Pew Center: Voters Demand Stronger CAFE Standards 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 23 Jul 2007 19:31:00 GMT

With a vote on CAFE legislation in the House expected to come next week, the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency today released new bipartisan polling in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan that pulled from more than 30 congressional districts. The surveys found overwhelming voter support for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass CAFE legislation at least as strong as those passed by the U.S. Senate in June. One particular district surveyed was John Dingell’s, Michigan-15.

The polls compared the elements of the Markey-Platts bill (HR 1506) with those of the industry-supported Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927), and found overwhelming, across-the-board support for Markey-Platts across all demographic groups (partisanship, income, type of car, age, etc.). Voters just don’t buy the industry arguments against CAFE standards, believing that cars will continue to be safe and affordable and that the American auto industry and auto workers will be better off as they will be forced to innovate.

As Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster said in the briefing, “There’s really strong Republican support for higher standards, do it quicker, make it binding.” Voters see this as an economic, environmental, national security issue, and would feel better about Congress and their own representative if strong legislation is passed.

Voters in Dingell’s district look like the voters elsewhere.

The pollsters deliberately avoided global warming because they see it as a partisan issue.

Districts surveyed by The Mellman Group (D) and Public Opinion Strategies® July 13-16:

  • OH-4, 6, 9, 11, 12 ,13, 17, 18 (Jordan, Tubbs Jones, Tiberi, Sutton, Ryan, Space)
  • TN-1, 5, 6, 8 (Davis, Cooper, Gordon, Tanner)
  • KY-3, 6 (Yarmuth, Chandler)
  • PA-1, 3, 4, 11, 12, 17 (Brady, English, Altmire, Kanjorski, Murtha, Holden)
  • NC-2, 3, 7, 11, 12 (Etheridge, Jones, McIntyre, Shuler, Watt)
  • FL-2, 9, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 25 (Boyd, Bilirakis, Mahoney, Meek, Ros-Lehtinen, Wasserman Schultz, Klein, Diaz-Balart)
  • MI-15 (Dingell)

Oceanic Carbon Offsets ? 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 20 Jul 2007 11:02:00 GMT

Following up on Wednesday’s global warming committee hearing on carbon offsets, the Washington Post covers the company of one of the witnesses, Planktos CEO Russ George.
A small California company is planning to mix up to 80 tons of iron particles into the Pacific Ocean 350 miles west of the Galapagos islands to see whether it can make a splash in the markets where people seek to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

Planktos – with 24 employees, a Web site and virtually no revenue – has raised money to send a 115-foot boat called the Weatherbird II on a voyage to stimulate the growth of plankton that could boost the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The company plans to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide captured and sell it on the nascent carbon-trading markets. . . . Environmental groups say the Planktos project could have unforeseen side effects, and the Environmental Protection Agency has warned that the action may be subject to regulation under the Ocean Dumping Act. . . . The Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study, an international research group, said last month that “ocean fertilization will be ineffective and potentially deleterious, and should not be used as a strategy for offsetting CO2 emissions.” The International Maritime Organization scientific group, the Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund have condemned it. And a group called the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said its own ship would monitor the Planktos vessel and possibly “intercept” it.

On Wednesday, George appeared before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and lashed back at his critics. The EPA was working with “radical environmental groups,” he said. In written submissions, he said his firm’s work had been “falsely portrayed” to “generate public alarm.” . . . . George said “it’s the clearest ocean on Earth because it’s lifeless, and it’s not supposed to be that way.”

George asserts that the potential is enormous. He said that the annual drop in ocean plant life was like losing all the rain forests every year. “If we succeed, we’ll have created an industry,” he told the House committee. “If we don’t succeed, we’ll have created a lot of great science.”

Quotes from a few experts on the Planktos plan are below the break.

But leading ocean and climate experts have poured cold water on the Planktos plan by saying that the company can’t accurately measure how much additional carbon would be stored in the ocean or for how long. One reason: Some organisms sink and store carbon deep below the surface. But the overwhelming majority are eaten by fish or other organisms that convert the carbon back into carbon dioxide.

“Actually knowing how much carbon stays down there is a really hard thing,” says Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Schrag said the Planktos project could also generate new algae, which could reduce the amount of oxygen at depths that would endanger other ocean life. “Doing a large-scale ecological experiment before you understand the system is a dangerous thing,” he said.

Others doubt the benefits. “I think iron fertilization in the ocean is not going to make a significant difference to the CO2” problem, said Wally Broecker, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. . . .

Many companies are calling for Congress to set standards for voluntary credits if it does not establish a U.S. version of Europe’s more rigorous cap-and-trade rules.

“The global market for voluntary carbon offsets is currently unregulated,” said Derik Broekhoff, senior associate at the World Resources Institute, “which has led to growing concerns about whether buyers are really getting what they are paying for.”

Other recent stories on carbon offsets:

Tracking the Storm at the National Hurricane Center

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 19 Jul 2007 14:00:00 GMT

Responding to the reports of disarray at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on Energy and Commerce took action to determine if the Center was indeed incapable of providing necessary forecasts during the hurricane season.

Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX), Chairman of the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, convened a meeting in June with the heads of NOAA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to learn more about the Quikscat satellite controversy. A hearing on the use of the Quikscat satellite data for hurricane forecasting had already been planned.

With the escalation of the controversy at the NHC in recent days, and subsequent action by NOAA Administrator Admiral Lautenbacher to place Hurricane Center Director William Proenza on leave, the Committees determined that further information was required.

This week they asked Admiral Lautenbacher for documents and records of communications from senior NWS officials and others involved in the controversy.

Witnesses Panel I
  • Mr. Bill Proenza, Director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC)
Panel II
  • Dr. Robert M. Atlas, Director, Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
  • Mr. Don McKinnon, Director, Jones County Emergency Management Agency
Panel III
  • Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Under Secretary for Commerce, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Jeff Masters (Wunderground hurricane specialist) outside perspective: before the firing:

A political storm engulfed the National Hurricane Center this week, with a majority of the senior hurricane forecasters calling for Bill Proenza’s removal as director. The most visible issue revolved around the extraordinary focus on the aging QuikSCAT satellite. The public argument put forth by Mr. Proenza was that QuikSCAT data was so vital to hurricane track forecasting that without it, track forecast errors would increase significantly, leading to larger warning areas and increased costs for evacuation and emergency planning.

...

I believe that NHC official forecasts for landfalling storms in the Atlantic would not be significantly affected by the loss of the QuikSCAT satellite. I can’t think of a hurricane scientist out there who would defend using a study with only 19 cases that didn’t focus on landfalling storms, to make the case Proenza is making—particularly in light of the data from the unpublished Goerss study showing no effect of QuikSCAT data on NOGAPS model tropical cyclone track errors. Proenza should have at least attached some measure of uncertainty to his numbers, which he did not.

...

It greatly troubles me that the most visible and admired member of my profession has failed to use good science in his arguments for funding a replacement of the QuikSCAT satellite. The Director of the National Hurricane Center needs to be an able politician and good communicator, but being truthful with the science is a fundamental requirement of the job as well. Mr. Proenza has misrepresented the science on the QuikSCAT issue, and no longer has my support as director of the National Hurricane Center.

...

Having lost the support of most of his senior forecasters, and having misrepresented the science on the importance of the QuikSCAT satellite on hurricane forecasts, it would be best for Mr. Proenza to step down as director of the National Hurricane Center.

after the firing:
With hurricane season fast approaching and internal strife threatening “the effective functioning of the National Hurricane Center”, as stated in a letter signed by 23 of NHC’s 49 employees, NOAA did the best thing by reassigning director Bill Proenza this afternoon. Conrad Lautenbacher, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced Proenza has been placed on leave “until further notice.”

