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Summary of Hearings on Climate Change

(12/7/10)

  • November 17, 2010: House Science and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Hearing “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response”
  • September 23, 2010: House Energy Independence and Global Warming Select Committee Hearing on “Extreme Weather and Climate in a Warming World”
  • February 23, 2010: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing on the President’s Proposed EPA Budget for FY2010
  • December 2, 2009: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on “Policy Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions”
  • November 17, 2009: The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing “To Explore the International Aspects of Global Climate Change.”
  • November 10, 2009: The Senate Finance Committee Hearing on “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs”
  • November 5, 2009: House Committee of Science and Technology Hearing on “Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention.”
  • October 29, 2009: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on “S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”
  • October 27, 2009: Senate Commmittee on Environment and Public Works “Legislative Hearing on S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.”
  • September 10, 2009: House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Hearing on "Roadmap to Copenhagen-Driving towards Success"
  • July 30, 2009: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing on “Climate Change and National Security”
  • July 7, 2009: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on “Moving America toward a Clean Energy Economy and Reducing Global Warming Pollution: Legislative Tools”
  • June 11, 2009: House Agriculture Committee Hearing to “Review Pending Climate Change Legislation”
  • June 4, 2009: Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change”
  • May 5, 2009: House Science and Technology Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Hearing on “Expanding Climate Services at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Developing the National Climate Service”
  • May 5, 2009: Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "The Global Implications of a Warming Arctic"
  • April 22, 2009: House Science and Technology Committee hearing “Monitoring, Measurement, and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions II, The Role of Federal and Academic Research and Monitoring Programs”
  • March 18, 2009: House Committee on Approprations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies hearing entitled "Critical Satellite Cimate Change Datasets"
  • March 18, 2009: House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing entitled "Competitiveness and Climate Policy: Avoiding Leakage of Jobs and Emissions"
  • February 25, 2009: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science”
  • February 25, 2009: House Committee on Ways and Means Hearing on Scientific Objectives for Climate Change Legislation
  • February 24, 2009: House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment Hearing “How Do We Know What We Are Emitting? Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

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House Science and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Subcommitee Hearing "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response."
November 17, 2010

Witnesses
Panel 1
Dr. Ralph Cicerone
President, National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Heidi Cullen
CEO and Director of Communications, Climate Central
Dr. Gerald Meehl
Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Dr. Richard Lindzen
Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Panel 2
Dr. Benjamin Santer
Atmospheric Scientist,  Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Dr. Richard Alley
Evan Pugh Professor, Department of Geosciences, the Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Richard Feely
Senior Scientist, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Patrick Michaels
Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies, Cato Institute

Panel 3
Admiral David Titley
Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy, U.S. Department of the Navy
James Lopez
Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
William Geer
Director of the Center for Western Lands, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Dr. Judith Curry
Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology

Subcommittee Members Present
Brian Baird, Chairman (D-WA)
Bob Inglis, Ranking Member (R-SC)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)

Committee Members Present
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Ralph Hall (R-TX)

The House Science and Technology held a hearing November 17, inviting prominent climate scientists to discuss the scientific basis for and expected effects of climate change. The Energy and Environment Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Brian Baird (D-WA), directed the hearing which focused on establishing consensus for the scientific basics of climate change.  

In his opening statement, Baird emphasized the significance of scientific reasoning, data collection, and the overall integrity of the scientific process. He suggested that scientific integrity must be a “paramount” focus in climate change research. Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC), reiterated the importance of heeding climate scientists’ warnings and blasted his caucus for not doing so.

“Whether you think it's all a bunch of hooey,” Inglis warned, “the Chinese don't, and they plan on eating our lunch in the next century, working on these problems," Inglis lost to a Republican challenger in a primary this year, after advocating for a gas tax that is unpopular in the Republican caucus. Other Republicans at the hearing stressed scientific integrity as well, but expressed disdain for a perceived “tactic of not permitting the other side to be heard,” as argued by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Republicans were permitted to invite witnesses with dissenting views for each of the three panels held at the hearing.   

The first panel addressed the basic principles of climate change and expectations of future warming. Three of four panelists, including Dr. Ralph Cicerone of the National Academy of Sciences and Dr. Heidi Cullen of the non profit Climate Central, cited estimated increases of about 4.5 degrees Celsius  if carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere double to 560 ppm. Dr. Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) explained that most recent estimates give a range of expected temperature increases, due to carbon dioxide doubling, that extends from about 2 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. Temperature increases within that range would cause climatic disruptions, Cullen explained, including sea level rise, increased frequency of severe storms, and drought in many areas.

These modeled temperature increases include direct warming due to carbon dioxide absorption of outgoing radiation and indirect warming due to increased water vapor in the atmosphere, less sea ice to reflect incoming radiation, and other positive feedbacks. Cicerone explained the importance of these feedbacks, focusing especially on the effects of water vapor. According to simple thermodynamic rules, Cicerone asserted, warming caused by carbon dioxide would increase evaporation and the moisture content of the atmosphere. This feedback creates a multiplier effect, because water is an extremely potent greenhouse gas.

In opposition to other panelists, Dr. Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), asserted that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere would only increase global mean temperature about  1 degree Celsius. Only feedbacks could account for additional warming, he asserted, and those effects are highly uncertain. Lindzen’s based his estimates on the direct effects of warming, because he views the indirect effects as too uncertain. This lower estimate complicated the consensus-building efforts of Baird, who attempted to establish three primary claims: that carbon dioxide causes warming; that warming has been observed already; and that mean global temperatures are expected to increase a considerable amount in this century. Lindzen threw a cog in that process by disputing the contributions of feedbacks which climate models rely on.

