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Summary of Hearings on Climate Change

(9-28-2008)

  • September 18, 2008: House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on “Policy Options to Prevent Climate Change”
  • July 22, 2008: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing Entitled "An Update on the Science of Global Warming and its Implications"
  • July 18, 2008: House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Hearing on "The Climate Benefits of Improved Building Energy Efficiency"
  • July 10, 2008: House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Hearing on Global Warming Effects on Extreme Weather
  • July 10, 2008: House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Hearing on H.R. 6258, the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act
  • June 19, 2008: House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Hearing "Legislative Proposals to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Overview"
  • November 14, 2007: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation Hearing "A Time for Change: Improving the Federal Climate Change Research and Information Program"
  • November 13, 2007: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on S.2191, "America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
  • November 8, 2007: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on S.2191, "America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
  • November 7, 2007: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation Hearing "Carbon Sequestration Technologies"
  • November 1, 2007: House Committee on the Budget Hearing "Counting the Change: Accounting for the Fiscal Impacts of Controlling Carbon Emissions"
  • October 24, 2007: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection Hearing on Bill S.2191 "To Examine America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
  • September 24, 2007: Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
    hearing "To consider scientific assessments of the impacts of global climate change on wildfire activity in the United States"
  • July 24, 2007: Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection hearing on "Economic and International Issues in Global Warming Policy"
  • June 7, 2007: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on "Religious Views of Global Warming"
  • June 6, 2007: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on Water and Power, "Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supply and Availability in the United States"
  • May 22, 2007: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on "Examining the Case for the California Waiver"
  • May 16, 2007: House Science and Technology Committee hearing on "The State of Climate Change Science 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change"
  • May 15, 2007: House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on "U.S. Re-Engagement in the Global Effort to Fight Climate Change."
  • May 11, 2007: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing on "Administration Proposals - Climate Change"
  • May 10, 2007: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard hearing on "Effects of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification on Living Marine Resources"
  • March 27, 2007: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Energy and Air Quality, "Global Climate Change: Engaging Developing Countries"
  • March 21, 2007: Senate Committee hearing on Environment and Public Works, "Vice President Al Gore's Perspective on Global Warming"
  • March 20, 2007: House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on Energy and Mineral Resources, "Toward a Clean Energy Future: Energy Policy and Climate Change on Public Lands"
  • March 19, 2007: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "Political interference with Climate Change Research"
  • March 14, 2007: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Energy and Air Quality, "Climate Change and Energy Security: Perspectives from the Automobile Industry"
  • March 7, 2007: House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Energy and Air Quality, "Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?"
  • February 13, 2007: Senate Committee hearing on Environment and Public Works, Hearing on the U.S. Climate Action Partnership Report
  • January 24, 2007: Senate Committee hearing on Energy and Natural Resources, Hearing on EIA Analysis of Draft Global Warming Legislation

House Committee on Ways and Means
Hearing on “Policy Options to Prevent Climate Change”

September 18, 2008

Witnesses
Panel I
Dr. Peter Orszag, Director, Congressional Budget Office
The Honorable Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York, New York
The Honorable Carol Browner, Principal, The Albright Group LLC  
Dr. Dallas Burtraw, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future  
Mr. Robert Lighthizer, Partner and Head of the International Trade Department, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP  
Mr. Timothy J. Regan, Senior Vice President, Corning Incorporated  
Mr. Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Reginald Jones Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International

Panel II
Dr. Frank Ackerman, Global Development and Environment Institute and Stockholm Environment Institute - US Center, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts  
Mr. Daniel Abbasi, Director, MissionPoint Capital Partners, Norwalk, Connecticut  
Mr. Jerome Ringo President, Apollo Alliance, San Francisco, California  
Mr. Peter Barnes, Senior Fellow, Tomales Bay Institute, Point Reyes Station, California  
Mr. Bill Millar, President, American Public Transportation Association  
Dr. David Kreutzer, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation

Committee Members Present
Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY)
Ranking Member Jim McCrery (R-LA)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
John Larson (D-CT)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)
John Linder (R-GA)
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Patrick Tiberi (R-OH)
Artur Davis (D-AL)
Ron Kind (D-WI)
Jerry Weller (R-IL)

Multiple bills proposing policy options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been referred to the Ways and Means Committee in the 110th Congress. The purpose of this hearing is to discuss the policy options available for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) opened the hearing, saying that this is an issue for which “there is no democratic or republican solution.” Ranking Member Jim McCrery (R-LA) shared his reservations about a cap-and-trade program. He cited Senate studies showing that such a program would cause Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to go down and overall global carbon emissions to rise.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, testified that although many state and local governments have initiatives to reduce their carbon footprints, these efforts must be matched at a Federal level in order to be successful. He suggested that the best solution is to put a price on carbon emissions. Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner agreed and stressed the advantage of cap-and-trade over a command-and-control program. Cap-and-trade would be better at encouraging industries to increase efficiency. She cited the EPA’s cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide as an example of how this method of regulation has been successful in the past. The cost of the program has been lower than even the most conservative predictions and she reminded the committee that “history shows that we have always risen to the challenge of new standards.”

Dr. Peter Orszag, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, testified about the economic costs associated with different design features of a cap-and-trade program. He discussed the options to give or sell allowances, the potential for an estimated $112 billion increase in revenue, and how the cap-and-trade program might function in the context of a global economy.

Dallas Burtraw, Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future, focused on how potential revenues might be used. He advocated for a strong connection between how the revenues are generated and how they are spent so that the public has a sense of ownership in the effort to reduce carbon emissions. Browner provided a concrete example, suggesting revenues should be used to help low income families deal with rising costs associated with the high price of energy.

Gary Hufbauer (Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics), Timothy Regan (Senior Vice President at Corning Incorporated), and Robert Lighthizer (Partner and Head of the International Trade Department, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP) all made strong arguments against imposing carbon regulations in the United States without an international standard. They fear that American industries would no longer be competitive and would leave the U.S. for countries with less stringent carbon requirements. Not only would this hurt the U.S. economy, it would actually increase global carbon production since industries would be operating in countries with lower standards.

Bloomberg responded to the worries about industrial competitiveness by explaining that European countries are proof that the cap-and-trade system works and can even make a country more competitive with the added bonus of a cleaner, healthier environment. He urged the U.S. to take this opportunity to “lead by example, and not look for excuses to retreat into protectionism.” Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) provided further support with a report that in recent visits to Wisconsin businesses he observed that those that invested in operating at higher environmental standards were actually more competitive.

Many of the panelists stressed the importance of designing a flexible cap-and-trade program that would moderate the economic costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This could be done through setting a price ceiling and floor for the cost of allowances. Another method is a “banking and borrowing” system that would allow industries to borrow against future carbon allowances. Several other panelists cautioned that giving special allowances to firms in certain energy-intensive industries would render a cap-and-trade program ineffective. In Bloomberg’s words: “Sweetheart deals for the well-connected would distort and undercut the process.”

Some committee members still question the seriousness of global warming. For example, Congressman John Linder (R-GA) questioned the validity of global warming and worried about considering such a big increase in consumer cost for something that is not necessarily true. He cited a petition debunking global warming that has been signed by 31,000 scientists and reminded the audience that climate modeling is a nascent science. Browner and Burtraw responded sternly that global climate change is indeed a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

-MAR

 

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on "An Update on the Science of Global Warming and its Implications"
July 22, 2008

Committee Members Present
Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Larry Craig (R-ID)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Witnesses
Jason Burnett, Private Citizen and former Associate Deputy Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Head of the Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Climate and Global Dynamics Division
Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist, Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville

This hearing sought to illuminate the current status of the scientific understanding of global warming and examine recent efforts by the executive branch to stall or prevent action on global warming.

Saying “the evidence has long been overwhelming that global warming poses a serious threat to the American people,” in her opening statement, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) enumerated the various threats to human health and welfare associated with climate change including increased frequency and duration of heat waves, increased water-borne diseases, prolonged droughts, more intense storms, and decreased snowpack—water reserves for Western states. “Despite the scientific consensus, despite the danger, the Bush Administration has failed to take any meaningful action,” Boxer continued, saying the Administration has acted on behalf of “a narrow group of special interests” while censoring federal documents, muzzling scientists, and ignoring recommendations to take action on climate change. Boxer further deplored the Bush Administration for preventing states like California from taking more aggressive steps to fight climate change.

Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) said the most serious danger to America is not rising temperatures but rising energy prices. “The real threat is high gas prices and prices for power,” he stated. He announced that his constituents “are fed up with high gas prices,” and that he is concerned companies will flee the United States for countries in Asia and the Middle East with not only lower prices for energy, but also laxer environmental laws. As for action on climate change, Bond said it would be “a complete disaster” if the U.S. were to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, adding that the Clean Air Act, the legal framework for the gas’s possible future regulation, “was never intended to regulate carbon.”

Echoing Boxer, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) highlighted coincident environmental and public health threats from global warming such as the increased incidence of wildfires, degraded air quality, the increase in extreme weather events, and sea level rise. “There is increased risk to each area of the country,” Lautenberg said.

Lautenberg went on to affirm that “fighting global warming is not a choice—it’s a necessity. We need to act promptly, boldy, and decisively [because] the Bush administration sat on their hands for eight years.” Cardin emphasized “the need to base our decisions on good science…and technical information.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said that as a former prosecutor, she has great respect for evidence, especially scientific evidence. What is lamentable, Klobuchar continued, is that the Bush Administration has acted in defiance of global warming evidence and has subverted attempts to fight climate change. “When they [the Bush Administration] don’t like the answer, they squash the science. Time and time again, when they don’t like the testimony, they squash the testimony. If they don’t like your email, they squash your email,” she said.

Mr. Burnett introduced himself as a former EPA employee. He worked for the agency in two different episodes: first, from 2004-2006, and then again in 2007. For the committee, he described the way in which the EPA responded to the 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, a case which, he said, “fundamentally, profoundly, and permanently changed the regulatory landscape.”

In the case, the Court ruled that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and, as such, the EPA must regulate emission of the gas if it finds carbon dioxide to endanger the public health or welfare. “The basic logic of the law is straightforward; if the public is endangered, the government must act,” Burnett stated.

Burnett reported that while he had left the agency in the fall of 2006, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson asked him, in the wake of Massachusetts v. EPA, to return to the EPA to aid with the process of developing the first federal greenhouse gas regulations. The first step in the process was to make an endangerment finding and, using synthesis reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), and the National Research Council (NRC) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the EPA determined “climate warming may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climatic events” that would especially threaten the young, elderly, and frail, Burnett said. He continued that during a cabinet-level meeting in November 2007, the EPA agreed greenhouse gases endangered public health and welfare, meaning regulation was required. Nevertheless, regulation was not a prerogative of the Bush Administration. “The only way to avoid making a positive endangerment finding was to avoid making any finding at all and that is what this Administration has decided to do,” said Burnett, adding that executive response to the Supreme Court’s decision has effectively been shunted to the next Administration.

At the start of his testimony, Dr. Trenberth, a lead author of several Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, explained how the IPCC report-issuing process was “open [and] inherently conservative” because findings and conclusions were vetted by many scientists. As the IPCC’s predictions for the future are conservative, Trenberth said, “consequences [from global warming] could come sooner than the IPCC report predicts.” Indeed, carbon dioxide concentrations are increasing at a rate beyond the greatest IPCC scenario. He noted that the climate system is “guaranteed at least another 1 degree Fahrenheit warming,” saying also that 12 of the 13 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 13 years.

Trenberth, like the Senators in their opening statements, then expounded on the gamut of climate change indicators such as the loss of North Atlantic sea ice in 2007, increasing ocean acidity, record flooding, and sea level rise, which Trenberth referred to as “the single best indicator” of the degree of change the planet is experiencing. The sea is rising at a rate of one foot per century, Trenberth claimed.

He also discussed recent hurricanes as bellwethers of storms to come. In 2007, for the first time, there were two category 5 hurricanes that made landfall in the Americas, Trenberth said. He added that they struck in South America, which is why there was little talk of them in the United States. Trenberth also mentioned record-breaking Hurricane Bertha, a hurricane which now holds the record for eastern-most forming July hurricane. Trenberth concluded by saying he likes to tell his students the situation is “global warming, ready or not.”

Dr. Spencer, a former employee of NASA, began his testimony by proclaiming that he found it “entirely appropriate to me that the privilege of working for NASA included a responsibility to abide by direction given by my superiors.” A self-described skeptic of the anthropogenic role in global warming, Spencer reported he was told what to say and what not to say in congressional testimony in accordance with the Clinton-Gore agenda, which often conflicted with Spencer’s personal beliefs.

Spencer’s testimony then changed course, and he countered Dr. Trenberth’s testimony by saying that, according to new satellite evidence, the IPCC has overestimated climate sensitivity. The influence of positive climate feedbacks has been exaggerated, the influence of negative feedbacks downplayed, he reported. Spencer explained that a simple climate model he utilized shows “previous estimates of the sensitivity of the climate system from satellite data were biased toward the high side by the neglect of natural cloud variability.”

Spencer said he believes the climate will warm “well below 1 degree Celsius [about 1 degree Fahrenheit] by 2100.” Spencer said the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last century is not enough to explain the warming the planet has experienced: consequently, global warming must be driven by natural climate system variations. As for the IPCC, Spencer posited that the group’s work was driven by policy agendas.

During the question and answer period, Senator Boxer asked Mr. Burnett a series of questions concerning the EPA’s denial, last year, of California’s request for a waiver to regulate tailpipe emissions to a more stringent standard than the national standard. Mulling over his response carefully, Burnett told Boxer the waiver was denied because “the president had a policy preference for a single standard.” Craig asked Dr. Spencer how his research has been received by the scientific community, prefacing the question with the statement, “being politically incorrect is not popular.” Spencer responded that he has received no negative input from the scientific community, and his talks about findings from his studies are usually met with silence, which, Spencer said, signifies validity, acceptance. Senators Cardin and Whitehouse were very interested in who was present in the cabinet-level meeting at which the EPA decided greenhouse gases did, indeed, endanger public health and welfare, and they questioned Burnett on this point extensively. Burnett answered that he was not in attendance and could not recall meeting attendees.

A link to the witness testimony can be found here.

-LMB

 

House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
Hearing Entitled "Climate Benefits of Improved Building Energy Efficiency"
July 18, 2008

Witnesses
Mr. David Rodgers, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, Department of Energy (DOE)
Mr. Brian J. McLean, Director of Office of Atmospheric Programs, Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Marshall E. Purnell, President, American Institute of Architects
Mr. Matt Belcher, Owner, Belcher Homes LLC, On behalf of the National Association of Home Builders
Mr. Thomas A. Gentry, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Architecture
Mr. Richard Weiland, Chief Executive Officer, International Code Council
Mr. William D. Fay, Director, Energy Efficient Codes Coalition
Mr. Brad Heavner, State Director, Environment Maryland, On behalf of Environment America

Committee Members Present
Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA)
John Barrow (D-GA)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Jim Matheson (D-UT)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI)
Michael Burgess (R-TX)

Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) began the hearing by saying a “key step” in reducing American greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) is the improvement of building energy efficiency. Considering the fact that about 40% of U.S. energy resources go toward powering buildings, building efficiency is a high priority, Boucher stated. He ended by naming building energy efficiency the “low hanging fruit” in GHG reduction plans.

Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) said he is in favor of energy conservation efforts and measures to reduce GHG emissions, but believes care must be taken in their pursuance. Reducing GHG emissions, he said, should not “promote an anti-competitive marketplace…and should not come at the expense of economic growth.” Upton was also wary of imposing federal conservation standards for buildings. He affirmed “building codes are determined at the local level [and] uniform national standards won’t reflect this.” He mentioned schools and businesses in his home district that have already taken steps to reduce the energy consumption of their buildings. Additionally, Upton claimed that a cap and trade program is not necessary to facilitate the making of energy efficient buildings.

Doris Matsui (D-CA) called energy efficiency a “win-win” and said energy efficient buildings “must be part of the solution” to addressing climate change. Like Upton, Matsui brought up building energy efficiency projects and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications that have been undertaken in her home district.

Michael Burgess (R-TX) said energy efficiency is desirable because it saves both energy and money. John Barrow (D-GA), too, was approving of efforts to improve building efficiency. In his opening statement, Barrow expressed concern that the initial investments in energy-saving home improvements deter people from improving  efficiency. “One of the hardest things to do is persuade folks to spend a little bit more money on the front end to save on the back end,” he said. The need to make energy efficiency improvements accessible to those with low incomes was a corollary concern that Barrow articulated.

According to Rodgers, not only does the building sector consume 40% of America’s primary energy consumption but 72% of its generated electricity and 55% of its burned natural gas. The building sector uses more resources than “any other sector of the U.S. economy, including transportation and industry,” Rodgers said. Because about 40% of total U.S. GHG emissions came from the built environment in 2007, gains in building energy efficiency would significantly decrease total emissions. “Energy efficiency is the quickest, least costly and lowest risk path to achieving sustained reductions of GHG emissions,” Rodgers said, adding that the McKinsey Global Institute’s 2007 report found cutting global energy consumption by half or more over 15 years is possible with existing technologies. Ultimately, Rodgers stated, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) goal is to enable the production of net-zero energy buildings, buildings that produce as much energy as they use.

Mr. McLean said a market-based approach to improving energy efficiency, where incentives are split between builders and buyers, will reduce demand for electricity. In his testimony, McLean promoted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGYSTAR program, which McLean said “engages the consumer to reduce GHG emissions and can save them money.” ENERGYSTAR homes, he added, are 20-30% more efficient than standard homes. Also, McLean called for “standardized measuring systems” or smart meters—the equivalent of miles per gallon gauges—for buildings. Such meters would be empowering to consumers, he said. McLean also recommended the formation of federal partnerships with state and local policy makers to deal with these issues, as state and local governments have “some of the most pivotal policies in the country” when it comes to building codes and energy efficiency.

Adding to the statistics of Mr. Rodgers and Mr. McLean, Mr. Purnell said “according to the Department of Energy, U.S. buildings account for nearly the same amount of carbon emissions as all sectors of the economies of Japan, France, and the United Kingdom combined.” Purnell reported that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) adopted a position statement that all new buildings and renovations to existing buildings should meet an immediate 50% reduction in energy use below a 2003 baseline and that the energy use target should steadily decline until 2030, when buildings would achieve carbon neutrality. Purnell suggested Congress extend energy efficiency and renewable energy tax incentives that have expired or will expire by the end of 2008.

Mr. Belcher’s testimony, on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders, emphasized the relatively small role that new homes play in the overall scheme of building energy use. The 95 million homes built after 1991, referred to as new homes, use just 2.5% of the energy consumed nationally, Belcher said. Retrofitting existing, older homes should be the focus of initiatives in building energy efficiency, Belcher stated, adding “energy efficiency is the norm for new homes.” Belcher also said “stricter building codes are a drop in the bucket compared to educating consumers to use less energy.”

Mr. Gentry presented a series a technologies and mechanisms available to make buildings more energy efficient such as advance wall framing, properly-sized HVAC systems, heat recovery ventilators, and energy star roofing systems. Furthermore, Gentry discussed regional variations in climate, available building materials, and skilled workforce which amount to regional building practices. A federally established, national set of standards for buildings would frustrate such variability. For this reason, Gentry advocated that the federal government “should take a supportive role in helping state and municipal governments implement regional codes and guidelines for energy efficiency.”

Mr. Weiland of the International Code Council (ICC), a nonprofit organization that develops and publishes building codes relating to construction and building use, highlighted proposals to the ICC’s Energy Conservation Code that would either mandate or make optional the reduction of energy use in buildings by 30%. This “30 percent solution,” said Weiland, would “add new efficiency measures for lighting, insulation, ventilation, and other building components that contribute to energy use.”

Mr. Fay expressed support for the 30 percent solution, saying “wasted energy can be eliminated with affordable measures that don’t affect our lifestyle, but simply change the way in which the home is constructed.” Because buildings currently waste so much energy, Fay, like Boucher, said, implementing energy efficiency measures should be considered “low hanging fruit.”

Mr. Heavner highlighted the energy intensity of the American economy compared to the economies of other developed countries and, in particular, the large degree of energy waste in American buildings. He echoed Purnell, saying that by 2030, zero energy buildings should be the standard. National legislation should stipulate buildings be 30% more efficient by 2010 and 50% more efficient by 2020, Heavner elaborated. Like Purnell, Heavner also spoke in favor of renewing the energy tax credits and grant programs for home weatherization.

During the question and answer session, Chairman Boucher asked Mr. McLean what the EPA is doing to promote the ENERGYSTAR program and whether or not ENERGYSTAR increases the value of a home. McLean said “consumers don’t know the benefits” of using ENERGYSTAR products, and the agency is trying to inform consumers about the program’s benefits; however, because he doesn’t have “enough data” on home values with and without ENERGYSTAR, McLean said he didn’t know if an ENERGYSTAR home was more valuable.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

-LMB

House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
Hearing Entitled "Global Warming Effects on Extreme Weather"

July 10, 2008

 

Committee Members Present
Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Hilda L. Solis (D-CA)
Gerald McNerney (D-CA)
Ranking Member F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI)
John B. Shadegg (R-AZ)
Greg Walden (R-OR)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Witnesses
Dr. Jay S. Golden, Director, National Center of Excellence, SMART Innovations for Urban Climate & Energy, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance
Heather Cooley, Senior Research Associate, Pacific Institute
Angela Licata, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis
Jimmy O. Adegoke, Ph.D, Associate Professor, University of Missouri – Kansas City

This hearing sought to examine the links between global warming, extreme weather events, and planetary impacts.

In his opening statement, Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) referred to global warming as “a tale of extremes—it is not enough water; it is too much water.” He reported that scientists have told him global warming is “loading Mother Nature’s dice” when it comes to extreme weather events, making them more frequent, potent, or both. We still have the capability to change the way the tale ends, Markey stated, saying “we have to increase our resiliency to extreme weather events and dramatically reduce global warming pollution.” The need to increase our resiliency to weather events is clear, Markey added, saying “look no further than the death toll from heat waves and wildfires in the West, from our inadequate response to Katrina.” He concluded “climate change has impacts on people and their communities. It is time for Congress to write climate change legislation that will protect the planet and people.”

Ranking Member F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) focused his opening remarks on adapting to a new climate and new weather norms. He said “severe weather has been affecting people for awhile. We humans are learning to adapt.” Sensenbrenner emphasized that regardless of action to curb greenhouse gas emissions now, projections indicate some changes in weather will occur and adaptation measures should be supported.

 Jay Inslee (D-WA) remarked that global warming and extreme weather events affect not just people but plants and animals, too. “A few degrees difference in the Arctic can completely change the ecosystem. A 3-4 degree Fahrenheit change in the context of the ecosystem is extreme.”

John B. Shadegg (R-AZ), Hilda L. Solis (D-CA), and Gerald McNerney (D-CA) mentioned environmental changes in their home states in the context of climate change and anthropogenic influence. Shadegg discussed the environmental effects of development on the city of Phoenix, stating “as Phoenix becomes more concrete, the heat island effect increases.” Shadegg continued that development has induced changes in the way storms move through the area. “Almost no storms make their way through the valley [Valley of the Sun]” Shadegg said. Solis said there has been “a dip in the water table in Long Beach.” She also said “we, as humans, create these problems, but we, as humans, can solve these problems.” McNerney relayed his concern that “deserts are pushing farther and farther north in California, which is manifest by increasing droughts.”

