The Brian Lehrer Show

Make it Bahrain

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Steve Levine who runs "The Oil and the Glory" blog at Foreign Policy, talks about the U.S. relationship with Bahrain in light of the unrest there and in the Middle East region. Plus Lauren Vriens, a Fulbright scholar studying in Bahrain calls in to update us on the situation there.

→ Read a recap and join the conversation at It's a Free Country

The Takeaway

Chevron May Pay Big to Ecuador

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Twenty years ago, the Amazon River in Ecuador was heavily contaminated after chemical-laden wastewater was dumped into it. The effects on the surrounding population were devastating: illness, death, and economic loss. Chevron Corp., the U.S.'s second largest oil company, is the alleged culprits, and the company may have to pay at least $8 billion to repair damages after a ruling yesterday. In a statement, Chevron reacted, saying "The Ecuadorian court's jumdgment is illegitimate and unenforceable. It is the product of fraud and is contrary to the legitimate scientific evidence. Chevron will appeal this decision in Ecuador and intends to see that justice prevails."

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Transportation Nation

Retired Military Leaders: Federal Transportation Policy Should Focus on Reducing Oil Consumption

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) UPDATED with DOT response

A group composed of business leaders and retired four-star generals released a report today that says "oil dependence represents a profound threat to American economic and national security."

Simply put, the main message is "use less oil."

The group, called the Energy Security Leadership Council, has taken on various aspects of energy policy before, but this is the first time it's turned its attention to the transportation sector. Its "Transportation Policies for America's Future" report, which is timed to coincide with the upcoming transportation reauthorization bill, paints a stark picture:

"The majority of this oil is produced in hostile nations and unstable regions. Its price is increasingly volatile. As a result, the economy is left at the mercy of events and actors beyond U.S. control."

The report includes a broad swath of recommendations (some which require action from the DOT; some which require congressional approval) to reduce oil consumption, including:

  • Create a new federal formula program focused on improving system performance in urban areas using pricing strategies and single-occupancy vehicle alternatives
  • Create a competitive program that makes funds available for congestion-mitigation proposals that seek to deploy dynamic tolling, performance-based technological improvements, transit solutions, and Travel Demand Management (TDM) initiatives. In other words, use federal funds to encourage carpooling, transit, and other relatively low-energy forms of transportation.
  • Establish a program to fund nationally-significant projects that improve the efficiency of freight and goods movement, and have a substantial impact on interstate commerce
  • Remove federal legal restrictions on tolling road capacity that could bring about congestion relief
  • Promote the long-term deployment of a comprehensive, privacy-protective Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee
  • Pilot approaches to pre-development regulations for projects expected to achieve sustainable oil savings

The ESLC says that implementing these could save the country as much as seven billion (cumulative) barrels of oil by the year 2035.

Also today: the House Appropriations Committee released its list of $74 billion worth of budget cuts--including an almost $900 million reduction to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

We reached out to the Department of Transportation and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica for reaction to the report, and heard this from the DOT:

"The Obama Administration is already working to reduce our oil dependence by investing in more sustainable forms of transportation, such as high speed passenger rail and transit opportunities, and by working with EPA to increase fuel economy standards. The Department of Transportation has also been working with HUD and EPA to make coordinated investments in sustainable communities that put affordable housing within reach of good public transportation services and economic opportunities."

No word yet from Mica's office. In the meantime, you can find the ESLC's full report here.

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Financial 411: Low job numbers and High oil prices; Gov. Cuomo's budget and the latest Bernie Madoff News

Friday, February 04, 2011


Call it the head-scratcher. January's employment report, showing anemic job growth, surprised and dismayed almost everyone, including Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers:


The Takeaway

Oil Prices Spike Amid Turmoil in Egypt

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Oil prices have been floating around $90 a barrel for weeks, but now, the turmoil in Egypt has pushed the price up. Crude oil jumped close to 4% on Friday and then 3.2% yesterday to settle at $92.19 a barrel. However, the output of crude hasn’t changed in the region, so what exactly explains the sharp rise in prices?


The Takeaway

As Oil Prices Rise, Looking at the Year Ahead for Energy

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back in 2008, the price of a barrel of oil rose to $133, and prices at the pump topped $4 per gallon. As the economy slowed, and demand for oil dropped, the price did as well. However, the cost of oil has risen to just over $90 a barrel, as confidence in the economic recovery grows stronger and the price of filling up your car is expected to keep rising throughout 2011. What will happen to our economic recovery if we hit the psychological benchmark of $100 per barrel or higher this year?

