Stories by David Jenkins

David Jenkins is Vice President for Government and Political Affairs for Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Bachmann’s Empty EPA Trash-Talk

September 6th, 2011 at 7:00 am 18 Comments

On a recent campaign stop in Florida, order Michele Bachmann waded into a political swamp by saying that she would drill in the Everglades if that “is where the energy is.” While she gave a cursory nod to drilling responsibly, here it’s clear she had no clue about the environmental or political consequences of what she was proposing.


Humans Are Making it Hotter

August 2nd, 2011 at 12:34 am 42 Comments

Partisanship in Washington has been extreme lately. So has the weather. Might there be a connection? It certainly looks that way.

Let’s talk about heat. As anyone living in Washington—or in about three-fourths of the nation for that matter—has surely noticed, this summer has been unusually hot. In fact, July’s heat was unrivaled in 140 years of Washington, D.C. weather record-keeping.


There is No Light Bulb “Ban”

July 11th, 2011 at 7:55 am 129 Comments

As has been written about here before, help a group of GOP lawmakers, viagra sale including Joe Barton (TX) and Michele Bachmann (MN), have stirred up—along with their talk radio and Fox News cohorts—public concern over what they say is a looming “ban” on incandescent light bulbs.

There is no looming ban or phase out of incandescent bulbs. The entire hullabaloo is based on a fictitious claim manufactured by Barton.

All major lighting manufacturers, including Philips, Sylvania and GE, currently produce and sell incandescent light bulbs that meet or exceed the new standards (with no compromise in functionality). In fact, the lighting industry helped craft the 2007 legislation with the full understanding that they could produce incandescent bulbs that meet them.

Unfortunately, these easy-to-prove facts have not prevented Barton, Bachmann and others from pushing legislation to scuttle the new standards. Barton’s legislation, dubbed “The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act” (H.R. 2417), is scheduled for a floor vote in the House of Representatives this evening.

The bulb ban rhetoric is a deliberate misrepresentation of a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA) that sets efficiency standards for general-purpose screw-in incandescent light bulbs. The new standards—for what the industry calls “medium screw-based bulbs”—are set to take effect in January.

Major lighting manufacturers helped draft the new standards so that they could avoid a patchwork of state standards. They are fighting the repeal proposal because it threatens to strand the investments they have made to retool and produce lighting products that meet the standards.

In addition to claiming that the incandescent bulb is being banned and that we are all going to be forced to use compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), Barton is also saying that bulbs meeting the new standards are cost prohibitive.

Again, not true. A Philips incandescent bulb that meets the new standards currently sells for $1.49, lasts about 50 percent longer than older incandescent bulbs, and saves consumers more than $3.00 in energy expenditures. For four bucks you can buy an incandescent that lasts 3000 hours and nets you more than $10 in energy savings.

If you want to save even more energy you can buy CFL or LED bulbs. While LEDs cost more, the energy savings are about $150 per bulb and they last so long you might want to bequeath them to your children.

Barton’s irresponsible and embarrassing legislation would accomplish nothing good. It would provide consumers with inferior products that burn out faster and result in higher energy bills. It would threaten the lighting industry’s investment dollars. It would waste energy and result in more pollution.

And for what, a fanciful narrative about how the big bad government is taking away our lighting choices?

The actual genesis of this narrative was last year’s battle over who would chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton, who wanted a waiver to serve another term as chairman, decided to misrepresent the lighting standards in an attack on Fred Upton, his opponent, for helping craft them. Barton passed this accusation along to his pals on talk radio and the rest is history.

The total lunacy of Barton’s legislation caused one bright bulb in the GOP caucus, Roscoe Bartlett (Md) to fire off a Dear Colleague letter urging other members to oppose the bill and pointing out in bold type “There is NO BAN on incandescent bulbs to repeal.

Legislation establishing common-sense efficiency standards for energy-using equipment has traditionally enjoyed overwhelming support from conservatives. The first such legislation was signed into law 25 years ago by President Ronald Reagan. Thanks to the legislation enacted by Reagan and similar laws signed by his successors, Americans are saving billions of dollars on their utility bills.

Waste is not conservative, and voting to pass Barton’s whacky BULB Act, which is based on a totally fictitious premise, would be indefensible.

Barton has already managed to bully Upton into pulling a Pawlenty and reversing course. It will be interesting to see how many other Republicans are willing to suspend reality and venture into Barton’s fantasyland.

Extreme Weather: A Climate Change Wake Up Call?

May 31st, 2011 at 9:50 pm 18 Comments

Bill McKibben, cure founder of the global climate campaign, health recently wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post titled A link between climate change and Joplin tornadoes? Never!

Using rather effective sarcasm, McKibben makes the case that the spate of recent extreme weather events should be a wake-up call on the urgency of addressing climate change. He correctly points out that climate scientists have been predicting for years that carbon loading in our atmosphere will create droughts, floods and other extreme weather events.

Does that scientific concurrence absolutely prove cause and effect? No, but it does distinguish McKibben’s hysterics from those of climate deniers who point to every cold snap or snowstorm as evidence that global warming is a hoax.

Because “climate” represents long-term trends, and day-to-day weather relies on multiple variables, it is wrong to say that any one weather event or abnormal season either proves or disproves climate change. However, weather trends that are demonstrated over time, and that track with other well-documented scientific evidence, should indeed be a wake-up call. We ignore them at our own peril.

The more important question that McKibben’s op-ed begs is: How much evidence will it take to convince the American public and its elected representatives that action on climate change is warranted?

It is hard to imagine that most Americans who have been watching news reports over the past few months of numerous extreme weather events—the unusually powerful tornadoes wreaking havoc across much of the South and Midwest, the record-breaking flooding along the Mississippi River, the extreme droughts in the Southwest, and the record snowfalls in the Midwest and Northeast—have not begun to suspect that something is amiss and that climate change may be responsible.

The problem is that action to address climate change not only requires the belief that it is happening; it also requires the belief that we can do something about it. This is where the climate change deniers—along with some narrowly focused folks in the oil and coal industries—do their most damage.

As the deniers’ assertion that climate change is a hoax begins to falter under the weight of reality, they have begun to pivot to the argument that climate change is a natural occurrence that mankind cannot alter, only adapt to. It is an argument designed to lull people into a state of complacency—similar to the tactics totalitarian regimes use to lull their subjects into passivity and government dependency.

Perhaps President Reagan recognized such tactics when he rejected the arguments of those who were trying to forestall action to address another climate problem, ozone depletion. He consulted with climate scientists, looked honestly at the evidence, accepted mankind’s role, and took prudent action to solve the problem.

Reagan faced ozone depletion with the same clear-eyed realism that he faced the threats posed by the Soviet Union and communism.

In an interview last year, Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz recalled that the President believed action on ozone depletion was necessary because he recognized the huge potential for damage. Shultz noted that Reagan viewed acting on the best available science in the same light as taking out an insurance policy.

Reagan’s leadership resulted in the Montreal Protocol Treaty, which began the phase out of chlorofluorocarbons.  Today the threat from ozone depletion is greatly diminished and our stratospheric ozone layer is healing.

Reagan once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

With today’s climate threat, let’s hope that like Reagan, we are wise enough to face the facts honestly—and courageous enough to accept our responsibility to act.

Can the GOP Break Its Oil Addiction?

April 29th, 2011 at 11:44 pm 50 Comments

The problem with intellectual inconsistency is that it usually comes back to bite you. The House Republican leadership is getting a painful lesson in this regard because of their longstanding support for subsidizing the oil industry.

This largess—billions of dollars in special tax breaks and subsidies—has suddenly become a liability for a party that has made fiscal responsibility the centerpiece of its policy agenda.

The first sign of trouble came courtesy of a recent ABC news interview with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Put on the spot, Boehner had trouble defending the oil subsidies saying “I don’t think the big oil companies need to have the oil depletion allowances…We need to control spending…And they ought to be paying their fair share.”

It was a good response for someone properly focused on getting spending under control. Unfortunately, the Speaker started backtracking from the statement as soon as he remembered that the President and other Democrats support ending these subsidies.

