Today, the Interior Department released a draft plan on climate change adaptation for fish, wildlife and plants, including goals on reducing climate change vulnerability and strategies available to the energy and transportation industries to help species adapt.
The main purpose of the report is not to prove the reality of climate change, but rather to demonstrate the ways climate change is already impacting our natural resources and environment and provide a strategy for responding and adapting to these impacts.
View the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
In a statement accompanying the draft plan release, U.S. Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes said rising sea levels, warming temperatures and other climate issues are having an effect on everything from wildlife to natural resources.
“The impacts of climate change are already here and those who manage our landscapes are already dealing with them.”
The report also makes clear that we can longer just focus on curbing climate change.
Often lost in the important arguments of why to oppose the Keystone pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast is that it will raise gasoline prices. How does bringing in more oil supply result in higher gas prices, you ask? Let me walk you through the facts. A combination of record domestic oil production and anemic domestic demand has resulted in large stockpiles of crude oil in the U.S. In particular, supplies of crude in the critical area of Cushing, OK increased more than 150% from 2004 to early 2011 (compared to a 40% rise for the country as a whole). Segments of the oil industry want to import additional supplies of crude from Canada, bypass the surplus crude stockpiles in Oklahoma in an effort to refine this Canadian imported oil into gasoline in the Gulf Coast with the goal of increasing gasoline exports to Latin America and other foreign markets. As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday (subscription required) :
“The sale of an oil pipeline running from Oklahoma to Texas upended U.S. energy markets Wednesday, sending the price of crude surging above $100 a barrel …Enbridge Inc.—which bought a 50% stake in the Seaway Pipeline—announced it would reverse the direction of the flow, allowing more crude to move south from oil storage in Cushing, Okla., into the world’s largest refinery complex along the Gulf Coast. Over the past two years, the U.S. has started producing so much oil that existing pipelines have been unable to move it to refineries. That has led to a glut of oil in the center of the country, keeping the price of American crude far below that of petroleum traded overseas…With a new supply of oil headed to Gulf Coast refineries, exports of gasoline are expected to rise…For decades, oil has been imported from overseas to the Gulf Coast, then either refined there or moved elsewhere in the U.S. for processing.
As a large enegy corporation, Duke Energy doesn’t have problems obtaining access to powerful government officials that regular Americans could never enjoy. Earlier this year Duke loaned $10 million to Obama’s signature re-election effort, and the company’s political action committee and top executives have made $1.8 million in contributions to federal candidates since the 2008 cycle, with an additional $25 million spent lobbying the federal government over that same time period. That kind of money buys you access – for example, Duke’s CEO Jim Rogers – with the help of a certain large environmental group – railroaded climate legislaiton to make it more utility-friendly back in 2009.
But turning progressive climate legislation into a loophole ridden, grab-bag of handouts for Duke Energy is a cakewalk compared to what he’s been doing in Indiana. Local news reports document how Jim Rogers has been inappriropiratly lobbying state officials – namely the governor, Mitch Daniels, on a nearly $3 billion coal power plant boondoggle called Edwardsport. Duke has been trying to get state regulatory approval to have its 780,000 Indiana customers pick up the tab for this expensive facility. But becuase of mismanagement, fraud and other small details, that proposal wasn’t going so well. So Duke, armed with its nearly $300,000 in contributions to Indiana state officials in the 2008 and 2010 cycles, sought to influence the Governor.
You can read the internal Duke emails here. But what is really remarkable is how they document Jim Roger’s influence in Washington, DC. Not since Westar Energy has Public Citizen reviewed such juicy details of how a major energy corporation wines and dines powerful government officials. Literally. In a letter to his board of directors, Jim Rogers boasts that he and his top DC lobbyist Bill Tyndall “had lunch with Energy Secretary Chu and several of his key deputies, followed by a meeting with DOE Under Secretary Kristina Johnson, who heads the FutureGen project. We also had dinner with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and his Director of Policy and Strategic Planning, Travis Sullivan.” Now, this letter to the board was written in 2010, and since then Johnson & Locke have departed, but it just goes to show that corporations can take Obama’s team out to lunch and dinner, while the rest of us get taken to the cleaners.
-Tyson Slocum is Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program. Follow me on twitter @tysonslocum
The Department of the Interior (DOI)’s five-year offshore oil-drilling plan, announced today, is bad news for the environment and oil workers. Environmentalists and workplace safety advocates who reasonably anticipated regulatory reform of the oil industry in advance of any new offshore oil-drilling policy are deeply disappointed. According to the Obama administration, new areas in the Gulf of Mexico will be explored and drilled, as will the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic Ocean and the Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska.
This plan was made in the absence of new safety rules designed to protect workers and the environment. We haven’t updated offshore drilling laws since 1978 – well before we had a deepwater or robust arctic drilling industry. We already know what happens when the oil industry is inadequately regulated. For 87 days in 2010, the nation watched helplessly as millions of barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and killed 11 workers. Taxpayers remain responsible for major spills, because current law caps spill liability for oil companies at $75 million.
On Friday, hundreds of activists turned out for a rally held during the final State Department public hearing on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project. Among these activists were folks that traveled from states that will bear the brunt of the impact from the proposed pipeline. They came to Washington D.C., on their own dime. They were joined by activists that just a month earlier were arrested as part of a two-week sustained demonstration in protest of the pipeline. Others in the crowd had spent the entire night outside of the hearing room just to ensure an early spot on the speaking list in an attempt to thwart line holders hired by industry.
I read in one account of the public hearing and the accompanying activities that supporters of the pipeline held a counterrally at the same time as the opposition rally. I didn’t witness the counterrally, but I can imagine what it looked like.
In addition to paying folks to stand in line to register pro-industry speakers, the oil industry also bused in employees and sympathetic union members. You could tell who they were because they all were sporting the same bright T-shirt. The numbers the industry turns out are impressive, but the enthusiasm for the cause usually is lacking. The directive is for them to be in the room. Often only a few provide public comments. And the message is honed: Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs.
In this case, the erroneous jobs statistic that is echoed by proponents is that 20,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs will be created by the Keystone XL project. But the job creation numbers were supplied by TransCanada, the corporation seeking approval to build the pipeline. In fact, the State Department’s own study suggests that far fewer jobs – no more than 6,000 direct jobs – will be created, and most of them will be non-local and temporary.
Fuzzy math, like bright T-shirts, is becoming another hallmark of the oil industry.
According to a recent article in The Washington Post, for more than a year, the American Petrolem Institute (API) has been highlighting the number of jobs it says are linked to the oil and gas industry.