Guest Column: Hofmeister’s case for change

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Guest Column: Hofmeister’s case for change

The American people will choose their next president in a few weeks.  What choice do they have when it comes to energy?

The incumbent’s track record presents: sustained economic insecurity because ever higher energy prices wet-blanket any prospects for economic growth; continued volatile geo-politics impact imported energy supplies; sustained energy regulatory intrusion, regardless of need; ongoing efforts to shrink coal’s role in power generation; an anemic five-year plan for future offshore leasing; no nuclear waste storage resolution; ongoing rhetoric (regardless of consequences) to tax “big oil” more without comprehensive tax reform; the further build out of alternative energy inefficiency, regardless of costs or merits.

In other words. we can expect four more years just like the last, until we line up for our gasoline rations and wait out increasingly frequent blackouts by the back end of the next term.

GAO highlights issues with EPA science board policies

As Republicans press legislation that would overhaul the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of scientific advisory panels for crafting regulations, a government auditor is highlighting problems with the agency’s guidelines for responding to congressional requests for advice from the boards.

The Government Accountability Office said Wednesday the guidelines “lack clarity,” and that one of the boards isn’t being asked for advice on  the adverse effects of regulations.

Alfredo Gomez, GAO Natural Resources and Environment team director, told a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee panel that a preliminary investigation of the Scientific Advisory Board, or SAB, and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, or CASAC, revealed some potential issues with how the boards are currently operated.

Whitehouse, Schatz make conservative appeal for carbon tax

A pair of Senate Democrats took to a right-leaning think tank Wednesday to unveil a new attempt to implement a national tax on greenhouse gas emissions, trying to make the typically liberal proposal to appeal to conservative sensibilities by coupling it with other tax cuts and credits.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, appeared at the American Enterprise Institute to unveil their bill that would implement a $45 per metric ton fee on greenhouse gas emissions, which would rise by 2 percent annually.

Some Maine towns in dark as election approaches

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Thousands of Maine voters — and possibly some polling places — are expected to be in the dark after a powerful storm knocked out electricity for more than 100,000 homes and businesses.

A storm Sunday lashed the state with 50 mph gusts of wind and dumped more than a foot of snow in places.

A Central Maine Power spokesman says there are no assurances that all polling places will have electricity on Election Day.

Senate races hot on accusations, light on ideas

WASHINGTON (AP) — This year’s Senate races have featured astronomical spending, ceaseless attack ads and innumerable slaps at a president who’s not on the ballot. Largely missing, however, are ideas on how best to govern the nation.

Even with control of the Senate at stake, serious discussions about deficit spending, climate change, immigration, Social Security’s long-term future and other knotty issues rarely emerged.

Republican gains could aid Obama’s Asia trade pact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Big Republican gains on Election Day would be a blow to much of President Barack Obama’s agenda, but one stymied item on his to-do list might get a fresh chance to move forward: trade. That could breathe life into Asia-Pacific trade talks essential to his efforts to deepen engagement in the region.

Obama needs special authority, known as fast track, to negotiate trade deals that Congress can accept or reject, but cannot change. It would smooth the way for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is under discussion with 11 nations, and help advance separate negotiations with the 28-member European Union.

Newsmaker: API unleashes military veterans to lobby lawmakers on drilling

In the grassroots equivalent of a military invasion, the American Petroleum Institute is unleashing a platoon of veterans on Capitol Hill this week to press Congress for more favorable policies to expand oil and gas drilling.

The lobbying effort by 29 veterans from 27 states is set for Wednesday and will inject a new messaging element into the oil lobby’s year-long campaign to tie expanded domestic oil and gas production to job creation, a top API executive tells EnergyGuardian.

Keystone likely a target of GOP-controlled Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican control of the House and Senate seems tantalizingly close, so leading Republicans are turning to a matter often overlooked in campaigns: how to actually govern.

They say it will be crucial to show the GOP can legislate, lead and solve problems after years of lobbing political grenades at President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.

