Friday, September 16, 2011

Inhofe Announces Deal To Allow FAA and Highway Extension To Move

Washington, D.C.-Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, welcomed an agreement made today with Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) that will allow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Highway extension to go forward.  Senator Coburn took issue with a requirement that a certain amount of funds be used for Transportation Enhancement (TE) or beautification projects.  Senator Inhofe agrees with Senator Coburn's concerns and worked with Senator Boxer to reach a compromise in the two-year highway bill.

Link to Tulsa World: Tulsa World: Inhofe-Coburn deal aids Senate passage of transportation bill  

"I am pleased to have struck a deal with Senator Coburn and Senator Boxer that will allow for the immediate passage of the FAA and highway extension," Senator Inhofe said.  "This extension will ensure that no FAA workers will be furloughed tomorrow in Oklahoma or anywhere in the nation. Righteousness prevailed and I am relieved that Senator Boxer, Senator Coburn and I were able to come together to get the job done.

"Now that we have overcome this hurdle it's time to get to work on passing a two-year highway bill. Senator Coburn is absolutely correct to say that states should not be required to fund highway beautification projects.  I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with Senator Boxer on this issue. I appreciate her working closely with us to come up with a compromise.   

"In order to get a two-year highway bill done, we will need the full coorporation of Congress and the President to pass a fiscally responsible bill that we can all support. I am hopeful that the cooperation we have witnessed over the past few weeks is an indication that momentum is on our side."

Inhofe Welcomes EPA Delay of Greenhouse Gas Regulations

Senator Inhofe welcomed the announcement Thursday by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, as noted by Reuters, that it will not meet its September 30 deadline to issue greenhouse gas regulations. 

"I am very pleased by today's announcement that one of EPA's most economically damaging rules will be delayed," Senator Inhofe said.  "This announcement, as well as President Obama's recent request that EPA withdraw the ozone standard, makes one thing clear: not only will EPA's barrage of regulations cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, they may cost President Obama his own job, and he knows it all too well.  That's why he is punting on a number of them until after the 2012 election.  

 "Now that the President has acknowledged that EPA's train wreck rules are destroying jobs and doing great harm to our economy, the question is when will Senate Democrats follow the President's lead and acknowledge this as well?  We will find out in the next few months as Republicans bring forward a number of proposals to stop EPA's job killing agenda.

"It is an inconvenient truth that this announcement comes at the same time as the 24 hour 'Gore-athon.'  Al Gore has criticized President Obama for not talking about global warming; now Obama is delaying action on global warming in the midst of his latest campaign.  Now that's a dose of reality."


Talking Points Memo: James Inhofe: Al Gore Is Right, Obama's Bailed On Talking About The Environment

EPW Policy Beat: Obamas Plan: More Games, All Politics, and Further Delays

As the details of President Obama's latest stimulus plan begin to come to light, we are struck by how familiar it is - and how many pieces of the proposal are just more of the same ideas that have already been rejected by overwhelming bipartisan opposition.

While the President is correct to recognize that infrastructure funding is one of the best ways to create jobs, his newest plan, as many in the press are pointing out, is just the same proposal he laid out last Labor Day, which failed even to gain the support of his fellow Democrats. After the announcement of his proposal last year, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) said, "I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package," and then-Representative John Salazar (D-CO) said that he was "skeptical of new spending." An editorial in the Denver Post even called it a "lousy idea." Part of the problem is that the President's record on infrastructure has been abysmal. His 'no-stimulus' plan allocated only 3% of the bill's funding for highway infrastructure projects, while dedicating a majority of the funds to wasteful spending, which utterly failed to stimulate the economy.

Then there's his proposal to increase taxes on oil and gas companies - a plan that has already been rejected by overwhelming opposition in the Senate. The Sanders amendment (SA. 4318) to the Tax Extenders Bill, which mirrors the President's latest proposal, was defeated by a vote of 35 to 61, despite having the Senate's largest Democrat majority in over 30 years.  Both sides of the aisle clearly recognized that such tax increases would only raise gas prices, destroy thousands of American oil and gas jobs, and make the United States even more dependent on foreign oil.

No wonder President Obama is insisting that Congress pass the bill immediately. He doesn't want anyone to realize that it contains the same tired ideas that have consistently faced bipartisan rejection.

Instead of injecting large amounts of spending into a one-time stimulus, as President Obama has proposed, a better plan is to work with Congress to pass a bipartisan highway bill. And if the President is truly serious about job creation he will cease his needless war on domestic energy jobs and instead work to provide an environment where they can thrive.  As a recent CRS report reveals, the United States has the largest recoverable resources of oil, gas, and coal of any country in the world.  Unleashing these resources will give our economy a much-needed boost, while Obama's tax increases will do just the opposite.

