Energy & Environment

GOP Accuses EPA of 'Muzzling' Dissent on Emissions Rules

The Hill: As part of a concerted effort to challenge power plant emissions rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, Republican lawmakers “wrote a letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy on Thursday claiming that the agency had ‘muzzled’ dissenting voices on an outside board meant to check its science.”

“The Obama administration has noted that a dozen power plants around the world are already using the carbon capture technology. Requiring it on new plants would lead to technical innovations, the EPA has said.”

“In their letter, Republicans said that reporting requirements in the draft rule would also ‘impose new regulatory burdens’ on oil developers who use power plants’ stored carbon.”

Poll: Majority See Evidence of Global Warming

A new USA Today poll reveals that approximately 71% of Americans “see evidence of global warming and believe the Earth’s temperature will continue to rise if nothing is done.” But they have conflicted views about government’s role in solving the problem.

“Three of five say global warming is a very serious global problem, and two of three say it will hurt future generations either a lot or a great deal if nothing is done to reduce it.”

Although a slim majority (55%) support new EPA emissions limits on coal-fired power plants, “a rising share of Americans are reticent about government regulations and prefer it ‘stay out of the way entirely.’ On limiting emissions from power plants, for example, 21% say the government should not get involved at all, compared to 11% in 2006.”

WInd Power Catching Up to Fossil Fuels

As equipment costs fall, wind power is gaining traction against traditional fossil fuels as a source of power.

Bloomberg reports that since 2009, “turbine prices have fallen 26 percent worldwide, bringing wind power within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal.”

The decision by Warren Buffett’s utility company, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., to purchase $1 billion worth of wind turbines demonstrates how renewable energy is becoming more competitive.

MidAmerican’s CEO explained that the “growing demand for wind power will offset waning use of fossil fuels [and] provide a hedge for our customers going forward in an era of reduced coal generation.”

Ryan: Link Keystone Pipeline With Debt-Ceiling Negotiations

“Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis) suggested tying approval of the Keystone pipeline to raising the debt ceiling Monday night,” reports The Hill.

Ryan: “I, for one, think we need to do more in the energy sector. I believe we need to approve Keystone pipeline.”

“Ryan suggested the debt ceiling could be a chance to reopen the negotiations: “Maybe we can go back at some of those things that we were looking for.”

“A demand to include Keystone pipeline approval in the debt-ceiling deal could add another headache on the issue for the Obama administration, which has already faced protests against its approval by environmental groups. The State Department is currently completing a final study of the pipeline’s environmental impact.”

We're Burning More Oil Than Ever

Rolling Stone: “If you want to understand how people will remember the Obama climate legacy, a few facts tell the tale: By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.”

“You could argue that private industry, not the White House, has driven that boom, and in part you’d be right. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. But that’s not what Obama himself would say. Here’s Obama speaking in Cushing, Oklahoma, last year, in a speech that historians will quote many generations hence. It is to energy what Mitt Romney’s secretly taped talk about the 47 percent was to inequality. Except that Obama was out in public, boasting for all the world to hear:

“Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quad­rupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.”

Majority of Americans Favor Keystone Pipeline

A new Bloomberg poll shows a favorable view by Americans of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, with “56 percent of respondents viewing it as a chance to reduce dependence on oil imports from less reliable trading partners. That compares with the 35 percent who say they see it more as a potential source of damaging oil spills and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”

Still, Americans are concerned about the environmental risks: “58 percent of poll respondents say they want Canada to take steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a condition for approval, with 32 percent opposing such a requirement.”

Support is divided along party lines: “Republicans are more likely to view Keystone as an opportunity to improve U.S. energy security, with 70 percent taking that view compared with 25 percent who consider it more of an environmental risk.”

“Democrats were evenly split on Keystone, with 44 percent viewing it favorably and 44 percent seeing it as an environmental hazard.”

Podesta Appointment Could Signal Trouble for Keystone Pipeline

The Obama administration’s announcement that John Podesta will return to the White House as counselor to the president, “could dim prospects for the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval,” reports Reuters.

Podesta, the chair of the Center for American Progress and a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, will advise on energy and climate issues.

In the past he has “aligned himself with environmentalist foes of TransCanada Corp’s 1,200-mile pipeline that would carry 830,000 barrels a day of oil sands crude from western Canada to the Gulf Coast.”

“On Wednesday, the White House said Podesta would not get involved in the question of whether to allow Keystone XL because of his well-known opposition to the project.”

But the White House clarified that he was not recusing himself from involvement in the issue: “The word recuse here is not the right word.”

“Last year, he penned an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal with Tom Steyer, a billionaire activist and Keystone foe, saying cleaner-burning domestic energy sources should take priority over oil sands.”

