NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: A CLIMATE PLAN FOR THE PRESIDENT

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  • FRIDAY WORLD, January 14:
  • Global Leaders Name Climate Crisis World’s Biggest Risk
  • New Energy’s New Storage Options

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    TODAY’S STUDY: A CLIMATE PLAN FOR THE PRESIDENT

    The high anxiety of late 2008 gave way to the exhilaration of early 2009. Then came the anticipation of late 2009. Grudging patience set in as 2010 began. Hope emerged in the rising numbers of early spring but it stumbled as the heat set in. Summer brought fire, floods and a fear deeper than most have ever felt except during the wake of that searing September 11. Fear began to be justified in the autmn’s reports of sinking cities. It looks like it is time for Plan B: Near-Term Presidential Actions For Energy & Environmental Leadership by the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP).

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    Executive Summary

    PCAP’s emphasis, however, was on policies the new President could implement without further action by Congress. PCAP commissioned the Center for Energy and Environmental Security at the University of Colorado’s School of Law to identify the authorities past congresses had delegated to the Executive Branch.ii The Center reviewed 112 statutory delegations of authority and 370 executive orders related to the environment, going back to 1937. It concluded “there exists significant authority, without further action by Congress, for the President to take action by executive order to implement various aspects of climate change policy…Aproactive administration with an understanding of the serious implications of climate change can make a significant impact immediately upon taking office.”

    Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama Administration has used these authorities to implement a substantial body of actions related to climate change and clean energy. They range from the Environmental Protection Agency’s certification of greenhouse gases as a danger to public health and safety, which triggered regulation under the Clean Air Act, to the toughest requirements yet imposed on vehicle fuel efficiency, to an executive order that will increase the efficiency and reduce the carbon emissions of the federal government.

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    But substantial potential remains for executive action – and with the failure of the 111th Congress to pass legislation that puts a price on carbon, caps U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and establishes a national portfolio standard for renewable energy, proactive presidential leadership is more important than ever.

    Consequently, PCAP plans to offer the Administration a fresh list of recommendations in January 2011, at the midpoint of President Obama’s first term. In the near term, PCAP recommends that President Obama implement five ideas prior to the United Nations’ 16th Conference of the Parties in Cancun:

    • Work with States, tribal governments, and local governments to create a national roadmap to the clean energy economy

    • Declare a war on energy waste

    • Begin reinventing national transportation policy

    • Eliminate fossil energy subsidies under the Administration’s control

    • Establish ecosystem restoration as a climate action strategy

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    1. Create A Roadmap To The Clean Energy Economy

    In May 2010, the National Research Council concluded “an inclusive national policy framework is needed to ensure that all levels of government, the private sector, and millions of households and individuals are contributing to shared national goals” to limit the magnitude of climate change.

    We need that, and more. We need a full partnership between federal, tribal, state and local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and a clear roadmap for America’s transition to a clean energy economy. The roadmap should include:

    • Specific goals, milestones and timetables for making the transition;

    • Off-ramps for carbon-intensive energy and on-ramps for low-carbon resources;

    • Procedures to better coordinate the powers of federal, state and local government;iv

    • Recommendations on how federal programs and policies can better help states and local governments assert climate leadership;

    • A uniform and credible method for scoring progress.

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    Why is an intergovernmental partnership important? The Clean Energy States Alliance notes that states and utilities have spent billions of dollars and acquired more than a decade of experience supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) programs. The Alliance has documented how “State-level regulatory policies play an important role in enhancing the overall effectiveness of EE/RE programs.”

    State and local governments have the authority to influence the top three drivers of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions – transportation, buildings and electric power generation. States regulate electric and gas utilities, guide transportation planning and establish energy codes for residential and commercial buildings. Localities enforce building codes and use zoning and other tools to influence urban development patterns, which in turn affect transportation energy use.

    More than 30 states representing two-thirds of the nation’s population have implemented or are developing their own climate action plans. Asimilar number have created renewable energy portfolio standards. Three regional cap-and-trade systems are underway or being developed. States have created their own appliance efficiency standards, vehicle efficiency standards and fuel standards, to name just a few policy innovations.

    The state and local contribution to the energy economy can be substantial. In a process involving 16 states and more than 1,500 stakeholders, the Center for Climate Strategies has developed a portfolio of 23 key state policies that would influence 90% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Center’s economic modeling indicates that if all 50 states adopted the portfolio, they would create 2.5 million new jobs, save consumers $5 billion in energy costs, boost GDP by $134 billion and reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions 27% below 1990 levels by 2020.vii Supported by intelligent national policies, the benefits would be even greater.

    For these reasons, in its landmark analysis of potential energy savings in the United States, McKinsey & Co. concluded the United States needs to “formulate and launch at both national and regional levels an integrated portfolio of proven, piloted, and emerging approaches to unlock the full potential of energy efficiency (emphasis added).”

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    2. Declare War On Waste

    Whether it’s called, a “War on Waste” or a “Race to the Top”, the United States has much to gain from improving its energy efficiency. No reasonable American can argue that energy waste is good or that energy efficiency is a partisan issue. Indeed, energy efficiency should be a unifying national objective.

    According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the U.S. economy wastes 87% of the energy it consumes. Minimizing that waste should be a goal that involves every level of American society, from the individual consumer to communities, businesses and industries. Improvements in energy efficiency produce the equivalent of new tax-free income for families, new profits for business and an ongoing stimulus for the economy. They enhance national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and our unintentional funding of terrorist organizations.

    And because fossil energy costs will inevitably rise -- with or without national policy that prices carbon -- energy efficiency is an important strategy for insulating consumers and the economy from the price and supply volatility of finite resources.

