price of Appalachian coal has more than doubled this year. Tom Noyes, a Bluewater supporter, blogger, and Wilmington-based financial analyst, says that a year ago, “the numbers that both sides of this debate were throwing around were largely academic. Now, those numbers are visceral.” Against this backdrop of steadily climbing energy prices, Bluewater’s offer of stable-priced electricity — an inflation-adjusted 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years — became something that no utility, it seems, could credibly oppose. “A few decision-makers got it early on,” Mandelstam said, “some got it slightly later and [local power company] Delmarva finally got it.”

Wind power is suddenly becoming more attractive because the fuel is free; what makes it expensive is the up-front capital costs of the turbines and wind farm installation. That’s almost the opposite case with power sources like natural gas, where the upfront costs are pretty low, and the fuel bill is the main variable.

At a time of wildly volatile oil, coal, and gas prices around the world, that kind of long-term price predictability is a big advantage. The city of Houston is saving money on its power bill after switching one-quarter of its municipal power needs to fixed-price wind-power contracts.

It worked on Delmarva, too. President Gary Stockbridge told Delaware state authorities one of the main reasons he was able to finally agree to purchase power from the Bluewater wind farm was that ratepayers wouldn’t get stuck with much higher utility bills—which is what Delmarva had initially warned about when it opposed the wind farm.

In just the last two months, though, oil prices have collapsed; crude fell below $100 Monday. So the question for Bluewater and every other embryonic offshore wind farm in the U.S. remains the same: Will fossil fuels stay pricey enough to keep renewable energy attractive, or are fresh subsidies the sector’s only hope?

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CAROL CAMPBELL & RODRICK MUKUMBIRA, Science & Development Network, August 11, 2008

A huge solar energy tower has been proposed to boost the electricity grid in Namibia, South Africa.

At one and a half kilometres high and 280 metres wide — bigger than two soccer fields back-to-back — the tower could provide electricity for the whole of the Namibian capital Windhoek.

But neither a date nor a site for the proposed tower has been confirmed, though it is expected to be close to Windhoek, says South African mechanical engineer Alan Dunlop from the pan-African intellectual property firm Hahn & Hahn, which is involved in the project.

The operation of a solar tower involves heating air inside a vast transparent tent, several kilometres in diameter, at the base of the tower. This hot air rises inside a tall concrete chimney, driving wind turbines linked to generators. The tent can also be used to grow crops.

The proposed tower is about three times larger than anything similar on earth and though its running costs would be low, construction would cost at least US$900 million.

“One of the main reasons why commercial solar chimney power plants have not been built is that they have to be very large to be economically viable,” says Theo von Backström from the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University.

Engineers at the university say their research — including a dozen journal papers and 14 conference papers — indicates that a large-scale tower is possible.

It has also been shown that solar chimney power plants can produce power at night. The water used for crops is heated during sunny weather and this heat is released back into the air during the night or during cloudy weather to keep the turbines going. No extra water is required — an important issue for a desert country such as Namibia.

Pretoria-based physicist Wolf-Walter Stinnes, the brains behind the Namibian tower, worked on a pre-feasibility study for a similar solar chimney in South Africa’s Kalahari desert up until 2000.

Stinnes said the project was dropped because its power was too expensive compared with coal power.

But given the price of oil and the issues raised by climate change, there has been renewed interest in solar chimneys in countries such as Australia, Egypt, India and Morocco.

According to a report in Engineering News, the Namibian government has agreed to cover half the costs of the US$780,000 pre-feasibility report once private funding has been obtained.

But Joseph Iita, Namibia’s permanent secretary for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, warns: “We are only prepared to work with serious investors and, despite so many investors showing interest in the field of energy generation, we haven’t seen any project taking off.”

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MATT NAUMAN, San Jose Mercury News, September 27, 2008

Al Gore said in San Jose on Saturday that the climate crisis deserves the same type of attention and money from Washington that the financial meltdown is getting.

“Instead of a focus only on a bailout, we need to bail in renewable energy,” Gore said during a 50-minute speech at the Civic Auditorium.

Gore, who turned 60 this year, was a three-term U.S. senator from Tennessee, vice president for eight years and narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election to George Bush. But it was his move toward environmentalism, symbolized by his starring role in the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and his subsequent Nobel Peace Prize that turned him into an international crusader against global warming.

That’s what brought him to San Jose on Saturday, as the keynote speaker for the three-day West Coast Green conference. It included presentations on a variety of green-living topics, plus an exhibit hall of green-building products.

Wearing a navy suit, but no tie, Gore came across as part science teacher, part economist and part environmental evangelist. His remarks, which included a funny story or two and mentions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, drew frequent applause and a few standing ovations.

Indeed, the speech had something of a rock concert feel. Loud music played before the event started. Many in the casually dressed crowd of about 2,000 took cell-phone photos once Gore walked onto the stage. And his comments about the dangers of climate change, its impact on the world, and how it might be solved, sounded like Gore’s greatest hits.

He traced the current crisis with the financial markets to the subprime mortgage mess. There’s also a “subprime carbon” mess that’s shaking the world’s economy, he said, one that puts 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each day. And companies that deny it’s harmful are engaging in “a form of stock fraud,” he said.

Plans to seek oil from Canadian oil shale and tar sands are “utter and complete madness, complete insanity,” he said. And new coal plants should be banned in the United States, he said.

The world continues to look to America for leadership in solving global warming, he said, and it’s not getting it. “Every other nation that has failed to take action shares the same excuse for not doing so. They all point to the United States, and say, if the United States isn’t doing it, why should we,” he said. He linked that comment to the November election, but didn’t mention either Barack Obama or John McCain by name. But he repeated his quote from the Democratic convention, where he talked about McCain following Bush, saying “I’m for recycling, but this is ridiculous.”