President Obama should immediately recognize that his tax and spend policies have failed and allow true bipartisan ideas, that are proven to create jobs, take us on the road to recovery. 

EPW Press Roundup

Key moments in Obama's failed infrastructure proposals -numerous Democrats opposed the plan.

 - An additional $60 billion in transportation infrastructure spending is a centerpiece of President Obama's jobs package, although many of the administration's proposals appear to be borrowed from previous initiatives that went nowhere in Congress... But the administration's proposed quick infusion of spending for transportation projects sounds broadly similar to the $50 billion program Obama proposed in a Labor Day speech last year as an immediate down payment on a multi-year surface transportation bill. That idea fell flat in Congress, with many lawmakers expressing concern that it was strangely constructed and vaguely defined. (CQ, Obama's Jobs Proposal Includes $60 Billion in Transportation Spending, 9/9/11) 

 - President Obama sent the legislative language of his jobs bill to Congress Sept. 12 along with $467 billion in tax code changes he proposes to use to pay for the measure, even though those proposed tax changes have been rejected by lawmakers in the past. (BNA, Obama Sends Jobs Bill To Congress,GOP Immediately Shoots Down Old Offsets 9/13) 

 - The other major transportation aspect of the $447 billion jobs package is the creation of a national infrastructure bank, but that issue also is unlikely to be adopted by Congress. The proposal would establish an American Infrastructure Financing Authority, to be capitalized with $10 billion, that would provide credit and attract private capital for infrastructure projects. President Obama has proposed a variant of the bank in each of his first three budget requests, but Congress has yet to authorize it. Lawmakers' main arguments against the bank are that it would not fund enough rural projects and that it would give a federal entity power over additional transportation money. (BNA, Prospects Dim for White House Jobs Bill's Spending On Transportation Infrastructure, 9/13)

 - President Obama's new $50 billion infrastructure initiative --- part of his $447 billion American Jobs Act (AJA)---offers no surprises. It's almost an exact replica of his FY 2012 budget request which included a sum of $50 billion for transportation to "jump start" a proposed $556 billion six-year surface transportation reauthorization. The rhetoric may have changed --- Obama avoided using the terms "stimulus" and "infrastructure" in presenting his ALA initiative to Congress---but the substance of the two initiatives is remarkably similar. Both proposals would fund the same mix of programs (highways, transit, Amtrak, high-speed rail, aviation and the TIFIA credit program) and both would establish a National Infrastructure Bank... The same reasons that led Congress to ignore the Administration's FY 2012 transportation budget request willlikely causethe lawmakers to rejectthe new transportation initiative.Theyare skeptical thata fresh infusion of fundswill succeeed where the firststimulusfailed.Doing the same thing overand over again and expecting different results may not be exacly insanity but it does suggest a certain unwillingness to face up to reality.(Innovation News Briefs, Obama's New $50 Billion Infrastructure Stimulus --- Old Wine in New Bottles 9/12)

Obama Attacks on Oil and Gas Already Rejected Overwhelmingly by Democratic Senate in 2010

 - President Barack Obama detailed a familiar list of oil and gas industry incentives he wants to scale back to help pay for the $450 billion jobs plan he sent to Congress on Monday. Obama included virtually the same list of tax breaks to repeal as he had in his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal and previous budgets....But the politics remains much the same as in past efforts to repeal the incentives, with many Republicans and oil-state Democrats largely opposed to such efforts to single out one industry, especially without broader tax reform. (Politico Pro, Obama's jobs plan repeats past attacks on oil tax breaks 9/13)

 - OBAMA GOES AFTER OIL AND GAS TAXES ... AGAIN - Obama's $450 billion jobs plan would be paid for in part by scaling back a list of tax incentives for the oil and gas industry if the president had his way. The thing is, on this point, the president likely won't. Obama included virtually the same wish list in his 2012 budget proposal and his proposals from years past, but the plans have been nonstarters in Republican- and Democrat-controlled Congresses alike. (Politico Pro Morning Energy

 - With his new proposal, Obama seems poised to reignite the oil and gas tax break debate that dominated Capitol Hill energy discussions this spring. It was a discussion that died over the summer after the Senate voted down a measure that would have repealed several tax breaks for the largest oil companies in order to pay down the deficit by $21 billion over the next decade. At an address at the White House today, Obama seemed willing to dive into that debate again. (E&E News, Obama proposal slashes industry tax breaks to fund jobs program, 9/12)

 - President Obama on Monday asked Congress to end subsidies for all oil and gas companies, which could save the government more than $4 billion a year, to help pay for his jobs bill. It's a shift from recent Democratic efforts to end tax breaks for just the five major oil companies... But the president's proposal goes beyond what many congressional Democrats are seeking. Earlier this year, they introduced legislation to repeal oil and gas subsidies, but their measures focused on just the nation's five biggest oil companies-Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips.

