It’s almost unheard-of in Washington: Renewable energy legislation with support from both parties. Yet this week, both Democrats and Republicans spoke in favor of important renewable energy reforms that will help create clean, renewable energy and local jobs in the West. The Public Land Renewable Development Act (PLREDA) has been bouncing around Congress for several years, and it may finally have the momentum it needs to pass. PLREDA will provide significant renewable energy development opportunities for communities, primarily in the West, that have an abundance of public lands and resources.
Organizations worried about climate change have long drawn comparisons between the petroleum and tobacco industries, arguing that each has minimized public health damages of its products to operate unchecked. Some have urged federal regulators to prosecute oil companies under racketeering charges, as the Department of Justice did in 1999 in a case against Philip Morris and other major tobacco brands. Oil companies bristle at the comparison. But overlap between both industries existed as early as the 1950s, new research details.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is considering nominating Oklahoma oil and gas mogul Harold Hamm as energy secretary if elected to the White House on Nov. 8, according to four sources close to Trump’s campaign. The chief executive of Continental Resources would be the first U.S. energy secretary drawn directly from the oil and gas industry since the cabinet position was created in 1977, a move that would jolt environmental advocates but bolster Trump’s pro-drilling energy platform.
The Republican Party platform adopted Monday night would bring a total about-face on U.S. energy and climate policy, declaring that the priority placed on combating climate change under President Obama “the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.” The GOP platform calls coal “clean,” pledges to reverse a Supreme Court ruling on the scope of the Clean Air Act, seeks to open vast amounts of federally protected public lands and waters to oil, gas and coal exploitation, rejects the Paris climate accord and Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and opposes a carbon tax. It takes aim at “environmental extremists” and calls the environmental movement “a self-serving elite.”
Rooftop solar jumped 50 percent last year, the number of active community solar programs spiked 80 percent, and 27 state legislatures or utility commissions took up net-metering reform in 2015 as debates raged about how much to compensate homeowners for excess power sent to the grid. Those were some of the chief conclusions from the Smart Electric Power Alliance’s solar market snapshot, which surveys hundreds of utilities about current trends in the industry. The group, which recently changed its name from Solar Electric Power Association, said about 350 utilities participated this year, a 20 percent increase from the prior year.
Deepwater Wind’s proposed 90MW offshore wind farm in New York has been put into a temporary holding pattern. Officials at the Long Island Power Authority have reportedly delayed a vote on whether to offer the 15-turbine South Fork project a route to market, pending a new state-wide offshore wind plan.
Nebraska utility the Omaha Public Power District is looking for bidders to provide the utility between 1 MW and 400 MW of renewable power capacity, according to a request for proposals released by OPPD July 18. The RFP would lead to a doubling of the utility’s level of renewable power. As of the end of 2015, OPPD had 416.5 MW of wind and landfill gas capacity, according to a company fact sheet.
Those who want to generate support from conservative voters for climate change policies might want to start by omitting the words “climate change” from their pitch. That’s the idea being embraced by some conservative activists as they look to grow the number of Republicans who will back policies to address rising emissions, reduce pollution or grow clean energy. “Get away from this phrase ‘climate change.’ It alienates,” Cella Energy Chairman Jay Lifton said yesterday at a forum on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention organized by the Environmental Defense Fund’s Defend Our Future campaign and Bloomberg Government. “You’re trying to separate people when you use that phrase.”
The 2016 Republican platform that party leaders adopted here yesterday envisions a reorganization of U.S. EPA into an independent commission, with primary regulatory authority over the environment handed to state governments. The 66-page document, formally approved on the first day of the Republican National Convention, echoes many familiar GOP themes on energy from recent years, including opening more public lands to production, easing federal regulations and reforming key environmental statutes.
“The issue is, how do we decarbonize the electricity sector, while keeping the lights on, keeping costs low and avoiding unintended consequences that could make emissions increase?” said Jan Mazurek, who runs the clean power campaign at the environmental advocacy group ClimateWorks. Addressing those challenges will require a more subtle approach than just attaching more renewables to the grid.