U.S. States & Regions

States and regions across the country are adopting climate policies, including the development of regional greenhouse gas reduction markets, the creation of state and local climate action and adaptation plans, and increasing renewable energy generation. Read More

Maine Plans to Halve Oil Use by 2050

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 

On June 9, 2011, the Maine Legislature established oil savings targets and commissioned the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security to make recommendations for cutting oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels). 

An Act to Improve Maine’s Energy Security

LD 553 proposes that the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, with input from stakeholders and the state’s renewable energy & energy efficiency trust, establish targets to reduce Maine oil consumption by at least 30 percent in 2030 and 50 percent in 2050 (from 2007 levels).  The targets should prioritize increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to renewable energy in transportation and heating.  The targets should draw on existing data and analyses related to the state’s climate change and energy use plans.  The Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security should make recommendations with any suggested legislation by December 1, 2012, along with cost and resource estimates for technology development.

LD 553 - An Act To Improve Maine's Energy Security


National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative Looks for Progress in Energy Policy

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend as an observer the launch of the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, facilitated by the Center and the Great Plains Institute.  In the short time since the launch, the EOR Initiative has generated notable

Carbon dioxide enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR) works by injecting CO2 into existing oil fields to increase oil production.  It is not a new concept. In fact, around 5 percent, or 272,000 barrels per day, of all domestic oil produced comes from oil recovered using this technique, which was first deployed in West Texas in 1972.  Decades of monitoring CO2-EOR sites have shown that in properly managed operations the majority of CO2 is retained in the EOR operation and not released to the atmosphere.  One of the initiative’s goals is to better understand the role of CO2-EOR for carbon storage as this industry grows to produce more than 1 million barrels per day, or around 17 percent of domestic oil supply in 2030.

Illinois Passes Two Bills to Increase Electric Vehicle Use

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 

On July 11, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed two bills that will encourage greater use of electric vehicles. The bills create a council to explore the uses of electric vehicles and provide grants to eligible car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Adoption Act

House Bill 2902 creates the position of Electric Vehicle Coordinator for the State of Illinois, to be appointed by the Governor, who will be the point person for electric vehicle related policies. The bill also creates the Illinois Electric Vehicle Advisory Council to investigate and recommend policies for greater electric vehicle adoption in Illinois. The Council is required report its finding to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2011.

Alternative Fuels Car-sharing Program

House Bill 2903 authorizes the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to make grants to not-for-profit car-sharing organizations to purchase and use electric vehicles. The vehicles must be registered in the State of Illinois and remain in Illinois for five years after purchase under the program. The Bill sets aside $500,000 to the program, which comes from the modification of the existing Illinois Alternative Fuels Act, and may not exceed 25 percent of the grantee’s project cost. The law is effective immediately until the end of fiscal year 2013.

Press Release

HB2902 - Electric Vehicle Adoption Act

HB2903 - Alternative Fuels Car-sharing Grants

In Brief: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities

In Brief: Clean Energy Markets: Jobs and Opportunities

July 2011 Update (originally published February 2010)

Download this Brief (PDF)

This brief discusses how investment in clean energy technologies will generate economic growth and create new jobs in the United States and around the globe. The United States stands to benefit from the expansion of global clean energy markets, but only if it moves quickly to support domestic demand for and production of clean energy technologies through well-designed policy that enhances the competitiveness of U.S. firms.

Clean energy markets are already substantial in scope and growing fast. Between 2004 and 2010, global clean energy investment exhibited a compound annual growth rate of 32 percent, reaching $243 billion in 2010. Forecasts of investment totals over the next few decades vary according to assumptions made regarding the nature of future global climate policies. Over the next decade, assuming strong global action on climate change, cumulative global investment totals for clean power generation technologies could reach nearly $2.3 trillion.

Recognizing the potential of these markets, the European Union, China, and other nations are moving to cultivate their own clean energy industries and to position them to gain large market shares in the decades ahead.

  • The European Union continues to lead the world in clean energy investments, spending nearly $81 billion in 2010. Since 2009, China has invested more money per year in clean energy technologies than the United States, investing $54.4 billion in 2010 compared to the United States’ $34 billion. Over 85 percent of today’s market for clean energy technologies is outside of the United States, primarily in Asia and Europe.
  • Germany’s clean energy investments of $41.2 billion were the second most for any country in 2010, surpassing the now third-place United States.
  • China now boasts the world’s largest solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing industries, accounting for nearly 50 percent of manufacturing for both technologies.
  • Danish wind manufacturers produce close to 22 percent of annual global installed wind capacity.

These countries have taken deliberate steps to position themselves as leaders in the 21st century clean energy economy. History shows that it matters where industries are first established, and countries can use policy to foster domestic “lead markets” for particular industries, giving them the foothold that can lead to significant growth in global market share. In the United States, well-crafted climate and clean energy policy can give nascent clean energy industries such a foothold by creating domestic demand and spurring investment and innovation. Strong domestic demand creates not only export opportunities but also jobs – many of which must be located where the demand is, thus fostering domestic job growth even when industry supply chains are globally dispersed.