Within 10 years, the United States should get 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. “It’s time to think boldly,” he said. “We’ve had enough of little tiny policies.

He called for a national smart grid with expanded, underground transmission lines that add solar, wind and geothermal power to the national’s energy supply. And he mentioned Silicon Valley, where he now works as a partner at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture-capital firm, as being integral to achieving something like a Moore’s Law for renewable technologies where efficiencies increase and prices fall at a consistent pace.

Gore was preceded on stage by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. He alluded to his stint as California’s governor three decades ago when he was derided as “Governor Moonbeam” for pushing for greener buildings and solar energy. He said that those have become popular notions today.

He, too, made reference to the $700 billion bailout package being negotiated in Washington, D.C.

“Why not spend $700 billion for solar, for efficiency, for conservation?” Vice Presideant Gore asked the audience. “Why not?”

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MendoCoastCurrent, A Message from Richard Charter, September 29, 2008

The 27-year congressional offshore drilling moratorium will quietly lapse at midnight this Tuesday, September 30. Representing one of the most significant reversals of conservation protection in our time, this tragic event may be overshadowed in the media by the single most threatening economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We are also hearing that we may yet face a last-minute Senate Floor vote on an unspecified proposal by Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina this week, having to do with litigation and expedited OCS leasing.

As a Nation, our Founders long ago established the hallowed tradition of not unnecessarily trashing every part of our natural heritage, and Congress was able to extend this important tradition of preservation to our most sensitive coastal waters by maintaining the OCS moratorium throughout the past twenty-seven years.

During this period of struggle for our coasts, we have had a good run. We need to now rededicate ourselves to the health of our oceans and to the protection of our coastal environment as a matter of survival, and recommit our collective efforts in a new Congress and in each of our states to restoring what has been temporarily taken from us this year in the largest land-grab in U.S. history, while preparing to rebuild similar new protection for our coastal waters in a new Administration.

Our task will not be easy, but it has never been easy. The oil industry is funding Newt Gingrich to hold a big raucus celebration of their “energy independence victory” in Atlanta on Tuesday, but we will not be holding a wake for our coast. We know in our hearts that, in the words of the late David Brower, we are not yet so desperate that we must burn our cathedrals for firewood.

Greed may have temporarily triumphed in the short term through the generous distribution of petrodollars in Congress and the idiotic falsehoods and senseless fear spread by the likes of Fox News, but there is absolutely no other practical path ahead than to pursue an efficient transition to a new energy ethic to be constructively applied throughout the industrial world, beginning in an America that once again leads by positive example.

Attached are some suggested messaging points(HERE) for your consideration and use leading up to this week’s inevitable questions from reporters, and to the potential Senate vote on the DeMint legislation. The oil industry already appears to be planting numerous editorials in coastal states to the effect that residents need not worry, drilling rigs will not appear anytime soon, and these same industry PR efforts are sowing disinformation to the effect that individual states will be able to prevent offshore drilling if they don’t want it.

Thanking every single person who sent emails, wrote condolences, and who shed tears these past few days over just how inept and uncaring Congress could be at this time, thanking each and every single one of you who spent countless hours of volunteer time, some for three decades, to save the coast for our grandchildren, and most of all, reminding you, as if you needed it, that this is absolutely NOT over…

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CLIFFORD KRAUSS, The New York Times, August 30, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY — The best deal on fuel in the country right now might be here in Utah, where people are waiting in lines to pay the equivalent of 87 cents a gallon. Demand is so strong at rush hour that fuel runs low, and some days people can pump only half a tank.

It is not gasoline they are buying for their cars, but natural gas.

By an odd confluence of public policy and private initiative, Utah has become the first state in the country to experience broad consumer interest in the idea of running cars on clean natural gas.

Residents of the state are hunting the Internet and traveling the country to pick up used natural gas cars at auctions. They are spending thousands of dollars to transform their trucks and sport utility vehicles to run on compressed gas. Some fueling stations that sell it to the public are so busy they frequently run low on pressure, forcing drivers to return before dawn when demand is down.

It all began when unleaded gasoline rose above $3.25 a gallon last year, and has spiraled into a frenzy in the last few months.

Ron Brown, Honda’s salesman here for the Civic GX, the only car powered by natural gas made by a major automaker in the country, has sold one out of every four of the 800 cars Honda has made so far this year, and he has a pile of 330 deposit slips in his office, each designating a customer waiting months for a new car.

“It’s nuts,” Mr. Brown said. “People are buying these cars from me and turning around and selling them as if they were flipping real estate.”

Advocates for these cars see Mr. Brown’s brisk sales as a sign that natural gas could become the transport fuel of the future, replacing much of the oil the nation imports. While that remains a distant dream, big increases recently in the country’s production of natural gas do raise the possibility of making wider use of the fuel.

To a degree, it is already starting to happen in Utah, where the cost savings have gotten the public’s attention. Natural gas is especially cheap here, so that people spend about 87 cents for a quantity of gas sufficient to propel a car approximately the same distance as a $3.95 gallon of gasoline.

The word about natural gas cars has been spreading in news reports and by word of mouth, and so many people in Utah are now trying to get their hands on used natural gas vehicles that they are drying up the national supply. Used car lots are stocking up, and beginning to look like county government parking lots with multiple lines of identical white Civic GXs once used in out-of-state fleets.

Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. got into the act last year, spending $12,000 out of his own pocket to convert his state sport utility vehicle to run on natural gas. “We can create a model that others can look to,” Mr. Huntsman said in an interview. “Every state in America can make this a reality.”

