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This is What The Resistance Looks Like — Cities, States and Nations Run on 100 Percent Renewable Power

The sparks of resistance to a harmful domination of energy supplies by the fossil fuel industry are out there. They are the lights of clean power generation blooming like stars across a world blackened by smokestack emissions and imperiled by climate change.

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In the U.S., backward-looking republicans like Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, James Inhofe and Mitch McConnell appear to be gearing up to fight against both a necessary and helpful science that provides us with a life-saving awareness of the threats posed by human caused climate change and a highly beneficial renewable energy renaissance that has now gone global. Trump’s presidential cabinet is filled to the brim with climate change deniers and fossil fuel pushers. Pledges to de-fund climate science, implied threats to fire employees at the Department of Energy who worked on climate and renewable energy related issues, and belligerent boasting about dismantling much-needed policies like the Clean Power Plan, EPA fuel efficiency standards, and the Paris Climate Summit abound.

It’s the great loud, sad, and ignorance-filled reaction against a better future. A political and legislative backlash funded by oil, gas, and coal company campaign donations, advertising dollars, and indirect media investments. One that seeks to remove the possibility for a time when energy does not pollute the air or water — resulting in 7 million premature deaths each year globally. For one when climates are not, by incessant fossil fuel burning, pushed ever-closer to the hothouse extinction states that killed so much of life on Earth in the great long ago.

(There used to be a number of forward-looking republicans who both stood as leaders of their party and provided strong support for clean power. What happened? Where are these clear and reasonable voices now? Arnold calls BS on politicians fighting against clean energy, who like Trump and many current-day republicans, are claiming it’s too costly or difficult to switch away from fossil fuels. Video source: Attn.)

But despite this surge of destructive reactionism on the part of U.S. republicans and in such varied legislative bodies as the UK and Australia, the hopeful movement toward a future which includes the potential for human civilization survival and long-term prosperity continues. It’s a movement powered by individuals, by sustainable industries, by cities, by states and by nations who recognize the need for a more hopeful, more beneficial path than the one the fossil fuel industry and their political cohorts, like Trump, are now seeking to force upon them. They are the base of a very necessary resistance to a malign and yet still powerful global influence. And they are resisting by simply finding a way to shine lights powered by clean energy in the darkness and smog of this dying hydrocarbon age.

Number of U.S. Cities Powered by 100 Percent Renewable Energy Grows

In Las Vegas, Nevada, a city on the brink of a climate change driven chaos of water shortages and worsening droughts, the clean energy lights have switched on. There, city officials have achieved 100 percent renewable power for municipal facilities fed by a 100 MW renewable energy generation source. To be clear, the entire city of Las Vegas isn’t run by renewable energy — yet. But the government buildings, traffic lights, street lights, and public parks are now powered by clean sources.

Las Vegas isn’t the only one. Greensburg, Kansas runs on 100 percent renewable power — including electricity provided to individual residences. Burlington, Vermont and Aspen, Colorado also provide 100 percent renewable energy for city infrastructure, industry and residences. The list of cities already achieving or close to achieving 100 percent renewable power goals goes on to include Columbia, Maryland; East Hampton, New York; Georgetown, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Greensburg, Kansas; Nassau, New York and Rochester, Minnesota.  In California — a state that governor Jerry Brown has pledged will continue its clean energy progress despite what appear to be a broad array of incoming attacks on renewables by Trump and republicans — Paolo Alto is joined by Lancaster, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Monica as cities that have all achieved or are pursuing 100 percent renewable power generation.

us-solar-energy-leadership

(President Obama is proud of U.S. solar energy and climate leadership. This support helped Obama to create 14 million jobs over the course of his Presidency. Donald Trump appears to be ready to attack one of the U.S.’s few remaining cutting edge industries and along with it middle class jobs. Image source: White House.)

But that’s not all. This week, a new power agreement committed 21 towns in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod to energy provided by 100 percent renewable sources. These communities banded together with the goal in mind not just to switch to clean energy — but to negotiate favorable rates by leveraging the bargaining power of a large customer base. Such a strategic approach is especially important in regions where energy markets have been deregulated — as it provides the added protection of broad representation.

As with climate scientists, it’s likely that sustainable communities like these will fall on the target lists of republican party leaders allied to a fossil fuel industry that’s increasingly desperate to legislatively capture energy customers — providing them no option to escape from harmful power sources. But many city leaders are fed up and won’t have any of it. To this point, 48 mayors issued an open letter to Donald Trump stating:

The effects of climate change — extreme storms, wildfires and drought; sea level rise and storm surge; choking air pollution in cities; disruption of agricultural supply chains and jobs in rural heartlands; and coastal erosion, to name a few — are a clear and present danger to American interests at home and abroad… As Mayors, we have taken it upon ourselves to take bold action within our cities to tackle the climate crisis head-on. We write today to ask for your partnership in our work to clean our air, strengthen our economy, and ensure that our children inherit a nation healthier and better prepared for the future than it is today.

A Global Resistance to the Harmful Energy Sources that Cause Climate Change

Across the Atlantic, a Scottish golf course constructed by Donald Trump is now receiving power from renewable energy sources like the wind turbines he continues to oppose. Today Scotland generates 72 percent of its electrical energy from non carbon sources. A figure that the Scottish government is aiming to push to 100 percent by 2020. Meanwhile, the European island of Iceland has long received the bulk of its electricity and thermal energy from renewable hydro and geothermal sources.

In nearby mainland Europe, numerous cities now run on 100 percent renewable electrical power. These include Güssing, in Austria; Wildpoldsried, in Germany and Samsø, in Denmark. Germany’s states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, home to 1.6 million Germans, and Schleswig-Holstein with a population of 2.9 million are both renewable energy over-achievers — producing more clean power than they consume. These states instead often export their electricity to various other nearby regions.

In South America, Paraguay produces 10 times the electricity it requires from renewables and exports the excess to its neighbors — many of whom, like Bolivia and Brazil, are already seeing harmful climate impacts resulting from human fossil fuel burning. Further north, Central American Costa Rica has now seen a year pass without the need for further fossil fuel power generation even as it continues to install more renewables. And, finally, Pacific islands are starting to make the switch from expensive diesel power generation to increasingly affordable solar. There, the Pacific island nation of Tokelau had become the first country to be powered by 100 percent solar energy. Meanwhile, Solar City recently enabled an entire island in the American Samoa chain to flip from diesel to near 100 percent solar.

Solar Exceeds Wind For First Time as India Makes Commitment to Halt Coal Plant Construction

Stepping back, we find that this massive transition away from fossil fuel based energy sources is being driven in large part by two new energy providers combining with traditional hydro power generation as a dispatchable base load provider. These two — wind and solar — this year will add a combined approximate 130-140 gigawatts of new generation capacity. Solar, for the first time, is expected to exceed wind by providing 70-76 gigawatts of new capacity during 2016. Meanwhile, wind is expected to hit record or near record installations at around 60-65 gigawatts.

Low prices and superior energy return on energy investment vs traditional fossil fuels as well as much lower overall impacts to human health and the global climate appears to be the primary driver of what is shaping up to be an extraordinarily rapid shift in the world’s electricity markets. Wind has long been considered a low-cost energy source. But in 2016, it appears that solar prices have fallen below those of already inexpensive wind generation. And, according to Bloomberg, solar is now sometimes selling a prices half that of traditional coal. It is these low prices that are enabling cities, communities, states and some small to mid-sized nations to achieve 100 percent renewable power generation. Meanwhile, large states are now enabled to make big commitments to halt construction of the worst-polluting power stations.

On Tuesday, December 20, India — which will soon be the most highly populated country in the world — announced that it would completely halt new coal plant construction through 2027. India faces worsening droughts, glacial outburst floods in the Himalayas, killing heat, and a flood destabilized Bangladesh to its east so long as global temperatures continue to rise. The country is also seeing rapid economic growth and increases in prosperity. But this prosperity is threatened by climate change impacts. For a country faced with destabilization of nations on its borders, inundated coastlines, killing heat in its heartland, and rampant drought as rivers dry up and glaciers disappear finds aspirations for a prosperous future imperiled.

india-majority-renewable-power

(India plans a major revamp of policy by ambitiously pursuing renewables while completely curtailing new coal plant building. Under such a plan, and with Trump coming in as President, one wonders if the U.S. will fall far behind other nations leading the charge into a future powered by clean energy. Will Trump attack the very industries at home that would benefit from India’s drive to seek renewable energy partners? American mainstays like Tesla, Solar City, GE wind, SunPower, and First Solar would all benefit from such a potential relationship. But will Trump’s anti-renewables fossil fuel based ideology blind him to this obvious opportunity to help U.S. business interests abroad? Image provided by Renew Economy.)

India’s response is to rationally cap coal consumption by 2022 while undertaking a massive renewable energy build-out. By 2027, India plans to add 215 gigawatts of renewables, and 39 gigawatts of nuclear and hydro power. Coal plant construction will be limited to those plants that are currently under contract. But the state already predicts that the capacity will be under-utilized, resulting in stranded fossil fuel ‘assets’ — which could produce a drag on markets both at home and abroad.

Under the new plan, India will boast a majority renewable and zero emission power generation capacity by 2027. And this action appears to be laying the groundwork for a larger energy switch as India’s Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has stated a clear goal to “look at a world beyond fossil fuels” and to aim to cut fossil fuel imports.

Clean Power Resistance to Ideologies and Industries Destined for Dramatic Failure

In the end, what we see is a world in which renewable energy is making a great leap forward. A world where the considerable but waning fossil fuel powers are panicking and lashing out as they begin to enter decline. We see this reactionary backlash in climate change denial, in attacks on scientists, in an amoral pandering toward fears, bigotry and extremism, in brazen attempts to erode democratic institutions and attack the Constitutional integrity of the electoral process in the U.S., and in Trump’s and Republicans’ insistence on protecting fading industries destined to fail. We also see it in their attacks against the new and helpful industries and the agencies, like the EPA and NASA, that produce so many beneficial public goods.

What their actions and reactions will produce — by intentionally injecting authoritarianism, chaos and instability — is a delay to the entry of these helpful power sources. A delay that will lock in worse climate harms even as it hobbles the most innovative and helpful segment of emerging industry within the United States. A delay engineered by leveraging all the darker angels of the American psyche. And as with many of the other policies now being promoted by republicans, this subset is as ludicrously out of touch with present day politics, history, societies, and industry as it is brazenly harmful to pretty much everyone.

But the resistance to this darkness and retrenchment has arrived in the form of new opportunity and progressive movement. It has arrived in the form of a very real and clean enlightenment of the global energy production system. One that breaks the ancient ties to destructive extraction and burning. And there could be no better cause than supporting this resistance by doing your part to aid the transition to clean power.

Links:

NASA Climate Change Mitigation

Trump Cabinet Filled to the Brim With Climate Change Deniers

Cape Light Compact Goes 100 Percent Renewable Electricity

White House

Arnold Calls BS on Politicians Claiming Clean Energy is Too Expensive

Los Vegas Goes 100 Percent Renewable Power

Solar Now Produces a Better Energy Return on Investment than Oil

Renew Economy — No New Coal Fired Plants for India

Solar Less Expensive than Coal and Wind

Mayors Letter to Trump on Climate

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

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Welcome to the Renewable Energy Renaissance — Fight to End Fossil Fuel Burning is Now On

Beneath the dark and growing cloud of human fossil fuel emissions there are a few carbon-free lights being kindled among all the black, coal-ash soot.

They’re the lights of a new renaissance. An unprecedented period of change for governments, the energy markets, and for individuals themselves. For we are all, whether we realize it or not, now embroiled in a struggle that will determine our own fates as well as that of our children and of all the generations to follow. For this renaissance is as much about liberation — the provision of clean energy choice as means to free ourselves from a wretched captivity to fossil fuel consumption — as it is about fighting to leave those very hothouse mass extinction fuels in the ground.

It’s a new kind of vital social unrest. A global struggle for justice on a scale not seen since at least the downfall of the slave trade. The battle lines have been drawn — in courtrooms, at ports, along pipelines, and on the train tracks, in the legislative offices of cities, states and in the halls of the federal government itself. We, as a civilization, are being divided into pro-renewable energy, pro-response to climate change, pro saving life on this Earth, and anti-renewable energy, anti-response, climate change denial factions. It is a disruptive, highly dangerous period of history. One we must successfully navigate if we are to survive as a modern civilization and, perhaps, as a species living on this Earth.

volcano-eruption

(The human carbon emission is now 150 times that of current volcanic activity. To achieve the same rate of emission from volcanoes, you would need a Siberian Flood Basalt equal to that which set off the Permian Mass Extinction — the worst hothouse extinction in Earth’s history — active on every continent on the face of the Earth. Image source: Human Activities Produce More Carbon Emissions Than Volcanoes.)

