The formula is simple: Take a high-minded topic and a few knowledgeable talking heads, and rent a hall. Then get a sponsor willing to shell out top dollar to splash its name on the ensuing discussion. To give the event an extra sheen of authority and credibility, it helps if the organizer is a prestigious news organization. For the news media, it’s no longer enough to merely report the day’s events. At a time when traditional advertising revenues are under stress, news organizations are developing a lucrative — and sometimes controversial — sideline by orchestrating live discussions about events and ideas in the news.
The Obama administration’s controversial social cost of carbon underestimates the economic damage done by carbon dioxide emissions by ignoring some of warming’s effects on health and resource availability, according to a report released today by New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. The paper seeks to refute industry allies’ charges that the Obama administration inflated costs when it revised the tally sharply upward last year.
The Department of Energy this week launched another effort to accelerate wind energy development in the United States. The agency announced the creation of six Wind Energy Regional Resource Centers, aimed at providing up-to-date information to help tackle the financial, regulatory and industry-related challenges facing wind energy development at the regional level.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s acting chairwoman faulted The Wall Street Journal yesterday for releasing “sensitive information” in a story about physical attacks on the grid. Cheryl LaFleur took aim at a story published yesterday that says the United States could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knock out just nine transmission substations on a hot summer day. The story cited a “previously unreported federal analysis” conducted by FERC officials that warned of a blackout that could linger for weeks to months.
Federal, state and regional policies to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency and to cut greenhouse gas emissions helped produce a 12 percent decline in U.S. carbon emissions between 2007 and 2012, according to a new study by Environment America. The environmental group said in its 44-page report that state renewable energy standards and other policies have helped wind, solar and other renewable industries to quadruple in that time, leading to 62 million metric tons in avoided CO2 in 2012. Efficiency standards for lighting, building efficiency and other sectors have also contributed. A new rule for fluorescent and incandescent lamps that took effect in 2012 — and that has sometimes been a bone of contention on Capitol Hill — cut greenhouse gases by 3.6 million metric tons in the final six months of that year, the report said.
About 80,000 clean energy and transportation jobs were created in 2013, according to a study put out this week by an environmental nonprofit group. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) says the bulk of these were in the solar power sector, which announced more than 21,000 new jobs. But building efficiency and public transportation also had strong showings. The top states were California with more than 15,000 new clean energy jobs announced, followed by Texas, with more than 6,000. Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts were close behind.
Iowa, which generates a quarter of its electricity by wind, made plans last year to add up to 1,400 clean energy and transportation jobs in the state, according to the nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs. In a report released Wednesday, the group said during the fourth quarter alone, Iowa ranked the fifth-largest for job creation, trailing only Texas, Arizona, New York and California. Overall, 260 projects were announced in 2013 in the United States that could create more than 78,600 clean energy and transportation jobs, Environmental Entrepreneurs said. Solar power generation was the year’s top sector with more than 21,600 jobs announced. Other strong sectors included building efficiency and public transportation. The Iowa jobs include wind projects at MidAmerican Energy and cellulosic ethanol plants by Poet, DuPont and Fiberight, according to the group.
Power plants in New York must pay an all-time-high price to emit greenhouse gases under the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI — which began in 2009 under former Republican Gov. George Pataki — is the country’s first state-level greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, requiring power plants to purchase state-issued permits to emit carbon dioxide. A credit auction last week was the first since the states decreased the amount of available credits by 45 percent, beginning this year. The price for a credit — which allows the release of 1 ton of greenhouse gas — increased to $4.
Michigan can meet nearly a third of its electricity needs by tripling power produced from in-state renewable energy sources by 2030 at virtually no additional cost to consumers, all while maintaining reliability and spurring billions of dollars of investment in the state, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) report released today. By continuing to ramp up renewables at the same growth rate as the current renewable energy standard (RES) —1.5 percent per year—Michigan could boost its in-state renewable energy production to 32.5 percent in 2030. Such a move would cut power plant carbon emissions and lower the state’s exposure to the economic, health, and environmental risks of over-relying on coal or natural gas.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has named Louisiana native Elizabeth Craddock as her committee staff director. Landrieu also announced that her personal staffers Caroline Bruckner and David Gillers will serve in senior roles alongside longtime ENR aides Sam Fowler, David Brooks and Daniel Adamson. Craddock, who has served in Landrieu’s office since 2006, replaces Joshua Sheinkman, who followed former committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to his new chairmanship on the Finance Committee.