Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bush Removes Executive Ban on Offshore Oil Drilling

From Environment News Service:

WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2008 (ENS) - Saying that Americans are worried about the high price of gasoline, President George W. Bush today removed the executive ban on offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, the OCS, that has stood since his father was in the Oval Office.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, the president blamed the Democratically-controlled Congress for rising gasoline prices that averaged more than $4.07 a gallon at the 4th of July holiday weekend. That is 13 cents more than last month and $1.09 higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association.

"For years, my administration has been calling on Congress to expand domestic oil production," said President Bish. "Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal - and now Americans are paying at the pump. When members of Congress were home over the Fourth of July recess, they heard a clear message from their constituents: We need to take action now to expand domestic oil production."

President George W. Bush (Photo by Luke Sharrett courtesy The White House)

Congress banned most offshore drilling in 1981. Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, issued an executive order banning offshore drilling after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, today responded by blaming the president for pursuing the agenda of the major oil companies.

"Once again, the oilman in the White House is echoing the demands of Big Oil," said Pelosi.

"The Bush plan is a hoax. It will neither reduce gas prices nor increase energy independence," said Pelosi, who says the oil companies already have oil leases on nearly 68 million acres of public lands and coastal areas that they are not exploring.

"It's time to tell the oil industry, 'You already have millions of acres to drill. Use it or lose it,'" she said.

"If the President wants to bring down prices in the next two weeks, not the next two decades," Pelosi said, "he should free our oil by releasing a small portion of the more than 700 million barrels of oil we have put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve."

Pelosi and members of her leadership team are working on legislation that maximizes production of areas that are already open to drilling.

One measure under discussion would expedite completion of new oil and natural gas pipelines in Alaska. Another would direct the Bureau of Land Management to hold annual instead of biannual lease sales for the National Petroleum Reserve. Other provisions would prevent Alaskan oil from being sold outside the United States, and further restrict speculation in oil markets. The bill is expected to come before the House this week.

The OCS contains an estimated 86 billion barrels of oil and more than 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, today repeated his support for allowing more drilling, but he emphasized that the states should decide whether or not to open coastal areas to oil and gas exploration.

The presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, opposes lifting the ban.

The National Association of Manufacturers, NAM, today praised President Bush for lifting the executive ban on offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.

“We are encouraged by the actions of the president and urge Congress to show equal resolve by moving forward in a quick, positive, and bi-partisan manner to lift its ban on offshore exploration,” said Jay Timmons, NAM executive vice president.

“This country is facing an energy crisis,” Timmons said. “It is imperative that every opportunity to reduce the cost of energy be taken."

“Providing access to these domestic energy resources will send a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. is serious about easing the burden faced by American consumers and manufacturers,” Timmons said.

President Bush called on Congress to pass legislation repealing the congressional ban, and facilitating "responsible offshore exploration" that allows states "to have a say in what happens off their shores, provides a way for the federal government and states to share new leasing revenues, and ensure the environment is protected."

Bush also called for Congress "to tap into the extraordinary potential of oil shale, which could provide Americans with domestic oil supplies that are equal to more than a century's worth of current oil imports."

But the shale proposal is not likely to generate much support across the country. Late last month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami adopted a resolution aimed at avoiding the use of high carbon fuels such as tar sands, liquid coal, and oil shale. Production of useable oil and gas from these sources requires large amounts of water and energy and emits large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Bush also called on Congress to permit exploration in currently restricted areas of northern Alaska, "which could produce roughly the equivalent of two decades of imported oil from Saudi Arabia."

And the president repeated his demand for Congress to expand and enhance U.S. refining capacity, "so that America will no longer have to import millions of barrels of fully-refined gasoline from abroad."

While some governors, such as Florida Governor Charlie Crist favor offshore drilling, many governors are opposed.

Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California said last month at the climate change conference in Florida, "Politicians have been throwing around all kinds of ideas in response to the skyrocketing energy prices, from the rethinking of nuclear power to pushing biofuels and more renewables and ending the ban on offshore drilling. But anyone who tells you this would bring down gas prices any time soon is blowing smoke."

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some Plants Can Adapt To Widespread Climate Change

ScienceDaily (July 9, 2008) — While many plant species move to a new location or go extinct as a result of climate change, grasslands clinging to a steep, rocky dale-side in Northern England seem to defy the odds and adapt to long-term changes in temperature and rainfall, according to a new study by scientists from Syracuse University and the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom) published online in the July 7 issue of the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The experiment on which the study is based is one of the longest-running studies of climate change impacts on natural vegetation and may yield new insights into the effects of global warming on plant ecosystems.

"Contemporary wisdom suggests that climate changes cause plants to move or die," says Jason Fridley, study co-author and assistant professor of biology in The College of Arts and Sciences at SU. "However, our study suggests that if the changes in climate occur slowly enough, some plants have the ability to respond, adapt and thrive in their existing location."

The new findings resulted from the analysis of 13 years of data collected at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in the United Kingdom by Emeritus Professor J. Philip Grime and colleagues at the University of Sheffield. Established in 1989, BCCIL is a field laboratory of grasslands consisting largely of slow-growing herbs and sub-shrubs, many of which are more than 100 years old. As many as 50 different species of plants per square meter survive the region's hostile conditions by growing in shallow soil and in the nooks and crannies of limestone outcrops. The data analysis was supported by a grant Fridley obtained from the National Science Foundation.

The 13-year experiment at BCCIL involved subjecting 30 small grassland plots to microclimate manipulation. For example, some plots received 20 percent more water than normal during the summer, while other plots were covered with rain shelters in the summer to simulate drought conditions; heating cables were placed under some plots to simulate winter warming. The grasses in all of the plots were cut to simulate annual sheep grazing. A similar experiment was concurrently conducted on grasslands in Southern England for the first five years.

Data collected from the northern and southern sites was the subject of a study published by Grime and colleagues in Science (2000). In the 2000 study, the vegetation in the southern plots was substantially altered by the climate changes, while the Buxton vegetation in the north was virtually unaffected. The southern experiment was dismantled, but Grime continued the experiment on the Buxton plots.

"Based on the results of the five-year experiment, we suspected there was something unique happening in the northern grasslands that enabled the plants to resist simulated climate changes," Fridley says. "We formed two hypotheses -- the plants will eventually be affected, but it will take longer due to chronic nutrient shortage; or the grasslands won't change regardless of how long we manipulate the environment. All of our analysis suggested that the grassland ecosystem is stable, despite the climate manipulations."

The new results have yielded more questions than answers; foremost is why are some plants resistant to climate change, while others die, become extinct or migrate to other places? The answers may lie in the nature and behavior of the individual plants within a species.

"Individual plants may die or contract," Fridley says, "but perhaps they are replaced by those of the same species that are more adapted to the environmental changes. The closer we look, the more complex the systems become. There is actually a lot going on, but we may be missing it because we are looking at a broad spectrum of species instead of what is happening at the level of the individual plants within a species."

Adapted from materials provided by Syracuse University.