By Climate Guest Blogger on Oct 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works began its hearings today on the climate and clean energy bill. I don’t think there was any big news. Sen. Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) were a tad more negative than I expected. I’ve no doubt Baucus will support the final bill, but I definitely have doubts Voinovich will. This Wonk Room post is a great summary of everyone’s position on the key issues:
This week, hearings begin in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733). This comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), will establish a mandatory global warming pollution reduction market that will fund clean energy and climate adaptation, as well as establish new renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The 19 members of the committee “” 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans “” are overseeing a three-day marathon of legislative hearings this week, starting with Administration witnesses today.
The committee members can be sorted by their degree of support for clean energy, progressive reform, and strong climate action:
The President said today that we’re having a debate “between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future.”
ARCADIA, FLORIDA – Speaking at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, President Barack Obama today announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will spur the nation’s transition to a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system. The end result will promote energy-saving choices for consumers, increase efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
The $3.4 billion in Smart Grid Investment Grant awards are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, and will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion. Applicants state that the projects will create tens of thousands of jobs, and consumers in 49 states will benefit from these investments in a stronger, more reliable grid. Full listings of the grant awards by category and state are available HERE and HERE. A map of the awards is available HERE.
An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4 percent by 2030. That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country, and $1.6 billion for Florida alone — or $56 in utility savings for every man, woman and child in Florida.
One-hundred private companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners received awards today, including FPL which will use its $200 million in funding to install 2.6 million smart meters and other technology that will cut energy costs for its customers…. The awards announced today represent the largest group of Recovery Act awards ever made in a single day and the largest batch of Recovery Act clean energy grant awards to-date.
So at this moment, there is something big happening in America when it comes to creating a clean energy economy…. And I have often said that the creation of such an economy is going to require nothing less than the sustained effort of an entire nation — an all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II or the Apollo Project. And I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical. That’s going to finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America — legislation that will make the best use of resources we have in abundance, through clean coal technology, safe nuclear power, sustainably grown biofuels, and energy we harness from the wind, waves, and sun.
I’ll repost Obama’s entire speech at the end. It is a good follow on to his M.I.T. speech.
Here’s more on where the $3.4 billion went and its projected impact:
This week, hearings begin in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733). This comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), will establish a mandatory global warming pollution reduction market that will fund clean energy and climate adaptation, as well as establish new renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The 19 members of the committee — 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans — are overseeing a three-day marathon of legislative hearings this week, starting with Administration witnesses today.
The committee members can be sorted by their degree of support for clean energy, progressive reform, and strong climate action:
– STRONGEST ACTION: Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
– STRONG ACTION: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-CO)
– CENTRIST: Max Baucus (D-MT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Arlen Specter (D-PA)
– ANTI: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Crapo (R-ID), George Voinovich (R-OH)
– EXTREME ANTI: John Barrasso (R-WY), Kit Bond (R-MO), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), David Vitter (R-LA)
Below is the Wonk Room’s summary of some key issues that will be debated at the hearings, ranging from support for policies to ensure a clean energy future to favored attacks on any action by the Republican members.
CLEAN AIR: “We must act to reduce black carbon,” Carper says, “a dangerous pollutant emitted by old, dirty diesel engines like those in some school buses and thought to be the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.” “Among my top priorities was to be sure that we not only address challenges that carbon dioxide poses to our planet, but sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and mercury.”
COAL PLANT GREENHOUSE GAS REGULATION: Kerry-Boxer follows Gillibrand‘s call that “the EPA has to have authority to regulate coal plants under the Clean Air Act.” Baucus opposes the retention of this authority.
EMISSIONS LIMITS: As Sens. Cardin, Lautenberg, Merkley, Sanders, Whitehouserequested, the 2020 target for greenhouse pollution reductions has been strengthened to 20 percent below 2005 levels, instead of Waxman-Markey’s 17 percent target. Baucus has criticized the stronger targets.
GREEN TRANSPORTATION: Kerry-Boxer includes Sen. Carper‘s push for green transportation, devoting “a guaranteed share of revenues from carbon regulation to transit, bike paths, and other green modes of transport.” The SmartWay Transportation Efficiency Program is modeled on the Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575 / H.R. 1329), co-sponsored by Sens. Specter, Merkley, Lautenberg, and Cardin.
He and coauthor Stephen Dubner also continued their national media disinformation tour on public radio’s Diane Rehm Show. I couldn’t stomach listening to their efforts to either walk back or obfuscate key errors and misrepresentations in their book error-riddled book. Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has a stronger digestive system than I do, so he listened to the show and I’ll repost his response.
Levitt and Dubner dismissed the widespread criticism of their book by Nobel Prize-winning economists and climate scientists as the “work of an activist,” evidently referring to physicist and former Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Levitt and Dubner even tried to laugh off the on-air criticism of Dr. Peter Frumhoff, a global change ecologist who is the director of Science and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The authors represent their book as merely a quizzical look at interesting issues, without “a moral or policy perspective“:
Climate change will make Americans more vulnerable to diseases, disasters and heat waves, but governments have done little to plan for the added burden on the health system, according to a new study by a nonprofit group.
The study, released Monday by the Trust for America’s Health, an advocacy group focused on disease prevention, examines the public-health implications of climate change. In addition to pushing up sea levels and shrinking Arctic ice, the report says, a warming planet is likely to leave more people sick, short of breath or underfed.
Experts involved with the study said that these threats might be reduced if the federal government adopts a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. But no legislation could stop them altogether, they said. Emissions already in the atmosphere are expected to increase warming — and the problems that come with it — for years to come.
