Green-upmanship: The Red, White and Green of U.S. Politics
Frederick Cedoz, AO columnist and chronicler of Washington’s goings-on, shares his notes on the rising importance of environmental issues in American politics
SECTION 526: OILSANDS UNDER ATTACK
Much has been written about Section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates that the U.S. government not purchase fuels produced from unconventional sources that produce more greenhouse gases than their conventional counterparts. The potential impact of such legislation on Canadian oil producers is a matter of grave concern, and it’s worthwhile to examine how this idea made its way through the legislative process.
An aide to Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) – the influential Chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee whose letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates asking how the Pentagon intended to comply with Section 526 kicked off the debate over the provision’s impact on oilsands producers – is reported as noting, “It makes no sense for the government to promote unconventional fuel sources that make the problem [of greenhouse gas emissions] worse.”
Regardless of whether the legislative intent of Section 526 was to prohibit the U.S. Air Force from developing coal-to-liquids-based jet fuel, or whether Section 526 will ultimately have an impact on oilsands producers, the larger point is that increased oilsands production is being squarely targeted in a way the industry hadn’t fully anticipated and doesn’t yet seem prepared to address.
ELECTION 2008: EVERYTHING’S UPSIDE DOWN
One thing about the upcoming presidential election in the United States is clear: John McCain is the Republican nominee. What is less clear is which of the two Democrats remaining will emerge victorious.
When the candidates talk about energy issues – which will be important, as rising gasoline and food prices are clearly on voters’ minds – they all focus on “energy independence” and green solutions to energy challenges. Understanding who is advising the candidates on key energy issues offers a window on how each candidate might approach these issues from the Oval Office.
Senator John McCain is advised on energy issues by former CIA Director James Woolsey. Since leaving the CIA, Woolsey has been advocating increased U.S. natural gas production and plug-in-hybrid cars, which will of course require that increased electricity be generated from natural gas.
Woolsey and former Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz recently urged California lawmakers to adopt legislation mandating the sale of plug-in-hybrid cars. Woolsey is one of the leaders of a group referred to as “Green Hawks,” which includes senior Defense Department officials. He was recently reported as saying, “The goal is to become energy independent, but to get there we have to shift to green energy.”
The Green Hawks may have discovered that increased oil production from Iraq will be more difficult to achieve and so may have decided to change their approach, trying to reduce oil consumption rather than drive down the price of oil through increased production. Such a strategy will certainly have an impact on the perception of Canada’s oilsands should Senator McCain win in November.
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