Solar Decathlon Showcases Green Homes for Today: How Energy Bill Provisions Can Support High-Performance Homes 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 17 Oct 2007 17:00:00 GMT


Universidad de Puerto Rico house
© Jeff Kubina

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a Congressional briefing featuring the Solar Decathlon and the value of incorporating high-performance “green” design in buildings. The briefing will also discuss how provisions in the pending energy bill can help improve efficient homes. Buildings account for more than 40 percent of annual U.S. energy use and are, in turn, responsible for more than one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Because buildings last many decades, the economic, environmental and health impacts of inefficient building design are long-lasting.

The Solar Decathlon-taking place on the National Mall October 12 – 20- is an exciting competition in which 20 teams of college and university students from across the country, including four international teams, compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The house must also be able to power an electric vehicle as well as be “off the grid.” These solar homes are powerful, comfortable, and stylish. They are relaxed and elegant, wasting neither space nor energy. High efficiency solar houses like these are using readily available technology and designs-not futuristic concepts. But policies like stronger building codes and the solar provisions in the energy bill are essential in helping make our homes greener and much more efficient-saving both energy and money.

  • Rhone Resch, Executive Director, Solar Energy Industries Association
  • Dr. Kaye Brubaker, Associate Professor, University of Maryland
  • Bill Nesmith, Assistant Director for Conservation, Oregon Department of Energy
  • Lowell Ungar, Director of Policy, Alliance to Save Energy

In addition to discussing the Solar Decathlon, the briefing will address the role of codes and standards in building energy efficiency. Measures to promote increased residential building energy efficiency are included in the House energy bill HR 3221, Title IX, Sec. 9031. “Encouraging Stronger Building Codes.” The briefing panel will also discuss the solar provisions in the energy bill, including tax incentives for solar energy.

This briefing is open to the public and no reservations are required. For more information, please contact Fred Beck at fbeck@eesi.org or 202.662.1892.

Congressional Leaders Moving Forward on Closed-Door Energy Bill Negotiations 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 15 Oct 2007 18:31:00 GMT

From CQ Greensheets and Detroit News reports on movement on the inter-chamber energy bill negotiating process:
  • The controversial standard legislation – fuel economy (CAFE) and renewable fuels (RFS) from the Senate bill (HR 6), and renewable energy (RPS) from the House bill (HR 3221) – “will be worked out behind closed doors between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid”, with staff-level discussions this week
  • Opponents of the CAFE legislation in the Senate bill continue a last-ditch effort to advocate Hill-Terry (HR 2927) and get Senators to switch their votes. The coalition, led by Energy and Commerce chair John Dingell, includes:
  • Dingell’s staff is meeting with the leadership staff for the closed-door negotiations, but he is leaving the door open to blocking the energy bill: “I’m not foreclosing any option. I don’t make the jungle. I just live there.” He also said that trying to get a bill completed before the scheduled October 26 recess “is to invite a disaster.”
    From CQ Greensheets:
    Energy Talks to Begin, But Not on 3 Key Issues By Coral Davenport

    Negotiations on a major energy bill begin Monday — but Democratic leaders have already drawn fire for taking the three biggest and most contentious issues off the table. The three issues those leaders cite as their top priorities in crafting new energy policy — raising vehicle fuel economy standards and setting nationwide mandates for renewable fuels and electricity — will not be up for discussion as Energy Committee staffers from both chambers and parties convene to start hammering out a compromise bill.

    Instead, those highly controversial provisions — which, if enacted, would signal a new direction in U.S. energy policy — will be worked out behind closed doors between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., say congressional aides.

    Whatever bill emerges from the staff and leadership talks will then have to be sent back to both chambers for passage.

    Each of those initiatives passed one chamber, but not the other, this summer as part of a larger energy bill. The Senate passed a measure (HR 6) that would significantly raise fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and would mandate production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. The House bill (HR 3221) would require 15 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

    But lawmakers question whether one bill containing all three contentious measures could make it through both chambers this year, especially as the fuel economy and renewable electricity provisions have divided Democrats, making a majority uncertain. Analysts say that appears to be the reason congressional leaders are keeping those pieces off the negotiating table, and trying to engineer the bill themselves — a strategy that has drawn plenty of criticism from Republicans.

    “I think the notion of establishing a negotiation framework where the three biggest elements of the plan are off the table is a fraud,” said Chris Tucker, communications director for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

    Many Republicans may not even attend the initial negotiations, in order to protest their inability to weigh in on the three key pieces. “At this time it’s unclear if Republicans are going to be attending talks on Monday,” said Matt LeTourneau, a spokesman for Senate Energy Committee Republicans. “One of our sticking points is that certain items are off the table. The issues that took up so much time on the Senate floor and House floor are not open for discussion.”

    Charges of partisan perfidy in energy negotiations are not new: In 2003, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House energy committees, Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin of Louisiana, privately drafted a proposal for consideration by conferees on a major energy bill — a process one Democratic aide called “the illusion of inclusion.” The plan eventually won conference approval amid partisan bickering, but the bill ultimately failed.

    Fuel Economy

    While key issues may be off staffers’ negotiating table, that doesn’t appear to have deterred a major lobbying push on at least one of them: raising corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards.

    Efforts to legislate better vehicle mileage have been stalled for more than 20 years, but this summer’s Senate energy package included a provision that would require manufacturers to raise vehicle fleet averages to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

    Pelosi has said she strongly supports incorporating that provision in the final energy deal, but it has met with powerful pushback from a broad group of opponents, including The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the influential Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative House Democrats. In the past, these groups have pushed against moves to raise CAFE standards entirely — but now they are pushing instead for a more modest House bill (HR 2927) by Reps. Baron P. Hill, D-Ind., and Lee Terry, R-Neb. Their bill would leave separate regulations in place for cars and “light trucks,” such as sport utility vehicles, while setting the overall fuel economy at 32 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by 2022.

    That has brought along the support of groups that have previously opposed all efforts to tighten fuel economy standards, but who now say they would support a raise with separate standards for cars and light trucks. The push includes influential groups that depend on light trucks to do business, including the American Farm Bureau Federation; the American Recreation Coalition; Associated General Contractors; International Professional Rodeo Association; National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors; and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. Another key supporter of the Hill-Terry bill is powerful House Energy Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., who has long been a key opponent of any raise in fuel economy standards, but has cosponsored the Hill-Terry measure.

    Counter-lobbying by environmental groups is also in full force. “What this effort really boils down to is nothing more than an 11th-hour attempt by a boatload of lobbyists to scuttle a boosted fuel-economy standard that the Senate already passed,” said Deron Lovaas, a vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    But staffers say the Democratic leadership’s “off-the-table” strategy will likely keep that proposal out of discussions and the final product. “The chances for Hill-Terry getting into the mix are very slim,” said a Democratic leadership aide.

    From Detroit News:
    Doors close on energy bill

    WASHINGTON – Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is disappointed a House-Senate committee won’t tackle legislation to improve the fuel economy of the nation’s vehicles.

    Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen Democratic leaders to write an energy bill – which would include provisions on fuel economy – behind closed doors, rather than through a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators. She cited Senate Republican opposition to appointing members.

    “We cannot have a situation where if they don’t give us a conference, we don’t have a bill,” Pelosi said. “With or without a conference, we will proceed.”

    However, Dingell, D-Dearborn, said conference committees “frankly work and (have) produced good legislation.” He said conference committees allow legislators of both parties to work together to produce a compromise that will make good law.

    “It ought to be permitted to work, and the speaker has chosen otherwise,” Dingell said in an interview Friday. “I’m not going into this with a chip on my shoulder. I intend to try and work with her to achieve a good bill.”

    In June, the Senate passed a bill 65-27 that hikes corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, 40 percent – to a combined standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Automakers have argued that bill would cost them billions. Dingell and the automakers have backed a House bill that’s softer than the Senate’s and gives automakers more time to comply.

    In a formal conference committee, Dingell would have more leverage to strike a compromise.

    Now, “Nancy Pelosi can write a bill in a dark room on the back of a napkin,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said on Friday.

    Dingell wouldn’t divulge whether he would mount an effort to kill an energy bill that was too harsh on automakers. “I’m not foreclosing any option,” he said. “I don’t make the jungle. I just live there.”

    Dingell stressed too that he has not been cut out of the process. His staff will meet today with Democratic leadership staff to discuss the energy bill.

    Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, said Friday there would be “talks” at the staff level this week and that the House speaker – who supports the Senate measure – hopes to have a bill completed before year’s end.

    Trying to get a bill completed in “two weeks is to invite a disaster,” Dingell said. He said the Senate bill “has serious problems in the House.”

    More than 170 House members have backed a rival fuel economy bill – dubbed “Hill-Terry” after its sponsors – that would increase fuel economy mandates at least 28 percent by 2022 to between 32 mpg and 35 mpg.

    Auto lobbyists are growing worried that a bill similar to the Senate bill might be passed before the end of the session.

    Privately, they have been lobbying some senators to reconsider their support of the bill that passed in June.

House Passes Energy Package with Renewable Energy Standard Provision 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 05 Aug 2007 00:50:00 GMT

HR 3221, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act, passed at 5:40 PM by a vote of 241-172. 26 Republicans voted in favor of the bill and 9 Democrats against.

At 4:39 PM the Udall renewable energy standard (RES) amendment passed 220-190. 32 Republicans voted for the provision and 38 Democrats against.

At 8:16 PM, HR 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act, was passed by a vote of 221-189. 9 Republicans voted in favor and 11 Democrats against. The bill was subsequently attached to HR 3221 and the combined bill will go into conference with the Senate.

Among the provisions included in the energy package are three bills authored by House Science Committee Chairman Gordon. Those are:
  • H.R. 364, Establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), which would create a new agency charged with reducing US dependence on oil through the rapid development and commercialization of transformational clean energy technologies
  • H.R. 1267, which would direct the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct a national assessment of our country’s potential capacity for the sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2); and
  • H.R. 2083, which would raise the energy efficiency standards for home appliances, such as refrigerators and clothes washers.

HR 3221 also includes a provision to manage data on global climate change that was introduced by Space & Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO). The measure would provide federal, state, regional and local user groups better access to climate change information when making decisions to cope with or mitigate climate change impacts.

Mr. Udall also contributed a section to enhance carbon dioxide capture and storage. The measure authorizes large-scale demonstrations of both CO2 capture technologies and sequestration.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) led the effort to authorize the research and development of technologies to locate and develop geothermal energy resources. The measure would greatly expand R&D and demonstration for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) – an emerging resource where geothermal reservoirs are engineered and which could significantly expand the use of geothermal energy across the country.

The energy bill also included a provision to support R&D of technologies to produce electric power from ocean waves. Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) introduced the measure which supports the study of marine renewable technologies in order to bring them to commercial readiness and establishes a research center for information and outreach on the issue.

Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX) authored a provision to significantly expand authorized funding levels for biofuels research and development. The measure also supports research into biofuels infrastructure needs and the efficiency of biorefineries.

Finally, a solar power R&D measure authored by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was also included in the package. This measure aims to improve technologies to store solar power and studies the steps necessary to integrate concentrate solar plants (CSP) into the national electric grid.

House Energy Package Votes Likely Delayed to Saturday

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 03 Aug 2007 17:16:00 GMT

From CQ:
Energy legislation remained in limbo Friday, stalled by tight vote counts, partisan squabbling and fresh veto threats from the White House. Floor consideration was likely to be delayed until Saturday — at best.

Democrats at midday were considering making changes to the energy tax package (HR 2776) to placate oil-state Democrats upset about treatment of the oil and gas industry.

There “may be some slight changes,” said John B. Larson, D-Conn., vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, after a meeting in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Larson would not elaborate on what the changes might be, but Democrats have been struggling to ensure that they can muster a majority vote in support of the energy package. They cannot count on support from many, if any, Republicans.

House Democratic leaders still insist the chamber will take up the energy tax bill and a broader energy measure (HR 3221) before it leaves for the month-long August recess. The Rules Committee was expected to draft a rule later Friday, with floor votes Saturday. But even that could prove optimistic.

Democratic aides said they expect a prolonged debate on a fiscal 2008 defense spending bill (HR 3222) that is set to go to the House floor ahead of the energy package. Republicans were threatening to use parliamentary delaying tactics on that bill.

“We didn’t get the rule for the energy package done yesterday. That means the earliest it could be taken up would be Saturday,’’ said a senior Democratic aide.

GOP members on the Rules Committee boycotted a meeting called for Friday morning on the energy bill rule and other pending legislation.

“We told the majority that we were not going to participate because of what happened last night,” said a Republican committee aide, referring to the vote-tallying floor fight over the agricultural appropriations bill.

The $16.1 billion energy tax package would raise taxes on the oil and gas industry and redirect the proceeds for tax breaks for renewable energy sources. The broader energy bill is intended to promote energy efficiency, new technologies and tighter regulation.

Taxes Targeted

In the latest veto threat, issued today, the White House echoed the concerns of oil-state Democrats and House Republicans about the measures.

“The combination of these two bills will result in less domestic oil and gas production, higher taxes to disadvantage a single targeted industry, and duplicative energy efficiency and R&D efforts that are largely underway already,” the White House said in its statement of administration policy on the two bills.

The tax package may be in more trouble than the broader bill, because of the potential defection of oil-state Democrats who are concerned about raising taxes on an industry that provides jobs in their districts. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to woo 36 members of their party who voted for a narrower energy bill (HR 6) in January.

Jim McCrery of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said this morning that he expected a substantial number of those 36 GOP members to vote against the tax package, though he still did not think he would have a majority. McCrery has proposed an alternate $5 billion package that would provide shorter extensions of many of the same tax credits that the main bill includes and exclude some of the more controversial tax increases on the energy industry.

The other potentially contentious issue is a requirement that could be added by amendment to the broader bill, which would require electric utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

A potential hurdle is opposition from Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., who is concerned that Southern states may not have sufficient wind power to meet the standard, unless agricultural waste and other sources are allowed.

Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., had initially proposed a standard of 20 percent by 2020, but he softened that to 15 percent earlier this week. His latest proposal would allow utilities to meet more than a quarter of the requirement through energy efficiency.

