Energy & Environment

How Green is Your State?

Eco Watch: “What states are moving ahead on clean energy and what states are lagging behind? A new interactive map released by Earthjustice lets you see at a glance.”

“The map is part of an Earthjustice report Coming Clean: The State of U.S. Renewable Energy. It lets you locate your state alphabetically by name or find the states that fall in each category: ‘Spotlighting Green,’ ‘Too Close to Call,’ and ‘Lagging Behind.’”

“The report also provides more detailed information on each state including its top three energy sources, its own renewable goal and how close it is to meeting the EPA goal, whether its goal is voluntary or mandatory, and where a state is excelling and where it needs to do more work as far as its current policies on renewable energy.”

“Among the standouts whose own renewable energy goals for 2030 exceed the EPA’s are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Oregon.”

“At the other end of the spectrum are heavily coal-dependent states that have formulated no emissions-reduction goals—including Kentucky, Nebraska and Wyoming.”

D.O.E. Loan Program That Funded Solyndra ‘Flop’ Will Earn $5 Billion

Bloomberg: “The U.S. government expects to earn $5 billion to $6 billion from the renewable-energy loan program that funded flops including Solyndra LLC, supporting President Barack Obama’s decision to back low-carbon technologies.”

“The results contradict the widely held view that the U.S. has wasted taxpayer money funding failures including Solyndra, which closed its doors in 2011 after receiving $528 million in government backing. That adds to Obama’s credibility as he seeks to make climate change a bigger priority after announcing a historic emissions deal with China.”

“A $5 billion return to taxpayers exceeds the returns from many venture capital and private equity investments in clean energy, said Michael Morosi, an analyst at Jetstream Capital LLC, which invests in renewable energy.”

“’People make a big deal about Solyndra and everything, but there’s a lot of VC capital that got torched right alongside the DOE capital,’ Morosi said. ‘A positive return over 20 years in cleantech? That’s not a bad outcome.’”

Fewer Support Fracking and Keystone XL Pipeline

A new Pew Research survey finds American enthusiasm for fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline is waning.

National Journal: “Keystone XL, which would bring crude from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, still enjoys majority favor, with 59 percent of respondents telling Pew they support its construction. But that’s a drop from Pew’s survey in March of 2013—when 66 percent of Americans said they wanted to see the pipeline built.”

“The partisan split over the pipeline has also intensified. Just 43 percent of Democrats currently favor construction, compared with a 54 percent majority in 2013. Among Republicans, 83 percent now support Keystone XL, a poll result that is nearly identical to the 2013 survey.”

“Support for fracking has also declined. More Americans oppose the controversial drilling technique than support it, by 47 percent to 41 percent. That’s a flip in public opinion from March 2013, when more Americans (48 percent) favored expanded use of fracking than opposed (38 percent).”

Republicans Need a New Excuse for Climate Inaction

The climate agreement between China and the U.S. is bad news for Republicans who used China’s lack of pollution controls as an excuse for climate inaction at home.

Jonathan Chait: “Over the last several years, as open advocacy of scientific denial has grown somewhat less fashionable, conservatives have leaned more heavily on their premise that Chinese emissions are immutable.”

“The implication of this criticism is that if it were possible to persuade China to reduce its emissions, then some kind of reciprocal commitment by the U.S. would make sense.”

“It would be nice to think that evidence like today’s pact would at least soften the GOP’s unyielding certainty about the absolute impossibility of a global climate accord.”

Lucia Graves of the National Journal: “The larger question is whether any of the Republicans who have relied on this talking point for so long will take the opportunity to reconsider their positions, given China’s stated intention. If not, perhaps they can at least accede that it’s a victory?”



Using the Keystone XL to Save Mary Landrieu

Philip Bump: “Keystone XL has become a symbol for moderate Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — a demonstration that they can serve as the bridge between the new Democratic minority and the Republican majority in the next Congress.”

