The Dernogalizer

May 11, 2010

Senator Ben Cardin Op-Ed: No New Offshore Drilling, Pass the Clean Energy Bill

I am thrilled with Maryland Senators Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun today which calls offshore drilling to be taken “completely off the map for the entire Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning areas.”, and also points out that we need to address our failed energy policy by passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation NOW.  Hats off to Ben Cardin, he took part in a Clean Energy Town Hall with my group UMD for Clean Energy a couple of weeks ago, and we liked what he told us then.  I really like what he’s telling Maryland now.  I’ve re-posted the entire column below.  Get Energy Smart Now has thoughts on the op-ed as well.

The catastrophic oil spill ravaging the Gulf of Mexico and bearing down on coastal states is another reminder: America’s current energy policy is a disaster. We need to break our dangerous addiction to oil and promote safe and clean sources of power and fuel — and we need to begin today.

On Tuesday morning, I’ll co-chair a Senate hearing on protecting America’s coastal health. In the afternoon, that same Senate committee will meet to assess the damage the BP oil spill is doing to one of the most ecologically complex regions of the country. Already, though, it’s become painfully clear that there is no satisfactory remedy for the economic and environmental devastation that follows the blowout of an offshore oil rig.

In Maryland, we know about the importance of wetlands, fish nurseries and all the other elements of sensitive coastal ecosystems. The fragile barrier island of Assateague and ourChesapeake Bay are integral parts of our heritage as well as our environment. We cannot put them at risk in a similar way. We need a new energy future based on clean, renewable, homegrown energy sources and a national commitment to energy efficiency.

With those goals in mind, I co-authored a letter last month calling on President Barack Obama to reverse his decision to allow oil and gas drilling off the coasts of Maryland and other Atlantic Seaboard states all the way to the Straits of Florida.

Last week, the president did the right thing in suspending new offshore drilling. The president, though, needs to go further by taking the offshore drilling option completely off the map for the entire Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic and Straits of Florida planning areas.

The BP oil disaster now covers an area the size of Maryland. There is simply no guarantee against catastrophic oil spills. And there is no effective way to protect the economically, strategically and environmentally important areas up and down the Atlantic Seaboard.

Today, coal-fired power plants spew dangerous pollution into our atmosphere. Our buildings, cars and businesses are notoriously energy inefficient. Every day, we send nearly $1 billion overseas to purchase foreign oil. Too many of those petro-dollars end up funding terrorists who hate America and make the world less safe every day.

Today’s energy policy contributes to international instability, which is why the Department of Defense is so alarmed and leading military officials have called for a fundamental change in direction. Today’s energy policy also hurts our economy by sending our wealth abroad at a time when other nations, like China, are making major investments in wind and solar power. The more than $300 billion that we send overseas annually to satisfy our oil appetite should be spent here at home on sustainable energy sources and implementing energy efficiency measures.

Of course, proponents of offshore drilling like to tout it as a way to reduce our dependence foreign oil. But the fact is, we can’t drill our way to energy security.

We have to find a better way.

Nearly a year has passed since the House of Representatives approved legislation that would put millions of Americans back to work, reduce our dependence on oil and help to ensure a healthier future for all of us. It has been nearly six months since the Environment and Public Works Committee that I serve on adopted a similar comprehensive bill. These bills put a lid on emissions and make a sustained national investment in clean energy such as solar, nuclear, wind and waves, which will generate the kinds of American jobs that can’t be exported.

Now it’s time for the full Senate to act. We need to pass comprehensive clean energy legislation that will make our economy stronger and our country more secure.

The environmental damage we are causing with our current energy policy is on stark display in the Gulf of Mexico today. The unseen greenhouse pollution that is fouling our planet is even more threatening.

A responsible energy policy can put America back in control of its economic future and make the world a safer place. It can turn down the temperature on climate change. And it can do one more thing. It can help ensure the sanctity of our treasured coastal resources, like Assateague National Seashore and the Chesapeake Bay. As we’re now being reminded in the horrific stories and images from the Gulf, that’s critical too. Once squandered or despoiled, they can never be replaced.

