The conferees were hard at work over the weekend and are meeting this evening at 5 pm EST to have what might be the last official meeting of the conference. All the remaining controversial items are on the table. Will Rep. Barton be able to get support for his MTBE deal? Will Sen. Bingaman's climate change language survive? How much ethanol will the country be required to use by 2012? Tune in and find out. Missed the early episodes? Catch up with these factsheets courtesy of Rep. Waxman.
Jeff Holmstead, head of the Bush administration's EPA air department and all around promoter of the "Clear Skies" initiative, just announced his plans to leave the agency at the end of August. Next steps for him? Traveling the world with his family for a year. Best decision the guy ever made ...
The real work of the Energy Conference gets underway today, and you can watch it live starting at 11 am EST (20 min. ago!). Behind the scenes, Senate and House staffs have been working to hammer out some compromises. That language will be the baseline that conferees work from today. The conference plans to cover the titles dealing with energy efficiency, coal, nuclear power, DOE management, vehicles and fuels, and hydrogen. These are the less controversial titles of the bills so fireworks may be kept to a minimum, although Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) promises to cause some explosions by offering an amendment to increase fuel economy standards by 1 mile per gallon per year. Since the bill currently does nothing to increase fuel economy, this would be an improvement. Unfortunately, the only question is how lopsided the vote will be that defeats it. But for you lovers of summer, you aficionados of efficiency, the language expanding Daylight Saving Time to the first Sunday in March to the last Sunday in November continues to survive.
President Bush has challenged the congressional leadership to get energy legislation to his desk by the August recess. To do that, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) -- chair of both the House Energy and Commerce committee and the 109th Congress edition of the energy conference committee -- has set out an ambitious schedule, hoping to get a conference report to the House and Senate in time. Look out for politicos sporting slings as the arm-twisting starts this week. To help you keep track, here's the Cliff Notes version of the marquee (and not-so-marquee) issues confronting the conferees.
Full text of the G8 climate communiques are now available here and here.
As conservative spinmeister Frank Luntz has written in his infamous memo, "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly." With all the climate action in the Senate last week, it seems that the skeptics are getting restless. Time for Plan B. Last week, noted skeptic Patrick J. Michaels laid out the game plan: The Bush administration realizes that simply knowing that human activities are impacting the climate is not grounds for "urgent action" to do something about it. So even if they can't argue about human influence anymore, they'll now argue about the appropriate time to take action. It's time for advocates of taking action sooner-rather-than-later to update their talking points. You can be sure the other side already has.
Four votes. Sens. Boxer, Dayton, Feingold, and Harkin, all supporters of the Climate Stewardship Act in the last Congress, voted against the legislation this afternoon when Sens. McCain and Lieberman offered it as an amendment to the energy bill. The amendment included new subsidies for the construction of nuclear power plants -- which Sen. Boxer, at least, has publicly opposed. The amendment was defeated 38-60, a decline in support from the better-than-expected 43 votes it garnered in 2003.
This morning the Brookings Institution hosted a forum on "Tax Reform and the Environment." Along with the usual suspects singing the economic and environmental praises of ending subsidies and tax breaks that harm the environment as well as levying some that would help was one William Frenzel -- former Member of Congress and current member of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. Mr. Frenzel noted that out of the hundreds of submissions from the public to the panel a grand total of three could be generously described as support for "greening" our taxes as part of a reform package. It's been nearly 20 years since the last tax reform happened, and I know that in the current DC climate it's hard to imagine a green shift in taxes, but come on people. Don't we need to at least try? As far as I know, no environmental group has set up a generic e-mail for their members to send to the panel. This surprises me. But you can take matters into your own hands by submitting your own suggestions. According to Frenzel:
A new study by some smart scientists at Stanford University suggests that global wind resources are good enough to produce 72 terawatts of electricity with current turbine technology. That's about 40 times the amount of electricity the world used in the year 2000! In other hot air news, Sen. Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy committee, described Sen. Wyden's (D-OR) proposal of funding parity for coal and renewables as a "joke" during the energy bill markup today. Question to Stanford scientists: How much electricity could the collective sighs of sustainable energy supporters produce?