Friday, May 30, 2008

Administration's Scientific Assessment Of Global Change On U.S.

May 29: The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), together with the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), announced the release of a scientific assessment (Scientific Assessment of the Effects of Global Change on the United States) of the effects of global change on the United States, with special emphasis on climate change. Additionally, an updated strategy, the Revised Research Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program," was also released.

Dr. Sharon Hays, Associate Director and Deputy Director for Science for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said, "This assessment represents a comprehensive look at the effects of climate change for the United States and will be yet another tool for the Nation’s decision-makers to use when planning for the future." Dr. William Brennan, Acting Director of CCSP said, "Recognizing that this report reflects a snapshot of current research in an area of rapidly increasing knowledge, it’s important to outline an up-to-date strategy for continued research on climate change. The updated research plan that is also being released today does that."

The assessment summarizes and integrates recent findings from several Synthesis and Assessment Products of the CCSP as well as from assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Analyzing current and future trends in climate for the United States, the report assesses the present understanding of the impacts of climate change on key sectors of the Nation, such as water resources, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health.

Accompanying the scientific assessment is an updated research plan for the CCSP that provides direction for addressing remaining uncertainties in climate science, including impacts at regional scales and adaptation options. The plan also emphasizes the need for strengthened communication of scientific studies to decision-makers across the United States. An extended opportunity for public review was provided during the development of the revised plan.

The assessment points out that it addresses not only climate change, but also other change in the global environment -- including water resources, oceans, atmospheric chemistry, land productivity, and ecological systems -- that may alter the capacity of Earth to sustain life. This broader set of changes is referred to as ‘global change,’ as defined in the Global Change Research Act. It is indicated that, "The conclusions in this assessment build on the vast body of observations, modeling, decision-support, and other types of activities conducted under the auspices of CCSP. It draws on findings from previous assessments of the science, including reports and products by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CCSP, and others. Together with CCSP’s 21 Synthesis and Assessment Products, this is arguably the most comprehensive assessment to date of the effects of global change, and especially climate, on the United States." Among the many conclusions:

  • U.S. average temperatures increased during the 20th and into the 21st century, and the last decade is the warmest in more than a century of direct observations in the United States.
  • Continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates are expected to cause further warming and to induce many changes during the 21st century that will very likely be larger than those of the last century.
  • It is very likely that temperature increases, increasing carbon dioxide levels, and altered patterns of precipitation are already affecting U.S. water resources, agriculture, land resources, biodiversity, and human health, among other things. And it is very likely that climate change will continue to have significant effects on these resources over the next few decades and beyond.
  • The report presents key findings of climate impacts on the United States in the areas of: The Natural Environment; Agriculture; Water; Population and Society; Health; Energy; and Transportation.

The report indicates that regarding climate extremes, "Human activities have also likely influenced extremes in temperature. Many indicators of climate extremes -- including the annual numbers of frost days, warm and cold days, and warm and cold nights -- show changes that are consistent with warming. Studies for North America suggest that, in the future, abnormally hot days and nights and heat waves are very likely to become more frequent and that cold days and cold nights are very likely to become much less frequent. In addition to temperature extremes, analyses indicate that, on average for North America, precipitation is likely to be less frequent but more intense. It is also likely that future hurricanes will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases in tropical sea surface temperatures. However, projections of changes in hurricane frequency remain very uncertain. "

Access an Executive Summary of the report (
click here). Access a Summary of Findings (click here). Access the complete 271-page report (click here). Access an Executive Summary of the Revised Research Agenda (click here). Access the complete 98-page Revised Research Agenda (click here). Access the NSTC website (click here). Access the CCSP website (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rep. Markey Announces "Investing In Climate Action & Protection Act"

May 28: Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) announced the introduction of what he is calling "a revolutionary new global warming bill" that he said will reduce global warming pollution according to scientific targets, reinvest any revenue back to American workers and technology, and re-establish America as a leader in solving the globe’s greatest challenge, climate change. At a speech at the Center for American Progress, Representative Markey, Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources Committees, laid out his science- and consumer-based vision for climate legislation.

Markey said, “I am here today because the chorus for change is deafening. The time for action is now. We must cap pollution, we must invest in consumers, jobs and the technology of tomorrow, and America must lead the world in solving our greatest challenges, and we must start now.” Markey's bill is called the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, or iCAP for short. The bill also proffers a new paradigm in global warming legislation: "the Cap-and-Invest system." The bill caps pollution at 85 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. It then uses an auction system that sets a price on carbon, and allows companies to compete for reductions, or buy or trade credits within the system.

Markey's bill, precedes the highly anticipated Senate debate on the Climate Security Act (S. 2191/S. 3036), scheduled for June 2 [
See WIMS 5/21/08], and follows by one day the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, release of another in a series of Climate Change Legislative Design White Papers entitled “Getting the Most Greenhouse Gas Reductions for Our Money” [See WIMS 5/28/08]. The White Paper release by Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Rick Boucher (D-VA) discusses a cap-and-trade regulatory program as the cornerstone of a mandatory climate change program designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a specified level [i.e. 60-80% by 2050] at the lowest possible overall cost to society and to lower the cost for regulated entities. [Note: S. 3036 is now the manager’s mark of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191) and has been introduced as a new bill number and will be the bill for floor debate on climate change on June 2.]

In a release, Markey indicated his bill would take the expected $8 trillion in revenues from polluters over the length of the bill, and reinvests that money back to American families and workers and into promoting a clean energy economy. More than half of the funds from the bill goes directly back to low- and middle-income American families to offset any increases in energy costs from the transition of the economy to low- or zero-carbon energy. He said iCAP also invests in green collar job training for workers in a clean energy economy, mass transit and smart growth, energy efficiency programs, adaptation measures here in the United States and around the world, and many other programs that will benefit both the economy and the environment.

Markey said, "We must invest in the American economy and in American workers, and launch an energy technology renaissance that will rival the information technology revolution of the past decade. We all benefited from the Industrial Age, and we have watched the dawn of the Information Age. Today, let’s start the Clean Energy Age.” He indicated that the bill will be introduced next week when Congress is back in session.

According to an executive summary of the bill, the following “covered entities” would be regulated under the cap: (1) power plants and large industrial facilities; (2) entities that produce or import petroleum- or coal-based liquid or gaseous fuels; (3) entities that produce or import hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, or nitrogen trifluoride; (4) natural gas local distribution companies; and (5) geological carbon sequestration sites.

The iCAP Act begins by auctioning 94 percent of allowances in 2012 and transitions to a 100 percent auction in 2020. The 6 percent of allowances not initially auctioned are distributed as transitional assistance to U.S. industries that are energy-intensive and exposed to international trade competition (e.g., iron and steel, aluminum, cement, glass, and paper). The iCAP Act permits any person to buy, sell, or transfer allowances or to “bank” them for future use. Covered entities also may borrow allowances from the allowance budget for future years, but these “loans” must be repaid within five years with interest. Covered entities can meet up to 15 percent of their annual obligations with EPA-approved domestic offset credits and up to an additional 15 percent with EPA-approved international emission allowances or offset credits.

