Saturday, January 31, 2009

Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy


By Norris McDonald

I have been an environmentalist for 30 years. The Center is now 24 years old and now global climate change is another challenge on top of the other environmental and energy issues that we have been addressing throughout our history.

We have quite an interesting history that ranges from placing interns at mainstream environmental groups, boat tours, creek walks, litter clean ups, research reports, lobbying, and minority outreach to energy audits, weatherization, furnace replacements, wind power promotion, energy efficiency promotion and water resources projects. It has been quite an environmental journey over the years.

Now with the Obama administration, we look forward to even more and better solutions to our nation's energy and environmental problems. The selection of a career scientist in Lisa P. Jackson as the new EPA administrator is inspiring. The great challenge for President Obama, Administrator Jackson and the Center is climate change mitigation. The Center also looks forward to working on global warming solutions with Stephen Chu as Secretary of Energy and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. We hope to have a constructive relationship with Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley and former Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. The Center also hopes to establish working relationships with Susan Rice, U. N. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Repressentative and and Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Advisor to President Obama.

Please also visit our main website: Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy

ExxonMobil & Chevron Post Record 2008 Income

Exxon and Chevron have once again reported strong fourth-quarter earnings.

Exxon's 33% decline in fourth-quarter earnings topped a year in which it reported record income of $45.2 billion in 2008.

While crude oil prices fell to $45 a barrel from $100 in the quarter, Exxon generated net income of $7.82 billion.

Chevron posted $4.9 billion in 4th quarter income.

ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in America and Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company. (WSJ, 1/31/09)

Lisa P. Jackson & Stephen Chu Need Center in China


By Norris McDonald

New EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will surely engage her International Activities office to work more aggressively with China to mitigate global warming. I hope she will also engage the Center in this mission because we have specialized expertise that can help to accomplish the agency's mission. I asked Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu right after his confirmation hearing whether he had visited the new electricity production plant outside of Beijing. He told me he had not visited the facility. We would love to arrange a tour for Mrs. Jackson and Mr. Chu. We also have 'boots on the ground' in China. Zhang Xiaoping directs the Center's China operations and she stands ready to work with the U.S. EPA to assure climate change mitigation becomes a reality for her country.

In addition to promoting efficiency, wind and solar power in China, the Center Vice President Derry Bigby, Zhang Xiaoping and I (see photo below at Tsinghua University) are also promoting nuclear power as an emission free technology for producing electricity. China leads the world in develop of new generation four nuclear technology. The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) has a revolutionary design and China has built the first research reactor. The Center team visited this reactor that is located near the Great Wall in 2007. We also toured other nuclear power plants in China. China is now breaking ground to build a demonstration PBMR. Although South Africa has been talking about building such a reactor now for years, the Chinese have built one and are starting on another. We will work with the Chinese to assure success of their unique technology.

Wind Farm Jobs at Wind Farm Companies

The U.S. added about 8,300 megawatts of wind generating capacity in 2008. That is enough electricity for about 8.3 million homes. There are about 130 million homes in the USA (Census).

According to the Renewable Energy Policy Project in Washington, D.C., each megawatt of wind capacity installed in the U.S. creates 4.85 full-time jobs, of which 3.4 come from making components -- which is done mostly outside the U.S. The remainder come from such services as installation and maintenance. Many of the wind turbine components are assembled in China, Korea and the Phillipines

General Electric Energy.

American Superconductor Corporation of Devens, Massachusetts: designs wind turbines and licenses its designs to other companies, then helps them build manufacturing facilities.

SunPower Corporation of San Jose, California: assembles solar cells into solar panels in China and the Philippines, even when the finished product is destined for California, a state that is spending heavily on renewable power.

Oerlikon Solar USA: a seller of plants that make thin-film solar modules, has sold 10 plants so far but none of the buyers is setting up a plant in the U.S. (The Wall Street Journal, 1/31/09)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Senate Stimulus Includes $50 Billion For Nuclear Power

Update 2-12-09: The $50 billion for nuclear was taken out of the final bill.

The Senate economic recovery bill passed through the Appropriations Committee potentially includes up to $50 billion in loan guarantees for the nuclear-power industry. The House-passed version does not include loan guarantees for nuclear power. The legislative language leaves open the types of technology eligible for a government loan guarantee, as long as they substantially reduce greenhouse gases so guarantees for nuclear power could be used to fund new generation.

Many nuclear-power investors say that because of construction and liability costs, companies cannot build new generation without government guarantees or funding. The Congressional Budget Office has also said that the risk of default on the loan guarantees, given a raft of legal, procedural and environmental hurdles, exceeds 50%.

Under current law, the U.S. Department of Energy has the ability to guarantee around $18.5 billion in loans for new nuclear generation, but the industry believes the total amount for applications for current projects on the books would total more than $100 billion. (Morningstar)

Vice President Joe Biden, Global Warming & Nuclear Power

Vice President Joe Biden will be a key player in the international global warming treaty negotiations. He will probably be the leader of America's delegation to the December United Nations Copenhagen meeting on climate change where Kyoto Protocol II should be formulated. That delegation will probably include all of the top American officials with authority in the area, including: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Climate Czar Carol Browner.