“That [a cap on greenhouse gases] really is not enough,” said Phyllis Cuttino of the Pew Environment Group, which funded the study. “We can see all these problems coming, but as a country, we haven’t done enough to prepare for them.”
The idea that climate change will be bad for people as well as polar bears is not new: It was explained in detail by a United Nations panel that won the Nobel Peace Prize for its work on climate in 2007.
For more on the health impacts of climate change, see
Yesterday morning, SuperFreakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner continued their national media tour, appearing on public radio’s Diane Rehm Show. They dismissed the widespread criticism of their book by Nobel Prize-winning economists and climate scientists as the “work of an activist,” evidently referring to physicist and former Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Levitt and Dubner even tried to laugh off the on-air criticism of Dr. Peter Frumhoff, a global change ecologist who is the director of Science and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The authors represent their book as merely a quizzical look at interesting issues, without “a moral or policy perspective“:
Just in case you’re happening upon this conversation in the middle and haven’t grasped the kind of perspective that we’re coming from — we don’t write about prostitution, or terrorism, or global warming or any of these things, really, from a moral or policy perspective. We just try to lay out what’s going on and from that let people proceed how they want to think about it or how they want to draw conclusions. So this is not meant to be an endorsement or a condemnation of any of these things. We’re just trying to figure out what’s going on.
This depiction, like most of the SuperFreaks’ defense of their work, bears little resemblance to the actual text. The authors discuss global warming explicitly through a “policy perspective”:
It is this specter of catastrophe, no matter how remote, that has propelled global warming to the forefront of public policy. . . . So how should we place a value on this relatively small chance of worldwide catastrophe? . . . One good reason for waiting is that we might have options in the future to avert the problem that cost far less than today’s options.
The authors condemn a broad array of existing policy efforts: to limit carbon dioxide emissions (“not the right villain”), to establish carbon pricing (“all we can say is good luck”), expand renewable energy (“cute”), limit deforestation (trees are an “environmental scourge”), clean up transportation (“not that big of a sector”), or reduce coal use (“economic suicide”).
They also discuss global warming explicitly through a “moral perspective,” condemning “the movement to stop global warming has taken on the feel of a religion,” with a “high priest,” “patron saint,” and “doomsayers” responsible for a “drumbeat of doom.” The authors quote Microsoft billionaire Nathan Myhrvold, who accuses advocates of policies other than geo-engineering of being “global-warming activists” who want to “do a set of things that could have enormous impact — and we think probably negative impact — on human life.”
On the other hand, the SuperFreaks provide a strong endorsement for pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere forever as a “cheap and simple solution” that is “practically free” with a “proof of harmlessness.” Its biggest problem, they claim, is that it is “too simple and too cheap.” They claim climate scientist Ken Caldeira has endorsed this policy “solution,” but policymakers only listen to “people like Al Gore,” who think “it’s nuts.” Somehow Levitt and Dubner fail to mention that Caldeira himself has actually said the SuperFreaks’ policy perspective is ridiculous:
During the interview, Levitt dismisses ocean acidification as something that isn’t “an incredibly big problem,” concedes that geo-engineering “isn’t a perfect solution” and admits that “we won’t solve this without dealing with the carbon issue,” but then calls geo-engineering “a solution to a particular problem” (namely, the warming of the earth).
“¦ the most serious effects will be visited upon the young and the unborn, the generations that bear no responsibility for the problem. The most important effects, I believe, will be those that are irreversible for all practical purposes, specifically (1) extermination of species, and (2) ice sheet disintegration and sea level rise. If we continue business-as-usual energy policy, using more and more fossil fuels, it is likely that we will have: (1) rapid climate change that will combine with other pressures on species to cause the rate of extinction of plants and animals to increase markedly, leading in some cases to ecosystem collapse, snowballing extinctions, and a more desolate planet for future generations. (2) meter-scale sea level rise this century, and ice sheets in a state of disintegration that guarantees future sea level rise in the 10-meter-scale, with a continual reworking of future global coastlines out of humanity’s control.
I would add that the planetary desolation our continued inaction would leave our children includes the loss of the inland glaciers that provide fresh water for a billion people, irreversible ocean acidification and Dust-Bowlification across one third of the habited land mass (see “Hell and High Water “).
International attention on the Senate’s progress on the issue is heightened given the major U.N. climate summit to be held this December in Copenhagen, Denmark. Underscoring that point, Reid yesterday took a call from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“The secretary general emphasized the urgency of trying to have some movement in the Senate” before the Copenhagen meeting, Kerry said. “I think we’re going to deliver some movement because we’re working in the EPW Committee to try to get the Kerry-Boxer bill and the chairman’s mark out.”
Meanwhile, Kerry also downplayed the prospect of floor debate on the climate bill this year, signaling instead that committee action is about as far as he expects the Senate can go before the two-week Copenhagen negotiations begin on Dec. 7.
“Bottom line, we’re going to keep working this as hard as we can,” Kerry said. “We’re going to keep moving forward. I’m confident we’ll have some kind of effort, whether it’s out of committee, or out of all the committees, or the working group or whatever, before we go to Copenhagen. We’re going to try to do as much as we can.”
Of course, the Pew poll got a lot of attention for what it said about media miscoverage of the global cooling myth and the effectiveness of the disinformation campaign on climate science (see here). But the more important news is that like a half-dozen recent polls, it made clear the public supports action on climate and clean energy:
And that’s pretty impressive given that the fossil-fuel-funded opponents of action have in aggressively ramping up spending on their anti-action campaign to mislead the public about the low cost of action and the high cost of inaction.
A leading expert on public opinion analysis, Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes of the Pew poll:
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