Rick Santorum on Energy, Environment, and Climate

Rick Santorum CPAC 2012As the election year lurches on, Rick Santorum is emerging as an alternative to the assumed nominee, Mitt Romney (at least for the moment). So far, the super PACs have neglected to tear apart Mr. Santorum’s platform, so I thought I would take it upon myself to pick up the slack–at least in the green department.

Standing Up for Your Neighborhood Coal Giant

You may have heard Santorum talk about helping a local business fend off creeping regulatory tentacles. In the New Hampshire debate, he said, “My grandfather was a coal miner. So I contacted a local coal company from my area. I said, look, I want to join you in that fight. I want to work together with you.”

That “local company” was Consol Energy, one of the largest coal mining outfits in the country. And, as Kate Sheppard reports, “joining in the fight” translates to being hired as a consultant for about $142,000 between 2010 and August 2011.

During his Senate career, Santorum received more than $73,000 in donations from Consol, and (surprise!) his legislative record was indistinguishable from the coal company’s agenda. He fought cap-and-trade, cheered on Bush’s coal-friendly Clean Air loopholes, and pressured the EPA to relax sulfur dioxide standards. More recently, Santorum attacked the new rules limiting mercury emissions from power plants.

Unmasking the Global Warming Conspiracy

What about Santorum and global warming? Most of the candidates take a relatively nuanced “skeptical” view. But not Santorum. At a campaign stop Colorado, he declared that he had never bought the “hoax of global warming.” In this, he one-ups Gingrich and Romney, both of whom have, at some point, sort of leaned in the general direction of maybe accepting climate change as a problem.

To any readers outside the States: Yes, our presidential candidates do argue over who has the strongest record of rejecting tenth grade science.

But let’s assume for a moment that Santorum sincerely believes climatology is a dastardly plot to dominate of our lives and our economy. The scale of this conspiracy is pretty impressive. It was apparently begun in 1824 by Joseph Fourier, who first proposed the greenhouse effect. Today, nearly every national Academy of Science and 97 percent of climate scientists scheme around the clock to deceive policymakers and the public.

One might think that such a vast fraud accusation would not be made lightly.

Renewing America’s Commitment to Hydrocarbons

Believing climate change is a hoax is convenient when your energy policy sounds like an ad for the American Petroleum Institute. Overall, Santorum’s platform is about average for the GOP:

  • He favors an “all-of-the-above” policy–mainly fossil fuels, in other words.
  • He would remove limits on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the Outer Continental Shelf, and the ANWR. “Drill. Drill everywhere,” he told Glenn Beck.
  • Keystone XL, he says, should be immediately approved. To not do so is “pandering to radical environmentalists who don’t want energy production.”
  • Rather than eliminate the Energy Department, he would like to stop its investments in “technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and alternative-energy vehicles.” Why? According to his web site, the market alone should decide which energy products are successful.
  • Interestingly, Santorum proposes getting rid of all energy subsidies. Presumably, this would include not just renewables, but also oil.

And here is Rick Santorum’s take on fracking:

[Environmentalists] are…saying…’Ooh, all this bad stuff’s going to happen, we don’t know all these chemicals and all this stuff.’ Let me tell you what’s going to happen: Nothing’s going to happen, except they will use this to raise money for the radical environmental groups so they can go out and continue to try to purvey their reign of environmental terror on the United States of America.

I could go on, but you probably get the idea. Rick Santorum may have charisma in Republican circles, but goes out of his way to attract the scorn of environmentalists, climate hawks, and fans of clean energy.

At the very least, you have to give him credit for being consistent.


[Image credit: Mark Taylor on Flickr.]


Of Oil and the Undead: A Keystone XL Update

Not long ago, the creature known as Keystone XL was hidden in the uncharted lands of bureaucracy, unknown to the general public. That was before an alliance of environmental campaigners, climate activists, college students, and Nebraska landowners dragged Keystone into the spotlight and made it pivotal issue in Washington.

A New York Times article, a corrupt environmental review, and a couple thousand arrests later, Keystone XL was a celebrity. Its every move became headline news. The No-KXL campaign convinced Obama that the pipeline was dangerous (politically, at least), and he tried to lock it up until after the election. But Republicans in Congress threw a tantrum and demanded a rushed decision on Keystone XL, even though State had warned that the review process would not be complete.

