Energy Roundup: Snapshot of key races

With voters headed to the ballot box Tuesday, here is a quick snapshot of a few races E2 is keeping a particularly close eye on:

West Virginia Senate
 
Former President Bill Clinton will campaign for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin on Monday as he goes toe to toe against Republican John Raese. Raese received help Saturday at a campaign rally from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and musician Ted Nugent. Manchin has bashed a cap-and-trade bill the House passed last year, famously shooting a hole through a mock copy of it in a recent TV ad. Raese has gone after Manchin for backing last year’s healthcare and economic stimulus bills.
 
The latest Rasmussen poll puts Manchin ahead by just three. A poll released Sunday by Public Policy Polling has Manchin up by five, with an approval rating of 70 percent.

Nevada Senate

First lady Michelle Obama will join Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a get-out-the-vote rally Monday as the Nevada Democrat is in serious danger of becoming the second Senate Democratic leader to lose reelection in the last six years.

Three independent polls in late October show Republican and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle up by four points over Reid.

Reid has also brought President Obama, Clinton and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to help him win a fifth term.
 
California Senate
 
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Republican Carly Fiorina may be heading to a nail-biter Tuesday.
 
Critics have labeled both Boxer and Fiorina as extremists. Boxer led a heavily partisan effort to enact climate change legislation and was booted from her leadership role in that effort, while Fiorina is skeptical that climate change is even occurring. Boxer has been helped by campaign appearances from President Obama and Vice President Biden and a fundraising and spending advantage.
 
Some recent polls show Boxer ahead beyond the margin of error, while a poll by Rasmussen has Boxer up by three. Real Clear Politics and The Cook Political Report also have rated the race as a toss-up, and Republicans have touted internal numbers that indicate the race is a statistical tie.

Alaska Senate

This three-way race appears completely up in the air and may not be decided on election night.

Recent polls are all over the map.

An Oct. 23-28 Dittman Research poll indicated Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski has stormed ahead of Republican candidate Joe Miller and Democrat Scott McAdams in her attempt to win another six-year term as an independent write-in candidate. The poll had Murkowski up by 10 over Miller and 14 over McAdams. A Public Policy Polling survey released Sunday had Miller up by seven over both Murkowski and McAdams, despite having the highest negative rating of the three.

But potential misspellings and other problems associated with voters having to actually write Murkowski's name on ballots — combined with Miller and Murkowski splitting Republican votes — may end up handing McAdams a narrow win.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said Sunday that Republicans “are concerned” about the race “and what we want to make sure of is that the Democrat doesn’t win.” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) told "This Week" that Democrats “believe that Scott McAdams actually has a real chance of winning this race.” The DSCC has pumped in late dollars to help McAdams.

The New York Times explains that if write-in ballots are counted, it will not happen until about two weeks after Election Day.

House Va.-5
 
Rep. Tom Perriello (Va.) — one of the most vulnerable freshman Democrats — got help Friday from President Obama at a rally in a district that has gone Republican in at least the last three presidential elections. Obama praised Perriello as having the “political courage” to side with his administration and take tough votes that may cost him a second two-year term. This includes Perriello’s unabashed support of last year’s House cap-and-trade bill.

Republican Robert Hurt went after Perriello before Obama’s visit Friday for standing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on her “signature” issues — including the cap-and-trade bill.
 
The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club are fighting to save Perriello and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for TV and radio ads in the race. Recent polls have Perriello trailing Hurt, ranging from as little as one point to as many as eight.
 
House W.Va.-3
 
Republican Eliot “Spike” Maynard has accused House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) of being a party to a “war on coal” President Obama and Washington Democrats are waging. In their final debate last week, Maynard said Rahall stood by while the Environmental Protection Agency works to limit surface mining in the state.
 
Rahall, meanwhile, “has targeted Maynard's ties to coal mining CEO Don Blankenship, with whom the Republican has a past that was part of his costing him his seat on the state's Supreme Court,” The Hill’s Shane D’Aprile reported. “Maynard lost a reelection battle to the court several years ago after pictures surfaced of him vacationing in the French Riveria with Blankenship at the time the court was considering a multimillion-dollar judgment against Blankenship's company, Massey Energy."
 
Rahall looks to be OK and will probably be reelected to an 18th term.

House Va.-9
 
But another veteran coal-state Democrat looks to be in trouble. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) — who a month ago appeared to be on a pretty smooth path to a 15th term — was down by one point to Republican Morgan Griffith in an Oct. 21-25 Survey USA poll. The polling firm had Boucher leading by 15 points during the last week of September. Real Clear Politics labels the race as a toss-up.
 
Boucher has had to vigorously defend his role in shaping last year’s House cap-and-trade bill. He said he negotiated at the request of the coal industry and helped put together a good deal to keep electricity rates low and sustain a future for the coal industry. Griffith has argued that cap-and-trade would kill coal and result in high electricity rates, while portraying Boucher as being in lockstep with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
 
House Calif.-11
 
Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) gave environmental groups a major win four years ago when he beat then-House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R). But it is McNerney — a former CEO of a wind turbine company — who may have to give up his seat. A Survey USA poll this month has Republican David Harmer up by six. Real Clear Politics says the race leans Republican, while The Cook Political Report lists it as a toss-up.

