The Dernogalizer

November 10, 2009

Senator Kerry Destroys AEI Shill

I wish all the climate bill opponents would get this kind of rebuttal.

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November 7, 2009

What of that Senate Climate Bill

Along with a week of intense coverage of local politics and election, there were a host of developments regarding the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act that deserve a quick run through.

1.  The GOP staged a boycott of the EPW mark-up of the bill, complaining that there wasn’t a full EPA analysis of the impact of the legislation.  This is just an excuse for delay, not an actual issue worth boycotting, as Wonk Room notes:

The fact that these and other bills moved through committees without any analysis sharply contrasts with the mountain of assessments of this year’s clean energy legislation. Full EPA, EIA, and CBO analyses were conducted of the House bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), and the EPA has conductedadditional analysis of the Senate legislation. The Republicans’ interest in analysis is little more than an excuse for delay and defeat of clean energy legislation. In one of the boycotted hearings this week, Sen. Boxer noted that the “EPA has also indicated that this economic analysis reflects hundreds of thousands of pages of backup documentation” about the related House bill. Environmental Protection Agency Director of Congressional Affairs David McIntosh appeared before the Committee to reiterate that S. 1733 and H.R. 2454 were very similar:

[EPA economic] models are not designed to detect fine-grain details in this kind of legislation. So changes in the legislation at that level of detail will not even show up in the economic computer model. Second, it costs the EPA at least $135,000 and 1600 man-hours of time to run a bill through the agency’s full suite of economic computer models.

Nonetheless, Republican boycotters wanted EPA to spend five weeks and $135,000 of taxpayer money to conduct a redundant analysis before they would agree to a vote.

The Washington Post called this irrationality by the Republicans an Unhelpful atmosphere.

So Boxer waited a bit, and then decided not to let this boycott stall the process, and held the vote anyways, where it passed 11-1.  The one no vote was our good old friend Max Baucus, who indicated he would be voting for the final bill.  Baucus has also declared

“There’s no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be this year. Probably next year.”

Now, EPW has passed a bill, but one in which no positive or negative amendments could be made because of the Republican boycott.  There has been a separate dual track for climate legislation established with John Kerry, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman, who will be working with the White House to craft a bill that can get 60 votes.  It’s unclear to me what relationship this track will have in comparison to the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act that Boxers committee and other committees will be passing.  I would imagine those committees will have their hearings and mark-ups, while Kerry, Graham, Lieberman, and the White House work on compromises to pull moderate Democrats and Republicans on board.  These compromises would then be infused with the final product of these committees on the Senate floor.  Once again, that is just how I understand it.

There have been some reports in the media that the bill’s chances of passage are low, but I disagree.  My calculation is that Republican Lindsay Graham’s involvement and support of the final bill means landmark climate legislation.  I’ve seen no evidence besides rumors in the media to discredit that perspective.  Check out Graham in the video below

October 26, 2009

EPA: Senate Climate Bill Costs $100 Annually

Small price to pay for preventing catastrophic global warming, no?  The EPA analysis of course doesn’t factor in the benefits of energy efficiency investment in the legislation, or the cost of inaction.  The differences between the Senate bill and the House bill are noted below, courtesy of Senator Barbara Boxer’s office

Key Changes in the Chairman’s Mark 
The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733)

Specifies Distribution of Emissions Allowances
The Chairman’s Mark specifies the distribution of the allowances established under the Pollution Reduction and Investment program. The allocations place emphasis on investments in the following areas:

• Energy Intensive and Trade Exposed industries 
• Small local distribution companies (including rural electric co-operatives) 
• Transportation grants 
• Agriculture and forestry 
• Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy 
• Advanced energy research 
• Credits for early action 
• Energy efficiency and renewable energy worker training 
• Nuclear worker training

New Provisions To Address Clean Coal Technology

• The Chairman’s Mark includes new provisions to stimulate development of commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies 
• The bonus allowance program is modified to allow for advanced payments of bonus allowances for early actors with a requirement that funded projects will achieve at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 
• The Chairman’s Mark includes provisions that require coal fired power plants to meet emissions performance standards once sufficient commercial-scale CCS technology has been deployed, while also ensuring timely reductions in global warming pollution from coal plants.

