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Energy Update, April 6, 2012

April 6, 2012

In the States

CA – Governor Jerry Brown has said that he is considering allowing wider use of hydraulic fracturing in California as a means of obtaining oil from shale.  Governor Brown says that he is not considering new taxes on the procedure and did not comment on legislation that would require companies to disclose the site locations or chemicals used in the process, but said the process would self-regulate due to the State’s “very vigorous tort system.”  According to a U.S. Energy Department estimate, California has two-thirds of the country’s oil shale, which is enough to supply every west coast refinery for 17 years.  California’s Brown says he’ll consider fracking standardsBloomberg BusinessWeek and Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s studying ‘fracking’ in CaliforniaLos Angeles Times

GA – Governor Nathan Deal welcomed PyraMax Ceramics, a company that manufactures ceramic pellets used in the hydraulic fracturing process, to the State, along with the estimated 60 jobs the company plans to establish at the plant it is building in Jefferson County.  PyraMax will save an estimated $1 million per year in taxes – due to a recently-enacted law exempting manufacturing companies from energy sales taxes – and will receive employee training benefits from the State.  The company chose the site due to the benefits that Georgia offered, as well as the availability of kaolin -- a soft white clay used to make the pellets -- and assistance provided by State officials to complete the permitting process and secure contracts from natural gas and electricity companies.  Governor Deal said, “Now that Georgia knows that Jefferson County can make something happen, we look forward to future opportunities to work with other new industries like PyraMax Ceramics that the state of Georgia brings.”  Gov. Deal welcomes PyraMax Ceramics to GeorgiaAugusta Chronicle and Pellet plant bringing jobsGeorgia Public Broadcasting

VA – Governor Bob McDonnell has announced the approval by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission of a proposal from Gamesa Energy USA, in partnership with Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding, to build and install a prototype wind turbine in the Chesapeake Bay.  While Gamesa will use this project primarily to ensure optimal performance and reliability of its technology, the turbine will also produce five megawatts of clean, renewable wind power. In discussing the project in the context of his “all of the above” energy approach, Governor McDonnell said:  “This is an important next step in developing all of Virginia’s domestic energy resources to help power our nation’s economy and puts Virginia at the forefront of clean energy technology development.” The turbine will stand 479 feet tall and will be located about three miles off the coast near the town of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore.  It is expected to be in service in 2013, which would make it the first offshore wind turbine in the country.  However, the project still needs the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and review by the U.S. Coast Guard.  State approves construction of bay wind turbineLuray Page Free Press

National News

Ten Federal agencies and five U.S. States have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) creating the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium that will help coordinate permitting processes and expedite the development of wind power off the coasts of those states.  The MOU, which is modeled after a similar agreement involving Atlantic coast states, was signed by Governors from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania as well as the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, and the U.S. Army, among other Federal agencies.  Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, another signatory, said the goal of the MOU “is to cut through red tape” in order to “create jobs and reduce pollution.”  Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said, “This agreement will enable states to work together to ensure that any proposed offshore wind projects are reviewed in a consistent manner, and that the various State and Federal agencies involved collaborate and coordinate their reviews.”  Feds, 5 states to push for Great Lakes wind farmsAlbert Lea Tribune

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has announced that companies will be allowed to perform seismic mapping surveys off the Atlantic coast between Delaware and Florida to determine the location and scope of offshore oil and gas reserves early next year.  The surveys could pave the way for expanded offshore drilling by providing oil and gas companies updated information they can use in deciding where to drill.  Seismic testing could also be used to determine the most suitable locations for wind turbines and other renewable energy projects, locate sand and gravel for restoring eroding coastal areas, and identify cultural artifacts such as historic sunken ships. Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, objected to the surveys because of their concern that the requisite sonic booms emitted by air guns will harm marine life, including endangered species like whales.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said the announcement is “a small step forward in the development of our offshore energy resources,” but also criticized the Obama administration for not allowing offshore oil exploration off the coast of Virginia last year.  Drilling off the Atlantic coast moves a step closerWashington Post

