NewEnergyNews: ENERGY & CLIMATE LAW – THE DEBATE IS JOINED

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Oct. 23:

  • TTTA Thursday-EVANGELICALS IN ‘CREATION CARE’ CLIMATE FIGHT
  • TTTA Thursday-ADVANCED WIND-MAKERS MAKANI, SHEERWIND READY DEMOS
  • TTTA Thursday-TEA PARTY BACKS SOLAR, ATTACKS UTILITY MONOPOLIES
  • TTTA Thursday-WHAT DRIVERS DON’T KNOW HOLDS BACK THE FUTURE
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: THE IMPACT ON REAL PEOPLE OF RISING POWER PRICES
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 22: SCHOOLS SAVE W/GEOTHERMAL HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS; BUILDING FOR NEXT-GEN U.S. BIOFUELS; ENERGY STORAGE MARKET EMERGING
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: WHERE U.S. OFFSHORE WIND WILL CONNECT
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 21: SOLARCITY TO CROWDFUND WITH $1,000 BONDS; NEW JERSEY LOOKS AT OCEAN WIND; SMART LED LIGHTING MRKT TO DOUBLE
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • THE STUDY: NEW OPPORTUNITIES IN TRANSMISSION
  • QUICK NEWS, Oct. 20: ELEVEN GOOD THINGS ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY; YAHOO BUYS WIND; SMART THERMOSTATS’ BILLION DOLLAR FUTURE
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: The Ocean Speaks Out
  • Weekend Video: Adapting To The Inevitable
  • Weekend Video: The Joy Of Driving EVs Powered By The Sun
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HOTTEST SEPTEMBER EVER; WORLD’S HOTTEST MONTHS STREAK AT SIX
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU WIND BEATS FOSSIL, NUKE ENERGY PRICES
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-DESERTEC SUCCUMBS TO MIDEAST TURMOIL
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-JAPAN UPS PUSH FOR GEOTHERMAL
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is a biweekly contributor to NewEnergyNews

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT)

    November 26, 2013 (Huffington Post via NewEnergyNews)

    Everywhere we turn, environmental news is filled with horrid developments and glimpses of irreversible tipping points.

    Just a handful of examples are breathtaking: Scientists have dared to pinpoint the years at which locations around the world may reach runaway heat, and in the northern hemisphere it's well in sight for our children: 2047. Survivors of Superstorm Sandy are packing up as costs of repair and insurance go out of reach, one threat that climate science has long predicted. Or we could simply talk about the plight of bees and the potential impact on food supplies. Surprising no one who explores the Pacific Ocean, sailor Ivan MacFadyen described long a journey dubbed The Ocean is Broken, in which he saw vast expanses of trash and almost no wildlife save for a whale struggling a with giant tumor on its head, evoking the tons of radioactive water coming daily from Fukushima's lamed nuclear power center. Rampaging fishing methods and ocean acidification are now reported as causing the overpopulation of jellyfish that have jammed the intakes of nuclear plants around the world. Yet the shutting down of nuclear plants is a trifling setback compared with the doom that can result in coming days at Fukushima in the delicate job to extract bent and spent fuel rods from a ruined storage tank, a project dubbed "radioactive pick up sticks."

    With all these horrors to ponder you wouldn't expect to hear that you should also worry about the United States running out of coal. But you would be wrong, says Leslie Glustrom, founder and research director for Clean Energy Action. Her contention is that we've passed the peak in our nation's legendary supply of coal that powers over one-third of our grid capacity. This grim news is faithfully spelled out in three reports, with the complete story told in Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves (pdf). (Disclosure: I serve on CEA's board and have known the author for years.)

    Glustrom's research presents a sea change in how we should understand our energy challenges, or experience grim consequences. It's not only about toxic and heat-trapping emissions anymore; it's also about having enough energy generation to run big cities and regions that now rely on coal. Glustrom worries openly about how commerce will go on in many regions in 2025 if they don't plan their energy futures right.

    2013-11-05-FigureES4_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    Scrutinizing data for prices on delivered coal nationwide, Glustrom's new report establishes that coal's price has risen nearly 8 percent annually for eight years, roughly doubling, due mostly to thinner, deeper coal seams plus costlier diesel transport expenses. Higher coal prices in a time of "cheap" natural gas and affordable renewables means coal companies are lamed by low or no profits, as they hold debt levels that dwarf their market value and carry very high interest rates.

