August 4 News: Philips Wins Energy Dept’s Lighting Prize; Senate Dems Confident They Can Keep Anti-EPA Bills at Bay

Philips Wins Energy Department’s Lighting Prize

Philips, the Netherlands-based consumer electronics giant, is now $10 million richer, having just won the L Prize, awarded by the federal Department of Energy in a contest to invent the next generation of solid-state lighting.

Senate Democrats Confident They Can Keep Anti-EPA Bills at Bay in Fall

When Congress returns in September from its monthlong recess, House Republicans say they will pick up where they left off in crafting and passing legislation to restrict U.S. EPA’s air quality rules.


But Senate Democrats say they expect to have no trouble killing those proposals from the GOP-controlled House.

“They keep trying to do that,” said Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). “They keep trying to overturn the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. That’s not going to happen.”

The House has already approved several bills this year to reduce EPA’s authority, including one (H.R. 910 (pdf)) in April that would prevent the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, such as power plants.

House to Keep Up Drumbeat on EPA’s Air Rules, Targeting Vulnerable Senate Dems, Says Rep. Whitfield

House Republicans will keep U.S. EPA’s new Clean Air Act rules front and center between now and next year’s elections in part to ramp up the pressure on vulnerable Democratic senators from states where environmental regulation is hurting the local economy, a key GOP leader on energy issues said this morning.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), who heads the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, has said for months that he plans to take a comprehensive look at the Clean Air Act in order to reassert Congress’ oversight of that landmark environmental law. Today he said he does not see legislation to rein in EPA’s rules passing both chambers of a politically divided Congress.

“I don’t think much can pass in the Senate,” he said at a briefing with reporters this morning. “It never does. I’m not particularly optimistic.”

Still, he plans to continue holding hearings and producing legislation to take on environmental rules he says are onerous to business, if only to keep the issue alive going into next year’s election. A disproportionate number of Democratic senators are up for re-election next year, many running in states that rely on coal and manufacturing.

Enel Green Power adds 16 MW wind capacity in Spain

Italy’s biggest renewable energy company, Enel Green Power (EGP) has started up a new 16 megawatt wind farm in Spain as it expands in the Spanish renewable energy market, EGP said on Thursday.

Capacity at EGP, controlled by Italy’s biggest utility Enel, is keenly watched by investors. It has driven a 35 percent jump in EGP’s core earnings in the first half of 2011.

The new wind farm, in the province of Avila, will produce 42.7 million kilowatt hours of power a year, enough to meet the energy needs of about 15,800 households, and will cut CO2 emissions by 31,600 tonnes a year, EGP said in a statement.

Federal judge dismisses enviro oil sands lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups alleging that the Defense Department violated the law by procuring Canadian oil sands.

The Sierra Club and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy had alleged the Defense Department violated Section 526 of a 2007 energy law that prevents the military and other agencies from buying alternative fuels that have higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum fuels.

But United States District Judge Claude Hilton, out of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissed the case late last week because he said the plaintiffs lacked standing.

EPA petition heralds escalation of gas ‘fracking’ battle

Environmental and public health groups are turning up pressure on the Obama administration to impose new rules on the controversial natural-gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing.

Earthjustice, on behalf of various groups, will formally petition the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to require companies to conduct new testing on chemicals used in “fracking” and produce data needed to gauge the health and environmental risks.

The petition indicates that fracking opponents hope to force the Obama administration to take a tougher line on the issue by crafting new regulations, even as EPA and Energy Department reviews of fracking are under way.

It will also call on EPA to mandate that Halliburton and other drilling services companies “provide any documentation these companies have of environmental or health problems associated with the chemicals they manufacture, process, or distribute,” according to Earthjustice.

Tesla hints at larger potential deal with Toyota

Electric car maker Tesla Motors reported it’s second quarter results today, and in a call with the media and investors, Tesla CEO Elon Musk hinted at a much larger supply deal under discussion with auto maker Toyota. While Tesla announced a $100 million deal with Toyota last month to produce an electric RAV4, Musk said in the call that there is a potential deal under discussion with Toyota that could be “an order of a magnitude larger” than the $100 million deal.Musk also called Tesla’s most recent “the best quarter in Tesla’s history.” Tesla recorded solid growth in revenues, generating $58.17 million, up from $28.41 million in the second quarter of 2010.

Warmer temperatures to expand California exotic grass populations

Warmer temperatures in California could lead to a substantial statewide expansion of exotic grass populations, according to a new study that catalogued over 400 native and exotic grasses in the state.

Researchers from UC Berkeley say exotic grasses dry out faster than native varieties, making the state more vulnerable to wildfires. Exotic grasses also hold pathogens that attack crops, such as wheat, or affect people who eat beef from cows that graze on exotic species. They also compete with native grasses for water.

“As climate changes in the coming century, which at this point is quite certain, this means we expect the distributions of the grasses to change as well,” said David Ackerly, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and the inspiration behind the study. “Sadly, what this predicts is that the alien species that already dominate the Central Valley and other hotter regions of the state will become even more widespread in the future.”

Bingaman to review energy bills for Reid’s jobs agenda

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) plans to help put meat on the bones of Democratic leaders’ plans to make “clean energy” part of their jobs agenda.

Bingaman said Wednesday that he plans to review bills the committee has approved to determine the best candidates to fit Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) agenda, which will be a major political focus for Democrats now that the debt-ceiling fight is over.

Reid said Tuesday that energy measures will be in the mix but offered no specifics. Bingaman noted that his panel has approved 14 energy-related bills thus far.

“Most of those are clean-energy-type legislation which will create jobs. I haven’t sat down with [Reid] and sorted through which of them would have the greatest impact on job creation and which ones I would recommend he try to move ahead with,” Bingaman told reporters.