Posted by: coastlinesproject | January 2, 2015

Cap and trade revisited.

Chapter One

Unanimous Consent




Congressman Ed Markey couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The Chairman of the Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming had just requested unanimous consent so  Bart Stupak could say a few words. The Democratic representative from Michigan was not on the committee but he had spent most of his day patiently waiting to ask some questions.


Calling for unanimous consent is standard practice in such committees. It is how Congress conducts most of its informal business. But Jim Sensbrenner, the ranking Republican representative sitting right beside Markey, said he would not allow the visiting congressman to ask any questions.


Markey was dumbfounded. He liked to run a tight ship and now Sensbrenner was going to block his colleague for no reason other than he could? The two congressmen went back and forth, until Stupak finally spoke up, quite out of order, warning the Congressman from Wisconsin that the minority party could expect the same kind of treatment from the majority party in future meetings. Sensbrenner merely shrugged his shoulders.


The oil executives smiled. They hated each other’s guts and were only too happy to see one of their colleagues called on the carpet. But they shared a special disdain for politicians. John Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil, remembered being called to testify right after Katrina and Rita had killed and displaced so many of Shell’s workers and their families. It had been an extraordinarily stressful time for the company. It was doing its level best to get its facilities back online, so it could continue supplying gas to the crippled nation.


Then, in the middle of the crisis he had been hauled in front of the Senate and grilled about colluding with other companies to withhold oil to keep prices high! If only the public knew how the energy world really worked. His competitors had been only too happy to steal John’s customers while he was tied up with trying to Royal Dutch Shell get back on its feet.


Oilmen’s disdain for politicians stems from how each profession thinks about time. Oilmen have to think decades ahead in order to line up financing, buy mineral rights and conduct expensive seismic work before even drilling an exploratory well, to say nothing of going into actual production.


John was proud of Shell’s famous hundred year forecasts that predicted what its experts thought the world’s political, economic and energy picture would look like a century in the future. These politicians only thought in terms of tomorrow’s headlines and how to get reelected every two damn years. It was the difference between what he called political time and oil time.


To tell the truth, John felt he had more in common with the environmentalists sitting in the back of the room than the politicians in front. At least the tree huggers were thinking about what was best for their grandchildren’s generation. Only the two sides came at the issue from opposite poles.


The oilmen knew that they were going to eventually run out of oil and that it was a dirty and expensive product that needed to be regulated, not because Al Gore was worried about global warming, but because there were a lot of pollutants in oil that were bad for people’s health. But they also knew that the world was going to continue to need oil until hydrogen power came online. After all, the world still burned firewood and used whale oil for making watches a century after the former fuels had been displaced by coal and petroleum.


Environmentalists started from the premise that global warming was the problem and if they could just pass a bill to get money out of politics and establish a cap and trade system, the country would switch over almost automatically to renewable energy.


John thought that if Congress just created an Energy Reserve system modeled on the Federal Reserve Banking Program the problems of regulating pollution and running out of oil could all be solved without such political interference. But unfortunately there were no silver bullets to solve these two complex and intertwined problems.


We will need legal and economic inducements plus the combined ingenuity of innovators and entrepreneurs to get the world out of its present tailspin. But few innovators or entrepreneurs were even sitting in the room. They were out in the field busily perfecting techniques to recover the gas and oil that the big oil companies had left in the ground.


Soon both sides would be battling these scrappy little Texas frackers; oilmen because they were showing up big oil and environmentalists because they had just realized that natural gas was not going to be the clean bridge to the future they had thought it would be.


But, by the end of 2014 however, Americans would only be paying $2.50 a gallon for gas. OPEC had decided that if any fuel was going to be a bridge to get us to a future based on renewable energy it would be cheap, abundant oil from the Middle East, not methane supplied by a bunch of infidel Texas frackers.


What OPEC didn’t realize is that unlike the traditional oil companies, frackers could get back online in only a few short years. This meant that prices would continue to bounce up and down as the world consumed ever more fuel to heat up our already overheated planet. It was a dangerous and unnerving situation.





William Sargent is the author of 20 books on science and the environment. His latest book, Islands in the Storm, is about Plum Island. It is available in local bookstores and through and at



Part One



But, by the end of Markey’s hearings it was clear that bipartisanship was dead and Obama’s cap and trade bill wasn’t going to pass. The president would have to focus his attention on Obamacare and fixing the economy. He still wanted to curb global warming but he would have to wait until he was safely reelected before he dared use his executive powers to solve the energy crisis and curb greenhouse gases. But such gridlock did not stop states from initiating their own energy transformation that is the genius of our federal system states and a national government. So I decided it was best to look around and see what was happening in my own backyard, before venturing back to the national scene.


Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. Available in local bookstores, and Amazon, Also See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page. 10% will go toward the David Mountain Memorial Fund to provide environmental books to Cape Cod and North Shore students. Happy Holidays!!











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