In fact, some unique factors apply in Utah. Natural gas prices at the pump here are controlled and are the cheapest in the country, while the price of conventional gasoline is one of the highest. Questar Gas, the public utility, has compressed-gas pumps around the state open to the public, a fueling infrastructure that few states can match.

Special factors or not, the sudden popularity of natural gas vehicles here demonstrates their potential, according to advocates like T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil billionaire who is financing a national campaign promoting wind power and natural gas to replace imported oil. “Utah shows that the technology is here and the fuel works and the fuel is better than foreign oil,” Mr. Pickens said.

Natural gas cars produce at least 20% less greenhouse gas per mile than regular cars, according to a California study.

No official figures are available on how many natural gas vehicles Utah has, in part because so many people go to garages that install conversion kits that are not certified by the EPA and are therefore illegal.

(Governor Huntsman has expressed concern, and some in the installation business have requested that the EPA close down the unauthorized operations; the agency says it does not comment on possible investigations.)

But Questar estimates the number at 6,000 and growing by several hundred a month. That is small compared with the 2.7 million vehicles registered in the state, but natural gas executives and state government officials say it makes Utah the fastest-growing market in the country for such cars.

Cars fueled by compressed natural gas have been available intermittently in the United States for decades, and have found wide use in fleets, but have never attracted much consumer interest. The situation is markedly different abroad. Of the eight million natural gas vehicles operating worldwide, only about 116,000 were in the United States, mostly as fleet vans, buses and cars, according to a 2006 Energy Department estimate.

Congress mandated the use of fleets capable of using alternative fuel cars for governments and some energy companies in the early 1990s, but public interest petered out as gasoline prices plummeted. Over the years, all the major car companies except Honda dropped their production in the United States.

The cars have two major disadvantages — a shortage of fueling stations and limited range. (A typical natural gas car goes half as far on a full tank as a gasoline car.) Utah is one of the few states where a driver can travel across the state without being out of range of a station.

The situation is a Catch-22: Carmakers do not want to make natural gas cars when few filling stations are set up for them, and few stations want to install expensive equipment to compress gas with so few cars on the road.

Hundreds of stations supply compressed gas in a few states like California, New York and Arizona, but most are either closed to the public or charge only modestly less than regular gasoline prices.

Retail natural gas prices in some states are triple the price in Utah. The only state that comes close to Utah’s low gas prices is Oklahoma, and a surge of natural gas car buying is going on there, too.

The natural gas industry and some politicians are pushing to open up the market to gas-powered vehicles across the country. Even in states without fueling stations, a few drivers have switched by spending several thousand dollars to install a home gas compressor.

A proposal on the ballot in California this fall would allow the state to sell $5 billion in bonds to finance rebates of $2,000 and more to buyers of natural gas vehicles. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to offer more tax credits to producers and consumers and mandate the installation of gas pumps in certain service stations, with the goal of making natural gas cars 10% of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next decade.

“If the incentives are right and the fuel and cars are available, natural gas can work,” said Gordon Larsen, supervisor for natural gas vehicle operations at Questar Gas. But he said that any drop in gasoline prices douses enthusiasm among drivers considering the switch.

With gasoline hovering just below $4 a gallon for unleaded regular here, interest in the Salt Lake City area is strong.

Questar reports that the volume of natural gas pumped at its 21 filling stations is up 240% this year from last, after a 50% rise in 2007. Demand has grown so fast that the compressors at many of Questar’s stations run low during the day, forcing drivers to settle for half a tank or fill up during off-peak hours.

The natural gas car surge in Utah is because of several factors. Questar has had filling pumps around the state to fuel its own fleet of service vehicles since the 1980s, and because it had excess capacity, it opened those stations to the public. Natural gas prices are cheap because under Utah regulations, the utility is obliged to offer about half of the gas that it sells to its retail customers at the cost of production.

The state and a few municipalities are preparing to open more filling stations. If the trend continues, it could eventually lower the environmental impact of driving in Utah.

For now, demand for compressed-gas cars is outstripping supply.

“People get into a frenzy and they just have to buy,” said Rick Oliver, owner of a company that converts vehicles. He said that in a recent online auction, a Utah buyer paid $19,000 for a 2001 Civic GX with 50,000 miles — the price a buyer of a new GX would pay after state and federal tax credits.

Gary Frederickson, a 48-year-old computer technician, has bought six natural gas vehicles on Craigslist over the last year, flying as far as Portland and Oakland to pick up the cars. One 1998 Ford Contour he bought for $3,000 in effect cost him nothing because he will receive a $3,000 state tax credit for buying an alternative fuel car.

“It’s crazy to be in Utah and have access to 85-cent-a-gallon fuel and not take advantage of it,” he said before a recent 2-cent increase.

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AYESHA RASCOE, Reuters, September 16, 2008

WASHINGTON  – The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday that lifts a longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling, opening most of the U.S. coastline to exploration.

The package proposed by Democrats would give states the option to allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles (80 and 160 km) off their shores. Areas more than 100 miles from the coast would be completely open to oil exploration and drilling.

The House voted 236 to 189 in favor of the package.

Until recently, Democratic leaders in Congress strongly opposed lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, saying drilling would have only a small impact on gasoline prices in the immediate future.

But as gasoline prices rose to levels above $4 a gallon this summer, public opinion shifted in favor of offshore drilling. Republicans made removing the ban on drilling a key campaign issue for their party in this election year.

With the moratorium facing expiration on September 30 and voter sentiment changing, Democrats supported repealing the ban as part of a larger energy package.

House Republicans, however, strongly protested the Democrats’ package, calling the bill a “sham” and a “hoax.”

The bill faces a possible veto from the White House.