The second panel was charged with addressing the recorded temperature rise in the second half of the 20th century and identifying the anthropogenic contribution to that warming. This panel included experts on ice cover, ocean acidification and the detection of anthropogenic warming, Dr. Richard B. Alley of Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Richard A. Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Benjamin Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Dr. Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute.

Santer explained how he and other climate scientists have developed a method of “fingerprinting” the contributors to recent climatic variations. Referencing his own work, Santer showed figures depicting the climatic fingerprints of five possible factors, including anthropogenic forcing through well-mixed greenhouse gases. The latter was an almost exact match with the warming that has been observed in the past few decades.  

“We’ve looked beyond the global mean,” Santer reiterated, in response to earlier critiques from Lindzen. Natural factors alone could not explain the observed warming, he explained.

Micheals raised a point of contention with past analysis of warming temperatures, including a paper co-authored by Santer. That paper plotted increasing mean temperatures for the Southern Hemisphere, a trend which disappeared when a fuller data set was considered. Santer acknowledged a change in the model results.

“Had there been intent to fool people, to manipulate data? No, ” said Santer. At that time the necessary grid-based data was only available from one source, Santer explained, which only covered the years 1973 through 1988. Including the fuller data set allowed for a more in-depth analysis which showed the variation in temperature was “forced behavior” caused by greenhouse gases, according to Santer.

Alley asserted that hotter temperatures will have significant consequences, especially the impacts of sea level rise. Melting a significant portion of the Greenland ice sheet, for example, would raise sea level a few meters. Alley cautioned that predictions of melting are highly uncertain at this point, but that direct evidence of accelerated melting is abundant.

“If we look at the world, what we see is ice shrinking because it’s getting warmer,” he noted. His statements answered a critical claim raised by Rohrabacher, that predictions, warnings, and modeled presentations are inadequate without direct observation. Even with these concerns voiced, Rohrabacher blasted efforts to require “draconian changes in our way of life because we want to protect the climate.” He questioned the scale of human influence within natural climate cycles, and expressed incredulity that a gas representing less than 1% of the atmosphere could have such a large effect on climate. 

The natural cycles have been taken into account, Alley assured, including the wobble of the Earth’s orbit, increases in solar activity, and episodes of volcanic activity

The final panel addressed needed responses to climate change, notably adaptation measures required for national security, community resiliency, and natural resource preservation. Admiral David Titley outlined the Navy’s response to the climate change threat, including efforts to adjust weather forecasting and plans for sea routes created due to melting ice. The Navy has already established a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for coupled prediction of weather and sea ice. Those elements are important for military operations in uncertain weather regimes.

“We all operate in Nature’s casino”, Titley expressed, “I intend to count the cards.” He mentioned that the volume of ice in the Arctic hit a record low in September 2010. By 2030, 4 weeks of ice-free conditions are expected in the Arctic. That would open up shipping routes and mineral resources that were previously inaccessible.

James Lopez, a senior advisor at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), commented on domestic efforts to increase resiliency to climate change. Lopez stressed the co-benefits of building sustainable communities, including costs saved through energy efficiency and increased resiliency to natural disasters. Recognizing these co-benefits, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HUD, and the Department of Transportation have established the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

After three panels and four hours of testimony, Baird closed the meeting by noting the importance of identifying common interests. There are many reasons to develop alternative fuels and power sources, he explained, climate change being only one of them. He expressed concerns that rolling back climate change initiatives, as Republicans have promised to do, would cause the nation to overlook long range strategic planning for other critical needs.

“The stakes are pretty darn high, and we’ve really got to get it right,” Baird concluded.

Testimony from the chair and witnesses, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing is available from the committee web site.

House Energy Independence and Global Warming Select Committee Hearing on “Extreme Weather and Climate in a Warming World”
September 23, 2010

Witnesses
Husain Haqqani
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs, Princeton University
Dr. Thomas Peterson
Chief Scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Dr. Michael Wehner
Staff Scientist
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Committee Members Present
Edward Markey, Chairman (D-MA)
James Sensenbrenner, Ranking Member (R-WI)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on September 23 to discuss the link between climate change and severe weather events in Pakistan, Russian, India, and across the globe. The hearing focused specifically on the flooding in Pakistan, which has displaced an estimated 20 million people, and the impact of events like these on national security. In his opening comments, Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) remarked that 2010 has seen a surge in weather extremes, and that “heat-trapping pollution”, is increasing the likelihood of future weather catastrophes. “Just as smoking increases your chance of lung cancer,” Markey retorted, “heat-trapping pollution in the atmosphere increases the odds of weather disasters like we’ve experienced this year.” Ranking Member George Sensenbrenner (R-WI) objected to that argument, in his opening statements, and took the opportunity to criticize the Democratic rationale for scheduling the hearing: “We’re not here to talk about how Pakistan can recover from the flood,” he stated. “This is about how to tie this natural disaster to the Democrats’ environmental agenda, which will do nothing to stop the monsoon rains in Pakistan.” Sensenbrenner went on to deny a link between climate change and the Pakistan floods, and he suggested that climate change legislation would hurt America’s economy.

The panelists included the Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, and three leading scientists involved in climate change research. While not attributing the Pakistani floods or other disasters solely to climate change, the scientists evidenced the link between catastrophic weather and a warming planet. Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University, addressed the committee first and clarified that he was not representing either Princeton University or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which he has participated in as lead author for the upcoming Fifth Assessment Report. If greenhouse gases continue to increase, he stated, the likelihood of events such as extreme monsoons will increase. Dr. Thomas Peterson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reiterated that point. He explained that, because warmer air can hold more water, the frequency of heavy precipitation events is expected to increase. Finally, Dr. Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory added that drought is expected to increase across the continental U.S., due to increased evaporation, and that hurricanes are expected to become more frequent and more severe, due to simple energy considerations.

