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Sweeping climate-energy bill clears first big hurdle in Congress

24 05 09 - 15:56 Sweeping climate-energy bill clears first big hurdle in Congress

By Mark Clayton

New climate-energy legislation approved by a key congressional committee marks what some are calling the most significant tipping point in US energy policy in 30 years, thrusting the economy toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.

The American Climate and Energy Act of 2009 (ACES) bill, approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday evening, is the second major step this week by US political leaders to boost energy efficiency and curb global climate change. The first step came a few days ago when President Obama toughened vehicle tailpipe standards. If the president is able to sign a climate-energy bill ahead of December climate talks in Copenhagen, as some suggest is now possible, the two measures would give the US - the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitter per capita - far more clout in shaping a multinational response to the climate problem.

"This is a historic breakthrough for clean energy and the environment," says Dan Lashof, climate center director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "It's now absolutely feasible to get this bill enacted into law this year - before Copenhagen - and to give the US renewed credibility going into those talks."

Energy and climate change linked

Because stemming carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels is central to the climate conundrum, bill architects Reps. Henry Waxman (D) of California and Ed Markey (D) of Massachusetts combined the twin puzzles of energy and climate into one piece of legislation.

Some see it as a recipe for disaster - too big for Capitol Hill to swallow. But it appears the 946-page bill may achieve safe passage this year. If it does, it may be because Mr. Waxman spent weeks behind closed doors compromising and doling out valuable emissions allowances to industry and consumers to soften the blow of higher electricity rates.

Some environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and others say there has been one compromise too many.

"We're disappointed we can't support the bill," says Nick Berning, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth. "There just was not enough in it to reduce pollution while billions were given to big oil, dirty coal."

Yet others read the compromises as adding political strength, paving the way for tougher future measures.

"This vote showed [that] the nation has reached a major tipping point on energy and climate," says Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, an energy research and consulting firm. "Historically, the problem has always been getting this kind of environmental bill through Congress the first time. After that, the laws just ratchet tighter."

But some business groups criticized the bill. Its "inequitable approach, by itself, will produce additional unemployment," warned the American Petroleum Institute in a statement. "While the bill has laudable environmental and economic goals, its inequitable system of allocations remains intact," API said, "and if enacted would have a disproportionate adverse impact on consumers, businesses, and producers of gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, crude oil and natural gas.”

Democrats beat back GOP amendments

Despite an onslaught of Republican amendments, the Democratic bill won broad support from Democrats in various regions of the US - including those from coal-reliant states in the Midwest and the South. The Republican alternative, which proposed more nuclear and hydropower, was handily defeated.

The ACES bill focuses on smokestacks that pump out 85 percent of US greenhouse emissions. It follows a three-way path to shift the nation toward a low-carbon economy: boosting energy efficiency, developing renewable energy sources like solar and wind, and curbing greenhouse-gas emissions (GHGs).

Together these are intended to cut US emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 - a major compromise from the previously suggested 20 percent cut. Still, it would launch America down a 30-year path of continual emissions cuts - reaching 83 percent under 2005 levels by 2050 - to help avoid the worst effects of global warming. The bill is also intended to jump-start a US push into energy-efficient technologies, grow green jobs, and advance national security by shifting the US vehicle fleet toward use of domestic electricity instead of imported oil.

'Cap-and-trade' the key

To do that, the bill's main mechanism to limit emissions is a market-based "cap-and-trade" system for industrial CO2 emitters. Beginning in 2012, a national "cap" - or total maximum CO2 emissions - would be set and then ratcheted downward annually. Electric utilities, cement and steel plants, and others would need one "allowance" for every ton of CO2 sent up smokestacks. Power plants emit about 2.4 billion tons of CO2 annually - nearly 40 percent of total US greenhouse-gas emissions.

In addition to GHG limits, the bill combines a national renewable energy standard combined with an energy efficiency standard. By 2020, US electric utilities would be required to get 20 percent of their power from a combination of renewable sources (15 percent) and energy efficiency (5 percent).

But in a major compromise, governors would be permitted to petition to increase the energy-efficiency share up to 8 percent, with just 12 percent coming from renewables. Waxman accepted the lesser standard for renewables to win support of Democratic lawmakers from states where coal-fired power plants predominate, Mr. Book says.