Greg Walden (R-OR) brought up forest and water management issues. Increases in temperature will increase disease in Western woodlands and, to minimize disease, the forests should be thinned, Walden said. How water is stored and managed is also a concern, he said. “With a decrease in snowpack, we need to focus on how we do off-stream [water] storage.”

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) agreed that extreme precipitation events “are on the rise.” However, she questioned whether they are human-caused. “The question is,” she said, “‘Are they natural?’” Blackburn brought up articles claiming the trends showcasing increasing extreme weather events are natural.

Dr. Golden’s testimony focused on heat waves and the heat island effect, especially as they apply to the Southwest. He began by saying more people in the U.S. die from heat-related events than all other weather events—lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods—combined. Also, Golden said, the annual average temperatures of six of the past ten years are among the hottest years on record for the U.S. Furthermore, he cited studies claiming there is “an increased likelihood of more intense, longer-lasting, and more frequent heat waves” especially in the southeastern, southwestern, and western areas of the country.

As for the heat island effect, Golden stated that while the world has warmed 1.33°F over the last century (with most of the increase taking place in the last 30 years), the amount and rate of warming in urban areas has increased faster. In the Phoenix region, he reported, average annual temperatures have increased 3.1°F over the 20th century; mean annual temperatures in the urban parts of the region have increased 7.6°F. These trends are alarming, he noted, because an increasing number of people are living in cities. Over half the planet’s population currently lives in cities, and 60% of the 2030 projected global population of 8.3 billion people is expected to live in urban areas. Dr. Golden’s recommendations to the committee were to support an increase in heat island effect research. He called for “a stronger and more integrated urban research focus” with an associated increase in the use of remote sensing to learn about heat islands, climate change, and impacts on human health.

Mr. Keppen, representing the Family Farm Alliance, said the Alliance is particularly concerned with the availability of reliable and affordable irrigation water supplies for Western farmers. Keppen mentioned a study conducted by the State of California concluding that by 2050, “the average snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas is likely to diminish by more than a third, and more precipitation will fall as rain rather than as snow, making it harder for reservoirs to capture for the long summer the same amount of water.”.“Droughts and higher temperatures would be more intense, frequent and last longer, which would increase stream and reservoir evaporation, diminish surface water supplies, and stress groundwater supplies and water quality,” Keppen said. To ensure that water continues to be available for Western farmers, Keppen recommended continued water conservation, but also the development of new water projects to increase water supply. Indeed, Keppen said “it is simply ludicrous to believe that conservation alone will supply enough water for the tens of millions of new residents expected to arrive in Western cities during the coming decades.”

Though many discussions on global warming are centered on rising average temperatures, Mr. Cooley said, “we are far more vulnerable to extreme events.” Extreme weather events, he declared, have large social, economic, and environmental impacts. Cooley, like Mr. Keppen, focused on the impact of climate change in the West, specifically California. He noted that “warmer temperatures will intensify the hydrologic cycle and increase floods and droughts,” with flooding increasing in the West in the winter and droughts increasing in the summer.

Cooley advocated for smarter floodplain management, with a smaller emphasis on levees as the sole floodplain management devices; new, alternative water supplies and the recycling of water; water conservation and efficiency; and better groundwater management. “We used to view stormwater as a liability. We wanted to get it out of cities as fast as possible. But now, we’re thinking about how it [stormwater] can recharge groundwater,” Cooley said. Cooley concluded by urging Congress to “take action now. Waiting 5-10 years will only make these matters more costly.”

Ms. Licata testified to the challenges confronting New York City’s water supply and delivery, stormwater management, and wastewater treatment systems in the face of climate change. For background, she informed the committee that Columbia
University’s Center for Climate Systems Research and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies predict that by 2050, “New York City and its watershed region will likely experience a 3 to 5 °F rise in temperature, a 2.5 to 7.5 % increase in precipitation and a 6- to 12-inch rise in sea level.” More precipitation, she said, will likely wash more particles and nutrients into the water supply reservoirs, increasing eutrophication levels. Also, more precipitation will strain the drainage system, treatment facilities, and sewer infrastructure.

Dr. Adegoke talked about climate change and the Midwest. The Midwest, one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world, he said, is especially susceptible to variability in climate. Extreme weather events in the Midwest are a concern because they can wreak incredible damage to the agricultural sector, Adegoke noted. He said that the past two floods alone have caused $52 billion in farm losses.

A link to hearing testimony can be found here.

-LMB

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Hearing on H.R. 6258, the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act

July 10, 2008

Committee Members Present
Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA)
G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)
John Barrow (D-GA)
Edward Markey (D-MA)
Mike Doyle (D-PA)
Jane Harman (D-CA)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Jim Matheson (D-UT)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Ex Officio John Dingell (D-MI)
Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI)
John Shimkus (R-IL)
Edward Whitfield (R-KY)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Ex Officio Joe Barton (R-TX)

Witnesses
Mr. Michael G. Morris, Chairman, President, & Chief Operating Officer, American Electric Power
Dr. Edward S. Rubin, The Alumni Professor of Environmental
Engineering and Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Steven R. Specker, President and CEO, Electric Power Research Institute
Mr. James Y. Kerr II, Commissioner, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Mr. Eugene M. Trisko, Counsel to United Mine Workers of America
Mr. Michael Goo, Climate Legislative Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

On July 10, the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality held a hearing to discuss the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act. The act seeks to accelerate the development and deployment of systems to capture and store carbon dioxide produced at electricity-generating facilities that utilize fossil fuels. The bill, H.R. 6258, would establish the Carbon Storage Research Corporation, composed of members from various sectors of the utilities industry. The corporation’s purpose would be to administer grants for private, academic, and government research projects related to the acceleration of the commercial demonstration and availability of carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS). Grant monies would be generated via taxes levied on the consumers of fossil-fuel based electricity, with different rates for different fuels depending on how much carbon dioxide they emit. For example, the tax on coal would be the highest, while the tax on natural gas would be the lowest.

In his opening statement, Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) acknowledged that CCS technologies are utilized today, but added that they cannot be applied to large, commercial scale plants. “There are CCS projects in operation,” he said, “but they are small in scale, and they are used in oil recovery.” Boucher linked CCS and this bill with cap and trade, saying “CCS is a necessary first step in the passage of a cap and trade bill for addressing climate change” and noted that the sooner CCS technology is available commercially, the sooner tighter carbon dioxide caps can be implemented.

Mike Doyle (D-PA), along with John Dingell (D-MI) and Edward Whitfield (R-KY), also noted that CCS has yet to be deployed on a commercial scale. Doyle also reported that Pennsylvania, which is the home state of the district he represents, has a 250 year supply of coal yet to be mined. Calling coal “a cheap resource,” he said “the burning of coal…must be improved.” He added, “the time is now for CCS deployment.”

Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) expressed support for the bill and the deployment of CCS, saying the technology is “a commonsense solution to climate change…that will keep costs down and foster new jobs.” However, he advocated for the use of CCS independent of cap and trade, which he called “a costly regime.” Upton called for a thorough use of America’s coal resources. Saying “energy prices drive our economy,” Upton expressed concern that blocking American coal use will cause electricity price spikes. He also called using carbon dioxide to enhance oil recovery a “win-win situation,” citing a figure that “89 billion barrels of additional oil will be recoverable using CCS technology.”

Dingell and John Shimkus (R-IL) also expressed support for the continued use of coal as an energy source. Dingell, in his opening statement, was the first to point out that “over 50% of America’s electricity is generated from coal.” Later, Shimkus repeated the statistic and added that CCS “ensures a place for coal in the future.” Dingell declared “coal must continue to be a part of the energy mix, and I will make sure that it is so.” Like Upton, Dingell expressed support for the captured carbon’s use in enhanced oil recovery strategies. “Enhanced oil recovery is a valuable use for this resource,” he said.

As for burning coal, Doris Matsui (D-CA) said in her opening remarks, “we must begin to take steps to reduce the amount we burn…CCS can afford us the time we need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.” She also said that more research needs to be conducted on the technology and expressed concern that its improper use would compromise human health. “We must not use this technology at the expense of clean water, air and our health,” she stated.

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) expressed anxiety about the potential and likelihood for the stored carbon to be released. She said research out of Columbia University has connected carbon storage with earthquake generation. Memphis, which is in her district, is on a fault, and she said she was concerned that carbon stored nearby might be released in an earthquake or induce an earthquake.

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said CCS is “key to addressing our reliance on coal while decreasing its carbon dioxide emissions.” She was concerned by the fact that some areas, like her district in Wisconsin, would have to send captured carbon to other areas of the country with the appropriate geological formations for its storage. The carbon dioxide transfer could pose a transportation challenge, Baldwin pointed out.

Edward Markey (D-MA) began by saying “I believe that, with the successful implementation of CCS, coal can be a part of our energy future.” However, he expressed support for greenhouse gas controlling measures, such as a cap and trade system, with a larger scope than strictly utilities. “We need economy-wide legislation with greenhouse gas cuts,” he said. Markey also disapproved of the fact that the corporation would operate without congressional oversight. Markey suggested, instead, that Congress “expand the DOE’s programs, which have congressional oversight.” Jay Inslee (D-WA), like Markey, argued that comprehensive cap and trade legislation must precede CCS legislation. “If there is no cap and trade, no one will use this wonderful technology [CCS],” he said. “It will never be used unless there is a price on carbon.”

Joe Barton (R-TX) said “CCS can’t be anything but a good thing.” Confident in the congressional agreement on the bill, he continued “my guess is this bill may become law this year.”

Mr. Morris emphasized the large role that coal plays in electricity generation in the U.S. and the rest of the world in his testimony. “Coal has to play a role as we go forward,” he claimed, adding “see what happens to an economy when it runs out of baseload power generation.” Morris said further that “We would love to implement this technology but we don’t have the technical ability.” He urged the subcommittee to advance the bill.

Dr. Rubin referred to CCS as technology critical for connecting energy and
environmental objectives. “We cannot delay its [CCS] application to the electricity sector,” he said. Rubin also provided an estimate of the cost of building a CCS system at a 400 MW power plant and operating it for five years—between $700 million and $1 billion—and the cost of the tax associated with the bill—about $3-5 per year per household. Rubin maintained that the corporation’s mission should not be to fund CCS R&D but to facilitate the deployment of CCS technology. He said the corporation’s purpose “should be to accelerate CCS deployment by financing and overseeing the management of large-scale CCS projects at new and existing power plants. These projects should employ technologies that already have advanced through research and development, including technologies used commercially in smaller-scale operations” Rubin recommended, too, that the corporation’s members be drawn not just from industry but also from academia and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Specker of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) testified to EPRI’s ability to run the corporation in light of the fact that the bill specifies “the corporation shall operate as a division or affiliate of the Electric Power Research Institute.” With EPRI’s 35 years of experience conducting research and development for the electricity sector and its “extensive experience in leading large scale demonstrations,” EPRI would be well-suited to administer the Carbon Storage Research Corporation, Specker said.

Mr. Kerr, on behalf of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), expressed support for the legislation. Kerr said the “commercial application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) [is] one option to begin addressing the revolution in energy production and delivery technologies needed if the U.S. expects to make a serious effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in response to the threat of global climate change.” However, Kerr noted that NARUC is worried about the corporation’s lack of oversight. Furthermore, Kerr advocated for R&D in energy technologies other than CCS including advanced nuclear technologies, improved efficiency in grid and demand side technologies, as well as the greater deployment of renewable technologies and strengthened appliance and building standards.

Trisko said the United Mine Workers of America approved of the bill too. He said it would “put to rest the myth of dirty coal.” Trisko also suggested the corporation forge an “active partnership with the DOE and its labs.”

Mr. Goo said “we have the technology to start to deploy the first wave of CCS technology now,” declaring the matter of deployment is not so much technological as economic. “What is needed is economic incentive, not R&D, which is an excuse for delay,” Goo said. Goo endorsed a cap and trade policy to enact a carbon price signal and provide economic incentive for CCS. Passing the CCS bill without cap and trade “is like using a wet noodle to push a rock uphill—it just doesn’t work,” Goo concluded.

During the question and answer session, Representative Doyle asked Dr. Rubin what role the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) might have once the corporation is created. Rubin replied that the corporation would “do a job that is currently needed and then go out of business.” The corporation would not detract from the DOE’s jurisdiction, Rubin said. Representative Barton asked about the feasibility of carbon conversion technologies and what could be done with the captured carbon dioxide. Dr. Rubin responded that “processes that could potentially convert carbon dioxide to minerals are a long way away and very expensive.”

A link to hearing testimony can be found here.
A link to the bill can be found here.

-LMB

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Hearing

"Legislative Proposals to Reduce Greenhouse Gases: An Overview"
June 19, 2008

Witnesses
Panel 1
Kraig R. Naasz, President and CEO, National Mining Association (NMA)
Michael Goo, Climate Legislative Director, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Alan Reuther, Legislative Director, United Auto Workers
Lisa Jacobson, Executive Director, Business Council for Sustainable Energy
Thomas R. Kuhn, President, Edison Electric Institute
ADM Frank L. “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret), President and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Energy Institute
Mary Minette, Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, on behalf of the National Council of Churches
Ford West , President, The Fertilizer Institute

Panel 2
Dr. John Felmy, Chief Economist, American Petroleum Institute (API)
Emily Figdor, Federal Global Warming Program Director, Environment America
Robert Baugh, Executive Director, AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council; Task Force Chair, AFL-CIO
Jason Grumet, Executive Director, National Commission on Energy Policy
Paul Cicio, President, Industrial Energy Consumers of America
Douglas P. Scott, Director, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
C. Randall Mullett, Vice President, Government Affairs, Con-way, Inc.

Committee Members Present

Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA)

Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI)

Vice Chair G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)

Ralph M. Hall (R-TX)

Charlie Melancon (D-LA)

John Shimkus (R-IL)

John Barrow (D-GA)

Greg Walden (R-OR)

Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Mike Rogers (R-MI)

Edward J.  Markey (D-MA)

Sue Wilkins Myrick (R-NC)

Mike Doyle (D-PA)

Michael C. Burgess (R-TX)

Jane Harman (D-CA)

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

Jay Inslee (D-OR)

Ex Officio John D. Dingell (D-MI)

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Ex Officio Joe Barton (R-TX)

Darlene Hooley (D-OR)

House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Doris Matsui (D-CA)

 

This hearing weighed the positions of various groups on five different climate change mitigation proposals. The five bills are: the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 1590); the Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act, or iCAP (H.R. 6186); the Climate Security Act, or the Lieberman-Warner bill (S. 2191); the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner substitute to the Climate Security Act (S. 3036); and the Low Carbon Economy Act, or the Bingaman-Specter bill (S. 1766).

“Each of these bills,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) in his opening statement, “makes a valuable contribution in the effort to address the climate change challenge.” All of the bills, Boucher noted, utilize the same market based mechanism for reducing carbon dioxide emissions: cap and trade. However, he said, they vary greatly in their methods, timetables and allowments, and points of regulation.

Ranking Member Fred Upton (R-MI) was less supportive of the bills. In his opening remarks, he said “the nature of the bills is disappointing. Global warming needs to be addressed, but I don’t believe cap and trade is the way to do it.” Slowed economic growth, the export of American jobs, and the increased cost of energy for the consumer were among Upton’s concerns with cap and trade policies. Cap and trade, Upton claimed, will cost Michigan families $7,000 a year by 2050. While critical of cap and trade, Upton said he was excited about carbon capture and storage, renewable energy technologies, and the “renaissance in nuclear power.” Upton concluded by saying “it will be a daunting task to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1910 levels in 2050. There were 92 million people in America in 1910; there will be 420 million people in 2050.”

Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) echoed several of Upton’s points. He also cited comparative demographic data for America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, adding “in 1910, most people lived on the farm.” The bills would cost families about $8,000 per year, according to an analysis Barton cited. With “food prices soaring and airlines canceling their flights” the price of carbon is already too high, Barton claimed. “Let’s don’t take the U.S. economy off a cliff” he urged. Furthermore, Barton was disapproving of the bills because of their projected lack of effectiveness. “According to an EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] analysis,” Barton said, “the Lieberman-Warner bill would reduce emissions by 25 ppm [parts per million] by 2050. That wouldn’t change temperature by one degree.”

Like Barton, Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) touched on the price of carbon to consumers. Consumers in his home district, Burgess said, have already changed their lifestyles with rising fuel costs and don’t need the behavioral controls of cap and trade. Burgess continued that the pertinent question for Americans is—are you willing to pay more for your energy? “In my district, the answer is no,” he said. “They [his constituents] want this Congress to bring the costs down.”

Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) urged the subcommittee to approach the bills cautiously. “We need to be careful,” he said. The issue of “the cash register” was paramount in Hall’s statement, and he claimed that “these bills would mean that we have to raise taxes three or four times…and we wouldn’t know whether it worked for 50-60 years.”

Representative John Barrow (D-GA) mentioned agriculture in his opening statement. He said lawmakers have the “responsibility of incorporating agriculture in this process.” Specifically, he highlighted the statistics that 1% of GHG emissions are currently sequestered by agricultural processes and up to 20% of emissions could potentially be sequestered in the agricultural sphere. Furthermore, Barrow said he believes any cap and trade legislation must have a safety valve, an upper limit on the cost of the carbon emission control program, so that “legislation doesn’t get ahead of the technology.”

In their opening statements, Ex Officio John Dingell (D-MI) and Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) agreed that the House has lessons to learn from the Senate’s recent attempt to pass cap and trade legislation. On the matter of cap and trade, “the other body is far from consensus,” said Dingell. “We must pass good climate change legislation, but it needs to be passed in broad coalition.”

Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said she was wary of passing cap and trade legislation “if it were only the U.S. and Europe participating.” Furthermore, Blackburn said she feared that the cap and trade program would have a “negligible effect on environmental improvement.” As for global warming, Blackburn posited that “there are more pressing problems such as disease and malnutrition.” Blackburn admitted that she is skeptical of the anthropogenic contribution to global warming, and said that it’s “a little bit of a head-scratcher that global temperatures have cooled 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past 16 months.”

The lack of involvement on the parts of China and India in climate change legislation discussions was also of concern to Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR) and  John Shimkus (R-IL). “To ensure that countries like China and India” follow suit with climate change mitigation legislation, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) responded in his opening remarks, the cap and trade bills will instate “a system of carrots and sticks.”

Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said “we have a responsibility to our planet and future generations to address climate change.” The costs of inaction, Baldwin declared, are too great.

Representative Jay Inslee (D-OR) concurred. He said “inaction will affect the U.S. economy. Action will help the economy.” Inslee asserted that the U.S. needs to “radically increase the pace of innovation in clean energy.” The research and development budget for clean energy technologies, said Inslee, is “pathetic.” He suggested that the revenues from the auction of permits in the cap and trade program go toward supporting research and development (R&D) in the renewable energy sector. As for the clean energy technology that is developed, “we can sell it to India, sell it to China,” Inslee said.

Mr. Naasz said “coal is our prime source of energy and is likely to remain so.” In the U.S., he said, half of our electricity generation is from coal. Furthermore, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated that demand for electricity will grow. The EIA projects that coal will provide 54% of our electricity by 2030. Naasz noted that clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology will “help reduce GHG emissions.” Long term carbon storage is a emission-reduction method that the National Mining Association (NMA) believes should be implemented. Because the NMA supports full utilization of America’s “abundant coal resources,” said Naasz, NMA opposed the Boxer bill. The Bingaman-Specter bill, however, is acceptable on its face, but the NMA “would want to amend it.”

Mr. Goo’s first point harkened back to the opening statements of Baldwin and Inslee. He said “the thing to remember about cost is the cost of inaction.” Goo cited the Stern Review report’s estimation that 5-11% of global gross domestic product (GDP) will be lost in conjunction with the costs of environmental damage related to global warming. Another study, said Goo, estimated that inaction will cost $3.8 trillion annually by 2100.

Mr. Reuther applauded the bills for establishing taxes on imported goods from countries without carbon dioxide caps. He also applauded the upstream nature of the bills—which applies the cap and trade system to energy producers versus the downstream approach which applies cap and trade to energy users—saying their “upstream basis is good.” What Reuther opposed was a bill’s provision to make the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the regulator of emissions from vehicles. “This,” Reuther said, “would relax standards.”

Ms. Jacobson expressed support for the immediate deployment of clean energy technology. She said “starting early leads to clear dividends” and cited a study claiming that, by 2030, clean energy technology could reduce GHG by 3-4.5 gigatons. Furthermore, just 1.5% of investments from the U.S. economy over this period would be required to enable the growth of clean energy technology. She addressed the job market and the energy sector, saying “clean energy jobs are higher paying and are not easily outsourced.” Finally, Jacobson offered a slew of suggestions for the bills, suggestions for the facilitation of the deployment of clean energy technology.

Mr. Kuhn cited EIA estimates that, by 2030, demand for electricity will grow by 30%. As “electricity is the lifeblood of the economy,” Kuhn said “we will need a full suite of technologies” to meet the challenge posed by the increasing demand for electricity. Kuhn said that energy efficiency should be the first priority. Increasing the contribution from renewable energy sources comes next, he said, but to allow their contribution to increase, the U.S. needs the transmission capacity. Nuclear, too, will assume a greater role. Currently, nuclear generates 118 gigawatts of electricity but could generate an additional 64 gigawatts Kuhn claimed. Removing the carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles should also be priorities, said Kuhn.

A report from the National Academy of Sciences states that nuclear will be part of the solution to the energy and carbon crises, Admiral Bowman affirmed in his testimony. He said it is “beyond question” that nuclear will assume a greater role in America’s future energy portfolio. “The nuclear industry is moving as fast as it can to license and build new plants,” Bowman noted. Unfortunately each new nuclear plant costs between $6-7 billion to build, so financial incentives from the federal government are imperative.

According to Ms. Minette, “protection of God’s planet and God’s people” is the basis for the National Council of Churches’ position on global warming. Accordingly, said Minette, the Council has three main policy priorities for climate change legislation: appropriate emissions reduction targets so that global temperature increase does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius, provisions diminishing the economic effect of the legislation on the American poor, and provisions for international adaptation assistance such as disaster relief. Minette praised bills with these items and criticized those bills without them.

Mr. West began his testimony by explaining how 90% of the production of ammonia for nitrogen fertilizer is tied to natural gas: “natural gas is a raw material for the production of fertilizer,” he said. With the increasing cost of natural gas, though, 26 nitrogen fertilizer production facilities have had to close. Now, there are “only 30 nitrogen plants in the U.S., and over half of nitrogen fertilizer is imported.” West concluded that any climate change policy “must take fertilizer into account. It is a matter of national security” because importing all of the fertilizer we need is not ideal.

During the first question and answer period, Chairman Boucher asked Admiral Bowman how many new nuclear plants will come online by 2030. Bowman replied that, by 2016, 4-8 new plants are expected to come online and by 2030, 20-30 plants could come online. It is possible for nuclear plants to supply 64 gigawatts by 2030, Bowman said, but “we’re going slowly and cautiously this time. We want to do it right.” As for Minority Whip Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) question on the handling of spent nuclear fuel disposal, Bowman said “disposal has never been a safety issue but a political issue.” Bowman also affirmed that more “robust research and development” is needed to determine the best way to re-process spent fuel. “We need to do it [reprocess] better than the world is doing it today,” he said.

Mr. Felmy discussed the “shortcomings” of the Lieberman-Warner bill that the American Petroleum Institute (API) identified. Felmy said the bill “would have imposed disproportionate costs on the supply of natural gas…and other petroleum products.” API, said Felmy, also commissioned ICF International to determine the bill’s effects on natural gas supplies and fuel production. ICF International found that the bill “would have reduced natural gas supplies by 12 percent and driven overseas some three million barrels [of oil] per day or 17% of our refinery capacity,” Felmy said.