“Landrieu was joined Wednesday by other red-state Democrats to advocate for passage of a measure that would side-step the president on granting approval to the pipeline.”

“It’s clear why pushing for the project now appeals to Landrieu. Obama is against it and, in exit polls taken last week in her state, 88 percent of voters who backed her opponents said Landrieu agreed with Obama too often. Ninety-five percent of them saw their vote as a vote in opposition to Obama.”

“Keystone also helps Landrieu make a case on the economy, which more than half of the people who voted against her listed as their primary issue.”

“Thanks to environmentalists, the Keystone XL pipeline serves as a decent symbol for all of the things Landrieu needs to reinforce: her history, her centrism, her commitment to the energy industry. ‘It’s a symbol that represents American energy power,’ Landrieu said on Wednesday. ‘Let’s act today.'”

How to Sell a (Carbon) Tax to Conservatives

Weekly Standard: “If progressives actually wanted to avert the various catastrophes that environmentalists say are inevitable without serious policy action … there are ways they could help sell a carbon tax to the right.”

“If the left convincingly made the case that they are willing to give up new revenue, new regulations, and new resource development restrictions to make it happen, conservative support for a carbon tax is within the realm of possibility.”

“For those on the right who do support a carbon tax … a primary attraction is the opportunity to use carbon tax revenues to cut taxes on productive activity, like labor and investment, and instead substitute a price on externalities that hurt the public.”

“A carbon tax, properly constructed, could encourage energy producers to find the lowest-cost ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while leveling the playing field for energy sources like nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro. A first step might be for the EPA to allow states flexibility to pursue their own carbon taxes in lieu of subjecting themselves to new greenhouse gas regulation. Such an approach could prove a hugely attractive political option for Republican office-seekers, who would be able to promise cuts to state income, property, or sales taxes, while giving the boot to EPA busybodies.”

“But all of these possibilities would require those on the left to come to the table by giving up their own dreams of recycling carbon tax proceeds into ‘green jobs’ schemes and other boondoggles beloved of progressives.”

How Obstructionist Republicans Sabotaged Sound Policy

Paul Krugman explains how the Republican leadership is wrong about “well, everything.”

“Predictions that deficit spending would lead to soaring interest rates, that easy money would lead to runaway inflation and debase the dollar, have been wrong again and again. Governments that did what Mr. Boehner urged, slashing spending in the face of depressed economies, have presided over Depression-level economic slumps. And the attempts of Republican governors to prove that cutting taxes on the wealthy is a magic growth elixir have failed with flying colors.”

“Then there’s health reform, where Republicans were very clear about what was supposed to happen: minimal enrollments, more people losing insurance than gaining it, soaring costs. Reality, so far, has begged to differ.”

“And we shouldn’t forget the most important wrongness of all, on climate change. [Climate deniers] now will be in a position to block action for years to come, quite possibly pushing us past the point of no return.”

“The biggest secret of the Republican triumph surely lies in the discovery that obstructionism bordering on sabotage is a winning political strategy. From Day 1 of the Obama administration, Mr. McConnell and his colleagues have done everything they could to undermine effective policy, in particular blocking every effort to do the obvious thing — boost infrastructure spending — in a time of low interest rates and high unemployment.”


Could Keystone XL Be Another Midterms Winner?

Brad Plumer of Vox: “Now that Republicans control both the House and Senate, they’ll be looking to push a bill to fast-track approval of the controversial pipeline … The pipeline has been held up by the White House over concerns that expanded tar sands production could exacerbate climate change.”

“And the GOP might succeed. According to Kate Sheppard, there are now at least 61 pro-Keystone Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. That’s enough to overcome a filibuster by the remaining Democrats, though it’s not yet enough to overcome a White House veto.”

“So one big question is whether President Obama would veto … A lot may depend on the form that the bill takes. If Republicans sent a standalone pro-Keystone bill to the White House, Obama could veto rather easily. But if it was attached to a larger budget bill? If a government shutdown was potentially at stake? That’s tougher.”

