Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who's trying to buy the swing votes in Congress on global warming?

We’ve been impressed by several stories in recent days regarding campaign contributions and global warning, including a front-page piece yesterday in USA Today and an excellent story in this morning’s Environment and Energy Daily.

So we were inspired to take our own peek at the filings that political action committees must make with the Federal Election Commission. These are campaign contributions made during the first three months of this year.

We have noted some highlights below.

As you may know, key votes could happen as soon as next week in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chaired by Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

No, I don’t think you can actually buy a member of Congress for several thousand dollars. But you sure can rent one. And there are a lot of rental deposits being put down.


First of all, the context: As noted above, the Markey subcommittee may begin taking votes on the big global warming (cap and trade) bill as soon as next week. Markey and Congressman Henry Waxman of California, the full committee chairman, introduced a very thoughtful draft as a starting point for the action.

But corporate opponents of tough action are working behind the scenes to weaken the Waxman-Markey plan.


Most if not all of the subcommittee’s Republicans are irresponsibly going to oppose the measure. But trouble is also looming from some subcommittee Democrats. Last week, Democratic Congressmen Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania and Rick Boucher of Virginia offered “recommended changes” that incorporate the wish list of groups such as Duke Energy that seek to water down the Waxman-Markey draft. And now the various members of this panel and their aides are off in back rooms trying to negotiate deals. We believe that campaign contributions are an integral part of the ongoing dynamic.


What did we examine? We wanted to look at some of the “swing” Democratic members of the Markey panel who will likely be the key votes – and thus the key targets for businesses seeking to influence the outcome.

Greenwire has identified 11 such Democratic “fence sitters” and noted that – assuming uniform Republican opposition – that Waxman and Markey must win over 8 of these 11 Democrats. These Democrats are Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Charlie Melancon of Louisiana, Baron Hill of Indiana, John Dingell of Michigan, Rick Boucher of Virginia, Gene Green of Texas, Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Jim Matheson of Utah, and John Barrow of Georgia.

We thought it might provide some insight to see who’s been giving these lawmakers money as they prepare to cast critical votes which may determine if this Congress is actually serious about taking on global warming.

We’ve tried to note a few interesting factoids below – for example, the pervasive influence of big coal-burning electric power companies such as Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Company, as well as lobbies such as the Edison Electric Institute and the often overlooked but politically active National Rural Electric Cooperative. There is some big oil money flowing as well and money from coal-hauling railroads.


It’s no surprise why they these companies shelling out. Investments of several thousands of dollars could literally bring them billions of dollars in the form of free carbon permits or allocations. These aren’t like contributions to the March of Dimes.


So here are some tidbits. Please note these are only 2009 PAC contributions through the end of March and do not include contributions made this month or possible additional contributions from individuals and lobbyists (assuming they are of a different species entirely.) That, of course, is an area perhaps worthy of further investigation.


Doyle: contributors include Edison Electric Institute.

Butterfield: contributors include Duke Energy and National Rural Electric Cooperative

Melancon: contributors include American Electric Power and National Rural Electric Cooperative

Hill: contributors include Duke, American Electric Power, Southern Co. and National Rural Electric Cooperative

Dingell: contributors include Duke, American Electric Power, Southern Co., Arch Coal, Edison Electric Institute, Progress Energy, Xcel, National Rural Electric.

Boucher: contributors include Duke, AEP, EEI, Arch Coal, Progress Energy, Xcel, Allegheny Energy, Ameren and National Rural Electric.

Green: contributors include Exxon Mobil, Valero, Union Pacific, Wyoming Refining, Koch Industries and National Petrochemical and Refiners.

Gonzalez: contributors include EEI, AEP, DTE, ExxonMobil, Union Pacific, Koch, Valero, Xcel, Wyoming Refining and National Petrochemical and Refiners.

Ross: contributors include Entergy, National Rural Electric and American Trucking Associations.

Matheson: contributors include Duke, ExxonMobil, Arch Coal, National Rural Electric, and Tesoro Petroleum.

