International Developments Next Week Mean Policy Briefings This Week

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Sep 2007 23:22:00 GMT

Next week the United Nations General Assembly meets. There are several related international summits, starting Monday the 24th with The Future in Our Hands, the UN High-Level Event on Climate Change, followed Wednesday by the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, with representatives from NRDC and Pew, major corporate leaders, and luminaries such as Ted Turner and Jane Goodall. The next, Thursday, September 27, Bush convenes the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, organized by the White House to promote its agenda.

Not surprisingly, this week sees a flurry of policy and science briefings in Washington DC.

Tomorrow, Sens. Lieberman and Carper present a cap-and-trade discussion with the Progressive Policy Institute.

Friday, September 21: Yvo de Boer (UN) and David Sandalow (Brookings/CGI) discuss the upcoming “Climate Week” with the Brookings Institution, Dr. Kerry Emanuel and other top climate scientists talk hurricanes and climate change on the Hill, and Sir Nicholas Stern weighs in on Bali.

In addition the next two weeks sees hearings on renewable electricity standards and wildfire, and briefings on urban development, ecosystems, and global policy.

As always, you can subscribe to the Hill Heat Events Feed. I’m working on building Google Calendar functionality as well.

Fall Legislative Outlook

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Sep 2007 14:17:00 GMT

Senate

According to CQ.com, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chair Barbara Boxer asked Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., and John W. Warner, R-Va., “to write a bill that would cap nationwide greenhouse gas emissions.” They released the skeleton of the legislation in August and plan to introduce a final draft by the end of September. However, “Because the climate-change issue is so complex, marking up the bill will be no small task.” There are several other climate bills, including S. 309 (Sanders-Boxer) and S.1766 (Bingaman-Specter).

CQ.com reports that Harry Reid “plans to allow floor time for the Lieberman-Warner bill this fall if it wins approval in Boxer’s committee. No matter what the bill looks like, it will face procedural objections that can be overcome only with a 60-vote majority. It is unclear whether Reid would have enough votes to move beyond that obstacle.”

House

According to CQ, Energy and Commerce Committee chair John D. Dingell, D-Mich., also intends to introduce climate legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent to 80 percent by 2050, although he has not announced any specific plans for the bill.

A first hurdle is the reconciliation process for the energy legislation that passed each chamber (HR 3221, and the Senate version of HR 6), which Dingell will be heavily involved in.

Dingell also announced his intentions to introduce global warming legislation for a carbon tax, a hike in the gas tax, and ending the McMansion mortgage deduction (homes larger than 3,000 square feet) while increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Global Warming Committee Launches New Website

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 18 Sep 2007 13:42:00 GMT

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has launched its new website at globalwarming.house.gov. The site has a complex flash interface, featuring “impact zones” around the world. Each flash section, which usually has a heavily boosterish PR tone, links to a more involved webpage, for example: Midwest, New Orleans, China.

There is also a Kids’ Page which right now links to other sites; a Carbon Calculator page which links to various carbon emissions calculators; and a good amount of other content. Of particular interest is the global warming solutions page, as it includes actual policy suggestions. On the science page is a call to pass energy legislation with the Senate’s CAFE standards and the House’s renewable energy standards, with the remarkable claim “it could mean that as much as 25 percent of what we must do can be accomplished in this single piece of legislation”.

The site does not have any RSS feeds or other XML formatting, and witness testimony is only sometimes included, often as Word documents or PDFs. There’s no clear way to search the site.

Senators on Lieberman-Warner Draft

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 14 Sep 2007 17:50:00 GMT

The draft Lieberman-Warner plan has been praised and critiqued by environmental organizations. What are the fellow senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee saying?

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) eviscerates the plan:

Your proposal would impose hardship on U.S. citizens and threaten robust growth in the U.S. economy because it does not preempt similar conflicting, overlapping or duplicative state and regional carbon control programs… because it does not provide legal certainty for carbon sequestration… because it requires significant harm to the economy before triggering cost containment and management measures… because it fails to protect low-income families and consumers sufficiently [because it] first requires setting aside allowances to meet 100% of the needs of rural electric cooperatives [and] by allowing cost relief to also go instead to middle-income consumers and energy efficiency programs [and] because the proposal also allows allowances to go to [various worthy policy goals]... because it uses a Carbon Market Efficiency Board to employ cost containment measures [instead of] a defined price point of carbon allowances… because it allocates allowances arbitrarily across economy sectors and at variance with their emissions and impact on workers, consumers and families [because they] do not reflect those sectors’ contributions to carbon equivalent emissions… because it would raise costs above those needed for emissions reduction to pay for environmental, energy and social programs [instead of] funding them through the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury… because it delays technology development financing [instead of] immediate, significant flows of funding to carbon emissions capture and storage technology development and deployment.

