Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Going nuclear?

 

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner Kristine Svinicki (L) is seen here with Chairman Gregory Jaczko (C) and fellow commissioner George Apostolakis (R) listening to testimony at a meeting at the NRC's headquarters in Rockville, Maryland in this March 21, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Larry Downing

Obama to renominate Republican to nuclear panel – President Obama will renominate Republican Kristine Svinicki to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, defying opposition from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a White House official told Reuters. Republicans want Svinicki, whose term as a commissioner expires in June, to stay on the panel and believe the process is being held up because she, along with three other commission members, accused the current NRC chairman, a Democrat, of bullying women. For more of this story by Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton, read here.

U.S. House passes Republican business tax cut – The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a tax break for small businesses, giving voters a stark alternative to President Obama’s politically popular “Buffett Rule” surtax on the wealthy. In an escalating election-year war of words over taxes, the Republican measure, like the Buffett Rule, is not expected to become law. It is opposed by Democrats, who control the Senate, where the bill was expected to die. For more of this story by Kim Dixon, read here.

Lagarde sees deal in making on IMF funding – IMF chief Christine Lagarde said she expects to win a big boost in funding to help the lender contain damage from the euro-zone debt crisis now that Europe has taken significant steps on its own. For more of this story by Lesley Wroughton and Stella Dawson, read here.

US jobless data suggests slowdown in job creation – The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits for the first time fell only slightly last week, suggesting that job growth in April will not improve much after March’s disappointing performance. Economists viewed the string of weak reports as payback after an abnormally warm winter boosted activity and did not believe that the economy would suffer a repeat of 2011, when growth slowed down sharply in the first half of the year. For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

Washington Extra – Pump It Up

If you had to pick a name for a deli sandwich in honor of Washington, D.C., there’s one clear choice: “The Ruckus.” In the city’s super-charged atmosphere, politicians, lobbyists and hired aides can barely let anything go by without a fight. 

Today it was rising gasoline prices that have Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats. Both parties realize they really cannot do very much about retail prices, but they’re scrambling in hopes that voters don’t blame them for a pocketbook issue in an election year.

“Every time prices go up, there’s some sort of ruckus,”  Marc Spitzer, an-ex energy regulator appointed by former President George W. Bush, told Reuters.

Washington Extra – Tea Party poopers

A man holds a sign during a March 24 Tea Party Patriots rally in Washington calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthare law. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

All that Tea Party support in 2010 for the 87 House Republican freshmen seems to have come with a price — and now it’s time to collect.

Representative Michael Grimm found his office filled with activists wanting to know why he hadn’t done more to slash government spending and why he had voted to raise the U.S. debt limit. He too is frustrated, the former Marine told them, but you just can’t shut down government and stop paying the soldiers.

from Environment Forum:

Stern, in center of climate pessimism, hopeful about U.S.

Nicholas Stern, the British economist who warned five years ago that global warming could cost the world's GDP as much as 20 percent a year by 2050, hasn’t given up on the United States  taking action on climate even though he’s down on Washington for not passing a bill that would do just that.

“If you look around the world, of all places to sit and wonder where (climate policy is) going, this is probably the most pessimistic place -- this city,” he told a small gathering of reporters at the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. late this week.

But all one has to do is travel out of the U.S. capital to see enormous potential for taking action, he said. Stern is optimistic about U.S. companies in Silicon Valley and Boston and other places developing low-carbon technologies such as batteries for electric cars, or new biofuels that aren’t made out of food crops.

from Environment Forum:

Harry Potter, horcruxes and Steven Chu

Anyone familiar with Harry Potter knows as least two things: 1) this is the U.S. opening weekend for the final movie in the blockbuster series about the boy wizard and 2) ultimate villain Voldemort uses horcruxes to hold bits of his soul and extend his life.

Leave it to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to riff on horcruxes to explain energy storage.

"While I confess I haven't yet seen all of the Harry Potter movies including the “Deathly Hallows Part 2,” a staff member (who might be a bigger nerd than I am) was telling me about Lord Voldemort's "horcruxes" -- objects he used to store his life energy.  Without them, he lost his power and couldn't survive," Chu said on his Facebook page.

from Environment Forum:

John Kerry has had it up to HERE with “The Flat Earth Caucus”

ISRAEL/You remember John Kerry, right? Tall, silver-haired, urbane enough to be accused of being French. But there's a feisty side to the senior senator from Massachusetts, and it was on display at a forum on energy and economic growth, where Kerry teed off on congressional Republicans and others who doubt the seriousness of the challenge of climate change.

"After a while you get exasperated and jaded and frustrated about it all," Kerry told The New Republic forum at the National Press Club. "I've had it just about up to here with America's indifference to the realities of this crisis ... the United States is like an ostrich putting its head in the sand."

How do you feel about the U.S. political establishment, Senator Kerry? "I don't know what's happened to us in the body politic of this country where facts and science seem to be so easily shunted aside and disposed of in favor of simple sloganeering, pure ideology and little bromides of politics that are offered up, that offer no solution to anything but might get you through an election."

Washington Extra – Energy epiphany

If you thought you’d heard it before, you have.

President Barack Obama said today the United States must reduce its dependence on oil. And even he acknowledged this is not a new idea. OBAMA-ENERGY

“Richard Nixon talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil. And every president since that time has talked about freeing ourselves from dependence on foreign oil,” he said at Georgetown University.

“Politicians of every stripe have promised energy independence, but that promise has so far gone unmet,” Obama said.

Washington Extra – Sticky situations

It is a natural instinct to review one’s own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.

NUCLEAR-USA/So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and “it remains a part of the president’s overall energy plan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The administration is not going to switch gears on nuclear policy while a crisis unfolds, so that type of statement is to be expected while it assesses the situation.

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington’s scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances — energy vampires, he called them.

“Garlic doesn’t work against these vampires,” Chu wrote. “But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet.” Then he linked to the Energy Department’s “energy star” page .

Schwarzenegger sours on politics; eyes memoirs, movies?

arnold Memoirs, maybe movies, but no political office.

That’s what the immediate future holds for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s leaving office in January.

After seven years running the most populous state the in country, Schwarzenegger seems to have soured on politics and partisanship.

“Politics destroys everybody,” he said in an “ABC World News” interview on Wednesday. “The more you can take the politics out of things, the more you can accomplish. Because otherwise, it becomes kind of like, ‘I’m representing my party. My party is not happy with this. We’re doing it this way.’”