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Win the Future! Teach Your Children . . . Less

8:23 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

School districts all over the country are reducing school days, firing teachers, eliminating summer school, closing libraries and eliminating “non-essential” programs. It’s not because the country is “broke” but because this wealthy country has chosen to do this. I don’t think this is how you even get to the future, let alone “win” it. From the New York Times:

After several years of state and local budget cuts, thousands of school districts across the nation are gutting summer-school programs, cramming classes into four-day weeks or lopping days off the school year, even though virtually everyone involved in education agrees that American students need more instruction time.

Los Angeles slashed its budget for summer classes to $3 million from $18 million last year, while Philadelphia, Milwaukee and half the school districts in North Carolina have deeply cut their programs or zeroed them out. A scattering of rural districts in New Mexico, Idaho and other states will be closed on Fridays or Mondays come September. And in California, where some 600 of the 1,100 local districts have shortened the calendar by up to five days over the past two years, lawmakers last week authorized them to cut seven days more if budgets get tighter.

“Instead of increasing school time, in a lot of cases we’ve been pushing back against efforts to shorten not just the school day but the week and year,” said Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the federal Department of Education. “We’re trying to prevent what exists now from shrinking even further.”

But not to worry. I’m certain that when Congressional leaders meet with President Obama tomorrow to continue to ignore what the country needs and the polls are demanding, at the top of their agenda will be a discussion of how the federal government can provide additional funding to states and local communities to make sure we can continue to educate our children.

File under: our political leaders are idiots

While Congress, White House Play With Themselves, Missouri Floods, Arizona Burns, etc.

8:17 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Wallow Fire, AZ (photo: NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon)

We interrupt our coverage of the ongoing assault on American Democracy, illustrated by the misguided discussions in Congress and Joe Biden’s dining room to decide how shamelessly to break faith with the American people while tanking the American economy, to remind folks that Mother Nature is indifferent to how careless our elected officials have become; she moves on relentlessly.

Months ago, we watched unprecedented flooding in Tennessee; weeks ago, we watched unprecedented tornadoes devastate Alabama, Missouri, and even Massachusetts; recently we’ve been following record flood levels along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. And for months, much of the Southwest has been suffering from record drought. That’s not over, and it has now enabled huge wild fires in Texas and Arizona and the border areas with New Mexico.

From a local firefighter’s blog in the area (h/t Sher)

A raging forest fire in eastern Arizona has scorched an area larger than the size of Phoenix, threatening thousands of residents and emptying towns as the flames raced toward New Mexico on Wednesday.

The 607-square-mile blaze has destroyed 11 buildings but details or locations were not available, U.S. Forest Service officials said. It has blackened about 389,000 acres, a swath larger than the state’s capital at 519 square miles. . . .

Winds in the area were expected to gust up to 35 mph Wednesday. Officials in Catron County, N.M., told residents of Luna to be prepared to leave if winds push the blaze into western New Mexico.

About half of the 4,000 residents who call Eagar home were forced to leave Tuesday as the fire licked the ridges surrounding the area. The town’s remaining residents and those in neighboring Springerville worried as they awaited word of whether they will have to flee, too.

Read the rest of this entry →

Congress and Obama Ignore Health Effects, Budget Savings, Cave to Polluters

5:58 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

[Note: Along with others at Firedoglake, I'll be making calls today to urge FDL's supporters to become Founding Members of Firedoglake. So if you get a call from me (617 area code), pick up the phone; it's just Scarecrow! We'd really appreciate your help. Or you can just become a member by clicking here.]

Reading this excellent LA Times editorial criticizing the Obama Administration (and Congress) for forcing the Environmental Protection Agency to stall new EPA rules to curtail toxic emissions and protect public health reminded me how cowardly and corrupt the White House and Congress have become.

We learn once again that for all of the deficit hysteria we see, Washington is too controlled by polluter industries to take sensible actions that could significantly reduce the deficit by lowering America’s health care costs, even as they improve the people’s health.

