In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama will unveil today a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.
Legislation to protect the nation’s power grid from a wide range of threats — from extreme weather and solar storms to a cyberattack and nuclear explosions — is gaining more traction in Congress. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee yesterday unanimously backed the need for a federal plan to build a strategic reserve of the large transformers that move power across the interstate transmission network. The bill would give the Energy secretary a year from the legislation’s enactment to send Congress the plan for acquiring and stockpiling the spare units.
For good or ill, governments are integrally involved in the promotion, taxation and regulation of wind energy development. Taking a minimal role, which S.D. is now doing, does not cut the mustard if the state wishes to become a real wind energy state. If wind could sell to pricier markets like Chicago or the eastern seaboard, development would make more sense. This is the purpose of the proposed Rock Island Clean Line — essentially a gigantic transmission line across Iowa that would connect electrical providers in S.D. to the Chicago market. If development of the Clean Line is successful, wind in S.D. will be greatly benefited.
A few miles off the coast of Block Island, part of Rhode Island, a small flotilla has been gathering: crane vessels, tugboats and barges that began this week installing the 1,500-ton foundations of the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. It’s a moment that its supporters have long anticipated, billing it as nothing less than the dawn of a new clean energy future for the United States, which lags Europe and China in harnessing ocean gusts for electricity. It is a much more modest beginning than was originally expected. Only five turbines will spin in the waters off Rhode Island; other, more ambitious projects like Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and its 130 turbines remain stalled. But its backers see it as one that could lend credibility to other efforts.
Members of a House energy panel are headed for a partisan showdown over amendments to a sweeping energy package, with Republicans and Democrats staking out opposite ground on a range of divisive issues from crude oil exports to renewable energy. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) predicted that the committee’s members would have “a lot of good, constructive comments” on the bill when lawmakers return from their summer recess in September.
“If you don’t like something in it, if you think something needs to be added, this is going to be your opportunity to weigh in,” she said at a briefing with reporters. “There are some things that I think will be easy for the committee to sign onto them. There may be some other things that are perhaps a little more contentious and controversial. … I think what you can expect is there will be an opportunity for good debate in the Energy Committee, and I welcome exactly that.”
“The Holy See or individual countries might be able to make nice speeches at the United Nations, but if the work doesn’t come from the periphery moving to the center, there is no effect,” Francis said, comparing cities to the limbs of a body. “And that is the responsibility of you mayors of cities.” It was a sentiment echoed by another onetime Jesuit seminarian who attended the conference. California Gov. Jerry Brown has made greenhouse gas reductions a centerpiece of his fourth and final term. Brown told the collection of politicians that in order to keep the rise in global temperatures to a minimum, “one-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used, and over 90 percent of coal.”
As President Barack Obama returns to Africa this week, his signature program to help the continent double its access to electricity is in jeopardy, undermined by Congress’ refusal to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Of the $7 billion that Obama set aside for Power Africa, $5 billion fell under the auspices of the now-defunct bank, which guarantees loans to foreign companies buying U.S.-made products. But out of that $5 billion, just $132 million in transactions had been approved before the bank’s charter expired last month, rendering it unable to approve new transactions. Although the bank says it had several billion dollars of Power Africa projects in the pipeline, none of them can proceed unless lawmakers revive the bank.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this afternoon will introduce its long-awaited bipartisan energy package, with two markups slated to kick off next week. The “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015” marks the first aisle-crossing effort in years to break through a legislative stalemate on energy policy. It has a heavy emphasis on modernizing energy infrastructure, encouraging efficiency, and increasing supplies of renewables and traditional energy sources, while also looking to boost the security of the electric grid from cyberattacks.
Republican lawmakers have included dozens of environmental policy riders in their 2016 spending bills, setting up a major clash with Democrats and the White House as lawmakers seek to hammer out a deal to fund the government. While most of the policy riders likely will never become law, some could be bargaining chips for President Obama and Democrats in their pleas for the GOP to raise discretionary spending levels. Republicans now have control of both chambers, giving them increased leverage to challenge the administration’s efforts to confront climate change, protect waterways and conserve imperiled wildlife.