Noting the societal disruptions caused by severe weather, Chairman Markey asked the ambassador what Pakistan’s security concerns are. Haqqani responded by emphasizing the potential unrest that may come from the displacement of 20 million people. Extremist insurgent groups, he warned, may take advantage of the situation and draw refugees to their cause. He added that Pakistani Security forces had been diverted from their primary work to contribute to aid relief. This diversion affects Pakistani and U.S. security, because it takes Pakistani resources away from efforts to stop terrorism and stabilize the border regions with Afghanistan.

 “It strains our ability to fight the extremists and terrorists along the northwest of Pakistan’s border,” he reiterated. He recognized that floods also affect terrorists, and may slow down their movement, but the impact to terrorist groups is probably less than the impact to the government’s security forces.

Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) asked the scientists what the climate implications would be for the U.S. in particular, and asked panelists to gauge the severity of these concerns. “A once-in-a-thousand year event, could become a once-in-several year event,” Oppenheimer declared. He cited a 1995 heat wave that contributed to the deaths of over a thousand U.S. citizens in the Midwest. That type of event, he suggested, may happen every several years in a warming world. “Will we be prepared to deal with that type of onslaught?” he asked.

Oppenheimer commented that the agricultural effects are mixed. The productivity of grains in the Midwest may decrease, he proposed, but other regions of the country might see higher yields. Peterson added that drought may have unexpected impacts on power production in the U.S. Power plants usually require large volumes of cooling water, he explained, and if low flows in streams persist, power production may have to be halted temporarily.

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) mentioned the plurality of names used for the phenomenon of climate change, including global warming and global disruption. What, he asked the panelists, would they recommend be used? Peterson explained that he liked “climate disruption,” because of the threshold properties of ecosystems and human activities. He specifically mentioned the pine beetle infestations in the Western U.S., which are due in part to slightly warmer winters.  “The question of disruption gets to the root issue,” Oppenheimer agreed. Even in rich countries, he stated, governments often inadequately respond to weather events such as hurricanes and heat waves. “The U.S. is very vulnerable,” he declared, “perhaps even more vulnerable [than poor countries] because of all [of] our built infrastructure along the coast.”

Inslee asked panelists to deliver their 60-second “elevator speech” on climate change to identify the compelling scientific arguments. Peterson asserted that, of eleven crucial indicators of climate change (for example, sea ice and atmospheric temperature), every single time series has shown clear warming trends. Oppenheimer added that this is a common exercise for him. “I get emails almost every day”, he said, which disparage his work. He reiterated, that despite the uncertainty involved in climate research, taking prompt action is as important as buying insurance for your house. Wehner echoed these assertions and added that there are other important benefits of changing our energy consumption, such as reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

To conclude the hearing, Markey gave the scientific panelists the opportunity to address questions to Haqqani. Oppenheimer asked what if anything was different about these particular floods. Haqqani responded by explaining that the floods this year were in the northwest part of Pakistan, rather than the northeast. In Haqqani’s experience, such a pattern is unprecedented. He also stated that the basic infrastructure was inadequate to predict and respond to flooding in that part of Pakistan.

The impact of the flood itself, reinforces the importance of climate change science, Markey suggested. “This is why we have the select committee,” he explained, noting that no other hearing on the Pakistani tragedy had been held in Congress. “We have a consensus … the climate has already changed, the extremes have already changed…and the only way to rein this in, is to limit the changes in emissions that are causing the extremes to change,” Oppenheimer stated in conclusion. Haqqani added, “The impact of climate disruption is real.”

Testimony from the chair and witnesses, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing is available from the committee website.

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing on the President’s Proposed EPA Budget for FY2010
February 23, 2010

 

Witness
The Honorable Lisa P. Jackson
Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman (D-CA)
James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Bernard Sanders (I-VT)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
David Vitter (R-LA)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget was the subject of the hearing; however, the debate focused heavily on the science of climate change and the ramifications of the “Climategate” emails on climate change policy. Climategate refers to a series of stolen personal emails from East Anglia University’s Climate Research Unit (CRU), released to the public in November 2009. Since the CRU data was utilized by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC), opponents of climate change argue the emails cast doubt on the scientific integrity of climate change. However advocates for climate change argue that the remarks made in the emails were just expressions of frustration in a private forum, and represent an egregious professional mistake. Since this topic was so controversial, several senators were allotted time for opening statements.

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) opening statement commended the EPA on its proposed funds for developing clean water infrastructure and children’s health, but she expressed concern over superfund and air quality issues directly related to California. Her argument supporting climate change science began by acknowledging that “budgets are usually good indicators of priorities.” She suggested the recent Supreme Court decision on the EPA’s endangerment findings showed federal and judicial recognition of the need to address climate change. She expressed frustration that the only place discussion about climate change policy was stifled was in the Senate. Sharing statistics from the National Academies of Science (NAS), U.S. Global Change Research Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), she argued that climate change is a real phenomenon and likely due to anthropogenic influences. Adoption of comprehensive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction policies, and development of clean and renewable energy, she argued, will create millions of jobs and keep the U.S. competitive.