Suppose, for example, we had thousands of industrial plants with cogeneration facilities (simultaneous production of heat/steam and electricity) with minimal or outdated pollution controls. We built lots of cogeneration in the later 1970s and ’80s to help us use oil, gas and coal more efficiently. Now suppose that if we made an investment in new pollution control of $1.4 billion, the improvement in public health would be worth $22 to $54 billion.

Since the people most vulnerable to harmful emissions are often poor, children, and the elderly, that means a substantial part of the health benefit from curbing emissions would reduce state and federal costs for Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and other public health programs. From the LA Times:

Never mind that the economic calculus doesn’t pencil out; according to EPA estimates, the rule on industrial boilers would cost polluters $1.4 billion a year, but the value of its health benefits would range from $22 billion to $54 billion. And never mind that the rule would prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths each year.

So even if the federal budget paid the polluters’ cleanup costs, it would still come out ahead. But of course, the budget deficit doesn’t matter; the corruption of polluter donations to Washington is making the budget worse, and “nevermind . . . 6,500 premature deaths each year.”

The gist of the LA Times editorial is that the White House has ordered EPA to stall on a variety of regulatory efforts, because it fears a political backlash that could harm the President’s 2012 reelection. That’s not new for unprincipled politicians — I’m old enough to remember James Watt, President Reagan’s [Interior Secretary] who took a wrecking ball to environmental mandates, and Bush/Cheney’s “secret” energy policy was premised on giving coal, oil and gas producers whatever they wanted, the environment be damned.

But the practice has become particularly craven in this White House because Obama promised to change things and then folded. As the LA Times notes, he recently issued an Executive Order directing regulatory agencies to hold up on new regulations until they had sufficiently taken business concerns into consideration.

Since analyzing the impacts of new rules on business has been done for decades, the message in restating that now was simple: stall. That’s exactly what EPA is now doing on new regulations that polluting industries oppose, and it’s using Cass Sunstein’s operation at Office of Management and Budget to do it. After explaining that Sunstein may be exceeding previous Executive Orders, the Environmental Law and Policy Blog, explains what’s driving this:

So why is the White House really involved? Because since the mid-term elections it has been only too willing to bend to big-money attacks on regulatory agencies. In January, President Obama grabbed headlines with an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal promising to reduce regulatory burdens on business. He followed up with an Executive Order calling on federal agencies to make sure that future regulations impose the least possible burden and to review existing regulations with an eye to weeding out those that are “outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.” The White House might as well have put up a sign on the door reading “Bring us your complaints about excessive regulation.”

That seems to be exactly what happened in this case. Environment and Energy News has posted a letter (subscription required) from West Virginia Democratic Congressman Nick Rahall to OIRA Administrator Sunstein asking that OIRA review the guidance to see if it should be issued as a rule and if EPA jumped through the right procedural hoops. The letter is dated March 29, 2011, just days before EPA announced that OMB will review its guidance. It refers to an earlier meeting between Rahall and Sunstein, so the response may not have been quite as instantaneous as that timeline makes it appear.

So we see EPA postponing guidelines that merely explain how coal companies are supposed to comply with existing rules on mountain top removal. Or the EPA delays likely until 2013 new rules it promised to control coal ash dumps, after the disastrous spill in Tennessee, and on and on. In essence, the White House has ordered Cass Sunstein to use a political calculator instead of a real one to help Obama’s reelection.

Tea-GOP Craziness: Will Someone Please Have Our Political Leaders Committed?

4:20 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In the 1947 classic, Miracle of 34th Street, most of the establishment goes through what seems to us as a crazy procedure of trying to have Santa Claus committed to a mental institution. Mr. Kringle’s offense is that he thinks it’s a good idea to be kind to people, especially children, and that you shouldn’t lie about who you are.

But “Miracle” isn’t about whether “a nice old man” is actually Santa Claus. As the movie unfolds, we learn the person who is actually insane is a close-minded authoritarian, an insecure hack psychologist who is actually a bully, dishonest, indifferent to human feelings, and mean-spirited and who insists that anyone who doesn’t share his delusions should be fired, persecuted and have their rights stripped away. And with the help of a mindless system, an unprincipled political hack judge and a unthinking executive, he might have gotten away with it. In the Hollywood version, however, a government employee — a postal worker — returns us to sanity by showing us overwhelming support for Mr. Kringle.

We’re watching the same plot in the US Congress, except it’s real with no guarantees of a sane, happy ending. We see the arrogant Tea-GOPers bullying and threatening everyone — women, children, the old and sick and poor, workers, the economy and the government itself. What’s astonishing about this real life drama is no one in the so-called category of “adults” — not the inept Democratic leadership, nor the feckless “pro-business” White House, nor the complicit media — has the courage to say, “Stop! This is insane!”

Friday’s New York Times tells us the White House is meeting with Tea-GOP representatives, who, after accepting a $4 billion bribe, just condescended to postpone a government shutdown for two weeks. The White House will next offer them several more billions of spending cuts in the delusional hope that with these and other concessions, the bullies will allow the US government to function for a few more months. What are these people thinking?

In poll after poll, and with the feet and voices of hundreds of thousands of protesters in Wisconsin and a dozen other states, the American people have said very clearly that they do not want to cut spending for Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, environmental protection. They’ve repeatedly said that the economy and jobs, not slashing deficits are the country’s priority. But Mr. Boehner and his Tea-GOP ignore this.

When pushed on what they would cut if deficits were the priority, they consistently cut defense and support raising taxes on the rich — exactly the opposite of what the Tea-GOP and Obama just did.

Americans are also clear they don’t support punishing teachers or other public workers; they oppose threatening teachers with layoffs if they don’t give up their rights. They’re clear they support the right of workers to group together to bargain for their collective interests, just as corporations do to protect the interests of many shareholders (theory) or a few well-paid executives (practice).

At the same time, prominent economists warn us that the budget cuts Americans wisely oppose will harm the economy, slow the recovery and put hundreds of thousand of people out of work. Other data consistently shows there is no basis for the Tea-GOP propaganda that economic investment is stalled because of lack of confidence regarding the deficits; instead, all the surveys show it’s lack of demand — consumers don’t yet have sufficient money, job security, or savings to buy enough of the products businesses hope to sell to justify new investment and hiring.

And Friday’s more hopeful employment report is only that: hopeful. As Dean Baker notes, even with this news, at the current rate it will take about 14 years for employment/jobless levels to get back to normal. And yet the Tea-GOPs proposed cuts would destroy another 700,000 jobs from federal actions alone, not to mention another half million or so jobs lost from state budget cuts made necessary because the same Tea-GOP dopes won’t allow the federal government to do what it’s supposed to do in such emergencies. That’s insane.

With the exception of the McCarthy era, I can’t remember a time when the facts pointed so clearly to mass public hysteria, denial and delusion among those who are driving government policies.

We’re going through a period of dangerous craziness that can severely damage the country and harm millions of people. Along with worsening air and water quality, women and children’s health care, education and research and dozens of other worthwhile services, these idiots would even cut funding for poison control.

It’s time to stop listening to these close-minded, authoritarian bullies. It should be obvious to any but the most severely deluded that what their followers in Congress and the states are doing is nuts. And yet Democrats and the White House keep indulging these fantasies, while the media keeps reporting this as though it’s just politics and nothing is wrong.

Update: AlterPolitics, Univ. of Maryland Survey of what Americans would do to change spending/budget priorities

Congress Cheers as Pentagon Practices Keynesian Economics

3:35 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

We shouldn’t be surprised that if the US government is going to spend money on something to create jobs, like build a fleet of refueling supertankers, we’d do it where most of the plane is made in the US instead of Europe, and we’d focus the spending on states important to the next Presidential election. Per The New York Times:

In a surprise twist in a long-running saga, the Air Force on Thursday awarded the first part of a $35 billion contract for aerial fueling tankers to Boeing rather than to a European company that builds Airbus planes.