Barrow: contributors include Duke, EEI, ExxonMobil, Georgia Power (Southern Co. subsidiary), DTE and Chevron.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Senate Spoil Sports

Most of the news coverage this week, understandably, has focused on the Markey climate hearings. And now attention is being focused on the efforts by "moderate" House Democrats to gut the Waxman-Markey bill on behalf of Duke Energy, the Edison Electric Institute and other forces of darkness who assert with a straight face that "the consumer" is their only concern.

Across the Capitol, however, another important mini-drama is playing out. There, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has recommended approval of the very qualified Gina McCarthy, the environmental commissioner from Connecticut, to become head of the U.S. EPA air pollution control division.

McCarthy was approved yesterday by the committee. But two Republican senators, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming, have said they will put a "hold" on McCarthy's nomination -- delaying a vote by the entire Senate.

Their complaint: they don't like EPA's proposed "endangerment" finding that global warming poses a threat to health and the environment. So they want to hold McCarthy hostage out of spite. (They're also ignoring the fact that a far-from-liberal Supreme Court prompted the EPA finding. So, in order to score political points, they are blaming EPA, and McCarthy by association, for doing what the agency is required to do.)

The Senate leadership, apparently content to sit back and see how the special interests and their House colleagues undermine the best intentions of Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, need to put a stop to this nonsense pronto. They need to let McCarthy get to work.

The EPA needs someone in charge of its air division. We need the EPA to get on the job of dealing with the so-called "conventional" pollutants like mercury, smog and soot. And, given the likely erosion of the Waxman-Markey bill in the House, we may really need an effective EPA to make progress on climate as well.

A note to Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer: don't let the Senate spoil sports run the show here. Bring McCarthy's nomination up for a vote, and let her do the job she was nominated to do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Northeast carbon auctions seen boosting energy efficiency, creating green jobs

http://wwwp.dailyclimate.org/tdc-newsroom/2009/04/first-fruits-of-cap-and-trade

Thursday, April 23 2009

First fruits of cap-and-trade

Some of the first workers on energy efficiency programs are now hitting the streets with salaries paid by the proceeds of the cap-and-trade program started by 10 Northeast States. The green collar corps are starting to march.

23 April 2009
By Doug StruckFor the Daily Climate

BOSTON – Scott Newman was laid off in February from his job repairing home oil heaters, a victim of the dismal economy. Today, he sits in a class with a new job, learning how to sleuth out wasted energy in homes.

Newman is in the vanguard of a green-collar corps created by the nation's first carbon cap-and-trade program, operating in 10 northeastern states. Workers are being hired for a booming expansion of energy efficiency programs, financed by money raised from power companies paying for their carbon emissions under the program.

For Newman, 32, of Holden, Ma., the salary – about $50,000 a year – is important. But the job has other attractions, he said: "Now, I'll be doing something a little more rewarding, more environmentally conscious. I'll be trying to help customers save some money; that's a good feeling. And this looks like a field that will be growing."

Call this the first fruits of the nation's new energy economy.

In a Boston suburb classroom at Conservation Services Group, a nonprofit that has been in the energy efficiency business for 25 years, Newman and 11 other men pore over a manual that dissects the structure of houses and how buildings use – and lose – energy.

Just started on their six-week training, they already are deep into dense terms: Negative vent pressure, induced draft, heat exchangers, sealed combustion furnace components. Before they are done, instructor Mark Donovan will lead them through the intricacies of heating and air conditioning systems, hot water systems, venting, insulation and a host of rules, regulations and government programs offered to encourage homeowners to waste less energy. The new newly-minted auditors then will fan out to make home energy inspections under a Massachusetts program administered through the utility National Grid...

The cap-and-trade program, called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, is intended to force power producers in the northeastern states to cut greenhouse gas pollution by requiring them to buy allowances, which will shrink annually, to offset their emissions.

For every staff person we hire, the independent contractors have to hire ten
people. If we go in and spend four hours looking at a home, ... that turns
into four days of actual work.
- Stephen Cowell, Conservation Services Group.