As does Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK):
The principles of Lieberman-Warner climate bill, as outlined today, fail to meet the two requirements established by the Senate to pass climate legislation. The Lieberman-Warner bill will significantly harm the United States economy and fail to mandate reductions from the developing world. With China now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, it’s even more important that the developing nations CO2 emissions be taken into consideration. As a result, I have long supported efforts that build off of the President’s Asia-Pacific Partnership that seeks to promote technology sharing among developing nations as the way forward.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) effusively praises the draft bill:

The Lieberman-Warner proposal is a huge breakthrough in the fight against global warming. The Lieberman Warner bill will be the fifth economy-wide Senate proposal, and in addition, there are several sector-by-sector proposals, demonstrating that an increasing number of U.S. Senators want to address this issue now. When I took the gavel of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I pledged to focus on global warming and on bringing bipartisanship back to the committee. With the Lieberman-Warner bipartisan proposal, those goals have been met, and we now plan to pass legislation through the committee before the end of the year. This proposal has taken good ideas from a variety of bills, and will be an excellent starting point for the committee.

As does Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD):
Today Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, and John Warner, R-VA, released the detailed outline of an economy-wide global warming bill that would significantly limit greenhouse gases. I am extremely pleased with the comprehensive nature of their bill and the strong, bipartisan leadership they bring to this critical effort. I also believe this bill has important national security implications because it will lessen our dependence on foreign energy and help achieve energy independence. We have an historic opportunity to address the most compelling environmental, energy independence and national security issue facing our nation. I pledge to work closely with my colleagues to turn this historic opportunity into reality.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is more measured:

“I commend Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner for their hard work in putting together legislation that our subcommittee will consider. There is no doubt that we need bipartisan support in the United States Senate to address the most significant environmental threat our planet has ever seen.

Given the dimensions of the crisis, however, I strongly believe that we must act aggressively to halt and then reverse global warming. I am concerned that the outline my colleagues put out today, which is a good starting point, does not go far enough. As good as it is, I hope we can do better. As a member of the subcommittee, I look forward to working with them.

The people of the United States want strong action, and the Senate must follow. In my view, we can, in fact, break our dependency on fossil fuels, substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions, move to sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs. Those are the principles that I will fight for.

There do not appear to be statements from Democratic senators Baucus, Carper, Clinton, Lautenberg, Klobuchar, or Whitehouse, or Republican senators Voinovich, Isakson, Vitter, Barrasso, Craig, or Alexander.

National Academies Critiques U.S. Climate Change Science Program

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 13 Sep 2007 19:57:00 GMT

The Committee on Strategic Advice for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program today released the report Evaluating Progress of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. Their conclusions:
  • A major hurdle to CCSP progress is the program director’s lack of authority to allocate or prioritize funding across participating agencies.
  • Discovery science and understanding of the climate system are proceeding well, but use of that knowledge to support decision making and to manage risks and opportunities of climate change is proceeding slowly.
  • Progress in understanding and predicting climate change has improved more at global, continental, and ocean basin scales than at regional and local scales.
  • Our understanding of the impact of climate changes on human well-being and vulnerabilities is much less developed than our understanding of the natural climate system.
  • Science quality observation systems have fueled advances in climate change science and applications, but many existing and planned observing systems (satellite missions) have been cancelled, delayed, or degraded, presenting perhaps the single greatest threat to the future success of CCSP.
  • Progress in communicating CCSP results and engaging stakeholders is inadequate.

The Committee on Strategic Advice was established by the National Research Council of the National Academies at the request of the director of the CCSP.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program is the umbrella organization for the interagency U.S. Global Climate Research Group established by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, and Bush’s 2001 Climate Change Research Initiative to study uncertainty in climate research.

See also Andrew Revkin’s piece for the New York Times.

The committee is holding a workshop in Washington, D.C., Oct. 15-17, to discuss future priorities for CCSP research, which will be the focus of its follow-up report.