Pentagon officials said decision was based solely on price. Boeing’s bid was more than 1 percent below that of its rival, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, the officials said. If the bids had been within one percent, the Air Force would have weighed 92 additional requirements for the plane as a tiebreaker, and some of those were widely thought to favor the larger EADS plane.

Totally predictable. But you have to love what this says about the arguments for government spending as economic stimulus, not that the deficit hysterics in Congress who are intent on retanking the economy will admit it.

Britain’s great depression era economist, John Maynard Keynes, once explained that during an economic downturn following a financial crisis, when aggregate demand is flat on its back and no entity but government has the ability or incentive to spend to revive the economy, it makes perfect sense for government to spend money to pay millions of unemployed to dig ditches and then pay more millions to the unemployed to fill in the same ditches. The spending to pay people helps.

Here, we’re paying American workers to build very large airplanes and other Americans to fill them with jet fuel and fly around for hours, then put some of it in other jets that burn it up in the atmosphere. Then all the planes return to where they started with nothing positive actually accomplished, outside the spending itself. It’s essentially the same concept as digging ditches and filling them in.

Of course, the idea that we could have spent the same money building schools and training teachers, or building bridges and high-speed trains is similar, except when we were done, uh, we would actually have more schools and better teachers, new bridges and high-speed trains instead of just vapor trails, not to mention whatever damage we caused. But conceding that truth seems a bridge too far for most in Congress and the media who follow them.

Obama Justice Department Sides with Drug Makers to Stifle Suits to Enforce Price Discounts

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Back in 1992, Congress created a program to require agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with drug manufacturers to secure price discounts for drugs provided to certain government supported hospitals and clinics. Under the law, the drug manufacturers were required by these contracts to sell drugs to those hospitals and clinics at no higher than “ceiling prices,” which were based on average prices offered for the same drugs.

However, thanks to a decision by the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice in siding with drug manufacturers, those price discounts are now in jeopardy.

The ability of government-supported hospitals, clinics and their patients to get the benefit of these price “discounts” depended on the government writing and enforcing the contracts. But over the years, The agencies became lax in their efforts, and investigations by various inspectors general found persistent over-pricing in setting the ceilings and/or enforcing them through sales to the health care providers.

This is a classic case where the beneficiaries of a regulatory program ought to have the ability to bring enforcement actions against the parties to make sure the benefits intended by Congress actually occur. Thus, a group of supported hospitals/clinics (e.g., Santa Clara County et al) sued the drug makers to compel them to stop overcharging and provide the discounts Congress intended.

Initially brought in State trial court, the case was removed to federal court, and the initial District Court decision dismissed, partly because the federal statute did not explicitly create a private right of action — that is, the Act didn’t say third parties could sue even though they were intended beneficiaries.

But when the case got to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008, the Court reversed, holding that while there was no private enforcement of the statute, per se, Santa Clara County et al could proceed under standard contract law. In other words, since these plaintiffs were the Congressionally intended beneficiaries of the discount pricing contracts between the government agency and the drug manufacturers, contract law gave these beneficiaries a right to sue to obtain the benefits which they were promised under the contracts. Good decision.

The Ninth Circuit’s decision is now on appeal to the US Supreme Court, so the question has been, what would the Obama Justice Department do? Would it side with the hospitals and clinics and allow them, and potentially other beneficiaries of Congressionally mandated drug discount contracts, to enforce these contracts through the courts? Or would it side with the drug manufacturers and argue the hospitals didn’t have the right to sue?

The New York Times today reports DoJ’s decision to side with the drug makers:

The Obama administration, following a lengthy internal debate, has unexpectedly come down on the side of pharmaceutical companies that are accused of overcharging public hospitals and clinics that care for large numbers of poor people.

The administration has told the Supreme Court that the hospitals and clinics cannot sue drug companies to enforce their right to deep discounts on drugs or to obtain reimbursement from companies that overcharge.

