Energy and Environment

Commentary & Community

Biden Pledges a Transition Away from Oil

During last night's presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged to transition the U.S. economy to a totally renewable future. Later, however, he clarified that the main step his administration would take is ending subsidies for fossil fuels.

 

President Trump has long criticized Biden and Democrats for attacking fossil fuels. During the debate, he asked Biden, "“Would you close down the oil industry?” In response, Biden said, "Yes. I would transition.” Biden went on to say, "... the oil industry pollutes, significantly... [I]t has to be replaced by renewable energy over time, over time. And I’d stop giving to the oil industry, I’d stop giving them federal subsidies."

 

With many U.S. jobs tied to the oil industry in states like Texas and Pennsylvania, President Trump pounced on this statement. He pointed out his strong support of the oil industry and fossil fuel jobs. He also touted his withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. 

 

Environmentalists and Democrats are pushing for a transition away from oil and towards renewable fuels because of their concern over climate change. They say the only way to stop a disaster is to limit or end the use of fossil fuels. President Trump argues that this would damage the U.S. economy, kill jobs, and make the U.S. less competitive.

 

Do you support transitioning the U.S. economy away from the use of oil and other fossil fuels?

 

 

Renewable Energy Mandate on Nevada Ballot

The future of Nevada's energy production will be decided by the state's voters on Election Day.

 

Passage of Question 6 would enshrine in the state's constitution the requirement that 50% of Nevada's electricity must be from renewable sources by 2030. Gov. Steve Sisolak approved legislation in 2019 that would accomplish the same thing, but Question 6 would ensure that future legislators could not overturn this mandate. In 2018, voters approved a similar constitutional amendment. Under Nevada law, amendments must be approved in two consecutive elections to be added to the constitution.

 

Under Question 6, a variety of sources could qualify as renewable energy -- solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and geothermal. 

 

Backers of the amendment argue that Nevada, a state that receives abundant sunshine, should be doing more to generate electricity from renewable sources. They say that mandating more renewable energy will create jobs in that sector and help the environment. Opponents say that such a mandate will raise energy costs for consumers and reduce the reliability of electricity.

 

Do you support mandating that more energy be produced from renewable sources?

Colorado Voters to Decide on Wolf Reintroduction

Among the 11 ballot measures facing Colorado voters this year is one that could result in wolves taking up residence in the state for the first time in 7 decades.

 

If voters approve Proposition 114, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission would create a plan to reintroduce wolves on state land west of the continental divide by 2023. The proposition also establishes a fund to compensate livestock owners for any losses connected to wolves.

 

Gray wolves used to be present throughout much of the United States, including Colorado. They were viewed as nuisances by early settlers, however, and often had bounties placed on them. This resulted in wolves being eradicated from much of the U.S. The last one in Colorado was killed during the 1940s. 

 

Supporters of this initiative say that wolves help establish an ecological balance. They point to the experiences in Yellowstone National Park, where the reintroduction of wolves helped control the elk population. These supporters argue that many environmental benefits will occur once a healthy wolf population is established. Opponents, however, counter that wolves will kill both livestock and endangered species. They say that there will be conflicts between wolves and humans. 

 

The federal government has reintroduced wolves in some Rocky Mountain states, but not Colorado.

 

Do you support the reintroduction of gray wolves in Colorado?

 

 

Vice Presidential Candidates Spar over Fracking

The topic of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was a heated one during last night’s vice presidential debates.


Vice President Mike Pence accused Joe Biden of wanting to ban fracking. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, said that wasn’t true. Fracking is used by energy companies to produce oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting a highly-pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock to break it up and release oil or, more commonly, natural gas.

 

The use of fracking has been primarily responsible for the large increase in U.S. petroleum production over the past decade. It has made it much cheaper to access oil and natural gas in shale rock, leading to increased production and lower prices. However, residents in communities where fracking has occurred blame it for earthquakes, polluted water, and health problems. It is especially important in Pennsylvania, where a significant energy industry is based on fracking's use.

 

President Trump has opposed any efforts to ban fracking or curtail its use on federal land. Biden’s platform does not call for an outright ban on fracking, but does say he will stop any federal oil or gas leasing on federal land. It also supports moving away from the use of fossil fuels. Prior to being chosen as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Harris did say that she was in favor of banning fracking.

 

There is a push among Progressive Democrats to prohibit fracking. During the vice presidential debate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that fracking was bad. She has introduced legislation that would outlaw the practice.

