The Electoral Equivalent of an Oil Spill

By Al Giordano

I was trying to nap with the TV on this afternoon but the following story came on CNN's Situation Room about Senator John McCain's latest flip-flop, in which he now seeks to lift the federal ban on offshore drilling for oil...

And I thought, that's not only bad policy, but it's pretty damn stupid in terms of getting elected president. In a word: Florida, where 27 electoral votes will be determined.

More amazing was seeing, in that CNN clip, Florida politicians like US Senator Mel Martinez and Governor Charlie Crist suddenly flipping over, who, like McCain, had previously opposed offshore drilling.

As the Environmental Defense Fund notes:

If you live in Florida, you live near the ocean — no point in the state is more than 80 miles away from either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. More than three quarters of the state's population — over 13 million people — live in coastal counties...

Coastal communities have grown by nearly 6.3 percent since 1999 and nearly 32 percent since 1990, one of the highest rates of growth in the country...

So many Floridians love the beach, the ocean, and the 8,426 total miles of shoreline where so many have moved to be near and look out upon the open seas. And there are economic interests, too, that don't want to see oil slicks and other environmental damage there from offshore drilling in the Atlantic or the Gulf:

Beach tourism brought in $41.6 billion in 2000 and supported 442,000 jobs... For example, the coral reefs of the Keys generate over $1 billion in tourism dollars each year...

Recent presidential elections in Florida have been close. McCain has just handed Senator Obama and his newly trained band of Organizing Fellows a golden issue with which to recruit and convince a lot of otherwise conservative Floridians to defend their self interest by stopping a McCain presidency.

Watch how this plays out in the Sunshine State. This may be the stupidest move yet on the part of the presumptive Republican nominee and his surrogates.

Judging from the ways in which the Obama organization pounced on errors by his chief primary rival and then organized around them at the precinct level, my guess is that they'll pound away on this policy difference up and down the Florida coastline. Remember these words when Florida's results roll in come November.

Update: Comments on The Field are now sequential (no longer "nested") as we return to the format that built this community. That way you can revisit a story and read what all the Field Hands wrote in chronological order.

Update II: As Longroad suggested in the comments section, this new position has the fingerprints of an orchestrated attempt to make offshore drilling a big electoral issue nationwide. President George Bush, AP reports, will call on Congress tomorrow to lift the moratorium.

Update III: Mathesian and Mark, over on Politico, think McCain is "playing with fire" on this one:

By calling for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling,John McCain is placing a risky bet. He is wagering that skyrocketing gas prices have finally reached a tipping point, a threshold moment that has led voters to rethink their strong and long-held opinions against coastal oil exploration.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: If he is wrong, McCain will have seriously damaged his chances in two key states with thousands of miles of coastline — California and Florida — and where opposition to offshore oil drilling has been unwavering. And he will have undermined some of his closest political allies in those states and others, including potential fall battlegrounds such as Virginia and North Carolina.

“Before $4.25-per-gallon gas, this would have been like pulling a pin on a grenade and rolling it into the state,” said David Johnson, the former executive director of the Florida Republican Party. “It would have been a fool’s errand to recommend it. It was never, ever a thing that a smart politician would have done in Florida.”

Update IV: Senator McCain's new position was also of the cash-and-carry variety as, on the same day he announced it, picked up at least two million dollars from Oil Town fat cats, according to the Houston Chronicle:

Larry Nichols, CEO of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy, which is second only to Chevron Corp. in holding the most Gulf of Mexico leases, called McCain's proposals a "truly honest assessment of what our energy policies have been and need to be."

Update V: This is interesting. The NY Times reminds that it was President George H.W. Bush that first put the offshore drilling moratorium in place:

Mr. Bush’s father, the first President Bush, signed an executive order in 1990 banning coastal oil exploration, and Mr. Bush’s brother Jeb was an outspoken opponent of offshore drilling when he was governor of Florida.

And since the moratorium is in fact an executive order (which presumably can be repealed with the stroke of a pen by the current occupant of the White House), and Bush II hasn't so far said he's doing that, the only point of "going to Congress" with this is for publicity and grandstanding. Interesting.

