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Mitt Romney’s Enormous Lie On Green Energy Reveals Assault On Key US Industry

(Imagine Mitt Romney holding a match under this image)

It’s really no news that republicans hate US alternative energy. Across the country over the past few years they’ve done everything a political party can do to fight renewables. They’ve blocked legislation, they’ve waged verbal and political campaigns against the new technologies, and they’ve jiggered laws and legislation in an attempt to dissuade people from adopting alternative energy sources at every turn. The Volt, as just one example, has turned into a political whipping boy of the right blamed and smeared with each new success. Solyndra, in another example, is a strawman that has ridden shotgun with Mitt Romney all over the campaign trail.

Republicans, clearly divested of their fake jobs interest, have targeted an industry that directly supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs, 3 times the average number of jobs per dollar spent when compared to fossil fuels, and indirectly supports over 8.5 million jobs. But, it’s pretty clear, given republicans’ actual policies, removed from rhetoric, that they don’t care one whit about these jobs or any other so long as they’ve got a political axe to grind.

Enter yesterday’s presidential debates when Mitt Romney, telling a lie a minute, suddenly opened all guns on alternative energy in this off-color and patently false statement:

“And these [clean energy] businesses, many of them have gone out of business, I think about half of them, of the ones have been invested in, have gone out of business.”

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only has renewable energy production doubled since Obama began his term in 2009, of the 34 alternative energy companies having received government loans through the stimulus program, only 3 are now in bankruptcy. Nine percent does not make half. But since when did arithmetic ever bother Mitt once he’d gotten onto the whopper roll?

Romney’s false claim goes further than even its blatant and gross exaggeration would indicate. It creates an impression that alternative energy in the US is an abject failure. An implication which couldn’t be further from the truth. And with new US wind installations outpacing every other form of new energy except the, soon to go bust, natural gas, Romney has decided to level a vicious political assault against a sector that is critical to current US energy security as well as economic growth.

We all know that republicans like Romney believe that more drilling can power the entire US and achieve energy independence all in one go. It can’t. The costs for the new fuels are too high, the rate of consumption is too great, and the rate of overall depletion is too high. The republican push for reliance on these depleting fuels would only set the US for another bubble and bust. Even now, many natural gas companies are financially struggling due to the climbing costs of fractured shale production. On the side of oil, fracked extraction of that resource requires prices higher than $90 per barrel to remain profitable. A high price Romney smugly blames on Obama even though it is a simple reality of the market force of depletion acting on the fossil energy sources Romney wants us to be reliant on.

Yet these internal dynamics don’t even take into account the dramatic and growing impact of fossil fuel emissions on climate change. Nor do they consider that the cost of renewable energy, year over year, just keeps going down.

Just this year, another 20% of sea ice was lost in the Arctic. At the current rate of decline, ice-free summers will be seen in the Arctic within this decade. The impacts of this event are twofold — ever more extreme and prolonged extreme weather conditions in the northern hemisphere and enhanced melt in Greenland as it loses its insulating barrier of sea ice. But Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in climate change, remember?

Also this year, solar energy prices fell by over 65%. Now that’s change we can believe in. And as Mitt so snippetly noted, oil prices are high on average overall. Yet Mitt wants to bet the farm and the country, for that matter, on an increasingly expensive and difficult to extract resource.

Romney’s assault on the legitimacy of renewable energy is not only an assault on increasingly less expensive energy and on dealing responsibly with climate change, it is an assault on the American dream. Imagine if Romney’s false vision of half US alternative energy industries going bankrupt came true. Imagine all the lost jobs and livelihoods. Imagine all the failed innovations. Imagine how far back both the US and the world will be pushed if that dark vision becomes reality.

Perhaps Mitt Romney wasn’t lying entirely when he made this statement after all. Perhaps he was instead telegraphing his own plan to drive half of US alternative energy industries into bankruptcy even as he pushes for greater dependence on the dirty dangerous and depleting oil, gas, and coal. It’s really funny how neurotic people with bad intentions tend to project in this way. So we have to wonder, was Mitt foreshadowing the result of a Romney presidency?

Perhaps Mitt Romney’s wish for alternatives is as it was with GM:

“Let them go bankrupt.”

Considering Mitt profited so much from American bankruptcies over the course of his career, I suppose he’d like that. Who knows, maybe his equity firms could still get a part of that action. US middle class alternative energy jobs going to China for more Romney bucks, anyone?

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Are Renewable Energy Sources Set to Outcompete Fossil Fuels?

A flurry of news reports heralding a new oil and gas age for the US glosses over a dark and difficult to deal with fact. The cost to extract both of these non-renewable resources is increasing. Tight oil and gas fracturing, claimed to be an energy savior for the US despite a plethora of problems including well casing leaks, contaminated water supplies, methane leaks, surging investment costs, and high costs to bring the fuels to market, are expected, by many sources, to be the ‘new future.’

