President Obama was correct when he declared two weeks ago that the choice we face in addressing climate change is “between prosperity and decline.” The competitive advantage we stand to gain by “becoming the world’s leading exporter of clean energy” is incalculable. But, as China’s rapid expansion of its solar and wind industries shows, the competition is fierce and we’re already behind the curve. Chinese officials said yesterday that the giant nation will far exceed its 2020 wind and solar targets. They expect to more than triple their wind capacity goal, resulting in 100 gigawatts of wind power by 2020, and surpass by five to tenfold the target set for solar. These are sobering numbers. Obama said, “The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.” We have some serious catching up to do.
China has more than tripled its target for wind power capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2020, likely making it the world’s fastest growing market for wind energy technology, state press said yesterday.
China is aiming for an annual wind power growth rate of 20 percent for the foreseeable future, Feng Junshi, an official with the National Energy Administration, told a Beijing conference, according to the China Daily.
China is set to smash its target for a roll-out of solar power by 2020 more than fivefold and possibly even tenfold, a researcher with the National Development and Reform Commission, the economic planning ministry, said on Tuesday.
Under the NDRC’s renewable energy plan set out in 2007, China would have 1,800 megawatts of installed solar capacity by 2020.
But Wang Zhongying, assistant director at the NDRC’s Energy Research Institute and head of its Renewable Energy Development Center, said the country was likely to far exceed that.
“The goal that we made originally is probably too low,” he said at a solar energy conference in Shanghai. “By 2020, we can reach 10,000 MW or more.”
President Obama urged House Democrats today to reach consensus on global warming and energy legislation during a closed-door White House meeting.
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, White House energy advisers and three dozen or so Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee met for about an hour to discuss a range of issues before the panel, including the climate bill that has been stuck for weeks in subcommittee.
After the meeting, Democrats stressed that Obama stayed away from details and urged lawmakers guarding regional interests to work together.
“We’re talking to each other. And we’re working out these issues because we want to be together and we want to succeed in getting this legislation through,” said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee chairman. He said lawmakers had reached agreement on “Cash for Clunkers” language and would provide details later.
Waxman declined to comment when asked if the markup would start this week, saying only that he remains committed to moving the bill by Memorial Day.
The Democrats also confirmed a published report that the White House was interested in linking support for a climate change bill with a separate plan to expand domestic energy production. But Waxman declined to elaborate, saying energy production is not in his committee’s jurisdiction; the matter would rest with the Natural Resources Committee.
As with the recent stimulus package and budget resolution, Obama has largely left lawmakers to haggle over the details on the climate legislation, promising to enter talks only at critical moments. But with the climate bill in dire straits at the subcommittee level, Obama decided it was time to weigh in.
“We’re already at a key moment,” said Paul Bledsoe, a spokesman for the National Commission on Energy Policy.
This year’s climate push has little of the bipartisan spirit that sponsors tried to inject in last June’s Senate debate, when Virginia Republican John Warner teamed with Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman and California Democrat Barbara Boxer on a broad cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions.
By contrast, Republicans today opened their own summit on issues aimed at portraying the Democratic climate plan as a new energy tax.
“Now, some in Washington say the only way to clean up the environment is through government regulation, and they are pursuing a new national energy tax to do it,” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at the start of the GOP session on Capitol Hill.
“With all due respect, that’s the wrong approach,” Boehner said. “We know raising taxes hurts the economy. We can clean up our environment and create jobs at the same time. We don’t need a national energy tax that would send millions of American jobs overseas.”
The Interior Department would be the lead agency for permitting new “high priority” transmission lines on federal lands under a draft bill from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).
Bingaman released new drafts of the transmission and nuclear power sections of the comprehensive energy bill on the eve of today’s planned markup. But the committee last night delayed plans for a markup this morning on transmission siting and nuclear energy provisions.
Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Bingaman, said a long series of Senate votes this morning will require committee action on those matters to be rescheduled. The committee will, however, go ahead with plans to take up S. 949, a bipartisan bill to expand and improve Energy Department programs to provide loan guarantees and other financing for low-emissions energy projects.
The delay will give members time to digest the new transmission draft that lays out a schedule for the Interior secretary to site “high priority” transmission lines on federal lands, including giving each federal agency 60 days to comment on concerns or chances for approval on a project’s pre-application and 1 year to finish environmental reviews when all necessary information is submitted. The previous draft had the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency, although FERC would retain backstop authority to certify construction of the high-priority transmission lines.
The draft encourages the Interior secretary to use “energy corridors” on federal lands created in the 2005 Energy Policy Act to site transmission but grants the secretary the power to create an additional energy corridor as necessary.