Update VI: President Bush will do a live statement and/or press conference at 10:35 a.m. ET on the matter. Fox News is plugging it, typically, as "urgent" and "breaking." Cable networks likely to give it roadblock coverage. Maybe he'll just begin drilling right there in the White House Rose Garden.


From Electoral Politics to Petro-Economics?

After Gore's impassioned endorsement of Obama last night and Obama's increasing recognition that climate change is not simply the most urgent moral issue of the day but the most crucial strategic security issue of the next decades, I am quite astounded at the number of breathless posts about the plausibility of drilling our way out of this nightmare. (Of course, there's that other cold fusion-styled technology: clean coal. It is amazing that this is even spoken of seriously when there is virtually no evidence that permanent carbon sequestration is even possible.)

Vik,you speak about independence from foreign oil as if that really makes an economic difference--as if increased access to meagre US oil reserves would save us money, lower the price of a gallon of gas, and be an electoral windfall. This makes no sense no matter the books are cooked. Whether the oil is from St. Pete, the North Sea, or Saudi Arabia, the world price is the world price unless the domestic oil industry is nationalized to keep prices low locally (this is different from being subsidized--which oil companies obviously are-- to fatten corporate coffers). Of course, the problem today is both probable "peak oil" and increasing global consumption over which we have no control.

Given the tenor of Obama's speech last night (he mentioned plug-in electric hybrids about 3 or 4 times) an immediate ramp-up in all kinds of efficiency (cars, buildings, power generation, etc.) will be a hallmark of an Obama environmental and energy plan. Obama noticeably did NOT mention "cap and trade" (which Gore is not in favor of) but rather said that there will be a "price" on carbon. Some form of carbon tax may very well be in the works.

That McCain ties himself to Bush even further demonstrates that he realizes he has no chance in Nov. if he tries to chart his own course. He IS running for Bush's third term, literally, in the sense that he is overtly playing ball with Bush's power base. McCain is clearly so desperate for $$ that he is not able to hide from the fact that he is and has always been owned by them. That such a lousy campaigner--someone neither intellectually (Shia = Sunni) or physically up to the challenge of a 4.5 month sprint--has cashed in his "maverick" chips for Mr. 28% suggests that the Repubs not only are out of touch on issues (Midwestern flooding, oil platforms off of St. Pete and Miami) but are playing the 2000/2004 highlight reel over and over again wishing for the sun to rise in the west tomorrow. They are already desperate. The frothing at the mouth hasn't started, but it is clear that the intellectual (and electoral) death of conservatism will not be a pretty sight. (It might be funny as hell to watch, though!)

As we get to know our new home.

The Edit Function It appears that if you have a co-publisher's account and use the edit function to correct typos, on re-submitting your comment goes to the bottom of the list. (Before the change to non-nesting, your edited comment remained in its original position.)


They need to hammer home

the time period it takes to get offshore drilling off and going, but more than that I really think it's

"There he goes again, following a president that's presided over the largest increase in gas prices in modern history, tying our economy to the oil companies and we know where that's gotten us so far."

The link to Bush...

..that's what astounds me. Wasn't it just a mere few days ago when McCain was going on and on about how Obama was pushing falsehoods in saying McCain was running for Bush's third term? He is supposed to be the maverick. It's the only thing he has to run on, whether it's true or not. That's what people need to believe about him in order to vote for the status quo in a change election. And yet he changes an 8 year old position in front of the oil execs in Texas the day before Bush goes to Congress to ask for an end to the moratorium. Even overlooking the question of how the voters feel about this particular issue, it's political suicide to make it clear that you are working hand in hand with a president with approx. 30% approval ratings. As the polls verify, he is having a really hard time shoring up his base. It's the GE and he has continued to move to the right rather than to the center as you would expect. I know clean coal is a controversial idea and I don't claim to have a whole lot of knowledge about it. But when I heard Brian Schweitzer speak about the realities of China's demand for energy coupled with China's largest source of energy being coal, I felt he made a pretty good case that whether you like it or not, coal is here to stay. Why not face reality and do everything in our power to a) benefit from it by being the leading producer of clean technology and b) try to reduce the ever increasing amount of emissions that will come from China?

Coal to China (and India for that matter)

Here's a link that explains China's and Australia's 'coal partnership'. Recently China has tried to purchase Australian listed mineral companies which has caused a bit of a stir. As the world's biggest coal exporter, a major debate here in Australia is about the possibility of 'clean coal' and our role in developing this technology (and is 'clean coal' possible) and what are our ethical obligations in exporting a very dirty source of energy to developing economies.


Bugs that make oil...

currently under development in CA by a company called LS9, seem promising and could be available on a wide scale by the time offshore drilling oil would come through. TimesOnline link here:
found via Daily Kos.


So, off-shore drilling is pretty clearly going to be the focus of a big republik push. They think they've got a winner here. Maybe they do. Question is, what will Obama do? Will he dismiss the notion out of hand, say that it needs to be studied, or come out in favor of it, too?

We like to think he'd stick with the fact-based arguments, as he did with the gas tax canard. But with gas closing in on $5 fast, off-shore drilling doesn't look so outlandish, even if it will take 5 years or more, since presumably we'll still need gas in 5 years. And remember, he favored clean coal in Illinois, also based on improved tech. So this one's a close call.

Problem is, it's hard for Obama to benefit from this one either way. If he concurs, he's just following the herd; if he opposes, they'll continue to pound him as obstructionist and knee-jerk librul. Should be interesting.

New Quinnipac poll out of Florida this morning...

...showing Obama UP there.

And that's before any of this news hit the electorate, obviously.

It is NOT going to play well in Florida, and I don't know what the hell McCain and the republicans are thinking. It's almost like they have gone fetal and can only pull out well worn now worthless pages from playbooks past. Soft on terrorism! Spotted owls! Tax and spend! Only they don't know how dated the lies are. Or that the electorate has finally figured out the lies.

McCain's proposals on off-shore drilling are going to go over like a wet fart in church. Just wait until this seeps into the electorate's consciousness in that state, and then enjoy the polling in Florida over the next few months.


Good Morning Field Hands

Ok,I know it's meaningless and Al be will be mad at me but a few numbers to start your day with:

"This is the first time Sen. Obama has led in all three states. No one has been elected President since 1960 without taking two of these three largest swing states in the Electoral College. Results from the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University polls show:

Florida: Obama edges McCain 47 - 43 percent;
Ohio: Obama tops McCain 48 - 42 percent;
Pennsylvania: Obama leads McCain 52 - 40 percent.

In the three states, Obama leads McCain 10 to 23 percentage points among women, while men are too close to call. The Democrat trails among white voters in Florida and Ohio, but gets more than 90 percent of black voters in each state. He also has double-digit leads among young voters in each state.

And don't forget there was an earlier PPP poll showing Obama up in Ohio

I'm a Florida resident, and

I'm a Florida resident, and have been for the last 8 years. In that time, I've heard drilling off the coast come up time and time again. Offshore drilling is one of those quirky issues that organizes a bipartisan group in opposition. It's conventional wisdom in Florida that you don't get elected unless you support the moratorium- and this includes Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

But what McCain is proposing here is actually a weird non-policy policy - he would lift the federal ban on offshore drilling and then allow states to decide what to do - so not actually showing any kind of presidential-type leadership - and this is, I think the real gamble with this new position. Not to mention that he's risking his green conservative image, big time.

Not to mention - that this is a ban on NEW drilling leases. Most of the current offshore oil leases currently held in the Gulf of Mexico are not in production right now, but they could be. Has it been so long since "There Will Be Blood?" The milkshake is currently being drunk - new straws will not change gas prices, short-term, long-term, or any term.

A good use for exising used-up offshore oil rigs....

...would be as platforms for wind farms.

They stand high enough from the ocean's surface to get the nice strong winds most suitable for power generation.

Getting the energy to shore could be done via fuel cells, whether hydrogen or ammonia or some other means.

I got to believe that McCain

I got to believe that McCain thinks he is energizing the Republican base with this (if you look at Ezra Klein's recent post on the Poll of Polls it now shows Obama pulling support away from the Republican base).
It's in the vein of "Look I've got a practical solution that will help you right now, all Obama's got are words" (per the gas tax pander). However, given all the above comments, it looks pretty stupid in terms of Florida. In addition to the Quinnipac poll from Florida, Poblano puts Florida as one of the 11 battleground states (defined by him as any state that has a margin of 5% or less). According to his analysis, Obama already has 252 EVs without any of these battleground states. For McCain to risk Florida (which I've always thought will be difficult for Obama to win), means he must be really worried.

However, what would be helpful if Obama could (in very simple soundbitey term) spell out his solution for reducing energy costs and our dependence on oil. (my own personal solution has been to move somewhere where I can bike and walk to everywhere - school, work, grocery store - my rent is a little higher, but I'm not buying any gasoline, and my heating costs are lower, because my place is smaller. I know this is not a solution for many rural folks, but if the half the population that lives urban areas would try to drive less it would make it better for the rural folks who have to drive).

Well..... The state of


The state of Florida is about to come unglued over this one. I can't see this one flying, not at all, and if McCain thinks that adding Crist to the ticket is going to help him, he's stupid.

There's been a lot of bitching about Crist ever since the voters swallowed his total BS and passed Amendment 1....this off-shore drilling thing is just going to fan the flames.

A smart Democrat could really use this as an excellent opportunity to swing Florida back over to the Blue side.

Who will burn the oil?

By the time that any oil off the US shore get pumped out of the ground the distribution of demand will have shifted significantly and instead of supplying oil to the US those wells may be supplying China. Think of all the tax incentives and investments taxpayers will make being negated when we are outbid by a country we owe trillions of dollars to and which will still be artificially depressing its currency, underpaying labor and polluting for shortcuts. Then you can see a picture of the brave new neo-con world whose operators will be pulling in exaggerated profits.


I also live in Florida and the people here are not fans of Crist at all. I live on the panhandle which is as red as it gets and I've heard this line from many Reps here
"I hope McCain picks him as VP so we can be rid of him"...I just chuckle and tell them, "Don't blame me, I voted for the Democrat"... LOL

Kathleen Sebelius

Excellent brief profile of her veep qualifications at tnr--I'm now 100% on board. Sorry to threadjack but fear that the bottom of the PSD thread people won't find it, and it's worth a read. Jibes with my impression of what Obama wants in a veep--someone with solid executive experience who has a record of getting the government to actually work. Erased a 10-figure deficit in one year without raising taxes, got a progressive education bill through, reformed insurance: this is an unglamorous figure who can get the government to do stuff. And I think that's what we're hungry for now.

To reiterate from that other thread: I don't think Obama much cares that she's a woman. She's not A Woman Candidate with some sort of government experience (lower case deliberate), she's An Excellent Governor Who Shares His Goals and Works Well with Him. So the "slap in the face to Hillary" people (*drink*) will need to get over their affront. Also, note Obama is not going to pick someone who seems to suggest he considers himself weak on foreign policy--he considers that his strength.

Following the cash

"Senator McCain's new position was also of the cash-and-carry variety..."

My guess is that this is also the case with the reversal of positions of Mel Martinez and Charlie Crist. I can't imagine that they would risk the political fall-out of switching positions once in office--especially with Martinez up for re-election during the next mid-term election (and that has to be a record for hyphenated word within a sentence!).

It will be interesting to see their books during the next local gubernatorial and senate elections.

According to DownUnderFan

According to DownUnderFan above, Nate Silver (Poblana at fivethirtyeight) and Quinnipiac, Obama leads by 4 points in FL for the first time ever, against anyone. And that's before this thread's topic has had time to percolate through the electorate. FL could actually be in play. (Note--I'm in favor of trying everywhere, even Idaho. Would love to see Obama make a speech in every state during the general. I just think anyone whose strategy hinges on Florida needs to be locked in a closet until Thanksgiving, along with Mark Penn.)