In short, the ‘new future’ looks a lot like the old past, but much more expensive and coming on the heels of a long string of global warming impacts. For gas, the cost of the tight sources is over twice that of traditional wells, costing around $5 to extract a unit of tight shale gas. For oil, tight shale supplies require as much as $90 dollars per barrel to produce. These high costs are nearly twice as much as the often derided and vilified ethanol, which requires $50 dollars per barrel to produce without subsidy.

But the massive oil and gas marketing campaign to put out renewable energy’s electric fire continues apace. This week showed a flurry of glittery and optimistic oil and gas reports coupled with the typical volley of hit pieces aimed at everything that replaces oil from the Chevy Volt to your friendly neighborhood wind farm. The usual suspects all repeated their shrill and desperate chant of ‘the Volt is dead’ a month after Volt sales reached new records and costs to produce each vehicle were dropping fast as sales numbers increased.

Misinformation painting the Volt as uneconomic was belied by these numbers and a recent report showing that the Volt only costs consumers 3 cents per mile to drive. A regular ICE vehicle at $4 per gallon gasoline and 30 miles per gallon fuel efficiency costs 13 cents a mile to drive, more than four times as much. How does the Volt achieve such a feat? Get rid of as much oil input as possible and move to a, far more efficient, battery and electric motor configuration.

Perhaps these lower costs are the reason owners rank the Volt highest in customer satisfaction.

The Volt is dead! Long live the Volt!

But despite all the positive attributes of this powerful, new American technology, a large section of the media is now bent on killing the vehicle. At every success a new negative spin is generated. For example, as the Volt broke sales records last month, hundreds of blogs and articles parroted the fact that GM was offering discounts on the car as a sign of weakness. The same papers and blogs, many months before, criticized the Volt for being too expensive. So which is it? Similar negative information has been spewed about wind, solar, and biofuels. The only solution heralded by these ‘news’ sources appears to be fossil fuels, whose rather large and long string of negatives these news sources wholly ignore. Which ultimately begs the question, who pays the check?

Attempts at fossil fuel dominance and public opinion shaping ranged long and far throughout traditional media and in politics. Overall, it was a typical, banner week for the increasingly rickety fossil fuel based economy. But despite all this misinformation which one blogger recently to compared to the reign of ‘the Dark Lord,’ there were a number of glimmers of hope peaking out through all this misinformation.

As mentioned above, Chevy recently discounted its revolutionary Volt by as much as 10,000 dollars or offered leases for $299 (not $159 as claimed in the misinformation media), spurring new sales and raising the possibility that total Volt sales would reach 30,000 by end of September. Overall, this is far better than the earlier launch of the, equally derided and vilified at the time, Toyota Prius during its first two years. In addition, even as prices for the Volt are going down, quality is going up. The EPA estimated battery range for the vehicle has climbed from 35 miles to 38 miles resulting in a combined average mileage of 98 mpg. This gives most Volt users about 1000 miles of travel between fill-ups which means savings on top of savings for owners.

In addition, US alternative energy coming from solar, wind, and geothermal, as a percentage of electric power, has grown from 3% to 6% within the last four years. Total alternative energy from electric power adding in hydro-electric and geothermal is now over 15%, more than nuclear energy as a proportion of electricity generation. And since the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is electricity generation (coming from coal and natural gas generation and extraction), this leap in alternative energy capacity is a help in dealing with the problem of climate change.

Perhaps most important is level costs and falling prices. Wind and solar energy are very stable energy sources, making it easy for investors to predict outcomes. Not so with natural gas, which is one of the most volatile energy sources available, making it a baby for those who love to game the market. And as time has gone forward, costs for wind and solar continue to drop. Wind is now less expensive than everything but the least expensive natural gas plants. And solar is now less expensive than new nuclear energy and combined cycle gas and coal plants that could be retrofitted for carbon capture at even greater prices. In fact, over the past 18 months, the cost of solar panels has dropped by 65%, leading to a boom in panel sales around the world and in the US even as modest subsidy support for the new energy sources may be withdrawn.

The same can certainly not be said for fossil fuels. Natural gas is driving some companies to the edge of bankruptcy due to the rising cost of extraction and a glut on the market, caused, in part, by rising alternative energy usage. In addition, oil just saw its most expensive year on record. And people are beginning to awaken to the vast external costs and harm of coal use, with opposition to new plants rising in the US and around the world.

Across the globe, countries are taking notice of the alternative energy sea change. During a period this spring, Germany produced 50% of its energy from solar panels. That number is expected to rise to as high as 70% by next year. And as one of the only bright lights in Portugal’s ailing economy, it has managed to install enough renewable energy to make up 45% of its entire electricity grid. Going forward, this energy capital will help to stabilize and improve an otherwise troubled economy by reducing its dependence on imported fuels. Similar stories are being told across Europe and in places in the US. North Dakota produces 20% of its electricity through wind. California and Texas are following suit.

A view of the total installed capacity for US wind energy can be seen below (As of August 2012, the number broke 50 gigawatts installed, a 3.1 GW addition in just 8 months!).

