Energy and global warming news for March 8, 2011: House GOP bill smashes environmental safeguards; Climate change affects those least responsible–study

House GOP budget bill aims to slash environmental regulation

The plan to cut $60 billion from the federal budget targets environmental programs so widely it appears to be as much an ideological gambit as a budgetary one. “The sheer scope of it is overwhelming,” a UCLA environmental law expert says.

The House spending bill passed last month wouldn’t just chop $60 billion from the federal budget “” it seeks to cut a broad swath through environmental regulation.

From fish protections in California to water pollution limits in Florida and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, environmental programs were targets of the Republican budget resolution, which appears to have been as much about setting a political agenda as about deficit reduction.

Democrats have promised to block the environmental and other cuts in the Senate, where they hold a slim majority, and President Obama has raised the threat of a veto, making it unlikely that many of the hits in the proposal will survive. Lawmakers last week passed a stopgap measure to keep the government operating while they hash out a compromise.

But few expect the recently elected and highly motivated GOP majority in the House to give up. “I think they’re going to try and use every tactic in the book,” said Nick Loris, a research associate with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “This is largely what they came into office saying they were going to do.”

… In California, the resolution would kill appropriations for a salmon restoration program on the San Joaquin River as well as funding for Endangered Species Act fish protections that have reduced water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The measure also withdraws funding for a study on the removal of hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River and chops $15 million from the Presidio Trust in San Francisco.

The proposal slices the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 30% “” the largest cut to any agency. It bars the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and from implementing new water pollution limits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Florida.

The bill stops the agency from enforcing new limits on toxic emissions, such as mercury, from cement plants and from updating air pollution standards on dust and other coarse particulate matter that exacerbate asthma and lung ailments. It withdraws funding for the enforcement of dredge and fill regulations that the EPA recently used to halt a big mountaintop-removal coal project in West Virginia.

The legislation blocks a new Bureau of Land Management initiative to identify and protect pristine public lands in the West and withholds funding for a new Forest Service management plan that would restrict off-road vehicle use in national forests. It also removes Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rockies and eliminates hundreds of millions of dollars from a federal land acquisition program.

Study: Climate change affects those least responsible

Climate change will have the greatest impact on people least responsible for causing it, new research shows.

In an eye-catching map, researchers at McGill University show the irony long suspected by scientists — that countries producing the least greenhouse gases per-capita are often the most vulnerable to climate change.

The areas in red, those closest to the equator, will likely be affected the most. They include central South America, the Arabian Peninsula and much of Africa. Areas in yellow are expected to have a moderate impact and those in blue, the least effect. The United States and western Europe, which emit high greenhouse gases per capita, are projected to have moderate-to-mild impact. Areas in white lack either data or people.

“Take Somalia for instance,” study co-author Jason Samson, a PhD candidate in McGill’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences, said in announcing the findings. “Because it’s so hot there, it’s already very difficult to grow things, and it will only become more difficult if the temperature rises. It’s also clear that Somalia is not a big contributor of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

“Now thanks to this map,” he added, “we have concrete quantitative evidence of the disparity between the causes and the consequences of climate change at a national level.”

Clean energy innovation: An investment in the future

Innovation is the engine of our economy – on this much both parties agree. Beginning with research and new inventions and continuing through to commercialization and the creation of new markets, innovation drives economic growth and creates jobs.

With almost eight million jobs lost in this past recession, investment in innovation is more necessary than ever. And as Congress debates the federal budget, it should prioritize investment in one emerging innovation sector of particular economic and strategic importance: Clean energy.

With demand for energy projected to skyrocket this century, the U.S. is positioned to create new companies across the clean energy landscape – companies researching, developing and manufacturing new energy technologies as well as companies building renewable energy generation projects, implementing energy efficiency programs, delivering energy management services and financing new projects. Hundreds of millions of jobs will be created globally in this sector over the next decade.

The next generation of clean-tech companies can be started and grown here, but only if the federal government and private sector both invest in research and innovation.

As the debate in D.C. focuses on budgets and jobs, it’s critically important to consider the vital role for the federal government in research.  The starting blocks for innovation industries is research, and the federal government plays a crucial role, representing the bulk of clean energy basic research, and major portion of applied research (needed for breakthroughs to continue to bring down the cost of energy).  At about $5 billion for federal basic and applied research, our total level of investment is inadequate.

Waxman: House GOP More Anti-Science Than Ever

Over the years, there have been plenty of hard-fought environmental skirmishes in Congress, but Henry Waxman thinks the latest battle over the future of climate policy in the US could be the toughest one yet. In remarks at the Center for American Progress on Monday, the California Democrat, who helped to usher in 1990’s landmark Clean Air Act amendments, accused his Republican colleagues of taking an increasingly anti-science bent.

“Protection of the environment is now a partisan battleground,” Waxman said. “On climate change, we can’t even agree whether there is a problem.” That’s not to say things were peachy in the past; there were of course major battles over measures to curb acid rain, toxic power plant emissions, and other environmental protections. But, Waxman said, “I’ve never been in a Congress where there was such an overwhelming disconnect between science and public policy.”

His remarks come at the beginning of what is shaping up to be an interesting week on that front. On Tuesday, the House subcommittee on energy and power will hold a hearing on climate science and the Environmental Protection Agency’s new greenhouse gas regulations. And on Thursday, Republicans on that committee plan to move forward with legislation that would decimate those rules.

House and Senate Republicans have put forward a joint proposal that would not only amend the Clean Air Act to say explicitly that it does not apply to greenhouse gas emissions, but would also nullify the EPA’s scientific finding that those gases pose a threat to humankind (a conclusion that even the Bush-era EPA had reached).

Why climate change is now irrelevant to clean energy

Clean energy isn’t about climate change any more, it’s about China. So says cleantech investor Alex Taussig. That’s his takeaway from last week’s summit of ARPA-E, the government agency tasked with funding energy innovations so crazy or with such far-off payouts that no private company would ever touch them.

“It used to be that the [three] legs of the cleantech stool were Economics, Security, and Environment,” Taussig blogs at GigaOm. But in an uncertain political and economic climate, the environment has taken a back seat to a much more immediate “threat”: China.

Investment in our clean energy future has a whole new rationale — fear of the mythic other!:

[W]e’ve pivoted. China is now the third leg of the cleantech stool.

China is much scarier than global warming to the average American. Last year, China invested seven times more than Americans did into clean infrastructure, when measured as a percent of GDP. Its economy is growing rapidly, while ours is flattening out. It has the political flexibility to build projects “by fiat,” while we’re stuck in the muck and mire of permitting and NIMBYism.

Dems highlight climate science to counter GOP push on EPA rules

House Democrats are emphasizing widespread scientific agreement on climate science in a bid to counter GOP-backed legislation that would scuttle federal greenhouse gas regulations.

Staff for House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) circulated a memo Monday in advance of Tuesday’s committee hearing on climate science and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

It notes that legislation to block EPA powers that committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is pushing would repeal EPA’s 2009 “endangerment finding” “” the conclusion that greenhouse gases threaten humans, which is the legal underpinning for EPA moving ahead with regulations under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.

“Legislatively repealing this scientific determination is inconsistent with the consensus scientific views on climate change,” the memo obtained by E2 states.

EPA grants $32 million to study air pollution impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will give four universities $8 million each to study how air pollution affects the public’s health.

The EPA last year adopted stricter rules, already in place in California and 13 other states, that require emissions from new cars sold or leased to be cut 30 percent by 2016. Under the standards, new vehicles would have to average 35.5 miles per gallon.

Despite the projected decline in emissions, the EPA is still seeking ways to improve air quality and hopes research from schools in Atlanta, Boston, East Lansing, Mich., and Seattle will help. Emory University, Harvard University, Michigan State University and the University of Washington will receive grants totaling $32 million to study how air pollution affects children and senior citizens.

The universities will consider whether living in certain communities increases susceptibility to respiratory problems stemming from air pollution.

Each school will start a “Clean Air Research Center,” EPA assistant administrator for research and development Paul Anastas said in a statement announcing the funding.

“These centers are critical to understanding how to improve air quality and protect Americans’ health from complex mixtures of air pollutants,” Anastas said. “The centers will focus on important scientific questions remaining in air research.”

27 Responses to Energy and global warming news for March 8, 2011: House GOP bill smashes environmental safeguards; Climate change affects those least responsible–study

  1. paulm says:

    “… women must be at the heart of the fund as they are amongst the hardest hit by climate change and at the forefront of finding solutions to deal with it.”

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    A small colony of emperor penguins on an island off the West Antarctic Peninsula is gone, and the most likely culprit is loss of sea ice caused by warming. Although it has been predicted that penguins could suffer greatly because of global warming, this is the first time the disappearance of a colony has been documented.

    The researchers, however, caution that their study is hampered by a lack of long-term information on emperor penguins, both at this site and in general, and their environment.

  3. MightyDrunken says:

    “It bars the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and from implementing new water pollution limits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and in Florida.

    The bill stops the agency from enforcing new limits on toxic emissions, such as mercury, from cement plants and from updating air pollution standards on dust and other coarse particulate matter that exacerbate asthma and lung ailments.”

