Month 5, Day 1: Writing to Lord Voldemort

The Deepwater Horizon would never have happened, if there had been an “acoustic switch” installed. Why wasn’t there such a switch? Because federal laws requiring them were nullified early in the Bush/Cheney administration. By guess who?

I have never been more frightened to write a letter than I am at this moment.

UPDATE: There is NO CONTACT INFORMATION AVAILABLE for Dick Cheney. Try googling “Dick Cheney Contact” and see for yourself. So I sent it to his wife, who is a “Senior Fellow” at the American Enterprise Institute (a wingnut welfare center).

Dear Mr. Cheney,

I imagine that as a big fan of environmental destruction, you’re probably relishing the news of the expanding disaster of the Deepwater Horizon platform. I assume also that you are savoring the knowledge that you played an integral part in laying the groundwork for the catastrophe.

Remember the secret meetings you had with the oil industry at the beginning of your first term as Secret President? Of course you do. And you probably remember the deregulation you devised that did away with the requirement for an acoustic switch to cut the flow of oil off at the source. A half-million dollars was surely too expensive, and nothing was going to happen anyway, so why worry?

That switch you decided your buddies didn’t need? It would have prevented this nightmare. Acoustic switches are required in off-shore drilling platforms in most of the world, except, of course, for the United States.

Mr. Cheney, the environmental and economic disaster our nation is now facing is one that can be laid at your feet. If you had a moral bone in your body, you’d be out there on the coastline right now, helping with the cleanup.

I remember way back when you said that “Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy.” A genuinely “sound and comprehensive” energy policy would include projected cleanup costs for oil disasters like the Deepwater Horizon — costs that would explode forever the myth that fossil fuels are “cheap.”

The damage you have done, sir, is incalculable. Because you wanted to spare your Big Oil buddies from having to buy a few switches, we are now facing what’s likely to be the worst oil spill in history, with costs estimated in the hundreds of millions.

This must be a very special and proud moment for you. Savor it.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 30: How Much Worse Can Things Get?

The Deepwater Horizon is an overwhelming tragedy, made worse by corporate attempts at a coverup, and with compounded irony from President Obama’s remarks a few days before it happened.

Dear President Obama,

It was surely unfortunate timing when you remarked (at a town hall meeting in South Carolina) on April 2nd that “…oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” Well, maybe, but in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster we can see that the result of all that “technical advancement” is a catastrophe that is now likely to eclipse the Exxon Valdez spill in every respect.

You also said that, “Even during Katrina, the spills didn’t come from the oil rigs; they came from the refineries onshore.” Oh, how I wish this were true. But, alas, the facts are different: hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused 124 offshore spills, totaling almost a million gallons of oil released into the ocean. 554,400 gallons were crude oil and condensate from platforms, rigs and pipelines, and 189,000 gallons were refined products from platforms and rigs. The largest of these was 152,250 gallons, well over the 100,000 gallon threshold considered a “major spill.”

But corrections aside, the Deepwater Horizon qualifies as an environmental crisis of terrifying proportions. Kerry St. Pe, the former head of Louisiana’s oil spill response team, says, “This isn’t a storage tank or a ship with a finite amount of oil that has boundaries. This is much, much worse.” Much worse, indeed. It’s not a “spill,” it’s a river of oil flowing from the bottom of the Gulf at the rate of 210,000 gallons a day. Some officials say it could be running for months. If that prediction holds, the coastline of Louisiana will become a disaster area that hasn’t been seen in the United States since the Exxon Valdez.

If this doesn’t convince you that offshore drilling is a succession of disasters waiting to happen, what will? The Deepwater Horizon offers further proof that the only way to avoid oil spills is to leave it in the earth. We do need renewable energy, and we don’t need to dump millions of gallons of crude oil over some of the most delicate and valuable ecosystems in the country.

Please reconsider your support for this aspect of your energy program.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 30: Cape Fear

Ken Salazar approved the long-awaited Cape Wind project today. While there are a number of issues that have to be resolved over siting and environmental impact, this is good news; I expect that the 130 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound will turn into a tourist attraction. Massachusetts’ junior senator, of course, was upset.