    The McKinsey analysis cited earlier estimates that with cost-effective energy efficiency measures, the United States could achieve net savings of $680 billion by 2020 while preventing 1.1 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually and reducing energy consumption 23% below projected demand.xix To capture those benefits, the United States would have to undertake a coordinated economy-wide efficiency effort, investing $50 billion more than at present every year for 10 years. While that is four to five times the national efficiency investment in 2008, it equates to an achievable $163 annually per person.

    “Energy efficiency offers a vast, low-cost energy resource for the U.S. economy,” McKinsey concludes, “but only if the nation can craft a comprehensive and innovative approach to unlock it.”

    It is within America’s capabilities and in our personal as well as national interest to become the most energy-efficient economy in the industrial world.

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    3. Reinvent Transportion Policy

    To its credit, the Obama Administration has taken decisive steps to update and reform national transportation policy. It is implementing a new efficiency standard for light vehicles and is developing efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The stimulus packaged backed by the President contains a down payment on a national high-speed rail system. The Administration has created a White House Office of Urban Affairs and an interagency Sustainable Communities Initiative to help localities practice more sustainable development, including low-carbon mobility. The American Recovery and Restoration Act championed by President Obama contains billions of dollars for state energy programs and energy efficiency and conservation grants for communities.

    Another historic opportunity is approaching for the President and Congress to help Americans increase their mobility options while cutting carbon and saving truckloads of money. Within the next year, Congress will vote on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill.

    Federal law currently offers greater incentives for states and localities to build roads than to develop mass transit and other low-carbon mobility options.xxiii The incentive structure should be reversed to favor public transportation, telecommuting, transit-oriented urban development and other efforts to reduce vehicle miles traveled

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    4. Stop Subsidizing Fossil Fuels

    President Obama has proposed the elimination of several federal subsidies for fossil fuels, saving $30 million over 10 years. He championed and won a commitment from G-20 nations to cut their fossil energy subsidies by about $300 billion annually.

    However, federal subsidies for fossil energy in the United States totaled $72 billion in fiscal years 2002-2008, an average of more than $7 billion annually over that period according to the Environmental Law Institutexxx. The International Energy Agency estimates that fossil energy subsidies among G-20 nations amount to $550 billion annually.

    There are many compelling reasons to phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil energy industries. First, these are mature and lucrative industries; subsidizing them is classic corporate welfare. Second, the funds would be better spent on developing low-carbon fuels and technologies, or on reducing the federal deficit. Third, fossil energy subsidies promote carbon emissions, contradicting and undermining the President’s commitment to reduce them. Fourth, ending subsidies helps put a more accurate price on carbon – a market mechanism supported by the President and many members of Congress but not yet established by law.

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    5. Put Ecosystems And People Back To Work

    Human development worldwide has degraded or destroyed ecosystems and the beneficial services they provide. Many of those services provide significant value to the economy and to public health and welfare. Many are valuable to the nation’s effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Examples include wetlands that help purify water and recharge aquifers; forests that help prevent flooding and sequester carbon; and vegetation-rich watersheds that reduce flooding by holding raindrops where they fall.

    Over the past century, national policy has resulted in replacing natural systems that provided these services at no cost with engineered systems that are expensive to build and maintain. With a false sense of security created by flood control structures, many communities have continued building in natural floodplains only to see structures fail to perform as designed, or fail because of inadequate maintenance.xxxii Afederal court has ruled, for example, that structural failure resulted in the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

    The Administration already has created plans and/or allocated funds for restoration projects in the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, California’s Bay Delta and the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast.xxxiii Likely areas for additional demonstration projects are Central Appalachiaxxxiv, flood prone areas of the Midwest and Western forests being destroyed by intense fires and insect infestation

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    (content of the chart above: RECOMMENDATIONS
    • Instruct the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to assess the potential of ecosystem restoration in the report it will submit to the President in October 2010.

    • Make clear to the Secretary of the Navy that long-term objectives in the Gulf Coast restoration plan should include the restoration of vital ecosystems that were degraded prior to the oil spill and would enhance the economy of the region while protecting Gulf Coast communities from the anticipated impacts of climate change.

    • Direct the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Energy and Transportation to develop guidelines for designs and materials that reduce carbon footprints and increase resilience as the nation repairs and modernizes its infrastructure. Further, direct the departments to recommend sustainable development principles that should be incorporated into existing guidance for federal infrastructure investments.xxxvii

    • Use the military’s substantial work on new installations as a test-bed for climate-resilient designs and materials in the built environment.xxxviii

    • Direct the Department of Defense and the Council on Environmental Quality to assess the past performance and the potential role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in nonstructural disaster prevention projects that involve ecosystem restoration.

    • Direct the Council on Environmental Quality to report biennially on the state of the nation’s ecosystems, including key environmental thresholds and stresses.xxxix

    • Direct the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security to assess the feasibility of ecosystem restoration demonstration projects in Central Appalachia, Western forests and flood prone areas of the Midwest. The assessment should include potential ecological, public safety and economic benefits.

    • Propose that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) expand the services offered by VISTAto train and assist localities in ecosystem restoration projects. Use the bully pulpit to encourage corporate donations for CNCSrestoration work. In addition, direct agencies with natural resource management responsibilities to identify ecological restoration projects for volunteers utilizing the national Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal.XXXX

    • Request that EPA involve states and localities in the National Ecosystem Services Partnership that is scheduled to begin in December 2010, and to develop guidelines for community involvement in restoration. The Administration should ensure that the Partnership is provided adequate resources to serve as an influential force in the nation’s climate adaptation strategy.

    • Issue a Presidential Memorandum that reinforces the duty of public officials to protect America’s public trust assets including natural resources, ecosystems and environmental systems)

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