Oil and Coal Industries Spending Two Million Dollars a Day to Shape Political Debate

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 21 Aug 2008 11:44:00 GMT

A report from the Public Campaign Action Fund on 2008 spending by oil and coal industries finds that they are on track to spend about one billion dollars this year on lobbying, political contributions, and advertising. The full report amasses the following expenditures:

2008 SPENDING BY OIL AND COAL INTERESTS, BY CATEGORY
Amounts in millionsCoal/Electric Utilities Oil/Gas Total
Political Contributions $16.5 $20.9 $37.4
Lobbying Expenditures 73.7 55.3 129.0
Paid Media 7.4 201.2 208.6
Other Political Spending 40.0 12.2 52.2
Total $137.6 $289.6 $427.2

Lobbying expenditures and political contributions come from Center for Responsive Politics data compiled from public disclosures. Paid media figures are from TNS Media Intelligence, the industry standard for tracking media spending.

The “other political spending” comes from the coal industry group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices / American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ABEC/ACCCE) and from Newt Gingrich’s 527 corporation, American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF).

Current policy related to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 24 Jul 2008 14:00:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • Kathy Fredriksen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Didier Houssin, Director of the Office of Oil Markets and Emergency Preparedness, International Energy Agency
  • Dr. David Victor, Director of the Program of Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University
  • John Shages, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Petroleum Reserves, U.S. Department of Energy

House GOP to Unveil 'American Energy Act'

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 23 Jul 2008 15:28:00 GMT

Today at 2 PM, the entire House GOP caucus is holding a Capitol rally to support their drill-drill-drill bill, dubbed the “American Energy Act” (H.R. 6566) and being promoted as an “all of the above” approach to energy policy. Their memo, acquired by the Wonk Room, reveals their plans to promote the bill as a panacea for high gas prices.

Read the full text of the legislation.

As Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Daniel Weiss points out, however, the House GOP is pushing a number of misleading or false talking points. In particular, they grossly overestimate the expected returns on drilling offshore, opening the Arctic Refuge, or mining oil shale—and fail to mention that any such returns would only be noticeable in decades.

Immediate Relief from High Oil Prices: Deploying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 23 Jul 2008 13:15:00 GMT

The past three presidents, including President George W. Bush, have successfully used the SPR to reduce oil prices during times of crisis.

Witnesses
  • C. Kyle Simpson, Policy Director, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck
  • Dr. Joe Romm, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
  • James May, President and CEO, Air Transport Association of America (invited)

Hawaii Representative Crafting 'Environmentally Responsible' Plan That Would Endanger His State

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 15 Jul 2008 20:50:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Abercrombie on Fox It seems that Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) is crafting a plan that could lead to the inundation of Hawaii’s beaches, the extinction of its species, and the destruction of its water supply. Abercrombie and John Peterson (R-PA) are creating a “working group” to establish a “comprehensive, environmentally responsible energy plan,” whose members will be announced today. The centerpiece of this plan is opening protected coasts to drilling for more oil, as Abercrombie told the Hill:

Simply standing up and saying, you can’t drill your way out of this doesn’t work. The people are standing up and saying, “Yes, we can.”

The unique beaches, coral reefs, and oceanic ecosystems of Hawaii won’t be directly threatened by expanded offshore drilling, as the ocean that surrounds it doesn’t have fossil reserves. An oil spill or two could get tourists to flee the beaches of California, Florida, and the states of the eastern seaboard in favor of the Aloha State.

But in reality, Abercrombie’s advocacy of increasing fossil fuel production as a climate crisis looms will have deeper repercussions for this necklace of islands than perhaps any other state in the nation. Big Oil wants the world to keep burning fossil fuels at a rate that would increase global temperatures by five to seven times more than we’ve already experienced. Even more modest increases would spell catastrophe for islands like the Hawai’ian chain:

Rising Sea Levels Submerging Islands. In 2006, President Bush declared the 1200-mile chain of Northwestern Hawaiian Islands part of the largest marine sanctuary in the United States. But U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers found that “by 2100 up to 65 percent of some islands would be lost if the sea level rose 18.9 inches (48 centimeters), which is the average IPCC projection.” A 34.6 inch rise “could result in up to 75 percent of NWHI wildlife habitat disappearing.” Whale Skate Island, home to seals, turtles, and seabirds, has already disappeared under the waves. [Endangered Species Research, 2006]

Coral Reefs Dying. “The combined stress of global warming and ocean acidification” due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases is already causing coral bleaching. “Especially in the state of Hawaii, we depend on the reefs for tourism as well as our economy. Also, recreational and commercial fisheries,” said Coral Reef Ecologist Ku’ulei Rodgers to NBC affiliate KHNL. “The coral reefs are the basis for all of the foundations and key species and if we lose the reefs we also will lose the fish and other organisms that are involved.” [KHNL, 7/2007]

