Energy & Environment

Transforming our power (Sen. John Kerry)

I don't think there are many people left who really question that we need a major transformation in the way we produce power, the disaster in the Gulf being the latest wakeup call for anyone who was still sleeping. It was the latest reminder that 40 years after Richard Nixon started talking about "energy independence," we're still stuck or moving backwards -- our economy constantly rattled by the volatile price of oil, our planet's climate increasingly unstable thanks to the pollution we're pumping into the atmosphere.

And, oh yes, we're sending billions of dollars a day overseas, with the global oil market enriching some of the most autocratic and anti-American regimes around the world. Here's one fact to stiffen the spine: as my friend Jon Powers and his band of veterans remind me, every day we keep going with what we're doing makes Iran $100 million richer and takes over a billion dollars out of our economy. Every single day.

{mosads}That's why I'm doubling down on the proposal I'm rolling out today with Senator Lieberman, a work product that reflects six months of contribution from Lindsey Graham -and hundreds of meetings with our colleagues -- major energy and comprehensive climate change legislation that meets this big challenge. It's a practical pathway to finally end our addiction to oil, put Americans back in control of our own power production, release the innovation and ingenuity of Americans to build the clean energy economy we need to build prosperity in the 21st century.

It'll help us create nearly 2 million new jobs, develop new products, and support the research and development to help us maintain leadership in the global economy. And it'll even reduce the deficit by about $21 billion in nine years.

And we've got to pass it this year.

I'm asking you to look at it on the merits, but also knowing that we have to find 60 votes in a tough atmosphere in Washington, on an issue where even a lot of good Democrats have been reluctant to act over the years.

The big details:

In the bill, we finally start to bring down carbon pollution by sending a clear price signal on that pollution. This market is tightly controlled, with only folks who need the permits able to buy the permits in the initial auction. No Wild West of speculation, no big banks coming in to buy up permits. Then the corporations who buy those permits can trade among themselves, so if a company makes great strides in bringing down their carbon pollution, they get the benefit of being able to sell off their permits, and if they don't, they need to buy more. It's simple, fair, and rewards those American companies who work hard to bring down their emissions of carbon pollution. And much of the proceeds of that carbon auction get sent straight to the American people, helping out consumers with their energy bills. Bottom-line: it does what President Obama told the world we'd do - it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2005 levels at 2050.

We also set up a tough, WTO-consistent border adjustment mechanism so that there won't be any "carbon leakage" of companies manufacturing things overseas in countries that don't manage their emissions. Imports from those countries will have to pay a fee at the border. This will protect American industry and make sure jobs stay here at home. And we threaded that needle in a way that President Obama can support - you'll remember he was concerned about the way it's been handled in previous bills.

Next, we know we're in the middle of a major catastrophe in the Gulf, and we need to learn all the right lessons. The big lesson? Get us to the day when oil spills are infinitely less likely because we're not scrambling to pump every last barrel of oil out of every inch of the earth. You do that by transforming energy in America.

But - there's more we do in the short term. This bill starts tightens up federal law around offshore drilling, adding two major reforms. First, any state can veto drilling less than 75 miles off their coast. Second, each new rig needs to be studied for the effects of any potential spill, and any state that could be affected has the right to call a halt to the project. This creates important local control over the beaches and waterways of our country.

And here's what I get excited about as a true-believer on climate and clean energy: We also make major new investments in clean energy research and production. We need to make our country a leader in the production of clean energy technology, from cars and batteries to wind and solar technology to technology we haven't even dreamed of yet. And we direct local, state and federal authorities to take carbon pollution into account when planning new transportation projects. With these new policies and the price signal on carbon pollution, we can finally end our oil addiction and give the wind, solar, and other clean fuels the level playing field they need to grow.

Look, it's long, long overdue for America to lead. Economically, we need to get out in front of the clean energy economy of the 21st century, become the leader on the technologies that will power the world. Other countries aren't waiting on this. China just raised their auto-efficiency standards to over 36 miles a gallon, and last year, for the first time, China's investment in clean energy exceeded ours. We can't let this continue. I want to close the energy gap with China, not let a lack of political willpower allow it to grow.

{mosads}And, in terms of our planet's climate, we need to lead the way - or, at this point, finally join the parade.

There's very tough politics in the Senate, no doubt. But we've made sure that states and Senators that have been uncomfortable with this issue for decades have an unprecedented opportunity to take part in the new, clean energy economy and that's why we make strong investments in clean coal technology. And we make sure that nuclear power also has a fighting chance by streamlining and reforming the permitting process and making loan guarantees available. Many Senators have worked together to make sure these provisions are strong, fair, and don't compromise the environmental integrity of the bill. And there's a reason why people and American businesses that have always opposed and fought against previous legislation - quite successfully! - are standing behind this one.