Ms. Figdor testified to Environment America’s three principles for “strong, effective, and fair” global warming legislation. The legislation, said Figdor, must set emissions caps consistent with the carbon dioxide levels scientists say will prevent global warming’s worst impacts, accelerate America’s transition to a clean energy economy, and minimize societal cost. The Safe Climate Act and iCAP satisfy Environment America’s requirements; the Climate Security Act, the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner substitute to the Climate Security Act, and the Low Carbon Economy Act do not.

On behalf of the AFL-CIO, Mr. Baugh called for a “transparent [and] economy-wide” cap and trade system. He also said that government incentives should promote green collar jobs while discouraging the offshoring of manufacturing jobs. “The AFL-CIO,” said Baugh, “supports a new industrial policy, and an environmental economic development policy, which places manufacturing and trade at the center of a green economy program.”

With his testimony, Mr. Grumet imparted the National Commission on Energy Policy’s recommendations for global warming legislation. Grumet recommended the inclusion of a cap on the price of carbon dioxide emission allowances, returning revenues raised by the auction of allowances to consumers, a system of carrots and sticks to “engage major trading partners,” and the reconciliation of federal GHG reduction policy with state policy.

Mr. Cicio raised the concerns of the industrial sector, which contributes about 20% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, with the climate change legislation. Among the industry’s anxieties are that emissions reduction timetables are inconsistent with timetables for the availability of carbon reduction technology such as carbon capture and storage. As the emissions reduction timetables are smaller, there will be a “massive coal to natural gas fuel switching,” which will increase the price of natural gas around the nation, Cicio said.

Mr. Scott said “states will have to play a major partnership role with the federal government, and that role needs to be carefully and robustly delineated” in any global warming legislation. Some states have been researching reduction strategies and their economic impacts for years, he noted.

The potential for global warming legislation to cause an increase in the price of fuel is worrisome for the trucking industry, said Mr. Mullett. “In 2006 alone trucking consumed over 39 billion gallons of diesel fuel. This means that a one-cent increase in the average price of diesel costs the trucking industry an additional $391 million in fuel expenses,” Mullett said. The trucking industry opposes the placement of carbon emissions caps on it and believes that policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from trucks should, instead, mandate a 65 mpg speed limit, decrease idling, reduce highway congestion, and increase fuel economy standards.

For thefull text of the bills, click on their links below:
Safe Climate Act (H.R. 1590)
Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act (H.R. 6186)
Climate Security Act (S. 2191)
Boxer-Lieberman-Warner substitute to the Climate Security Act (S. 3036)
Low Carbon Economy Act (S. 1766)

-LMB

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation Hearing

"A Time for Change: Improving the Federal Climate Change Research and Information Program"
November 14, 2007

Witnesses

Panel I
Dr. John Marburger III, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President
Dr. Jack A. Kaye, Accompanying Dr. Marberger, Director, Research Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Earth Science

Panel II
Dr. Donald F. Boesch, Professor of Marine Science and President, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland
Dr. Braxton Davis, Chair, Climate Change Working Group, Coastal States Organization
Dr. Peter C. Frumhoff, Director of Science and Policy, Chief Scientist, Climate Campaign, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dr. Lynne M. Carter, Co-Director, Adaptation Network
Dr. John R. Christy, Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, National Space Science and Technology Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Dr. Richard Moss, Vice President and Managing Director, Climate Change World Wildlife Fund

Committee Members Present

Chairman John F. Kerry (D-MA)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
John R. Thune (R-SD)
Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME)
David Vitter (R-LA)

Chairman John F. Kerry (D-MA) stated that he is "dismayed" that after seven years of hearings on the U.S. climate science and assessment program, the same issues are subjects of concern. Kerry believes that "policy needs to be driven by the best possible science." This hearing concerns the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 (USGCRA), which requires a national assessment report every four years. During the current Bush Administration, no reports have been completed as outlined by the legislation. In August, three non-profit environmental organizations won a lawsuit against the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP), the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), and the program directors for non-compliance with USGCRA. This hearing will focus on the actions of these government offices and improvements to USGCRA.

Senators voiced their concerns about the Administration's censorship of science. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) said it is "distressing" that not all Americans believe climate change is occurring, and that he believes the Administration "censors and suppresses" science. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated that in October Julie Gerberding, Director for the Center of Disease Control (CDC), had six pages of her testimony on the health impacts of climate change removed by the Administration during editing. Boxer showed the deleted text compared to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) third assessment report, stating that the two were almost identical and blaming the administration for wrongly censoring valid science. Dr. John Marburger III, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the President's top science advisor, replied that the "IPCC tends to describe impacts around the world", whereas in the U.S. many impacts are "significantly modified" from what will occur in other areas. His recommended edits included only slight modifications to ensure the testimony addressed U.S. impacts only, and he stated that he does not know why six pages were removed.

Dr. Marburger testified on the state of the OSTP and USGCRA. He acknowledged that climate change is occurring and is a "serious issue" about which "something has to be done." He added that the IPCC reports have been supported by U.S.-funded research, and that this Administration and others have led the world in funding of climate science. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) agreed, stating that the U.S. has spent more money on climate change research than any other country.

When Chairman Kerry asked if the Administration has engaged in a proactive process to remove greenhouse gases, Dr. Marburger replied that the answer is "somewhat subjective" and that the Administration supports technology to reduce greenhouse gases and create energy independence. Chairman Kerry asked multiple times what level of urgency Dr. Marburger conveys to the President during his consultations, to which Dr. Marburger replied "I am resisting using the word urgency", but said there is a "sense of urgency" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Chairman Kerry replied "I think you ought to resign" for not conveying the gravity of the situation.

Dr. Marburger stated one of the major roadblocks for implementing climate change policy is changing the behavior of a large group of people, and said he is not confident that the U.S. will meet emissions reduction goals without mandatory policy. Senator Boxer asked Dr. Marburger to use the science of the IPCC that "95 percent of scientists believe" because the Earth's future is at stake.

Chairman Kerry asked why the assessment report is overdue. Dr. Marburger replied that 21 individual reports are in progress under OSTP oversight, and have taken longer than planned. Kerry argued that these reports did not convey the overall national assessment that is necessary to understand how climate is changing in the U.S. Dr. Marburger replied that one national assessment would take much longer to complete, and that his office will obey the court order to publish an assessment by May 2008. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) stated that it is "frustrating" that the Administration "has not lived up to its commitment" and that it is "vital" to update the USGCRA so the best science is available for policy decisions.

Dr. Donald F. Boesch, professor and President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, testified that USGCRA needs additional funding, accountability, budgeting, and focus on providing information to users. Additionally, more climate change research should be focused on regional scales. Dr. Boesch also recommended that more climate change information needs to be given to policymakers.

Dr. Braxton Davis of the Coastal States Organization's Climate Change Working Group agreed that research needs to focus on regional scales so cities can understand the potential hazards and costs of inaction. Communities need to plan adaptation of resources to changing conditions, which is easier with information tailored to their area. Dr. Davis stated "we cannot wait for 'perfect' information" to create a strategy for federal programs. He also echoed Dr. Boesch's statement that policymakers need to receive more climate research information.

Dr. Peter C. Frumhoff, of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), testified that policymakers need the best possible scientific information to make good decisions, and that currently there is a large gap between what is needed and the information provided by USGCRA. He cited sea level rise research as an example. While UCS supports USGCRA, Dr. Frumhoff requested strengthening the Act to improve adaptation strategies and mitigation, and adding public review.

Dr. Lynne M. Carter of the Adaptation Network supports the USGCRA, and suggests improving regional scale research, communication, and the level of information shared with policymakers. She suggested including public review to find "relevant local research needs" and making information available to the public for free. She stressed that data is only useful if it is on a relevant regional scale and that data on the wrong scale can give "false information."

Dr. John R. Christy of the National Space Science and Technology Center testified that "continuous and accurate" data is necessary for better climate observations and testing of current models. He addressed the urgent need to keep climate satellites working properly to avoid a lapse in critical information. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) is experiencing problems with one of the onboard sensors, which Dr. Christy said needs to be fixed as soon as possible. He also said that he questions climate models because they are unreliable local climate indicators, and supports examining past data to predict the future.

Dr. Richard Moss from the Climate Change World Wildlife Fund testified that USGCRA incorporates important technology that should not be discontinued. He suggested creating a council of users of all levels to provide direction for research. Dr. Moss is concerned about political issues getting in the way of research. He also believes that more funding should be given to research, and that communication and public education need to be added to the program.

Senator Stevens asked the panel why the U.S. should give climate research more funding when researchers have received additional funding for eight years and not yet obtained the information they need. He wanted to know why climatologists cannot "predict the future" with the money that has been put towards research. Dr. Moss replied that research money was not being wasted, and "tremendous progress" has been made in climate change research, but this research needs to be continued over long time-scales. He said "you cannot solve this problem in eight years." Dr. Bausch added that the USGCRA 2000 national assessment report used predictions from two climate models from different countries. Now there are many climate models available internationally, and the increased capacity to perform research is due to investments in climate change research.

The U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 (USGCRA) has been inadequately implemented. Senators demand increased accountability and the completion of a national assessment report as defined in the legislation. The witnesses suggested improving the program with additional regional-scale climate research, funding, and accountability. They also requested better information be provided to the public and policymakers. Most senators are in favor of implementing these improvements to the USGCRA.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

Edited and unedited versions of Julie Gerberding's testimony can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on S.2191, "America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
November 13, 2007

Witnesses

David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council
Dr. David Greene, Corporate Fellow, Geography and Environmental Engineering, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO
Andrew Sharkey, President and CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute
Donald R. Rowlett, Director of Regulatory Policy and Compliance, OGE Energy Corp.

Committee Members Present

Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT)
Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK)
John W. Warner (R-VA)
Larry E. Craig (R-ID)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
John Barrasso (R-WY)

The biggest debate over S.2191, America's Climate Security Act (ACSA), is its potential impact on the U.S. economy. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) stated that the costs of ACSA will be "manageable" and relatively minor, but without legislative action the costs of climate change will be "grievous" by next century. Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) noted that other countries have reduced greenhouse gas emissions while increasing jobs and stimulating their economy. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) disagreed, saying that the "costly" bill will "do little" to help climate change while increasing energy prices by an average of 40 percent by 2030. Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-MO) stated that ACSA will make the U.S. less competitive and cause companies and jobs to move to other countries. To address these concerns, Senator John W. Warner (R-VA) has requested a full economic impact assessment of ACSA from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council testified that global warming is a "front-loaded problem" because damage has already been done, but we will not see its effects until later. He stated that climate change, if not slowed, will harm the U.S. economy. Mr. Hawkins applauded many provisions of the cap and trade system outlined in ACSA, including the carbon market efficiency board that will ensure lawful trading. He stressed that there is "no time left for delay" in implementation of climate change legislation.

Dr. David Greene of Oak Ridge National Laboratory addressed the transportation sector, which emits 28 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. He stated that only 39 percent of U.S. consumers considered fuel price before buying gasoline. Because consumers are not demanding lower prices, there is currently little incentive to decrease prices in the fuel market or increase vehicle gasoline mileage. Other countries have fuel economy standards that work to increase average miles per gallon, which Dr. Greene argues should be implemented in the U.S. to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage new technologies.

Robert Baugh from AFL-CIO stated his concerns that carbon caps set in ACSA are too stringent for the pace of technological advancements, and there are too many allowances for carbon offsets. He also asked for more explicit information regarding the jobs that ACSA will create, and better cost-control mechanisms in the carbon market.

Andrew Sharkey of the American Iron and Steel Institute testified that the U.S. steel industry is very energy efficient and working on long-term research projects that may eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the steel manufacturing process. Mr. Sharkey believes that ACSA could have "devastating" consequences on U.S. competitiveness if other countries have lower environmental standards, and thus lower costs. He stressed that ACSA must have mandatory, simultaneously-imposed performance standards, and include provisions so it does not limit U.S. competitiveness.

Donald R. Rowlett from OGE Energy Corporation testified that all utilities will have different challenges presented by ACSA, but outlined a few important aspects for all utilities. He stated that giving utilities free emission allowances at the start of the cap and trade program is "critical" to cover the costs of new technologies. He also warned that many utilities will have incentive to switch from coal to natural gas, which will increase consumer energy prices by 40 percent.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked about the economic impacts of Europe's carbon cap and trade program. Mr. Hawkins replied that their initial, trial run has had price fluctuations, but provisions in ACSA will prevent this in the U.S. He said no harm has come to the European economy because of the cap and trade program, and he estimates that ACSA will provide economic opportunity and more jobs. Mr. Baugh disagreed, interjecting that the European cap and trade system is impacting their economy, and ACSA may cause job losses in the U.S.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) asked the panel if they believe Earth will be cooler if Congress passes ACSA and India and China, industrial countries that are growing rapidly, do nothing. Mr. Hawkins replied that if the U.S. passes ACSA, countries such as China and India will engage in greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts faster than if the U.S. does nothing. He asserted "this is not speculation," China has followed the U.S. lead in many other policy initiatives. He stated "I am confident that the planet will be cooler" if Congress passes ACSA.

Many senators are concerned that energy prices will increase due to the costs of complying with reduced greenhouse gas emission standards. Most senators agree that low-income households should be given credits or other financial aid to help pay for the cost increases. Barrasso said we must "take care" of those negatively impacted by the bill and give states the flexibility to help people as they see fit. Boxer supported the cap and trade program, saying that a carbon tax would hurt low-income families more.

Neither witnesses nor senators agree on what impacts ACSA will have on the environment or the U.S. economy. Some believe that the carbon cap legislation will have little impact on the global environment, but will likely hurt the domestic economy. Others argue that the legislation is necessary and will stimulate the U.S. economy. Chairman Boxer has stated she will hold more hearings on ACSA to gain additional support for the bill.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on S.2191, "America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
November 8, 2007

Witnesses

Peter A. Darbee, Chairman of the Board, CEO, and President, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Corporation
Jonathan C. Pershing, Director, Climate, Energy, and Pollution Program, Climate and Energy World Resources Institute
Anne E. Smith, Vice President, CRA International
Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, American Council for Capital Formation
Wiley Barbour, Executive Director, Environmental Resources Trust

Committee Members Present

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Ranking Member James M. Inhofe (R-OK)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
David Vitter (R-LA)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Larry E. Craig (R-ID)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Increasing partisan tensions over S.2191, America's Climate Security Act of 2007 (ACSA), showed in the opening statements of the November 8 hearing. Senator George V. Voinovich (R-OH) asked Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to slow down the bill process, noting the motivation for trying to pass the bill by the end of the year may be to attend the December 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia with a "scalp in hand". Chairwoman Boxer noted 20 past hearings on global warming as evidence that the process has not been rushed, and has "nothing to do with Bali".

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said Congress has "waited too long" to enact legislation on global warming. Thirty-one states have developed their own climate change laws in the absence of federal legislation. She stated that ACSA is a "strong" bill, and while imperfect, it serves as an excellent start for long-overdue federal action.

Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-MO) noted that ACSA is "very problematic" for farmers. He stated that ACSA will cause an increase in natural gas prices, which will increase fertilizer prices for farmers. Bond believes that "farm costs far outweigh the benefits" of ACSA, noting that the agricultural carbon offsets program within ACSA is not sufficient to cover higher costs elsewhere.

Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) stated his concerns that pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and mercury are not sufficiently addressed in ACSA. He also stressed the need for the legislation to incentivize the most efficient energy production methods. Additionally, Carper wants to see more focus on the transportation sector, such as cleaner fuels, cars, and other options for travel.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) said the "stakes are very, very high" with global warming and Congress needs to get the legislation right. He stressed the need for the committee to hold more hearings on bill S.2191. Climate change and resulting sea level changes are problems for Louisiana, and he wants to ensure politics do not get in the way of good policy.

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) stated that there is no more critical issue in the world than climate change. He approves of the revisions to S.2191 so far, but concedes more work needs to be done. He cited the Union of Concerned Scientists as saying carbon emissions should be reduced by 80 percent by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic results of climate change, but S.2191 only reduces emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Lautenberg said Congress needs to "reach further" to encourage cleaner energy production.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) stated that the U.S. cannot simply "shut off" traditional energy sources and that Congress must "put our money where our best hopes are" by investing in new clean energy production technology that can be used domestically and spread around the world.

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) believes ACSA is the "best hope" for Congress to pass "meaningful" climate change legislation. He would prefer greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80 percent by 2050 though, in line with Senator Lautenberg. Senator Larry E. Craig (R-ID) disagrees, stating that cap and trade is "obsolete" and will only transfer wealth. Craig believes the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 lets the government incentivize companies to use clean energy, which will be much more effective without raising energy prices. Craig also echoed Senator Voinovich's request for a slow deliberate review process.

Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) has "serious problems with this legislation" because it does not go far enough to meet scientists' recommendations to slow climate change. He stressed that humans today "know how to reverse global warming" through increased energy efficiency, and that some money from emissions auctions should go to help advance efficient energy programs and technologies. He cited National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that solar power costs in 2050 will be half what they are today.

Peter A. Darbee of PG&E testified that ACSA is an "appropriate starting point" to take while working on further policy and regulation of climate change. He stressed the importance of "decoupling" cost from kilowatt hours used, so that a power company does not get money based on how much power is sold, thus encouraging utilities to promote energy conservation without losing profits. Darbee also said that 87 percent of the costs of reducing emissions will be passed on to energy consumers, so they should be given financial reimbursement or tax breaks to compensate for increased energy costs. Additionally, he suggested that a regulating board place a ceiling and a floor on the costs of carbon emission allocations and allow both to increase over time so prices do not jump unexpectedly. Additionally, the rising costs of carbon emissions will help stimulate the development of cleaner technologies because the technologies will become cheaper fixes than paying the rising emission charges.

Jonathan C. Pershing, from the non-profit environmental think-tank Climate and Energy World Resources Institute, testified that damages from climate change will be "enormously costly", citing examples such as California wildfires, Southeast droughts, and hurricanes, all of which are projected to worsen due to global warming. Duke University's Nicholas Institute analyzed ACSA and found that with no policy enacted, U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is predicted to increase 112% by 2030, and with ACSA enacted GDP would increase 111% over the same time period, showing only a very slight economic impact.

Anne E. Smith of CRA International, an economic consulting firm, testified that near-term ambitions of ACSA will not work because climate change is too rapid and the needed technological advances are not ready. She suggested that the carbon caps cannot be met with current technology. A model created by CRA International shows annual U.S. GDP losses at millions of dollars, a decrease in real annual spending per household of over $1,500, and total net losses of over one million jobs through 2050. Because of the detrimental affects on the U.S. economy, Smith does not support ACSA in its current form.

Dr. Margo Thorning of the American Council for Capital Formation testified that, in contrast to other witnesses, she had estimated an increase in U.S. GDP if ACSA is implemented. She stated that cap and trade may not be the best system to limit carbon emissions, suggesting that a carbon tax is more "straightforward" and may incur less abuse. Dr. Thorning agreed with Ms. Smith that current solutions are based on developing technologies that are not yet commercially usable.

Wiley Barbour, an environmental engineer with the non-profit group Environmental Resources Trust, testified that his organization works with U.S. companies to reduce their net carbon emissions. He noted that cap and trade programs work effectively and have benefits. Some U.S. companies are currently in voluntary cap and trade programs, however, without a law such as ASCA, that includes a carbon cap, the U.S. has "failed" to change its carbon emissions.

Senator Boxer began her questioning by noting that ARCO, BP p.l.c., and other oil companies were listed as clients on the CRA International website. Ms. Smith replied that if they were listed, her company had done business with them at some point.
Ranking Member James M. Inhofe (R-OK) asked what the costs of ACSA would be to families and to industries such as steel and cement. Ms. Smith calculated that in 2015 the average household would pay an additional $800 to $1,300 per year for increased energy costs, and industries with competitive markets such as cement and steel would need tax adjustments to prevent losses.

Mr. Pershing noted that the different values the witnesses obtained for future U.S. GDP were from separate models looking at different sectors and options. He thought that Ms. Smith's model probably did not look at all of the possible scenarios. Smith stated that ACSA appears to be "extremely costly". Senator Lautenberg asked what Ms. Smith thought of the costs of unmitigated global warming. Smith replied that it is a "risk management" situation. While global warming catastrophes are a risk, she doesn't believe reductions to this degree will make a real difference, except to harm the economy.

The witnesses agreed that allowing carbon offsets is one way that a cap and trade program is superior to a carbon tax, although the program needs careful monitoring to ensure offsets are correctly used. Most witnesses support some type of oversight committee. Senator Whitehouse noted that "safeguards" need to be "built in" to the process.

The panel debated about how much energy conservation will impact consumers. Senator Sanders said that energy conservation is working well and stimulating the economy in states such as Vermont and California. Mr. Pershing noted that energy conservation has "enormous" potential to reduce total costs while benefiting the public. However Dr. Thorning expressed concern that reducing energy use will "impinge on consumer's lifestyles" and be costly to replace existing technology.

Senators and witnesses are divided on most aspects of ACSA. Some of the major concerns of ACSA opponents include the pace with which the legislation is moving, the cap and trade system and its potential to harm the U.S. economy. Proponents generally want a tighter carbon emissions cap, but say that action needs to be taken immediately, and ACSA has the best chance to become a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions law in the near future.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

A link to Duke University's Nicholas Institute Assessment of ACSA can be found here.

A link to all results of the CRA International economic model can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Innovation Hearing on "Carbon Sequestration Technologies"
November 7, 2007

Witnesses

Dr. Howard Herzog, Principal Research Engineer, MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment
Mr. Charles E. Fox, Vice President, Kinder Morgan CO2 Company, L.P.
Dr. Sally Benson, Executive Director, Global Climate and Energy Project, Professor, Energy Resources Engineering Department, Stanford University
Dr. Robert C. Burruss, Research Geologist, Energy Resources Team, U.S. Geological Survey
Mr. Ron Wolfe, Corporate Forester and Natural Resources Manager, Sealaska Corporation
Dr. Bryan Hannegan, Vice President, Environment Electric Power Research Institute

Committee Members Present

Chairman John F. Kerry (D-MA)
Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Ranking Member John Ensign (R-NV)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Chairman John F. Kerry (D-MA) opened the hearing stating that the past 20 years of climate hearings in Congress have passed "without a whole lot of progress" and with no "real" governmental commitment to the issue. He stated that the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report data came from 2005, and even in the two years since then "things are changing and they are changing fast". He cited the IPCC report that carbon dioxide concentration must be below 450 parts per million (ppm) to keep global warming low enough to avoid the most "catastrophic" global warming consequences, which will necessitate reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Kerry stressed that coal is and will be a "critical" part of our energy portfolio because we have over 100 years of coal reserves in the U.S., versus 40 years of oil reserves. To use this coal cleanly, however, the carbon dioxide created from burning the coal must be captured and stored in the Earth so it does not enter the atmosphere. The carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is already occurring in some places. This hearing is to address what methods should be used for carbon capture and storage and how much carbon dioxide needs to be captured to achieve the climate change goal.

Chairman Kerry announced his bill on carbon capture and sequestration November 7 to create three to five commercial-scale CCS operations across the U.S., three to five coal-fired power plants with CCS, begin capacity assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), start an "aggressive" research and development program by the Department of Energy (DOE), and establish a technology-sharing agreement with China and India.