“With unemployment hovering near 10 percent in Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project will jeopardize industries that are vital to the Cape’s economy, such as tourism and fishing, and will also impact aviation safety and the rights of the Native American tribes in the area. I am also skeptical about the cost-savings and job number predictions we have heard from proponents of the project.

Not, of course, because he really cares about any of that stuff, but because he’s a Republican, and that’s what Republicans do. Meanwhile, A Siegel gave us a good report on a recent study that puts the lie to Republican objections to meaningful climate action.

So I jammed all that stuff into a long letter to Senator Brown. Perhaps one of his staffers will read it to him.

Dear Senator Brown —

I was interested to read of your opposition to the Cape Wind project. While you cite some reasonable concerns about the offshore wind turbine installation, one quote stood out for me. You said, “Instead of forging a coalition and building consensus, this administration has created a deep division that will lead to fewer Massachusetts jobs and more expensive court battles.”

Actually, this administration has been striving since Day one to build consensus and forge coalitions. Any suggestion to the contrary is disingenuous at best and more simply an outright lie. You and your Republican colleagues in the Senate have been remarkably unified in blocking Democratic initiatives — even those (like financial reform) that are obviously to the benefit of your constituents.

You say you support “the concept of wind power as an alternative source of energy.” Does your readiness to “support the concept” mean you’ll vote for the Kerry/Lieberman/Graham climate/energy bill? Or will you vote in Republican lockstep as usual?

Here are some facts that could change your mind.

A newly released study from the Center for Climate Strategies shows that that household wealth and jobs will grow faster in a green economy, and that many previous economic analyses by federal agencies and industry groups are wrong. The CCS study shows conclusively that strong climate mitigation efforts should be considered “investments” leading to significant benefits, rather than as “costs.”

The study further shows that the more aggressive the action, the greater the economic benefits. Now it’s important to recognize, Senator Brown, that when it’s time to analyze the costs and benefits of acting to mitigate climate change, the interests fighting against meaningful climate action have over and over shown themselves ready to lie, to spread misinformation, to use fear tactics, to foster falsehoods about how much it’ll cost. And those who are working for meaningful climate action almost without exception remain overly cautious, understating the benefits of their recommendations.

The record shows vividly that those fighting against environmental protections have exaggerated their cost estimates, and that supporters have understated the benefits. Two examples of this pattern are The Clean Air Act (CAA) and action to protect the Ozone Layer (reducing CFCs). Your colleague Senator Merkley put it nicely when he said:

“…every single time in this nation, when we have confronted great damage to our air or to our water, it is always the same mantra: ‘it will kill jobs’. And every single time when we look back 10 years later, 20 years later, we’re so thankful that we actually created jobs by cleaning up our waterways, we created jobs by cleaning up our air, and we’re going to create jobs by cleaning up carbon dioxide pollution as well.”

This CCS report makes it clear that acting to mitigate climate change will benefit the U.S. economy significantly, and that the more aggressive the action, the better the economy will do. Incidentally, the study doesn’t even include the most important value of action: reducing the impact of catastrophic climate chaos will save us a lot of money, jobs and lives.

And who are the people standing against climate action? Who are the people who are happy to spout falsehoods or scatter irrelevancies when it’s time to talk about meaningful responses to the greatest threat humanity has ever faced? Your Republican colleagues, Senator. As the CCS study shows, the Republican objections to climate legislation (even legislation as drastically weakened as the KLG bill) are unfounded and insincere.

Kind of like your objections to Cape Wind.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 28: You Can’t Keep a Bad Gas Down

Posts like this one at DK allow me to sound like an expert. I am an expert — at sounding like an expert. If the US Government were to develop policies about Hindustani music, I’d be speaking from a genuine base of experience…but here? I’m just passing along what I read, rephrased and polished.

To the Secretary of Energy, with a cc to President Obama:

Dear Secretary Chu,

I was surprised and disappointed when you made public statements last year touting the possibility of “clean coal” as part of our nation’s energy strategy; your previous remarks characterizing coal as a “nightmare” were obviously unacceptable to the coal industry’s representatives, and it must have been an unpleasant experience having to sacrifice scientific integrity for the sake of political expediency.

