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Democrats’ energy goals likely to be modest in 2007

Ana Radelat, Gannett News Service via USA Today
WASHINGTON – Democrats campaigned on promises of making sweeping changes to the nation’s energy policy, but it’s unlikely they’ll deliver on most of those promises.

The new Democrat-controlled Congress is expected to place greater emphasis on renewable energy sources and end the drive to open offshore areas to oil and natural gas production.

But Democrats who will have jurisdiction over energy issues indicated they don’t plan a major energy bill next year.

…The new Congress is expected to debate ways to cut greenhouse gases to fight global warming and press for increased efficiency standards for cars and other gas-operated machines. Democrats also are expected to champion proposals that would require utilities to produce a percentage of their electricity output from renewable energy sources.

Producers of solar power, wind power, geothermal power and other technologies that use wood or waste products to generate energy also are expected to receive new tax breaks from the Democratic Congress.

But the biggest change in energy policy is expected to come through a farm bill Congress hopes to consider next year that would provide new incentives for the production of ethanol, a corn-derived fuel.
(23 Dec 2006)

Yes, Oil From Venezuela

Joseph P. Kennedy II, Boston Globe via Common Dreams
There’s been a lot of controversy lately over whether Citizens Energy Corp. should distribute — and the poor should accept — discount heating oil from Venezuela while that country is under the leadership of President Hugo Chávez.

But those who have no problem staying warm at night should not condemn others for accepting Venezuela’s oil. Rhetoric means little to an elderly woman who has to drag an old cot from her basement to sleep by the warmth of the open kitchen stove or give up food or medicine to pay her heating bill.

For nearly 30 years, Citizens Energy has provided senior citizens and low-income families with affordable fuel oil, gas, electricity, pharmaceutical drugs, and other basic necessities. Citgo Petroleum is a US company owned by the people of Venezuela. The oil it provides to Citizens Energy, the nonprofit that I lead, acts as a safety net for hundreds of thousands.

When our partnership with Citgo was announced last year, US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman praised the discount program as corporate philanthropy. “It’s a charitable contribution,” he said, “and I wish more companies did it.” Charities like the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Muscular Dystrophy Association receive generous donations from Citgo, but no one is telling them to decline the gifts.

Meanwhile, oil companies other than Citgo have declined to share their record profits with those who most struggle to keep pace with rising energy costs.
(23 Dec 2006)

This Needs to Change

Samuel W. Bodman, Newsweek
America is too reliant on fossil fuel and needs to find a new path, fast. Our security depends on it. Here are 10 ways to get there.
[Summarizing the 10 points…]

  • Develop cellulosic ethanol.

  • Harness the power of nature. [wind and PV]
  • Build a hydrogen economy.
  • Power up the hybrids.
  • Use our own natural resources.
  • Clean up coal. [burning coal more cleanly]
  • Get real about nuclear power.
  • Get real about nuclear waste.
  • Modernize our power grid.
  • Conserve.

To achieve all this, we need forward-looking leadership and strong financial commitments in the public and private sectors; congressional action; and the hard work of our scientists and engineers. And we need the commitment of the American people to achieve together what none of us can do alone.

Bodman is U.S. Secretary of Energy.
(Dec 2006)
Secretary Bodman is one of the better members of the Bush administration. He seems less ideologically driven and more reality-based — perhaps it’s his background as a scientist.

Several other articles on energy are included in Newsweek’s “Issues 2007”. As a whole, though, the coverage is disappointing.
Iraq’s Grim Oil Politics
The New Coal Car
Enron: Beyond the Verdicts
Vinod Khosla on his bets in bioproducts

Nancy Nadel on Oakland’s Oil Independence Resolution
(video and audio)
David Room, Global Public Media
Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel speaks to David Room of Energy Preparedness about Oakland’s new oil independence resolution, passed on 17 October 2006. Read the resolution here. (349k PDF).
(8 Nov 2006, but just posted )