Politics

Discover Brilliant: Trends in smart-grid policy

Next up, a discussion of trends in energy industry smart-grid policy. Starring: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Rob Pratt, Staff Scientist and Manager of Gridwise Activities Gridwise Council, Alison Silverstein Snohomish County PUD, Jessica Wilcox, Government Affairs Wilcox (who is, I add inappropriately, gorgeous): Most people on Capitol Hill don’t even know what a smart grid is. Even the people writing the bills that include smart grid provisions don’t understand or much care about it. The problem is smart grid is getting defined much too narrowly. It needs to be expanded to include renewables, conservation, responses to climate change, etc. People …

Schwarzenegger unveils $9 billion water bond package

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has unveiled a $9 billion water bond plan, including an unprecedented level of taxpayer payout for water projects and funding to build or expand three dams. Lawmakers hope to place some form of water bond on a Feb. 5 ballot, and Democratic legislators will likely spend the next few weeks lobbying for more of an emphasis on cleaning up polluted groundwater, H2O recycling, and good ol’ conservation.

EPA to Supreme Court: Take a hike!

EPA gives permit to new Utah coal plant; Waxman cries foul

Given the opportunity last month to adhere to the Supreme Court's findings in the case of Massachusetts vs. EPA, the EPA chose instead to completely ignore the ruling and proceed as if the case had never been heard. It issued a permit to Deseret Power to construct a 110-megawatt coal-fired power unit at an existing power plant in Uintah County, Utah. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson urging him to reverse his decision and asking him to answer some important questions. The letter is available at this link. Here are highlights: On August 30, 2007 , EPA issued a permit to Deseret Power for the construction of a 110-megawatt coal-fired power unit at the Bonanza Power Plant in Uintah County, Utah. The Deseret Bonaiua permit decision presented EPA with its first opportunity since the Supreme Court ruling to address the global warming harm from a major new stationary source of greenhouse gases. While relatively small, this unit has the potential to emit up to 90 million tons of CO2 over an estimated 50-year lifetime. As the permitting authority for this plant, EPA had to decide whether to issue the permit and whether to require carbon dioxide pollution controls or other mitigating measures under the permit ... ... EPA ruled in the permit decision that CO2 is not "subject to regulation" under the [Clean Air] Act and thus that EPA cannot require the plant to apply the best available control technology to reduce greenhouse gases. According to EPA, CO2 cannot be considered "subject to regulation" because CO2 is not yet regulated by "a statutory or regulatory provision that requires actual control of emissions." In essence, the EPA argument is that because EPA has not regulated CO2 emissions in the past, the agency cannot regulate CO2 emissions now. This is a bootstrap argument that conflicts with the plain language of the statute and blatantly misconstrues the Supreme Court's recent holding. ... ... I request your cooperation in the Committee's investigation into the process that led to the Deseret Power decision. First, I ask that you provide the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform copies of all documents relating to communications between EPA and any other federal agency or the White House that relate to (1) the Deseret Power application or (2) the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when making permitting decisions for new coal or gas-fired power plants. The tentative deadline for that information and the answers to other questions in the letter is October 3.

Mr. Clinton goes to the public-goods markets

The promise of governmental buyers’ clubs

We often wonder whether the government is better suited to solving many of our problems, or whether the market should take the lead. The current issue of The Atlantic Monthly has an article concerning the efforts of Bill Clinton's foundation which addresses this issue. The article shows how governments can work with markets for the benefit of large numbers of people and the planet by guaranteeing demand for a particular product or service. By doing this in the long-term, the production of beneficial goods and services can achieve the economies of scale that will make them practical to use within a few years, instead of decades from now. The Clinton Foundation used this powerful idea to cut prices for AIDS drugs in Africa and the Caribbean for hundreds of thousands of people. In Clinton's words, "All we did was take something that people would naturally do in a purely business market and apply it to the public-goods market." I'm not sure if Clinton is referring to the technical definition of "public goods" here, which refers to a good whose consumption does not reduce any other's consumption of that good, and a good that all have access to, such as information or air. The Earth's climate is most certainly a public good, and its radical warming would most certainly be a public bad. So the Clinton Foundation worked with a new group of cities, the C40, to create large-scale demand. If big cities could come together to provide a market to jumpstart new, energy-savings technologies, it would give quite a boost to efforts to mitigate global warming. As the author of The Atlantic article points out, cities have quite a source of demand at their disposal:

