Thursday, February 07, 2008

Biofuels bombshell, and more...

A couple of quick news notes as we wend our way towards Valentine’s Day. (We are not expecting cards from most of those mentioned below.)


Biofuels bombshell: we understand a biofuels bombshell is coming today!

A study to be published this afternoon in the publication Science which – I am reliably told – is going to make corn-based ethanol look mighty dirty from the perspective of emissions. In fact, we are told this new research could prompt a “paradigm shift” in how we look at “biofuels,” which got a heckuva deal out of the recent energy legislation, as both parties got in a bidding battle for the farm vote.

Bottom line of this study: biofuels could produce more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.

(It will not get into the fact that the corn lobby has also been to the White House to protest any effort by the EPA to set tougher smog standards.
Who would’ve thought that the corn lobby would make common argument with Exxonmobil? They are!)

Get ready for BIG CORN to start trash talking about this very credible new research. We will have more on this later today.


Smoking Again: Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, once dubbed “Smokey Joe” by the Dallas Morning News for his fealty to cement factories and other smokestack industries, has been pretty quiet since the Democrats took over Congress.

But he’s starting to light up again at the prospect of global warming legislation. The Morning News reports today that Barton

has assembled a task force to "fight the Democrats" by challenging climate science and the impact of coal regulations on rates and energy independence, according to a December memo he sent to fellow Republicans.

"There is this sense that with the Democrats back in the majority, the environmentalists are such a powerful force that they can ram some of these things down the throat of the economy," said Mr. Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"When push comes to shove, I don't believe a majority of the House and Senate will pass it," he said.

Smokey Joe may be peaking a bit too soon. There doesn’t seem to be a rush on in the Senate to schedule floor time for the Lieberman-Warner climate bill, which makes us wonder what is going on behind the scenes…

Where are they now? One Bush administration official who received a great deal of prominence for seeking to undermine clean air controls – William Wehrum – has also been pretty quiet since he left government service. But our friends at the Center for American Progress Action Fund have found out that Wehrum is back to making mischief – in Kansas, of all places. Wehrum is promoting state legislation seeking to overturn a Kansas decision to block expansion of a coal-burning power plant. Thank heaven some of these folks are consistent!
Smog lobby: Speaking of polluters, the smog lobby sometimes known as the National Association of Manufacturers is back at work “rallying opposition” to any effort by the US EPA to set tougher national smog standards, according to an excellent story yesterday in Greenwire. (A decision is due by March 12 under a court order and there’s a buzz in some industry circles that EPA chief Steve Johnson may be pushing for some improvement in the current standards, perhaps as a last-ditch effort to salvage his sorry reputation.) As part of this effort, NAM has commissioned a new study aimed at scaring folks in such areas as Cincinnati, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City. (Those areas might be threatened with clean air! NAM claims that clean air would ruin local economies.) It’s the same kind of scare tactics that the smog lobby has used in the past. News note: dire warnings like this have invariably been proven wrong. The air has improved even as the economy has grown.
Diesel development: BNA’s Daily Environment Report notes today that the Senate Environment and Public Works committee yesterday approved la bill (S. 2146) “that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to include diesel emissions reduction projects as restitution in settlements of civil environmental enforcement actions.” Why is this important? Thousands of Americans are still dying every year from exposure to diesel exhaust. In bygone years, the US EPA used to include diesel pollution cleanup projects as part of the restitution required of polluters brought to justice for violating clean air requirements. But in 2006, EPA stopped doing this, citing an obscure law. (I can supply you with more, if needed.) The new bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, would once again permit EPA to include diesel cleanup projects in enforcement projects. Bravo – this is a very good idea. It’s hard to find a more cost-effective way to clean up the air than cleaning up the millions of existing diesel engines out there.

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