Energy & Environment

Wyoming Rejects Science Standards Over Global Warming

AP: “Wyoming, the nation’s top coal-producing state, is the first to reject new K-12 science standards proposed by national education groups mainly because of global warming components.”

“The Wyoming Board of Education decided recently that the Next Generation Science Standards need more review after questions were raised about the treatment of man-made global warming.”

John Friedrich, of the national organization Climate Parents: “Wyoming is certainly unique in having legislators and the governor making comments about perceived impacts on the fossil fuel industry of kids learning climate science, and unique in acting on that one objection to prohibit consideration of the package of standards, of which climate science is a small component.”

Exxon Mobile and Chevron support the standards.

With Climate Change, Obama Should Fake it Till He Makes it

Financial Times Editorial Board argues that “… unless the US can show it is serious about putting a price on carbon, it will have little chance of bringing the rest of the world along.”

“Washington still refuses to act on the principle that prevention is cheaper than cure. Part of its reluctance comes from the boiling frog syndrome. Most Americans accept that global warming is happening. Yet they chafe when confronted with the higher bills they would have to pay to avert it.”

“Next month the EPA will issue new rules limiting power plant emissions …  Rule-based economics is certainly less efficient than market signalling. But if the framework is intelligent – and avoids picking technological winners – it can simulate many of the benefits of an actual carbon market.”

“The White House lacks the power to set up a carbon market in the US – and the authority to tell other countries to do so. But the more Mr Obama acts as though a carbon market is inevitable, the sooner it is likely to happen.”

A GOP Climate Change Dilemma in Florida

New York Times: The National Climate Assessment report “named Miami as one of the cities most vulnerable to severe damage as a result of rising sea levels.”

“The national climate report found that although rapidly melting Arctic ice is threatening the entire American coastline, Miami is exceptionally vulnerable because of its unique geology. The city is built on top of porous limestone, which is already allowing the rising seas to soak into the city’s foundation, bubble up through pipes and drains, encroach on fresh water supplies and saturate infrastructure. County governments estimate that the damages could rise to billions or even trillions of dollars.”

Senator Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and the current governor, Rick Scott have “declined repeated requests to be interviewed on the subject … Political analysts say the reluctance of the three men to speak publicly on the issue reflects an increasingly difficult political reality for Republicans grappling with the issue of climate change … In acknowledging the problem, politicians must endorse a solution, but the only major policy solutions to climate change — taxing or regulating the oil, gas and coal industries — are anathema to the base of the Republican Party. Thus, many Republicans, especially in Florida, appear to be dealing with the issue by keeping silent.”

DOE Awards $141 Million to ‘Innovative’ Offshore Wind Energy Projects

Department of Energy: “As a part of the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department announced [Wednesday] the selection of three pioneering offshore wind demonstrations to receive up to $47 million each over the next four years to deploy innovative, grid-connected systems in federal and state waters by 2017.”

“These projects – located off the coast of New Jersey, Oregon and Virginia – will help speed the deployment of more efficient offshore wind power technologies. Building on the Energy Department’s broader efforts to launch a competitive and sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States, these demonstration projects will help further lower costs, drive greater performance and clear hurdles to installing more utility-scale turbines in U.S. waters.”

McConnell Fears an ‘Elitist War on Coal’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused the Obama administration Wednesday of waging an “elitist war on coal.”

McConnell: “The Obama Administration’s extreme regulations would hammer existing coal facilities too, taking the ax to even more American coal jobs in the midst of an awful economy.”

The Hill: McConnell “asked consent to consider at least five Republican energy amendments to the energy efficiency bill before the Senate Wednesday, one of which would block the administration’s carbon emissions limits on coal-fired power plants.”

Huffington Post: “The bill is about as non-controversial as you get in Washington. It includes incentives, opportunities, and funding to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings, houses, and appliances, but no mandatory standards. Still, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has estimated it will spur the creation of 190,000 jobs, save the country $16.2 billion a year on energy bills by 2030, and reduce planet-warming greenhouse gases.”

“The bill has broad support. The American Chemistry Council, the American Gas Association, and the Earth Day Network all signed a letter supporting it last month.”

“Still, the legislation appears headed for demise.”

A Local Approach to Climate Change Mitigation

Major Garrett argues that the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally,” has “practical meaning,” particularly when conducting a careful analysis of the National Climate Assessment and “its emphasis on what local and state governments can do to adapt to climate change.”

” … it is worth noting that this report—the most comprehensive of its kind—places no stress on new policy recommendations or laws. It does suggest cities and states get ahead of the game by judging the risks of climate change and acting accordingly.”

“President Obama has not touched climate-change legislation since the Senate refused to consider a House-passed bill in 2010 that increased carbon taxes. And Obama’s not going to push for any new legislation to raise carbon taxes now.”

“As states and cities become more nimble and responsive laboratories of democracy, regulation, and taxation, perhaps the time has come for the climate-change debate to become much smaller, more local, and less attuned to grandiose aims.”

Climate Central’s map of state climate adaptation plans shows that some states are already planning for climate change.

Huntsman Calls on GOP to Face Facts About Climate Change

Jon Huntsman, writing in the New York Times, calls on fellow Republicans to take action on climate change.

Citing a recent Pew survey showing a drop (from 59% in 2009 to 50% in 2013) among Republicans who believe that there is solid evidence of rising temperatures on earth, Huntsman expresses concern with the “shift among Republicans on climate change.”

“What’s been lost is any Republican creative thinking on the issue.”

“So obtuse has become the party’s dialogue on climate change that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra.”

