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A political speech the West needs to hear

Ray Ring, High Country News

“One of our most urgent projects is to develop a national energy policy. The United States is the only major industrial country without a comprehensive, long-range energy policy. Our program will emphasize conservation … solar energy and other renewable energy sources. … We must face the fact that the energy shortage is permanent. There is no way we can solve it quickly. But if we all cooperate and make modest sacrifices … we can find ways to adjust.”

Imagine those words spoken by the next president shortly after taking office on Jan. 20, 2009, continuing a theme originally established on the campaign trail. The words seem to be aimed directly at Westerners: “If we wait, and do not act, then … we will feel mounting pressure to plunder the environment. We will have a crash program to build more nuclear plants, strip-mine and burn more coal, and drill more (oil and gas) wells. … Intense competition will build up among … the different regions within our own country.”

The president concludes: “If you will join me so that we can work together with patriotism and courage, we will again prove that our great nation can lead the world into an age of peace, independence and freedom.

“This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war – except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.”

Inspiring and timely, indeed. But doesn’t it sound kind of familiar? It should. The president who made those speeches did so 30 years ago. His name was Jimmy Carter.

When Carter tried to rally the nation during the first energy crisis, he understood that the West would be the key region in the effort. His policies weren’t perfect – he pushed oil shale, for instance – but at least he had an overarching vision. It’s been a long time since a president, or even a major presidential candidate, spoke so directly to our region and our fundamental issues.
(21 January 2008)

US censors Arctic scientists’ findings as it prepares for oil and gas auction

Daniel Howden, The Independent (UK)
The United States has blocked the release of a landmark assessment of oil and gas activity in the Arctic as it prepares to sell off exploration licences for the frozen Chukchi Sea off Alaska, one of the last intact habitats of the polar bear.

Scientists at the release of the censored report in Norway said there was “huge frustration” that the US had derailed a science-based effort to manage the race for the vast energy reserves of the Arctic.

The long-awaited assessment was meant to bring together work by scientists in all eight Arctic nations to give an up-to-date picture of oil and gas exploitation in the high north. In addition to that it was supposed to give policy makers a clear set of recommendations on how to extract safely what are thought to be up to one quarter of the world’s energy reserves.

Speaking yesterday from Tromso, one of the report’s lead authors, who asked not to be named, said: “They [the US] have blocked it. We have no executive summary and no plain language conclusions.”

Earlier this month, the Bush administration drew widespread criticism when it said it would auction off 30 million acres of the remote Chukchi Sea which separates Alaska from Russia on 6 February.
(22 January 2008)
Also at Common Dreams

U.S. oil dependencies

Art Spiegelman, Relocalize.Net
(20 January 2008)

Alliance to Save Energy’s Ungar pushes energy tax incentives for economic stimulus package
(video and transcript)
Monica Trauzzi, OnPoint
With fears of a recession and stock prices plummeting, Congress and the president are hoping to create an economic stimulus package that will eliminate some of the financial burden currently facing Americans. What role can energy tax incentives play in this plan?

During today’s OnPoint, Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser for the Alliance to Save Energy, explains how energy can play a role in the stimulus plan. Ungar also gives a preview of energy and climate legislation in 2008 and comments on how the upcoming elections may affect the prospects for legislation this year.
(23 January 2008)