James Inhofe (R-OK), a dissenter in the debate on climate change science and therefore policy actions, maintained that climate change was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the people of the United States. In his opinion, Climategate has exposed a plot by scientists to “manipulate data to fit preconceived notions, obstruct freedom of information and dissemination of data and collude to pressure journal editors against publishing data contrary to their own.” Inhofe argued the scandal surrounding East Anglia’s CRU team jeopardized the integrity of the U.N. IPCC report, a report the EPA relied on for the endangerment finding. He argued serious folly in the EPA’s “wholesale” acceptance of the IPCC’s findings, suggesting that the endangerment finding and current FY2011 budget proposal be scrapped. He continued by stating the proposed budget was the most economically destructive regulatory initiative in U.S. history. He announced that a minority report (pdf) on Climategate was now available.

Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) applauded the administration’s decision to invest federal funds in climate change programs. Thomas Carper (D-DE) cited the AAAS statement that “global warming is happening and is caused by human activity.” as a reason to support federal efforts in climate change mitigation at the EPA. Carper thought the proposal to use more nuclear energy was a good move. He also argued, and Christopher Bond (R-MO) agreed, that “in a country with more natural gas reserves than oil in Saudi Arabia” it makes sense to use U.S. natural gas resources. David Vitter (R-LA), felt Climategate showed the uncertainty of the science was “beyond dispute” and he argued the administration could no longer proceed with climate change policy, “ignoring [Climategate] like it never happened.”

Tom Udall (D-NM) reminded the committee that 2 of 4 models used in the IPCC report were generated at the supercomputing center at Los Alamos, “the same computers which monitor the security of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.” Udall, returning to the matter of the hearing, expressed gratitude that a “small but significant” $3 billion was proposed for updating rural water infrastructure. Feeling that the U.S. was on the brink of a clean energy industrial revolution, Udall felt the investments proposed by the EPA for climate change policies were warranted.

Before really getting into the Climategate debate, Cardin queried Jackson on the proposed funds for water infrastructure development and the $6 billion awarded to the EPA by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Jackson responded that 100 percent of states passed the EPA regulations for clean water, and the funding will help to maintain this data and improve regions needing further development.

Bernard Sanders (I-VT) was disgusted with U.S. senators who ignored “basic science” and found it “incredible that in the year 2010 there were people on the Environmental and Public Works (EPW) Committee saying that global warming wasn’t happening.” Sanders argued that climate science was backed by “an almost unified scientific community” and shared climate change statistics and official statements from organizations like NAS and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sanders even shared the official climate change statement from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Inhofe’s home state, which said climate change was happening and was likely influenced by anthropogenic forces.

Sanders went on to say there is an overwhelming “yes” among scientists about climate change and that sometimes people make mistakes, including people at East Anglia and even members of the EPW committee. He felt it was a mistake that the U.S. was not acknowledging climate change, making it the “laughing stock of the world” and urged real discussion about climate change policy. Speaking to Jackson he concluded with, “Keep up the good work, our children and grandchildren depend on your work.”

Jackson began by stating it was the EPA’s goal to “move beyond compliance to become partners in protecting natural resources, managing materials more wisely, reducing GHG  emissions, and improving the environment and public health.” The budget requests a $43 million increase to mitigate climate change by developing new regulations and technologies, $21 million to help with GHG reporting, and $3.1 for carbon capture and sequestration efforts. $60 million was requested to expand air quality regulations. Brownfields cleanup and redevelopment would receive $215 million, an increase of $42 million, and $1.3 billion would go towards Superfund cleanup.
 
Senator Boxer stated, “The only uncertainty about climate change comes from our Republican members.” She also noted that democratic and independent members only cited American scientists for their statistics, rather than international IPCC scientists.

Inhofe asked if Jackson still believed the IPCC findings, despite erroneous data and statements on topics like estimates of melting of Himalayan glaciers. She responded, “The information on the glaciers and other topics you [Inhofe] cite does not impact the information used for the endangerment finding.” She stated that the EPA has reviewed the pertinent IPCC science and she agrees with it, noting that she and Inhofe will probably never see eye-to-eye.

Barrasso asked if Jackson had seen a Science and Public Policy Institute report (pdf) stating global surface temperature averages were intentionally skewed to higher values because NOAA scientists removed cooler temperatures from higher latitudes to achieve this finding. She was confident her colleagues at NOAA and NASA had heard of this report, although may not have responded to it yet. She did state it was her duty, as the EPA Administrator, to make sure the science used in the endangerment finding was still valid, and the EPA would be reviewing this document.

Sanders cited an editorial from the Washington Post stating that “few reputable scientists” who would disagree on climate change, but politicians are focusing on the trivial mistakes and blowing the mistakes out of proportion, making scientists appear, “obtuse or dishonest.” Sanders then went on to say that during the 1930’s, when Nazism and Fascism were rising, some political leaders abated fears by saying these movements were not real. Others, like Churchill and Roosevelt, saw danger from day one. Sanders stated that “the longer we have this senseless debate, the more unprepared we are.” Sanders and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were concerned about the impacts of interstate pollution. Jackson assured them that EPA Interstate Pollution regulations were a high priority.

Boxer stated that the majority of the endangerment finding had come from the Bush Administration and had Jackson elaborate. Jackson responded that most of the endangerment finding draft existed before she started, but the science in that draft was subsequently updated and revised. Jackson added, it was “incumbent to constantly be looking at the science as it evolves, because science changes. But, as someone said earlier, you have to look at the mountain of evidence that the climate is changing, and there are man-made causes.”

