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Energy Update, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011

In the States

MN – Several bills have been drafted that would repeal, to differing degrees, a 2007 bipartisan law that bans new coal-fired power plants and the importing of coal-powered electricity until carbon offsets or a plan to lower emissions are in place.  Sponsors are saying that the law places unnecessary burdens on industry, slowing economic recovery once the recession is over.  Governor Mark Dayton has not said yet indicated whether he will veto any particular repeal bill, but he did campaign in part on maintaining a moratorium on new nuclear power plants that is a part of the same law.  Minn. Republicans hope to undo clean energy policiesMinnesota Public Radio

NM – A State Supreme Court ruling has reversed an order by Governor Susana Martinez that blocked publication of regulations aimed at reducing emissions from utilities and dairies within the State.  One of the regulations requires a three percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The Court ruled that the regulations must be published in the State’s register, but opponents of the regulations plan to work with the Governor and the State legislature to change the rules.  Court reverses New Mexico Governor on environmental rulesNew York Times

State of the State Addresses

While approximately half of the Governors have given their State of the State or State of the Commonwealth addresses, the realities imposed by the financial downturn caused most Governors to focus their speeches on addressing fiscal difficulties and job creation rather than energy issues.  Still, some Governors incorporated energy plans tied to job creation and retention.

Several Governors cited recent energy business investments that would help lead their States to better fiscal times, including South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, all of whom who noted recent increased renewable energy investments or improvements.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that Nordic Windpower USA’s new plant will create 200 jobs, and proposed to create more through the construction of a new nuclear power plant.  Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour noted several investments in his State, including coal, oil, nuclear, LNG, solar, ethanol, coal-to-liquids, and carbon capture projects. 

A few Governors called for increased domestic renewable energy production.  For example, Hawaii Governor Neal Abercrombie expressed support for accelerating renewable energy projects in his State, and improving Hawaii’s energy security.  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called for more renewables on federal lands, saying, “I support all efforts to make Nevada the renewable energy capital of the country.” 

Some Governors discussed a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources available to their states.  Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said he hoped to make Virginia the “Energy Capital of the East Coast” by investing, in part, in solar, wind, waste-to-energy, and biomass, and promoting offshore wind by leasing offshore parcels for wind energy production and serving as headquarters for the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium.  But he also called for increasing oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy production.  While Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said that investments in hydroelectric power and renewable energy grants in his State would create jobs and help the State meet his goal of 50% renewable power by 2025, he also wants to lower taxes on oil production in order to create more jobs.  Wyoming Governor Matt Mead discussed “value-added” projects such as combing wind power with gas-fired turbines, as well the manufacturing of wind turbine components.  In addition, he supports continued use of coal while making it a cleaner fuel through carbon capture and sequestration, and also advocates greater use of carbon injection technologies for enhanced oil extraction, as well as coal gasification.  

In discussing his State’s abundant fossil fuel resources, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he will aggressively pursue the State’s lawsuit against the U.S. EPA over mountaintop removal regulations, and that he supports development of the Marcellus Shale in West Virginia and carbon capture and sequestration.  

Links to all of the Governors’ addresses can be found at the State of the State Speeches Calendar on Stateline.org

National News

President Barack Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to Congress last week, during which he issued a challenge of producing 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.  President Obama said that all forms of energy production are needed to meet this goal, and mentioned nuclear power, clean coal, and natural gas in addition to wind and solar.  U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, who gave the Republican response to the State of the Union, emphasized the need for less government spending and a more limited government rather than new investments.  Several high-ranking Democrats expressed support for the idea of a broader clean energy mandate while most Republicans remained skeptical about incentivizing one energy type over another or imposing mandates on the private sector.  Senators laud “clean energy” pushPolitico and State of the Union (Transcript)White House and State of the Union Response (Transcript)House Budget Committee

According to a new report commissioned by the federal government as required in the 2009 Defense Authorization Act, the United States military would not receive any significant benefit from greater use of alternative fuels.  The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, said that focusing on energy efficiency would have a greater impact on lowering greenhouse gases.  The report received criticism from Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Navy Thomas W. Hicks, who said he was not consulted by RAND, and that the report ignores energy security issues, and from environmental groups, biofuels proponents, the Algal Biomass Organization, and others.  RAND says that while the military is a major consumer of liquid fuels, it still only uses two percent of the country’s daily intake, and since some biofuels are still in their infancy, the money spent on alternative fuels in the military would have a small effect on greenhouse gas emissions.  Alternative fuels don’t benefit the military, a RAND report saysNew York Times

 

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Energy Update, August 13, 2010

August 13, 2010

In the States

MI –There are currently 17 new vehicle battery plants in production, under construction, or approaching groundbreaking in Michigan, which may be attributed in part to the $2.4 billion provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to encourage development of a domestic industry to make lighter, more energy-dense lithium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles.  The State has also played a large role in encouraging development by studying various industrial sectors around which to build a new economic strategy focusing on clean energy, especially battery production, for the next generation of energy-efficient vehicles.  Governor Granholm helped to persuade the legislature to approve $1 billion in tax credits for companies involved in developing advanced energy storage systems for electric vehicles and told a conference of engineers and battery developers in Detroit on July 27, “Michigan intends to lead the way in clean energy manufacturing.”  A bet on clean energy in the automotive StateNew York Times 

OR – Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. has signed a Settlement Agreement (SA) that will allow development of a wave energy power project that could generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.  The SA represents a major step towards the first license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for this type of project.  The SA includes a plan to identify and implement required environmental studies, and to provide a blueprint for the application of this information as development progresses.  Governor Ted Kulongoski said, "The Settlement Agreement is a groundbreaking document that demonstrates the State's commitment to partnering with the private sector and coastal communities to explore how we can tap into the renewable resource of ocean waves to power our communities.  The manufacture of the first buoy has already created dozens of green-energy jobs in Oregon and when the 10-buoy wave power project is built, a whole new industry will be created to benefit our coastal communities.”  Ocean Power Technologies Signs Historic Stakeholder Agreement for Oregon Wave Energy ProjectBusinessWire and Oregon on track to get utility scale wave farmCNET News

RI – A new law signed by Governor Don Carcieri has brought the possibility of an offshore wind farm one step closer to being built.  The Public Utilities Commission blocked an arrangement between Deepwater Wind, a wind power developer, and National Grid, a utility company, because costs to ratepayers were too high in March. Consequently, the legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation requiring the commission to make decisions based on economic and environmental benefits as well as rates, and to do so within 45 days.  Under the new rules, the Commission approved the plan 2-1.  RI energy commission OK’s wind farm agreementAssociated Press

VT – Governor Jim Douglas and Lt. Governor Brian Dubie attended the signing of a contract between two Vermont utilities and Hydro-Quebec, which supplies hydro-electric power from Canada.  The contract will allow Hydro-Quebec to provide the utilities with enough power for 200,000 Vermont homes for 26 years at competitive market rates, and replaces a similar long-term contract that will phase out over the next several years.  After watching the signing, Governor Douglas held a press conference in which he said he was “grateful” that the companies “have negotiated an agreement that will benefit customers” and that the agreement will “provide stable renewable power at a competitive price” and “help Vermont’s power supply remain arguably the nation’s cleanest.”  Vermont and Quebec reach new energy agreementMarketWatch

National News

A new report from the US Department of Energy says that 2009 set a record for the amount of new wind energy capacity and for the amount of investment in wind energy, despite the lingering economic downturn.  Ten gigawatts of wind energy was installed in 2009 and $21 billion was invested, resulting in a 40% increase in the amount of wind energy capacity.  For the fifth year in a row, the report says, the growth of wind energy capacity was second only to that of natural gas, supplying 39% of the new energy in the country last year.  Twenty-nine States installed new wind energy capacity, with a plurality of that capacity in Texas, followed by Indiana and Iowa in a distant second and third.  2009 a year of growth, challenge for US wind power: ReportEERE News

A plan to build the world’s first clean coal power plant that was approved in 2003 and shelved in 2008 has been revived.  The US Department of Energy has awarded $1 billion to the project, now called “FutureGen 2.0”, which will be used to retrofit an existing coal-fired power plant in Illinois to capture and sequester its carbon emissions.  The new plan abandons the technique in the original plan called coal gasification, and will instead use a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide to burn the coal, then send the resulting gas underground to natural geological formations that can accommodate 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year for 50 years.  Clean-coal project advances with $1 billion in fundingWall Street Journal

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Energy Update January 15, 2010

January 15, 2010

In the States

AZ – Governor Jan Brewer discussed her ideas on the future of energy in Arizona at a business conference in Phoenix, calling for more wind, solar, and nuclear energy production.  The Governor said she is a “strong advocate for the development of more nuclear energy in Arizona,” calling the energy source “the cornerstone of our clean energy future.”  She also said she is “committed to making Arizona the solar capital of the world,” proposed adding incentives and easing regulations, and signed two executive orders to help promote solar energy.  Brewer pushes for nuclear as key part of energy goalsArizona Republic

MD – As the session begins in the State general assembly, Governor Martin O’Malley is preparing to push for a low-cost plan to increase solar energy, offshore wind development, and electric cars.  The Governor is proposing smaller changes to comply with the legislature’s existing goal of generating 20% of Maryland’s energy from renewable sources by 2022, and a need to cut $2 billion from the State budget.  Examples include streamlining the process to allow transmission lines from offshore wind farms and a tax break on new electric vehicles.  O’Malley to press for legislation on renewable energyBaltimore Sun

NM – Governor Bill Richardson has signed an executive order instructing several state agencies to coordinate efforts to promote the growth of green jobs and renewable energy.  The agencies are tasked with improving the electrical grid, commercializing new clean energy technologies, attracting renewable energy companies to the state, streamlining the permit process for alternative energy projects, and promoting commercial-scale geothermal energy.  Richardson orders new steps to build green economyNew Mexico Business Weekly

WV – In his State of the State address, Governor Joe Manchin praised the energy sector and defended the coal industry.  The Governor stressed balancing the economy and the environment, heralding both increased wind energy development and new technologies that will allow more drilling for oil and natural gas.  His speech also focused on supporting the coal industry by noting the fuel’s ubiquity and low cost, praising an upcoming project to control greenhouse gas emissions at a power plant, and criticizing efforts to “villainize this resource that helped us win two world wars and built the greatest country in the world.”  West Virginians urged to ‘stand up for our coal miners’Charleston Gazette

National News

President Barack Obama has announced $2.3 billion in tax credits that is expected to leverage an additional $5 billion in private investment, help complete 183 clean energy projects, and create more than 17,000 new jobs.  The credits will be provided for a wide variety of projects, including solar, wind, and geothermal energy production, fuel cells, electric cars, carbon capture and sequestration technology, and energy efficiency products.  White House awards $2.3 billion in tax credits for clean energy developersNew York Times

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Energy Update, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009

In the States

MS – Governor Haley Barbour discussed the future of energy in Mississippi at a meeting of energy policy experts, calling energy “the lifeblood of the world’s economy.”  He cited a potential new lignite coal power plant with carbon capture and sequestration technology and the possibility of two solar power companies beginning manufacturing in the state as positive steps.  Barbour: Energy is lifeblood of the world’s economyMississippi Business Journal

NY – Governor David Paterson has said that a new plan released by the State Energy Planning Board will help shape legislation to make New York a leader in clean energy.  The plan calls for greater efficiency in new building codes, requiring energy audits in home sales to encourage efficiency upgrades, and increasing the proportion of energy created by solar, wind, and natural gas.  The Governor has stated a goal for the State to meet 45% of its energy needs through reducing energy demand and increasing renewable energy.  State energy plan promotes clean, efficient alternativesNew York Times

VA – Governor-elect Bob McDonnell has sent a letter to US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asking that the federal government move quickly to lease ocean-floor parcels off of Virginia’s coastline for oil and natural drilling, currently scheduled for 2011.  Governor Tim Kaine asked Secretary Salazar for a delay of the same leases earlier this year.  The Governor-elect believes a lack of movement in the past year and interference from federal politicians could further impede the process, which a 2005 study suggests could create up to 2,500 new jobs.  McDonnell wants offshore drilling in 2011Virginian-Pilot

Regional, National, and International News

Copenhagen Climate Talks – President Barack Obama and four other world leaders shaped a final accord at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting.  To the disappointment of representatives from many smaller countries, the document is not a binding pledge with firm targets for reducing greenhouse gases, but a non-binding statement of intention.  The accord aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit a rise in global temperature by two degrees Celsius, and for richer countries to provide aid of $30 billion over the next three years – and up to $100 billion per year by 2020 – to poorer countries.  There were many issues of contention between the countries during the meeting, to the point where some called for another, smaller conference, but the accord represents a small step forward in halting and mitigating climate change.  A grudging accord in climate talksNew York Times

US Cap-and-Trade Policy – At least six moderate Senate Democrats have asked President Barack Obama to hold off on cap-and-trade legislation next year.  The Senators cited the economy, a contentious health care debate, and election-year politics as reasons to hold off on another sweeping legislative change.  The While House has signaled that it is committed to cap-and-trade legislation, but there are other proposals currently being discussed by Senators, including setting a price on carbon emissions and capping emissions only for power plants.  Senate Democrats to W.H.: Drop cap-and-trade - Politico

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic US – The Governors of 11 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States have signed a memorandum of understanding to require reductions in the carbon content of fuel through a multistate low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS).  The mandatory requirement will not rely on a single technological resource, not will it fundamentally change the fuel used in automobiles, but will make the fuel used emit less carbon.  According to proponents, higher-carbon sources of fuel such as tar sands will be discouraged by the agreement, while alternative energy and low- or no-emissions vehicles will be favored.  Signatories to the agreement include Governors M. Jodi Rell (CT), Jack Markell (DE), John Baldacci (ME), Martin O’Malley (MD), Deval Patrick (MA), John Lynch (NH), Jon Corzine (NJ), David Paterson (NY), Ed Rendell (PA), Donald Carcieri (RI), and Jim Douglas (VT).  Governors take aim at carbon in fuelNew Haven Register

2009 Energy Review – Much advancement has been made in energy technology over the past year.  New technologies are allowing the recovery of natural gas, which is cleaner burning than coal, from places previously thought economically impossible, increasing its availability by 39%.  Clean coal technology has begun to be implemented on a larger scale, including power plants, and researchers are finding potential in less expensive carbon capture strategies.  Similar movement has occurred for biomass and cellulosic ethanol, which are now more viable as a replacement for gasoline and oil due to discoveries this year.  New technologies are creating potential for lighter batteries that will hold a greater charge, bringing plug-in hybrid and electric autos closer to reality.  The year in energyTechnology Review

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Energy Update, October 2, 2009

October 2, 2009

In the States

CA – This week, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the Global Climate Summit 2, which gathered over 1,200 participants from across the U.S. and the world to help discuss climate change issues and influence national policy in their countries prior to the UN summit planned for Copenhagen, Denmark in December.  California officials also hoped the summit would allow other governments to see what the state has accomplished and build on its achievements in negotiating a new global climate change pact at that meeting.  Topics included how to decrease energy usage, how to obtain cleaner energy, and how to best offset greenhouse gas emissions.  Schwarzenegger leads governors’ summit on global warmingChristian Science Monitor and Climate summit delegates like state’s planned carbon trading marketLos Angeles Times

NC – In a letter to US Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, Governor Bev Perdue indicated she may be willing to consider offshore oil and gas drilling depending on the amount of reserves located off North Carolina’s shore and whether a panel of scientists and engineers she plans to assemble indicate drilling can be done safely and without hampering offshore wind energy development.  Governor Perdue commented on a draft proposal prepared by the Bush administration, which would allow certain sites to be explored for possible extraction of fossil fuels.  The Governor would also like more information on the share of oil and gas revenues the State could expect to receive.  Secretary Salazar has indicated he is likely to scale back the proposal before presenting it to President Obama and Congress prior to final approval.  Perdue indicates she’s open to offshore drillingWinston-Salem Journal