My bottom-line: Al Gore and I held the Senate's first climate change hearings in the Commerce Committee way back in 1988. Since then, precious little progress has been made and ground has been lost internationally, all while the science has grown more compelling. I can barely even count any more the number of international summits I've attended, or press conferences we've held after losing climate change votes in the Senate where our message was: "next year, we can get this done - don't give up on the United States or the Senate." Two Congresses ago, we had 38 votes for a bill. Last Congress, we had 54 votes for cloture out of 60 needed - and we said then - me, Joe, Barbara Boxer - that this Congress we could get to 60 and pass a bill. Now we can do it - if we find the will. And we damn well better, because I don't ever want to attend another event this year or next year where I have to look anyone in the eye again and say, "next year we can do it."

No - this is the year. This is the moment. Half-measures won't cut it; now is the time for the full-court press to make it happen. 

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post


Energy efficiency means more jobs

For the past decade, my home state of Vermont has led the way in making its homes and businesses more energy efficient. On Thursday, when the U.S. House of Representatives votes on my Home Star Energy Retrofit Act (H.R. 5019), the rest of the country will have a chance to catch up.

Home Star is a common sense idea that would create jobs and provide a boost to local economies, while helping families afford their energy bills. By encouraging homeowners to invest in energy efficiency retrofits, Home Star would create 170,000 manufacturing and construction jobs that could not be outsourced to China. It would also help more than 3 million Americans invest in energy-saving technology, saving families close to $10 billion on their energy bills over 10 years.

Home Star provides two ways for Americans to invest in their homes. The first is a point-of-sale rebate for up to 50 percent of the cost of certain energy efficiency improvements up to $3,000 per home -- including insulation, HVAC units, duct sealing and water heaters. The second is a more comprehensive retrofit that rewards homeowners for the total amount of energy they save. For example, a 20 percent energy savings demonstrated by a home energy audit would result in a $3,000 rebate.


Want jobs? We can get them from clean energy (Reps. Inslee and Israel)

As we await introduction in the Senate of comprehensive energy and climate legislation consistent with the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House ten months ago, it is time to focus on other critical steps that Congress can take to harness American innovation to create millions of jobs as part of our new clean energy economy.  

The House of Representatives Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) has been at the forefront of generating legislation in Congress to create jobs and growth in the most promising and successful sector of our economy: clean energy.  By enacting policies to incentivize and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency we can revitalize domestic industries like manufacturing and construction, and increase the production of home-grown American energy technologies to power our nation to a more secure and sustainable future.


Leading the way to alternative energy solutions (Rep. Michael Honda)

Colleges and universities must lead the way in creating alternative energy solutions. Through education, innovation, and entrepreneurship, we need to radically change energy infrastructure and markets. We need to put energy supply not in the hands of a few utilities, but in the hands of individual households and institutions. This is the democratization of energy.

As an example, Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley has made sustainability and climate neutrality top priorities. Drawing on their intellectual heritage as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, it is well on its way to strategically linking its long commitment to environmental justice to its growing efforts at ensuring a sustainable future for all.


Green the fast-growing gadget industry (Rep. Mike Honda)

In the first week of sales, a remarkable 500,000 Americans purchased the new iPad. An equally dramatic number of these customers, however, were in the dark about the full spectrum of iPad's functionality. Few knew what the iPad actually does. This exemplifies well the strength of the cultural compulsion in America to own the latest electronic gadget, irrespective of actual need or purpose.

IPad sales are indicative of a global trend: Electronic gadget ownership is on the rise throughout the world. Cell phones, for example, rank highest, in terms of ownership, with nearly 5 billion mobile subscribers globally. Televisions, computers, and compact disc players can be found in the majority of most American households, and increasingly the same goes for developing countries. Who would have thought that Lithuania would rank 1st in mobile subscribers and Estonia would rank 21st in computer ownership per capita, or that the Czech Republic would rank one percentage point behind the U.S. in television ownership per household. Electronics know no boundary. Rich and poor alike, nations are increasingly plugging in.

This technological growth spurt has obvious and direct benefits for each country's economic development, with poorer countries relying on mobile phones for banking, transfers, markets and trading. Computers, too, represent a host of development benefits, from new educational opportunities, to better business practices, to archival and data storage, and to Internet economic and international connectivity.


The power of Earth Day in America (Sen. John Kerry)

I'm strategizing and planning with the environmental community this morning, but wanted to emphasize something -- and I thought of it this morning listening to my morning radio.

If you've ever gotten caught up in the conventional wisdom of Washington that says no big change can happen, and politicians will always find the easy way out, please know that today is a reminder of how people power can turn that spin upside down overnight - and I know it because I was there and I saw it happen, and I saw it happen long before I had a vote in the Senate or an office in Washington, and it's why I still believe.