Setting an example for the feds

State renewable electricity standards create jobs while cutting pollution

Since the federal government has so far refused to adopt a nationwide renewable electricity standard (RES) the states have stepped in. Some 25 states, plus D.C., have adopted an RES, also known as a renewable portfolio standard, which requires utilities to purchase a rising percentage of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar. A new report by U.S. PIRG details the myriad benefits of state action to promote renewables: "Reaping the Rewards: How State Renewable Electricity Standards Are Cutting Pollution, Saving Money, Creating Jobs and Fueling a Clean Energy Boom." Here are some of the conclusions: In 2006, more than two-thirds of all new renewable electric generating capacity in the United States was built in RES states. In 2007, more than 70 percent of planned renewable generation is expected to be built in RES states. Texas stands out as the state with the most aggressive renewable energy development in recent years, adding 2,000 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity. Texas is followed by Washington, New York, and Colorado. Renewable energy is addressing a greater share of new energy needs in RES states. In 2007, renewables account for about 38 percent of planned capacity additions in RES states, compared to just 12 percent in non-RES states.

Environmentalism is <em>so</em> not dead!

Carl Pope reviews Break Through by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger

This is a guest essay by Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. Two years ago, Ted Nordhaus' and Michael Shellenberger's widely discussed essay "The Death of Environmentalism" predicted that the cause in which I've worked most of my life was about to gasp a grim last breath. The self-proclaimed "bad boy" authors must be embarrassed now. With their new book on the same theme about to land in bookstores, environmentalism is alive and perhaps prematurely giddy over progress made and even victories won in the fight against climate change. But don't dismiss Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility just because its authors are lousy soothsayers. The book's secondary thesis -- that progressive politics, including environmentalism, is in dire need of optimistic grounding in 21st century reality -- is too important and intriguing to leave unexplored. Progressive politics, the authors persuasively argue, is rooted in economic, social, and environmental nostalgia. Nostalgia for the New Deal era of solidarity driven by shared material scarcity; nostalgia for the post-war era of homogeneous and stable communities held together by neighborhood, workplace, and church; nostalgia for an American landscape not yet reshaped by industrial society. Stubbornly refusing to move beyond this nostalgia, progressives cling to an interest-based politics and an almost fundamentalist faith in rationality. When their efforts fail, they conclude that the problem is corporate money or media monopolies or human nature -- anything but their own politics.

Karl Rove, global warming, and Bush's legacy

Rove believes that Bush’s policies will look good in hindsight

Karl Rove thinks history will be kinder to President Bush than the public and the pundits are today: I believe history will provide a more clear-eyed verdict on this president's leadership than the anger of current critics would suggest. President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century. Not! On the path set by Bush's do-nothing climate policies, future generations -- including historians -- will be living in a ruined climate for centuries, with brutal summer-long heat waves, endless droughts, unstoppable sea-level rise, mass extinction, and on and on. If we do stop catastrophic global warming, it will only be because succeeding presidents completely reject Bush's approach. Either way, President Bush will be viewed as a short-sighted leader who ignored the key test of the 21st century. Rove actually has the chutzpah to claim:

Fifteen years ago

Gore in 1992 talking about the ‘spiritual crisis’ behind environmentalism

Thanks to frequent tipster LL for sending along this very, very interesting video: So much to say about this, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts first.

Alt-fuel industry recycles rubber tires, contributes to air pollution

A decade-old industry that recycles old rubber tires into fuel is chipping away at the stockpile of 1 billion retired tires in the U.S. But the laudable recycling effort is balanced by a negative impact on air pollution, as the U.S. EPA’s clean-air regulations for burning solid waste include a loophole loosening requirements for facilities that “recover energy.” Now a recent appeals-court decision in favor of environmental groups is forcing the U.S. EPA to come up with a new definition of “solid waste” — if tires are included, it may have a huge impact on the industry, which touts tire-derived …

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