It is a classic conflict: a political imperative for the administration — to ensure that inexpensive drugs are available to the poor people who need them — rubbing up against the Justice Department’s fear of an onslaught of lawsuits by clinics and hospitals if the Supreme Court allows them to sue.

Classic conflict? I don’t think so. There are hundreds of affected hospitals and clinics that are exactly the beneficiaries Congress intended for the discount contracts Congress mandated. They are the entities most directly affected by, and most fully aware of, whether the discounts are actually provided. Rather than conflict with the DHHS efforts, private actions by these parties will supplement and perfect DHHS enforcement, and their ability to do so will serve as a deterrent against contract violations by drug makers. So it makes perfect sense to allow these entities to help DHHS enforce the contracts under standard contract law. And that’s why this idea is fairly standard in contract law.

The Inspector Generals’ reports already demonstrate the DHHS hasn’t done an effective enforcement job. And there’s no reason to believe DHHS will significantly improve things, especially when Congress is looking to make dramatic budget cuts in every corner. DHHS should thus welcome the help of private enforcement efforts by the very people the Act was intended to help and who have the greatest stake in effective enforcement.

But as we’ve seen in other cases, this Administration can’t seem to leave well enough alone when it has a favorable, common sense court decision. It insists on maintaining control, even though it has no intention or capability of exercising that control in an effective manner. What were they thinking?

John Chandley

More:
Text of the Ninth Circuit decision in County of Santa Clara vs. Astra USA Inc. . . .

Liz Warren Tells Only Half the Story

8:53 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

At FDL News, David Dayen covers an article on Elizabeth Warren in which she argues, correctly, that if the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been up and running years ago, much of the banking/mortgage fraud could/would have been prevented.

That’s fine as far as it goes. But there’s something missing from the polite Ms. Warren’s telling.

I’d very much like to believe that if a relatively new and still energetic Consumer Financial Protection agency had been around a few years back, and if it had been led by a relentless consumer champion like Liz Warren, it would have flagged and likely limited much of the massive fraud committed by banks, mortgage lenders, servicers and securities bundlers, provided . . .

. . . provided it wasn’t interfered with by more powerful regulators whose job it was to stop fraudulent banking and lending practices instead of interfere with legitimate investigations by those with authority, including state regulators.

It is a pernicious myth, perpetuated by those in charge at the time (many still here), that the federal government was powerless to stop the financial crisis and all the fraud and looting that attended it. There was plenty of authority, but the people in charge chose to look the other way.

Just as bad, these complicit federal regulators aggressively stopped efforts by states to investigate and halt the fraudulent practices. In early hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, they interviewed numerous witnesses, including States’ Attorneys General and securities regulators from Texas, Illinois and other states who were empowered to investigate and stop fraud and began their own investigations. Several state officials and experts testified that their efforts were repeatedly stymied by federal bank regulators who, although willing to do nothing themselves to stop the rampant crime wave, insisted that states were preempted from even conducting their own investigations.

It is simply not true that there was no government defense against the massive fraud perpetrated by banks, mortgage originators and lenders, loan servicers, foreclosure mill law firms, and Wall Street securities/trusts marketers. All the authority the feds and states needed existed then to stop the reckless crime wave that eventually tanked the financial sector and has since victimized millions.

Federal regulators at the Federal Reserve, Treasury and OCC were complicit throughout. They chose not to do their jobs, and they’re just as guilty as the looters that still populate the nation’s financial sectors from top to bottom.

Yes, bring on the CFPB and put Liz in charge. We need its energy and new blood. But we also need to clear out the incumbent crooks who will do everything they can to tie her hands.

And don’t forget, that complicity permeates much of Congress and the entire Republican Party, whose representatives on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission recently issued their own minority report that ignores all of this history. And they’re insisting the Commission’s final report ban any references to “Wall Street,” “shadow banking,” “interconnection,” “deregulation” and other terms that might reveal an entire political ideology’s complicity in the largest, most egregious looting ever perpetrated.