 

Do you support banning fracking?

 

California Bans Sale of Gasoline-Powered Cars by 2035

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has set in motion a plan to end the sale of cars using internal combustion engines by 2035.

 

Under the governor’s order, the California Air Resources Board will begin developing plans to phase out the sale of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles by 2035. The sale of heavier duty vehicles that use gasoline and diesel would be banned by 2045 under this order. Only zero-emission vehicles would then be permitted to be sold in California.

 

Gov. Newsom says that this ban is needed to help combat climate change. He points to recent fires in California as illustrating the urgency of the state taking major steps to reduce carbon emissions. He also claims this will help create jobs in California and across the U.S.

 

Critics of this ban note that consumers, not government, drive markets. They say that zero-emission cars are not attractive to consumers, and that innovation by the private sector will lead to more widespread purchasing of these cars. They also contend that this order will hurt consumers who want a wider choice in vehicles.

 

Since this ban is an order by the governor, not a state law, it can be reversed by future governors.

 

Do you support a ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars?

 

Western Forest Fires Spark Climate Debate

Devastating forest fires are burning across the West, especially in California and Oregon. In the wake of the destruction left by these fires, some activists are saying that they show the need for a greater focus on climate change. Others, however, contend that poor land management practices at the state and federal level are largely responsible for larger and more intense fires.

 

Throughout the West, a thick blanket of smoke has caused air quality to be listed as "hazardous" in many areas. This smoke is coming from a series of fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states. In Oregon, 10 deaths have been linked to these fires. 

 

The number of wildfires, which burn both forests and grasslands, have been declining, but their intensity has been increasing. Some scientists link this to a warming climate, which they contend lengthens fire season and provides more time when areas are so dry they burn easily. They argue that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will lessen the effects of these fires.

 

Others, however, note that land management practices contribute significantly to how fires burn. They say that if federal and state agencies used more prescribed burns to clear out fuel on a regular basis, fires would not be as intense. Some also argue that the reduction in logging and timber thinning has led to a buildup of flammable material across the West.

 

President Trump is on a campaign swing through the West, and today he stopped to visit firefighters in California.

 

What do you think should be done to reduce the danger of wildfires?

Trump Announces Offshore Drilling Moratorium

This week, President Trump announced that the federal government was imposing a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas exploration off of the Southeastern U.S. coast.

 

The areas covered by the president’s order include the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico around Florida, as well as the Atlantic coastal areas of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Gulf of Mexico already had an oil and gas drilling moratorium in place, but that was set to expire in 2022. This order extends that moratorium for 10 years and expands it to cover the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

 

This move is a reversal from previous Trump Administration policy. The president had supported opening more offshore areas to oil and gas production. Such production is currently allowed in the western part of the Gulf of Mexico as well as parts of Alaska. In 2017, the administration announced it wanted expanded drilling, including around Florida. 

 

Supporters of this moratorium argue that it is necessary to protect the tourist industries of these areas as well as the environment. They also contend that the U.S. should be transitioning to the use of renewable energy, not fossil fuels. Opponents of placing these areas off-limits to oil and gas production contend that such energy exploration is already being done safely elsewhere, so it can be done safely here. They also note that this type of energy production would create jobs for coastal communities as well as generate significant government revenue.

 

Do you support a moratorium on oil and gas production off of the Atlantic Coast?

Biden Labels Climate Change an "Historic Crisis"

When accepting the Democratic presidential nomination this week, former Vice President Joe Biden labeled climate change an "historic crisis."

 

During his speech, Biden said:

 

History has delivered us to one of the most difficult moments America has ever faced. Four historic crises. All at the same time...The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the '60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.

 

This speech pleased environmentalists, who had been urging Biden to focus attention on climate change. They are urging the Democratic presidential nominee to make it a large issue during this year's campaign. Biden's mention of climate change as part of three other high-profile issues indicate that he will indeed be using it in an attempt to win voters.

 

Biden has released an environmental plan that focuses on low- or no-carbon energy sources as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, his plan does not go as far the Green New Deal. That program advances an ambitious plan to end the use of fossil fuels and restructure America's economy. 

 

Critics of these plans say that massive government intervention is not a wise way to address climate change. They note that such intervention will be very costly to consumers. Instead, they point to private sector development of technologies like hydraulic fracturing, which has allowed the cheaper production of natural gas. That gas has replaced significant electricity generation by coal, something that has led to a drop in U.S. carbon emissions.

