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Blog posts December 2008

Energy Update, December 21, 2008

In the States
Nationwide – States have begun to deliver “wish lists” or lists of projects that could be started immediately upon funding to President-elect Obama.  For example, construction on a high-speed rail line and a new research tower could be started within months in Wisconsin, while the Maine Department of Transportation has collected 87 projects costing $335 million.  State lobs wish list to ObamaBangor Daily News and Doyle gives Obama team list of projects for economic stimulus packageWisconsin State Journal
CA – The California Air Resources Board has decided on an outline of a plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 through emissions controls on autos, increased energy efficiency, and more renewable energy.  The plan includes a decision to auction all of the states carbon credits in the upcoming Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade system rather than giving some credits away and selling the rest.  The board also recommends investing more in solar energy and high speed rail, as well as reducing emissions from trucks and ships.  California approves a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissionsEERE News and California adopts a plan on emissionsNew York Times
KY – ConocoPhillips and Peabody have decided on a location to build a coal-to-gas plant expected to cost several billion dollars.  The companies said that the plant will produce less than 5% of the emissions of a regular coal-fired power plant and that the new facility (named Kentucky NewGas) will create 500 new jobs and enough energy for 750,000 homes.  Coal-to-gas plant site chosen in Western KentuckyLexington Herald-Leader
TN – During the eighth – and what was supposed to be the last – meeting of Governor Bredesen’s Energy Policy Task Force, the Governor asked the panel to continue its meetings to produce more concrete recommendations for attracting green jobs to Tennessee.  The Governor also suggested he was unsure of the efficacy of a stimulus package for states, specifically that some political and ineffective programs could be implemented.  Governor wants more clean energy jobsThe Tennessean
WY – Governor Dave Freudenthal offered his thoughts on climate change and global energy production at a speech and question-and-answer period in Wyoming last week.  The governor said that something must be done about global warming so that Wyoming can be “a great place for our grandchildren”; otherwise, he said, “it’s going to be difficult.” He said that the state could help solve global warming and create jobs by developing clean coal technology and selling it to developing countries like China and India where energy use is expected to skyrocket.  The governor also noted that the potential for wind power generation is great in Wyoming though a large obstacle is getting transmission lines set up, and that he expects the coal industry to expand, at least in the short-term.  Wyoming to transition to greener energyWyoming Business Report
Transition News
President-elect Barack Obama recently announced his choices for Cabinet and Executive Office positions related to energy and the environment.  The following is a brief introduction to the persons chosen to fill those roles.
Energy Secretary: Steven Chu – Dr. Chu, a world-renowned, Nobel-winning physicist has been a vocal advocate for and done much research on the creation of new energy sources.  He has professed his belief that climate change is a global concern and that immediate measures must be taken to resolve the problem.  Currently the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he has steered the lab toward more research on biofuels and solar energy, Dr. Chu left the private sector hoping to change the way energy is created and used.  He has been described as a good match for Obama’s sense of urgency on energy, and as someone with the knowledge to manage the science of alternative energy and determine which ideas are most practical for widespread use.  Concern for climate change defines Energy Dept. nomineeWashington Post and Obama team set on environmentNew York Times
Director of White House Energy and Environment Council (Climate Czar): Carol Browner Ms. Browner was head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton and currently specializes in energy and environment issues as a principal for the Albright Group and Albright Capital Management.  While at the EPA, Ms. Browner fought for tough regulations, saying that innovation would quickly lower the cost of pollution controls.  She was also a legislative director for then-Senator Al Gore and head of the Florida department of environmental regulation.  She supports a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions and California’s attempts to more strictly control pollution.  Since the position she will hold in the new administration is new, the exact level of authority she will hold is not clear, though she will have the support of Congressional leaders, most of who sympathize with her positions on the environment and energy.  Title, but unclear power, for a new climate czarNew York Times and Obama team set on environment New York Times and Browner: strong environmental resumeWashington Post
Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency: Lisa Jackson – Ms. Jackson is a veteran of environmental protection, serving for 20 years at agencies at the federal and state level.  Most recently she has headed up New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection, where she helped impose mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (80% by 2050) and create a panel on which scientists could weigh in on agency decisions.  Environmental groups have a mixed reaction to her nomination; some suggest she has not proven herself to be a true environmental advocate while others feel she is fit for the job.  Lisa Jackson in line to be first black EPA chiefWashington Post and The New Team: Lisa P. JacksonWashington Post
Director, White House Council on Environmental Quality: Nancy Sutley – Current Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment of Los Angeles, Nancy Sutley, has a long history of environmental protection in California and Washington, DC.  In his speech announcing her addition to his administration, President-elect Barack Obama suggested that Ms. Sutley would bring lessons learned at the state level to the White House to help implement innovative environmental policies.  Obama’s energy and environment team announcementNew York Times and Obama taps LA official as environment council headWashington Post
Secretary of Agriculture: Tom Vilsack – Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack has been a public servant for two decades, and made a bid to become President of the United States before exiting the race in early 2007.  Mr. Vilsack has been a strong supporter of biofuels – especially ethanol – though he has expressed support for phasing out subsidies on corn-based ethanol and some other biofuels.  The former governor has called for a revitalization of “rural America” by investing in new energy technologies and industries that would employ rural populations and provide more energy and food security.  The former governor enjoys the support of both environmentalists and farmers.  Iowa ex-governor picked for agriculture secretaryNew York Times and Obama to pick Tom Vilsack to lead USDAWashington Post
Secretary of Transportation: Ray LaHood – Retiring Representative Ray LaHood will have an extensive role in the new administration as he will oversee Mr. Obama ‘s proposed massive investment in road repairs and transit expansions.  Although little is known about Mr. LaHood’s stances on transportation issues, he is known for being fiscally conservative and, though he is a Republican, fairly politically independent having presided over impeachment hearings for Bill Clinton and criticizing George Bush’s policies.  Obama to add GOP’s LaHood to cabinetWashington Post and Obama to name LaHood, R-Ill, transportation headWashington Post
Secretary of the Interior: Ken Salazar – Mr. Salazar, currently a Senator from Colorado, is known as a moderate: a conservationist that is not unfriendly to oil and gas companies.  He has opposed the development of oil shale resources and drilling in ANWR, but sought to allow gas, oil, and mining companies greater access to environmentally sensitive land and ocean waters.  Mr. Salazar’s appointment was met with mixed reactions from environmental groups and mostly positive reviews from oil and mining groups.   Obama names Salazar as Secretary of InteriorWashington Post and Environmentalists wary of Obama’s Interior pickNew York Times