Increased Investments in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

• The Chairman’s Mark increases investments in utility-scale renewable energy generation. 
• The 25 percent set-aside for local governments for energy efficiency and conservation block grant continues unchanged. 
• The Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program is guaranteed a share of the allocation provided to states for energy efficiency and renewable energy. 
• Allowances are also dedicated to energy efficiency programs, including a specific requirement that states use some of these funds for thermal energy efficiency projects. 
• Priority is given to low and moderate-income households and a dedicated portion of the energy efficiency set-aside is reserved for low-income households and for public housing retrofits. 
• The Chairman’s Mark includes a new program that authorizes the EPA Administrator to provide assistance to owners and operators of buildings in the United States that implement energy efficiency measures that meet Energy Star or other relevant standards.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Increasing Investments in the Transportation Sector

• A new allocation program with increased investments is established specifically to fund transportation projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Funds are provided for the “Clean-Tea” planning and performance grants program and for Transit formula grants. 
• The Clean Vehicles program is modified to place a stronger emphasis on the domestic manufacturing of advanced technology vehicles, including transit vehicles.

Enhanced Agriculture and Forestry Provisions

• A more robust supplemental agriculture and forestry program is included with allocations throughout the life of the bill. The Supplemental Agriculture and Forestry Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Renewable Energy Program is strengthened to ensure measurable reductions in global warming pollution.

Directs Assistance to Rural Communities

• The Chairman’s Mark increases allowances for small electric Local Distribution Companies, including Rural Electric Cooperatives, which will benefit rural electric consumers. 
• The Chairman’s Mark includes a new program to provide grants to states and non-profits to improve air quality by replacing outdated wood stoves.

Promotes Advanced Renewable Fuels

• The definition of biofuels in the Renewable Fuel Standard is clarified to make clear that algae-based and other advanced fuels are included.

Enhances the Role of Tribes

• Tribes are recognized in a number of ways throughout the Chairman’s Mark. Tribes receive guaranteed allocations for the energy efficiency and renewable energy program. The Chairman’s Mark also enhances the role that Tribes will play in a number of programs in the bill.

Bigger Market Stability Reserve

• To maintain price certainty and prevent market manipulation, the size of the market stability reserve is increased in the Chairman’s Mark.

Greater Assistance for Small and Medium Refineries

• Small business refiners are given additional time to comply with the Pollution Reduction and Investment program. In addition, the domestic fuel production allowance program focuses on small and medium refineries.

October 8, 2009

White House Getting Serious on Climate

It’s been pretty clear to me that the White House is getting more serious about the emerging climate bill in the US Senate.  There was the first major speech at the UN, and the recently signed executive order.  Now according to this AP article, it’s becoming clearer just how much of its homework the Obama Administration has done on the Senate bill.  There’s a few excerpts below.

“The group of Cabinet secretaries and White House advisers who meet regularly to craft the president’s energy and environmental agenda now numbers 13, double what it was during the administration’s early days.”

“Since the summer, when everyone else’s attention was focused on the heated town hall meetings over health care, Obama administration officials have been meeting with more than half the Senate, made calls to nearly 100 mayors in 17 states, and met with numerous governors, according to White House records. Their goal, according to Carol Browner, the president’s assistant for energy and climate change, “is to get the bill moving and keep it moving.”

“The White House effort started earlier this year. The first big meeting between Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who introduced the bill last week, and administration officials took place over dinner in March at his Georgetown home. Browner, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, White House science adviser John Holdren and State Department climate negotiators Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing attended.

That same month, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Kerry’s co-sponsor on the legislation, and Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., were meeting with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to discuss the global warming bill when Obama dropped in to emphasize that it was one of his top priorities.”

October 6, 2009

Clean Energy: Betting on the Future

Cross-posted from: here

I have a column out in the Diamondback today about why despite the opposition of the fossil fuel industry, America needs to pass a strong Federal climate bill in order to thrive in the 21st century.

Clean energy: Betting on the future

This past June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark global warming and clean energy bill called the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Now Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is doing something exciting for a change by introducing the Senate counterpart to the House bill called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

Not surprisingly, the coal and oil lobbyists are out in full force against clean energy legislation. They’ll push the usual falsehoods about job losses and rising energy prices.  Oddly, they’ll try to link them to new energy policies, rather than our current dependence on fossil fuels where people have experienced the two. They’ll make this about the economy instead of the environment. They’ll cheat.In July, a lobbying firm called Bonner & Associates, hired by the coal industry, was caught after forging 13 letters to congresspeople by posing as constituents opposing the House legislation.

