Monday, September 29, 2008


By Kay Slaughter

Distress at the gas pump won’t be resolved by drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, despite the American propensity, when frustrated, to act, even if that action is largely meaningless. The politicians are pandering to polls showing that people want elected officials to do something -- anything -- to reduce the cost of gas. Drilling won't do that and politicians need to tell them.

The government’s own estimates are that, at best, the entire Atlantic Coast would yield 100 days of gasoline. There is no evidence that additional leases would lead to lower prices or that the oil, in particular, would even be used in the U. S.

Moreover, if exploration starts now, we can expect any oil to materialize in about 10 to 20 years.

The oil companies would love to have more "futures" on which to speculate and more leases to pick from.

Here are some other facts:

  • While the numbers of permits for the oil and gas development on federal lands has risen by more than 361%, gasoline prices during this same time period have also risen.
  • Moreover, only 10.5 million acres of the 44 million currently leased are producing oil or gas. Oil and gas companies hold leases to nearly 68 million acres of federal land and waters that are not producing oil and gas.
  • According to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, opening up the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.
  • Leasing would begin no sooner than 2012, and production would not be expected to start before 2017.”
  • Because oil prices are determined on the international market, “any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant.”

But what about the environmental costs?

First, the consequences of off shore drilling on the coastal areas are often overlooked. To support oil and gas exploration and development, new roads, pipelines, ports, and industrial processing facilities must be built on the nearby coasts. In the South Atlantic, this would include the area around Virginia Beach, the outer banks of North Carolina, or nearby estuaries.
These will have devastating impact on coastal areas, wetlands and sensitive lands that are already stressed with development.

There are many consequences from the exploration and drilling:

  • “Airguns” sending thousands of blasts of seismic waves into the ocean reveal oil and gas resources. These blasts have led to mass strandings of whales and other marine mammals and harm fish, thus resulting in decreased commercial fishing catches.
  • Offshore drilling results in the discharge of substantial drilling muds and "produced waters". These contain lots of toxins including mercury, radium and other materials that are harmful to life. The dumping of muds also smothers sea life on the ocean floor. At high concentrations, the pollutants kill marine life. At lower concentrations, they cause birth defects and impaired growth.
  • Accidental oil spills resulting from human error or equipment failure cause irreversible harm to ocean life. Just remember, oil spreads on water at a rate of one half a football field per second. It is toxic to marine life, andcannot be fully cleaned up. Despite industry claims, technological advances have not protected drilling from storms or spill prevention.
  • For example, Department of Interior's Mineral Management Service reports that 435,330 gallons of oil spilled from platforms and drilling rigs during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
  • An additional 306,054 gallons of oil leaked from pipelines damaged during these storms.
  • More than 7 million gallons of petroleum products spilled from onshore operations, reminding us that the transport of oil and gas via pipeline and tankers invites many risks k of leakage and spill.
  • Air becomes polluted from oil and gas drilling due to ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur compounds.
  • Ships transporting oil and gas also discharge harmful air pollutants as a result of the low-grade fuel they burn and the fugitive emissions from the materials they are carrying.

Are all these impacts worth 100 days of oil ?

According to CBS program, Fast Draw [check out the video on this page], although John McCain has ridiculed Barack Obama for his suggestions, we could save 7 billion gallons of gas from inflating tires, reducing highway speed by 5 miles AND dealing with obesity (so the cars aren’t carrying such fat people). Offshore oil drilling by contrast would bring only 1.4 billion gallons of gas.

Instead of lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, which will not lead to lower gasoline prices, other steps, such as energy efficiency measures and the development of alternative fuels, will lead to lower fuel costs and reduced dependency on fossil fuels. We should talk about the facts to our friends . . . and to our politicians.

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Here's the good news: Women have become so politically powerful that even the anti-feminist right wing -- the folks with a headlock on the Republican Party -- are trying to appease the gender gap with a first-ever female vice president. We owe this to women -- and to many men too -- who have picketed, gone on hunger strikes or confronted violence at the polls so women can vote. We owe it to Shirley Chisholm, who first took the "white-male-only" sign off the White House, and to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who hung in there through ridicule and misogyny to win 18 million votes.But here is even better news: It won't work. This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.

Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience. Palin has been honest about what she doesn't know. When asked last month about the vice presidency, she said, "I still can't answer that question until someone answers for me: What is it exactly that the VP does every day?" When asked about Iraq, she said, "I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."
She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular, and she's won over Alaskans mostly by using unprecedented oil wealth to give a $1,200 rebate to every resident. Now she is being praised by McCain's campaign as a tax cutter, despite the fact that Alaska has no state income or sales tax. Perhaps McCain has opposed affirmative action for so long that he doesn't know it's about inviting more people to meet standards, not lowering them. Or perhaps McCain is following the Bush administration habit, as in the Justice Department, of putting a job candidate's views on "God, guns and gays" ahead of competence. The difference is that McCain is filling a job one 72-year-old heartbeat away from the presidency.So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act. Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.Being a hope-a-holic, however, I can see two long-term bipartisan gains from this contest.Republicans may learn they can't appeal to right-wing patriarchs and most women at the same time. A loss in November could cause the centrist majority of Republicans to take back their party, which was the first to support the Equal Rights Amendment and should be the last to want to invite government into the wombs of women.And American women, who suffer more because of having two full-time jobs than from any other single injustice, finally have support on a national stage from male leaders who know that women can't be equal outside the home until men are equal in it. Barack Obama and Joe Biden are campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their children.This could be huge.

Gloria Steinem is an author, feminist organizer and co-founder of the Women's Media Center. She supported Hillary Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama. Sphere: Related Content

Accidental President?

By Kay Slaughter

Pundits note that in naming Sarah Palin as his Veep pick, John McCain takes a political risk calculated to shore up the Republican Conservatives AND reach out to independent women and disaffected Hillary voters.

What pundits haven't recognized is that the risk is not just McCain's political calculus, but also a risk to the nation. If John McCain were elected, Sarah Palin would be a "heartbeat away" from being president; if McCain were to die, Sarah Palin would become an "accidental President."

I'm only a few years younger than John McCain, and I know that "stuff happens" as you hit your senior years. McCain has already defeated deadly melanoma twice. Every presidential candidate needs a qualified running mate. However, as an older candidate, according to actuarial tables, McCain especially needs a well qualified VEEP.

Sarah Palin is feisty. She can deliver one liners with humor, energy and good timing. But so far, she has not explained her qualifications to take over the highest office in the land. She has not explained her views on a variety of presidential matters. Even Dan Quayle (the oft-ridiculed vice president under George I) looks more qualified than Palin.

I was a Hillary supporter because I believed her to be the best qualified candidate of either party. It's an insult to think that women would vote solely on the basis of gender. I, for one, do not want an accidental female president ... especially one as unqualified and untried as Sarah Palin. Sphere: Related Content


Please take a couple minutes out of your day to watch these funny and fact based videos about how Governor Palin has completely miss-represented her record. And of course please send this along to anyone else who might be interested.

Our response should not be based on her experience or ideology, it should be based on the fact that she has lied to America about her real record. American, if Governor Palin is willing to lie about her record, what else will she lie about!?

Videos below:

Remember, Governor Palin is a complete unknown to American, and what our fellow citizens assume they know about her is that she is a "mavericky" reformer. This is a paper thin reputation that we can pop like a balloon.

If you have extra time here are some more resources:

Palin's eBay Story: What Actually Happened

So What Did Palin Request in Federal Earmarks? Seal DNA Research!

This is particularly galling because if you remember McCain is found of saying that he'll make the names of wasteful government spenders "famous"; and one of the examples he uses is a an earmark to study grizzly bear DNA. Well, evidently he has made one those wasteful government spenders quite famous!!!

Follow up post on earmarks:

Wall St. Journal: Ethics Adviser Warned Palin About Trooper Issue

Wall St. Journal: Record Contradicts Palin's 'Bridge' Claims

Media debunking Governor Palin's 'Bridge' claim summary video:


This might be the most worthwhile missive sent around so far.
Friends, compatriots, fellow-lamenters,

We are writing to you because of the fury and dread we have felt since the
announcement of Sarah Palin as the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. We believe that this terrible decision has surpassed mere
partisanship, and that it is a dangerous farce—on the part of a pandering and rudderless Presidential candidate—that has a real possibility of becoming fact.

Perhaps like us, as American women, you share the fear of what Ms. Palin and her professed beliefs and proven record could lead to for ourselves and for our present or future daughters. To date, she is against sex education, birth control, the pro-choice platform, environmental protection, alternative energy development, freedom of speech (as mayor she wanted to
ban books and attempted to fire the librarian who stood against her), gun control, the separation of church and state, and polar bears. To say nothing of her complete lack of real preparation to become the second-most-powerful person on the planet.

We want to clarify that we are not against Sarah Palin as a woman, a mother, or, for that matter, a parent of a pregnant teenager, but solely as a rash, incompetent, and all together devastating choice for Vice President. Ms. Palin's political views are in every way a slap in the face to the
accomplishments that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers so fiercely fought for, and that we've so demonstrably benefited from.

