START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
2,577,864 people care about Environment & Wildlife

It Only Took Another Oil Spill for Climate Legislation to Finally Surface

It Only Took Another Oil Spill for Climate Legislation to Finally Surface

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), though down one man, finally released their stab at climate legislation this week. One of the most crucial sections in the bill covers off-shore oil drilling, an issue that was supposed to help solve the tricky math of reaching 60 votes. But since the Deepwater Horizon rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling has become a wedge issue.

Just a few weeks ago, off-shore drilling could have been a point of compromise around which Senators could rally votes to pass the climate bill; now the bill had to strike a new balance to mollify both potential allies who oppose drilling, like Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and those who support drilling, like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The draft that Sen. Kerry and Sen. Lieberman released this week allows for expanded drilling but gives states veto power over new projects.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who worked on the bill, said that he had not seen the changes his two colleagues had made since he dropped out of the drafting process–but he looked forward to reviewing their work. Although Sen. Kerry says he thinks the bill can pass, without support from Sen. Graham or another Republican, chances are slim.

Next steps

Now that the two Senators have released the bill, the only work that remains is to pass it.

“I think climate change legislation is dead,” writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. His explanation:

“There’s not enough time for a bill to go through the committee process, get passed by the Senate, sent to conference, amended, and then passed by the full Congress before the midterms, and after the midterms Democrats will probably be reduced to 53 or 54 members in the Senate.”

Not everyone agrees that the bill’s chance are so dire, though.

“I think the chances are roughly as good as they’ve ever been in the Senate: low but non-trivial,” says Grist’s David Roberts.

Kerry’s argument

But should green-minded politicos root for the bill’s passage at all? Sen. Kerry and Sen. Lieberman worked closely with energy companies while drafting the bill, and the resulting legislation balances the need to reduce carbon emissions with the interests of prime polluters. The bill includes incentives for old energy industries like coal and natural gas, for instance, and exempts farmers from carbon caps.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kerry made his case to left-leaning environmentalists. “A comprehensive climate bill written purely for you and me — true believers — can’t pass the Senate no matter how hard or passionate I fight on it,” he wrote for Grist. The bill they have, he wrote, can pass, and that victory outweighs the compromises in the legislation.

Responses from the left

On Democracy Now!, Phil Radford, the executive director of GreenPeace USA, said that most environmental groups have given the bill little more than a “tepid endorsement.” Radford squared off on the show with Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress, who supports the bill.

“This will be the first bill ever passed by the Senate, if it were to pass, that would put us on a path to get off of fossil fuels,” Romm said.

The two men were also divided over issues like the impact the climate bill could have on international negotiations.

They agreed, though, there is room for improvement; the only question is whether the politics of climate change will allow for the passage of a stronger bill any time soon. As Kevin Drum wrote, “If you think this year’s bills are watered down, just wait until you see what a Congress with a hair-thin Democratic majority produces.”

Coal and natural gas

Tripping up environmentalists now, though, are the hand-outs to dirty energy industries. The coal and natural gas industry could both benefit from the provisions of the Senate bill, for instance.

On GritTV, Jeff Biggers, a writer and educator who covers the coal industry, explained his frustration:

“The climate bill is a nice first step and a very well meaning effort for someone like Sen. Kerry who’s been working on this issue for 20 years. But at the same time, because of the massive big coal lobby that has poured millions of dollars into lobbying congress on this climate legislation…there are all sorts of little panders and loopholes and exemptions.”

“What we see in this bill is that Sen. Kerry and Lieberman want to ensure coal’s future,” he said.

The booming natural gas industry also had a hand in shaping the bill and benefited from it. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club favor natural gas as an energy source over coal, and as Kari Lydersen reports in Working In These Times, the industry is driving job growth at a time when the economy needs a boost.

But as Alex Halperin reported last month for The American Prospect, in the places where drilling is occurring, like Ithaca, NY, activists are arguing that the environmental risks could outweigh those economic benefits.

Drill or be drilled

That devil’s bargain–risking natural resources for jobs in the energy industry–went the wrong way for the Gulf Coast, and states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida are paying the price even before the oil hits shore.

As I report in AlterNet, the Gulf’s economy could lose billions of dollars and is suffering already from the misconception that its beaches are tarred with oil. With this catastrophe still fresh in voters’ minds, the Senate climate bill proposes pushing new drilling initiatives 75 miles offshore and giving affected states veto power over these projects.

Depending on how long the memory of the Deepwater Horizon spill lasts, politicians could have a good reason to veto drilling. Public News Service reports that 55 percent of Floridians now oppose off-shore drilling, “almost a complete reversal from one year ago.”

Blame game

Certainly no one is stepping up to take responsibility for the explosion off the coast of Louisiana, as the Washington Independent reports. At a hearing this week, officials from British Petroleum, which was operating the well, Transocean, which owns it, and Halliburton, which was doing contract work that may have caused the problem, all denied wrongdoing and pressed the blame on each other.

It’s starting to look like Halliburton played a key part. “The focus is increasingly shifting to the role of Halliburton, which poured the cement for the rig, as well as for another operation that spilled oil off the coast of Australia last August,” writes Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones. The company apparently did not place a cement plug that would have kept gas in the well before emptying it of the mud that was holding in the flammable gas.