Water, Wildlife, Economy Under Threat. In the 2007 legislation to cut Hawaii’s greenhouse gas emissions, the state legislature found, “The potential adverse effects of global warming include a rise in sea levels resulting in the displacement of businesses and residences and the inundation of Hawaii’s freshwater aquifers, damage to marine ecosystems and the natural environment, extended drought and loss of soil moisture, an increase in the spread of infectious diseases, and an increase in the severity of storms and extreme weather events.” Further, “Climate change will have detrimental effects on some of Hawaii’s largest industries, including tourism, agriculture, recreational, commercial fishing, and forestry.” [H.B. 226, 2007]

It is difficult to encapsulate the threat of global warming to these jewels of biodiversity. Everything from the unique snow-dependent wekiu bug on Mauna Kea to the Hawaiian monk seals are under threat. The destruction of Hawaii’s unique habitat is not just devastating to its wildlife. As the National Wildlife Federation notes, “At Honolulu, Nawiliwili and Hilo, sea level is already rising 6-14 inches per century, and the EPA estimates it is likely to rise another 17-25 inches by 2100. Sand replenishment to protect the coasts from a 20-inch sea level rise could cost $340 million to $6 billion.”

Abercrombie has criticized the Bush administration for its “obstruct, confuse and delay” strategy on global warming. His “drill, drill, drill” advocacy is no better.

House to Debate Several Energy Proposals

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 23 Jun 2008 19:41:00 GMT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that the lower chamber of Congress will consider several pieces of legislation targeted at oil companies, energy markets, and transportation.

  • Reducing Transit Fares (H.R. 6052) – Gives grants to mass transit authorities to lower fares for commuters pinched at the pump and expand transit services.
  • Cracking Down on Price Gouging – Gives enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and punish those who artificially inflate fuel prices, similar to legislation passed last year.
  • Closing the Enron-like “London Loophole” for Petroleum Markets – Takes steps to curb excessive speculation in the energy futures markets, which experts have noted is driving up the price of a barrel of oil.
  • “Use It Or Lose It” for Oil Companies Holding Permits and Not Drilling – Compels the oil industry to start drilling or lose permits on the 68 million acres of undeveloped federal oil reserves which they are currently warehousing, keeping domestic supply lower and prices higher.

Republicans Filibuster Renewable Tax Credit Legislation Again

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:54:00 GMT

By a 52-44 vote, the Senate failed to achieve cloture on the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), the tax package that included extensions of the renewable production tax credit, energy efficiency incentives, and a suite of other tax credit extensions. This version included an Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch without any offset.

Sen. Reid (D-Nev.) cast a procedural vote with the Republicans and Sens. Clinton, Kennedy, McCain, and Obama did not vote. Sens. Collins, Coleman, Corker, Smith, and Snowe voted with the Democrats (Collins, Coleman, and Smith are up for re-election). The voting was otherwise entirely on party lines.

The timeline of the tax credits:
  • FILIBUSTERED: June 17: H.R. 6049 filibustered 52-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
  • FILIBUSTERED: June 10: H.R. 6049 filibustered 50-44 (Reid procedural vote with GOP)
  • PASSES SENATE, DIES IN HOUSE: April 10: S.Amdt. 4419 (tax credits without offsets, attached to Dodd housing bill) passes 88-8; not in House version
  • PASSES HOUSE: February 27: House passes Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R. 5351; tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) 236-182; referred to the Senate Finance Committee.
  • FILIBUSTERED: February 6: S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140 (tax credits without offsets, attached to stimulus package) filibustered by one vote (58-41; Reid procedural vote with GOP, McCain not voting)
  • January 30: Senate Finance Committee attaches tax credits to stimulus package
  • FILIBUSTERED: December 13: H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered by one vote (59-40; Landrieu with GOP, McCain not voting). Version of H.R. 6 without tax credits or RES passes 86-8.
  • PASSES HOUSE: December 6: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 235-181.
  • June 21: Senate passes S.Amdt.1502 to H.R. 6 (no tax credits or RES)
  • FILIBUSTERED: June 21: S.Amdt. 1704 to S.Amdt. 1502 to to H.R. 6 (tax credits paid by closing oil loopholes) filibustered 57-36 (Landrieu with GOP, Boxer, Brownback, Coburn, Johnson, McCain, Sessions not voting)
  • PASSES HOUSE: January 18: House passes H.R. 6 with tax credits and RES 264-163.

Senate Republicans block movement on two bills to spur renewable energy investment

Posted by Gristmill Wed, 11 Jun 2008 12:16:00 GMT

Cross-posted from Gristmill.

With gas prices now averaging a record $4.04 a gallon in the United States, the Senate voted on two bills Tuesday that would have revoked tax breaks for Big Oil and extended tax credits to renewable energy. Proponents of the two measures touted them as vital for consumer relief and transition to new energy sources, but both measures failed to muster the 60 votes needed to proceed.

The first vote, on the Consumer First Energy Act (S. 3044), fell short of cloture by a vote of 51-43. The second, on the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), failed by a vote of 50-44. Both votes fell largely along party lines.