It’s time to work together in a bipartisan way to enact a clean and sustainable energy plan that takes us into the 21st Century strong and secure. We have the opportunity to redesign our energy policy so that it enhances national security, boosts our economy and preserves our environment. The choice is ours.

U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. He may be contacted through the Web site cardin.senate.gov.

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May 5, 2010

Tom Friedman: “No Fooling Mother Nature”

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 1:22 am
Tags: , ,

Tom Friedman has the best columns in the NY Times I’ve seen of him, and that’s saying something.  Friedman appeals to President Obama and the US Senator to take up clean energy legislation now.  I highly recommend you read it, here is the last paragraph, a fantastic ending to a fantastic column.

“If we settle for just an incremental response to this crisis — a “Hey, that’s our democracy. What more can you expect?” — we’ll be sorry. You can’t fool Mother Nature. She knows when we’re just messing around. Mother Nature operates by her own iron laws. And if we violate them, there is no lobby or big donor to get us off the hook. No, what’s gone will be gone. What’s ruined will be ruined. What’s extinct will be extinct — and later, when we’re finally ready to stop messing around, it will be too late.”

February 25, 2010

Reid calls for Climate Bill ASAP

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:02 am
Tags:

It’s about time(although I’ll reserve judgement until I see what’s in this thing, might be ugly).  article

“Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has instructed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to produce a revamped climate bill as soon as possible, according to sources, a task Kerry intends to accomplish within two weeks”

January 22, 2010

80 US Companies Urge Federal Government to pass Climate Legislation

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 3:56 pm
Tags: ,

This is timely push back given the solemn mood in DC about the prospects for climate legislation given the Democrats loss of Massachusetts.  You can read their press release here, and below.

Over 80 U.S. Companies Call on President Obama & Congress to Enact Comprehensive Climate and Energy Legislation

January 21, 2009 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than 80 leading CEOs from U.S. businesses, including Exelon, Virgin America, NRG Energy, eBay and PG&E, sent a letter to President Obama and members of Congress today calling on them to move quickly to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation that will create jobs and enhance U.S. competitiveness.

Saying that the U.S. is “falling behind” in the global clean energy race, the letter calls for forceful leadership to achieve legislation that will unleash innovation, drive economic growth, boost energy independence and decrease our carbon emissions. The letter comes just one week before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on January 27th.

“American businesses recognize this challenge and have already begun to respond and innovate. However, today’s uncertainty surrounding energy and climate regulation is hindering the large-scale actions that American businesses are poised to make,” the letter states. “We need strong policies and clear market signals that support the transition to a low-carbon economy and reward companies that innovate. It is time for the Administration and Congress to embrace this policy as the promising economic opportunity that will empower American workers to compete and American entrepreneurship to lead the way.”

The letter was signed by 83 CEOs from some of the nation’s largest electric power, manufacturing, clean tech, technology and consumer facing companies. To view the full text and the list of signatories please go to: http://www.wecanlead.org

“The United States can’t afford to fall behind in the global race to lead the new energy economy,” said Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, a leading renewable oil and bioproducts company. “American businesses have a history of leadership and innovation and are poised to do that in a new clean energy economy.”

“Power companies need and want to be part of America’s clean energy transition,” said David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy Inc., which owns and operates more than 24,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity in the U.S. “But we need the certainty of clear rules and strong policies that will help us invest in that transition while also addressing climate change and keeping power affordable.”

“The same inventive solutions that will help the environment will also help move the airline industry forward,” said David Cush, president and CEO of Virgin America, a U.S. commercial passenger airline. “Big challenges have historically propelled more innovation and greater efficiencies. Strong climate and energy policies can be that challenge – one from which we will all emerge stronger.”