National climate and clean energy policy in the United States can help create jobs and domestic early-mover industries with the potential to become major international exporters. Such policy should provide incentives for investment in clean energy, for example through a clean energy standard, that requires a certain amount of electricity be obtained from clean energy sources, or a market-based mechanism that puts a price on carbon. The time to act is now: through policy leadership at home and abroad, the United States can position itself to become a market leader in the industries of the 21st century.

Click here for the press release.


New York Passes Law to Encourage More Efficient Homes

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 

On June 22, 2011, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Power NY Act of 2011 (Act) that will help homeowners make energy-efficiency upgrades and streamline the siting process for new power plants that generate more than 25 megawatts.

Loans for the Homeowner

Homeowners can borrow up to $13,000 for energy-efficiency upgrades and small businesses can borrow up to $26,000. The loan is to be paid back through a surcharge on the monthly utility bill. The program is cost-effective because the surcharge will be less than the energy savings after upgrades. The source of the initial funds will be some of the revenue from New York State’s auctions for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation’s first regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program.

Streamline Power Plant Approvals

The Act also establishes a seven-member permitting board for power plant siting that could bypass some of the layers of regulation for faster approval. The panel will provide permits for power plants generating greater than 25 megawatts.

Power NY Act of 2011 (PDF)
Press Release

Virginia Passes Renewable Energy Package

Promoted in Energy Efficiency section: 

On June 15, 2011, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed eight renewable energy bills. Highlights from the bills include the establishment of a Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program that includes job creation mandates; establishment of a Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund to finance solar installations in residential, non-profit and commercial sectors; doubling of the allowable on-site electricity generation capacity for net metering from 10 to 20 kilowatts; and extension of tax credits for purchase of biofuel vehicles to 2014.

SB 862 Commonwealth Energy Policy; local renewable energy facility siting ordinances. Requires that a local ordinance addressing the siting of renewable energy facilities be consistent with provisions of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, and provide reasonable criteria and requirements on the siting of any such facility.

HB 1686 Distributed solar generation demonstration programs.Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC) to exercise its existing authority to consider for approval petitions filed by a utility to own and operate distributed solar generation facilities and to offer special tariffs to facilitate customer-owned distributed solar generation as alternatives to net energy metering.

HB 1912 Electric utility ratemaking procedures; recognition of Commonwealth Energy Policy. Directs the State Corporation Commission (SCC), when required to approve the construction of an electric utility facility, to consider the economic and job creation objectives of the Commonwealth Energy Policy, including whether the cost is likely to result in unreasonable increases in customers’ rates.

HB 1983 Net energy metering program. Increases the maximum capacity of an electrical generation facility of a residential customer that qualifies for participation in a net energy metering program from 10 to 20 kilowatts.

HB 2191 Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund.  Establishes the Voluntary Solar Resource Development Fund, from which money will be loaned for projects that involve the acquisition, installation, or operation of photovoltaic devices, solar water heating devices, or certain solar space heating devices at residential, commercial, or non-profit facilities. The measure requires the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to provide the option to make voluntary contributions to the Fund, and expires July 1, 2016.

HB 2316 Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program.  Repeals the Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2013, and the Biofuels Production Incentive Grant Program effective July 1, 2017, to create a program that provides financial incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems, or products used to produce renewable or nuclear energy, or products used for energy conservation, storage, or grid efficiency purposes. To be eligible for a grant, the manufacturer must make a capital investment greater than $50 million and create at least 200 full-time jobs. A wind energy supplier must make a capital investment of greater than $10 million and create at least 30 full-time jobs

HB 2389 Virginia Resources Authority; renewable energy projects.  Adds renewable energy projects to those projects which the Virginia Resources Authority may finance.

SB 1236 Clean fuel vehicle and advanced cellulosic biofuels job creation tax credit.  Extends the sunset date of the tax credit from the 2011 taxable year to the 2014 taxable year.

Press Release

Supreme Court Doubles Down on EPA and Clean Air Act

In a unanimous (8-0) decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in AEP v Conn that the state and land trust plaintiffs could not invoke a federal common law public nuisance claim against the five largest electric power companies.  The plaintiffs in the case were seeking controls on the carbon dioxide emissions from the utilities’ power plants.  Building on their 2007 decision in Mass v EPA, the Court held that Congress in passing the Clean Air Act had authorized federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and in doing so had effectively “occupied the field” thereby negating any common law claims. In a decision noteworthy for its brevity and clarity, the Court stated:

We hold that the Clean Air Act and EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired plants.  Massachusetts made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act. (page 10)

Recovery Act’s Impact on Energy Spending

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Pub.L. 111-5, Recovery Act, ARRA) is the economic stimulus package passed by Congress on February 13, 2009, and signed by President Obama four days later. As of February 2011, the package was expected to total $821 billion in costs through 2019 delivered through a combination of federal tax cuts, temporary expansion of economic assistance provisions, and domestic spending to advance economic recovery and create new jobs, as well as save existing ones. From advancing smart grid development to supporting appliance rebate programs, the Recovery Act has allowed the United States to make significant headway in building the foundation of its clean energy economy. We recently released an update to our 2009 white paper on the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Recovery Act spending. The publication summarizes DOE ARRA spending, the Recovery Act's effects on employment, and highlights a number of notable projects. 

