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Sun, 2012-07-15 15:23Farron Cousins
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Romney, Obama Surrogates Spar Over Energy Policy

On Wednesday of this week, representatives from both the Obama and Romney campaigns debated issues of energy and environment, where the two campaigns’ differences on issues ranging from renewable energy subsidies to approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline were on full display.

Speaking for the Obama campaign, spokesperson Dan Reicher told us that the President believes that U.S. tax dollars can be used effectively to bolster development and investment into renewable energy technologies.

Linda Stuntz, Romney’s spokesperson who currently sits on the board of Shell Oil, said that her candidate is not completely against supporting renewable energy, but that the “free market” should really be the entity to make those decisions, not the government. Stuntz did tell us that Romney planned to end a production tax credit for wind energy that has helped keep that industry growing for more than 20 years.

Before getting into the other arguments discussed in the debate, it is important to let that previous paragraph sink in. Romney’s energy and environmental surrogate, a member of his campaign giving him advice on energy issues and acting as his spokesperson in that arena, is a board member of one of the largest oil companies in the world. This fact can't be ignored, and it indicates where Romney’s allegiance will lie when it comes to energy issues. Stuntz also served as a deputy energy secretary under President George H.W. Bush, and we know well how that administration buddied up to Big Oil.

One of the big issues, and a major talking point for industry-friendly politicians and lobbyists, was the Keystone XL Pipeline. From the Houston Chronicle:

Thu, 2012-07-12 14:29Farron Cousins
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Republican Senator Scott Brown Suffering From "Subsidy Amnesia"

With a straight face, Republican Senator Scott Brown told a crowd in Massachusetts this week that “oil companies don’t get subsidies” from the federal government. Brown tells us that, just like other companies, they are able to “take deductions,” but nothing more.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) was quick to jump on the story, compiling an astounding array of information that proves that Scott Brown is either the most misinformed member of Congress when it comes to subsidies, or that he’s a plain old liar. From an LCV press release:
  

Experts say oil company tax credits are essentially the same as direct spending subsidies. In a May 5, 2011 article, the Center for American Progress noted: “[T]he tax code is stuffed with a host of subsidies for oil and gas. These subsidies are delivered through the tax code but they are essentially no different from government spending programs that provide money directly.” Additionally, citing nonpartisan organizations including the Tax Policy Center and Pew Charitable Trusts, Media Matters for America documented in an April 10 article that “experts say that [oil industry tax] incentives – legally categorized as tax expenditures – have effects similar to more direct cash transfers from the government.” The Tax Policy Center stated that “Tax expenditures operate essentially like direct expenditures, even though they appear as tax breaks.” Pew’s SubsidyScope.org website stated: “Tax expenditures have a similar effect on the federal deficit as government spending. They can also have effects on recipients that are similar to grants or other types of subsidies.” [Center for American Progress, 5/5/11; Media Matters for America, 4/10/12].

Prominent members of Scott Brown’s own party recognize that tax expenditures are subsidies. In a March 28 article, Think Progress documented that “Numerous Republican leaders have noted that a tax break is the same as a direct government [payment] or subsidy, in a different form. This includes President Ronald Reagan’s chief economic advisor, Martin Feldstein, former Senate Budget Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM), House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).” Think Progress included quotes for each of these Republicans in the article. [Think Progress, 3/28/12].
 

Not only does the oil industry receive subsidies from the federal government, but as the LCV points out, earlier this year, Scott Brown actually voted against repealing the subsidies for the oil industry, that are currently costing U.S. taxpayers as much as $7 billion a year.

Sat, 2012-07-07 08:00Farron Cousins
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What To Expect When You’re Electing: President Barack Obama

Part 3 in a series, see Part 1 and Part 2.

Perhaps more than any other sitting U.S. President, Barack Obama has been Commander in Chief through some of the most obvious examples of what climate change will do to America. The last few weeks alone have given us severe droughts in some areas of the country while others have seen unprecedented flooding; The state of Colorado is battling some of the worst wildfires in their history; and massive heat waves are engulfing large swaths of America. And let’s not forget the massive snowstorms in the winter of 2010 – 2011.

Then there were the manmade environmental atrocities like the BP oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, the deadly Massey Upper Big Branch mine disaster, the Kalamazoo River tar sands spill, fracking-induced earthquakes in Ohio, water contamination from unconventional oil and gas drilling – the list could go on and on.

So in the face of these disasters, how has President Obama fared on environmental issues? Let’s take a look.