Joe Biden is probably the best foreign policy expert in the United States having served in the Senate for 34 years and having chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On the environment side Senator Biden has an 84 percent lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters. Senator Biden seems to be okay with nuclear power because he voted for the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Biden was a cosponsor of the McCain/Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act and he voted for the very nuclear-friendly Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. But he voted against Yucca Mountain and he does not like the Price Anderson Act. However, he consistently voted against this important potential subsidy on amendments to the various energy bills over the past few years.

Here is what he said about nuclear power when he was a candidate for president in responding to Grist:

Grist: What role do you see for nuclear power?

"I see a role for nuclear, but first you've got to deal with the security as well as the safety concerns. I'd be spending a whole hell of a lot of money trying to figure out how to reconfigure the spent fuel into reusable fuel. I would not invest in [growing our nuclear power capacity in its current form], but I would invest in sorting out the storage and waste problems."

This position is similar to President Obama's current position. Here is what Vice Presidential candidate said in the debate with Sarah Palin:

  • He said that the problem of climate change was “man-made.”
  • He attacked Palin, saying if you don’t know what the cause is, how can you solve the problem?
  • He confirmed that we need to invest in renewable energy and clean coal. Also that we need to export technology to countries like China to help them clean up their coal plants.

Hillary Clinton, Global Warming and Nuclear Power

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be a central player in developing a global warming mitigation plan. She will be working on the plan with Stephen Chu, Secretary of the Department of Energy, Lisa P. Jackson, Adminstrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nancy Sutley, Chairwoman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Carol Browner, Energy Czar.

Secretary Clinton has stated that:

"Climate change is an unambiguous security threat. At the extreme it threatens our very existence. But well before that point, it could well incite new wars of an old kind over basic resources – like food, water and arable land. The upcoming 2009 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Copenhagen will be the stage for the next opportunity for the United States to ratify a climate change treaty like the Kyoto Protocol."
Secretary Clinton also has nuclear nonproliferation on her agenda. We hope the Obama administration will embrace the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) for cooperating countries in order to promote the safe and secure use of nuclear power for electricity production and climate change mitigation. We hope she will support the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Initiative (1) (2), and other '123' Agreements.

The Center also supports our civilian nuclear power agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's last acts was to sign such an agreement with UAE. "123" refers to a section of the Atomic Energy Act. The agreement now has to be sent by Obama to Congress for approval. The agreement protects against development of nuclear weapons. This type of agreement is crucial to avoiding additional greenhouse gases from fossil power plants. Such agreements can also provide the bridge technology until clean coal technology is commercialized.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stimulus Package Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy



Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

For an additional amount for ‘Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’, $18,500,000,000, which shall be used as follows:

(1) $2,000,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary for energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development, demonstration and deployment activities, to accelerate the development of technologies, to include advanced batteries, of which not less than $800,000,000 is for biomass and $400,000,000 is for geothermal technologies.

(2) $500,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary to implement the programs authorized under part E of title III of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6341 et seq.).

(3) $1,000,000,000 shall be for the cost of grants to institutional entities for energy sustainability and efficiency under section 399A of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6371h-1).

(4) $6,200,000,000 shall be for the Weatherization Assistance Program under part A of title IV of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (42 U.S.C. 6861 et seq.).

(5) $3,500,000,000 shall be for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, for implementation of programs authorized under subtitle E of title V of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17151 et seq.).

(6) $3,400,000,000 shall be for the State Energy Program authorized under part D of title III of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6321).

(7) $200,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary to implement the programs authorized under section 131 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17011).

(8) $300,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary to implement the program authorized under section 124 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 15821) and the Energy Star program.

(9) $400,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary to implement the program authorized under section 721 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 16071).

(10) $1,000,000,000 shall be for expenses necessary for the manufacturing of advanced batteries authorized under section 136(b)(1)(B) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (42 U.S.C. 17013(b)(1)(B)).

President Obama proposed (in H.R. 1) the creation of a new website ( that will allow the public to monitor how effectively his proposed $819 billion stimulus package is being spent. The site is part of his plan to create a more transparent administration. See House language below:



There is established a board to be known as the ‘Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board’ (hereafter in this subtitle referred to as the ‘Board’) to coordinate and conduct oversight of Federal spending under this Act to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.


(a) Requirement To Establish Website- The Board shall establish and maintain a website on the Internet to be named, to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of funds made available in this Act.

(b) Purpose- shall be a portal or gateway to key information related to this Act and provide a window to other Government websites with related information.

(c) Matters Covered- In establishing the website, the Board shall ensure the following:

(1) The website shall provide materials explaining what this Act means for citizens. The materials shall be easy to understand and regularly updated.

(2) The website shall provide accountability information, including a database of findings from audits, inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office.

(3) The website shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant, and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use funds made available in this Act.

(4) The website shall provide detailed data on contracts awarded by the Government for purposes of carrying out this Act, including information about the competitiveness of the contracting process, notification of solicitations for contracts to be awarded, and information about the process that was used for the award of contracts.

(5) The website shall include printable reports on funds made available in this Act obligated by month to each State and congressional district.

