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
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.
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.”
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”