    2013-11-05-Table_ES2_FULL.jpgclick to enlarge

    2013-11-05-Figure_ES2_FULL.jpg

    One leading coal company, Patriot, filed for bankruptcy last year; many others are also struggling under bankruptcy watch and not eager to upgrade equipment for the tougher mining ahead. Add to this the bizarre event this fall of a coal lease failing to sell in Wyoming's Powder River Basin, the "Fort Knox" of the nation's coal supply, with some pundits agreeing this portends a tightening of the nation's coal supply, not to mention the array of researchers cited in the report. Indeed, at the mid point of 2013, only 488 millions tons of coal were produced in the U.S.; unless a major catch up happens by year-end, 2013 may be as low in production as 1993.

    Coal may exist in large quantities geologically, but economically, it's getting out of reach, as confirmed by US Geological Survey in studies indicating that less than 20 percent of US coal formations are economically recoverable, as explored in the CEA report. To Glustrom, that number plus others translate to 10 to 20 years more of burning coal in the US. It takes capital, accessible coal with good heat content and favorable market conditions to assure that mining companies will stay in business. She has observed a classic disconnect between camps of professionals in which geologists tend to assume money is "infinite" and financial analysts tend to assume that available coal is "infinite." Both biases are faulty and together they court disaster, and "it is only by combining thoughtful estimates of available coal and available money that our country can come to a realistic estimate of the amount of US coal that can be mined at a profit." This brings us back to her main and rather simple point: "If the companies cannot make a profit by mining coal they won't be mining for long."

    No one is more emphatic than Glustrom herself that she cannot predict the future, but she presents trend lines that are robust and confirmed assertively by the editorial board at West Virginia Gazette:

    Although Clean Energy Action is a "green" nonprofit opposed to fossil fuels, this study contains many hard economic facts. As we've said before, West Virginia's leaders should lower their protests about pollution controls, and instead launch intelligent planning for the profound shift that is occurring in the Mountain State's economy.

    The report "Warning, Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" and its companion reports belong in the hands of energy and climate policy makers, investors, bankers, and rate payer watchdog groups, so that states can plan for, rather than react to, a future with sea change risk factors.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    It bears mentioning that even China is enacting a "peak coal" mentality, with Shanghai declaring that it will completely ban coal burning in 2017 with intent to close down hundreds of coal burning boilers and industrial furnaces, or shifting them to clean energy by 2015. And Citi Research, in "The Unimaginable: Peak Coal in China," took a look at all forms of energy production in China and figured that demand for coal will flatten or peak by 2020 and those "coal exporting countries that have been counting on strong future coal demand could be most at risk." Include US coal producers in that group of exporters.

    Our world is undergoing many sorts of change and upheaval. We in the industrialized world have spent about a century dismissing ocean trash, overfishing, pesticides, nuclear hazard, and oil and coal burning with a shrug of, "Hey it's fine, nature can manage it." Now we're surrounded by impacts of industrial-grade consumption, including depletion of critical resources and tipping points of many kinds. It is not enough to think of only ourselves and plan for strictly our own survival or convenience. The threat to animals everywhere, indeed to whole systems of the living, is the grief-filled backdrop of our times. It's "all hands on deck" at this point of human voyaging, and in our nation's capital, we certainly don't have that. Towns, states and regions need to plan fiercely and follow through. And a fine example is Boulder Colorado's recent victory to keep on track for clean energy by separating from its electric utility that makes 59 percent of its power from coal.

    Clean Energy Action is disseminating "Warning: Faulty Reporting of US Coal Reserves" for free to all manner of relevant professionals who should be concerned about long range trends which now include the supply risks of coal, and is supporting that outreach through a fundraising campaign.

    [Clean Energy Action is fundraising to support the dissemination of this report through December 11. Contribute here.]

    Author's note: Want to support my work? Please "fan" me at Huffpost Denver, here (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-butterfield). Thanks.

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    Anne's previous NewEnergyNews columns:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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  • Monday, May 18, 2009

    ENERGY & CLIMATE LAW – THE DEBATE IS JOINED

    Dems' climate bill shy on tax credit help
    Dina Cappiello, May 15, 2009 (AP)
    and
    Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill Advances
    ClimateBiz Staff, May 15, 2009 (Reuters)
    and
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce sharpens critique of House climate bill
    Michael Burnham, May 15, 2009 (NY Times)

    SUMMARY
    The House Energy and Commerce Committee formally presented H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA).

    Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass), Chair of the Energy Subcommittee, are co-authors of the 932-page bill.

    The Table of Contents is 7 pages long.

    The markup process, during which the Committee introduces proposed amendments, will now begin. At the Chair’s discretion, a vote from the Committee will be called for. Chairman Waxman has announced the vote will come by the end of the week, when the House will adjourn for a Memorial Day recess.

    click to enlarge

    Waxman and Markey significantly compromised provisions in their original “discussion draft” of the bill in order to get support from Blue Dog Democrats and other conservative factions in their own party.

    The only leverage the bill’s authors and proponents had in negotiations was the threat of severe restrictions likely to be put on big emitters by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the endless lawsuits that would follow if Congress does not act.

    The 2 most notable and controversial items in the bill: (1) A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) and (2) a national cap&trade system.

    The 2 most notable items compromised: (1) The RES will require U.S. utilities to obtain 15% of their power from New Energy sources by 2020, down from the discussion draft proposal (and Obama campaign promise) of 25% by 2025. (2) The portion of allowances in the cap&trade system created by the bill that will be auctioned in the immediate future is 15%, down from the discussion draft’s proposed (and Obama campaign's promised) 100%.

    click to enlarge

    The compromised RES provides a guarantee of a market for New Energy through 2020, the most stable, long-term New Energy policy ever proposed in the U.S. It falls short of the higher goals many in the New Energy community believe are necessary to spur a real New Energy economy.

    The cap&trade system is the most ambitious new market ever created by Congress and, for the first time, will put a price on the greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) that are accumulating in earth’s atmosphere and driving global climate change.

    The biggest practical obstacle to the proprosed cap&trade system is that the dimished allowance auction may leave the system without a source of revenues to adequately compensate utility ratepayers for rising power prices that will result in putting a price on GhGs. That could shift the cost of fighting global climate change to the ratepayers and away from utilities and power producers.

    One thing no legislation can take away from cap&trade is the cap. It's a crucial starting point from which much can follow. (click to enlarge)

    The 3-million member U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the most prominent voice of the country’s business community, says cap&trade will create an expensive, complicated, regulation-heavy system and will do nothing to stop emerging economies from continuing to spew GhGs. The only thing the Chamber of Commerce likes about cap&trade is that it is preferable to EPA action.

    click to enlarge

    The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (U.S. CAP), a coalition of major businesses (like General Electric, Alcoa, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, DuPont, Johnson & Johnson and Xerox, many of whom are members of the Chamber) and environmental groups (like the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute) endorses the Waxman-Markey cap&trade plan. (See Blueprint for Legislative Action)

    Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen and TheCLEAN.org have rejected the compromise bill and called for new legislation.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists acknowledged the efforts of Waxman and Markey and called for work to improve the legislation as it is debated in the House, is reconciled with Senate legislation and is molded into the package that would, finally, be sent to the President.

    U.S. CAP megacompanies back the Waxman-Markey bill. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    It has been clearly demonstrated in the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading System (ETS) that one of the keys to a cap&trade system’s effectiveness is the auction of an adequate portion of emissions allowances. The compromise reducing the Waxman-Markey bill’s auction to 15% makes the system’s potential for effectiveness in the short term low and the potential for big emitters to manipulate and profit from the trade of emissions allowances high.

    The good thing about the bill’s proposal is that it puts a system and its regulatory framework in place and allows escalating percentages of allowances to be auctioned going forward. In time, there will be adequate revenues to make the system equitable and there could still be future legislation to make the system more workable.

    A 100% auction was expected to generate $650 billion in federal revenues over 10 years from big emitters. Part of that revenue was to be transferred to consumers so as to shift the burden of increased power prices back to big emitters. Part of it was to be invested in New Energy and Energy Efficiency. 15% of that figure is $97.5 billion, not even 2/3 of the $150 billion President Obama promised to invest in New Energy over 10 years.

    Details emerging. (click to enlarge)

    It was hoped by some the U.S. could benefit from the lessons learned in the opening phase of Europe's cap&trade system. The ETS opened with the auction of a very low percentage of allowances to bring utilities, power producers and other big emitters in. Sharp fluctuations in emissions prices and profit-taking manipulations by the big emitters followed. It appears the cap&trade system in the Waxman-Markey bill may be subject to some of the same pitfalls.

    The bill’s backers say there are protections for consumers and against market manipulations in the legislation. They also point out the importance of getting the U.S. into the fight against global climate change, even if the designated system remains a work in progress.