(6) The website shall provide a means for the public to give feedback on the performance of contracts awarded for purposes of carrying out this Act.

(7) The website shall be enhanced and updated as necessary to carry out the purposes of this subtitle.

Clean Coal Cleans Up in Economic Stimulus Package

The House version of the economic stimulus package includes $2.4 billion in fresh incentives for so-called clean coal, on top of the $2.2 billion that snuck into the bailout package last October. The Senate version of the stimulus looks even friendlier to coal, thanks to West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd—he boasts of attaching $4.6 billion in clean-coal support to that package. Next week the House and Senate will have to reconcile their versions; regardless of exactly where the dust settles, coal won’t be crying. (The Wall Street Journal, Environmental Capital, Keith Johnson)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

House Passes Economic Stimulus Bill 244-188

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1) passed in the House of Representatives tonight on a vote of 244 to 188. The bill includes $819 billion in supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, and State and local fiscal stabilization, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes. The bill now moves to the Senate where it will need 60 votes to pass. President Obama will sign the bill if it is passed.

Sponsors: Mr. OBEY (for himself, Mr. RANGEL, Mr. WAXMAN, Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California, Mr. OBERSTAR, Mr. GORDON of Tennessee, Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts, Ms. VELAZQUEZ, Mr. SPRATT, and Mr. TOWNS).


(a) Statement of Purposes- The purposes of this Act include the following:

(1) To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.

(2) To assist those most impacted by the recession.

(3) To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health.

(4) To invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.

(5) To stabilize State and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.

(b) General Principles Concerning Use of Funds- The President and the heads of Federal departments and agencies shall manage and expend the funds made available in this Act so as to achieve the purposes specified in subsection (a), including commencing expenditures and activities as quickly as possible consistent with prudent management.



Source: GovTrack (Text of H.R. 1)

High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC)

High voltage direct current (HVDC) is the transmission of direct current as opposed to the commonly used alternating current used today. Two of the most beneficial features of HVDC transmission are that it incurs less than half the transmission losses that HVAC incurs and it is less expensive to construct the lines. This makes HVDC the superior platform for transporting electricity long distances. DC is not better for shorter distances because of the higher cost of DC conversion equipment compared to an AC system.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison revolutionized American society by developing the first electricity distribution systems. Edison developed and promoted direct current (DC) and Tesla developed and promoted alternating current (AC) and they became rivals in commercializing their respective electrical systems. Tesla won. Unlike DC, AC could be stepped up to very high voltages with transformers, sent over thinner and less expensive wires, and stepped down again at the destination for distribution to users. Thomas Edison failed because he could not practically and economically send DC very far. Nikola Tesla developed and patented much of AC power generation and distribution technology used today. Edison's company established the first investor-owned electric utility in 1882 and his generating station's electrical power distribution system provided 110 volts DC to 59 customers in lower Manhattan. George Westinghouse and Edison became adversaries because of Edison's promotion of direct current for electric power distribution instead of the more easily transmitted AC system invented by Tesla and promoted by Westinghouse.


Natural gas prices fell as forecasts of milder weather and declining industrial demand weighed on the market. Natural gas for February delivery on the Nymex fell 2.8 cents, or 0.6%, to $4.490 a million British thermal units, the lowest close in more than two years. (WSJ, 1/27/09)

Crude Oil Prices Still Dropping

Crude-oil futures prices are still declining on expectations that oil and fuel inventories would continue to rise due to declining demand. Light, sweet crude for March delivery settled $4.15, or 9.1%, lower at $41.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures have dropped 11% since hitting $46.47 a barrel on Jan. 23 after five straight days of gains. The decline in demand, which precipitated oil's fall from record highs above $145 a barrel, has already pushed millions of barrels of oil into storage terminals and onto tankers offshore. (WSJ, 1/27/09)

Peabody Coal Company Profits Up in 4th Quarter of 2008

Peabody Energy Corporation is one of the world's largest coal companies and its fourth-quarter profit for 2008 rose eightfold because of strong contract prices, prompting a surge in its stock.

Peabody said net income rose to $293.3 million, or $1.10 a share, in the latest quarter, from $35.8 million, or 13 cents a share, a year earlier, when the company took a charge for the spinoff of Patriot Coal Corp.

Peabody shares were up $2.92, or 12%, at $26.76 Tuesday in 4 p.m. composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange. (The Wall Street Journal, 1/27/09)

Eliminate the MMS Oil 'Royalty-In-Kind' Program

The Obama administration should end the "Royalty-In-Kind" Program, under which the government receives oil or natural gas instead of cash for payments of royalties from companies that lease federal property for oil and gas development, then sells the product into the marketplace and returns the proceeds to the Treasury. Just have the companies pay the royalties directly. It is more efficient and eliminates any potential for manipulation.

The Royalty in Kind (RIK) Program is responsible for managing Minerals Revenue Management’s (MRM) commercial oil and gas commodity sales activity. Currently, the RIK Program is competitively selling over 800,000 MMBtu of natural gas per day and over 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Revenues from sales and other dispositions of RIK oil and gas in FY 2007 were over $4 billion.

RIK is one of two strategies used by MRM to manage the Nation’s substantial oil and gas mineral royalty assets. Federal oil and gas leasing laws and lease terms provide the Government with the option of receiving production royalty payments either in value (RIV) or in kind. In certain circumstances, it is to the advantage of the government to receive its royalty payments in kind; that is, in the form of oil or gas production. MRM’s RIK Program provides the capability both to identify opportunities for using the RIK strategy and to manage the sale and disposition of oil and gas royalties received in kind.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who Is Chip Giller? And Why Does He 'Get It?'

We read Grist everyday at the Center. It is the best environmental magazine today. They also have a sense of humor about environmental issues at the mag. Here is the bio of the president and founder from the magazine.

Chip Giller founded Grist in 1999 to lighten up a movement known for taking itself too seriously. He was named a TIME Magazine "Hero of the Environment" in 2007, and was awarded the 2006 National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation. Chip has been featured for his work in such outlets as Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and Outside, and has appeared on broadcast programs including the Today show and PBS's NOW.

In 2004, he received the Jane Bagley Lehman Award for Excellence in Public Advocacy from the Tides Foundation, in recognition of the vital role Grist is playing in increasing environmental awareness.Before launching Grist, Chip was editor of Greenwire, the first environmental news daily. He is a senior fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program and a three-time journalism fellow with the Institutes for
Journalism and Natural Resources.

A native of Massachusetts, Chip graduated from Brown University with an honors degree in environmental studies. (Yes, he is an obsessive Red Sox fan.) When Chip's not pondering the future of online environmental journalism, he likes to spend his time with his wonderful wife Jenny and their 2-year-old daughter Ellis at their home on Vashon Island, near

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Nominates Jon Wellinghoff Acting FERC Chairman

Jon Wellinghoff, right, was named Acting Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by President Barack Obama on January 23, 2009. FERC is the agency that oversees wholesale electric transactions and interstate electric transmission and gas transportation in the United States. A member of the Commission since 2006, the U.S. Senate reconfirmed him to a full, five-year FERC term in December 2007. Acting Chairman Wellinghoff is an energy law specialist with more than 30 years experience in the field.

Before joining FERC, he was in private practice and focused exclusively on client matters related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and distributed generation. While in the private sector, Acting Chairman Wellinghoff represented an array of clients from federal agencies, renewable developers, and large consumers of power to energy efficient product manufacturers and clean energy advocacy organizations. While in private practice, Acting Chairman Wellinghoff was the primary author of the Nevada Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Act. Education: Antioch School of Law, Washington, D.C., JD, 1975; Howard University, Washington, D.C., M.A.T., Mathematics, 1972; University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, BS, Mathematics, 1971.

Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act

Maryland Governo Martin O’Malley, along with sponsors Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Kumar Barve, unveiled legislation to commit Maryland to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 25% by the year 2020. The bill, which will be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly today, is part of Governor O’Malley’s Smart, Green, and Growing legislative package this year. To ensure the State meets this target, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act requires the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to have a plan in place to meet the targeted reductions.

Recent State initiatives, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap-and-trade program, Clean Cars Act, expedited wind project siting and the conservation program Empower Maryland, have put the State on track to reduce greenhouse gases by 12.5% -- half of the reduction goal. These actions, along with the Climate Change Commission’s Climate Action Plan that details 42 options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, demonstrate that this reduction goal is achievable and beneficial. After last year’s debate over greenhouse gas reduction legislation where it fell short of approval, leaders from union, labor, manufacturing and environmental groups worked tirelessly to develop an approach to reducing carbon emissions that would meet the Climate Commission’s recommendations. [Source: Frank Maisano]

President Obama Stimulus - Recovery Proposal

President Barack Obama's $820 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan includes:

The creation of four million jobs,

Spending at least 75% of the funds within 18 months,

Enhancing security at 90 ports,

Launch 1,300 wastewater projects, 380 drinking water projects, 1,000 rural water and sewer system projects,

Creating enough renewable energy generating capacity to power six million homes,

Building 3,00 miles of new electricity transmission lines,

Installing 40 million "smart meters" in homes,

Weatherizing two million homes and 75% of federal buildings and upgrade thousands of miles of roadways.

Obama Orders Fuel Economy & California Tailpipe Waiver

Today, President Obama ordered the Transportation Department to issue guidelines that will raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard from the current level 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The increase was authorized by Section 102 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6).

President Obama is also instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to 'review' the California waiver to regulate automobile tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions. Former EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson rejected the waiver request citing the passage of H.R. 6. However, California has a tailpipe emissions law that could achieve even higher CO2 reductions by cuting vehicles' greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016. Carmakers have opposed the California rules. Twelve other states will also adopt the California starndards.

AB 32 Fact Sheet -California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 establishes a comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve reductions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by:

Making the Air Resources Board (ARB) responsible for monitoring and reducing GHG emissions.

Continuing the existing Climate Action Team to coordinate statewide efforts.

Authorizing the Governor to invoke a safety valve in the event of extraordinary circumstances,catastrophic events or the threat of significant economic harm, for up to 12 months at a time.