Congress returns to NRC nominations, GOP energy bills

Congress returns to Washington on Monday for a brief session before leaving later this month to campaign in advance of the November elections, with senators to start work on President Barack Obama’s two nominees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Much of the pre-election posturing on energy will come in the Republican-led House, which is to take up a group of bills and hold hearings to highlight its anti-regulatory agenda, according to a memo to GOP members by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

3 California counties voting on fracking bans

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Voters in three coastal California counties vote Tuesday on whether to ban fracking and other intensive oil production, even as slumping prices globally are leading companies to start to scale back on production.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies have donated about $7 million to try to defeat the fracking bans in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Monterey counties. In Santa Barbara and San Benito counties, the ballot measures would ban not only fracking — a method of injecting water and chemicals into rock at high pressure to force out oil — but one of the most commonly used drilling methods in the state, steam injection.

War of words escalates between Obama, Keystone supporters

For the second time in a week, President Barack Obama dismissed the potential jobs creation from the Keystone XL pipeline, prompting a pointed warning from Canada’s oil minister that the project’s oil may head overseas instead.

In Chattanooga on Tuesday, Obama cited State Department estimates that the much-touted project will create only about 50 permanent jobs. He said that figure shows the weakness of the jobs agenda pursued by Republicans who support the pipeline.

Senate may confirm up to 88 federal judges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Impeded no more by Republican blocking tactics, Democrats are on track to win confirmation of up to 88 of President Barack Obama’s top judicial nominations this year, a total that would be the highest for any president in two decades.

Last year, Democrats made it harder for Republicans to derail Obama’s nominations by weakening the Senate’s rule on filibusters. So far this year, the chamber has approved 76 federal court of appeals and district court judges, all of them lifetime appointments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is hoping to confirm a dozen more before adjournment later this week — votes he is pushing with the knowledge that the Republicans who control the Senate next year will be less accommodating.

Congress passes 3-month highway, transit aid patch

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent President Barack Obama a three-month bill to keep highway and transit money flowing to states on Thursday, one day before the deadline for a cutoff of funds.

Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a sweeping, long-term transportation bill, setting up discussions with the House this fall on what the future course of transportation policy should be and how to pay for programs.

Congress heading on vacation, putting off messy decisions

WASHINGTON (AP) — As lawmakers head out of the Capitol for a five-week summer recess, they leave behind a pile of unfinished business that all but guarantees a painful fall.

Not long after they return in September, lawmakers face a vote on President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, a brutally divisive issue that many lawmakers expect will dominate voter town halls during their annual August break.

Last-ditch lobbying on carbon rule: The White House hears from all sides

White House officials met with groups ranging from the coal industry to health groups, from utilities to environmentalists in the past month as they all made their final push to influence the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant carbon rules, White House records show.

The final Clean Power Plan could be issued as early as Monday, and the Office of Management and Budget on Friday published records detailing dozens of meetings with stakeholders since late June, after the agency’s proposed rule for existing power plants was submitted for final review.

Murkowski triumphant: Energy reform, crude exports headed to Senate floor

The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee has sent the full Senate a major bipartisan energy policy reform bill for the first time in eight years, a bill that focuses on updating infrastructure, improving energy efficiency and reforming federal energy and conservation programs, and avoids divisive issues such as the crude oil export ban and offshore drilling.

Under the strategy adopted by committee chairman Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., those hot-button issues were packaged in a separate bill that also won approval—but on a party-line vote.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act, hammered out in a three-day mark-up session, got bipartisan, but not unanimous, support. One Democrat, two Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., voted against reporting it to the Senate.

4 Democrats get behind Obama’s Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Democrats, including one who represents an American hostage in Iran, said Thursday they would support the Iran nuclear deal in a major boost for President Barack Obama.

“It’s very clear to me that the agreement is the best path forward,” two-term Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee, who counts hostage Amir Hekmati as a constituent, told The Associated Press in an interview. “This agreement allows us to prevent (Iran) from gaining a nuclear weapon, and if they cheat, we will know it. If we don’t have the agreement, we don’t have that certainty.”