Friday, August 21, 2020

Trump administration finalizes oil drilling plan in Alaska wildlife refuge

The Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.

The decision sets the stage for what is expected to be a fierce legal battle over the fate of the refuge’s vast, remote coastal plain, which is believed to sit atop billions of barrels of oil but is also home to polar bears and migrating herds of caribou.

The Interior Department said on Monday that it had completed its required reviews and would begin preparations to auction off drilling leases. “I do believe there could be a lease sale by the end of the year,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said.

Environmentalists, who have battled for decades to keep energy companies out of the refuge, say the Interior Department failed to adequately consider the effects that oil and gas development could have on climate change and wildlife. They and other opponents, including some Alaska Native groups, are expected to file lawsuits to try to block lease sales.

“We will continue to fight this at every turn,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, in a statement. “Any oil company that would seek to drill in the Arctic Refuge will face enormous reputational, legal and financial risks.”

Though any oil production within the refuge would still be at least a decade in the future, companies that bought leases could begin the process of seeking permits and exploring for oil and gas.

President Trump has long cast an increase in Arctic drilling as integral to his push to expand domestic fossil fuel production on federal lands and secure America’s “energy dominance.” Republicans have prized the refuge as a lucrative source of oil and gas ever since the Reagan administration first recommended drilling in 1987, but efforts to open it up had long been stymied by Democratic lawmakers until 2017, when the G.O.P. used its control of both houses of Congress to pass a bill authorizing lease sales.

“ANWR is a big deal that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get done and nobody could get done,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends on Monday.

It remains unclear how much interest there will be from energy companies at a time when many countries are trying to wean themselves from fossil fuels and oil prices are crashing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Exploring and drilling in harsh Arctic conditions remains difficult and costly.

Nevertheless, by proceeding with the lease sales, the Trump administration has made the Arctic refuge a potential issue in the presidential campaign, and the region’s fate may ultimately hinge on the election’s outcome. The Democratic nominee for president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has called for permanent protection of the refuge.

However, even if he were to win the White House, it could prove difficult for his administration to overturn existing lease rights once they have been auctioned to energy companies.


Kamala’s anti-fracking position

Everyone is talking about Joe Biden’s new VP candidate, Kamala Harris.  The media has painted her as a bold moderate - but did you know that Kamala actually supports a ban on fracking?

Not only would this hurt hundreds of thousands of hard working Americans, it’s also not backed by science.  We explain Kamala’s anti-fracking position and how some in the media are trying to paint those who mispronounce Kamala (Comma-lah) as racist!

Email from Ann and Phelim

Some conservatives believe in global warming

Most of what Curbelo claims about climate change is demonstrably false and is simply talking points regurgitated from the climate alarm establishment. Contrary to what he claims, the rate of sea level rise has not increased, ocean “acidification” is not taking place, extreme weather is not increasing, etc.

It is possible that Curbelo does not care what the truth is. If this is the case, there is no point in trying to talk to him. But it is also possible that he is reasonably sincere and has been misinformed.

Florida Republicans are at the forefront of conservative efforts to address climate change. Far before Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s January climate bill, conservative policymakers from the Sunshine State were enacting local policies aimed at fighting climate change, and advocating for such policies on the federal level.

Prominent among these policymakers was Carlos Curbelo, who represented Florida’s 26th district, which is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels, from 2015 to 2019. The centerpiece of Curbelo’s work on the issue was the MARKET CHOICE Act, a bill that called for a tax on carbon emissions whose cost would be offset by eliminating the federal gas tax. “To be frank, I didn’t have high expectations it would become law,” Curbelo says in an interview. “My goal was to provoke a discussion and draw interest to the issue and it certainly did that.” He might not have known it at the time, but the bill marked a pivotal moment for the GOP: Climate-change policy had made its way onto the Party’s agenda.

It is no accident that this development came out of Florida, a state whose economy and identity are inextricably tied up in its environment, which is in turn threatened by climate change. “I didn’t run for Congress with the idea to become an environmentalist” Curbelo says in an interview. “What really motivated me was a meeting with NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]. . . . They showed me the data, the risk that my district faced.”

Curbelo notes that Florida’s barrier reef — the third largest in the world — is “being hurt by ocean acidification, which is a direct result of greater CO2 in the atmosphere.” The fishing and tourism industries that from such a big part of the state’s economy are directly dependent on the health of the ocean and sea levels. All in all, Floridians “really depend on the health of the environment more than some [other] places in the country,” Curbelo says. So concern about climate change is “not ideological; it’s pragmatic.”

Curbelo and other conservatives who care about climate change have reason to hope that such pragmatism is starting to filter through the rest of the GOP. Curbelo notes that there’s been a “drastic change in rhetoric” on the Right in recent months. For years, the party ignored the issue and, in essence, ceded it to Democrats by declining to expend any energy or political capital on it. But this year, several conservatives have come out in support of a “clean energy innovation” approach, hoping to offer an alternative to what they see as unworkable progressive proposals.

What catalyzed this change? Curbelo chalks it up to two things: science and politics.

“A lot of Republicans for years have been watching the science carefully, and the science is so compelling now that it’s motivated Republicans to speak out,” Curbelo says. While rising sea levels have long threatened trillions of dollars of coastal property in Florida, the interior of the country is starting to feel the effects of a warming climate now, too. “Changing weather patterns have really complicated life for farmers,” he says. “Extreme weather events have caused a lot of destruction. . . . We’re seeing larger and stronger storms with a greater frequency, because these storms get their energy from the oceans and the oceans are getting warmer.”