“Smart businesses can only do so much on their own to address climate change,” said Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg. “At this point, the rules need to change: there needs to be a price or tax on carbon. This incentive for genuine innovation needs to be firmly in place in order for the US to compete effectively in the global race to a clean energy economy.”

Peter A. Darbee, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation said, “As the country looks to ways to support job creation, promote economic growth, and improve energy and national security, it’s clear to leading businesses that smart, sensible energy and climate policies can and should be part of the solution. We are asking leaders to recognize this opportunity and make it a reality.”

About We Can Lead

Business leaders from 150 companies from 30 states across the country joined the We Can Lead effort and traveled to Washington in early October 2009 to meet with Administration officials and more than 50 members of Congress to urge passage of comprehensive energy and climate legislation. We Can Lead advocates for passage of strong energy and climate legislation that includes a price on carbon to spur American innovation, unleash U.S. investment, create millions of new jobs, restore America’s competitiveness and provide for economic and national security.

We Can Lead is a partnership of the Clean Economy Network, Inc. and Ceres’ Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP). For more on We Can Lead, visit www.wecanlead.org

June 26, 2009

Waxman-Markey Passes House 219-212!

Wow, one hell of a day!  I was in DC for most of the hours of the day with many other youth(and a few older) climate activists rallying around climate legislation with the chant “we want more!”, to having a presence in the halls of Congress with the green shirts, to engaging Congressmen as they walked to the gallery, to attending the gallery to watch the vote.  Time for an outburst…MAN AM I PUMPED.  Here are the results of the vote.

I’m pretty exhausted, but I want to make a few comments and observations before passing out.  I will add more depth to some of these later on.

1.  Congressman Frank Kratovil from District 1 in Maryland voted yes for the bill, and we very much owe him our thanks.  I will be writing a separate post thanking the Congressman for his “yes” vote.  To provide a tiny bit of background, District 1 in Maryland, is heavily Republican, it went 60-40 for McCain in 2008.  However, Kratovil won as a Democrat taking the seat for the first time in a couple decades.  I worked very hard in 2008 for his election because I saw that district as the one vote in the state I could tip towards a climate bill in 2009.  I led a lobby meeting with a group of activists last week that met with his chief of staff and we  made convincing arguments for him to support the bill.  Kratovil was on the fence up until the last few hours, and ultimately cast his vote and helped tip the scales in our favor.  I know the calls into his office were heavily against this bill, but he took the tough vote, and not very many politicians do that.

2.  As I said I was in the gallery watching the floor vote.  Dennis Kucinich held his “no” vote until the vote threshold crossed 218 with a minute left.  As you may or may not know, the super-liberal Kucinich had stated he wanted to make a statement that the bill was woefully inadequate by voting no.  Why then, did he hold his vote until the bill has certainly passed?  Because passing this piece of legislation for the good things it does is far more important that defeating it because of its flaws, and despite his bluster Kucinich knew it.

3.  We need more.  That was a true and prevailing theme at the rally today, and it was spot in.  Although I have been a proponent of the legislation because I think it does far more good than harm and has some great provisions that some in the environmental community are determined to ignore, when I have made demands to representatives they have always been for a stronger bill.  This is a mediocre bill.  The biggest weakness BY FAR is the short term target, 17% below 2005 levels doesn’t cut it for an adequate global treaty.  We’ve got to make it stronger.  I think the energy efficiency standard should be better, not just from an emissions reduction standpoint but a practicality standpoint.  We can do A LOT better than the 5-8% energy efficiency standard we have with existing technology easy.  There are other concerns I have which I won’t go on too much of a rant on right now.

4.  I do however need to stress a blunt fact.  This bill barely passed as is.  That’s the state of this political system until the 2010 elections.  If we want a stronger bill, or even to hold the line on the current bill, we’re going to need a much stronger and better coordinated grassroots effort in the Senate, which is a minefield.  I’ll probably rant more about this later, but since there’s no viable alternative, instead of acting  like Friends of the Earth and trying to kill our only climate legislation, go after your Senator hard on the need for THIS bill to be better.  Don’t go off on a rant about imaginary simple carbon taxes(because the tax code is so simple and corporations never abuse it) that will not happen because no one except those lost in a political fantasyland and Exxon Mobil support them.