 

Supporters of aggressive government action say that the problem is too big to be left to the private sector. Instead, they argue that only a large-scale federal program that changes how U.S. energy is produced will avert environmental catastrophe.

 

What do you think should be done to address climate change?

Trump Administration Moves Ahead with Arctic Refuge Oil Development

This week the Department of the Interior finalized plans to hold oil and gas lease sales in the 

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

 

ANWR is a 19 million acre wildlife refuge in Alaska that contains significant energy deposits. 

Republicans had been pushing to open up the refuge to energy leasing for decades. George W. Bush attempted to obtain congressional approval in the early 2000s, but was unable to do so. However, once Donald Trump became president and the Republicans had a congressional majority in 2017, legislation allowing such sales became law.

 

The Alaska congressional delegation and the state’s governor support energy development in ANWR. They see the potential for new jobs and energy revenue. However, there is also opposition to ANWR oil drilling in Alaska from people who think it could lead to environmental damage.

 

Supporters of opening ANWR to energy exploration point out that drilling activities will only affect a small portion of the refuge. They argue that oil and gas development can be done in an environmentally-responsible way that will impose very little disturbance on wildlife. Opponents, however, say it is improper to be drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge. They worry that such activities will harm caribou.

 

This week’s action by the Interior Department sets the stage for it to hold a sale of leases by the end of the year. 

 

Do you support oil and natural gas development in ANWR?

Rule Change Would Allow More Water from Showerheads

President Trump has been a vocal critic of federal regulations restricting how much water can flow from showerheads. Now the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a new rule that would effectively remove restrictions on showerhead flow.

 

During the Obama Administration, the EPA implemented regulations that limit the showerhead flow to 2.5 gallons per minute. Some critics of this rule, including President Trump, say that this is not enough water for people who are taking showers. While intended to reduce water usage, these critics argue that it actually leads to more water being wasted as people take longer showers.

 

This new proposal from the EPA reclassifies some shower parts, which would allow manufacturers to bypass the 2.5-gallon limit. This will result in more water flowing through showerheads, something that President Trump has long supported.

 

Others, however, say that this move by the EPA is unnecessary and counterproductive. They argue that there is no evidence that lower water flows from showerheads affects people negatively. They also note that in many areas these low-flow showerheads are a vital part of water conservation efforts. They have vowed to fight the EPA in court to reverse this action.

 

Do you support changing federal regulations to allow more water to flow from showerheads?

Trump Revises Federal Environmental Reviews

President Trump has long complained that federal regulations make it difficult to build big infrastructure projects in a timely manner. This week, his administration is taking steps to revise federal environmental rules to speed up infrastructure construction.

 

The changes concern the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which mandates an environmental review for large infrastructure projects. Critics say this process is often too complex and costly, and that it takes far too long. They have urged the federal government to streamline environmental reviews and assessments in order to make it easier to construct infrastructure.

 

The Trump Administration has finalized revisions to NEPA that will exclude some projects from mandatory reviews, narrow the scope of the reviews in ways that will likely end consideration of climate change, and place a time limit on these reviews.

 

Environmental groups and Democratic lawmakers blasted the rule change as a giveaway to industry at the expense of the environment. They also claimed that this will hurt minorities, since they are disproportionately affected by construction of large infrastructure projects.

 

Do you support streamlining the environmental reviews required for major construction projects?

House Passes $1.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

With little Republican support, the House of Representatives passed an infrastructure bill with a price tag of $1.5 trillion.

 

By a vote of 233-188, House members approved H.R. 2, which reauthorizes federal transportation and infrastructure programs through Fiscal Year 2025. The bill deals with traditional transportation issues, such as highway funding and public transit, but it also contains a number of measures related to renewable energy and climate change.

 

Initially, the House of Representatives was considering an infrastructure bill that would cost roughly $500 billion. However, under pressure from some in the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party, House leadership instead put forward a much more expensive bill that contained many environmental priorities.

 

Those who supported H.R. 2 said that it is necessary for the federal government to concentrate on moving America towards a greener energy structure. They say that doing so will both combat climate change and give the U.S. an economic advantage over other nations. To make this happen, H.R. 2 contained items such as providing federal money to electric vehicle charging stations and setting up a grant fund for local initiatives to fight greenhouse gases.

 

Republicans opposed the bill on the grounds that it was too expensive and contained a wish list of ineffective ideas from the Green New Deal. They argued that the bill should be focused on transportation, not liberal environmental ideas. Only three members of the GOP caucus supported the legislation.

