September 2008 Archives

Offshore drilling up to Senate after House passage

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Offshore oil drilling, which has dominated energy debates in the presidential campaign, is now coming to the Senate.

The House late Tuesday approved on a 236-189 vote legislation that would open waters 50 miles off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and natural gas development -- if the adjacent states agree to go along.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders are expected to mold it to their liking in the next few days.

So far, the Senate has indicated it has no intention of going as far as the House in expanding offshore oil and gas drilling beyond the western Gulf of Mexico, where energy companies have been pumping oil and gas for decades.

At least two proposals being crafted in the Senate would allow drilling in some areas along the southern Atlantic from Virginia to Georgia. But the Pacific and remainder of the Atlantic seaboard would not be affected.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also has said he would make way for a vote on a broader Republican drilling proposal that would allow states to opt for offshore exploration from New England to the Pacific Northwest and share in the royalties that are collected.

Congress has renewed bans on drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida annually for the past 26 years.

But expanded offshore drilling has become a mantra of GOP energy policy that has been felt in both presidential and congressional campaigns, even though lifting the drilling ban would have little if any impact on gasoline prices or produce any more oil for years.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain vowed at the recently concluded GOP convention to push for new offshore oil and natural gas drilling as delegates chanted "drill, baby, drill." His Democratic rival, Barack Obama, also has said he supports more drilling as part of a broader energy package.

But in the Senate the issue of drilling remains divisive.

No matter what the proposal, it is expected to face a filibuster and no one has yet to predict with certainty that any drilling bill will garner the 60 votes needed to overcome such a roadblock.

The drilling measure passed late Tuesday in a largely party-line vote by the House is unlikely to survive the Senate.

President Bush, who has called for ending the offshore drilling bans, signaled he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk, arguing that it would stifle offshore oil development instead of increasing it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the bill "a new direction in energy policy ... that will end our dependence on foreign oil" by shifting federal subsidies from promoting the oil industry to spurring development of alternative energy sources and energy efficiency.

Read the rest of this piece at The Associated Press

Big Sky Biofuels offers on-farm seed crushing, biodiesel conversion

If Paul R. Miller has his way, farmers will soon begin powering their tractors and combines with fuel that they grow themselves.

Miller is owner of Big Sky Biofuels, a startup Billings company that will offer on-farm crushing and biodiesel conversion for farmers who have raised oil-seed crops.

"The idea is to encourage sustainable production and to have the farmer grow oilseed crops capable of fueling their operations," Miller said.

Miller's portable seed crusher and a generator that powers it fit on a flatbed trailer and can be hauled directly to a farm, where it can be used to extract oil from crops like canola, camelina, safflower and sunflower.

The crusher can process up to 5 tons of seed per day. Aside from yielding vegetable oil, the seed hulls can be used to make a protein-rich livestock feed, which can replace corn and other feed.

At the farmer's option, the pressed vegetable oil can be converted into biodiesel, which is created by treating the oil with common chemicals. The process, known as transesterification, removes glycerine from the oil and yields a fuel that can be blended with traditional petroleum-based diesel. Some biodiesel advocates prefer to run their vehicles on 100 percent biodiesel, Miller said.

Biodiesel production has soared over the past decade, from barely measurable amounts in 1999 to more than 250 million gallons in 2007. Biodiesel supporters say it's a cleaner burning, homegrown fuel that can help farmers break their dependence from imported oil.

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Democrats' offshore drilling plan would give states nothing


Even as House Democratic leaders handed Republicans a symbolic victory this week in their long fight for new offshore oil development, critics charged that the fine print in the plan probably will continue to keep drillers out of the Atlantic.

While lifting a 25-year federal ban on most offshore oil and natural gas drilling, the legislation would block Virginia and other coastal states from sharing in a $2.6 trillion bonanza of tax revenue expected to flow from offshore fields. A Senate bill still in the works would give states part of the money.

Unless states stand to profit from offshore development, they almost surely would exercise their right under the bill to block any drilling within 100 miles of their shores, critics of the House initiative charged.

"With no financial incentive, no state will choose to 'opt in,' " House Republican leader John A. Boehner of Ohio told reporters, "and this bill will result in little or no new American energy production."

Rep. Thelma Drake, a Norfolk Republican who has taken a prominent role among pro-drilling forces, was even more critical.

The new bill "appears to be little more than a political ploy," Drake charged in a prepared statement. Democrats intend to "tell the American people that they voted to go after more American energy while winking to the environmentalists to say that this increased production will never happen," she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that sharing royalties with the states would force Congress to overhaul the entire budget, an impossible task just three weeks before the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Pay-as-you-go rules adopted by lawmakers require them to offset any surrender of federal revenue with cuts in spending, she said.

Republicans scoffed at the explanation, noting that Democrats have not invoked "pay-go" in signing off a multi billion-dollar bailout of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

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Offshore Drilling Is Coming to a Vote

Democrats to Offer a Mix of Proposals

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Sunday, September 14, 2008; Page A04

Congressional Democrats, balancing political reality against a policy they have long opposed, are on the cusp of approving legislation that would open the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to oil drilling as close as 50 miles offshore.

