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Reid: Senate floor action before Copenhagen remains on agenda, Cantwell: “We’re happy the bill is moving. That’s the key thing, because we all want to put a price on carbon,” Graham: “It’s a start.”

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"Reid: Senate floor action before Copenhagen remains on agenda, Cantwell: “We’re happy the bill is moving. That’s the key thing, because we all want to put a price on carbon,” Graham: “It’s a start.”"


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Buried in the E&E News (subs. req’d) story this morning about the Kerry-Boxer bill is this piece of news:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said floor action this year remains on the agenda. Asked yesterday whether the Senate is on track to pass a climate bill before December’s international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, he replied, “Yup.”

While I don’t think it’s crucial, I certainly would like to see a fast track for the bill.  Two guesses as to whether these comments by Reid get anywhere near as much attention in the status quo media as his earlier comments that the bill might not get to the floor this year.

Kerry and Boxer intentionally left out the details of key provisions needed to bring along moderates and Republicans, including a nuclear title and final negotiations on coal with carbon capture and storage.  Still, the reaction wasn’t as bad as I had feared:

Plans to include new natural gas incentives drew attention as lawmakers last night began digesting the long-awaited bill.

A new “clean energy” provision rewards companies that switch from power sources with higher emissions than the 2007 power sector average — such as coal-fired or oil-fired power plants — to cleaner fuels including gas.

The plan received high marks from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who said it is a “positive step.”

“Anything we do to promote natural gas would be a very, very smart thing to do,” Landrieu said. “The leaders are hearing from many different parts of the country how much natural gas is out there.”

Landrieu was among nine senators who sent a letter last week to Boxer lobbying for greater incentives for natural gas. Natural gas producers have been aggressively lobbying senators to win greater incentives for the fuel and have garnered support from some swing votes, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).

Natural gas power plants could potentially qualify for the incentives as a fuel that emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than oil, as a backup power source for wind, solar and other renewable energy and as a fuel that could utilize CCS technology.

But the provisions on their own appeared quite unlikely to bring Landrieu on board. “I’m still not convinced that the cap-and-trade framework is the best way to create a carbon constrained future,” she said. “I am not committed to cap and trade under any circumstances.”

Hmm.  That last sentence is confusing.  I’m going to take the positive spin that he means there are some circumstances under which she could support a cap-and-trade pollution reduction and investment bill.  Still, she’s pretty doubtful.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham both said they are seeking major incentives for building new nuclear power plants.

The draft circulating yesterday contains a nuclear energy research title to boost ways of expanding the life of current plants. It also calls for new research to improve spent fuel management and increased grants for nuclear industry work force development.

“This bill does not get us where we need to go on nukes, but it’s a start,” Graham said, adding he plans for more talks with Kerry on the issue.

McCain said he is seeking provisions on fuel storage, recycling and greater loan guarantees for nuclear facilities. He said that the draft bill’s 2020 emissions target would be impossible without a substantial nuclear power title. “Frankly, I don’t see how significant reductions are obtainable unless you have nuclear power, so I don’t pay much attention to the goals,” he said.

That seems not fatally negative.  Assuming the bill on the floor has slightly weaker targets and a substantial nuclear power title, it would seem to me that McCain is gettable, especially if Obama were to lobby him personally and ask for his help, which would certainly be worth it if McCain can bring Graham with him.

Some Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are pushing legislation they say would empower the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to implement robust rules to prevent manipulation and undue speculation.

But others — notably Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — who say regulators have been far too lax in policing energy derivatives trading say these markets should not be allowed at all for carbon.

“I’m not a big fan of trading in general in carbon markets,” Cantwell said. But the senator said she nonetheless welcomed the release of the legislation. “We’re happy the bill is moving. That’s the key thing, because we all want to put a price on carbon.”

Cantwell’s gonna vote for the bill.  I’ll bet that Dorgan will at least vote for cloture, to end the inevitable and immoral conservative filibuster — but again, Obama will need to personally intervene.

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) put out this tough statement:

“The climate legislation proposed today by Senators Boxer and Kerry is a disappointing step in the wrong direction and I am against it.

“Requiring 20 percent emission reductions by 2020 is unrealistic and harmful – it is simply not enough time to deploy the carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency technologies we need.  Period.

“Our nation cannot survive without energy from coal and any viable climate policy must solidify our future by focusing on technology to make coal cleaner faster.

“I will continue studying the bill and all of its implications for our state and the coal industry. This is by no means the defining word on climate legislation in the Senate.

“I remain adamant in my conviction not to support any bill that might threaten the economy, workers or families across West Virginia.

“We should take the time to approach these issues with absolute care and diligence – they require nothing less.”

So the final bill will move in his direction.  I think he’ll support it.  Heck, I’m such an optimist I think there’s a 50-50 chance Byrd will vote for cloture.

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9 Responses to Reid: Senate floor action before Copenhagen remains on agenda, Cantwell: “We’re happy the bill is moving. That’s the key thing, because we all want to put a price on carbon,” Graham: “It’s a start.”

  1. mike roddy says:

    I guess what we end up with will be a lot better than nothing, which is what we’ve had for the last twenty years. At some point, however, we have to stop clinging to nuclear and CCS coal. According to studies by Lazard and ethree, solar thermal, wind, and geothermal are already cheaper than nuclear or CCS Coal, by a large margin. Nuclear has also been shown to be a substantial emitter. I also don’t see why we have to throw a bone to natural gas, which still sends up a lot of CO2, and is poisoning aquifers in Wyoming and Montana.

    But hey, you have to start somewhere.

  2. Jim Bouldin says:

    In light of what Rockefeller said, I agree with McCain and Graham about a greater emphasis on nuclear. Rockefeller epitomizes the homerism that can weaken or sink the bill.

    Nevertheless, the emphasis should be on mandating conservation measures, renewable energy technology development, and land management changes in forest and agricultural land use areas.

  3. Leif says:

    All these past years sustainable energy has been forced to compete price wise with the fossil fuel sector even thou the fossil fuels have been aloud to pollute for free. Now that the sustainable industry has finally reached some parity, we have to subsidize the fossil industry. What a deal… Hopefully “phase out” of the fossil fuel subsidies will address some of this.

  4. Andy Bauer says:

    Which Senator is so high on nuclear that they are willing to host a nuclear waste dump in their home state? Or better yet, their home town?

  5. Mike D says:

    I really don’t see why any Senator wouldn’t. It’s not like we don’t know how radiation works. It can be safely stored pretty much anywhere given the right kind of facility.

  6. Itzik Kornfeld says:

    While the senators are parsing out options, most of which are long-term, e.g., a nuclear power plant will most likely take 8-10 years to build given all the necessary work to design and build a reactor, the European Union is light years ahead of the U.S.

    A book published in August 2009, details alternative/renewable energy sources that appear ready to go. The book by Clarisse Fräss-Ehrfeld (ed.), is titled, Renewable Energy Sources: a Chance to Combat Climate Change (August 2009) Kluwer Law International, Hardcover , 640 pp., ($172.00); ISBN 13: 9789041128706

    Fräss-Ehrfeld notes that the costs of failing to turn around climate change are becoming unthinkable. The stumbling block appears to be “the economy”. The author observes that in fact the world economy is not the issue. She observes that “we know now that if developed countries agree to cut their collective emissions by 30% by 2020, annual economic growth would be trimmed by less than 0.2% – a small price to pay to avoid the potential long-term costs of climate change.” Indeed Fräss-Ehrfeld posits that “it is easy to appreciate the positive value of other benefits such as reduced air pollution, security of energy supply at predictable prices, and improved competitiveness through innovation.”

    Her edited book goes to the heart of the debate. How do we change our way of life? The chapters in her book provide a detailed analysis for academics and the growing number of enterprises and investors committed to combating climate change with renewable energy technologies, of the opportunities and obstacles involved in developing a coherent and effective business strategy. She addresses various options for Renewable Energy Sources (RES), both existing and under development. And demonstrates how the 27 EU countries are quickly out-pacing the U.S. in tackling the enormous problems entailed by climate change,

    The book’s table of contents follows.

    Deloitte Services in the Renewable Energy Sector. I. Introduction. II. The Climate Change Issue: An Overview. 1. Definition of Climate Change. 2. International Conventions Concerning the Climate Change Issue. 3. Observed Effects and Impacts of Climate Change. 4. Actions Taken by the International Community. 5. Adaptation to and Mitigation of Climate Change. III. The Role of the European Union (EU). 1. Overview. 2. European Energy Policy. 3. The EU Renewable Energy Roadmap. 4. Second Strategic Energy Review: An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan. 5. Communication of the Commission in View of Copenhagen 2009. IV. Renewable Energy: A Chance to Combat Climate Change. 1. Introduction. 2. Overview of Existing Energy Sources. 3. Costs, Advantages and Disadvantages of the Different (Renewable) Energy Sources. 4. Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and their Markets. 5. Renewable Energy Targets: Progress to Date. V. EU State Aid Policy and its Programs for Renewable Energy Investments. 1. European State Aid Policy: A Brief Overview. 2. EU Regulations in View of State Aid. 3. Community Guidelines on State Aid for Environmental Protection. 4. Financing Mechanisms and Institutions in the European Union. 5. Current EU Funding Programs for Renewable Energy. VI. National Instruments and Policies to Promote Renewable Energy Sources (RES). 1. Introduction. 2. National Instruments to Promote Renewable Energy Sources (RES). 3. National Policies to Promote Renewable Energy Sources (RES). VII. Promotion Schemes and Feed-in Tariffs for Renewable Energy Sources within the EU-27: A Detailed Country Analysis. VIII. Conclusion and Outlook.

    Good reading and learning!

  7. G.Bettanini says:

    Solar thermodynamic and wind energy today are not cheaper than nuclear. CSS Coal is only in the hypotesis stage.
    Wind will (maybe) be cheaper than nuclear in 10 years but only with giant turbines builded in zones with 10 m/s medium wind speed.
    Solar thermodynamic costs today at least 3 times more than nuclear, Nevada Solar One plant costed 266 million $ and produces only 130 GWh/y of energy.

  8. Will says:

    Sorry, isn’t there $10 billion in there for the coal industry? How much more does Rockefeller want, and how long are we going to risk the planet over a single replaceable industry? Age…of…Stupid

  9. David B. Benson says:

    G.Bettanini — According to this
    study commisioned by the State of California, costs are

    Busbar (generation) cost in cents per kilowatt-hour in 2008 dollars:

    Biogas: 8.552
    Wind: 8.910
    Gas Combined Cycle: 9.382
    Geothermal: 10.182
    Hydroelectric: 10.527
    Coal Supercritical: 10.554
    Coal Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC): 11.481
    Solar thermal: 12.653
    Nuclear: 15.316
    Biomass: 16.485
    Coal IGCC with Carbon Capture & Storage (IGCC with CCS): 17.317

    so using these figures, wind and even solar thermal are less expensive than new nuclear. Despite this, I would still like to see DoE sponored research and development of an integrated fast reactor and a thorium cycle reactor. The former for its ability to clean up the radioactive waste piles and the latter for its promise as an efficient and flexible source for electiricity generation.