    The Blue Dog and moderate Democrats who forced the compromises are from fossil fuel-dependent states with big, energy-intensive industries. Some claim their states do not have adequate New Energy resources to meet a more demanding RES. Others claim a cap&trade system will drive power prices too high.

    Multiple studies have shown that a cap&trade system properly instituted and administered is likely to only have modest effects on power prices. (See CAP&TRADE, CONGRESS AND INDUSTRY and TEXAS STUDY SAYS EMISSIONS CUTS COULD COME AT MODERATE COST)

    Whether this bill's proposal can be properly instituted and administered remains to be seen.

    click to enlarge

    There is a growing barrage of studies on the bill’s provisions. The accumulated effect is much like reading Shakespear or the Bible in that it is possible to find an argument in favor of or against almost anything in the accumulated verbiage.

    Example 1: The Chamber of Commerce says the bill would make 27 million small businesses subject to EPA-enforced New Source Performance Standards for machinery and equipment. Representative Markey’s office says small businesses would be unaffected.

    Example 2: A recent report commissioned by the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and other business groups said emission cuts would cause a net loss of 3.2 million U.S. jobs by 2030 and reduce household purchasing power by $2,100+ while an EPA analysis of the legislation projected a $98-to-$140/year impact through 2050 and a Sierra Club spokesman called the business groups’ report “scarce tactics.” (See Climate)

    Perspective. (click to enlarge)

    Allocation of emissions allowances in ACESA:
    (1) 15% to be auctioned for revenues assigned to compensate low- and moderate-income families for increased power prices;
    (2) 85% provided at no charge:
    (a) 35% to the electric utility sector (30% to distribution companies and 5% to privately owned coal companies;
    (b) 15% for emissions-intensive industries (steel, cement, glass, chemical, etc.) in 2014, reduced 2% per year;
    (c) 10% to states to sell to obtain revenues for New Energy and Energy Efficiency investments from 2012 to 2015, reduced to 5% from 2016 to 2022;
    (d) 9% for natural gas distribution companies, eliminated between 2026 and 2030;
    (e) 5% to fund tropical deforestation prevention projects;
    (f) 3% for automakers to fund advanced technologies through 2017, reduced to 1% from 2018 and 2025;
    (g) 2% for U.S. climate change adaptation between 2012 and 2021, increased to 4% from 2022 to 2026 and to 8% in 2027;
    (h) 2% for international adaptation and clean technology transfer from 2012 to 2021, increased to 4% from 2022 to 2026 and to 8% in 2027;
    (i) 2% for carbon capture and storage technology from 2014 to 2017, increased to 5% after 2018;
    (j) 2% for oil refineries from 2014 to 2026;
    (k) 1.5% home heating oil and propane assistance programs, reduced to zero between 2026 and 2030;
    (l) 1% for R&D funding to Clean Energy Innovation Centers;
    (m) 0.5% for job training from 2012 to 2021, increased to 1% after 2022.

    What environmentalists want to know is if the bill's ends are served by its means? (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Christine Glunz, spokeswoman, White House Council on Environmental Quality: "The summary released today ... indicates there are a number of mechanisms in place that are aimed at protecting consumers, and we're glad to see that Congress is taking this issue seriously…We remain committed to a market-based emissions reduction program that generates enough revenue to aid consumers."
    - Liz Perera, Washington representative, Union of Concerned Scientists' Climate Program: "Congressmen Waxman and Markey have done an admirable job satisfying a lot of competing interests…But now, as the bill moves forward, Congress needs to strengthen many of the bill's provisions to ensure that we dramatically cut emissions, save consumers money, and strengthen our economy with a well-designed climate and energy policy."

    Vice President Gore is an advocate of what is politically possible. (click to enlarge)

    - Phil Radford, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA: “Despite the best efforts of Chairman Waxman, this bill has been seriously undermined by the lobbying of industries more concerned with profits than the plight of our planet…While science clearly tells us that only dramatic action can prevent global warming and its catastrophic impacts, this bill has fallen prey to political infighting and industry pressure."
    - R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for governmental affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "As Congress once again prepares to bang the gavel on a climate change policy debate, congressional leadership has a serious choice to make: continue to push the same costly, rigid ideas of the past two decades, or take steps to begin a workable process to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases…"
    - Tony Kreindler, spokesman, U.S. CAP member Environmental Defense Fund: "The committee appears set to deliver a plan that is environmentally effective and smart on consumer costs, which is precisely what's needed…"

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