The iCAP Act returns over half of auction proceeds to low- and middle-income households through rebates and tax credits. This will compensate all increased energy costs due to climate legislation for all households earning under $70,000 (66 percent of U.S. households), and will provide benefits to all households earning up to $110,000 (over 80 percent of U.S. households). The summary indicates that the bill include policies that will encourage major-emitting developing countries, like China and India, to take comparable action to reduce global warming pollution to protect the competitiveness of U.S. industry.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued a release saying, "Congressman Markey’s Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act appears to be the most comprehensive climate bill drafted in the House, and Congress should carefully consider the legislation as it crafts an effective response to climate change. . . We look forward to working with Congressman Markey, members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the House leadership to bring a strong bill to the House floor as soon as possible.” Other environmental organizations indicated support for the Markey bill including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Access a release from Representative Markey (
click here). Access the Markey speech to the Center for American Progress (click here). Access an Executive Summary of the legislation (click here). Access the Title by Title Section of iCAP (click here). Access the full text of iCAP (click here). Access legislative details for H.R 6186 (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). [*Climate]

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

House Committee Releases New Climate Change White Paper

May 27: As the Senate prepares for its historic vote on the Climate Security Act (S. 2191), scheduled for June 2 [See WIMS 5/21/08], the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, are issuing another in a series of Climate Change Legislative Design White Papers as their next step toward enactment of an economy-wide climate change program. The fourth White Paper, is entitled “Getting the Most Greenhouse Gas Reductions for Our Money.”

The White Paper discusses ways to keep costs as low as possible while still achieving environmental goals. In a brief memo to Committee members, full Committee Chair Representative John Dingell (D-MI), and Subcommittee Chair Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA) encouraged members to review the papers and share their views and suggestions "regarding the potential methods for limiting the cost and maximizing the efficiency of a mandatory, comprehensive, climate change program." They said they would be holding hearings on the papers.

According to the latest paper if the climate change program is structured properly, significant cost reductions can be achieved by economically beneficial measures. "In large part, these measures are improvement in energy efficiency and productivity. The decision to have a cap-and-trade regulatory program as the cornerstone of a mandatory climate change program is driven in large part by the ability of such a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a specified level [i.e. 60-80% by 2050] at the lowest possible overall cost to society and to lower the cost for regulated entities. As compared to more traditional forms of regulation, a well designed cap-and-trade program generally should achieve the same environmental results at a lower cost because it provides flexibility to emitters, creates incentives for sources to use low-cost compliance strategies, and provides incentives for technological advances."

The White Paper indicates that, the cap-and-trade program will include two important features to help reduce costs: (1) Regulated entities and other market participants will be able to "bank allowances" for later use; and (2) Regulated entities will also be able to use "offsets," provided they are real, verifiable, additional, and permanent. The paper also suggest that the Committee should consider a number of other optional features of cap-and-trade programs to help reduce costs including: "firm-level borrowing;" "compliance period longer than a year;" "a special cost containment mechanism to release additional allowances;" and, "setting a floor for allowance prices."

Access the Memo to Committee members (
click here). Access the complete 43-page fourth White Paper (click here). Access the Committee's Climate Change website for links to all papers, letters, releases and related information (click here). Access WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posts on the White Papers (click here). [*Climate]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reports Probe International Dimensions Of U.S. Climate Policy

May 21: A new report from World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) indicates that U.S. climate change policy can reduce emissions and ensure fair international competition without carbon tariffs, by pursuing international agreements on key industries and targeting relief specifically to impacted domestic firms. The report, Leveling the Carbon Playing Field: International Competition and U.S. Climate Policy Design, is the first in a series of publications from WRI and the Peterson Institute that will examine the international dimensions of U.S. climate policy. Jonathan Lash, WRI President said, “U.S. climate change policy must address international competition through smart policies aimed at the handful of most disadvantaged industries. We must take care to do more good than harm, and create opportunities, not barriers, for further international cooperation.”

The report provides an analysis of proposals that address international competition in climate change legislation, such as the Climate Security Act currently being considered by Congress. On the same day, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and John Warner (R-VA) released their Substitute Amendment to Climate Security Act (S. 2191) which is expected to be voted on June 2, 2008 [See WIMS 5/22/08].

The report examines what effect “carbon emissions caps” would have on the industries likely to face the strongest international pressures from climate legislation: steel, copper, aluminum, cement, glass, paper, and basic chemicals. Electric utilities are also carbon intense but are not as vulnerable to international competition. According to a release, there is growing concern that domestic climate change legislation would increase costs for carbon-intensive industries, exposing them to greater competition from developing countries, which would have no similar regulations. Proposals to address these concerns include providing free emissions allocations, increasing costs on imported carbon-intense commodities, or encouraging other countries to impose emissions caps of their own.

However, the book finds that several of the proposed options would likely not provide the intended relief, and in some cases could either make things worse or have adverse consequences. For instance, broad carbon tariffs could be difficult to assess and enforce, and provide no opportunity for exporters in developing countries to benefit from adopting higher standards. But trade measures could be tailored to provide this incentive.

To date, many of the trade-specific measures have been intended to bring China to the climate negotiating table. However, China’s exports of carbon-intense goods to the U.S. are relatively small. Instead, the book finds that Canada is the leading exporter to the United States in all categories except basic chemicals, where the leader is Trinidad and Tobago. Europe and Russia are next in importance. Therefore, trade measures provide little incentive for China to adopt stricter emissions regulations, and could sour the prospects for international cooperation.

In addition, China is already seeking to curb exports of carbon-intensive goods due to local energy and environmental concerns, and has recently implemented border treatment for goods like steel that are equivalent to imposing a carbon tax of $50 per ton of CO2. The book’s authors argue that the means of engaging China and other developing countries in reaching international agreements on key sectors is more promising than many think, and would more successfully address both competitiveness and climate concerns than unilateral carbon tariffs at the U.S. border. As part of an international sectoral agreement, trade-specific measures could play a role in creating incentives for individual foreign firms to reduce emissions.

Until an international agreement is reached, U.S. legislators can maintain a level playing field for carbon-intensive manufacturing through domestic policy design. Costs for trade-exposed industries, which account for less than 6 percent of U.S. emissions, can be controlled in a way that does not compromise the environmental effectiveness of U.S. climate policy or risk trade conflicts by imposing border tariffs unilaterally.

At a luncheon event announcing the report, WRI and PIIE indicated that, "In recent presidential-campaign developments, John McCain has backed away from the threat of carbon tariffs, while Barack Obama hints that the issue will serve as a litmus test for whether McCain is serious about climate policy. Trade links to climate policy will only continue to heat up as the full Senate begins debate on June 2 of the Lieberman-Warner bill, which includes provisions for carbon-based border tariffs. This new book argues that such a unilateral approach will be unsuccessful both in protecting U.S. industry and bringing other countries, such as China, to the negotiating table. Speakers will offer alternatives that would prevent U.S. industry from migrating to countries without climate policy, strengthen international negotiations under which those countries will reduce emissions, and avoid starting a trade war."

Access a release on the new report and links to related information (click here). Access an overview and related information including charts and US-CAP recommendations (click here). Access the complete 117-page report (click here). Access the WRI U.S. Climate Change Policy website for additional information (click here). Access links to the luncheon event introductions, audio/video presentations, & Q&A (click here). [*Climate]

Friday, May 23, 2008

GAO Adds To Reports Critical Of DOE's GNEP

Subscribers Note: We will not be publishing on Monday, May 26, 2008, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.

