Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Americans open to gas tax

Polling is suggesting that Americans would be willing to increase the gas tax.

Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a higher federal gasoline tax, but a significant number would go along with an increase if it reduced global warming or made the United States less dependent on foreign oil, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The nationwide telephone poll, conducted Wednesday through Sunday, suggested that a gasoline tax increase that brought measurable results would be acceptable to a majority of Americans.

Neither the Bush administration nor Democratic Party leaders make that distinction. Both are opposed to increasing the gasoline tax as a means of discouraging consumption, although President Bush, in recent speeches, has called for the development of alternative energy to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Eighty-five percent of the 1,018 adults polled opposed an increase in the federal gasoline tax, suggesting that politicians have good reason to steer away from so unpopular a measure. But 55 percent said they would support an increase in the tax, which has been 18.4 cents a gallon since 1993, if it did in fact reduce dependence on foreign oil. Fifty-nine percent were in favor if the result was less gasoline consumption and less global warming. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Monday, February 27, 2006

LNG proposal to get new legs

The environmental review process for a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Ventura County is getting new life.

It's been just over a year since federal regulators temporarily suspended their review of a controversial plan to install a liquefied natural gas terminal 14 miles off the Ventura County shoreline.

A lot can happen in a year.

During that time, a new player joined the crowded field vying to build an LNG terminal on the West Coast. President Bush signed a law giving the federal government authority to approve onshore LNG terminals over the objections of state and local authorities. And a pair of powerful hurricanes slammed into the Gulf Coast, shutting down oil and gas operations and underscoring the vulnerability of the nation's energy supply to disruption.

One thing has not changed since January 2005, when the Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration told BHP Billiton they were stopping the review process because of "deficiencies in the information" the company had provided. Critics of the project still adamantly oppose allowing huge tankers carrying super-cooled gas to unload their flammable cargo in the Santa Barbara Channel and pipe it through Oxnard. Project foes have spent the past year marshaling their forces and honing their arguments in anticipation of a renewed battle once the review process starts again.

BHP Billiton has not been idle. The company — an Australian mining firm with global interests in coal, diamonds, nickel, silver, copper, iron, oil and gas — also has been gearing up for the next stage in the regulatory review, by running ads, changing the project to mollify some of its critics and soliciting support from community leaders. It has a new local public relations firm and a new project manager. It's been gathering and submitting hundreds of pages of additional information requested by the state and federal agencies processing the application.

The next round in the fight is likely to begin within two weeks with the release of a revised environmental document reflecting the new information. With both sides better prepared than they were a year ago to make their case before regulators and the public, the most contentious local environmental dispute in a generation seems certain to grow even more heated.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Terrorism no threat to offshore LNG Port

With all the hubbub over the Dubai Ports World controversey, some folks are looking to the political fracas over LNG to make sense of opponents cries.

Whether or not Dubai Ports World operates facilities in the United States, it will continue to operate ports in Singapore, the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe. If someone is going to sneak a nuclear weapon into the United States, will they try to sneak it out of New York or perhaps a port somewhere else in the world?!?

To object to the sale of the port operations in the United States on the “terrorism” canard is alot like the homeowners in Oxnard who object to building a liquefied natural gas terminal offshort because, god forbid, what if terrorists hijacked an LNG tanker…?!? I’d bet that they won’t be bringing it to an unloading terminal.

Makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Power Plant an Environmental Injustice

A power plant pushed by Governor Schwarzenegger is being called an environmental injustice for a Riverside community.

A power plant touted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and General Electric for its ability to reduce air pollution will actually spew nearly three times more unhealthful particulate matter into the air than older facilities, a coalition of environmental and labor groups said Wednesday.

The plant, under construction in the impoverished, largely Latino Riverside County community of Romoland, will sit about 1,000 feet from an elementary school, in a region that already suffers from the highest soot levels in the state.

"Any power plant built so near schools and families must follow clean air laws and not make our air quality any worse," said Roland Skumawitz, superintendent of the Romoland School District. He said he recognized the need for power in the fast-growing Inland Empire, but preferred that GE and another company that has applied to build a second plant nearby help pay to move the school to a new site.

"This whole area is being targeted for these kinds of facilities," said Penny Newman, executive director of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in Riverside. She said GE's application to the regional air district showed that while the new, so-called H-style turbine plant might reduce greenhouse gas-causing emissions slightly, it would nearly triple particulate emissions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

From Fidio to Fission

Californians may not need nuclear power so much. Instead, you can use Fido to fuel your energy needs.

In the future, we might be heating our houses with dog poop.

As San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area cities strive to reach self-imposed goals of keeping every bit of trash out of landfills by 2020, even animal waste is being scrutinized to see how it might be reused or recycled.

And so San Francisco has become the first city in the country to consider turning Fido's droppings into methane, which can heat homes, cook meals and generate electricity.

LADWP seeks labor changes

Los Angeles' public power authority is working to change its labor relations practices.

Shortly after being appointed last September, members of the board that guides the nation's largest municipal utility began receiving complaints about cronyism and nepotism from employees at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

What was most shocking, said H. David Nahai, the Water and Power Commission's vice president, was the discovery that the department did not formally evaluate its 8,000 workers each year.