Last, I know(unapologetically) that I have a more positive view(meaning a C grade) on Waxman-Markey than many of my peers that I work with on this stuff.  These differences thus far have not become an issue since we’re always asking for the bill to be strengthened anyways.  I can tell you all this much about this vote today.  It was a historic vote.  The first time climate legislation was voted on in the house, and the first time it passed out of a chamber in the Congress.  There’s a long way to go to get something useful out of the Senate, and I got the distinct feeling in the final hours leading up to the vote that many of those wearing the green shirts with me today did not want to see the battle end here.  Despite the bill’s flaws, everyone was nervous as hell when the votes were being tallied up.  When the bill passed, the many green shirts in the gallery broke into a resounding applause, hooted and hollered, and high-fived.

Just like Dennis Kucinich, throughout the day many of  those that I’ve fought for climate legislation with for as long as I’ve been doing activism arrived at the same place I did back in May.  This legislation was the only train leaving the station for a long time, it has it’s problems, but it does far more good than harm.  I have my fingers crossed that more of the progressive community will recognize this, take to the streets and the phone lines and the halls of the Senate buildings, and give America and the world the strong climate legislation it needs.  I know that’s what I’ll be working for in these upcoming months.

**Update 7/1/09**: Great article by Politico on how close this really was.

June 23, 2009

Breaking: Climate Bill Vote this Friday??

I posted just a couple days ago that it didn’t look like the climate bill was going to be coming to the floor for a vote until after the 4th of July recess.  Now there’s a big hint Nancy Pelosi may be rolling the dice and going for it this Friday even though negotiations with the agriculture lawmakers are still unresolved.  Here’s the article saying the vote may be this Friday. I’m posting the contents below.

House SpeakerNancy Pelosiwill roll the dice on a top priority this week, bringing a contentious climate-change bill to the floor despite strong misgivings from her rank-and-file and an outspoken chairman who remains a major impediment.

The speaker filed thelegislationwith the Rules Committee on Monday night, her spokesman said, even though its authors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, are still working out adealwith Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.

“The bill has been filed tonight with the RulesCommittee,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in an e-mail. “There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday.”

The speaker, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.),Waxmanand Peterson “have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energyjobsbill,” Hammill continued.

Peterson, who articulated the complaints of farm-state Democrats, has come to stand for many other rank-and-file lawmakers who oppose the bill. The rural Democrats are concerned it puts a disproportionate burden on farmers, without the possibility of rewards, while others in the party are concerned about the economic impact of thebilland its impact on the separate, but related, fight overhealthcare.

Waxman and Markey have been patiently working on their colleagues for months, offering incentives for industry along the way, and they have been working with Peterson on a package of incentives for the farm states.

June 19, 2009

Update:Floor Debate Next Week Unlikely

It looks as though the deadline of June 19 is not going to be met for getting the Waxman-Markey bill out of committee, although this is not yet definite.  Negotiations are still taking place between the bill’s writers and Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson.  I got forwarded an update by Energy and Environment Daily from a subscriber, and I think it will be worth reposting below.  I only have a loose opinion, but it might not be a bad thing that the bill has to wait until after the July 4 recess.  Healthcare seems to be moving ten times as slow, so I don’t think it will overwhelm a climate bill in July.  This would also buy more time for activists to push for strengthening amendments to be introduced, and more time for House leadership to negotiate with swing vote lawmakers to get additional yes votes.  The important thing in my opinion is to get the bill passed in the House before the Senate begins a mark-up so that some momentum can be built.

