NewEnergyNews: LOBBYISTS PUSHING HARD ON CLIMATE/ENERGY ISSUE

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

  • THE STUDY: THE JOBS BONANZA IN INDIA SOLAR
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 30: NAT GAS, SOLAR, WIND LEAD 1H 2014 NEW BUILD; COOLER PANELS COULD HEAT UP SOLAR; OFFSHORE WIND, PROMISE AND POLITICS">
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • THE STUDY: ADDING UP THE CLIMATE CHANGE NUMBERS
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 29: PRES SAYS YES TO CLIMATE ACTION, SENATE STUCK; FLAWED NEW PLAN FOR NEW ENERGY IN CALIF; SOLAR PANELS GET BETTER
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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Obama On Climate Change At The UN
  • Weekend Video: Jon Stewart Heats Up Over Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: Colbert Asks If “This Changes Everything”
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-HIGH WATER RISING – EVERYWHERE
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-MOROCCO WIND BOOM COMING
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA BOOSTS ITS SOLAR BUILD
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ABU DHABI BUYS A PIECE OF NORWAY’S STAKE IN UK OFFSHORE WIND
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, Sept. 25:

  • TTTA Thursday-THE PRIVATE SECTOR FACES CLIMATE CHANGE
  • TTTA Thursday-SOLAR WILL POWER SCHOOLS, EARN MONEY FOR TEACHERS
  • TTTA Thursday-A RIDE IN TOMORROW’S CAR
  • TTTA Thursday-A LOOK AT SEE-THROUGH SOLAR
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • THE STUDY: FREEING THE NATIONAL TREASURE IN U.S. NATIONAL LABS
  • QUICK NEWS, Sept. 24: ROCKEFELLERS DIVEST OIL FOR NEW ENERGY; BOLD $8BIL WIND BUILD-TRANSMIT-STORE PROJECT; CALIF TARGETS 1.5MIL 0-EMISSIONS CARS BY 2024
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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

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  • ---------------
  • Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    LOBBYISTS PUSHING HARD ON CLIMATE/ENERGY ISSUE

    Tally of Interests on Climate Bill Tops a Thousand; Agriculture, Higher Ed, Natural Gas, You Name It. Everyone’s Got a LobbyistMarianne Lavelle (w/David Donald, M.B. Pell, Joe Kokenge, Josh Israel, Te-Ping Chen, and Sarabeth Sanders), August 10, 2009 (Center for Public Integrity)

    SUMMARY
    Tally of Interests on Climate Bill Tops a Thousand; Agriculture, Higher Ed, Natural Gas, You Name It. Everyone’s Got a Lobbyist is another entry in Marianne Lavelle’s yeomanly work documenting the fact of and impacts from lobbying on the climate change debate in Washington, D.C., and the energy/climate legislation arising from it. (See also THE CLIMATE CHANGE BUSINESS and MORE ON THE CLEAN COAL LOBBY'S ASSAULT)

    460+ new groups joined the lobbying effort in the 12 weeks leading up to the June 26 House of Representatives vote on the landmark Waxman/Markey energy/climate bill.

    There were 880 groups registered as climate advocacy organizations at the start of 2009 and ~1,150 by June 26, a jump of 30+% as things got hot. (190 of the groups registered as climate advocates at the beginning of the year had dropped out by the time of the vote.)

    From Lavelle/CPI (click to enlarge)

    There are not adequate records to precisely document advocacy spending but Lavelle and her Center for Public Integrity (CPI) researchers estimate it at a minimum of $27+ million for the 2nd quarter (April-to-June).

    The biggest lobbying presences: First, ~200 heavy energy-using and greenhouse gas (GhG)-spewing manufacturers and their advocates. Next, ~130 power companies and utilities. This perhaps helps explain the benefits in the legislation won by coal and coal utility interests, especially the free GhG allowances provided to them in the bill’s cap&trade system, allowances thought to eventually be worth billions of dollars.

    Independent natural gas producers want some of what coal got. Some 24 companies, representing ~40% of U.S. natural gas production, have hired America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) to represent them in the upcoming Senate fight. ANGA has begun arguing that natural gas, a much cleaner fossil fuel than coal, should have a much bigger role in U.S. power generation. Congress could mandate such a switch.

    click to enlarge

    The coal industry’s advocates are already fighting back with the argument that a switch from coal to natural gas would be costly for U.S. electricity customers.

    Turning to a different lobby, Lavelle outlined how the influence-peddling can work. As the support of representatives from states with big agriculatural interests became more crucial to the passage of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA), ~20 biofuels-associated groups (refiners and would-be refiners of corn, wood chips, algae and many types of organic matter) started lobbying for the first time. A total of ~80 advocacy groups soon were involved.

    A Congressional aide in the thick of the last-minute lobbying told Lavelle the assault was intense but the bill’s purpose, to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GhGs) 17% by 2020, was not compromised. That very well may be, but Big Ag got big concessions. In return, the bill got just enough votes to pass.

    Lavelle documented the boom in lobbying in a previous CPI piece. (click to enlarge)

    COMMENTARY
    Benefits obtained by agriculture advocates in the House fight were more identifiable than other groups’ benefits because of the high-profile June confrontation between Collin Peterson (D-Minn), Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and the bill’s authors, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Ed Markey, Chair of the House Energy Subcommittee.

