"April 27 news: Florida Tea Party helps kill renewable plan; Wind farm growth a windfall for truckers"
Solar and biomass energy companies mourned the loss of a sure job development opportunity Tuesday as the state Senate’s budget chief put a spear through a bill to spur renewable energy in Florida.
“I’d pronounce that one dead,” said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee after he indefinitely postponed a bill that would have allowed Florida’s largest electric companies to raise electric rates as much as $375 million a year for five years to develop alternative energy.
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” said Alexander, a citrus grower. “I can’t believe we’d ask Florida to pay $1 billion in additional assessments with zero regulatory oversight. I think that’s fundamentally not right.”
This is the third year the bill has been the priority of Florida Power & Light, and it is the third time the bill has died. The only thing new this year is that the Koch brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity joined in the chorus of opponents to argue against the bill.
The conservative tea party group opposed the bill because the rate increase was “a direct hit on the wallets of every Floridian,” but renewable energy companies disliked it because they saw it as a handout to the state’s electric monopolies. They tried but failed to get House and Senate leaders to expand the bill to allow generators of rooftop solar power or biomass plants to generate and sell energy alongside the utilities.
More than 30 bills attempting to develop a commercial market for renewable energy in Florida were proposed this session, but only the FPL-backed bill got a hearing.
MidAmerican Energy of Des Moines will begin construction of a 593-megawatt wind farm, which will include 193 turbines in Adair County alone.
“Wind turbine units can have up to nine loads apiece,” said Phoumine Baccum, who administers oversize truck permits for the Iowa Department of Transportation. “The blades come in three pieces, each a separate load, the towers are usually three separate loads, and there are separate loads for the hub and the nacelle and for other equipment.”
Brad Kohlwes’ family trucking company in Des Moines hauls for wind farms. “This is a real boost for the trucking industry and for Iowa’s economy,” he said. “I just wish we didn’t have to pay more than $4 for diesel like we do.”
… Wind energy has proved to be a windfall for the trucking industry in general. Mitchell Dillavou, director of the Iowa DOT’s engineering division, said the number of permits for special loads for wind farm work, including maintenance and repairs, “has run into the hundreds of thousands over the years.”The transport of a piece of a wind turbine is no small thing. The trucks run as long as 180 feet, well more than double Iowa’s longest truck length limit of 75 feet for auto transporters.
Their weight can reach up to 400,000 pounds for the three-megawatt capacity turbine blades that will be used in the next round of wind farms.
Ending billions of dollars in U.S. tax breaks for the oil and gas industry would provide money for investments to encourage clean-energy technologies, said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.
While the Obama administration has been forced to reduce spending, current fiscal constraints shouldn’t mean that “the idea of increased investments in any area should be off the table,” Sperling said today at a conference in Washington.
President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders today to act quickly on proposals to eliminate tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and use the savings to fund clean-energy programs. The subsidies are estimated at $4 billion a year.
“In this type of fiscal moment, you have to ask yourself whether that $4 billion” is worthwhile compared with using it to reduce the deficit and “in the areas that could lead us to a brighter and cleaner and more secure energy future,” Sperling said.
Say it with me now: The White House does not set gas prices. The White House does not set gas prices. The White House does not set gas prices.
Still, objective journalists write about the political impact of expensive gas as though it’s perfectly reasonable to think otherwise [via AP]:
The president is among those who’ve said the surging price for crude is caused by worries about political upheaval in the Arab world and increasing demand from China and elsewhere.
Still, Americans have a tradition of holding the party in power responsible for rising gas costs.
See, the White House might not control international oil markets, but if enough people insist on blaming the president anyway, we should probably give both sides equal time! It made me wonder how this approach might address summer temperatures.
The president is among those who’ve said that surging temperatures across the country are caused by the summertime angle of the earth and longer exposure to sunlight.
Still, Americans have a tradition of holding the party in power responsible for higher mercury readings.
House Speaker John Boehner opened the door and President Obama has leaped through it.
In an interview with ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl that aired Monday Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he was open to considering reducing tax breaks like the depletion allowance received by the nation’s largest oil and gas companies.
“It’s certainly something we should be looking at. We’re in a time when the federal government’s short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share.”
On Tuesday Obama, who Republicans have blamed for high gas prices, used Boehner’s words as a springboard. The president sent a letter to congressional leaders welcoming the speaker’s statement and essentially urging Congress’s top Republican to put his political clout where mouth is.