“This approach reached a new low last month during a North Carolina congressional debate at which all the Republican candidates chuckled at a question on climate change — as if they had been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy.”

“We need to plan for the impacts of climate change at all levels of government. We need to empower Republicans leading those efforts to make decisions and investments that benefit their constituents, the party and the planet. Denying the science will only hinder their chance for success.”

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Americans Just Aren’t That Concerned About Climate Change

New York Times: “Perhaps more than people in any other rich nation, Americans are skeptical that climate change is a dire issue.”

“Americans rarely cite environmental concerns when asked in polls to name the most important problem facing the country. In the last several years, the economy, jobs, the budget deficit and health care garnered the most mentions, with the environment barely registering.”

“In the Pew poll, fewer Americans cited climate change as a top threat than cited financial instability, Islamic extremism, Iran’s nuclear program or North Korea’s nuclear program.”

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How Electric Cars and Renewable Energy Can Work Together

CleanTechnica: “As EVs become more common, demand for charging in the middle of the day (while people are working) will become more of an issue, but this is sure to coincide with a much larger % of our electricity coming from solar power.”

“As we get to that point, we start getting an imbalance in the middle of the day between solar electricity generation and actual demand. However, charging for EVs can help make that overgeneration useful! We’re already seeing wholesale electricity prices in Germany & Australia come down to middle-of-the-night levels due to relatively high (compared to the rest of the world, but not compared to the future) penetration of solar. Below is a graph depicting that potential overgeneration point a bit (via RMI – Renewables’ Bird Problem).”

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A Solution to the Fracking Problem

Michael Bloomberg and Fred Krupp take on the fracking debate.

Pointing to a successful New York City campaign to identify and eliminate pollution from heating oil, the authors argue that fracking is “essentially a data acquisition and management problem — the kind that we know we can solve.”

“The same data-driven approach can reduce air and water pollution from shale gas drilling, by requiring operators and regulators to identify and correct hot spots. We have the technology to do this. But we can’t manage what we don’t measure.”

“Strong rules and enforcement are critical.”

“Now the Obama administration is developing a methane-reduction strategy. We’re confident the Environmental Protection Agency will recognize … that sensible rules are necessary and affordable, and will work with states to write them. And we hope that … industry leaders, elected officials and environmentalists will work together to make shale gas development safer. Doing so will not only help the industry meet reasonable pollution limits, it will help the industry regain public trust.”

Battle Between Fossil Fuel and Renewables is Heating Up

According to the latest U.S. Energy Information Administration monthly energy review, Americans still rely more on coal than renewables as an energy source.

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But the “battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy” is just starting to heat up, according to a recent report in The Washington Post.

A campaign to curtail state climate mandates — “despite its backing from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity — has run into a surprising roadblock: the growing political clout of renewable-energy interests, even in rock-ribbed Republican states such as Kansas.”

“The stage has been set for what one lobbyist called ‘trench warfare’ as moneyed interests on both sides wrestle over some of the strongest regulations for promoting renewable energy.

“The coalition campaigns have achieved only symbolic victories in a few states. Nonbinding resolutions critical of the EPA power plant proposals have been approved in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, West Virginia and Wyoming. Three other states — Louisiana, Missouri and Ohio — are weighing legislation similar to the ALEC model.”

The biggest battle could take place in Kansas, home to Koch industries. “But the strong winds that blow across Kansas have carried new interest groups into the state. Kansas ranks sixth in the country in wind output, which jumped by a third last year and equaled 19 percent of the state’s electricity, the EIA says.”

Supreme Court Upholds EPA Cross-State Air Pollution Rules

The Hill: “The Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision Tuesday upheld a rule that allows the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution from power plants that crosses state lines, handing a major victory to President Obama.”

The rule “requires 28 states in the East, Midwest, and South to cut back on sulfur and nitrogen emissions from coal-fired power plants that ‘contribute significantly’ to air problems in other states.

“By ruling that the EPA maintains authority to regulate nitrogen and sulfur emissions from coal plants, the justices raised the bar for the legal challenges that will likely be filed against the administration’s proposals to regulate carbon emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants.”

New York Times Editorial Board: “It isn’t technologically possible to determine exactly how much pollution each state contributes to any other state … Given this reality, and the broad language of the Clean Air Act, the court was right to defer to the agency’s expertise to manage a hugely complex national problem, and to protect human health and the environment at the lowest cost.”

Solar Energy’s Rapid Rise

CleanTechnica reports that installed solar energy capacity in the U.S. grew by 418% in the last four years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s April 2014 Electricity Monthly Update.

Although solar energy only makes up “just over 1% of total national generation capacity … the plummeting price of solar modules and increasing efficiency of installation has sent solar skyrocketing.”

The EIA “notes 6,459MW of utility-scale solar and 1,841MW of thermal solar are proposed across the country (a net-metered projection was not included), meaning solar energy could take another exponential jump.”

EIA “notes the industry’s quick move from ‘relatively small contributor’ into ‘one of comparative significance.’”

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Federal Officials to Examine NY Utility Regulation

Wall Street Journal: The New York state Public Service Commission “levied a total of two fines for $2,000 in 2013, the lowest amount collected since 2001, federal records show.”

The PSC said it “prefers to reach settlements with companies that may have committed violations. The commission oversees 19 utilities, including Consolidated Edison, which serviced two Park Avenue buildings that collapsed after an apparent March gas explosion that killed eight people in East Harlem.”

“In the aftermath, federal officials said their investigation would include an examination of how the commission—tasked in part with enforcing penalties on gas companies that violate rules—regulates ConEd.”