Climate Compass Blog

Energy Committee Tries to Figure Out to Whom to Pay the Rent

No, Chairman Bingaman isn’t lurking around the Capitol avoiding calls from his landlord.  We’re talking about economic rent.

This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee continued its excellent series of hearings on climate change policy options.  At issue this time was a hearing “on the costs and benefits for energy consumers and energy prices associated with the allocation of greenhouse gas emission allowances.”  Whether or not cap-and-trade programs were more or less transparent and costly than carbon taxes and fees was a topic debate during the hearing, as it has been throughout the series. 

Dr. Denny Ellerman, recently retired senior lecturer at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, kicked off the hearing with some powerful testimony, including thoughts on how different carbon control programs create economic rent.  He offered:

Assuring America Can Ably Adapt

This morning, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled “Building US Resilience to Global Warming Impacts.”  The hearing took place just as the Government Accountability Office released a new report finding that US reaction to climate change is happening on an ad hoc basis and is not coordinated among Federal, state, and local agencies.

Given the absence of a coordinated Federal adaptation strategy, we’ve been looking at what the options might be to fill that void.  As the Pew Center’s Steve Seidel stated in his testimony to the Committee, an improved Federal mechanism would begin with each agency developing an adaptation strategic plan to build greater resilience to climate change into its programs and mission.  He pointed to a recent announcement by the Dept. of Interior as an example.   A National Climate Service that can develop and communicate credible and actionable climate scenarios and projections for use in adaptation planning by Federal, state and local governments and the private sector is also needed.

Executive office leadership is critical.  After reviewing other climate-related interagency programs in existence, it’s clear that a national adaptation program needs to be established and chaired or co-chaired by CEQ or the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  To ensure that adaptation is truly “mainstreamed” by the federal government,  CEQ should also update NEPA regulations to require the consideration of adaption needs in all major federal actions.

Michael Tubman is a Congressional Affairs Fellow

Some Daylight for Nuclear Power

The hiatus on nuclear plant construction might be about to end. Renewed interest in nuclear power has been spurred by existing government incentives, and comprehensive climate policy will provide further impetus.

So what does proposed legislation do to promote nuclear power? The energy bill passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (S.1462), the energy and climate bill introduced by Senators Kerry and Boxer (S.1733), and the energy and climate bill passed in the House (H.R. 2454) all include provisions to expand nuclear power generation. Most importantly, the latter two bills include a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. This will send a long-term price signal to drive investment in low-carbon technologies, including nuclear power, and will make the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear power lower relative to traditional fossil fuel-based generation. 

Scientists Unite! 18 Scientific Groups Reaffirm Climate Science in Letter to Senators

Scientists to Congress:  You can argue about the politics all you want, but if you decide not to act on climate change, it won’t be because the science wasn’t strong enough.

In a letter sent today, a slew of scientific organizations, including the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Crop Science Society of America, and American Chemical Society, informed the U.S. Senate that there is a strong scientific consensus that manmade greenhouse gases are changing the climate and that claims to the contrary are scientifically indefensible:

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.”

And they go further:  “there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment.” They also say the United States will experience significant impacts; climate change isn’t just a problem for poor or developing countries

Building Decathletes Hurdle Barriers to Cleaner Living

This weekend marks the conclusion of the Solar Decathlon on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy in which 20 college teams from around the world challenge one another in the high jump, pole vault, and other various athletic feats while dressed up as flaming balls of gas.

Okay, that’s not quite right: the Decathlon is indeed a competition among 20 college teams from around the globe, but rather than throwing javelins or jumping hurdles, these students compete to design, build, and run the most energy-efficient solar-powered house they can. Teams spend nearly two years designing and constructing their homes, which are then shipped to D.C., assembled on the Mall, and judged in ten different categories ranging from architectural excellence to market viability to engineering. The ultimate result is that a village of the future sprouts up in the middle of the U.S. capital almost literally overnight, and when the homes are not being judged, visitors are free to stroll through them and learn about their innovative features.