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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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