Forty years ago today, twenty million Americans -- fully one-tenth of our country's population at the time -- came together to express the wakeup call that was Earth Day 1970.


Go green, save the Winter Olympics

When it comes to the recent 2010 Winter Olympics, the United States and Canada have much to be proud of. Each ranked first in a medal category with Canada winning 14 gold medals and the U.S. securing 15 silver medals. This is an impressive but unsurprising performance for two of the top three economies in the Western Hemisphere. (Snowless Brazil won no medals.) Less impressive is that the U.S. and Canada are peak performers in the category of climate change causation. These two have done little to reduce their high scores in per capita emissions. Both rank in the world’s top 10 emitters at nearly 20 tons per person per year. Compare this with China’s 4 tons per person and India’s 1 ton per person.
For the U.S. and Canada, or any country, to continue participating in the Winter Olympics, they must commit to a greener performance — a reality brought into question by Vancouver’s lack of snow, which was a consequence of a changing climate. The reality is that while Olympic competitiveness is a priority for both nations, green competitiveness is not.


Off-coast drilling threatens Florida economy and jobs (Rep. Kathy Castor)

Drilling for oil off of Florida’s west coast beaches would be a serious threat to Florida’s economy and jobs. Our long-term economic health is dependent on clean beaches and clean water. I oppose any threat to jobs and Florida’s tourism and fishing industries.

In 2006, 8.3 million acres of Eastern Gulf were opened to additional offshore drilling under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. In exchange, an important buffer was adopted through 2022. This was a significant compromise, which was codified into law and remains in effect today.

Regardless of any announcement today, GOMESA and its protections for Florida’s economy and environmental health remain in full force.


The Big Question: Is Obama's offshore drilling plan good?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today. ...

Today's question:

Is President Barack Obama's offshore drilling plan a good policy?

John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, said:

Yes, and the President deserves credit for rolling out this policy. Expanding oil and natural gas exploration off the Atlantic, Alaskan and Gulf coasts is an important step toward greater energy security, and a needed job boost for our nation.
As we laid out in our economic modeling study, The Balancing Act, increased domestic sources are critical elements of the comprehensive approach we need – combined with investments in renewable fuels and new technologies to enhance more traditional sources – to ensure a secure supply of energy in order to meet the growing demand for the years ahead. Yesterday’s announcement is a critical first step in the process.
My members understand their role in this discussion, and they plan to remain engaged with the Administration and members of Congress to create more jobs and move our nation toward a more sustainable future.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit Blogger, said:

I was initially enthused with this proposal, but the fine print seems to render it far less impressive than the initial hype suggested.  Offshore drilling, of course, won't solve all of our problems, but as even modest increases in the supply of oil tend to drive prices down, it would be very good for the economy.  Obama's plan, however, seems calculated to create a lot more buzz than drilling.

Justin Raimondo, editorial director of, said:

Obama's offshore drilling plan is not only a good policy in and of itself, it is also -- refreshingly -- an astute political move. I'm not sure how to explain this, given the administration's record -- which is, by this time, a compendium of mis-steps, muddled opportunities, and missed chances -- except by positing that this is surely a mistake, which will soon be corrected.

Jerry Taylor, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, said:

Obama’s press conference at Andrews Air Force Base yesterday did indicate a welcome new direction for U.S. energy policy.  But in an absolutely perfect world, the government would not be in the business of allocating scarce resources—in this case, the offshore oil fields—to competing user groups. The market would play that role.

Hence, the best policy would be to divest this land via auction and allow environmentalists, recreationalists and preservationists to compete with oil and gas companies for the rights to those resources.

It is not at all inconceivable to me that those opposed to drilling, whatever their reasons, might well out-bid extraction industries for rights to some of these fields. Unfortunately, there seems to be limited political support for privatization, so President Obama’s initiative is probably better than the status quo.

We need to remember, however, that if governments could intelligently allocate scarce resources across the economy without recourse to market information or institutions, then the North Korean economy would work swimmingly.

John F. McManus,
president of The John Birch Society, said:

President Obama sought and gained many headlines with the announcement of his new plan for limited offshore drilling.  But, as Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell points out, the President had already taken "ten steps back on domestic oil production" before this latest "one small step forward."
Ebell explains that, in 2008, President Bush revoked previous bans on development in huge offshore areas where energy resources are known to exist. This welcome move has been suspended by the Obama administration.  The new plan offered by Obama does not affect work in areas where his actions have already barred drilling.
Our nation now imports more than 60 percent of the oil we consume.  America's neck is in a noose and the way out of it is to take advantage of oil deposits available in areas that are still locked up - ANWR being a prime example of a resource sitting idle waiting to be tapped. The president's announcement avoided opening up ANWR.
The noose is tightening and Mr. Obama's headline grabbing announcement and its supposed change in policy will not loosen it.

Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, said:

Yesterday’s announcement by the White House that it would seek an end to the moratorium on oil & gas development off the eastern and gulf coasts of the U.S. has nothing to do with serving as a bargaining chip for stalled Senate climate negotiations, but rather is intended to blunt expected GOP campaign attacks that Obama the socialist environmentalist has caused gasoline prices to rise $1 per gallon since taking office. I see Obama’s move more about controlling the tone of the upcoming mid-term elections than about cutting a climate deal. So here’s my prediction: this drilling announcement marks the death of a climate deal for this congress.

Obama’s political move to open up our coasts to more drilling is wrong because opening offshore areas to drilling hurts efforts at a climate deal * not helps. On March 23, 10 coastal  senators wrote a letter to the ad hoc Senate climate crew of Kerry-Lieberman-Graham warning that they “cannot support legislation that will . . . put our coasts at greater peril.” They note the environmental concerns that offshore drilling presents, but also highlight the unfair proposal of allowing coastal states to keep a sizable portion of the royalties rather than share that revenue with all states and taxpayers.

Additionally, opening up “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." That’s because the US isn’t Saudi Arabia: we sit on only 1.6 percent of the world’s oil reserves, while the Saudis have 20 percent. Dumping our little pond of oil into the giant sea of global reserves can’t make a significant dent on our imports or impact prices.

And lastly, Obama's proposal fails to hold oil companies accountable for fleecing taxpayers on existing drilling leases. The GAO estimates the loss to the U.S. Treasury of more than $50 billion over the life of these royalty-free leases * a huge subsidy for Big Oil. And investigations have found serious problems in the management of the entire royalty program. I debated Steven Colbert about this.

As recently as August 25, 2009 - when President Obama submitted his Mid-Session Review budget to Congress * he recognized this fleecing of the taxpayer by Big Oil and proposed a “Levy tax on certain offshore oil and gas production” as a back-door way to capture some revenue from these no-royalty leases, raising $6 billion over a decade.

But in Obama’s budget submitted in February, the Administration has now dropped this offshore tax on Big Oil.

Obama puts a lot at risk with this offshore drilling plan and gets little reward. What a disappointment.

Damon N. Spiegel, entrepreneur and writer, said:
Good policy, good plan or marketing strategy?  The timing couldn't come at a better time. Start to enroll the many people and big energy companies that were so against the Healthcare Bill.  The idea and concept is certainly the right thing to do.  After all, the less dependent we can be on the Middle Eastern terrorist supporting nations for oil the better we will be as a nation.  It is time for us to explore alternatives to importing energy and to start looking at the resources our nation can provide.  On top of this, the Administration should be investing even more time developing Alternative Energy that will protect our ecosystem for the years to come

Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

We know that there is almost certainly very little recoverable oil in the area being opened up to drilling. The energy information agency estimates that the oil available in these areas is too little to have a noticeable impact on prices. Maybe this is good politics but it clearly is bad energy and environmental policy.

Hal Lewis,
professor at UC Santa Barbara, said:
Yes, and it should be extended. We need the oil to support our existing economy, while we search for alternatives to support our future economy. Energy is precisely coupled to economic success and our standard of living. We should also facilitate the building of nuclear plants, since they are the only existing realistic non-polluting source of electrical energy (we've already almost fully exploited our hydroelectric resources, the only other one). But Obama's so-called energy policy is inconsistent and fully politicized, for reasons that don't belong in a response to this question.

Karen Harbert,
president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said:

Is President Barack Obama's offshore drilling plan a good policy?

Pursuing a balanced energy policy that includes offshore drilling is good policy, but it appears that President Obama’s plan will not actually do much of it. While it is encouraging to hear the President recognize the important role America’s vast oil and natural gas reserves can play in our energy future, I just wish that his plan did more to accomplish that goal.
The Administration’s new Five Year Plan on oil and gas leasing opens up significant offshore areas for study, not for actual exploration. For both our energy security and our economy, we need more than that. In fact, the plan proposed for the next two years actually reduces the areas that originally were to be opened for exploration. We now have a proposed plan that falls far short of what our nation needs and actually regresses by placing billions of barrels of oil and gas under lock and key.
However, Congress can play an important role shaping a more effective energy policy. For starters, Congress should act to unlock portions of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that were listed as being potential areas of exploration. In addition, Congress should enact revenue sharing for states to encourage more offshore exploration and help address the budget crisis that exists in many states’ budgets. That would be a stimulus package that the taxpayer wouldn’t have to shoulder.
So while I am pleased to see the President acknowledge an important role for oil and gas, I am disappointed that his offshore plan is woefully short on the actual exploration that is needed to unlock these resources and the jobs and revenue that would result.