Future historians will inevitably judge all 21st-century presidents on just two issues: global warming and the clean energy transition. If the world doesn’t stop catastrophic climate change “” Hell and High Water “” then all Presidents, indeed, all of us, will be seen as failures and rightfully so.
In that sense, what team Obama has accomplished in the year since he was elected is nothing less than an unprecedented reversal of decades of unsustainable national policy forced down the throat of the American public by conservatives. Three game-changing accomplishments stand out:
The warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific is typically used to define an El Ni±o — sustained postive sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies of greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean.
After languishing for months, Nino 3.4 SSTs finally took off, as many models had been predicting. Last week, the anomaly was 1.1°C. This week it was 1.5°C. This SST data is from the NOAA’s latest weekly update on the El Ni±o/Southern oscillation, “ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions“:
If these values are maintained for any length of time, this would be a moderate to strong El Ni±o, as this historical graph of the 3-month running mean SST departures in Nino 3.4 region show:
In a major shift, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has changed the Clean Energy Jobs Act to significantly restrict the use of existing Clean Air Act provisions to regulate greenhouse gases. Unlike the climate bill passed by the House in June, the initial version of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, released by lead sponsor Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Boxer last month, did not strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s existing authority. The new language excludes global warming pollution from several sections of the Clean Air Act, limiting its regulation to operating permits for stationary sources emitting over “25,000 tons per year of any greenhouse gas”:
Notwithstanding any provision of this title or title III, no stationary source shall be required to apply for, or operate pursuant to, a permit under this title solely because the stationary source, including an agricultural source, emits less than 25,000 tons per year of any greenhouse gas or combination of greenhouse gases that are regulated solely because of the effect of those gases on climate change.
The 25,000 ton standard reflects the EPA’s plan for starting global warming regulation under a “tailoring rule” limited to the few thousand stationary sources of more than that amount of carbon dioxide a year — in large part coal-fired power plants. However, Boxer’s text is poorly written, as many greenhouse gases are thousands of times more powerful global warming pollutants than carbon dioxide.
Although several progressive and environmental organizations have made the preservation of existing Clean Air Act authority in the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act a key demand, Democratic members of the Committee on Environment and Public Works — which is now beginning to mark up the legislation — are split on this issue. Committee members Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are signatories, with Chris Dodd (D-CT), of a dear colleague letter in favor of allowing greenhouse gas regulation as a pollutant circulated by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). However, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) had questioned the provision, and influential member Max Baucus (D-MT), the Finance Committee chair, strongly opposes EPA regulation.
Other changes to the original version of the legislation reflect industry-friendly demands from Democrats on the committee. They include: increasing free allowances to major oil refineries, putting the Secretary of Agriculture in charge of the agriculture offset program, and making owners of abandoned mountaintop removal sites (“private or public abandoned mine land”) eligible for “Greenhouse Gas Reduction Incentives.”
The chairman’s mark also adds some provisions which strengthen the bill: Rep. Doris Matsui’s (D-CA) tree-planting program language, incentives for rapid renewable energy deployment, and a program to reduce black carbon emissions from diesel.
Text in chairman’s mark of Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act restricting Clean Air Act regulation of greenhouse gases: Read more
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) has unanimously approved Xcel Energy’ss application to install biomass gasification technology at its Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wis. When completed, the project will convert the plant’s remaining coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology, allowing it to use 100 percent biomass in all three boilers and making it the largest biomass plant in the Midwest. Currently, two of the three operating units at Bay Front use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity.
The project, estimated at $58.1 million, will require additional biomass receiving and handling facilities at the plant, an external gasifier, minor modifications to the plant`s remaining coal-fired boiler and an enhanced air quality control system. The total generation output of the plant is not expected to change significantly as a result of the project.
Last Friday on CNBC, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) bashed clean energy reform as a scheme to raise electricity costs and prop up Wall Street. Nelson reaffirmed his opposition to the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, legislation supported by President Obama which would establish a regulated market to cap carbon pollution. In a taped interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, the conservative Democrat argued that President Obama’s climate agenda would be costly to farmers, ranchers, store owners, manufacturers, and anyone who uses electricity:
I haven’t been able to sell that argument to my farmers and I don’t think they’re going to buy it from anybody else. I think at the end of the day, the people who turn the switch on at home are going to be disadvantaged. As you turn on the lights, the lights, the electricity is going to cost more. Store owners, the same thing. Manufacturers, the same thing. I don’t think that the farmers or the ranchers necessarily buy the argument that it’s all going to be offset. And I don’t know why we want to create a system that sustains Wall Street once again .
Nelson’s “prairie populism” doesn’t extend to his opposition to the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. “I don’t see creating a new agency is necessary,” he told Harwood, unless it is “scaled back or put in some other format.” When Harwood noted that Nelson is “with Wall Street on that,” Nelson offered the feeble reply, “Not for the same reason.”
Strangely, Nelson’s opposition to the president’s reform agenda precisely follows the interests of his top corporate donors. This year alone, Nelson has received $553,300 from agribusiness, $164,200 from oil and gas interests, and $140,199 from electric utilities. Nelson has even taken $31,500 from the virulently right-wing Koch Industries, the private pollution giant that has mobilized tea party opposition to climate and health care legislation. Berkshire Hathaway, whose subsidiary MidAmerican Energy is one of the nation’s largest coal-powered utilities, opposes climate legislation and has given Nelson $51,800. Coal-hauling Union Pacific is Nelson’s number-three contributor at $49,750.
Ben Nelson’s Dirty Money
Oil & Gas
2010 cycle, Center for Responsive Politics, compiled by Center for American Progress Action Fund.
When it comes to financial regulation, the story looks the same. Nelson has received $1,343,060 from Wall Street interests, from banks to insurers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
… anti-green WattsUpWithThat.com is #2! By this categorization, why isn’t the Drudge Report the #1 Green website?
I regularly use Technorati to check who is linking to CP, and stumbled across the fact that last month they totally redesigned their “Technorati Authority” and added a topical ranking by category.
As you can see here, I am (for now) the top-ranked website among Green blogs and news sites. Of course, people who follow this space closely will wonder why they omitted TreeHugger, which would beat everybody (although my rank is currently 994 out of a possible 1000, so they couldn’t beat me by that much, I suppose).
Technorati has been known for a fairly objective and slow-changing measure of influence — links from other sites over the past 6 months. But I suppose in a desire to be more timely (and, no doubt purely incidentally, boost their own traffic), they have jazzed up this ranking system, and then added a breakdown by category:
The GOP’s approach to climate and clean energy policy has remained the same for decades — obstruction and obfuscation (see “Senate GOP propose 25% ‘Do-Nothing’ energy tax on Americans“). Now, led by James “the last flat-earther” Inhofe, they are trying to stall climate legislation as long as possible, on the flimsiest of excuses, presumably because they want to make sure that there is no Senate vote on the bill before Copenhagen.
There’s a familiar dance being performed on the world stage. It’s called the Climate Shuffle. It has been going on for decades, but more people are watching now and every nation is practicing the steps.
The dance is not complicated. The goal is to get everybody dancing together, a kind of Clean Electric Slide. But first, insist you won’t get on the dance floor until everybody does. If you get there and find that everyone is doing his own thing, try the Unilateral Slide (one step forward, two steps back, moving in circles). Most of all, be prepared to dance fast because the music is speeding up.
In this strained metaphor, the music is the increasing pace of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. As it turns out, the scientific evidence on which negotiators and policy makers have depended – particularly the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – significantly underestimated the speed at which global warming is occurring.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.