The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) unveiled draft legislation to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The bill caps a rough week for the EPA in Congress, reports Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones. It is joined by a bill to delay EPA regulations for two years and a bill that would make it “impossible for the federal government to do anything about climate change under any of the nation’s existing environmental laws.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson responded by re-affirming the threat of a presidential veto of any such legislation.
State of the Union fallout: Eliminating oil subsidies may be one of the few issues on which the Obama administration and the Heritage Foundation agree, but the larger issue is the subsidies afforded to everything from coal and nuclear to renewables, says the New York Times.
Another talking point from Obama’s State of the Union, an energy plan for getting the U.S. to 80 percent “clean” energy by 2035 was met with skepticism by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber answered with an energy plan of its own, which called for support for renewables and the elimination of EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases.
The World Wildlife Fund also released an energy plan, with an ambitious goal of 95 percent renewables worldwide by 2050, coupled with a reduction in overall consumption of 15 percent by mid-century.
Technology Review says the administration’s plan might make electricity more expensive for utilities but lower bills for individuals through incentives for energy-saving measures. Smart meters, one method for reducing energy consumption through measurement, are meeting resistance from both ends of the political spectrum in California, owing to concerns about privacy and “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”
Another barrier to the president’s plan: construction of new nuclear power plants in America appears to be going nowhere fast.
China leapfrogs struggling U.S. wind industry: Shifting climate conditions are leading to a surplus of hydropower in the American Northwest, lessening demand for wind power. Despite robust construction of wind farms in the U.S. in recent years, for the first time ever China now has a larger installed base of turbines than the U.S. — 41,800 megawatts versus 40,180 in the U.S.
Is it hot in here?: A new psychological study suggests people are more easily convinced by the scientific evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change when they’re hot. The visceral response to heat apparently helps the mind imagine future warming scenarios.
Arctic thaw and the future of atmospheric carbon: An experimental warming of Alaskan tundra of just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) doubled the amount of carbon the soil pumped into the atmosphere. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to wide-scale reforestation, and therefore carbon sequestration, in Ukraine.
Climate capitalism: The editors of Triple Pundit are kicking off their push for the marriage of profit and planetary stewardship with an ongoing series on the subject. Meanwhile Climate Central points out the ethical dilemma at the core of calculating a true cost for the economic impact of climate change.
A paper from economists in Israel and the Netherlands suggests that, paradoxically, announcing a climate policy causes some industries to pollute more while they still can.
Guaranteeing the future of next-generation energy technologies: The European Union is set to recycle rare earth elements, key to the production of many clean technologies, and which currently come from China, a country increasingly reluctant to be the world’s sole supplier of the metals. California mines may step into the breach, and the elements might also be mined in Texas. A new report highlights rare earth elements aren’t just important for a renewable energy infrastructure; shortages could also represent a national security threat.
GE, ConocoPhillips, and NRG Energy are all contributing to the $300 million pool of funds to be invested in newly-founded Energy Technology Ventures, which will be “focused on the development of next-generation energy technologies.” Initial investments include companies that work on solar, biomass, and conversion of coal to methane.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.