The EU has installed 100 gigawatts of wind capacity and China boasts over 60 gigawatts of installed wind energy capacity. In total, nearly 50 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity will be installed during 2012. Solar energy is now surging to catch up, with total solar energy installations to reach 30 gigawatts in Germany alone this year. The US now boasts 6 gigawatts of solar energy and growing and the world is now adding nearly 30 gigawatts of solar energy capacity each year. This combined installation of 80 gigawatts wind and solar each year is a significant leap forward for alternative energy and is starting to prove its ability to outpace fossil fuels as a primary energy provider.

A sad fact is that, without the harmful media and political campaign being waged by US oil, gas, and coal special interests, the US could be even further along in developing domestic energy sources independent of foreign influence or climate damaging pollutants. Recent opposition to the production tax credit by oil money soaked republicans in Congress now threatens thousands of US alternative energy jobs and will likely further slow development of wind and solar energy production capacity within the US. This removes a key feed-in to US manufacturing and cedes more leadership to competitors overseas — primarily Europe and China. But the republicans, who run on the false mantra that they believe all ‘government subsidies are bad,’ never saw a fossil fuel subsidy they didn’t like and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the oil and gas industry’s incentives of 40 billion dollars intact even as they campaign on expanding subsidy support to this already subsidy bloated industry. But the republicans have been unable to stop what is a growing US and world-wide trend, only delay it, much to the harm of their native country.

(Romney and the republican strawman, Solyndra, on campaign trail together)

The renewable energy boom in the US has also led to a benevolent side effect — an increase in US manufacturing, installation, and alternative energy service jobs. Overall, green energy supports three times the number of jobs when compared to fossil fuels. As a result, more than 8.5 million people work in an alternative energy or energy efficiency related profession, according to Business Week. Look at the map below to find the nearest wind energy component manufacturing facility. Most likely, it is in a city or state near you:

All these facts combine to make the alternative energy sector a growing challenge to the established fossil fuel special interests. And, for this reason alone, we are likely to continue to see a stream of misinformation and demonization of the alternatives coming from fossil-fuel associated sources. But the next time you hear someone say the words Solyndra in a political context, bash wind or solar, or demonize the Volt, it’s important to know where that message originated — those casting their lot with the dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels.

Links:

How to Fight the Fossil Fuel Special Interests: Thirteen Steps to Protecting Our Future

(Teddy Roosevelt established America’s first Progressive Party. Called the Bull Moose Party, it ran on a platform of halting the abuses of industry, preserving natural resources, advancing civilization, and developing government structures that advanced the public good. President Roosevelt, shown above, riding a moose.)

 

In dealing with the combined crisis of resource depletion and climate change, those seeking solutions are confronted at every turn with entrenched special interests whose profit and power comes from a perpetuation of a harmful status quo. They delay responses to human caused global warming. They confuse the issue by meddling with the language and definitions surrounding the topics of energy and climate. They actively work to attack alternatives to fossil fuel dependence, waging public relations and political campaigns against the supports for wind, solar, electric vehicles and increases in energy efficiency. And they work to secure special deals and subsidies to a fossil fuel industry whose goal is complete market dominance.

When we look at the money, power, and degree of political influence held by these organizations, it can, indeed, seem a massive task to rip the fingers of these new robber barons from a strangle-hold on our future. But try we must. If we do not, the future steadily grows worse. As the decades pass, the twin crises of resource depletion and climate change ratchet down on us with increasing force. At some point, we lose the ability to maintain the functioning of a world civilization and we fragment into an every-increasing number of bitter and bickering tribes, harboring only a fading memory of a golden age that has slipped beyond our reach.

These may seem like far-reaching issues. But they are real and ongoing today. And we, even now, consciously or unconsciously, are making decisions that will drastically affect the path of our lives, our children’s lives, and the lives of all generations that follow. For we have come to a turning point in our age and we must decide whether to act responsibly or to allow the hope of civilization to perish.

There are many who are already engaged in an action to shore up our civilization, our world, our vital natural resources, and the technologies, practices and behaviors that will enable sustainability. These persons come from a variety of organizations and values systems. But the one virtue they hold in common is that they know sustainability is a necessary value of a healthy civilization. Some of these organizations include:

http://www.350.org/

http://www.americanprogress.org/

http://www.sierraclub.org/

http://www.nrdc.org/

… and many more activist and advocacy organizations and think-tanks.

In addition, we have the faculty of human science that is constantly increasing our understanding of our universe and our world. All these groups, both preservers and explorers, provide an invaluable service. They guard the gates to climate change. They hold back the worst impacts of fossil fuel special interests. They provide us with a clearer and clearer understanding of the crisis we are facing.

Together, they have formed a kind of holding action reigning in the world-wide excesses of industry. But now, a holding action is no longer what is required. For even as the climate and resource depleting crises worsen, the fossil fuel industries are again engaged in a massive campaign for dominance of political, media, and financial power sources. Against this assault, a holding action cannot stand. The gate keepers instead, must unite and go on the offensive.

Returning to the issue of fossil fuel industry abuses, it is important to note that they have demonstrated, through both their action and inaction, their complete lack of responsibility on the issues of human caused global warming and resource depletion. They have waged a public relations and political war against any and all alternatives to dirty, dangerous and depleting fuels. They have blatantly refused to do anything more than what amounts to token investment in alternative energy sources. And many of them have funded efforts to demonize both scientists and those providing solutions to the combined crisis of global warming and resource depletion.

