Senators expressed little pleasure in voting for what they called the least bad option on Tuesday. “This two-week extenders bill represents another low point in the world of dysfunctional Washington politics,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). “This bill does little to help families and businesses in Colorado, particularly our wind energy industry. Waiting until now to extend the wind PTC — and only for two weeks — generates nothing but more uncertainty for these businesses that employ thousands of Coloradans,” Bennet added.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) wants to rebuild his state’s transportation infrastructure and plans to charge carbon emitters in order to come up with the funds. The governor is rolling out a proposed state budget in stages this week and is expected to speak to the design and implementation of a state carbon fee today. But details released about funding for the transportation sector yesterday indicate that about a third of the $12 billion needed to rebuild roads and bridges would come from a fee levied on the state’s biggest polluters. It’s transportation pollution paying for transportation choices,” Inslee said, speaking at the proposal’s release.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday laid out an ambitious plan for cutting Washington’s carbon emissions that would vault the state to the forefront of global efforts to combat climate change. The sweeping proposal drew cheers from a crowd of environmentalists, labor leaders and other supporters on hand for Inslee’s climate-plan unveiling at Seattle’s flagship REI store. But a tougher crowd waits in Olympia. Republicans and some business groups are already mustering opposition to Inslee’s cap-and-trade plan, which would put a price on the greenhouse gases spewed not only from large industrial plants but also car and truck tail pipes and electric utilities.
People who own all-electric cars where coal generates the power may think they are helping the environment. But a new study finds their vehicles actually make the air dirtier, worsening global warming. Ethanol isn’t so green, either. “It’s kind of hard to beat gasoline” for public and environmental health, said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota. “A lot of the technologies that we think of as being clean … are not better than gasoline.”
“Nebraska has some of the best wind in the country but a surprisingly low amount of wind generation installed and under development,” said Brattle principal Judy Chang, a co-author of the study. “Nebraska policy makers and legislators have been working to increase the attractiveness of the state to renewable energy developers. They have already reduced some barriers, including those related to limiting public power condemnation rights. We anticipate that Nebraska policy makers will consider the options laid out in our report to make decisions about further improving the economics and regulatory setting for renewable development.”
The wind and biofuel industries in Iowa will benefit modestly from a $41 billion package of tax breaks passed by the Senate late Tuesday, but only through the end of 2014. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the package of nearly 50 tax breaks, which passed by a vote of 76-16. The legislation would reinstate production tax credits for wind power, cellulosic ethanol and a $1-a-gallon credit that helps the biodiesel industry for a year. But the tax breaks, which are retroactive to when they expired at the beginning of the year, will be in place for only about two more weeks, providing little assistance to groups and producers in Iowa.
“This sort of technology is really important to the future of energy,” said Vincent Thornley, head of Siemens’s U.K. smart-grid research, in an interview. “Rather than building new cable networks and putting in new transformers, we can make better use of” existing systems by using automation. A four-year trial for the system ends this month in northeast England. It complements the $15 billion investment Buffett has already made in wind and solar power in the U.S. that he said in June he’s ready to double. His MidAmerican Energy Co. is the largest U.S. owner of wind capacity among rate-regulated utilities.
Westar Energy has signed a contract to buy all of the output of a wind farm under construction in western Kansas. The Cedar Bluff wind farm in Ness and Trego counties will produce up to 200 megawatts of wind energy, which Westar is under contract to buy, said Gina Penzig, spokeswoman for Westar. It will only pay for the electricity that is actually generated on any given day, she said. That will bring Westar’s total renewable portfolio to about 1,100 megawatts, though it doesn’t get that much every day. Penzig said customers had indicated they wanted more renewable energy in their mix.
There are plenty of economic and bureaucratic obstacles to be overcome in the long term, but Nebraska’s wind energy industry has immediate potential for even short-term expansion. The Wind Coalition is pointing to results from an official report released today by the Nebraska Power Review Board, which commissioned a study by the Brattle Group as aresult of passage of LB 1115 last legislative session. “The study shows how viable wind energy investment and development is in Nebraska, something all Nebraskans should be excited about,” said Jeff Clark, executive director of the coalition.
The Senate cleared a $41.6 billion package of tax breaks on Tuesday, sending the legislation to President Obama in one of the last substantive moves of this Congress. By a 76 to 16 vote, the Senate passed a measure that would extend more than four dozen tax breaks for both businesses and individuals just through 2014. Republicans and Democrats latched on to the one-year deal after the White House undercut negotiations on a broader bipartisan package, underscoring divisions between Democrats in the wake of this year’s heavy losses at the polls. Senators from both parties said Tuesday that they would have preferred legislation that restored the tax breaks through 2015.