CLIMATE: House unlikely to debate cap and trade on floor next week — Hoyer

(06/19/2009)

Darren Samuelsohn and Ben Geman, E&E senior reporters

House Democratic leaders today dampened prospects for floor debate next week on a comprehensive global warming and energy bill, while still leaving open a narrow window if key committee leaders can reach agreement on a variety of outstanding issues.  “At this point in time, I have no reason to believe that it’s going to be on  the floor next week, but I want to make it clear to the members that work is  being done as we speak on this bill,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)  said this afternoon on the House floor during his weekly wrap-up session.  <http://www.eenews.net/eed/documents/climate_bill_house.pdf>  “We believe this is a very critical and important bill,” Hoyer added. “We believe this is one of the president’s priorities. So I say to the gentleman, I have not announced it on the schedule, my present expectation is it will not be on for next week. But if an agreement was reached today or tomorrow, and it was possible to move it forward, it is possible, and if we had the time to do that, it is possible that we would consider that next week.”

The House will not return for votes until Tuesday evening, leaving a shortamount of time for a climate debate before Congress leaves for the weeklong Independence Day recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told E&E. Pelosi also insisted that she never was wedded to bringing the legislation up before July 4.  “We’ll see how it goes,” Pelosi said. “That would be an ambitious schedule, because we’re just finishing the referrals for some of the committees today, and I’ve yet to see the language. Our main issue is, we don’t come in until Tuesday night. So it’s a short week in terms of getting started. But I’m very comfortable with where we are.”  If Democrats cannot get the bill on the floor, Pelosi said she would bring it up when lawmakers return next month. She also downplayed a concern raised by key Democrats, including Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), that the health care debate would dominate the July floor agenda and limit the ability to take up the climate bill.  “Everything is going great,” she said. “It’s the legislative process. It’s going great, and I feel good about it all. We’re going to reach our goals.  And it’s pretty exciting, as a matter of fact. I’m really very excited about the Democratic response. It’s been very, very positive.”  Talks on the climate bill continued into this afternoon as Waxman huddled with Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), as well as several farm group representatives and top White House energy adviser Carol Browner, her assistant, Heather Zichal, and President Obama’s chief legislative aide, Phil Schiliro.  “I’d like to have [Browner] in the room with the farmers,” Peterson said before the meeting. “I’m getting tired of going around in circles. I want to get all the players in the room.”  Peterson said he was frustrated with the back-and-forth this week over the negotiations as key lawmakers have given varying assessments on the status of the talks, only to remain shy of any final deal. “I’m trying to translate between the people that speak Urdu and French,” Peterson said. “And I can’t speak either language. And I’m trying to translate. I’m tired of it.”  Also today, a House Democratic leadership aide said that all eight of the committees with jurisdiction on the bill “are ready to be discharged.  Negotiations obviously continue in separate committees toward manager’s amendment, exchange of letters, conference, etc. But the June 19 deadline has been met for committee referrals.”

