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Energy Update, August 8, 2008

August 8, 2008
In The States

FL – Florida Power & Light’s Sunshine Energy Program, ostensibly designed for ratepayers to voluntarily fund alternative energy projects, has been shut down by the State’s Public Service Commission after an audit revealed that only 20% of contributions went towards its purported goal. Regulators and lawmakers expressed outrage at the program, claiming that its spending did not meet the wishes of its contributors. State shutters FPL ‘green’ programMiami Herald and Florida PSC terminates FPL’s Sunshine Energy ProgramRenewable Energy World

KY – Governor Beshear has ordered regulations to be written that would allow small, low-speed electric vehicles to be operated on public roads in Kentucky. The move is expected to help attract an electric car manufacturing company to build a plant in the state. Beshear authorizes electric cars on state roadsLouisville Courier-Journal

MA – Governor Patrick signed legislation which exempts cellulosic ethanol from the State’s gasoline excise tax and increases the amount of biodiesel required to be blended in with regular diesel at all of the diesel pumps and heating oil in Massachusetts. Massachusetts enacts advanced biofuels billRenewable Energy World

MD – Several measures are being taken in Maryland with the goal of creating a more sustainable transportation infrastructure. Specifically, Governor O’Malley announced the construction of four new E-85 pumps which will allow consumers to burn less fossil fuel, a mandate for the state’s vehicle fleet to use a blend of 5% biodiesel and more ethanol, a request for guidelines which will allow for more electric vehicles more quickly, and a public awareness campaign for public transit. State announces plans for more sustainable transportation fuel systemSouthern Maryland Online

ME – Maine’s State Solar Incentive Program, which provides $500,000 annually in rebates to rate-payers who install solar power and solar hot water systems on their homes, ran out of money on June 20. There will be no more money available for rebates for the next two years under the current plan. The owner of a solar energy company in Maine has suggested that a new solar rebate plan be added into a proposal to spend $3 billion over 10 years to insulate Maine’s homes. Mainers go solar, snap up systems that make heat as the sun shinesPortland Press Herald

TX – A proposal by NRG Energy Inc to build a coal-fired power plant in Texas is no longer being opposed by environmental groups after the company offered a compromise. In exchange for the groups not continuing their fight against the plant, NRG has agreed to either capture or offset half of its carbon emissions. The company will also support either a large-scale solar energy project or an energy efficiency program in the state. Green groups drop opposition to Texas coal plantReuters.com

WI - Governor Doyle expressed support for the Midwest Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a plan involving nine States and two Canadian provinces which would impose a cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gases. The Governor cited inaction on the federal government’s part to stem climate change as motivation to move forward with the plan. The group could begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. Doyle advocates regional emissions planMilwaukee Journal Sentinel

Regional News

The Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which includes seven States and four Canadian provinces, has released a draft on how it plans to implement a regional cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. The draft plan would begin monitoring emissions in 2010, capping industrial emissions in 2012, and would add other emissions in 2015. Unlike the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the Northeastern US that regulates only electric utilities, the WCI would regulate greenhouse gasses from several sources. Under the current plan, individual states would decide whether to hand out or auction off credits and polluters could write off up to 10% of their emissions by investing in offsets such as planting trees. Group proposes climate-saving strategySeattle Post-Intelligencer and U.S.-Canada carbon trading group eyes 2012 startReuters and Western states, provinces put together an emissions strategyOregonian

Despite the dramatic increase in talk of offshore oil drilling recently, there is little chance that such drilling would occur on the West Coast, even if Congress were to lift its ban on the process. The Governors of California, Oregon, and Washington have signed on to an action plan for the Pacific which opposes offshore drilling and promotes the health of the waters on the coast. 3 West Coast Governors oppose new offshore drillingLos Angeles Times

National News

The presidential candidates have been both touting their own and condemning each others’ energy plans recently. John McCain has called for the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030; Barack Obama has also called for more nuclear energy, but not without first studying how to deal with security of the fuel and disposal of waste. Sen. McCain recently reversed his earlier opinion and now enthusiastically endorses offshore oil drilling. Sen. Obama expressed doubts that it would help gas prices but that he is willing to compromise on the issue if a drilling bill also included alternative energy production and other green programs. Sen. Obama also proposed tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to tamp down gas prices in the short term. McCain at nuclear plant highlights energy issueNew York Times and Obama, in new stand, proposes use of oil reserveNew York Times

For the fourth time this year, Congress has failed to pass legislation providing $18 billion tax credits for the production of alternative energy and energy efficiency products. The bill passed the House in May and most Senators agree with the tax credits. The National Governors Association sent a letter to Congress signed by all 50 Governors expressing support for a five-year extension of the credits. However, disagreements over how to pay for it have prevented it from going to the Senate floor for debate. Republicans disagree with the Democrats’ plan to offset the costs by postponing a tax break for multinational companies and preventing hedge fund managers from deferring some overseas profits. The alternative energy industry has expressed to Congress that if the bill was not passed this time, many projects would halt due to uncertainty in funding. President Bush has threatened a veto if the bill is passed with the Democrats’ offsets. Solar, wind tax credits stalledSan Jose Mercury News and GOP blocks action on tax, renewable energy packageAssociated Press and Stalling our energy futurePolitico and 50 out of 50 Governors call for a renewable energy tax credit extensionIndustry Week