Requiring Air Resources Board (ARB) to:

· Establish a statewide GHG emissions cap for 2020, based on 1990 emissions byJanuary 1, 2008.
· Adopt mandatory reporting rules for significant sources of greenhouse gases byJanuary 1, 2008.
· Adopt a plan by January 1, 2009 indicating how emission reductions will be achieved fromsignificant GHG sources via regulations, market mechanisms and other actions.
· Adopt regulations by January 1, 2011 to achieve the maximum technologically feasible andcost-effective reductions in GHGs, including provisions for using both market mechanisms and alternative compliance mechanisms.
· Convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee and an Economic and Technology Advancement Advisory Committee to advise ARB.
· Ensure public notice and opportunity for comment for all ARB actions.
· Prior to imposing any mandates or authorizing market mechanisms, requires ARB toevaluate several factors, including but not limited to: impacts on California’s economy, theenvironment, and public health; equity between regulated entities; electricity reliability, conformance with other environmental laws, and to ensure that the rules do notdisproportionately impact low-income communities.
· Adopt a list of discrete, early action measures by July 1, 2007 that can be implementedbefore January 1, 2010 and adopt such measures.

Source of Map: The Wall Street Journal 1/26/09)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Nancy Sutley Confirmed as Chair of CEQ

The U.S. Senate confirmed by unanimous consent the nomination of Nancy Sutley, left, on January 22, 2009 to be chairwoman of the President's Counsel on Environmental Quality (CEQ). AAEA supported the nomination and attended the Senate Environment & Public Works confirmation hearing. Congratulations Chairwoman Sutley. We wish you the best as you guide America towards a cleaner environment. We will do everything in our power to help you on your mission.

Global warming will be Chairwoman Sutley's biggest challenge. She will have a significant role in addressing regulations to mitigate climate change at the same time Congress considers global warming legislation. AAEA supports a cap-and-trade program, which is currently President Obama's recommendation. AAEA does not support a carbon tax. Neither does the Obama administration. We will be recommending a hybrid program made up of a domestic program and an international treaty or treaties that includes the USA, China, India, Europe and other countries. A competitive and market oriented program should be designed to reduce greenhouse gases while enhancing economies.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

House Resolution Against Second Half of Original Stimulus

Although it has no effect, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a nonbinding resolution to block the second half of the original $700 billion stimulus package. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was structured so that once the Senate voted for approval, it was automatically approved. The vote was 275 to 155 for House Joint Resolution 3 (H.J.Res.3) relating to the disapproval of obligations under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which states: "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the obligation of any amount exceeding the amounts obligated as described in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 115(a) of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." The $850 stimulus being requested by President Barack Obama, which will be taken up by the House on next Wednesday, includes $54 billion for energy measures.

The renewables package totals about $18 billion in tax extensions, including $1.9 billion in tax credits on solar equipment purchases by solar energy producers and $5.8 billion for wind, geothermal and biomass producers. A 30 percent credit for homeowner project costs replaces the former $2,000 credit. Energy efficient appliances qualify for the credit too. Plug-in electric cars get tax credits of $2,500 to $7,500. Electric vehicle recharging stations get a one year extension on $30,000 in tax credits or up to 30% of their costs. There are $900 million in extensions for refineries using tar sands or coal-to-liquids technology. Efforts to take away tax benefits from oil and gas companies to use them as offsets for renewables repeatedly failed before being included in this legislation.

[Text of H.R. 1424]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chu, Salazar & Vilsack Confirmed By Senate

Steven Chu (Energy) and Ken Salazar (Interior) and Tom Vilsack (Agriculture) were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. The vote was by unanimous consent and was taken at 3:42 p.m.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ConocoPhillips Takes $34 Billion Charge

ConocoPhillips is the third largest U.S. based oil company after Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron. It has a market capitalization of $74 billion. Now the company is taking the write down and laying off 1,350 workers, 4% of its workforce.

The Center hopes this will not negatively affect their Kentucky NewGas project. Of course, partnering with Peabody Energy [coal] should keep this project on track. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/17/09]

Now Federal Home Loan Banks Want Bailout Too?

Similar to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Federal Home Loan Banks, are in financial trouble because their investments will not keep them solvent. So now, like Fannie and Freddie, they are looking for taxpayer bailout. Where and when will it stop?

The 12 home loan banks are collectives chartered by the federal government and owned by member financial companies. The government's sponsorship allows the collectives to borrow money at low cost, which they lend to banks of all sizes. Nearly all U.S. banks are members of at least one of the collectives. The collectives got in trouble by investing $76 billion in private mortgage securities, packages of mortgages not guaranteed by Fannie or Freddie, when their market value dropped. The collectives are regulated by the Federal Housing Financing Agency. (The Washington Post, 1/17/09)

Friday, January 16, 2009

President Obama Should Support "123" Agreement With UAE

The Center supports our civilian nuclear power agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). One of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's last acts was to sign such an agreement with UAE. "123" refers to a section of the Atomic Energy Act. The agreement protects against development of nuclear weapons.

This type of agreement is crucial to avoiding additional greenhouse gases from fossil power plants. Such agreements can also provide the bridge technology until clean coal technology is commercialized. The agreement now has to be sent by Obama to Congress for approval.

EPA Proposes Tightening Soot Standards

EPA is proposing to update its Air Quality Index (AQI) to reflect the latest standards for fine particle pollution. The proposal also would set a “significant harm” level, which states use in developing emergency episode plans. Fine particle pollution is also known as fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5. Under the proposed changes, the AQI would reach “code orange” –unhealthy for sensitive groups – when particle pollution levels reach 35.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). The changes also would mean air quality reaches the “unhealthy” category at a lower particlepollution level.

These proposed changes likely would not have a noticeable impact on daily air quality forecasts. States have been voluntarily forecasting code orange when particle pollution reaches 35 ug/m3, the same level as the revised daily health standard. EPA revised this standard in September 2006. States use these levels in air quality emergency episode plans, which set procedures for delivering information to potentially affected citizens and for reducing emissions from sources in the area that are potentially contributing to harmful PM 2.5 levels.

The proposed rule also would set a significant harm level equal to an AQI value of 500. EPA is seeking comment on its proposal for setting the 500 AQI level. The AQI is EPA’s color-coded tool for communicating air quality to the public.

An AQI value of 50, for example, represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.

AQI reporting is required in cities of 350,000 and larger; however, more than 300 cities voluntarily issue air quality forecasts as a public health service. EPA will take comment for 60 days after the proposal is published in theFederal Register and will hold a public hearing on March 5, 2009, at theIntercontinental Dallas, 15201 Dallas Parkway, Addison, Texas.

In addition, EPA will host a blog to provide the public additional avenues for discussing this proposal. Comments to the blog will not be considered official comments for the record; however, the blog willp rovide readers with easy links for submitting official comments. Theblog will open the week of March 2, 2009, the same week as the publichearing. EPA will notify the public about how to participate in the blog and how to be notified when the blog is open. More information about the AQI proposal. Cathy Milbourn, (202) 564-4355/7849/

Minerals Management Service Approves Cape Wind FEIS

The Minerals Management Service (MMS), a department of the U.S. Department of the Interior, issues its 2,800 page Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on Cape Wind, the wind project proposed for development off the coast of Massachusetts. The FEIS confirms that the project will create new jobs, increase energy independence and fight global warming while being a good neighbor to the ecosystem of Nantucket Sound. From the MMS FEIS:
  • Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound is environmentally and economically superior to the alternative site locations that were studied.

  • Cape Wind will reduce regional air pollution emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, pollutants that harm human health.

  • Cape Wind will reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change by 880,000 tons per year.

  • Building Cape Wind will create hundreds of jobs and generate over a half-billion dollars in non-labor purchases in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

  • Cape Wind will not increase energy prices in New England and could help to lower energy clearing prices.
Cape Wind will help Massachusetts achieve its renewable energy requirements under the State'sRenewable Portfolio Standard. Cape wind will have no major impacts on navigation, fishing, or tourism. Now that the MMS has issued the FEIS, its Record of Decision on granting a lease to Cape Wind could come within 30 days. According to the MMS FEIS its, "final decision would account for the regional, state, and local benefits and impacts as well as for the overall public interest of the United States."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

T. Boone Pickens and His Natural Gas Filling Stations

T. Boone Pickens hoped to leverage wind mills and television commercials into reducing American dependence on imported oil [and increase profits to his company]. Mr. Boone's own company, Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, the country's largest owner of natural gas filling stations, sponsored his $19 million ad blitz last year. Boone's plan was to build enough wind turbines to significantly reduce natural gas used to produce electricity. His plan then envisioned that the saved natural gas would be used in transportation vehicles. Unfortunately the financial markets crash killed his 30% equity and 70% debt plans for constructing the wind turbines.

The weakness in T. Boone Pickens' plan was always the fact that you could not build enough wind turbines to significantly reduce natural gas used to produce electricity. It takes enormous quantities of natural gas to provide 'base-load' electricity. In fact, the Center believes that as little natural gas as possible should be used to produce base load electricity. Because circumstances have made it difficult to build new coal and nuclear power plants, natural gas is the fuel of choice. And although natural gas futures happen to be going down right now, natural gas can get to be very expensive very fast. Plus natural gas powered vehicles did not catch on the first time around and probably would not now. The big car companies are basing their future plans on gasoline/battery hybrid electric vehicles, not natural gas powered vehicles. Pickens talks about trucks using natural gas, but diesels rule the big truck market and will continue to do so.

Russia Cuts Off The Natural Gas (Again) To EU & Ukraine

Natural gas price disputes and geopolitics have led Russia to cut off natural gas deliveries to Ukraine ad the European Union (EU). The shut occurred when Ukraine threatened to tap Russia's EU-bound gas exports. Russia's natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, cut off Ukraine on January 1, 2009 in a dispute over what price Ukraine shuold pay. The EU gets about 80% of its Russian gas imports via Ukraine, accounting for about 20% of the 27-nation bloc's consumption.

The Gazprom-Ukraine dispute has cut EU gas imports by 30%. There was a similar standoff in 2006. It could take up to 36 hours for natural gas to get to the EU when it is turned back on. Gazprom claims Ukraine owes about $700 million in payments. Europe needs to develop other resources in order to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas.

