The Senate voted yesterday afternoon to oppose creation of a federal carbon tax, a proposal the White House has not endorsed and that has little chance of enactment in the current Congress. Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) amendment was adopted by the chamber, 58-42. Four Democrats crossed the aisle to support it: Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All voted for a previous Blunt amendment to the fiscal 2014 resolution.
Georgetown, Texas, is home to the oldest university in the Lone Star State and is affectionately called the “red poppy capital” of Texas. It will soon add another accolade to the mix: the state’s first city-owned utility to run on 100 percent renewable energy. Last Wednesday, the city announced a 25-year contract with SunEdison to buy 150 megawatts of solar energy. In order to supply the power, SunEdison will build a solar farm in West Texas. The solar will complement a deal Georgetown signed last year with EFD Renewables for 144 MW of wind power from its West Texas wind farm through 2039.
For procedural reasons, the amendments were all vaguely worded and nonbinding — which limits somewhat their usefulness as guides to future legislation. But over the course of the 15 hours senators spent casting votes yesterday and this morning, some clear lessons emerged for the marquee energy and environment fights to come later this year. They are:
Scientists have teamed up two materials to soak up more sunlight in a new solar cell. The dynamic duo in this case was silicon, the workhorse of conventional photovoltaics, and a mineral called perovskite. First discovered in the Ural Mountains and named for Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski, the mineral is a crystal made of calcium titanium oxide that has useful photovoltaic properties.
The wind blowing off America’s coastline has the potential to generate 54 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 42 million homes. To capture some of that energy, this winter the US Department of the Interior leased 354,000 acres off the Bay State to two wind energy developers. In 2013, the feds leased 166,000 acres off Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and a fully funded wind project off Block Island will soon power 17,000 homes.
“The data collected under this research lease will help us understand the wind potential, weather and other conditions relevant to standing up wind power generation offshore Virginia,” said BOEM Director Abigail Hopper in a statement. “This data will be valuable not only to BOEM and [Virginia], but also to other government agencies, the offshore renewable energy industry, universities, environmental organizations and others.”
New wind farm completions fell from a record 13,082 MW of capacity in 2012 to just over 1,100 MW in 2013, the steepest drop in the industry’s history. Last year, with the tax credit back in place, an additional 12,700 MW entered the development pipeline. Kiernan wants to avoid further uncertainty, hoping to lure enough moderate Republicans to support another multi-year extension of the production tax credit for wind power.
Nearly half the Senate voted last night for an amendment to the nonbinding fiscal 2016 budget resolution that calls on Congress to address carbon emissions. The amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was defeated with a vote of 49-50. In language tailored to the underlying resolution, it calls for policies “protecting Americans from the impacts of human-induced climate change, which include action on policies that reduce emissions by the amounts that the scientific community says are needed to avert catastrophic climate change.”
A California wind farm is attracting the ire of environmentalists for delays in replacing outdated wind turbines that can be deadly to endangered birds. In 2005, Altamont Winds Inc. cut a deal with Alameda County to phase out 25 percent of its old turbines by 2013. The company then secured a two-year extension and now is requesting three more years to complete the project.
Oil company BP said on Monday it has stopped supporting conservative political group ALEC, becoming the latest corporation to end its membership in a group critics say works to deny the existence of climate change. “We have determined that we can effectively pursue policy matters of current interest to BP without renewing our membership in ALEC,” a spokesman said. BP was the second large oil company to drop support of the group after Occidental Petroleum cut ties last year.