In case anyone thought the hard part was over in the House, I’m excerpting at length this analysis from E&E News. Remember, most members outside of Energy and Commerce don’t think a lot about global warming, don’t know a lot about cap-and-trade, and this bill is as complicated as the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act, except that it doesn’t deal with directly cleaning up dirty air and water whose harm to constituents are obvious to any member.
Thirty-three members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee gained a new title last night: global warming ambassadors.
In voting to adopt comprehensive legislation to cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the 32 Democrats and one Republican now embark on the difficult task of convincing their fellow House colleagues to support sweeping new environmental legislation in tight economic times.
“We really need to be emissaries to the caucus, talking to them about how we were able to find some good common ground, and how it’s a good bill,” said Rep. Diane DeGette, a Democrat from Denver who said she would focus in the coming months on her fellow Western and urban lawmakers.
Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat who represents Pittsburgh, has already gotten started, albeit in a very subtle way. He brought up the climate bill over breakfast yesterday with a wavering lawmaker from the South.
“It was more of a conversational thing,” said Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.). “He was explaining how he’d become a convert. I’ll just leave it at that. He did not try to twist my arm or influence my vote in any way.”
As DeGette, Doyle and many other Democrats are already seeing, their job will not be easy. It is going to take more than just one breakfast conversation to explain the intricacies of a 946-page climate bill that was long ago branded by Republicans as an “energy tax.”
“As this bill is now out there in the public domain, I think people will understand the extraordinary cost that this will impose to business and working families,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said yesterday. “And at the end of the day, that will be what will kill this bill.”
Taylor, an 11-term congressman from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is not ready to buy into the climate bill.
“I think of the whole cap-and-trade idea as a Ponzi scheme,” Taylor said. “I don’t like the idea that one factory is cleaner than it has to be so that another a factory is dirtier than it should be, because historically that factory that’s dirtier than it should be ends up in the South. … If the vote was today, I’d vote ‘no.’”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has his own problems with global warming legislation, especially when it comes to speculation in the carbon market. Several members of the Energy and Commerce Committee won some concessions on this very issue, but DeFazio said he probably will not be swayed.
“I don’t care what restrictions we put on it, we do not want to enable Wall Street hedge funds, derivative traders and others to create another bubble and take control of our carbon markets,” DeFazio said. “Cap? Fine. Regulate? Great. Trade? No.”
Then there is House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who again yesterday said he has between 40 and 45 Democrats who will oppose the climate bill if serious concessions are not made on several intertwining issues. Peterson’s list starts with U.S. EPA’s draft plan to consider greenhouse gas emissions from “indirect” land-use changes spurred by biofuels production. He also wants a larger share of agricultural offsets factored into the bill, as well as more free allowance allocations to rural electric utilities.
“If they don’t want to change it, then they’ll have to find the votes some other place,” Peterson said. “In my district, a ‘no’ vote would be a good vote.”
Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), a member of the Agriculture Committee and the Blue Dogs, a group of moderate and conservative Democrats, said defections among committee members and Blue Dogs would make for “rough sledding” on the floor for the climate bill given the widespread GOP opposition.
“I don’t think [Peterson] is bluffing,” Pomeroy said. “He has got the support he says he has.”
A plan in progress
Democratic committee leaders say they will map out their plans for getting the bill ready for the floor once Congress returns from the weeklong Memorial Day recess. Eight other committees will have jurisdiction over pieces of the bill, but only a few have signaled serious interest in holding their own markup: Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science, and Natural Resources.
Speaking to reporters last night after the final passage vote, Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he would do what it takes to get the measure across the finish line.
“We’re just savoring the victory and right now I love every provision in that bill,” Waxman said. “But I don’t love it so much that I wouldn’t want to hear what other people have to say about it, and learn more and examine other alternatives that might do better.”
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), the lead farm state lawmaker on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said yesterday that he knows what he must do to get the bill to President Obama’s desk: He will try to disentangle the EPA biofuels regulations from the House climate legislation.
“Many people tend to confuse the concerns created by both mechanisms,” said Braley, a two-term congressman who often flies back to the Midwest with Peterson.
“I’m trying to be that broker in between who have legitimate concerns about the indirect land-use implications, especially for my state, as a huge proponent of biofuels, at the same time, recognizing the obligation to the future of this country to move forward with this climate and energy bill,” Braley added.
Other Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats said they will do what they can as well.
“I’m still learning the legislation,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). “There’s so much to comprehend. And the manager’s amendment just dropped this week. There’s a lot of details in there we don’t fully understand.
“Hopefully,” Butterfield added, “I can be a representative of leadership and try to persuade members to vote for it. That’s my duty as a whip.”