As Boehner was backtracking and Republicans were circling the wagons in defense of oil subsidies, Exxon and Shell reported huge quarterly profits that were up over 60 percent from the same period last year. Exxon reported $10.6 billion in profits for the quarter and Shell reported $8.78 billion.

In light of those profits, the GOP mantra that removing the subsidies and special breaks would result in a higher price at the pump sounds more like the utterings of a blackmail victim than it does lawmakers focused on sound public policy.

As Boehner and company were probably hoping the issue would go away, news surfaced that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) had expressed support for ending oil subsidies at a recent town hall meeting. When asked about oil industry tax breaks Ryan said:

We’re talking about reforming the safety net, the welfare system. We also want to get rid of corporate welfare. And corporate welfare goes to agribusiness companies, to energy companies, financial services companies. So we propose to repeal all of that.

It will be interesting to see if Republicans can be persuaded to go along with such a proposal—particularly in light of the campaign cash oil interests ply them with and the insistence by libertarian radicals like Grover Norquist that ending any tax break, regardless if it has outlived its original purpose, amounts to a tax increase.

For anyone who is truly in favor of the free market and fiscal responsibility, special corporate tax breaks and subsidies should not be the norm, nor should they be championed as the functional equivalent of lower across the board tax rates.

Special corporate subsidies and tax breaks, to the extent that they are used at all, should be temporary and targeted towards a very specific policy goal that is in the nation’s long-term interest—such as giving breaks to jumpstart renewable energy and new technologies, or encourage energy conservation.

If Republicans can garner the courage to make a clean break from their habit of subsidizing oil companies, they will not only strike a blow for intellectual consistency, but they will be helping our nation to break its oil addiction and give cleaner, more domestically available, alternative fuels a fair chance to compete in the market place.

If not, its special interest driven contortions will repel voters—just as they did in 2006.

The Spill Washington Forgot

April 21st, 2011 at 11:23 pm 10 Comments

After the 1969 Santa Barbara well blowout that smeared 100, no rx 000 barrels of oil along California’s picturesque central coast, order the resulting public outrage helped launch the modern movement that secured, with bipartisan support, environmental protection laws.

After the Exxon Valdez barreled into Bligh Reef and spilled more than 11 million gallons of crude into the pristine, wildlife-rich, waters and shorelines of Alaska’s Prince William Sound, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requiring use of double hulled tankers and setting liability limits. The spill also led to Congressional and Presidential moratoriums on drilling offshore along most of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf.

After the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout that spewed 260 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and made the two earlier disasters seem like mere dribbles in comparison, virtually nothing has changed.

President Obama did a few things. He split up and renamed the Minerals Management Service, instituted a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling, and established a bipartisan commission that spotlighted what co-chairman and former EPA Administrator Bill Reilly called a “culture of complacency” at all of the key corporate players at Deepwater Horizon– BP, Transocean, and Halliburton.

However, Congress has been unable to agree on strengthening safety requirements, Republicans and oil state Democrats have been clamoring for fewer restrictions on drilling, and polling shows that the American public has pretty much shrugged off the spill over concerns about rising gas prices.

Obama appears to have bowed to political pressure by ending the temporary moratorium and stepping up the pace of issuing drilling permits. Some, if not all, of the new permits have been issued to companies whose spill prevention plans are dated 2009; the same pre-blowout plans that have been widely ridiculed for exaggerating spill response capabilities and borrowing liberally from Arctic spill response plans. Spot any walruses lounging on Mississippi beaches lately?

If that weren’t enough to curl your toes, Transocean, the incompetent owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig, recently announced that it is awarding its top executives bonuses for achieving the “best year in safety.” The company filing about the bonuses stated: “Notwithstanding the tragic loss of life in the Gulf of Mexico, we achieved an exemplary statistical safety record.”

If an exploding rig is “exemplary,” we would be curious to know what Transocean regards as mediocre.

It seems as if the lesson learned from the worst oil spill in U.S. history is throw caution to the wind and don’t worry about the consequences.

Meanwhile, alarming numbers of dead dolphins and sea turtles are washing up along the Gulf Coast. Researchers fear that the long-term ecological damage from the spill may be far greater than previously thought.