A recent paper published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering significantly strengthens the case against carbon sequestration. Christine Ehlig-Economides and Michael Economides carried out simulation studies indicating that a closed underground reservoir may not be able to hold even 1% of its volume in injected carbon dioxide (CO2). They write:

“Published reports on the potential for sequestration fail to address the necessity of storing CO2 in a closed system. Our calculations suggest that the volume of liquid or supercritical CO2 to be disposed cannot exceed more than about 1% of pore space. This will require from 5 to 20 times more underground reservoir volume than has been envisioned by many, and it renders geologic sequestration of CO2 a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions.

The authors further discuss Sleipner, a CCS project in the North Sea, noting that it has achieved only a fraction of the CO2 injection volumes required for a single 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant, and further more has experienced “significant leakage to overlying layers.” That is to say, the North Sea project isn’t holding what its proponents said it would hold — and it’s leaking.

Of course, CO2 leakage kind of defeats the purpose of carbon sequestration, doesn’t it?

But let’s say we could solve the leakage problem. Each year, a single coal plant makes about 3 million tonnes of CO2. Three decades adds up to ninety million tonnes, which, stored underground at 1,000 psi, would require an aquifer just slightly smaller than Rhode Island. The United States is a big country, but I don’t feel sanguine about finding six hundred or so storage locations of that size. Do you?

Ehlig-Economides and Economides conclude their paper by stating that geological CO2 sequestration is “…not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions, although it has been repeatedly presented as such by others.”

Can we please stop pretending that “clean coal” is likely to happen anytime soon? I strongly favor R&D funding of carbon sequestration technologies for the simple reason that research in this area is reasonably likely to turn up other approaches that may be useful in our fight against potentially devastating effects of high levels of atmospheric CO2. But it is increasingly obvious that the only way to safely sequester the carbon in coal is the simplest: don’t burn it.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 27: Truly Vile Stuff

Coal is dirty stuff. It’s dirty when you take it out of the earth, it’s dirty when you burn it, and the stuff that’s left behind is even dirtier. Google the phrase “coal ash waste” and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled into a stomach-churning nightmare.

Bizarrely, the Environmental Protection Agency is still trying to figure out whether it should be classified as “hazardous” or not. On one side, the entire human race — on the other, the executives of big coal companies (of whom the odious Don Blankenship is the most repulsive example).

Thanks to Daily Kos diarist DWG, I was given an opportunity to make my letter for the day a note to OMB director Peter Orszag, urging that the EPA move forward on regulating coal ash. You should do it, too!

2. Urge EPA regulation of coal ash as a hazardous waste.

The EPA will announce its decision on regulating coal ash as hazardous waste in April. At the moment, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is holding up the release of new regulations. The OMB and EPA are being barraged with pleas from the coal industry, utilities, business groups, state regulatory agencies, and politicians opposing classification of coal ash waste as a hazardous material. It would be extremely helpful if you would take a moment to drop a line to the OMB to encourage them to move forward with regulation of coal combustion waste as a hazardous material. Remind them that the patchwork of state regulatory agencies has failed to protect the public against spills and contamination, there is overwhelming evidence of heavy metal toxic contamination in water on or near containment sites, and secondary uses need to be tightly regulated using a national standard to prevent contamination of water resources.

Use this form from the Natural Resource Defense Council to provide feedback to the OMB.

Here’s what I wrote:

I write to urge that the Environmental Protection Agency move forward in regulating coal ash as hazardous waste.

There can be no doubt that coal combustion waste is incredibly dangerous. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible. Among the sources is the EPA itself, which recently found that pollution from coal ash dumps significantly increases both cancer and non-cancer health risks and degrades water quality in groundwater supplies. After examining almost two hundred sites throughout the country, the report found that unlined coal ash waste ponds pose a cancer risk 900 times above what is defined as ‘acceptable.’ The report also found releases of toxic chemicals and metals such as arsenic, lead, boron, selenium, cadmium, thallium, and other pollutants at levels that pose both environmental and human health risks.

This information alone should be enough to move coal ash waste into the “hazardous materials” category. But there’s more.

Coal contains trace amounts of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium. In “whole” coal they’re not a problem, but when coal is burned, the fly ash contains uranium and thorium concentrated to up to ten times their original levels.

