The House yesterday approved a controversial bill to fast-track federal approval of natural gas pipelines despite sharp Democratic opposition and a veto threat from the White House. The chamber voted 253-169 to approve Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Kan.) “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act,” H.R. 161, which would give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a year to approve or deny a pipeline, and other agencies are given three or four months beyond that to complete their work on any additional permits, licenses or approvals that would be needed.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced that he has introduced an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill to establish a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) that would create over a quarter of a million jobs, reduce pollution and save consumers billions of dollars. The legislation, which would help the United States become energy independent while establishing our leadership in clean energy production, would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025.
Businesses in California have been thinking about this goal for some time. An analysis is well underway on how the state can cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030. It’s being funded by about two dozen companies, trade groups and foundations with interests in large-scale renewable energy, including GE, Sunpower, NRG, BrightSource Energy, the American Wind Energy Association and the Energy Foundation.
Seventy-nine percent of respondents voiced support for alternative and renewable energy mandates, framed as “requiring a set portion of all electricity to come from renewable energy sources such as wind and power.” An even higher portion — 84 percent — backed “requiring increased energy efficiency standards for new homes and applications.” These options both showed broad support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. But nearly 60 percent of respondents — including majorities from all three groups — opposed a carbon tax.
The reason why offshore wind has not happened — even though the federal government says New Jersey’s coastline offers some of the best offshore wind resources — is a matter of dispute. At least a dozen developers have expressed an interest in building winds farms along the coast. To critics, however, the economics of offshore wind make little sense, particularly with historically low natural gas prices in a state burdened with some of the nation’s highest electric bills. A growing portion of the state’s electricity is produced by conventional natural-gas-fired power plants.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit will hear oral arguments Jan. 21 in a case that could pose a crucial test for whether state renewable energy mandates are constitutional, and could also have a significant impact on states’ ability to use their mandates to comply with EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) rule for existing power plants. The Denver-based court will hear arguments in the case, Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (EELI), et al., v. Joshua Epel, et al., where free-market groups are appealing a lower court ruling that upheld Colorado’s renewable electricity standard (RES) as constitutional.
Amazon Web Services is one of the largest providers of cloud computing services, with a long list of customers that includes names such as Johnson & Johnson, Dole, Siemens, and Netflix (as well as NBC Universal’s parent company, Comcast). The company already operates three carbon-neutral regions—one in Oregon, one in Frankfurt, Germany, and the AWS GovCloud region in the Northwestern United States. However, this is its first publicly announced wind farm, and the first major renewable energy project the company has announced since committing in November to power its cloud computing division with renewable energy.
“[T]oday, America is No. 1 in oil and gas. America is No. 1 in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump,” Obama said.
The Maine islanders, along with students from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, had traveled to Samso to attend the academy and hear the Danes’ advice. If all went well, each islander would go home with a team of students dedicated to solving an energy problem using ideas borrowed from Samso. Beyond that, the planners hoped, new Maine island projects could become templates for broader adoption of renewable energy. Because of their particular geography, islands often lack the resources and infrastructures to meet their own needs. Fuel, like other necessities, is often imported — sometimes with great difficulty — and electric grids, when they even exist, are often underdeveloped or out of date, all of which leads to higher prices and less reliable service. With residents open to cheaper and better alternatives, islands are becoming seedbeds of innovation, living labs in which to test and refine technologies and approaches that are too new or expensive to establish on a mainland. And their small size makes the systems easier to manage and analyze.
But when Congress focuses on symbols rather than substance, everybody loses. The truth is that building Keystone is not economically essential to the U.S. (sorry Republicans), but stopping it is also not, in the view of many scientists, going to do a ton to save the climate (sorry greens). Either way, the last thing America actually needs is another Keystone debate. But there are really helpful things Congress could be doing instead to protect the environment and boost the economy. Here are four of them.