Water Resources and Climate Change: A Key Area of Concern

Although much of the discussion about climate change impacts has focused on increases in temperature and the rise in sea level, changes that impact our nation’s water resources could have the greatest impact on society. A quick glance at recent newspaper headlines—heavy spring rains leading to massive flooding of the Mississippi River, historic drought covering large parts of Texas, and extensive wildfires spreading across Arizona—provides more than enough evidence of how vulnerable we are to water-related extreme events. 

While these events have led some to ask whether they are caused by climate change, this question misses the mark. Individual weather events are not “caused” by any single phenomenon—and climate change’s contribution to individual events will not be resolved cleanly in the years to come. What virtually all climate scientists agree on, however, is that the climate is already changing, all weather events now form under different conditions than they used to, and this change is increasing the probability of extreme weather events happening. It makes sense to learn what we can from actual events and avoid getting caught up in an irresolvable debate about why a particular event happened. We would be better served by learning more about what is at risk from extreme events and what we can do to better manage and minimize those risks.

A recent interagency draft report, National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate, highlights both the extensive economic and social risks that we face as a nation from the impact of climate change on water resources and the critical steps we need to take to begin facing up to these challenges. 

Source: US Global Change Research Program: Climate Change Impacts in the United States

The report documents the changes in our climate system that are already evident and are likely to increase over time. Warmer air and sea surface temperatures and rising sea levels are only part of the picture. Total precipitation has increased by about 5 percent over the past 50 years, and the amount of precipitation that occurs during the heaviest downpours has increased by 20 percent. However, regional variations appear likely with increased precipitation in the northern part of the country while areas in the south, particularly in the southwest, are likely to get drier. The strengthened hydrologic cycle puts wet areas at risk of getting wetter while dry areas are at increased risk of drought. Areas dependent on water from melting snow packs may also face substantial changes as more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow and as earlier snowmelt changes the timing and quantity of water availability.

The implications of these changes cut a wide swath across our economy and environment. Water availability is critical in sectors as diverse as agriculture, electricity generation (hydroelectric, but also fossil fuel generation and nuclear power), heavy transport, mining and mineral exploration, and storm water management. Beyond economic factors, water is also critical to ecosystem wellbeing, wildfire management, and public health.

In order to more effectively manage these risks, and to enhance the resiliency of our water resource  systems,  the report sets out six general recommendations and 24 specific actions that should be undertaken by federal agencies and their partners. It calls for a more formal planning process, highlights the need for improved information, enhanced capacity building, better integration across related issues, and better tools for assessing vulnerabilities, and recommends expanded water use efficiency.

These actions are by no means a cure-all for the challenges we face in managing the increasing demands on our water resources in a changing climate. Nor are they a substitute for slowing the rate and magnitude of climate change through reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The most effective risk management strategy is to avoid the risk all together. But with climate change already underway, we are too late to avoid some changes, and adaptation will be critical to reducing economic and environmental costs. We need only to look at the costs and suffering from recent extreme weather events to understand the risks we face.

Comments on the draft plan are being accepted until July 15, and can be submitted to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/adaptation/freshwater-plan

Steve Seidel is Vice President for Policy Analysis

RGGI’s Benefits, Costs, and Why It Should Stay

Throughout the beginning of 2011, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) —the first mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) cap-and-trade program in the United States—was successfully defended by state legislators in three states where attempts were made to remove those states from the program. In the second week of May, the states of Delaware and Maine defeated bills proposing withdrawal, while in New Hampshire, Senators did not pass the House’s version of a withdrawal bill. But on May 26, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that his state will leave RGGI by the end of the year.

Participating RGGI states cap CO2 emissions from power plants (those with generation capacities of at least 25 megawatts) and auction most of the emissions allowances. (Each allowance lets a power plant emit one ton of CO2.) RGGI’s CO2 emission allowance auctions raised $789.2 million for the 10 participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states from 2008 to the end of 2010. Meanwhile, consumers on average saw their monthly utility bills increase by less than $1. As highlighted in a February RGGI report, this allowance auction revenue has benefited the 10 participating states via investments in clean energy technology and energy bill assistance. These investments are creating clean energy jobs, saving consumers money, and deploying technologies that reduce the environmental impact of power generation.

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