Tag Archives: Oil drilling

Climate Sense: Sea ice, economics, legal issues and the orca task force

The shift to “clean fuels,” such as solar and wind power, is tied up in economics, and it appears that change is coming — with or without a push from government. This week, I read three different and somewhat contradictory reports about this dynamic competition between fossil fuels and renewable energy.

I also took a look at the hard data surrounding Arctic sea ice and reviewed videos of the governor’s orca task force meeting on Monday.

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Will coastal oil drilling take a back seat to wind?

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar will not advance plans for offshore oil drilling, saying he will promote “a new way forward,” according to an Associated Press story by reporter H. Josef Hebert.

In a press conference today, Salazar criticized the “midnight timetable” for new oil and gas development on the outer continental shelf of the U.S. He said the Bush administration failed to consider the views of states and coastal communities.

Salazar has directed scientists in his agency to produce new reports about oil and gas supplies off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. He also extended the public comment period until September and says he will hold meetings in the regions where drilling is likely.

Any offshore energy plans should consider renewables, such as wind, he said.

Needless to say, environmentalists were pleased.

Richard Charter of Defenders of Wildlife (PDF 92 kb):

“We will provide comments to the Department explaining that the Bush administration’s plan was the worst five-year offshore drilling plan we’ve ever seen and should be permanently shelved, not just delayed for 180 days.”

House Republicans, in a letter last week to President Obama (PDF 476 kb), voiced their displeasure over the prospect of holding up or canceling plans for offshore drilling:

“As you know, at the height of our nation’s energy crisis last year, the American people spoke with one voice to express their outrage when they saw that not only were we dependent upon foreign oil, but furthermore, that energy resources located within American territory were locked away and could not be developed. Our national vulnerability was on plain display for the American public last summer because we lacked a coherent energy policy to allow for responsible energy exploration and development.”

So does anybody think Salazar’s stance will not be the end of offshore drilling, at least for California and states that have oil but are opposed to drilling?

If you recall, oil industry folks I talked to last summer told me that Washington state would be one of the last places they would drill.

Energy issues are heating up in Congress

Get ready for a furious congressional debate over energy for the next three weeks. Democrats appear ready to give in to the drill-drill-drill mentality, but only on the condition that clean energy be part of the picture.

One idea is to drop the federal moratorium on drilling off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in exchange for revoking subsidies to oil companies and shifting those dollars into research and development of solar and wind power.

Zachary Coile, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, calls the political posturing “a chess match over energy with high stakes for both the November elections and the nation’s energy future.”

He writes in today’s editions:

Kevin Book, a senior energy policy analyst at FBR Capital Markets, said he’s betting the only energy legislation that’s likely to pass is an extension of the tax credits for wind and solar, which expire at the end of the year and are popular with both parties.

“The Republicans could still potentially strike a deal, but it’s not clear whether the Democrats have any incentive,” Book said. “They can paint Republicans as objecting to cutting a deal – particularly as all the political analysis suggests they are going to come back next year with the upper hand” by picking up seats in the House and Senate in November.

Two members of Washington’s congressional delegation — U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell — have thrust themselves into the middle of this debate. Inslee, who wrote a book on the clean-energy revolution, has complained about the stranglehold that oil companies have on the Bush administration. (Watch video on his site.) Cantwell has spent a lot of time looking into possible market manipulations that may have led to artificial spikes in gasoline prices earlier this year.

On Thursday, an official with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected to testify before Congress, according to David Ivanovich of the Houston Chronicle.

“If the agency were to uncover real evidence of market manipulation, that could spark its own congressional stampede,” said Ivanovich, also quoting David Book.