 - Oil-state Democrats like Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska effectively argued that smaller and independent companies would be pushed out of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico if they lost those tax breaks. That, Begich and others argued, could lead to job losses in smaller oil and gas companies and allow the big oil companies to monopolize drilling in the Gulf. Obama had at one point been behind the effort to limit the repeal to just the five largest companies as well. (National Journal, Reigniting Subsidy Debate, Obama Takes on Oil, Gas 9/12) 

 - Barring that, the measures outlined by the administration include several measures previously rejected by Congress under both Republican and Democratic control. These include putting a 28 percent cap on deductions and exclusions claimed by taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $250,000 for married couples and $200,000 for individual taxpayers. That would take effect Jan. 1, 2013. Also, the administration wants to close loopholes affecting corporate jets, drilling for gas and oil, depletion on oil and gas wells, and modification of foreign tax credits. (National Journal, Obama Gets Specific in His Jobs Bill, 9/12)

In the News...Fox News: Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Resigns Over Global Warming

Fox News 

Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Resigns Over Global Warming

September 14, 2011

Link to Article

The global warming theory left him out in the cold.

Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that "global warming is occurring."

The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man's actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.

Giaever does not agree -- and put it bluntly and succinctly in the subject line of his email, reprinted at Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change.

"I resign from APS," Giaever wrote.

Giaever was cooled to the statement on warming theory by a line claiming that "the evidence is inconvertible."

"In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?" he wrote in an email to Kate Kirby, executive officer of the physics society. 

"The claim … is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this 'warming' period," his email message said.

A spokesman for the APS confirmed to that the Nobel Laureate had declined to pay his annual dues in the society and had resigned. He also noted that the society had no plans to revise its statement.

The use of the word "incontrovertible" had already caused debate within the group, so much so that an addendum was added to the statement discussing its use in April, 2010.

"The word 'incontrovertible' ... is rarely used in science because by its very nature, science questions prevailing ideas. The observational data indicate a global surface warming of 0.74 °C (+/- 0.18 °C) since the late 19th century."

Giaever earned his Nobel for his experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in superconductors. He has since become a vocal dissenter from the alleged “consensus” regarding man-made climate fears, Climate Depot reported, noting that he was one of more than 100 co-signer of a 2009 letter to President Obama critical of his position on climate change.

Public perception of climate change has steadily fallen since late 2009. A Rasmussen Reports public opinion poll from August noted that 57 percent of adults believe there is significant disagreement within the scientific community on global warming, up five points from late 2009.

The same study showed that 69 percent of those polled believe it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data in order to support their own theories and beliefs. Just just 6 percent felt confident enough to report that such falsification was "not at all likely."

In the News...E&E News: Oklahomans warn FWS director about impact of prairie chicken listing

E&E News 

Oklahomans warn FWS director about impact of prairie chicken listing

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

September 8, 2011

Link to Article

Link to Press Release: Inhofe Thanks FWS Director Ashe for Attending Forums in Oklahoma on Potential ESA Listing of Lesser Prairie Chicken 

Link to Video:  Inhofe: Oklahoma ESA Forums with FWS Director Dan Ashe on Prairie Chicken Successful 

AP: Bird causes economic development woes in Okla 

Woodward News: Listing may danger state economy

Oklahoma Farm Report: Public Forum Serves Up Lesser Prairie Chicken in Woodward

Dan Ashe Hears from Oklahomans About Listing of Prairie Chicken

More Photos Here


Oklahomans applauded Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe for coming to their state this week to hear concerns over a potential federal listing of the lesser prairie chicken, an iconic species that roams five states in the region.

But Jim Reese, the state's secretary of agriculture, yesterday had a wry warning: "I pray this isn't the kiss on the cheek before you stab us in the gut," he told the Oklahoma Farm Report.

Ashe's visit yesterday to Woodward and today to Edmond fulfils a promise he made to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) during his spring confirmation, which was delayed for more than a half-year by holds from three Republican senators. Two of those holds were for reasons unrelated to the role of FWS.

Inhofe today thanked Ashe but reiterated his concerns that an Endangered Species Act listing for the bird could have devastating effects on Oklahoma's economy, including agriculture, highway infrastructure and wind farms.