The Consumer First Energy Act

The Consumer First Energy Act would have levied a 25 percent tax on “windfall profits” of major oil companies, the proceeds of which would be invested in the Energy Independence and Security Act Trust Fund. Companies could avoid the tax by investing in renewable energy.

“It will force the oil companies to do something to help us get out of this mess instead of just profiting from it,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the floor shortly before the vote.

The bill would also repeal tax breaks for major oil and gas companies, estimated at a value of $17 billion over the next 10 years, and suspend filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve through the end of 2008. There were measures to discourage “price gouging” and limit speculation in oil markets. The bill would also call for a NOPEC policy (clever acronym alert: “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels”). This would crack down on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by amending anti-trust laws and allowing the U.S. Attorney General to take legal action against countries and companies. Currently, a court ruling from 1979 gives OPEC members immunity in U.S. courts.

Republican leaders spoke on the floor in favor of expanding domestic oil drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a solution to gas-price woes rather than measures to move toward renewable energy sources. “This bill isn’t a serious response to high gas prices. It’s just a gimmick,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “Republicans are determined to lower gas prices the only way we can: increasing supply.”

But proponents of the bill were adamant that the only way to bring down the costs of oil in the long term is to curb the country’s dependence on the fossil fuel. “We are in an oil crisis, and we better start taking action to get out of this mess,” said Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). “Feeding that addiction by tapping another vein just drills us into a deeper hole.”

Democratic leaders pointed out that Republicans wanted to talk about gas prices last week, when a climate change bill was on the floor, but when a bill addressing the underlying causes of high gas prices came up, Republicans refused to let it proceed.

“Last week they wanted to make global warming legislation about gas prices,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “When they have the chance to vote on it, they walk away.”

Six Republicans – Norm Coleman (Minn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and John Warner (Va.) – voted in favor of moving to debate on the proposed legislation. Democrat Mary Landrieu (La.) voted against it (as did Reid, but his was a procedural move to ensure that he can bring the bill to the floor again in the future).

The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act

The second bill, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, was the Senate partner to the tax-extenders legislation that passed in the House last month. The $54 billion package would have extended tax breaks for renewable energy that are set to expire at the end of this year. It includes a six-year extension of the investment tax credit for solar energy; a three-year extension of the production tax credit for biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas, and solid waste; and a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy. The bill also has incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels, incentives for companies that produce energy-efficient products, and incentives to improve efficiency in commercial and residential buildings. Funding for the tax credits would come from closing loopholes for hedge-fund managers and multinational corporations.

Republicans Smith, Snowe, and Bob Corker (Tenn.) voted in favor of cloture on the bill, as did all of the Democrats present for the vote.

The tax-break extensions have stalled in the Senate several times before, and folks in the renewables industry are starting to get nervous as we near the expiration of those credits at the end of this year.

“More than ever, with record energy prices, record unemployment, and grave concerns about global warming, Congress needs to work out differences so we can stabilize energy costs for consumers and businesses, improve our nation’s energy security, and create tens of thousands of quality, green-collar jobs,” said Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch following the vote.

Green groups rushed to chastise GOP leaders for the obstruction. “By once again blocking efforts to extend these crucial clean energy tax incentives that are in danger of expiring, this minority is responsible for kicking the economy while it’s down,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope in a written statement. “Jobs are already being lost in the renewable-energy industry and at least 100,000 more could disappear unless Congress acts to immediately renew these tax incentives.”

Resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 3044, the Consumer-First Energy bill

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Jun 2008 14:00:00 GMT

The Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S. 3044, a bill to provide energy price relief and hold oil companies and other entities accountable for their actions with regard to high energy prices, and for other purposes; provided, that there be one hour for debate prior to the cloture vote, equally divided and controlled between the two Leaders or their designees, with the final 20 minutes equally divided between the two Leaders or their designees, with the Majority Leader controlling the final 10 minutes prior to the cloture vote on the motion to proceed.

In addition, cloture has been filed on H.R. 6049, an act to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide incentives for energy production and conservation, to extend certain expiring provisions, to provide individual income tax relief, and for other purposes.

Retail Gas Prices, Part 2: Competition in the Oil Industry

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 22 May 2008 15:00:00 GMT

Witness
  • Abdalla Salem El-Badri, secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
E&E News:
Tensions are expected to be high Thursday, with Abdalla Salem El-Badri, secretary general of OPEC, invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

The secretary general’s appearance will likely come after the House approves “NOPEC” legislation, a largely symbolic effort to sue OPEC nations for price fixing.

Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and other members will likely question El-Badri over OPEC’s considerable role in the global oil market as well as President Bush’s recent meeting with Saudi leaders to urge them to release additional oil onto the global market.

Several energy analysts, however, say U.S. lawmakers hold little sway with OPEC officials and that calls for OPEC members to increase production is hypocritical given the opposition to increases in domestic drilling.

“We’re not willing to produce more so we are a bad example in terms of resource nationalism,” Lucian Pugliaresi, president of Energy Policy Research Information, told a House panel this month.

Beutel made a similar observation Friday. “We don’t really have the moral high ground when it comes to calling for increased production,” he said.

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