The reassignment puts NHC deputy director Ed Rappaport, 49, into the director’s hot seat. I greatly respect Dr. Rappaport, who has done a great job as deputy director and is a highly skilled hurricane forecaster. Dr. Rappaport has a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Texas Tech. He began work in 1988 at NHC, and served as one NHC’s Hurricane Specialists before becoming chief of the Technical Support Branch. He is the best choice for director of NHC. He had wide support to become director last year when Max Mayfield retired, but turned down the job due to family reasons.

Voluntary Carbon Offsets--Getting What You Pay For

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 18 Jul 2007 13:30:00 GMT

Eager to be part of the solution to global warming, many consumers, businesses and government agencies have turned to carbon pollution offsets to help reduce or eliminate their “carbon footprint.” While these offsets represent a promising way to engage consumers in global warming solutions, there are many unanswered questions as to the efficacy and accounting of these unregulated commodities.

Witnesses
  • Derik Broekhoff, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute
  • Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Thomas Boucher, President and Chief Executive Officer, NativeEnergy LLC
  • Russ George, President and Chief Executive Officer, Planktos, Inc.
  • Erik Blachford, CEO, TerraPass Inc.

Contact: Moulton, David – Democratic Staff Director at 202-225-4012

From the Washington Post: At the hearing, Planktos CEO Russ George, whose company plans to engage in oceanic iron-seeding in the east Pacific, said the EPA was working with “radical environmental groups” who are criticizing his company. In written submissions, he said his firm’s work had been “falsely portrayed” to “generate public alarm.” George said “it’s the clearest ocean on Earth because it’s lifeless, and it’s not supposed to be that way.” He asserts that the potential is enormous. He said that the annual drop in ocean plant life was like losing all the rain forests every year. “If we succeed, we’ll have created an industry. If we don’t succeed, we’ll have created a lot of great science.”

More from the article at this post.

Abramoff and Global Warming

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 16 Jul 2007 22:33:00 GMT

R. Jared Carpenter, vice president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, a right-wing environmental non-profit founded by Gale Norton and Grover Norquist, pleaded guilty last week to tax evasion. Carpenter didn’t just take money from Jack Abramoff’s tribes and spend it for himself without paying taxes; he also worked on such environmental issues as climate change, participating in the US Climate Change Science Program workshop that produced the program’s 2003 strategic plan report.

Solar Energy Research

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 16 Jul 2007 12:29:00 GMT

In today’s New York Times, Andrew Revkin and Matthew Wald report on the state of solar energy in the United States and the world. The short version of their article is that the minimal research dollars seem to guarantee that the current projections of very small increases in the deployment of solar energy will come true. The article is accompanied by two infographics that use figures from the Energy Information Administration and the International Energy Agency. The figures show that the lion’s share of international R&D dollars go to nuclear fission research and that the EIA projects US electricity production, already dominated by coal, to be overwhelmingly produced by coal-fired plants in the following decades.

You can view them after the break.

Air Force, Murtha, Rahall Supporting Coal-to-Liquids

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 13 Jul 2007 15:08:00 GMT

CQ reports that Air Force Undersecretary Ronald M. Sega plans to deliver the keynote address to a Coal-to-Liquids Coalition conference August 15 in West Virginia. Other speakers include John P. Murtha, D-Pa., House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, and Natural Resources Chairman Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va.

Pelosi vs. Dingell on CAFE

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 13 Jul 2007 14:57:00 GMT

The Washington Post reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in talks with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (Mich.) on how to introduce the CAFE standards legislation that passed the Senate last month. Also of interest from the article, discussing the overall House energy legislation:
Lobbyists are still working to alter key parts of the legislation as it moves to the House floor and later to conference committee with the Senate. The American Petroleum Institute has been lobbying to limit the impact of tax measures that would effectively boost oil companies’ corporate income tax rate and increase royalty payments. Coal and nuclear advocates are pushing for additional loan guarantees and tax breaks. Beef and poultry producers that use corn feed hope to dilute incentives for corn-based ethanol.