The changes were made in response to committee members who thought that federal land siting was better housed with Interior than FERC, Wicker said.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has emphasized the need for his department to streamline the bureaucracy of siting transmission lines on federal lands to develop more renewable energy. His first secretarial order formally established a task force to identify specific renewable energy zones and transmission corridors on public lands.
After his confirmation hearing, the former Colorado senator told reporters “in many ways, the Department of Interior is the real energy department,” but he also said jurisdictional bureaucracies should not get in the way of permitting projects to develop renewable energy.
Wicker said Bingaman was fine with making the change as he is carefully working with all members to craft the transmission bill. “Nobody really reacted one way or another that that was some sort of sea change,” he said.
Bingaman’s new transmission draft also opens the door to more than a single interconnection-wide planning entity to plan the high-priority transmission lines, but allows FERC to modify the plans in order to adhere to the achieve policy goals and to reconcile inconsistencies between plans submitted.
The draft still requires any power line project developer to apply for state approval first but if the state rejects the project, does not consider the project within one year or places “unreasonable” conditions on the project that create insurmountable barriers to complete it, FERC would then have the authority to consider and site “high priority” transmission projects.
The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners applauded Bingaman’s changes, especially the decision to give states the first shot at siting approval and that the one-year clock starts from the time of a completed application. But the association of state regulators said it would prefer 18 months to review the applications.
The changes were made after a “walk through” on the transmission draft last week and ongoing discussions with members that lasted through Monday evening, according to ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
But the changes to the transmission draft did not address cost allocation, the most controversial topic on that issue. Members on both sides of the aisle voiced concerns about how FERC would define who benefits from a line and would therefore have to pay for the transmission construction.
“The cost allocation is probably the biggest concern that is yet outstanding,” Murkowski said. “I fully anticipate that there is going to be some good debate on that issue, and I expect to see amendments offered on both sides,” she said. Murkowski said she had not decided yet on whether to offer an amendment on cost allocation.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he planned to offer an amendment that would change the language for an exception to bearing the cost of a transmission line in the region from “disproportionate to reasonably anticipated benefits” to “unless the costs are reasonably proportionate to measurable economic and reliability benefits.” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) was also very concerned about the vague details of cost allocation during the walk through.
There is also the issue of reserving the lines for energy generation that has low greenhouse gas emissions — narrowing the main use of the lines for natural gas and renewable energy. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) raised the issue at the walk through, and it is also a priority for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
On the nuclear side, Murkowski said she plans to offer a “comprehensive” amendment alternative to Bingaman’s nuclear waste text. The amendment would include additional production tax credits and construction tax incentives for new nuclear reactors, as well as a cost-sharing provision for licensing and engineering design for two commercial reprocessing facilities (E&ENews PM, May 5).
The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed rules to limit emissions of climate-changing gases from the manufacture of ethanol, a step that would probably curtail the expansion of corn ethanol production.
In its first major policy steps on ethanol, the administration said it would help producers of biofuels who could not get credit to refinance their operations, and assist them in selling their products through a growing network of retail fuel distributors and by encouraging the manufacture of vehicles to burn it.
House Democrats working on energy and global warming legislation remained deadlocked Tuesday on several contentious issues even after a gentle nudge from President Obama at a White House meeting. But they did announce a tentative deal to give consumers billions of dollars to trade in their old cars and trucks for models with somewhat higher gas mileage.
That “cash for clunkers” subsidy is intended to increase vehicle sales, prop up the faltering American auto industry and make the nation’s car and truck fleet marginally more efficient. Mr. Obama has lent support to the idea, and there is money in the stimulus package to finance it.
A new wave energy device known as “Anaconda” is the latest idea to harness the power of the seas.
Its inventors claim the key to its success lies in its simplicity: Anaconda is little more than a length of rubber tubing filled with water.
Waves in the water create bulges along the tubing that travel along its length gathering energy.
At the end of the tube, the surge of energy drives a turbine and generates electricity.
The device is being developed by Checkmate Seaenergy Ltd, which has been testing a small-scale 8m-long prototype in a wave tank in Gosport, Hampshire, owned by the science and technology company Qinetiq.
Paul Auston, chairman of Checkmate, says the tests have proved the concept works.
Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climatologist, has in many ways become the news media’s conscience on climate science, exposing exaggeration and opinion in climate coverage on the blog he founded, RealClimate.org.
In a recently published book, “Climate Change: Picturing the Science,” Mr. Schmidt and his co-author, the photographer Joshua Wolfe, attempt to tell the story of global warming with the same no-nonsense approach “” albeit this time with photographs.
Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten