"September 28 News: Google Wants to Buy Solar For Your Home; Rand Paul Wants to Stop Pipeline Safety Standards"
A round-up of the top climate and energy stories. Please post additional stories below.
Google wants to buy solar panels for your house.
The search giant announced yesterday that it will provide $75 million to build 3,000 residential solar electricity systems across the country. Google will own the panels, and get paid over time by customers who purchase the electricity the panels produce.
Google is creating a fund with a San Francisco company called Clean Power Finance that local solar installers will be able to tap so they can offer financing plans to prospective buyers. The plans allow homeowners to install a $30,000 solar electricity system on their house for little or no money up front. Instead, customers pay a monthly fee that is the same or less than what they would otherwise be paying their local utility for power.
Google will earn what it calls an attractive return on its investment in two ways. It gets the monthly fee from homeowners, and, as the owner of the systems, Google will get the benefit of federal and state renewable energy subsidies.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is blocking legislation aimed at tightening safety standards for the nation’s oil and natural-gas pipelines, arguing that the bill would create a new layer of burdensome regulations and government bureaucracy.
Paul has placed a procedural hold on the legislation, which enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate. The hold effectively prevents lawmakers from fast-tracking approval of the bill.
The fight over the bill comes amid growing concerns about the country’s pipeline infrastructure, spurred in part by a number of recent accidents.A California natural-gas pipeline exploded last year, killing eight people. And two recent pipeline leaks, one in Michigan and one in Montana, spilled thousands of gallons of oil.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department are delaying the release of proposed regulations establishing the next round of joint greenhouse gas and mileage standards for cars and light trucks.
The agencies plan to issue rules for model years 2017-2025 that establish a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a plan that has won support from major automakers.
The proposed rule was slated for release at the end of September, but is now expected to surface by mid-November, according to EPA.
The agency cited factors including the time needed to coordinate with the state of California, which has authority to set its own standards but has again agreed to harmonize its rules with the Obama administration standards.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is rebutting House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) claim that Waxman helped the now-bankrupt solar company Solyndra secure its $535 million federal loan guarantee.
Waxman said in a letter to Issa on Monday that he had no role in the financing.
“I am writing to let you know that I had no involvement in the selection of the Solyndra loan. In fact, the first time I met with representatives from Solyndra was in July 2011, when the company’s CEO, Brian Harrison, informed me — erroneously, it turned out — that the company’s prospects were bright,” writes Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Issa made the allegation when announcing Sept. 20 that his committee would broadly investigate federal loan support to private companies. His probe joins the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ongoing Solyndra investigation.
China on Wednesday criticised European Union plans to charge airlines for carbon emissions, accusing it of “unilaterally” introducing the new tax.
Airlines, which contribute 3.0 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, will be included in the EU’s carbon trading market on January 1.
China has said it fears its aviation sector will have to pay an additional 800 million yuan (about $125 million) a year on flights originating or landing in Europe, and that the cost could be almost four times higher by 2020.
“China appreciates the EU’s efforts in climate change but opposes the EU’s forced implementation of unilateral legislation,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told journalists at a briefing.
The tax would affect the country’s major airlines — including Air China, China Eastern and China Southern — which plan to jointly lodge a legal case with the China Air Transport Association (CATA), the group told AFP.
Hainan Airlines, another large carrier, will also take part in the litigation.
CATA deputy secretary general Chai Haibo said “dozens of airlines” would be involved in the lawsuit and it aimed to lodge the case by the end of the year.
Before the end of the century, Yellowstone National Park could experience summers that feel like Los Angeles’s, according to a report released Tuesday. These warming temperatures will imperil everything from native cutthroat trout to aspen forests and the $700 million in annual economic activity that they and other gems in the park generate by attracting tourists, the report said.
The report, the first evaluation of how climate change will affect the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, is a joint project of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, a nonprofit that advocates for carbon emission reductions by drawing attention to the likely consequences of climate change, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a conservation organization concerned with the park and the land around it.
The authors used two warming scenarios developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one based on a medium-to-high-range level of carbon emissions in the future and another one based on a lower set of carbon emissions.
Already Yellowstone, which sits at a relatively high average elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, is warming faster than the rest of the globe, the report found. It has warmed 1.4 degrees on average over the last decade, compared to the one-degree global average increase.
A pipeline company is increasing its estimate of the cleanup cost of last year’s more than 800,000 gallon oil spill that contaminated southern Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.
Enbridge said Monday in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that cleanup could cost about $700 million. The Battle Creek Enquirer and the Kalamazoo Gazette report that’s about 20 percent more than the previous $585 million estimate.