So it was that Barack Obama killed Keystone XL. But the pipeline’s friends on Capitol Hill aren’t backing down. The Grand Oil Party seems to have made reanimating Keystone XL its number-one goal. Right now, they have three main options:

  • Keystone XL will likely be featured in the House’s infrastructure bill. The “American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” is a veritable Frankenstein of pro-oil policies and outdated urbanism. (To paraphrase the bill’s authors: Bikes and pedestrians = bad, highways and oil drilling = ♥.) Keystone XL would be in good company.
  • Alternatively, Keystone XL could be added to the next payroll tax bill. The previous one–a stopgap measure–was considered a “must-pass,” so the Republicans used it to rush a decision on the pipeline. They could try the same strategy again, this time requiring an approval. But the leadership would take some heat for holding the popular tax break hostage over an unrelated issue.
  • Big Oil’s pals in the Senate are promoting a standalone bill to approve Keystone XL. So far, 44 Senators have signed on. A House version is in the works as well. If you’re wondering, it would be legal for Congress to approve Keystone XL on its own, but Obama would have to pass a bill circumventing his own authority. In other words, the standalone bill would serve mainly as a talking point

If these options fail, Zombie XL could still come back with an alternate route, or TransCanada could apply for a new permit. For now, though, our oily adversary is confined to the laboratories of Congress.

The Keystone XL is unpredictable and known to attack without warning. Be sure to follow @TarSandsAction and @TheGreenLens for the latest news.

HUGE: Keystone XL Delayed

In an important (and honestly surprising) victory for the grassroots, President Obama has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

From Tar Sands Action:

…the president sent the pipeline back to the State Department for a thorough re-review, which most analysts are saying will effectively kill the project. The president explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess….

And he has made clear that the environmental assessment won’t be carried out by cronies of the pipeline company–that it will be an expert and independent assessment.

Note that Obama didn’t reject the pipeline outright, as activists have been demanding. Instead, he effectively put off the decision until after the elections, thus avoiding a political conundrum. While we didn’t get a strong statement against the Keystone XL, we did get a vindication of the anti-KXL movement.

Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. As late as last week the CBC reported that TransCanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted.

And here is a statement from the White House, via the HuffPost:

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood,” Obama said. “The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.”

This all seems obvious to those of us who were aware of–and even helped expose–the depth of corruption in the review process. But make no mistake: Without the groundswell of opposition, Obama and the State Department would have quietly signed off on the project.

Now, the pipeline is delayed, perhaps permanently. Even if it resurfaces in 2013, we will have fresh verbal ammunition in the form of a (supposedly) independent impact study, as well as ample time to strengthen and reorganize our movement.

The Keystone XL victory–go ahead and call it that–is proof of the power that a collective political effort has. We can make a dramatic difference when we channel our convictions into sustained, nonviolent action.

And we’ll need plenty more of that in the days ahead. We can expect oil apologists and their allies in Washington to continue distorting the facts about Keystone XL jobs and energy independence. The difference: Now we have to confidence to stand up and keep moving forward.

Keystone XL Jobs Figures are Rife With Misleading Math and Conflicts of Interest

Activists protest Keystone XL pipeline at White House

Industry and government estimates of Keystone XL jobs are unreliable, according to independent study.

Have you heard that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 20,000 jobs? If so, you might have read it in a news article and assumed that it came from trustworthy, independent research. But the truth is a bit more complicated.

I’ve already mentioned that TransCanada’s job figures are inflated–but now we have even more evidence. The media has cooperatively echoed TransCanada’s estimates: 13,000 direct construction jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs. But the TransCanada chief executive himself, Russ Girling, admitted to the Washington Post that the first number was misleading:

Girling said Friday that the 13,000 figure was “one person, one year,” meaning that if the construction jobs lasted two years, the number of people employed in each of the two years would be 6,500. That brings the company’s number closer to the State Department’s; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.

Cardno Entrix also handled the Keystone XL environmental review. Why is this important? Because Cardno Entrix lists TransCanada as a “major client.” It turns out that TransCanada handpicked the firm for the State Department. Then, by pure coincidence, the “State” research sounded just like an advertisement for the pipeline: thousands of Keystone XL jobs and “limited adverse environmental impacts.” (See the NYT story for details.)

Made in Canada

Now what about the 7,000 manufacturing jobs? To answer, that, we’ll return to the WashPo article:

As for the 7,000 indirect supply chain jobs, the $1.9 billion already spent by TransCanada would reduce the number of jobs that would be created in the future. The Brixton Group, a firm working with opponents of the project, has argued that many of the indirect supply jobs would be outside the United States because about $1.7 billion worth of steel will be purchased from a Russian-owned mill in Canada.

TransCanada, of course, insists that most of the pipeline would be made in Arkansas. On the other hand, DeSmogBlog notes,

TransCanada has already signed contracts for nearly 50 percent of the steel pipe for the project. A Russian company, Evraz, will manufacture roughly 40 percent in Canadian mills, and an Indian company, Welspun, is likely to produce the rest.

An independent analysis

You might be wondering if there are any Keystone XL jobs reports not funded by TransCanada. As a matter of fact, Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute has just what you’re looking for. Here are some key points from the study:

  • The construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the US than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates. 
  • The industry’s US job claims, and even the State Department’s analysis, are linked to a $7 billion KXL project budget. However, the budget for KXL that will have a bearing on US jobs figures is dramatically lower—only around $3 to $4 billion.
  • The claim that KXL will create 7,000 manufacturing jobs in the US is unsubstantiated. There is strong evidence to suggest that a large portion of the primary material input for KXL—steel pipe—will not even be produced in the US
  • The industry’s job projections fail to consider the large number of jobs that could be lost by construction of KXL. This includes jobs lost due to consumers in the Midwest paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. These additional costs ($2 to $4 billion) will suppress other spending and cost jobs.
If you also consider that the Keystone XL would do almost nothing to decrease oil imports from the Middle East (see here and here), you can build a solid case for rejecting the project without even mentioning environmental impacts. Add tar sands, a dash of spilled oil in a water supply, and an extra large helping of climate change, and you’ve got one nasty concoction.
That’s why, on Sunday, thousands of activists encircled the White House to make the point: Keystone XL is not in the national interest.
Mr. Obama, are you listening?

House GOP Targets Manatees, Sea Turtles, Prairie Chickens

You're looking at the latest threat to American freedom.

We already know that the Tea Party-powered House has been working hard to derail several decades of environmental accomplishments.  You’ve probably heard that the debt ceiling deal not only cut holes in the social safety net, but also defunded environmental protection.

HR 2584, the Interior and environmental appropriations bill, continues this trend. The bill’s title shows its real purpose. It’s not called the Funding the Interior Department Act or anything like that; no, it’s the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011. Among those burdens are the usual scourges of liberty–the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

But there are also some surprising culprits: Sea turtles, manatees, and dunes sagebrush lizards, for example. These seemingly innocent creatures are apparently part of the sinister big-government scheme that the GOP is on a mission to thwart.

You can laugh, but I’m only half joking. Take a look at some HR 2584 amendments reported by Defenders of Wildlife  (and if that’s not enough for you, Rep. Jim Moran and Mother Jones have lists of anti-environment riders on the bill).

  • Representative Steve Pearce (NM) has introduced an amendment to end lobo recovery efforts, essentially dooming the 50 remaining Mexican gray wolves in the wild to extinction.
  • Representative Blake Farenthold (TX) has proposed blocking efforts to reduce the speed limits on beaches where threatened and endangered sea turtles nest.
  • Boat strikes are one of the leading causes of death for Florida’s threatened manatees, but Representative Richard Nugent (FL) wants to block a Fish and Wildlife Service rule to prevent boat collisions with these gentle sea cows.
  • Representative Jeff Denham (CA) has introduced an amendment to block restoration of salmon in the San Joaquin River.
  • Representatives Pearce and Randy Neugebauer (TX) are fighting to prohibit Endangered Species Act protections for lesser prairie chickens and dunes sagebrush lizards.
  • Representatives Paul Gosar (AZ) and Rob Bishop (UT) have proposed amendments that would exempt the border patrol from laws and regulations that protect imperiled wildlife and federal conservation lands like our national parks and wildlife refuges.
I know that predatory animals aren’t very popular among the ecologically-unconcerned. In an extreme case, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association argued that grizzly bears should be eradicated and that Tilikum, the Sea World orca who killed his trainer, should be stoned. And on a more mainstream level, ranchers have always harbored a resentment toward wolves.
But manatees? What harm have they ever caused? Edna Mattos, leader of the Citrus County Tea Party Patriots in Florida, lent some insight in the St. Petersburg Times:

“We cannot elevate nature above people. That’s against the Bible and the Bill of Rights.”

The Florida Tea Partiers took issue with sea cows when the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to make Kings Bay a wildlife refuge. Parts of the bay have been protected since 1980, and the FWS says that the current population of 550 manatees needs more space. But the Patriots aren’t falling for that garbage.

“We believe that [federal regulators’] aim is to control the fish and wildlife, in addition to the use of the land that surrounds this area, and the people that live here and visit.”

So I guess that explains Rep. Nugent’s amendment (he was elected by these people, after all). But what about the other assaults on wildlife? Normally, the argument for axing regulations is that regulations kill jobs. How does that philosophy apply to sea turtles and lesser prairie chickens? That’s hard to say. If you go to work one day and find that a prairie chicken has taken over your job, let me know. Same goes for when your new boss has flippers and smells like seaweed.

All these anti-wildlife amendments have two things in common (besides being ridiculous). They would all have serious consequences, yet they would not do anything meaningful to reduce the deficit or create jobs. Although the proposals may be laughable, their authors are dead serious. But they need your votes to keep their agenda rolling.

When election season comes, remember the manatees.