May 22: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: DOE Should Reassess Its Approach to Designing and Building Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling Facilities (GAO-08-483, April 22, 2008). In the report GAO recommends that the Department of Energy (DOE) reassess its preference for accelerating GNEP. DOE stated it will continue to assess alternative approaches to GNEP. The GAO report is the latest in a series of critical reviews of the GNEP (See additional information below).

The Department of Energy (DOE) proposes under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) to build facilities to begin recycling the nation's commercial spent nuclear fuel. GNEP's objectives include reducing radioactive waste disposed of in a geologic repository and mitigating the nuclear proliferation risks of existing recycling technologies. DOE originally planned a small engineering-scale demonstration of advanced recycling technologies being developed by DOE national laboratories. While DOE has not ruled out this approach, the current GNEP strategic plan favors working with industry to demonstrate the latest commercially available technology in full-scale facilities and to do so in a way that will attract industry investment.

DOE has funded four industry groups to prepare proposals for full-scale facilities. DOE officials expect the Secretary of Energy to decide on an approach to GNEP by the end of 2008. GAO evaluated the extent to which DOE would address GNEP's objectives under (1) its original engineering-scale approach and (2) the accelerated approach to building full-scale facilities. GAO analyzed DOE plans and industry proposals and interviewed DOE and industry officials concerning the pros and cons of both approaches.

DOE's original approach of building engineering-scale facilities would meet GNEP's objectives if the advanced technologies on which it focused can be successfully developed and commercialized. The advanced technologies would reduce waste to a greater degree than existing technologies by recycling radioactive material that a geologic repository has limited capacity to accommodate. The advanced technologies would also mitigate proliferation risks relative to existing technologies by increasing the difficulty of theft or diversion of weapons-usable nuclear material from recycling facilities.

Nonetheless, DOE's engineering-scale approach had two shortcomings. First, it lacked industry participation, potentially reducing the prospects for eventual commercialization of the technologies. In particular, the approach included some technologies that may introduce unnecessary costs and technical challenges while creating waste management challenges; industry representatives have questioned whether such technologies could be commercialized. Second, DOE's schedule called for building one of the recycling facilities (a reprocessing plant for separating reusable materials from spent nuclear fuel and fabricating recycled fuel) before conducting R&D on recycled fuel that would help determine the plant's design requirements. This schedule unnecessarily increased the risk that the spent fuel would be separated in a form that cannot be recycled.

The other two facilities DOE had planned to build (an advanced reactor for using recycled fuel and an R&D facility) would allow DOE to conduct R&D that existing DOE facilities have limited capability to support. DOE's accelerated approach of building full-scale facilities would likely require using unproven evolutions of existing technologies that would reduce radioactive waste and mitigate proliferation risks to a much lesser degree than anticipated from more advanced technologies. Two of the four industry groups that have received funding under GNEP proposed evolutionary technologies for recycling spent fuel in existing reactors even though the GNEP strategic plan ruled out such technologies. While the evolutionary technologies could allow DOE to begin recycling a large amount of spent fuel sooner than under its original approach, fully meeting GNEP's waste reduction and nonproliferation objectives would require a later transition to more advanced technologies.

Two other industry groups proposed technologies that would address GNEP's waste reduction and nonproliferation objectives by using technologies that are not mature enough to allow DOE to accelerate construction of full-scale recycling facilities. Under any of the proposals, DOE is unlikely to attract enough industry investment to avoid the need for a large amount of government funding for full-scale facilities. For example, the industry groups have proposed that DOE fund an advanced reactor, which DOE and industry officials expect would at least initially be more expensive than existing reactors to build and operate and thus not be commercially competitive. DOE acknowledges the limitations of its accelerated approach but cites other benefits, such as the potential to exert more immediate international influence on nonproliferation issues.

As WIMS has reported previously [See WIMS 5/16/08], despite many critics and recommendations to alter the GNEP, DOE continues to push forward with the program. On March 31, 2008, a coalition of public interest, environmental and policy groups released a report detailing what they say are, "the severe shortcomings and false assertions" posed in the Administration's GNEP [See WIMS 4/2/08]. The GNEP has been criticized by others as well. The program recently came under scrutiny of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) that said the research and development component of the GNEP should not go forward at its current pace [
See WIMS 10/30/07]. On June 14, 2007, the Keystone Center released a report from a diverse group of 27 stakeholders that concluded, "that critical elements of the program [GNEP] are unlikely to succeed" [See WIMS 6/18/07]. On November 2, 2007, more than 40 national and local environmental, science and national security organizations sent a letter to Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), urging them to eliminate funding for the GNEP plan for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The program, they wrote, "undermines U.S. nonproliferation policy, would cost taxpayers $100 billion or more, and … [would] not solve the nuclear waste problem."

Access the complete GAO report (
click here). Access a release on the Risky Appropriations report with links to the complete 64-page report and fact sheet (click here). Access the GNEP website (click here). Access the GNEP Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (click here). Access further information on DOE’s nuclear energy program website (click here). [*Energy, *Haz/Nuclear]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Substitute Amendment To Climate Security Act S. 2191

May 21: With little fanfare, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and John Warner (R-VA) released their Substitute Amendment to Climate Security Act (S. 2191) which is expected to be voted on June 2, 2008. Back on April 10, the three unveiled legislative language that, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), they said, ensures that the Climate Security Act (S.2191) would impose no cost on the Federal government. In a letter to CBO, the three Senators committed to including the new language in S.2191 when the bill is brought up in the full Senate for debate [See WIMS 4/11/08].

At the May 20 hearing of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Energy and Related Economic Effects of Global Climate Change Legislation, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ranking Member of the Committee issued a statement warning of “dire consequences” if the proposed Lieberman-Warner cap and trade legislation becomes law [
See WIMS 5/20/08]. Domenici commented that, "It is my understanding that a substitute for that bill is being developed and that substitute will be what is considered on the Senate floor in June. Obviously, that substitute has not been the subject of modeling as yet."

The Substitute Amendment calls for Capping Greenhouse Gas Emissions and allows a declining amount of greenhouse gas emissions between 2012 and 2050, reducing them by about two percent per year from 2005 levels. The bill will reduce emissions from covered facilities 19% below current levels by 2020, and 71% by 2050. It is estimated to reduce total US emissions (from all sources, capped and non‐capped) by up to 66% by 2050.

Of note, the "Emergency Off-Ramps" provision of the bill provides that if the price of carbon allowances reaches a certain price range, there is a mechanism that will automatically release additional emission allowances onto the market to lower the price. The additional allowances are borrowed so that the environmental integrity of the caps over the long term is protected. Also the Substitute includes: "Transition Assistance" through 2050 for Workers ($190 billion); Carbon‐intensive manufacturing industries ($213 billion); fossil electricity utilities ($307 billion); refiners of petroleum‐based fuel ($34 billion); natural gas processors ($20 billion); and $800 billion in tax relief for consumers.

The bill also calls for $911 billion through 2050 to consumers through local electricity and gas utilities (local distribution companies) to ensure that consumers are protected from increases in energy costs, and to promote low carbon energy, and energy efficiency. The bill also provides $254 billion through 2050 to states that rely heavily upon manufacturing and coal, to help them transition to a low‐carbon economy.

