Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Obama's coal--pandering ploy, and more

Coal caucus: Environment and Energy Daily reports this morning that Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Jim Bunning (R-KY) have teamed up to form a new Senate caucus “with the express purpose of promoting development of a domestic coal-to-liquid fuels production industry.” This follows the duo’s introduction last week of legislation aimed at providing tax credits for coal-to-liquid factories.

The National Mining Association (which yesterday reported a coal mining record in 2006 – paralleling the record amount of greenhouse gas pollution) issued a gushing salute to the Obama-Bunning legislation. http://www.nma.org/newsroom/latest_pop/releases07/010407_CTL.html

Environmentalists generally frown on coal-to-liquid production (despite its popularity in Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa) because of the likelihood of greenhouse gas increases. http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/07/19/the_return_of_nazi_oil.php

As with virtually everything in our nation’s capital, there is a well-paid lobby promoting this technology. One prominent lobbyist seeking federal support for the process is.former Rep. Bob Livingston.

One of DC’s little secrets is that environmentalists breathed a big sigh of relief when Obama recently left the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which could be voting on global warming legislation later this year. No wonder, in light of this coal-pandering ploy.

Advanced coal? Today the US EPA is taking its own stab at promoting more benign use of coal. The agency – whose political leaders rejected the seemingly judicious idea that IGCC technology should be explored in “best” technology analyses – has set up a working group that meets today just outside of DC. This working group could lead to some promising developments over the course of the next year. We’ll want to keep a close eye on this.

Whatever happened to…? Speaking of EPA, the agency has promised for months that it would soon go public with proposals to limit noxious emissions from diesel trains and big diesel boats, and that it would also propose a separate plan to limit pollution from dirty small engines. But where’s the beef? We intend to hold the agency to its word on this. We’ll probably even say nice things – if these proposals ever surface.

California leads again: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made big headlines today with his plan for universal health coverage. And now, according to the Los Angeles Times, Schwarzenegger is ready to unveil another big initiative. The Times reports he will order a 10% cut in motor vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide.

“Under the proposal, petroleum refiners and gasoline sellers would be ordered to reduce the carbon content of their fuels over the next 13 years,” the Times reports.

“The order could also usher in a new generation of alternative fuels in California, experts say, as refiners consider adding ethanol or other biofuels into gasoline blends. It could also mean a shift of part of the state's auto fleet to hydrogen or electric power.” Meanwhile, car companies like General Motors trot out “green” vehicles at car shows but say they’re not available for sale – suggesting that may be just another ploy to block attempts in Congress to limit global warming gases from motor vehicles or improve fuel economy.

As it has so often with other issues, California is taking the lead to deal with perhaps our biggest environmental challenge.

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