Climate politics scoop and question of the week

Okay, I don’t know if it is a scoop, heck, I don’t know for certain it is true, but  very reliable source tells me that speaker Pelosi wants the climate bill on the House floor the last week in June.

That is consistent with what Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said (see “House Majority Leader says climate bill will see fast action“).  But it will require a lot of speedy deal-making.  Still, it suggests the speaker does not see any deal breakers in the path to House passage, even though, as Wonk Room reports, “Brown Dogs Poised To Block Green Economy Legislation.”

And Sen. Boxer (D-CA) can certainly get something close to the Waxman-Markey bill out of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee by the fall.  And let’s assume for now it doesn’t get mired in any other committees

And that brings me to the climate politics question of the week:

Will moderate and conservative Senate Democrats — the Gang of 16 — vote for something that is called the Boxer-Waxman-Markey Bill?  Or will they embarce a not-invented-here mentality and insist on substantially weakening it?

After all, at least one of them is already hard at work trying to gut an already weak Senate Renewable Energy Standard, which itself is weaker than the Waxman-Markey RES.  As Wonk Room explained last week, “Evan Bayh votes against a national renewable electricity standard that even Republicans supported“:

This morning, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) “was the only Democrat to oppose a renewable-energy requirement” that even some Republicans supported. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee “voted down an amendment offered by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions that would have removed the renewable electricity standard from the energy package the panel is currently debating” by a vote of 9 to 13. Even though the Energy Information Administration has found that a much stronger standard would only affect electricity prices in Indiana by 6 percent in 2026, Bayh argued Indiana would be hit hard:

Bayh said Indiana would be among the states that would bear a disproportionate share of the cost of meeting the requirement. He said a fairer system would be offering tax credits for producing power from renewable sources.

The standard of 15 percent renewable energy or efficiency gains by 2021 is significantly weaker than President Obama’s preferred standard of 25 percent by 2025. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) joined 11 Democrats in support of the standard, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) did not vote.

All you Hoosiers out there need to let your Senator know what you think with letters and phone calls.  He is going to be a hard sell — and one more reason why we need some sort of the deal with China this fall (see Bayh’s exchange with Energy Secretary Chu in “Does a serious bill need action from China?“)

10 Responses to Climate politics scoop and question of the week

  1. MarkB says:

    I think the Wonkroom link might be overemphasizing the 50-member brown-dog House coalition. Remember, some of those Democrats ended up voting for the bill in the committee.

    Still, the Senate seems like a tougher nut to crack. It will only take a few Democrats to derail it, which brings me to another question:

    Is there a chance that Republican Senators can be coaxed to support climate legislation? I read the following today:

    The amount he’s calling for ($700 billion over 20 years) is excessive and his views on renewable are very wrong, but can some concessions on nuclear energy be made if it can bring a fair number of Republicans to the table? Clearly, nuclear power is an effective very low carbon solution (although it has problems with cost and has some other environmental issues), so the emissions target wouldn’t really be weakened. Getting a number of Republicans to support the bill would offset stubborness from coal state blue dog Democrats.

    Personally, if the main concession to get the legislation passed is some support for nuclear incentives, I’ll all for it. It sure beats concessions that give coal producers too much power to pollute. In other words, I’d rather make deals with the pro-nuclear crowd of politicians than the pro-coal crowd. Do you think someone like Sen. Alexander can be persuaded through this sort of deal-making or are almost all Republicans going to line up against the bill based on the usual partisanship? If it’s the latter, then we’re back to the very difficult task of getting most of the “Gang of 16” on board.

    [JR: Beyond the two Maine women, I’m told everyone else is a very tough sell.]

  2. Doug P says:

    Excellent analysis Mark. The republican party seems pretty determined to debase this legislation as best they can. Up to this point, I have heard pretty strong rhetoric indicating that the republican party will never support a piece of climate legislation unless nuclear is part of the mix. Although, I see a bit of momentum away from nuclear, with increased funding for loan guarantees taken out of the stimulus package, and holding steady at $18.5 billion in Obama’s budget where some expected them to be bumped all the way up to $100 billion, possibly. Energy Secretary Chu seems at once outwardly optimistic about nuclear and candidly unsure and honest about its prospects. The administration up to this point is ambiguous on nuclear.