Utility Bonds Still Attractive

Utilities with investment-grade credit ratings sold $47 billion of corporate bonds in 2008 out of a total American bond market of $645 billion. Utilities are the third-largest debt issuers after government and finance. They need money to build power plants, pipelines and transmission lines. Utilities are also a critical component in President Obama's economic stimulus plan, which includes funding to modernize the nation's electric grid.

Utilities relied on bonds last year because commercial paper markets were largely unable to refinance short-term notes. Of course, higher financing costs for utilities could put pressure on customer rates because financing costs typicallly are a pass-through expense. (The Wall Street Journal, 1/13/09)

Prominent Events in 2008

January: Scientists created human stem-cell lines without destroying embryos.

February: Exxon Mobil's earnings of $40.61 billion in 2007, as oil prices soared, are the largest annual profit in U.S. corporate history.

Congress approves a $168 billion ecoomic stiumlus plan for over 130 million households to get tax rebate checks of $300 to $1,200.

General Motors says it ended last year $38.7 billion in the red.

Crude oil prices finish just above $100.

March: Bear Stearns sells itself to J.P. Morgan Chase.

April: GM, Toyota, Ford and Chrysler post double digit drops in U.S. car sales.

May: American International Group (AIG) posts a record $7.8 billion first quarter loss.

Corn prices are forecast to stay at records into 2009 amid a shrinking U.S. corn crop and rising demand by the ethanol industry.

June: Crude oil jumps $11 to $138 a barrel. The Dow drops 395 points to 12209. The average price of gasoline hits $4 for the first time. Lehman Brothers posts a $2.8 billion quarterly loss.

July: The Dow drops 167 points to 11215.

September: Investors cheer U.S. seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Dow rises 290 to 11510.

President Bush signs into law a $700 billion plan to rescue the U.S. financial system. Exxon and Shell post profits of $14.83 billion and $8.45 billion, respectively.

China announces a $586 billion stimulus package.

December: A rise of over 39% is reported in murders of African American teens since the two-year period of 2000-2001.

(The Wall Street Journal, 1/2/09)

Entergy Suspends Application For New Power Plant Permits

Entergy has requested the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to suspend its combined operating license (COLA) for its Grand Gulf Nuclear Station (GGNS) in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Entergy tendered a combined license application (COLA) by letter for one economic simplified boiling water reactor (ESBWR) to be constructed and operated at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station (GGNS Unit 3) site on February 27, 2008. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) informed Entergy by letter that the staff had completed its acceptance review and determined that your application was acceptable for docketing on April 17, 2008. Entergy requested the NRC temporarily suspend its review of the GGNS Unit 3 COLA until further notice pending re-evaluation of alternative reactor technologies on January 9, 2009.

This suspension will require a COLA revision and Entergy deferred the planned revision of the COLA, which was due in mid-February 2009. Entergy plans to provide an update on the progress of the technology selection by July 31, 2009. The NRC has suspended review of the GGNS Unit 3 COLA. The GGNS Unit 3 COLA remains docketed. Upon submittal of the revised COLA, the NRC will conduct acceptance and technical reviews, as the staff deems appropriate, and in consideration of resources and priorities at that point in time.

NRC Letter To Entergy

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hybrid Cars

Toyoto: Prius and Lexus HS25Oh

Honda: Insight

Ford: Fusion

GM: Volt

Others: Hyundai, Chrysler, BYD (China), Tesla Motors (delayed),Fisker Automotive

Note: Cars above have battery/gasoline hybrid mix

Center Choice:

GM Provoq: Hydorgen Fuel Cell with Lithium Ion batteries (pictured below).

Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley Confirmation Hearings


I met Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley today for the first time at their confirmation hearings before the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. I greeted Ms. Jackson just after her appearance before the committee. She breezed through the hearing and handled all questions from senators very well. I greeted Nancy Sutley in the hallway before her appearance before the committee. Both are very pleasant and approachable. Ms. Jackson is President-Elect Barack Obama's designee to be the adminstrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Ms. Sutley is the incoming president's designee to be chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

Ms. Jackson fielded numerous questions over a three hour hearing. Her husband sat right behind her. Of course she promised to reverse many of the Bush policies and programs and emphasized that her priorities would be global warming, air pollution, water quality, toxic chemicals, air pollution and hazardous waste site. She pledged to put science first in formulating agency regulations. Ms. Sutley's appearance followed Ms. Jackson and both nominees are expected to be confirmed.

She was chief of staff to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D) and former Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Ms. Jackson holds degrees in chemical engineering from Tulane University and Princeton University. Nancy Sutley was a Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for Energy and Environment. (Photo: Courtesy The New York Times)

I hope to develop a productive working relationship with both of them very soon. We live in crucial times and there are many complex environmental and energy issues to tackle. The Center stands ready to make sure that both women are successful in implementing President Obama's agenda.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oil and Natural Gas Futures

Crude oil futures for light, sweet for February delivery was down 93 cents this week, or 2.2 %, at $41.70 a barrel on Nymex.

Natural gas futures were down 28.9 cents this week, or 4.9% at $5.583 per million Btus on Nymex.