Given the crucial nature of what has now become an essential conflict over the fate of the Earth herself, it’s worth asking yourself the question — which side are you on? The darkness of climate change is upon us and the need to make such a choice could not be more clear or resonant.

Nevada Monopoly Fossil Fuels vs Solar Fight Goes National

An example of this struggle in microcosm took place during December through January of 2015 in Nevada. Emboldened by similar decisions in Arizona, monopoly utilities moved to protect their carbon-polluting infrastructures by pushing the state government (made up of a majority of republicans to include the governor — Sandoval) to impose restrictive fees on solar energy use throughout the state. Targeting rooftop solar energy systems, the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUCN — also made up entirely of republicans) voted to, across the board, increase costs for rooftop solar users by both slashing incentives and imposing draconian fees. The decision negatively impacted 12,000 current solar customers using rooftop power to include families, schools and even public libraries.

Solar City, a leading solar energy provider in Nevada has since decided to completely remove its industry from the state. The decision came after this statement:

“[The PUC] has effectively shut down the rooftop-solar industry and taken the extraordinary step to punish over 12,000 existing solar customers, including schools, with exorbitant fees in what appears to be an attempt to protect the profits of the state’s largest utility. All three members of the PUC, who voted unanimously to change the rules, were appointed by Governor Sandoval.”

“Most disturbing is the PUC’s decision to retroactively sabotage existing solar customers’ investments by changing the rules on them. The Nevada government encouraged these people to go solar with financial incentives and pro-solar policies, and now the same government is punishing them for their decision with new costs they couldn’t have foreseen. These actions are certainly unethical, unprecedented, and possibly unlawful. While the rest of the country embraces a clean energy future, Nevada is moving backwards.”

Nevada Pro Solar Protesters

(Solar energy supporters protest Nevada’s draconian solar fees in a January 13 action outside the PUC headquarters. Under the initial ruling even existing solar users would have been penalized. Now a new ‘compromise’ offered by PUC will ‘only’ provide a severe disincentive for pretty much every other Nevada resident to adopt solar energy for their home or business. Image source: Ecowatch.)

Nevada’s PUC decision smacks of a monopoly power generation protection scheme. One that has made it impossible for solar installers to operate in the state. As result, Nevada’s two other top solar installers (Vivint and Sunrun) have now followed Solar City’s example and decided to halt operations in Nevada. The jobs impact from just these three solar providers closing shop is a net loss of 6,000. But with hundreds of small solar installers active in Nevada before the ruling, the economic and environmental damage is likely to be ongoing and long-term.

As Vox noted on January 20th:

For the state’s monopoly utility, it’s a successful attempt to avoid competition. For the well-funded conservative groups fighting the spread of solar around the country, it’s the first decisive victory. For most Nevadans, however, it represents an own goal, a senseless act of self-sabotage.

But what happens in Nevada, apparently, doesn’t really end up staying in Nevada. After Harry Reid, a Nevada Senator, questioned the decision’s legality, national voices began to take up the cause as well. Hillary Clinton spoke out against the decision. Bernie Sanders — running a strong challenge to Hillary in this year’s democratic nomination campaign — noted that the PUC board’s decision was “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Martin O’Malley, also a democratic presidential candidate, implied that the decision was an intentional ‘sabotage’ of the solar energy industry.

PUCN has since offered to ‘grandfather’ in existing solar users. But the war to stop rooftop solar growth by this fossil fuel powered utility appears to have jumped back into Arizona where another large utility is seeking to impose similar exorbitant fees.

26 Red States Appeal Supreme Court to Rule on Clean Power Plan

As if Nevada’s war against rooftop solar industry within its own state wasn’t bad enough, a group of 26 states currently governed by fossil fuel industry funded republicans are now submitting a Supreme Court challenge to Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The group has re-stated the now typical and jaded republican claim that the EPA doesn’t retain the legal authority to regulate carbon emissions. The new claim is predicated on the statement that EPA will force fossil fuels out of business, stating that the federal government does not retain the authority to effectively ban the use of a particular set of fuels.

It’s a convoluted appeal that smacks of past states rights arguments regarding every kind of dangerous, toxic or nefarious trade from slavery, to firearms, to tobacco. The appeal letter demands an ‘immediate stay’ on the Clean Power Plan (a cessation of implementation). It seeks to sanctify as ‘legal right’ the ability of coal plants to remain open and to continue pollution. It attacks federal government decisions that would support renewable energy as a solution to climate change (without using the words climate change once in the document, which itself required a supreme manipulation of legalese to achieve). And it uses language that implies state policy directives and goals supersede those of the federal government.

UCS-Clean-Power-Plan-costs-and-benefits

(According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the benefits of the Clean Power Plan far outweigh the costs. The fossil fuel industry and their political allies don’t want you to know this basic fact. Image source: The Union of Concerned Scientists.)

The appeal holds up as evidence the fact that numerous coal plants will be forced to close during 2016 as states attempt to come into compliance with the Clean Power Plan. Plants the republicans are seeking to keep open for their industry sponsors. Plants whose emissions republicans continue to fight to lock in.

The statement is, in essence, an attempt to make an end run around the typical court appeals process which will take months. Such a delay would force states, by law, to move to comply with the EPA standard before any Supreme Court ruling. An action that smacks of desperation on the part of the fossil fuel industry and its backers.

We should be very clear — any effective action on climate change will require that fossil fuel generating power plants be closed down early. That they will not be permitted to emit their toxic, hothouse extinction forcing, gasses into the atmosphere on and on into the coming decades. This is a moral decision that is as necessary for the survival of human civilizations as it for many of the innocent creatures now living on our planet. The authors of the above letter know this, which is why the language is crafted in such a way as to attack the very rational underpinnings of that understanding.

New Study Says US Can Go 100 Percent Renewables Without Nuclear

As the fossil fuel industry fights through all its various political agents to retain dominance and not lose ground against a burgeoning renewable energy sector and an environmental movement morally compelled to reduce harm by preventing the worst impacts of human-caused climate change from being realized, a new study released today provides still more hope for a rapid transition away from a horribly damaging dumping of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found that existing technologies including upgraded powerlines connected to wind and solar energy power stations across the US could provide 80 percent of the electricity for the United States by 2030. The upgraded power lines would link the various regional power sectors in the US. In turn, these sectors would share renewable energy across the entire grid structure of the United States. Such sharing would vastly reduce the intermittency of renewable energy without the need for large-scale energy storage systems. A windstorm in Kansas could thus provide electricity to Gulf Coast residents sitting in still air. Sunlight falling at dawn in DC could, in a similar way, power street lamps during the dark of still night in LA.

The study authors note:

Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation are a major cause of anthropogenic climate change. The deployment of wind and solar power reduces these emissions, but is subject to the variability of the weather. In the present study, we calculate the … configuration of variable electrical power generators using weather data with high spatial … resolution over the contiguous US. Our results show that when using future anticipated costs for wind and solar, carbon dioxide emissions from the US electricity sector can be reduced by up to 80% relative to 1990 levels, without an increase in the levelized cost of electricity. The reductions are possible with current technologies and without electrical storage. Wind and solar power increase their share of electricity production as the system grows to encompass large-scale weather patterns. This reduction in carbon emissions is achieved by moving away from a regionally divided electricity sector to a national system enabled by high-voltage direct-current transmission (emphasis added).

The reason why large grid structures able to efficiently transport  renewable energy from individually modular and intermittent systems works is due to the fact that there’s always wind blowing or sun shining somewhere on the Earth. The more inter-connected and efficient the grid, the more it is enabled to tap and move this energy from place to place and greatly, overall, reduce the intermittency of wind and solar for the entire structure.

It’s worth noting that such a system would radically alter current power generating and distribution structures. US utilities would tend to shift more from power providers to grid operators — electrical power middle-men that move energy from distributed power sources to far-flung customers.

Renewable Energy Projected to Dominate Electricity Markets by 2030

But not only is renewable energy advancing as a result of scientific viability studies, these sources of non-carbon-based power, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), are poised to leap into positions of market dominance over the next 25 years. The report, cited by Joe Romm today and published by IEA in November, indicates that renewables will produce more than 50 percent of the world’s electricity by 2030 and will have leapt into a position of significant dominance by 2040.

IEA Power by Source 2030

(Renewables shown as dominating the electrical power market by 2040 in this IEA graph.)

Disturbingly, IEA also notes a continued growth in the consumption of coal and gas. So if the IEA report is correct, carbon emissions for the power sector would continue to increase through 2040, which would be a bad outcome for the world’s climate and for life on Earth. Specifically, it would put us on a path toward around 2.7 C warming this Century and about 5-6 C warming long term — which would be about enough to push CO2 levels above 550 ppm and melt most or all of the ice on planet Earth should such high greenhouse gas concentrations be maintained.

However, Joe Romm finds some cause for optimism. Joe notes that China’s coal emissions may have peaked in 2013 and that China is rapidly adding renewable energy capacity. According to Climate Progress:

… this projection is not what would happen if the nations of world pursued the kind of aggressive policies they unanimously agreed to in Paris to avoid very dangerous warming and stay below total warming of 2°C. That would effectively end fossil fuel emissions by 2100. Indeed, the IEA forecast does not fully take into account what now appears to be an unexpectedly rapid shift away from coal in China. As a result, in its chart, coal power generation increases substantially by 2040. …. Goldman Sachs, for one, believes global coal consumption for power generation peaked by in 2013.

The IEA itself notes that one of its key assumptions may be too conservative: “China is becoming the wild card of coal markets, with the risks to our projection of a plateau and then a slow decline in coal demand arguably weighted to the downside.” I think the plateau and slow decline scenario was plausible a year ago, but China’s coal consumption dropped nearly 3 percent in 2014, at least 5 percent in 2015, and one analyst in Beijing projected recently, “coal consumption will drop by between 2.5 percent and 3 percent in 2016.” Beijing keeps adding new policies to slash coal use, as detailed in a major analysis last month from the Center for American Progress, which concluded “Chinese coal consumption enters downward spiral.”

If Joe’s correct, then it appears that the entire fossil fuel based electricity industry is now in a fight for its life. One it must inevitably lose for so many of the rest of us and of much of life here on Earth to survive. So when you hear talk coming from state regulators about coal industry losses, preserving rates and markets, or preventing coal and gas plants from being shut down, you should remember — there’s a critical choice being made here. One to cut off the short term prosperity of the fossil fuel special interests to prevent centuries upon centuries of devastation, death and pain here on Earth for future generations and for the entirety of the natural world. And it’s for this reason that we must make the entirely moral choice to send coal, gas and oil on its way. To leave these fuels from hell where they belong — in the ground.

We certainly do not need these toxic hothouse fuels and we can most certainly survive without them. In fact, our future survival and opportunities for future prosperity absolutely depend on the cessation of their burning, and soon.

Links:

Solar City Stopping Sales, Installations After PUC Ruling

Nevada’s Strange Decision to Throttle its Own Solar Industry

26 Republican Led States Challenge Clean Power Plan

Support 350.org

Future Cost-Competitive Energy Systems and Their Impact on CO2 Emissions

Better Power Lines Would Help the US Supercharge Renewable Energy

World Energy Outlook 2015

By 2030, Renewables Will be the World’s Primary Energy Source

Hat tip to Scott

 

 

Toxic Interests: In Lead-up to Paris Summit, Conservative Politicians Around the World are Fighting to Kill Renewable Energy

We have seen the enemy and he is us.

‘He,’ in this case, is those among us now fighting an all-out war against government programs aimed at reducing the damage caused by human-forced climate change. And in this present time of ramping climate catastrophe, there is no excuse at all for this morally reprehensible activity. Yet, excuse or no, the foul actions of these shameless ignoramuses continue. For all around the world conservatives (called [neo] liberals in Australia) with ties to fossil fuel based industry continue to scuttle programs that would result in the more rapid adoption of renewable energy systems even as they undermine related initiatives to increase energy efficiency.

At a time when the world faces down a growing climate crisis — one that will have dramatically worsening impacts as the decades progress — these failed and corruption-born policies represent the most abhorrent of political activities. And as the world convenes to consider how best to lessen the danger posed by an unfolding global tragedy, there are many in power who are now actively working to increase that danger.