“Now that oil prices are lower — around $80 per barrel — the extra cost of rail starts to pinch. That makes Keystone XL somewhat more important for continued oil production in Canada, raising the stakes for both backers and opponents alike.”

A Contempt for Science Permeates the Republican Party

Frank Bruni hopes that when the Republicans take control of the Senate in January, “they start to show more respect for science.”

“The refusal to accept or respond adequately to climate change is the most obvious example of their disregard — and one of the most enraging ones.”

“President Obama used his executive authority earlier this year on a plan to cut emissions some. But Congress has been largely useless, with a relationship to science that toggles between benign neglect and outright contempt. And many Americans have a similarly curious attitude, distinguished by woefully insufficient gratitude for the ways in which science has advanced our country and elevated our lives.”

“That kind of fickle approach to science is most troubling in the people who make our laws. As several bloggers and journalists have noted, some Republicans say they’re not qualified to address global warming even as they opine readily and expansively on Ebola. They fault the appointed ‘Ebola czar’ for not being a doctor, then reject what actual doctors tell us about the disease.”

“If they had proper regard for science, politicians in both parties would fight harder against the devastating cuts to federal research that have happened under sequestration, endangering medical progress and jeopardizing our global leadership. And lawmakers trying to prove their fiscal prudence wouldn’t irresponsibly smear all scientific inquiry by cherry-picking and theatrically denouncing the most arcane, seemingly frivolous studies the government has funded.”

A Dismal Outlook for Climate Policy

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s $65 million was simply not enough to convince voters that climate change was a critical issue in this year’s elections.

Brad Plumer: “There are few signs that the broader landscape is changing significantly. Global warming remains a low-priority issue in American politics — in a Pew poll, it ranked a lowly 8th (out of 11) on the list of issues voters care about. The newest, more Republican Congress will, if anything, be even more hostile to climate policy than the last one. And those things will matter a lot.”

Rebecca Leber: “In handing Republicans control of the Senate on Tuesday, Americans effectively voted for the party’s hostile plans against President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate’s environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.”

Leber notes that “more than anything else, Mitch McConnell has campaigned to keep his seat and become the next Senate Majority Leader by promising to end the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on carbon pollution from power plants.”

“But a GOP-controlled Senate might aim even higherat the international United Nations body that will host negotiations on cutting greenhouse gas emissions next year in Paris.”

Poll: Voters Want More Federal Climate Policies

The Hill: Nearly half of voters in the midterm election want the federal government to adopt more policies to fight climate change, according to a new poll.

The Huffington Post/YouGov survey concluded that 49 percent of people likely to vote in Tuesday’s election want stricter climate policies. Thirty-five percent opposed climate rules.

The survey was released Monday, the day before the midterms, for which environmentalists have spent historic amounts of money advocating for candidates who want to take action against climate change.

Broad Support for California’s Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags

L.A. Times: “A statewide ban on plastic grocery bags has broad support among voters, presenting a challenge for industry groups that hope to overturn the law, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.”

“Sixty percent of the voters who answered the survey said they support the ban, signed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown. It applies to single-use plastic sacks at grocery stores and pharmacies starting July 1 and expands to convenience and liquor stores a year later.”

USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll

“Overturning the law could be difficult, the poll shows. A third of Californians already live in places with local restrictions, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, and many voters are used to them.”

Green That Life answers the most commonly asked questions about plastic bag bans.

Price of U.S. Gas Drops to New Low

Fuel Fix: “The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps slid to the lowest level in almost four years, dropping 18.18 cents in the two weeks ended Oct. 24 to $3.0759 a gallon, according to Lundberg Survey Inc.”

“Prices are 28.69 cents lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations by the Camarillo, California-based company.”

“The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $3.45 a gallon … The lowest price was in Memphis, Tennessee, where customers paid an average $2.73 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $3.33 a gallon on Long Island, New York, and $3.39 in Los Angeles.”