WonkLine: June 23, 2009 2105

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 23 Jun 2009 16:30:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

“House Democrats filed a 1,201-page energy package late Monday night,” the latest version of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), “and said they are confident that they will resolve all outstanding issues in time for a vote Friday.”

The Charleston Gazette reports: “Coal mining costs Appalachians five times more in early deaths as the industry provides to the region in jobs, taxes and other economic benefits, according to a groundbreaking new study co-authored by a West Virginia University researcher.”

Switzerland’s glaciers shrank by 12 percent over the past decade, melting at their fastest rate due to rising temperatures and lighter snowfalls, a study by the Swiss university ETH showed Monday.”

WonkLine: June 17, 2009 22

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 17 Jun 2009 14:08:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

During last year’s Democratic primary, Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) “relied heavily on Al Gore’s endorsement” despite having “never been out in front on global warming,” but is now threatening to “vote down” the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Utah’s next governor, Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) told the Western Governors’ Association “it appears to him science on global warming is not necessarily conclusive.” He is replacing Gov. Jon Huntsman, nominated to be the ambassador to China, who entered Utah into the Western Climate Initiative.

“Aides to Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) are in southern West Virginia for what they call a three-day fact-finding tour about mountaintop removal mining,” meeting with “coal industry officials, environmentalists and citizens.”

Collin Peterson: 'Mixing Climate Change Together with Energy Independence' Isn't Smart 15

Posted by Wonk Room Sun, 14 Jun 2009 10:29:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Collin PetersonIn an agricultural hearing Thursday, committee chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) offered a withering critique of the comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation under consideration by the House of Representatives. Peterson, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, attacked the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) for including both clean energy and global warming pollution standards:

My big problem is that they are mixing climate change together with energy independence. I don’t think that is smart.

Peterson, like other skeptics of action on climate change, does not want Congress to consider the entire lifecycle of energy use. Others, including Vice President Al Gore, have argued our energy and climate crises are “linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

Strongly supported by corporate agriculture contributors, Peterson is attempting to alter Waxman-Markey to limit regulations of agriculture subsidies.

By replacing petroleum, biofuels have the potential to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. But scientists have found biofuels can also worsen global warming by encouraging farmers to cut down the diversity-rich tropical forests that soak up carbon dioxide. Similarly, farmers may be able to trap more carbon in soil and plants through changes in agricultural practices, allowing them to sell billions of dollars of “offsets” in a carbon cap-and-trade market. But experts such as Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress have explained that poorly regulated offsets are little more than worthless subsidies.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering the global warming consequences of biofuel production as it develops new renewable fuels standards. Similarly, Waxman-Markey would put the EPA Administrator and an independent scientific board in charge of devising the rules for agricultural offsets to maintain their integrity. Peterson’s response:
A lot of us on the Committee do not want the EPA near our farms. And, I don’t think you are going to get any type of a bill through Congress, whatever the administration wants, that is going to have that system, for whatever it is worth.
At Grist, Tom Philpott responds to Peterson:
The current version of Waxman-Markey contains almost no language on agriculture. (As I’ve written before, agriculture is exempt from any cap on greenhouse-gas emissions.) But farming projects would still be eligible for offsets through an offsets-review board that the legislation would set up within the EPA. Big Ag isn’t content with that arrangement. In the coming days, the game will be to insert specific language around ag offsets into the legislationand promote a certification process developed by Big Ag itself.

For weeks, Peterson has threatened to block Waxman-Markey if his demands are not met. It appears that he’s in the driver’s seat.

WonkLine: June 8, 2009 4

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 08 Jun 2009 13:08:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.


We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore,” says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that found the estimates of a 240-year supply of coal in the United States to be grossly inflated, as “relatively little of it can be profitably extracted.”

The Congressional Budget Office has released its cost estimate of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), finding that it would reduce budget deficits “about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”

In a mock hearing today, Republican senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jim Bunning (R-KY) “will propose building 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years” instead of a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

CBO Releases Analysis of Waxman-Markey 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 08 Jun 2009 12:08:00 GMT

The Congressional Budget Office has released its cost estimate of H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, finding that it would reduce budget deficits “about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”

H.R. 2454 would make a number of changes in energy and environmental policies largely aimed at reducing emissions of gases that contribute to global warming. The bill would limit or cap the quantity of certain greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted from facilities that generate electricity and from other industrial activities over the 2012-2050 period. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would establish two separate regulatory initiatives known as cap-and-trade programs—one covering emissions of most types of GHGs and one covering hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). EPA would issue allowances to emit those gases under the cap-and-trade programs. Some of those allowances would be auctioned by the federal government, and the remainder would be distributed at no charge. Other major provisions of the legislation would:
  • Provide energy tax credits or energy rebates to certain low-income families to offset the impact of higher energy-related prices from the cap-and-trade programs;
  • Require certain retail electricity suppliers to satisfy a minimum percentage of their electricity sales with electricity generated by facilities that use qualifying renewable fuels or energy sources;
  • Establish a Carbon Storage Research Corporation to support research and development of technologies related to carbon capture and sequestration;
  • Increase, by $25 billion, the aggregate amount of loans DOE is authorized to make to automobile manufacturers and component suppliers under the existing Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program;
  • Establish a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) within the Department of Energy (DOE), which would be authorized to provide direct loans, loan guarantees, and letters of credit for clean energy projects;
  • Authorize the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide individuals with vouchers to acquire new vehicles that achieve greater fuel efficiency than the existing qualifying vehicles owned by the individuals; and
  • Authorize appropriations for various programs under EPA, DOE, and other agencies.
CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that over the 2010-2019 period enacting this legislation would:
  • Increase federal revenues by about $846 billion; and
  • Increase direct spending by about $821 billion.

In total, those changes would reduce budget deficits (or increase future surpluses) by about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.

In addition, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 2454 would increase discretionary spending by about $50 billion over the 2010-2019 period. Most of that funding would stem from spending auction proceeds from various funds established under this legislation.

CBO has determined that the non-tax provisions of H.R. 2454 contain intergovernmental and private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA). Several of those mandates would require utilities, manufacturers, and other entities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through cap-and-trade programs and performance standards. CBO estimates that the cost of mandates in the bill would well exceed the annual thresholds established in UMRA for intergovernmental and private-sector mandates (in 2009, $69 million and $139 million respectively, adjusted annually for inflation).

Download the estimate.

WonkLine: June 5, 2009 6

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 05 Jun 2009 13:10:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

The New York Times reports that “cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants” instead of corn and soy, reducing their enteric methane emissions (burps) by 18 percent, without any loss in milk production.

President Obama may attend world climate talks in Copenhagen this December, marking the first visit to the annual U.N. conference by a sitting U.S. president since George H.W. Bush’s 1992 trip to Rio de Janeiro,” according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

The Washington Post finds that “corporate lobbyists have won billions of dollars of subsidies in the Waxman-Markey green economy legislation, including $500 billion for electric utilities and $12 billion for the auto industry.

More House Chatter About Waxman-Markey

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 05 Jun 2009 12:39:00 GMT

E&E News gets more House members to talk about the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454). Many are befuddled, though self-described “oil-patch Democrat” John Salazar (D-Colo.) is likely to vote against the bill.

Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Ways and Means:
My biggest concern is we have a bill that we can explain to our constituents. I think that’s the hardest thing. There were a lot of members who feel that way, that cap and trade is just a very hard concept to explain. It’s been defined relatively effectively, if not accurately necessarily, by the opponents of it. It makes it a difficult sell job.
Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.):
I suspect I’m like a lot of members, which is, I’ve still got a lot to learn about it. I think there’s a lot of legitimate questions about how it works.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.):
I could not say at this moment. I’ve not had a chance to look at it close enough to my own satisfaction. And that’s just a function from the fact we’ve been dealing with an awful lot of things during the last few months.
Rep. John Salazar (D-Colo.), who “would prefer Congress split up energy and global warming into two separate bills, passing the first now and waiting until later on the latter”:
I had a little talk with the speaker. Depending on what comes out in the end, we might be able to support a bill. Right now, as it currently stands, I don’t think I could support it.
Speaking about his brother, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar:
Actually, I think he feels about the same way I do. We want to make sure that us oil-patch Democrats are well positioned, that if we have to take a vote, that we’ll take the right vote. And second of all, I’d hope we’d move the bill in the Senate before it comes to the House, because the Senate I don’t think is going to pass any kind of version like the one we do.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.):
That’s an awful, awful bill.

WonkLine: June 4, 2009 1

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 04 Jun 2009 13:12:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Putting the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill “on a fast-track” for passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “issued an ultimatum to her committee chairmen: move climate change legislation by June 19 or risk losing jurisdiction over the bill.”

“Stephen Ward, chief of staff for Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, said Wednesday that lawmakers fear a ratepayer backlash” if carbon pollution is capped, telling “a room full of alternative-energy financiers at the Lazard Capital Markets Alternative Energy Investor Summit” that he foresees “a more modest bill” than Waxman-Markey coming from the Senate.

Researchers have discovered that the Phragmites “super weed” emits toxic chemicals to kill competitors, and “the poison becomes even more toxic” because of global warming’s effect on ultraviolet radiation.