More than anything else, this corrupt group is fighting to enforce ramping dangers, an ever-broadening harm, and untold future tragedy.

Shutting Down Coal to Build Natural Gas in The UK

This week, the conservative government of the United Kingdom made what seemed to be an optimistic announcement. It now plans to phase out all coal generation by 2025. Because coal power generation is the worst of the worst among carbon polluters, this news was rather good. Good, that is, when one doesn’t take a look at the broader context of current UK energy policy. And taking that look, we find what could best be described as an utterly abysmal state of affairs.

wind_power

(Wind power, produced by these and many other majestic towers turning over the UK countryside, is a critical solution to human-based fossil fuel emissions and a target of conservative energy policies. Image source: British Wind Energy Association.)

Ever since coming to power this summer, the conservative government has consistently cut subsidies for renewable energy while providing subsidies for some of the worst polluting facilities imaginable. Recently, UK Energy Secretary Rudd received stark criticism for this move along with pointed words over related backward policies like the provision of subsidies for expensive and polluting diesel-electric generators. Pointed words that came from both politicians and scientists alike. One such scientist was chief of the UN’s environmental programme Jacqueline McGlade who recently stated in the Financial Times:

“What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going — we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced.”

So even as conservatives in the UK are phasing out coal, they are replacing it with oil and natural gas. Fossil fuel replacements for fossil fuels at the expense of both zero-carbon renewables and a climate capable of supporting human civilization. For both oil and gas are still major carbon emitters. Especially when one considers the UK conservatives’ intention of fracking the countryside in search of these dangerous fuels. A method of extraction that has proven to increase emissions of volatile methane gas. And each new gas or oil plant built will continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere for decades even as it risks having its production lifespan cut short as the damages caused by carbon pollution become ever more obvious.

From the Financial Times:

Ms Rudd told the Today programme she wanted to rewrite the rules of the scheme to encourage gas instead. She said: “We have a capacity market auction coming up. We are going to review it carefully afterwards and ensure we do get the new gas we need.”

Conservatives, in this case, who have ideologically (and ludicrously) campaigned against all subsidies have instead decided to subsidize the bad climate outcomes all while cutting funding for solutions.

Fighting Renewable Energy Subsidies, Clean Power Plan in the US

In the US, the situation is only slightly better. Slightly better in that conservatives do not currently hold the Presidency. That said, conservatives are still doing their damnedest to kill off practically every renewable energy program the United States has to offer.

In May, House Republicans presented a bill (HR 1901) that would completely kill off the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy in the US. This in contrast to a permanent wind Production Tax Credit proposed by Obama. Meanwhile, the same Republican clowns who bring snowballs into the halls of Congress as supposed proof that global warming isn’t happening repeatedly try to de-fund the PTC for both wind and solar at each and every new budget session.

And it’s primarily due these efforts on behalf of fossil fuel backers by Republicans that the PTC is set to expire again by 2017. A move that will inject volatility into the renewable energy markets and bite into what has been an amazing period of growth by both Wind and Solar energy across the US. Growth that has happened despite Republicans’ apparent best efforts to halt it (see Paul Krugman’s Enemies of the Sun).

US Solar Energy Adoption rate

(US Solar energy adoption rates continued to soar in 2015, jumping to 40 percent of all new installed energy capacity for the first half of the year. These great gains have occurred despite broad based assaults on public policies supporting the rapid adoption of this critical renewable energy source. Image source: US Solar Market Summary.)

Though the PTC represents the Federal Government’s big support program for wind and solar energy development, any program that would reduce carbon emissions falls under attack. Republicans, who have hypocritically spoken in favor of US energy independence, mount repeated attacks on increases in Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency Standards. Republicans incessantly assault the EPA and its underlying Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. But more recently, Republican attacks against EPA have focused on the underpinnings of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The plan, which sets modest goals to reduce US carbon emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels through 2030, would also greatly increase the rate of US renewable energy adoption, force the early retirement of the worst polluting power plants, and push for further increases in energy efficiency. Exactly the kind of progress against human forced climate change and toward US energy independence that Republicans apparently abhor.

By contrast, there hasn’t been a bit of legislation supporting fossil fuels that Republicans haven’t loved. Republicans constantly call for ending the oil export ban — a move that would greatly benefit US-based oil corporations. They wholeheartedly support the polluting and groundwater destroying process that is fracking. They’ve repeatedly called for increased drilling of all kinds everywhere including offshore drilling, Alaska National Wildlife Refuge Drilling, and Arctic Ocean Drilling. And they continuously support the dirtiest, highest carbon emitting fuel sources imaginable such as Canada’s Tar Sands and Coal. In fact, Republicans support for coal extends to the point that they frequently pass bills like this one which would allow toxic fly ash the enter groundwater supplies.

At the State level conservative republicans have repeatedly attempted to ram through ALEC and Koch funded bills to roll back net metering laws and renewable energy targets (see Koch Brothers, Big Utilities Attack Solar Energy). All while attempting to open public lands and waters to every variety of drilling and coal mining.

But despite these broad based attacks, renewable energy in the United States continues to make major gains even as energy efficiency measures advance. Sadly, the pace of carbon emission reduction and related renewable energy adoption has been greatly slowed by these continuous attacks by conservative Republicans.

Australia — From Terrible to Not Much Better

In the Southern Hemisphere, recent years have seen a wholesale gutting of renewable energy based policies by the Tony Abbott government in Australia. Time and time again, Abbott (which like northern conservatives foists laizzez faire markets and supports destructive industries like fossil fuels) pushed for a roll back in Australia’s previously aggressive renewable energy adoption rate all while trying to breathe new life into a zombie coal mining, export and power industry.

By Summer of 2015 the situation had gotten so dire that solar energy industry leaders were calling Abbott’s actions a ‘vindictive crusade’ against the renewable energy industry. John Grimes, head of the Australian Solar Council, this July launched an attack on the Abbott government after Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation decided to stop funding new wind projects.

In a statement to the Saturday Paper, Grimes asserted:

“If Abbott continues this way, we’re [the solar industry] finished. We know that solar and other renewables are competing with coal, and Abbott is intent upon protecting that industry. So, this is our WorkChoices moment. We will be mobilising, and we’ll be campaigning in marginal seats. We’re starting to plan this now.”

RET cut

(During June of 2015, the Tony Abbott government cut Australia’s Renewable Energy Target [RET] from 41 gigawatts by 2020 to 33 gigawatts. Unfortunately, the new Prime Minister — Malcolm Turnbull — hasn’t moved to support previous, more aggressive targets. As such, Tony Abbott’s legacy of cutting renewable energy in favor of coal lives on. Image source: Renew Economy.)

By Fall, the Abbott government had fractured. This development likely in no small part due to campaigning by renewable energy supporters and those concerned about human caused climate change. The new head of the Australian Liberal Party (don’t let the name fool you, they’re just like conservatives everywhere else) Malcolm Turnbull, when considering past performance, might want to support cutting edge solar technology for Australia. However, in his first months as Prime Minister he appears to have done little but cowtow to his numerous coal industry supporting party colleagues.

As an example, Turnbull’s appointed Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel recently stated:

“My vision is for a country, a society, or world, where we don’t use any coal, oil, or natural gas, because we have zero-emissions electricity in huge abundance”.

But Turnbull, who is now being pushed by his political colleagues to make it illegal for environmentalists to sue coal companies if they open up new land to mining, felt the need to defend coal on the same stage by making the following and highly fallacious statement:

“If Australia were to stop all of its coal exports … it would not reduce global emissions one iota.”

Due to renewable energy’s popularity in Australia, due to Turnbull’s own likely affinity for the development of cutting edge wind and solar ventures, but also due to the terrible and intransigent institutional legacy of coal support in his party, the Turnbull government has come across as schizophrenic on the issues of renewable energy and climate change. On the one hand, some within Turnbull’s administration make statements like that of Dr. Finkel above. But when it comes to actual policy, Turnbull has continued to support many of the disastrous initiatives set forward by Tony Abbott. Which makes the Turnbull government look like it’s attempting to greenwash a facade over a rather ugly coal-ash face.

If Leaders Can’t Support Renewable Energy and Work to Halt Fossil Fuel Burning, Then They Need To Go

Though the UK, the US and Australia do not make up the entirety of the western world, the conservative anti-renewable energy and pro-fossil fuel sentiment represented in these three countries is wide-ranging. Such sentiment is common to conservative governing groups around the world — from Canada to Europe to New Zealand and beyond. In the western democracies of the world this crippling ideology is preventing a necessarily rapid push to adopt non-carbon energy and prevent the worst impacts of global climate change.

As we approach the Paris Climate Summit, we should be very clear on this one political issue of key importance. If these people continue to hold political power, we will not act rapidly or decisively enough. We will find ourselves overwhelmed by consequences as their delaying actions stymie any effective response. It is therefore crucial that the supporters of the fossil fuel industries of the world are removed from office. They have shown themselves for their true colors — they’ll continue to support these harmful and wretched fuels regardless of consequences, regardless of any, even the most extreme, risks to their own nations and to the nations of the world.

Links:

Top UN Scientist Criticizes UK Cuts To Renewable Subsidy

UK Coal Fired Plants to be Phased Out

Ministers Accused of Trying to Sneak Through New Fracking Rules

Methane Leaks Wipe Out any Benefit of Fracking

Republicans Fight to Repeal PTC for Wind

House Panel Passes Extenders Package Without PTC

Enemies of the Sun

The GOP Assault on Environmental Laws

The Clean Power Plan

GOP Attacks on Clean Power Plan Going Nowhere

163 Republicans Push for More Offshore Drilling

Republicans Push for Renewed Drilling in Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge

Republican House Passes Bill Forcing Keystone XL Approval for the 9th Time

Republican House Passes Bill That Would Allow Toxic Coal Ash to Enter Groundwater

Koch Brothers, Big Utilities Attack Solar Energy

US Solar Market Summary

Abbott’s Campaign to Kill the Renewable Energy Sector

Renew Economy

Australia Slashes its Renewable Energy Target by 20 Percent

 

 

Solar Energy Costs in Free-Fall as World Climate Worsens; Opposition to Renewable Energy Now Mostly Political

 

The evidence just keeps flooding in. From 2005 to 2012 country after country reached solar grid parity until, at the end of this period, a total of 102 nations saw solar energy sources that were cost competitive with fossil fuels. Through 2013 prices kept falling. Now, an increasing number of regions have developed solar energy as least expensive new energy sources. Earlier this year First Solar opened a New Mexico plant in which solar energy produced electricity for 5.8 cents per kilowatt hour. These prices were 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of energy generated from a new coal fired plant. Now, a German Utility has opened a solar plant that produces electricity for less than 10 euro cents per kilowatt hour, also less than the cost of local new coal generation.

By 2020, total solar energy prices are, in the most conservative estimates, expected to fall by at least another 50% (in fact, the cost of new solar generation has fallen by 22% each year for the past five years!). More optimistic estimates show solar continuing to fall by between 4 and 15 percent each year through the next twenty years. These reductions will make solar energy the least expensive energy source in almost all cases within 4-20 years. What is absolutely astounding is that, should these reductions materialize, it will be less expensive to build a new solar facility than it will be to cover the operating costs of existing coal power plants.

A rough graph of the time horizon at which solar out-competes existing coal generation given various rates of price reduction from 4 to 15 percent per annum is available here:

Solar competitive time horizon

(Image source: Monetary Realism)

The various lines start on year 1 (2014) and continue all the way through 2034. In the most rapid cost reduction cases, new solar outcompetes existing coal from 2018 to 2022 and only the slowest advancement results in an outcompeting of existing coal generation by 2034. This graph doesn’t include likely increases in the costs for existing coal due to competition from wind and solar, depletion of the coal source, or requirements by governments to use costly carbon capture and storage technology.

To this point, carbon capture and storage (CCS) is little more than an oft trotted out fossil fuel dog and pony show. Not one CCS plant has been put into anything more than experimental operation. Not one has demonstrated any cost competitiveness with a broader energy market. And not one has advanced further than the pilot stage making any estimated cost for actual systems little more than vapor.

By comparison, solar energy just keeps chugging along, marking gains, new milestones, and greater cost cuts with each passing year. In the US alone, more than 10 gigawatts of solar energy have now been installed. That number is predicted to surge by 80% over the next 18 months to reach 17 gigawatts by end of 2014.