Obama wrote in part:
In fact, in the past CEO’s of the major oil companies made it clear that high oil prices provide more than enough profit motive to invest in domestic exploration and production without special tax breaks. As we work together to reduce our deficits, we simply can’t afford these wasteful subsidies, and that is why I proposed to eliminate them in my FY11 and FY12 budgets.
I was heartened that Speaker Boehner yesterday expressed openness to eliminating these tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry. Our political system has for too long avoided and ignored this important step, and I hope we can come together in a bipartisan manner to get it done.
Federal regulators will soon clarify the rules for natural gas companies that inject diesel fuel into the ground as part of their hydraulic fracturing operations, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.
The guidance, which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says is coming “very shortly,” is meant to clear up rules for natural gas producers.
A congressional investigation concluded earlier this year that companies have not secured EPA permits before injecting more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel and other fluids into the ground in fracturing operations between 2005 and 2009.
States historically have regulated hydraulic fracturing. The technique involves injecting mixtures of water, sand and chemicals including diesel fuel deep underground at high pressures to break up dense shale rock and release gas locked in it. Although Congress exempted most hydraulic fracturing activities from EPA’s jurisdiction as part of a 2005 rewrite of the Safe Drinking Water Act, that exception does not apply to diesel – even though the government only began to regulate it last year.
Jackson insisted that the EPA has authority to regulate diesel fuel in fracturing fluids.
“Our belief is that this is not exempt,” she said. “That exception specifically says that diesel is not exempt. So if you are injecting diesel, that is a concern.”
President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders to act quickly on his proposals to eliminate “unwarranted” tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and use the savings to fund clean-energy programs.
His request to Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress came after House Speaker John Boehner expressed “openness to eliminating these tax subsidies,” according to a letter released today by the White House.
Obama said there is “no silver bullet” to stop rising gasoline prices that are putting pressure on consumers and threatening to hinder the recovery. Instead, the U.S. should act to buffer Americans from higher prices in the long term by investing in alternative energy, he said.
“One of those steps is to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and invest that revenue into clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Obama wrote in a letter to Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Energy prices, particularly for gasoline, are emerging as a political issue as Obama is preparing for his 2012 re-election campaign. Oil for June delivery fell 52 cents to $111.76 a barrel at 1:49 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have gained about 33 percent in the past year. The average retail price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.869, compared with $2.854 a year ago, according to the AAA’s daily survey.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said Tuesday the public has no reason to fear the agency’s pending climate regulations.
“I believe there is nothing to fear from common-sense use of the Clean Air Act to begin to put this country in the direction of moving towards addressing our greenhouse-gas emissions,” Jackson said during remarks at an energy conference in Washington.
The EPA has begun phasing in greenhouse-gas standards for new and modified power plants and refineries. The regulations have come under attack from Republicans and some centrist Democrats, who argue the rules will harm the economy. The House passed a bill earlier this month to block EPA climate rules; the Senate failed to pass the legislation.
Jackson said she and President Obama would have preferred putting limits on greenhouse-gas emissions through legislation. But efforts to pass such a bill fell apart in the Senate last year several months after the House passed cap-and-trade legislation.
“So now we’re left with the Clean Air Act. It’s not the ideal tool, but it is a tool, and according to the Supreme Court it is a tool,” Jackson said, referring to a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision that said the EPA could regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if the agency found they endanger public health and welfare. EPA made such a finding in 2009.
The American Lung Association’s newest State of the Air report is a bit like getting a 53 on your math test after you got a 49 on your last one. Yes, you’ve improved, but you’re still failing the class.
Though the report, released Wednesday, states that air quality has improved in some places, over 154 million people are still threatened by dangerously high pollution levels nationwide. Some cities, like Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, reduced their overall pollution levels, yet their year-round particle pollution levels are still higher than the national standard, and Los Angeles County is still ranked on all three “25 Most Polluted Counties” lists. In other words, things are improving, but they’re still not good enough.
The 2011 State of the Air Report, which is based on data from 2007 to 2009, reports on levels of pollution from monitoring sites across the U.S. The report focuses on two specific types of pollution — ozone and particle pollution — because according to the ALA, these types are most responsible for the country’s air pollution problem.
Ozone air pollution is different than the ozone layer found in the stratosphere, which provides a necessary barrier from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Rather, ozone air pollution, which is found at ground level, is harmful to breathe and is the primary ingredient in smog. Contributors to ozone pollution include tailpipe and smokestack emissions.