WonkLine: June 3, 2009 2

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 03 Jun 2009 13:14:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.


Climate change could spark ‘environmental wars’ in the Middle East over already scarce water supplies and dissuade Israel from any pullout from occupied Arab land,” a report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development warns: “In a region already considered the world’s most water scarce, climate models are predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate.”

“A recession, the worst GDP drop since the 1950s, is the wrong circumstance, the wrong backdrop to introduce legislation that would revolutionize the energy economy in this country,” said Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL), who has “urged House Democratic leaders and the Obama administration to ditch the cap-and-trade provisions until the economy picks up.”

Two different coalitions of agriculture lobbies have asked House leadership to modify the agricultural and forestry carbon offsets program in Waxman-Markey (H.R. 2454).

Prospects For Waxman-Markey In House Committees 1

Posted by Gristmill Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:21:00 GMT

By Grist's Kate Sheppard.

The Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill cleared a major hurdle on May 21 when it was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. But the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009 still has a long road to travel before it can be voted on by the full House.

The House parliamentarian has referred the bill to nine committees, though only four have signaled that they intend to review it in the next weeks. Some estimates of how many committees may want a chance to modify the legislation go as high as 11, and it’s certain that the Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science, and Natural Resources committees will all play some role in the development of the bill.

All of this will take place before the bill goes up for a vote in the full House, which could come by the end of June. Here’s a rundown of the committees likely to take a stab at the bill (or a hatchet, perhaps), and any indication we have so far of these panels’ intentions:

Ways and Means: This committee is responsible for taxes and any other revenue that comes into federal coffers. Under the proposed cap-and-trade plan, the government will auction emissions credits to industries and other buyers, generating significant revenue for Uncle Sam.

There are plenty of alternative plans floating around Ways and Means that may influence how the committee members approach Waxman-Markey. John Larson (D-Conn.) has offered a carbon-tax bill, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed a cap-and-dividend bill, and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) coauthored climate legislation with Van Hollen last year and has been active in discussions of climate policy.

Meanwhile, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has said he wants to work on health care before taking up the climate bill.

Agriculture: Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has threatened to derail Waxman-Markey unless the EPA backs off from proposed rules on the greenhouse-gas footprint of ethanol production. He’s demanded veto power over the related provisions of the bill, and says if he doesn’t get it, his committee’s 26 Democrats will vote against the bill on the floor. He also wants a chance to review provisions he has deemed to be inadequate, like fuel standards, the definition of renewable energy sources, and regulations governing trading in the carbon market. He has also said he wants to see more domestic offsets made available for farmers and thinks the Department of Agriculture should play a larger role in implementation of the legislation.

Science and Technology: This committee may decide to review provisions in the bill related to adaptation and climate science monitoring. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is holding markup of the committee’s own bill to create a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in early June, which the committee could choose to add to the Waxman-Markey bill. This committee has also been active on some of the policy issues surrounding the development of carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology in the past, and advocated for increased government funding of energy technology development.

Natural Resources: This committee oversees public lands, wildlife, water resources, mining laws, and the development of natural resources, including oil and natural gas. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has said he intends to get more programs to expand the development of oil and gas in the outer continental shelf and on federal lands. More domestic development, he said, “should be part of a responsible, comprehensive, pro-energy bill.”

Rahall’s committee has been holding hearings on this subject this year, revisiting what became a highly contentious issue in 2008 as Congress allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire. Adding expanded domestic drilling to this bill would displease many Democrats, including sponsors Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), but there has been talk that the Obama administration has been discussing this as one option to sweeten a climate deal for moderates on both sides of the aisle in order to get the bill through Congress.

Education & Labor: This committee could decide to examine and amend some of the green jobs provisions of the bill, as well as the provisions that provide grants to educational institutions for green jobs training. For now, though, it looks like the panel will take a pass on reviewing the bill.

Foreign Affairs: This panel may want to take up some of the provisions in the bill to fund international adaptation and technology development. Currently, the bill would allocate a tiny sum of revenue generated from selling emissions credits to adaptation programs—just 2 percent of the total revenue generated in the initial years of the cap-and-trade system. But what the United States is willing to offer to other countries is probably going to be key in bringing major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia on board at the international climate talks late this year in Copenhagen.

Financial Services: This committee could take up several portions of the bill, including the elements that deal with grants and loans for green buildings and energy-efficiency projects. Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has said he would probably want to take a look at the provisions on regulating the new carbon market that the bill would create.

Transportation and Infrastructure: This panel could claim jurisdiction on anything in the bill dealing with transportation, and there’s quite a bit that fits the bill. But the committee is already at work on a major surface transportation bill that will likely occupy much of its time this summer.

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