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The Takeaway

Top of the Hour: Russian Interference with Justice? Morning Headlines

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is the Russian government interfering with the delivery of justice, in the case of a man who has proven a dissident? Questions have arisen after an oligarch seems to be suffering trumped up charges. 


Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: 100th Countdown Clock in NYC Subways, India's Railways Prioritize Onions, and Spain Now Leads Europe in HSR

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A countdown clock on the 110th Street 1 train platform (Kate Hinds)

NYC's subways have their 100th countdown clock -- exceeding the MTA's original goal to get 75 stations online by the end of the year.

You can still buy tickets for American Airlines flights online--but not on Orbitz, because the airline wants to cut out that electronic middleman.  (USA Today)

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board levied the first fine in its 14 year history---$250,000 against the Canadian National Railway Company for failure to report blockages at its Chicago-area street crossings.  (Chicago Sun-Times)

India's railways will prioritize the delivery of onions throughout the country. The country's staple vegetable has grown scarce due to heavy rains in growing areas, and prices are spiraling upwards. (Daily News and Analysis)

Spain is now the European high-speed rail leader. (New York Times)

Everyone may finally be on board with Indiana's new, comprehensive transit plan, which includes tripling buses, establishing BRT, and building commuter rail. (Indianapolis Star)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says that his priority is a new subway line. And only subways. "There’s no more above ground,” he said. “No, everything’s going underground. I want to do subways." (The Globe and Mail)

Could high oil prices hurt the economy's recovery in the new year? (Marketplace)

NPR's series on ethanol concludes with a look at the industry's response to critics -- and its partnership with NASCAR.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter for more stories.

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The Takeaway

Rising Oil Prices: A Sign of Recovery or Economic Trouble?

Monday, December 20, 2010

After Congress passed the tax cut package last week, the price of oil went up — a sign that traders may be counting on higher demand for gasoline, home heating oil and other commodities as the economy recovers. But is spending more money on gas really the way to boost a fragile economy?


The Takeaway

Top of the Hour: The Price of Oil, Morning Headlines

Monday, December 20, 2010

The price of oil could create a commodities spike and stir up trouble in the economy. Of course, it could also be a sign of improvement. 


Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: 30,000 Unlicensed, Illegal Immigrants Deported After Traffic Violations, Jay St./Metrotech Connector Opens Today, and Boston Fare Jumper Bust

Friday, December 10, 2010

At least 30,000 illegal immigrants who were stopped for common traffic violations in the last three years have ended up in deportation, Department of Homeland Security numbers show. (New York Times)

Jay St./Metrotech subway underground walkway opens today in Brooklyn, connecting the A, C and the F lines with the R. One straphanger's reaction: "Thank God!"  (New York Daily News)  Another reason to be grateful: you'll soon be able to seek a replacement for your faulty Metrocard online.

Virginia governor Robert McDonnell announced that he will ask state legislators to spend $400 million immediately on roads and bridges while borrowing an additional $2.9 billion over the next three years for transportation. "This is the best opportunity in modern Virginia history to build roads," he said. (Washington Post)

NJ Transit to rehab Arrow electric rail cars in hopes of squeezing another five years of life out of them. "These are really tired vehicles. I ride them daily," said James Weinstein, NJ Transit executive director. "They are really threadbare." (Asbury Park Press)

Bus lanes coming to Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

Did the Idaho Transportation Department bow to a powerful oil company, ignoring procedure and public will to pave the way for the mega-loads? That's the accusation in a hearing happening this week. (Idaho Reporter)

The Federal Aviation Administration is missing key information on who owns one-third of the 357,000 private and commercial aircraft in the U.S. — a gap the agency fears could be exploited by terrorists and drug traffickers. (NPR)

A surveillance camera catches a Boston fare evader being none other than the Boston transit general manager. (via Radio Boston)

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The Takeaway

Who's To Blame For The Gulf Oil Spill? Maybe Nobody

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

President Obama's commission to investigate the causes of the Gulf oil spill revealed their results yesterday, and it seems that they couldn't find anyone specifically to blame. Fred Bartlit, lead counsel on the investigation, said "We have not seen a single instance where a human being made a conscious decision to favor dollars over safety." While the commission says it agrees "90 percent" with BP's own report on the explosion and spill — does the public need someone to blame for all of this?