    Peterson threatened to block the bill if farmers weren’t protected from the expenses of cap&trade. Waxman and Markey rewrote the law so farmers would get exemptions from some emissions restrictions and included protection for ethanol crop growers and refiners.

    It is not surprising Big Ag got its way. The ethanol and biofuel lobbying powerhouses were led by POET Biorefining, the leading U.S. ethanol producer. Though a first-time lobbyist, POET has deep pockets. POET and fellow ethanol makers worked through veteran advocate group Growth Energy. Its chief spokesman: Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general and former NATO commander. Its CEO: Tom Buis, long-time farm lobbist. Its special adviser: Former Iowa Republican congressman Jim Nussle. Its newly acquired consultants (at a $30,000 fee for the second quarter House fight: Kountoupes Consulting, served by Clinton administration congressional liaison Lisa Kountoupes, a former staffer to Energy and Commerce chair emeritus John Dingell, and Melissa Shannon, former legislative aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Biofuels are big so they have to have a big lobby. (click to enlarge)

    Now that the issue has moved to the Senate, where an even tougher fight is expected, Growth Energy has added new heavyweights: Anne Steckel, former aide to Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), the majority whip, and Ted Monoson, former aide to Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader.

    Next-generation biofuels growers and technology companies now bio-engineering next-generation biofuels (Algenol Biofuels, PetroAlgae, Kai BioEnergy, Aurora Biofuels) had lobbyists in the House fight, as did biomass advocates (Florida Crystals). They are expected to retain their presence going forward into the Senate fight.

    A latecomer to the lobbying on this climate and energy bill, natural gas's ANGA is working the Senate, the White House, and Obama administration energy and environmental officials. ANGA ia working thruough Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates, which includes a lobbyists’ murderers’ row of (1) Joel Malina, former aide to Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), (2) Jack Howard, former White House staffer to both President Bushes and former senior adviser to GOP House Speakers Dennis Hastert and Newt Gingrich, and (4) former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Rod Lowman, 17-year president of the American Plastics Council, is now ANGA’s president. Lowman says ANGA is determined to make the case for natural gas to the Senate.

    Natural gas is about to get big. The proof? It's got a big lobby. (click to enlarge)

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), Chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are presently writing the Senate’s energy and climate legislation. Senator Boxer says the fun begins September 8 but D.C. insiders say the lobbyists took no summer vacation this year.

    Other identified advocates during the House fight:
    - American Superconductor lobbied for transmission upgrades that would obviously require their high voltage capabilities.
    - T. Boone Pickens also advocated for new transmission, the only thing lacking in his ambitious wind power development plans.

    Identify what these groups would have advocated in the House energy and climate bill and state whether they will be part of the Senate fight:
    - Hadassah
    - The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
    - The National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
    - Americans United for Separation of Church and State

    That's a trick question. Sorry. The latter group joined the fight in the quarter before the House vote, concerned that subsidies for retrofitting might go to “faith-based” organizations. Lavelle didn’t elaborate on the activities of the other religion-oriented groups or whether they are expected to follow the issue to the Senate.

    Schools seeking money:
    ~30 educational institutions, from Ivy League colleges to community colleges and science centers, got involved in the last quarter before House vote, looking to lock down funding and access to education grants for climate change-associated programs.

    Footnote: Is the ANGA lobbying effort showing any results? Answer: The ~1,100 other lobbyists wish they could be as effective. In the last few weeks, natural gas has added Al Gore and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., to the list of its supporters as a “cleaner” energy source that could eliminate U.S. dependence on coal and bridge the nation’s path to New Energy.

    What is it about her that's so appealing? (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - Lavelle: “It’s impossible to say with certainty how much money was spent on lobbying the climate bill, since businesses don’t have to detail expenses for separate issues they are pushing in Congress — like climate, health care, the economic stimulus, or taxes. But so many groups were lobbying climate that even if the issue consumed only 10 percent of their efforts, the cost would have been more than $27 million in just the second quarter-from April through June.”
    Letter from 5 science centers to Congressmen Waxman and Markey: “…[W]e see few more important issues for our future as a species…”
    - Unnamed senior Congressional staffer: “The closer we got to finishing the bill, the more intense the frenzy to get little pieces into the bill… It worked out okay, but sometimes at the end of the day you felt like you had been pawed by a lot of people — all your good friends who just wanted to help you out on this piece of legislation.”

    The Sierra Club does not think much of the coal lobby. (click to enlarge)

    - Buis: “What [House Ag Chair Peterson] did was stand up for all of rural America and say ‘We’re gong to be impacted by this and we want some of these issues addressed,’…Did he get them all addressed to satisfy everyone? I think that obviously Senator [Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] and the Senate Agriculture Committee are going to be addressing other concerns. Because if you look at the Senate, it’s going to have to address ag issues, because I don’t see how you get to 60 votes without it.”
    - Rod Lowman, former president, American Plastics Council/president, ANGA: “The principal question we’re getting, quite frankly, is ‘Where have you been?’ … The utilities and the coal industry have been at this for a very long time…[because] most of the deals had been cut during the House fight]…The Senate will be looking at those emissions allowances, looking at offsets, looking at renewable energy standards — all those things will be revisited — and we want to make sure we are a part of that discussion…We will be a part of it.”

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