McCain Energy Policy

Get those oil derricks off the coast of Florida pumping again?! Brilliant!! Now if the Republicans can just get those trusty voting machines in Florida pumping as well --to count an extra 15% for McCain to offset the 15% he lost yesterday.


Excellent analysis, Al. Consider me schooled on this issue. Nice how McCain got 2 million to come around on this issue. So disgusting, so transparent. Seriously, pander to Big Oil much? Apparently McCain thinks we're a bunch of idiots that let our wallets control our lives and that we'll gladly roll over and let oil rigs destroy our gorgeous coast lines just to save a few bucks. Let's prove to him how sadly mistaken he is! Our natural habitat is one of our most valuable resources for our citizens, for tourism, and for future generations!!

Don't let them tarnish our most valuable natural resource- the natural beauty of the lands and coasts of the United States of America- just to save of us a few bucks. A few bucks (or less) in the short term, in the long term prices will be right back to where are they are now. The environmental costs could be much more catastrophic and permanent.

We have to draw the line on what we are going to do as a nation to solve this crisis, destroying our natural environment for small, short-term monetary gain (if that) MUST be rejected. We have to think bigger! One only has to look at the Manhattan and Apollo projects to see that we are capable of much, much better.

I can't read the comments-everything's black!

Can anyone help me out here? The comments are all blacked out.

Possibly Not Pre-Planned

Could it be that this apparent choreography with the white house wasn't pre-planned? Maybe McCain screwed up and now they are trying to fix it knowing how he may have just blown the election before we even get to the convention. He's flip-flopped so much, maybe they figure its better to just go forward rather than trying to back track.

Oil Companies control price and distribution

This is a definite loser for McSame and a winner for Obama. The oil from Alaska goes mostly to Japan. Oil companies control distribution and price. The dollars is down and the oil companies want the price higher to compensate. The govt. keeps printing money to bail the investment banks so the value of the dollar is going to go down and down. If anyone thinks that by fouling our coastal waters there is going to be one bit of relief, even years down the road to our gas prices, you can forget it. ( I discovered the only way I can read the comments is by choosing the "Select All" in the Edit function of my browser).

main field page

Comments are working, but the main Field page needs major help - your page background calls have to have gotten trashed somehow black background for black text anywhere there isn't a table.

Confused McCain

Regarding McCain's energy policy, and the fact that he doesn't even really know what his own energy policy is, and does not even understand the concept of cap and trade, Hilzoy has an interesting story on his ability to flub even the most basic facts, and to get them wrong again and again (and the fact that the MSM does not cover this at all):

I love her quote on McCain's not understanding the basic concept of the economic stimulus package:
Saying that we need to "stop the spending" before passing a stimulus package is like saying: "Sure, we need to deal with the flooding in your basement. But let's finish filling it up with water first."

Re: comments

Do you use Firefox, Bill? I had the same problem until I downloaded the new Mozilla Firefox 3.0

Tech Glitch Now Fixed

Thanks for alerting us of the "black screen" problem. It was specific to certain kinds of browsers. The site has now been fixed to correct it. If any other tech problems arise, please email them to me - - and to David Briones - Thanks.

Heaps of thanks to David and his team

Thanks David and tech team for getting the new Field up and happening. Our new home is so much better and we get to 'meet' the techies (sort of) and communicate with them. Excellent!


Motivation to cut personal carbon emissions

I just had an image of how a President Obama might be able to inspire personal responsibility in terms of carbon emissions. You know how there are always these goals on the Obama website (1 million contributors, 1 million phone calls, and so on), well imagine a reinvigorated website that included a publicized goal for Carbon emissions reductions, and individuals could somehow log their own energy saving actions. It would be even better if you could claim tax credit for them also. But contributing to the goal would be incentive in itself. This is just one way in which I could see an Obama presidency using its organized network for good.

