Defying conventional wisdom that a hardened partisan divide and looming midterm elections will prevent the type of compromises necessary for big reforms, business leaders and environmentalists are redoubling their efforts to advance an energy and climate bill in the Senate.
It’s a seemingly improbable goal, but upending that way of thinking is one of the objectives of a Capitol Hill lobbying blitz launched last week by executives from nearly 200 large and small companies. A dozen CEOs ”” including Shell Oil’s Marvin Odum, Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers and NRG Energy’s David Crane ”” are scheduled to meet with lawmakers and administration officials Tuesday.
“Comprehensive climate change legislation is not part of the liberal agenda,” said Crane, whose company operates a wide range of energy facilities that run from wind to coal to nuclear. “It’s a decidedly centrist thing. We reduce carbon emissions, and we reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Both parts of the political spectrum should come together on that.”
“Any capitalist with a pulse knows China is moving forward,” said Tad Segal, a spokesman for U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of business and environmental groups that favor reform. “We can solve a crisis at the same time we grow jobs.”
Another business coalition, called We Can Lead, which includes a mix of pro-reform businesses, is taking the campaign to the public by running television and print ads urging Congress to “move swiftly and boldly” and pass legislation.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu will defend his department’s hefty research and development budget request this week to House lawmakers.
The White House’s $28.4 billion fiscal 2011 budget request for the Energy Department includes an $8.75 billion nod to nondefense energy-related R&D efforts, including $5.1 billion for the Office of Science, $2.4 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $300 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.
Total R&D spending throughout the department would increase by 3.5 percent over fiscal 2010 appropriated levels under the White House proposal.
The administration’s spending proposal is up from $8.45 billion appropriated by Congress in fiscal 2010 and $8.47 billion in fiscal 2009. DOE research and development spending also got a $5.5 billion leg up from the stimulus bill.
President Obama said investments in clean energy and scientific research would help boost the economy.
“That’s why we build on the largest investment in clean energy in history, as well as increase investment in scientific research, so that we are fostering the industries and jobs of the future right here in America,” Obama said last week.
The House Science and Technology Committee meets Thursday to discuss the R&D budget request with Chu. The committee has jurisdiction over research and development efforts at most federal agencies.
The committee was responsible for crafting and pushing through a broad 2007 research and education bill that first authorized ARPA-E. Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is an avid proponent of the program and is currently working to push a bill reauthorizing the agency through his committee. He will likely praise Chu for his department’s proposal to boost funding for that program, which is designed to foster high-risk, high-reward research into new energy technologies.
The fledgling program got its first funding — $15 million — in a fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill and a $400 million boost in last year’s stimulus package. But Congress failed to appropriate any more funds in fiscal 2010, and if accepted, the funding for fiscal 2011 would be the first regular funding for the agency, which has so far awarded 37 grants of about $4 million each.
The administration’s proposal to establish another energy “innovation hub” for batteries and energy storage is another topic that lawmakers will likely broach with Chu. In the administration’s fiscal 2010 spending request, Chu laid plans for establishing eight hubs at about $30 million each that would bring together scientists from universities, national laboratories and the private sector to focus on advancing specific energy technology problems.
But Congress appropriated funds for only three of the hubs — fuels from sunlight, energy efficiency in buildings, and nuclear simulation and modeling — at $22 million each.
In its 2011 proposal, the administration is requesting a total of $107 million for the hubs: $34 million for the new batteries and energy storage hub and additional funding for each of the previously existing hubs.
“Of all the R&D programs, I personally feel very strongly about ARPA-E and the innovation hubs,” Chu said last week (E&ENews PM, Feb. 1).
But while the administration has proposed a boost for renewable and clean energy research efforts within DOE, it would cut funding for fossil energy research programs. The administration would spend $587 million on fossil energy research and development, a 13 percent decrease from the level appropriated by Congress in fiscal 2010.
Most of the proposed fossil research funding for 2011 would focus on carbon capture and sequestration for coal-fired power plants. In fact, the administration’s budget request cuts funding entirely for oil and natural gas R&D programs, including funding for a program researching the potential to extract natural gas from methane hydrates and about $50 million for an ultra-deepwater exploration program.
“We feel the oil and gas companies can take that on,” Chu said (E&E Daily, Feb. 2).
But he could face questions from lawmakers about the wisdom behind cutting funding for traditional energy research.
Last week, senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee raised eyebrows at the move, as well as others within the department that would hinder oil and gas companies (Greenwire, Feb. 4).
‘If a consensus can be reached, we want to support that.’
The U.N.’s panel of climate experts said on Friday it was reviewing whether it wrongly said that more than half of the Netherlands is below sea level in a new glitch after exaggerating the thaw of Himalayan glaciers
We are looking into it,” said Brenda Abrar-Milani, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based Secretariat of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A 2007 report stretching to about 3,000 pages includes the sentence that “the Netherlands is an example of a country highly susceptible to both sea-level rise and river flooding because 55 percent of its territory is below sea level.”
The main impact of climate change will be on water supplies and the world needs to learn from past cooperation such as over the Indus or Mekong Rivers to help avert future conflicts, experts said on Sunday.
Desertification, flash floods, melting glaciers, heatwaves, cyclones or water-borne diseases such as cholera are among the impacts of global warming inextricably tied to water. And competition for supplies might cause conflicts.
“The main manifestations of rising temperatures…are about water,” said Zafar Adeel, chair of UN-Water which coordinates work on water among 26 U.N. agencies.
“It has an impact on all parts of our life as a society, on natural systems, habitats,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview. Disruptions may threaten farming or fresh water supplies from Africa to the Middle East.
A 750-year-old core of ice showing a link between increased snow over Antarctica and drought in south-west Western Australia could provide evidence that the climate is changing because of human activity.
Dr Tas van Ommen, from the Australian Antarctic Division, has studied the ice core taken from from Law Dome in eastern Antarctica.
His research shows that rainfall over south-west Western Australia has decreased between 15 and 20 per cent since the 1960s, while snowfall at Law Dome has increased 10 per cent over the same period.
Dr van Ommen says this suggests there’s been a change in atmospheric circulation patterns off southern Australia.
In a statement, he says that change doesn’t appear to be a natural event, and may in fact be caused by human activities that have reduced ozone and increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The research is published today in the international scientific journal Nature Geoscience.