Inhofe stated that despite hearing “the science is settled,” the IPCC’s Dr. Phil Jones said he “doesn’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists believe the debate is over.” He went further to say the number of reports referred to in the IPCC worked on by CRU overwhelmingly discredited any findings from the IPCC. Jackson responded that she disagreed the IPCC had been discredited in any way, although she did not defend their conduct. She argued the IPCC findings had been found independently of the CRU. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said to Jackson, “Hold firm to the science…hold on for the judgment of history.”

Boxer concluded that the debate is shifting from one where international scientists are under attack to one where America’s most respected administrations, institutions and scientific member societies are up against a conservative blitz. She wondered aloud, “Who’s side are we on?” saying personally, she was taking the side of her American scientists and colleagues.

-MNM

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing on “Policy Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions”
December 2, 2009

Witnesses
Ray Kopp
Senior Fellow and Director of the Climate Policy Program, Resources for the Future
Ted Gayer
Co-Director of Economic Studies, Brookings Institution
David Hawkins
Director of Climate Programs, Natural Resources Defense Council
Jonathan Banks
Climate Policy Coordinator, Clean Air Task Force
John Alic
Independent Consultant (Speaking on behalf of Daniel Sarewitz of the Consortium for Science Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University)

Committee Members Present
Jeff Bingaman, Chair (D-NM)
Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member (R-AK)
Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Bob Corker (R-TN)

On December 2, 2009, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on “Policy Options for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) stated that he feels cap and trade is “preferable to many alternatives,” but that there is value in understanding the pros and cons of other policy options. He added that policies are not mutually exclusive and that a suite of policies will probably be needed. Murkowski disagreed with Bingaman’s sentiments about cap and trade and said that the U.S. “needs to dispense with this blind loyalty to an economic wide cap and trade system.” She said the bills considered so far would only harm the economy. Instead all options need to be considered in order to develop the best climate policy possible.

Ray Kopp, Senior Fellow and Director of the Climate Policy Program at Resources for the Future, testified that four attributes need to be considered when choosing among regulatory approaches: the goal of the regulation, existing technology, the scale of the effort, and the cost. He suggested policies that would be highly efficient and robust over time, applicable across the nation’s varied economy, and enhance our ability “to invent, develop, and finance… low- and zero-energy technologies over the next 50 years.”

Ted Gayer, Co-Director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, stated that a carbon tax is more economically efficient than cap and trade. It “would substantially lower the cost of climate policy compared to a cap and trade program that gives away allowances for free.” He said the allowances in a cap and trade program would be prone to price volatility, but that this risk could be lessened greatly by a safety valve price, “in which the government offers to sell additional allowances above the cap at a pre-established price.” Gayer added that in the proposed climate bills there is a heavy reliance on offsets to reduce costs of cap and trade and that many are worried that offset integrity would not be maintained, which would result in a weakened cap.

David Hawkins, Director of Climate Programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, testified that the best policy approach should “not rely exclusively on one tool but recognizes that real world versions of policy tools have limits that require the use of several complimentary techniques to help assure success.” He suggested that a combination of a cap and trade program and performance standards are needed in order to achieve the nation’s clean energy and climate change objectives. He added that components that would force technology development are also critical components to the success of a clean energy bill.

Jonathan Banks, Climate Policy Coordinator of the Clean Air Task Force (CATF), discussed the Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) modeling predictions concerning energy production and where it would come from. According to the model, 100GWs of nuclear power would be built by 2030, which would require completing 7 large nuclear plants each year from 2016 to 2030. Banks stated that predictions like these are unrealistic, instead CATF  suggests a combination of policies that “target specific sectors with the goals of reducing costs, creating more believable technology pathways, and maintaining environmental integrity” without an economy-wide cap. These policies include: a cap on industrial and power sector emissions, accelerating the light duty vehicle fuel economy, and giving incentives for the use of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology.

John Alic, an independent consultant speaking on behalf of Daniel Sarewitz of the Consortium for Science Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, spoke of the technological changes that will be needed to deal with the looming issues of energy and climate change. He stated that raising energy prices and regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would create a sort of “innovation machine” which promotes innovation through a price signal.

Chairman Bingaman spoke of Banks’ suggestion of putting a cap on the power sector and industrial sector. Bingaman said he does not understand why that would result in a reduction of allowance prices and asked Banks to expand on the idea. Banks replied that the economy-wide proposals tend to rely heavily on offsets and an over-compliance in the power sector which creates higher allowance prices. He said that by putting a cap on just those two sectors, allowance prices are reduced considerably and there is not a massive over-compliance issue.

Ranking Member Murkowski asked Gayer to discuss the differences between a carbon tax and a cap and trade system. Gayer answered that a carbon tax is more fixed and would keep volatility down. He added a carbon tax would be easier to compare internationally than a cap and trade system, and many countries are considering both options at this time.

Bingaman stated that the economy-wide cap and trade proposals contemplate the uses of offsets and asked Banks if this concerns him. Banks replied that it does present challenges. He said the use of offsets and their ability to reduce costs is an attractive prospect and that a cap and trade bill would definitely involve offsets. He added that aggressive monitoring and reporting would be necessary in that case.

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) asked the panel to discuss what level of research and development (R&D) would be needed to meet the commonly discussed energy goals for the country. Kopp replied that the estimates say about 10 times what is being spent now on R&D would be necessary. Alic added that this would be roughly $60 billion. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) asked Alic to comment on whether or not government R&D programs would be sufficient in spurring the required technological growth. Alic replied that government R&D programs are important, but that the private sector needs to be contributing more.  He said that the prices for energy are too low and that the costs of energy need to be very high in order to get the kind of innovation needed. He added, “If you want innovation, you need those [price] signals.” Hawkins later added that the bulk of the investments should come from the private sector and that a signal needs to be sent that “goods and services with lower carbon will be rewarded in the marketplace.”