The RGGI cap-and-trade program is touted as a precursor to a national program from the Obama administration. But the weak economy and decisions by power companies to switch to cheaper natural gas have dropped real carbon dioxide emissions in the region to a level about 19 percent below the RGGI caps. Some argue this has made the government-set caps meaningless and undercuts the value of the program; others disagree.

But there is little dispute the program is achieving one main goal, to finance an aggressive expansion of energy efficiency programs. The first auctions of carbon dioxide allowances held in September, December and March produced $262 million for the programs, just the beginning of a steady stream of funds being funneled to the 10 participating states.

The states, in turn, have started distributing grants to utilities and organizations that will run the programs, which have started hiring contractors like CSG to do the actual work.


Doug Struck covered global warming issues for The Washington Post. He is now a freelance writer and adjunct professor of journalism in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Duke CEO Rogers: we want more nukes, slower pace to carbon cleanup


We were interested to see the testimony of Duke CEO Jim Rogers, who is scheduled to testify tomorrow at the House global warming hearings. Though Rogers notes he was invited to appear as a member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), he calls for some things that might make some of the other USCAP members just a little uneasy.

For instance, he will call for more nuclear power, attack the renewable energy provisions of the Waxman Markey bill, attack the notion of reducing legal barriers to citizen suits, oppose energy efficiency requirements and will call for weaker near-term emission reduction targets and greater use of “offsets.” (Many environmentalists are concerned the draft bill already is too generous in this regard.)

Here are some excerpts:


I am particularly pleased today that I have been invited to testify as a member of
the United State Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). Duke Energy is a founding
member of this unique coalition that includes both industry and environmental
organizations…

Targets and timetables: The discussion draft proposes to begin the
program in 2012, using a 2005 baseline. The start-up date is the same that
was used in the last Congress and now allows too little time to begin
compliance. The early targets, while within the USCAP range, are very
aggressive. I would recommend the Committee follow President Obama’s
proposal of setting a near-term goal of achieving 1990 levels by 2020.

Offsets: USCAP members recognized the need to promote offsets as a
viable tool to provide cost-effective emission reductions. However, I was
surprised the discussion draft discounts these allowances, requiring
covered entities to turn in 1.25 offset credits in lieu of one emission
allowance. I believe the Congress and subsequent rules will ensure these
offsets are verifiable, permanent, measurable, enforceable and additional.
They will be limited either legislatively or through a regulatory process that
will make it challenging for projects to qualify. So why then, after the goldplating,
should they be discounted? Why, if companies can use them to
achieve the same environmental benefit at a lower cost for their
customers, does the government treat them as a compliance step-child?..

Citizen suits: The proposal reducing legal barriers to filing citizen lawsuits
either against the government or companies that emit greenhouse gases, I
believe, is a prescription for regulatory chaos and uncertainty. We should
spend our time, energy and money in addressing the problem – not tying
the courts up in endless litigation.

My position on a renewable electricity standard is clear. I think this issue belongs,
appropriately, to the states… we still have no evidence that wind or solar can be commercially viable in many parts of the country...

As for the proposed energy efficiency standard, as co-chair of the National Action
Plan on Energy Efficiency, I have been involved with a group of consumer
advocates, state regulators, environmental groups, utilities and others which has
developed a set of proposals that will achieve the goals in the discussion draft
without resorting to specific mandates.

USCAP did not come to an agreement on nuclear but I have said before and say
again that a truly serious long-term carbon reduction plan is an empty plate
unless we, as a nation, commit to making it possible once again to build nuclear
power plants. Other countries will be deploying this technology to meet their
carbon reduction commitments, and so should we.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Clean Air Watch debates global warming with Grover Norquist

From KSRO radio in California:



Is Obama's EPA Clean Up Just Hot Air?
Posted 4/20/2009



President Barack Obama has chosen global warming as the ground on which to make his first tough political stand. The President declared greenhouse gases a threat to public health, marking a major step toward federal limits on the carbon dioxide emissions scientists blame for global warming. It paves the way for the White House to regulate emissions from vehicles and effectively force the U.S. auto fleet to be cleaner and more efficient. Hear the Morning Show's HEATED debate...Grover Norquist, The President of Americans for Tax ReformFrank O'Donnell, President of the environmental group, Clean Air Watch

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

White House completes review of EPA "endangerment" finding on global warming

The White House Office of Management and Budget reports that it completed its review yesterday of EPA’s proposed finding that greenhouse gases pose a threat to health and the environment. (See below)

I think this means we could expect the announcement at any time – perhaps as soon as tomorrow. (Or perhaps as late as Earth Day – April 22.)