Given this immense failure, it is sadly necessary to declare a public war against these special interests and to use all peaceful means available to remove their stature as energy leaders. Over the past few decades, they have failed to make provision for the future in almost every way while employing every means to cynically shore up their own power. They have caused harm where there was no harm before. And they have placed the future of human civil society in dire peril. For these reasons, we should raise a public call that all organizations and individuals with means rally to this cause and that they operate together for a common purpose — removal of these special interests from such high power and economic prominence.

In pursuit of these goals, the following are submitted as an outline for a plan of action:

1. Provide an in-depth, wide-ranging, and ongoing communication describing industry political, economic, and environmental abuses to the public. This PR campaign would need to hit all levels of media and government. Coordination of the various environmental, sustainability, and public service networks would be key to successfully managing this kind of campaign.

2. Initiate a wide-ranging direct action against new oil, gas, and coal industry projects. A good model for this is the action against the Keystone XL pipeline. However, the actions would have to be more broad-based and diverse. Similar to what is being waged against the coal industry now, but on a broader level.

3. Direct political action and lobbying. An increase in lobbying activity explaining to our government why these actions are being undertaken and providing a list of concessions necessary from industry in order for actions to cease (requirements for action cease fire).

4. Related to the above… Lines in the sand drawn on overall carbon emissions reduction per year, on incentives for renewables (at least four times the levels of direct and indirect incentives to oil, gas, and coal or 2% of public spending), and on government public communication in major media outlets providing education on the existence and risks of global warming and resource depletion.

5. Publicly outing major oil company stock holders and industry leaders who do not agree to the terms above.

6. Organizing a campaign to promote and protect the alternatives. Direct support for GM’s Volt. Direct support for wind energy. Direct support for solar energy. Direct support for smart grids and energy storage systems. Direct support for sustainability in agriculture and for sustainable communities. Direct support for vegan and vegetarian alternatives in major food outlets and other progressive measures. This is not just word of mouth, it is coordination with the new industries in order to give them a PR advantage. In addition, identifying specific areas where coal, oil, and gas can be directly replaced by alternatives.

7. Schools, schools, schools. Coordinate non-profits to develop a fund to put solar panels on public schools. Campaign in a ‘save our schools, save our world’ program that raises both the importance of schools and the need for alternative energy. Enlist teachers, students, librarians. Develop renewable energy and global warming laboratories at schools through their science and technology programs. Form local fundraisers to collect money for school solar panels and education programs. Focus on the schools in Texas, Oklahoma, California, North Dakota, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia and Florida the most. These are either key energy regions, areas that will be hardest hit by climate change or both.

8. Change the language to reflect the true nature of the problems facing us. Global warming is an appropriate descriptor. Denier is more apt than skeptic. Paint those who support fossil fuel industries and who deny global warming as irresponsible, short sighted, and harmful to society. If they are going to act in an amoral fashion. Shame, shame, shame them.

9. Focus on the media. Hold the media accountable for irresponsibility in its portrayal of energy and climate issues. Expand the scope of agencies like Media Matters to include the entire media on issues like global warming, climate change, and alternative energy. As an example, I see about one hit piece on the Chevy Volt at least every other day. These articles, the people who write them, and the news sources they come from should be called out, fact checked, and exposed for publishing inaccurate and harmful information.

10. Direct action to protest public officials funded by the oil, gas, and coal industry. Identify political officials funded by oil, gas, and coal. Publicly post information about them on ‘watch dog’ sites on the internet. Pick visible and prominent figures from this group and organize strategic protests against them aimed to call attention to their pandering to oil, gas and coal special interests. Identify oil, gas, and coal funding sources, organizations hired to do their political dirty work etc.

11. Provide an agency designed to protect the scientists. Provide legal assistance to scientists assaulted by fossil fuel special interests. Provide public advocacy on behalf of these scientists. Put people to work tracking every death threat, every instance of public besmirchment, every fallacious litigation against these scientists, every invasion and violation of their human and Constitutional rights. Track groups that have targeted scientists. Identify individuals. Target these groups and individuals with both civil and criminal prosecution.

12. Protect our future. On every Earth Day, each year, to symbolically communicate our resolve to protect our future, we could organize groups of concerned individuals to form ‘linked arm rings’ around the institutions, natural resources, community, state and national bodies and infrastructure that play a key role in preserving out future. We could encircle GISS, NASA, NOAA offices, Solar panel facilities, windmills, a neighborhood Chevy Volt, parts of our national parks. Our bicycles. Our local farms. We could take a picture and post them to all forms of media on the net under the header “Earth Day, Protect our Future, the things, people, creatures, and places we must protect to ensure a good future.” The idea is to create a ritual action, repeated yearly, that cements in people’s minds the importance of preserving the future. Have prominent individuals make speeches. Encourage people to write poems or publish blogs on this subject. Encourage only certain foods (local, vegan etc) to be eaten on the week leading up to this day. The idea is to cement a cultural value, to provide a symbolic action, and to create a basis for a new form of moral good. And, last of all, to force the world to recognize it.