US-Mexico Deepwater Drilling Included in Budget Deal

“Deepwater oil and gas exploration would be allowed to proceed in parts of the western Gulf of Mexico as part of a budget compromise announced [Tuesday],” reports Bloomberg.

“The measure in the budget deal would also lay out a process for submitting future transboundary hydrocarbon agreements to Congress. It has taken more than a year to finalize the U.S.- Mexico deal because it got caught up in a dispute over” a Dodd-Frank mandate to disclose payments from foreign governments.

The Dodd-Frank waiver that had been included in the House-approved bill was dropped from the final budget deal “as a way to expedite the U.S.-Mexico agreement.”

“The bilateral agreement would remove a moratorium on 1.5 million acres of the western Gulf that has attracted interest from major oil companies.”

East Coast States Appeal to EPA on Cross-State Pollution

“Eight East Coast states will petition EPA today to place stricter air pollution regulations on nine states, mostly in the Midwest and Appalachia,” according to Politico.

“The move is the latest salvo in a long-running dispute between ‘downwind’ states whose air pollution levels remain high in large part because of emissions carried by air currents from more coal-dependent states.”

“The announcement comes just one day before the Supreme Court takes up EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule …  A split appeals court panel in 2012 struck down the rule, saying that the agency had overstepped the authority granted by Congress under the Clean Air Act.”

Washington Post Editorial Board: “This policy is reasonable. The federal government should be refereeing national air pollution problems, particularly those that states can’t be expected to solve on their own.”

But the CAA’s wording is “imprecise… The most rational thing would be for Congress to update the law — not to gut its programs but instead to prescribe neater solutions to the country’s serious pollution problems.”

Keystone Backers Await Report

Supporters and foes of the Keystone XL pipeline “are bracing for the release of an environmental analysis from the U.S. government that could determine the $5.4 billion project’s fate,” Bloomberg reports.

“While the report isn’t the final step, it’s eagerly anticipated because it will answer a question central to whether President Barack Obama approves the project: would Keystone contribute significantly to climate change? Obama has said he wouldn’t support the pipeline if it were found to substantially boost carbon-dioxide emissions that many scientists say are raising the Earth’s temperature.”

However, the Stillwater News Press reports that Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said he expects the Obama administration to delay a presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline “as long as possible.”

Study Warns of Sudden Climate Change

A report by the National Academy of Sciences finds that hard-to-predict sudden changes to Earth’s environment are more worrisome than climate change’s bigger but more gradual impacts, the AP reports.

The 200-page report “looked at warming problems that can occur in years instead of centuries. The report repeatedly warns of potential ‘tipping points’ where the climate passes thresholds, beyond which ‘major and rapid changes occur.’ And some of these quick changes are happening now.”

Science Insider: “Some sudden impacts of climate change are already under way, the report notes. Arctic warming has caused a rapid decline in sea ice cover during the past decade that could seriously affect everything from Arctic ecosystems to shipping and oil drilling. And global warming is so rapid—as fast as any warming in the past 65 million years—that species already under pressure from habitat loss and overexploitation are at greater risk of extinction.”

Politico: “The report adds to the growing body of scientific research warning of dramatic fallout from unabated climate change. Notably, it also echoes longtime warnings by activists and scientists that it is imperative to act quickly.”

Ethanol Battle Flares Again

Arguments over the renewable fuel standard heated up at an EPA public hearing Thursday.

Reuters reports that “about 300 people attended [the hearing on the] proposed changes which have become one of the most divisive policy issues of the year.”

“The meeting comes nearly three weeks after the Obama administration proposed slashing how much renewable fuel – mostly corn-based ethanol – needs to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply, bowing to pressure from the petroleum industry.”

“The EPA has warned that the country is approaching a point where the RFS would require the use of more ethanol than can be blended into gasoline at the 10 percent level that dominates the U.S. fueling infrastructure.”

“Refiners have said this so-called “blend wall,” if left in place, would force them to export more fuel or produce less gasoline, leading to shortages and higher prices at the pump.”

“Ethanol supporters and the biodiesel industry have warned that the lower mandate could seriously hurt U.S. corn prices by undercutting demand from refiners, and trigger job losses across rural America.”


Corporations Evolve On Climate Change Policy

The New York Times reports that “more than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.”

“Both supporters and opponents of action to fight global warming say the development is significant because businesses that chart a financial course to make money in a carbon-constrained future could be more inclined to support policies that address climate change.”

“Past efforts to enact a carbon price in Washington have failed largely because powerful fossil-fuel groups financed campaigns against lawmakers who supported a carbon tax.”