"I call on Director Ashe to do the right thing and allow the voluntary efforts already underway in Oklahoma to produce positive results before going through with a listing that could be so detrimental to the state's well-being," he said in a statement.

Gary Sherrer, Oklahoma's secretary of environment, said conservation efforts in his state need more time to allow the bird's population to multiply.

"We've worked with the state Legislature, we've worked with the Oklahoma wildlife department, Nature Conservancy and a lot of other groups that have an interest in getting the number of these birds up so there will not be the need to list," he said. "Give us more time."

Ashe at yesterday's hearing lauded the state's efforts to conserve the bird's shrinking habitat but said his agency is obligated by law to issue a decision on the bird within a year.

Chris Tollefson, a spokesman for the agency, said the Endangered Species Act offers tools to allow local traditional land uses to continue. Renewable energy development would be "compatible" with a listing.

"We're looking at ways to manage renewable energy development and its impacts on species at risk," Tollefson said. "We recognize that it's important for the future of this country to develop these resources."

Sparring over economic impacts
Under the law, FWS is not allowed to consider economic harm when determining listing decisions. But economic trade-offs would be considered for determining critical habitat for the bird if a listing is made, he said.

The colorful bird, which sports a bright yellow eye band and bulbous "air sacs" in males, was included in a landmark settlement with environmental groups that requires FWS to issue final listing decisions on hundreds of "candidate" species (E&ENews PM, July 12).

The bird has been on the candidate list -- known as "purgatory" by some environmental groups -- for more than a decade. FWS lists grazing, tree encroachment, conversion of rangeland to crop and nonnative forage, energy development and increased disturbance as primary causes of the bird's decline.

Randy Bolles, manager of regulatory affairs for Oklahoma-based Devon Energy's Western division, warned that a federal listing would be premature until more scientific information emerges about the bird's habitat, population and distribution.

"Listing the lesser prairie chicken would halt economic development in the region and hurt job-creation efforts," he said in prepared remarks today in Edmond. "However, continuing collaborative conservation efforts would provide the best opportunity to restore the lesser prairie chicken and protect the local economy."

But Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for Center for Biological Diversity, said such warnings are "grossly overstated."

"Instead, what [a listing] will do is create reasonable habitat protections to ensure development doesn't drive the prairie chicken to extinction," Greenwald said.

Wind developers will be forced to develop sites away from prairie chicken habitat, and federal agencies will need to ensure that permitting decisions do not jeopardize the bird's survival, he said.

In the News...Washington Post: Obama green-tech program that backed Solyndra struggles to create jobs

Washington Post

Obama green-tech program that backed Solyndra struggles to create jobs

By Carol D. Leonnig and Steven Mufson

September 14, 2011

Link to article

A $38.6 billion loan guarantee program that the Obama administration promised would create or save 65,000 jobs has created just a few thousand jobs two years after it began, government records show.

The program — designed to jump-start the nation’s clean technology industry by giving energy companies access to low-cost, government-backed loans — has directly created 3,545 new, permanent jobs after giving out almost half the allocated amount, according to Energy Department tallies.

President Obama has made “green jobs” a showcase of his recovery plan, vowing to foster new jobs, new technologies and more competitive American industries. But the loan guarantee program came under scrutiny Wednesday from Republicans and Democrats at a House oversight committee hearing about the collapse of Solyndra, a solar-panel maker whose closure could leave taxpayers on the hook for as much as $527 million.

The GOP lawmakers accused the administration of rushing approval of a guarantee of the firm’s project and failing to adequately vet it. “My goodness. We should be reviewing every one of these loan guarantee” projects, said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

Obama’s efforts to create green jobs are lagging behind expectations at a time of persistently high unemployment. Many economists say that because alternative-­energy projects are so expensive and slow to ramp up, they are not the most efficient way to stimulate the economy.

“There are good reasons to create green jobs, but they have more to do with green than with jobs,” Princeton University economics professor and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder has said.

The loan guarantee program can also be unwieldy. It works like this: Companies negotiate with the Energy Department for a government loan guarantee, which means taxpayers will pay off bank loans if the project fails. Then the Office of Management and Budget must sign off on the guarantees, often changing terms.

The Energy Department says that the green-jobs program is still on track to meet its employment goals. It claims credit for saving 33,000 jobs at Ford Motor Co. — about half of the Detroit automaker’s entire hourly and salaried U.S. workforce. The department says the biggest of its loan guarantees, for $5.9 billion, protected the jobs at Ford by enabling the automaker to upgrade plants in five states to build more energy-efficient vehicles. The Energy Department said the loan would “convert” the Ford jobs to “green manufacturing jobs.”