Bush OMB Guy Blames Congress for Lax Oil Drilling Oversight That Bush OMB Approved

10:33 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The New York Times turns over valuable op-ed page space to a former Bush OMB official who uses it to obscure it was his and OMB’s job to oversee how effective Interior and Minerals Management Service (MMS) were in regulating and promoting offshore oil drilling.

In A Disaster Congress Voted For, former Bush OMB official David Abraham argues we should blame Congress and environmentalists for the lax regulatory climate that led to the BP oil disaster. The Times helpfully informs us that Mr. Abraham "oversaw offshore programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2003 to 2005." What does that mean?

I think it means Mr. Abraham and OMB had influence over the regulatory plans and budgets of the Interior Department and MMS, the agencies responsible for issuing deepwater drilling permits and ensuring compliance with the nation’s environmental, public health and safety laws.

Moreover, at least since the Reagan era, OMB has assumed responsibility for making sure the nation’s regulations do not impose unwanted restrictions on corporate actions. Because as we all know, health and safety regulations and enforcement should end where they unduly impinge on the bottom line.

A major OMB function is thus to screen existing and proposed regulations to make sure economic burdens on industry are fully considered during and after agency rulemaking. So, if an overly conscientious regulatory agency took its environmental, health and safety responsibilities too strongly, OMB would bring them back into ideological conformity by vetoing proposed regulations and, if needed, by controlling the wayward agency’s budgets. In the era of corporate governance, OMB helps enforce an Administration’s ideologically preferences for or against government interventions in the economy.

Now perhaps Mr. Abraham was alarmed during his tenure and pressed OMB for larger and more effective MMS regulatory budgets. But his op-ed doesn’t say that nor hint at his own and OMB’s likely complicity nor mention the era’s dominant pro-corporate ideology. Instead, he says that Congress was mostly responsible for the lax regulation when offshore drilling literally exploded in the Gulf.

For more than a decade, legislators have allowed themselves to be lulled by industry assurances that drilling in deep water posed little danger. One could say that Congress, just like the companies it has attacked, was obsessed with oil. . . .

At the same time that Congress called for new drilling incentives, it also gutted oversight. From 2002 to 2008, legislators approved budgets reducing regulatory staffing levels by more than 15 percent — despite more complex deep-water operations and Interior Department concerns, voiced in 2000, that industry’s extensive use of contractors and inexperienced offshore workers posed new risks in deep water.

He does not mention that during most of this period after 2000, a Republican President and/or Republican-controlled House or Senate were in charge. So Republican, pro-industry Congresses and Administrations were the ones "obsessed by oil" who "gutted oversight."

Nor does he mention the almost unanimous ideological embrace of regulatory dismantlement by Republicans and conservative Democrats. It was the same guiding ideology expressed by his OMB bosses and President George Bush, not to mention the era’s energy czar Dick Cheney — whose names Abraham neglects to mention to protect the guilty. (Later, however, he does mention that Barack Obama is now President, and as we all know, Democrats control Congress, though I’m sure Mr. Abraham meant to cast blame only in the most bipartisan way.)

Next, Abraham joins Sarah Palin in blaming environmental groups. Palin blamed the enviros for opposing "safe drilling" and thus, in her logic, forcing the industry to engage in "unsafe" offshore drilling, which, uh, she hastens to add, is still safe. Abraham blames the enviros for (1) telling Congress and regulators that offshore drilling was unsafe but (2) failing to tell regulators how to do it safely.

Environmental groups have seized on the spill to continue their push to ban offshore drilling. Although doing so would reduce the potential for spills in the United States, it would effectively send offshore drilling operations to countries with far weaker environmental standards and require shipping more oil, increasing the likelihood of spills globally.

So, we should permit unsafe drilling here, because if we don’t, there will be unsafe drilling in Nigeria. Apparently, there are no other choices. So what should we do?