Cost has been a major debating point. Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas, in a letter to Waxman this week, warned that the bill will "impact every person, every family, and every business" to the tune of "trillions of dollars."

Others say the cost will be far less. Abatement costs would reach $22 billion in 2015, rising to $31 billion in 2020 and then up to $64 billion in 2030, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated last month. This would slightly curtail average annual US economic growth from 2.71 percent to 2.69 percent. The cost per household is estimated at $98 to $140 per year, the EPA says, although Republican critics say it would be far higher.

The EPA looked at the numbers again this week, concluding that final costs will be reduced by the compromise to achieve a 17 percent (instead of 20 percent) emissions cut by 2020. That change, EPA said in a memorandum, would "likely result in lower allowance prices, a smaller impact on energy bills, and a smaller impact on household consumption" - although it would mean "a somewhat higher use of coal in 2020."

Costs tied to economic growth

Others note that overall costs will be minuscule relative to the size of the economy. By the time abatement costs reach $64 billion a year in 2030, the US economy will have grown more than $9 trillion - about 150 times the amount spent on CO2 abatement, NRDC economists say.

What happens to the valuable allowances in the cap-and-trade program - worth more than $600 billion, ClearView estimates - is a critical question. President Obama has long proposed auctioning all of the emissions allowances to avoid a windfall for polluters, as occurred in Europe.

But to win enough congressional support, the bill doles out some 85 percent of the allowances for free (with just 15 percent auctioned), ClearView calculates. The point of most free allowances is to blunt the impact of higher energy prices on households and energy-intensive industries.

For instance, in 2012 when the cap kicks in, electric utilities would get 35 percent of allowances - though the bill requires utilities to pass the benefit along to consumers. By 2020, however, the percentage of auctioned allowances would rise to 90 percent.

"The vast majority of these allowances are being distributed for purposes that make sense," says NRDC's Mr. Lashof. "The allowances going to electric utilities require those companies to use their value to benefit customers, and the result of that, in our analysis, is that consumer energy bills will actually decline under this bill."

Indeed, 15 percent of the value of allowances would go to low- and moderate-income households to defray higher energy costs. But energy-intensive industries such as steel, cement, pulp, and paper would also get 2 percent of the allowances to soften the blow from competition by foreign rivals that don't have emissions requirements. Refineries would get 2 percent of allowances.

If the ACES bill passes the House, as Lashof and others predict, all eyes will fall on the Senate, where companion legislation is under way. Whether Republicans will be able to filibuster there is an open question.

"This puts a lot of pressure on the Senate and makes it much more likely that the president will have a climate-energy bill to sign this year," says Book of ClearView. Used tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Alternative energy and related video search+watch+upload+share

Monday 28 January 2019 at 03:31 am Just in case anyone hasn't seen this yet, it is a great resource for everyone who is interested in alternative energy, green tech, diy and related how-to.
Search-watch 1000's of videos - Upload your own -Start your own channel and share-discuss your projects. Sign up now.

http://gp.alternate-energy.net/ more

Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

Saturday 16 July 2011 at 06:07 am Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

By Pete Spotts

The images are stark: soot-grimed firefighters steering bulldozers or wielding shovels to clear underbrush; curtains of orange flame tracing the contours of summits; aircraft dumping chemicals to slow a fire's progress.

Between Jan. 1 and early July of 2011, slightly more than 38,000 wildfires charred the landscape in the United States at a record pace. So far this year, wildfires have consumed just under 4.9 million acres of forest and grassland, a cumulative expanse the size of New Jersey.

That's 1 million more acres than fires consumed during the same period in 2006, which saw a record 9.9 million acres burned for the entire year.

Beyond the numbers, this year's fires may provide the first large-scale tests of the effectiveness of projects undertaken over the past decade to help forests survive wildfires, several specialists say.

The West's forests are adapted to deal with certain types of wildfires, researchers note. But since the mid-1980s, they add, some of these forests have experienced an increasing number of fires to which they are not well adapted.

Many researchers trace this shift in part to climate change. more

Hybrid Moves Into Housing

Sunday 22 May 2011 at 01:14 am Hybrid Moves Into Housing

By Brenda Krueger Huffman

(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.

Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.

The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.

Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. more

Are electric car makers missing the trick?

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 11:12 am Are electric car makers missing the trick?

by Martin Ott

I believe that electric car makers may be driving us all down the road that may result in the same sort of technology failures that we have seen in the past.
I'm not referring to the Sinclair scooter here but cast your mind back to the débâcle of Betamax v VHS home recording systems. The eventual winner was the technically inferior VHS but the battle was not resolved until innumerable consumers had paid out for worthless Betamax systems. Back in the 70's a similar conflict occurred over audio systems when America fell in love with the 8 track tape system that moved magnetic tape in a loop over the player head at a high speed resulting in a better sound. The world market finally dictated that the audio cassette was the way to go but not until millions of consumers had been lumbered with home and in-car systems that went down the technological cul de sac. more

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Acknowledges SGS´s Contribution towards Successful Project Completion

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:57 am by Suresh Varma

The Theni Wind Farm project was developed by CLP India Pvt. Ltd., one of the major wind farm project developers in India. Located in the south western part of Tamilnadu, a southern state of the country, the facility consists of 60 Vestas V82 geared wind turbines. As recognition of its contribution towards the successful execution of this wind power project SGS received Vestas award.

Each turbine at the wind farm has a capacity of 1.65 MW IEC Class IIB machine with a blade diameter of 82 m. After a six-month long completion period, the Theni Wind Farm was officially opened in May, 2010.

Acting as contract engineer during project execution, SGS was responsible for ensuring that all activities were carried out at the site by the contractor in line with the final agreement. In doing so, SGS supervised the quality of construction works, the fulfillment of the technical parameters and kept the project within the scheduled time and contracted price. more

E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

by Power Plus Communications

Mannheim - Power Plus Communications AG (PPC), the leading provider of Broadband Powerline Communication systems (BPL) for smart grids has taken on a key role within an E.ON smart grid project to facilitate an extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution.

E.ON Westfalen Weser AG is currently trialing smart grid technology within its network of 1.3 million inhabitants and PPC's proven medium voltage BPL solution has connected substations in the project using the existing power grid.

Using BPL technology, standard compliant and IP-based data transfer rates of 5-30 Mbit/s can easily be achieved via the medium voltage cable itself. Within E.ON’s smart grid project, PPC's medium voltage technology facilitated the extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution. The Cisco smart grid Router and Switches used in the project are highly compatible with BPL networks, providing a real cost advantage over fiber optic networks – which can be much more expensive where cables are not pre-existing.

By combining their technology at Westfalen Weser, PPC and Cisco have ensured the evolution of fast and efficient smart grids which are controlled on an IP basis. This increases the reliability of the power grid, fulfills regulations and drives down costs. At the same time this modern smart grids communications technology makes it possible to effectively integrate renewable energy into the grid. more

MIT Infrastructure "Life Cycle" Study is Progress Both Left & Right Can Embrace - Part 2, Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 09:02 am By Brenda Krueger Huffman

Chicago – Perhaps moving to the center is where we all need to be politically on the environment and effective spending compatibility. Not all green technology is crazy, and not all business profit or government expenditure is evil.

Even if you do not believe in man caused climate change, we can all agree leaving a cleaner planet and a more fiscally responsible government for the next generation is preferable to not doing so.

Perhaps green technology can be cost effective, and government fiscal responsibility may realistically include affordable green initiatives. Honest “life cycle analysis” and “life cycle cost analysis” study considerations should be a political compromise starting point both the left and the right can embrace. more

Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

Thursday 27 January 2011 at 11:05 am Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

By Pete Spotts

Washington - A long-term retreat in snow and ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere is weakening the ability of these seasonal cloaks of white to reflect sunlight back into space and cool global climate, according to a study published this week.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, the cooling effect from this so-called cryosphere – essentially areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year – appears to have weakened at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models, the research team conducting the work estimates.

The study, which appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, represents a first cut at trying to calculate from direct measurements the impact of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere's cryosphere. The study was conducted by a team of federal and university scientists who examined data gathered between 1979 and 2008. more

EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton

Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,

Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more