Several economists said they doubt the loan program saved 33,000 jobs at Ford.

“I always take these job estimates with a big grain of salt,” Josh Lerner, a Harvard Business School professor who has written about failed government efforts to stimulate targeted industries, said in an e-mail. “There tends to be a lot of fuzzy math when it comes to calculating these benefits (regardless of the party taking credit for the program).”

A Ford spokeswoman said the loans helped “transform what were primarily truck/SUV plants into flexible manufacturing plants capable of building more fuel-efficient vehicles.” That flexibility is key to “helping retain the 33,000 jobs by ensuring our employees can build the fuel-efficient cars people want to drive,” said Meghan Keck, who handles government relations for Ford.

Mark Muro, a Brookings Institution fellow who researches the clean-tech industry, said the agency appears to be counting every employee working in upgraded plants, when the more relevant question is how many workers would have been laid off without the loans.

The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, a key component of Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan, is under heightened scrutiny since Solyndra, the first company it backed, declared bankruptcy and closed its doors two weeks ago. The failure of the solar-panel manufacturer, which got a $535 million government loan guarantee and later direct government loans, led to the layoff of 1,100 workers. It drew down money as recently as July. The government had dispersed $527 million of the loan to Solyndra.

Energy Department officials had vowed earlier this year to create or save more than 65,000 American jobs once its 42 projects were financed and complete. They say the program is now “on pace” to create or save roughly 60,000 jobs. (It shaved roughly 5,000 from the target after two companies turned down the department’s offer of help.) The department adds that its projects have helped generate 7,391 temporary construction jobs.

“This does not include tens of thousands of indirect jobs these projects create up and down the supply chain, or the countless additional jobs that depend on America staying competitive with countries like China in the clean-energy race,” department spokesman Damien LaVera said.

Renewable-energy firms say many other workers and companies have prospered by being part of the supply chain. BrightSource Energy, for example, a developer of utility-scale solar-power projects, is the recipient of a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, the second-biggest awarded so far; it says it has purchased goods in 17 states.

Still, agency projections indicate that creating jobs is a laborious process. If the 20 companies that have won loans so far deliver all the new jobs they have promised, they will hire a total of 8,050 new workers for permanent positions. Half of those 20 companies have neither created nor saved any permanent jobs yet; several won their loans only recently. Even the BrightSource project, which employs 700 construction workers now, will employ only 86 people on a permanent basis.

Obama administration officials say the jobs are high-quality and will improve the economy’s productivity. In addition to the loan guarantee program, the Obama administration has targeted “green jobs” through cash grants for wind farms and weatherization grants to state agencies.

Muro said administration-supported projects “that may have been honorable investments in technology were sold as short-term job creators for political reasons,” he said. “Exaggerated expectations about jobs were set.”

The eventual cost of the loan guarantee program for taxpayers remains unclear. If the revised 60,000 target is reached, it would work out to about $640,000 in loan guarantees for every job created or saved. These financing guarantees were approved by Congress as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

If the companies do well, they won’t need to draw on the guarantees and won’t cost the government anything. But if the companies go bankrupt, as Solyndra did, taxpayers will be on the hook. Moreover, the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank has been directly lending — at extremely low, subsidized rates — to companies that win Energy Department guarantees. Congress and the administration assumed a failure rate of 5 to 10 percent for the program. Solyndra represents about 3 percent of the loan guarantees made so far.

Solyndra received the Energy Department’s backing and also a federal bank loan — at rates as low as 1.025 percent. It’s unclear how much, if anything, the government can recover in bankruptcy proceedings, but it can pursue claims as a creditor.

Solyndra’s closure prompted concerns about whether the administration made good bets in the rest of its portfolio of clean-tech projects it had helped subsidize with taxpayer-guaranteed loans. The primary investors in Solyndra were funds tied to a major Obama fundraising bundler, Tulsa oilman George Kaiser.

Although the financing of renewable-energy projects was never an ideal way to create jobs, the 2009 stimulus package gave Obama a way to get Congress to appropriate more money for renewable energy than it would have provided otherwise.

In addition to guaranteeing loans for renewable-energy projects, the Energy Department has been meting out grants from a separate, less-controversial $33.7 billion appropriation it received as part of the 2009 economic stimulus bill. So far, the department has given out $18.1 billion from that fund, ranging from $44,295 to a Swarthmore College science program to about $1.5 billion to clean up waste at the government’s Savannah River nuclear site. Hundreds of millions have gone to companies trying to figure out cheaper ways to capture carbon dioxide from coal plants, a priority for coal-state lawmakers.