  3. Leland Palmer says:

    Bayh said Indiana would be among the states that would bear a disproportionate share of the cost of meeting the requirement. He said a fairer system would be offering tax credits for producing power from renewable sources.

    I doubt that Indiana will be disproportionately disadvantaged.

    Yes, Indiana does have a significant number of coal fired power plants.

    But, according to this spreadsheet by the EPA, that can be tied in with Google Earth, Indiana is very, very rich in biomass and crop residues. Indiana could likely meet its renewable energy standard just by biomass co-firing.

    Indiana is one of the richest states in the country with biomass crop residues. What Bayh should do is line up private companies to build biomass refineries on the reclaimed land listed on the EPA spreadsheet. Many of them list 5-7 million tons of biomass resources within 50 miles of the those sites. Many of those sites are within a few miles of the coal fired power plants.

    Not only that, but most of the coal plants in Indiana are either along the Wabash or Ohio rivers. Biomass could be collected anywhere along these rivers or their tributaries, and moved to biorefineries along those rivers to be carbonized into biocarbon, which could then be burned in Indiana’s coal fired power plants. On Google Earth, you can see barges going down the Ohio river. Just fill barges like those with carbonized biomass, and Bayh could easily meet any given renewable energy standard.

    Here is a partial list of potential biorefinery sites in Indiana on EPA reclaimed land, along with metric tons per year of biomass resources within 50 miles of those sites. Sorry for the formatting:

    Site NameCity Resouces Biopower Potenial
    Lot 2- Fort Ouiatenon West Lafayette 7,617,814 Outstanding
    Radio Materials Corp Attica 7,479,509 Outstanding
    Newport Chemical Depot Newport 7,400,020 Outstanding
    Raybestos Products Co Crawfordsville 6,974,128 Outstanding
    CONTINENTAL STEEL CORP. KOKOMO 6,966,913 Outstanding
    Haynes International Inc Kokomo 6,966,913 Outstanding
    Purdue University West Lafayette 6,693,924 Outstanding
    Eli Lilly And Co Clinton Labs Clinton 6,570,904 Outstanding
    Mason Corporation Schererville 6,534,332 Outstanding
    Valbruna Slater Stainless Inc Ft Wayne 6,488,713 Outstanding
    Essroc Cement Corp Logansport 6,293,205 Outstanding
    C&D Technologies Inc Attica 6,254,967 Outstanding
    Corning Inc Bluffton 6,190,646 Outstanding
    Fmc Corp Fire Apparatus Operation Tipton 6,157,759 Outstanding
    Auburn Foundry Landfill Auburn 6,137,892 Outstanding
    MARION (BRAGG) DUMP MARION 6,107,962 Outstanding

    Bayh’s full of crap, IMO. Indiana is awash in biomass, and its coal plants are conveniently located on two major apparently navigable rivers, with numerous also apparently navigable tributaries, which could be used to transport biomass or biocarbon to the coal fired power plants.

    Liar, liar, pants on fire!

    Be ashamed, Republican in Democratic clothing!

  4. Jim Beacon says:

    It’s incredible that a few people are somehow going to be able to hold up this process when all the polls indicate the majority of the people want a effort like Waxman-Markey put into legal effect as quickly as possible and that they as consumers and taxpayers are even willing to pay extra for it. Not to mention that the President has made it one of his two top priorities. Yet we are going to allow congressional business as usual to enable a very few well-placed people to stand in the way of what everyone else wants? I guess you can call that democracy, but it seem smore like the tyranny of the moneyed minority to me.

    It’s obvious that at some point President Obama is going to have to come down out of his tower, get his hands dirty, take some of these Brown Dog Democratic Senators out behind the wood shed and set them straight.

    But speculating on what maneuvers and backroom deals might be done sometime in the next 6 months is kind of pointless — it’s politics as a spectator sport. Perhaps the rest of us could better spend our time putting the scary new data into messages that the Joe Six Packs of the world can relate to and get on with the real business of informing people of the danger and the solutions and the bright economic future those solutions can provide.

  5. Brendan says:

    I could be remembering incorrectly, but I remember you at some point saying that the committee was relatively conservative compared to the rest of the house. Is there any chance that the bill could actually get stronger once it is in the house (making the 2020 target stronger for instance)?

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    Opening up Google Earth with the CARMA powerplant database and the EPA renewable energy resources on reclaimed land database simultaneously is both fun and educational.

    What it shows is that Bayh is totally full of crap, about poor Indiana.

    Indiana is one of the shining examples of a state that would be trivially easy to convert from coal to biocarbon or biomass co-firing.

    Shoot, Indiana could likely export biocarbon to power plants downstream on the Mississippi river system, and pay for the conversion by being a biocarbon exporter.

    Go to the following link, select the option for integrating CARMA with Google Earth, and have fun, if you like. It’s kind of fascinating, especially with the EPA renewable energy resources on reclaimed land database opened in another layer simultaneously.

    Indiana should in fact convert its power plants to biocarbon fuel, oxyfuel combustion with a HiPPS topping cycle, and carbon storage by deep injection. Indiana, with it’s power plants and biomass sources uniquely located on the Wabash and Ohio tributaries of the Mississippi, could easily and profitably lead the country into a carbon negative future.

    What a shame that Bayh has taken the path of opposition and denial rather than flexibility and acceptance.

  7. It would be very helpful to have a published study of the economic benefits to Indiana of converting to biomass. I think that could sway Bayh. Thanks to Leland Palmer for this point, and I hope some group produces this study.

    One important political issue is that, if some version of Waxman-Markey does not pass, the EPA will be required to regulate GHGs as pollutants, and EPA regulation would be more damaging economically than WM. I think that is the threat that gives WM a good chance of getting through the senate.

  8. Charles Siegel: Which would be economically more damaging: EPA regulations or the extinction of Homo Sap because of inadequate regulation, or just the collapse of civilization because of inadequate regulation?

    We ARE in unknown territory already at 430 ppm equivalent and rising fast with 3 positive natural feedbacks already happening. There is reason to believe that 450 ppm equivalent is a tipping point that can cause the climate to lurch 9 degrees. There is no reason to believe that the climate is linear. There is reason to believe that, between steady states, the climate can oscillate wildly.

    The kill mechanism that has caused at least 2 dozen previous civilizations to disappear is the collapse of agriculture due to the fact that the rain moved. The rain HAS moved.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Leland Palmer — A well-written e-mail to the senator might well find a favorable reception.

  10. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi David B. Benson-

    Thanks, I’ll do that.

    It turns out that Bayh might have a point about Indiana being disproportionately disadvantaged, but only because it looks like over 90 percent of the electricity generated in the state comes from coal.

    Various souces appear to show that the state has abundant biomass resources, and a natural biomass collection network in its rivers and their tributaries that could link the biomass sources to the power plants.

    It also turns out that there are deep saline aquifers under Indiana, that a combination government/university mapping effort estimates could store 22 to 44 billion tons of CO2 using carbon storage by deep injection. Indiana produces about 165 million tons of CO2 per year from about 90 large fixed sources. If the low estimate of 22 billion tons of storage is correct, this means that Indiana could store about 130 years of CO2 at current production of CO2 in these deep saline aquifers. If they run out of storage capacity, other neighboring states appear to have much more storage capacity.

    So Indiana would make a wonderful test case and pilot project, IMO, and it looks like it would actually be possible to fairly easily make Indiana carbon negative, using a combination of biocarbon fuel, enhanced efficiency and CCS.

    It turns out, though, that coal fired power plants located on rivers are not unusual at all. Many large coal fired power plants are located on rivers, to provide cooling water, it appears. Cruising around on Google Earth with the CARMA plug-in and the EPA renewable energy resources on reclaimed lands plug-in, it looks like the whole Mississippi river basin including tributaries could become one huge biocarbon transport system, delivering biocarbon to many, many coal fired power plants.

    Other interesting river systems include the Columbia (primarily for biocarbon export, perhaps to California) and the river delta area near Stockton, California. California has few or no coal plants, but we do have some natural gas plants that could perhaps be converted to gasified biomass. California also has 75 to 300 billion tons of estimated CO2 storage capacity in deep aquifers, so we could also become a carbon negative test case, reducing our dependence on out of state power producers.