“At a time when American families are in need of genuine relief from the effects of high fuel prices, this bill purports to open access to American energy sources while in reality taking actions to stifle development,” the White House said in a statement.

Opponents of the bill say since the bill does not include a revenue sharing plan, states will not have an incentive to open their coasts to exploration. Another complaint is that the requirement that drilling occur at least 50 miles away from the U.S. coast closes a great deal of the outer continental shelf where oil may be located.

Democrats countered that their package would open 319 million acres to 404 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling.

“This legislation is a result of reasonable compromise that will put us on a path to energy independence by expanding domestic supply,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Conservation groups blasted the House bill, however, for not protecting the environment. “As it stands, the clean energy provisions in this bill are dwarfed by the push for outdated, dirty and expensive energy,” said Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke.

Later this week, the Senate is expected to take up energy legislation that would expand offshore drilling, but not as much as the House. Both chambers would have to reconcile differences between their bills before a final energy package could be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

Time is running out for lawmakers to pass legislation as Congress is scheduled to adjourn on September 26.

Other provisions in the House energy package include:

  • Selling 70 million barrels of light crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to be replaced with heavy crude oil.
  • Offering renewable energy and efficiency tax credits that would be funded by repealing some tax breaks for the oil industry.
  • Allowing oil shale development in some western states, if the states approve.

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MendoCoastCurrent, John Podesta, September 9, 2008

ctr-4-american-progressOn September 9, 2008, the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank headed by John Podesta, former Chief of Staff to U.S. President Bill Clinton, published a report by entitled “Green Recovery: A New Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy.” This report may serve as a road map for the new President, Barack Obama. Podesta now heads President-Elect Obama’s transition team. As such, it may be instructive to review its contents as a guide to the Obama Administration’s energy policy.

The signs are clear: Our economy is in trouble. Falling home prices, foreclosures, bank failures, a weaker dollar, rising prices for gas, food, and steel, and layoffs in banking, construction, and manufacturing sectors are all indicators of serious economic strain-following a long period in which the middle class went nowhere even while the economy grew as a whole. What’s more, evidence suggests the current downturn will continue for at least another year.

At the same time, we face a growing climate crisis that will require us to rapidly invest in new energy infrastructure, cleaner sources of power, and more efficient use of electricity and fuels in order to cut global warming pollution. There is much work to be done in building smart solutions at a scale and speed that is bold enough to meet this gathering challenge.

It is time for a new vision for the economic revitalization of the nation and a restoration of American leadership in the world. We must seize this precious opportunity to mobilize the country and the international community toward a brighter, more prosperous future. At the heart of this opportunity is clean energy, remaking the vast energy systems that power the nation and the world. We must fundamentally change the way we produce and consume energy and dramatically reduce our dependence on oil. The economic opportunities provided by such a transformation are vast, not to mention the national security benefits of reducing oil dependence and the pressing need to fight global warming. The time for action is now.

Today, the Center for American Progress releases a new report by Dr. Robert Pollin and University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute economists. This report demonstrates how a new Green Recovery program that spends $100 billion over two years would create 2 million new jobs, with a significant proportion in the struggling construction and manufacturing sectors. It is clear from this research that a strategy to invest in the greening of our economy will create more jobs, and better jobs, compared to continuing to pursue a path of inaction marked by rising dependence on energy imports alongside billowing pollution.

The $100 billion fiscal expansion that we examined in this study provides the infrastructure to jumpstart a comprehensive clean energy transformation for our nation, such as the strategy described in CAP’s 2007 report, “Capturing the Energy Opportunity: Creating a Low-Carbon Economy.” This paper shows the impact of a swift initial investment in climate solutions that would direct funding toward six energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies:

  • Retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency
  • Expanding mass transit and freight rail
  • Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Advanced biofuels

This green recovery and infrastructure investment program would:

  • Create 2 million new jobs nationwide over two years
  • Create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry and 300,000 more jobs than a similar amount of spending directed toward household consumption.
  • Create roughly triple the number of good jobs-paying at least $16 dollars an hour-as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.
  • Reduce the unemployment rate to 4.4% from 5.7%(calculated within the framework of U.S. labor market conditions in July 2008).
  • Bolster employment especially in construction and manufacturing. Construction employment has fallen from 8 million to 7.2 million over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse. The Green Recovery program can, at the least, bring back these lost 800,000 construction jobs.
  • Provide opportunities to rebuild career ladders through training and workforce development that if properly implemented can provide pathways out of poverty to those who need jobs most. (Because green investment not only creates more good jobs with higher wages, but more jobs overall, distributed broadly across the economy, this program can bring more people into good jobs over time.)
  • Help lower oil prices. Moderating domestic energy demand will have greater price effects than modest new domestic supply increases.
  • Begin the reconstruction of local communities and public infrastructure all across America, setting us on a course for a long-term transition to a low-carbon economy that increases our energy independence and helps fight global warming. Currently, about 22% of total household expenditures go to imports. With a green infrastructure investment program, only about 9% of purchases flow to imports since so much of the investment is rooted in communities and the built environment, keeping more of the resources within the domestic economy.

Our report looked at investments that were funded through an increase in near-term government spending, which could ultimately be repaid by future carbon cap-and-trade revenues. These sources of new investment included the following funding mechanisms:

  • $50 billion for tax credits. This would assist private businesses and homeowners to finance both commercial and residential building retrofits, as well as investments in renewable energy systems.
  • $46 billion in direct government spending. This would support public building retrofits, the expansion of mass transit, freight rail, smart electrical grid systems, and new investments in renewable energy
  • $4 billion for federal loan guarantees. This would underwrite private credit that would be extended to finance building retrofits and investments in renewable energy.