“I’ve done my job as a member of the committee,” said Doyle. “I’m glad to answer any questions members have about what the Energy and Commerce Committee has done. Beyond that, I’m going to be a spectator like everyone else, and we’ll see what happens after all the committees do their work and what the bill looks like and we’ll go from there.”
House Democratic leaders acknowledge that it won’t be easy to craft successful legislation without upsetting the balance that helped to see the bill through the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“You need the votes of the entire caucus,” said House Democratic Caucus Committee Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.). “But I think the willingness for everyone to work and understand the fragility of this is helpful, and I think we’ll get a bill.”
Larson said the job really belongs in the hands of the speaker of the House. “We’ve got to bring everybody together, and there’s nobody better than that than Nancy Pelosi,” he said.
Asked how the House speaker planned to navigate the bill, spokesman Nadeam Elshami replied, “Carefully.”
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a close Pelosi ally and the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said there was nothing particularly different about the upcoming push to 218.
“That’s the process we go through on every bill,” Miller said. “The speaker insists you constantly widen the circle and enlarge it so you take in these interests, so when the bill is finished, people will speak up, organizations will speak up.”
Waxman won a long-sought legislative victory Thursday night with committee approval of his sweeping climate-change bill. But the nimble chairman still has to get over some rocky terrain before the bill “” or one like it “” ever becomes law.
In the House, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel is threatening to sit on the legislation until his panel approves health care reform, and Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is leading a rebellion by rural Democrats who believe the bill would create enormous new burdens for farmers and ranchers.
And the Senate is … well, the Senate.
A new study by a Department of Energy laboratory predicts that consumers would see a negligible increase in their electricity costs if Congress requires utilities to produce up to a quarter of their power from renewable sources. The analysis of three Democratic proposals to impose a national renewable energy standard (RES) of 20 to 25 percent concludes that electric rates would increase less than one percent under any of the plans proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA). The report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. concludes:
“None of the RES bills modeled have a significant impact on consumer electricity prices at the national level.“
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee defeated a bid today to strike a renewable electricity standard from the comprehensive energy bill.
The amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) lost in a 9-13 vote, allowing Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to move forward with the title. Bingaman’s draft bill would require utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable generation by 2021 and allow them to substitute energy efficiency for slightly more than a quarter of the target.
The panel voted only on the amendment to strike the renewable standard and plans to mark up as many as 49 amendments to the bill next month. Committee members have hopes that their staff can come to some agreements on some proposals during the Memorial Day recess.
The number of groups lobbying Congress about climate change has jumped sharply this year, according to a recent study from the Center for Public Integrity.
Using disclosure forms filed with the Senate, the watchdog group found that 880 organizations lobbied Congress on the matter during the first quarter of 2009, an increase of 14 percent over the same time span last year. The center also reported that just 10 firms in Washington represent nearly 100 of those groups looking to sway members of Congress.
It has long been an axiom of infrastructure planning that it takes a lot of water to make electricity, and a lot of electricity to make water.
Each day, for example, the nation’s thermoelectric power plants (90 percent of all power plants in the United States), draw 136 billion gallons of water from lakes, rivers and oceans to cool the steam used to drive turbines, according to the Department of Energy. In recent years, the energy department says, plans for new power plants had to be scrapped because water-use permits could not be obtained.
For their part, water- and wastewater utilities consume at least 13 percent of the electricity drawn nationwide each day, according to River Network, an environmental group based in Portland, Ore. Such plants face increasing public pressure to cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
So it was of no small significance that Poseidon Resources last week managed to win approval from California state regulators to build the Western Hemisphere’s largest desalination plant, near San Diego.
The “yellow mellow” adage is hardly new , and was purportedly coined by hippies in the early days of the environmental movement. The phrase entered the mainstream in the 1980s when former New York Mayor Ed Koch reportedly urged New Yorkers to take up the practice during a water shortage.
According to Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the no-flush approach is worthy of serious consideration today, as water levels of major rivers and lakes which supply drinking water to population centers are plummeting.
Alstom Power and We Energies have released preliminary data on their carbon capture pilot project at Pleasant Prairie, Wisc. The pilot plant, set up to siphon the CO2 from a small stream of the total flue gas using chilled ammonia, not only captured most of the CO2, it captured it in a more than 99 percent pure form, according to Robert Hilton, vice president of power technologies and government affairs at Alstom, which is important for any future storage or industrial reuse. “We can [capture] 90 percent [of the CO2] and do it consistently,” he notes. “We’ve done over 90 percent at times.”
So far the project has run some 4,600 hours continuously without issue and captured some 18,000 tons of CO2 over the last year.
Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten