Thirty members of the Senate Democratic caucus sacrificed sleep last night to make the case to supporters outside the Beltway that momentum is building again for climate change legislation — if only they will help stoke it. Senators took turns throughout the evening and into this morning addressing an often-empty Senate chamber on the cost of man-made warming to their home states, the state of the science, and the ability of the American economy to decarbonize without fulfilling opponents’ predictions that it will shed jobs. The debate, which began at about 6:30 p.m., is set to conclude after 8 a.m. today.
Utilities need to prepare for a more engaged, responsive consumer base, one that in some places is pushing for more distributed energy in the form of renewables, according to power sector leaders who spoke yesterday at an event hosted by the Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI). “As a country, we’re in a period of profound changes to our energy landscape,” said Heather Zichal, former deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change. The rapid deployment of renewable resources is adding new power to the grid even as electricity demand is peeling away from economic development for the first time, she said.
Most Wisconsin farmers remain skeptical about climate change, although data show they have already begun adapting to shifts in weather patterns, scientists said at a recent UW-Madison conference. Farmers, the scientists said, are key actors in adapting to climate change or mitigating its effects. They manage 61 percent of the nation’s land. They are vulnerable to droughts, cold, heat and hail — crop insurance paid out $17.4 billion dollars in indemnities nationwide after the 2012 drought.
Gov. Paul LePage’s initiative to overhaul Maine’s wind-energy production goals to require ratepayer benefits and manufacturing jobs gained tentative approval in the Legislature’s Energy Committee on Friday. But the bill, LD 1791, sponsored by state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, saw significant revisions, including allowing a section of current law to stand, prior to the 6-2 vote to approve the measure.
There are probably more energy and climate experts here than in any community of its size (population 97,385) in the United States. So when the city was preparing to renew its 20-year contract with Xcel Energy, a large, investor-owned utility that provides its power, Boulder decided to do something different. Boulder was used to pioneering. In 2006, it became the first city in the nation to implement a carbon tax. Now, it wanted to make itself into a laboratory to display the uses of cleaner energy.
There are going to be a lot of red eyes in the Senate chamber tomorrow. When votes are done for the evening tonight, more than half of the Senate’s Democrats will begin taking their turns occupying the chamber floor to talk about climate change. The all-night talkathon will stretch from last votes until 9 a.m. tomorrow and will feature at least 28 of the Senate’s 53 Democratic members
At issue is the production tax credit (PTC), which was established in 1992 as a temporary subsidy for wind farms and select other renewable energy projects, valued at $15 per megawatt-hour for the first 10 years a facility operates. The credit has been extended numerous times since, although it is now expired for projects that were not underway by Dec. 31, 2013. Its value has risen with inflation, to $23 per MWh last year. Camp, a Michigan Republican, proposed eliminating that inflation adjustment for companies already receiving the PTC. So if his draft became law — a near impossibility in the near term, to be sure — any companies that began taking the PTC in the last 10 years would see the value of the credit fall by about 35 percent.
“It takes about two minutes for me to just become ‘Boots’ to everybody,” he said in a recent interview. “It’s easy. There’s a lot of Mikes in this world.” He added, “I can count on one hand the number of people in this building who call me by my first name.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said Wednesday he plans a trip to Iowa this month, hoping to make climate change an issue in the 2016 Iowa presidential caucuses. Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, is coming to Iowa at the invitation of state Sen. Robert Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who has written a book about the impacts of climate change. Whitehouse plans stops in Des Moines and Shenandoah, and will also visit Omaha, Neb.
While Gov. Deval Patrick has made trips to Quebec for discussions about importing electricity from the Canadian region’s enormous hydroelectric facilities, Sullivan said that is not the only form of green energy in play. “It may very well be hydro, but it also could be on-shore wind, could be off-shore wind,” Sullivan said. There are a number of proposed wind farms seeking permits or in development in Maine and New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, including Oakfield Wind, a 150,000 kilowatt permitted project near the Canadian border in Maine and North Country Wind, a 180,000 project under development in New Hampshire, north of Mount Washington.