These are massive and optimistic gains. Yet they will have to continue for years to decades if they are to significantly reduce and eliminate US net carbon emissions from electricity generation. With severe weather impacts and sea level rise ramping up from human caused climate change in the present day, it appears we are in a race both against time and against our own worst enemy and the cause of the whole trouble in the first place: ourselves.

A Massive Political Juggernaut Opposes Renewable Energy Adoption and Solutions to Climate Change

If we were rational, our government and policy systems would be rapidly aligning to support a major transition away from fossil fuels. If we were rational, we’d be leveraging the increasingly cost-beneficial energy production systems that renewables provide to stabilize economies harmed by the ravages of petroleum dependency and related economic exploitation. We could bring light to the darkened, non-grid-tied regions of the world. And we could give human civilization a fighting chance against the terrible ravages of climate change caused by our enforced dependence on a dangerous set of fuels. Fuels that must go if we are to have much hope of overcoming what is setting up to be an existential climate crisis.

Yet it is clear, at this point, that we are not rational. At best, we see government gridlock. At worst, entrenched corporations are able to manipulate government in such a way that the dangerous development of dirty fuels continues.

In one example, the US State Department paid reporting agencies with close ties to BP, Exxon Mobile, and Koch Industries to draft a climate impact assessment report for the Keystone XL Pipeline. A report that contained a high level of oil industry fluff and misinformation. One that arguably misled both the public as well as members of public government who would be making decisions on this critical issue. Thankfully, public outrage over this report has caused some reassessment. But the validity of any new report may suffer from similar corruption and is equally in doubt.

In another example, the halls of Congress itself is packed to the gills with a non-representative number of ignorant individuals who out-right deny the existence of human caused climate change. A recent report from Think Progress found that 127 members of the House and 30 members of the Senate denied human-caused climate change. Not surprisingly, a significant majority of republicans in Congress deny climate change. Equally unsurprising is the fact that these members receive vast sums from fossil fuel related donors. House climate change deniers received 242,000 dollars on average from fossil fuel industry coffers. While Senate climate change deniers receive a largess of nearly 700,000 dollars each for their climate change denial efforts. Further, a majority of these members sat on key science and environment committees or held leadership positions in their respective parties.

In a horrid example of the damage this kind of corruption causes, a new bill advanced by Republicans called the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act of 2013 would cut NOAA funding for climate change research. Indirectly, these cuts would also likely impact weather satellite coverage and sensors critical to weather prediction. To this point, it is impossible to separate weather from climate. Any efforts to cut climate research also negatively impact our ability to predict the weather. In this instance, as in many others, climate change deniers in Congress are actively harming our resilience to the extreme weather that is almost certainly on its way.

Given this fossil fuel industry stacked US political system, is it any surprise that almost daily proposals to expand coal, gas, and oil dependence hit the floors of Congress? Or that House Republicans are doing their best to kill off critical energy efficiency standards?

Sadly, many utilities themselves are entangled in a dark web of fossil fuel influence. Cosied up to fossil fuel special interests for more than a century, utilities are now fighting net metering laws that have led to more rapid adoption of solar in states like Arizona. These net metering laws allow homeowners to sell any excess energy produced, which utilities must purchase at cost. This policy, put in place in Arizona in 2009, helped rocket the state to number 2 in total solar energy generation, behind California. But now, the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is fighting to kill net metering. In an ironic change of fate, the son of Barry Goldwater is organizing political action to fight APS. Goldwater’s organization — Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed — is now involved in an epic political battle to keep solar energy alive for Arizona’s homeowners.

These are just a few highlights of a broad and ongoing war which fossil fuel special interests are fighting to deny citizens access to clean, alternative energy. It is a war, also, to preserve profits for some of the wealthiest corporations the world has ever seen. What this intensity of action on the part of fossil fuel companies, especially when viewed in light of an increasingly less expensive and competitive renewable energy source,  reveals is that barriers placed to renewable energy adoption are now entirely political and policy related from this point forward. Thus, we are in the midst of an ugly era in which the corporate fossil fuel special interests seem to use every dirty trick at their disposal to maintain their hold over markets, consumers, and governments.

It’s going to be tough, rough fight. But with climate change howling in the wings, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

 

 

Voter Suppression Didn’t Work, So Grasping Republicans Turn to Undermining Democracy

Image

The United States is endowed with a democracy that remains the envy of the world. Now, a group of republicans, embittered after a stinging defeat during the 2012 election, seeks to undermine that democracy in order to rig the electoral college in their favor.

Republican state legislators in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are attempting to change state election rules so as to apportion electoral college votes to counties rather than the entire state. The result of this cherry-picking is that democratic presidential candidates would have to win the popular vote by 6 percent or more (a landslide) in order to edge out republicans in the electoral college.

The reason has to do with demographics. Most democrats concentrate in or near cities. So republican success in re-apportioning electoral college votes to counties would result in a tipping of the scales dramatically against democratic candidates. It would also result in a virtual nullification of the popular vote in elections. Popular vote totals would count less while where the votes came from would count more.

This kind of manipulation, funny games, and distortion is entirely normal for the current republican party. The same party that sand-bagged voting rights in an attempt to suppress the vote in key battleground states. The result was lines in which voters waited, in many cases, all day to exercise their right to vote. Other republican funny business has included purging voter rolls, multiple attempts at voter intimidation (almost always struck down in court), publishing fallacious information about voting dates in official public documents, and questionable instances of monkeying with voting machines.

The most recent attempts at voter disenfranchisement through fiddling with the electoral college system is just one more example of the sense of entitlement many republicans seem to have. They don’t believe they need to win on issues or to appeal to the hopes, needs and concerns of a broad segment of the American people. Instead, any means to win seems justified to their increasingly myopic world-view.

Links:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/01/25/170276794/some-in-gop-want-new-electoral-college-rules

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/republicans-split-over-electoral-college-change-proposals.html

 

The Budget Crisis and the Fiscal Cliff: Time For Republicans To Ditch Grover Norquist Tax Extremism

According to wordnet.com, the definition of extremism is ‘any political theory favoring immoderate, uncompromising policies…’

Enter the current negotiations shaping up over the fiscal cliff.

Once again, Republicans find themselves backed into a corner due to their own extremism. This particular extremism centers around a political ideology which takes on faith the notion that it is never good to raise taxes. It is an ideology arising from an essential conservative suspicion of government power. A concern which would be healthy if it weren’t so hypocritical, myopic and self-serving. For Republicans have, traditionally, supported ‘big government’ when it comes to military spending, draconian security laws like the Patriot Act, helping wealthy entities of their choosing, like the fossil fuel industry, and legislating what women can do with their bodies. More positively, many Republicans have tended to support broader scientific endeavors such as space exploration. But this support, which is to their credit, is drastically undercut by a Republican tendency to work to defund and emasculate the government on all levels. Under such an ideological constraint, the US would never have put a man on the moon. The US would never have entered and fought World War II. The US would have never developed a public education system that became a model for the world. And the US would never have built its economy-enhancing infrastructures — such as the power grid and the public highway systems. Revenue was essential for all these ventures and revenue was rightly procured from those most able to pay taxes — to a greater extent from the wealthy and from those well-off enough to stand on their own two feet economically.

Procuring taxes in this way is fair and just. But, increasingly, the Republicans seem to wish to make exempt those who are most wealthy among us while shifting an ever greater burden to those least able to bear it. At the heart of all this pro-wealthy extremism and class warfare is the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes.

Never raising taxes is, in its very essence, a warfare against the US government system. All government systems — including those Republicans traditionally favor. It endlessly undercuts the federal government’s ability to raise money and is, therefore, an existential threat to US government. In the narrow corridors of Republican ideology, the fantasy notion that all government is bad, all government is tyrannical, provides a flimsy justification for legislative warfare against the US democratic and federal systems. But in the real world, this warfare results in massive devastation — crippling critical programs that provide immense benefit to the American people.

FEMA, NOAA, NASA, EPA, The Department of Education, Medicare, Social Security, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, The National Science Foundation, and many, many, many other programs that provide valuable research and services which promote the development and health of our country. These programs result in thousands and thousands of opportunities for jobs and innovation as well as provide major assistance and enablement to Americans in every walk of life. Supports for funding for these programs come from both Republicans and Democrats with many legislators fighting over where these programs will locate their facilities so as to gain economic advantage for their districts.

Yet when it comes to actually funding these key programs, Republicans suffer from ideological paralysis. There is a major disconnect between their notion of the benefit of these programs for their individual states and districts and the need to provide federal revenues to support these programs. Instead, Republicans rely on the failed, and dis-proven throughout history, notion that so long as you cut taxes, economic growth resulting from tax cuts will magically create more revenue than the amount cut. First, no research supports that tax cuts primarily benefiting the rich, like the cuts Republicans continue to support, have any substantial benefit to the economy. If this were the case, the failed Bush Tax Cuts would have resulted in a golden age of economic growth. Instead, under the continuing regime of the Bush Tax Cuts, we have had two recessions and a financial collapse. Not a very good record at all.

Even worse, a political parasite by the name of Grover Norquist has trolled the halls of Congress for decades, circulating a ridiculous pledge. This tax pledge is, in essence, a promise that the signer will never, ever raise taxes.

The ludicrous nature of this pledge is that it cuts against the grain of effective government established since the dawn of time. For a government to be viable, it must be able to generate revenue. And if taxes are endlessly cut, then, eventually, that government will no longer exist. For legislators to sign such a pledge is, in essence, them signing the death knell to their own positions within the government they have, ignorantly, just sworn to destroy.

It is difficult to imagine a greater statement of hatred of the American system of government than in signing a no tax pledge. It is one thing to be ideologically predisposed to generally lower tax rates. It is another thing, altogether, to sign an extremist agreement to never raise taxes again. Unfortunately, a majority of Republicans have signed this insane agreement that is guaranteed to explode the budget deficit, if adhered to.

The complete dis-connect with reality underlying this pledge could best be illustrated by describing its opposite. Suppose Democrats signed a pledge to never cut spending? Over time, government would grow and grow until it came to dominate the entire economy. The result would be a totalitarian government. That said, Democrats have never signed such a pledge. They have cut spending against their interests and ideological leanings again and again. They understand that, sometimes, spending cuts are needed, for the good of the country. They are, in other words, moderate and reasonable. Able to govern effectively without constraint to a single set of narrow values.

Republicans, on the other hand, have chained themselves to totalitarian anarchy — a system that endlessly cuts necessary government to the bone and risks its disintegration.

So consider the fiscal cliff crisis an opportunity for Republicans to show they are, in fact, not extremists. Show that Republicans are, in fact, capable of rational governing. Show that Republicans can compromise as Democrats have. It is time for rational Republicans to step away from the Grover Norquist Tax Pledge and to support reasonable new sources of revenue, like moderately increasing taxes on the top earners in our country.

There is no way to deal with the deficit through spending cuts alone. There is no way to close enough loop holes to deal with the budget crisis. Any deal must include new revenues from top earners. And for this to happen, Republicans are going to have to take a necessary step away from the extremist elements in their party.

Such steps will be difficult. Such steps will result in loud cries from the most extreme and vocal wings of the party. But such steps will help to begin to heal the Republican party, to begin to re-assert its legitimacy and rationality in the eyes of the American people. Sticking to deficit brinksmanship and an allegiance to a man — Grover Norquist — and not to the American system of government is a recipe for the ultimate disintegration of the Republican party.

This is a make or break moment for Republicans, a group I once considered myself a member of. This is a moment of turning — toward a final and deadly embrace of extremism, or away. Away from that terrible trap and back toward the Republican party’s better angels. The moderates. Those who actually remember what Lincoln stood for. Those who actually value the integrity of a functional republic. Those who understand Roosevelt’s crusade against abusive businesses, trusts and robber barons. Those who believe in a strong America — not just in the extreme views espoused by a few narrow individuals.

It is high time for Republicans to decide if they are, in fact, Americans and not just a member of the tribe of Norquist.

Obama Re-Elected With Overwhelming Mandate; Some Republicans Send Signals of Cooperation, Others Just Continue the Viciousness

Last night, Obama made history. He was the first President since FDR to be re-elected under such tough economic conditions. He was the first President since the early 20th Century to be re-elected against such broad-based opposition by powerful special interests. And he was the first President to achieve such a victory by building a base of support almost entirely composed of grass-roots America.

This re-election wave also served up substantial gains for Democrats in both the House and Senate. Democratic majorities in the US Senate expanded, while Republican majorities in the US House narrowed. These strong wins, after Republicans worked tirelessly to obstruct, sabotage, and ensure Obama’s first term was branded a ‘failure.’

But Obama’s successes would not be overshadowed. His saving of the US auto industry ensured his strength among rust-belt states. His hard fight to establish economic recovery resulted in jobs gains throughout the election that continued to erode and disprove the Republicans’ endless negative narrative. Obama’s smart handling of the Sandy disaster showed not only strong leadership, it illustrated the increasing danger of human-caused climate change. A climate change crisis Republicans have continuously denied. Perhaps, most telling of all, were Romney’s numerous attempts to take credit for Obama’s successes. All such brazen attempts fell short, accumulating in a snow-drift of Republican lies and misinformation.

Obama ran on a tax increase for the rich. Obama ran on economic fairness. Obama ran on building new energy sources of the future — wind, solar, electric vehicles. Obama ran on a vital government empowered to help people. And Obama won. He won handily. He won with the overwhelming endorsement of the electoral college. He won with more than 2.3 percent of the popular vote. And these Americans gave Obama the mandate to pursue tax increases in order to balance the budget, to pursue new energy solutions to climate change, and to continue to make the US economic and political system more fair.

American history is filled with examples of losing parties compromising and working with victorious Presidents. However, many among the Republican party continue to indicate they will not work with Obama. In fact, many attempted to deny the fact that Obama had any mandate whatsoever. Across the conservative media airwaves and via conservative pundits everywhere, the word most oft repeated about Obama’s re-election was ‘no mandate.’

This sick nonsense is just one more attempt to emasculate and render impotent the Obama Presidency. Not only is it callous, cynical, and calculating. It lacks any traditional American spirit of democratic cooperation. Already, Republicans have reverted back to campaign mode. Already Republicans are doing everything they can to deny their own role as governors responsible for their portion of American leadership. Instead, they’ve just put together another wave of Republican spit-ball and smear rhetoric.

But the attempt by Republican media, politicians and pundits to deny the reality of Obama’s clear mandate is among the more mild responses to the President’s re-election. Today, on Twitter, Donald Trump called for a revolution to overthrow Obama’s democratic election. Trump tweeted:

This election is a sham and a travesty! We are not a democracy!

More votes equals a loss… revolution!

We can’t let this happen! We should march on Washington and stop this travesty!

It should be noted, again, that Obama won the popular vote by nearly two million or 2.3 percent. A fact that seems to have been lost on Trump in his insane and violence-mongering rants.

Moving on to Mitch McConnell, we find nothing more than a continuation of brazen obstructionism. McConnell, in a statement yesterday evening asserted:

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control.

McConnell still wrongly characterizes the Obama first term as a ‘failure.’ A failure McConnell worked as hard as he could to create. And, again, as seen endlessly repeated in the Republican media, the term no mandate is asserted. McConnell is simply trying to verbally diminish Obama while puffing up his own position. But the facts weight against McConnell and his lawyer-speak.

All that said, the two adults in the Republican room appear to be Mitt Romney and John Boehner. Romney gave a gracious concession speech last night. And Boehner, both yesterday and today, has made more conciliatory communications than those previously issued from his position. Though it is unlikely that Boehner will support any policy which will actually result in a comprehensive solution to the fiscal crisis — continuing to call for spending cuts to key programs while only issuing token support for increased revenues — he has issued some statements that appear to create a little daylight on this issue.

John Boehner:

The American people re-elected the president, and re-elected our majority in the House. If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt. I offer sincere congratulations to President and Mrs. Obama and to Vice President and Dr. Biden. I wish Mitt, Ann, Paul, Janna and their families well, and thank them for having carried the banner of our party and our principles with strength, grace, and courage.

Like McConnell, Boehner attempts to diminish Obama’s strong mandate. However, his statement is less pointed than the one issued by the Minority Leader. Boehner instead leans on cooperation rather than blithering on about imaginary Obama failures.

Today Boehner continued what appeared to be an honest opening for negotiation by saying that he would be open to increased revenues through euphemistic ‘changes in the tax code’ — closing loop-holes and the like. Policies, that, for the most part, sound a lot like those which Romney advocated during the election without that terrible and gigantic tax cut for the rich which he pushed so hard.

All that said, Boehner sets an honest table for bargaining and if his position is merely a flexible starting point and not an ultimatum then, perhaps, there may be a glimmer of hope for things starting to change in Washington.

In the end, it appears that the moderates of the Republican Party are again at war with its extremists. We had a similar battle in 2008 and the result was the Tea Party. The latest step in the long march by the Republican party toward the abyss of extremism. This time, hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Indeed they should. Because that extremist agenda has been dealt a terrible blow before it even had an opportunity to do anything other than obstruct legitimate government.

A more rational policy would be for republicans to begin to show the ‘center-right’ side of republicanism. A real Reagan type republicanism that would actually accept the necessity of a tax increase. And yes, a republicanism that would accept expansions of government efforts in needed areas. That would give center-left democrats something to work with. And the result would be a taste of effective government. I believe the American people would find such a change refreshing.

Mitch McConnell Fails in #1 Goal: Defeat Obama; US Electorate Rejects Extreme Republican Obstructionist Agenda in 2012 Election

Last night, Republicans were dealt a severe loss. They received a terrible drubbing in the presidential race — losing previously Republican states of Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada. They were summarily rejected by the industrial states of America — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin. New York City, home to an increasingly whiny class of rich elites, was the epicenter for a massive loss for Republicans in New York. Overall, it appears Obama also won the popular vote by a comfortable margin, beating out Mitt Romney by more than 2.3 percent.

The loss was magnified by the fact that secret money super-pacs heavily favored the Romney campaign. When you add in the fact that oil, gas, and coal companies spent nearly half a billion dollars to support Romney and other GOP candidates, it clearly shows the strength and marvel of Obama’s win.

The rejection of the rich, establishment, fossil fuel and extremist agendas was also apparent in the Senate. So far, democrats have extended their majority by two seats and have added an independent ally. In total, those who caucus with democrats on most issues include a much more solid majority of 55 seats. In the House, Republicans appear likely to lose 5 seats. Though Republican losses in the House are not enough to re-establish Democratic control, they do erode overall Republican Congressional influence.

The US electorate’s action against Republican extremism and obstructionism becomes even more clear when you dig down to look at who actually lost. The most extreme anti-abortion Republicans — Aikin and Mourdock — were both summarily defeated. Scott Brown, a tea partier, fell to the ardent progressive Elizabeth Warren. Sherrod Brown, both a climate and working class champion, handily defeated a tea party challenge from the anti-women’s rights Josh Mandel. The progressive Tim Kaine defeated ‘tax cuts for the rich’ George Allen. Patrick Murphy appears to have narrowly edged out tea party extremist Allen West. Stalwart progressive Alan Greyson has returned to the House and will likely prove a thorn in Republicans sides.

Among the more extreme Republicans (a relative term in a rather extreme party), only Michelle Bachman appears to have scraped by, barely eeking out a victory by a mere 4,000 votes.

Mitch McConnell, who lead the Republican hostage taking of the US economy in order to extort more tax cuts for the rich and to sabotage Obama’s re-election, has summarily failed. The Republican Party, who pushed ever more extreme conservative policies and who attempted to employ voter suppression over a swath of swing states, has summarily failed. This loss is nothing short of a new rejection of failed Republican policies and of denying Republicans the opportunity to re-assert their trickle-down economics, their anti-woman agenda, their anti-immigrant agenda, and an oil, gas, and coal backed set of policies that will result in a hellish heartland and flooded coastlines.

Republicans, who continue to rationalize ways to keep living in their bubble reality, will now attempt to claim that the American people have mandated that Obama and Democrats acquiesce to Republican demands. But this is nothing more than a false assertion. What the American people have mandated is that Republicans be less extreme. That they do not only represent the wealthy. That they do not continue to deny climate change. That they do not continue to endlessly seek to extort tax cuts for the rich. That they do not endlessly seek to de-regulate Wall Street. That they do not continue to push policies that encourage companies to ship US jobs overseas. That they do not continue to attack, demonize, and victimize immigrants. And that they do not continue their endless assault on women’s rights.

In order for Republicans, and America for that matter, to survive and thrive, they must begin to moderate their positions on all these issues. To fail to do so would be to consign them, and possibly the rest of us too, to the dust bin of history. And that is the lesson people should learn from this election. Democrats have already moderated their position on many, many issues. It is now the Republicans turn to cast away their extremist roots and meet us where we already stand — in the middle.

The Debate Joe Biden Won With A Smile

Last night, the Tea Partier who tried to turn Medicare into a voucher program was served up an enormous helping of just desserts by Vice President Joe Biden. Biden came out swinging and never let up until it seemed a disoriented Ryan had simply given up, resorting, half-heartedly, to chugging water and spewing memorized lines.

From the get-go, Biden dealt with Ryan with total candor, directly answering questions and providing evidence and assertions even as he held Ryan accountable for his own mangling of the facts. When Ryan rolled out the false claims that Obama had dropped the ball in Benghazi, Biden pinned Ryan to the mat by showing how republicans had cut diplomatic security funding just before the attacks. When Ryan tried to run away from his record of attempting to voucherize Medicare and force seniors to pay another 6400 dollars per year in medical expenses, Biden practically tattooed the word ‘voucher’ onto Ryan’s head. And when Ryan tried to claim that his 5 trillion, 20% across the board, tax cut would be paid for without increasing the debt or hurting the middle class, Biden kept backing Ryan into a corner in which Ryan couldn’t explain his claims for lack of facts or evidence.

Finally, a beleaguered Ryan found himself lost in the valleys of Afghanistan, falsely claiming we had 28,000 troops there when the actual number is over 60,000.

The best touch in Biden’s entirely masterful debate last night, however, was how Biden dealt with Ryan every time he made a false claim. Ryan — ‘this is the unraveling of Obama foreign policy.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t voucherize Medicare.’ Biden — smile. Ryan — ‘we don’t cut taxes by 5 trillion dollars.’ Biden — smile.

And it was through this smile that Biden projected his thoughts. ‘This kid if full of baloney,’ his smile seemed to say. We knew that Biden was showing us, through the grace of his American eagle-like countenance, that the kid was clearly making stuff up.

Not that Biden didn’t call Ryan out. Quite to the contrary, he aggressively went after what he termed as ‘malarkey’ coming from Ryan at every opportunity. Biden’s action to defend truth made his smile all the more effective. Because the words he used to back it up set in clear relief the debate field even as it lit bright sparks in the minds of the American people.

And it is this entirely right and good fighting to expose the truth that has elicited so many howls from republicans who probably expected, instead, that Biden would roll over and allow the wealthy to feast on the middle class once again without putting up a fight. That Biden would just, stand aside, as the ideological right rolled back into the White House and reasserted its war on science. That Biden would lay down before a Mitt Romney who promises to bring back George Bush’s torture policy, republican deregulation of Wall Street, and a George Bush 2.0 tax cut to boot.

Not that guy from Scranton. Hell no. That guy hit Ryan like a fireball from the heavens above. And, this time, it was Ryan trying to pretend his hair wasn’t on fire.

And, I have to tell you, for me it was refreshing. Refreshing to hear someone stand up and fight for the middle class. To hear someone take on what are nothing more than a series of blatant untruths put out by republicans year after year, month after month, day after day. An endless mangling of the truth that is so harmful both to the United States, to our country’s economic integrity, to our future, and to the electoral process itself.

And most regular Americans seemed to agree. One blogger described the shouts and howls of joy he could hear across his neighborhood as Biden delivered powerful counter after powerful counter to Ryan’s false assertions.

And this response seemed to bear out in many post-debate polls which showed Biden as a strong winner. A CBS poll of undecideds showed Biden with a 19 point lead. ABC 6 showed Biden creaming Ryan in a 60-38 domination of a poll of the broader electorate. CNBC, a haven of many who are misinformed daily by the likes of Tea Partier Rick Santelli, showed Biden edging out Ryan 48 to 47. Perhaps the only poll of the night which showed Ryan ahead was a dubious CNN poll which, according to poll data, was heavily weighted with republicans and independents. But even this skewed poll showed Biden trailing by a hair — within the poll’s margin of error.

And from a survey of the internet following the debate it is clear that republicans are in full damage control mode. No clearer an indication that they have lost can be expressed than their attempts to label Joe Biden ‘rude.’ That he smiled too much during the debate. And this, as Romney said in an interview this morning, was ‘disrespectful.’

