Why Hide the Energy Task Force

Once the CIA released its Crown Jewels, it was only a matter of time before the list of Cheney’s Energy Task Force meetings would be liberated.

A confidential list prepared by the Bush administration shows thatCheney and his aides had already held at least 40 meetings withinterest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries. By thetime of the meeting with environmental groups, according to a former White House official who provided the list to The Washington Post, the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress.

It’s loaded with big oil executives, sure, but the list raises questions about why Cheney would fight so hard to keep it secret. I would suggest the two most important details from this story are the following: First, the observation that the actual Energy Bill had very different emphases than the Task Force report, which talked a lot about conservation and renewables.

The task force issued its report on May 16, 2001. Though the reportwas roundly criticized by environmental groups at the time, some energyexperts say that in retrospect it appears better balanced than theadministration’s actual policy.

Divided into eight chapters, thereport correctly forecast higher energy prices, stressed energyefficiency and conservation, and pushed for boosting domesticconventional energy supplies and increasing use of renewable energy.Although it advocated wider drilling and omitted climate-changemeasures, it also said that "using energy more wisely" was the nation’s"first challenge."

Some key proposals, such as opening the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, have never won congressionalapproval, but some measures to encourage oil and gas production, coaloutput, and the development of biofuels and nuclear power have beenincluded in Bush’s budgets and in the 2005 energy bill.

And, the detail that Cheney had some meetings with people outside the realm of the Task Force.

Not Quite the Energy Task Force

I get the feeling today’s installment of Cheney started out as a story about the Energy Task Force. It also tells the story of the Klamath fish kill and snowmobiles in Yellowstone. The big news, though, is Christine Todd Whitman’s side of several issues, where Cheney blindly put business issues ahead of environmental requirements. In some ways, last week’s Rolling Stone article on Cheney’s involvement in climate change–which relies heavily on FOIAed documents–provides a valuable complement to the WaPo story, so I’m going to read them in conjunction. Doing so, I believe, closes the circle, shows how Cheney’s unwavering ties to the energy industry drive the rest of his actions.

The WaPo describes the Energy Task Force as an unquestioning affirmation of business assertions that environmental regulations hamper business and energy development.

Sitting through Cheney’s task force meetings, Whitman had beenstunned by what she viewed as an unquestioned belief that EPA’sregulations were primarily to blame for keeping companies from buildingnew power plants. "I was upset, mad, offended that there seemed to beso much head-nodding around the table," she said.

Whitman said she had to fight "tooth and nail" to prevent Cheney’stask force from handing over the job of reforming the New Source Reviewto the Energy Department, a battle she said she won only afterappealing to White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.This was an environmental issue with major implications for air qualityand health, she believed, and it shouldn’t be driven by a task forceprimarily concerned with increasing production.

Directly out of that effort, Rolling Stone suggests, arose the propaganda campaign that served to undercut EPA itself.

Loonies and BRICs

As most of you know, I live in SE Michigan, night clubs drive distance (if that’s your thing) from Canada. I didn’t go to my favorite Canadian ultimate tournament this year, so haven’t been in Canada for a while. So I was pretty darn shocked to hear this news:

The Canadian dollar breached 94 U.S. cents forthe first time in 30 years on Friday and analysts are speculating itwill be worth as much as the struggling U.S. greenback by year end.

Knownas the loonie because of the loon pictured on the one-dollar coin, theCanadian dollar closed at 94.22 cents in Friday trading — the highestit has been since July 1977.

It hit an all-time low of 61.79 cents on Jan. 21, 2002.

The latest surge comes after CIBCWorld Markets economists predicted the Canadian dollar will be worth asmuch as the greenback by the end of the year. That last happened inNovember 1976.

The Canadian dollar–the Loonie–has long been a kind of vacation time bonus for Americans. No longer, I guess. I’ll actually have to pay my way the next trip I make through Canada.

And then there’s this news (via Chris at AmericaBlog):

How High Will the Upcoming Oil Scandals Go?

Back when I was reflecting on why Gayle Norton resigned her position as Interior Secretary, I thought she might be resigning just three steps ahead of the Abramoff investigations. She still might. But now I think it just as likely that she resigned just before the Inspector General started investigating how her Interior Department gave away our country’s wealth to the oil companies.

The Justice Department is investigating whether  the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.

The director of the program and three subordinates, all based inDenver, have been transferred to different jobs and have been orderedto cease all contacts with the oil industry until the investigation iscompleted some time next spring, according to officials involved.

This appears to have been the scam: Some time ago, the Interior Department introduced a "royalties in kind" program, which allowed oil companies to pay for the privilege of drilling for oil on our land in kind–in oil and gas–rather than in cold hard cash. The gimmick is that it was supposed to facilitate accounting. Up until recently (don’t worry–I’m going to figure out these dates), the oil went into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).* But the SPR apparently is all filled up now, so recently the US government started contracting with companies to sell the oil on the "open market." But, as these things are bound to happen in the BushCo world, we didn’t take open bids for the contracts to sell the oil. We apparently just gave companies with ties to a bunch of Interior Department employees in Denver the contracts, which of course meant we got less money than we otherwise would have.

Lamont's "Single Issue" Voters

The Q-Poll shows that 44% of Lamont’s supporters support him mainly because of Lieberman’s stance on the Iraq war. And Markos anticipates a bunch of pundits frowning on the large number of "Single Issue" voters.

For a pundit to suggest the Iraq war is a "Single Issue" simply betrays their ignorance of the impact that war has and will continue to have on this country and the rest of the world.

Some are opposed to the war because they’re opposed to 2,500 Americans dead, 18,000 Americans wounded, perhaps 100,000 Iraqis dead, untold wounded. Some oppose the war simply because it uses violence to solve problems that should be solved using other means.

Some are opposed to the war because it has ruined our military. Two-thirds of our active army and three-quarters of our National Guard face readiness problems because it needs to replace equipment used in Iraq. Extended deployments and lowered recruiting standards are having bad effects on the military, their families, and our mission. The Iraq war–sold as a way to make our country safer–has only exposed it defensively.

Some are opposed to the war because it has thoroughly destabilized Iraq, and threatens to destabilize the entire region. By almost every standard, Iraqi quality of life is worse today than it was under Saddam.

Some are opposed to the war because it has created precisely the problem that it was cynically sold as a way to prevent. Iraq is creating terrorists, at a time when the threat of terrorism remains very real.

Some are opposed to the war because it has turned us into an international pariah. Some countries no longer trust us. Others want nothing to do with our aggressive ways.

The Opportunity Cost of War

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