In 1986, a McKinsey and AT&T study notoriously predicted there would be 900,000 cell phone subscribers by the year 2000. They missed by a factor of 120 — the number was 109 million. Right now, there are nearly 4.5 billion cell phone users.  AT&T paid dearly for their mistake and entered the cell phone market late by buying another company, McCaw Cellular, for $12.6 billion. Too many energy companies are underestimating how widespread renewable energy will be in 10 years.

Throughout our history, as new technologies have developed and society’s needs have evolved, businesses have had to face a choice. Fight the future, or embrace it. It’s how we went from the horse and buggy to the car, radio to television, and VCR to DVD player.

Companies that bet right emerge and prosper over those that are wrong. Right now, the writing is on the wall for the coal and oil companies that have bet on the past. They’re going to fail.

New fuel economy standards have been set. Hybrids will get cheaper as the battery technology is improved. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars will emerge as mainstream vehicles by the middle of next decade. Gas prices will go back up once the economy recovers. Oil consumption is going nowhere but down. Over 100 coal plants have been permanently blocked. Record amounts of wind and solar power came online in 2008. Far more is expected under an administration that prioritizes and puts strong incentives on clean energy.

From June 2008 to June 2009, coal’s percentage of our energy mix has dropped 13.1 percent.

The United States has a vested interest in bringing about the future faster, and not just because of global warming. Contrary to being a popular buzzword excuse for polluting, China is investing record amounts of money and incentives into wind and solar power.

China is expected to overtake us as the world’s largest wind turbine market by 2011. Solar companies in the United States such as Applied Materials Inc. are moving to China, where the business climate for clean energy is brighter. Just like companies, countries that bet on the past for too long pay a high price.

It’s time for us to demand the senate pass a strong clean energy bill. You can’t hold back the future. Some will try, but their fate is sealed. As for ours, place your bets.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com

**Update 10/7/09**  AP agrees clean tech if next boom

October 5, 2009

Climate, Kyoto, and Council

Cross-posted from: here

There is a very well written column in the Diamondback by a member of UMD for Clean Energy Jesse Yurow, who is also our Outreach Director.  Jesse does a good job of explaining how we can’t only rely on the top down approach to make our society more sustainable, but we need to take charge at the community level.  The group Jesse alludes to working with the City Council to develop a energy efficiency loan fund policy, is of course..us.

Guest column: Climate, Kyoto and council

Twelve years ago, world leaders signed the Kyoto Protocol, a global treaty that promised to develop strategies to mitigate the perils of global climate change. Epic fail. Without mechanisms of accountability and without the support of Earth’s largest polluter, the United States, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has skyrocketed to about 380 parts per million and is still rising. NASA climatologist James Hansen suggests that, in order to avoid ecological catastrophe, concentrations of carbon dioxide must be reduced and held steady at 350 parts per million (see http://www.350.org). People sit with their fingers crossed, awaiting climate change solutions to be handed down at the next global summit on climate change this December in Copenhagen.

The United States may be able to redeem itself from the ghosts of Kyoto past and earn bargaining power on the world stage by committing to carbon emissions reductions before December. The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last June. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) recently introduced the Senate version: the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. However, coal and oil lobbyists are sure to grease up this bill just as they have the House version.

In spite of the difficulties of top-down change, communities working together will bring about the clean energy revolution. In College Park, creative ideas generated by students are already taking hold. Two weeks ago, the College Park City Council held a work session to discuss the possibility of implementing an energy-efficiency loan fund to finance efficiency upgrades for College Park residents. This idea was suggested to the city council by a student group along with a list of several other policies which would save the city money while cutting carbon emissions.

The city council is working with a student group to develop policy? This surely is a historic moment. But it shouldn’t be. Students working with the city to make College Park a better place should be standard operating procedure. However, students have never represented a large voting block in a city council election, so the city council has never had a reason to listen to students. With an election on Nov. 3, we have a unique opportunity to change our relationship with the city council by voting en masse and engaging the council. In order to vote in council elections, one must register to vote in College Park. The deadline for registration is today at 5 p.m. You can find voter registration forms in the Student Government Association office in the Student Involvement Suite in Stamp Student Union.

The standard recommendations for “green living,” changing to compact fluorescent light bulbs, driving less and using “eco-friendly” products, illustrate the immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem and the puniness of the changes we are being asked to make. We need to stop trying to be less bad and start trying to be good. Through direct action and engagement with elected officials on a local level, we can empower the communities we live in to implement innovative and far-reaching solutions to climate change.

