The Skywriter

Weekly roundup 9/3/10: Another (not-so-shocking) offshore rig explosion


Weekly roundup 9/3/10: Another (not-so-shocking) offshore rig explosion


There's no way to avoid starting this week's roundup with more awful news from the Gulf of Mexico: another offshore oil rig exploded yesterday -- and predictably, there's an oil slick to contend with:

A mile-long slick is spreading from an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion forced its 13 rig workers into the water, one of whom was injured, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The workers told rescue crews that the slick was about 10 feet wide but hoped that no more oil would leak into the sea, Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane told AFP.

Thankfully, all 13 workers are alive and safe and this oil leak seems relatively small, but this latest incident is part of a pattern: offshore drilling is inherently unsafe for workers and for the environment. In fact, calls are already pilling up for tighter regulation of offshore drilling:

The fire in the Gulf of Mexico “is further proof that offshore drilling is an inherently dangerous practice,” Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement yesterday. Obama halted deep-water exploration after BP’s Macondo well exploded in April, killing 11 workers and causing the biggest U.S. offshore oil spill in history.

Even more effective than extending the offshore drilling ban, however, would be to tackle the underlying reason why those 13 workers were out there risking their lives yesterday: our addiction to dirty energy sources like coal and oil. As Ada wrote yesterday:

What this explosion reveals is that our oil addiction (80 million barrels a day in the U.S. alone) has unavoidably dangerous consequences. The only way to avoid tragedies like this moving forward is to reduce our dependency on oil and move toward sustainable sources of clean energy. We need to take personal responsibility for our consumption, and also hold our elected leaders accountable.

There's a huge political battle happening in California, where dirty polluters are pushing Proposition 23, a ballot initiative to suspend the state's forward-looking Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (a.k.a AB32). Polluters are painting Prop 23 as a tool to create jobs: according to them, AB32 is a job-killer and suspending it will spur job creation in recession-ravaged California. In fact -- as is so often the case with just about everything polluters say -- the exact opposite is true:

If California’s climate change bill AB32 — which was passed back in 2006 and creates a plan to reduce the state’s carbon emissions — is repealed, California’s greentech markets will be seriously jeopardized, said venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl at an event at Google HQ on Tuesday morning. The main theme for the Google event was a discussion of Proposition 23, a ballot measure that, if passed on the upcoming November ballot, would essentially kill AB32, and is backed by Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro.

Khosla stated his position clearly on the oil-backed ballot measure: “Prop 23 will kill the market and the single largest source of job creation in California in the last two years.” Innovation started happening in California, and the next ten Googles of greentech will be created there, because the market is there, he said. If California’s market is destroyed, countries like China and other states will have a competitive edge and those next ten Googles will be built in those markets, said Khosla.

Suspending AB32 won't only kill "the single largest source of job creation" in a state that is desperate for new jobs. As the Center for American Progress' Jorge Madrid tells us, it will also disproportionately impact the Latino community in California:

Repealing A.B. 32 will make it easier for the worst polluters to continue poisoning Latino communities, exacerbate unemployment in industries where Latinos are already suffering, and weaken opportunities for jobs and wealth building for Latinos in the green economy.

. . . . .

A 2007 study of California’s Bay Area found that more than half of Latinos live within one or two miles of a Toxics Release Inventory facility tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency. The same study noted that 17 percent of Latinos were at the “most risk” for cancer, and 24 percent were at the “highest hazard ratio” for respiratory disease.

. . . . .

Proposition 23 will not just increase health care costs, however—it will also make electricity 33 percent more expensive. Latinos, who are disproportionately low income, also spend a greater portion of their family budget on electricity than those with higher incomes.

Madrid's entire piece is worth a read, but the upshot for California Latinos (indeed for all Californians) is easy to grasp: Prop 23 means fewer jobs, higher electricity bills and worse health (and higher health care costs) for the state. Check out the No on 23 campaign for more information on what you can do to defeat this terrible ballot initiative.

Blogger Janelle Corn has a great piece on dirty energy money on our blog today, but I also wanted to point you to a post from Kevin Grandia at DeSmogBlog on the subject. By his calculations, dirty energy companies have spent roughly $2 billion (!!!) since 1999 lobbying Congress:

But the hair-pulling by Red State bloggers is more than a little ridiculous when you consider that the American Wind Energy Association's $5 million lobby expenditure is equal to about 5 minutes of lobbying by the oil and gas lobby which spent a whopping $175 million in the same time period.

Looking over the last ten years, the numbers are even more startling.

Since 1999 the oil and gas sector has spent over $862 million - close to a billion dollars - trying to win concessions in the Capitol for their products. Combine this amount with the approximately $1.2 billion spent by electrical utilities and that is over $2 billion spent since 1999 in the name of oil, gas and coal.

In the same period the entire alternative energy sector spent a meager $105 million - one-twentieth the amount spent by its main competition.

What can all that dirty cash do to a senator's subconscious? This week's NWF Climate Capsule takes us deep into double-plus climate denier Jim Inhofe's subconscious using a much cheaper version of the gadget Leo DiCaprio used in Inception:

On a hopeful note to end the week, it looks like even the staunchest climate skeptic can be brought around by the plain facts of the climate crisis. Bjørn Lomborg was just such a skeptic, but he's apparently done a 180° and now supports huge investments to tackle climate change:

The world's most high-profile climate change skeptic is to declare that global warming is "undoubtedly one of the chief concerns facing the world today" and "a challenge humanity must confront", in an apparent U-turn that will give a huge boost to the embattled environmental lobby.

Bjørn Lomborg, the self-styled "skeptical environmentalist" once compared to Adolf Hitler by the UN's climate chief, is famous for attacking climate scientists, campaigners, the media and others for exaggerating the rate of global warming and its effects on humans, and the costly waste of policies to stop the problem.

But in a new book to be published next month, Lomborg will call for tens of billions of dollars a year to be invested in tackling climate change. "Investing $100bn annually would mean that we could essentially resolve the climate change problem by the end of this century," the book concludes.

Have a fun and safe Labor Day weekend!

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