July 15, 2010
On Tuesday, during a brief meeting with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he’d been working with senior Senate lawmakers and Obama administration officials to introduce by the end of July a comprehensive climate and energy bill that could gain 60 votes for passage.
The draft he’s been working on, said the Nevada Democrat, would focus on four goals:
- Respond to the hazards of deep ocean gas and oil development;
- Accelerate job growth in the clean energy sector;
- Promote greater energy efficiency; and
- Limit CO2 emissions, or what Reid called “pollution,” in the utility sector.
Reid’s announcement, which came two days before BP announced it has for the first time staunched the oil gusher that has been fouling the Gulf for 87 days, stirred anew Republican chants of “national energy tax,” and made a few Democrats nervous about having to make another big vote before the November elections.
Cost of Doing Nothing
As we’ve noted here before and will say again: The tax Americans already are paying for the fossil-fueled economy, for sustaining an obsolete drive-through and climate-threatening way of life, couldn’t be higher. Joblessness is at the highest levels in generations. Savings are being depleted. Housing values continue to decline. The country is more reliant than ever on oil imports. The petroleum supply-demand knife edge is so sharp that a tick up in consumption will send prices soaring. And then there are the deeper droughts, worse floods, accelerated melting, rising seas, record heat, and fiercer storms produced by the warming climate.
The Senate leadership merits big applause from climate and clean energy advocates for pressing ahead. So does the president, who in May and June repeatedly told lawmakers of both parties that the BP Gulf disaster is a signal event that the U.S. Senate cannot ignore. Today, President Obama promoted his administration’s work to advance the clean energy transition during remarks in Holland, Michigan at the groundbreaking ceremony for a $303 million advanced battery manufacturing plant. The LG Chem plant will produce batteries for GM’s Chevy Volt, which is scheduled to be introduced later this year, and for Ford electric vehicles. One hopes that the president will continue to be vocal on this front.
Moving Forward on International Finance
In an effort to help shape the work of UN Secretary-General Bon Ki-moon’s High Level Advisory Group on Finance (AGF), USCAN, along with 11 other NGOs prepared a report for the panel that identified options available for significantly scaling up the level of finance required to respond to the climate challenge. The report, A Review of Public Sources for Financing Climate Adaptation and Mitigation, assesses 6 mechanisms that could generate climate finance in the context of the criteria and principles established by the AGF. Expectations and hopes for the work of the AGF are very high, and full participation by civil society can help assure that the final report set to be released this October, will advances the climate negotiations and addresses the real needs of people most impacted by climate change.
Progress on Clean Energy in Midwest
Since Obama has taken office, Michigan has attracted roughly $6 billion in manufacturing investment focused on building batteries for electric vehicles. In all 17 new battery plants are either under construction or nearing groundbreaking in Michigan, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a state agency. The U.S. government invested $1.3 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Energy Department said the plants will lead to 19,000 jobs.
Public support for clean energy programs and climate action continues to be strong. The League of Conservation Voters today released new opinion research that it said demonstrates voters want the Senate to act on comprehensive climate and energy legislation.
“The opposition has been saying for years that Americans don’t want a comprehensive energy policy, but poll after poll shows the opponents are wrong,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski.
The poll, by the Benenson Strategy Group, found 60 percent of 2010 voters, and 56 percent of Independents, support a comprehensive bill “that will limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil.”
Capping the week was a demonstration today organized by Consequence, a youth organization that constructed a three-tiered ice sculpture on the east front lawn of the Capitol. The group unveiled its sculpture at noon and to enable passers-by, and lawmakers “watch the lies of the climate deniers melt before your very eyes.”
Good stuff. Talk to you next week, Keith Schneider