In a 1978 paper, J. P. McBride and his colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) estimated fly ash radiation exposure around Tennessee and Alabama coal plants and compared it with exposure levels around nuclear power plants — and they found that people living close to coal plants got significantly higher dosages of radiation than those living around nuclear facilities. Depending on local factors, radiation doses were anywhere from three to two hundred times higher.

State regulatory agencies have utterly failed to protect the public against spills and contamination. When coal ash waste dams collapse, the effects are absolutely devastating, leaving behind barren, grotesque landscapes from which all life has been eradicated.

The notion that any controversy exists at all about the hazardous qualities of coal ash is bizarre. If Don Blankenship and the Board of Directors at Massey Coal think it’s such benign stuff, perhaps they could store it in the basements of their mansions — but somehow I don’t think they’d go along.

Please ensure that coal ash is designated a Hazardous Material, and likewise ensure that its storage is strictly regulated, with significant penalties levied for violations. If coal companies actually had to pay fines appropriate to the damage their waste products do, the myth of coal as “cheap energy” would vanish overnight.

Warren Senders

A Few Words About Hippies and India

Anyone who’s spent time in India knows the phenomenon of the hippie.  Hippie participation in Indian music started thanks to George Harrison and Ravi Shankar; while many professional Hindustani musicians earn healthy teaching fees from these questing souls, most of them regard “hippies” with a justifiably skeptical eye.

About ten years ago, members of the USENET newsgroup for Indian classical music ( engaged in a lengthy and vociferous discussion of “hippies in ICM.”  As a former hippie and a full-time professional Hindustani musician, I was in a unique position to clarify matters, and I assembled a post which, it was agreed, shed some light on the matter.  I thought I’d share it with you, only slightly revised.

more »

Month 4, Day 26: Don’t Bother Us, We’re Busy.

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change has called for an International Climate Court, where environmental offenders would be called to account. The Cochabamba conference sounds fantastic, and I applaud the initiative of Bolivia’s Evo Morales, who…

…also announced plans to mount a referendum of 2 billion people on solutions to the climate crisis within a year.

Speaking at the close of the four-day World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Morales called on the UN to listen to the voice of the poorest. “The UN has an obligation to listen to its peoples and social forces. If the UN doesn’t want to lose its authority, they should apply the conclusions of this conference. And if they don’t, I am convinced that the peoples will apply their wisdom, recommendations and documents,” he said.

Wouldn’t you know it? The U.S. Government couldn’t be bothered

….aw, hell. Just read the letter.

Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton,

I write to express my deep disappointment that the United States Government thought so little of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba that it “…politely declined to send as much as a low-level observer to the historic summit, which drew more than 31,000 people from all over the world, and representatives from almost 50 governments,” according to the U.K. Guardian.

Mr. President: after the debacle in Copenhagen many of us who worked incredibly hard to get you elected swallowed our disappointment and hoped that we would see stronger actions on climate change. We still hope that your administration will keep its promise to respect the findings of climate scientists, and we still hope to see signs that you are ready to treat climate change and global warming as the planetary emergencies they are. But your recent announcement of plans for exploratory offshore drilling is incredibly distressing, given the abysmal safety record of offshore rigs (one example of which is leaking 42,000 gallons a day into the Gulf of Mexico as I write).

But this letter isn’t about offshore drilling (I’m mailing under separate cover a copy of a comment I sent to the Minerals Management Service EIS Scoping Process). This letter has me wondering if the Obama Administration is really serious about including the voices of the poor and disenfranchised in a global conversation about the realities of climate change…and concluding, sadly, that it isn’t.

The poor and disenfranchised certainly deserve a voice. They’re the ones who are going to die in the greatest numbers. They’re the ones who are going to lose their homelands, who will fall ill with dengue fever, whose food supplies will diminish, whose livelihoods will be destroyed. Why, then, is a conference of indigenous peoples not deemed worthy of a single observer? Massive corporate interests attract the obeisances of government bureaucrats and elected officials, even as they plunder the world’s economies and continue a path of destructive consumption that is increasingly likely to lead us to a dystopian planet unfit for human habitation….a planet where our grandchildren (and yours) are going to be struggling for survival against ever-greater odds.