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rule that would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that new power plants can emit.  Existing plants are exempt from the rule, which requires plants to emit less than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of energy produced.  The rule also allows new coal plants to begin operation and implement carbon restrictions later, as long as they meet the required limit on emissions on average over a 30-year period.  Newer natural gas-fired power plants generally meet the emissions limit, but coal-fired plants would need to use a method of lowering emissions such as carbon capture and sequestration, in order to comply with the proposed rule.  Most environmental groups expressed support for the rule, but some also want emission limitations applied to existing plans.  Republicans in Congress criticized the proposal and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) indicated he would seek a Congressional Review Act vote to stop the rule before it is implemented.  EPA unveils green house gas standard for new power plants - Politico and For new generation of power plants, a new emission rule from the EPANew York Times

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Energy Update, December 11, 2009

December 11, 2009

In the States

MA – The first phase of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to install 250 megawatts of solar-generating capacity by 2017 was so successful that it ran out of money more than a year ahead of schedule and allowed for the installation of more solar panels than originally anticipated.  The $68 million program called Commonwealth Solar provided homeowners and businesses with nearly half the funds to purchase and install solar systems.  The program exhausted its funds in just less than two years and allowed for the purchase of solar panels that can generate 29 megawatts of electricity.  $68m in solar rebates goes fastBoston Globe

MD – A law passed last year at the urging of Governor Martin O’Malley requires the State of Maryland requires utilities to obtain 20% of their electric power from renewable sources.   The sale of two alternative energy projects to utility companies should help them achieve this goal.  Constellation Energy will take over a $140 million, 28-turbine wind farm project that already has received state approval, while CPV Renewable Energy Company will install a solar energy facility next to a natural gas power plant.  Garrett, Charles to get wind, solar power plants Baltimore Sun

MT – Governor Brian Schweitzer’s goal of increasing the State motor fleet’s gas mileage to 30 miles per gallon has already been achieved, more than a year ahead of schedule.  The fleet’s mileage stands at 31.6 miles per gallon and will be increased to at least 34.2 miles per gallon in the coming year due to increases in hybrid vehicles.  Montana’s large size and rural nature requires state officials to travel long distances, so raising mileage requirements has a substantial budgetary impact.  State on track to surpass fuel goalBillings Gazette

OR – Governor Ted Kulongoski says that the subsidies offered to the wind and solar energy industries should be phased out after vetoing a similar measure earlier this year.  The Governor changed his mind after commissioning and receiving a report by two department directors who determined the most generous subsidies of up to $10 million for wind and $20 million for solar projects are no longer required in order to keep alternative energy companies investing in the State.  The State legislature is expected to explore phasing out the subsidies when it begins a special session in February.  Kulongoski changes course, supports phase-out of wind energy tax creditThe Oregonian

Regional and National News

Climate change legislation – Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman have released an outline of the “tripartisan” legislation that the three of them have been working on for the past month.  The outline says that the plan should reduce pollution to “in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels” in the “near term” and “approximately 80 percent below 2005 levels” would be “a long term target.”  The outline suggests the way to do this is to drill and refine more domestic oil and natural gas, establish a national regulatory system for reducing carbon emissions, encourage nuclear and clean coal development, and create incentives for green jobs for blue-collar workers, and maintaining carbon offsets for farmers.  Senators release ‘basic framework’ of climate billCQ Politics and Letter to President Obama and Framework for Climate Action and Energy Independence in the US SenateSenators John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham

The Senate Energy Subcommittee held a hearing this week on nine energy- and climate-related bills that could create more funding for the Department of Energy’s efforts to develop more advanced alternative energy.  Five of these bills have already passed the House and would authorize $3 billion in funds for vehicle technologies (HR 3246), $2 billion for solar energy research and development (HR 3585), $200 million for a wind energy research program (HR 3165), $20 million for research parks at which scientists can perform energy-related research (HR 2729), and grants for training designers to incorporate energy efficiency into buildings (HR 957).  The four remaining Senate bills would provide loans for manufacturers to increase energy efficiency or produce clean energy technology (S 1617), authorize $500 million for wind energy research and development (S 2773), expand current ethanol research and development programs (S 737), and provide a monetary prize for researchers that develop a way of taking carbon dioxide out of the air (S 2744).  Research panel to take up carbon capture, biofuels, research billsNew York Times

Governors Donald Carcieri (R-RI) and Jack Markell (D-DE) recently told attendees at a wind energy conference that they support offshore wind projects in their states.  Governor Carcieri said land-based and offshore wind power should be expanded and   the federal government should strengthen its renewable energy policy.  He also said  his state is moving as fast as it can to get an offshore wind project off the ground, and that “a failure to invest in renewable resources ... in today’s economic climate would verge on irresponsibility.”  Governor Markell spoke about efforts in Rhode Island to promote alternative energy, praised the Obama administration for its promotion of wind energy, and said a “steady stream of projects year after year” is needed to ensure the viability of the industry.  Seize the breeze: Carcieri urges speed in development of offshore wind projectsProvidence Journal

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Energy Update, November 13, 2009

November 13, 2009

In the States

TX – A new report from Environment Texas, using data from the US Department of Energy, shows that although Texas produces more carbon dioxide than any other state, its carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 2% from 2004 to 2007 while the US collectively increased those emissions by 0.7% during the same period.  Governor Rick Perry said the report shows that the State is able to reduce emissions without imposing taxes or regulations and expressed opposition to federal climate change legislation that he believes would harm industry in Texas.  Report: Texas greenhouse gas emissions downAssociated Press

UT – Governor Gary Herbert made his first trip to Washington DC since assuming the office of Governor to reach out to the Obama administration on contentious oil and gas leases in Utah.  The Bush administration moved the auction for the leases up to December 2008, during which an activist bid up the cost of the leases without having the money to buy them.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar subsequently cancelled many of the leases due to environmental concerns and the fraudulent bids.  The Governor met with Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes to discuss how they could work together to deliver some of the leases to companies that had submitted legitimate bids; the Deputy Secretary invited the State and the companies to provide a legal argument for not cancelling the auctions that included fraudulent bids.  Guv stresses public lands on DC tripDeseret News and A bid too far: Utah oil lease activist Tim DeChristopher faces jail timeWall Street Journal

WV – Governor Joe Manchin held a private meeting with federal and state officials and coal industry representatives to discuss the future of coal.  After the meeting, the Governor held a press conference to announce his intention to join West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller and Representatives Nick Rahall and Shelley Moore Capito in a high-level meeting with US EPA officials to discuss new regulations on mountaintop removal.  Rep. Rahall said that during their meeting coal executives expressed confusion over the regulations and Rep. Capito said two meetings she had previously scheduled with the EPA were cancelled.  W. Va. Gov. to host private meeting on coalAssociated Press and W. Va. Leaders seek coal answers from White HouseCharleston Gazette

Regional and National News

Mid-Atlantic – Governors Jack Markell of Delaware, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, and Tim Kaine of Virginia have agreed to coordinate the efforts of their states to produce wind energy offshore and transmit it throughout the region while creating new jobs.  Each state is interested in developing offshore wind power and stands to gain from the resources such a collaboration would provide. MD, DE, VA enter offshore wind power partnershipThe Capital and Governors commit to offshore wind energyWTOP

Federal – Democratic Senators passed the Senate’s climate change bill out of the Environment and Public Works Committee 11-1 despite a Republican boycott of the hearings.  To move the bill, committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) bypassed a rule that would have required participation by both parties.  Republicans, who boycotted the hearings because they believed not enough time was provided to read the bill and thought the EPA had failed to adequately study the costs, objected to the bill’s passage without their input.  Though the bill passed the committee, many Senators believe that another bill, being crafted by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to allow more nuclear energy and offshore drilling, is more likely to pass the Senate.  Many Senators also believe that no other major action will be taken on climate change legislation in the Senate until next year.  Democrats move on emissions billWashington Post and Democrats push climate bill through panel without GOP debateNew York Times and Climate bill likely on the shelf for rest of the yearWall Street Journal

Senator Chuck Schumer has sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking him to refuse stimulus money for a wind farm project in Texas unless the “high-value components, including the wind turbines, are manufactured in the United States.”  The letter was prompted by an Investigative Reporting Workshop study that found that 84% of stimulus money for green projects has gone to foreign companies and that the project in Texas in particular will create 2,000 jobs in China and 300 in Texas.  The Texas project is being financed by $450 million in stimulus funds and more than $1 billion in investments from Chinese banks.  Schumer seeks to block stimulus money for Chinese-backed Texas wind farmNew York Times

Stimulus Funding -- The US Department of Energy announced nearly $500 million in new stimulus grants, including $338 million of stimulus money awarded to 123 schools, tribes, local governments, and national laboratories to advance geothermal energy development.  Another $155 million of additional stimulus funds is being used to leverage $634 million of private investment for industrial energy efficiency projects.  The Treasury Department has also issued $2.2 billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) that will act as low-interest loans to help energy co-ops, governmental entities, and public power providers develop clean renewable energy projects such as wind or solar power.  Department of Energy awards $338 million to accelerate domestic geothermal energyEERE News and Secretary Chu announces more than $155 million for industrial energy efficiency projectsEERE News and Treasury allocates $2.2 billion in bonds for renewable energy developmentTreasury Department Press Room

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Energy Update, June 18, 2008

June 5, 2008
In The States

CA
– Supporters of an alternative energy ballot initiative have gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot this fall, and has been certified by the Secretary of State. Initiative 07-0066 will require the state’s utilities to generate 20% of their power from alternative energy by 2010, 40% by 2020, and 25% by 2050. Four more measures make fall ballotSacramento Bee (free registration required)

FL
– New solar plants are being proposed in Florida in response to high fuel costs. One utility in the state is attempting to build a new solar concentration plant which would become the largest in the state, creating 75 megawatts. This is still significantly less power than is created with traditional power plants. Other projects include traditional solar cell plants, creating a total of 35 megawatts. FPL seeks OK for large solar plant in Martin, with 2 more in wingsPalm Beach Post

MN –
A new law in Minnesota requires that all diesel sold in the state be made up of a blend of 80% regular diesel and 20% biodiesel by 2015. There are a series of steps, however, that must be met before that happens. Every three years, the legislature must approve of an increase in biodiesel blend, first to 5% (up from the current 2%) in May 2009, then to 10% and then 20%. The legislature will determine whether to raise the biodiesel mandate by evaluating supply and demand of the product. Also, 5% of the fuel must come from non-traditional resources such as algae or waste oil. Minnesota Passes B20 MandateRenewableEnergyWorld.com

UT
– State Department of Environmental Quality Director Rick Sprott is distributing a plan to help Utah lower its carbon emissions while not creating new restrictions or mandates on businesses or individuals. Sprott used examples of greater efficiency, such as in autos or coal plants, and iterated that the plan is not a mandate, but is only to guide future policy decisions. State setting greenhouse gas goalsDeseret News

National News


The US Senate has voted to debate the Climate Security Act legislation (S. 3036) which would impose a cap-and-trade system on emissions which contribute to global warming. The first day of debate focused on the cost of implementing the bill, a major concern in the veto threat. Talks quickly broke down, however, when Majority Leader Harry Reid moved to introduce Sen. Barbara Boxers substitute amendment. To protest a different issue, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked that the bill be read aloud, causing a four-hour wait before talks could begin again. Senate Republicans also expressed concern at the speed with which the bill was moving, saying that the importance of the legislation requires lengthy debate and many amendments.
Senate moves ahead on climate billCQ.com (subscription) and Statement of administration policyExecutive Office of the President and Senate debate on climate legislation stallsCQ.com (subscription)

A bi-partisan majority passed legislation in the US House (HR 6049) that would both create new and extend existing tax breaks totaling over $55 billion for individuals, businesses, and energy producers. Thirty-five House Republicans and all but one Democrat voted for the bill. Many Republicans opposed it because it does not extend the Alternative Minimum Tax patch and it includes pay-go provisions. The bill includes billions in tax relief for renewable energy production which, if nothing is done, would expire at the end of 2008. If signed into law, the tax incentives would expire at different times: wind energy production incentives would expire in 2009 while solar, geothermal, and other clean energy production tax breaks would expire at the end of 2011. Tax breaks for homeowners who install solar technology would be extended to 2014. Other uses for this money include projects for carbon capture, energy efficiency, and conservation, and various tax breaks and credits for education and homeowners. This tax break is not offset by a reduction in tax breaks for oil and gas companies, making it potentially more appealing to the Senate.
House votes to extend tax breaks to individuals, businessesCQ.com (subscription) and House-passed legislation to extend tax breaks faces uncertain future - CQ.com (subscription) and US House passes renewable energy tax credit extension billrenewableenergyworld.com and Summary of H.R. 6049: Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 (pdf)US House Ways and Means Committee

