The Vine

Think The Gulf Spill Is Bad? Check Out Nigeria.
May 17, 2010

Here's some alarming perspective on big disastrous spills. Over the past 50 years, Shell and other companies have spilled an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil into the Niger Delta ecosystem. That's the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez accident per year, every single year, for five decades. And this isn't just some long-gone problem that's now been fixed. Last year, Shell reported losing some 14,000 tons of crude around Nigeria, double what made its way into the delta in 2008.

Obama Promises Drilling Reforms. Is That Enough?
May 16, 2010

At the Rose Garden on Friday, President Obama finally showed some "anger and frustration" over the ballooning oil disaster in the Gulf. To wit: “For too long, for a decade or more, there has been a cozy relationship between the oil companies and the federal agency that permits them to drill. It seems as if permits were too often issued based on little more than assurances of safety from the oil companies.

New Video Suggests Gulf Spill Far Worse Than Thought
May 14, 2010

Yesterday, NPR's Richard Harris had an important Gulf scoop—the oil spill may be much, much larger than both BP and the U.S. government have been saying. Here's Brad Johnson's follow-up: Based on “sophisticated scientific analysis of seafloor video made available Wednesday,” Steve Wereley, an associate professor at Purdue University, told NPR the actual spill rate of the BP oil disaster is about 3 million gallons a day — 15 times the official guess of BP and the federal government.

What The EPA's New Tailoring Rule Is All About
May 13, 2010

Looming in the background of the congressional debate on climate change is the fact that the EPA still has the authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions on its own, under the existing Clean Air Act. I outlined how that might work here. Short answer: It's complicated, and not perfect from an environmental perspective, though feasible.

Some Smart Ideas On Transportation
May 12, 2010

One of the more surprising aspects of the mammoth Senate climate proposal (that's a big honking pdf, by the way) released today was the bit on transportation. Kerry and Lieberman took a very different tack on this subject than the House did—and it's a stunning improvement. For starters, the cap-and-trade program would generate about $7 billion in revenues from selling carbon permits to oil companies and refineries. That money would then get split evenly in three ways: 1) One-third would go toward federal grants for big transportation projects.

The House And Senate Climate Bills, Side By Side
May 12, 2010

Brad Johnson of ThinkProgress has a nice chart showing all the ways in which Kerry and Lieberman's Senate climate bill differs from the bill the House passed last June. All told, the two bills are surprisingly similar, but I'd say the most significant differences are these: --The Senate bill refunds a greater share of the proceeds from selling carbon permits back to consumers—75 percent versus 45 percent in the House bill.

Kerry: This May Be Our Last Best Chance On Climate
May 12, 2010

Over at Grist, John Kerry has a piece discussing both the substance of his climate bill, the American Power Act, and the prospects for passage. Here's a key paragraph on the latter: So what have we done? A lot of meeting and listening—between me, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.], hundreds of meetings one-on-one with our colleagues to find out what they needed to support a bill.

The Climate Bill's Delicate Offshore Drilling Compromise
May 12, 2010

As expected, the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill will give states incentives to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. (See Subtitle B here.) That's not too surprising. Kerry is still gunning for votes from conservatives like Louisiana's Mary Landrieu or South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, and expanded offshore drilling is one way of enticing them. But there are also a lot of adamant drilling skeptics out there, like Florida's Bill Nelson. So how did Kerry thread this particular needle? Here's how the bill would work.

The Senate Climate Bill Comes Out Today--Is It Worth Passing?
May 12, 2010

At last, we're going to get to see the climate bill. After endless delays and petty mishaps, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are set to release the American Power Act this afternoon. Here's a leaked summary of the bill, and here's a section-by-section rundown. The overall idea is simple enough: cut carbon pollution 80 percent by 2050 while cranking up the growth of cleaner alternative energy sources. But, of course, nothing's ever so straightforward and there are all sorts of questions to ask. Like: Is this sucker worth passing? Depends on who you ask.

Is The Press Undercovering The Oil Spill? A Historical Look
May 11, 2010

Reading through The New York Times every day, it can seem like the press has been covering the Gulf disaster obsessively. Indeed, some fishermen in Louisiana are now worried that the media is too focused on the oil spill—to the point where it could harm business even in unaffected areas. But how does all this coverage compare historically? I asked Drexel sociologist Robert Brulle for his thoughts, and he put together some fascinating data.

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