I couldn’t disagree more.

The rudeness and disrespect came from Ryan who thought he could get away with lying to the American people. Lying about Benghazi, lying about his Bush 2.0 tax cut, lying about alternative energy and Solyndra, and lying about his record on Medicare. Lying about his and Romney’s blatant, rude, and entirely disrespectful 30% and 47% remarks. And providing completely anti-factual information on Afghanistan. Biden was right to interrupt and to call Ryan out. When an opponent misrepresents themselves and their policies, this is entirely called for.

Obama would do well to learn from Biden’s example. Because Romney is extraordinarily loosey goosey with the facts. To leave such misrepresentations unchallenged risks that people, who don’t have access to the same level of information as a sitting President, might begin to believe these false claims. And we can already see how much damage this has done to republicans ability to understand facts and deal with reality. If the entire electorate becomes as misinformed we are lost, adrift on a sea of media impulse, shackled to the whim of the wealthy.

Something can be said for Ryan. He did tell the truth on abortion. And, appropriately, Biden didn’t challenge his truthfulness. He simply passionately described his own position in defense of women. Making his own assertion that he would fight to protect women’s rights and that he believed the assault on women’s liberties was unconscionable. And this gives us an example of how an honest debate should work. It should involve a direct and transparent comparison of candidates positions on issues. It leaves the power of choice in the hands of the American people. But when one candidate holds no respect for the truth, that candidate must be called out. Called out for attempting to deny people the right to choose candidates based on a clear understanding of positions. In fact it is a responsibility to the American public that misinformation and false claims be pointed out for what they are. A lie unchallenged is a lie free to harm the American people. And a false claim brought to light is one that can no longer live and continue to do its terrible damage.

Joe Biden did the right thing last night. He called out Ryan’s lies. It was a public service. It was not rude. It was respectful to the American people. And this is something republicans would do well to learn — a little respect for, not just a flag lapel pen, but for what that flag actually represents.

And this is why Joe Biden won, because liars never win in the light. And Joe proved that with a glorious, glowing smile.

Republican Congress Cut Diplomatic Security Funding Before Benghazi Attacks; Mitt Romney Attempts to Profit Politically From Death Of Navy Seal

After creating the strawman that is Solyndra and using it repeatedly as a platform from which to assault America’s solar energy industry, it should be no surprise that Republican Darrell Issa is at it again. This time, he is calling a hearing on ‘security failures’ during the Benghazi attacks on the US-Libyan diplomatic mission. Darrell’s current witch hunt draws conclusions before collecting evidence and operates under the presumptuous title ‘Security Failures of Benghazi.’

As ever, the Issa committee seems less interested in identifying actual problems that, if removed, may help make future diplomatic missions in the Middle East safer. Instead, it continues to myopically dig for any shred of evidence it can use  to politically damn the Obama Administration during a time leading up to a presidential election. Security officer, Eric Nordstrom, when repeatedly asked the question ‘was security at the site adequate?’ has responded by noting that no additional level of security for a usual diplomatic mission would have prevented an attack of this kind.

“Having an extra foot of wall, or an extra half-dozen guards or agents would not have enabled us to respond to that kind of assault,” said Nordstrom.

During the hearing, Republicans were quick to add their own assertions. “I believe, personally, with more assets, more resources, just meeting the minimum standards, we could have and should have saved the life of Ambassador Stevens and the other people who were there,” asserted Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

But what Rep Chaffetz conveniently overlooked was that the Republican Congress failed to honor President Barack Obama’s request for additional security funds both this year and last year. According to a report in the Orlando Sentinel:

House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” — a charge Republicans rejected.

So this conjecture raises a few questions. First, was security inadequate at Benghazi? And if so, how much did Republican efforts to hamstring Obama by de-funding critical programs contribute to lack of security at the US embassy in Libya? And was Hillary Clinton correct in her assertion that Republican de-funding of security for diplomatic missions was ‘detrimental to America’s national security?’

It would seem the conclusions are quite obvious. As with the Republican wreckage of the US economy, it appears Republicans have again created a problem for which they are now attempting to blame the Obama Administration. This political profiteering is even more heinous due to the fact that they were warned that their cuts to diplomatic security may be harmful. But they decided to ignore those warnings. Now, after numerous incidents at US diplomatic missions where additional security may have helped, Republicans attempt to blame the Obama administration for a situation they helped make worse. Not only is this disingenuous. It is rank underhandedness and betrayal. The Republicans should both be ashamed of their witch hunt and of their past efforts to cut US diplomatic security during a time of danger.

In a related instance of political profiteering, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney attempted to use his brief acquaintance with Navy Seal Glen Doherty, who was killed in the 9/11 attacks in Libya, as a prop for advancing his political agenda. Romney repeatedly told a ‘teary eyed story’ about his meeting the young Glen, comparing his own political efforts to Glen’s heroism. But Glen’s mother has asked Romney to stop using her son’s name in speeches:

“I don’t trust Romney. He shouldn’t make my son’s death part of his political agenda,” Barbara Doherty said in a statement broadcast Wednesday on WHDH-TV in Boston. “It’s wrong to use these brave young men, who wanted freedom for all, to degrade Obama.”

In another interview with a Seattle radio station Doherty’s friend, Elf Ellefsen, recalled hearing Doherty talk about his encounter with Romney.

“He said it was very comical,” Ellefsen said in an interview with radio station KIRO. “Mitt Romney approached him ultimately four times, using this private gathering as a political venture to further his image. He kept introducing himself as Mitt Romney, a political figure. The same introduction, the same opening line. Glen believed it to be very insincere and stale.”

“Honestly it does make me sick,” Ellefsen  said in the interview with KIRO’s Libby Denkmann. “Glen would definitely not approve of it. He probably wouldn’t do much about it. He probably wouldn’t say a whole lot about it. I think Glen would feel, more than anything, almost embarrassed for Romney. I think he would feel pity for him.”

So on the one hand you have Republicans in Congress trying to profit politically from a ‘security failure’ they abetted and on the other you have the Republican Presidential candidate transparently using this brave Seal’s death at the consulate whose security was de-funded by Republicans as a means to advance his political fortunes. In microcosm, this is a perfect illustration of why Republican policies fail. They are short-sighted, self-serving, and profit from harm caused to the American people. People like Glen who served selflessly, at great personal risk, and at little prospect for personal profit. One of the very public servants that Republicans demonize in euphemism at every turn, but who serve as nice ornaments now and then once election time crops up.

I agree with Ellefsen. It’s pitiful. Gollum-esque even.

Links:

7.8% Unemployment and Falling: So Why are Republicans Selling Another Economic Decline?

Confidence. It’s a funny game, isn’t it? And the most prominent con-game going on right now is this endless selling of economic decline.

‘The economy is bad,’ we hear. ‘The recovery wasn’t fast enough,’ they say. ‘Obama failed’ — and that’s the real message they want you to believe. They want you to believe that you’re miserable, things are terrible, and that the person to blame is Obama. They want you to believe that things are as bad as … well… as bad as four years ago.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of this illusory sales pitch was when its very premise was threatened by a drop to 7.8 percent unemployment, putting a cherry on top of the strongest sustained jobs growth since 1984.

These rosey facts led GOP magnates like Rick Satelli and Jack Welch to assert there was a ‘government conspiracy’ to fudge the numbers. And since employment figures are as closely guarded as US nuclear weapons codes, these assertions were quickly proven to be what they were: preposterous.

It’s a chancy game, this selling of recession. Because the sales pitch itself creates a certain amount of damage. If people believe it, it suppresses economic confidence. It prevents people from buying. It may prevent some from seeking a job they would otherwise qualify for. It creates a kind of sense of malaise so poisonous to a post-recession expansion.

Yet this selling of recession hasn’t only been verbal. It has been legislative. Every bill that would have actually resulted in jobs creation has been blocked by republicans in Congress for the past two years.

Benjamin Feinblum summed up how these blockages keep happening in his recent report after the Republicans blocked a jobs bill aimed at helping veterans coming home from war find work:

The method Republicans have used to block all jobs legislation in the past two years is the same. A jobs bill comes up, it is filled with positive things for the economy, Republicans filibuster debate, this shields them from having to make floor speeches on why they don’t want tax breaks for small businesses… etc.

Why? Well, if the economy recovers too strongly before an election, Republicans will lose power.

Futhermore, republicans have engaged in a direct assault on America’s best hope for a new growth industry — alternative energy. At every turn we hear attacks on solar, wind, renewables and, most of all on the Chevy Volt. This has even caused some defections in the ranks of republicans. For example, Bob Lutz has been deriding republican-led attacks on the Volt ever since the vehicle launched in December of 2010:

Yesterday Forbes published an op-ed piece from GM’s former CEO, Bob Lutz defending the Chevy Volt and calling on certain right wing media outlets to focus on telling the truth, rather than concocting lies. One wonders after reading his piece whether the Republican Party believes in that Communist strategy that the ends justify the means? — Torque News

We know republicans would have preferred to let GM go bankrupt, as Romney once advised. Now they attack an American innovation marvel. One that is leading an electric vehicle charge that could break the back of fossil fuel dependence and spur the American economy to new growth all in one go. Just last month, nearly 6000 electric vehicles sold in the US. Given these numbers, it appears that EVs are taking off even faster than their predecessor, the hybrid. Meanwhile, US alternative energy production has doubled since Obama took office.

Sadly, the sales pitch of ‘recession’ continues. In just this past week’s debate Mitt Romney chided Obama for investing 90 Billion in green energy. That 90 billion included the stunning success the Volt is now becoming, in spite of a right-wing media assault. That 90 billion included a doubling of US renewable energy production. That 90 billion helped to support hundreds of thousands of jobs in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. That 90 billion helped to indirectly support 8.5 million jobs that result from alternative energy — a number three times higher than that supported by fossil fuels for each dollar spent (Business Week).

Yet all Romney could say for this emerging American revolution? Solyndra. The cherry picking of one failed company in a wave of overall success. I suppose Romney could have thought of better use for that 90 Billion? Funneling it into a 5 trillion dollar tax cut for the rich, perhaps? Or, maybe investing it in ‘nation building’ overseas, as he mentioned recently in a foreign policy speech at VMI. But, under Obama, that money, instead has been invested in nation building at home.

7.8 percent unemployment and falling… Stock market doubles. It looks like a little nation building is making things better. Far better than when Bush left office at 7.8 percent unemployment and rising at the rate of 750,000 jobs lost each and every month.

So what’s Romney’s big beef with building up America for once? Why keep bashing her?

I don’t know if republicans, overall, are good or bad people. I suspect that they are good, just misled by misinformation and succumbing to that all-too-human failure of believing that the ends justify the means. But, just like Mitt Romney, they seem to be decent folk employed in the bad work of short-selling America. And it is this bad work that is so very unhelpful and destructive. The defending of tax cuts that aid in the shipping of jobs overseas. The defending of the dominance of the oil, gas and coal industry, which staunches future energy development, jobs growth, and prevents the tackling of the farmland-destroying menace that is climate change.

What this reveals is that republicans have taken the cynical approach of hurting America in the hopes that it will aid them in the regaining of power. This ‘conquer America’ strategy through a systematic damage to America’s prospects would be something expected from a foreign power seeking to undermine America’s status for the advancement of its own. But it is a terrible betrayal for such a policy to be leveled against America by one of its own political parties. One that prides itself on its patriotism.

For republicans, it is best to learn that, sometimes, it is better to lose for the right reasons than to win for the wrong ones. For winning the wrong way often results in a short term gain at the expense of a later consignment to the dust-bin of history — not to mention the terrible damage that occurs along the way.

Message to Romney and republicans: stop doing bad work. Stop selling America short. Stop selling recession in the midst of recovery. Stop assaulting the new industries that will create the new jobs. Stop attacking American innovations like the Volt. Stop holding back legislation that helps people find work and helps build jobs. Stop making it harder on farmers and the people who tend to the engines of democracy — the hard-working people of America. Stop hurting us. Stop hurting America.

And to Americans tired of this endless selling of recession, the sandbagging of US jobs progress, the destruction of emerging US industries, and the failed policies that caused our terrible recession in the first place: you have both the ability and the opportunity to remove these republicans in Congress and to prevent them from holding the White House again this November. Who knows, perhaps the time is right for a voter revolution against a harmful party, that acts so much like a foreign power, occupying our golden shores.