 

There is broad agreement with Democrats and Republicans in Congress and with President Trump that they should advance an infrastructure bill this year. The current transportation authorization expires in September. However, the Senate is unlikely to consider the infrastructure bill passed by the House this week.

 

Do you support spending $1.5 trillion on transportation infrastructure and projects to fight climate change?

New Federal Rule Will Speed Up Pipeline Approval

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that will limit the ability of states to use federal law to delay or stop pipeline projects.

 

Under a change to the regulations that administer the Clean Water Act, states will have one year to voice objections to pipelines that cross their waterways. The new rule also says that these objections must be limited to water quality concerns. If states take longer than a year to complete their review, or they include other matters in their objection, the federal government will issue permits to the pipeline company.

 

The Trump Administration accused states of using this law to impose years of delay on energy infrastructure projects. Officials also said that these states were going beyond the bounds of the law to stop or delay pipelines based on criteria that had nothing to do with clean water. EPA officials argue that this change in the rules will allow states to voice legitimate concerns over projects but will not give them power to drag out the process and stop important national infrastructure from being built.

 

Environmentalists and some state officials are strongly opposed to this new move. They contend that this is a way for the Trump Administration to favor fossil fuel companies over environmental concerns. They also note that this is diminishes states’ power to protect their waterways.

 

Groups opposed to the new rule have vowed to fight it in court.

 

Do you think that states should have the power to delay pipeline projects for multiple years over environmental concerns?

Biden Vows to Stop Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL Pipeline has been a controversial proposal for 10 years. President Trump has been very vocal about his approval for this trans-national pipeline, but this week his 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, said that he will stop the project.

 

The pipeline, which will link Canadian oil fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast, was first proposed in 2010. President Obama blocked the approval of the pipeline’s crossing of the U.S.-Canadian border, but President Trump reversed this decision. There have also been numerous court cases over the pipeline.

 

The company that owns the pipeline intends to complete it in 2023, once any legal disputes are resolved. But if Joe Biden is elected president, he said that he will revoke U.S. approval. This could lead to years more of court cases.

 

Supporters of the pipeline say it will provide affordable energy to the U.S., giving consumers a financial windfall. They also point to the jobs it will create both during its construction and operation. Opponents, however, say most of these jobs will be temporary. They also argue that the pipeline will only increase the U.S.’s reliance on dirty fossil fuels, and that the pipeline itself will disturb important natural habitats.

 

Do you support completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Virginia Enacts Carbon-Free Energy Law

By 2050, Virginia’s utilities must be producing carbon-free energy under a law signed this week by Gov. Ralph Northam.

 

This legislation requires that Dominion Energy, which serves most of the state, to provide energy to customers that was made without any carbon emissions by 2045. Another utility, which serves a smaller part of the state, must go carbon-free by 2050.

 

Those who support this measure say it is necessary to help combat climate change. They argue that this transition will create jobs in the clean energy sector and improve the state’s environment. Opponents, however, predict that this will raise energy costs for consumers and businesses. They note that such an outcome will destroy jobs and hurt the state’s economy.

 

When Virginia voters elected a Democratic majority to the state’s legislature, these legislators ran on an ambitious slate of liberal ideas. This carbon-free mandate was one of those proposals. Republicans had controlled the legislature or the governorship prior to 2019’s elections, and had prevented Democratic legislators’ attempts to pass many of these bills in previous years.

 

A handful of other states have mandated a switch to no-carbon energy production, but Virginia is the first southern state to do so.

Trump Administration Alters Obama Fuel Efficiency Rule

The Department of Transportation today announced that it is changing the federal regulation requiring automakers to improve fuel efficiency. Under the new rule, car manufactures must increase fleet fuel efficiency by 1.5% every year. That is a change from the standards set under President Obama, which mandated a 5% yearly fuel efficiency improvement.

 

This announcement affects the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, a federal mandate on carmakers. Under this requirement, car manufacturers must increase the fuel efficiency of their entire fleet by a certain amount. Not every model of car needs to be more efficient year-after-year, but the average for the fleet must improve.

 

The Trump Administration defends its actions, pointing out that overall fuel efficiency will still increase, just not by as much as mandated under President Obama. The President notes that this will make cars more affordable, saving consumers money – something he says is especially important given the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.