It will be a landmark moment in environmental history. It’s the first step in creating a comprehensive, federal climate change policy.

This ought to make a sometimes balky Congress get serious about doing something. One thing is pretty clear: if Congress doesn’t act, the Obama administration will begin to take action on global warming.

**

[From the White House Office of Management and Budget]

AGENCY: EPA-AR
RIN: 2060-ZA14
TITLE: Proposal for Endangerment Finding for Greehouse Gases under the Clean Air Act
STAGE: Proposed Rule
ECONOMICALLY SIGNIFICANT: No
RECEIVED DATE: 03/20/2009
LEGAL DEADLINE: None
** COMPLETED: 04/13/2009
COMPLETED ACTION: Consistent with Change

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rep. Joe Barton readies the case against global warming legislation

From a commentary in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

http://www.star-telegram.com/245/story/1311554.html

BARTON: Study the (scary) figures on cap and trade
By JOE BARTON
Special to the Star-Telegram


Buried underneath the mountain of new debt created by President Barack Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget proposal — which, by the way, spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much — is a program called "cap and trade."

It is a scheme devised by radical environmentalists and liberal politicians in Washington to get their big government hands in your wallet.

It is being sold as a way to save the planet by taxing "emitters," but it will kill the economy and decimate your family’s budget.

It will add to the cost of everything produced with energy, which is literally everything. The people at greatest risk are low- and middle-income families, blue-collar workers, the elderly and those whose jobs will be destroyed if we adopt a cap-and-tax policy...

The president’s plan is to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2050.

That would be a level of emissions the U.S. last experienced around 1910, when our population was about 92 million people. But experts predict that our population in 2050 will be about 420 million people, which means that to comply with the plan, our per capita emissions will have to be around 2.5 metric tons per year, a level last seen in the U.S. around 1875.

All those numbers may be a little confusing, but they add up to one undisputable fact — achieving this target essentially requires replacing virtually the entire existing energy infrastructure of the United States.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Obama science guy: maybe fake trees would help with global warming


From a fascinating piece written by Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein:


Obama looks at climate-engineering to cool Earth


by Seth Borenstein / Associated Press
Wednesday April 08, 2009, 4:49 PM


WASHINGTON -- The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

... Another geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so-called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide -- the chief human-caused greenhouse gas -- out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Take THAT, George Will!

A good piece in today's Washington Post, demolishing the pro-polluter propaganda recently spewed by alleged pundit George Will.
http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2009/02/science-update-whos-giving-george-will.html

Today's piece in the Post notes that the Arctic ice is indeed shrinking to record levels:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/04/07/ST2009040700783.html

New Data Show Rapid Arctic Ice Decline
Proportion of Thicker, More Persistent Winter Cover Is the Lowest on Record

By Juliet Eilperin and Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 7, 2009; A03

The Arctic sea ice cover continues to shrink and become thinner, according
to satellite measurements and other data released yesterday, providing further
evidence that the region is warming more rapidly than scientists had
expected...

The new evidence -- including satellite data showing that the average
multiyear wintertime sea ice cover in the Arctic in 2005 and 2006 was nine feet
thick, a significant decline from the 1980s -- contradicts data cited in widely
circulated reports by Washington Post columnist George F. Will that sea ice in
the Arctic has not significantly declined since 1979.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Two years and counting, since Supreme Court decision on global warming; is Van Hollen the answer?

It’s been exactly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the US EPA had legal authority to deal with global warming, as long as the agency found that global warming posed a health and/or environmental threat. http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1120.pdf

And the clock continues to tick.