A comprehensive clean energy agenda is essential to the future of our country. The green recovery and infrastructure investment described here is doable in the early days of a new administration. It would enable our country to take significant steps, through energy efficiency and renewable energy development, to move toward a low-carbon economy, while Congress and the next administration move toward the swiftest possible implementation of an economy-wide greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

The next president and lawmakers can pledge to repay the Treasury the cost of the green infrastructure recovery program from cap-and-trade auction revenue. The plan increases public spending in the short term when a near-recession economy needs greater impetus to growth; but it remains consistent with fiscally responsible long-term plan to reduce the debt as a share of GDP, after the economy recovers.

CAP looks forward to continuing to work on the shared mission to reap all of the benefits provided by the transition to a low-carbon economy and discussing this work in greater detail.

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FELICITY BARRINGER, The New York Times, August 27, 2008

Santa Barbara County became a symbol of the national environmental movement’s passionate opposition to offshore oil drilling when an oil spill devastated its coastline in 1969. On Tuesday, it became a symbol of the changing national mood as its board of supervisors debated whether to welcome new wells along California’s shores.

The supervisors voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday to end the county’s opposition to offshore drilling, although the vote will have no practical impact on state or federal policies.

But the speed with which opinions have changed in Santa Barbara County as gasoline prices have climbed has been astonishing. The vote there reinforces, at the local level, a shift evident in national polls and in the delicate willingness of Democratic leaders like Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominee, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, to open the door to limited coastal drilling.

Three weeks ago, the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll showing that 51% of Californians now approve of offshore drilling, a 10-point increase in a single year. “I don’t think any of us expected to see the day when there’d be more than 50% support for oil drilling,” said Mark Baldassare, the institute’s research director.

Despite the liberal, environmentally conscious aura that has surrounded the wealthy coastal communities of Santa Barbara and Montecito, the county as a whole, which also includes the fast-growing, less-wealthy inland communities of Santa Ynez and Santa Maria, has been less easily pigeonholed politically.

“It’s a bipolar situation,” said Antonio Rossman, an environmental lawyer in San Francisco. “You’ve got some of the strongest environmentalists in the country, yet this is where Ronald Reagan had his ranch,” Mr. Rossman said, adding, “The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has always split as close as anyone can on issues of preservation versus development.”

The swing vote on the five-member board, Supervisor Brooks Firestone, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he was ending his opposition because offshore drilling was no longer a significant threat to the coastal environment.

“I did a lot of research that brought me to realize that 1969 can’t happen again,” Mr. Firestone said. He joined two supervisors who are longtime proponents of drilling in voting in favor of writing a letter asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to rethink his support for the Congressional moratorium on offshore drilling.

Michael Chrisman, California’s secretary for resources, made it clear in a telephone interview that this was not going to happen. Asked about the changes in the national and local moods, Mr. Chrisman said: “It’s obvious what’s going on. The presidential election’s going on.”

He said the issue was driven by the “high price of gasoline and need of country to become more energy independent.”

“It’s a healthy debate,” he added. “But from our perspective, our position hasn’t changed. The governor has been very clear in his opposition to increased drilling off the coast of California.” More than 80 people signed up to speak at the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, and Mr. Firestone said the testimony was often emotional.

“People want wind power, solar power, less dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “Fair enough. We all want that.” But he said he expected economic pressure to find new oil supplies to reach a breaking point eventually and force widespread leasing of tracts off the coast. “Better to do it gradually, safely and intelligently,” he said, “than wait for the inevitable conclusion.”

Tupper Hall, a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said in a telephone interview that the debate in Santa Barbara was emblematic of a national mood swing prompted in part by a desire to be less dependent on Middle Eastern oil. “This national — and now local — dialogue that is now taking place we believe is very healthy,” Mr. Hall said. “It is an acknowledgment, I believe, that the public understands that supply really does matter.”

Finding safe and appropriate ways to increase the supply, he added, is “one of the ways to address instability, volatility in the global markets.”

But Warner Chabot, a vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, a national environmental group, said offshore drilling would not decrease oil prices.

“Exposing coastal areas and beaches to oil drills and environmental degradation for a few weeks’ supply isn’t a national energy policy,” Mr. Chabot said.

President Bush put the issue at the center of the national debate in June when he proposed rescinding an executive order against offshore drilling originally imposed by his father. He ended that moratorium in July and called on Congress to lift the ban it has imposed for 27 years.

Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was in Santa Barbara just weeks earlier to outline his energy policy — one that included a new willingness to encourage drilling on the outer continental shelf.

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THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, The New York Times Op-Ed, August 10, 2008

Copenhagen

The Arctic Hotel in Ilulissat, Greenland, is a charming little place on the West Coast, but no one would ever confuse it for a Four Seasons — maybe a One Seasons. But when my wife and I walked back to our room after dinner the other night and turned down our dim hallway, the hall light went on. It was triggered by an energy-saving motion detector. Our toilet even had two different flushing powers depending on — how do I say this delicately — what exactly you’re flushing. A two-gear toilet! I’ve never found any of this at an American hotel. Oh, if only we could be as energy efficient as Greenland!

A day later, I flew back to Denmark. After appointments here in Copenhagen, I was riding in a car back to my hotel at the 6 p.m. rush hour. And boy, you knew it was rush hour because 50% of the traffic in every intersection was bicycles. That is roughly the percentage of Danes who use two-wheelers to go to and from work or school every day here. If I lived in a city that had dedicated bike lanes everywhere, including one to the airport, I’d go to work that way, too. It means less traffic, less pollution and less obesity.