Center Supports Obama Energy Proposal In Stimulus Plan

The Obama administration is proposing $25 billion for energy tax credits in the economic stimulus package. The credits would include $8.6 billion for renewable energy projects such as wind and solar, efficient cars and biodiesel production. The energy portion of the stimulus package could also include:

1) Tax credits for service stations that install high ethanol content fuel.
2) A $7,500 tax credit for plug-in vehicles.
3) An extension of the biodiesel credit.
4) Credits for coal-fired poer plants that cut CO2 emissions by half.
5) Clean energy Credits for rural electric cooperatives.
6) Establishment of a federally funded National Clean Energy Lending Authority with $10-$20 billion.
The Center supports the energy plan and will work to have the package included in the stimulus package. (The Washington Post, 1/11/09)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Waxman Reorganizes Energy & Commerce Subcommittees

Henry Waxman (D-Calif), left, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has reorganized the committee by combining the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee with the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee into a single new subcommittee called the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. This new subcommittee will be chaired by Ed Markey (D-Mass), right, and he will retain the chairmanship of the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming. The Waxman-Markey partnership will be a formidable team for environmental protection, energy security and climate change mitigation.

The new Energy and Environment Subcommittee will combine the oversight functions of energy, toxic waste, air quality, climate, and water resources. The Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee had been chaired by Al Wynn (D-MD) until he lost his seat and he was succeeded by Gene Green (D-TX). Rick Boucher (D-Va.) was chair of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee befoe the change.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

EPA & CEQ Confirmation Hearings

The Center for Environment, Commerce & Energy supports the nominations of both designees.

Full Committee hearing entitled:

“Hearing on the Nominations of Lisa P. Jackson, left, to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Nancy Helen Sutley, right, to be Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
10:00 AM EST
EPW Hearing Room - 406 Dirksen

**Please note that this hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday, January 13th at 10:30am.**


Opening Remarks

Panel 1

Lisa P. Jackson Nominated to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Nancy Helen Sutley Nominated to be Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Barbara Blum's Women's National Bank Being Sold

Barbara Blum, right, founded the Women's National Bank in 1983 after having served as Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Carter Administration. She changed the name to the Adams National Bank to the Adams National Bank in tribute to Abigail Adams [and mainstream sensibilities]. Ms. Blum stepped down from Adams Bank after a hostile takeover in 1998. Premier Financial Bancorp Inc of Huntington, West Virginia, is buying the Adams National Bank and the combined bank will have assets of about $1.2 billion and deposits of about $950 million. The deal is expected to close by July 2009, pending regulatory and shareholder approvals.

Barbara Blum, right, was of great assistance to us in our formative years in the 1980s. Center President Norris McDonald first met Blum in 1979 when she was a board member at what is now Friends of the Earth. She was invaluable to the early success of the Center and we appreciate her assistance. From 1983 to 1998 she was Founder, Chair, President and CEO of the Women's National Bank, the oldest and largest bank then owned and managed by women.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Credit Rating Agencies Unleashed 100-Year Flood of Fraud

The profit motive within the credit-rating agencies exposed them to pressure from debt issuers and led them to give high ratings to the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that was one of the prime leaders in creating the national and international financial crises. Deregulation permitted a 100-year flood of fraud. Representative of this is the aggressive deregulatory stance of the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). Its lax stance toward its 'customers' [Washington Mutual, Indy Mac, et. al.] led directly to their collapse.

The OTS supervises a national thrift industry that is built on the bedrock of the American dream of homeownership—supplying affordable home financing for Americans from all walks of life. The industry has a long history dating back to 1831 with the establishment of the first savings association, the Oxford Provident Building Association, which made home loans and offered savings accounts. Home mortgages remain a staple of the thrift industry. However, the array of financial products and services offered by many institutions and their holding companies paint a modern-day portrait of great diversification within the industry based on size, complexity, and business strategy. Three unique advantages of the federal thrift charter foster this diversification:

Preemption – The federal thrift charter operates under a comprehensive framework of federal regulations that supersede state and local laws on lending and deposit taking activities. This provides a uniform national standard for lending and deposit taking, thereby reducing regulatory burden and increasing the efficiency of operations at thrift institution. This authority supports the delivery of low-cost credit and other services to the public, while maintaining consumer protections and promoting the safety and soundness of federal thrifts and the nation’s financial industry.

Branching – Federal thrifts enjoy the distinctive ability to establish branches nationwide, seamlessly and without restriction, under a single charter and a single regulator.

Single Supervisor – Savings and loan holding companies, and their thrift subsidiaries and affiliates, operate under the consolidated supervision of a single federal regulator, the OTS.

The thrift charter is employed by some of the largest financial enterprises in the world, as well as small, one-office savings associations. Financial institutions from across the nation and a number of international financial firms have found that the thrift charter and the experienced, responsive workforce of the OTS provide an ideal framework for conducting retail banking operations and related financial services activities. The charter enables these institutions to meet the needs of their customers and to innovate effectively, compete, and prosper in today’s fast-paced financial marketplace.

(The Wall Street Journal, "Opinion," The Market Isn't So Wise After All," 12/31/08, OTS)