Here is a quick roundup of some relevant news.


“Climate bills are blooming like cherry blossoms in Washington.” My favorite line this morning, courtesy Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun. http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bay_environment/blog/2009/04/van_hollen_tries_a_different_c.html

Tim was referring not only to the much-publicized draft legislation released earlier this week by Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, but to a less celebrated bill released yesterday by Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Md. I’ll be the first to admit I am a bit biased when it comes to Van Hollen since he is a neighbor and since I’ve known him for quite a few years.

However, his legislation is really worth keeping an eye on for several key reasons. For one thing, it provides an answer to a very big question left blank in the otherwise laudable Waxman-Markey bill: how to deal with the carbon pollution permits or credits under a cap-and-trade system. Van Hollen would require polluters to buy the permits. No free ride for the dirty Dukes of the world. And Van Hollen would have the government give the proceeds directly back to “every lawful resident of the United States with a valid Social Security number.”

The simplicity and elegance of this approach has a lot in its favor. For one thing, it may provide some counter-weight to what appears to be solid and blind Republican opposition to the Waxman-Markey bill. (The Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee were briefed on that bill yesterday, and emerged to say they would oppose the core cap-and-trade provisions. For more on the Republican attacks on climate legislation, please note that yesterday, John Boehner was named "Worst Person In the World" on MSNBC's "Countdown" due to his deliberate lie about global warming reduction costs. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/#30001988 Note: You have to watch an ad, and the Worse and Worser Persons first.

For more details on the Boehner lie, and the truth about the study that he distorts: http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/01/nine-republicans-3100-tax/

Also note Joining Their 11 Colleagues, Eight More Republicans Advance Cap-And-Trade Tax Myth

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/04/02/eight-republicans-tax-myth/ )

Back to the Van Hollen plan, note that it is an alternative to the possibly bogus idea – spread by Duke, the Edison Electric Institute and others – that consumers would always be protected as long as state public service commissions oversaw free credits given to power companies. (A fascinating story this week in Energy Daily recalls how Duke swayed the Ohio public service commission to the detriment of residential customers.)

One other fascinating thing to watch: there could be a something of a parting of the ways between the big, inbred DC and New York-based environmental groups (who will likely endorse whatever compromise emerges as Waxman and Markey negotiate for committee votes among blue-dog democrats) and many grassroots activists outside the beltway who will support Van Hollen’s approach.

See below a statement that grassroots groups released today:

**

Contacts:

Bridgett Frey, Press Secretary, Office of Congressman Chris Van Hollen
202-225-5384

Peter Barnes, Tomales Bay Institute
415-663-9494
peter@tomales.org

Mike Tidwell, Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
240-396-1981
MTidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org




JOINT STATEMENT ON INTRODUCTION OF "CAP AND DIVIDEND" CLIMATE LEGISLATION BY CONGRESSMAN CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MARYLAND, 8TH DISTRICT)

Yesterday, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, one of the highest ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives, unveiled The Cap and Dividend Act of 2009. The proposal will help solve the climate crisis while helping our economy grow and helping working families prosper. It is simple, transparent, and fair.

The legislation will cut carbon pollution to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It auctions 100% of the carbon permits - instead of giving them away to large polluters -- and allows for no potentially complex "carbon offsets" of any kind. It will spur economic investment and innovation and create millions of jobs in clean energy.

It protects the purchasing power of American families by returning every penny of higher carbon prices to citizens on a monthly, per capita basis. Every American, every month, will receive an "Energy Security Dividend."

No other carbon cap proposal does as much to help American families, our economy, and our planet.

Signed,

Chesapeake Climate Action Network (MD)
Montana Environmental Information Center (MT)
Fresh Energy (MN)
Penn Future (PA)
New Energy Economy (NM)
Center for Civic Policy (NM)
Climate Protection Campaign (CA)
Plains Justice (IA)
New York Public Interest Research Group (NY)
South Carolina Coastal Conservation League (SC)
Ohio Citizen Action (OH)