As disturbing as all of this is, perhaps the most troubling is the strong push by the Alaska congressional delegation and numerous Western or Gulf state Republicans to rush drilling in the remote waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska’s northern coast—without any reliable indication whatsoever that a spill in these arctic waters could be effectively responded to.

These are among the world’s most pristine and productive ocean areas. They support vital populations of marine mammals, including seals, walruses, and whales. The Chukchi is home to roughly half of America’s polar bear population. Millions of seabirds migrate to these food-rich waters each year.

A recent memorandum produced by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), projects that a blowout in these icy waters would spill approximately 61,000 barrels a day—similar to the Gulf spill. That is where the similarities end.

The spill response assets available in the Gulf were as massive as they were inadequate.

The Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are located more than 900 miles from the nearest U.S. Coast Guard base, there are only a few small airstrips, winter response in subzero darkness would be impossible, ice cover most of the year would hinder containment and cleanup, and bad weather could ground workers for weeks any time of the year.

The report issued by the Gulf oil spill commission noted “serious concerns about Arctic oil-spill response, containment, and search and rescue,” and recommended that before the federal government issues any drilling permits, it must ensure that oil spill containment and response capabilities have been “satisfactorily demonstrated in the Arctic.” That is a pretty high bar.

The likelihood that oil spill clean-up can be successfully demonstrated in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas under all likely weather and sea conditions is highly unlikely, as is the prospect that Congress will provide the Coast Guard the necessary resources to station and maintain an appropriate amount of response equipment nearby.

But heck, who needs spill response capability when our elected leaders are willing to so completely throw caution to the wind in their insatiable quest for every last drop of domestic oil. Apparently, no cost is too great.

Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, wrote:

Prudence is not only the first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director and regulator, the standard of them all.

As we sit here a year after the nation’s worst oil spill, prudence is sadly absent from those charged with overseeing oil drilling and managing America’s marine waters, as are many other virtues—political and moral.

Rand’s Rant Against Green Bulbs

April 15th, 2011 at 1:47 pm 43 Comments

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee got a dose of libertarian wackiness at a recent mark-up hearing that was strikingly reminiscent of the bizarre tirades that Glenn Beck doled out daily on his now defunct television show.

The ENR Committee was voting on S. 398, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Jeff Bingaman (NM) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) to strengthen energy efficiency standards for appliances and some other consumer products. This legislation, which has strong industry support and sailed through the committee last year, was thought to be non-controversial.

This year is different. Tea Party favorite Rand Paul happens to be on the committee.

Paul objected to the legislation, and speaking of the efficiency standards in the legislation he said, “I think that to be consistent with a free society, we should make them voluntary.”

Paul offered an amendment to remove the government’s authority to enforce the standards. Then, Paul escorted his colleagues into the Twilight Zone.

According to an account in Energy & Environment Daily, Paul launched into a sermon about Ayn Rand’s 1937 novel Anthem, which depicts a dark future where the concept of individuality has fallen prey to the evils of collectivism and socialism.

Paul described a scene from the novel in which the protagonist, called Equality 7-2521, discovers the incandescent light bulb. Paul recounts that Equality 7-2521 naively thinks that electricity and the brilliance of electric light would be an advantage for society. But when he takes the light bulb to the society’s elders, they crush it “beneath the boot heel of the collective.”

Paul then instructed his fellow senators that in the novel, “the collective has no place, basically, for individual choice,” and adds, “Now, I’m not suggesting that this collective is against electricity, per say, or individualism … but I am suggesting that we’re against choice.”

How long will it be before Paul is bringing blackboards into the Senate ENR hearing room and is drawing diagrams purporting to show that Senators Murkowski and Bingaman are agents of a Middle Eastern caliphate plotting to stop America from using its coal?

At least two of Paul’s fellow Republican Senators were belting down his tea. After Paul’s amendment failed, Mike Lee (UT), another tea party fave, and John Barrasso (WY) joined Paul in voting against the bill.

Assertions that efficiency standards restrict consumer choice are simply wrong. Extreme arguments that efficiency standards are the agenda of a supposed “collective” that seeks to impose totalitarian rule on America are the product of a cultish, delusional ideology that fails to connect to the real world.