What was most impressive about this day, though, was that it was raining. No matter. The Danes simply donned rain jackets and pants for biking. If only we could be as energy smart as Denmark!

Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20% of its electricity from wind. America? About 1%.

And did Danes suffer from their government shaping the market with energy taxes to stimulate innovations in clean power? In one word, said Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister of climate and energy: “No.” It just forced them to innovate more — like the way Danes recycle waste heat from their coal-fired power plants and use it for home heating and hot water, or the way they incinerate their trash in central stations to provide home heating. (There are virtually no landfills here.)

There is little whining here about Denmark having $10-a-gallon gasoline because of high energy taxes. The shaping of the market with high energy standards and taxes on fossil fuels by the Danish government has actually had “a positive impact on job creation,” added Hedegaard. “For example, the wind industry — it was nothing in the 1970s. Today, one-third of all terrestrial wind turbines in the world come from Denmark.” In the last 10 years, Denmark’s exports of energy efficiency products have tripled. Energy technology exports rose 8% in 2007 to more than $10.5 billion in 2006, compared with a 2% rise in 2007 for Danish exports as a whole.

“It is one of our fastest-growing export areas,” said Hedegaard. It is one reason that unemployment in Denmark today is 1.6%. In 1973, said Hedegaard, “we got 99% of our energy from the Middle East. Today it is zero.”

Frankly, when you compare how America has responded to the 1973 oil shock and how Denmark has responded, we look pathetic.

“I have observed that in all other countries, including in America, people are complaining about how prices of [gasoline] are going up,” Denmark’s prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me. “The cure is not to reduce the price, but, on the contrary, to raise it even higher to break our addiction to oil. We are going to introduce a new tax reform in the direction of even higher taxation on energy and the revenue generated on that will be used to cut taxes on personal income — so we will improve incentives to work and improve incentives to save energy and develop renewable energy.”

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

Why should you care?

“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”

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LARRY ROHTER, The New York Times, August 5, 2008

Senator Barack Obama altered his position on Monday to call for tapping the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gasoline prices as he outlined an energy plan that contrasts with Senator John McCain’s greater emphasis on expanded offshore drilling and coal and nuclear technology.

In a speech here and in a new advertisement, Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, also sought to portray his Republican rival, Mr. McCain, as “in the pocket” of oil giants that are profiting from gasoline priced at more than $4 a gallon. And in his speech, Mr. Obama called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies to finance rebates for Americans.

At the heart of Mr. Obama’s proposals is a focus on fostering alternative energy development by investing $150 billion in emerging technologies and renewable fuels. Seeking to put a million fuel-efficient hybrid plug-in automobiles on the road, he said that he would offer a $7,000 tax credit to buyers, the overall cost of which he did not specify. In addition, Mr. Obama said his goal was to have 10 percent of the country’s energy needs met by renewable resources by the end of his first term, more than double the current figure.

While focusing on alternative energy production, Mr. Obama has veered in recent days toward increasing access to fossil fuels, both in seeking to tap the strategic oil reserve and in softening his opposition to offshore oil drilling. He said he might be willing to accept some exploration of limited offshore drilling as part of a more comprehensive energy bill that would include things he favors, like renewable fuels and batteries for electric-powered cars.

The proposals Mr. Obama offered Monday represented an effort to return the campaign’s focus to bread-and-butter issues after he found himself repeatedly on the defensive last week against a newly aggressive McCain campaign.

“We should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks,” Mr. Obama said. “Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production, and we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska natural gas pipeline, delivering clean natural gas.”

Mr. McCain and his campaign have been increasingly tweaking Mr. Obama and his energy policy. The McCain campaign distributed tire pressure gauges outside the event here in response to Mr. Obama’s statement last week that Americans could reduce gasoline use substantially if they kept car tires at optimum pressure. Mr. McCain has called Mr. Obama “Dr. No” and said that his energy policy could be reduced to the phrase “just say no” to proposals to increase energy production.

“We have to drill here and drill now,” Mr. McCain said Monday in Lafayette Hill, Pa. “Not wait and see if there’s areas to explore, not wait and see if there’s a package to put together. But drill here and drill now.”

Mr. McCain has focused much more on the supply side of the energy equation, supporting increased reliance on nuclear power, the use of so-called clean coal technology and expanded offshore drilling. But he has called for halting purchases to replenish the strategic oil reserve, rather than tapping into it.

Aides to Mr. Obama said that he now favored releasing light oil from that emergency stockpile, 707 million barrels stored in salt caverns, and replacing it with heavier oil, which they said would be more appropriate for the country’s long-term energy needs. They described that action — meant to help drive down oil prices, which have begun falling in the last month after a long, sharp increase — as a “limited swap” rather than a depletion of the reserve.

Mr. Obama said that through a mixture of investment, discipline and more restrained consumption it would be possible to completely eliminate oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years. Through a combination of similar measures, he said, Americans could at the same time reduce electricity consumption by 15% and create 5 million jobs.

“I will not pretend we can achieve them without cost, or without sacrifice, or without the contribution of almost every American citizen,” Mr. Obama said of his objectives. “But I will say that these goals are possible, and I will say that achieving them is absolutely necessary if we want to keep America safe and prosperous in the 21st century.”

Repeating his call for a windfall profits tax on companies like Exxon-Mobil, which he singled out in his speech on Monday, Mr. Obama said he would use part of the tax to provide consumers with an “emergency energy rebate” of $1,000 per family.

Mr. Obama and his campaign have criticized Mr. McCain for accepting what they call excessive campaign donations from energy interests. Campaign Money Watch, a watchdog organization, said the McCain campaign received a burst of donations in June from oil company employees after he came out in favor of offshore drilling. Together, Hess employees or their relatives contributed more than $300,000 in June to Mr. McCain’s joint fund-raising committee with the Republican National Committee, according to campaign finance records.