Senator Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) said the U.S. must use coal in the future, but must also capture and store carbon dioxide. He stressed the need to try many different CCS technologies, and criticized the Administration for not sufficiently funding this research and development. He said it is time to make "real investments" in CCS technology.

Dr. Howard Herzog, an environmental researcher for MIT and co-author of the IPCC reports, testified that "CCS is not a silver bullet" that will solve global warming. But with coal a "critical fuel" for the world to obtain cheap electricity, and 40% of world carbon dioxide emissions coming from coal burning, it is a necessary part of the plan to slow climate change. Based on research, he believes geologic sequestration, the storage of carbon dioxide in geologic formations, is "feasible". But there are still technical issues which he suggests addressing through large-scale CCS facilities. Dr. Herzog believes the DOE needs to accelerate its CCS research process and create regulations. Although he believes CCS is "not technologically or institutionally ready" to commercial-scale use, it may be within ten years if the programs are properly supported. The biggest problem is a lack of funding for research and development, for which he recommends a one billion dollar per year budget. Dr. Herzog stressed that it is "prudent" and "inexpensive" to search out options such as CCS to slow climate change.

Mr. Charles E. Fox testified for the Kinder Morgan CO2 Company, which deals with the transport of carbon dioxide through pipelines. This transport system has been used for 35 years without major incident and is deemed safe. If CCS is used commercially the current pipelines will need to be retrofitted and new pipelines will need to be built. The capture of carbon dioxide is the most expensive part of the process. Mr. Fox believes that pre-combustion capture, although a much newer process, is better than post-combustion capture because it is less expensive and more efficient. He stressed the need for additional research on the capture and storage issues of CCS. He recommended that Congress increase research and development, and enact legislation to remove some liability from the storage companies. If carbon dioxide storage companies are liable for any future gas leakage they will be unlikely to invest in and contribute to CCS .

Dr. Sally Benson, a climate and energy researcher and professor at Stanford University, testified that "safe and effective" sequestration can be achieved. She explained that carbon dioxide is stored in the same types of geologic formations that may store oil, porous rocks underneath impermeable cap rock. Another less-researched storage option is saline aquifers, which have a large capacity but more research is needed on their seal quality. Dr. Benson said Congress needs to address who will monitor CCS and who will pay for remediation if leaks occur. These issues will determine if companies invest in CCS. She also recommended more money be appropriated to research and development.

Dr. Robert C. Burruss of the USGS testified on the potential storage capacity for carbon dioxide. Lots of changes in the U.S. energy regime are needed to achieve climate change goals. The global storage capacity for carbon dioxide may hold a "large portion" of the carbon dioxide that needs to be sequestered, but further analysis of saline reservoirs and geologic formations is necessary. The USGS would like to do large-scale storage assessments but has not been funded to do so. Another "critical knowledge gap" that needs research is the storage of carbon dioxide in the biosphere (vegetation, soils). He recommended Congress support many more large-scale CCS projects.

Dr. Bryan Hannegan testified on behalf of the Environment Electric Power Research Institute, a research and development organization. He believes that an advanced coal power plant with CCS capabilities will be the key to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. He also asserted that this technology will increase energy costs less than many alternatives. He recommended full-scale CCS operations and increased funding, specifically $8 to $17 billion invested in research and development between now and 2020. He said the main problems were technological advancement of carbon capture and the non-technological barriers of storage, such as permitting, public acceptance of the technology, liability, and potential new uses for captured carbon dioxide.

Mr. Ron Wolfe of Sealaska Corporation testified that incentives should be used to encourage companies to capture and sequester carbon dioxide. He asserted that changing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is not enough to cause companies to store carbon long-term. He believes a single-focus strategy is not the best way to implement policy, and that preserving Earth's ecological functions should be the main objective of any legislation Congress supports.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) asked the panel if carbon sequestration could take place in coal mines. Dr. Benson replied that it is possible to sequester carbon dioxide in deep coal beds. Stevens then asked about the possibility of sequestering methane and if it could be captured and burned as fuel. Dr. Benson responded that she was unsure about the possibility of sequestering methane, but burning methane is cleaner than burning coal. Dr. Hannegan added that burning methane or natural gas is also more efficient than burning coal.

Ranking Member John Ensign (R-NV) asked the witnesses what volume of storage was needed for effective carbon sequestration, and if the U.S. has that volume available for storage. Dr. Hannegan responded that a rate of about 300 million tons of carbon dioxide injected into the Earth each year would necessitate the geologic space of a one to two billion barrel oil field over the course of a 20-30 year project. Dr. Benson replied that worldwide about 2-10 trillion tons of storage space is available, which is equivalent to about 100 years of world sequestration. In the U.S., about three billion tons is available.

Senator Stevens asked if it will be economical for carbon dioxide to be sequestered at the power plants where it is captured. Dr. Burruss replied that the decision must be made to build power plants where carbon dioxide can be sequestered or to transport the carbon dioxide from existing power plants to sequestration sites, which are usually hundreds to thousands of miles away.

Chairman Kerry said that the world is "operating with a very small cushion" for mistakes, and that rapid movement on CCS is necessary. He asked the witnesses to list major goals that Congress should achieve. Responses included funding large-scale demonstration projects using a variety of CCS technologies, create regulations regarding liability and ownership issues, and provide environmental monitoring.

The committee has shown bipartisan support for advancing CCS technology. Some of the major issues that witnesses want addressed are better knowledge of storage capacity and longevity for carbon dioxide, funding for commercial-scale long-term tests of various CCS technologies, and legislation with incentives and flexible liability laws to encourage companies to invest in CCS.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

-EAL

House Committee on the Budget hearing on "Counting the Change: Accounting for the Fiscal Impacts of Controlling Carbon Emissions"
November 1, 2007

Witnesses

Dr. Peter Orszag, Director, Congressional Budget Office
Robert Greenstein, Executive Director, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
David D. Doniger, Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
Anne E. Smith, Ph.D., Vice President, CRA International

Members Present

Chairman John M. Spratt, Jr. (D-SC)
Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Adrian Smith (R-NE)

The purpose of this hearing is to receive expert testimony on how the U.S. can create and maintain an environmentally and fiscally responsible carbon emissions cap and trade system. The House Budget Committee sees the timing of this hearing as relevant because of the concurrent markup of bill S.2191, America's Climate Security Act (ACSA), which would create a cap and trade system if enacted. Chairman John M. Spratt, Jr. (D-SC) explained that this hearing was not meant to "impede" any legislation that may be passed, but to serve as guidance for future policy.

A cap and trade (or emissions trading) system was the focus of this hearing. This system would set a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be produced by U.S. businesses. It would also allow individuals to purchase, sell, or trade emissions allowances as needed to meet lower emissions standards and possibly make a profit.

Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated that "Congress and the public have got to realize there are going to be tradeoffs" with any greenhouse gas emission cuts. These include higher energy prices, which will hurt low- to moderate-income households the most. He also stressed there are "international dimensions of this issue" that need global participation. The U.S. produces about 20% of the world's carbon emissions, so a worldwide effort is needed to truly reduce greenhouse gases.

Dr. Peter Orszag of the Congressional Budget Office stressed that some of the most significant long term "economic and social costs" would be those created by global warming, such as sea level rise and increased severe weather. He believes that a "well-designed policy to reduce emissions will produce greater benefits than costs." Any policy will have lower costs if it is incentive-based, such as a carbon tax or a cap and trade system. The drawback of an incentive-based system is that a price increase is essential to make it work. The extent of price increases will depend on the height of the emissions cap as well as the availability and cost of technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An increase in energy prices will affect low- and middle-income households the most because they spend the largest percent of their income on energy. But Dr. Orszag attests that the way profits from emissions allocations are spent could offset these negative affects. He estimates that profits of additional allowances at auction could be about $300 billion by 2020. These revenues can be allocated to pay off the federal deficit and lower the increased energy costs of low-income Americans.

Mr. David D. Doniger testified that the world is "already suffering dangerous impacts of global warming" but that it is "in our power to control" what happens in the future. He asserted that average temperatures have increased one degree Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, and that the world needs to keep future temperatures from increasing another two degrees Fahrenheit in the future to avoid the most catastrophic affects of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that limits such as those set by the ACSA, with 15% emissions reductions by 2020 and 80% emissions reductions by 2050, will keep additional temperature increases below two degrees Fahrenheit. Mr. Doniger suggested that greenhouse gas emission cuts should begin in industrialized nations like the U.S., adding that "we can afford this, but it gets much harder as we delay" emissions cuts.

Mr. Doniger agreed with Dr. Orszag that revenues from emissions allowances should be used to help offset energy costs for low-income households. He also suggested revenues could fund new clean energy technologies. Mr. Doniger added that an auction system was not the only way to obtain revenue for the public good, and that the same benefit could come from using a calculated formula with a production allowance credit given to businesses that are creating technologies to increase energy efficiency. Regardless of which method is used to cap emissions and obtain revenue, the manner in which allowances are allocated must be clear and consistent over a long time period. Doniger gave the example of the wind industry, which has suffered because tax credits have been given on and off over the past ten years, leaving investors and the industry unable to plan for future expenditures.

Robert Greenstein presented findings from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' (CBPP) report on effects of climate change legislation on the federal budget and the public, especially low-income groups. They found that with moderate climate-change legislation the average increase in energy costs for the lowest-earning fifth of the U.S. would be $750-950 per year. Through auction of emissions allowances, the same legislation could generate revenues of $50-300 billion which could be used to offset increased energy costs for low-income households and fund new energy technologies. The number varies based on which cap and trade or carbon tax plan is used. According to the CBPP, only about 14% of that revenue would be needed to fully offset the increased energy costs for low-income households. Additionally, 15% of those revenues will compensate energy companies and other emitters for increased costs of compliance with the climate change legislation. This would leave about 70% of the revenue for helping moderate-income households, fund new energy technologies, and helping the federal government pay for its increased energy costs. Mr. Greenstein stressed that all emissions allowances must be auctioned off to make this funding available. He also denied the veracity of the opinion that if allowances are given away rather than auctioned off, energy costs will not increase. A cost increase will occur either way, so it is necessary to auction off allowances to offset that increase for those that need it most.

Dr. Anne E. Smith, an economist with a background in managing economics of environmental legislation, testified that auctioning allowances cannot offset the costs of climate change legislation. She believes while there will always be a net cost, the best ways to help reduce the cost to society are to use auction revenues to reduce marginal tax rates and support new low-carbon technologies without using subsidies, neither of which is being considered by Congress now. Auctioning could also cause additional problems. Because of the auction system, prices for emissions allowances would change each year, adding unknown costs to businesses. The volatility of compliance costs could hurt businesses and thus the U.S. economy. Contrary to the testimony of Mr. Greenstein, Dr. Smith believes that businesses would need over 15% of allowance revenues to cover costs. Another major concern is that U.S. businesses will move overseas to reduce costs increased by climate change legislation. Dr. Smith asserts that global cooperation and an allowance price ceiling would help reduce these occurrences.

Chairman Spratt asked the witnesses who should oversee the implementation and management of climate change legislation. Dr. Orszag replied that the cap and trade system could be imposed "upstream" by an energy firm, or "downstream" in goods and services bought. He also said he "cannot see how a cap and trade system can be used" if the federal government does not help monitor and enforce it. Mr. Doniger said that a cap and trade system is relatively easy to administer. He explained that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses a cap and trade system under the Clean Air Act to limit the amount of acid rain. A few dozen employees oversee the regulation, which involves monitoring emissions and imposing fines for non-compliance. The system has "almost perfect" compliance. Dr. Smith attested that a carbon tax would be easier to manage than a cap and trade system, and that greenhouse gas regulation would be much harder to monitor than acid rain regulation.

Spratt then asked Dr. Smith why she called 15% of total auction revenue necessary to compensate energy companies for compliance costs a "misleading" figure. She replied that it was based on a model with a permanent amount of allocations through time, whereas legislation would likely decrease the amount of allocations over time. The estimate is also based on large groupings of market sectors, and did not show how some markets would lose while others would not. Dr. Orszag disagreed that there had been misleading information given. He stated that the deeper issue was that averages were used to create these numbers. It is impossible to ensure that each household or firm gets an exact refund for the particular amount they paid due to increased energy costs. Mr. Doniger added that the idea that shareholders for firms that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases need to be compensated is based on the idea that global warming is a surprise to them. He believes it should not be "taken as a given that they are owed this" because "they have been on notice that global warming is a problem" and have not taken action. Mr. Greenstein agreed that their estimates were not exact figures. He conceded that if allocations are phased out over a number of years, the initial amount needed to compensate energy companies will be greater than 15%. The value simply depends on which method you use.

Ranking Member Ryan asked the panel why a cap and trade system was the most widely proposed if it meant price volatility and companies leaving for other countries. Mr. Doniger stated that the question assumes a long period when the U.S. is the only country working on the global warming problem, while in fact most of the industrial world is already instituting climate change policies to reduce emissions. He said that volatility does not necessarily mean increased long-term costs. While prices will change each year, a method of "banking and borrowing" could be used to "smooth out" price differences over the long-term. If prices are low one year, firms can save up allowances, but if costs are high, they can borrow from the future and repay it when prices go down again. Doniger believes that this system will not need a safety valve. He added that a tax is not less complicated to write or maintain, and that the tax amount would need to be adjusted annually as well. Dr. Smith disagreed that banking and borrowing would work to lessen volatility. She believes that once implemented, a carbon tax would be simpler to maintain.

Mr. Greenstein added that the options for legislation are cap and trade, carbon tax, or doing nothing. He said the differences in economic impacts between cap and trade and a carbon tax are far less than between either one or doing nothing. While a carbon tax would be better, it would be harder for government to enact because of the stigma often associated with taxes. He said we "do not want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good" and halt climate change legislation altogether.

Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) asked the panel about the effects that increased energy and corn costs would have on agriculture. Dr. Orszag stated that the agricultural sector would be affected by either cap and trade legislation or by climate change, so it was necessary to weigh the costs and benefits of enacting legislation versus doing nothing and possibly facing catastrophic agricultural problems. Mr. Doniger replied that most cap and trade systems do not plan on controlling carbon emissions from agriculture, but do include opportunities for funding by helping reduce energy use. Dr. Smith said the increased cost of energy will raise the cost of farming, and while there may be some opportunities for additional income through energy reduction technologies, there is lots of uncertainty. She did agree with Dr. Orszag that there is always a net cost and any legislation must be weighed against costs of climate change, which have not been calculated.

Chairman Spratt asked to what extent these analyses had taken into account the economic benefits of climate control. Dr. Smith said these need to be taken into consideration, but the "risk of catastrophes already in the works will not be changed with cap and trade" legislation. Mr. Greenstein replied that we "cannot quantify the economic damage of doing nothing" because the economic costs of climate change are unknown. These values are often left out of the equation because there is no definite number to use.

Congressman Smith queried if it was possible to reverse global warming by implementing a cap and trade policy. Mr. Doniger cited the IPCC reports and other studies as stating that the emission reductions given in ACSA, if matched by other developed countries, will be enough to meet the goal of increasing average global temperatures by no more than two additional degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Smith stated that even if emissions were capped now, it would take about another century to reverse the effects occurring now. She said that other countries are not reigning in emissions, giving them a competitive advantage for business. The U.S. needs a cost-effective climate policy that will work with other countries. Dr. Orszag replied that too much focus has been put on expected outcome and too little on the risk of catastrophic climate events.

Most witnesses believe that a cap and trade system can be economically sound if designed correctly. Auctioning emissions allowances and using revenue to help offset increased energy costs for low-income households and energy corporations and to fund new low-emissions energy technologies have been recommended. Some witnesses support a carbon tax over a cap and trade program because it is slightly less complicated to enforce. But witnesses disagree on the validity of the current cost data. All insist that costs and benefits of any system must be weighed carefully, which is made difficult because the economic costs of continued climate change cannot be calculated. The sooner climate change legislation is enacted, the less strict it will have to be to meet legislative goals.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

A link to the full text of S.2191 can be found here.

A link to the IPCC reports can be found here.

A link to the CBPP report can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection
hearing on Bill S.2191 "To Examine America's Climate Security Act of 2007"
October 24, 2007

Witnesses

Kevin Anton, President, Alcoa Materials Management
Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council
Dr. William R. Moomaw, Director, Tufts University Institute for the Environment
Will Roehm, Vice President, Montana Grain Growers Association
Paul Cicio, Executive Director, Industrial Energy Consumers of America

Committee Members Present

Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT)
Thomas E. Carper (D-DE)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Ranking Member John W. Warner (R-VA)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Larry E. Craig (R-ID)
James M. Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Barnard Sanders (I-VT)
Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT)

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT) and ranking member John W. Warner (R-VA) created America's Climate Security Act (ACSA) to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up to 63% below the 2005 level by 2050. ACSA would create a carbon exchange program (also called cap and trade) and help fund other environmental protections and energy-cost reduction technologies. These reductions are based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that world carbon dioxide levels of less then 500 parts per million (ppm) would spare the planet of some of the worst effects of global warming. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the emissions reductions in the ACSA, assuming conservative emissions from other countries, would keep world carbon dioxide levels below 500 ppm.

Senator Lieberman believes the "U.S. government has a responsibility to be a part of the solution to this problem" of global warming. He cited two studies, one by Duke University and another by the Clean Air Task Force, on the economic impact of ACSA. Neither review anticipated any disruption of robust economic growth, sharp increases in energy prices, or jeopardy to the role of coal in the U.S. energy portfolio. Lieberman stated that while he believes ACSA is the "best cap and trade program on earth", it is "unfinished" and will change before it is presented on the Senate floor.

Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-MO) asserted that his concerns about ACSA "remain unaddressed". He believes that a carbon exchange program will increase energy costs, hurting low- and middle-income Americans. Bond said the act needs a "safety valve" at a preset level to keep energy prices reasonable.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) questioned the benefits and costs of a carbon exchange program versus a carbon tax. He believes the committee must understand the effects of any plan they approve, especially energy costs. The senator supports "aggressive conservation and aggressive nuclear" to help the climate while keeping energy costs low.

Senator Barnard Sanders (I-VT) asserted that "we now have the tools to reduce global warming" and must use them. He supports ACSA, but wants to ensure that the "latest science is periodically considered" and allow revisions to standards to reflect new scientific findings. Sanders also encouraged increased use of solar and wind power on large and small scales, which could create millions of good-paying jobs. He also stressed a need for increased energy efficiency.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) believes that when consumers demand decreased carbon dioxide emissions and clean energy sources, the market will respond. He stated that any policy action cannot impede current, traditional energy sources or it will harm the U.S. economy. Barrasso also noted he does not want the committee to make "rash" decisions based on "bad science", saying they must ensure scientists can accurately predict changes before developing policy.

Senator Larry E. Craig (R-ID) believes that the U.S. is "one of the cleanest nations in the world" because of technology. He asserted that other countries such as China need to have similar technologies so they can decrease their greenhouse gas emissions as well. If the U.S. decreases its emissions while other countries increase theirs, the effort will not slow global warming. Craig also said that carbon emissions trading, such as that proposed in ACSA, will not work. The U.S. needs a policy that will "grow us, not slow us."

Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) stated the ACSA is "getting us on track to find a solution" to global warming. He said the act has "some problems" but believes they can be fixed. He agreed with Craig that "stopping coal-fired power plants here won't stop China's." Baucus also emphasized the need for carbon sequestration technology.

Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) agreed with Craig and Baucus that other countries such as China also need to decrease emissions to make a difference in global warming. He stated that the U.S. has not built a new coal-fired power plant in 15 years but many have been built in China during that time. Inhofe has many questions regarding ACSA and said the committee needs to spend more time on the legislation. He also said that the U.S. is headed for an energy crisis in the next few years, citing a predicted 18% increase in demand. Inhofe supports additional nuclear energy resources, but is concerned that ACSA will cause a "massive" switch toward natural gas, which will be imported, causing energy dependency and possibly price increases. Inhofe stated he supports a carbon tax rather than the ACSA carbon emissions trade because the cost will be set.

Witness testimony began with Kevin Anton of Alcoa Materials Management, an aluminum production company that supports ACSA. Anton stated that the U.S. needs one mandatory, flexible policy to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and that other countries must reduce emissions as well. Anton believes a carbon trade will stimulate investment and innovation in the U.S. as industry decides how to achieve the goals set by the government. He also asserted that businesses need to pay for their emissions, not "pass the bill" on to customers. Anton concluded by saying the amount of greenhouse gases released in one year is not as important as those released over many years, and now is the time to take the first step towards decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Frances Beinecke of the Natural Resources Defense Council agreed that "the time for action on global warming is now." She supports ACSA because it "caps and cuts emissions of three sectors - electricity, transportation, and industry - that together account for about 75 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions." Beinecke believes that investments must be made in innovative clean energy technologies now so the U.S. does not continue to fund old technologies that will "lock in high carbon emissions for many decades to come." However she does not support a "safety valve" that would allow emissions credits to be given away as Senator Bond suggested.

Beinecke listed some important areas that ACSA must address before it is complete. One is continuing scientific review of emissions targets using the latest scientific advancements so adjustments can be made. Efficiency standards must also be placed on energy producers, not just buildings and appliances. Beinecke believes there are too many free emissions allowances, which may undermine ACSA's goal. Beinecke also said one of the most grievous effects of global warming is its threat to national security. Global warming is a "destabilizing force" that will affect vulnerable communities in developing countries the most, with worldwide repercussions. The U.S. has a "crucial opportunity to alleviate suffering" in these countries, while helping its own national security.

Dr. William R. Moomaw, an author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and Director of the Tufts University Institute for the Environment, testified in support of ACSA. He asserted that carbon dioxide levels must remain below 500 ppm to keep temperature increases from reaching a catastrophic level. Moomaw said the U.S. must look "upstream" as much as possible to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions. He used an example of using waste heat from production to heat buildings rather than expelling it as exhaust. Moomaw hopes that in 50-100 years, the U.S. energy system can be totally transformed to "create a new low-carbon economy."

Will Roehm of the Montana Grain Growers Association testified on the role agriculture plays in the reduction of greenhouse gases, especially with carbon emissions trading. He indicated that agricultural soils already serve to sequester 20 million metric tons of carbon per year, and could potentially sequester 3-10 times that amount. Roehm stated that farmers support an emissions trading program, but do not want any limits on the price of carbon or the amount of possible offsets. Currently ACSA includes limits on these values.

Paul Cicio represented the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade association with members from the manufacturing industry. He testified that ACSA was "complex legislation" with "serious consequences." Cicio asserted that an increased supply of energy is essential before the U.S. can have a successful carbon emissions trading system or consumer energy costs will most likely increase. He also stated that ACSA needs to discourage fuel-switching (for example, a coal-fired power plant switching to natural gas) or energy prices will increase, as happened in the European Union emissions trading program. Cicio concluded by asking the committee not to cap and trade greenhouse gas emissions until an abundant supply of low-cost energy is available.

Senator Thomas E. Carper (D-DE) attested that carbon emissions could not be the only type of pollution addressed by ACSA, and that health organizations showed the importance of limiting all harmful pollutants, not only greenhouse gases. Ranking member Warner asked the panel what would happen if the U.S. did not move forward with a policy such as ACSA and other countries such as China and India do. Mr. Cicio replied that if energy costs become cheaper in other countries, U.S. companies will move there, hurting America's economy. Ms. Beinecke replied that the U.S. is the largest greenhouse gas emitter and it needs to provide leadership and "show the way" for other countries by reducing emissions. Warner then asked if research has been done on the "cost of inaction" of not reducing greenhouse gases. Dr. Moomaw replied that multiple studies, including one by the University of Maryland, report that financial costs will be higher if the U.S. does not approve an emissions reduction plan.