Paul’s logic would seem to oppose virtually any mandatory standards. I suppose automobile manufacturers should never have been required to install seatbelts, asbestos should still be allowed for building insulation, and we should have wasteful high flow toilets even in the arid West where water is scarce.

In 1974, Governor Ronald Reagan signed into law the Warren-Alquist Act establishing the California Energy Commission and authorizing the commission to set appliance efficiency standards. Then on March 17, 1987, President Reagan established strong federal standards by signing the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act into law.

We have heard consumer choice arguments for years in rants by Rush Limbaugh and others against even the most modest increase in automobile fuel efficiency standards. Does anyone today really believe that consumer choice has been hurt by having these standards? It actually cuts the other way. Without these standards, consumers would not have available the many fuel-efficient vehicle options from which they can choose today.

Rather than restricting consumer choices, standards prompt manufacturers to invest in technology R&D that results in a range of better products. Manufacturers simply don’t behave like deer caught in the headlights, as some would have us believe. Prompted by standards, they innovate.

For example, the assertion that incandescent lighting standards will result in the Easy Bake Oven children’s toy being taken off the market is a false scare story. The toy manufacturer is coming out with a better product — an Easy Bake Oven with a built-in heating element that is more efficient than a 100-watt incandescent light bulb, which makes for a more efficient toy and one that is more convenient for parents and children (no light bulb to burn out and replace every 1,000 hours.)

What Senator Paul’s hand-wringing about the “collective” (and perhaps black helicopters) ignores is that we are not islands unto ourselves. Our energy choices have impacts on others, and on society as a whole.

Using energy wastefully increases energy demand, which in turn requires construction of power plants whose costs show up in all our energy bills. Using energy wastefully results in environmental impacts that harm public health and the environment, and using energy wastefully hastens an inevitable decline in the availability of fossils fuels.

There is nothing conservative or prudent about waste. Nor is there anything conservative or prudent about the notion that we do not need efficiency standards to help secure our energy future.

Radical libertarians, like Senator Paul, who want to champion individuality above all else, either possess utopian ignorance regarding the fallibility of man, or have taken   short-sighted, live-for-today selfishness to its liberal extreme.

Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, once wrote: “Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit.” His American protégé, Russell Kirk instructed that “Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility.”

If you happen to stumble upon a blackboard while walking the halls of Congress, I suggest you erase the conspiracy diagram and replace it with these wise words, or this, also from Kirk:

To check centralization and usurping of power … we require a new laissez-faire. The old laissez-faire was founded upon a misapprehension of human nature, an exultation of individuality (in private character often a virtue) to the condition of a political dogma, which destroyed the spirit of community and reduced men to so many equipollent atoms of humanity, without sense of brotherhood or purpose.

If Congress would heed the rational conservatism of Burke and Kirk, and ignore the ranting of the radical libertarian fringe, I’m sure a lot of American individuals would breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Don’t Bank Our Future on Oil We May Not Have

April 5th, 2011 at 8:02 am 13 Comments

Over the weekend, salve I noticed that an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily took me to task for citing “proven” oil reserves in my FrumForum post, The GOP’s Oil Drilling Pipe Dream.

The author, an economics professor at George Mason University (GMU) named Donald Boudreaux, makes the case that government estimates of “proven” or “proved” reserves are irrelevant because the estimates of “unproven” reserves are so much higher.

Different agencies and groups have slightly varying definitions of “proved” reserves, but the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sums it up nicely:

Proved reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with a high degree of confidence to be commercially recoverable from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions.

Estimates of “unproven” reserves mostly refer to “undiscovered, technically recoverable oil.” In other words, oil that geologists estimate might be in the ground and recoverable using existing or reasonably foreseeable technology. Such estimates are intriguing, but too speculative to take to the bank. They do not take into account the quality of the oil that might be there or the economic profitability of production.

Such numbers can change as we learn more. For example, while the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has dramatically increased its mean estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation from 151 million barrels to 3.65 billion barrels, the same agency recently revised comparable estimates for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) downward from 10.6 billion barrels to 896 million barrels—roughly 10 percent of its 2002 estimate.

