Energy and Global Warming News for February 11th: Utilities continue to pursue economywide bill to cut global warming pollution sharply

Economywide bill still top priority for utility companies

The association of the nation’s largest utilities will continue to pursue passage of an economywide bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions this year, the president of the Edison Electric Institute said yesterday.

Despite the partisan divide, EEI will continue its fight for legislation to reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 and limits price increases on customers, Tom Kuhn told financial investors and analysts in New York.

Kuhn stressed that congressional legislation is much preferred to rules set by U.S. EPA or state and local regulations.

“Only well-designed comprehensive climate legislation can contemplate economywide GHG emissions reductions within the context of the current and projected economic landscape, the availability of technology, the reliability of the nation’s power sector and the affordability of its energy supply,” Kuhn said in his “state of the industry” speech.

Kuhn noted the path forward for a climate bill will be difficult this year because of the current divisive atmosphere on the Hill. “Our optimism for 2010 may be tempered somewhat by the very challenging year ahead in Washington. The partisan divide on Capitol Hill remains wide. There seems to be little room for finding common ground, and little appetite for compromise,” he said.

Democrats’ ability to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this session looks doubtful as the Senate continues to have difficulty moving legislation amidst partisan bickering. The chamber is facing a continued battle on health care, is starting a new battle to pass a combined tax extension and jobs bill, and plans to tackle a comprehensive financial reform bill before getting to a climate bill.

Meanwhile, some senators are working on variations of a cap-and-trade mechanism passed by the House last summer, which may find more supporting votes in the Senate. An effort by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appears to have the most momentum, although it is not clear if the bill will follow the cap-and-trade approach or a combination of several mechanisms.

Another approach being offered by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) gives revenues from carbon auctions back to tax payers. And still another approach would only cap emissions for the power sector (E&E Daily, Feb. 4).

EEI members are working hard to keep any climate bill economywide, Kuhn said, and the industry’s support was significant in passing the House climate bill last June. The electric utility industry spent at least $134.7 million on lobbying efforts in 2009, narrowly trailing the $154 million spent by oil and gas companies on lobbying last year, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. It is still less than the $161.3 million the electric utility industry spent in 2008 (Greenwire, Feb. 2).

EEI also will still be pushing for a bill that provides 40 percent emission allocations to the electric power sector with the majority given to local distribution companies; sets a top and bottom carbon price or “price collar”; and, aligns targets with available clean energy technology, Kuhn said.

Kuhn said other legislative priorities this year include maintaining some regulatory exemption for utilities in the over-the-counter derivative markets under proposed comprehensive financial reform legislation, keeping a 15 percent dividend tax rate and extending the 50 percent bonus depreciation provision.

EEI will also be very active in EPA’s decision on whether coal combustion products, like coal ash, should be regulated as a “hazardous waste.” Such classification would cost the industry $20 billion in compliance costs, Kuhn said.

Obama Budget Retools FWS for Warming World

Despite a backlog of endangered species issues and a host of current lawsuits, the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to focus firmly on the future

Climate change is the theme for the agency’s $1.65 billion discretionary budget plan for fiscal 2011.

“The budget does reflect a switch in our priorities,” said Chris Nolin, head of the service’s budget division. “Our primary focus is reorienting the agency so we can address climate change. We need to start looking at climate change in everything we do. That was really the focus of this budget.”

The Obama administration has proposed redirecting cash and personnel toward climate research and acquisition of land that would become corridors for wildlife moving as temperatures rise and habitat changes. Some wildlife biologists and environmental groups have welcomed the change, but the agency’s budget worries other environmentalists who are concerned the agency may lose ground on endangered species protection.

Los Angeles eyes Owens Lake for huge solar project

An old battleground of California’s water wars could turn into one of the largest solar farms in the world, with thousands of shiny black and blue panels mounted across the desiccated, salty white crust of Owens Lake.

That’s the plan by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), the largest public utility in the United States.

The project may eventually generate 3 to 5 gigawatts of power — enough for 10 percent of California’s power supply — and include other utilities like PG&E and Southern California Edison and independent power producers.

Its scale would beat the largest current project, planned by industry bellwether First Solar in China

Canada’s mild climate leaves Winter Olympics short of snow

Providing snow in the midst of a Canadian winter ought to be relatively uncomplicated. But the efforts of the Vancouver games organising committee to ensure sufficient snow cover for the opening day on Friday could just about qualify as an Olympic event in its own right.