First and foremost, Ms. Palin does not represent us. She does not demonstrate or uphold our interests as American women. It is presumed that the inclusion of a woman on the Republican ticket could win over women voters. We want to disagree, publicly.

Therefore, we invite you to reply here with a short, succinct message about why you, as a woman living in this country, do not support this candidate as second-in-command for our nation.

Please include your name (last initial is fine), age, and place of residence.

We will post your responses on a blog called "Women Against Sarah Palin," which we intend to publicize as widely as possible. Please send us your reply at your earliest convenience—the greater the volume of responses we receive, the stronger our message will be.

Thank you for your time and action.

Quinn Latimer and Lyra Kilston
New York, NY Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 4, 2008

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE by Thomas Friedman, NYT Sept. 3

As we emerge from Labor Day, college students are gathering back on campuses not only to start the fall semester, but also, in some cases, to vote for the first time in a presidential election. There is no bigger issue on campuses these days than environment/energy. Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two “green” candidates. That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.

So please, students, when McCain comes to your campus and flashes a few posters of wind turbines and solar panels, ask him why he has been AWOL when it came to Congress supporting these new technologies.

“Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up,” said Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “One of the unbranded cattle — a wizened old maverick name John McCain — finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big ‘Lazy O’ — George Bush’s brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.

“One of McCain’s last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” added Pope, “yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, ‘The jury is still out on global warming.’ She’s the one hanging the jury — and John McCain is going to let her.”

Indeed, Palin’s much ballyhooed confrontations with the oil industry have all been about who should get more of the windfall profits, not how to end our addiction.

Barack Obama should be doing more to promote his green agenda, but at least he had the courage, in the heat of a Democratic primary, not to pander to voters by calling for a lifting of the gasoline tax. And while he has come out for a limited expansion of offshore drilling, he has refrained from misleading voters that this is in any way a solution to our energy problems.

I am not against a limited expansion of off-shore drilling now. But it is a complete sideshow. By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to “drill, drill, drill,” McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.

Why? Because renewable energy technologies — what I call “E.T.” — are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass “I.T.” — information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.

Palin’s nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness “reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attach├ęs,” global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. “After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia.”

So, college students, don’t let anyone tell you that on the issue of green, this election is not important. It is vitally important, and the alternatives could not be more black and white.
More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on September 3, 2008, on page A25 of the New York edition. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, September 1, 2008

Drilling for Oil: Another Act in the Tragedy of the Commons

The whole issue of offshore drilling for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean means the potential loss to others who enjoy and profit from the bounty of this common resource. The oceans of the earth are "commons" for all the peoples and shared by many nations. As with public lands within the continental borders, the U.S. has long understood that it can lease the ocean floors: that's what the offshore oil leasing program is all about.

From our British roots, this country has long utilized the concept of the commons. Even in the early years of the country, the colonists believed that the ocean, rivers and estuaries were open to all -- Native Americans, British and French traders, colonists -- to fish and to gather clams or oysters.

Although the seas were seen as common to all, by the 18th century, most nations came to recognize the sovereignty a country had over its territorial waters, defined as the the 12-miles from its shore. At the same time, the U.S. came to realize that its lands could be used for settlement, growth of the nation and profit.

In this same vein, the US now leases oil and gas exploration rights in the oceans -- it has been leasing in the Gulf of Mexico for some decades and also in the Pacific.

Now, the government through the Department of Interior may lift its decades-old moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, opening the way for the granting of long term leases to oil and gas exploration companies.

This is another example of the loss of the commons. Currently, fishermen are free to fish in these areas. Even though they can still technically fish these areas after the oil and gas leases are in place, the impacts of these industries -- the pollution from mud drills and production waters -- will impact the fish that live in the Atlantic and the fishermen who catch them for our food and their profit.

If the politicians decide to lift the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, they will be bowing to public polls, not to rational arguments. (See "Gasoline Blues" below).

The true tragedy of the commons -- in classic terms -- is that as each party seeks to maximize profits by using it more, the finite commons, in this case the ocean (and yes, even the oceans are finite) will be ruined for all.

According to Garrett Hardin, the 1960s scientist who popularized this concept, the only solution to the tragedy is "mutual coercion mutually agreed upon." Hardin posits that social arrangements often do define responsibility and that in the case of the commons, society through its government needs to set the limits on the use of finite resources.

We the people need to urge the politicians to say no to lifting the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. 100 Days of Oil estimated to be at stake is not worth the loss of yet another of Earth's finite commons. Sphere: Related Content