With votes scheduled this week in the House and Senate, Democrats have essentially given up defending the current ban on drilling within 200 miles offshore along both coasts. Instead, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), they are offering a mix of proposals that would allow drilling, with the waters off Massachusetts, Virginia and Georgia most likely to be the first affected.

Environmentalists and industry analysts disagree over the impact the various legislative proposals would have on oil production, with industry experts contending that the most precious reserves still would be off-limits. But both sides agree that -- because of the politics of $4-a-gallon gasoline this summer and a pending legislative deadline -- the nearly 40-year drilling ban is in jeopardy.

"It's in deep, deep trouble. I won't pronounce it dead, but it's in deep trouble," said Warner Chabot, a vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group opposed to drilling.

Read the rest of this piece at The Washington Post

This Is What Stupidity Looks Like

by Gary Gross, Let Freedom Ring Blog

This Washington Examiner article shows how stupid some senators are. Here's the proof justifying my statement:

Chambliss and Isakson dismiss the criticism, arguing that voters want Congress to set aside differences and agree on something that will make a difference, even if it requires trade-offs.

Sen. Chambliss and Sen. Isakson couldn't be further from the truth. The Gang of 10 legislation wouldn't appreciably drop prices at the pump. That's the only criteria that people care about. If playing hardball is what reduces the price at the pump, then that's what they're content with. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PRICE.

Let's frame this a different way. If Democrats stand in the way of progress, we expect Republicans to expose them as working against the will of the American people. At that point, We The People will let our voices be heard. If the Democrats persist in working against actually increasing drilling, then we'll make certain that their colleagues pay a price at the polls this November.

Let's remember that Democrats don't have the votes in the House to pass a CR that would maintain the drilling moratoria. Eventually, Democrats will be forced to pass a CR that doesn't extend the moratoria on the OCS. That puts an exceptional amount of pressure on Harry Reid's Democrats. If the Senate Democrats don't ratify the House's CR, Democrats are on the hook for shutting down the government. Does anyone think that Reid's Democrats won't cave at that point?

Read the rest of this piece at Let Freedom Ring Blog

Attention Gang Of 16: Stop Negotiating & Accept Victory

by Gary Gross

The more I read about the Democrats' divisions on drilling, the more I'm inclined to believe that the Gang of 16 is actually negotiating against themselves. There's an article in Roll Call that encapsulates why Senate Republicans should respectfully decline to meet the Democrats' demands. Here's what jumped off the page at me:

House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WVA) also acknowledged that Democrats don't have the votes to pass a continuing resolution that would retain the offshore drilling ban. Rahall said that if it expired, drilling would be allowed as close as three miles to shore.

First, some important process-related information. Continuing resolutions must originate in the House of Representatives. If Democrats can't pass a CR that extends the drilling ban, the die will have been cast before it reaches the Senate.

This is important for this reason: If Democrats can't pass a CR with a drilling ban in it, they'll have to pass one that lets the moratoria lapse. That means that President Bush wouldn't have to veto a CR. That means Democrats can't accuse President Bush of shutting down the government. If the government shuts down, it'll place the burden squarely on Nancy Pelosi's shoulders.

That's huge because a government shutdown would happen just a month before the elections. Does anyone seriously think that Democrats would benefit from shutting down the government in opposition to lifting the moratoria that 70 percent of Americans want lifted a month before going to the polls?

If Speaker Pelosi were that foolish, she'd cause a House GOP landslide.

That's just one reason why the Gang of 16 negotiating with Senate Democrats isn't smart strategy. Here's another explanation why it isn't wise:

The bill would open up a tiny little smidgen of space on the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas exploration, just enough that Democrats who vote for it can claim to be pro-drilling, neutralizing one of the Republicans' most energizing issues going into the November elections. But the benefits of the bill's meager drilling provisions would be negated (and then some) by $30 billion in tax hikes on U.S. oil companies, placing our own domestic producers at an additional disadvantage compared to their overseas competitors. In exchange for very little new supply, these companies would pay higher taxes related to the crucial activities of exploration and refinery-capacity expansion. To nobody's great surprise, the industry is not eager to accept this trade.

Read the rest of this piece at Let Freedom Ring Blog

San Francisco Gets Greasy

The city will consider a proposal to build what could be the first biodiesel plant in San Francisco - and possibly buy the fuels from the plant for its fleet.

Bullet Arrow September 5, 2008

A newly proposed biodiesel plant in San Francisco could supply fuels for the city fleet, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said Friday.

Darling International will seek approval from the San Francisco Port Commission to build the biodiesel plant at Pier 92. The plant would produce up to 10 million gallons a year by converting cooking oils from local restaurants and other fats and greases into biodiesel.

If it's approved, it will be the second planned biodiesel plant in the city. In May, the San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission received a $1 million grant from the California Energy Commission to build a pilot plant. The plant would make use of the more than 2.5 million gallons of brown grease - pan scrapings and oil residues in restaurant sinks - produced annually in the city.

Read the rest of this piece at Greentech Media