The scientific reality has in turn driven home the political dangers that climate-change poses to Republicans. For many on the right, “the case for taking care of the environment has always been there but I think the political reality of it has really hit in the past year,” says Quill Robinson of the American Conservation Coalition (ACC), a group of young conservatives focused on environmental issues. ACC polling has found that climate change is an important issue for 82 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 35, including 77 percent of those who describe themselves “right-leaning.” 60 percent of respondents indicated that climate change “will impact who they vote for in 2020.” Robinson argues that Republicans can’t afford to write off these voters. “If you’re a member of Congress saying climate change is a hoax, you’re hurting yourself politically,” he says.

That’s because there exists a real demand for a pragmatic approach that does not seek to reinvent the American economy as we know it. 53 percent of left-leaning respondents, 58 percent of moderate respondents, and 67 percent of right-leaning respondents in the ACC poll said they wanted “an alternative environmental movement that promotes free-market, limited government solutions.” Many voters are wary of the revolutionary climate-change plans proposed by the environmental Left, and that has paved the way for conservatives’ entrance into the debate.

Alex Trembath of the Breakthrough Institute says that by presenting the issue as something that “threatens the sort of end of society or the extinction of the human race,” progressives have narrowed the range of possible solutions and created gridlock. Domestically, proposals that aim to cutting emissions to an exact degree by an exact date can make for a good soundbite, but they are almost always economically and/or politically infeasible. Globally, agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord have had little success at spurring collective action to curb emissions. As a result, Trembath says, Republicans have recently been emboldened and “entered the fray.”

The dirty secret of the climate-change debate is that there is no “silver bullet,” no foolproof way of definitively solving the problem. We don’t have the resources or infrastructure to cut emissions as drastically as some would like, and the green technologies advocated by progressives simply can’t make a big enough dent in emissions. “We’ve known for a long time that wind and solar weren’t going to decarbonize the American economy” on their own, Trembath says. What’s needed is a “much wider portfolio of technologies.”

McCarthy’s climate-change plan seems to take that message to heart. It focuses on innovation and natural solutions over large-scale economic reforms, and while it’s not a huge step forward, it’s a start. McCarthy contends that Republicans “can bring you a healthier, cleaner, and safer environment through innovation” while “[what] Democrats want is greater control and command.” His plan calls for planting 1 trillion new trees, managing soil health, and promoting conservation and recycling. It would also invest heavily in R&D in hopes of developing new emissions-cutting technologies, and give tax breaks to companies that use carbon-capture to reduce emissions.

All of this policy ferment on the right is critical, given the lack of feasible, large-scale emissions-cutting solutions. Trembath shares a hypothetical: Say we agree to enact a mandate on the steel industry that calls for a 50 percent reduction of emissions by 2030. “There’s just no way to do it. . . . We don’t know how to make fertilizer at scale without natural gas,” he says. It’s virtually impossible to make a significant dent in the emissions generated by America’s big industries without doing away with those industries altogether, which is a political and economic non-starter. So Republicans are hoping to unleash innovation that yields “a wide and more scalable set of technologies.”

Trembath believes that going forward, Republicans must demonstrate a “commitment to [climate change] beyond ‘basic science,’ backing carbon capture, nuclear energy, renewables, and other clean-energy technologies,” and focus on “technology-specific clean-energy innovation” to cut emissions. After years in which the only congressional climate-change proposals to even receive any press have been massive, government-driven overhauls of the economy with the potential to stifle growth, he sees an opening for conservatives to offer a more practical approach — and he might just be right.


The petty tyrants in your shower

When President Trump objected to federal regulations of shower heads and when the Department of Energy this week proposed to undo President Barack Obama’s shower rules, Trump’s critics decried the actions as petty and the subject matter as too picayune.

But Trump's critics are the ones with a question to answer: If the flow of a person’s shower head is too petty to be deregulated, then how was it momentous enough to be regulated in the first place?

The story of how Washington got into our showers started in 1992, but the real action took place in 2010.

A Democratic Congress passed and Republican President George H.W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 1992, which dictated the maximum flow rates on “showerheads, faucets, water closets, and urinals.”

The law banned any shower head that allowed water to flow out at a greater rate than 2.5 gallons per minute (which comes out to 5.3 ounces per second) “when measured at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch.”

This was an overreach. People pay for their own water. If a family wants a lower water bill, it can always buy a low-flow shower head. Why Congress thinks it has the authority to make showers weak is a question each "aye" vote back in 1992 should have to answer for.

But even this intrusion into the most personal moments of a person's day was not enough for Obama. He wanted to make sure that no showers, including those with more than one shower head, ever spat out more than that congressionally mandated 5.3 ounces per second. Obama could have accomplished this crackdown on multihead showers by pushing legislation to that effect through Congress, where his party controlled both chambers.

But outlawing people’s showers isn’t terribly popular, so Obama opted to use regulatory means. He rewrote the language to redefine “shower head.”

You may think you know what a shower head is. It’s a fitting on the end of a pipe that disperses water into a spray in your shower. But Obama’s Energy Department decided that the term no longer meant that. What you call a shower head, Obama declared, is now a “nozzle.” A multihead shower was now a multinozzle shower head. And thus, if each “nozzle” is pumping out the legal maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute, then under Obama's redefinition, you are taking an illegal shower.

Trump's Energy Department did not propose to change the 1992 law, as reporters are now wrongly claiming, but to revert to the 1992 law. And when reporters tell you that Trump “wants to change the definition of a shower head,” they are telling you half the truth. He wants to change it back to what everyone thinks it always was.

You may think the federal government shouldn't be tinkering with the definition or the flow of a shower head. We couldn't agree more, and that's why Trump's action here is the right one.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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