If you’re serious about “including all voices” in the conversation, then your administration needs to reach out to the people whose lives are being destroyed by American negligence, exploitation and profiteering. The United States must become a genuinely responsible citizen of the planet. We have only one chance to get this right, and the solution to the climate crisis cannot come from the boardrooms of multinational corporations alone; it must come from the world’s citizens, rich and poor alike.

By refusing to send a delegate to Cochabamba, the United States has again demonstrated how lightly it takes the pressing concerns of the world’s indigenous people. “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest,” wrote the Greek philosopher. As the planet heats up, the poor will not die in fun, but in earnest.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 25: Special Jackass Edition

I read two posts at the GOS. First, the regular “State of the Climate” report summarizing NOAA data. And second, the news (which does not surprise me one whit) that Lindsey Graham is in a snit about the Senate’s taking up immigration reform all of a sudden…so he’s abandoning the climate bill. What a jackass.

Dear Senator Graham,

I understand you’re mad at the Democrats because they’re trying to work on immigration reform — so you’re going to refuse to be involved with the climate legislation you’ve been crafting with Senators Kerry and Lieberman.

Now, I’m not going to lump you in with ignoramuses like your Republican colleague James Inhofe, whose version of a climate/energy strategy appears to be “wait for the Rapture” — but I am endlessly amazed by the capacity of Republican politicians to pass off specious and illogical arguments as if they were irrefutable fact.

So the Senate is going to work on immigration reform? Does that affect the work you’ve been doing? Apparently the United States Senate can’t do two things at once?

Let me remind you of two things. First, according to NOAA analysis: The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2010 was the warmest on record; this was also the 34th consecutive March with global land and ocean temperatures above the 20th century average. Locations all over the world reported temperature anomalies this month, many of which were all-time record highs. The planet is getting warmer, and it’s doing so more rapidly than climatologists expected even a few months ago. We’re in genuine trouble, and inaction is not a viable option.

Second, the bill you’ve been working on is loaded with giveaways to the fossil fuel industry; from an environmental perspective it’s as weak as it could possibly be and still address climatic concerns at all. Which is to say, it obviously reflects your input.

So — why would you decide at the last minute to abandon support for a bill you helped write? Even though this bill is weak, it’s a start. Your readiness to run away from it looks more like a wounded ego — and what kind of man lets an insult to his pride stand in the way of fulfilling his responsibilities?

Pathetic. Yours is a singular combination of political and moral cowardice that bodes ill for the future of our country and our world.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 24: Dammit, dammit, dammit.


Dear Senators Kerry and Lieberman,

I am close to despair. I’ve just finished reading the details of the upcoming climate legislation you’ve been working on with Senator Graham. It appears that, in your eagerness to bring big oil interests on board, you’ve given away the store. I was never particularly optimistic that we would get the bill we need, which is to say, a bill that shuts down the fossil fuel industry as quickly as possible — but I had hopes that we would get a bill that didn’t completely capitulate to the demands of our Corporate Overlords.

Seriously — removing the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2? That’s not just a concession, that’s abject surrender. Removing the ability of individual states to set tougher standards than the Federal government? This is specifically a measure designed to undercut California’s emissions requirements, and is in every respect a giveaway.

The whole bill is loaded with goodies for oil, gas and coal companies. And what’s there for the planet? For all of us whose children’s children are going to be struggling for survival on a planet rendered uninhabitable by our collective failure to act in our own best interests? Almost nothing.

And the best part? I’m willing to bet that you won’t get more than a single Republican vote for this piece of craven capitulation. In fact, it would not surprise me if Senator Graham were to vote “No.”

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there are hidden gems buried in the fine print that will help us apply genuine regulation to CO2 emissions. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade oil company CEOs that their companies will stop being profitable around the time the human race becomes extinct. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade James Inhofe that waiting for the Rapture is not a viable energy policy. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade Don Blankenship that we need to stop burning coal.

If you can do those things, I’m sure you can persuade me that the long-anticipated climate legislation is an excellent and honorable piece of work. I will await your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 23: Don’t Drill, Baby! Don’t Drill!