Also included through 2050 are: $171 billion in funding for mass transit; $136 billion for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program; rewards for states that take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of $566 billion; $253 billion to states and Indian tribes to help them adapt to climate change impacts; support for state wildlife adaptation programs by providing $237 billion; $30.7 billion for recognition of companies that take early steps to reduce emissions; $51 billion for energy efficient buildings; $51 billion for the Super‐Efficient Equipment and Appliances Deployment Program; $150 billion for deployment of renewable energy technologies; $109 billion for Low Carbon Electricity and Advanced Research; $15.7 billion and bonus allowances for Carbon Capture and Sequestration; $68 billion for advanced vehicle technology; $26 billion for cellulosic biofuels; $288 billion for wildlife and natural resources adapt to climate impacts; off-set credits and $68 billion for deforestation‐prevention activities; $342 billion for international adaptation and to protect national security; and $300 billion to support agriculture and forestry programs that cut emissions but don’t qualify to be used as offset.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, commented on the Lieberman-Warner Substitute Amendment and said, “The latest version is nothing more than window dressing for a bill that has been exposed by numerous government and private analyses as costly and damaging to America. Lieberman-Warner will redistribute over $5.6 trillion from American consumers to pet congressional projects. Despite paying for the trillions of dollars mandated by this cap-and-trade scheme, American families and workers will only receive back $800 billion in consumer tax relief -- $7 paid for every $1 returned.

“The fact is that the Lieberman-Warner bill is the largest pork bill ever considered by Congress. No matter how many revisions this bill undergoes, it remains a massive redistribution of wealth, the largest new tax and spend program in our Nation's history. The handouts being offered by the sponsors of this bill come straight from the pocket of families and workers in the form of higher gas, power, and heating bills. The newly revised Lieberman-Warner bill offers nothing new except more pain at the gas pump and more expensive consumer goods.”

Access the 157-page Substitute Amendment for S. 2191 (
click here). Access a 10-page summary of the Substitute Amendment for S. 2191 (click here). Access a release from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access an April 10 announcement from the three Senators and links to the CBO letter and statement (click here). Access legislative details on S. 2191 (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Waxman Exposes Presidential Interference In EPA Rulemaking

May 20: Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform indicates that the Committee's investigation has uncovered details of White House involvement in EPA’s regulation of ozone on the eve of a court imposed deadline, forcing EPA staff to scrap a standard supported by its independent panel and to perform “emergency rewrites” to the regulation. Waxman said, "Documents obtained by the Committee show that EPA staff raised serious concerns about the merits and legality of the decision." Waxman also released extensive documentation on the Committee's investigation of the California waiver request decision (See more below).

On March 12, 2008, at approximately 6 PM, on the court-ordered deadline date, U.S. EPA met its requirements under the Clean Air Act and a court-ordered deadline by signing the new primary 8-hour ozone the final National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 0.075 parts per million (ppm) and the new secondary standard at a form and level identical to the primary standard. The previous primary and secondary standards were identical 8-hour standards, set at 0.08 ppm; however, EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Panel had unanimously recommended a substantially stronger standard in the range of 0.060 to 0.070 ppm.

Waxman released a 12-page memorandum providing additional information about EPA's revision of the national ambient air quality standards for ozone and said the findings were based on a review of approximately 30,000 pages of previously undisclosed documents received from EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget, as well as publicly available documents. Many of the documents are posted on the Committee's website. The memo indicates that, "The Committee's investigation shows that the process that led to the new standards was highly unusual, particularly the process of setting the secondary standard. . ."

The memo continues, "Late on March 11, the evening before the court-ordered deadline, EPA was informed that the President had rejected the position of the EPA Administrator and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. This decision set off what one official described as an 'emergency rewrite' to justify setting the secondary standard at the same level as the primary standard, as the White House directed. The final rule dropped the language in the draft that concluded a cumulative, seasonal standard was 'necessary ... to ensure the requisite degree of protection.' In its place, the final rule stated: 'The Administrator ... does not believe that an alternative cumulative, seasonal standard is needed.' The documents show that the EPA staff questioned both the legality and motivation for the last-minute change in the secondary standard . . ."

"The Committee sought to learn the basis for the President's decision to reject the recommendations of the EPA Administrator and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. The White House, however, is withholding hundreds of pages of documents that would explain what happened inside the White House. . . "

On May 20, the Committee held a hearing on, “EPA’s New Ozone Standards.”Witnesses included: Stephen Johnson, EPA Administrator; Susan Dudley, Administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; Dr. Rogene Henderson, Chair, Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee; and representatives of the Union Of Concerned Scientists; Natural Resources Defense Council; an Advisor on Toxicology and Human Heath Risk Analysis; and a Partner with the law firm of Sidley Austin, LLP.

In an opening statement, Representative Waxman said, "For months this Committee has been investigating recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decisions relating to both global warming and new air quality standards. And after reviewing nearly 60 thousand pages of internal documents and interviewing officials involved in the rulemakings, we have found evidence that the White House again ignored the facts and the law."

Waxman cites recent instances where the White House intervened in the California waiver petition to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light-duty trucks and then in the NAAQS ozone rulemaking. He said the Committee's investigation revealed that "EPA officials were astounded by the President's decision and said it wasn't supported by either the science or the law." One official wrote: "I have been working on National Ambient Air Quality Standards for over 30 years and have yet to see anything like this."

Waxman said, "The same thing happened in a third critical rulemaking. Last April, the Supreme Court directed EPA to determine whether CO2 emissions endanger health and the environment and must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. . . In each of these rulemakings, the pattern is the same: the President apparently insisted on his judgment and overrode the unanimous recommendations of EPA's scientific and legal experts. Our investigation has not been able to find any evidence that the President based his decisions on the science, the record, or the law. Indeed, there's virtually no credible record of any kind in support of the decisions.

"I recognize and support the broad powers our Constitution vests with the President of the United States. But the President does not have absolute power and he is not above the law. The President may have a personal opinion about the new ozone standards, California's motor vehicle standards, and regulating CO2, but he is not allowed to elevate his view above the requirements of the law."

In a separate release of investigative documents, on May 19, Chairman Waxman posted extensive information on the Committee's investigation of California's request for a waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks. Waxman said the new documents and testimony obtained by the Committee show that EPA career staff unanimously supported granting California’s request. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson also supported granting the petition, at least in part, until he communicated with the White House.

According to a 20-page Committee memo on the California waiver decision, "During the course of the investigation, the Committee obtained over 27,000 pages of documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and deposed or interviewed eight key officials. This memorandum summarizes some of the significant evidence the Committee has received. The record before the Committee shows: (l) the career staff at EPA unanimously supported granting California's petition; (2) Stephen Johnson, the Administrator of EPA, also supported granting California's petition at least in part; and (3) Administrator Johnson reversed his position after communications with officials in the White House."

Access the May 20 hearing website with links to all testimony and related information (
click here). Access links to the May 20 Ozone memo and extensive related documents (click here). Access links to the May 19 CA waiver memo and extensive related documents (click here). Access various eNewsUSA Blog posts on the Ozone NAAQS issue (click here); and the CA waiver issue (click here). [*Air, *Climate, *Energy]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of S. 2191

May 15: The Open CRS project has posted a new report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) entitled, Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of S. 2191 (RL34489, May 15, 2008). This report examines six studies that project the costs of S. 2191 (the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008) to 2030 or 2050. The report is important in light of the May 20 hearing of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Energy and Related Economic Effects of Global Climate Change Legislation (See related article below) and the upcoming, tentatively scheduled June 2 vote in the Senate on S. 2191. In general, Republicans and the business community have concluded the bill would reek havoc on jobs and the economy; Democrats and environmental organizations are saying the bill will not have a significant affect on the economy and much cheaper than the eventual cost of doing nothing; and the bill sponsors say: "EPA's detailed analysis indicates that the U.S. can curb global warming without sacrificing economic prosperity;" and "EPA's analysis demonstrates what we have long known: You can control greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that leaves the economy whole and is not burdensome on consumers."

