President Obama

A Flaring Shame: Obama Could Close Gas Flaring Loophole, But Will He?

This is a guest post by Lukas Ross from Friends of the Earth

Big Oil has been subsidized to the hilt for over a hundred years. In the U.S. the spoils include everything from special interest tax breaks and accounting gimmicks to royalty-free leasing and government sponsored R&D. Add them all together and every year the costs run into the billions.

But one subsidy never seems to make the list, which is a shame because it is hardly small and incredibly polluting. What is it? Royalty-free flaring on public and tribal lands is a giant loophole that President Obama has the power to close before he leaves office.

What Happened to Obama's 'Planet in Peril' Rhetoric?

We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” the newly elected president Barack Obama said in 2008 during his victory speech in Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois. 

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there,” he told the assembled public. “I promise you, we as a people will get there.”

Obama was in his own inimitable style promising to meet the challenge of climate change – while acknowledging that the resistance of the oil monopolies dominating the American energy market would be fierce.

Obama Barely Touches on Climate Change In New Orleans Speech Marking the 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

President Obama briefly mentioned climate change during his remarks in New Orlean’s Lower 9th Ward during his visit to New Orleans to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Standing in the city’s Lower 9th Ward, Obama spoke instead of the inspiration he had drawn from the city’s “come back” and the resilience of its people.

Obama’s on-off relationship with climate change and the impact it is having on New Orleans is mirrored by his administration’s decisions that contradict the president’s concern.

Groups Encourage Transparency, Ask Obama For Honesty About Corporate Spending

The Sierra Club sent a letter to President Obama this week, urging the President to make good on his promise of increasing transparency in Washington. Specifically, the environmental group wants the administration to be forthright about the political spending of mega-polluters and their government contracts.

Biomass Is Not A Zero-Carbon Fuel Source, So Why Does The Clean Power Plan Propose To Treat It That Way?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the foundation of President Obama’s climate strategy. The plan, which is to be finalized later this year, sets state-by-state targets for reducing emissions from existing power plants, especially coal-fired power plants, which will be essential to meeting the commitments made in the climate deal President Obama struck with China late last year.

Appeals Court Rules Keystone XL South Approval Was Legal, Lifting Cloud Over TransCanada

In a 3-0 vote, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Tenth Circuit has ruled that the southern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline was permitted in a lawful manner by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Keystone XL South was approved via a controversial Army Corps Nationwide Permit 12 and an accompanying March 2012 Executive Order from President Barack Obama. The pipeline, open for business since January 2014, will now carry tar sands crude from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas without the cloud of the legal challenge hanging over its head since 2012.

Fossil Fuels from Federal Lands Create One Quarter of Total U.S. Carbon Emissions, New Report Concludes

A newly released analysis by the Climate Accountability Institute concludes that fossil fuels extracted from federal lands release carbon equal to a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The rate has stayed roughly consistent from 2003 to 2014.

When it comes to coal, the rate was even higher than average last year, the report concluded. “In 2014, two-fifths (40.2 percent) of U.S. coal  production was from leases on Federal Lands;  production on Indian Lands accounted for an additional 1.9 percent of U.S. coal production,” wrote Rick Heede, author of the analysis.

New Federal Fracking Rules Rely on FracFocus Even as EPA Research Highlights Site's Flaws

It's a classic case of the government's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Days after the Bureau of Land Management issued new federal rules for fracking on federal land, relying heavily on an industry-run site called FracFocus, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a study mainly noteworthy for the shortcomings of the site that it revealed.

More than 70 percent of the chemical disclosure statements that drillers posted on FracFocus between January 2011 and February 2013 were missing key information because drillers labeled that data “confidential business information,” the EPA reported.

On average, drillers reported using a mix of 14 different chemicals at each well site. At sites where information was withheld, an average of five chemicals were not named.

In fact, FracFocus allowed drillers to conceal the identity of more than one out of every ten chemicals whose use was “disclosed” on the site, EPA researchers found.

This made it impossible for EPA's researchers, who received over 39,000 disclosure statements from FracFocus in March 2013 and published their study two years later, to definitively say what chemicals drillers used most often, how much of each chemical was injected underground, or even to simply create a list of all the chemicals used at the wells.

Peabody Coal Lawyer Laurence Tribe, Obama's Law Professor, Testifies in Congress vs. EPA Carbon Rule

Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School and of-counsel at the firm Massey & Gail LLP, recently testified in front of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce against the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon rule

Currently working as legal counsel for coal industry giant Peabody Energy and helping the company write comments, Tribe submitted a 57-page legal memo to accompany his five-minute testimony (starting at 22:43). In December 2014, Tribe submitted 35 pages worth of comments to the EPA on its proposed rule.

Joining Tribe were both New York University School of Law professor Richard Revesz and Hunton & Williams attorney Allison Wood, who testified for and against the Clean Power Plan, respectively. But Tribe served as the star witness and fielded most of the questions from the Committee during the question-and-answer session.

Fittingly given his distinguished legal background, Tribe argued against the Clean Power Plan on constiutional law grounds. 

“Burning the Constiution should not become part of our national energy policy,” Tribe wrote in the early pages of the legal memo he submitted to the Committee. “At its core, the issue the Clean Power Plan presents is whether EPA is bound by the rule of law and must operate within the framework established by the United States Constitution.”

He also proposed a solution — favored by his client Peabody  in a section titled, “There is a Better Way.”

“The United States could…support carbon capture and storage technologies,” Tribe wrote, not mentioning Peabody's advocacy for so-called “clean coal.” 

“An 'all of the above' energy policy can support all forms of domestic energy production that will minimize carbon emissions, protect consumers and American jobs, and ensure that the U.S. remains independent from unreliable foreign sources of energy.”

Obama Vows To Fight For Climate Policies In State Of The Union But What He Didn’t Mention Was Just As Telling

President Barack Obama could not have signaled more clearly in his 2015 State of the Union address that he intends to fight for his legacy on climate change in the face of a hostile, anti-science GOP-led House and Senate.

But it was what the President didn’t mention that could negate his climate legacy: free trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership that undermine local efforts to lower emissions, projects like Keystone XL that lock us into decades of continued dirty energy use, and the exporting of American-made coal, crude oil and natural gas to overseas markets.

Which is not to say that every policy position Obama laid out regarding energy and the environment entirely matched his lofty rhetoric about climate change.


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