Congress Returns to Looming Deadlines on Budget, Highways

Source: By Erica Werner, The Associated Press • Posted: Monday, November 30th, 2015

The $95 billion package would extend more than 50 tax credits, exemptions and deductions through 2016. Support for these so-called tax extenders is bipartisan. Among the biggest breaks for businesses are a tax credit for research and development; an exemption that allows financial companies such as banks and investment firms to shield foreign profits from being taxed by the U.S.; and several provisions that allow businesses to write off capital investments more quickly. There is also a generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable energy sources to produce electricity.

Biggest clean tech fund ever will double energy spending to $20B

Source: Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, November 30th, 2015

President Obama and the leaders of China, India, Saudi Arabia and more than a dozen other nations will pledge a $20 billion doubling of clean energy spending while deep-pocket investors put up billions of their own in assistance. The deal among 19 countries and 28 corporate heavyweights, first reported by E&E, is spearheaded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. It will be announced as 140 world leaders and thousands of diplomats, celebrities and activists from around the world convene in this heavily guarded airfield on the outskirts of Paris to launch landmark U.N. climate change negotiations toward a new global accord.

Opinion: Iowa’s Climate-Change Wisdom

Source: By Jeff Bridges, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

But here’s the catch: Even if every coal-fired plant shuts down, land misuse still accounts for an estimated 30 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The soils in the United States, like those of nations around the world, have lost calamitous amounts of carbon. This is where Iowa’s new climate narrative has emerged as a great story for the nation and other countries heading to Paris. Despite the fact that the United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 to be “the international year of soils,” a global soil carbon sequestration campaign — one that recognizes direct links between climate mitigation, regenerative agriculture and food security — rarely ranks at the top of any high level accords, or even conversations.

Buffett’s Grandson Seeks Own Investment Route: Social Change

Source: By DAVID GELLES, New York Times • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

“Howard is on a search to find where he can have the most impact,” said William B. Eimicke, a professor at Columbia University who taught Mr. Buffett, and now teaches a class jointly with him. “This is an actualization of where he’s been focused.” For Mr. Buffett, the hope is that i(x) will essentially become a baby Berkshire Hathaway with a conscience. “We’re looking at the long-term horizon and investments that are doing more than avoiding bad, but are actually trying to improve the world,” Mr. Buffett said. “It’s about taking the potential for capitalism to the next level.”

U.S. must be candid about hurdles facing Obama agenda — AGs

Source: Amanda Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

U.S. negotiators must make clear to the international community that the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s domestic climate agenda is “unlikely to survive” court challenges, two attorneys general who are opposing the rule said. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said they expected their many legal arguments against the Clean Power Plan — including that it gives U.S. EPA too much authority over the nation’s energy policy — to win in court.

Germany enters brave new world of decentralized power

Source: Eric Marx, E&E Europe correspondent • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

The theory of a decentralized power system — one that does not rely on standard steam-fired electric generators — has been around for a long time. But now some applications of it are coming into commercial reality. In Germany, they will most likely involve rooftop solar photovoltaics feeding battery storage systems for saving and using the power generated on-site, but it will also include a variety of other technologies such as electric heat pumps and chargeable electric vehicles.

Initiative aims to reinvent utility industry the Minnesota way

Source: Jeffrey Tomich, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

ore efficient use of energy is eroding demand. Customers want more options to manage their energy use and even generate a share of their own energy with solar arrays. Massive investments are required to maintain and improve the grid, and new environmental regulations require a continued shift to cleaner energy sources. But how the utility is facing that future, one that requires billions of dollars in capital investments at a time when sales are flat or declining, is relatively unique.

German Financial Giant Allianz Reducing Coal Investments

Source: By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS • Posted: Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

German financial group Allianz SE says it will over the next six months decrease investments in companies using coal and boost funding on those focused on wind power.
CEO Oliver Baete said Tuesday that Allianz will no longer invest in companies if more than 30 percent of sales come from coal mining or if they generate more than 30 percent of electricity from coal.

Inhofe challenges authority of Obama’s climate council

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) today questioned the legal authority for the White House Council on Environmental Quality to continue to operate without a Senate-confirmed chairman. In a letter to President Obama, Inhofe challenged the standing of former National Park Service official Christy Goldfuss, who in March replaced former CEQ Chief of Staff Mike Boots as managing director of the agency.

Hulking transformers prove a challenge for vulnerable grid

Source: Blake Sobczak and Peter Behr, E&E reporters • Posted: Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

William Fehrman had a 450,000-pound puzzle on his hands. A large power transformer in the utility executive’s service territory was sputtering toward the end of its useful life. Fehrman, president and CEO of MidAmerican Energy Co. in Des Moines, Iowa, knew he needed to replace the cumbersome piece of equipment, so he jumped on the chance to practice speeding up the process.