Considering that the U.S. currently consumes roughly 7 billion barrels of oil per year, the notion that we can bank our energy future on unproven reserve estimates represents little more than an imprudent roll of the dice.

Then, of course, there is economics. A significant fraction of undiscovered oil reserves, assuming that they really exist, are in remote locations and consist of heavy oil, both of which are not profitable to produce if prices are low. How high does the price of a barrel of oil need to be before this oil could be economically produced? Is it $100 per barrel? $150 per barrel? We are not talking about cheap or easy oil.

Cheap and easy oil, to the extent that it remains, is mostly located outside of the United States.

Anyone who claims that unproven reserves are the answer to high gas prices is either uninformed or trying to hoodwink the public.

Mr. Bourdreaux, echoing a common refrain of petro-peddlers like Sarah Palin and Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), contends that government restrictions are the only thing preventing our nation from producing all of the oil we could ever need.

It is a claim driven far more by special interests and political agendas than by anything approximating reality.

Unproven reserves are just that, unproven.

While the amount of proven reserves will fluctuate based on the price of oil, new discoveries, and technological advancements, the current proven reserves estimates remain the most prudent guide for making decisions about our energy future—along with the knowledge that oil is a finite resource.

In addition to being more certain, proven reserve numbers exist for all of the major oil producing countries.  We can see how we compare with other nations and better assess our economic and strategic vulnerabilities. That is not the case for unproven reserves.

In making policy decisions, we must evaluate  the risks of perpetuating dependence on oil and exposing our economy and security to price spikes and supply uncertainties caused by events over which we have little control.

Mr. Bourdreaux teaches at GMU, whose team nickname is the Patriots. I think that true patriotism requires us to pin our country’s energy future on something more reliable than unproven reserves.

The GOP’s Oil Drilling Pipe Dream

March 15th, 2011 at 7:35 am 41 Comments

Here we go again. Every time gasoline prices spike, order no matter the reason, order Republican leaders and talk radio’s libertarian elite reach for the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) latest talking points and crank up the “drill, baby, drill” rhetoric.

The current uptick in the price at the pump is not actually due to a supply crunch. It is due to market speculation that current turmoil in the Middle East will spread and lead to supply problems.

The notion that the U.S., which sits atop less than 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, can drill enough oil to drive down prices if the flow is interrupted from a region with 64 percent of the world’s reserves is a pipedream.

Over the past week a steady stream of Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (KY), House Speaker John Boehner, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI), have taken to the airwaves to complain that the Administration’s cautious approach to domestic oil drilling has caused this problem.

They are calling on the Administration to tap our nation’s “vast” oil reserves. Vast?

Upton even went so far as to say that high energy prices caused the recession and that the Administration’s cautious approach to domestic drilling will lead to a 1970s style oil crisis.

They all neglect to mention that the U.S. is already disproportionately depleting its scant 3 percent reserves to produce 8 percent of current global production. To get that 8 percent we currently have over 530,000 active wells. Saudi Arabia, by comparison, pulls out more oil with roughly 1,500 wells.

The map below depicts the real problem by sizing countries based on the amount of proven oil reserves they contain.

The GOP’s real energy crisis is one of focus. Republican leaders are focusing their energy on keeping America overly dependent on a resource that is far more plentiful outside our own borders. They largely dismiss the strategy of reducing demand and seem content to have us suck our own limited oil reserves dry as quickly as possible. It is a phony solution that they think will play well politically.

Peddling geologic ignorance may score some points with voters who don’t know any better, but it won’t bring the promised relief at the pump.

Their energy would be better focused on real solutions, such as diversifying our fuel choices, making automobiles go further on a gallon of gas, and finding other innovative ways to use less oil.

Of course it is difficult to offer real solutions when politics trumps reality.

The latest political sleight of hand by GOP leaders is to connect the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants with the spike in gas prices.

Taking his cues from Upton, who is trying to pass his legislation to block EPA, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) said:

If the White House has its way — and the EPA imposes a backdoor national energy tax — gas prices will only go higher.

Someone might want to inform the Speaker that the gasoline Americans buy at the pump is made from oil, not coal.