Judge: Vermont Can Set Greenhouse Gas Standards for Automobiles 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Sep 2007 21:21:00 GMT

Judge William Sessions III issued his ruling in 2:05-CV-302 Green Mountain Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge et al v. Crombie et al, a case in which the American Automobile Manufacturers sued the state of Vermont to block regulations adopted by Vermont in the fall of 2005 that follow’s California’s Pavley Law greenhouse gas emissions standards for new automobiles. Following the Supreme Court’s Massachusetts vs EPA decision that made it clear EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Sessions ruled in full for Vermont, stating:
History suggests that the ingenuity of the industry, once put in gear, responds admirably to most technological challenges. In light of the public statements of industry representatives, history of compliance with previous technological challenges, and the state of the record, the Court remains unconvinced automakers cannot meet the challenges of Vermont and California’s GHG regulations.

The legality of Vermont’s regulations is pending the EPA’s decision to grant the California waiver petition under the Clean Air Act to allow California to implement the Pavley Law. (S. 1785, passed out of committee, would force the EPA to make a decision by September 30.)

Vermont was supported by the Conservation Law Foundation, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, Vermont PIRG, and the state of New York.

The AAM has suits pending in California and Rhode Island as well.

Read the full opinion and order (PDF)

Battle of the Truthiness Titans 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 11 Sep 2007 20:20:00 GMT

Club of Madrid Proposal for a Post-Kyoto Framework

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 11 Sep 2007 19:05:00 GMT

Yesterday the Club of Madrid, the organization of 66 democratic former heads of stated, unveiled a proposal for the international climate change framework to be developed at the Conferences of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali this December. Glenn Hurwitz covers the proposal at Grist.

The brief summary: An international framework with a global target of 60% below 1990 levels by 2050; developed countries should be at 30% below by 2020 and rapidly developing countries should lower their energy intensity by 30% by 2020 and follow emissions targets thenceforth. A carbon price should be set by a globally linked cap-and-trade system with auctioned credits or preferably by universal carbon taxes. $20 billion should be spent annually on energy R&D and an annual fund of $50 billion should go to developing countries for adaptation, avoided deforestation, and clean energy development and deployment—the latter including renewable energy and energy efficiency. IP barriers to clean energy technologies should be dropped.

The full recommendations are past the break.

APEC Climate Agreement

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 07 Sep 2007 23:03:00 GMT

According to the Associated Press, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit set a voluntary target of reducing energy intensity (the ratio of energy consumption per unit of GDP) 25 percent by 2030. In addition, Australia and Russia announced an agreement on a “long-term global aspirational goal for stabilising and then reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and to “allow the supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia’s civil nuclear power industry.”

As the BBC explains, the reductions in energy intensity would not lead to any reduction in GHG emissions. In fact, a 49% reduction in energy intensity by 2050, given projected economic growth, translates to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions of about 15%.

Andrew Dessler has more at Gristmill on what he calls the “intensity scam.”

Coverage of Coal Hearing

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 07 Sep 2007 17:15:00 GMT

Grist’s Brian Beutler covers yesterday’s Global Warming Committee hearing on The Future of Coal Under Cap and Trade:

Here are two takes on the issue, from two sources that couldn’t be more deeply at odds with each other. Both suggest coal may yet see its heyday.

The first comes from Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, who testified at the hearing. He supports, in the same tepid way that many energy companies now do, an economy-wide cap-and-trade program with carbon credits allocated freely. (His justification for this might just represent one of the great moments in the history of inadvertent honesty: “We believe that credits ought to be allocated to those who will invest the capital to make a difference in the environment, rather than an auction so that those who buy them can make money by the positions they have taken.” In other words, give energy companies the allocations because we’re already rich and don’t award the innovators for beating us to the punch.) One of Moore’s other main points was that coal companies won’t begin installing CCS equipment until CCS “has been demonstrated to be effective, and the costs have significantly dropped so that it becomes commercially available on a widespread basis.”

He’s certainly not the only person who thinks it’s politically infeasible to impose drastic, costly policies on the coal industry—and that therefore carbon-based energy companies have the world by the political balls. Robert Sussman, an environmental expert testifying on behalf of the Center for American Progress, said, “unfortunately, our analysis indicates that the initial stages of cap-and-trade programs [do not] not make carbon prices high enough to eliminate cost differentials” between clean and dirty coal plants.

That points toward two possibilities: We could ratchet up the regulatory impact of climate-change legislation, or we could subsidize the hell out of CCS.

At the end of the hearing, Sussman suggested that the Congress set a date (specifically the year 2016) by which CCS technology be standardized, saying the cost of such a hasty transition would require $35 billion to $40 billion in research subsidies.

As a consolation prize, David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at NRDC, proposed that the marginal costs of outfitting coal plants with CCS technology should be paid directly by consumers (a green incentive) and not by direct tax subsidies. Woot?

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