Details emerge

Firm details of the negotiations remain unclear in part because of their fluid nature, but several lawmakers privy to the talks said today that one area of possible agreement involves a plan for giving between 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent free allowances to rural electric cooperatives.  Waxman earlier today met with Glenn English, the former Oklahoma Democratic congressman who now runs the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  “I think they needed 0.7, and I heard they got it, or they got what they needed,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Asked about the allowance deal, Waxman replied, “I don’t want to verify anything until it’s nailed down.”  And for his part, Peterson said he is still looking for a complete readout of the meeting. “None of it is settled until all of it is settled,” Peterson said.   “Apparently there was a discussion between Mr. English and Mr. Waxman this morning that Henry described as positive. I haven’t had the time to talk to English to find out what his side of it is.”  But on another Waxman offer, Peterson said Democrats on his committee last night were cool toward a concept Waxman floated in the discussions to ease farm-state concerns about how agricultural offsets are treated in the bill.  Peterson called it a complicated plan that would see “money set aside for a new greenhouse gas conservation program tied together with some offsets.”  Peterson said the proposal “by and large blew up last night,” but did not say it was off the table completely.  “Nobody understood it, for one thing,” he said. “It is a whole new concept being brought in at the last minute. The attitude was, maybe we can look at this, but we don’t see how this works.”  Peterson has several other concerns with the bill — he is wary of U.S. EPA involvement with agricultural emissions policy overall and wants the Agriculture Department to run that sector’s offset programs.  As lawmakers break for the weekend, Peterson said he did not expect to have language written in time for their review. “If you are going to draft this new idea, it would take days to draft,” he said. “I am not sure there is enough interest in it even to go through the effort of drafting.”  Peterson also said he cannot support the House climate bill unless he secures language that would alter EPA biofuels policy. Specifically, he wants to bar EPA from including greenhouse gas emissions from “indirect” land-use changes when measuring the carbon footprints of biofuels. “We want this gone,” he said.  Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a lead co-author of the House climate bill, did not give a direct answer when asked if Peterson’s goal was acceptable. “We are working with him on that issue right now,” he said. “Hopefully, we are going to be able to resolve that.”  EPA is measuring these emissions as part of a draft rule to implement the national renewable fuels standard.

June 12, 2009

Here comes the Senate

There’s been plenty of commotion surrounding the Waxman-Markey climate bill as it moves through the House in Congress.  One major concern has been when the Senate is going to take up the issue of climate change legislation.  The picture has become a little clearer now, thanks to an article in Politico about the emerging timeline for their energy/climate bill, which Barbara Boxer has said she intends to have her committee mark-up before the August recess.  This is good to hear!  It increases the odds that this bill can be on the desk by Copenhagen if it’s pushed fast enough.  Boxer has also voiced that she thinks that her committee will produce a stronger bill, at least until it hits the floor where lord knows what will happen.  It also means that environmental groups need be ready to quickly divert their pressure to the Senate as soon as Waxman-Markey makes it out of the House.  If the difficulty of passing the stimulus bill is any indication, it will take quite a lift in the Senate to get the bill passed.  Notable excerpts from the article below.

“Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she expects to mark up climate and energy legislation before the August recess, with hopes of a bill reaching the full Senate in the fall”

“You might see a little bit of a stronger bill come out of our committee,” said Boxer, who noted that her bill is based on the House cap-and-trade proposal. “You’ll see some refinements and changes and tweaks.”

“The Senate is taking a more collective approach to climate legislation. A core group of committee heads — Boxer, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) — meet regularly with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to discuss the issue.”

“Boxer and Kerry say they hope to pass legislation by December, when international climate talks will take place in Copenhagen. Congressional action, says Kerry, is critical to convincing China and other key countries that the U.S. is serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

June 11, 2009

8 Reasons for Farmers to Support Waxman-Markey

There’s a great article by the Center of American Progress about why the Waxman-Markey climate bill is good for farmers.  This is very important because the major obstacle standing in the way of the bill is the Agriculture Committe, and their chair Collin Peterson who has threatened to use a voting bloc of rural lawmakers to kill the bill unless he gets compromises for the agriculture community.  I’m going to re-post the article, which explains 8 reasons why farmers benefit from this bill, and why their representatives in Congress should support the legislation.

Agriculture, energy, and global warming are inextricably linked, which is why America’s farmers must be a part of the solution to global warming. Today the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture conducts a hearing on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454. A close review of the legislation reveals that it provides a significant opportunity for U.S. farmers to increase their income while safeguarding their livelihoods and the nation’s food and energy supplies.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called reductions of carbon dioxide a “new income source [that could] change the old ways of supporting farms.” He has urged farmers to seize the economic opportunities from reducing greenhouse gas pollution and “not to be fearful of this future.” H.R. 2454 recognizes and rewards the benefits farmers can provide to the United States and the world in ending our dependence on fossil fuels and confronting climate change.