Senator Bunning expressed concern about how higher prices would affect consumers and asked Gayer if he thinks it would be possible to “make everyone whole.” Gayer responded that consumers are made “more than whole” if one considers the environmental gains, but that in a strictly monetary view, it would be costly. Hawkins urged everyone to remember that the goal of legislation should not be to raise the price of energy, but to reduce emissions. He stated that a well designed measure could keep prices down while at the same time driving efficiency and spurring innovation. Senator Corker stated that, although the goal should not be to make money, “climate has turned into being about money.” He spoke of an amendment he introduced, which got little support, and was designed to return all money made to consumers through a dividend program. Corker advised that legislation should include a plan to alleviate the burdens on the consumers. Senator Bunning asked Gayer to discuss ways this could be included. Gayer said that whether legislation calls for a carbon tax or a cap and trade system, portions of the revenues earned could be returned to the consumers. During a final statement, Senator Corker stated that “whatever we do as a country, we should focus on a policy that does not negatively impact the economy by taking additional monies out.”

The full text of the witness testimony and video archive of the hearing can be found here.

-MMP

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Hearing “To Explore the International Aspects of Global Climate Change.”
November 17, 2009

 

Witnesses
Michael Levi
David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environments, Council on Foreign Relations
Nigel Purvis
President, Climate Advisers
Taiya Smith
Senior Associate, Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Karen Harbert
President and Chief Executive Officer, Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Jake Colvin
Vice President for Global Trade, National Foreign Trade Council

Committee Members Present
Jeff Bingaman, Chair (D-NM)
Lisa Murkowski, Ranking Member (R-AK)
Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

On November 17, 2009 the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing entitled “To Explore the International Aspects of Global Climate Change.” Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) stated that he felt it was important that the committee understand the unique challenges that each country faces when confronting the problem of climate change. He added that clean energy technology development and deployment programs are “vital to our national goals of mitigating climate change and promoting competitiveness.” Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that our actions “will make little difference unless the rest of the world is working with us” and suggested that Congress needs to “go back to the drawing board and work on a policy that the rest of the world would actually want to follow.”

Michael Levi, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, stated that the international efforts “should be judged on whether [or not] they facilitate smart domestic options around the world.” He said it is important that the efforts promote transparency and accountability in measurement and reporting in each country. He also spoke of progress being made in Europe and India in regards to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and energy efficiency. He suggested that the U.S be careful “to coordinate its foreign policy approach with Europe if it wants to succeed” and that working with India is essential in making strong domestic action more likely.

Nigel Purvis, President of Climate Advisers, said that Copenhagen, which will focus on a global commitment to reduce GHG emissions, could be a major step forward from Kyoto, which focused on developed countries only. He stated that “most developed nations are ready to commit” and most developing nations seem to be on the verge of action. He also spoke in support of reducing emissions through the reduction in tropical deforestation and suggested that the U.S. should lead the global effort.

Taiya Smith, Senior Associate of the Energy and Climate Program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, stated that China has already reduced its carbon intensity by 10 percent and has shut down 54 GW of inefficient coal power plants, but that the country will only make a global GHG emissions commitment if it is in their national interest. She suggested that “establishing an internal body that would allow countries to monitor each other… could turn out to be one of the most effective ways to ensure that China develops a strong internal system and that the international community has the ability to engage with China on the data it issues.”

Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the Institute’s concern about the “unrealistic expectation surrounding technology readiness and commercial adoption, short-term commitments by developed countries, burden sharing by developing countries, capital requirements, expectations for wealth transfers, technology transfer, and intellectual property.” She added that it would be a mistake to assume that “all will be well” as long as legislation is put into effect and that we should not expect all other countries to follow suit.

 Jake Colvin, Vice President for Global Trade at the National Foreign Trade Council, talked of the importance of “incorporating a more robust green trade component into the international climate agenda” and said that efforts to expand overseas climate technologies markets is important for creating new green jobs in the U.S. He added that carbon tariffs could potentially be a threat to U.S. export markets and could “undermine global environmental cooperation.”

Chairman Bingaman spoke of a Chinese company that is planning to build a large wind farm in Texas, but insisting that all of the turbines be manufactured in China. Bingaman asked Colvin if this should concern us. Colvin replied that this “should certainly concern us.” He said U.S. markets are relatively open to foreign investments while China’s is not. He suggested that standards be set up that are transparent, are not discriminatory, and do not advantage one country’s firms over another. Sam Brownback (R-KS) also expressed his concern as well as the common fear that businesses and jobs may relocate to China or other countries where there are less emissions regulations. He asked the panel to comment on what the U.S. should do if China does not commit to a hard carbon cap. Harbert urged that in order to stay competitive, the U.S. needs to invest in the future and bring technology to the forefront. Levi added that it matters less whether or not China has a hard cap, but rather whether or not their regulations and incentives are strong enough. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asked the panel to comment on the alternatives available for companies that feel they will be negatively affected by cheaper imports coming into the country. Colvin replied that it is important to recognize that there are ways to adjust to this, such as through the free allocation of allowances and by helping companies that are disproportionately affected. He added that it is important to make sure the markets are open and that countries do not retaliate against companies due to carbon tariffs.

Maria Cantwell (D-WA) asked the witnesses to comment on the potential for the U.S. and China to work cooperatively to accelerate the deployment of clean energy solutions and introduce tariffs between them. Harbert replied that China’s primary goal is economic growth, and they want to grow their domestic market for export. He added that the U.S. needs to convince China this could be a leadership opportunity for them.