Critics, however, say this is a step backwards in terms of environmental policy. They argue that this will hurt efforts to fight climate change. They also contend that consumers will be worse off, since they will be spending more money on fuel over the long-term.

 

Environmental groups are preparing to challenge the rule change in court.

 

Do you support reducing the federal mandate on automakers to produce vehicles that are more fuel efficient?

Senate to Consider Energy Bill This Week

Energy issues will be in the forefront of Senate debate this week. Senators will consider legislation that contains a host of new energy initiatives.

 

Among the items in S. 2657 are:

  • Set energy efficiency standards for federal buildings
  • Extend incentives for hydropower
  • Provide credits for consumers who purchase energy efficient appliances
  • Promote research of nuclear power
  • Authorize more funding for research into renewable energy technology
  • Provide funds for carbon capture
  • Ease restrictions on mining for critical minerals

 

This legislation largely avoids taking on more controversial energy policies, such as greater efforts to tackle climate change.

 

Sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), this bill has bipartisan support. However, some Democrats have expressed concern that provisions may be too friendly to mining interest. They also say that the bill should go further in tackling climate change. However, even in the face of this opposition, the bill is expected to pass easily later this week. It is unclear if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring it for a vote in that chamber.

 

What should Congress do about climate change?

NY Plastic Bag Ban Takes Effect

Starting this week, shoppers can no longer expect to receive single-use plastic bags from New York stores.

 

A statewide ban on these bags took effect on Sunday. Proponents say it is a good step towards cleaning up the environment. Opponents argue that it will do little to help the environment, but a lot to hurt small businesses and consumers.

 

Legislators passed the ban on plastic bags last year, but delayed its effective date. State officials had been ramping up a public education campaign about the ban in the weeks leading up to its implementation. On Sunday, restaurants and stores were supposed to stop offering these bags to consumers.

 

Instead of single-use plastic bags, consumers are now expected to use multi-use tote bags. A state program provides such bags for some low-income families. The plastic bag ban is not absolute, since they can still be used for some items, such as pharmaceuticals or uncooked meat.

 

Those who supported this ban say that plastic bags end up in landfills or as litter. They say that prohibiting their use will cut down on this pollution that causes environmental problems. Opponents counter that these bags make up a very small amount of either landfill use or litter. They also note that this new law will be a large burden for businesses that must now change how they serve customers.

 

Two other states also have statewide bans on single-use plastic bags, while others are looking at such prohibitions.

 

Do you support banning single-use plastic bags?

Washington Bill Would Ban Bottled Water Production in the State

Under a bill being considered by the Washington legislature, companies could not extract groundwater from the state and use it to produce bottled water.

 

Some environmental groups are pushing this bill to ban bottled water production in Washington and other states, saying that groundwater is an “essential public resource.” According to these groups, water should not be used for corporate profit, but be left for the use of the state’s residents. Opponents counter that bottled water plants create jobs. They also note that there is enough groundwater for use in bottled water plants as well as for local residents.

 

This legislation is the first nationwide that would enact such a ban. However, other states are considering laws that could restrict the use of groundwater for bottled water. Other legislation would impose new taxes on the industry.

 

There have also been local efforts to fight bottled water companies that want to open plants. These are the result of residents who fear the impact on their water supplies. The companies point out that they have a positive economic impact in areas and contend they are not depleting springs or ground water.

 

It is unclear if the Washington bill has enough support to pass the legislature. Governor Jay Inslee has not yet taken a position on the legislation.

 

Do you support banning companies from extracting groundwater for sale as bottled water?

Ocasio-Cortez Introduces Fracking Ban Bill

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would disappear from the United States under a new bill filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

 

Fracking is used by energy companies to produce oil and natural gas. The process involves injecting a highly-pressurized mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into underground shale rock to break it up and release oil or, more commonly, natural gas.

 

The use of fracking has been primarily responsible for the large increase in U.S. petroleum production over the past decade. It has made it much cheaper to access oil and natural gas in shale rock, leading to increased production and lower prices. However, residents in communities where fracking has occurred blame it for earthquakes, polluted water, and health problems.

 

Under the legislation sponsored by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, fracking would be banned in 2025. In 2021, fracking could only occur if it was not within 2,500 feet of homes or schools. She says this legislation is necessary to protect health, land, and water. Others point out that her bill would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and hurt U.S. energy production, leading to higher oil and natural gas prices for consumers.

 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

 

Do you think that fracking should be banned?

Copyright © 2018 Votespotter Inc. All rights reserved.