Four of the five witnesses support ACSA, although all would make changes to the current legislation. Witnesses and senators agree that the U.S. must do something to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and that technology is the key to having clean energy sources. But strong disagreements persist on the issue of a carbon trading system versus a carbon tax, and the details of either system. The markup of ACSA will show whether or not it will be a driving force for climate change.

A link to witness testimony can be found here.

A link to the full text of S.2191, the ACSA, can be found here.

A link to the Duke University preliminary assessment of potential economic impacts of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act can be found here.

A link to the University of Maryland U.S. economic impacts of climate change and the costs of inaction report can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
hearing "To consider scientific assessments of the impacts of global climate change on wildfire activity in the United States"
September 24, 2007

Witnesses

Panel 1
Dr. Ann Bartuska - Deputy Chief for Research and Development, Forest Service, Department of Agriculture
Dr. Susan Conrad - National Program Leader for Fire Ecology Research, Research and Development, US Forest
Dr. Thomas Swetnam - Director of the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research and Professor of Dendochronology, University of Arizona
Dr. John Helms - Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley

Committee members present

Majority:
Chairman Jeff Bingaman (NM)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Jon Tester (MT)
Ken Salazar (CO)
Minority:
Ranking Member Pete V. Domenici (NM)
Larry E. Craig (ID)
Bob Corker (TN)

Wildfire activity has increased markedly in the United States over the past few decades, especially in the West. Changing climate has decreased water supplies and increased temperatures and the occurrence of droughts. More fuel is present in forests each year as humans continue to extinguish most small, natural fires. This combination of fuel, heat, and lack of water continues to increase the number of large wildfires and acres burned in the U.S. during fire season. The purpose of this hearing is to assess the current effectiveness of federal funding on wildfire prevention, to understand how climate change is altering wildfire activity in the U.S., and to decide what legislative action will provide the best prevention for these changing conditions.

Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) stated that "climate change is driving the dramatic growth" of wildfires in recent history, and will continue to do so, quoting an estimate of a 25-75% increase in wildfires by the year 2050. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) reviewed some of the major U.S. fires from the past 150 years, the period argued to show climate change due to anthropogenic carbon output, which resulted in over 1,000 fatalities. He noted that the committee has held many hearings on wildfires over the past 15 years, showing its enduring dedication to this important topic.

The first witness, Dr. Ann Bartuska stated that climate change research must be used to create sound forest management policies for the future. Adaptation, litigation, and policy support are all necessary to implement researchers' findings. Dr. Bartuska also remarked that we must get science "into the hands of practitioners" to ensure our forests are well-managed. She suggested the committee should plan a solid investment in this research for about 100 years.

Dr. Susan Conrad mentioned the danger of positive feedbacks that in turn encourage more global warming and wildfires: darker land left after a fire absorbing more heat energy; increased carbon dioxide output from fires; and less oxygen output in areas where fires have killed vegetation. She also noted that planning and decision-making must be "site-specific", based on the needs of each region. All witnesses agreed that the needs of each forest should be assessed independently, based on the local ecosystem.

Dr. John Helms concurred, noting that forests in different areas have been and will continue to be affected differently by climate change. While forests have adapted to warming and cooling trends through time, the concern now is the increased rate of climate change and thus adaptation. Additionally, humans are increasingly responsible for starting forest fires. Dr. Helms cited that in one recent year, 83% of all wildfires were started by humans.

The research headed by Dr. Thomas Swetnam has shown that some environmental changes are also human-caused. Major settlement has led to a large decrease in the number of fires starting about 100 years ago, as evidenced by the decrease in burn scars on tree rings from that period. Yet temperatures have been increasing through the same time period. Before 1900, temperature and number of fires were positively-correlated. This change indicates human development of land and forest management has altered the natural burn patterns in the U.S.

In response to a question of where to focus policy and funding for forest management, Dr. Swetnam said frequent-burning forests need the most attention. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) brought up the need to thin forests to remove fuel and lessen fire hazards, while Dr. Swetnam told the committee "we cannot thin our way out of this problem", and that more funding and collaboration between legislators and land management is needed. He recommended prescribed fires as a more cost-efficient means of reducing hazards. Dr. Bartuska said that the complex stresses within forests make solving the problem difficult and that thinning is only one piece of the solution. Dr. Conrad explained that, for example, in a closed-canopy, slow-growth forest, thinning will destroy the ecosystem. Dr. Swetnam agreed with all the other witnesses and again mentioned that "balanced design" is necessary in preventive efforts, and that we must first understand the forest area before deciding what action to take.

All witnesses acknowledged that humans have altered forest ecosystems, and thus the occurrences of wildfires, and that prevention must be chosen based on the individual ecosystem of each forest. Committee members were divided on which course of action would most effectively decrease wildfires. Senator Craig argued that increased thinning and grazing to remove fuel was the best solution, while Senator Tester felt that thinning would not solve the problem. Yet, even with these differences of opinion, all senators and witnesses repeatedly mentioned the need for compromise and bipartisan work on this issue. A better understanding of the effect of climate change on U.S. forests may provide a basis for more compromise between parties.

A link to witness testimony and archive webcast can be found here.

-EAL

Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection hearing on "Economic and International Issues in Global Warming Policy"
July 24, 2007

Witnesses:
Timothy Profeta, Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University
Blythe S. Masters, Managing Director, Global Currencies and Commodities Group, JP Morgan Chase, Inc.
Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO
Garth Edward, Trading Manager, Shell International Trading and Shipping Company
Margo Thorning Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, American Council for Capital Formation

On July 24, 2007, a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee convened to discuss the economic impacts of global warming policy that would include regulating carbon emissions.

Chair Joe Lieberman (I-CT) began the hearing by running through the many recent proposals in the Senate concerning carbon cap-and-trade. He first described his joint proposal with Senator John Warner (R-VA), also Ranking Member on the subcommittee. Lieberman expressed his belief in the need for "emergency off ramps" so that any cap-and-trade legislation could provide safeguards should the program prove to be too economically taxing. Lieberman also ran through several other cap-and-trade initiatives, one introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and another by Sens. Warner, Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanch Lincoln (D-AR), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Lieberman expressed cautious support for the quartet's plan unveiled that very same day. The chairman finished his opening remarks by citing various statistics from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study through 2030 that said his and Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) climate change legislation had positive environmental goals along with economically viability.

Ranking Member Warner expressed his support for Lieberman's comments. He continued by referencing a war metaphor and said that "as an old marine, we're going to lay a beachhead." In his short remarks, Warner mentioned the necessity for the "strongest partnership" between government, private sector, and citizen motivation. "This is a start," he said. Full committee chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), invoked Warner's metaphor by saying to the senators "you're on a great mission." Boxer stressed the need for action, and cited a statistic that $1 in preventative measures today will save $5 in future corrective measures for combating the effects of climate change.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) next put forth his opposition to carbon cap-and-trade, saying that it "doesn't work." Although hesitant to increase taxes, he said that they offer a more certain price for carbon. He said that all propositions currently drifting in the Senate "range from costly to ruinous." Inhofe finished by questioning the validity of global climate change. He suggested that current proposals "will enrich China at our expense." As skeptical as Inhofe was, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was vocal for action; he similarly invoked the war metaphor. Sanders cited a California proposal to create 1 million active photovoltaic units in the next ten years. He then postulated the benefits of pushing for a similar national mandate of 10 million photovoltaic units. "Think about the jobs that are created in production as well as installation," he said. Sanders continued by stating his support for better public rail transport and increased corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE). He wrapped up his comments by stating strong opposition to the "safety valve" by calling it a "white flag of surrender."

Before the testimony, Warner and Lieberman reiterated their plans for carbon regulation. Before the August recess, the senators plan to issue a study document that will then be reworked into a bill in September, based on suggestions made in the mean time.

All witnesses were given a longer ten-minute period for comments. First to testify was former Lieberman staffer and current director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, Timothy Profeta. Profeta described the Nicolas Institute's proposal after having met with legislative officials, corporate CEOs, scholars, and non-profit organizations. The proposal advocates the creation of a Carbon Market Efficiency Board, a federal oversight body able to adjust market price for greenhouse gases and short-term emission goals. Profeta likened the Board's role to that of the Federal Reserve. The proposal also supported a provision included in the Bingaman-Specter bill that would require U.S. importers to meet the same carbon emission standards as comparable American industries through certificates called "international reserve allowances." These allowances could be purchased at the same price as domestic allowances. Profeta finished by mentioning his optimism in congressional efforts that can regulate emissions while not having detrimental effects on the economy or worldwide competitiveness.

Blythe Masters, Managing Director of JP Morgan's energy and emission credit trading business, provided an economist's perspective on emission credit markets. Masters began by mentioning that emissions cap and trade has precedent, namely the sulfide dioxide (SOX) and nitrous oxides (NOX) market in the U.S. as well as various carbon markets in the European Union (EU) and Australia. American SOX and NOX cap-and-trade initiatives have been cost-effective and have cost the industry less than expected since their implementation in 1990 aimed at curbing acid rain. One lingering concern for carbon emissions regulation, Masters said, was escalating costs of carbon allowances. To control cost of allowances, she suggested allowing carbon offsets for reducing emissions, such as tropical forest preservation, whose destruction is a major source for atmospheric carbon. Masters also argued against setting a safety valve price for carbon allowances because with certain price limits, companies would have no incentive to invest in carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Robert Baugh, Executive Director of the Industrial Union Council at the AFL-CIO, testified next. He threw the interest group's support staunchly behind the Bingaman-Specter bill, which Baugh said addresses important goals such as initiative for new technologies and encouragement for developing nations to follow suit. He also applauded the bill's reinvestment of nearly half of cap-and-trade profits back into the public arena through R&D, CCS promotion, and even assistance to low-income households. Baugh also focused much of his testimony on the importance of maintaining US competitiveness with foreign products, in addition to the development of new technology. He concluded by saying that global climate change is both a "crisis and an opportunity."

Representing Shell Energy was trading manager Garth Edward. His testimony provided the point of view of an energy company that has already played a part in carbon cap-and-trade regulation overseas. Edward said that Shell supports a carbon cap-and-trade program, so long as long-term goals are established with interim milestone goals along the way. According to Edward, abatement technologies, such as CCS, should be encouraged from the start. On behalf of Shell, he also came out against safety valves, arguing that "offsets are your natural safety valve when prices start climbing" and that such a price cap betrays the emissions cap. "Introducing a price cap converts the cap and trade system into something like a tax system, where the environmental results can no longer be guaranteed," he said.

The last witness to testify was Margo Thorning, Chief Economist for the American Council for Capital Formation. Thorning came out in support of a taxation system over cap-and-trade by citing problems such as energy price volatility, reduced economic growth, and increased burden on low-income Americans. A taxation system, she contended, offered more flexibility. Thorning also brought up the point that determining carbon emissions from business overseas would be "highly unrealistic." She concluded by advocating international partnerships and technology transfer.

Lieberman, Warner, and Inhofe were the only senators present to engage in the question and answer period. Lieberman sought to understand the panelists' opinions on safety valves. Profeta stated that a safety valve tries to "know the unknowable," by setting an arbitrary price cap before the market has had time to adjust. In reference to the EU program, Masters also said that based on their system, the United States has perspective on what works and what does not. During his period of questions, Warner expressed concern that the markets might be vulnerable to fraud or deceit. Masters replied that there had been instances of fraud before, but only in voluntary carbon markets, which lack the same standards of verification as EU or UN compliance markets. Warner also expressed interest in the future of CCS and the ability for it to support a carbon market. To that, Profeta said that efforts would have to be made in that sector, but that "there is no silver bullet" controlling carbon emissions. While developing CCS would be beneficial, diversifying with renewable energy sources would also be needed. Baugh likened CCS to the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb and views federal investment in CCS technology as similar in scope and necessity.

Finishing off the question period, Inhofe expressed his surprise at the AFL-CIO's position on carbon cap-and-trade, then asked Thorning an array of questions comparing the goals of cap-and-trade versus a taxation system. Thorning agreed with Inhofe that a taxation system would be a more "efficient" and "honest" system for carbon emission regulation. Asked about technology transfer, Thorning also cited market influences that would encourage energy efficiency and environmental benefits.

-SDJ

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
"An Examination of the Views of Religious Organizations Regarding Global Warming"
June 7, 2007

Witnesses:
Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church
John Carr, secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Social Development and World Peace
Rev. Jim Ball, Evangelical Climate Initiative
Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
Russell Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Theology
Rev. Jim Tonkowich, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy
David Barton, author and historian.

On June 7, 2007, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met to examine the views of various religious communities on global warming. As global climate change becomes increasingly prominent in the consciousness of Americans, Senators invited religious leaders from several different denominations to provide input on their constituents' beliefs.

Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) opened the hearing lightheartedly by offering a wrapped gift to Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK): a polar bear stuffed animal. Thanking her for her gift, Senator Inhofe was also quick to point out that polar bear populations are actually on the increase everywhere except the Hudson Bay area.

In her opening statements, Senator Boxer emphasized the need for action on global climate change was twofold. She believes it necessary to "protect God's creation from global warming." As citizens, we have a "moral, ethical, and scriptural mandate" to take measures to counteract climate change. Senator Boxer stressed the moral obligation to help the poor of the world; she believes that the negative impacts of global warming will disproportionately "fall on the shoulders of poor people," not only in developing nations, but the United States, as well. She cited the predicted scarcity of resources due to climate change, such as water, food, and other essentials. Senator Boxer also made reference to the economic triumphs in the United Kingdom due to the development so-called "green-collar jobs" and expressed her hope for similar collaborative action.

Senator Inhofe's opening statement began with partial criticism of the committee's recent focus on global warming by expressing concern that it was shirking other duties under its jurisdiction, but he added that he was looking forward to this particular hearing. He stated that with regard to global climate change "the science is unsound, which we all know is true." Senator Inhofe believes that the current prevailing view is the "media's version of climate science" and that of "climate crusaders."

The opening statements by the other committee members present expressed similar difference in views based on party lines. Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) contended that current legislation aimed to combat global climate change puts unfair financial burden on low-income families. He suggested that government efforts should instead be focused on clean-coal technology to make our coal areas into the "Dubai of the Midwest." Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) shared similar concern for the wellbeing of poorer communities, but like Senator Boxer, believes that inaction would be more detrimental to lower-income families around the world.

The first witness before the committee was Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, who was also testifying on behalf of the National Council of Churches, a representative group for 100 million constituents. Schori, who prior to being ordained earned a doctorate in oceanography, stated that "climate change and global warming are real." She emphasized the interconnectedness of climate change and consequences for those living in poverty. Schori believes the current development of global warming is a "threat to all of humanity."

John L. Carr, Secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Social Development and World Peace, advocated unity among the various religious leaders. He repeatedly stressed the common impacts of climate change as something all would share, but simultaneously urged a focus on the poor. In dealing with climate change, he said we should consider the issue "from the bottom up" - from the view of our poorest citizens first. Carr suggested that "those who contribute least to climate change will lose the most" if the issue goes unattended.

Although most of the panelists expressed a need to help the poor regardless of the action they advocated, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, was the only one to identify this concern specifically as an issue of environmental justice. Rev. Jim Ball, of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, representing more than 100 evangelical leaders, stated the concreteness of human-induced climate change. "Science has settled," he said. In chorus with the previous panelists, he stressed the need for concrete action and saw this current issue as an "opportunity to unite the country."

Russell Moore, Dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Theology, representing more than 16 million Americans, shared similar concerns about progress on combating climate change. However, he said that from a theological perspective he finds it difficult for evangelicals to tie specific legislation to Christian scriptures, which would be their principal motivation for political action. While Dr. Moore pointed out that he does not deny climate change or the human influence on it, he expressed concern for what he called the "apocalyptic" scenarios presented by global warming advocates. He stated that his organization "does not have any specific blueprint," but that efforts to tie legislation to Bible verses would trivialize Christian scriptures. He advocated prudence and common sense.

The final two witnesses, Rev. Jim Tonkowich, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, and author and historian David Barton, echoed similar concerns of restraint. Rev. Tonkowich correlated environmentalists' efforts against global climate change to an effort to world population control. He reminded the committee that such a movement would act against the conscience of most Evangelicals and Catholics, and spoke out against action directed toward climate change correction. In his testimony, David Barton cited a national poll that demonstrated Evangelicals' lack of cohesiveness on the issue of global warming. Climate change, he said, was not one of the top-ranked issues for Evangelicals. On the other hand, 90% support global efforts to help poverty. In conclusion, he stated that he did not find any widespread movement in the Evangelical community to support specific legislation.

Altogether, the atmosphere at the hearing was collaborative and polite. Despite the calls for unity by several of the panelists, the witnesses were in disagreement about what kind of policy, if any, should be enacted by Congress. However, one thing that all panelists could agree on was the sanctity of human life and necessity to help those suffering in poverty.

-SDJ

 

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Water and Power Subcommittee
"Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supply and Availability in the United States"
June 6, 2007

Witnesses:
Philip W. Mote, JISAO/CSES Climate Impacts Group
Bradley H. Udall, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
Christopher Milly, Research Hydrologist, United States Geological Survey (USGS)
Patrick O'Toole, Family Farm Alliance
Tim Brick, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited
Tim Culbertson, Representative for the National Hydropower Association
Terry Fulp, Area Manager, Boulder Canyon operations office, United States Bureau of Reclamation

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power met on June 6, 2007 to discuss the impacts of climate change on water supply and availability in the United States. Acting Subcommittee Chair Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) opened the hearing by recounting an anecdote about colleague Senator Craig Thomas, who passed away two days before. In speaking of her fellow committee member, Cantwell said that "we will miss him and his advocacy" and that her "thoughts and prayers" were with his family.

In a set of two panels, Dr. Philip Mote of the JISAO/CSES Climate Impacts Group, and part of a NOAA-sponsored endeavor, was the first witness to testify. His testimony began by citing various observed climate changes that have taken place in recent history. The spring snow melt has shifted "earlier by two weeks over the last half century," he stated. Attributing this warming in the west to a "rise in greenhouse gases," Mote predicted increasing changes in the Pacific Northwest states since 70% of western stream flow is due to snow melt. As a recommendation to the panel, Mote suggested three key elements: federal agency involvement in streamflow predictions, revitalized attention to existing observation networks, and enhanced planning and modeling methods.

In his testimony, Bradley H. Udall, of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences in Boulder, Colorado, emphasized his engineering rather than scientific background. Udall's presentation of his locality's struggle with water management caused the most concern for the subcommittee. At the current rate of use, Lake Meade has ten years of water left, and "never refills" - regardless of climate change. As part of his recommendation to the committee Udall stressed the need for "coherent data policy" and locally based decision makers. Regional climate modeling, he said, "is the only tool we have" to tackle this growing problem effectively.

In concert with the message of the previous witnesses, Dr. Christopher Milly, a research hydrologist with the USGS, acknowledged that the "same factors causing global warming are changing the global water cycle." Milly advocated higher resolution models and measurement techniques. He suggested that in order to improve water management, better planning tools would be needed.

During the question and answer session directed at this first panel, senators pressed the witnesses about various tactics used in the effort to manage the water supply. They also inquired as to how, exactly, Congress could help. On the whole, none of the senators seemed to have a clear stance on how the concerns should be handled. "What should we be doing?" asked Cantwell. In reference to potential solutions Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) simply asked, "what are we looking for?" Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) showed concern for the decreasing level of Lake Meade. It would seem that "far more urgent" action would need to take place, he stated. Udall replied that current actions were indeed short-term solutions. He advocated for more refined modeling for water dynamics. "The smaller you can focus these models," he said, "the more you can get out of them."

The first member of the second panel to speak was Patrick O'Toole, President of the Family Farm Alliance. His testimony, primarily anecdotal, expressed the tangible impacts that changes in water dynamics are having on agriculture in the United States. Timothy Brick, Chairman of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, cited various problems that climate shifts have caused for water management in the west. Record low precipitation has forced area managers to think of ways to diversify water resources. He recommended better involvement and collaboration on the part of government agencies working with local-area water managers like Metropolitan. Dr. Jack Williams, Senior Scientist at Trout Unlimited, promoted long-term solutions. He remains "highly skeptical" of efforts to dam or channelize streams to control water flows.

The final two witnesses were Tim Culbertson, representing the National Hydropower Assocation, and Dr. Terry Fulp, Area Manager for at the Boulder Canyon operations office for the Bureau of Reclamation. Unlike previous witnesses, Culbertson's testimony focused on the negative effects on energy production due to altered water dynamics. Climate change effects, he said, change the availability of water and the timing of flows. These stresses can affect the energy production of a hydropower station and reservoir management. In Cantwell's home state of Washington, 72% of municipal power is produced by hydropower facilities. As recommendations, Culbertson proposed increased support for the hydropower industry as well as promoting better understanding of the impacts of climate change on water availability

Dr. Fulp's testimony focused on the techniques that the Bureau of Reclamation was using, in cooperation with numerous other federal agencies including the USGS and the Department of Energy (DOE), to analyze the potential impacts of climate change on regional hydrology. Fulp summarized the multifaceted efforts by the Bureau of Reclamation to forecast legal, agricultural, and hydrological issues. Echoing other witnesses' concerns, Fulp mentioned a section of Reclamation specifically focusing on the potential for smaller-scale modeling of water and vegetation.

Senators focused on immediate solutions that administrators were taking to ensure that water demand was being met. The senators showed concern at what appeared to be a mounting problem. "Shouldn't we have a contingency plan?" Sen. Cantwell asked Fulp, in reference to the prediction that temperature increases will continue. Fulp, like other witnesses, responded by advocating for better modeling of the effects of increased temperatures. Cantwell felt unsatisfied saying that "I'd be more comfortable if the Bureau [of Reclamation] had a plan."

In his questions, Sen. Corker was curious how much of the water problems in the west were due to rising population versus altered climate patterns. Brick responded by saying that isolating the effects of the various factors was "difficult." But he added that any climate problems were exacerbated by the most rapidly growing area in the country. Corker acknowledged that even without climatic factors that the region faced "serious issues already."

-SDJ

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on "Examining the Case for the California Waiver"
May 22, 2007

Witnesses:
Mr. Edmund G. Brown, California Attorney General
Mr. Pete Grannis, Commissioner New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Dr. Jonathan Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University

On May 22, 2007 the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee met to hear testimony and discuss California's request for a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would allow the state to implement more stringent laws for greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles starting with model year 2009. Section 209 (b) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) provided special provisions for California when the law was enacted in 1970. The special provisions allowed California to maintain more stringent vehicle emission standards that were adopted before the CAA. These provisions also allow the state to adopt future standards that are different from the federal controls. California must obtain a waiver from the EPA to implement any new standards and according to the CAA the state must meet three criteria: 1. the measures are not capricious or arbitrary, 2. show that the state needs such standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions and 3. show that the standards at least meet the federal standards. Section 177 also indicates that once the waiver is granted for California, other states are allowed to adopt the exact same standards.

In her opening statements Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) explained the legislative history in California that led up to the waiver request and called upon the EPA to grant the waiver soon. In 2002, California passed the Pavley Standard to set more aggressive greenhouse gas emission limits for motor vehicles. In 2005, California wrote rules to implement the law and applied for a waiver from the EPA. In addition, 11 other states have adopted the California standards and are waiting for the waiver decision to implement these standards. After more than 16 months the EPA has not granted the waiver and California has filed a notice of their intent to sue the EPA if it does not grant the waiver within 6 months. Boxer noted that these standards would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California by about 30% by 2016. Adding to this, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said that if the California regulations were enacted the resulting reduction in emissions would equate to keeping 64 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere or in other words, taking 12 million cars off the road.

Dr. Adler noted that the special provision for California was enacted because of California's severe air pollution which is related to its large metropolitan complex and its dependence on transportation. Forty-one percent of California's emissions come from its transportation sector compared to the national average of 30 percent. Despite this, he said that California's request for a waiver "is not applicable in the context of global climate change…global climate change, is by definition, global…and the degree of warming experienced by California is a consequence of global atmospheric conditions, not local policies or controls." Past waivers were granted on the basis of air pollution affecting local environmental conditions not global climate conditions. To that statement, Boxer simply replied "Your argument is so weak." Inhofe asked Dr. Adler what made this waiver different from previous waivers. He said that previous waivers dealt with interests specific to California, for example the ozone levels in the Los Angeles Basin.

In California Attorney General Brown's testimony he accused President Bush of delaying action and the auto industry of endorsing the EPA's interpretation of greenhouse gases as non-pollutants to stall changes to vehicle emission standards. In Massachusetts v. EPA the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA does have the authority to regulate CO2. Brown said that it is the responsibility of the EPA to follow through with their mandate and allow California to respond to the climate change crisis immediately. Brown clearly laid out California's right to address this issue "Global warming has global consequences…it is California's duty and obligation to address that. Automobiles are significant contributors to global warming. They contribute 41% of all greenhouse gas emissions in California."

New York Commissioner Grannis noted that New York has adopted the same rules as California under Section 177 of the CAA. He requested that the EPA grant California its waiver so that New York could also proceed with its greenhouse gas emission requirements.

Senator Boxer voiced some frustration with EPA administrator, Steve Johnson, about the EPA's postponement of the waiver decision. She said "Administrator Johnson repeatedly said that these issues are 'complex'…that is not the case…I take the use of the word 'complex' by Administrator Johnson as a code word for inaction and delay."

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) was not as enthusiastic about the California waiver as Boxer and the two witnesses from California and New York. In his opening statements he pointed out much hypocrisy within California's stand on the CAA. He said "California is violating federal law to reduce the soot its citizens are forced to breathe every day. It is in violation of federal particulate matter standards and shows few signs it will come into compliance. The same is true for ozone…areas of California are not even complying with existing law."

Dr. Adler made the case that under section 209 (a) of the CAA no state will be allowed to adopt more stringent vehicle emissions for new vehicles than the federal government. He stated "The purpose of this provision was to maintain a national market for motor vehicles. Any automobile that rolled off an assembly line meeting federal emission control requirements would be able to be sold anywhere in the U.S." This provision protects the auto industry, keeps consumer choices up, and keeps prices lower. Attorney General Brown had a different take on the auto industry. In his testimony he suggested that the auto industry is part of the problem when it comes to global climate change. In the first round of questioning, Lautenberg noted that the auto industry has blocked improvements to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFE) and he asked Brown why this is the case. Brown replied that the profit comes from the larger heavier vehicles and stricter regulations would take many models out of compliance. In addition the industry inflates the projected cost to make fuel efficient vehicles even though evidence points to the contrary. Brown concluded that while there is some financial burden, GHG regulations will not drive U.S. automakers out of business. Grannis's testimony supported this claim by stating that California's regulations allow the auto industry enough time and flexibility to conform to the California standards by using phase in techniques which allow for a gradual change over time. This would give the industry time to plan their investments accordingly as new technologies emerge and become economic.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in support of the waiver, echoed Boxer's sentiments. "The EPA has sat on its hands for years and the courts had to compel it to take action…while the rest of us had to wait and let the situation get worse." he said. Adler countered that Congress is much more capable of passing regulations than the EPA which is bound by administrative rules and would be slower to react.

Again Boxer claimed that this argument was ridiculous and that the EPA could act now if it was not hindered by partisan politics. She made the point that before this administration, federal agencies were dedicated to doing their missions without regard to party politics. Boxer's main point is that California is just trying to do its part to combat the effects of global warming. Under the CAA, CO2 is a pollutant and California wants to deal with this problem starting with CO2 emissions from automobiles. The public comment period for the waiver request will end on June 15, 2007 and Senator Boxer hopes the EPA will process the waiver rapidly after the deadline.

-DM

House Science and Technology Committee hearing on "The State of Climate Change Science 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change
May 16, 2007

Witnesses:
Dr. Mark Levine, Division Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Dr. William A. Pizer, Fellow at Resources for the Future and a Senior Economist at the National Commission on Energy Policy
Mr. Stern Plotkin, Transportation Energy and Environment Systems Analyst at the Center for Transportation Research, Argonne National Laboratory
Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., Director, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research and Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado

On May 16, 2007 the House Science and Technology convened to discuss the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007: Mitigation of Climate Change. This report was written by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The main sectors the panel was concerned with was greenhouse gases (GHG) with respect to transportation, residential/commercial development, cross-sectoral perspectives and environmental impacts. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) said "The Summaries of Working Groups one and two released earlier this year indicated that both adaptation and mitigation strategies are needed to counteract the effects of increasing GHG concentrations in the atmosphere. Adaptation of these strategies can lessen the impacts of the changes in climate change we are experiencing now and that we will experience under any scenario in the future." Gordon made it clear the concern of cost for such strategies however; he added "We simply cannot afford the costs of inaction."

However, Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) seemed more concerned that Working Group III charge was too narrow a focus. He cautioned against passing regulations without knowing their full impact on the average citizen. In his first round of questioning, he asked Dr. Pizer if he would recommend raising the price of gasoline. Pizer answered "If we're going to conserve energy we need a policy that makes us do so." In Mr. Plotkin's testimony he stated that "Transportation accounts for about 23% of the world's energy related GHG emissions, and is the fastest growing end-use sector…world emissions will grow at about 2% per year; by 2030 they will have grown by 80% …with nations like China leading the way." He also noted that the fuel economy in the U.S. light truck fleet would be 24% higher had the weight and performance remained the same as in 1987 but instead have they have become faster by 30% and heavier by 27%. With concern to alternative fuels, Gordon asked Dr. Plotkin what needs to be done to maximize biofuels. Plotkin replied that "If we are serious [about biofuels] we have to move past corn-based ethanol to cellulosic biomass and bring down the cost to make it affordable. We need to see what the effects would be on our land of massive corn fields with respect to pesticides and fertilizers."

Hall asked if in the IPCC's report included energy consumption and emissions from China in its suggested mitigation policies... Pizer answered yes that figures reflect the world working together. "Well wouldn't that be nice if it worked that way." replied Hall. Dr. Levine however, supported Pizer stating that China is looking to reduce its energy intensity by 20% because it is too costly and there are local environmental concerns. Going back to the concern about emissions in India and China, Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) asked "How do we encourage India and China to go along with us?" referring to the competition among industries to use low-cost energy versus low-carbon emission energy. Pizer replied that it is not the IPCC's job to make policy. Sensenbrenner replied "We make policy. We look to you for advice; it does not look good to reduce jobs, increase the price of everything else and then create programs for those out of work, which ultimately increases the national deficit." Plotkin's suggestions for transportation policy include greater taxation on fuel, raising the fuel economy standard and investing in more research and development in the areas of alternative fuels, hybrid cars, high efficiency aircraft, and hydrogen fuel cells.

Representative Gerald McNerney (D-CA) asked Dr. Pielke "How will mitigation benefit the economy?" Although Pielke did not provide a specific answer, his written testimony cited a gain in global gross domestic product (GDP) of $0.6-$1.3 trillion from the IPCC report. Pielke did respond to Congressman McNerney that "We need to stop debating and start doing things and evaluating them and figure out what works. We won't know in the real world until we start doing things."

McNerney then asked Dr. Levine to describe how improved buildings will offset GHG and enhance mitigation in the short term and long term. Levine stated that we need to follow the example set by California. "California has not increased energy use since 1972 and the population has nearly doubled. We need to educate consumers to buy energy efficient products." Levine concluded. In his testimony Levine quoted Chapter 6 of the Summary Policy Makers (SPM) that "By 2030, about 30% of the projected GHG emissions in the building sector can be avoided with net economic benefit. Energy efficient buildings, while limiting CO2 can also improve indoor and outdoor air quality, improve social welfare and enhance energy security." On this finding he commented "In the U.S. 70% of total primary energy used in buildings is electricity. Any decarbonization of the fuel used to generate electricity translates directly into lower emissions resulting from energy use in buildings."

Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO) asked Levine what types of technology can help us get to the 30% reduction of GHG. Levine replied that smart computer chips that reduce energy usage in residential buildings are one example. "… Plug Load chips, when they are installed they stop the flow of electricity when the appliance is not in use which will stop excess heat from being created…it is a very large energy saving measure, the equivalent of taking out one refrigerator.", Levine concluded. He was less optimistic about technology to save energy in commercial buildings because of a lack of research and development, as well as ways to test large-scale energy control systems.

Representative Nicholas Lampson (D-TX) then inquired as to why people aren't more anxious to improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions. Levine replied that for a long time, energy-saving technologies were not very accessible and companies where not efficient in getting their products out. However, Levine did note that appliance standards today are much better than they have been in the past.

Ultimately there are two extreme outcomes as put forth by Pizer. Doing nothing could result in a 7-7.5 ° C increase, while aggressive mitigation could cost 3% of the global GDP by 2030 that means a 3% loss of income. "Today 3% of the GDP in the U.S. would mean $360 billion (For the world, it would be about 5 times higher)." Furthermore, he compared the situation to a basketball pool. "Most people pick the top seed as the overall winner but this is usually not the case as seen in most tournaments and the outcome usually falls to one of the lower seeds. Just like climate mitigation neither extreme is likely and the world will probably fall somewhere in between."

-DM

House Foreign Affairs Committee
hearing on "U.S. Re-Engagement in the Global Effort to Fight Climate Change."
May 15, 2007

Witnesses:
Ms. Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and former assistant secretary of State for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs
Dr. David John Jhirad, vice president for science and research at the World Resources Institute
Dr. W. David Montgomery, vice president of CRA International, and co-head of CRA's global energy and environment practice

"We are not here today to debate the existence of global warming… the time for that is over. That debate is done." declared Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA). On May 15, 2007, the Committee on Foreign Affairs convened to discuss how best to make the U.S. a world leader in combating climate change. Chairman Lantos also indicated that legislation and negotiations in a post-Kyoto world must include "binding commitments for environmental action from all world polluters, including China and India." Lantos announced that on May 23rd he will meet Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi's goal, and submit legislation that will resume international talks to cease global warming and aid developing nations to help reduce global warming through the use of cleaner energy resources. In his testimony, the second witness, Dr. Jhirad echoed Chairman Lantos's comments and added that global warming cannot be solved without U.S. involvement.

Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R- FL) shared Lantos's sentiments adding that the U.S. needs to consider all possible approaches to cutting emissions and provide incentives to industries that do so. While controls and caps are a good idea, none of the current measures being considered by Congress really address the effect of the legislation on the economy . Ros-Lehtinen pointed out that some factories in the European Union (EU ) are going out of business due to spending money on carbon capture technology and having to compete with other industries that do not have the same regulations.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was the only committee member that did not seem to share the same sense of urgency in dealing with global warming. He stated "There is no doubt global warming is going on but is mankind causing it? Are we trying to solve a problem that we cannot fix?" However, he did make it clear he was in support of energy independence and better air quality. Rohrabacher also noted that there is a large part of the scientific community with different opinions about global warming that is being ignored and we are a long way away from saying if global warming is being caused by humans. In his questioning Rohrabacher stated that "There is some evidence that sunspots are causing global warming." Dr. Jhirad disagreed with Congressman Rohrabacher, saying that as a trained astrophysicist he doubts that sunspots have much effect on global temperature rise but agreed with him on the issue that clean air is important to future generations. Rohrabacher concluded his comments on global warming during his allotted time by stating that we should be "calling to question the hysteria that comes from global warming. If we spend these resources it will take away from helping people."

The rest of the committee further emphasized the urgency of making policy to deal with global warming while not harming the U.S. economy. Representative Al Green (D-TX) cautioned that global warming policy must not be made unilaterally by the U.S. During questioning of the first witness, Eileen Claussen, Green expressed concern about placing carbon caps on domestic industries that might lead to job losses because those domestic industries cannot compete with less regulated and cheaper production overseas. Claussen replied that the key to greenhouse caps is to go about it the rational way, which means not changing over any faster than our economy can handle. She went on to cite examples of how some industries actually benefit from caps in energy use such as the aluminum and cement industries; in these cases it is a win-win situation. Mr. Montgomery added to that saying "The solution [to greenhouse emission caps] is global engagement… the U.S. must not get too far ahead." In his testimony he said that it is pointless to set carbon concentration goals. The competitive advantages strengthen incentives for China and India to resist greenhouse controls." In her testimony Claussen stated that 25 countries account for 85% of global emissions. "China's emissions have grown 80% since 1990 and could rise another 80% by 2020."

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen further pressed the competitive issue and asked the panels' view on carbon capture sequestration (CCS). Adding to her previous statement, Claussen said that the U.S., when dealing with other large emitting countries, should pursue [sectored] agreements when dealing with competitiveness. Dr. Jhirad answered the CCS question with his view that large scale CCS must be demonstrated starting with about one million metric tons of coal. "We need to do this along with India and China.", Jhirad stated. However, Montgomery countered Jhirad saying that "private firms will find it difficult with storing carbon underground; there is no way of dealing with competitiveness issues unless developing nations move along at the same pace as the U.S."

Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ) asked each of the witnesses the big doomsday question "If current trends continue…could you give some examples of worst case scenarios?" Claussen tackled this question first, listing four big events that could take place "substantial sea level rise along southern coasts, causing migration and national security problems, more droughts and storms, and loss of bio-diversity." Jhirad supported those claims, adding that the U.S. is not equipped to take on millions of refugees. Earlier in his testimony he said that the Asian countries are the most in danger from sea level rise. However, Montgomery softened the scenarios with "there is a large amount of uncertainty…usually things fall in between good and bad."

Looking to what the U.S. could do now; Representative Loretta Sánchez (D-CA) asked the panel about the U.S. rejoining the Kyoto Protocol. Montgomery said the treaty was not enforceable, does not develop new technology, does not include developing countries and would ultimately cost the U.S. about 2% of its GDP. Claussen added to that with her answer "The issue is not joining now but what agreements are made after."

The committee pressed the panel for alternate energy sources. Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) asked the witnesses their position on nuclear power to meet energy needs. Jhirad acknowledged that while it is a carbon free solution, even if the number of nuclear power plants were tripled greenhouse gases would only go down a fraction and we would have to deal with waste issues. He added, "However, it should not be completely taken out of the equation." Claussen said that the key to a comprehensive energy plan is to have a diverse portfolio. "Coal is cheap and available however, we need to find ways to burn it more efficiently. Nuclear power must remain a part of the portfolio and renewable energy sources need to be expanded upon greatly."

-DM

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
hearing on "Administration Proposals - Climate Change"
May 11, 2007

Witnesses:
Panel I
The Honorable Mary E. Peters, Secretary of Transportation
Steven L. Johnson, Administrator, U.S Environmental Protection Agency
The Honorable John Paul Woodley, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
Lurita A. Doan, Administrator, U.S General Services Administration
Panel II
Daniel P. Beard, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. House of Representatives
Stephen T. Ayers, Acting Architect of the Capitol

On May 11, 2007, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing about climate change and energy conservation related to transportation in the country and related to energy usage in the House complex. Committee Chair James Oberstar (D-MN) indicated that "our economy is so dependent on hydrocarbons that we have a special responsibility on this committee to examine the reach, breadth, and effect of their use." He mentioned a 1977 bill he sponsored that would have put photovoltaic cells in various Washington buildings, but with the incoming Reagan administration in 1980, alternative energy implementation came to a stand still. He noted that current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are "higher than anytime in the last 420,000 years," which could cause problems related to the spread of tropical diseases, change in weather patterns, and other environmental issues.

Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL) countered Oberstar's opening statements, saying, "I do not claim to be an expert on global warming. In fact, in February, I was beginning to wonder if there really is global warming." He quipped that "it was so cold [in Washington, D.C.] that you could actually see members of Congress with their hands in their own pockets." He did, however, note the need to reduce energy usage. At one point he held up an incandescent light bulb, stating "this is the kind of light bulb we use in the Capitol," implying that compact fluorescent bulbs could easily be used instead. He made a reference to nuclear power as "emissions free," but stated that federal policy on issues such as nuclear power "keeps us from doing things." He also mentioned railroad usage as a way to reduce emissions, as it is cheaper and more efficient to move cargo by rail. "Even Romania is privatizing its rail," he added.

Mary Peters, Secretary of Transportation, discussed the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA), a proposal that would allow metropolitan areas to become "Urban Partners" with the Department of Transportation. As partners, the cities would be offered monetary help and regulatory flexibility in order to reduce traffic congestion and enhance transit services. Peters stated that "we waste 2.3 billion gallons of fuel every year" from idling traffic, noting the need to reduce traffic congestion for environmental and economic purposes. She also mentioned New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to implement a "cordon pricing" program in which drivers would pay a fee in order to enter downtown Manhattan during the workday. "Mayor Bloomberg's proposal is the kind of bold thinking leaders across the country need to embrace if we hope to win the battle against traffic congestion and climate change," she stated. Peters also mentioned efforts to reduce aviation related fuel usage, using more fuel efficient ground-based equipment at airports and nose wheel motors on jets for taxiing.

Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, stated that the United States in "on target" to meet President Bush's goal of reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by the year 2012. "From 2004 to 2005, the U.S. economy increased by 3.2 percent while greenhouse gas emissions increased by only 0.8 percent," he added. He compared the U.S. favorably to other countries, noting that "over the last six years this country has invested more than any other, $37 billion, in a comprehensive climate change agenda." He also stated that a focus of the EPA is "the development of risk management strategies to ensure carbon dioxide injection and long-term geologic storage are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner." When asked by Oberstar about the April 2, 2007 Supreme Court decision that implied carbon dioxide is a pollutant able to be regulated by the EPA, Johnson responded, "we are currently evaluating what the supreme court said… we are moving expeditiously, this is an important issue, but we are also moving responsibly."

John Paul Woodley, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), described the challenges the Army Corps of Engineers will face as a result of climate change. "A significant change in climate could also affect our ability to supply water from our nation's multipurpose reservoirs to 55 million municipal and industrial consumers," he warned. Continuing with the theme of water issues, he noted that "the Corp is the single largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States," and the 75 hydropower projects that the Corp manage generate about 78 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year. When questioned about whether the Corp had the funding and ability to deal with future crises, he answered, "The USACE is a leader in innovative, yet practical, cost-effective approaches… we are well positioned to respond to the nation's needs now and in the future."

Lurita Doan, Administrator of the U.S General Services Administration, expounded on the environmental efficiency of the GSA, stating, "the GSA has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to lead the Federal Government by example and to demonstrate how we can reduce energy consumption by intelligently integrating energy efficiency into building designs while still creating superior places." She mentioned that the GSA follows the Leader in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in the design of new construction and major alteration projects. "The GSA has an enormous ability to affect the industry based on the sheer volume of purchases," she stated, adding, "this year alone the GSA will buy 24,000 alternative fuel vehicles." When Doan mentioned an efficient ventilation system in a new San Francisco GSA building, Chairman Oberstar pointed out "[The Romans] diverted streams to run them through building to cool them… it is an old practice, I am glad you are rediscovering it."

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) started her line of questioning in dramatic fashion, walking over to the two-story window behind her and pulling aside the opaque curtain, letting in copious amounts of natural light. "A lot of what the federal government does has to begin at home… our ability to affect the marketplace is almost incalculable," she stated. "It took me a long time to realize that there were windows behind these curtains," added Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL), seconding the idea that energy conservation needs to start at home.

Addressing the witnesses, Representative Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) instructed that "an understanding of the geologic history of the planet is not unimportant for each of you to have an understanding of," adding, "this is an effect that we have not seen in geologic history." He mentioned that agencies such as NOAA, the USGS, and the USACE need to collaborate, as climate change is "much bigger than one agency can handle."

On the second panel of witnesses, Daniel Beard, Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S House of Representatives, indicated that the House complex was responsible for approximately 91,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006, and discussed the need to eliminate this as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for a carbon neutral operation of the House by the end of the 110th Congress. Beard explained that this would be the "equivalent of taking 17,200 cars off the road each year." Stephen Ayers, Architect of the Capitol, gave examples of how this would be accomplished, such as replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps, installing motion sensor fixtures in the bathrooms, and replacing old, inefficient windows.

Oberstar also pushed for the expansion of walking and bicycle usage in this country. "Forty percent of all trips in Denmark are by bicycle," he noted, adding, "Last year more bicycles were sold in America than automobiles, and that is a good thing for America." Citing American's over-reliance on cars, even for short trips, he concluded, "I want to see us convert from the hydrocarbon economy to the carbohydrate economy… we have got to change the habits of an entire generation of Americans."


-PS

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard hearing on "Effects of Climate Change and Ocean Acidification on Living Marine Resources"
May 10, 2007

Witnesses:
Dr. Scott Doney, Senior Scientist, Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Dr. Richard A. Feely, Supervisory Oceanographer, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Dr. David O. Conover, Dean and Director, Marine Science Research Center, Stony Brook University
Dr. Lara J. Hansen, Chief Scientist, Climate Change Program, World Wildlife Fund
Admiral James D. Watkins USN (Ret.), Co-Chair Joint Ocean Commission Initiative
Dr. Gordon H. Kruse, President's Professor of Fisheries, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences

While many of the debates and hearings on global climate change focus on atmospheric issues, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the world's oceans could have catastrophic consequences. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard met on May 10, 2007 to discuss the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on marine life.

Subcommittee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) stated that humans have released 1.5 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age. "If we continue business as usual, the consequences are likely to be severe," she warned. Cantwell stressed that while it may not be easy to see the effects of climate change on oceanic life, it is fundamental to examine it. "When it comes to ocean acidification, we risk not just threatening the ocean's ecosystem, we are threatening its very foundation," she said.

Ted Stevens (R-AK), who stood in for Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-ME), seconded Cantwell's comments, saying "much of the focus on Capitol Hill and in the media is on how climate change will affect life on land," but we need to better understand how commercial fishing will be affected by ocean acidification. He expressed doubts as to whether the current climate change is natural or anthropogenic, but agreed that action needs to be taken.

Scott Doney, senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, stated that "there is a broad scientific consensus" that human activities are leading to ocean acidification. "Atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 35 percent over the past two decades, mostly as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels," he added, "and the ocean absorbs about one third of this carbon dioxide." He noted that marine life has survived large changes in ocean pH and temperature in the past, but the current rate of change is alarming. Doney suggested that in order to curb ocean acidification, "first and foremost we need to control the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the root of the problem." When questioned by Senator Stevens about the 0.04 degree per year increase in ocean temperature, Doney noted that because of the high heat capacity of the ocean, it is a very significant change in temperature. "It is not just the magnitude of the change, it is the rate of the change," he added, explaining that a similar oceanic temperature and pH change happened during the last deglaciation, but over a period of several thousand years. Stevens also suggested that Earth may simply be exiting "the Little Ice Age," to which Doney replied that current temperatures are much warmer than those prior to the Little Ice Age.

Richard Feely, Supervisory Oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said that "the ocean's daily uptake of 22 million tons of carbon dioxide is now starting to have an effect," and that "the pH of our oceans has changed about thirty percent since the start of the industrial revolution." He discussed how the formation of carbonic acid can limit the production of calcium carbonate shells by various marine organisms, and cause food shortages based on destruction of the base of the oceanic food chain. He also noted that calcium ion concentrations in the oceans are lower than they have ever been, and this lowered saturation state makes life difficult for shell-building organisms.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) cited concerns about how climate change will affect the Great Lakes, and mentioned issues with wetlands in Minnesota. "Water levels in the great lakes continue to drop," she noted, in contrast to rising ocean levels. She lamented the possibility of the "land of 10,000 lakes" motto having to be dropped from Minnesota license plates. Much to Klobuchar's chagrin, Feely noted that "the Great Lakes are not as well buffered as the ocean, so the effects could be more severe."

David Conover, Director of the Marine Sciences Resource Center, pointed out another affect of temperature change on marine life, which is heat-stress among cold blooded marine organisms and he cited a lobster die-off in 1999 in Long Island Sound as an example. He mentioned that parasitic diseases are now seen farther north than they have ever been seen before, which is affecting oyster and mussel populations. He mentioned the possibility of iron fertilization to produce phytoplankton blooms to remove carbon dioxide, but cautioned that there could be many undesirable effects of using such a strategy.

Lara Hansen, Chief Scientist of the Climate Change Program at the World Wildlife Fund, noted that "we are at a point now where we need to be dealing with not only adaptation, but with mitigation as well. Unfortunately, we are doing neither." She said that the U.S. government currently does not have enough people who know how to design strategies to deal with climate change problems. Gordon Kruse of the University of Alaska Fairbanks agreed with Hansen, and mentioned that the sharp decline in sea ice has had a negative impact on benthic species, which in turn has consequences for predators such as walruses. He noted the importance of establishing integrated monitoring systems to monitor species in the Bering Sea that may be indicators of a healthy ecosystem.

Retired Admiral James Watkins, Co-Chair of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, stated that "our oceans, coasts, and great lakes need a voice." He suggested a collaborative, integrative approach to solving climate change issues, arguing that "the problems facing the ocean are too large and too varied to continue the current piecemeal approach." He stated his belief that failure to act "will result in irreversible change to our economy and our environment." Watkins suggested that a "$750,000,000 increase over five years" is needed in order to adequately deal with ocean change. He spoke with fervor, and criticized actions taken so far to prevent ocean acidification and temperature increase, describing them as "a lot of rhetoric and very little substance." He stressed the need for a horizontally integrated collaboration system with strong links between agencies, including a codified and strengthened NOAA. He noted past Senate appropriations, but said "it really starts in the White House" as far as proper funding for climate change issues.

All of the witnesses expressed a need for immediate action to solve climate change problems, especially those related to changes in the oceans. Feely stated that we are not training enough scientists and planners to deal with the consequences of ocean acidification, and "we need the capacity to do this work." Hansen added that "literally every sector of our society is and will be continued to be affected by climate change, and we are grossly under-prepared for that." In the 110th Congress, climate change is a hot topic, and it seems likely that issues such as ocean acidification will continue to be the subject of hearings and legislation.

-PS

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
"Global Climate Change: Engaging Developing Countries"
March 27, 2007

Witnesses:
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, Director, Climate Energy and Pollution Program, World Resources Institute
Mr. Jeffrey Holzschuh, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley, Investment Banking - Global Energy and Utilities Group
Ms. Annie Petsonk, International Counsel, Environmental Defense
Mr. W. Thomas Stephens, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Boise Cascade, LLC
Dr. Edward S. Steinfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mr. Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Bernard Schwartz Fellow and Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, Asia Society

With the climate change debate gaining momentum, a number of recent hearings have focused on how to implement emissions reduction measures. A key concern facing lawmakers is how to partner with other countries to ensure an effective global effort, particularly one without severe economic repercussions. Chaired by Rick Boucher (D-VA), the House subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality convened on March 27, 2007 to discuss how to engage the developing world in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In his opening statement, Chairman Boucher discussed the Kyoto treaty, which was rejected by a rare unanimous vote by the Senate in July 1999. An agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol commits its signatories to emissions reductions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases. Countries also have the option of engaging in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases. However, countries like India and China, which have ratified the protocol, are not required to reduce carbon emissions under the present agreement. Because of this, the United States has refused to sign the agreement.

"A clear message from that experience is that for a mandatory GHG control program to succeed in the US, we must include in our legislation establishing the program, a reliable means of assuring meaningful participation by developing nations," Boucher stated.

The question of where to begin has many on Capitol Hill stymied. Some people have argued that the United States has a "moral and practical imperative to act unilaterally to limit its emissions," Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) noted. If the US leads, developing countries will follow.

However, Dingell commented, others have argued that "it would be foolhardy for the U.S. to bind itself unilaterally to emission limits and that doing so would cause both jobs and emissions to migrate to the developing world, thereby harming the US economy without securing real reductions in global emissions."

Finding a balanced solution to the climate change problem will be the "ultimate diplomatic challenge" Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) commented. "A citizen of the undeveloped world isn't going to forgo electrification to accomplish some amorphous environmental benefit," Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) added.

In his testimony, Dr. Pershing emphasized that a one-size-fits-all scheme will not succeed. "Not all countries are the same," he said. "Different policies will be needed for each." For example, in 2000 deforestation accounted for nearly 60 percent of Brazil's emissions, whereas the energy sector accounted for 68 percent of China's emissions. Likewise, countries emit GHGs in different proportions: In the US, carbon dioxide accounts for 82 percent of emissions but is only 55 percent of India's emissions. Noting that 15 countries (including the EU as one) are responsible for about 80 percent of global emissions, Dr. Pershing said "we need to find solutions that speak to each country's self-interest and desire for long term sustainable growth."

Dr. Steinfield's testimony addressed the future role of China in the energy market and in GHG emissions reduction schemes. Over the next 25 years, China is expected to "account for more than half of global growth in coal supply and demand." It is also expected to overtake the United States as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide within the next two years. With such a burgeoning demand for energy, China has more than just a vested interest in securing a clean, stable energy supply for the future.

In reaching agreements with China, Pershing cautioned, the US must first realize that "especially at the national level, China's energy-related governmental bureaucracy is highly fragmented and poorly coordinated." In much of the Chinese power sector "precious little evidence exists for coherent, top-down policy making or even a clear overall policy agenda." Similarly, China presently lacks the capacity to monitor, support, or enforce any energy policy.

However, China's energy sector is largely run by people at the grass roots level and as a result the system is highly experimental, flexible, and capable of great change. "This is a system in which players are emerging at every level who have a stake - whether political or commercial - in achieving more sustainable energy outcomes," Pershing said. "Those most likely to succeed [in effecting sustainable changes] will not be national in scale, but localized, replicable, and able to propagate to other localities."

Mr. Holzschuh agreed, saying that in addition to fostering emissions reduction efforts in developing countries, "it is important to complement such efforts with other important steps, such as increasing energy efficiencies, encouraging the use of new, cleaner technologies, and helping consumer behavior adapt and change to new environmental realities."

Mr. Stephen's testimony focused on forestry's role in climate change. Forest land management is a powerful and natural means of carbon sequestration. Poorly managed forests, however, contribute significantly to GHG emissions. Forest fires release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In some years, forest fires in Oregon released "as much carbon as was emitted for the entire year from burning fossil fuels in the state," Stephen commented. Revising land use policies to allow for thinning and timber production will, Stephan argued, reduce emissions and benefit the economy.

Rep. Barton asked if America's land use and reforestation programs are large enough to substantially reduce carbon dioxide. Stephens enthusiastically responded, arguing that not only would actively managing forests to reduce carbon dioxide be cost effective, it is a measure that can be implemented immediately.

Ms. Petsonk agreed that a one-size-fits-all approach will not solve the climate change dilemma. Petsonk presented recommendations for creating a carbon market with "an entirely different negotiating dynamic [from the 1995 Berlin Mandate]" that leverages "power of access to what will likely be the world's largest carbon finance market to encourage high-emitting developing countries to cap and cut their emissions."

Finally, Mr. Chaudhuri cautioned Congress to proceed with care. "To argue that India should sacrifice such immediate and tangible benefits [as economic growth and the elimination of poverty] to avoid costs predicted by disputed computer models that would materialize several decades into the future would find little or no support inside India."

While India is "not averse to working towards curbing carbon emissions," efforts to do so must be in "a form that is not inimical to economic growth." Discussions about global warming are seen as "largely irrelevant" in India, Chaudhuri said. "What does exist is an overwhelming consensus that India's overriding priority is rapid economic growth."

Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) asked each witness for a single recommendation for creating a solution that would, as Ranking Member Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said, encourage other countries to "ante up." In response, the panel recommended establishing a price for GHG, creating a capital pool for investments in alternative technology and establishing a US market that allows other countries to "dock in" easily. They also recommended demonstration projects for carbon dioxide sequestration and exhorted Congress to encourage the spread of clean technology into developing countries. And realize, added Dr. Pershing, "that this will be a process of evolution."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
"Vice President Al Gore's Perspective on Global Warming"
March 21, 2007

In a highly charged hearing, former Vice President Al Gore spoke before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on March 21, 2007. Led by Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the committee grilled Mr. Gore about global warming and his controversial film, "An Inconvenient Truth."

In her opening statement, Chairwoman Boxer welcomed Mr. Gore and the opportunity to discuss "one of the most important challenges facing humankind." Stressing the urgency of the global warming problem, Boxer noted the committee's past triumphs in enacting the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. "I believe we are up to the challenge [of dealing with global warming]," she commented.

Quoting Psalm 19, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) echoed her sentiments, stating that "We are called to be stewards of creation. And never has creation faced so great a challenge as that posed by climate change."

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), however, was less convinced about the threat to creation. "It is my perspective that your global warming alarmist pronouncements are now and always have been filled with inaccuracies and misleading statements," he said flatly. Inhofe cited the work of several scientists whose work has cast doubt on the severity and cause of current climate change observations and claimed that the ranks of scientists "converted from alarmists to believing that climate variability is largely natural…are skyrocketing." Claiming that the driving force behind the global warming panic is money, Inhofe chided the "thousands…that stand to make tens of billions of dollars" off a global warming industry.

Mr. Gore's opening statement was an unprecedented thirty minutes in length, a request reluctantly agreed to by the Republican minority on the committee. During his testimony, Mr. Gore carefully laid out the scientific foundation of climate change and its potential consequences, noting that when his father served in the senate in 1938, he and his colleagues were breathing about 300 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. Today, carbon dioxide is at 383 ppm. "[The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere] didn't really go above 300 ppm for at least a million years back, maybe longer," Gore stated, pointing out the significant increase in atmospheric carbon over the past seven decades.

"This is not a normal time. We are facing a planetary emergency," he continued. "The relationship between humankind and planet Earth has been radically altered in a very short period of time." Human population alone has exploded in the last hundred years, more than quadrupling since 1900. "What makes us believe we could go through these changes and not have an impact on the planet?" he asked.

Declaring global warming a "planetary emergency," Gore urged the committee to take action. "We can act, we can solve it, there is still time and we have everything we need to get started" he said. Not only is the scientific consensus "as strong as anything in science with the possible exception of gravity," Gore said, quoting a leading expert, there is also a mounting public consensus that something needs to be done.

Mr. Gore offered a series of recommendations about what that "something" might be. Noting the success of the early 1990s freeze on sulfur dioxide emissions, both environmentally and economically, he called for an "immediate freeze on carbon dioxide emissions." Mr. Gore also recommended using the tax code to "cut taxes on employment to take the burden off employees and employers and make up the difference with a pollution tax." He acknowledged with a chuckle that his suggestion would likely be considered outside the realm of political possibilities, but argued that such innovative solutions need to be considered in the future.

A fan of cap and trade schemes, Mr. Gore urged Congress to work on a bipartisan basis to initiate de facto compliance with the Kyoto Protocol and to move negotiations for a new Kyoto-like treaty up to 2010 rather than 2012. He emphasized the importance of fully engaging China and India in negotiations.

Mr. Gore called for a moratorium on all coal-generated power plants that are not fixed with carbon capture and sequestration technology, declaring such plants "simply irresponsible." He also urged Congress to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards as part of a comprehensive package and to ban incandescent light bulbs promptly. Finally, he recommended creating an "electronet" that would allow individuals and businesses to sell electricity back into the grid and for a carbon neutral mortgage association modeled after Fannie Mae ("Connie Mae") to reward energy-saving designs and appliances in new buildings.

"Global warming," he concluded, "is the greatest dangers and the greatest opportunity we have ever confronted."

Mr. Gore's testimony was met with keen interest by members on both sides of the aisle, who took the opportunity to question Gore about the specific mechanics of his recommendations. Senator Inhofe continued to contest the cause and magnitude of the global warming problem, citing "hundreds" of scientists who disagree with the ideas Gore is championing. He also presented Gore with the "Personal Energy Ethics Pledge," asking Gore to commit to "consume no more energy in your residence than the average American household" without employing any of the "various gimmicks used by the wealthy so they don't have to change their lifestyles."

Refusing to be trapped by Senator Inhofe's yes-or-no question, noting that his residences and businesses are powered by carbon neutral energy, Gore recommended setting standards for green energy that will reward users and encourage the expansion of green energy availability.

Several members questioned Gore about the future role of nuclear energy in powering the United States. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Larry Craig (R-ID) disagreed with Gore's opinions that nuclear energy will constitute only a "small part of the solution." Gore cited concerns about storage, operation accidents, petroleum-induced economic uncertainty, and the potential for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In return, Senator Craig argued that Gore's concerns would be moot if the Clinton Administration had not "set back nuclear technology by zeroing out the nuclear budget."

Calling Mr. Gore's recommendations "extremely intriguing," Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) asked whether a cap and trade policy is needed if a carbon tax is instituted. Despite other measures the US has taken to reduce emissions, the pressure to develop a cap and trade system, particularly a global one, is mounting and an issue of key concern for lawmakers. Recognizing this, Mr. Gore recommended both approaches, arguing that carbon taxes and cap and trade policies are not mutually exclusive.

As the hearing drew to a close, an air of optimism reigned. "I think we've reached the political tipping point," commented Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). "I don't agree we're at the tipping point yet," Gore disagreed. "But I think we're very close to it."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
"Toward a Clean Energy Future: Energy Policy and Climate Change on Public Lands"
March 20, 2007

Witnesses:
Panel 1
Dr. Mark Myers, Director, US Geological Survey (USGS)

Panel 2
Ms. Deborah Williams, President, Alaska Conservation Solutions; Former Special Assistant to the Department of the Interior, Alaska
Dr. Anthony Westerling, Associate Professor, Sierra Nevada Research Institute, University of California, Merced
Mr. Auden Schendler, Executive Director, Community and Environmental Responsibility, Aspen Skiing Company
Mr. Noah Matson, Director, Federal Lands Program, Defenders of Wildlife
Dr. Timothy F. Ball, Chair, Natural Resources Stewardship Project
Mr. Robert E. Murray, Chairman, Murray Energy Corporation

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, chaired by Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), held a hearing on March 20, 2007 to review the effects of global climate change on public lands and resources as a result of federal energy policies and actions. The hearing consisted of two panels of witnesses, with USGS Director Mark Myers as the first witness and six people representing a range of interests on the second panel. As the hearing began, Ranking Member Steve Pearce (R-NM) encouraged the committee to exercise moderation on the climate change issue and "not fall victim to hyperbole, arbitrary deadlines or pressure from leadership."

The first to testify, Dr. Myers discussed the energy-climate feedback cycle, in which "continued increases in fossil fuel energy use will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)" which creates both positive and negative feedbacks. As a positive feedback, he explain, warming will cause Arctic sea-ice to melt, leading to "enhanced oil and gas exploration within the coastal zones of the Arctic Ocean." However, warming will also result in a decrease of water available to generate hydropower and melt Arctic permafrost, destroying energy infrastructure, pipelines, access roads, and oil field infrastructure.

Myers also emphasized the necessity of understanding the "interrelationships among earth system processes, ecological systems, and human activities," especially in the context of prehistoric and recent Earth processes, in order to successfully anticipate changes in Earth systems. Acknowledging that much remains to be understood about the impacts of climate change on humans and ecosystems, he urged the committee to support efforts to "develop a holistic, earth-systems science approach to help communities and natural resource managers prepare for and reduce climate change impacts."

"Are you willing to affirm that the climate change debate is over?" Rep. Pearce challenged. "Are we ready to do policy?" Avoiding the murky realm of carbon trading and emissions caps, Myers responded by stating that "we need to start adapting to climate change." With projections almost unanimously calling for increased storm severity, the melting of permafrost, rising sea levels, and pronounced flooding and drought, humans need to be prepared for climate change, whether natural or manmade. "The world has changed before," Myers said. "We need to change with it."

The second panel of witnesses also presented their testimonies. Ms. Williams testified about the impact of global warming on Alaska, presenting a detailed list of changes afflicting the state, not the least of which is the endangerment of the polar bear. "Global warming represents the single greatest threat to Alaska's public lands," she said, noting that Alaska has warmed four times more than the global average over the last 50 years. Williams provided a series of recommendations, including a call for more research support, re-instating the moratorium on off-shore oil and gas production, and investment in renewable energy technologies, particularly geothermal. She also argued that the US has "a moral obligation to assist in and finance [the relocation of native communities threatened by rising sea levels] in a culturally and environmentally sound manner."

Representing Defenders of Wildlife, Mr. Matson discussed the impact of warming on wildlife, which is "already bearing the brunt of global warming." Threats to wildlife include melting sea ice, rising sea levels, longer droughts, increased wildfire, changes in weather extremes, and the spread of invasive species. Reminding the committee that even if GHG emissions are cut today, it will take centuries for the climate to reach equilibrium again, he urged Congress to act quickly to take conservation measures. "There is at least a centuries-long bottleneck that we must help wildlife navigate," he said.

"The mountain resort economy of the West is as endangered as the polar bear but a heck of a lot more valuable," commented Mr. Schendler, speaking for the Aspen Skiing Company. Calling the ski industry the canary in the coal mine for climate change, Schendler discussed the economic impact of a changing climate. "The ski and winter recreation industry in Colorado alone accounts for over $2 billion in revenue annually and is responsible for 8 percent of employment in the state," he said. However, warmer winters are severely taxing the industry and have in fact shut down a number of resorts, particularly in Europe, where "47 ski resorts in the Alps simply did not open last year from lack of snow, warm glaciers that were out of condition for skiing, or long periods of rain." "The irony is that this threatened industry operates mostly on public lands…and how the US chooses to use other public lands will affect the future of our industry."

Dr. Westerling, a fire geographer, discussed the relationship between warming and catastrophic wildfires. Quite simply, increasing global temperatures lead to reduced snowpack and earlier snowmelt. Snowmelt provides an important contribution to spring and summer soil moisture. The earlier the snowpack melts, the longer the dry season, which "provides greater opportunities for large fires due to both the longer period in which ignition could potentially occur and to the greater drying of soils and vegetation." This situation is sure to be exacerbated by a century-long policy of fire suppression, which has resulted in dense forests with extremely high fuel loads.

Mr. Murray, founder of Murray Energy Corporation, discussed climate change policy from a human perspective. "The unfolding debate over atmospheric warming in the Congress, the news media, and by the pundits has been skewed and totally one-sides, in that they have been preoccupied with possible, speculative environmental disasters of climate change," he said. "However, few are giving adequate attention to the destruction that we will definitely see for American working people from all the climate change proposals that have been introduced in the House and Senate to date."

Presently, 52 percent of American electricity is generated from coal. It is also extraordinarily cheap, between a quarter and a third of the cost of natural gas-fired electricity. Furthermore, most reports, including the Energy Information Administration's Annual Energy Outlook 2007, project increased coal consumption over the next several decades. Coal consumption is widely projected to increase as higher natural gas prices make coal the fuel of choice.

"Some wealthy elitists in our country, who cannot tell fact from fiction, can afford an olympian detachment from the impacts of draconian climate change policy," Mr. Murray stated flatly. He noted that following the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act, 118 mines in Ohio alone were shut down, costing tens of thousands of jobs. "I did not learn of this havoc from computer models," he said. "I lived it and saw it first hand." As he closed, he reminded the committee that climate change is "a human issue as well as an environmental one."

Mr. Ball, a climate scientist, spoke about the state of climate change science. In his testimony, he argued that "rapid change is normal especially in climate" and that "the warming theory became a fact and a law before the research had even begun." He argued that scientific evidence suggests that the globe is actually cooling and asked "what's wrong with warming? In fact most of the world is better off in warmer times."

Questions from the committee members focused primarily on the potential of coal and coal technology to achieve both independence from foreign energy imports and reduce emissions. Addressing Murray, Chairman Costa asked whether carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced in the coal industry. "I am a skeptic about clean coal technology," Murray responded. "I'm a skeptic because there is no commitment to gasification, liquification, or other technologies for the use of coal in processes other than pulverized coal combustion." The technology exists, he explained, but because there has been little support for alternative technologies, there is "no way to use clean coal technologies on a commercial scale right now."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
"Political interference with Climate Change Research"
March 19, 2007

Witnesses:
James Hansen, Director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
George Deutsch, former public affairs officer, NASA
Philip Cooney, former Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

In a lengthy Monday morning hearing, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee discussed allegations of political interference with the work of climate-change scientists who work for the federal government. The second in a series of hearings exploring such allegations, the hearing comes after the committee gained access to Administration documents they claim show Cooney and others at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) edited scientific reports on climate change to emphasize uncertainty.

The documents, presently eight boxes of CEQ correspondence, drafts, and other evidence, were described by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as "disturbing" in his opening statement. They suggest a "concerted effort by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global climate change."

Chairman Waxman questioned the Administration's decision to appoint "an oil industry lobbyist, not a scientist or climate change expert, as chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality. He noted that Cooney made hundreds of edits in various federal climate reports that "injected doubt in place of certainty, minimized the dangers of climate change, and diminished the human role in causing the planet to warm." Although the investigation is not yet complete, Waxman warned that "in addressing climate change, science should drive policy," and the committee will work to ensure that good, solid scientific information is available to all.

"I hope to convey to the committee that I held myself to a high standard of integrity in the performance of my duties in the Administration," Cooney said in his testimony. Cooney assumed his role as Chief of Staff of the White House CEQ after working as an attorney for the American Petroleum Institute (API). Several committee members questioned his loyalty to the Administration and the American public, suggesting his role may have created a conflict of interests. "My work…was solely to promote the public policies of President Bush and his Administration," Cooney said repeatedly.

"In retrospect, wouldn't it have been better to have a scientist or librarian without API biases edit these reports?" Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asked rhetorically.

The committee also explored charges that the Administration has actively worked to obfuscate climate change science and limited the ability of scientists, namely NASA Senior Scientist James Hansen, to communicate their results to the public. Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, made headlines last year when he accused political appointees at NASA of preventing him from speaking to the media about climate research.

Also on the witness panel was George Deutsch, who at the age of 23 was chosen for a presidential appointment to NASA. Deutsch served as a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in the Science Mission Directorate and worked as a liaison between the media and NASA. In December 2005, National Public Radio (NPR) requested an interview with Dr. Hansen. NASA's Public Affairs Office and Deutsch circumvented the request by offering NPR the opportunity to interview three other scientists.

"Our main concern is hitting our message and not getting dragged down into any discussions we shouldn't get into," he wrote in an email to a PAO colleague discussing who would be a good choice to speak in place of Hansen. According to Deutsch's testimony, Hansen chafed at the "NASA's standard practices for responding to media requests," practices that allow PAOs to listen to interviews as they are conducted, permit superiors to do interviews in someone's stead, and require NASA employees to report interview requests to the Public Affairs office.

Later that month, a NASA scientist stated in a different interview that he could not confirm that 2005 was the warmest year on record. The following day, Hansen told interviewers that 2005 tied 1998 as the warmest year on record. His interview had not been previously approved by the Public Affairs office and the contradiction upset NASA officials. Deutsch was responsible for compiling the internal report about the incident.

Deutsch has also been accused of censorship of the content of a NASA website. In an email sent to a NASA webmaster, Deutsch directed him to explicitly refer to the Big Bang theory as a theory, saying that "it is not NASA's place, nor should it be, to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator…and I hate to think that young people would only be getting half of this debate from NASA."

After suggesting that NASA email is perhaps not the best place to make such comments, Rep. Issa turned his attention to a comment by Deutsch that Hansen had been openly critical of the Administration. "Are those appropriate comments to make for someone who has been on the federal payroll for three decades?" he asked. He also criticized Hansen for his open support of the Kerry campaign in 2004, and restated his concern that "many scientists are increasingly engaging in political advocacy and that some issues of science have become increasingly partisan."

In his testimony, Dr. Hansen related his experience over the past 25 years as a federal scientist often called to testify before Congress. "I believe that my experiences illustrate flaws that have developed in the functioning of our democracy," he stated. Noting that his testimonies have often been subject to approval by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Hansen commented that where the NASA Office of Legislative Affairs and OMB failed to reach agreements about OMB edits, Hansen had the freedom to testify as a private citizen. However, since climate change has become of greater public and political concern, the "constraints on communication via congressional testimony have become stricter."

"Discussion with NASA personnel in Legislative Affairs and in Science program offices suggests that people at NASA Headquarters believe that NASA must "play ball" with OMB if it wishes to be treated well in its annual funding," said Hansen. "It seems to me that this raises constitutional questions, because it is my understanding that the constitution provides the power of the purse strings to Congress, not the Executive Branch of our government."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
"Climate Change and Energy Security: Perspectives from the Automobile Industry"
March 14, 2007

Witnesses:
Ron Gettelfinger, President, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
Jim Press, President and Chief Operating Officer, Toyota Motor North America
Thomas LaSorda, CEO and President, Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler
Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO, General Motors Corporation
Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality held a crowded hearing on March 14 to hear perspectives on climate change and energy security from the automobile industry. Auto makers will be an important component of any policy suggestions because they supply the vehicles that drive the American transportation system and the greenhouse gas emissions that come from this sector. Technologies such as flex fuel vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and electric vehicles presently comprise a small fraction of the transportation sector but are projected to increase significantly over the next several years as technology matures and public demand increases. Although eager to see more alternative energy vehicles on America's road, the committee was particularly concerned about efforts to improve fuel economy.

"Reducing gasoline consumption, in part by strengthening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, addresses America's need for energy security and must be part of our deliberations on energy and environmental policy," said Ranking Member Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in his opening statement. Also recognizing CAFE as a solid means for reducing fuel consumption, Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) solicited the panelists' opinions on how CAFE might be integrated into a cap and trade regime. As a whole, the panelists expressed enthusiastic support for such a plan provided, as Mr. Press said, that it is "fair and equitable"

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) reacted to the panel's response with disbelief. Saying that Boucher's plans would take a "legislative miracle of biblical proportions," he asked each panelist to confirm that they truly "support mobile sources being subject to carbon caps." While Mr. Press acknowledged that the "devil is in the details," he and the other auto industry representatives agreed that capping tailpipe emissions is a fair approach. Representing the United Auto Workers, Mr. Gettelfinger also agreed, saying "there is a lot of merit" to such a plan.

The automakers offered little resistance to changing emissions standards or to the concerns about global warming. In their testimonies, each of the witnesses acknowledged, as DaimlerChrysler's LaSorda stated, that "climate change and the levels of petroleum consumption are serious national concerns." LaSorda's testimony focused on DaimlerChrysler's efforts to produce fuel efficient vehicles and advance fuel cell technology. Contrasting the more fuel efficient European vehicle fleet with that in the U.S., he noted that "European approach influences consumer demand for more fuel efficient vehicles." While DaimlerChrysler accepts CAFE standards as a means of influencing consumer demand, LaSorda argued that standards should be based on vehicle attributes.

With somewhat greater reservation, Mulally also supported increasing CAFE standards. However, he pointed out, "CAFE isn't a silver bullet. When the CAFE law was passed in the 1970s, the goal was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Frankly that didn't work." In spite of increased fuel economy, consumption has gone up markedly since the 1970s simply because Americans drive more. As Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) pointed out later in the hearing, "we are a big country and we like to go places." Mulally exhorted Congress to support a broad portfolio of alternative energy options and to consider CAFE standards as only a part of the solution, saying "this will do more for reducing carbon emissions and our dependency on foreign petroleum than an approach focused solely on CAFE."

Wagoner's testimony on behalf of General Motors was an eloquent argument against CAFE standards as they are currently considered. "Many of the recent legislative proposals to increase CAFE requirements by 4 percent per year or more would be extraordinarily expensive and technically challenging to implement- all with little to show for actually reducing oil consumption or emissions," he argued. "The best opportunity for addressing all of these issues over the next decade is through increased use of bio-fuels."

Toyota, whose hybrids presently account for 2 percent of U.S. new vehicle sales, supports national performance-based regulatory measures, provided "the program is fair, technologically feasible, cost effective and does not discourage early compliance, technological innovation and safety improvement."

The committee proceeded to grill the witnesses following their testimonies. Rep. Barton, an outspoken critic of the "hysteria" of climate change, pursued a favorite line of questioning. Pointing out that water vapor composes 95 percent of GHGs and manmade carbon dioxide contributes 0.01 percent, he asked with disbelief if the panelists truly supported "regulating the GHG that is 0.01 percent of the atmosphere." Barton's arguments, which ignore the relative effect of different GHGs in favor of their relative amount, once again succeeded in confusing the witnesses. Mr. Mulally braved a reply, saying what they really want to do is "address the GHG that stay in the atmosphere the longest."

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) went up and down the line of witnesses, asking yes or no questions regarding their support for CAFE standards, cap and trade schemes, and their willingness to work with Congress to tighten standards and reduce GHG emissions. "Everyone should be required to put an appropriate contribution into the collection box," he said. "You can't just sit at your end of the boat and tell the fellow at the other end of the boat that his end of the boat is sinking."

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) expressed his frustration with the "slow pace of industry in achieving fuel economy." He asked the witnesses what they considered the single most significant incentive the government could provide to encourage more advances in the technologies. In response, Mr. Wagoner asked for a "radically ramped up distribution of ethanol," advanced battery research, and tax incentives to help defray consumer costs. The other panelists echoed his requests, but added consumer education to that list.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) asked the witnesses if they really favored a "regulatory regime" and exhorted them to let consumer demand drive the alternative fuel market. Convinced that Americans like to drive hybrids, he cited his own experience with his ethanol vehicle, saying "driving it is like giving a good salute to an Iranian ayatollah every time I step on the gas."

In response, Wagoner retorted that the automobile industry has been heavily regulated for thirty years. "If we're going to be regulated, let's regulate in the direction that actually solves the issues on the table," he said.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) also enjoys his vehicle. "Driving a hybrid gives me a good deal of moral superiority, and I like that," he said. As the hearing came to a close, he asked about the future of America's workforce. With massive layoffs at auto manufacturing plants around the nation and the growing dominance of foreign hybrids and flex fuel vehicles, concerns have been raised about the further loss of jobs and health coverage. "We work closely with the companies," Gettelfinger replied. "In the final analysis, everybody to my left is in good shape financially. If the jobs go away, the impact on the community or whatever, they'll be alright. But we deal with the day to day worries of the people that have lost their jobs and have nowhere to go." The job market has a lot to gain by producing alternative fuel vehicles and the necessary technologies in the U.S.

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality
"Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?"
March 7, 2007

Witnesses:
Dr. James W. Hurrell, Director, Climate and Global Dynamics Divisions, NCAR
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University
Dr. Gabriele Hegerl, Associate Research Professor, Earth and Ocean Sciences Division, Duke University
Dr. Roni Avissar, Professor and Chair, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University
Dr. John R. Christy, Professor and Director, Earth System Science Center, NSSTC, University of Alabama

Although there is little argument in Congress nowadays over whether the Earth is indeed warming, the question of whether greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities are to blame is far from settled. In an early morning hearing on Wednesday, March 7, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality met to address whether human activity has contributed to global warming.

Ranking Member Dennis Hastert (R-IL) expressed his disgust with the "superficial and sensational" representation of climate change in the media, noting that such coverage complicates an already complex issue. "We must avoid falling prey to the sensational," he warned. Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) echoed these sentiments, quoting a Wall Street Journal editorial stating that "the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report should be understood as one more contribution to the warming debate, not some definitive last word that justifies radical policy change." In contrast, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) applauded the committee's involvement in the climate change issue, saying "undue political interferences have kept us from reaching this point [in the climate change discussion]."

Indeed, the hearing centered on the IPCC and the impending release of its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). The IPCC, convened by the United Nations jointly under the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, is mandated to provide policymakers with "an objective assessment of the scientific and technical information available about climate change, its environmental and socio-economic impacts, and possible response options." The authorship of AR4 in Working Group I is a monumental volunteer effort that includes 152 lead authors and over 400 contributing authors from over 130 countries, including four of the witnesses testifying at the hearing.

In their testimonies, the witnesses addressed three main questions: Are global temperatures rising? If so, to what extent is the increase attributable to GHG emissions from human activity, as opposed to natural variability or other causes? How do you expect future global temperatures to be affected by GHG emissions from human activity?

Agreement that global temperatures are rising was unanimous. On the other two questions, however, opinions diverged considerably. Drs. Hurrell, Hegerl, and Oppenheimer supported the IPCC conclusion that "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." "When the models are run without these forcing changes," Dr. Hurrell noted, "the remaining natural forcings and intrinsic natural variability fail to capture the almost linear increase in global surface temperatures over the past 25 years or so. But when the anthropogenic forcings are included, the models simulate the observed global temperature record with impressive fidelity." Dr. Oppenheimer pointed out that paleo-climate proxy data sets, such as tree rings, pollen, and sediment and ice cores, also indicate an unusually rapid change in temperature patterns over the past century.

Drs. Avissar and Christy, however, were less willing to embrace the IPCC's conclusions. Acknowledging the importance of climate models for studying Earth systems processes, Dr. Avissar argued that they "are not accurate enough to precisely assess the impacts of GHG (as a separate component of the various human activities) on our future climate. Dr. Christy answered the committee's second question regarding the relative contribution to total GHG emissions by humans with a flat "no one knows." He too argued that our ability to distinguish between natural and anthropogenic forcing is simply too limited to make solid conclusions.

The committee's final question about the future impacts of climate change was also met with disparate opinions. Drs. Hurrell, Oppenheimer and Hegerl discussed the likelihood and implications of the various scenarios projected by IPCC, including rises in sea level, increased storm intensity and decreases in annual snow pack and water availability. Dr. Avissar took a more cautious stance, arguing that "human activity has an impact on the Earth system that is broader than GHG emissions." Land-cover changes, for example, play a significant role in climate change "through feedback on ecological and hydroclimatological processes"

At the conclusion of his testimony, Dr. Christy offered his perspective on energy policy. "It disturbs me when I hear that energy and its byproducts such as carbon dioxide are being demonized when in fact they represent the greatest achievement of our society. Where there is no energy, life is brutal and short," he said. "Energy demand will grow," he argued, drawing on his missionary experience in Africa, "because it makes life less brutal and short."

Dr. Christy's comments produced more interest amongst the representatives than had the science. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) questioned his line of reasoning, while Shimkus stated that, although he believes God is in control, "God also calls on us to be good stewards." He also asked whether there is a way to address GHG emissions without capping carbon dioxide. "Mitigation actions taken now mainly have benefits 50 years and beyond now because of the huge inertia in the climate system," responded Dr. Hurrell. "Therefore society will have to adapt to climate change, even if actions are taken to reduce the magnitude and rate of climate change."

Nevertheless, the hearing ended on an aggressive note as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) challenged the magnitude of the climate change problem and the world's haste to resolve it. Referencing a chart in the IPPC Summary for Policy Makers, he noted that some manmade emissions have a negative warming effect. "As a policy option," he challenged, "should we consider doing some of the negative things that would balance the positive?"

"If you want people to be breathing dirtier air, sure, go ahead," responded Dr. Oppenheimer. "But I don't think people want to solve one environmental problem on the back of another."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Hearing on the U.S. Climate Action Partnership Report
February 13, 2007

Witnesses:
Mr. Chad Holliday, Chairman and CEO, DuPont
Mr. Fred L. Smith, Jr., President, Competitive Enterprise Institute
Mr. Jonathon Lash, President, World Resources Institute
Mr. Kevin Book, Senior Analyst and Vice President, Friedman Billings Ramsey & Company, Inc.
Mr. Peter Darbee, Chairman, CEO and President, PG&E Corporation
Mr. Harold G. Hamm, Chairman and CEO, Continental Resources, Inc.
Mr. Steve Elbert, Vice Chair, BP America

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on February 13, 2007 to receive testimony from a coalition of leading corporations and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who have come together to forge a consensus view regarding U.S. action on climate change. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, or U.S. CAP, includes organizations such as Alcoa, BP America, Inc., Caterpillar Inc., DuPont, Environmental Defense, General Electric, and Natural Resources Defense Council, among others. As stated in Mr. Darbee's testimony, "U.S. CAP has come together based on a shared understanding that climate change is an urgent issue, and that the United States both has a responsibility and opportunity to act now, act aggressively, and enact policies to stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, enhance energy security, and create economic opportunity by developing and deploying new technologies."

In her opening statement, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) expressed her gratitude for the witnesses' testimonies, saying "I have watched for years those naysayers who said 'when you act to protect the environment, you hurt the economy.' The opposite has been proven. As business leaders that successfully compete in national and worldwide markets, these witnesses should know."

In contrast to Senator Boxer's pleasure in the leading role of businesses in addressing climate change, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) commented that "more and more, companies that wish to profit on the backs of consumers are coming out of the woodwork to endorse climate proposals in the hope of forcing customers to buy their unnecessary products or to penalize their competitors." He argued that the science to back climate change is still lacking and cited scientists such as geochemists and former French Science Minister Claude Allegre, as well as political leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who "reportedly once called the Kyoto accord a 'socialist scheme' designed to suck money out of rich countries."

In his testimony, Mr. Darbee outlined U.S. CAP's recommendation for addressing global warming, at the core of which is a national, mandatory, market-based cap-and-trade program. Focusing specifically on improving energy efficiency, the development of a "smart grid" for delivery of electric power to consumers, and electric power generation and fuel diversity, Mr. Darbee argued that the U.S. CAP approach "will create clarity for businesses; create consistency, by avoiding a state-by-state patchwork of emissions trading markets; create focus for a comprehensive national energy strategy; and allow us to begin to change the U.S. emissions trajectory today."

Mr. Holliday, representing Dupont, reinforced the U.S. CAP recommendations outlined by Darbee. He also noted that Dupont believes that "the science is sufficient to compel prudent action." To this end, Dupont has acted independently to reduce its own emissions, achieving a 72 percent reduction in global emissions since 1991. Such reductions have proven environmentally and economically beneficial, saving Dupont $3 billion in energy costs.

Mr. Elbert's testimony mirrored that of Mr. Holliday, as BP has taken its own measures to reduce GHG emissions. "We need to design policies that stimulate private investment
into research, development and deployment," he said. Speaking for U.S. CAP, he also stated that "this is best achieved through the establishment of a market value for GHG emissions."

Mr. Lash from the World Resources Institute outlined U.S. CAP's specific goals for GHG reductions, calling for emissions levels between 70 and 90 percent of today's levels within 15 years. He also stated that the U.S. CAP recognizes "that to achieve our long-term goal, we will need to cut emissions by 60-80 percent by 2050." Addressing a widely-held concern that emissions trading will hurt the economy, Mr. Nash cited the sulfur dioxide program in the Clean Air Act. "There were many who thought the costs of controlling acid rain would ruin U.S. competitiveness. It did not, and carbon dioxide trading will not."

Following the four witnesses speaking for U.S. CAP were three witnesses with varying degrees of reservation. Mr. Book, an energy policy analyst for Wall Street institutional clients, discussed the nature of energy investments, potential unintended consequences related to market-based regulatory frameworks, and the durability of such frameworks. In particular, Mr. Book warned that instituting an economy-wide, cap-and-trade system before alternative energy options are fully established "may not be the most stable or most efficient mechanism…to address global climate change." Rather, "there may be greater value in providing incentives for the United States' robust venture capital, private equity and capital markets infrastructure to deliver cost-competitive technology to emissions challenges without imposing nationwide caps."

Mr. Smith was the most forthright in his objection to climate change measures, casting a skeptical light on U.S. CAP's motives. "If a company's stance on an issue appears to be too good to be true, it probably is." Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE) also questioned the motives of the U.S. CAP witnesses and asked each one why they were testifying today. From all four, the response was "we're here to do the right thing." Mr. Smith also argued that agencies responsible for setting a cap "never have enough information to set the cap at the right level," which results in a cap-and-trade structure that "creates a modern-day cartel - a carbon cartel." Mr. Smith instead argued for a hands-off approach, saying that "the corporations we see baying for a cap and trade program are out to enrich themselves without thought for the poor. For these people, environmentalism is the opiate of the masses, keeping them quiet by making them think that what's bad for them is good for the planet. A fair approach, an egalitarian approach, is to let the market work its magic for the good of all, rather than stacking the deck to enrich the few."

And finally, lending an even-handed air to the hearing, Mr. Hamm testified. "While I do not believe the science of global warming is proven or settled," he said, "energy efficiency and cost-effective deployment of technologies that emit little or no greenhouse gases, such as wind, solar and other renewable energy sources are 'no brainers.'" Concerned that the allowance systems recommended by U.S. CAP would stifle the economy, force companies to operate abroad, and pass high energy costs onto American families, Mr. Hamm objected to the U.S. CAP proposal. He noted, however, that America has successfully addressed many of the pollution problems plaguing its waterways and air "while simultaneously growing our economy and increasing energy use."

With China poised to become the world's biggest emitter within the next two years, many of the senators sought reassurance that the rest of the world will follow the United States' lead in addressing climate change. Having worked with the Chinese on energy efficiency issues, Mr. Darbee noted that "they have expressed keen interest in energy efficiency because they recognize that they are wasting vast amounts of electricity and other power, and that not only is it not good for the climate, but it's not good for their economy. It's very inefficient."

Congratulating the U.S. CAP witnesses for the leadership they have taken on the climate change issue, Senator Warner (R-VA) wished them luck. "Let's hope that you augment your ball team, get more in, because the more that come, the more attention you'll get in this old outfit called the congress, I'll tell you that."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Hearing on EIA Analysis of Draft Global Warming Legislation
January 24, 2007

Witnesses
Dr. Howard Gruenspecht, Deputy Administrator, Energy Information Administration
Mr. Jason Grumet, Executive Director, National Commission on Energy Policy
Mr. Dan Lashoff, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council
Dr. Anne Smith, Vice President, Charles River Associates International
Mr. Jeffrey Sterba, Chairman, President, and CEO, PNM Resources

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on January 24, 2007 to receive testimony on the Energy Information Administration's (EIA's) recent analysis on the energy and economic impacts of a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions proposed by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). The proposed policy would set specific targets for the reduction of GHG emissions intensity of the U.S. economy and incorporate a safety valve to assure that allowance prices remain at or below a ceiling that rises over time. The reduction in GHG intensity, defined as emissions per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP), would be 2.6 percent annually between 2012 and 2021, then increase to 3.0 percent per year beginning in 2022.

In his overview of the EIA's analysis, Dr. Gruenspecht noted that although the proposal is not as economically taxing as more aggressive proposals, the "total emission reductions in 2030 are estimated to be 654 million metrics tons CO2 equivalent short of the level that would satisfy the GHG intensity reduction goal." While the cap-and-trade measures proposed in the draft bill would reduce GHG emissions, its impact on global warming is in doubt. According to the EIA analysis, fossil fuel energy consumption would decrease relative to the reference case (business-as-usual trend forecasts, given known technology, technological and demographic trends, and current laws and regulations) by about 2 percent by 2020 and 7 percent by 2030. Decreased coal use would be almost entirely responsible for these declines in fossil fuel consumption. The report also suggests that the bill provides little impetus for consumers to make more energy-efficient decisions or for the transportation industry to promote alternative energy options. Dr. Gruenspecht noted that the proposal also "significantly impacts the economic attractiveness of coal-to-liquids conversion (CTL)," a process that converts coal from a solid state into liquid fuels as an alternative for petroleum products. The EIA analysis suggests that if the cap-and-trade proposal is implemented, almost none of the CTL capacity expected to be built and operated in the reference case would be developed.

Mr. Sterba of PNM Resources was similarly reticent with his praise of the proposal, saying he felt it to be a "very good start." He stressed the importance of funding research in low and zero carbon alternatives, saying "the biggest gap we must address is from promising technology in the lab to the ability to purchase commercialized technology."

Dr. Anne Smith, an economist, supported Mr. Sterba's and Dr. Gruenspecht's observations, noting that the "emission reductions achieved under the proposed safety valve are small. In fact, emissions continue to rise even through 2030 in the projection. If this is all the draft bill will accomplish," she asked, "does it make sense to pay even a small amount for it?" Dr. Smith emphasized the need for global cooperation to achieve the magnitude of GHG emissions reductions necessary to stabilize climate change. She also stated her concern that the bill would fail to provide open funding for new technologies research. "The draft bill has the cart but not the horse," she concluded.

The committee members returned to the question of global participation in reducing GHG several times throughout the hearing. Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Larry Craig (R-ID) both expressed their concern about ensuring that the reduction of GHG emissions be a global venture. "We gain very little to focus on ourselves and ourselves alone and let China and India wander off into the future continuing to be the large emitters they are. It is just simply counterproductive" said Craig. Dr. Grumet, however, indicated that the rest of the world will follow the United States' lead simply because "they see the risks of climate change too."

Finally, Senator Bernard Sanders (D-VT) asked the million-dollar question. "How much time do we have? How severe is the problem, how quickly do we have to act if we're going to reverse it?" In response, Dr. Lashoff indicated that "unless emissions are headed sharply downward within the decade, we start to lose our window of opportunity to prevent the most dangerous consequences."

Full text of the witness testimony is available here.

-EG

Sources: Environment and Energy Daily; Washington Post; New York Times; House Science Committee; Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Committee; Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Senate Committee on the Judiciary; Hearing testimony.

Contributed by Erin Gleeson, AGI/AAPG Spring 2007 Intern; Paul Schramm, AGI/AIPG Summer 2007 Intern; David McCormick, AGI/AIPG Summer 2007 Intern; Sargon de Jesus, AGI/AIPG Summer 2007 Intern; Elizabeth Landau, AGI/AAPG Fall 2007 Intern; Laura Bochner, AGI/AIPG Summer 2008 Intern; and Merilie Reynolds, AAPG/AGI Fall 2008 Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on September 28, 2008.

 
 

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