Transportation Nation

Obama's New Diesel Standards

Friday, October 01, 2010

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) New diesel fuel economy standards are expected to be finalized within a week and some in the diesel industry are taking the occasion to remind us about the other way to reduce pollution, making engine technology cleaner with clean diesel.   The new regulations are expected to require diesel engines to increase miles per gallon performance primarily for light trucks and heavy-duty vehicles, but regulating that category is no easy task.

In Europe, 50% of the cars on the road are diesel according to the Diesel Technology Forum. Here in the U.S though, diesel vehicles make up just 3% of of our vehicles, accounting for 10% of our nation's oil consumption, and 20% of the transit-related pollution. That's an environmental opportunity when you think of what a few extra miles-per-gallon would do with a bus or truck that travels over a million miles during its lifetime.

Its a complicated matter though to set fuel efficiency standards for heavy duty vehicles, a category that covers tractor trailers as well as construction vehicles like dump trucks. The fuel is consumed in many different ways, it could be used making cross country highway trips or in operating equipment on the truck while stationary like a cement mixer.  Some vehicles go 100,000 miles a year, others may not travel more than a few hundred, like a fire truck. Some argue per-mile efficiency may not be the best metric for reducing diesel consumption and pollution across the board. The NYT has a nice explanation of this and other regulatory puzzles that explain some of the delay in targeting this class of transit polluter.

Mileage standards are certainly one way to reduce diesel pollution, but technology is another. In anticipation of the new regulations, clean diesel advocates at the Diesel Technology Forum pointed out a 52% rise in clean diesel vehicle sales over a year ago. No one expects clean diesel to rival hybrids for the mantle of greener cars, but it may well be a growth market and an eco-opportunity.

One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that we can cut fuel consumption in heavy-duty vehicles almost in half with the combination of new technologies and diesel fuel economy standards. That's likely the kind of hopeful case for change the Obama administration will make when they release the official standards.

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The Takeaway

Countries Focus on Arctic Region for Energy Future

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Russia is attempting to stake out both literal and diplomatic territory over the division of natural resources in the Arctic region.  


Transportation Nation

Move Over, Electric Cars

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eric Schultz for Transportation Nation

(Washington, DC - Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) The world's premier ultra-efficient vehicle has a gas engine.

It's the Edison 2 Very Light Car, and it just won the $5 million Automotive X Prize for highly-efficient, production-ready vehicles. The Edison 2 gets 102.5 miles per gallon and it does it without plug-in capability, hybrid technology, or solar power.

The prize, put up by Progressive Automitive was awarded Thursday in Washington DC at an even attended by members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Oliver Kuttner, founder of Edison 2, said his company was motivated to build the car entirely by the prospect of winning the X Automotive Prize

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Transportation Nation

Shallow Waters Tarred With Deepwater Brush

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

(Houston — Wendy Siegle, KUHF)   There may be a moratorium on deepwater drilling, but that doesn't mean the Gulf of Mexico's shallow waters are immune from stricter regulation. More stringent rules mean the federal government is now taking longer to grant permits to operate in the shallow waters, and drillers aren't pleased.

(Oil Rigs near Huntington Beach/Aaron Logan)

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The Takeaway

Fifty Years of OPEC and the End of Cheap Oil

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fifty years ago, five countries created an economic consortium to control the price and flow of crude oil: the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. OPEC's birthday comes around the same time that a new paper by a German military think-tank sheds light on how close the world is coming to the potential moment of "Peak Oil."

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Transportation Nation

Moving Stories: Roads Deadlier than AIDS; 100 Tons of Diesel in the Nile; "stylish, female bikers"

Monday, September 13, 2010

More children killed on roads in poorest nations than by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria (Guardian)

100 tons of diesel spill into Nile as barge sinks (CNN)

First hot lanes to open on I-680 in Bay Area (SF Chronicle)

"Stylish, female riders leading the charge" for biking in cities (Daily Beast)

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The Takeaway

Looking Back at a Summer of News

Monday, September 06, 2010

Every year, children go back to school and are asked to write essays on what they did over the summer. As Labor Day approaches, we’re doing the same, with a look at the standout stories we covered over the past few months; from the oil gusher to the economy to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the heat wave.

We're asking you: What event defined the summer for you, personally and in the news? Leave your six-word summary in the comments or text TAKE and your summary to 69866!

Comments [4]


Oil Platform Explodes in the Gulf of Mexico

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 13 people following an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday morning. The oil platform is about 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana.