In today’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s now-illegal delay in ruling whether polar bears are an endangered species, Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) sharply rebuked the FWS director Dale Hall. She noted that the Alaska field office sent a recommended decision to Hall on December 14th of last year. Hall refused to discuss the recommendation, saying it would be “inappropriate” to discuss internal deliberations.
Hall gave as his only reason for the delay past the January 8 deadline the need to present a “high-quality” decision that responds in full to the voluminous public comments received. He stated that there was no significant scientific uncertainty in the endangerment posed by global warming to polar bears, the only reason for delay the Endangered Species Act permits. Under repeated questioning from Sens. Boxer and Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Hall said he wanted to present a decision, if possible, by February 6th.
Hall noted that in many ways the Marine Mammals Protection Act provides stronger protection than the Endangered Species Act for polar bears even if a finding of endangerment were made – a claim criticized by Andrew Wetzler of NRDC, who noted that the MMPA does nothing to protect critical habitat, the matter which would affect the planned sale of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea.
MMS SpeaksOn that front, Ben Gemen reports for E&E News that Minerals Managment Service director Randall Luthi said any delay of the scheduled February 6 sale of Chukchi Sea leases would prevent any oil-and-gas exploration in 2008. However, he also stated that the agency position is that:
there is no need for a delay, regardless of what FWS decides. He said that even in the absence of a listing, energy development is accompanied by several layers of environmental review and safeguards, including collaboration with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Kerry Moves to Block
Meanwhile, Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation yesterday that would block lease sales in the Arctic until Endangered Species Act decisions are made on the polar bear and its critical habitat, mirroring Rep. Markey’s (D-Mass.) proposed legislation in the House.
Internal Emails Show MMS Staff Outcry
Finally, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has released over the past week communications from MMS scientists pleading with the political appointees to delay the lease sale (contrary to Luthi’s January 17th testimony) and DOI directives forbidding MMS scientists to consider the possible threat of invasive species from opening the seas to drilling.
This advertisement is running on environmental and progressive blogs.
After years of ignoring global warming, the U.S. Senate is finally considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas pollution. Unfortunately, the Lieberman-Warner bill being advanced by Senate Democrats lavishes up to $1 trillion on industries responsible for global warming, and in return asks for reduction targets well below what scientists say are necessary. If this is the best Senate Democrats can do, the world is in trouble.
Friends of the Earth Action is leading the fight to either fix, or ditch, Lieberman-Warner, and we need your help.
The good news is that we already have some key allies: the Democratic presidential candidates. They all have plans that make polluters pay for emissions and that seek the carbon reductions called for by science. We think the Senate needs to build on their plans rather than the weak Lieberman-Warner bill, which is modeled on legislation by Senator John McCain.
- the renewable electricity production credit
- solar, fuel cell, and microturbine credits
- energy-efficient building deductions and credits;
- the high-efficiency appliances manufacturing credit
- stripper well depreciation credit
- energy-efficient home retrofitting credit
Full details are available here.
Last Friday, 33 senators sent a letter to the Committee leadership urging support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green jobs incentives.According to the Sierra Club, by today the number of Senators was up to forty:
Senators who have expressed support for the inclusion of the renewable energy incentives include: Cantwell, Snowe, Wyden, Smith, Klobuchar, Kerry, Sununu, Sanders, Dole, Boxer, Johnson, Allard, Salazar, Mikulski, Stabenow, Murray, Dorgan, Brown, Bayh, Clinton, Collins, Specter, Menendez, Thune, Feingold, Dodd, Levin, Obama, Brownback, Coleman, Murkowski, Feinstein, Schumer, Stevens, Lautenberg, Leahy, Akaka, Kohl, Roberts, Grassley, Bingaman, and Domenici.
To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil.
Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases. This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride.
Translate as you will.
Thirty-three senators, including several Republicans, sent a letter Friday urging leadership to include the renewable tax incentives set to expire this year in the economic stimulus package. Inclusion of the production tax credits in the 2007 energy bill failed by one vote.
We strongly support current bipartisan efforts to mitigate an economic downturn by providing direct financial relief to American families. At the same time, we believe that we must be cognizant that energy prices have been a leading cause of our current economic environment. Accordingly, we strongly believe that we must provide a timely long-term extension of clean energy and energy efficiency tax incentives that expire at the end of this year. Given record energy prices and growing demand, postponing action on these critical energy incentives will only exacerbate the problems afflicting our economy. In fact, these renewable energy and energy efficiency investments have a verifiable record of stimulating capital outlays and promoting job growth. We must ensure that this impressive record is maintained in 2008 and extend these tax credits expeditiously.
Nine of the signatories are members of the Finance Committee.
Full text of the letter is available here.
The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191), which Sen. Boxer said may come to the floor before June, sets a cap of 15% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 for covered sectors, reducing allowed emissions to the amount last seen in 1990.
Is that near-term target sufficient, in terms of the science?
As Holmes Hummel points out, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) paints a much different picture.
At Bali, all of the Annex I signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (every industrialized country other than the US and Turkey) agreed to this roadmap, which states in convoluted language that the Annex I countries “noted” that the AR4 indicates that global emissions “need to peak in the next 10-15 years” and be reduced “well below half of levels in 2000” by 2050 “in order to stabilize their concentrations in the atmosphere at the lowest levels assessed by the IPCC to date in its scenarios.” The countries also “recognized” that the AR4 indicates that to achieve those levels “would require Annex I Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”
25-40% below 1990 levels is dramatically below the Lieberman-Warner target. From AR4, these “lowest levels” of concentrations are 350-400ppm CO2.
What’s the value of achieving concentrations “at the lowest levels”? The report says that using the “best estimate” for climate sensitivity (the temperature response to greenhouse gas concentrations), reaching a stable concentration of 350-400ppm CO2 leads to 2.0-2.4 degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels. But Hummel notes that the “best estimate” is just one for which half the estimates are higher and half are lower.
To have a 50% chance of making the 2°C stabilization target, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and Annex I countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 by 2020.As AAAS president John Holdren argued in his speech Meeting the Climate Challenge (at 38:29; see also the slide presentation):
The chance of a tipping point into truly catastrophic change grows rapidly for increases in the global average surface temperature more than about 2°C above the pre-industrial level, and again we’re already committed basically to one and a half. For a better than even chance of not exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial level, CO2 emissions must peak globally no later than 2025 and they need to be falling steadily after that. That is a great task.From the UN Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, an international panel of 18 top scientists (including John Holdren):
In our judgment and that of a growing number of other analysts and groups, however, increases beyond 2°C to 2.5°C above the 1750 level will entail sharply rising risks of crossing a climate “tipping point” that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being, in spite of all feasible attempts at adaptation.
At today’s Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the EPA’s decision to deny the California waiver, EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson defended his decision under intense questioning from the Democratic members of the EPW (the only minority member to attend was Sen. Inhofe).Johnson repeatedly argued that because greenhouse gases are a global problem, California did not have a “unique” or “exclusive” interest; two terms which have been found to be distinct from the “compelling and extraordinary” criteria the Clean Air Act the waiver petition must meet. As NRDC advisor Fran Pavley noted in the January 10 field briefing:
A 1984 waiver determination by then-EPA-Administrator William Ruckelshaus deeming that California’s plight need not be “unique” in order to be “compelling and extraordinary.”
The senators pressed Johnson hard on the long-delayed endangerment finding, a timeline for which he would not discuss. Under repeated questioning, he refused to concede that global warming represents a threat to public health, even when confronted with the CDC testimony from last October’s hearing. He agreed only that it is a “serious issue.”
Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.), displaying his prosecutorial background, leading Johnson into a discussion of how he overruled his staff, trying to parse Johnson’s description of a presentation of a “range of options” with the existence, if any, of a “consolidated recommendation.” In the end Johnson argued that the two terms could be synonymous.
Interestingly, Sen. Carper (D-Del.) favorably discussed Sen. Levin’s colloquy that implied that the Energy Act CAFE standards restrict EPA action on emissions regulation.
At this morning’s House Global Warming Committee hearing on Auctions and Revenue Recycling in Cap and Trade, the witnesses presented some of the first Congressional testimony on the economic implications of a greenhouse-emissions cap and trade system such as the one proposed in Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191).A summary of some of the analysis presented in the written testimony:
- Power generators will raise prices the same whether allowances are given away for free or are auctioned, because the price is set by the limitation in supply (the cap)
- Investment in energy efficiency provides greater immediate taxpayer return than technology investment
- Because power generators are free from competition they don’t need any protection through free allowances
- A European Commission analysis found no macroeconomic negative impact of moving their cap-and-trade system to full auction
- Free allocation to load-serving entities is a subsidy to electricity consumption, which leads to an increase in allowance prices and requiring greater decreases from other sectors
- The “virtual tax” a cap-and-trade system imposes can be greatly alleviated if revenues are used to reduce pre-existing taxes
- To fully offset the costs on the electricity sector through free allocation of allowances would cost the government 2.5 to ten times the value of the economic harm to the emitters, depending on whether the free allowances are narrowly targeted (15% of sector allowances) or nationally distributed (65% of sector allowances)
- To fully offset the costs on the poorest 20% of the American public takes about 14% of total revenues of a 100% auction system
Excerpts from the testimony related to the above points are below the jump.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has released the text of legislation which, if enacted, would forbid the sale of off-shore drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea, which includes polar bear habitat, until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes its long-delayed determination whether the polar bear is endangered and what its critical habitat is.
At today’s hearing, FWS director Dale Hill made it clear that he recognizes that the polar bear is definitely losing habitat and has been delaying his determination to make it “clear”; he also stated, “We need to do something about climate change starting yesterday.”
Minerals Management Service Director Randall Luthi admitted that if the lease auction goes forward, it would be impossible to revoke the leases even if they are found to be in conflict with a later endangerment listing of the polar bear.
Representatives of the coal, oil, and gas lobby met yesterday at the United States Energy Association’s “State of the Energy Industry” conference at the National Press Club in Washington. They agreed that Lieberman-Warner may be the best legislation they can hope for, especially if issues like polar bear habitat set the standard for legislation.
Katherine Ling reports for E&E Daily that David Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, said “Who would you rather have writing a bill in the Senate? I might guess it may set a tone for business to fully work with the Senate this year.” He continued that “the polar bear habitat is going to really drive this [climate change] debate. We all have a big education job to do and I think we need to do it collectively.”
Bill Scher has further commentary at Blog for Our Future.