They have tried airlifting snow by helicopter at five-minute intervals; hauling snow by the lorryload from three hours away; shooting ice and water out of a snow cannon; spreading layers of snow with a Zamboni ice-smoothing truck; and studding the slopes with tubes packed full of dry ice, to keep the snow from melting, and replenishing them every 12 hours.

“The amount of work that has been done against these conditions is really hard to believe,” Jack Furlong, the head of the committee, said this week.

Climate science emails cannot destroy argument that world is warming, and humans are responsible

Is the science of climate change fatally flawed by the climategate revelations? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.  None of the 1,073 emails plus 3,587 files containing documents, raw data and ­computer code upsets the 200-year-old science behind the “greenhouse effect” of gases such as carbon dioxide, which traps solar heat and warms the atmosphere. Nothing changes the fact that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions from burning carbon-based fuels such as coal and oil. Nor the calculations by physicists that for every square metre of the Earth’s surface, 1.6 watts more energy enters the atmosphere than leaves it.

And we know the world is warming as a result. Thousands of thermometers in areas remote from any conceivable local urban influences tell us that. The oceans are warming too. The great majority of the world’s glaciers are retreating, Arctic sea ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising ever faster, trees are climbing up hillsides and permafrost is melting.

Boycott of oil sands fuel called ‘greenwashing’

Upscale U.S. grocer Whole Foods Markets (WFMI-Q28.930.481.69%) assures its eco-aware shoppers that its meat has no antibiotics, that its coffee and roses are fair-traded and, now, that its organic produce is delivered using oil-sands-free fuel – for the most part.

Whole Foods’ trucks travel more than 35 million kilometres annually, delivering organic and natural products to its 284 North American outlets, items such as Manchego cheese from Spain and Himalania-chocolate-covered Goji berries from China.

The earthy grocer has now committed to reducing its carbon footprint further by shunning, where possible, Canada’s oil sands producers and the U.S. refiners who market gasoline and diesel made from Alberta’s bitumen, which creates more emissions than conventional, light oil.

The Electric Car Revolution Will Soon Take to the Streets

Electric cars are a green movement that is finally moving. Shunted to the side as the public indulged its love affair with gas-guzzling SUVs and four-wheel-drive trucks, history has finally caught up with the plug-in vehicle.
The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is the domestic auto industry’s biggest annual showcase, and the new models have traditionally been brought out in a son et lumi¨re of dancing girls, deafening music, and dry ice smoke. The few green cars that made it this far were usually for display only “” very few actually made it to showroom

But not this year. It’s become a race to market for green cars, and soon you’ll be able to buy many of the electric vehicles that were on display last week in Detroit. The auto show featured one hybrid and battery electric car introduction after another. Although the only truly road-worthy, plug-in electric vehicle you can buy today is the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, by the end of 2010 it will be joined by such contenders as the Nissan Leaf, Coda sedan, and the Think City.

3 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for February 11th: Utilities continue to pursue economywide bill to cut global warming pollution sharply

  1. homunq says:

    I’d love for this blog to do an article on kite-based wind power. Right now, it seems to be the domain of small-time promoters, which is certainly a point against it. Nevertheless, it has several obvious advantages – greater height (with corresponding power and reliability improvements); less infrastructure; and low torque for offshore use – versus windmills. It also would seem, naively, not to need nearly as much breakthrough technology as some things which get a lot more, um, airtime, such as nontraditional nuclear plants, carbon sequestration, not to mention fusion or geoengineering. To my mind, that would mean kite:windmill :: CSE:solar cells – a nontraditional approach which nevertheless has the potential to really take off.

    However, as an amateur observer, I’m really dependent on sources like your blog for a more thorough examination of the promise and pitfalls.

  2. fj2 says:

    1. homunq “kit-based wind power.”

    in some far out situations it might be even more fun using wind power directly without converting it to electricity.

    ice boats had clocked speeds as high as 144 miles per hour back in 1914.

    what about being able to adjust small rails on-demand for the proper tack to enable vehicles to attain similar speeds?

  3. homunq says:

    Using the mechanical power directly is great for sports. However, gusty winds, tangled strings, and difficult launches make it impractical for transportation. (In fact, these are the hurdles for stationary power plants. However, the hurdles are far less in that case, and if you overcome them, kite power could pass windmill power and provide large percentages of electricity – many wedges. In fact, kites can potentially “ride” strong gusts and get a lot more power from them than a windmill could.)