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Energy Update, July 3, 2008

July 3, 2008
In the States

CA – A draft plan released by the California Air Resources Board calls for many changes to be made in order for the state to comply with a 2006 law that requires greenhouse gas emissions to be below 1990 levels by 2020. Recommendations include increasing renewable energy sources to 33%, reversing the EPA’s waiver denial and raising the fuel economy of cars sold in the state to 43 miles per gallon, and imposing a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade system with other Western states. The draft plan, which will be made final in November and approved before next year, received mostly positive comments from both pro-business and pro-environmental groups, though both sides have reservations. Board outlines plans to whip greenhouse gasesSan Francisco Chronicle and New plan unveiled to fight climate changeContra Costa Times

CO – The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is holding hearings this and next month on whether and how to change regulation of industry. Proponents of greater regulation claim that new rules are needed to protect the state’s environment and economy; the oil and gas industry say that they would lose money due to mandatory drilling stoppages during breeding seasons. The commission supports the goals of both groups and is working on a compromise. Energy group to fight rulesDenver Post

CO – In addition to promoting drilling for oil in coastal waters and in Alaska, President Bush has proposed developing oil shale in western states, asserting that developing the resource would lessen the country’s need to import fuel. Some state leaders have questioned the validity of the president’s claims. While Sen. Ken Salazar noted the extreme difficulty of extracting usable oil from the oil shale, Rep. Mark Udall expressed concerns about the environmental and economic effects. Governor Bill Ritter noted that no one knows how much oil there is, how much it would cost to extract it, or what the effects would be on the state. Power struggle over oil shaleDenver Post

DE – A deal has been struck which will require Delmarva Power to buy wind generated electricity from Bluewater Wind, which will construct up to 70 wind turbines off the coast of Delaware, powering 50,000 homes for 25 years. Legislation approving this project was passed unanimously in both chambers of the state legislature, signed by the Governor, and backed by gubernatorial candidates from both parties. As the deal requires significantly less power to be bought by Delmarva than originally envisioned, Bluewater is now looking for additional customers to purchase its wind energy. Bluewater must now complete the permitting process; construction is expected to begin within two years and it could be operational by 2013. Offshore wind pact OK'd for DelawareNews Journal and Governor signs offshore wind legislationNews Journal

FL – Governor Charlie Crist has recently taken notable positions on energy as he both hosted the Florida Summit on Global Climate Change and called for an end to the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling. During the summit, the Governor signed into law an energy bill that puts in place new standards on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and will also produce a plan for an emissions cap-and-trade system. He also called on Florida’s businesses to invest in clean energy technology, and noted the link between the state’s environment and its tourist economy, while also declaring that Florida can lead the country on climate change as it has in space exploration. Crist: Florida can lead the nation in green technologyFlorida Capital NewsClimate summit: There's gold in going greenMiami Herald and Gov. Crist Takes Middle Way in Environment, EnergyWall Street Journal and

HI – Under a new law signed by Governor Lingle, no permits for new single-family homes built in Hawaii will be issued which do not include a solar water heating system. The Governor cited the progress the measure will make toward decreasing Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuels. Although some environmental groups offered support for the new law, opponents claim it will drive up development costs, restricts people from choosing how to power their homes, and eliminates and existing an tax break for solar water heaters . Solar water heater law enacted by LingleHonolulu Advertiser

MI – The country’s first cellulosic ethanol plant will be built in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and may become operational by 2012. The $250 million plant will produce up to 40 million gallons of ethanol per year from wood chips rather than corn. The plant and the expansion of industry in the region are expected to eventually produce up to 750 jobs. Ethanol plant to be built in U. P.Detroit News

MT – Governor Schweitzer traveled to Capitol Hill to push for legislation that would provide incentives for alternative energy use. One bill would provide a tax credit for consumers who purchase plug-in hybrids and the other would allow electric consumers to sell their solar or wind energy to the utility at market price. During a forum hosted by a Montana electric coop, the Governor highlighted the need for innovative energy storage solutions as the way to energy independence. Schweitzer touts state’s energy potentialDaily Inter Lake

NH – Governor Lynch has signed legislation which will incorporate New Hampshire into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional cap-and-trade system. Under RGGI, polluters in New Hampshire will be limited to a certain number of carbon credits, which can be traded, bought, and sold by entities that emit greenhouse gases. Businesses can earn credits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by implementing emission controls or in more novel ways like capturing methane from landfills or planting trees to offset pollution. As of today, nine other states have joined the RGGI. Lynch signs on to effort to cut gasesConcord Monitor and Lynch signs bill to add NH to CO2 initiativeNew Hampshire Union Leader