The Kyoto Protocol: An Update

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 11 Jul 2007 18:00:00 GMT

Panel I
  • Harlan Watson – special representative and senior climate negotiator, Bureau of Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs, State Department Panel II
  • Elliot Diringer – director of international strategies, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  • Margo Thorning – managing director, International Council for Capital Formation

Dr. Watson and the subcommittee chair Faleomavaega had a long discussion. Dr. Watson defended the administration’s largely voluntary approach. Rohrabacher repeated his complaints that CO2 is not dangerous to human health and that the focus on climate change is taking resources away from fighting pollution.

4:24 PM Diringer The US-CAP platform. The Bali conference will be the stage for new negotiations on 2012 commitments. Kyoto was a major milestone, but just one stage. We have no expectation the US will ever ratify it.

4:34 PM Thorning Cap and trade is bad.

4:41 PM Manzullo R-IL We’re seeing the problems with cap and trade already. One of the manufacturers in Spain is being displaced by a factory in Morocco which is not covered by the system. People not covered by it would be the beneficiaries.

Diringer The type of effect doesn’t seem to be a function of cap-and-trade, but is related to any regulatory control. That’s what the importance of international agreements.

Manzullo How do you make the effort?

Diringer You start by being serious.

Manzullo We’re down to 3% in the export of machine tools. Setting the right example. I don’t think that works.

Manzullo The nations that buy things go with a more reliable supplier. It’s ITAR free. Using the white-hat techniques slams in our face.

Thorning Global energy prices are not likely to fall in the foreseeable future.

Manzullo What can you offer China and Morocco, countries that don’t respect the environment?

Thorning Let’s say we have a coal-fired boiler that 35% efficient. If China wants that, if we knew they’d protect our intellectual property, we’d be more likely to sell them the boiler.

Diringer We have various means of export support and promotion and we can make that assistance conditional.

4:48 PM Rohrabacher The air in China is murdering children. That has nothing to do with climate change. If all of the goals of the Kyoto Protocol are met, would that reverse the climate change trend that are so alarming people?

Thorning It would have virtually no impact on changing the climate.

Diringer Noone contends the Kyoto standards are sufficient.

Rohrabacher Why should we join the Kyoto protocol then?

Diringer I’m not aware of anyone advocating joining the Kyoto protocol. China’s implementing many environmental standards that have climate emissions benefits, but are based on national drivers. It’s important that we understand those motivations. The steps we would take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will also reduce the production of conventional air pollutants. There is common ground.

Rohrabacher I think there is room for common ground. There are choices that people make as to whether or not there will be reductions in NOX, which I understand is harmful to human health. Some scientists claim more CO2 will produce more plant growth and make people’s lives better. I would like to put on the record an article by James Taylor at the Heartlands Institute.

What is your view on using nuclear energy?

D: Nuclear energy is a major component of our electricity production. We expect it to remain a major part of our production mix.

Rohrabacher Might I suggest that you personally look at the high-pressure gas reactor? The traditional objections of environmentalists don’t apply. It actually eats plutonium. The last thing we want to do is to promote technologies to clean the air but help people drop bombs on us. There are some alternatives.

4:57 Faleomavaega What about poor countries?

Thorning Energy is an essential to reducing poverty. I think it’s important how we balance society’s resources. I want to see more resources going to provide energy that developing countries need. For about $18 billion a year we could provide LPG stoves to millions of people.

Our tax code has slowed depreciation. We have about the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. I hope we’ll look at the rate of capital cost recovery.

5:04 Diringer The UN convention establishes the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. There’s an understanding that one size does not fit all. We would favor a flexible framework.

I think the US is the single most influential force globally on tackling this issue. The EU has pledged unilaterally to reduce emissions. A very positive indication from the United States is necessary.

Thorning One of the things we need to keep our eye on is that the EU is not likely to meet their targets. What I see happening is lip service. I see the EU as not successful as it’s currently set up. Perhaps sectoral targets without necessarily having mandatory requirements. I think we can induce China, like the Marshall Plan.