Udall insists that Democrats already have a majority of votes to adopt the amendment, suggesting that the current discussions are intended to build further support and ensure a strong vote on the underlying bill.

Floor Debate on Energy Package

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 03 Aug 2007 13:00:00 GMT

The House will consider amendments to HR 3221, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act, and HR 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007, in preparation for the votes on these bills.

Amendments to House Energy Bill Announced: RES, No CAFE 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 02 Aug 2007 20:47:00 GMT

The proposed amendments to HR 3221 have been submitted and are available for review, as are those for HR 2776.

Of significance for HR 3221:
  • Both major CAFE standards bills, Markey-Platts, and Hill-Terry, were withdrawn. Barton’s CAFE bill is still on the slate as Amendment #62
  • Udall-Platts (HR 969), the Renewable Energy Standard, is on the slate as Amendment #96 and probably has enough votes for passage
  • Herseth Sandlin submitted Amendment #81 to change the Renewable Fuels Standard program to require the production of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022
  • Boustany’s Amendment #9 makes the Secretary of Energy a statutory member of the National Security Council
  • Shay’s Amendment #105 doubles the funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program
HR 2776:
  • McCrery submitted the Republican substitute for the tax package as Amendment #7

Energy Independence Initiative Bills 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 02 Aug 2007 19:00:00 GMT

The Committee on Rules is expected to meet Thursday, August 2, 2007 to grant a rule which may structure the amendment process for floor consideration of H.R. 2776, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007, and H.R. 3221, the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act.

Any Member wishing to offer an amendment to H.R. 3221 must do so by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, August 1, 2007.

What's Missing from the House Energy Bill; Dingell on Carbon Tax

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 02 Aug 2007 14:10:00 GMT

The New York Times has an editorial on the energy bill to be debated this week (HR 3221): An Incomplete Energy Bill.

The House will begin debating Friday on a generally useful energy bill that would increase energy efficiency, encourage more responsible oil and gas development on public lands and stimulate investment in cleaner fuels. Yet the bill is incomplete. If it truly hopes to address the problems of global warming and energy independence, three vital issues need to be addressed.
The three missing components:
  • CAFE Standard (Markey-Platts, HR 1506)
  • Renewable Energy Standard (Udall, HR 969)
  • Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

This is also the Union of Concerned Scientists platform.

Rep. Dingell, meanwhile, wrote an op-end on the carbon tax: The Power in the Carbon Tax. It’s a critical insight into the thinking of perhaps the most influential person in Congress in shaping global warming policy.

I apparently created a mini-storm last month when I observed publicly for at least the sixth time since February that some form of carbon emissions fee or tax (including a gasoline tax) would be the most effective way to curb carbon emissions and make alternatives economically viable. I said, as I have on many occasions, that we would have to go to some kind of cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.

House Renewable Energy Action: HR 3221 and HR 2776

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 31 Jul 2007 20:28:00 GMT

On July 30, Speaker Pelosi set the agenda for her energy independence initiative, which she had originally hoped to complete by July 4th. The legislative package will be introduced to the floor in two parts:
  • the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2007 (HR 2776) from the Ways and Means Committee, reported out at the end of June
  • and the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (HR 3221), which needs to be signed off by the relevant committees

HR 2776 provides tax incentives for renewable electricity production, biofuels, efficient appliances, plug-in hybrids, and renewable energy bonds. It pays for these incentives buy reducing oil and gas royalties and closing the “Hummer” tax loophole.

HR 3221 is a wide-ranging omnibus, under the jurisdiction of the following committees:
  • Education and Labor (Title I: green jobs)
  • Foreign Affairs (Title II: foreign assistance and trade)
  • Small Business (Title III: small business sustainability initiative)
  • Science and Technology (Title IV: research funding—HR 364, HR 906, HR 1933, HR 2773, HR 2774, HR 2304, HR 2313)
  • Agriculture (Title V: biofuels)
  • Oversight and Government Reform (Title VI: carbon-neutral government)
  • Natural Resources (Title VII: Energy Policy Act of 2005 reforms, changes in oil and gas royalties, wind energy, CCS, wildlife, oceans)
  • Transportation and Infrastructure (Title VIII: public transportation, highways, shipping, public buildings)
  • Energy and Commerce (Title IX: appliance, lighting, and building efficiency, smart grid, renewable fuel infrastructure, plug-in hybrids)
  • Armed Services (it’s unclear which components are under its jurisdiction)

All amendments to HR 3221 must be introduced by Wednesday afternoon. The Rules Committee will convene Thursday at 3 PM to establish the debate rules and timetable.

After the amendment process and ratification, the package will then go into conference to be reconciled with the Senate energy bill, SA 1502, passed mid-June.

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