13. The public elevation and celebration of climate and alternative energy luminaries like James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Joe Romm, Al Gore, and others who are eloquent, brave, or who have maintained the strength of character to directly confront our problems. We should also elevate and celebrate those who have come before — persons like Rachael Carson and John Muir or presidents like Teddy Roosevelt. Even as we look to the future we should establish precedent based on the morality, prominence, resonance, and moral bravery of our leaders. Many have sought to demonize these individuals. We should, therefore, fight to defend them.

For events to have degenerated to the level of direct conflict, rather than that of cooperation, is truly tragic. However, responsible people can no longer sit by or offer only token and fragmented resistance to fossil fuel special interests. The damage caused to both climate and economies is now widely apparent and still these powerful organizations work to delay action, to harm the alternatives, and to attack scientists.

The degree of self-serving insanity coming from this group has risen to the level of a narcissistic irrationality. If we were on a sinking ship they would be screaming ‘don’t man the pumps!’ for fear of wetting their fragile and overly decorous business attire. It’s high time we got them off the deck, away from the captain, and safely locked in the brig, all while the rest of us managed this emergency and fought to save the vessel from sinking.

Obama Fights For Renewable Energy Future, Runs on Superb Energy Record

Today, in a campaign speech at Colorado State University, Obama stated:

“You believed we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. And in just four years, we have doubled the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. We developed new fuel standards for our cars so that cars are going to get 55 miles a gallon next decade. That will save you money at the pump.  It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of carbon emissions from all the cars in the world put together.”

“If your friends or neighbors are concerned about energy, you tell them, do we want an energy plan written by and for big oil companies?”

“Or do we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America — renewable sources of energy. Governor Romney calls them ‘imaginary.’ Congressman Ryan calls them a ‘fad.’ I think they’re the future. I think they’re worth fighting for.”

And Obama is correct. Correct in that he has achieved a stunning transformation in US energy policy. Correct in that he has increased US energy independence since taking office. And Correct in that Romney’s energy plan is one drafted entirely to cater to the interests of oil, gas, and coal companies.

Taking a look at the data, we can find evidence of this amazing progress. Since 2008, the US capacity for alternative energy generation has nearly doubled from 10,508 gigawatthours in 2008 to 18,777 gigawatthours by the end of the first half of this year. In total, renewable energy generation now accounts for 14.76% of all US power sources. This is more than nuclear but less than coal and natural gas.

New installations for wind and solar energy have soared over the period. Solar energy grew by 285% and wind energy grew by 171%. New installations for renewable energy are outpacing every energy source except natural gas. As a share of new energy installations, renewable energy accounts for 38% of the total while natural gas accounts for 42%.

This stunning surge in renewable energy capacity and its ability to compete, increasingly, with coal, gas, and nuclear, can be credited, in large part, to Obama’s energy policy. Obama pushed for measures to encourage new alternative energy installation. He pushed for stimulus funds for alternative energy programs. And he risked severe political backlash from powerful fossil fuel industries as he pushed for these new sources.

And the backlash came. It came from campaign contributions from oil special interests to republican rivals. It came in the form of an endless series of advertisements aimed at spreading oil, gas, and coal focused messaging. It came in the form of a republican party transformed to almost entirely represent fossil fuel interests even as it has denied climate change. Last of all, it came in the form of vicious attacks directed at the wind, solar, and electric vehicle industries.

But Obama’s push didn’t end with alternative energy. Obama provided a major push for increasing US fuel efficiency standards. Pushing competitiveness of US automakers in key areas while vastly reducing US dependence on foreign oil. These new efficiency standards have already taken a bite out of oil imports. Under Obama US oil imports have plummeted by 2 million barrels per day from 12.9 million barrels per day in 2008 to 10.9 million barrels per day this year. These reductions in oil imports are bound to continue as Obama’s policy results in fuel efficiency standards rising to 55 miles per gallon by the 2020s. It results in more electric and plug in hybrid electric vehicles on the road. It results in the US auto industry becoming leaders in this key new technology. All these results are signs of progress Americans can feel proud of. All these results are signs of a burgeoning independence that, if continued, will result in a far stronger America.

By contrast, Obama’s rival would cut renewable energy incentives and slash efficiency standards. This would not only increase dependence on fossil fuels at a time of amplifying global warming. It will also increase US dependence on foreign energy sources at a time when the world is increasingly competing for every available export. Romney’s policy will result in higher emissions, higher energy prices, and higher profits for oil, gas, and coal companies. It is a policy that aims to rig the game in favor of those interests and turns a blind eye to all the external harm such a policy would cause. It is a policy that will result in a weaker America that will likely attempt to dominate other countries in order to pursue energy security. It is a policy that will likely result in more costly foreign wars. It is a policy that will result in the expansion of both the trade deficit and the current public debt.