In 2008, then-candidate Obama told supporters that if elected, he would set a goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050. He acknowledged that man-made climate change was a real threat to America, and signaled a change in policy from the previous administration. Voters, especially environmentally conscious voters, were relieved to finally hear a candidate expressing such bold goals for the country.
  

Fri, 2012-07-06 19:00Farron Cousins
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Hot Enough For Ya? Extreme Weather Events Consistent With Climate Change Science

Large portions of the U.S. are on fire. Record droughts currently encompass massive swaths of America. The areas not experiencing droughts have been inundated with flooding. Winter weather in many areas was almost non-existent. A few years ago, an Academy Award-winning film called “An Inconvenient Truth” warned wary Americans that all of these events would become the new normal due to climate change. But these are no longer warnings – this is the reality that we’re living in now.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the evidence of extreme weather that surrounds all of us. And it isn’t just the United States. Every corner of the globe is experiencing the direct effects of climate change in some form or fashion. And again, we were warned that all of this was going to happen.

My hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida feels like it's been a petri dish for climate change disaster stories. In the past month, we’ve had two separate droughts that were both ended by flash flooding. In between these events, we avoided a hit from pre-season tropical storm Debby, which turned eastward and drenched central Florida with torrential rains. Last weekend we had a heat index of 112 degrees, and I awoke this morning (again, after weeks of drought) to find half of my yard underwater due to coastal flooding.

In the U.S., the reality of climate change has certainly been an eye opener for many Americans.
  

Fri, 2012-07-06 17:11Farron Cousins
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FreedomWorks Fails Basic Math And Economics To Smear Renewable Energy Investments

The corporate funded, Libertarian/Conservative “think tank” FreedomWorks is doing their best to convince Americans that taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and loans are a waste of our resources. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the massive giveaways to the dirty energy industry, only to the federal loan programs established to invest in cleaner, renewable energy companies.

Touting the superiority of the so-called “free market” over the actions of the government, a recent report titled “Free Markets, or Government Knows Best?” by Wesley Coopersmith broke down the amount of money that the federal government has allocated to renewable energy projects, per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and compared the amount of money given to the number of permanent jobs created by each company. Here’s what Coopersmith had to say:
  

Under the 1705 loan program, taking up half of the funding form the Loan Guarantee Program, 2,378 permanent jobs were claimed to be created. If you do the math right, this works out to costing the taxpayer $6.7 million per job created. I don’t know about you, but if it takes the government $6.7 million to create one permanent job, something is wrong.

The combined amount of money given to alternative energy companies, through the 1705 and 1703 Loan Programs, totals around $19.2 billion. According to the US DOE, 3,498 jobs have been or will be created because of these loans. This comes out to almost $5.5 million in cost per one permanent job created.

Unfortunately, these projected permanent jobs created are an overestimation, if you take away the jobs lost due to six of these companies going bankrupt. Solar Millennium Inc., LSP Energy LP, Ener1 Inc., Beacon Power Corp, Abound Solar, and Solyndra LLC combined have received over $3.5 billion from the Logan Program yet have produced zero jobs and hurt the fragile U.S. economy.
 

Coopersmith also provided a helpful chart that shows exactly how much money each (of a select few) company received and how many permanent jobs were created. For credibility purposes, Coopersmith even linked back to the U.S. government’s official website and used their own numbers on permanent jobs per company, as well as how much each received.

The problem with Coopersmith’s analysis is that he omitted several important numbers in his calculations. For example, he only lists the permanent jobs created by each company, failing to add in the number of construction jobs that would be created by each project. He also used the total amount of money that had been allocated to each company, not the amount that had actually been paid.
  

Fri, 2012-07-06 07:00Farron Cousins
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What To Expect When You're Electing: Part 2 - Mitt Romney

In Part 1 of this series, we explored the overall environmental issues that are facing the U.S., mostly as a part of coordinated attacks by politicians in Washington. In the next few articles, we’ll take a look at what each candidate has said or done in regards to both environmental and energy issues.

At this point in the race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States, a title that will become official after the Republican convention in August. Because Romney previously served as a governor, we have the benefit of looking at what he’s actually done when placed in charge, not just committee votes or proposed legislation.

And just like his record on other issues, Romney’s environmental record is one that has constantly changed to fit the political landscape. He has somehow managed to take both sides of virtually every major environmental issue, with his recent positions being more in line with that of the extremist, climate change denying branch of the Republican Party.

But the shift in ideas and rhetoric for Romney (which has quickly become his trademark as a candidate) is actually also in line with that of other major Republican candidates.

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