September 30, 2009

The Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act

As I yesterday,Barbara Boxer and John Kerry have released their piece of climate legislation, The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act(full text).  If you aren’t up for the heavy reading, here is an overview, a summary, and a section by section summary.  Here is a press release about the legislation.  Below is an op-ed John Kerry has out in Politico about why we need to pass this bill.

A new path for energy use

For decades, politicians have talked about the importance of ending America’s addiction to oil and investing in energy that is made in America and that works for America — from coal and nuclear to solar and wind.

But with the Clean Jobs and American Power Act, which we are introducing Wednesday, we at last have an opportunity to put our country on that path — a path more critical because of the urgent threat of global climate change.

The Clean Jobs and American Power Act is aimed at no less than the reinvention of the way America produces and uses energy. It will be a challenge, but America has never shied away from a challenge before.

Reinventing the way we use energy can also be the cornerstone for decades of economic growth and a stronger, more powerful America. Today, 15 million Americans are out of work. We send $1 billion per day overseas to feed our oil addiction. Scientists and generals warn that climate change caused by carbon pollution threatens our health and our national security. Each of these factors weakens America.

Rarely have we faced so many challenges, but rarely have so many challenges also culminated in such an enormous opportunity — an opportunity to put millions of Americans back to work, to invest in homegrown innovation and to protect our children’s health and our environment.

The Clean Jobs and American Power Act takes a comprehensive approach to meeting our energy challenge head on.

It sets ambitious carbon pollution reduction targets, creates powerful new incentives for companies to find the most cost-efficient ways to meet them and makes historic new investments in technology and efficiency that will improve every sector of our energy economy. And it does not raise the deficit by one single dime.

Based on the successful bipartisan plan that reduced acid rain, a market-based pollution reduction and investment system will set ambitious yearly targets. It will reduce carbon pollution 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, a decrease that scientists consider the minimum necessary to avert a climate disaster.

This system is tough on corporate pollution, taking aim at America’s largest polluters: those emitting 25,000 tons of carbon each year. The 7,500 facilities covered in 2012 — mostly power plants, industrial facilities and petroleum and petrochemical operations — account for nearly three-quarters of America’s carbon emissions. Farmers and nearly all small business are exempt. More than 98 percent of all American businesses fall below the threshold.

The bill is designed to offer big polluters options: Those that need more time to clean up their emissions can pay for the continued right to pollute. Those companies that decrease pollution quickly and affordably stand to profit.

This bill creates powerful new market incentives for developing clean energy and improving energy efficiency. Americans invented the technologies behind wind and solar energy, but countries like China and Germany have surged ahead of us. This bill provides new funding for research and deployment to make us the world leaders once again.

Every dollar spent on clean energy creates nearly four times as many jobs as a dollar invested in oil and gas. These are good-paying, regionally diverse jobs for American workers of all educational backgrounds — and best of all, they can’t be shipped overseas.

As we transition to this new energy future, we need game-changing investments and improvements throughout our entire energy system. We can’t afford to ignore any homegrown energy resources. Because coal will remain an important part of America’s economy, we must help the coal industry reinvent itself — that includes rewards for installing new technology to capture and store carbon pollution before it reaches the air we breathe.

Natural gas will receive similar incentives to increase cost-effectiveness and galvanize technological advances. We will also make the investment in research, development and worker training needed to build the next generation of American nuclear power plants.

Of course, the cleanest and cheapest kilowatt of energy is the one you never use. More than 1,000 U.S. cities have adopted tough environmental standards for new construction and for refitting existing buildings. We respond to the urgent requests of our governors and mayors by funding these efforts.

As our energy economy races ahead, no one should be left behind.

This bill protects everyday consumers. Rebates on monthly electric bills will ensure that energy remains affordable for low- and middle-income families. And a new market-based mechanism will kick in as needed to keep prices stable.

This bill also includes targeted protection for our manufacturing sector, to ensure that American companies remain competitive and keep jobs here at home. New programs will train workers to succeed in the new clean energy economy.

We can do all those things, and more, to make America safer and stronger. But only if we reinvent the way America uses energy.

It won’t be easy. For too long, Washington let Big Oil and special interests stand between us and our goals. This has hurt our economy, helped our enemies and risked our security. But the time has come to put America back in control, and the Clean Jobs and American Power Act at last turns rhetoric into reality and puts us on that path.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the lead sponsor of The Clean Jobs and American Power Act.


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