McCain's "strategery"

Why do I keep thinking that McCain is purposely screwing up every day of the week so that when he announces a "medical problem" in August, the new Republican nominee (Bloomberg?) will energize the base in the way of "Thank God we don't have to vote for the old guy." Are we really going to be this lucky and get this bad of a candidate to compete against? McCain seems worse than Obama's opponent in Illinois in 2006 - Alan Keyes.

Brendan @ 2:06 am

I'd recommend that you reread my posts and consider the basic laws of supply and demand. I'd also add that I haven't seen a single "breathless" post on this thread about the "plausibility of drilling our way out of this nightmare." Every single post seems to be in agreement that offshore drilling is a bad idea. Furthermore, I never said that energy independence would confer savings at the pump (it might, but not directly). The economic benefit of energy independence comes from not having to continue an interventionist Middle East foreign policy (ending the Iraq War, for example, saves the U.S. $120 billion annually). I'm sure you will agree that those funds could be put to better use. In addition, while I don't have the exact figures at my fingertips, I'd suspect that we spend several billion dollars more in maintaining military bases and in expending foreign aid in the region. Finally, energy independence would likely offset the human costs we are suffering as a nation as a result of our militaristic foreign policy. In terms of your contention that new supplies of oil will not affect the going-market world price, I respectfully disagree. In a free market, an increase in supply leads to a decrease in price. Drilling offshore may be a bad idea because there is a significant lag time before oil supply truly increases, but that is a separate point entirely. Some are also contending that the world's demand for oil will continue to increase. While this may be true (I have no idea if it will be the case or not), the cost to consumers will always be lower in the free market scenario where oil supply is higher (even if the future going-market price is higher than it is today, it would still not be as high as it would have been in the lower-supply scenario). In addition, new oil discoveries (from offshore drilling) could improve the U.S. trade deficit (we'd be importing less oil), leading to a stronger dollar and lower oil prices for American consumers. All this being said, I still oppose the idea of drilling offshore. With regard to the idea of clean coal, I'd refer you to the Charlie Rose interview with Brian Schweitzer. I think it is a better stopgap measure in the interim while we pursue newer, cleaner energy practices and technologies.

I might add some

I might add some respectfully-submitted constructive criticism to this thread. I don't know anyone here who is pro-pollution or pro-carbon-emissions or anti-environment. Posts taking the moral highground and preaching to the rest of us as if we were Big Oil shills are unhelpful and condescending. I don't think they have any place in this discussion.

The reality of the situation is that while efficiency, conservation, carbon-neutrality and clean technology are all admirable goals, they will not in the short-run allow the U.S. to address its energy issues. If you don't believe me, look at the energy consumption statistics I posted upthread.

Over 80% of our energy usage comes from dirty sources. It would be great to wave a magic wand and make our problems disappear, but we have to be realistic and mindful of the impact on the nation's economy (an economy that appears to be sputtering right now). Even the most practicable conservation measures would not come anywhere close to cutting our overall consumption by a third.

So the question remains ... what do we do in the short-run?

While wind farms might help on the margin, they don't get us anywhere near the point of replacing 80% of our energy consumption.  Nor do solar panels. That's why we're having discussions about clean coal. In the near-term, we're stuck trying to find the lesser of all evils. I, for one, am trying to have this conversation while being grounded with the facts. If I were starting Utopia, the words "coal" and "oil" and "nuclear" would never enter my lexicon.


I've lived on the north coast of California all my life and I can hardly believe we're having this off shore drilling fight all over again. It's not just oil spills from the rigs. It's toxins churned up in the act of drilling that affect commercial and sport fishing which is a struggling industry as it is. And when it comes to oil spills, I hope someone else remembers that Exxon is STILL fighting in court to avoid paying off Alaskans for the Exxon Valdez disaster that happened DECADES ago!!!

And why aren't the OilCorps building refineries?

This is another pander

to people fed up with gas prices.