The program of exploratory drilling off the US coastline that was announced earlier by President Obama was the subject of a beautiful and poignant post by DK’s R.L.Miller. Go read it. She urges people to participate in this program:

The U.S. Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service, invites interested parties to participate in the 2012-2017 Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Program Environmental Impact Statement (2012-2017 OCS Oil and Gas Programmatic EIS) scoping process. The scoping process is intended to involve all interested agencies (Federal, state, county, and local), public interest groups, Native American tribes, businesses, and members of the public. The public scoping period started with the publication of the Notice of Intent in the Federal Register.

The purpose of the public scoping process is to determine relevant issues that will influence the scope of the environmental analysis and the alternatives. Comments on the relationship between the Oil and Gas Program and the Alternative Energy Program are also welcome. Comments will be accepted at public scoping meetings, by mail, and electronically through a public comment form on this Web site.

In other words, go to the MMS site and object vociferously to the proposed Exploratory Drilling program. There’s a form there. As usual, I encourage you to use my words, paraphrasing as necessary. Object! Object! Object! The offshore drilling program is a piece of delusional chicanery that needs to be stopped.

Here’s what I wrote; I will submit this electronically and with a hard copy in the mail.

I write to express very strong objections to exploratory oil drilling anywhere off the U.S. coast, but especially on the Atlantic seaboard. There are numerous reasons why the proposed program should be shelved.

First: the issue of safety, for humans, oceanic ecosystems and coastlines.

Within the past month, there have been two oil disasters on the Atlantic seaboard, only one of which received any coverage in the media. An 18,000 gallon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was barely noticed, arguably because the news release was controlled by the Coast Guard, the state of Louisiana and the pipeline operator, Cypress Pipe Line Company. The April 6 spill covered about 120 square miles and affected a significant portion of a National Wildlife Refuge, home to a variety of animals, and an important nursery for both freshwater and saltwater fish. A few days later, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded while doing exploratory drilling about 50 miles out, eventually collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico. Oil released from this catastrophe is likely to reach the coasts of Louisiana and Mississippi. The promises of accident-free and ecologically neutral exploratory drilling are unrealistic pipe dreams, as a little study shows.

According to Minerals Management Service records, there have been 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions in the Gulf in the past nine years. Not so safe.

Second: the issue of long-term sustainability.

It is by now accepted knowledge that the point of diminishing returns on fossil fuel exploitation has probably been reached. The future of energy no longer is the province of oil and coal, for not only are we at the “peak oil” point already, it is irrefutable that the overconsumption of oil and coal has dangerously increased atmospheric CO2, laying the foundation for catastrophic global warming. The essential processes of developing renewable energy technology need to happen as fast as possible if America and the world are to survive the coming centuries, and hunting for more oil to burn is a dangerous distraction. We need to stop putting carbon in the atmosphere, and we need to stop wasting the fossil fuel reserves we have. A well-managed efficiency initiative would probably save more fuel per annum than we could find with exploratory drilling programs.

Third: the likelihood of financial mismanagement and possible fraud.

In theory, drilling on leased lands generates income, thus benefiting taxpayers. In theory. In practice, a recent GAO audit revealed that the Mineral Management Service often fails to accurately track production of oil and gas leases on federal land. In some cases, oil companies are taking advantage of a badly written 1995 statute to avoid paying any royalties at all for drilling on public lands.

Fourth: the ethical implications of abandoning a science-based energy policy in favor of one built around political expediency.

President Obama explicitly campaigned on a promise to respect science (something completely inconceivable under the Bush administration). After the election he even wrote a memo on scientific integrity. But in October 2009, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration warned the President to exclude the Atlantic seaboard from offshore drilling — and he ignored that warning in his March 31, 2010 announcement of the exploratory drilling program. The NOAA further recommended caution in drilling off the environmentally sensitive Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and that recommendation was also ignored.

The administration’s failure to live up to its own promises of respect for basic science may be a sop to powerful energy interests, but it is a terrible disappointment to those of us who expected higher standards of intellectual integrity.

The reasons for the exploratory drilling program? I can think of one: it will make big oil companies happier.

Frankly, that’s not a very good reason to proceed with an initiative that has high failure risks, is virtually certain to cause severe environmental damage, enables a climatically damaging national addiction to oil, holds enormous potential for fraud, waste and abuse, and runs counter to everything this administration claimed to stand for.

Sincerely Yours,

Warren Senders