Politics

Beijing Dispatch: China's carbon harbingers

Plans for reducing emissions in China

David linked to the Reuters report about China's refusal to accept binding emissions caps in any international agreement. On the topic of China and climate change, last week I got some face time with the head of the World Bank's energy unit in Beijing, Dr. Zhao. Too much for one blog post, but here are some highlights: According to his research, the World Bank's go-to guy on these matters believes: "It will be difficult or even impossible for China to reduce CO2 emissions in absolute terms." Depressing conclusion. As he saw it, "The question now is, what can be down to reduce China's growth rate [of CO2 emissions]?" While refusing to sign international agreements on carbon caps, Beijing has issued some fairly ambitious goals of its own. One is to have 15 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Of course, whether this target is based in reality is another question. As Dr. Zhao told me, "In most other countries, you do the analysis first, then set goals. In China, you set the goal first, then you do the research and set the policy to try to achieve it." Translation: the temptation to fudge numbers to reach preordained conclusions is dangerously high.

Blumenauer responds

In case you don’t read comments: In response to Mike Grunwald’s post on the Water Resources Development Act, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) of the Corps …

Farm school

The Farm Bill debate does hinge on subsidies

This is a guest post from Britt Lundgren, an Agricultural Policy Fellow at Environmental Defense. —– Tom Philpott’s recent column on the ongoing debate over …

Renewable energy on the ropes

Hound your representative to add an RPS to the energy bill

If scientists could take the repeated dashing of hopes for a better future and harness it to make electrons, we'd have electricity too cheap to meter. If the crushing of expectations were a renewable resource, this Congress is truly on the cutting edge of the clean energy revolution. Apparently, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi met on Thursday morning and decided to move an energy bill that does not include an RPS [see this post]. Or a tax title. No tax title means no extension of the investment tax credit for solar, and no extension of the production tax credit for wind. Let's see ... nothing for solar, plus nothing for wind, ... add no RPS, carry the zero ... yep, that adds up to nothing for renewable energy. Got that? Congressional leadership is moving an energy bill with nothing in it for renewable energy. We've got maybe 24 hours to turn this around. I suggest a phone blitz. Melt the %$@*! switchboard. Call your representative. Suggested script:

The Lieberman-Warner full committee markup …

… will take place on Dec. 5 (sub. rqd.). Lieberman says he’s open to some changes, as long as they don’t splinter the coalition: Lieberman …

No coal? OK, then what?

Beware the allure of liquefied natural gas

Two years ago, one of us (Jason) was at an energy industry conference planning committee and he made the point that whether or not everyone around the table agreed on global warming, the issue was just about to break out and dominate the public conversation on energy. Because of global warming, he went on to say, getting a new coal-fired power station built was just a "prudency review waiting to happen." For those of you that remember, it was, in many ways, the prudency review process that killed the nuclear industry back in the 1980s. In the past several weeks, several announcements suggest that this situation has indeed come to pass. Here's what's going on: the Kansas Department of Health and Environment turned down a permit for 1400-MW of coal-fired power based on emissions of global warming gases. This is arguably the first time a coal plant has been denied for this reason. Let's repeat the state: Kansas. It's not California, Florida, New York,or Oregon. Kansas has historically been a coal-friendly state. Another story revealed that even in Montana, a coal-producing state (or at least one with significant coal reserves), coal plant permits are being fought by bipartisan coalitions, and that electric utilities concede that these groups are effective. In other reports that cross our desks regularly, we note that more than 10,000 MW of coal plants recently have been canceled or postponed around the country. No doubt many are of you are cheering! But there are trade-offs in all things -- especially in energy, environmental, and economic issues. As enthusiasm for coal wanes, it grows for nuclear, even among some that have fought tooth and nail against nuclear in the past. However, there's a problem. The fastest any nuclear plant can come online, given regulatory and financing hurdles, is around 2015. Meanwhile, electricity demand continues to grow. As much as the rewewables camp wants to believe it, solar and wind are not going to supply all or even most of the necessary power anytime soon. (We strongly believe in renewable energy, but also believe that we need energy storage to make it work on a scale that will be able to replace a significant amount of fossil fuels.) So what's going to replace coal as the dominant fuel for electricity production?

Kansas, Minnesota pledge to green up government computer systems

Think of states that are environmental frontrunners, and Kansas and Minnesota may not leap immediately to mind. But it’s those two that are taking the …

Bye, bye, Ms. Renewable Pie

Dem leadership considers axing renewable energy from the energy bill

OK. I'm still trying to report this out. What I have for now comes from environmental advocates, off-the-record conversations, and, for what it's worth, my own speculation. The situation is very fluid, and can change at any time (as in, by the time you read this). Near as I can tell, though, this is how things look going into tonight: I've learned from concerned advocates that Democratic congressional leadership is considering stripping the production tax credits for wind and solar, along with the federal renewable portfolio standard, from the conference bill. Losing the RPS and the PTC would mean jettisoning basically every measure that the White House has complained about. Apparently, Reid and Pelosi may have decided that a bill with a Renewable Fuel Standard (i.e., monstrous subsidies for ethanol) and a boost in CAFE standards is enough to secure Democratic bragging rights on energy. If this happens, it will mean there's bupkis in the energy bill for renewable electricity, imperiling probably billions of dollars in solar and wind contracts that have been written with the expectation that the production tax credits will lower costs to investors and consumers.

Nefarious legislative shenanigans

Domenici tries to kill the energy bill and sneak nuclear loan guarantees into the farm bill

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) is up to some serious shenanigans up on the hill. First, he has introduced an amendment that would attach the Renewable …