I mean, sure, let's do some offshore drilling here in FL. What could go wrong? It's not like we have freaking hurricanes every single year that could destroy them and cause huge environmental damage or anything. Sorry, I can't see that playing really well down here. And if this takes out Crist and Martinez along with McCain, so much the better.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Anyone care to take a guess as to which U.S. president presided over the greatest expansion in energy consumption? Some might take this to be a proxy for poor energy conservation policies. A. George W. Bush B. Ronald Reagan C. Jimmy Carter D. Bill Clinton The answer might surprise and disappoint you. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S energy consumption (in quadrillions of BTU) grew as follows under the respective presidents. A. George W. Bush +0.9 (2000-2006) B. Ronald Reagan +4.7 (1980-1988) C. Jimmy Carter +2.1 (1976-1980) D. Bill Clinton +13.0 (1992-2000) History will undoubtedly and justifiably excoriate Dubya. I hope historians take a long, hard look at Bill Clinton as well.


OT Fun Fact: This post already has more comments than the last 17 posts combined over at the Ex-Field. Can anyone dispute who was drawing the crowds?

You go Vik

I agree with your reality based approach and I think Obama would agree. I don't think it's wise to just dismiss this idea out of hand. You say, fine, let's talk about it. What are the pros and cons and how does it fit in to the master plan? How does it weigh against other alternatives? This is how he seems to approach most problems and it is exactly what we need right now. When you just dismiss your opposistion's approach without consideration, it leaves them frustrated and digging their heels in. Sound familiar? We've got to get past this gridlock we're in on so many issues. Hasn't there been some talk about changing some the structure surrounding oil trading that has allowed speculators to drive up the price?

Wary of term "Clean Coal..."

Vik M.

I was with you up to the "Clean Coal" idea.

I agree with you that our efforts must be steeped in reality, and certainly do not want to sound preachy, moral high groundish, etc..

I highly recommend the link below for an excellent summary of the recently proposed Climate Security Act vs. Obama's proposals vs. McCain's proposals. It is quite informative and encouraging with regard to Obama. It's entitled Capitol Climate Change. (From June 23rd edition of The Nation, by Mark Hertsgaard.)

As for coal...

I am not an expert and truly need to do more research on this topic, but I am related to a director of environmental health and another who is quite experienced in the energy industry and they both concur that "coal cannot be cleaned." Nor is it a short term stop gap based on a number of findings...

"It has been estimated that it will be 2020 to 2025 before any commercial-scale clean coal power stations (coal-burning power stations with carbon capture and sequestration) are commercially viable and widely adopted... Also while it is possible to remove most of the sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate (PM) emissions from the coal-burning process, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and radionuclides will be more difficult to address.

Technologies do exist to capture and store CO2, but they have not been made available on a large-scale commercial basis due to the high economic costs. For this reason renewable energy sources or nuclear power may be a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative...

The continuing construction of coal-powered plants (whether or not they use carbon sequestration techniques) encourages unsustainable mining practices for coal, which can strip away mountains, hillsides, and natural areas. They also point out that there can be a large amount of energy required and pollution emitted in transporting the coal to the power plants."

-- taken from

Like I said, I am no expert and I do understand that we are not looking at an overnight solution from any one source. I would just beware of the whole "Clean Coal" campaign.

For more reading on this topic I recommend reviews of studies by James Hansen of NASA. :

U.S. Moving Toward Ban on New Coal-Fired Power Plants
Lester R. Brown, February 14, 2008

"...Utilities have argued that carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal plant smokestacks could be captured and stored underground, thus helping keep hope for the industry alive. But on January 30, 2008, the Bush administration announced that it was pulling the plug on a joint project with 13 utilities and coal companies to build a demonstration coal-fired power plant in Illinois with underground carbon sequestration because of massive cost overruns. The original cost of $950 million when the project was announced in 2003 had climbed beyond $1.5 billion by early 2008, with further rises in prospect. The cancellation effectively moves the date for any coal plants with carbon sequestration so far into the future that this technology has little immediate relevance."

price caps

Tara - here is a link to an article discussing the proposed price caps:

Associated Press Report

Here is an article from the AP, commenting on Bush's remarks toward Congress today.