According to the CRS report, "It is difficult (and some would consider it unwise) to project costs up to the year 2030, much less beyond. The already tenuous assumption that current regulatory standards will remain constant becomes more unrealistic, and other unforeseen events (such as technological breakthroughs) loom as critical issues which cannot be modeled. Longterm cost projections are at best speculative, and should be viewed with attentive skepticism. Despite models' inability to predict the future, cases examined here do provide insights on the costs and benefits of S. 2191."

First, if enacted, the ultimate cost of S. 2191 would be determined by the response of the economy to the technological challenges presented by the bill. The bill provides numerous incentives for technology innovation. The potential for new technology to reduce the costs of S. 2191 is not fully analyzed by any of the cases, nor can it be. Technology development is not sufficiently understood at the current time for models to replicate with confidence. Likewise, it is difficult to determine if available incentives are directed in an optimal manner. The cases do suggest that S. 2191's Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) bonus allowances would encourage deployment of CCS, accelerating development by 5-10 years.

Second, a considerable amount of low-carbon generating capacity will have to be built under S. 2191 in order to meet the reduction requirement. How much capacity will be necessary depends on new and replacement capacity needs, along with consumer demand response to rising prices and incentives contained in S. 2191.

Third, offsets could be a valuable tool not only to potentially reduce costs, but also to buy time to permit further development of new, more efficient technologies. Cost could be lowered further by greater availability of offsets and international credits and with a broader definition of eligible international credits.

Fourth, the Carbon Market Efficiency Board could have an important effect on the cost of S. 2191 through its power to extend the availability of offsets and international credits. In this sense, the Board's powers could mesh with the previous insight about the potential effect of offsets on the bill's overall costs.

Fifth, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard could significantly raise fuel prices and limit supply. The effects will depend on what fuels are included, the emissions reductions achieved by alternatives, and the ability to produce those alternatives.

Finally, S. 2191's climate-related benefit is best considered in a global context and the desire to engage the developing world in the reduction effort. The United States and other developed countries agreed both to reduce their own emissions to help stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to take the lead in reducing GHGs when they ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This context raises two issues for S. 2191: (1) whether S. 2191's GHG reduction program would be considered sufficiently credible by developing countries so that schemes for including them in future international agreements become more likely, and (2) whether S. 2191's reductions meet U.S. commitments to stabilization under the UNFCCC.

The CRS report indicates that the most comprehensive analysis has been conducted by U.S. EPA. The report is entitled: EPA Analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008: S. 2191 in 110th Congress (March 14, 2008) [
See WIMS 3/17/08]. The analysis employs a suite of models and basecases, along with some useful sensitivity analyses. The CRS report focuses on three of the models, two basecases, and sensitivity analysis as appropriate.

The other analyses investigated by CRS include: (2) the Energy Information Administration (EIA), entitled Energy Market and Economic Impacts. (3) the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. The report is an appendix to a more comprehensive analysis of cap-and-trade programs released in 2007.8 The appendix is titled: Appendix D: Analysis of the Cap and Trade Features of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191). (4) the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) by OnLocation. The report is titled The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act -- S.2191: A Summary of Modeling Results from the National Energy Modeling System (February 2008). (5) the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) by Science Applications International Corporation. The report is entitled Analysis of The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191) Using The National Energy Modeling System (NEMS). (6) the National Mining Association (NMA) by CRA International. The report is entitled Economic Analysis of the
Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007 Using CRA’s MRN-NEEM Model (April 8, 2008).

Senate Hearing On Energy & Economic Effects Of Climate Bills

May 20: the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Energy, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) held a hearing to receive testimony on Energy and Related Economic Effects of Global Climate Change Legislation -- most notably S. 2191 (the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008). A substitute for S. 2191 is being developed and will be considered on the Senate floor in June. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included mostly highly technical representatives of the Congressional Research Service (CRS); Energy Information Administration; U.S. EPA; and the Congressional Budget Office [See related article above on the CRS report analyzing 6 separate model projections on the economic impacts of S. 2191].

Chairman Bingaman set the stage for the hearing saying, "Debates on climate legislation -- and energy policy in general -- have often focused heavily on analyses and predictions. On the extremes, models have been used to show that legislation will have massive disruptions to the economy and cause widespread unemployment. They have also been used to show that legislation will be free to society and a net-benefit to the U.S. economy. Given this wide disparity of findings, it can be difficult to navigate the space in between and understand what the true impacts of legislation will be. We are faced with the question: how can reasonable people and institutions analyze the same policy and find completely incompatible results about its impacts. This hearing will attempt to learn more about the broader issues of what models can and cannot tell us about the impacts of policy and what assumptions can be used that will influence the findings of those models. . ."

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Ranking Member of the Committee issued a statement warning of “dire consequences” if the proposed Lieberman-Warner cap and trade legislation becomes law. Domenici noted that all eleven economic analyses done on such legislation found that cap and trade would result in higher energy prices for Americans. Of those, seven have been specific to Lieberman-Warner, and all found that the bill will have a negative impact on the economy, ranging from $444 billion to $4.8 trillion by 2030.

Domenici said, ". . .a range of more than $4.5 trillion is as massive as it is inconclusive, and has left me concerned about the dire consequences that Lieberman-Warner could have for our nation." He cited as an example that, the Energy Information Administration’s 2005 Annual Energy Outlook projected the price of oil in 2010 as $25 per barrel, "a prospect which seems very unlikely now, as oil approaches $129 a barrel today." He said the European Union began operating its cap and trade program in 2005, and has seen an annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions of about one percent per year.

Domenici said, "Assume for a moment that Congress passes, and the President signs, the Lieberman-Warner legislation. What then will we have accomplished for the environment? As it turns out, the answer is next to nothing. This is a global program, but without further international action, the Lieberman-Warner bill would reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases by a mere one percent by 2050. To achieve that reduction, we may subject America’s economy, prosperity, and global competitiveness to irreparable harm." He noted that China has already surpassed the United States in greenhouse gas emissions, and that the U.S. has already stood strongly against the idea of unilateral action at a time when the American economy was significantly stronger than it is today [referring to the 1997, Senate passage of a resolution indicating its lack of support for the Kyoto Treaty on a 95-0 vote].

Domenici indicated that, “We, as a Congress and a nation, must realize that cap and trade is neither our only option nor our best option for addressing global climate change. Rather than choosing among cap and trade proposals, we should look at alternative measures -- promoting nuclear power, advancing clean energy tax incentives, and accelerating clean technologies.

