Energy & Environment

Open up access to our energy resources with new transmission

The Great Plains states – from North Dakota to Texas – have been called the Saudi Arabia of wind. As much electricity could be generated every year from wind in those states as the United States consumes as a whole. The trick is getting that enormous energy potential to market.

The electric power transmission network in this country was not designed to reach deep into the lightly populated regions of the Great Plains, yet that is where the best wind resource exists. Failing to build power lines to bring that energy to market would be like finding a new supergiant oil field in Kansas and not building a pipeline to it.

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It’s time to stop the over-reach by Fannie and Freddie

Benjamin Franklin established the nation’s first special assessment district when he created the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia, a volunteer fire department. Today there are more than 37,000 special districts in the United States. Local governments use them to pay for everything from sewer systems to sidewalks to mosquito abatement — all in response to important community concerns.

In the last two years, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing their local governments to use existing assessment authority (also called special improvement districts) to help homeowners and businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. These laws, commonly called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) laws, were hailed by Scientific American as one of the top 20 ways to change the world.

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National security, energy security, and environmental imperatives

News reports indicate that some Senators may seek to repeal a provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) during Thursday’s consideration of important legislation on Outer Continental Shelf energy production issues. Senators are right to be concerned about the potential misapplication of EISA Section 526, a provision that prohibits federal agencies from procuring alternative fuels with life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are greater than those for conventional petroleum sources.

We write today in support of amending, but not repealing, the EISA provision at issue. We urge Senators to “first, do no harm” in dealing with these critical energy and national security issues.

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Keystone XL is a pipeline to disaster

It has been two weeks since the Exxon pipeline ruptured into the Yellowstone River and there's still no end in sight for Montanans as they work to clean up the crude oil contaminating their land. Pastureland has been ruined, livestock have been forced to move, and ranchers and residents have reported symptoms of hydrocarbon poisoning.

But despite these continuing examples of the harmful consequences of our addiction to oil, another oil pipeline company, TransCanada, is pushing to build the Keystone XL, a mega-pipeline that would dwarf Exxon's Silvertip and also pass underneath the iconic Yellowstone River.

Spanning nearly 2,000 miles from Alberta to Texas, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would cross six states and funnel up to 900,000 barrels of toxic tar sands to the Gulf Coast each day. TransCanada's CEO, Russell Girling, claims that this pipeline would be "operated in the safest manner possible." But when you consider that TransCanada's existing Keystone I pipeline (which is much smaller than the proposed Keystone XL) was estimated to spill only once in its first year and has already spilled 12 times in less than 12 months, those claims aren't so reassuring.

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BULB act sheds light on the politics of the new Republican Party

At a time when leaders on both sides of the aisle are engaged in an epic debate on how, or if, to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, on Tuesday, House GOP leadership decided that what Americans really needed was a vote on their ability to continue to use incandescent light bulbs. Seriously.

H.R. 2417, the so-called Better Use of Light Bulbs Act of 2011, was defeated 233-193 under House rules that required a supermajority to succeed. If it had prevailed, this bill would have repealed language that was passed with bipartisan support in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) that called for replacing the most energy consuming incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient light bulbs over the course of several years.

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The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will be built responsibly

On July 1, an unfortunate incident occurred in Montana with the release of oil from a pipeline into the Yellowstone River. We extend our sympathies to all those impacted. As an industry we must learn from this incident and take any necessary steps to improve performance and ensure the public that pipelines are operated in the safest manner possible. We will do this with the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone XL is a 1,700-mile (2,700 KM) proposed pipeline that would carry Canadian and U.S. crude oil to U.S. refineries including those at the U.S. Gulf Coast. Using the most advanced technology, the pipeline will be monitored 24 hours a day through a centralized control centre. 16,000 sensors embedded in the pipeline provide data via satellite every five seconds. If the slightest drop in pipeline pressure is detected, remote valves are automatically closed, shutting off the flow of oil within minutes.

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Pull the plug on transmission subsidies

High energy prices have exacted a heavy toll on consumers battered by the recession. With gas prices near $4 per gallon, the average household’s monthly spending on fuel climbed 22 percent between October and March. More than 67 percent of Americans said high gas prices have caused them "financial hardship," according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.   

Consumer anxiety over surging energy costs provoked a political firestorm in Washington. Electricity prices could become the next flashpoint on Capitol Hill if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission burdens consumers with the costs of new electric facilities from which they receive little or no benefit. 

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Ignoring chemical safety will have toxic consequences

This week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will examine fundamental problems with one of the most important programs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to assess chemical safety – the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).
 
Anyone who looks at the evidence, whether you are a state regulator, a public health official or a furniture maker, can see that the IRIS program is broken. Getting it right should be in the interest of us all.    

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Cuts to investments in energy efficiency fail the nation

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill is yet another glaring example of the flawed nature of the Republican budget. To try to meet their unrealistic goal of reducing the deficit solely through domestic non-defense discretionary spending cuts, Republicans are proposing to make crippling cuts to our national investment in improving energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.

These cuts will only serve to make our nation more dependent on the coal, oil, and gas interests that own the Republican Party and more dependent on importing our energy from insecure foreign sources. Meanwhile, our global competitors recognize that this is an area in which there are many gains to be made and they are investing heavily to develop their own renewable resources and promote domestic economic and job growth.

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Policies that advocate for solar consumers will create jobs

Solar energy costs have declined 60 percent since 1995 – and they keep falling. It is in the best interest of American consumers that Congress keeps finding ways to speed the descent.
 
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on a few clean energy initiatives, including the 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2011. If passed, the bill would set in motion a number of policy measures to meet the ultimate goal of getting solar onto 10 million American homes and businesses by the year 2020.
 
The economic benefit of the bill is two-fold: first, it would push the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot program, which makes solar more competitive by financing cost-cutting, next-generation production technologies. Second, the bill would provide grants to communities to help them troubleshoot the solar permitting process, which can be a costly and inefficient barrier to solar adoption.

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