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said officials had examined the donations and found nothing untoward.

Mr. Obama offered details of his energy plan as Democrats have been under continuing pressure to allow offshore drilling. Though Congress is in its August break, a band of Republicans occupied the darkened House floor Monday to criticize the Democratic leadership for refusing to allow a vote on lifting a ban on drilling off much of the nation’s coastline before heading out of town.

About 25 lawmakers, many from the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, railed throughout the day at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, saying her “San Francisco mentality” was impeding domestic energy production.

Republicans circulated a petition to urge Ms. Pelosi to call the House back into session, and some called for President Bush, who was on his way to China for the Olympics, to demand that Congress return. The White House said Monday that such a step was unlikely.

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EnergyCurrent.com, July 30, 2008

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne has started the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program for the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The action could give the next administration a head start in expanding energy production from federal offshore jurisdictions, including some areas where a congressional moratorium has restricted oil and gas development.

Reacting to current energy prices and president George W. Bush’s lifting of the presidential ban on offshore drilling, Secretary Kempthorne has directed the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) to begin the initial steps for developing a new five year program. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five year program should consider.

MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments, particularly on issues unique to each state.

The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 Outer Continental Shelf planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action. If approved the new program would begin in 2010 and end in 2015.

Kempthorne said, “Today a barrel of oil costs more than $120, almost double the price a year ago. Clearly, today’s escalating energy prices and the widening gap between U.S. energy consumption and supply have changed the fundamental assumptions on which many of our decisions were based.”

“The American people and the President want action and this initiative can accelerate an offshore exploration and development program that can increase production from additional domestic energy resources.”

“This initiative could provide a significant advantage for the incoming administration, offering options it would not otherwise have had until at least 2010,” Kempthorne added.

“Today’s action would provide a two year head start for the next administration on developing a new five-year program.”

The Outer Continental Shelf currently provides 27% of U.S. domestic oil production and 15% of domestic natural gas production, the majority of this from the Gulf of Mexico. MMS believes that the areas under a congressional ban contain an additional 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 Tcf of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.

MMS considers the numbers conservative estimates because little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past 25 years because of the congressional ban. The estimates could increase with new technology and exploration techniques.

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PeakOil.com, July 8, 2008

Sweetwater, Texas — Get ready, America, T. Boone Pickens is coming to your living room.

The legendary Texas oilman, corporate raider, shareholder-rights crusader, philanthropist and deep-pocketed moneyman for conservative politicians and causes, wants to drive the United States political and economic agenda.

“We’re paying $700 billion a year for foreign oil. It’s breaking us as a nation, and I want to elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the Number One Issue of the campaign this year,” Pickens says.

Today, Pickens takes the wraps off what he’s calling the Pickens Plan for cutting the United States’ demand for foreign oil by more than a third in less than a decade. To promote it, he is bankrolling what his aides say will be the biggest public policy ad campaign ever. You’ll find his plan at www.pickensplan.com.

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ED PILKINGTON, The Guardian, June 23, 2008

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech to the US Congress – in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming – to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the “perfect storm” of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

He is also considering personally targeting members of Congress who have a poor track record on climate change in the coming November elections. He will campaign to have several of them unseated. Hansen’s speech to Congress on June 23 1988 is seen as a seminal moment in bringing the threat of global warming to the public’s attention. At a time when most scientists were still hesitant to speak out, he said the evidence of the greenhouse gas effect was 99% certain, adding “it is time to stop waffling”.

He will tell the House select committee on energy independence and global warming this afternoon that he is now 99% certain that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has already risen beyond the safe level.

The current concentration is 385 parts per million and is rising by 2ppm a year. Hansen, who heads Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, says 2009 will be a crucial year, with a new US president and talks on how to follow the Kyoto agreement.

He wants to see a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, coupled with the creation of a huge grid of low-loss electric power lines buried under ground and spread across America, in order to give wind and solar power a chance of competing. “The new US president would have to take the initiative analogous to Kennedy’s decision to go to the moon.”

His sharpest words are reserved for the special interests he blames for public confusion about the nature of the global warming threat. “The problem is not political will, it’s the alligator shoes – the lobbyists. It’s the fact that money talks in Washington, and that democracy is not working the way it’s intended to work.”

A group seeking to increase pressure on international leaders is launching a campaign today called 350.org. It is taking out full-page adverts in papers such as the New York Times and the Swedish Falukuriren calling for the target level of CO2 to be lowered to 350ppm. The advert has been backed by 150 signatories, including Hansen.

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ED HENRY, RICHARD GREENE, BRIANNA KEILER, HUSSEIN SADDIQUE, ALI VELSHI, CNN, June 18, 2007

Washington — President Bush asked Congress Wednesday to permit drilling for oil in deep water off America’s coasts to combat rising oil and gas prices.

“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a Rose Garden statement.

Bush also renewed his demand that Congress allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, clear the way for more refineries and encourage efforts to recover oil from shale in areas such as the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Bush said that the basin potentially contains more than three times as much recoverable oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, and that the high price of oil makes it profitable to extract it.

“In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil, and that means we need to increase supply here at home,” said Bush, adding there is no more pressing issue than gas prices for many Americans.

The White House estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil offshore that have not been exploited because of state bans, 10 billion to 12 billion in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Basin. However, much of the U.S. oil is difficult or impossible to extract under current law.

As for gas prices, resuming offshore exploration would not be a quick fix.

“If we were to drill today realistically speaking we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division. But it almost certainly would be profitable.

Candida Scott, an oil industry researcher at Cambridge Research Associates, said oil needs to be priced at $60 a barrel or more to justify deep-shelf drilling. With oil now selling for $134 a barrel, companies are almost assured of profiting from offshore drilling, Scott said.

“For years, the president has pushed Congress to expand our domestic oil supply, but Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked such action,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told CNN before Bush spoke. She added, “As with several existing Republican congressional proposals, he wants to work with states to determine where offshore drilling should occur, and also for the federal government to share revenues with the states. The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.” Democrats were quick to reject Bush’s proposal.

“After eight years, President Bush and [Vice President] Dick Cheney have turned the GOP into the Gas and Oil Party. That’s the legacy that they are going to leave,” said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“The White House has become a ventriloquist for the oil and gas industry, repeating the requests of the oil and gas industry — that they be allowed to destroy the most pristine areas of our country,” Markey added.

Congressional Democrats last week introduced a bill to compel oil companies to begin utilizing federal land they already lease.

“Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres they have already leased from the American people for the purpose of oil and natural gas production,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey.

“It is about time they use these resources already at their disposal instead of waiting for more federal handouts and pushing to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or up and down our coasts,” he added.

Bush’s request came a day after presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain issued the same call at a campaign event in Houston, Texas.

“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States,” he said. “But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.” He said lifting the ban could be done “in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection.”

Opponents of offshore drilling say it would harm aquatic ecosystems by eroding wetlands, contaminating the water with chemicals, polluting the air, killing fish and dumping waste.

McCain made clear that he favors continuing the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason,” he said.

McCain’s plan would let individual states decide whether to explore drilling possibilities.

According to his campaign, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to establish a green energy sector, create a national low-carbon fuel standard to ensure that the fuel is more efficient, and invest in clean energies +50 miles off the Florida coast – by Cubans, not Americans, with help from China and other allies. A rich undersea oil field stretches into Cuban waters near the Florida Keys.

“The people I represent can’t understand how we can possibly let China end up with rights to our oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico because we say we’re not going to do it and they say, ‘OK, we’ll do it and we’ll work with Cuba, if we have to, to do it,'” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tennessee. “That’s really asinine.”

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Green Energy News, June 10, 2008

Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama who moves into the Oval Office next January he’ll have have a deskful of problems to cope with: the biggest foreign policy blunder in the nation’s history, a lackluster economy, and what appears to be a peaking of the world’s oil supply.

All of which are related, of course.

As ominous as those problems may seem there’s a bright side: The new president will have a growing and vibrant industry — the green energy industry — on his side that may very well help solve those three problems.

Oil is about fuels for transportation. Peak oil, if that’s what the planet is now beginning to experience, is about fuel being too expensive to get us from here to there at a reasonable cost. Though trying to convince automakers to build more efficient cars and trucks has been an ongoing battle for decades, high priced fuel has forced at least one automaker’s hand.

The news this week that GM would shut four truck and SUV factories and pursue more efficient vehicles, like the hyper-efficient Chevrolet Volt, was a final recognition by the world’s largest automaker that they need to change. Now that GM is on board, the trend towards highly energy efficient vehicles that began with the hybrids from Japan should continue at a brisker pace. Further, perhaps with a little help from the next occupant of the White House, the push for more efficient vehicles could lead to a renaissance — a green renaissance — for Detroit.

In a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, in October 2007 Obama said this,” I went to Detroit, I stood in front of a group of automakers, and I told them that when I am president, there will be no more excuses — we will help them retool their factories, but they will have to make cars that use less oil.”

Perhaps the automakers should take him up on his word.

John McCain wants to create a cap and trade system to cut greenhouse gas emissions that would encompass transportation fuels and to “reform federal government research funding and infrastructure to support the cap and trade emissions reduction goals and emphasize the commercialization of low-carbon technologies.”

(Obama also supports cap and trade policies.)

A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks also means better conventional fuel economy and/or a switch to alternative fuels. (The temporary suspension of the federal gasoline tax as a way to ease the pain at the pump, supported by McCain, has already been shelved by Congress.)

In coping with a sluggish economy green energies are clearly the next big thing.

The vast central part of the country is ripe for wind energy development. Nearly all the world’s major wind turbine manufacturers have already or are planning to build production facilities on US soil. The huge cost of shipping makes it cheaper to build the massive machines here than overseas.

The desert southwest is just gearing up for a wave of concentrating solar thermal power plants. Plans to build components for solar thermal power plants here are also underway. Solar thermal power, though proven for years, is, as an industry, just taking baby steps.

Biofuels, if they are to be the future of fuels for transportation, are gaining traction again as interest grows with algae as a source of diesel fuel and cellulose as feedstock for ethanol. The brewing of biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol are most certainly to be domestic enterprises that will help the economy.

Again cap and trade ideas would help these industries. Obama adds more ideas among them to “Invest $150 billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy”; “Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce”, start a “Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund” and “Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders.”

Hyper-efficient cars, biofuels, wind and solar power and other green technologies could repair an ailing economy and dampen the worst effects of high oil prices related to peak oil. But what about Iraq? Can green energies help out there too? Perhaps.

Much of the Iraq’s troubles are related to high unemployment. Yet to their south in the Persian Gulf region at least one state is using what remains of its oil wealth to pursue sustainable technologies and the industries and jobs that will follow. The Masdar Initiative in the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates is that example.

The objectives of Masdar are to position Abu Dhabi as a world-class research and development hub for new sustainable energy technologies and drive the commercialization and adoption of these and other technologies. Commercialization and adoption means jobs and opportunity, just what Iraq needs. The next president could encourage Iraqis only to look around in the neighborhood to see what is possible for their nation.

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