H.R. 2454 offers an opportunity for farmers to diversify their sources of income and cut costs by increasing energy efficiency. With modest improvements, ACESA can designate a more explicit role for agriculture in the carbon offset market without jeopardizing the gains for farmers already included in the overall legislation. ACESA rewards good practices and provides the tools to ensure that American farmers can benefit from solutions to global warming.

By Jake CaldwellAlexandra Kougentakis | June 11, 2009

Here are eight reasons why farmers should support this bill:

1. Farms and forests can reduce global warming pollution.

U.S. agricultural and forest lands sequester 246 million metric tons of carbon annually, absorbing 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. With the appropriate incentives these lands could ultimately absorb 50 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. H.R. 2454 promotes U.S. agricultural lands as a carbon sink by encouraging low tillage practices, tree and perennial planting, erosion prevention, rotational grazing, agricultural carbon offsets, and a market for carbon sequestration.

2. Farmers can grow dollars by selling “carbon offsets.”

H.R. 2454 establishes a carbon offsets market that would allow farmers to create and sell carbon offsets to polluting entities in lieu of reductions by polluters. This would reduce the cost of emissions reductions for polluters. Farmers would be paid for their longstanding carbon sequestration and land stewardship efforts. By increasing carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide on the farm, farmers can qualify for carbon offsets that would generate increased farm revenue. The Energy Information Administration has estimated the value of agricultural offsets to be close to $24 billion annually.

U.S. agriculture produces 413 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, while generating two-thirds of all nitrous oxide emissions and significant methane emissions. These two gases are more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. Overall, the agricultural sector is responsible for 6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. agriculture must take the lead in reducing these on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. There are many opportunities for farmers to make reductions and reap profits.

The offsets program can be improved by involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Environmental Protection Agency’s process to develop the offsets rules and market operation. USDA’s expertise and presence in nearly every state should assist in the development of measurement methodologies to enable ACESA’s Offsets Integrity Advisory Board to determine scientifically rigorous high-quality offsets.

3. Farmers can earn new income by leasing their land for wind turbines while continuing to farm.

The renewable electricity standard in H.R. 2454 requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020 (see Title I, Sect. 101). Farmers can help utility companies meet this goal by installing wind turbines, solar panels, and other renewable energy technologies on their land and buildings. Leasing land for a single utility-scale wind turbine could provide a farmer with about $3,000 a year in income. The Department of Energy estimates that if 5 percent of the nation’s energy comes from wind power by 2020, rural America could see $60 billion in capital investment. Farmers and rural landowners would derive $1.2 billion in new income, and 80,000 new jobs would be created over the next two decades.

4. Farms will produce the cleaner fuels of the future.

The current renewable fuels standard establishes ambitious targets and strives to produce advanced biofuels that deliver measurable lifecycle greenhouse gas reductions, minimize the use of food-based feed stocks, and adhere to certifiable environmental and land use safeguards. H.R. 2454 works with the RFS to promote advanced biofuels grown and produced in rural America.

The RFS has a production target of 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2022. It provides appropriate flexibility to allow producers to meet the RFS mandate with significant contributions from third generation biofuels without dictating a specific type of biofuel product or technology. The approximately 15 billion gallons of existing and future conventional ethanol production capacity would be exempt from greenhouse gas reduction targets.

5. A safety net to protect rural families from higher energy prices.

H.R. 2454 provides for a monthly cash energy refund for rural consumers experiencing a loss in purchasing power due to energy costs. (Title IV, Section 432).

6. Energy efficiency measures would reduce farmers’ electricity bills.

The energy efficiency standard in H.R. 2454 provides farmers with the opportunity to make significant energy efficiency upgrades. Farmers are eligible for federal tax credits for energy-efficient appliances to help them reduce energy use. Dairy farms, which use more energy than most farms due to the energy-intensive nature of milk production, could in particular benefit from the savings from using energy more efficiently. Installation of energy-efficient lighting, ventilation fans, and milking systems could save a farmer hundreds of dollars a year.