    What the hell, Europe has managed fine with similar limits, is the US economy too weak to adapt? Or are the GOP just crazy?

  4. Wes Rolley says:

    Everyone who regularly reads this blog knows that the deck is stacked in terms of getting out the information. One of the most ubiquitous commercials currently running on national TV encourages us all to go look at the American Petroleum Institute funded web site

    There you can find all of the good images and forward thinking, hopeful, aspirational messages that we seem to lack: A photo of a smiling young girl with the phrase “Exploring tomorrows medicines”. Who would not want to do that?

    There is no way that we can counter ever present nature of these commercials, I’ve even seen them on the Rachel Maddow Show. We have to counter the message, not that it makes us better, but that it is making our children sick, that they cause asthma so that they can sell you the cure. etc.

  5. Alex Taussig’s comments certainly are relevant, but I believe that the China issue, as opposed to replacing global warming, represents a new, fourth leg of the green investing stool. Plenty of us in the industry still cite warming as a macroeconomic reason for growth in cleantech. China, of course, being a huge component of the warming, security and economic stories, deserves to be discussed in it’s own right (as I did here:, and scaring people with the more immediate threat of being left behind technologically may win more converts in the short run, but remember, the only reason China is running so hard with cleantech is that they themselves fear climate change. That is the issue with the power to collapse civilization, and in the long run, will be the only macro focus worth addressing.

  6. paulm says:

    PostPartisan – Won’t climate change help America?

    Residents complain about swamped docks and flooded streets. And Larry Atkinson, a professor at Old Dominion University, says that Northrop Grumman is worried after its dry dock in Newport News flooded last year. If this occurred regularly, it would halt production of aircraft carriers and other naval operations at a site that could otherwise be productive for decades. A 2009 Northrop Grumman report found that “future rise in sea-level is uncertain only in magnitude,” imperiling the company’s “several multi-billion dollar national assets” on American coasts.

  7. paulm says:

    2009 Northrop Grumman report “future rise in sea-level is uncertain only in magnitude,”

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    The Sunny, which honors each year’s greatest contribution to solar energy in Colorado, may not be the most prestigious award — but at nearly 40 pounds, it could be the heaviest.

    “Each year since it was first awarded in 1989, each recipient has been invited to add something associated with solar energy,” said Ken Regelson, a Boulder energy consultant and the 2011 recipient. “It is getting a little hard to handle. I was thinking one contribution I could make was luggage wheels.”

    Read more: Award-winning Boulder energy consultant gets his day in the sun – The Denver Post

  9. Dickensian American says:

    Food security related:

    A few weeks back, a reader who is also an organic farmer piped in on a thread about the merits of organic farming mixed with some boots on the ground realism. If that reader is still with us, I’m curious what he or she thinks of the following post at Daily Kos and the source report:!-Oh!-OMG!-Oh-yes!-UN-Report-Just-Gave-Me-an-Orgasm

    from the post’s intro:

    The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter released a report on agroecology today, which you can access at And. It. Is. Amazing. Seriously. It says that eco-farming (agroecology) can DOUBLE food production in 10 years.

  10. Michael T. says:

    NOAA: U.S. Temperature and Precipitation Near-Normal in February

    March 8, 2011

    February 2011 was near normal for both temperature and precipitation averaged across the contiguous United States, according to the latest NOAA State of the Climate report issued today. The February average temperature was 34.0 F, which is 0.7 F below the long-term (1901–2000) average. Last month’s average precipitation was 1.81 inches, 0.21 inch below the same average. February marked the end of the meteorological winter (December–February), which featured below normal temperature and precipitation for the three-month period.

    February 2011 State of the Climate Full Report:

    U.S. Temperature and Precipitation Data:

  11. Aaron Lewis says:

    RE #9 agroecology.
    In theory, we could double our food output. However,
    it would require large investments in suitable seed, livestock, tools, and training. It takes a huge stock of knowledge, and devotion to a lifestyle to be a good agroecology farmer.

    As long as cheap oil subsidizes industrial agriculture, products from agroecology will require more manhours to produce per unit of production. On the other hand, agroecology can produce more per acre, and a lot more per unit of oil used.

    In practice, we could not train people to be agroecology farmers fast enough. Early on there would be failures as people learn and we would have to take land out of industrial production, thus early on there might actually be a decline in net food production.

    To limit new agroecology farmers to marginal land not currently in production, would be to set them up for failure.

    Specific extreme weather events (caused by global warming) is likely to affect small agroecology holders more than it affects industrial agriculture. However, the diversity of crops and cultivars means that over the long term agroecology is more resilient. Over the long term, modern industrial monoculture is fragile.

  12. paulm says:

    Its basic science. Give most of the tax back to the people. Work back words. The dividen part should be implemented/presented first.