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Energy Update, December 5, 2008

In the States
CA –Three cities – San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose – have announced a plan that would encourage individuals to purchase electric-only vehicles by installing charging stations for the autos.  Several manufacturers are planning to roll out new electric-only and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the next few years.  The mayors are also planning to buy electric vehicles for the cities’ auto fleets.  The plan won praise from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a step toward energy independence and economic recovery.  Mayors aim to make San Francisco Bay Area the electric vehicle capital of the U.S.Office of Mayor Gavin Newsom
CT – Governor M. Jodi Rell heralded the beginning of the Connecticut Clean Tech Fund, a $9 million fund through which investments will be made to companies with innovative clean energy products that have not yet been introduced to the market.  The money will be distributed to companies in amounts of up to $1 million by Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-public institution in charge of technology investment.  $9 million fund will invest in green startup companiesNew York Times
HI – Governor Laura Lingle has introduced a plan that would create 70,000 – 100,000 charging stations for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles through a public-private partnership.  The plan is part of a larger effort to dramatically reduce Hawaii’s dependence on oil by 2030.  Installing charging stations would allow individuals to take electric cars farther, making them more appealing.  With more electric cars on the road, the state’s utilities could eventually create the electricity they use from renewable sources and send the energy through planned new undersea transmission lines, eliminating fossil fuels from the process altogether.  Hawaii makes bug bet on electric carsWall Street Journal
OR – Governor Ted Kulongoski has announced that the state will buy electric vehicles for its fleet of automobiles starting in 2010.  A partnership with Nissan will give the state access to electric vehicles and a partnership with Portland General Electric will provide infrastructure to charge them.  Six charging stations are already in place in the Portland and Salem areas and there are plans for six more.  Governor, Nissan, & PGE partner to promote zero-emission vehiclesOffice of Governor Ted Kulongoski
On the Hill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the new Congress will take “giant leaps forward” in promoting alternative energy and green policies compared to the “baby steps” of increased CAFE standards and producer tax credits that the current Congress has passed.  He recently headlined a roundtable on energy issues held by the Third Way think tank and is compiling a blue-ribbon panel on the subject to make recommendations for Nevada regarding clean energy.  While it is widely expected that President-elect Obama will push a stimulus that includes funding for green projects immediately following inauguration, Sen. Reid has said he has not seen the legislation.  Reid sees giant leaps for green energyLas Vegas Review-Journal
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with several governors to discuss a stimulus package that she said will likely cost $500 billion that President-elect Obama has called for.  Much of that money would go to investments in alternative energy projects among other state infrastructure projects.  She said that the priority of a stimulus bill is “creating jobs for the 21st century” that focus on energy projects.  House to push $500 billion stimulusWashington Post
Transition News
The President-elect is working on a $400 billion - $500 billion stimulus package that he says will create 2.5 million jobs, produce more alternative energy, and decrease carbon emissions.  While the details are still being worked out in private, a senior aide to the former senator told the New York Times that “it would probably include the weatherizing of hundreds of thousands of homes, the installation of ‘smart meters’ to monitor and reduce home energy use, and billions of dollars in grants to state and local governments for mass transit and infrastructure projects.”  The stimulus package is also expected to include government subsidies for solar and wind power, biofuels, and carbon capture technology.  Mr. Obama discussed the plans for an economic stimulus with governors, where he expressed support for helping the states through public works projects, including those involving renewable energy.  Proposal ties economic stimulus to energy planNew York Times and Obama backs governors’ pleas for aid to statesWall Street Journal

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