Energy expenditures represent 6 percent of total national farm production costs, costing farmers over $10 billion per year. Recent increases in oil prices and volatility will make energy costs even more of a burden for farmers.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that the potential for energy and cost savings in agriculture is over 98 trillion British Thermal Units and $1 billionannually. The potential efficiency savings for agricultural producers is 5.8 percent compared to the 2002 consumption total of 1.7 quadrillion BTUs.

7. Scientific review would help identify future threats.

The evidence of harms from global warming are mounting at an alarming rate. To ensure that farmers and agriculture can identify and respond to climate changes, the bill establishes an interagency National Climate Change Adaptation Council that would assess the impacts of climate change on agriculture and other sectors. A fund is also established to provide money for state and local adaptation projects, including on farms. (See Title IV, Sect. 462).

8. The American Clean Energy and Security Act protects farmers from stormy forecasts.

Inaction on global warming represents ongoing adherence to today’s status quo of volatile energy prices, extreme weather events, and increasing dependence on disaster assistance. Agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the increased water shortages, widespread drought and floods, and lower crop yields that would result from global warming. H.R. 2454 makes the reductions in greenhouse gas pollution scientists urge to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

Jake Caldwell is Director of Policy for Agriculture, Trade and Energy at the Center for American Progress. Alexandra Kougentakis is a Fellows Assistant. To read more of his analysis and reports, please go to the Energy and Environment page of our website.

June 9, 2009

3 “Insider” Developments

This is from someone I know who had a conversation with Maryland Congressman Paul Sarbanes at an last night.

1. Leadership (I think Pelosi and/or Waxman) called a ‘whip” meeting for 5:30 pm tonight to talk about getting the bill passed on the floor.  Sarbanes is going to that meeting.

2. He said it is a 50/50 chance that the Ag committee will even get to mark up the bill. Peterson is trying to cut a deal and if he succeeds then the committee will just vote once without any amendments.

3. The other interesting thing he said is that folks are doing political calculations about passing health care before climate change. There is a chance that the house won’t have time for both issues before July recess and he said the feeling is that voters would be most upset if health care doesn’t pass.

I take away a few things from this.  #1 isn’t surprising, but it’s nice to know they’re looking at that right now.  #2 has already been reported, but a fear I have is whatever deal Peterson cuts to avoid needing a mark-up by the Agriculture committee will be a package of mark-up amendments the committee would’ve had to vote on anyways, and they won’t be making the bill stronger.  For a background on Peterson and the Ag committee issue, see here.  #3 I’ve been hearing back and forth about for a few weeks now, and it looks like they’re leaning once again back towards doing health care first.  My sense is that House Leadership, especially Pelosi, wants to do the climate bill first, but that more members of Congress want to do healthcare first, and they’re fighting over that. I think it’s important people who want to see a climate bill passed ASAP(and preferably before Copenhagen in December), let their representative know that they should do the climate bill first, and health care after. At the least, we don’t want the climate bill stalled while there’s a bloody battle over healthcare.  Everyone would be worn out from the fighting by the time they finished health care!

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Other non-insider thing people should know is this conference call tomorrow(which will probably report on the meeting tonight)…

Join us this Wednesday June 10th at 4:30pm ET for a national conference call with Chairmen Waxman and Markey on the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

We are honored to welcome Representative Henry Waxman, the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Representative Ed Markey, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, to brief us on the ACES bill at this important national conference call co-sponsored by 1Sky, Energy Action Coalition, Green for All and the US Climate Action Network.

To submit proposed questions for responses on the call by House Committee staffers following the briefing, please send your questions now to billquestions@1sky.org

Please join us on Wednesday June 10th at 4:30 pm ET for the call:

Number: 1-800-391-2548
Passcode: 28643226#

Can’t make the call? Then follow our live updates on Twitterand on our blog.

In unity,

Gillian Caldwell
Campaign Director, 1Sky

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