August 6, 2010
Gulf Disaster Approaches End As Senate Again Delays Energy Bill
On day 108 of the BP oil catastrophe, the company began pouring cement to seal the blown out well and eliminate the chance it would pour more oil into Gulf waters. The United States this week estimated the BP blowout, which began with an explosion and fire on April 20, released an oil torrent that measured 4.9 million barrels. Even with the 800,000 barrels that BP says it captured, the Gulf blowout is the largest oil disaster ever.
As if to buffer the magnitude of that number, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in an assessment on Wednesday that most of the oil had evaporated, been skimmed from the water, dispersed by chemicals, or otherwise disappeared. The agency also asserted that much of the environmental harm had departed with the vanished oil, a point that Gulf state scientists disputed.
“We’ve never had a spill of this magnitude in the deep ocean,” Ian R. MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University, told the New York Times. “These things reverberate through the ecosystem. “It is an ecological echo chamber, and I think we’ll be hearing the echoes of this, ecologically, for the rest of my life.”
The same thing could be said about the echo chamber in Washington, where last May’s Senate assurance of introducing comprehensive climate and energy legislation became a July promise of introducing just an oil disaster response bill, which this week became a weak statement, at best, that such a bill might be introduced in September.
Climate advocates will keep pushing in Washington, and at the international climate meetings heading to the UN climate summit in Cancun in December. Jonathan Pershing, the U.S. climate negotiator, said at the climate meeting in Bonn that despite the failure to act on a U.S. climate bill, “the United States is not backing away from the commitments our president made in Copenhagen. “
The U.S. Copenhagen commitment calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The World Resources Institute recently released a study that said the country could get most of the way to that goal through federal regulatory action and state measures, including renewable energy standards that require utilities to generate a portion of their power with cleaner alternatives like wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
One of the states where a renewable energy standard has influenced carbon emissions and industrial development is Michigan, where $3 billion in federal, state, and private sector funds is being invested for wind and solar development and $6 billion is being spent on next generation vehicles. On Thursday, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm appeared at a clean energy briefing at the Center For American Progress. She was asked what she would do to break through the Senate logjam to advance comprehensive national climate and energy legislation.
“We have to get off the debate about whether global warming is occurring,” said the two-term Democratic governor, who noted that the first phase of clean energy development in her state would generate 89,000 new jobs. “We have to talk about jobs.”
She added: “Assume that the 132 countries that made commitments to cut their emissions are serious. Assume that those countries have analyzed the jobs that are inherent to do that. Then the best argument is about jobs for America. We need all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people. We are turning our back on this opportunity. Let’s just talk about the opportunity for jobs.”
In a nation where people care most about either finding or hanging on to a good job, maybe that is the best way to reach voters and the political leaders who represent them.
Until next week, take care, Keith Schneider