Obama, on the other hand, can proudly show that he fought for America’s energy future. A future with the potential for both energy independence and independence from the dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels. A future that may give us a glimmer of hope for being leaders against the powerful forces of climate change. A difficult future we may equip ourselves to navigate if we continue in the example set by Obama.

Links:

http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_ep00_im0_mbblpd_a.htm

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2012/08/renewable-energy-sees-explosive-growth-during-obama-administration

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/29/765131/renewable-electricity-nearly-doubles-under-obama-i-think-theyre-the-future-theyre-worth-fighting-for/

Romney Gunning to Kill US Wind, Solar Industries, Enforce Monopoly of Dirty, Dangerous, and Depleting Fuels

Today Mitt Romney held a speech on the border of Texas and New Mexico where he laid out his plans for the US’s energy future. And if two words come to mind from his proposals they are these: Robbery and Ruin.

Just yesterday, Romney received more than $10 million dollars in campaign contributions from the coal and oil industry. Money he is trying to hand back many times over in special perks, subsidies, and give-aways to his big polluting backers.

First, Romney proposes to take public lands from the people of the US and hand it over to states who would then be encouraged to give these land rights, free of charge, to oil, gas, and coal companies. He would take a resource in the public trust, one of America’s great treasures, and hand it over to what amounts to a group of corporate looters. The ghost of Teddy Roosevelt must be turning over in his grave as Romney offers up this sacrifice to his corporate masters. For it would result in public lands being transformed from something like this:

Into something like this:

 

Romney’s second big giveaway is to cut taxes for the highly profitable oil companies again. I say again because it was the same thing Bush did when he was elected back in 2000. And it is also ironic to see a massive influx of Bush energy advisers finding places of prominence on Romney’s energy team.

This year, oil companies already received more than 2.3 billion dollars in subsidies and tax assistance. This public support after having recorded over $137 billion dollars in profits. But Romney seems to think that greed is its own virtue and has decided to give another 2.4 billion away in additional tax breaks. This 5 billion dollars in tax-payer support each year would come on top of record profits from the highest oil prices ever and the great American land giveaway described above.

But Romney’s plan goes still further. Romney would cut regulations that keep coal companies from dumping massive volumes of mercury into the air and water. Coal companies have often complained that the public health protection measure is too expensive. But what Romney and his coal backers don’t reveal is that the added pollution kills more than 30,000 people each year. For Romney and big coal, profits are far more important than lives. So the protections for Americans must go.

In general, all these policies draw support from a vast and ongoing denial over the damage caused to the United States by an intensifying climate crisis. Just this year alone, over $100 billion in damages will likely be inflicted on the US economy by a number of climate-related disasters. Romney’s push to double down on big oil and big coal will only worsen the damage that is still to come.

Romney’s plan is first a dire insult to American interests in the form of a giveaway to a destructive industry. Romney’s plan is second a harm that results in added toxins spewed into the atmosphere and an ever-decreasing likelihood of dealing with the ongoing climate crisis.

But the crowning black jewel to the whole dark and devastating Romney energy policy is this: attack the wind and solar industry.

Romney plans to bring down all competitors to oil and coal through direct policy measures. He is gunning to devastate the wind and solar industry by removing the production tax credit even as he pushes to further subsidize the heavily polluting oil and coal industries. His plan would gut US innovation and progress in wind and solar energy. It would cede leadership in a 2 trillion dollar alternative energy market to China and Germany. And it would result in the loss of tens of thousands of US jobs. Worse, it would remove the prospect for creating hundreds of thousands more jobs in the future and shackle us to an energy source that is bound to abandon us during our hour of greatest need.

Republicans and Romney often deride industries that require subsidy support. However, the oil and coal industry still receive subsidies after more than 150 years of operations. The level of subsidies they receive is far higher than those of the burgeoning alternative energy industry. Typically, for a new industry to effectively get off the ground it needs a higher level of support than a traditional, established industry. And considering that the oil industry has become so profitable through its effective cornering, total dominance and monopolization of all transportation markets, giving it any subsidy at all simply amounts to paying tribute to a tyrant. It is unnecessary, wasteful, and encourages the worst behavior.

Yet this is exactly what Romney and Ryan are pushing to double down on. And they would lay the slain carcass of the alternative energy industry at the feet of their fossil fuel masters.

Given the intensifying climate crisis. Given the depleting and increasingly expensive fossil fuels. Given the need for America to create sustainable jobs in a sustainable industry. And given the fact that if we fail to lead in the alternative energy revolution, others will in our stead, it is absolutely necessary that the American public reject Romney. Reject Ryan. Reject robbing from the American people for the profit of special interests and reject policies that will ruin our future. And, last of all, reject the vicious and anti-American agenda of the oil and coal company barons who stand behind them.

Who is to Blame for High Gas Prices?

As the presidential election’s silly season continues, as the most outrageously pandering promises are made to all people across the political spectrum, a single issue seems to have outdistanced the rest — who is to blame for high gas prices?

Republicans, for their part, seem to enjoy blaming Obama who, supposedly, is keeping millions of magical drilling rigs hostage. If only freed from their bondage, republicans claim these rigs all alone, all by themselves, could, in a puff of faerie dust, reduce the price of gasoline to $2.50 per gallon.