Links:

http://www.torquenews.com/1075/bob-lutz-defends-volt-calls-republicans-be-truthful

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2012/10/unemployment-plummets-78/57640/

http://www.policymic.com/articles/11510/senate-republicans-block-another-jobs-bill-face-backlash-from-american-public

If Republican Economic Policy is to Drive Down Wages and Ship Jobs Overseas, Then How Can They Hope to Reduce Government Dependence?

There’s a bit of an internal contradiction in this tired, old republican narrative that keeps being recycled. This narrative that derides government dependence and smugly assumes that their own set of economic values reduce that dependence. But looking at republican policies, it becomes clear that those very policies foster the dependence they claim to deride.

Drive Down Wages

Overall republican policy has been little more than a direct assault on living wages for Americans since the mid to late 1980s. Teachers, professors, workers, scientists, people working in the public sector have all been criticized as having wages and benefits that were too high. They, first, claimed there was a need for increased efficiency. Then they targeted individual groups, leveraging a form of class envy to target college professors’ tenure, teacher benefits, the pay and benefits of any and all union workers.

The result of this wide-ranging leveraging of envy to degrade the US middle class has been a lowering of overall standards of living, wages, and benefits for the larger American public. And it is this assault that has necessitated the US dependence on debt for growth for so many of its citizens.

Perhaps the most obvious sign that republican policy is directly against rising standards of living for the US population at large is a broad-based opposition to the US minimum wage. Republicans often deride the need for a minimum wage at all, much less its increase even if it lags behind inflation. And, at every turn, republicans have attempted to undermine the principle supporting a minimum wage, even pushing for a return to the dark days of child labor and children competing with parents for wages.

Ship Jobs Overseas

When republicans have failed to drive down wages and lower benefits, they have pushed for moving large corporations, institutional employment, and services to lower wage areas. This has occurred within the US where corporations have ‘raced to the bottom’ by moving facilities to lower wage regions in the south. The result has been a dessication of jobs in developed regions while the lower wage regions become more and more dependent on government assistance (explored more below).

But the most extreme manifestation of this policy has come in the form of encouraging businesses to move production to places like China. Now, US workers are forced to compete with foreign workers in areas that are far less developed than the south. Areas that haven’t even industrialized. This creates a major distortion in which advanced society Americans are forced to compete directly with slave wage labor.

At a speech to Bain investors, republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney bragged about how Chinese workers ‘lived in dormatories,’ shared bathrooms with twenty other workers, were paid 26 cents an hour, and worked extremely long shifts. In republican parlance, this is the ideal work-force. And it is this kind of workforce that is destroying the American standard of living.

A wise economic mogul, Henry Ford, once noted that, in order to support business, workers required wages high enough to purchase a decent portion of the products they produced. And so Ford paid his workers enough to purchase the automobiles his factories pumped out. The same goes for American society. If you want a wealthy civilization able to enjoy the benefits of modern life, work compensation must rise to meet that aspiration.

Driving down wages and shipping jobs overseas, however, creates another result — increased reliance on debt and public support.

How Republicans Build a Dependency Society

So now we come full circle. If job wages and benefits are always heading down; If jobs themselves, to greater and greater degrees, are heading overseas; then how do you still grow the economy?

There are two methods — expand debt and/or expand government assistance.

In the first method, credit becomes cheap and easy to access. Middle class workers, seeing their wages drop, turn to cheap credit to support families, keep their homes or purchase ever-more-expensive food and fuel. This expansion of debt creates a bubble that sustains economic growth for a while. But, overall, the unsustainable nature of debt comes crashing down and the number of poor expand.

It is a sad fact that the result is that people robbed of their access to the American dream by a combination of declining wages and benefits and debt dependence become a part of a growing class of poor and disenfranchised. The only agency, at this point, able to provide assistance to these people becomes federal, state, and local governments. Charity organizations and churches lack the larger ability to rise to this challenge, because the size of the problem generated has become so large. In the end, the result of republican policies, therefore, becomes government dependence.

Right To Work States and Food Stamps

One policy that has resulted in a devastating decline in wages and massive increases in individual independence has been the perpetuation of ‘right to work’ laws in many republican states. These laws remove the ability of people to organize and bargain through unions and, by extension, to participate in the wealth generation process. As a result, right to work states have seen wages decline and food stamp roles explode. Georgia, for example, has fully 19 percent of its population dependent on food stamps. In Mississippi, more than one in five people rely on government food stamps due to the work and wage destroying republican economic policies.

Creating a Requirement for Government Assistance

It is a sad irony that republican rhetoric and republican policy are at diametric opposition. An analysis of policy results shows the bald lie in republican talking points. In short, republican policy is directly designed to increase need, increase, dependence, and reduce an individual’s ability to remain independent of outside support. Republican policy is the very definition of dependence multiplying. Opportunities for luck and good fortune are reduced. And rewarding individual pluck, diligence, and hard work is taken away. In the end, more people must turn to the very government policies republicans attack politically — social security, medicare, medicaid, food stamps, public education — for assistance. And the end result of removing these programs while creating dependence upon them would be an explosion of American poverty.

For these reasons, and for a number of others, republican economic policy is fundamentally dis-enabled to advance American recovery from the worst economic recession since the great depression. A recession, in vast part, resulting from failed republican policies.

Are We Better Off Today? 2008 vs 2012

The best customer for American industry is the well-paid worker. — FDR

Some of the choices that we make are going to be difficult, and I have said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not going to be quick and it’s not going to be easy… — Barack Obama, First Press Conference, 2009

At the end of 2008, after years of failed policies, after two unpaid for wars, after deregulation left the financial markets to their own irresponsible devices, America was suffering from the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Today, after 29 consecutive months of jobs growth, after a restoration of the credit markets, after an American automobile industry that has not only been revived, but experienced a renaissance, an America enjoying a revitalized stock market restrained from the worst excesses of greed is now on its feet and in fighting form.

The difference between 2008 and 2012 is the difference between economic devastation and a reason for economic hope.

These disparate situations did not evolve from one to the other in a vacuum. The failed policies that led to the Great Recession were replaced by the successful policies that resulted in an America back on her feet. Dodd Frank reigned in the worst Wall Street excesses. Sound banking policy reinvigorated the credit markets. The Stimulus provided states and communities with much-needed funds during the recession’s darkest days. The first unpaid for war was ended and the second is drawing to a close. GM, which Romney had said should be allowed to go bankrupt, is now the most successful automaker in the world. A vast raft of energy polices pushed by Obama resulted in plummeting US oil imports, increased efficiency, and increased domestic energy production. The alternative energy sources of the future have doubled their production. And the US is producing automobiles like the Chevy Volt which, combined with the renaissance in alternative energy technologies,  give reason to hope for achieving both energy independence and climate security.

In short, Barack Obama gave America back her shot at a good future. Her potential. Her ability to face adversity and overcome it. For a certainty, he did not satisfy everyone’s greatest hopes and expectations. But what he delivered was a stunning and marked improvement over the terrible harm that came to us during the Bush Administration. And this transformation was achieved in a short time. Only four years were needed. It could well be argued that Obama has done the impossible.

Looking around the world, it becomes even more clear that America’s position is vastly improved. Europe is teetering at the edge of recession, China is losing its grip on manufacturing supremacy, and the world is suffering under a brutal regime of increasing food and fuel prices. To achieve any economic growth in such an environment, in the face of such stiff competition, would be a sign of virtuoso, of expertise, of strong leadership. And Barack Obama has certainly delivered.

Even our standing in the world, which was wretched under Bush, has improved. Many nations trust us again, believe that America is again a positive force in the world. Our trade situation, though still difficult, has continued to improve. On the national security front, we have gracefully disengaged from Iraq and have reasonable hope to do the same in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is no longer a threat and Al Qaeda is disorganized, dispersed, and demoralized. The Libyan conflict was handled in a manner that preserved both national treasure and resulted in a positive outcome.

Obama has earned success after success and at every turn, he has been forced to fight against Americans who should have aided him. The Republican Congress, whose policies Obama often adopted, had moved to obstruct Obama at every opportunity. ‘No compromise’ is an understatement to describe the situation Obama was forced to deal with. Never in America has such a level of obstructionism been faced by a standing President. Every single policy measure Obama put forward was demonized even as he was attacked for the responsible act of working for solutions. It would seem that republicans would rather Obama have done nothing. Or had simply re-applied the failed policies that Bush used. The same policies that wrecked the economy in the first place.

The Republican leader of the Senate claimed his number one priority was to make certain Obama didn’t get re-elected. And what proceeded from the Republican sectors of Congress could best be described as willful sabotage. It wouldn’t be so bad if the Republican vendetta against Obama had only been personal. But what started as personal attacks quickly evolved into an assault on America’s prosperity.

The current vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, who sat on the critical Simpson Bowles deficit reduction committee, turned his back on Republican deficit reduction policy in order to fight all efforts offered by the President for long-term deficit reduction, no matter how many concessions to Republicans those proposals contained. And, at the height of hypocrisy, Ryan blamed Obama for the failure of Simpson Bowles when Ryan, himself, lobbied Republicans in Congress to vote against the deficit reduction plan. In short, Ryan killed American deficit reduction policy and then attempted to blame Obama. As such, Ryan is the very face of Republican sabotage and obstructionism.

What makes Ryan’s and Republican efforts to sabotage Simpson Bowles so bad isn’t that it hurt Obama. It hurt the American people. It put off the hard work of dealing with the national debt and forced a historic down-grade in the United States credit rating. The result is that the cost of debt increases and this is a devastating long-term harm to taxpayers and to effective government. It results in more wealth being sucked out of the United States and going to creditors both private and foreign.

Republicans seem to love to talk about the need for deficit reduction. But, in practice, both as Presidents and as legislators, they have been terrible at enacting effective deficit reduction policy. Instead, they hand tax cuts to the wealthy, pick more wars than they can afford, and spend like drunken sailors. When money is tight, Republicans, instead of asking for more from the most powerful and privileged members of society, instead turn to prey on the weak, destitute, and voiceless. Medicare and Social Security will be the next programs to be gutted by the Republican’s irresponsible taxation, spending, and war-fighting policies — should they again see power.

Ryan’s own attempt to worsen the deficit crisis in order to harm a sitting President, however, is a vast, destructive, irresponsible and narcissistic misuse of power. It is another departure from effective leadership. A departure that is just one more phase in a long and devastating trend among Republicans in government.

But despite having to fight against an entire wing of US government willing to sabotage US economic security in order to pander to wealthy backers, for the soul cause of gaining power, of winning elections, Obama has still managed to achieve amazing success. He has been able to transcend partisan bickering and reach beyond a barricade of petty personal attacks to lend a helping hand to broad sections of America. The fact that America is now standing, not bleeding on the floor as she was in 2008, is proof enough of that.

America is certainly far better off. But, sadly, she is still afflicted by an ancient brand of greed and short-sightedness that appears to have entirely devoured the Republican party. And so long as that harmful philosophy — not that of enterprise and innovation, not that of freedom, which should be a virtue enjoyed equally by all — but that of dominance, hoarding, and the endless gathering of wealth and power by fewer and fewer ‘privileged’ individuals. So long as that devastating philosophy afflicts us, we will continue to experience danger.

So we must stand up. So we must help the President who has done so much in his efforts to help us. So we must do our best to make certain that the failed policies and ways of thinking that wrecked America in the first place, that are inhibiting our progress even now, that are attempting to hold America’s very success as a hostage, do not regain hold of our great democracy.

We have seen that dark road. We have walked it long enough. We do not wish to return to the debacle that was 2008.

The Republicans Turned Obama into an Invisible Man; And Now You Can Follow Him on Twitter

Perhaps the most bizarre event at this week’s republican convention was Clint Eastwood’s surprise speech. The supposed republican ace in the hole. Their coupe de gras. Their outflanking maneuver to send the democrats running.

Yet this speech was both far more and far less than what they intended. Instead of sending democrats running in route, the surprise speech was, instead, a self-inflicted wound. And the speech was nothing short of surprising. It included, among other things, a down-talking ramble to an invisible Obama sitting in a chair on stage.

Clint asked the invisible, mute, captive Obama a number of off-color and degrading questions. It was a sort of odd massacre of beat-nick humor, stand-up comedy, acrid politics, and ad-lib all recast to appeal to the narrow persuasions of the Republican Convention audience.

Clint’s invention of the invisible Obama is like an odd melding of the sock puppet, the effigy, and the straw man. All are tools that republicans would be familiar with. The first being the oft-seen anonymous troll in political chat rooms who seems to endlessly spout, line-for-line and without deviation the most recently packaged set of republican misinformation. In this case, however, the sock puppet was produced to serve as an object of mockery. A mental outcast of Clint Eastwood and a reflection of republicans deep denigration of Obama.

