Rising Oil, Gasoline Prices Push Politicians and Reporters to Utter “Nonsense”


01 Mar 2012

In a major speech on energy at the University of Miami, President Obama said rising gasoline prices are a “painful reminder” of the need for alternatives. He was on the offensive, trying to counter criticisms of the GOP presidential candidates—including Newt Gingrich, who promised he’d get gasoline down to $2.50 a gallon.

Countering calls to “drill, baby, drill,” Obama called the GOP candidates’ ideas “bumper sticker” strategies, “not a plan.” Reiterating his call for an end to oil and gas tax breaks, Obama called them “outrageous” and “inexcusable.”

Also, some Democrats called for dipping into the U.S. strategic oil reserves to try to bring down prices. However, this notion seemed based on the misconceptionthat the availability of oil in the U.S. has a big influence on the price.

Rising oil prices, argued Bloomberg columnist Caroline Baum, “tap into a barrel of nonsense,” making people “go all wobbly in the head.” Backing up that idea is Media Matters’ laundry list of misconceptions common in energy reporting, which concluded that the only way to become less vulnerable to oil price spikes is to “use less oil. Period.

Move To Natural Gas—But Will It Help?

In his speech, Obama announced a new $30 million research grant to boost the number of vehicles running on natural gas.

Natural-gas-powered trucks are becoming more popular among big fleets, refueling stations are spreading, and some companies are creating better storage tanks for compressed natural gas.

This push for natural gas vehicles is “the hottest energy fad in Washington,” according to a Wall Street Journal editorial titled “Boone-Doggle,” since the fad has been spurred in part by petroleum billionaire T. Boone Pickens and his “Pickens Plan.”

Two former U.S. officials argued for a twist on the natural gas vehicle, calling for cars that can run on methanol, an alcohol that can be “efficiently and inexpensively produced from natural gas,” according to an MIT report.

Globally, natural gas vehicles have increased exponentially, with most of the growth in the past decade in Asia and Latin America.

However, a new climate modeling study by Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft, found that switching from coal to natural gas would do little to slow global warming.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, a bipartisan group of current and former Congressmen, called for taxes on greenhouse gas emissions as a way to fight climate change, lower oil imports and raise revenue that could help spur clean energy industries and reduce the debt. Beyond the authors of this op-ed, there may be further bipartisan support for such a plan.

EPA Greenhouse Gas Limits Face Appeals Court

In federal court this week, energy industry groups challenged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

One line of argument being used is the science on climate change is not settled, so the EPA should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gases. By putting climate science on trial, it’s been dubbed the “Scopes trial for climate change.”

The plaintiffs are also arguing that in issuing the “tailoring rule,” which limits greenhouse gas rules only to the biggest emitters, the EPA overstepped its bounds.

The judge hearing the case found the tailoring argument strange, saying that if the alleged harm is regulatory burden, but the remedy is a heavier regulatory burden, then the plaintiffs’ argument “doesn’t even make good nonsense.”

Gene Therapy for Climate Change

Climate Central lampooned geoengineering—ideas for planetary-scale projects to cool Earth—with its own set of not-so-serious proposals, including giving Maalox to livestock.

A research project at the Mote Marine Laboratory sounds like it might be another of these far-fetched plans, but it’s for real. A geneticist is investigating gene therapy for coral reefs—or, more specifically, for the bacteria that live symbiotically with the corals—to help them adapt to climate change.

The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. Written by Mason Inman, it is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

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bookshelf

books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
Zeitoun
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World


Mason's favorite books »

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