Interesting that there is both a Congressional AND an executive order against off-shore drilling - not sure which takes priority in terms of checks and balances, but the article alludes to the fact that Bush could merely reverse his father's executive order but chose to go through Congress instead, I gather, primarily to pin the blame on the Democrats for the high gas prices. This seems to be the Republican tactic rather than really trying to allow offshore drilling.

drilling as a solution

This is a blatant attempt to appeal to low information voters who are more concerned with the price of gasoline than with the environment. There are people - I have had conversations with some - who are in favor of off shore drilling and drilling in ANWR or anyplace else as long as they think they will pay less at the pump. It is obviously very short term, self-centered thinking, but it is out there. The Republicans have given up on the votes of logical people and are desperately reaching out to the only base they have left. Anyone who, during this time of peak oil and environmental crisis, champions drilling our way out of this mess is either not playing with a full deck or is being deliberately deceitful. I hope they get called on it big time.

Lisa @ 1:27 p.m.

I am no expert on clean coal, but I would highly recommend searching YouTube for Charlie Rose's interview of Brian Schweitzer, Montana's governor. Schweitzer's background is in mineral science, I believe, and he feels strongly that coal can be mined sustainably (and in contrast to the typical practices in places like West Virginia). Ecological preservation is a big issue in Montana, and I'd have troubling believing that Schweitzer would be on political safe ground by advocating for dirty, unsustainable coal mining. I am open and enthusiastic to other *greener* alternatives, but I have not yet seen a single practicable alternative solution raised in a single comment on this thread. Until someone provides a truly-viable alternative, as opposed to merely finding fault with someone else's, I will continue to believe that coal is the lesser of all evils.

I just read The Nation

I just read The Nation article posted upthread by Lisa and it alludes to solar thermal as a viable energy source that could provide 100% of U.S. needs. Does anyone know anything about solar thermal? Is it practicable? Is it cost-competitive with $4-5 per gallon gas?

Hmmmm, Vik M

My guess is that expansion of energy consumption is directly linked to economic growth. That might help explain why energy consumption expanded by a significant percentage under Clinton because it was needed to fuel the economic expansion of the 1990s. But the Bush economic expansion has not demanded big increases in energy consumption because there wasn't much of an expansion going on, not because Bush had any kind of policy that emphasize conservation or some such thing.

where's the bounce

I gotta laugh at Jake Tapper's piece yesterday asking "where's the bounce" for Obama now that the primary is over and the Dem's are emphasizing unity. I do not recall Jake writing several months what to me is a more interesting story, "Where's the McCain bounce?" during the primaries? Obama and Hillary were beating each other up everyday while McCain skated around to "forgotten places" and did his "biography tour" and other feel-good stuff but he never got a bounce during what should have been his best stretch of unemcumbered campaigning. That, I think, was tell-tale.

"I have had conversations

"I have had conversations with some - who are in favor of off shore drilling and drilling in ANWAR or anyplace else as long as they think they will pay less at the pump. It is obviously very short term, self-centered thinking, but it is out there."

It should be pointed out to these people that any new drilling is not going to have an impact on oil production for several years.

solar thermal

Vik - From what I've read solar thermal is used to generate electricity and could be cost effective, given the price of oil and natural gas for that purpose. I'm not sure it could be used as a gasoline substitute unless we had vehicles that were totally run from electricity.

As it relates to FL...

Here is one more poll today showing Obama up in FL. FL-Pres June 18 ARG Obama (D) 49%, McCain (R) 44% Does anyone know how ARG's record is on these GE polls as opposed to the primary ones? Is their reputation equally as bad? It'd be good to know on a going forward basis.

when are we going to learn

when are we going to learn what the eff happened over at ruralvotes?

Large Solar Generators in Australia and Nevada

Vik M
I heard a Commonwealth Club talk by Harry Reid today on NPR and he thinks that we could use a part of the old nuclear proving grounds in Nevada to construct a field of Solar panels that could provide all the electricity needed for the country. He is basing his idea on a large Solar generation project in Australia. Just to toss in an alternative. I understood from what he said that a lot of R&D would be required before this could be completed and on line.

Also what do you think of massive wind farms on the plains or off the coasts.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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