But do the republicans have a rational leg to stand on in their endless drill, baby, drill diatribe? To find out, we’ll have to examine some facts.

Obama brings massive increase in drilling

Since Obama entered office, there has been a massive increase in US drilling. And the sad truth, despite republican rhetoric, is that the US would be engaged in increased drilling regardless of who held the office of president. The US is so addicted to oil that it can’t afford, at this time, not to exploit every economic source. As a result, drilling has increased by over 350% under Obama.

Huge drilling efforts result in only moderate supply increases

Considering tripling US extraction efforts, one would think that US oil production would rise dramatically. In truth, production has risen, but by only a small amount. The net result of a massive 350% increase in drilling has only been a moderate bump in oil production of 14%. US crude oil production increased from a 2008 level of about 5 million barrels per day to today’s level of 5.7 million barrels per day.

Moderate increase in supply does not result in oil price drops

So all out drilling under Obama has resulted in some increase in supply. And you would think, all things being equal, that the price of oil would also fall. But all things are not equal. Oil is traded on the world market and there are an expanding number of factors keeping the price of oil high.

First, Saudi Arabia has claimed that $100 per barrel is a ‘fair’ price for oil. Saudi Arabia produces more than 10 million barrels each day and is the world’s second largest oil exporter. They are the only country in the world left with substantial spare capacity. This means that Saudi Arabia is the only oil producer with much influence on supply or price. But Saudi is saying it will defend $100 oil. And the means Saudi has to defend this price is through cutting supply. So should oil prices decrease, Saudi will cut production. In fact, it did this during 2009-2010. And since Saudi cut production at that time, prices have risen from $40 per barrel to over $105 per barrel now. As the world economy recovered in 2010-2011, Saudi Arabia brought production back. But demand was so high that the new oil didn’t result in substantially reduced prices.

Second, the reason Saudi Arabia is the only producer with spare capacity is the fact that all other oil producers are pumping oil flat out. And despite this all-out production, the world’s supply of crude oil has remained flat at around 74-75 million barrels per day (blue line on graph) since 2004. This means that despite the highest average price for oil ever, for eight years running, world crude oil production has structurally leveled off. The reason for this plateau is that new production of crude oil is only enough to keep pace with the rate of production decline from existing wells. In short, when it comes to crude oil production, the world is running to stand still.

Third, high cost unconventional oil fills in the gap. Today, the world produces 18 million barrels per day of unconventional oil along with other substances such as wet gas and condensate (condensate is usually included in the crude oil figure, but it’s a different substance altogether). This includes supplies of tar sands from Canada, deep water oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels. Much of this oil costs $50 dollars per barrel or more to produce. And the fact that the world is reliant on this ‘oil’ means prices will never fall below the high cost of a marginal barrel.

Most unconventional oil isn’t really oil at all. For example, Canada uses 8% of its entire natural gas supply to hydrogenate tar and ship it to us as ‘oil.’ The fact that we are calling hydrogenated tar ‘oil’ is a certain sign of how desperate we’ve become. And biofuels certainly aren’t oil. They’re fuels interchangeable with oil derived from crops. And it is through the production of these very expensive and difficult to produce fuels that the world has been able to increase production at all.

Fourth, the nominal demand for oil is about 98 million barrels per day, this is ten million barrels per day higher than the combined total production of crude oil plus unconventional oil. What this means is if prices go down, demand will keep going up until we hit a level of consumption of around 98 million barrels per day. The reason for this very high nominal demand is the fact that so many machines using so much oil are operating around the world. Oil-consuming automobiles alone are being produced at a rate of 80 million each year with more than one billion of these machines in existence around the world. With so many hungry machines, any new oil produced will be rapidly snatched up.

These combined issues mean that the US would have to produce more than ten million barrels per day of additional low-cost oil in order to create a situation where long-term gas prices of $2.50 cents per gallon or less were possible. But, in truth, achieving this feat is a bald impossibility.

All new oil is expensive oil

The reason why drilling cannot dramatically bring down the price of gasoline is that the cost of producing all the new oil is dramatically high. ‘Conventional’ oil from fracked wells costs $50 per barrel just to produce. Prices for biofuels, deep water drilling, polar drilling and Canada’s hydrogenated tar are about the same. But even the most wildly optimistic projections from all these sources show only slow increases in production requiring massive expense and effort.

Options for drastically increasing production do exist, however, if you’re willing to pay much more for gas. Oil shale contains 1.5 trillion barrels of potentially recoverable goop called kerogen. The US kerogen, however, is even less energy-dense than Canada’s tar. So the cost of producing this ‘oil’ is around $100 per barrel. And this cost hides the fact that a huge amount of natural gas would be needed to hydrogenate the kerogen. Furthermore, the oil shale is in a water poor region. Massive volumes of water would be needed to produce this goop. But the water doesn’t exist in the high volumes needed, so it would have to be piped in.