After dozens of hearings as chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and a year of crafting legislation, Sen. Edward Markey will introduce a cap-and-trade bill next week which would decrease American carbon emissions even more than the Lieberman-Warner legislation. The new bill would cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 85% by 2050, auction nearly all pollution credits, and use half of the estimated $8 trillion in proceeds to subsidize energy costs for low- and middle-income households and the other half to promote alternative energy.
Markey unveils sweeping new global warming billBoston Globe and Markey unveils sweeping climate change legislationPolitico and Executive summary of Rep. Markey’s climate legislation (pdf)Congressman Markey’s Website

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Energy Update, June 5, 2008

May 20, 2008
In The States

AZ – Governor Napolitano has vetoed legislation that would have stopped that state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The attempted ban arose out of frustration that state lawmakers felt when the governor directed the DEQ to follow the same rules as the California Air Resources Board. Supporters of the failed bill have suggested they will attempt to pass it in other environmental legislation or sue the state to stop the regulations from taking effect. Governor vetoes bill voiding vehicle emission standardsArizona Daily Star

NH – The state Senate has passed legislation (HB1434) that would implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The state House had already passed the same bill, but needs to approve changes made by the Senate. The governor has expressed his support for the bill, which would be revisited if a federal cap-and-trade plan is implemented. NH Senate gives OK to global warming initiativeBoston Globe

NH – The New Hampshire legislature has sent a bill (HB1628) to the governor which would act as an incentive for homeowners to build small alternative-energy production facilities. Those who put electricity onto the grid could be paid as much as $6,000 depending on the cost of the system and how much power is generated. New Hampshire and Vermont Renewable Energy Program UpdatesRenewableEnergyWorld.com

VT – Vermont’s Green Mountain Power Corp. is offering incentives to homeowners who supply the power grid with solar energy. Customers supplying the solar energy will now be given $0.19 per kilowatt-hour as opposed to the standard $0.13 per kilowatt-hour. New Hampshire and Vermont Renewable Energy Program UpdatesRenewableEnergyWorld.com


National News

Nuclear energy producers are eager to see a cap-and-trade system enacted because the proposed system in which polluters will have to pay for their emissions only counts carbon output as pollution, not nuclear waste. This exclusion, combined with the fact that the rates of nuclear power generators are less regulated than those of coal or natural gas, has led some nuclear power companies to expect additional profits in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Carbon caps may give nuclear power a liftWall Street Journal

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is proposing an amendment to the Climate Security bill which would add new funding to the bill. The proposed changes would increase the amount the government would use to help consumers offset rate hikes from utilities to $911 billion and introduce $800 billion in tax breaks. Some new measures would help businesses, including $213 billion in subsidies to corporations that sell energy and manufacture products which require a great deal of energy to create such as cars or paper. Corporations would further be allowed to offset up to 30% of their carbon-cutting obligations by planting trees or investing in anti-deforestation programs. Boxer to propose changes to climate billWashington Post and New global warming measure would provide tax relief to consumersCQ.com (subscription)

3,100 wind turbines were installed in the United States last year, contributing to a total number of about 25,000. Although the power generated from these turbines amounts to only 1% of the national power production, the US Department of Energy has said that as much as 20% of US electricity could be generated by wind by 2030. Production of wind energy will continue to rise as new wind farms are being created faster than ever. Several companies have recently invested funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars each to create wind farms that will produce electricity to power hundreds of thousands of homes. Quietly, wind farms spread footprint in U.S.Washington Post

John McCain has highlighted the issue of climate change in his campaign speeches and suggested that the US needs to cut its carbon emissions. All remaining presidential candidates now support reducing carbon emissions to offset climate change. McCain’s plan calls for 60% drop in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which is less than Lieberman-Warner’s 70% and the 80% reductions called for by Senators Clinton and Obama. Greenhouse gas must be capped, McCain assertsNew York Times

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