Obama, Climate Crusader-NOT

We now have substantial proof that a politician can say absolutely anything, regardless of truth.

Unless of course, when they refer to him as a Climate Crusader, it's like one of those Bushism's in projection.  I guess it is fair to say he is crusading climate, but he didn't claim to improve it.

UPDATE Video of Al Gore discussing this very problem of Coal Pushing Lobbying and Subsidizing with Harry Smith from CBS's Early Show. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbNImXTEkNA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Edailykos%2Ecom%2Fstory%2F2007%2F6%2F2%2F222114%2F7934

This article on Huffington Post puts together a complete picture of these dirty politics and hypocrisy we are witnessing.  As Senator Obama tries to claim another badge of shame for his mantle, we couldn't have any more evidence to show the disasterous results of his actual policy making.

"Here's what Barack Obama has to say about global warming on his website:
We need to take steps to stop catastrophic, manmade climate change. If we do not act, the consequences will be devastating for future generations, especially for the poorest global populations.

Al Gore couldn't have put it better.

So why did Obama introduce the "Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007," a bill that would promote the use of coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, as a transportation fuel and make global warming a lot worse?

There's a clue in the fact that the other champions of coal-to-liquid fuels in the U.S. Senate are Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Larry Craig of Wyoming, both Republicans.

Yes, Illinois, Obama's home state, is, like Kentucky and Wyoming, a major coal-producing state. Nearly 32 million tons of coal was mined in Illinois in 2005, generating nearly $1 billion in revenues for the state's producers.

Big coal companies and their allies in the United Mine Workers union want us to fill our gas tanks and airplane jet engines with a liquid fuel made from coal, which is abundant in the U.S. They call it a step towards energy independence. Peabody Energy, the nation's largest coal company, which is based in St. Louis, is a big backer of coal-to-liquid tech.

When Obama introduced the coal-to-liquids bill back in January, he drew catcalls from environmentalists. Frank O'Donnell, the executive director of a Washington group called the Clean Air Watch, told Grist's Amanda Griscom Little: "Obama may be a climate crusader, but in this case he's marching in the wrong direction."

Now, as his presidential campaign gathers momentum, Obama's position will get more unwelcome attention. Along with other coal-state lawmakers, including two powerful House Democrats from Virginia, Nick Rahall and Rick Boucher, Obama backs massive federal subsidies for coal as a so-called alternative fuel.

As Edmund Andrews reported in an excellent front-page story in The New York Times:

Prodded by intense lobbying from the coal industry, lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers guarantee billions of dollars in construction loans for coal-to-liquid production plants, guarantee minimum prices for the new fuel, and guarantee big government purchases for the next 25 years...

Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.

Environmentalists are appalled. Frances Bienecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me: "If you fill your Prius with liquid coal, it would be like driving a Hummer." She described the coal-to-liquids proposal, as now written, as "an ecological disaster." You can download an NRDC report on coal-to-liquids here.

Why Liquid Coal Is Not
a Viable Option to Move
America Beyond Oil
The coal industry is touting a plan to transform millions of tons of coal into diesel and other liquid fuels—an expensive, inefficient process that releases large quantities of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our air. Fortunately, better, cleaner options exist to reduce America’s dependence on oil:  efficiency, smart growth, and renewable fuels.

© Natural Resources Defense Council
The High Costs of Liquid Coal
The considerable economic, social, and
environmental drawbacks of coal-derived liquid
fuel preclude it from being a sound option to
move America beyond oil. Relying on liquid
coal as an alternative fuel could:
n nearly double global warming pollution per
gallon of transportation fuels, and
n increase the devastating effects of coal mining
felt by communities and ecosystems stretching
from Appalachia to the Rocky Mountains.
To move America beyond oil, we should start
with the measures that will produce the quickest,
cleanest, and least expensive reductions in oil
use—measures that will also put us on track
to achieve the reductions in global warming
emissions we need to protect our climate.


An MIT researcher told The Times that "at best, you're going to tread water on the carbon issue and you're probably going to do worse."

Coal-to-liquids technology has a less-than-illustrious history. Known as the Fischer-Tropsch process, it was used by Germany during World War II and by South Africa during the apartheid era because both countries had access to coal but were unable to obtain oil on international markets.

But the problem with the technology isn't its history. It's the fact that no coal-to-liquids plant built on a commercial scale has been able to capture and store carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that causes global warming. Without carbon capture and sequestration, studies show, turning coal into liquid fuel generates 125% more CO2 than producing diesel fuel and 66% more than burning gasoline.