5:09 Diringer I think it’s premature to conclude that the EU will not meet its Kyoto target. The EEA estimates it will achieve its targets. It won’t meet it entirely with domestic reductions, but also by relying on the flexibility mechanisms built into the Kyoto Protocol. The emissions trading scheme is only one of the mechanisms the EU is using, and it is in the learning phase. The biggest problem in the trial run was an over-allocation of emissions allowances.

5:13 Faleomavaega What do you expect will happen at Bali?

Thorning I think the US will push the Asia-Pacific Partnership mechanisms, which I think is the right way to go.

5:16 Rohrabacher Scripps has a beautiful climate change institute worth millions of dollars. Scientists on the dole. When that money should have been on the children of China who are going to have emphysema by the time they’re 30 years old by breathing in that rotten air. It’s like a huge black hole. If scientists say there will be more wildfires in California, that’s probably a $2 million research grant sucked away. I know people in California if they got those $2 million would dramatically impact air quality. There are 100s, thousands of these scientists taking this money. People say “Well, the issue is closed” swaying and wagging his arms. They’re ignoring the critics the scientists. $37 billion is a huge amount of money. It seems that the poltics of this thing has invaded the scientific community. With that said, I am hopeful. I do believe in science. I do believe in human progress. Perhaps we can come up with technologies that can clean the air, even though I think the scare tactics are not justified.

National Renewable Portfolio Standard

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 11 Jul 2007 17:30:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to learn about national renewable electricity portfolio standards such as those that have been introduced in the Senate and are likely to be introduced in the House as part of the climate change legislative package Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) has called for this Fall. A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a market-based mechanism that requires utilities to gradually increase the portion of electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind, biomass, geothermal, solar energy, incremental hydropower and marine energy. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have RPSs, covering 40 percent of the nation’s electrical load. A national RPS has passed the Senate in the last three Congresses, although it is not included in the recent Senate energy bill.

A recent analysis by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) of a national RPS proposed by Senate Energy Committee Chair Bingaman (D-NM) requiring electric utilities to acquire 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, found net consumer cost to increase just 0.3 percent through 2030 compared to the reference case. In April, the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), which in 2004 published recommendations including a national greenhouse gas “cap-and-trade” program, added a recommendation for a 15 percent RPS to its set of national energy policy recommendations. In June, “Renewing America,” a study by the Network for New Energy Choices, found that a 20 percent by 2020 national RPS could reduce as much carbon dioxide as taking 71 million cars off the nation’s roads and would decrease consumer energy bills by an average of 1.5 percent per year. An article in the May issue of Electricity Journal by Professor Marilyn Brown et al. discusses the value of including energy efficiency along with renewable energy in a national portfolio standard. Our panel includes:

· Leon Lowery, Majority Staff, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

· Chris Namovicz, Operations Research Analyst, Energy Information Administration

· Marilyn Brown, Professor of Energy Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology and Visiting Distinguished Scientist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

· Richard Glick, Director, Government Affairs, PPM Energy

On February 8, Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM), Todd Platts (R-PA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Mark Udall (D-CO) along with four others introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 969) to establish a federal RPS requiring electric utilities to acquire 20 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2020. “As Congress addresses the many important energy issues facing our country, we must consider the benefits of renewable energy. Establishing a federal renewable portfolio standard will balance a wide range of interests,” Rep. Tom Udall said. “Not only will it help us meet our growing demand for electricity, it will also reduce our exposure to fossil fuel price spikes and supply interruptions, increase economic development in the renewable energy industry, and improve our environment.” H.R. 969 now has 121 cosponsors. On June 28, Rep. DeGette (D-CO) introduced and withdrew a federal RPS amendment (based on H.R. 969) in the Committee on Energy and Commerce markup of Committee prints on energy policy legislation.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required.

For more information, contact Fred Beck at 202-662-1892 (fbeck@eesi.org)

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