Free Markets, Free People

Interior Department


Science bows to politics in Obama administration

You may remember this line from President Obama’s inaugural speech: " We will restore science to its rightful place … "?

The implication, of course, is that science had been held hostage to politics and that was no longer going to be tolerated.

Well, until it was necessary to skew it to support Obama’s political agenda, that is:

The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report. In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.

Of course the usual suspects claim no intention of mislead exists. That it was just part of the "normal editing process".

But:

“At 2:13 a.m. on May 27, 2010, Browner’s staff member sent an e-mail back to Black that contained two versions of the executive summary,” the IG report states. “Both versions sent by the staff member contained significant edits to DOI’s draft executive summary but were very similar to each other.

“Both versions, however, revised and re-ordered the executive summary, placing the peer review language immediately following the moratorium recommendation causing the distinction between the secretary’s moratorium recommendation – which had not been peer-reviewed – and the recommendations contained in the 30-Day Report – which had been peer-reviewed – to become effectively lost.” [emphasis mine]

Unless you’re a totally inept editor and not able to read for comprehension, this should have been obvious to everyone involved. The IG figured it out. Why didn’t Browner and Salazar?

Because, most likely, it said what they wanted said (implications included) exactly as they wanted it said so they could support the position they had already decided was necessary. 

But the denial, as absurd as it is, continues:

Black said he didn’t have any issues with the White House edit; he and his staffer both told the IG it never occurred to them that an objective reader would conclude that peer reviewers had supported the six-month moratorium.

Really? Seriously? Well what about the "objective" readers on the panel:

Nevertheless, Interior apologized to the peer reviewers in early June after some of them complained they were used to support the controversial ban. Salazar also held a conference call with the peer reviewers and met personally with some of them.

Obviously their "objective" reading of the executive summary caused them to conclude otherwise, didn’t it?

Glad to see science is back in the position the president promised it would be under his administration.

Change – a wonderful thing to behold, huh?

~McQ


The Future Consequences Of Energy Stupidity

I’m not sure how else to characterize this in a strategic and national security sense:

Canada, faced with growing political pressure over the extraction of oil from its highly polluting tar sands, has begun courting China and other Asian countries to exploit the resource.

The pressure is coming from the United States. The “pollution” is carbon. But the bottom line is the tar sands are going to continue to be exploited in Canada. The question is, to whom will the oil extracted go?

With the US backing away, the answer, apparently, is China.

In the most significant deal to date, the Canadian government recently approved a C$1.9bn (£1.5bn) investment giving the Chinese state-owned oil company Petro­China a majority share in two projects. Prime minister Stephen Harper said: “Expect more Chinese investment in the resource and energy sectors … there will definitely be more.” China’s growing investment in the tar sands is seen in Canada as a useful counter to waning demand for tar sands oil from the US, its biggest customer. The moves, which have largely gone unnoticed outside north America, could add further tension to efforts to try to reach a global action plan on climate change.

[...]

The projects, which will begin coming on line over the next decade, are seen as crucial to a long term strategy of finding new sources of energy as China’s economy continues to expand.

How about that … a country with a “long term strategy” in which it seeks sources of new energy for future growth. Not so in the US where Ken Salazar’s Interior Department seems to be using every means available to it to slow down the possibility of finding and bringing new carbon based resources on line for future consumption:

The Interior Department has informed Congress that it will take over two years to complete an environmental study needed to allow major seismic surveys of Atlantic coast oil-and-gas resources – a timeline that industry groups allege is too slow.

In an early February letter to House and Senate appropriators, Interior provides a timeline for completing a “programmatic environmental impact statement” on the effects of seismic testing and other assessment techniques.

It anticipates a “record of decision” – which is the final agency sign-off – in mid-April of 2012.

If I’m not mistaken, that will put us 4 years into the decision to allow drilling in the OCS. And, of course, seismic surveys and their effects are well known and have been for decades. The seismic surveys would update decades old surveys.

The point, of course, is these new Interior requirements completely derail the timeline established by the Interior Department in 2007:

Interior’s 2007-2012 offshore leasing plan calls for a lease sale off Virginia’s coast in 2011, although the sale could be delayed.

No company is going to bid on leases until those seismic surveys are complete.

The long range consequences for the US of these sorts of short sited policies should be obvious. And I don’t expect them to get any better any times soon despite the promises President Obama made in his State of the Union address.

~McQ

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