Instead, a more nuanced approach is needed. A good first step would be for environmental groups to hire experts with the relevant private-sector experience to comment on regulatory changes to ensure that they are in the best public interest.

In other words, Greenpeace and NRDC are partly to blame for the BP oil disaster and lax MMS regulation, because these environmental groups failed to hire drilling safety experts. And without their comments, regulators never thought to require safe drilling techniques, rigorously tested safety equipment, or credible recovery plans.

Bad enviros. Bad, bad.

It would be interesting to know why the New York Times editors selected this op ed.


Related
:
ClimateProgress, Bush Administration energy policy history: BP oil disaster is Cheney’s Katrina
CAP, Cheney’s culture of deregulation and corruption

Update: NYT Archives, Bush Directive increases Sway on Regulations h/t Froomkin, White House mulling business group’s regulatory hit list

Oil Execs Say They’re Helpless; Oil State Reps Say It Doesn’t Matter

9:02 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Following in the bought and paid for footsteps of Louisiana Senators Landrieu and Vitter, a contingent of Gulf state Congressmen are insisting Obama lift the moratorium on new deepwater drilling. That’s not surprising, but their rationale falls under the heading, "did they really say something that stupid?"

From Washington Post’s Dave Weigel:

Nearly two dozen members of the House GOP from the Gulf Coast region, joined by Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.), called Tuesday for President Obama to reverse the post-BP disaster moratorium on offshore drilling in deep water. Notably absent — although, according to members, not completely indicative of the support they have — were Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.) and members from Florida. The members who were there characterized the moratorium as a "job killer" with no basis in science.

Science? Did oil-state conservatives just call for science-based decision-making?

"This moratorium is based on unfounded science," said Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.). "It is not really based on any knowledge of technology and facts on the ground, and it’s hugely detrimental, in every sense, to Louisiana’s economy, the Gulf Coast’s economy, and the economy of the United States." . . .

"That’s why it’s important to listen to the voice of reason," said Boustany. "Let’s base this on science and technology and not have some sort of kneejerk emotional response, or some response based on politics."

So let’s see. The scientific facts are that a deepwater well blew out a mile deep, because the operators couldn’t verify pressure conditions 3 miles beneath that. It’s now gushing oil and gas uncontrollably into the Gulf at (today’s estimate of) 35,000 to 60,000 barrels/day, with higher flows feared if the well deteriorates further. It’s made thousands of square miles unfishable and a menace of all sea life; coated dozens of beaches, marshes, wetlands; decimated the fishing/crabbing/shrimping, tourist, sports industries and threatens dozens of communities. It’s making people nauseous and giving them headaches. Thousands of birds, turtles and likely millions of fish are dead or facing death. There are massive toxic plumes roaming in the Gulf currents. Whole communities are threatened and sick at heart and we’re still not sure we can stop this. These are just a few of the "facts."

So how about the science of deepwater drilling? The CEOs of the world’s largest oil companies told Congress yesterday that don’t have a clue how to deal with this once it happens. Not a clue. We don’t have the technology we need to deal with this, and they’re answer is to pretend that calling this an "aberration" means it’s okay to do more.

The CEOs can’t assure us that if we allow more drilling, this will not happen again. They can’t tells us what they would do if it did and frankly admit we’d take another massive hit on the Gulf. They admit they’re not prepared to handle this crisis, let alone another. That’s the science.

But our bought and paid for Congresspeople think we need to make moratorium and energy policy decisions based on facts and science. Good to know. I assume that means they’ll next demand that Congress recognize the overwhelming science on global climate change and demand we do something about that.

John Chandley

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America’s Energy Future: Not Much Different from Today

6:18 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow


The video is from Wednesday’s hearing by the House Energy Resources Committee, in which members questioned members of the Administration, including Secretary Salazar and officials from Interior, NOAA, MMS, and the Coast Guard.

