Better World Club

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boy, This Oil Spill Has Gone On a Long Time

(Your Turn: How Long?)

Well, It’s Been So Long…

Oil Spill? Given how long the BP oil has been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, isn’t “spill” a bit…hmmm…understated??? This is a disaster, a catastrophe, a tragedy.

After all, the spill has lasted a long, long time. In fact, it’s gone on so long that, it’s now longer than

· U.S. military efforts in the 1991 Gulf War
· The 2010 NBA Playoffs
· The 1969 Moon Landing
· The Presidency of William Henry Harrison
· A Bill Clinton State of the Union
· George Bush’s Attention Span

In fact, if it lasts too much longer, it will surpass

· The Spanish-American War
· The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien
· America's obsession with the “Bennifer” relationship
· Any Academy Awards Ceremony

Well, you get the point. It’s lasted a very long time. It’s close to becoming an alternative lifestyle for residents along the Gulf.

Obviously, this is not the Obama administration’s fault. And the administration deserves tremendous credit for BP’s $20 billion commitment. (If you doubt it, look back at how Exxon escaped proper compensation for its 1989 Valdez “spill.”)

But one can’t help but wonder whether Obama was advised to let BP handle the spill and to keep his distance — and whether the federal government could have organized greater relief more quickly.

If so, then that is a tragedy as well.

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Sample Letter to Senators on Clean Energy Bill

Dear Senator,

The Deepwater Horizon disaster has been a wake up call for all Americans. Fossil fuels are a dirty, expensive business. Not only are millions of gallons of oil still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, but fishing and tourism economies along the Gulf have been all but crippled, further proof that we’re allowing fossil fuel giants to “externalize” their huge costs on the American people.

But this disaster also indicates the hidden costs that exist even when there is no crisis. The sky and American waters — like the broadcast spectrum and public land — are public assets and need to be protected and valued. Admiral James Woolsey has estimated the cost of the externalities from fossil fuels alone to be $250 billion annually. It’s time to recognize these real costs and make the transition to a clean energy future.

The Senate is now considering the Kerry/Lieberman Act, an energy bill that has the potential to put America on track to that clean energy future. It is imperative that the bill passed by the Senate not just address the aftermath of Deepwater Horizon, but also establish benchmarks for utility conversions to clean energy and put a price on carbon emissions that will reflect the true costs of fossil fuels and provide the opportunities and incentives necessary for private investors to finance new, cleaner technologies. Only if such a bill is passed will America be able to achieve a sustainable energy economy away from dangerous pollution and a dependence on foreign oil.

The cleanup of the Gulf oil spill needs to extend far beyond just our immediate problems with Deepwater Horizon. It’s time to clean up America’s energy economy. I strongly urge you to support an energy bill that puts a price on carbon emissions and to do everything in your power to encourage your colleagues in the Senate to do so as well.


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Energy Cleanup Needs to Extend Far Beyond the Gulf

Will it Take Tar Balls on the Potomac For Washington to Stop Protecting Fossil Fuels?

(No, We Aren’t Referring to Certain Members of Congress)

Fossil fuels are a dirty business. That’s nothing new, but with millions of gallons of oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the question becomes: is this a cost that we can afford?

Will the Gulf spill prove to be the catalyst for a transition to a clean energy future? Unlike the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, which birthed the modern environmental movement, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has yet to spur the calls for progressive change that we’d expect from an event causing such widespread environmental ruin and the economic crippling of an entire region of the United States. (Don’t get us started on the lax safety standards and slow response of big oil.)

Or to be more exact, calls for environmental reform are being met with the response that the economy needs more of the same???

The BP disaster is exposing how the marketplace doesn’t force producers to internalize the external costs that they’d rather impose on the rest of us. Apparently, Congressmen like Joe Barton (R-TX) are happy to let them continue to do so.

But that’s not how markets should work.

In June 2009, the House passed a comprehensive energy/climate bill, known as the Waxman/Markey Bill. After much delay, similar legislation, the Kerry/Lieberman Act has been introduced in the Senate.

The BP calamity is now increasing the momentum for the passage of the Senate bill. But the legislation as introduced has provisions to counter global warming that will be a main point of controversy and may not garner the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. The Obama administration is committed to passing a comprehensive energy bill not just in response to the Gulf spill, but that will also address climate change, encourage investment in clean energy technologies, and move the U.S. toward energy independence.

It is imperative that the Senate’s version of the energy bill mirror the House bill in establishing benchmarks for utility conversions to clean energy and putting a price on carbon emissions that recognizes the true cost of fossil fuels and provides investors the opportunities and incentives to finance new, cleaner technologies.

There are at least twenty-one states where one or both Senators are truly concerned about the issue and are personally inclined to vote for a comprehensive energy bill, but are politically wary of doing so. Help drive change by contacting your Senators and asking them to support an energy/climate bill that will put a price on carbon emissions and move the Unites States toward a clean, energy independent future.

Contact your Senator and encourage him or her to support an energy bill that puts a price on carbon emissions. A sample letter is available here.

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