House-N.M.-2

One of Pombo’s chief lieutenants on the Resources panel — former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) — may be on his way to regaining the seat he lost two years ago to Democratic Rep. Harry Teague. Pearce has led in every independent poll since September, though not by much. An Oct. 27-28 Albuquerque Journal poll had him up by three over Teague, while a poll late last month by The Hill had Pearce up by four, still within the margin of error.
 
House Ind.-9
 
Rep. Baron Hill (D) has had to defend several votes he took this Congress — including supporting the cap-and-trade, healthcare reform, stimulus and auto-industry bailout measures. He is nevertheless seen as a potential centrist Democratic swing vote on the Energy and Commerce Committee if Republicans take over. Hill led by two points in a mid-October poll from The Hill.
 
House Ohio-16, 18
 
Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) is another potential Democratic swing vote on the Energy and Commerce panel who has been hit by his Republican challenger for backing many of the big-ticket Democratic items this Congress, including the cap-and-trade bill.

Green groups have sought to help Rep. John Boccieri (D) fend off Republican Jim Renacci. A poll late last month by The Hill not only showed Boccieri losing to Renacci by three points, but also had him polling under 40 percent. 

Prop 23

The controversial California ballot initiative that has attracted big dollars and high attention from environmental groups and other critics looks to be heading for defeat Tuesday. The latest Field Poll cites 48 percent opposition and just 33 percent support. This is similar to deficits of 12 and 11 points found in July and September, according to the poll, released Sunday. Prop 23 would suspend the state’s landmark climate change law until the employment rate drops to at least 5.5 percent for one year. California’s unemployment rate is currently above 12 percent and is third highest in the nation.

The day after

Expect an assortment of post-Election Day “what does it all mean” briefings from environmentalists, industry groups and partisan and independent analysts.

One of the few briefings publicly scheduled so far is one Wednesday hosted by the American Gas Association and featuring Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report and Bernadette Budde, senior vice president of the Business Industry Political Action Committee.

On tap Monday: White House previews Obama’s trip to Asia

Energy will likely be on the agenda when President Obama makes his upcoming four-nation swing through Asia.

White House officials will discuss the trip Monday. Press secretary Robert Gibbs, Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes and Treasury Department Undersecretary for International Affairs Lael Brainard plan to brief reporters at the White House.

The visit will include the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea. The group has pledged joint efforts to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Obama is also slated to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Seoul.

Obama has sought to deepen ties with China on clean energy technologies, but the United States Trade Representative is also exploring whether China’s energy trade practices might be violating World Trade Organization rules. Obama and Hu may also discuss China's exports of rare earth minerals that are vital to several low-carbon energy technologies.

Elsewhere, climate change is slated to be on the agenda when Obama visits Indonesia. “We’re looking at a five-year program, a substantial five-year program, cooperation with the Indonesians on climate change, where Indonesia has been a leader in the developing world,” said Jeff Bader, the White House’s senior director for Asian affairs, at a briefing last week. 

House Republicans plan EPA, Obama environment agenda probes

“If the GOP wins control of the House next week, senior congressional Republicans plan to launch a blistering attack on the Obama administration's environmental policies, as well as on scientists who link air pollution to climate change,” the L.A. Times reports. “The GOP's fire will be concentrated especially on the administration's efforts to use the Environmental Protection Agency's authority over air pollution to tighten emissions controls on coal, oil and other carbon fuels that scientists say contribute to global warming.”

“Republican leaders have begun gathering evidence for sweeping investigations of Barack Obama's environmental agenda, from climate science to the BP oil spill, if as expected, they take control of the House of Representatives in the 2 November mid-term elections,” the Guardian adds.

E2 in September reported on plans from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to investigate climate science if he took over the panel. 

Capitol Hill report stirs debate on geoengineering

The House Science and Technology Committee is examining the prospect of “geoengineering,” or large-scale efforts to manipulate the climate as a way to block catastrophic warming.

The Washington Post takes a look at a new committee report:

“House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D) said his report was ‘in no way meant as an endorsement of climate engineering' but instead an effort to give ‘insight into where existing federal research capacities lie that could be leveraged for these activities.' "

"Climate engineering carries with it a tremendous range of uncertainties and possibilities, ethical and political concerns, and the potential for catastrophic side effects," Gordon is quoted as saying in the story. "If we find ourselves passing an environmental tipping point, we will need to have done research to understand our options."

“The National Science Foundation is best positioned to take the lead on the matter, according to the 56-page report, which also identifies several other agencies that can play a key role,” the Post notes.

Chu turns into a zombie to protect against ‘vampire appliances’

Energy Secretary Steven Chu turned into the undead on the Friday before Halloween to save consumers from energy-sucking “vampire appliances.” Chu’s Facebook photo Friday was one his staff forwarded from the website Make Me Zombie. “As a lifelong geek, I’ve never had such a cool Halloween costume,” Chu mused.

And while there is no evidence of zombies, he said, there are “vampire appliances” that “suck up energy even when they are turned off.” These include DVD players, stereos and desktop computers. “In fact, these vampires are responsible for adding 10 percent or more to your monthly electricity bill,” Chu wrote. While garlic won’t work this time, using power strips or setting the computer to sleep mode will help consumers protect themselves from these vampires, Chu said.

In case you missed E2 Friday

U.S. wind growth slows as industry steps up call for utility mandate

Sec. Clinton: China has ‘no intention’ of withholding rare-earth minerals

Senate Dems caution Clinton on oil sands pipeline

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