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June 20, 2010 01:02 AM UTC

Some weekend musings on oil - not water, since oil and water don't mix, right?

  • by: allyncooper

As Tony Hayward is attending the J.P Morgan Asset Management yacht race around the Isle of Wight this weekend (presumably not having invited Dianna DeGette to pal around with him), the oil continues to gush from BP’s ill fated lancing of Mother Earth and the environment and a way of life for many in the Gulf will be altered forever.

Could this finally be the straw that breaks the camels back and we get serious about breaking our addiction to carbon based fuels and oil in particular? And just as importantly, if not more so, are we going to acknowledge what the true costs of carbon based fuels are and start posting those costs on the energy ledger sheet?

Many reading this are too young to remember (or actually experience) a time when our complacency and naivete were shattered when Americans suddenly found themselves sitting in gas lines for hours to get 5 gallons of rationed gas. Faced with an angry country which had only months earlier reelected him in a landslide, President Richard Nixon declared America must end its dependence on foreign oil.

The gauntlet was thrown down, the line drawn in the Middle East sand – we would end our dependence on the stuff by 1980 . After all, it was a matter of national security which threatened the very existence of the American way of life.

But like an alcoholic who takes the pledge only to relapse again and again, we still haven’t

sobered up and the costs of our addiction continue to mount. This Jon Stewart skit about sums it up ( 8 minutes long, but worth watching)…

In 1993, the Clinton Administration proposed a general tax on all energy forms, as part of a broader deficit-reduction plan and also to promote energy conservation. The tax would have been America’s first comprehensive energy tax.  

The tax was to be levied on coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gases, gasoline, nuclear-generated electricity, hydro-electricity, and imported electricity, at a base rate of 25.7 cents per million BTU, with an additional 34.2 cents per million BTU on refined petroleum products. The BTU tax on a gallon of gasoline would have been 7.8 cents and $ 5.35 per ton of coal. Gas at the time was about $1.90 a gallon, so a 7.8 cent tax hardly seemed onerous.

But the energy industry circled the wagons and opposition was broad-based, ranging from farmers to major energy-users such as aluminum corporations and their advocates at the National Association of Manufacturers. Of course the fossil fuel industries – oil, gas, coal, etc. – lead the charge against the proposed BTU tax and unleashed their lobbyists in opposition.  

The proposal did pass the House, but died in the Senate after the oil and gas industries ensured our addiction to oil and other fossil fuels would continue. The good times rolled through the 90’s, gas stayed cheap, everyone bought SUV’s, big pickups, and even Hummers, and the national fleet gas mileage actually went down.

With the Gulf disaster providing daily evidence of the real cost of our addition to oil, many think the comprehensive climate and energy bill passed by the House but festering in the Senate has been given new life. Indeed, as reported in an article by John Carey, Yahoo environmental writer:

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows widespread public support for more renewable energy, tougher energy efficiency standards, and climate policies that would limit the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are the source of global warming – even if such action would raise the price of energy. Surprisingly, a majority of Republicans in the poll supported taking steps to reduce climate change and protect the environment.

The climate and energy bill faces tough going in the Senate, with the main stickler being the controversial “cap and trade” proposal on carbon emissions as passed in the Waxman-Markey  House bill. Cap and trade is a different animal from the proposed Clinton BTU tax, but the players opposed to it are essentially the same guys who derailed the BTU tax in 1993. There will be winners and there will be losers, and the losers will be those in the fossil fuel business if cap and trade survives.

You can be sure that as this plays out in the Senate this summer, as the oil continues to gush in the Gulf, the fossil fuel industry will be turning on the money spigot to protect their interests keeping carbon fuel cheap and thus enabling our national addiction.  


2 thoughts on “Some weekend musings on oil – not water, since oil and water don’t mix, right?

  1. I said this yesterday in my own diary–leases are still being bought and this has been happening since the spill. McClatchy had a fantastic article up about this that went into more detail.

    The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service has signed off on at least five new offshore drilling projects since June 2, when the agency’s acting director announced tougher safety regulations for drilling in the Gulf, a McClatchy review of public records has discovered.

    Obama claimed on May 14th that he was shutting down loopholes. Either he lied or he doesn’t have a clue what his own Dept. of Interior is doing. Either scenario is disgusting.

    The moratorium is a sham–designed to shut up the Left, nothing more than throwing a scrap to the pack. That’s all it is. Same with him declaring 2 weeks after his Department of Interior sold $1.3 billion in off shore drilling leases in the Gulf that he would “expand” exploration. Most people thought he did it to woo support for the climate bill; frankly, I think he did it to get out in front of the heat he knew he would get from the conservation movement once they found out what the Interior had been up to.

    If it hadn’t been for the spill, I can’t help but wonder how many of the 68,000 acres in the Gulf would have been sold by now. The spill hasn’t stopped anything; it’s just slowed things down. What is the moratorium supposed to do? What fabulous reform, regulation, restructuring, cleaning of corruption in the Interior is it designed to do? I’d love to see some specifics on what it is supposed to accomplish in the next 5 months. Because so far, it hasn’t done jack shit, has it?  

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