Change, Baby, Change

4478247427_1e5ef1e129_o.jpgCaption: Areas proposed to be opened to offshore oil drilling by the Obama Administration as part of the new energy bill.

Image credit: found it here

No one who actually understands what went on during the health care reform fiasco should be in the least bit surprised by any of this:

In proposing a major expansion of offshore oil and gas development, President Obama set out to fashion a carefully balanced plan that would attract bipartisan support for climate and energy legislation while increasing production of domestic oil.

Risk Is Clear in Drilling; Payoff Isn’t

By "domestic production", this New York Times article mostly means offshore oil drilling:

The American Petroleum Institute, using the high end of government estimates, hopes that the opening of the areas on the Atlantic and eastern gulf alone would make available more than four billion barrels of oil and more than 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — enough to fuel more than 2.4 million cars and heat eight million households for 60 years.

Risk Is Clear in Drilling; Payoff Isn’t

According to the CIA World Factbook entry on the United States, we use roughly 19.5 million barrels of oil a day. Just multiplying that number by 365 shows that we use about 7.1 billion barrels a year. Subtracting our domestic oil production from that total, we import roughly 4 billion barrels a year. Everything they hope to find in the areas Obama is proposing to open up is about seven month’s worth of consumption, or a year’s worth of imports. For this, we will risk turning valuable beaches and fisheries into oil slicks.

Speaking of oil slicks, where they might occur if this new legislation is enacted should be no surprise, either:

Mr. Obama’s plan, delicately pieced together by the Interior Department with White House input, carved out a large coastal buffer zone in the eastern gulf to mollify Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, an opponent of drilling there. It also included continued access to the oil fields off the North Slope of Alaska to win the support of Alaska Senators Mark Begich, a Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, a Republican.

Most New England officials, including Maine’s two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, are considered swing votes on energy legislation. They strongly oppose offshore drilling, and the North Atlantic was exempted. And because there is almost no support for drilling and there is little recoverable oil off the Pacific Coast, the whole area was declared off limits, said Ken Salazar, the interior secretary.

But by opening the mid-Atlantic region, from Delaware south to Central Florida, for oil exploration, Mr. Obama angered New Jersey’s two Democratic senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who have been generally supportive of Mr. Obama’s push for climate legislation.

Risk Is Clear in Drilling; Payoff Isn’t

Lautenberg and Menendez didn’t present a problem for Obama during the health care "reform" campaign, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be pushed out of the way here, too. Nelson, Snowe, and Collins are people who matter, so you can bet there won’t be oil washing up on their shoreline.

It gets better, of course. "Clean coal", that magical substance that only exists in the fevered imaginations of politicians from coal-producing states, is another big part of the upcoming bill:

He also announced a new task force to forge a plan for rolling out affordable carbon capture and storage technology in 10 years, including having 10 commercial demonstration projects up and running by 2016.

Carbon capture and storage is meant to capture the emissions from carbon-polluting coal plants and bury them underground rather than spewing them into the atmosphere but the technology is still being researched.

Obama Eyes Biofuels, Clean Coal In New Climate Push

FireDogLake click here Caption: A coal slurry pond in Martin County, KY from around the year 2000.

Image credit: Mine Safety and Health Administration/Red, Green, and Blue

Coal isn’t clean. The detritus that remains after it’s burned is among the most toxic substances on the planet. Using coal to generate electricity guarantees that there will be vast pools of toxic sludge like the one that broke not too long ago in Tennessee.

On December 22, 2008, the containment pond at the TVA Kingston plant collapsed, spilling more than 4.1 million cubic meters of ash into the surrounding environment.

In the weeks following the spill, the Duke [University] team analyzed toxic elements – including radium, arsenic and mercury – in ash, sediment and water samples they collected from standing water in a tributary of the Emory River in Tennessee that had been dammed by the sludge spill, and from multiple locations downstream and upstream on the Emory and Clinch rivers.

Their analysis of ash samples revealed that the spilled sludge contained high levels of toxic metals and radioactivity, including 75 parts per million of arsenic, 150 parts per billion of mercury, and eight picocuries of per gram of total radium. A picocurie is a standard measure of radioactivity.

Toxic Coal Ash Threatens Health And Environment

To its credit, the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has begun looking at new regulations for this waste, but that process is a long way from satisfactory completion. To its discredit, the real power in this area appears to belong to Cass Sunstein, who is infamous among environmentalists for weakening restrictions on toxic chemicals released by the coal industry. As is this Administration’s penchant, the reformers are left to flail about, while the people who make things worse are getting a pass.

I think it’s also a safe bet that no Senators who matter live near one of those sludge ponds.

This is all on top of the Administration’s proposal that nuclear energy be part of our energy strategy, to the tune of $8 billion in loan guarantees. There is something absolutely crazy about proposing that we build more plants whose waste products we cannot find a home for.

Somehow, mention of nuclear power, offshore oil drilling, and more coal plants never made it into the Obama campaign’s "fact sheet" on their energy and environment plans. Curiously, that document mentions that energy conservation will be an important part of their plan, along with a general cap and trade policy. Both, if implemented wisely, would be effective in reducing environmental hazards and making us more independent of foreign oil. Yet one hardly ever reads about these things, except in the negative.

Go figure.

Kevin Drum sums up the political ramifications pretty well:

I guess this makes me a bad environmentalist, but I’ve never really had a big problem with opening up these offshore tracts as long as (a) the affected states are OK with it and (b) oil companies don’t get sweetheart deals. But here’s what I don’t get. When it comes to energy, conservatives are crazy about two things: nuclear power and offshore drilling. Now Obama has agreed to both. But does he seriously think this will "help win political support for comprehensive energy and climate legislation"? Wouldn’t he be better off holding this stuff in reserve and negotiating it away in return for actual support, not just hoped-for support? What am I missing here?

Obama Opens Up The Coast

As was true in the health care non-reform effort, compromising with Republicans is not the point. The point is keeping oil, utility, and coal dollars from migrating to GOP campaign funds.

Once again, the Obama Administration will propose legislation that will not actually solve the problem it is supposedly meant to address, but will make some of their supporters rich. The ultimate expression of the policy will have little or nothing to do with what candidate Obama promised. Most of the progressives who have been extolling the health care bill will be telling us how it’s important to compromise, and to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

When did "something that actually does more good than harm" become "perfect"? Probably about the time this country was predominately populated by idiots who never bother to understand what they’re talking about.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign also released a "fact sheet" on energy. It does mention nuclear energy, but states that it should only be considered once safety and other issues are addressed. It does not mention offshore drilling, though it does float the possibility of drilling in the Alaskan National Wilderness Area (ANWAR). Perhaps that should have been our clue. They don’t mention expanding the use of coal, but do mention that it should be made "cleaner". I suppose that was a clue, as well.

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