The segment highlights the dissonance many have in realizing the Gulf oil catastrophe is a clarifying moment. It was amusing to watch many of the members, particularly Republicans, grilling the Administration on why it had not anticipated the consequences of a major oil spill, and why it had not been more prepared to deal with a threat to the entire Gulf region. Hello?

A favorite moment was when a member from Texas asked Salazar why, since he’d been in office for a year already, he hadn’t reformed the corruption deeply rooted at MMS. Another Republican asked Salazar if it would be helpful for Congress to suspend civil service rules so he could more quickly clean out the industry hacks in the Department and MMS. Who says Republicans don’t have ideas?

But a common theme was the debate over the future of offshore, deepwater drilling, with both parties’ senior members insisting we can’t allow this terrible tragedy to stop drilling. Oh.

Someone must have said you can’t expect a horse to follow a new direction if you keep putting all the hay along the old path. And what’s true for horses is true for the energy industry, especially when you allow the industry to structure all the incentives to reward them for what they’re already doing.

President Obama says he wants us to pursue a future with alternative energy choices. To his credit, he’s been willing to commit more billions than his predecessors in subsidies for wind, solar, biofuels and improved energy efficiency. But that won’t be enough to change the fundamental direction of our energy future until Congress and the Administration stop putting even more money in a carbon-based and nuclear future

With the BP oil disaster providing a 24/7 horror show, many observers hope that tragedy, recent deadly mining "accidents" and the unwillingness of the nuclear industry to risk new plant investments without massive subsidies will signal a turning point. I don’t see it yet, because the dominant industries are not willingly going away and the Administration and most of Congress don’t want them to.

It’s now beyond dispute that these technologies cannot be done safely or economically; their human and environmental costs, often hidden, are gushing all over our tv screens. The public is beginning to realize that investing any further in their dominance is foolhardy. Our insistence on using them is destroying the earth, the seas and global climate. It’s all just a matter of time.

Our President may understand this at some intellectual level; he gets some of the rhetoric right, but he remains stubbornly resistant to the essential lessons. The core of his energy policy is to pour tens of billions into failed technologies, to extend some ill-defined "transition" indefinitely, while investing too little in a more sustainable future. He discussed that today at a photo event at a California solar factory:

But even as we are dealing with this immediate crisis, we’ve got to remember that the risks our current dependence on oil holds for our environment and our coastal communities is not the only cost involved in our dependence on these fossil fuels. Around the world, from China to Germany, our competitors are waging a historic effort to lead in developing new energy technologies. There are factories like this being built in China, factories like this being built in Germany. Nobody is playing for second place. These countries recognize that the nation that leads the clean energy economy is likely to lead the global economy. And if we fail to recognize that same imperative, we risk falling behind. We risk falling behind. (Applause.)

Fifteen years ago, the United States produced 40 percent of the world’s solar panels — 40 percent. That was just 15 years ago. By 2008, our share had fallen to just over 5 percent. I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to cede American leadership in this industry, because I’m not prepared to cede America’s leadership in the global economy.

So that’s why we’ve placed a big emphasis on clean energy. It’s the right thing to do for our environment, it’s the right thing to do for our national security, but it’s also the right thing to do for our economy.

All true, Mr. President, but that’s only half the story the public needs to hear. When California chose an alternative energy future 30 years ago, it didn’t say, "we need to keep investing in coal and nukes and oil, etc, while experimenting with these other ideas."

Instead, it banned more nukes outright, told the utilities a coal plant would never meet California clean air rules and directed its energy and utility regulators to build a different future based on renewable energy and, most important, massive investments in energy conservation and efficiency standards. We knew we needed a bridge fuel for electricity, and it eventually became tightly controlled, more efficient gas-fired power plants. But we radically reduced the need for them by vigorously slashing electricity demand growth, directing billions into more efficient appliances, homes and commercial buildings. We made a choice and built it.

An alternative energy future is possible, but to harness industry’s horses to take you there, you have to stop putting most of the hay in the wrong barns. Give us a real choice, Mr. President, and we’ll build it.

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