Access the complete 79-page CRS report (
click here). Access the hearing website for links to all testimony (click here). Access the opening statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). Access the opening statement from Senator Domenici (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Committee Approves Fast-Tracked Energy & Tax Extenders Act

May 15: According to a release, the House Committee on Ways and Means has again approved bipartisan legislation "to extend vital tax relief to millions of families, strengthen investment opportunities for American businesses and encourage the production and use of renewable energy." The fast-tracked legislation, H.R. 6049, the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, was introduced by Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) on May 14 and could be considered by the full House of Representatives as early as this week. H.R. 6049 passed the Committee by a vote of 25-12.

Chairman Rangel said, “This bill would provide critical tax relief to help working families cope with the rising cost of living. Furthermore, this bill would extend vital tax incentives for American businesses to help them invest in new technologies and remain competitive internationally. The legislation would also make an important investment in renewable energy and energy conservation to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. This is a strong, timely, and fiscally responsible tax relief package.”

In addition to providing tax relief for to millions of families, the bill would provide critical tax incentives for businesses to invest in new technology by extending the research and development credit and active financing provisions. The bill would also encourage the use and production of renewable energy through: a six-year extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy; three-year extensions of the production tax credit (PTC) for energy derived from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, landfill gas and solid waste; a one-year extension of the PTC for energy derived from wind; tax incentives for coal electricity plants that capture and sequester carbon dioxide; incentives for the production of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and renewable diesel and cellulosic biofuels; incentives to encourage energy efficient products, such as plug-in hybrids cars, and incentives for energy conservation in both commercial buildings and residential structures; and tax credit bonds providing State and local government with funds to make energy conservation investments in public infrastructure and invest in research.

Access a release from Chairman Rangel (
click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6049 (click here). Access a detailed 12-page summary of the cost and revenue provisions of the bill (click here). Access links to additional Committee materials on details of the bill (click here). [*Energy]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Report Focuses On Energy Efficiency Accomplishments & Future

May 15: A major new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shows that U.S. energy consumption (as measured per dollar of economic output) will have been slashed by the end of 2008 to half of what it was in 1970, from 18,000 Btus to about 8,900 Btus. ACEEE indicated in a release that, "It's the U.S. energy boom that no one knows about. Energy efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing energy success story of the last 50 years. But it also is the most invisible, the least understood, and in serious danger of missing out on needed future investments."

ACEEE said the report, The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture, is the first attempt to quantify the overall impact of the hidden U.S. energy efficiency boom. The report concludes that "…our nation is not aware of the role that energy efficiency has played in satisfying our growing energy-service demands…the contributions of efficiency often go unrecognized. The contributions of energy efficiency often remain invisible..."

The report also notes that although efficiency is a proven resource, it remains underdeveloped. "In short, the evidence suggests that efficiency can make an even larger contribution towards stabilizing energy prices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- should we choose to fully develop it." The ACEEE report was prepared with major support from the Civil Society Institute (CSI). Additional support was provided by the Kendall Foundation and the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association.

Key report findings include:
  • Given the right choices and investments in the many cost-effective but underutilized energy efficiency technologies, the United States can cost-effectively reduce energy consumption by an additional 25-30% or more over the course of the next 20-25 years.
  • Annual investments in energy efficiency technologies currently support 1.6 million U.S. jobs. The $300 billion invested in energy efficiency in 2004 was three times the amount invested in traditional energy infrastructure.
  • Investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone – roughly the equivalent of the energy required to operate 40 mid-sized coal-fired or nuclear power plants.
  • Since 1970, energy efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand for new energy-related services while conventional energy supply has covered only one-fourth of this demand.
  • Total investments in more energy efficiency technologies could increase the annual energy efficiency market by nearly $400 billion by 2030, resulting in an annual efficiency market of more than $700 billion – and total additional investments over the period 2008-2030 of nearly $7 trillion.

The report also identifies energy efficiency by industry. The size of energy efficiency investments varies considerably across U.S. sectors. In the buildings sector, investments in energy efficiency totaled about $178 billion, or nearly 60% of total energy efficiency investments in 2004. Of these investments, nearly half (49%) were made in energy-efficient appliances and electronics, while 29% were made in energy-efficient commercial building structures and 22% were made in energy-efficient residential building structures.

In the industrial sector, investments reached roughly $75 billion in 2004, representing one quarter of total efficiency investments for the year. In the transportation sector, investments represented approximately 11% of total efficiency investments, or $33 billion in 2004. Interestingly, this pattern of investments does not mirror the patterns of energy use across sectors. While the buildings sector accounts for 39% of total U.S. energy consumption, it received 62% of total efficiency investments. Within the buildings sector, investments in appliances and electronics (48%) far exceeded the proportion of energy consumed by these devices (8%). In the industrial sector, the proportion of investments was lower than the proportion of energy use (25% and 34%, respectively). Notably, the transportation sector also proved to be significantly unbalanced, representing only 11% of efficiency investments but 28% of overall energy use.

Access a release and link to the complete 58-page report (
click here). [*Energy]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Polar Bear Listed As A Threatened Species

May 14: Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that he was accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.

On March 10, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace sued the Bush administration for missing the legal deadline to issue a final decision on whether to list the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act due to global warming [
See WIMS 3/10/08]. On April 29, a Federal judge found the Bush administration guilty of violating ESA and ordered the administration to issue a final listing decision for the polar bear by May 15, 2008 [See WIMS 5/1/08].

In making the announcement, Kempthorne said, "I am also announcing that this listing decision will be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule that defines the scope of impact my decision will have, in order to protect the polar bear while limiting the unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States." Kempthorne further stated, "While the legal standards under the ESA compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting. Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isn't abused to make global warming policies."

In January 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the polar bear as threatened throughout its range based on receding sea ice. Last year, Arctic sea ice fell to the lowest level ever recorded by satellite, 39 percent below the long-term average from 1979 to 2000. The amount of sea ice loss in years 2002-2007 exceeded all previous record lows. USGS models project declines in September sea ice of more than 30 percent by the middle of the 21st century. Four of the 10 models project declines in September sea ice in excess of 80 percent by the mid -21st century. Seven of the 10 models show a 97 percent loss in September sea ice by the end of the 21st century. Based on actual observations of trends in sea ice over the past three decades, these models may actually understate the extent and change rate of projected sea ice loss.

In making the decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species, Kempthorne also announced he was using the authority provided in Section 4(d) of the ESA to develop a rule that states that if an activity is permissible under the stricter standards imposed by the marine Mammal Protection Act, it is also permissible under the Endangered Species Act with respect to the polar bear. This rule, effective immediately, will ensure the protection of the bear while allowing us to continue to develop our natural resources in the arctic region in an environmentally sound way. The conservation measures provide that the production, interstate sale, and export of native handicrafts by Alaska natives may continue and that the subsistence harvest of polar bears is not affected.

Secretary Kempthorne reiterated President Bush's statement last month that the ESA was never intended to regulate global climate change. He said, "Listing the polar bear as threatened can reduce avoidable losses of polar bears. But it should not open the door to use of the ESA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles, power plants, and other sources. That would be a wholly inappropriate use of the ESA law. The ESA is not the right tool to set U.S. climate policy." Last month President Bush said, "The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change." [See WIMS 4/28/08]

Kempthorne acknowledged Canada has not listed polar bears as threatened even though they have two-thirds of the world's population of the species. "Last week, I went to Canada and explored this issue. The Canadian law is different from U.S. law with respect to endangered species, both in its criteria for listing and administrative process for making listing determinations." While in Canada, Kempthorne signed a Memorandum of Understanding with his Canadian counterpart, John Baird, the minister of environment, for the conservation and management of polar bear populations shared by the U.S. and Canada.

Kempthorne indicated that to make sure the ESA is not misused to regulate global climate change, Kempthorne promised the following actions: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing the 4(d) rule mentioned above. Director Hall will issue guidance to staff that the best scientific data available today cannot make a causal connection between harm to listed species or their habitats and greenhouse gas emissions from a specific facility, or resource development project or government action. The Department will issue a Solicitor's Opinion further clarifying these points. The Department will propose common sense modifications to the existing ESA regulatory language to prevent abuse of this listing to erect a back-door climate policy outside our normal system of political accountability.

Additionally, the Department will continue to: monitor polar bear populations and trends, study polar bear feeding ecology, work cooperatively with the Alaska Nanuuq Commission and the North Slope Borough for co-management of the polar bears in Alaska, provide technical assistance to the participants of the 1988 North Slope Borough Inuvialuit Game Council Agreement for the conservation of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea region and monitor the effects of oil and gas operations in the Beaufort Sea region.

Earthjustice issued a release saying it welcomed protection for polar bears under ESA, but called on the government to put the brakes on oil and gas activities in polar bear habitat. The public interest law firm indicated, "The Bush administration announced that polar bears would be listed as 'threatened' under the Endangered Species Act. The administration, however, is employing a loophole called a 4(d) rule that appears calculated to limit protection for the ice bears and their shrinking sea-ice habitat in areas where oil and gas development is planned or proceeding. Essentially the administration has signaled that it will extend the bears no greater protection from oil and gas development than they previously had under the Marine Mammal Protection Act."

Access a lengthy release from Fish and Wildlife Service (
click here). Access the Final Rule Determination of Threatened Status for the Polar Bear (click here). Access the Special Section 4(d) Interim Final Rule (click here). Access the DOI Polar Bear Conservation and Management website (click here). Access a release from Earthjustice (click here). Access a release from the Center for Biological Diversity one of the original petitioners for the ESA listing (click here). [*Wildlife]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Water Supply Challenges For The 21st Century

May 14: The House Science & Technology Committee, Chaired by Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN) held a hearing on Water Supply Challenges for the 21st Century. Witnesses included representatives of the Water Policy Program, University of California-Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management; National Research Council Water Science and Technology Board; the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona; JPMorgan Chase, US Corporate Research; and the U.S. National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) & the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Climate Program Office.

In an opening statement, Representative Gordon said, "The recent droughts experienced in the west and the southeast and increased competition for water supplies suggest that we must take a closer look at how we are managing our water resources. Thirty-six states expect to experience significant water shortages by 2013. Population growth, increased per capita water use, degraded water quality, and climate change have all impacted our available supplies of water. In my district, water sources have dried up and wells have run dry, and towns have been forced to implement water restrictions to deal with decreased supply. According to the Tennessee Valley Authority, the first eight months of 2007 were the driest in the last 118 years of Tennessee history.

"When severe water shortages occur, the economic impact is substantial. In 2007, the Tennessee Valley Authority was forced to shut down a nuclear reactor due to a lack of acceptable cooling water in the Tennessee River. According to a 2000 report from NOAA, each of the eight water shortages over the past 20 years from drought or heat waves resulted in $1 billion or more in monetary losses. A recent report by JP Morgan indicated that a single production interruption at a semiconductor plant could cost $200 million in lost revenue. I believe with investment in research and development, public education and better information on the status of our water supplies we can avoid the high costs, social disruption, and environmental damage associated with water shortages."

Testimony from the Bren School indicated that, "Climate models consistently indicate a warmer future for the U.S. West. Evidence of warming trends is already being seen in winter temperatures in the Sierra Nevada, which rose by almost 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) during the second half of the 20th century. Trends toward earlier snowmelt and runoff to the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta over the same period have also been detected. Water managers are particularly concerned with the mid-range elevation levels where snow shifts to rain under warmer conditions, thereby reducing snow-water storage. California’s Department of Water Resources, along with the California Energy Commission, has been tracking the climate change science since the 1980s." Arizona State University also testified on what it called, "One of the chief potential challenges to ensuring a reliable water supply will be climate variability and climate change."

NOAA also testified on the impacts of climate change and drought and said, "Adaptive capacity to manage climate changes can be increased by introducing adaptation measures into development planning and operations (sometimes termed ‘mainstreaming’). This can be achieved by including adaptation measures in land-use planning and infrastructure design, or by including measures to reduce vulnerability in existing disaster preparedness program (such as introducing drought warning systems based on actual management needs). Major barriers to implementing adaptive management measures are adaptation itself is not yet a high priority, and that the validity of local manifestations of global climate change remains in question."

JPMorgan testified that, ". . .investors are much less concerned about water supply risks than they should be. We recently published a report contending that water-supply risks are far more important to many companies than investors believe. We also found that very few companies seem fully aware of these risks. While many companies now produce public relations brochures that tell how they are reducing water use per unit of production, almost none of these companies thoroughly assesses what we call its water “footprint,” the total usage of water in the production and consumption of its product. Investors have no way of evaluating the risk of business disruption due to water scarcity, or of comparing risks among companies."

JPMorgan also said, " I know there is a great deal of talk on Capitol Hill about federal loans or loan guarantees for new-generation nuclear plants and for coal plants with carbon capture and sequestration. Both of these technologies require very large amounts of water. I think it is important that the social cost of those large water withdrawals be reflected in the prices users pay for electricity from those plants. It’s simply bad policy for the government to be subsidizing water usage. . ."

The National Research Council testified that, ". . . problems are especially pronounced in the West and in the Southeast. Both these areas are sites of rapidly-growing populations and have been affected by climate variability, drought, and a tightening water supply picture as multiple and new users vie for changes to more traditional allocation rules and patterns. Lasting solutions to these challenges of water supply and demand balances, as well as water quality, will require creative, science-based, and economically feasible strategies. . ."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, a webcast and related information (
click here). [*Water, *Climate]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

DOE Report: 20 Percent Wind Energy By 2030

May 12: The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) released a first-of-its kind report that examines the technical feasibility of harnessing wind power to provide up to 20 percent of the nation’s total electricity needs by 2030. Entitled, 20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030, the report identifies requirements to achieve this goal including reducing the cost of wind technologies, citing new transmission infrastructure, and enhancing domestic manufacturing capability. Most notably, the report identifies opportunities for 7.6 cumulative gigatons of CO2 to be avoided by 2030, saving 825 million metric tons in 2030 and every year thereafter if wind energy achieves 20 percent of the nation’s electricity mix.

DOE Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy Andy Karsner said, “DOE’s wind report is a thorough look at America’s wind resource, its industrial capabilities, and future energy prices, and confirms the viability and commercial maturity of wind as a major contributor to America’s energy needs, now and in the future. To dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance our energy security, clean power generation at the gigawatt-scale will be necessary, and will require us to take a comprehensive approach to scaling renewable wind power, streamlining siting and permitting processes, and expanding the domestic wind manufacturing base.”

Prepared by DOE and a broad cross section of stakeholders across industry, government, and three of DOE’s national laboratories, the report presents an in-depth analysis of the potential for wind in the U.S. and outlines a potential scenario to boost wind electric generation from its current production of 16.8 gigawatts (GW) to 304 GW by 2030. For its technical report, DOE also drew on the expertise of the American Wind Energy Association and Black and Veatch engineering consultants and the report reflects input from more than fifty energy organizations and corporations.