As such, Invisible Obama absorbed the painted faces held aloft by tea party supporters, becoming a form of grotesque mental effigy that accurately portrayed the cognitive dissonance projected by a party motivated by disdain, increasingly disconnected from reality. Which brings us full circle to the ‘straw man.’ Poor invisible Obama was just an empty chair erected to contain all the fallacious arguments Clint or other republicans might dream up to throw at an imaginary object. One with no ability to respond to the oft-tossed barb.

In short, Invisible Obama is the dream opponent for republicans. He conforms to all their darkest fantasies. He doesn’t talk back. He looks as scarey as they can imagine in their most horrifying nightmares. And, last of all, he doesn’t respond. He is their invisible, mute, derided, painted punching bag.

But the deepest irony of Invisible Obama is an unintentional channeling of the seminal literary masterpiece by Ralph Ellison. The Invisible Man is a story about a man robbed of identity by an adversarial culture. A man whose achievements, brilliance, and talents go unrecognized. A man forced to live like a troglodyte, underground.

A more perfect allegory to what republicans have attempted to do to Obama could not have been crafted by the political and literary geniuses of our time. It took Clint Eastwood to tell the truth. To summarize for us all the detractions of Obama’s critical achievements, to reveal for us their downplaying of his eloquence, to unmask their denial of his sound and solid leadership. First they character assassinated him. Now they turn him into a wraith whom they exhibit, circus-like at their convention.

It took Clint Eastwood to unintentionally part the curtain on the republican psyche and reveal for us its ugly, bizarre and repressive inner workings. It took Clint Eastwood to show that the man republicans are running against isn’t our president at all, that it is, instead, a mute, invisible, hated contrivance. A Gollum-like creature enslaved, corrupted, and made permanently invisible. A fantasy foe for a party that can’t quite come to terms with the reality of Obama our President.

But perhaps the republicans have unintentionally invented something worthwhile here. Worthwhile at least in the way The Onion may find worthwhile. An Invisible Obama does have a certain appeal as parody of the republican psyche. As a revelation of their fears, racism, narrow-mindedness, and great lack of capacity to handle change. And, for this reason, it is likely that Invisible Obama has received over 45,000 followers on Twitter.

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/

Large Tropical Storm Isaac Churns In Caribbean, May Rain on Republican Convention

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Forming over the tropical Atlantic early this week, Tropical Storm Isaac is a large system that models project may impact the Tampa Bay region just as the republican convention kicks off.

The ninth storm of a busy hurricane season, Isaac is currently spinning out massive thunderstorms as it plows through open water. According to the National Hurricane Center, Isaac is forecast to rapidly strengthen over the next 48 hours and could become a hurricane within that time-frame.

Forecast weather tracks bring the storm to the coast of Florida early next week, with some long-range tracks bringing it over the Tampa Bay region by sometime Monday or Tuesday.

Some researchers have linked the increase in hurricane frequency and intensity over the past few decades to ongoing global warming and the warmer oceans that result. Model studies have shown that higher temperatures do result in the most intense storms being more severe but conclusions have been mixed on storm number.

Many republicans deny that human beings are causing global warming. They are the representatives of political interests who have manufactured a false debate over the existence of human-caused climate change. Just this week, three oil company-funded specialists published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal with the goal of appealing for a longer period of non-action on climate change. All of these individuals have received oil company funding. One of them is a former oil company executive.

The Journal and sources like it, however, have treated these individuals as if they were climate change experts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Two of the authors have never published a peer-reviewed paper on climate change. The third, one of the last remaining scientists who deny global warming, has been consistently proven incorrect by both data and observation.

Sadly, the Journal, since its acquisition by Newscorp, has become the mouthpiece for such nonsense. Even worse, the republican party, which once contained a number of members who recognized the validity of climate science, has since been gobbled up by oil company special interests bent on creating a cloud of silence, inaction, and misinformation over the issue.

Now a storm forms over hotter than average seas, plows through hotter than average air, and sets its sights on a land parched by climate-change induced drought. As republicans and their oil company allies gather in Tampa, let us hope that a climate-enhanced storm doesn’t cause them undue inconvenience or discomfort. We wouldn’t want the oil companies’ servants to be hampered by something so trivial as climate, after all.

Links:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCPAT4+shtml/221908.shtml

Romney Launches Hate Campaign Speech to Distract From Ryan’s Attempts to Kill Medicare, His Own Attempts to Dodge Accountability on Tax Returns

Today Mitt Romney launched a vitriolic campaign of attacks on President Obama unprecedented in Presidential politics. At a campaign speech in Ohio, Romney stated:

“Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”

Romney’s accusation is as vicious as it is patently false, especially when it’s leveled against a President who has been the object of right wing hatred and its many manifestations: birtherism, Obama accused of being a Stalinist, the proliferation of Obama targets for the rifle range, and the endless parade of Obama faces painted up as a scary clown.

To the contrary, Obama and Democrats have only leveled legitimate criticism of Romney and Ryan. Why is Romney hiding his tax returns? Why does Romney ship his money overseas? Why did Romney outsource key middle class jobs to China during his tenure at Bain? Why did Romney support Romneycare then and oppose it now? Why did Ryan submit a budget plan that kills Medicare and gives the largess over to the wealthy? And why is Ryan lying about Obama de-funding Medicare when Obama extended the lifespan of Medicare by over a decade, cut costs to seniors, and made healthcare providers grant more of their profits for actually taking care of people?

But perhaps Ryan believes that making providers and insurance companies shift some of their profits to care is a ‘Medicare cut?’ I suppose a corporate CEO like Romney, one trained to squeeze as much profit as possible out of workers and customers, would see things this way. But what about the rest of the American people? Does Romney care a whit about them? Did he while he was shipping jobs overseas at Bain?

These are legitimate political questions to which the Romney and Ryan campaign appears to have no solid answer. And Obama has been right to continue to raise questions about these key issues, critical, in fact, to an economy in dire need of recovery and an end to Republican obstructionism and doubling down on policies that only benefit the wealthy and not the rest of America.

So it is understandable, perhaps, given the twisted, misleading, untrue, and convoluted logic of their campaign, that Romney is dearly wanting for a distraction.

But one wonders about his judgement in shifting so immediately to hatred. One wonders what is his fascination with the word, so vitriolic to many of his republican followers, who so recently slavered over Glenn Beck’s fantasy of poisoning Nancy Pelosi when Beck still had his show on Fox?

And this brings me to a very valid concern. Is Romney trying to incite violence? The word hatred itself is something that shouldn’t be used as part of a Presidential speech. The word itself is overly incendiary and shows Romney’s own deep lack of responsibility to the American public. So why is he using the word? This word. This terrible word. Why?

This is another issue for which Romney should be held to accounts. Why must he lean on hatred?

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Liberals and Conservatives Finally Agree: Volt Can End US Dependence on Middle East Oil

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Over the past year conservatives have engaged in brutal and ongoing attacks against one of the greatest American automotive innovations ever the hit the road — the Chevy Volt — but today, thankfully, these attacks appear to have stopped.

An American Innovative Marvel

The Chevy Volt is the world’s first successful plug-in gas electric hybrid. This revolutionary vehicle allows drivers to run their vehicles in all electric mode for up to 55 miles before recharging or switching to burning gasoline to extend the vehicle’s range to over 350 miles. Since most commutes are about 26 miles, Volt drivers can reap amazing gains in fuel efficiency. Reports back from Volt drivers show that they are driving, on average, 1,000 miles between fill-ups. This gives the vehicle an average fuel efficiency of over 130 miles per gallon.

In addition, the Volt is wildly popular among owners. In 2011, it ranked highest in customer satisfaction out of any vehicle sold.

Attacks against Volt harm sales

The fact that such a powerful technology is available on the road is a miracle of modern engineering. But despite these obvious benefits and the fact that this amazing vehicle was an all-American invention, conservatives engaged in a massive politically driven attack against it. Ignoring the fact that the Volt began development under the Bush administration, republicans called it an Obamamobile and went about doing everything they could to demonize it. These attacks resulted in some dealers refusing to sell the vehicle for political reasons.They also alienated would-be Volt buyers — patriotic Americans concerned about US imports of oil from places like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.

But, even from the start, there were a few defectors in the republican ranks. Bob Lutz, a prominent republican derided attacks against the Volt, saying that these attacks were misguided at best.

Conservative media about face

Now, the conservative media appears to have done an about face on the Chevy Volt, today airing a piece on Fox News that could be best described as a Volt promotion. Fox even posted an analysis showing that the US could be energy independent from the Middle East if we managed to sell 30 million Volts by 2020. Comparing it to the ipad, Fox then went on to state that so long as economies of scale were able to be reached the Volt could radically drop in price making it much more accessible to average Americans.

Work together for energy independence?

The admissions by Fox today represent a huge break in the conservative log-jam over alternative energy technologies that help to reduce oil prices. It is a welcome change, for a certainty. And perhaps, at least, conservatives and liberals can finally agree on the need for alternative fuel vehicles and plug in electric hybrids. If we work together, America could well become a leader in this critical new technology, serve to help reduce our own oil dependence and, through exports of revolutionary vehicles like the Volt, reduce world dependence on oil as well.

 

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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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How Republican Oil Only Strategy Increases Gas Prices

Currently, a massive and ongoing political attack on Barack Obama continues unabated, blaming him for high gas prices. In short, not only is this blame misplaced and misinformed, the republican-proposed solutions to high gas prices are doomed to failure.

Oil Only Not Enough

Currently, republicans are only proposing to expand access and increase drilling as a solution to high gas prices. This proposal blatantly ignores the fact that since Bush ended his presidency oil and gas drilling has increased by 350%. Furthermore, oil and gas companies are failing to use drilling leases they currently have access to on public lands. The best areas have already been leased, so opening new areas would only increase oil supplies at the margins. The best-case scenario for new drilling would result in only marginal gains in supply. This marginal increase would do little if anything to reduce prices on a world market that is now demanding more than 90 million barrels per day at $106 dollars a barrel.

Chasing the Difficult, Depleting Oil Is Expensive

Currently, the cost to produce a marginal barrel of oil is as high as $70. What this means is that gasoline prices won’t drop below $2.90-3.20 per gallon unless demand for those marginal barrels is destroyed. And that means less oil demand. Instead of 90 million barrels per day of oil demand, we’d need about 88 million barrels per day. But there’s no way to do that without alternatives, reduced consumption or increased efficiency.

The reason this marginal oil is more expensive is due to the energy, expense and materials required to break it out of the ground. Marginal oil is locked in rocks that need to be fracked, baked, or crushed. It lies in pools more than two miles beneath the ocean floor, more than two miles beneath the surface of the water. Accessing this oil is a very difficult and costly endeavor. And the oil companies are now wed to this high price in order to keep accessing this oil.

Oil Market Dominance Allows for No Competition

The market dominance facilitated by oil companies results in political pressure that stifles alternative energy development. You can see this directly in republican attacks on all forms of US alternative energy spending, attacks on electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt, attacks on alternative fuels like ethanol and other biofuels, and attacks on energy efficiency. Meanwhile, republicans fight tooth and nail to protect oil company subsidies and prevent oil companies from paying any restitution that results from accidents, spills, and deaths due to oil industry operation. Republicans have long been apologists for the oil industry and this trend seems highly unlikely to change.

World Crude Oil Production Peaked in 2005

The underlying reason behind high oil prices, though, is the fact that world crude oil production peaked in 2005. From that point forward, new oil was forever after bound to be more dirty, dangerous and expensive. In fact, this oil will continue to grow more expensive as time goes forward no matter how much we drill and no matter how many new sources we exploit. The reason behind this increased cost and difficulty is due to the fact that the new fuels called ‘oil’ aren’t really oil at all, just increasingly diffuse and hard to use mineral resources that are mildly interchangeable with oil.

In the end, the combination of these factors means that unless viable alternatives like electric vehicles, more efficient vehicles, and biofuels continue to gain market share, there will be no hope for a long-term solution to high oil prices. For this reason, irresponsible republican policies relying only on oil are doomed to failure in much the same way their irresponsible policies of economic deregulation were doomed to failure. For the American public to continue believing the misinformation both they and the oil companies are spreading will result in America going down a very dark and difficult path. It is a path that is entirely avoidable should we make the right decisions now.

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