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.
McClatchy, BP worker takes 5th, making prosecution likely
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