Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A few quick thoughts on White House propaganda associated with the State of the Union address

The White House has released its proposed “energy initiatives” at http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2007/initiatives/energy.html.

Let’s start with the fact that the White House refuses to endorse any strategy to cap greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. Just throwing money at various technologies is not going to cut it. Greenhouse gas emissions from the power industry are projected to increase unless we set actual limits. And, despite some of the chatter about working with other nations on global warming, President Bush has consistently thumbed his nose at the U.N.-established body dealing with climate change. There’s no evidence in these materials that that’s going to change.

It’s also worth noting that amid all the verbiage, the White House opposes any congressional efforts to set an actual new fleet wide fuel economy standard for motor vehicles. Instead, it proposes an industry-favored approach that leaves a lot in the hands of the Secretary of Transportation. So this is less than meets the eye.

Now for some of the whoppers: The White House includes a laundry list of past activities – some of them inaccurate, others nearly incomprehensible.

For example, the White House asserts that its “proposed reforms” to EPA’s new source review requirements would be an aid in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is utter nonsense. The White House wants to change the rules at the behest of the coal-burning electric power companies, who want to burn more coal at dirty old power plants. Burning more coal (without capturing and storing the carbon emissions) will lead to greater global warming pollution, not less. If the White House actually wanted to use new source review to reduce carbon emissions, it would strictly enforce the rules and possibly prompt the shutdown of some of the old smoky dinosaurs.

Seemingly out of nowhere – like Athena springing from Zeus’ forehead -- the White House asserts that its programs “Will help Improve Public Health By Significantly Reducing Carbon Monoxide Emissions And Cancer-Causing Benzene Emissions.”

Maybe they’re talking about the proposals to increase use of ethanol in gasoline?? Anyone following these topics knows these are somewhat desperate arguments: we’ve eliminated most of the carbon monoxide problems in this country already through use of catalytic converters.

And environmental groups have had to sue the administration to prompt rules aimed at reducing benzene in gasoline. (And, as we noted last week, western refiners are lobbying to delay benzene reductions.)

One thing not mentioned here is that EPA itself has noted that increased use of ethanol – unless in E85 vehicles – could lead to more smog in many parts of the country. The White House also has forgotten that it has proposed rules to weaken air pollution standards for ethanol refineries – a move that could lead to more public health damage and more coal burning. (And more coal burning, as noted above, could lead to more greenhouse gas emissions and offset possible benefits associated with ethanol use.)

As for some of these other new initiatives: the call for more ethanol use is one heck of a lot less bold than it might appear, because groups are already racing to build new ethanol refineries. The goal set in the 2005 energy policy act was long ago made irrelevant.

No comments: