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Fri, 2010-12-10 11:10Bill Hewitt
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PART TWO: The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

(Cont’d from Part 1) As far as the credibility of the U.S. and Canada in international climate negotiations, the Sierra Club’s Kate Colarulli thinks that continued tar sands oil production and consumption hurts both countries badly.  Canada’s reputation is particularly poor in this context.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, feels the same way.  Canada, in her view, has been completely discredited at the table as a direct consequence of the tar sands.

In Cancún, Canada has been an extremely visible target because of the tar sands.  Protesters there have made the salient point that Canada is dragging its feet on robust greenhouse gas reduction targets because of their desire to continue and radically expand the tar sands extraction.

Canada was also being tarred in Cancún – pun intended – by being the recipient of three “Fossil of the Day” awards, as voted by over 400 international organizations.  Canada was similarly dishonored at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties for “…years of delay, obstruction and total inaction.”

Thu, 2010-12-09 11:24Bill Hewitt
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The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

America is addicted to oil,” said the arch-environmentalist and fervent renewable energy advocate George W. Bush in his State of the Union address in 2006.  Good thought.  His successor, Barack Obama, has actually acted on that perception, though, and worked to reduce America’s reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.  He and his administration have negotiated a long-term agreement to significantly increase gas mileage; issued a directive to radically improve the environmental performance of federal buildings and vehicles; and designated a large portion of the economic stimulus package for green initiatives.  Obama said in March that “…for the sake of our planet and our energy independence, we need to begin the transition to cleaner fuels now.”

Looming over the border in Canada, however, is the specter of the tar sands.  Production of crude oil from the tar sands is tracking at 1.5 million barrels a day for 2010.  Of this, over a million barrels is exported to the U.S.  The environmental and public health impacts of the extraction, processing and transportation of tar sands have been well documented and reported.  These are concerns that have been expressed by environmental groups in North America and Europe, but now the economic and security implications of increasing tar sands development are being addressed by key members of the U.S. Congress as well as analysts working on the critical interface between energy, environment and security.

Barring Tar Sands Oil 

Congressman Henry Waxman, the outgoing chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the driving force behind Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [PDF].  Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuel unless its life cycle GHG emissions are less than those for conventional petroleum sources.  This provision set off alarm bells in Canada.  The Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Wilson, wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates [PDF] within a couple of months of EISA becoming law to say that “Canada would not want to see an expansive interpretation of Section 526, which would then include commercially-available fuel made in part from oil derived from Canadian oil sands.” 

Tue, 2010-12-07 12:18Brendan DeMelle
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Dirty Energy Is Playing Full Contact So Is Cleantech Ready To Do The Same?

This is a guest post by Mike Casey, president of TigerComm, cross-posted from ScalingGreen.com.

Cancun - When I started working on solar energy issues several years ago, I heard it repeatedly: “Everyone loves solar.” Back then, many people in solar and other cleantech sectors saw long-term meritocracy in the energy business. Public demand, technological advances and aninevitable price on carbon were going to drive cleantech to dominance over time. “Renewable energy,” it was often said, “will soon become just plain ‘energy’.”

From the gridlocked global warming treaty negotiations here in Cancun, however, the picture seems starkly different. The Congressional climate bill fight ended in disaster, the recession tightened credit markets, and the coal and oil industries bought themselves a new Congress last month. And that global carbon market many were counting on? The most optimistic note Thursday night from a top U.S. treaty negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, was “maybe next year.”

Tue, 2010-10-26 15:09Brendan DeMelle
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Elusive Charles Koch Deploys Security To Block Joel Francis’ Visit to Koch Industries HQ to Invite Debate on Prop 23

Joel Francis, the Cal State-Los Angeles senior and Marine Corps veteran, today followed through on his promise to visit Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita, Kansas to formally deliver his letter challenging CEO Charles Koch to a public debate about his funding of Prop 23, an attack on California’s clean energy investments and job creation efforts.  

After receiving no response from Koch following the video posting of his challenge last week, Joel traveled all the way from Los Angeles with a group of fellow college students and Gabe Elsner, campaign director of Powervote CA and the California Student Sustainability Coalition.  

The goal was simple and the approach polite – Joel simply hoped to meet with Charles Koch to invite him to a public debate “anytime, anywhere in the state of California” between now and election day about why Koch would attack the fastest growing sector in California’s struggling economy – clean energy jobs, which are growing 10 times faster than other sectors.

But as the students arrived, it was clear that Koch wasn’t rolling out the red carpet for Joel.  

Pairs of security guards were stationed prominently outside each entrance to the Koch corporate campus.  Marked and unmarked Koch security vehicles trailed several cars after they dropped the students off on the front lawn of Koch HQ. (The vehicle I arrived in along with PowerVote’s Gabe Elsner was also trailed as it left the scene.)

Larry Moorman, Koch’s Director of Corporate Security, immediately approached Elsner and wrongly claimed that we were on private property.  Elsner responded that county records indicated the first 18 feet of lawn adjacent to the curb was public property, which sent Mr. Moorman on his way back to guard the front door from the apparent ‘threat’ of an articulate college senior challenging the company’s secretive CEO to talk to him.  

Tue, 2010-08-31 10:01Kevin Grandia
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Clean energy drowned out in Washington by a Two Billion Dollar Juggernaut

Red State bloggers are all in a tizzy over an Open Secrets article showing that the American Wind Energy Association spent over $5 million last year on lobbying politicians in Washington, DC.

It’s about time we started seeing the clean energy sector make its voice heard on Capitol Hill and I hope we see more people pushing lawmakers to consider legislation that promotes the use of clean and unlimited sources of energy like the sun and the wind.

But the hair-pulling by Red State bloggers is more than a little ridiculous when you consider that the American Wind Energy Association’s $5 million lobby expenditure is equal to about 5 minutes of lobbying by the oil and gas lobby which spent a whopping $175 million in the same time period.

Looking over the last ten years, the numbers are even more startling.

Mon, 2010-03-29 22:20Brendan DeMelle
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Koch Industries' Extensive Funding of Climate Denial Industry Unmasked

Koch Industries has “become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” spending over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the climate denial machine, according to an extensive report today by Greenpeace. 

The Greenpeace report reveals how Koch Industries and the foundations under its control spent far more than even ExxonMobil in recent years to fund industry front groups opposed to clean energy and climate policies.  Koch spent over half the total amount -nearly $25 million - funding climate denier groups from 2005 to 2008, a period in which Exxon only spent $8.9 million.

Greenpeace’s attempt to lift the veil of secrecy inherent to a private company like Koch Industries is no easy task.  Because it remains privately owned, Koch faces few of the disclosure requirements designed to increase transparency among publicly-traded companies.

Tue, 2010-01-19 20:38Kevin Grandia
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Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts will put the chill on climate legislation

Republican candidate Scott Brown has won the race to replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts and, as I wrote earlier today, this does not bode well for the clean energy and climate change legislation currently being considered in the Senate.

Up until a couple of weeks ago this was seen as an easy win for the Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, but as the polls began to tighten, the political punditry began to speculate what a Republican win would mean for President Obama’s health care reform package. In a nutshell, and without getting into wonky talk about super-majorities and the like, a Brown win in the Bay State most likely means health-care-for-all is dead in the water.

While the ramifications for the health care package have rightly been the talk of the town and the cable news talking heads, there are other parts of Obama’s plan that will also suffer. One of the biggies is the American Clean Energy And Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill or the green jobs/clean energy bill.

ACES proposes, among other things, to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency incentives for homes and buildings, grants for green jobs and a cap-and-trade program that aims to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020.

Wed, 2009-09-09 09:05Kevin Grandia
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The Right Wing Attack Machine Behind the Van Jones Affair

You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that Glenn Beck wasn’t the mastermind behind the campaign to remove Van Jones from his position as a special advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality… that would be giving Beck way too much credit.

Turns out that the attack was orchestrated by a fringe group of free-marketeers called the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) who describe themselves as “grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels.” You can read a complete backgrounder on AFP here. It suffices to say they get a lot of money from some of the biggest players in the right-wing attack machine.

It will also come as no surprise that AFP is also behind much of the healthcare reform townhall shenanigans

On Fox News forum AFP’s director of policy, Phil Kerpen brags about how his organization brought down Van Jones:

“I spent the next two weeks researching everything I could find about Jones and the Apollo Alliance (much of which is still to be published, including a forthcoming paper from the Capital Research Center next month), the national umbrella organization for coordinating between the environmentalists, the labor unions, and the social justice street organizers that Jones has served as a board member and a primary national spokesman for.”

This was all then fed to Glenn Beck who gleefully took it to town and hammered away on Van Jones. No kidding, Beck is bent on bringing this administration to its knees and rallying the right-wing fringe players to follow suit. And it won’t stop here, the likes of Kerpen and AFP have found their rallying cry: “Don’t argue clean energy, but instead paint Obama’s policies as a socialist/communist plot to control America.”

Thu, 2007-08-23 09:28Emily Murgatroyd
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Big Oil's in the House! (and the Senate)

The Center for American Progress has released a report cross-referencing oil and gas political donations with voting activity on a recent clean energy bill passed in the House of Representatives.

And surprise of all surprises they found that the more money a member of Congress received from the oil industry the more likely they were to vote against the bill which eliminates $16 billion worth of tax loopholes to oil companies. The $16 billion is earmarked for investment in the development on clean energy technologies like wind and solar power.

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