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Blog posts June 2009

Energy Update, June 26, 2009

June 26, 2009

In the States

ME – Governor Baldacci has signed a new law that will establish a six-year pilot program that will allow individuals and groups to sell renewable power to the Public Utilities Commission at a fixed rate for up to 20 years, with the goal of encouraging small renewable energy projects.  The law also allows for energy to be bought in blocks by investors and consumers.  Baldacci signs law prompting smaller energyKennebec Journal

OR – The state’s legislature has passed some – but not all – of the energy-related legislation that was on the agenda for this session.  A bill that would create a low-carbon standard for fuel sold in Oregon has passed, but a bill that would guarantee that emissions will be 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 has not.  Some pending bills would reverse existing clean energy legislation, such as a bill that would decrease tax credits for alternative energy producers that easily passed the House, though Governor Kulongoski’s office has said that the Governor will not “allow any rollback.”  Many green-friendly bills don’t make the cut in OregonOregonian and Update: Bill to cut carbon emissions from gasoline, diesel fuel, gains approval - Oregonian

SD – South Dakota currently produces 237 megawatts of electricity with wind power and has some of the greatest potential for more, but only if transmission lines are upgraded to carry more alternative energy.  The state’s electricity grid has not been updated since the 1970s.  The Obama administration has designated $11 billion in stimulus funds to upgrade the nation’s electric grid and private companies have invested billions more to build the needed transmission lines.  While these improvements will allow more wind power to be created in South Dakota’s rural areas and used in populated centers, as well as lessen the chances for interruptions in the power supply, much more investment is needed to sufficiently expand transmission capacity.  Wind power blocked by ‘glass ceiling’Argus Leader

Regional and Federal News

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative completed its fourth auction, selling 30.8 million pollution allowances for $3.23 each for a total of $104 million.  The 10 states in the Initiative have so far sold over 110 million allowances for a total of $366.5 million that will be used to weatherize homes, perform energy efficiency audits, help small businesses lower energy usage, and other uses.  Auction raises $104 M for renewable energyRutland Herald

Automakers Ford, Nissan, and Tesla will receive a total of $8 billion in order to retool their factories to build electric vehicles and battery packs and increase fuel efficiency.  Business leaders say tens of thousands of jobs will be created by the loans, which are part of the $25 billion in loans approved for automakers by Congress in 2007.  The cap-and-trade legislation currently being discussed in Congress contains a provision to double the loans to $50 billion.  The Energy Department is working with GM and Chrysler, who must get out of bankruptcy before being eligible for the loan.  3 automakers get loans to build more efficient carsWashington Post

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has voted 15-8 to pass what has been called a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on energy and climate change policy.  The legislation would require that utilities obtain 15% of their energy from renewable energy by 2021, but would not put a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases polluters could emit.  The bill would also allow drilling for oil within 45 miles of coastlines, provide incentives for carbon capture and storage, expand the national petroleum reserves, and increase funding for clean energy technology and training.  Senate panel approves energy billNew York Times

American Clean Energy and Security Act

On Friday, June 26, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, written by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and promoted by President Obama by a vote of 219-212.  The legislation would limit emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  Additional language was added the night before the vote, including additional emission allowances for rural electric cooperatives, authority for the US Department of Agriculture to determine agricultural offsets for farmers, and a number of other provisions benefiting specific industries.

During the debate, one point of contention between parties was the cost of the bill to rate-payers.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average household will pay an additional $80-$111 per year by 2020, while the Congressional Budget Office estimates the average household will pay an additional $175 per year by 2020, with those in lowest-income homes saving $40 per year due to rebates.  Republicans estimated that the average household would pay an additional $3,100 per year.

Another issue revolved around the efficacy of the provisions.  Supporters of the bill claimed that up to 1.7 million jobs would be created through the creation of clean energy infrastructure while opponents claimed millions of jobs would be lost in closing small businesses and manufacturers that cannot afford the additional costs.  Supporters also asserted that the reductions in emissions would stem or reverse global climate change, while opponents generally questioned the effectiveness of the legislation in the absence of international cooperation and the degree to which climate change poses a near-term threat.

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Energy Update, June 12, 2009

June 12, 2009

In the States

KS – Governor Mark Parkinson has announced an agreement that will result in  up to $800 million being spent on building new electric transmission lines that will send the power generated by Kansas’ wind turbines to other areas and states.  The lines are expected to be completed by 2013 and will carry 765,000 volts.  Kansas governor announces deal on transmission linesKansasCity.com

OK – One of the 26 new laws signed by Governor Brad Henry includes a plan to increase the availability of compressed natural gas to state vehicle fleets and consumers throughout the state.  Under the new law, the Department of Central Services will be authorized to build stations that dispense the alternative fuel for government vehicles.  These stations would also be open to the public unless a private station offers natural gas at a nearby location.  Governor signs alternative energy billTulsa World

VT – Governor Jim Douglas allowed a bill to become law without his signature that would establish feed-in tariffs for small wind, solar, and methane power operations that send power back to the grid.  Qualifying producers will receive 12 to 30 cents per kilowatt hour for the energy they produce, though that rate may be adjusted by the Vermont Public Service Board.  Vermont first to pass renewable energy feed-in lawBiomass Magazine

WY – One company has applied for and received a permit from the Bureau of Land Management to explore new ways of recovering an estimated 1.5 trillion barrels of oil from oil shale deposits.  The deposits were abandoned more than 30 years ago after it was determined that the process for extracting the oil would require more energy than would be produced by the oil that was recovered.  The companies involved, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and General Synfuels International, believe they can improve the efficiency and eco-friendliness of the process.  Wyo. gets oil shale projectCasper Star Tribune

Federal and World News

In response to both the expected new rules requiring – and current incentives encouraging – more energy to be produced from renewable sources, several utilities in the Southeast and Midwest are building power plants that will use biomass for fuel.  Biomass plants are expected to create about half of the country’s renewable energy by 2030, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in recent years.  Biomass is considered nearly carbon-neutral as the burning process produces only as much carbon as the biomass would if it had decomposed naturally.  It’s also a dependable source of energy that can be fed continuously into a furnace.  Though in the past biomass plants have used mostly waste material for fuel, some of the new plants will grow crops specifically for this purpose.  Biomass power generates tractionWall Street Journal

During a meeting of a bipartisan group of Southern Governors, some warned that the proposals being discussed in Congress now would increase the cost of fuel and electricity and negatively affect the economy.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said that industries will move to countries with fewer restrictions, producing no impact on greenhouse gases and a negative impact on the economy.  West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said “"If we don't have reliable low-cost energy, we will no longer be a political power.”  Offering another perspective, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe asserted that a new energy policy provided the opportunity for states to create jobs and noted that Arkansas had attracted four foreign companies that make components for wind power.   Governors warn energy plan could stifle growthThe Washington Post    Separately, Governor Rick Perry and other elected Texas officials met with energy leaders and discussed the proposed cap-and-trade legislation that has passed the US House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Governor Perry said the bill “could wreck our traditional energy industry and put a very serious dent in our economy," and warned that “every American that uses any source of energy would see their bills go up.”  Texas blasts federal efforts to flight global warmingWall Street Journal

A group of representatives from a range of public and private interests that was convened in 2007 at the request of Governors from six Midwestern states and the premier of Manitoba have produced a list of recommendations that would lower carbon emissions in those states to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.  The plan now calls for a regional cap-and-trade system to be established if the federal government does not create a national program by 2012.  Group sets greenhouse gas goals        – Topeka Capital-Journal

While the Democratic House energy bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), has passed the Energy and Commerce Committee, it awaits further consideration by several other committees before a vote by the full House.  For more information on the provisions of this bill, the online environmental news source, Grist, provides a concise summary: Everything you always wanted to know about the Waxman-Markey energy/climate bill–in bullet points - Grist

Meanwhile, House Republicans have released an outline of their proposal, the American Energy Act, which focuses on developing domestic energy sources such as nuclear power, and drilling for fuel offshore and in the Arctic.  The bill would also extend tax credits on renewable energy and cut red tape for new nuclear plants and refineries.  While it contains no limits on greenhouse gases, Republican leaders say tax credits would incentivize energy producers to use more renewable sources without raising costs for consumers.  House GOP offers nuclear-loaded energy billWashington Post and Summary of the American Energy Act [pdf]American Energy Solutions Group (House Republicans)

Of the $250 billion invested in new energy capacity in 2008, $140 billion went to clean energy investments and $110 billion was invested in fossil fuels, according to a report issued by the United Nations Environment Program.  Much of the investment growth in clean energy came from developing countries, while such investments grew only 2% in Europe and fell 8% in the US.  The report cites the ineffectiveness of tax credits during economic downturns among the reasons for the drop in investments in the US.  Clean energy funding trumps fossil fuelsNew York Times

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