With the U.S. leading the world in new wind installations and having the potential to be the world leader in total wind capacity by 2010, DOE’s report comes at an important time in wind development. Last year, U.S. cumulative wind energy capacity reached 16,818 megawatts (MW) -- with more than 5,000 MW of wind installed in 2007. Wind contributed to more than 30 percent of the new U.S. generation capacity in 2007, making it the second largest source of new power generation in the nation -- surpassed only by natural gas. The U.S. wind energy industry invested approximately $9 billion in new generating capacity in 2007, and has experienced a 30 percent annual growth rate in the last 5 years.

Access a DOE release (
click here). Access the complete 248-page report (click here). Access links to additional wind energy documents and information from DOE (click here). [*Energy]

Monday, May 12, 2008

President Will Veto House-Senate Farm Bill Compromise

May 8: Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and of the Senate-House conference committee on the new farm bill, announced a final farm bill conference agreement with principal negotiators at a press conference on Capitol Hill [See WIMS 4/29/08]. He said the agreement will lead to a formal conference report, which will then be passed by the Senate and House before being sent to the White House.

Immediately Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer issued a statement saying, "Today, the United States House and Senate announced the completion of a farm bill that unfortunately fails to include much needed reform and increases spending by nearly $20 billion. At a time of record farm income, Congress decided to further increase farm subsidy rates, qualify more people for taxpayer support, and move programs toward more government control. We should not remove farm commodities from market forces and make them dependent upon government support programs. . . For a year and a half, the Administration has been consistently clear that Congress needs to move forward with a good farm bill that the President can sign. They have failed to do so. This legislation lacks meaningful farm program reform and expands the size and scope of government. I have visited face to face with our President and he was direct and plain. The President will veto this bill."

In announcing the compromise bill, Senator Harkin said, “This is a strong, bipartisan farm bill that benefits every American from Cumming, Iowa, population 162 to New York City, population 8 million. The bill provides a strong safety net, so it’s good for our farmers and producers. Consumers will like it because it will increase farmers’ markets and ensure a safe, dependable supply of high quality food. For low-income Americans, it ensures nutrition needs are met and for school children, increases their access to fresh fruits and vegetables. And as production increases, the farm bill will ensure our precious natural resources are protected. . .

“To meet soaring worldwide demand for food and energy crops, millions of new acres of land are being brought into production, including environmentally fragile land. To address this challenge, we authorize nearly $4.4 billion in additional funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program over the next 10 years. With this support, the Conservation Stewardship Program will enroll nearly 13 million acres each year. . . All-time high gasoline prices are wreaking havoc with family budgets, but, without the inputs of biofuels, prices at the pump would be as much as 50 cents higher. The new farm bill will dramatically ramp up the agricultural sector’s capacity to produce clean renewable energy. Significantly, it provides more than $1 billion to expand the supply of biofuels made from biomass and crop byproducts other than grain. The bill also provides new support to farmers who grow energy crops, and to entrepreneurs who build refineries to convert biomass into fuel.”

Harkin issued a separate statement on the President's announced veto plans saying, "Like any compromise bill resulting from hard bargaining among regional and other interests, this farm bill is far from perfect. But no piece of legislation is. It includes significant reforms, as well as these major advances. It deserves the President’s signature. Inexplicably, the White House seems intent on destroying the harvest just as the seeds are being planted."

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an active participant in the Farm Bill issue, said the compromise bill was a "mixed bag." They said, "The good news is that conference committee members recognized the need to boost conservation funding at a time when very high commodity prices are increasing pressure on our land, water, and important wildlife habitat. The bad news is that this new funding falls short of what’s needed to provide farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners with the resources they need to help us solve some of the nation’s biggest environmental problems.” EDF also criticized the House-Senate conference committee for increasing, rather than decreasing, farm subsidies.

Access a release from Senator Harkin and link to a 12-page summary of the compromise bill (click here). Access the Senate Farm Bill Conference website (click here). Access Harkin's statement on the President's announced veto (click here). Access the House Farm Bill website including links to audio and video of the press conference (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2419 (click here). Access a May 8 release from USDA (click here). Access an audio (click here) and transcript of a May 9 USDA press conference on the bill (click here). Access the USDA Farm Bill website (click here). Access a release from EDF (click here). [*All, *Agriculture]

Thursday, May 08, 2008

U.S. Consumers Score Lowest On Geographic Society Greendex

May 7: The National Geographic Society (NGS) and the international polling firm GlobeScan unveiled a new mechanism for measuring and comparing individual consumer behavior as it relates to the environment. "Greendex™ 2008: Consumer Choice and the Environment -- A Worldwide Tracking Survey" looks at environmentally sustainable consumption and behavior among consumers in 14 countries. NGS said this first-of-its-kind study reveals surprising differences between consumers in developed and developing countries in terms of environmentally friendly actions. This year's results are a baseline against which results of future annual surveys will be compared, in order to monitor improvements or declines in environmentally sustainable consumption at both the global level and within countries.

The Greendex survey was conducted online earlier this year among 14,000 consumers in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States. A panel of 27 international experts in global sustainability helped identify which consumer behaviors were most crucial to investigate. One thousand people in each country answered questions that measured their behavior in the areas of housing, transportation, food and consumption of goods; each respondent earned a score that reflected the environmental impact of his or her consumption patterns, which included size and energy-efficiency of residence, commuting mode and distance and use of fresh water, among dozens of other measures. Consumers were then assigned a Greendex score (a measure of the relative environmental sustainability of their consumption patterns) out of 100. Consumers in Brazil and India scored highest; U.S. consumers scored lowest.

NGS said that unlike other measures that rank countries according to the environmental performance of their governments, businesses and other factors, the Greendex is the first to rank the performance of individual consumers, rather than countries as a whole. The results are strikingly different from existing performance rankings like the Environmental Performance Index [See WIMS 1/23/08], the Environmental Sustainability Index or Ecological Footprint.

Terry Garcia, NGS's executive vice president of Mission Programs said, "The Greendex gives us an unprecedented, meaningful look at how consumers across the globe are behaving. It will allow us over time to assess the progress that people are making to conserve, minimize waste and protect natural resources for the future. Consumers who score highest have a responsibility to maintain their behavior and provide an example to those who need to improve. We hope the study inspires all consumers, particularly those in countries where consumers scored lowest, to adopt the best behaviors of those who scored well, and that consumers in countries with expanding economies, who may consume more in the future, will do so responsibly."

The findings show that consumers in Brazil and India tie for the highest Greendex score for environmentally sustainable consumption at 60 points each. They are followed by consumers in China (56.1), Mexico (54.3), Hungary (53.2) and Russia (52.4). Among consumers in wealthy countries, those in Great Britain, Germany and Australia each have a Greendex score of 50.2, those in Spain register a score of 50.0 and Japanese respondents, 49.1. U.S. consumers have the lowest Greendex score at 44.9. The other lowest-scoring consumers are Canadians with 48.5 and the French with 48.7.

Access a lengthy release with links to individual country profiles (
click here). Access backgrounders, fact sheets and related release on the Greendex (click here). Access the Greendex website for additional information and links to calculate your personal Greendex score (click here). [*All]