Tales from the Trail

Former political enemies join hands to save the world?

Nearly six years ago,  Senator John Kerry and Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens were mortal political enemies.

As a major backer of President George W. Bush’s re-election effort in 2004, Pickens contributed millions to a right-wing ad campaign questioning Kerry’s record as a Vietnam war hero. The ads, which Kerry disputed, put him on the defensive and may have contributed to the Democrat’s failure to win the White House.

kerry_pickensOn Wednesday, the billionaire and the Massachusetts senator sat side-by-side in the Capitol’s ornate Senate Foreign Relations Committee room, where Kerry presides as its chairman.

Their mission: To spread the word about the legislation Kerry and Senator Joseph Lieberman have written to tackle global warming by reducing U.S. consumption of dirty-burning fossil fuels blamed for climate change.

“If you look at life looking backwards and standing in one place, you’re going to waste your time,” Kerry told a small group of reporters when asked about the new relationship with the man he now calls “Boone.” “Six years ago was six years ago,” Kerry said.

Drill, Obama, Drill – new mantra gushes from president’s oil decision

President Barack Obama buried the news.

OBAMA/It took him seven minutes of a 15-minute speech to get to the nub, after layers and layers of words about the environment. He was, after all, a Democrat pushing for expanding offshore oil drilling … helllooooo, that’s right, a Democrat expanding offshore oil drilling.

“So today we’re announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s natural resources,” Obama said at Andrews Air Force Base standing in front of the “Green Hornet” fighter jet that uses a mix of biofuel.

Well not all the environment friendly organizations saw it quite that way.

“Is this President Obama’s clean energy plan or Palin’s drill baby drill campaign?”  Greenpeace Executive Director Phil Radford said, referring to the memorable slogan from Sarah Palin when she was running for vice president.

“Heroism fatigue”: another hurdle for U.S. climate change action?

GERMANY/Could “heroism fatigue” be yet another bump in the road for any U.S. law to curb climate change? And what is “heroism fatigue” anyway?

To Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, heroism fatigue is what happens when the Congress has spent most of the year doing something heroic, like trying to hammer out an agreement on healthcare reform, when what lawmakers might rather be doing is naming a new post office. Following one big, gnarly piece of legislation with another — like a bill to limit climate-warming carbon dioxide — can seem daunting.

“Especially Democrats want to get  back to some meat-and-potatoes job-creation stuff,” Bledsoe says. “They’re going to need a little time after healthcare.”

On book tour, it’s Palin unplugged

Like one of those grizzly bears way up yonder in Alaska, Sarah Palin was in hibernation for months while she wrote her book. And now that the book is out, she’s become unplugged.

The conservative firebrand, who says she was all “bottled up” by the John McCain staff on the campaign trail last year, is chock full of opinions and letting lose on all manner of subjects.

USA-POLITICS/MCCAIN-PALINLet’s go over several of them.

The shootings at Fort Hood were “an act of terrorism” and authorities missed “massive warning flags” about the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, she said.

Team Obama’s Environmental Irony Tour

OBAMA/Okay, so it’s August in Washington. It’s hot. Congress has gone home. Even the summer interns are packing up and getting out of town. So it’s not surprising that top members of the Obama administration might be ready for a road trip.

That’s basically what the White House announced in a statement headlined: “Obama Administration Officials Travel America, Talk Clean Energy Economy.” President Obama went to Indiana to announce $2.4 billion in funding for advanced battery and electric drive projects; Energy Secretary Steven Chu headed for Minnesota to look at renewable energy projects and North Carolina to announce a big grant to a lithium battery firm, finishing up the week in Massachusetts to talk about clean energy jobs at Harvard; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to a solar panel company in Colorado; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Florida and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Missouri.

ENVIRONMENT-USA/WINDProbably only a crank would wonder just how much greenhouse gas all this official travel spewed into the atmosphere. There’s no hybrid Air Force One, after all. But it does seem like an exquisite irony that, with the best of environmental intentions, the Obama team may have stomped all over the United States with a heavy-duty carbon footprint.

Energy Secretary proud to be a “Nerd” on The Daily Show

Following the launch of his Facebook and Youtube accounts, Energy Secretary Steven Chu made another attempt to reach the young, hip, in-crowd Tuesday night by appearing on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

Chu,  a Nobel Prize winning scientist and self-described nerd, began his appearance by  offering a t-shirt to the show’s host comedian Jon Stewart, proclaiming him an honorary member of the “Nerds of America Society.”

“You know I have been an unofficial member for years,” Stewart quipped in response.

First Draft: Al Gore heads for the Hill

GORE/Al Gore — who sometimes jokes that he “used to be the next president of the United States” — heads for Capitol Hill to testify about the fight against climate change. The former vice president and star of the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is slated to go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he’ll discuss the latest legislation to curb the greenhouse gases that spur global warming.

Gore shares the spotlight with former Senator John Warner, the Virginia Republican who pushed a bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, his last year in Congress.

It’s been an environmentally-friendly week in Washington, with Earth Day on Wednesday prompting almost every U.S. agency to go green, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson headed for the Hill to urge passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the climate bill working its way through the House of Representatives. A similar bill failed last year, but that was then. Supporters hope that with a new administration which has been clear on its commitment to curb climate warming emissions, this kind of law has a better chance.

What is the cost of staving off climate change?

Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
 
“It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas,” warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
 
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. “According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry.”
 
There’s a problem, though. 
 USA/
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
 
John Reilly, an economist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
 
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
 
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
 
“Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong,” Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
 
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
 
“If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward),” Stewart said.
 
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress’ leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
    
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in — electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps — he said that would “significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills.”

For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Demonstrators for clean energy hold a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2) 

from Environment Forum:

Obama is just the facts on environment

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on "the facts" as it put together policy.

"We understand the facts demand bold action," he said.

In case listeners didn't get the point that the new administration thinks it's different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

"There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science -- welcome doctor," he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.

The First Draft: Monday, Dec 15

For Detroit’s struggling automakers, the wait continues.

There will be no word on the fate of the struggling industry’s financial bailout at least until President George W. Bush is safely home later on Monday after ducking shoes in Iraq and visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the White House says.
.SAUDI/

Most analysts and observers are expecting White House action soon to help the carmakers after the Senate’s failure last week to approve a $14 billion bailout that could avert catastrophic failures and millions of job losses in a recession-wracked economy.

But White House spokesman Dana Perino said there was no timetable for a decision.