The result is that a immense and terrifying industrial effort would be needed to rip an enormous hole in America’s heartland to produce this ‘oil.’ And the irony is that, if we are forced to produce the oil shale, it will only result in even higher prices than today.

New drilling can’t dramatically lower prices, even though that’s what oil companies want you to believe

So, in short, the republicans are either misinformed, or they’re not telling the truth. This is hardly surprising considering that oil companies paid 18.5 million dollars into republican campaigns this year alone. Money to democrats from oil companies was substantially lower — only 2 million dollars. And what this oil company money is going to is keeping us all dependent on increasingly expensive oil.

Oil companies don’t want us to realize that even more drilling can’t radically reduce prices. But they do want to continue their dominance in the energy markets. They do want to continue their position as the dominant provider of transportation fuels. And in order to do this, they must convince us that the best solution to high gas prices is more drilling, even if it is not.

Real solutions — increased efficiency, alternatives

The only real solution to the oil depletion problem is switching away from fossil fuels and dramatically increasing efficiency. And even though republicans aren’t very good at proposing sustainable solutions, they are very good at demonizing policies and technologies that actually help.

This was recently demonstrated by republican efforts to demonize the Chevy Volt. Number 1 in customer satisfaction in 2011, the Volt dramatically reduces dependence on oil by making commutes all-electric. Since 80% of all gasoline consumption occurs in commutes, a transition to electric vehicles like the Volt would drop US oil consumption by 7 million barrels per day. If these vehicles became common-place around the world, oil consumption could fall by as much as 35 million barrels per day. And that would dramatically lower oil prices as well as eliminate the need for new oil production. This powerful new technology represents a potential future oil companies and republicans most definitely do not want. A future, however, that would be dramatically more prosperous for the rest of us.

But republican attacks aren’t limited to demonizing revolutionary American technologies like the Volt. Republicans have also worked to de-fund all government incentives to produce solar energy, wind energy, and to increase vehicle efficiency. Solar and wind energy reduce dependence on fossil fuels and since gas and coal are increasingly interchangeable with oil, they indirectly reduce oil prices. Finally, republicans attacks on energy efficiency directly increase the price of oil by increasing demand.

Republican policies push high prices higher

Only a dummy or someone bought and paid for would make the argument that civilization should remain dependent on an increasingly expensive and scarce resource like oil. And that’s just what republicans are doing. Though republicans aren’t to blame for the fact that oil itself is more expensive because it is depleting, they are to blame for pushing policies that enforce dependence on oil, for fighting at every turn to reduce efficiencies, and for doing their best to demonize and destroy any alternatives to oil.

Foremost, the republican push for drilling as the only solution is doomed to failure. At best, new drilling is a temporary stop-gap. Long term, without alternatives, it dooms the world economy to spiraling increases in energy prices. This policy is one born out of the myopic special interests of oil companies and their continued drive for dominance and outrageous profits. A true allegory to this failed policy was the conservative/republican push for deregulating the banks and the housing market in the 1990s. The result was a world financial collapse in 2008. We don’t want to see the same thing happen in energy. But blinded by profits and donations, republicans are,once more, trying to force us down a dangerous path.

 

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Rush, Romney in Denial over Renewable Energy

Mitt Romney, in a recent tirade against the clean energy industry, gave progressives another gift today.  “You can’t drive a car with a wind mill on it,” he said, clownishly. One wonders what Romney’s fixation with cars sporting various things strapped to the top is. I suppose the dog wasn’t enough for him and now he’s trying wind mills? If he were smart, he might have first tried a solar panel:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Jsqf5CEUI0

Behold, Romney, your worst nightmare — a solar Prius. Dog kennel not included…

Romney’s own tirade follows directly on the heels of Rush Limbaugh who, after losing many of his advertisers for his mad dog slut-shaming of Sandra Fluke, has shifted his eyes to fresh meat — the U.S. renewable energy industry. But this particular attack involves a rhetorical disappearing act.

The problem with the Volt is just like all of Obama’s green energy, there’s no business there yet. There’s no solar energy business yet. There’s no wind energy yet,” Rush said on his radio show today.

I suppose Rush missed the 50 gigawatts of wind energy capacity the US now boasts. Or, perhaps, Rush is unaware of the 5 gigawatts of solar energy systems now in place? That 71 billion dollars worth of solar power sales in 2010? Nada, according to Rush. Or the Chinese dumping of solar panels in an attempt to bankrupt a rocketing U.S. alternative energy market? Rush says it all never happened.

As for no business for the Volt — it sold more than 1000 units last month, more than the comparatively priced Corvette. Rush must also have missed the millions of hybrid electric vehicles on the road worldwide or the 150,000 all-electric vehicles now on highways in California.

It seems that Rush and Romney would both like to deny the existence of an industry that now produces more energy than all the nuclear power plants in the world. Much like climate change, they’re trying to hide something that is undeniably real with another smoke and mirrors act.

Pay no attention to the oil man behind the curtain…

http://thinkprogress.org/green/2012/03/07/439938/oil-lobby-chief-jack-gerard-uses-out-of-context-finding-to-protect-oil-subsidies/

 

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