PA – Governor Ed Rendell spoke at a news conference to covey the importance of clean energy to Pennsylvania’s financial and environmental goals.  He cited the State’s $900 million of investment since 2003, an energy portfolio standard that mandates the development of alternative energy sources, energy conservation laws, and adoption of the California Clean Car Rule to reduce emissions from mobile sources as actions that have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of new jobs.  The Governor also expressed support for more research on carbon capture and storage technologies.  Rendell calls for clean energy developmentPittsburgh Post-Gazette

TX – Governor Rick Perry voiced strong opposition to federal climate change legislation during a meeting with State business and political leaders.  The Governor said that Texas has done well in balancing the interests of business and the environment and that new federal mandates on carbon emissions and other climate changing pollution would raise the prices of many everyday products for consumers and eliminate 200,000 to 300,000 jobs in the State.  He suggested the Federal Government should follow Texas’ lead by expanding the nation’s alternative energy portfolio, reducing the cost of alternative energy forms like solar and wind, and promoting investment in technology that captures emissions of carbon dioxide rather than institute a cap-and-trade policy.  Texas governor voices opposition to climate billAustin American-Statesman

WV – Governor Joe Manchin gave a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce in which he noted that while coal may create pollution, coal-producing states such as West Virginia have helped build a vibrant American economy.  The Governor believes that the pending House cap and trade legislation, in its current form, will cost too many jobs and that there may be ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by recycling carbon dioxide into a useful product.  He also raised concerns about the potential for newly created alternative energy industry jobs moving offshore if production costs prove to be too high in the US.  Manchin calls for energy balanceCharleston Daily Mail

Regional and National News

Attracting renewable energy manufacturing plants and workers is less difficult for states that have generous incentive programs than for those that do not.  Some states provide millions of dollars in tax and other incentives for companies to build such facilities – which produce not only renewable energy technology but high-paying and high-skill jobs – while other state provide little or none.  With renewable energy becoming a key component of economic development, states are competing to provide more generous subsidies in return for new clean energy investment and jobs.  Clean-energy jobs touch off bidding wars between statesUSA Today

Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer have introduced the Senate’s version of climate change legislation.  Many details are missing from the bill as it is currently written, though the two sponsors say it will be deficit-neutral.  The bill would require a reduction in carbon emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050 through a cap-and-trade mechanism, cleaner coal technologies, natural gas, and nuclear energy production, more solar and wind energy production, and increased energy efficiency.  Republican leaders have already voiced opposition to the bill, calling it a tax on families and small businesses while environmental advocates have expressed mixed reactions.  Boxer, Kerry launch campaign to pass Senate cap-and-trade billNew York Times and Overview [pdf], Section-by-section summary [pdf], and Bill text [pdf] for S.1733 – Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act

To date, more than $1 billion in stimulus funds has already been spent on clean energy projects, including $550 million that was just awarded for new renewable energy production (in lieu of tax credits), $300 million for energy conservation efforts in public housing projects, and $36 million for energy efficiency projects in Pennsylvania.  An additional $410 million in stimulus funds have been recently announced, including $161 million for a wind power transmission line, $144 million to advance the smart grid, and $106 million for Energy Efficiency Community Block Grants.  Treasury, Energy surpass $1 billion milestone in Recovery Act awards for clean energy projectsEERE News and U.S. Treasury and DOE award $550 million for renewable energy projectsEERE News and HUD grants $300 million in Recovery Act funds for green housingEERE News and DOE delivers $36 million to Pennsylvania for energy efficiency projectsEERE News and Recovery Act helps to fund transmission line for Montana wind powerEERE News and DOE announces $144 Million in Recovery Act funding for the smart gridEERE News and Obama administration delivers more than $106 million for energy efficiency and conservation projects in nine statesEERE News

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