A key architect of President Obama’s sweeping plan to combat climate change is leaving her post at the White House, the administration confirmed today. Heather Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, will be leaving in the next few weeks. The White House has not announced a replacement, and Zichal has not said what her next move will be.
Maine’s wind power industry is poised to see its biggest period of growth since the state’s first major project was built six years ago, a surge brought on by unprecedented demand for renewable energy in southern New England and by evolving technology that has lowered the cost of producing electricity.
Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in on the demise of President Obama’s nominee for Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman on Twitter yesterday, calling the opponents of former Colorado regulator Ron Binz “global warming polluters and their lobbyists.” Gore also called Binz, who pulled his name from consideration after a rocky confirmation hearing, a “moderate, forward-thinking FERC chair” whose nomination was “scuttled.” Gore also linked to a Tuesday Politico story titled “Obama FERC nominee Ron Binz withdraws amid coal pushback.”
Colette Honorable, the top contender to replace President Obama’s fallen nominee to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, gives the White House exactly what it’s looking for after a bloody, unsuccessful confirmation fight:
Environmental, health and community groups under the Power Past Coal banner today urged Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) to push state agencies into rejecting a coal export proposal along the Columbia River, or at least increase their scrutiny. “We need Oregon’s state agencies to get off the sidelines on this issue and for the governor to take a firm stand to protect Oregon’s air, water, communities and climate,” said Power Past Coal advocate Cesia Kearns. The groups held a joint press conference in Portland, Ore.
As renewable energy becomes increasingly commonplace, interest in energy storage technologies is growing around the world. Researchers in Germany, Japan, the United States and elsewhere are finding governments increasingly willing to support their ideas, although many projects are in the early stages. Cheap, large-scale energy storage is considered the holy grail of renewable power because it would allow wind and solar farms to provide constant energy to the electric grid.
Mr. Binz, a former utility regulator in Colorado who was known for his support of renewable energy, had attracted unusual opposition from the coal industry and conservatives, and it appeared unlikely that his nomination would be approved by the Senate Energy Committee. The commission he was nominated to lead has some authority over transmission lines and other factors important to the integration of wind and other forms of renewable energy into the power grid.
Republican lawmakers signaled opposition Wednesday to renewing a tax credit for wind farms, arguing it’s time for the industry to stand on its own two feet. Democrats and the wind industry say the renewable electricity production tax credit (PTC) is critical to developing diverse sources of energy, but Republicans expressed skepticism that the break is still needed.
“We keep hearing that ‘we’re almost there’ or ‘just a little bit longer.’ But the facts state that wind power has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, and there’s this point of saying, when does wind take off on its own?” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Energy Policy.
Wind energy supporters are asking for just a few more years of the lucrative federal tax credit that supports the industry, but a few House Republicans yesterday worried that savvy developers could exploit existing Internal Revenue Service guidelines to benefit from the incentive indefinitely. Industry officials and tax experts say those fears are unfounded. But the concerns voiced at a hearing yesterday demonstrate growing skepticism toward the credit, whose fate is closely tied to ongoing negotiations over comprehensive tax reform.
Wealthy climate activist Tom Steyer, best known for his campaign-trail fight against the Keystone XL oil pipeline, today took a bipartisan turn in a new alliance with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former GOP Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson that focuses on the economic risks of climate change. The trio’s project, dubbed “Risky Business,” aims to harness the data-driven expertise of industries that are poised to take a financial hit from — and, in some cases, already are planning for — unchecked global warming. Yet whether the heavy hitters attached to the new study can make a dent in Washington’s current climate policy impasse, and whether Steyer’s affinity for political combat over energy issues steals attention from the effort, remains unclear.