RI – Governor Donald Carcieri has reluctantly vetoed renewable energy legislation passed overwhelmingly by both legislative chambers. It’s unclear whether legislative leaders will attempt an override. The bill would have required National Grid, one of the country’s largest utilities, to enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy producers in exchange for bonuses paid by ratepayers. The Governor cited three problems with the legislation: National Grid would receive a windfall at the expense of ratepayers, the utility could utilize renewable energy sources outside the state, and the only renewable project mandated in Rhode Island was a solar facility, which he called “perhaps the costliest renewable technology.” Carcieri vetoes renewable-energy billProvidence Journal

UT The State of Utah will become the first state to join a growing number of municipalities and businesses in implementing a mandatory four-day workweek for 80% of its state employees. Officials say the benefits are lower energy costs for commuting state workers and fewer carbon emissions due to less miles driven and closing offices an extra day. Most state workers in Utah shifting to 4-day weekUSA Today

WI – The Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming has recommended eliminating the moratorium on nuclear plants. The current moratorium requires that a federally licensed nuclear waste facility be operational before a plant can be built. Specifically the panel recommended that the plants must have a “reasonable and stringent” waste plan, deliver power only to Wisconsin instead of other states, and meet renewable energy and energy efficiency goals beforehand. Ease restrictions on nuclear power plants, state task force recommendsCapital Times

National News

President Bush has asked Congress to reverse an 18-year-old ban on offshore coastal oil drilling and renewed calls to allow oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Mr. Bush could rescind an executive order which bans offshore drilling, but a Congressional ban would still be in effect. Bills appearing in Congress would repeal the federal ban, but allow states to decide whether to keep and enforce their own bans. Following the president’s announcement, many coastal governors weighed in on the idea. Supporters of repealing the ban on offshore drilling include Governors Charlie Crist (FL) and Haley Barbour. In addition, Governors Mark Sanford (SC) and Sonny Perdue (GA) have shown at least tentative support for the repeal. Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA), Mike Easley (NC), Jon Corzine (NJ), Martin O’Malley (MD), Ted Kulongoski (OR), Christine Gregoire (WA), and John Baldacci (ME) are opposed to the repeal. States along the Gulf Coast, with the exception of Florida, are exempt from the ban. Bush Calls for End to Ban on Offshore Oil DrillingNew York Times and State officials offer mixed views on offshore drillingHattiesburg American and Offshore drilling draws concernThe Daily Times and Coastal Governors Pledge to Protect Oceans from Offshore DrillingFox Business and Gov. Sanford still conditionally opposes offshore drillingGreenville News and Soaring gas prices drive offshore-drilling debateFlorida Capital News and Schwarzenegger remains opposed to offshore oil drillingSan Diego Union-Tribune

Both presidential hopefuls are in favor of reducing the use of fossil fuels, but Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain have differing views on the pathway to achieving that goal. Sen. Obama has called for greatly increasing fuel efficiency standards and ethanol use for cars, new requirements for power generation from wind, solar, and other renewable sources, and windfall profits taxes on oil companies. He opposes renewed calls for offshore oil drilling and is skeptical about expanding nuclear power. Sen. McCain, on the other hand, believes offshore drilling and nuclear plants will help ease energy costs and that market incentives and tax breaks can help encourage reductions in carbon emissions and the use of alternative energy sources, including electric-powered vehicles. Sen. McCain also favors a temporary extension of the federal gas tax, which Sen. Obama opposes. Both candidates support more government oversight of energy futures speculators and making the US government itself more energy efficient. McCain and Obama share energy goals, not methodsChristian Science Monitor

Other News

The National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices announced the award of grants to 12 states as part of NGA Chair Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Securing a Clean Energy Future initiative. Each state will receive $50,000 for projects in energy efficiency, conservation, or clean energy development. Examples of projects include: 1) developing training curriculum for assuring compliance with updated statewide energy efficiency building codes, 2) analysis of the costs and benefits of electric vehicles prior to large-scale deployment; and 3) a study of the greenhouse gas emissions of ethanol fuel related to the development of a low-carbon fuel standard. The states awarded grants are: Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and Utah. NGA Awards Clean Energy Grants to 12 StatesNGA News Release

The Western Governors Association, which counts 22 Governors of US states and territories as members, held its annual meeting in Wyoming and focused discussion on environmental and energy issues. While all of the Governors in attendance consider climate change to be a real issue, some highlighted the challenge of deploying alternative energy sources given a lack of infrastructure. The Governors also recognized that traditional forms of energy generation such as coal and nuclear power will continue to play a large role into the future of Western states, especially since the region’s energy needs are growing faster than in other parts of the country. Western govs, energy heads seek solutionsHelena Independent Record and Govs eye national energy roleCasper Star-Tribune and Western govs to mull ways to cut pollution, slow warming, boost energySalt Lake Tribune

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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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