1Sky Policy Update 11/23/2010: Thanksgiving edition
1Sky Policy Update 11/23/2010: Thanksgiving edition
The lame duck Congress is back at home for the holiday week, but will return in the coming week for the last few weeks of this session. Topics to be discussed include the Bush tax cuts, a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and a measure to keep funding government programs for the next couple of months. Major energy policy is unlikely to come up in the lame duck, and will need to be bipartisan to pass in the next couple of years, given the composition of the new Congress.
What People Are Thinking About What's Next?
Given the election results, failure to pass comprehensive legislation this year, and a changing political landscape on climate policy, many next steps have emerged as key organizing vehicles in the fight to stop climate change. A number of pieces emerged this week via Climate Desk's "Climate Next" series.
EPA Regulations for Big Polluters:
Clean Air Act regulations for greenhouse gasses have become a major political football of late, but initial implementation of these performance standards will only affect sources of pollution that are new or modified. In the short-term, however, EPA regulations of conventional pollutants will likely have a greater effect on carbon emissions from big polluters (like coal plants) than regulations that specifically target greenhouse gasses. David Roberts at Grist has a great series of pieces diving into EPA regulations for CO2 and traditional pollutants.
Fighting Existing Coal Plants:
Over the last couple of years, local grassroots opposition to new coal plants has halted construction at over 139 sites nationwide. Low electricity demand and low natural gas prices have helped stop the coal rush, which opens up space for local fights to focus on individual coal plants.
- Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune discusses the need to talk about replacing coal with clean energy, knitting together benefits for public health, jobs, and the climate.
- Greenpeace is also hard at work labeling coal as the #1 villain in the fight against climate change.
Executive Branch Authorities:The Center for American Progress has a great summary of executive actions President Obama can take to more aggressively tackle climate change.
- Use trade laws to levy a $2 per barrel fee on imported oil;
- Issue an executive order increasing the efficiency of new federal vehicles;
- Issue an executive order setting renewable energy purchasing standards for executive agencies to complement Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability, which aims to reduce federal government emissions by 28% by 2020;
- Instruct the Department of Agriculture to freeze financial assistance to new coal plants that come under its Rural Utilities Service. Strong EPA rules for coal plants: coal ash, mercury, dioxin, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and other toxic air pollution.
- Financing options and tax incentives for renewable energy, new smart transmission, and electric vehicles;
- A federal Clean Energy Standard (CES) that incentivizes renewable energy and energy efficiency in the electricity sector;
- Energy regulatory reform to encourage the transition to a smart grid, vehicle electrification, and transmission infrastructure that can handle variable energy resources (like renewable).
An R&D-focused Strategy:
Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus think the U.S. is under-investing in clean energy research and development. Shellenberger and Nordhaus teamed up with the Brookings Institute and the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to create a plan that involves massive investments in R&D paid for via defense contracts, a $5 per ton price on carbon, and increased royalties on oil and gas companies.
Climate Science Campaigns:A group of 50 climate scientists recently set up a rapid-response network to fight back against recent attacks from elected officials casting doubt on their work. Their rapid-response network is designed to communicate with media outlets and members of Congress.
Building a Stronger Climate Movement:
David Roberts from Grist argues that climate hawks should "head for the hills," i.e. moving away from all-or-nothing fights in D.C., and focus instead on building bottom-up power. Roberts acknowledges that this will take a diversity of talents, campaigns, and organizing vehicles, but that it will help the climate movement regroup in time to wage bigger concerted fights later.
Our friends at 350.org are hosting a series of massive climate-themed art projects visible from space. These powerful displays are organized by grassroots climate leaders from around the world. The Energy Action Coalition is gearing up for Power Shift 2011, a major convergence of young people from all over the country to be hosted in Washington, D.C. this coming April. 1Sky will continue to prioritize building local leadership within the climate movement in the coming year. 1Sky leaders are hard at work this week welcoming the new Congress by visiting their offices.
Lame Duck Legislative Outlook:
- As stated at the top, the lame duck session of Congress will be dominated overall by the Bush tax cuts, a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and a measure to keep funding government programs for the next couple of months.
- Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is continuing to ask for a vote on his "Dirty Air Act," saying he wants to use the measure as a "message bill" to show his opposition to new Clean Air Act regulations. A vote remains unlikely to proceed given the packed schedule.
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