The GOP’s Dim Bulb Bill

March 10th, 2011 at 12:47 am 54 Comments

This week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will have a hearing on Senator Mike Enzi’s “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, rx ” which has also been introduced in the House by Joe Barton (R-TX) along with a similar measure by Michele Bachmann. The legislation seeks to repeal a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act that sets energy efficiency requirements for light bulbs.

Proponents of this assault on energy efficiency claim that the 2007 legislation bans incandescent light bulbs and that their legislation strikes a blow for freedom by protecting consumer choice in lighting.

Don’t be surprised if Glenn Beck dedicates an upcoming blackboard diagram to the great light bulb conspiracy and asserts that the right of Americans to use inefficient lighting is actually spelled out in the U.S. Constitution.

What’s next, a resolution renaming the energy guzzling incandescent as the Freedom Bulb?

Notwithstanding the “bulb ban” rhetoric, the law does not ban incandescent lighting, or any other lighting technology for that matter. Instead, it sets energy efficiency standards for lighting, like the appliance standards in existing federal law that date back to the Reagan administration.

The 2007 law requires that starting next year general purpose 100 watt light bulbs will have to give off an equivalent amount of light (1,500 lumens) using only 72 watts of electricity. While that gives a leg up to energy sipping florescent and LED lighting, the reality is that Phillips already produces a halogen incandescent that exceeds the 2012 standard.

(Note: Senator Enzi and his cohorts can confirm this if they will just trot on over to the nearest Lowe’s or Home Depot.)

Similar requirements will take effect in 2013 and 2014 for incandescent bulbs rated for lower levels of light output. Exempt from the requirements are incandescent bulbs used for special applications – refrigerator lights, for example.

Framing the issue in terms of productivity, a conventional incandescent bulb produces about 15 lumens per watt. If the incandescent were a worker, it would be fired for poor productivity. Ninety percent of the input energy that goes into incandescent bulbs produces waste heat.

A 26-watt compact florescent bulb (CFL) will yield a similar amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent, so it’s four times as productive. Newer LED lighting, which is rapidly gaining market share despite being pricey, is even more productive. LED bulbs put out more than 100 lumens per watt.

Lighting productivity is important. We don’t buy electricity for the sake of collecting electrons. We buy electricity for the services it provides – running computers, chilling food, running appliances, and lighting our homes.

The more light you can get per dollar spent on electricity, the better off you will be economically. Not only that, CFLs and LEDs last much longer than incandescent bulbs.

President Reagan obviously thought that efficiency standards made sense. They did not offend his conservative values, nor should they. Can anyone think of anything less conservative than waste? For the same reason conservatives should oppose wasteful spending, they should also oppose wasteful energy use.

So why would anyone be against standards that result in more efficient products that save consumers money, conserve energy, and improve our environment with virtually no real sacrifice?

Of course these libertarian champions of waste who seek to save the inefficient light bulb complain that any standards are symptomatic of an overly intrusive nanny-state.

They also heap all sorts of criticism on CFLs. This is not all that relevant since the standards do not contain any mandate on technology. Odds are that LEDs will dominate the market once prices come down.

Still, it is worth pointing out that the CFL criticism is off the mark too. Typical complaints are that CFLs produce poor lighting quality, cost more, and that they contain dangerous levels of mercury. Most of these criticisms are based on older generations of CFLs. Today’s CFLs, while not perfect, simply don’t have many of the flaws their predecessors did.

As for the mercury issue, each CFL bulb contains about 5 milligrams of mercury and they do need to be disposed of properly, just like batteries, used motor oil, cell phones etc.

If mercury is the concern, then think about the mercury emitted by all the coal burned to light up those inefficient incandescent bulbs.

Popular Mechanics ran the numbers – one 75-watt incandescent is responsible for nearly four times as much mercury emissions as one 25-watt CFL over the estimated 7,500 hours that a CFL lasts. Even if all the mercury in CFLs were released into the environment, incandescents would still be responsible for more mercury emissions.

It is quite telling how little confidence the sponsors of the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act” have in American businesses to innovate and produce a product that responds to today’s energy challenges.  If anyone is trying to mandate a specific technology— and an old one at that—it is these misguided Republicans.