|The greening of American energy is both real and profound. Since President Obama took office, the nation's solar capacity has increased more than tenfold. Wind power has more than doubled, to 60,000 megawatts—enough to power nearly 20 million homes. Thanks to aggressive new fuel-efficiency standards, the nation's drivers are burning nearly 5 billion fewer gallons of gasoline a year than in 2008. The boom in cheap natural gas, meanwhile, has disrupted the coal industry. Coal-power generation, though still the nation's top source of electricity, is off nearly 20 percent since 2008. More than 150 coal plants have already been shuttered, and the EPA is expected to issue regulations in June that will limit emissions from existing coal facilities. These rules should accelerate the shift to natural gas, which—fracking's risks to groundwater aside—generates half the greenhouse pollution of coal.
But there's a flip side to this American success story. Even as our nation is pivoting toward a more sustainable energy future, America's oil and coal corporations are racing to position the country as the planet's dirty-energy dealer—supplying the developing world with cut-rate, high-polluting, climate-damaging fuels. Much like tobacco companies did in the 1990s—when new taxes, regulations and rising consumer awareness undercut domestic demand—Big Carbon is turning to lucrative new markets in booming Asian economies where regulations are looser. Worse, the White House has quietly championed this dirty-energy trade.
"The Obama administration wants to be seen as a climate leader, but there is no source of fossil fuel that it is prepared to leave in the ground," says Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International. "Coal, gas, refinery products—crude oil is the last frontier on this. You want it? We're going to export it."
When the winds kicked up over the Detroit river last spring, city residents confronted a new toxic hazard: swirling clouds of soot taking flight from a mysterious black dune piled high along the city's industrial waterfront. By fall, similar dark clouds were settling over Chicago's South Side—this time from heaping piles along the Calumet River. The pollution in both cities made national headlines – and created a dubious coming-out party for petroleum coke, or "petcoke," a filthy byproduct of refining gasoline and diesel from Canadian tar-sands crude. Despite the controversy over Keystone XL—the stalled pipeline project that would move diluted tar-sands bitumen to refineries on the Gulf Coast—the Canadian crude is already a large and growing part of our energy mix. American refineries, primarily in the Midwest, processed 1.65 million barrels a day in 2012—up 40 percent from 2010.
Converting tar-sands oil into usable fuels requires a huge amount of energy, and much of the black gunk that's refined out of the crude in this process ends up as petroleum coke. Petcoke is like concentrated coal—denser and dirtier than anything that comes out of a mine. It can be burned just like coal to produce power, but petcoke emits up to 15 percent more climate pollution. (It also contains up to 12 times as much sulfur, not to mention a slew of heavy metals.) In Canada, the stuff is largely treated like a waste product; the country has stockpiled nearly 80 million tons of it. Here in the U.S., petcoke is sometimes burned in coal plants, but it's so filthy that the EPA has stopped issuing any new licenses for its use as fuel. "Literally, in terms of climate change," says Stockman, "it's the dirtiest fuel on the planet." […]
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003—Bush's budget-busting budget:
|Keep in mind that even using the White House's optimistic numbers (private economists expect the deficit to top $400 billion this year), that's a $1.08 trillion problem that Bush is leaving behind "to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations".
And the kicker? These numbers don't include the costs of a new Iraq war. Given that such a war is a certainty in Bush's mind, why not include the costs in the budget? Because it'll be politically more palatable to do so after the shooting has begun and people are distracted by matters of life and death.
On today's Kagro in the Morning show: Did you see the football game they showed around The Great American Right-Wing Coca-Cola Freakout? Did anything else happen? Sure, and Greg Dworkin rounds 'em up. "The End of American Exceptionalism," for instance. A peek at what the new Ezra Klein project might be like. Again, you'll have to wait & see on Obamacare. And Dr. Greg explains what's up with all those Hs and Ns in the flu virus! WaPo follows up on ACA launch in Kentucky. Armando weighs in on the Coke ad, the game, Christie developments & more. Gunfight Nation Rising: Is armed America a more dangerous America? And "The Myth of the Good Guy With a Gun."