Category Archives: Clean Energy Policy

A forum for the push to create a new, less oil-dependent national energy policy.

Should We Be Surprised? Commission Says Firms Knew of BP Well Flaws

Can’t say this is a shocker:

From”> the New York Times:

Firms Knew of Cement Flaws Before Spill, Panel Says

Halliburton and BP knew weeks before the fatal explosion of the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the bottom of the well was unstable but still went ahead with the job, the presidential commission investigating the accident said on Thursday.

In the first official finding of responsibility for the blowout, which killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in American history, the commission staff determined that Halliburton had conducted three laboratory tests that indicated that the cement mixture did not meet industry standards.

The result of at least one of those tests was given on March 8 to BP, which failed to act upon it, the panel’s lead investigator, Fred H. Bartlit Jr., said in a letter delivered to the commissioners on Thursday.

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Mission Accomplished?

Beware proclamations trumpeting the official “end” of somethings. Unless it’s the end of a book, it’s hard to imagine. From the New York Times

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No Political Will

The New York Times, on its Caucus blog tonight reports that Congressional Democrats have abandoned not only sweeping clean energy policy but also a whittled down version that would serve as a response to the BP oil spill, which was recently determined to be the largest accidental spill in history.

The piece quotes Sen. John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who worked on comprehensive energy legislation, characterizing America’s so-called oil addiction as a non-partisan issue:

“Ask anyone outside of Washington, and they’ll tell you that this isn’t a Democrat or a Republican issue, it’s an American issue,” Mr. Kerry said. “It’s American troops whose lives are endangered because we’re dependent on oil companies in countries that hate us. It’s American consumers who are tired not just of prices at the pump that soar each summer, but sick and tired of our oil dependency that makes Iran $100 million richer every day that Washington fails to respond.”

He’s right on all counts except for one: it’s very much a partisan issue when the obstacle facing clean energy legislation–the Republican Party–has absolutely no interest in clean energy.

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TRUE Independence Day

Please remember to observe TRUE Independence Day and demand for our country’s energy independence. If you can, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t fill up. If you fill up, tell your friends and family to call their legislators and tell them our country needs a new energy policy independent of oil. The time is now.

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No Celebrating This Record

On Day 73 of the BP Oil Spill, with 140 million gallons already spilled, there is a particularly atrocious distinction: the spill is about to become the worst spill ever in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Associated Press:

Based on some government estimates, more than 140 million gallons of crude have now spewed from the bottom of the sea since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, eclipsing the 1979-80 disaster off Mexico that had long stood as the worst in the Gulf.

Of course, that pales in comparison to the worst spill ever — that spill during the first Persian Gulf War (that other Gulf) when Iraqi forces opened valves and let loose about 460 million gallons of oil, but that’s hardly a comforting fact.

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A Drilling Moratorium or a Freeze on Action?

I would love a counterpoint here because I know there are many people, more informed than I am and can speak far more about this on the technical level, who will disagree with me, but I, in theory, agree with United States District Judge Martin Feldman’s ruling to lift the president’s ban on deepwater drilling despite apparent, and serious financial conflicts with Gulf-area federal judges. There are few political actions that, to me, suffer from short-sighted pure politics than directives that place a wholesale suspension on an existing practice based on an event. Putting the breaks on existing policy when something goes wrong, particularly when so many folks in the federal government and oil industry were aware of the dangers of deepwater drilling, never seems to amount to anything but the appearance of “action.” Anyone who follows this story knows that BP’s misdeeds were long known and that its wells were significantly riskier than those of its peers. According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, BP used a less costly, “long-string design” labeled “‘risky’ by Congressional investigators in more than one out of three of [BPs] deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico.”

From the report:

A Journal analysis of records provided by the U.S. Minerals Management Service shows that BP used the less costly design—called “long string”—on 35% of its deepwater wells since July 2003, the earliest date the well-design data were available. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., a minority partner of BP’s in the destroyed well, used it on 42% of its deepwater Gulf wells, though it says it doesn’t do so in wells of the type drilled by BP.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for changing law based on an event, and in this case, this spill represents almost everything that is wrong with an oil-based energy policy. This event should provide the political capital needed to enact a bold, aggressive, long-sighted energy bill. Last Friday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, after showing a montage of those on the right apologizing to BP and mischaracterizing the actions of the White House, said this:

“Conservatives have the opposite effect of political capital on this. And so, progressives and Democrats should use it. Use it for once. Use it for once. Use it to pass a no compromise bill. They’re actually making the case for that right now. Pinch me.”

She’s absolutely right, of course, and her show has done some phenomenal reporting on the BP oil spill. We need to move quickly with clean energy policy, and moratoriums typically amount to very complex, polarizing acts of showmanship that result in kicking the problem down the road, rather than moving boldly forward.

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No Time For Baby Steps

One of the areas where President Obama’s Oval Office address Tuesday night fell short was in the area of energy reform. He said many of the things that led up to it: “oil is a finite resource,” and “we consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves,” and then, “For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.” That was where I waited to hear more.

If you watched the Daily Show later that night, Jon Stewart did a phenomenal recap of the last eight administrations and their promises to, in one way or another, wean ourselves off oil. It’s hysterical and tragic.

When will that energy independent future be here? Even Rep. Ed Markey, an advocate for energy reform, wrote on the Huffington Post that “America must move to a safer clean energy future so that we don’t have to rely as much on oil to power our cars and our economy,” but it kind of felt like an after thought — you know, once oil companies pay their “fair share” to drill on public land, safety reforms are enacted for offshore drilling, and lifting the cap on the oil industry liability. Those are all incredibly important and need to be acted upon with utmost urgency to ensure that we don’t have, or are at least prepared for, a disaster that takes human life, reeks havoc on wildlife and shorelines, and handicaps an entire regional fishing industry. But we also need to really start envisioning what it means to be “Beyond Petroleum,” and what are lives will look like, what the costs are, and a roadmap toward cleaner energy.

On Thursday, during the hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee where BP CEO Tony Hayward was portrayed as the face of the oil spill, we heard a lot of grandstanding, unanswered questions, actual apologies from some of the more wrongheaded faction of Congress, and a double heaping of incredulity from members when it came to Haywards inability to answer many of their questions. But as the day wrapped up, Rep. Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, urged members that this incident should serve as a wake up call, and get us moving quickly on a new, clean energy policy. I’ll also note that Rep. Castor, unlike BP apologist Rep. Joe Barton, who has accepted $1.5 million from oil and gas industry over the last 20 years, has taken no money from oil and gas in her relatively short four-year incumbency, according to a nice list assembled by the Associated Press. Just sayin’.

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