    Use a small portion of tax as a sustainable subsidy and also to ensure that the people actually have a choice to select the sustainable option.

    Ramp down subsidies on fossiel fuels at the same time.

    Its diabolical, people want to go sustainable. They want to switch but there is no reasonable choice. It saves the planet, it saves lives and it saves money in the end.

    I have been waiting to switch to an electric car for some time. But they have not been approved, they are only recently becoming available and there are no charging stations anywhere. Total Fail.

    People will switch if they can even if it is more expensive, as long as its reasonable and there is choice.
    Windsor savages carbon tax strategy

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    Dead Anchovies Wash Up On Redondo Beach

    The dead fish were so thick in some places that Garbrielli said boats can’t get out of the harbor.

    Fish and Game authorities arrived and began taking samples of the fish.

    “We have no idea how they got here,” said spokesman Andrew Hughan. “There are thousands and thousands and thousands of fish.”

  14. paulm says:

    Re #1 paulm,

    It takes a woman to tell it like it is. Bout time leaders stands up and shout that this is something that is a tough thing to do but there is no alternative. (Obama looks like a pussy cat compared to Gillard)
    Gillard talks carbon from Washington

  15. paulm says:

    14 bob, Ominous – things aren’t looking good.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Agroecology has been around for yonks. Permacultural, biodynamic, agroforestry, perennial food cropping etc, and all of them endlessly denounced, parodied and denigrated in the Rightwing MSM. The economic system will destroy humanity before it surrenders any aspect of its dominance, and that dominance crucially includes control of food production and distribution. The market capitalist system will always put its profits before all else, including humanity. I see, though, that the Chinese are intent on moving to organic food production, but, as the West is determined to either foment civil strife in China or go to war with it to de-rail its rise, even that hopeful development will probably soon be throttled.

  17. David B. Benson says:

    BANANA Republic?

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    For the 1st week of March 82 US stations have set or tied new monthly precipitation records. We are lucky in one respect , these fronts are moving very fast right now. Yesterday was the most intense yet :

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    The most costly drilling disaster ever :
    Pictures: Deadly Mud Volcano to Erupt for 26 More Years

  20. thayer says:

    Recall deniers .

  21. Vic says:

    Gaia’s unrelenting “shock and awe” campaign against Queensland has begun to pay tactical dividends with the Australian insurance industry estimating up to 10,000 vehicles would need to be written off as a result of the severe weather events in Queensland.

    She’s not backing off either, last week the Eyre creek in Queensland’s south west saw flood levels not seen since 1974, meaning lake Eyre is set to flood for the third year in a row – unheard of I as far as I can tell. 

    This week the battle rages on the “Cassowary coast” in Queensland’s north east. They received over 500mm in the last few days, with more than 200mm falling yesterday on the “town” of Cardwell where authorities opened the emergency evacuation center in response to major flash flooding. Nobody came – presumably something to do with the town being largely obliterated a month ago by the eye walls of Category 5 cyclone Yasi. Police have blocked public access as emergency crews go in to survey what is left of what is left.
    The Bureau of Metereology are describing this monsoonal trough as “almost stationary”.

    Stationary storms are one of Gaia’s favourite WMDs – the Towoomba mountaintop tsunami event was just a stationary thunderstorm, as was the Brisbane 2011(A?) flood. (still 6 weeks of wet season to go). 
    The BOM are also reporting “An upper-level trough might also move into the area on Thursday, bringing heavier rainfalls.”. 

    Go Gaia !  You go girl !!! 

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    BP oil spill set for big screen

    The explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig that caused one of the worst oil spills in history is set for a Hollywood adaptation

    Haywood’s Revival!

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Gaddafi jets bomb Ras Lanuf oil port

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    Look at all this biblical dead fish …

    California Kill: Million floating dead fish fill marina

    To bad nobody from the human representative cares, instead our species work hard to make the situation worse, and it will get much worse. These are just the omen of the coming apocalypse, so to say. Sit back and enjoy the extinction of at least 90 % of the planets mega fauna.

  25. Sou says:

    Yesterday I met someone in Melbourne, a ‘safe’ city known for its temperate climate (past winner of ‘the world’s most liveable city’), who lost 12 vehicles after 3 flooding events this summer. Before the third flood, he kept his company’s vehicles out of the underground car park which was flooded to the roof in two previous floods and destroyed most of his cars, but several more cars were still destroyed by above-ground level flooding above door level in the third flash flood.

    Now we find that Queensland towns destroyed by Cyclone Yasi are running out of supplies because of still more flooding from monsoonal rains. This is what will become more common as the earth keeps getting warmer.