Anyone living in a state that could have new drilling off their coast should keep this catastrophe in mind if their politicians are given the option of vetoing new projects.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint.

 

Read more: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

photo credit: thanks to 350.org via flickr for the photo
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it

50 comments

+ add your own
1:56PM PDT on Aug 9, 2010

All this this disaster is not enoght to stop consume the oil?

3:32PM PDT on Jun 17, 2010

Bottom line is figuring out how to eliminate oil use in your own life. It is not just gas for cars but on that note; when are you getting a hybrid or electric car? How else do you use oil in your own life? I knit and found out the cheaper yarn I had been buying was made from by products of the oil industry so now I buy the more expensive organic yarn. We can't wait for the government to solve these problems anymore. We need to dry up demand now! It is in our hands!!!

6:24AM PDT on May 25, 2010

This is just what is needed and is urgent

7:09AM PDT on May 19, 2010

I think climate reform should take place this year. The bill isn't great but it's a start in the right direction

2:18PM PDT on May 18, 2010

If someone drills more than 12 miles off the coast it is international waters, are they responsible for the clean-up of our shores if their rig goes down?

4:05PM PDT on May 17, 2010

you know what? there is a portion of the US populace that
only cares about money. so i don't have any sypathy when things are not going right for them. make bp pay. don't care
about halliburton and the other company who will "go bank-
rupt" before they pay the first dollar. pay, bp, pay. and further,
if and when that oil hits MY beach (i live in florida), this state
needs to sue louisiana. louisiana said drill, baby, drill while
florida held off - being responsible - while SENATOR MARY
LANDRIEU, DEMOCRAT from LOUISIANA supported the
oil industry, and continues to do so today, may 17 2010,
weeks after the LOUISIANA OIL DISASTER started. hold
those responsible accountable.

2:09PM PDT on May 17, 2010

Just had a thought, what about using straw to soak up the oil? Also I am not sure of what the legislation is that I am or am not supposed to be on board with, the question was confusing as there was no real short answer introductory sentence.

10:52AM PDT on May 17, 2010

Well of course, the "majority" of people would like to call us nutty and ignore our Earth's problems as long as possible. It makes their lives easier, but they really aren't thinking about the lives of our children, and the lives of all living things that their actions affect directly everyday. Of course, now that the inevitable has happened, they decide to take notice..,hopefully the apathy doesn't set back in.

9:10AM PDT on May 17, 2010

Hemp - The Short Term Solution for climate change Image Hemp can be used as a short term solution to the climate change challenge, simultaneously increasing soil carbon, locking carbon into raw materials and replacing unsustainable raw materials across several industries. It is an adaptable, hardy, multi-purpose crop that can play an important role in reducing and repairing human environmental damage. Hemp is far less vulnerable to changes in climate compared to slow to medium growth forests and still has the most useful biochemical characteristics of hardwood. In addition, hemp is a very versatile crop, not just in terms of use value, but also in terms of how it can be managed by farmers. Growing hemp on deforested hillsides prevent landslides, run-off and also prepares land for future crops or reforestation. Large scale tree planting is not feasible without providing an immediate and sustainable alternative to forest resources used by the majority of the worlds population for cooking heating and raw materials. Hemp produces several metric tons of versatile biomass per hectare annually or bi-annually in hotter climates, potentially protecting old growth forests. CO2, which represents 50 per cent of greenhouse gases (GHGs), according to the IPCC, is converted along with other chemicals (or assimilates) into food by plants, depending on biomass production. The resulting growth and storage of carbon is identified in terms of biomass.

9:09AM PDT on May 17, 2010

THE TWO MAIN REASONS WE ARE IN SUCH AN ENVIROMENTAL MESS TODAY
1) The decision of the United States Congress to pass the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was based in part on testimony derived from articles in newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who, some authorsTemplate:Http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhearst.htm stress, had significant financial interests in the forest industry, which manufactured his newsprint.
2) Hemp paper threatened DuPont's monopoly on the necessary chemicals for manufacturing paper from trees and hemp fiber cloth would compete with Nylon, a synthetic fibre, that was patented in 1938, the year hemp was made illegal It is often asserted in pro-cannabis publications that DuPont actively supported the criminalization of the production of hemp in the US in 1937 through private and government intermediates, and alleged that this was done to eliminate hemp as a source of fiber—one of DuPont's biggest markets at the time. DuPont denies allegations that it influenced hemp regulation.

3)Hemp for Victory is a black-and-white United States government film made during World War II, explaining the uses of hemp, encouraging farmers to grow as much as possible.

THE GOVERNMENT MUST KNOW THE REAL VALUE OF USING HEMP IT HELPED SAVE THIS COUNTRY DURING WW2!!

add your comment



Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free
CONTACT THE EDITORS

Recent Comments from Causes

That creep Salazar better get some compassion in his black heart and stop the import of these innocent…

Or here's a thought. Don't be an asshole and insist on telling everyone and their mother you don't eat…

Feeding the hungry is one of the highest actions humans take...in my world view.

ads keep care2 free



Select names from your address book   |   Help
   

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.