An Obama spokesman told Grist that the senator "believes that through investment and innovation, we can make these technologies cleaner." The trouble is, the massive federal subsidies now being proposed do not require that energy companies deploy technology to capture and store carbon.

I take no pleasure is saying that this will damage Obama. I read his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, a few months ago, and came away very impressed. I want to believe that he is a different kind of political leader.

But by supporting a Big Coal boondoggle, Obama is not simply disappointing those voters who care about environmental issues.

He is undermining his own claim to be above politics, to be the kind of leader who looks beyond narrow, parochial interests to do what's right for all Americans.

Energy independence is a laudable, if elusive goal, but the resource in short supply here is political courage.

Originally published at MarcGunther.com

cross posted from dailykos.com

Tags: 2008, Al Gore, Barack Obama, climate crisis, Climate Crusader, co2, Coal Industry, Congress, energy policy, fossil fuels, Global Warming, Jim Bunning, Larry Craig, lobbying, Marc Gunther, Nick Rahall, NRDC, Rick Boucher (all tags)

Comments

22 Comments

Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Coal to Liquid is a bad policy.  Makes global warming worse.

Obama also is well liked by the nuclear industry.  I understand he support Lieberman's pro-nuke subsidy bill.

Barack Obama is no Al Gore, that's for sure.  An inconvenient truth to some.  Thank you for telling it.

by littafi 2007-06-02 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Obama supports liquified coal because there is a lot of coal in his home state of Illinois.

by Vox Populi 2007-06-02 10:15AM | 0 recs
by Mystylplx 2007-06-02 10:21AM | 0 recs
More distortions...ho hum...

If you have a good argument why not at least be honest?  The coal incentives being considered are predicated on capturing the C02. As the Times articles says:

"Coal industry executives insist their fuel can actually be cleaner than oil, because they would capture the gas produced as the liquid fuel is being made and store it underground. Some could be injected into oil fields to push oil to the surface.

Several aspiring coal-to-liquid companies say that they would reduce greenhouse emissions even further by using renewable fuels for part of the process. But none of that has been done at commercial volumes, and many analysts say the economic issues are far from settled."

The goal, or challenge, is to take a process which has been done on a small scale and create a commercial-scale plant that also captures carbon.  There are those who feel this cannot be done.  But if there's going to be a serious discussion on the matter, the anti-Coalians could at least present an fair portrayal of the issue.  

by dougdilg 2007-06-02 10:46AM | 0 recs
Re: More distortions...ho hum...

Obama's own bill does not require the carbon be captured though, it merely hands over big bags of money and encourages it. If it required it then it would be a different story.

by Quinton 2007-06-02 10:58AM | 0 recs
Thanks for reposting the Coal Industries selling

But the Laws don't mandate capture and sequestration so "can" means absolutely NOTHING, because it WON'T.

Sorry you don't feel the distortions being made by Obama or the Coal industry mean nothing.

by LindaSFNM 2007-06-02 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: More distortions...ho hum...

So you're going to take the word of coal execs?

As I said in an earlier diary by an apologist, coal liquification is an unsustainable proposition.  The world is likely to peak in production in the next couple decades, driven by heavier demand from China peaking in production in 10-15 and their growing dependence on coal, and it will hit us hard particularly if we increase our own demand by expanding our coal use because of "clean coal", gasification, and liquification.  It's also unfortuante that Obama supports nuclear energy, as it looks like the world may peak in uranium production in the next few decades as well.

by jallen 2007-06-02 11:12AM | 0 recs
Try reading the bill

It limits the money to companies using the Fischer-Tropsch process which by defintion involves the sequestration of byproducts including carbon dioxide.  Here's the exact quote.

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:
(1) COAL-TO-LIQUID- The term `coal-to-liquid' means--
(A) with respect to a process or technology, the use of a feedstock, the majority of which is the coal resources of the United States, using the class of reactions known as Fischer-Tropsch, to produce synthetic fuel suitable for transportation; and

(B) with respect to a facility, the portion of a facility related to producing the inputs to the Fischer-Tropsch process, the Fischer-Tropsch process, finished fuel production, or the capture, transportation, or sequestration of byproducts of the use of a feedstock that is primarily domestic coal at the Fischer-Tropsch facility, including carbon emissions.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c1 10:s.154:

by dougdilg 2007-06-02 11:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Try reading the bill

That's no way a reply to my comment.

by jallen 2007-06-02 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Try reading the bill

I'm not an expert on coal-to-liquid, but a quick look at the Wikpedia article on Fishcer-Tropsch indicates a very different definition that you are suggesting.  The article indicates that there are serious environmental concerns about Fischer-Tropsch that could possibly be mitigated by carbon sequestration (implying that such sequestration is not part of the definition).

Again, I'm not an expert on the topic by any means, and I can't verify that the Wikipedia article is correct, but, without further evidence, your suggestion that the bill supported by Obama is not environmentally harmful is not credible.  All the discussion I've seen of that bill in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere suggests that it would be very harmful.  

by markjay 2007-06-02 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Try reading the bill

The bill specifically talks about sequestration.  And furthermore, or more importantly, this shows the deep rooted cyncism which runs rampant in the blogosphere.  Here we have Obama, a candidate who has perhaps the best environmental record of anyone running, who speaks eloquently and often about environmental protection, and we have two choices before us: 1. that his interest in liquid-coal is to invest government money to create a commercially viable clean energy source, or 2. he's just a typical politician who doesn't really give a damn about the world.  Everything about Obama points to #1 and yet you have people leaping over each other to claim he's #2.  It's pretty sickening.

by dougdilg 2007-06-02 02:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Try reading the bill

AFAIK, it does not mandate emissions reductions, it only offers tax breaks for them.  This is something that many environmentalists have criticized about Bush's environmental policies for.

by jallen 2007-06-02 02:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Overall, Obama's record is the best out of the frontrunners.

Obama
League of Conservation Voters Ratings
Endorsement from Senate Campaign
http://www.lcv.org/newsroom/press-releas es/lcv-names-barack-obama-as-environment al-champion.html
109th, 2nd Session (2006) 100%
109th, 1st Session (2005) 95%

Clinton
League of Conservation Voters Ratings
109th, 2nd Session (2006) 71%
109th, 1st Session (2005) 95%
108th Congress (2003-2004) 92%
107th Congress (2001-2002) 88%

Edwards
League of Conservation Voters Ratings
108th Congress (2003-2004) 32%
107th Congress (2001-2002) 68%
106th Congress (1999-2000) 88%

by jb1125 2007-06-02 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

That is laughable.  He didn't get in to the US Senate until 2005 and look at his record.

Even on his 2 main campaign themes for the US Senate, the Iraq War and the Patriot Act and the Patriot Act 2, the eroding civil rights of them, he FAILS miserably.

In his two years in the Senate he didn't come up with one Bill to end the war or support existing Bills.  He voted NAY on Senator Feingold/Kerry's Bill 1 year ago to end the war and occupation date certain.  

AND WORSE?  After claiming the tragedies of the Patriot Act and it's pending reauthorization...HE VOTED IN FAVOR OF THAT TOO.

He left the Environment and Public Works Committee (probably good for us when you have Craig and Inhoffe on it) and he is supporting Joe Liebermans' Nuke Bill, but not Boxer/Sanders Global Warming Bill.

by LindaSFNM 2007-06-02 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Oh and if you're trying to show not many Bills to cut Global Warming effects took place while the Republican Congress was in control, THAT WE KNOW.

by LindaSFNM 2007-06-02 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Oh good, another diary about CTL.  I'm sure it will involve people making lots of different arguments than the other 12 times it's been posted on.  Let me summarize:

CTL is bad.  Obama supports it because of coal politics in Illinois.  But he thinks it should only be pursued if it can be fixed to limit emissions.  But his bill doesn't mandate that.

Consumption of oil needs to be reduced completely independent of global warming.  The best solution would be to work on technologies that accomplish both, but it's not insane to support something that could be the carbon equivalent of oil but wouldn't push us that much closer to the oil peak and would provide some more domestic production. Still, this is hardly the best way to do that, so it's kind of silly for him to be supporting it.

However, he supports a cap on CO2, which if implemented would make all of this basically moot.  If CTL was unable to reduce its emissions it would be prohibitively expensive.  If they can cut emissions to level with oil, it could be a small boost to the project of diversifying energy consumption.

Most likely, it will be the first, and this is an example of wasting money on an industry who doesn't need it.

Oh, and I don't even think it will pass.  Didn't the amendment get blocked in committee?

Did I miss anything?

Why people have latched onto this as the single defining issue that makes them think Obama is a worthless human being, hates polar bears, and daydreams about small island nations being covered by the rising oceans is somewhat baffling to me.

by Baldrick 2007-06-02 01:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader
See above.
As I said in an earlier diary by an apologist, coal liquification is an unsustainable proposition.  The world is likely to peak in production in the next couple decades, driven by heavier demand from China peaking in production in 10-15 and their growing dependence on coal, and it will hit us hard particularly if we increase our own demand by expanding our coal use because of "clean coal", gasification, and liquification.  It's also unfortuante that Obama supports nuclear energy, as it looks like the world may peak in uranium production in the next few decades as well.

So it's a worthless option while we could be investing in sustainable options.  As well, the bill does not mandate that carbon emissions be reduced, so far as I know.
And as I said about expanding worker visas, any candidate that supports it is wrong.
by jallen 2007-06-02 01:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Not if the laws don't control emissions or capture the carbon and his Bill does not.

by LindaSFNM 2007-06-02 02:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

You obviously haven't read the bill, or even the quote from the bill (above) which clearly defines the Fischer-Tropsch process, for the purposes of this bill, thusly--

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:
(1) COAL-TO-LIQUID- The term `coal-to-liquid' means--
(A) with respect to a process or technology, the use of a feedstock, the majority of which is the coal resources of the United States, using the class of reactions known as Fischer-Tropsch, to produce synthetic fuel suitable for transportation; and

(B) with respect to a facility, the portion of a facility related to producing the inputs to the Fischer-Tropsch process, the Fischer-Tropsch process, finished fuel production, or the capture, transportation, or sequestration of byproducts of the use of a feedstock that is primarily domestic coal at the Fischer-Tropsch facility, including carbon emissions.

Just because Wikipedia defines it differently is irrelevant.

by Mystylplx 2007-06-02 05:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

Fischer-Tropsch does not necessarily mean carbon capture. Sasol in South Africa, the only commercial scale liquid coal plant in the world, uses Fischer-Tropsch, does not capture carbon, and is the largest single source of CO2 in the world.

There would be a CO2 stream from a Fischer-Tropsch plant but unless the bill or some other law requires it, that CO2 will be vented into the atmosphere.

If Obama's bill or some other law does require capture and sequestration at the plant, there would still be more CO2 emitted over the lifecycle of the fuel (out of tailpipes when the fuel is burned, and other parts of the production process) than over the lifecycle of petroleum fuels today.

That's why you can't be for liquid coal and for doing something about global warming at the same time.

Senator Obama needs to make up his mind about which he is for.

by bluerock 2007-06-04 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader

The CTL bill does not operate in a vacuum.  It is part of an overall strategy of reducing our dependence on foreign oil while stimulating a variety of alternative fuel sources along with an overall reduction in carbon emissions across the board.  From his campaign website:


Barack Obama's plan will reduce carbon in our fuel supply by establishing a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The standard would require that all transportation fuels sold in the U.S.contain 5 percent less carbon by 2015 and 10 percent less carbon by 2020. The legislation would let market forces decide the most efficient way to reduce emissions and would spur significant investment in renewable fuels, such as corn and cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel made from plant oils such as soybeans. According to one estimate, Obama's legislation would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020. This is the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road in 2020.

Senator Obama led a bipartisan effort to raise CAFE fuel economy standards, which have remained frozen for 20 years because of congressional gridlock. He developed an innovative approach to gradually increase CAFE standards while protecting the financial future of American automakers. The resulting Obama-Lugar-Biden bill would establish concrete targets for annual CAFE increases while giving industry the flexibility to meet those targets. The Obama-Lugar-Biden Fuel Economy Reform Act has gained the support of Senators who had never supported CAFE increases before, and the basic concept of the legislation was endorsed by President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address.

by dougdilg 2007-06-02 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama, Climate Crusader-NOT

Senator Obama's Low Carbon Fuel standard bill is a good idea, and lowering CO2 emissions by 180 million tons by 2020 would be good.

But if we produced 500,000 barrels of liquid fuel per day -- that's only about 3% of our current petroleum use -- under Obama's legislation, we'd wipe out that 180 million tons of savings. Every gallon after that, we'd make the problem worse, not better.

(500,000 barrels per day would require about 250,000 tons of coal per day, and release 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day, about half from the liquid coal plants and half from the tailpipes of the vehicles that run on it.)

by bluerock 2007-06-04 11:50AM | 0 recs

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