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Energy and Global Warming News for June 1st: Next Steps for Waxman-Markey, climate change turning seas acid

By Sean Pool on June 1, 2009 at 11:44 am

"Energy and Global Warming News for June 1st: Next Steps for Waxman-Markey, climate change turning seas acid"

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I keep getting confirmations that Speaker Pelosi still aims to put climate and clean energy bill on the House floor the last week in June, as first reported here (see “Climate politics scoop and question of the week“).  Grist has a long article, excerpted below, on next steps.  I would note that other committees may not have to vote the bill out — concerns from Ways and Means and Agriculture might instead be negotiated with Henry Waxman (D-CA) and addressed in a manager’s amendment on the floor.

Next Steps for Waxman-Markey

The Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill cleared a major hurdle on May 21 when it was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. But the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009 still has a long road to travel before it can be voted on by the full House.

The House parliamentarian has referred the bill to nine committees, though only four have signaled that they intend to review it in the next weeks. Some estimates of how many committees may want a chance to modify the legislation go as high as 11, and it’s certain that the Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science, and Natural Resources committees will all play some role in the development of the bill.

All of this will take place before the bill goes up for a vote in the full House, which could come by the end of June, if some reports are to be believed. Here’s a run down of the committees likely to take a stab at the bill (or a hatchet, perhaps), and any indication we have so far of these panels’ intentions:

Ways and Means: This committee is responsible for taxes and any other revenue that comes into federal coffers. Under the proposed cap-and-trade plan, the government will auction emissions credits to industries and other buyers, generating significant revenue for Uncle Sam.

There are plenty of alternative plans floating around Ways and Means that may influence how the committee members approach Waxman-Markey. John Larson (D-Conn.) has offered a carbon-tax bill, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed a cap-and-dividend bill, and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) authored legislation with Van Hollen last year and has been active in discussions of climate policy.

Meanwhile, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has said he wants to work on health care before taking up the climate bill.

Agriculture: Committee chairmam Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has threatened to derail Waxman-Markey unless the EPA backs off from proposed rules on the greenhouse-gas footprint of ethanol production. He’s demanded veto power over the related provisions of the bill, and says if he doesn’t get it, his committee’s 26 Democrats will vote against the bill on the floor. He also wants a chance to review provisions he has deemed to be inadequate like fuel standards, the definition of renewable energy sources, and regulations governing trading in the carbon market. He has also said he wants to see more domestic offsets made available for farmers and thinks the Department of Agriculture should play a larger role in implementation of the legislation.

Science and Technology: This committee may decide to review provisions in the bill related to adaptation and climate science monitoring. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is holding markup of the committee’s own bill to create a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in early June, which the committee could choose to add to the Waxman-Markey bill. This committee has also been active on some of the policy issues surrounding the development of carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology in the past, and advocated for increased government funding of energy technology development.

Natural Resources: This committee oversees public lands, wildlife, water resources, mining laws, and the development of natural resources, including oil and natural gas. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has said he intends to get more programs to expand the development of oil and gas in the outer continental shelf and on federal lands. More domestic development, he said, “should be part of a responsible, comprehensive, pro-energy bill.”

Rahall’s committee has been holding hearings on this subject this year, revisiting what became a highly contentious issue in 2008 as Congress allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire. Adding expanded domestic drilling to this bill would displease many Democrats, including sponsors Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), but there has been talk that the Obama administration has been discussing this as one option to sweeten a climate deal for moderates on both sides of the aisle in order to get the bill through Congress.

Education & Labor: This committee could decide to examine and amend some of the green jobs provisions of the bill, as well as the provisions that provide grants to educational institutions for green jobs training. For now, though, it looks like the panel will take a pass on reviewing the bill.

Foreign Affairs: This panel may want to take up some of the provisions in the bill to fund international adaptation and technology development. Currently, the bill would allocate a tiny sum of revenue generated from selling emissions credits to adaptation programs – just 2 percent of the total revenue generated in the initial years of the cap-and-trade. But what the United States is willing to offer to other countries is probably going to be key in bringing major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia on board at the international climate talks late this year in Copenhagen.

Financial Services: This committee could take up several portions of the bill, including the elements that deal with grants and loans for green buildings and energy efficiency projects. Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has said he would probably want to take a look at the provisions on regulating the new carbon market that the bill would create.

Transportation and Infrastructure: This panel could claim jurisdiction on anything in the bill dealing with transportation, which the legislation does contain a bit of. But the committee is already at work on a major surface transportation bill that will likely occupy much of its time this summer.

Climate change turning seas acid: scientists

BONN, Germany (Reuters) – Climate change is turning the oceans more acid in a trend that could endanger everything from clams to coral and be irreversible for thousands of years, national science academies said on Monday.

Seventy academies from around the world urged governments meeting in Bonn for climate talks from June 1-12 to take more account of risks to the oceans in a new U.N. treaty for fighting global warming due to be agreed in Copenhagen in December.

“To avoid substantial damage to ocean ecosystems, deep and rapid reductions of carbon dioxide emissions of at least 50 percent (below 1990 levels) by 2050, and much more thereafter, are needed,” the academies said in a joint statement….

The shift disrupts ocean chemistry and attacks the “building blocks needed by many marine organisms, such as corals and shellfish, to produce their skeletons, shells and other hard structures,” it said.

On some projections, levels of acidification in 80 percent of Arctic seas would be corrosive to clams that are vital to the food web by 2060, it said.

And “coral reefs may be dissolving globally,” it said, if atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide were to rise to 550 parts per million (ppm) from a current 387 ppm. Corals are home to many species of fish.

These changes in ocean chemistry are irreversible for many thousands of years, and the biological consequences could last much longer,” it said.

The warning was issued by the Inter-Academy Panel, representing science academies of countries from Albania to Zimbabwe and including those of Australia, Britain, France, Japan and the United States….

The academies’ statement said that, if current rates of carbon emissions continue until 2050, computer models indicate that “the oceans will be more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years.”

Solar Push in Texas Fails

Texas’s efforts to create incentives for solar power production are dead, dashing the industry’s hopes that the huge, sunny state would see a surge in demand for panels.

Last-minute maneuvering this weekend at the end of the state legislative session prevented the passage of $500m of solar rebates. Efforts to change Texas’s renewable portfolio standard to create extra requirements for solar, biomass and geothermal power had failed earlier.

The legislature in Texas, like a handful of other states, meets only every two years. So unless the governor calls a special session, solar incentives will not be considered again until 2011.

This is the second big state to see renewable energy incentives fall short in the legislature in recent days.

Florida’s legislature failed to enact a renewable portfolio standard “” which would have established requirements for the state’s renewable energy use “” despite a plea from the governor, Charlie Crist.

Chinese solar stocks soar as earnings plummet

NEW YORK — Chinese solar equipment manufacturers have taken a big hit in the economic downturn. But you wouldn’t know it from the way their stock values have been performing lately….

Chinese solar companies have been among the strongest performers on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ in recent weeks, outpacing their U.S., Japanese and European counterparts even before the dismal figures came in. Virtually all Chinese solar stocks spiked in trading yesterday…

Analysts say the markets are getting excited about the Chinese government’s announcement of a major incentive package designed to encourage the widespread installation of solar power in that country. In a recent report the global business consultancy Frost & Sullivan says that Chinese manufacturers are poised to weather the economic decline better than many Western manufacturers, as falling PV prices favor their low-cost and increasingly sophisticated production platforms.

“Asian producers have been on the aggressive expansion curve eating into Japanese and European manufacturer’s market shares,” says Frost & Sullivan’s alt-energy research manager Alina Bakhareva in an analysis. “A harsh truth for many smaller European manufacturers is that they are likely to fall prey to the globalisation of the solar industry as companies with stronger balance sheets begin to acquire their less fortunate counterparts.”

Compiled by Sean

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14 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 1st: Next Steps for Waxman-Markey, climate change turning seas acid

  1. paulm says:

    The emission of greenhouse gases from shipping is a serious problem for international climate change policy.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/01/travel-and-transport-climate-change
    They are growing and there is a risk of considerable delay before they are brought under control. It is no longer acceptable to argue that it is to hard to find an adequate basis for dealing with shipping emissions,” said the report, which accepts an estimate that global emissions are around 3% of global CO2 emissions — more than the UK or Canada.

  2. paulm says:

    Insurance too risky- Anticipated hurricanes leaving consumers exposed
    http://www.caymannewsservice.com/science-and-nature/2009/06/01/insurance-too-risky

    Homeowners from New York to Florida and in the Gulf Coast region are again seeing premiums rise and coverage change. And more are being dropped completely by their carriers as insurers try to limit their exposure in high-risk areas. “They just don’t like being in the business … too much risk,”

  3. Nice to see the beginnings of political involvement in the issue, but until this is linked directly to science and the rate of change then it is too little, too late.

    As ANY greenhouse gas fails to reduce, then ALL emission regulations should automatically tighten.

    And if any GHG emission increases, then radical automatic strictures should take effect.

    Congress should stop arguing with physical laws. Setup an automatic process and then move on.

  4. Gary says:

    I think the United States is going to lose its edge in renewable energy technology if its government at the state and federal level simply let petty partisan politics stop much needed investments in renewable energy technology. It seems like our military is ahead of curve with regard to how serious climate change is and why our government needs to do something about it as soon as possible.

    http://climatesecurity.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-military-can-shape-public-opinion.html

  5. paulm says:

    The Dutch strive to make their country ‘climate proof’
    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/06/01/01climatewire-the-dutch-strive-to-make-their-country-clima-44710.html
    AMSTERDAM — “Can we actually save the Netherlands? Or should we abandon part of the country?” This is the basic question Dutch leaders were asking themselves within the context of global warming after witnessing Hurricane Katrina’s devastating blow to New Orleans in 2005.

    Saving the Dutch delta region requires ‘immediate measures’

    The commission concluded that the Dutch can continue to live in their flood-prone delta region if they take immediate measures. “This is music to my ears,” commented Landrieu, who compared this clear conclusion with the “mixed signals the people of south Louisiana” have been receiving from the U.S. federal government about whether or not they should remain where they live.

  6. Doug Gibson says:

    State government isn’t only an issue as regards renewable portfolio standards. Whether we’re giving state utilities boards control over who benefits from carbon allowances or the EPA follows the usual devolutionary model when it regulates carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act, we’re going to see a lot of climate policy dropped into the black box that for most people is their state or local government.

    In North Carolina, for example, environmental activists will tell you that not a single power plant expansion has been ruled to be subject to New Source Review regulations in over a decade. And if you ask them why, they’ll point to a former Progress Energy employee who’s in charge of permitting at the state department of environment and natural resources, appointed by an appointee of a governor who’s been out of office for eight years. The DENR is in charge of regulating the permitting process because that’s how it’s done-the responsibility has been handed over to the state by the EPA.

  7. K L Reddington says:

    I didn’t see any raw data showing acidic changes. All it says is that by 2060 it will be at certain values. I do realize that most CO2 on this plnaet does come from the ocean. It doesn’t go from the air to the ocean. Can Waxman address these questions with facts?
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/31/ocean-acidification-and-corals/

    The world’s marine ecosystems risk being severely damaged by ocean acidification unless there are dramatic cuts in CO2 emissions, warn scientists.

    This sounds very alarming, so being diligent researchers we should of course check the facts. The ocean currently has a pH of 8.1, which is alkaline not acid. In order to become acid, it would have to drop below 7.0. According to Wikipedia “Between 1751 and 1994 surface ocean pH is estimated to have decreased from approximately 8.179 to 8.104.” At that rate, it will take another 3,500 years for the ocean to become even slightly acid. One also has to wonder how they measured the pH of the ocean to 4 decimal places in 1751, since the idea of pH wasn’t introduced until 1909.
    The BBC article then asserts:
    The researchers warn that ocean acidification, which they refer to as “the other CO2 problem”, could make most regions of the ocean inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050, if atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase.

    This does indeed sound alarming, until you consider that corals became common in the oceans during the Ordovician Era – nearly 500 million years ago – when atmospheric CO2 levels were about 10X greater than they are today. (One might also note in the graph below that there was an ice age during the late Ordovician and early Silurian with CO2 levels 10X higher than current levels, and the correlation between CO2 and temperature is essentially nil throughout the Phanerozoic.)

  8. David B. Benson says:

    K L Reddington — Corals can of course evolve, but that is too slow for this terrible event.

    Acidification merely indicates the direction of pH change not the absolute value. Instead, learn about the various forms of calcium carbonate and the needed pH.

  9. Joe,

    You are way too literate to get away with abuse of the most basic language of chemistry. Calling CO2 “carbon” makes the scientific community sound like sports event cheering section, but jumping on the oceans as imminently becoming corrosive is just way too much.

    If you start with a solution characterized by a pH of 8, CO2 in concentrations you are talking about will not cause it to be “acid.” A solution is not “acid” unless its pH is less than 7.

    Yes, you might say, “more acidic,” though even this sounds like trying to make a bad thing into something that sounds cataclysmic.

    Whether it is bad for clams and coral; get to the real issue.

    And then tell me if it is bad for barnacles.

    [JR: Sorry, but this post is just reprinting news stories, which in this case are quoting top scientists. Take up your objections with them.]

  10. K L Reddington,

    I missed your post which better articulates my point, though my emphasis might be more on the way overstatement can tend to damage credibility.

    You probably know about barnacles.

  11. David B Benson

    They did not just say “acidification” which would have been benign enough.

    Instead they said “turning the seas more acid” which can only mean they were acid to begin with, and of course they were not.

    Our host said, “Turning the seas acid.” He did not say “more acid.” No, they will not be turning acid or even acidic. Again, “more acidic” means they were acidic to begin with, which they were not.

    Then 70 world academies of some sort continued, “– levels of acidification –that would be corrosive to clams –” Now we visualize the poor little clams being stripped naked as their calcium carbonate shells bubble off to nothing. If the 70 had any credibility before, it surely has to be reassessed with this inanity.

    I understand the need to make science better understood, but get a grip.

  12. paulm says:

    Splitting hairs while Rome burns, jimmy boy.

  13. Chris Winter says:

    Jim Bullis:

    I concur with Paulm — your objection is just a quibble.

    If I said, “The climate this January is getting more warm,” would you argue that it must have been warm to begin with?