35 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 8, 2011: Upton, dismissing human role in warming, plans to block emissions rules; Kochs spent big on EPA foes
The chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday he’ll press forward with legislation to block the Obama administration’s plan to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to climate change.
But Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) warned that some competing proposals to achieve that goal could backfire.
Mr. Upton, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said the Environmental Protection Agency shouldn’t regulate companies’ emissions of greenhouse gases, and that permanently stripping the agency of its authority to do so is the best way to give businesses clarity about federal policy.
Mr. Upton spoke ahead of a hearing that his committee is scheduled to hold Wednesday on draft legislation – introduced last week – that would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.
Mr. Upton said the hearing would feature testimony by the EPA’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, and Texas’ attorney general, Greg Abbott, who has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legal and scientific arguments behind the EPA’s regulations to combat climate change….
Mr. Upton, who has a small-scale model of a wind turbine in his office, said he favors greater use of cleaner energy sources by U.S. businesses. But he said he does not favor using “giant subsidies” to encourage companies to use wind, solar or other low-carbon power sources.
“You don’t subsidize different forms of power — you let the market run on its own,” Mr. Upton said in the interview.
Some of Mr. Upton’s fellow Republicans have broached the idea of blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gases by denying the agency funds needed to implement its proposed regulations.
Mr. Upton said such a measure would simply keep U.S. businesses “on pins and needles” and possibly delay companies’ construction investment decisions, since companies could still be legally obligated to get air-quality permits from the agency or state regulators — and if the agency didn’t have the money to issue the permits, the projects could still be delayed.
“It could be a bigger can of worms than you might imagine,” Mr. Upton said. “You need a legislative fix” to quash the EPA’s legal authority altogether, he added.
Mr. Upton’s draft proposal to block the EPA regulation has drawn criticism from environmentalists, some of whom have accused him of backtracking on past statements in which he described climate change as “a serious problem” and that the U.S. has a responsibility to reduce its emissions.
“The market is tilted in favor of the dirty energy sources, and we’re paying for it with our health,” said David Doniger, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Somehow you have to level the playing field so that public health and natural resources are protected from the pollution.”
Pressed to clarify his stance on climate change, which he termed a “serious problem that necessitates serious solutions” in 2009, Upton said he accepts recent scientific findings that the planet is warming but is not prepared to say the shift is “man-made.” That position puts him in line with a growing portion of the GOP, particularly the tea party-backed House freshman class but is sure to further alarm green groups unnerved by Upton’s increasing alignment with conservatives.
If you really want to influence politics, it’s not enough to fund think-tankers and build a network of media buddies. You also need some friends in high places. The brothers Koch know that better than anyone, and they’ve spent big on the members of Congress who will craft energy policy for the next two years.
The Los Angeles Times has a piece today looking at the election expenditures that the Kochs’ Kansas-based oil and gas conglomerate and its Political Action Committee have made in recent years. As it turns out, much of the money has gone to Republican candidates (and a few Democrats) who now hold prime seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This election cycle, Koch passed Exxon and Valero as the largest oil and gas sector donor to current members of the committee. The Kochs and their employees gave $279,500 to 22 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats on the committee during the 2010 election cycle. Of the five Democrats that Koch PAC supported in 2010, three voted against the cap and trade bill in 2009″”John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike Ross of Arkansas. From the article:
Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group “” Americans for Prosperity””to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.
Despite Newt Gingrich’s recent call to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, new polls show Americans want the EPA to do more – not less — and want Congress to provide incentives for clean energy sources such as solar and wind.
Gingrich, former GOP House speaker and potential 2012 presidential candidate, proposed abolishing the EPA in a speech last month in Iowa and replacing it with an “Environmental Solutions Agency,” according to POLITICO. He said the new agency would spur innovation and new technology, not regulation and litigation.
To see how Americans feel about this, the Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a survey by ORC International. Only 25% backed Gingrich’s plan to abolish the EPA while 67% opposed it, including 61% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats, according to the phone survey of 1,007 adults taken Jan. 27-30. The survey did not ask them what they think of Gingrich’s alternate agency idea.
Two top House Republicans and the Senate’s leading global warming skeptic asked the Supreme Court Monday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to force electric utilities to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), his energy lieutenant Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) submitted an amicus brief Monday in the high-profile American Electric Power v. Connecticut case.
The lawmakers urged the judges to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed states and environmental groups to move ahead with a public “nuisance” lawsuit seeking to force the utilities to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
“[C]ourts are not equipped to make judgments about the appropriate emissions standards for utilities located throughout the country,” the lawmakers wrote. “Judicial establishment of such standards would violate decades of Supreme Court precedent and unconstitutionally interfere with Congressional and Executive branch efforts to address climate change-related matters.”
The Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank with strong White House ties, is laying down a marker in the battle to shape energy legislation this year.
The group on Monday circulated “principles” to guide a “clean energy standard” – that’s the proposal President Obama is pushing that would require a steep increase in low-carbon power generation.
Under Obama’s plan, utilities would supply 80 percent of their power from sources like renewables, nuclear energy, and natural gas by 2035. But CAP – in what may foreshadow a broader push by liberal groups – is calling for provisions that ensure renewable sources like wind and solar, along with energy efficiency, meet a substantial part of the target.
In the memo circulated Monday, the group applauds Obama’s plan, but adds: “In embracing this agenda, however, we emphasize that it is essential that such a policy builds a strong market for innovative clean energy technologies in order to foster the rapid expansion of the emerging American clean-tech industry.”
The yachts and gulls might need to make some room off the mid-Atlantic coast for the offshore wind turbines that the government is hoping to soon install.
Federal agencies are jumping on the goal that President Obama set in his State of the Union address last month, aiming to derive 80% of all electricity generation across the country from clean energy sources by 2035.
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar paired up Monday to announce a new game plan that will set up a network of wind turbines off the Eastern seaboard potentially by the end of the year.
The government will offer $50.5 million in funding for research and development over the next five years and identified potential sites on the outer continental shelf off of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.