Bingaman asked Smith if China is increasing the amount of electricity production they get from coal-fired plants or if they are moving away from that. Smith replied that they are doing both. She said China is closing down their dirtier, less efficient coal plants and opening new and more efficient ones. She added that they are increasing their emissions on a net basis, but that they are trying to clean up their projects.

Shaheen asked Purvis if there is a way to reassure people that measures are being put into place to monitor and stop deforestation, and hold people accountable. Purvis answered that remote sensing techniques can accurately establish not only forest cover, but also the health of the forest. He added that this provides a way to reward countries for reducing their deforestation and achieving emissions reductions through a pay-for-performance system. Chairman Bingaman asked Purvis to expand on this and describe what Europe is doing to recognize forestation as an offset. Purvis said that Europe was originally very skeptical of including forestation in GHG emissions reduction agreements, but has more recently made it clear that if there is a global agreement that includes forestation, they will still adopt it.

Murkowski asked the panel to discuss the merits of a carbon tax as opposed to a cap and trade system at an international level. Harbert suggested that a carbon tax would reduce the volatility associated with cap and trade and would be a more transparent system, which “bares a lot of value in today’s very uncertain market.” Purvis disagreed and said that there are “still opportunities for the U.S. to effect the mix of international policies, but that cap and trade is gaining momentum [internationally].” Levi agreed with Purvis and stated that a carbon tax is not as simple and transparent as most make it out to be.

Murkowski said that many have suggested that in order for Copenhagen to be successful, the U.S. would have had to adopt some form of climate legislation beforehand. She asked the panel if they felt that the U.S. would be going to Copenhagen as failures. Purvis answered that if Copenhagen fails, some countries may blame the U.S. and that it would be best if the U.S. acts within a year after Copenhagen. He stated that Copenhagen could create a structure that will allow for the verification of actions and bring about positive outcomes. Levi added that without a comprehensive policy, he thinks the bulk of the talks at Copenhagen will be focused on what the U.S. is or is not doing.

Testimony from the panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.

-MMP

The Senate Finance Committee Hearing on “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs”
November 10, 2009

 

Witnesses
Abraham Breehey
Director, Legislative Affairs, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers
Carol Berrigan
Director, Industry Infrastructure, Nuclear Energy Institute
Kenneth P. Green
Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Margo Thorning
Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, American Council for Capital Formation
Van Ton-Quinlivan
Director, Workforce Development and Strategic Programs, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Committee Members Present
Max Baucus, Chair (D-MT)
Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member (R-IA)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
John F. Kerry (D-MA)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)

On November 11, 2009 the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Climate Change Legislation: Considerations for Future Jobs.” Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) stated that he is “committed to passing meaningful, balanced climate-change legislation…that will protect our land and those whose livelihood depends on it.” He added that he thinks this could be done without harming the economy. He spoke of the “dire predictions” of job losses and costs made during the debate over the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and said it should be recognized that the negative consequences were far less than projected. This should be kept in mind during the current debates. Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) showed more skepticism than Baucus and spoke of price increases and job losses under a cap and trade system. He stated that “an honest cost-benefit assessment requires that we first stop trying to sell this policy as if it will have no cost for Americans and accept the basic economic principle that there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Abraham Breehey, Director of Legislative Affairs for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers, and Helpers, testified that job opportunities would arise out of the demand for climate solutions. He said that if Congress does not develop the policies needed, “We could miss an opportunity to make the United States the leader in advanced coal-technology development.” He cited the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP) report “Task Force on America’s Future Energy Jobs”, which says that coal-based carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as well as nuclear power have the highest potential for job creation relative to other energy options. Breehey also urged that climate policies “must not undermine the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers in the global marketplace.”

Carol Berrigan, Director of Industry Infrastructure at the Nuclear Energy Institute, testified that mainstream analyses by independent organizations have shown that the reduction of carbon emissions would require a “major expansion of nuclear generating capacity over the next 30 to 50 years.” She said that new nuclear plants would create jobs, more specifically 14,360 man-years per GW installed. She added that financial assistance would be needed in order to accelerate the deployment of new plants. She suggested that Congress create a financing platform to provide loans and credit support as well as provide tax stimulus for the investment into new nuclear plants.

Kenneth Green, resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, called cap and trade an “inappropriate policy” that will “increase energy prices, slowing economic growth, killing jobs, and reducing competitiveness.” He said that “governments do not create jobs, they just move them around” resulting in net job loss. He added that the carbon control favors biofuels and would cause farms to grow fuel instead of food, which would increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He concluded by calling the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733) “bad energy policy.”

Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the American Council for Capital Formation (AACF), spoke of a study sponsored by AACF on the impacts of the Waxman-Markey bill. She said it projected that, under the bill, the gross domestic product (GDP) would be reduced by between 1.7 and 2.4 percent and that 1.7 to 2.4 million jobs would be lost. She added that the studies that show job growth are input-output models and do not account for the impact of higher energy prices the way that a macroeconomic model would. She stated that if the U.S. is the only country to adopt emission targets that the “environmental benefits would be almost nil.” She added that it is “pretty clear that the costs outweigh the benefits.”

Van Ton-Quinlivan, Director of Workforce Development and Strategic Programs at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, stated that the electricity utility industry has an aging workforce of which 30 to 40 percent will be eligible to retire over the next five years. She cited the NCEP Task Force report which stated that the electric power sector’s training capacity has been stressed by a decline in technical education and that “creating a low carbon energy system will require more workers with new skills.”

Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) noted that, compared to the reports of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the AACF report projected a much higher instance of job loss. Baucus said that “much of one’s conclusions are based on one’s assumptions” and asked Thorning to explain the assumptions used for the AACF study. Thorning replied that she felt the study used more realistic assumptions about how quickly new technologies could be deployed. For example, the AACF study assumed 25 new nuclear plants up and running by 2030, which Thorning finds more realistic than EIA’s assumption of 100 new nuclear plants by 2050 and EPA’s assumption of 150 new nuclear plants by 2050.

Senator Kerry later told Thorning that the AACF study is not credible because it does not “take into account the cost of inaction” and asked for comment. Thorning replied that even if the United States does achieve the targets of H.R. 2454, that it “wouldn’t really matter…because other countries are not willing to undertake hard targets.” Senator Kerry responded that this is not accurate and that China has set a 20 percent reduction target, which they have exceeded thus far. He agreed that if an agreement is not reached at Copenhagen, that we should not disadvantage the country but that he did not think this would be necessary. He added that the countries that do commit to an agreement would be able to put together a protocol that would not let goods from outlier countries in without a tax. Senator Hatch expressed concerns that China would attend Copenhagen and commit to reducing emissions, but then fail to follow through with the commitment.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) stated that she did not want green energy technologies to turn out like computer technologies and be produced largely in China. She added, “If that happens around clean energy, we will have failed.” She said that, although the technology is not readily available, “we have the capacity to create the technology, which will create the jobs.” She asked the panelists to comment on how the U.S. could compete in a “race” with China. Green replied that the only way to do this would be if “China would actually accept a cap on emissions.” Breehey added that any manufacturer or power generation company that receives incentives through a cap and trade bill should be required to adhere to domestic content requirements.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) stated that under S. 1733, passed out of the Environment and Public Works Committee last week, the communities in rural Kansas have said they will suffer. He asked Thorning what market signals this bill and the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) show to rural states that depend on “traditional fuels” such as coal and gas. Thorning referred to analysis done by AACF that shows that H.R. 2454 will result in between 21,000 and 29,000 fewer jobs. Kerry responded by citing 6 studies that show that Kansas is growing in investments and in net jobs. He said the studies also project a reduction in household costs by 2020. He added that the question of assumptions is “really fundamental to this.” Thorning replied that the studies Kerry referred to all used input-output models and do not “take into account structural changes in economy.”

Senator Hatch asked Green to speak about the European cap and trade system, why he thinks it has not worked there, and if the U.S. will have similar problems. Green replied that the permit prices had great volatility and repeatedly collapsed. He stated that we would have the same structural problems here. Senator Kerry later added that the European system did initially have problems, but that a number of reforms have been put into place and it is now working effectively.

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke about the cap and trade program within the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments that capped the emissions of sulfur dioxide in order to curb the acid rain problem. She commented on the success of the program and asked Green to comment on why he thinks a cap and trade program would not work as well to cap carbon dioxide. Green replied that sulfur dioxide was easier to measure and the problem easier to fix. He said that to cap carbon dioxide is much more complicated due to intersectoral competition and suggested that cap and trade is not appropriate for GHG controls.

Ranking Member Grassley asked the panel if they agreed that with a cap and trade system, although jobs will be created in certain industries, there will be a net loss of jobs as a result of high energy prices. Breehey said he did agree that cap and trade programs would have a net negative impact on gross domestic product (GDP) but that many studies fail to acknowledge the net negative economic cost associated with energy efficiency solutions. He added that “the doomsday scenarios are vastly overstated” and that the innovations encouraged by cap and trade programs will result in lower costs in the long run. Green disagreed and insisted that a tax on carbon would hurt the economy and reduce jobs. Senator Hatch added that, although a cap and trade program would create jobs in industries producing renewable energy, it would also reduce jobs in industries that produce carbon based energy. He asked Thorning if she felt that more job shifting was going on than job creation. Thorning replied that she agreed and that a cap and trade program would result in an overall slowing of economic growth.

Hatch talked about the disproportionate effect of a cap and trade system on low-income households and asked the witnesses if they thought it would be possible to create a cap and trade program that reduces carbon emissions but is not felt by the poor. Green suggested that they could be shielded to a certain extent by redirecting allocation revenues to low-income people. He added that they would be the “most effected by the downturn in the economy and the downturn in jobs.”

Testimony from the chair, ranking member, and panelists can be found here.

-MMP

House Committee of Science and Technology Hearing on “Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention.”
November 5, 2009

 

Witnesses
Ken Caldeira
Senior Scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution of Washington
John Shepherd
Professor, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton
Lee Lane
Co-Director, AEI Geoengineering Project, American Enterprise Institute
Alan Robock
Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University
James Fleming
Professor and Director of Sciences, Technology and Society, Colby College

Committee Members Present

Bart Gordon, Chair (D-TN)

Ralph M. Hall, Ranking Member (R-TX)

David Wu (D-OR)

Brian Baird (D-WA)

Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI)

Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)

Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH)

Parker Griffith (R-AL)

Adrian Smith (R-NE)

Suzanne M. Kosmos (D-FL)

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Kathy A. Dahlkemper (D-PA)

Brian P. Bilbray (R-CA)

Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)

Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD)

Pete Olson (R-TX)

Bob Inglis (R-SC)

 


On November 5, 2009 the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on “Geoengineering: Assessing the Implications of Large-Scale Climate Intervention.” Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) stated that this hearing should not be misconstrued as an endorsement for geoengineering, but that “we should accept the possibility that certain climate engineering proposals may merit consideration.” Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) remarked that he is “a bit skeptical about this nontraditional approach,” but that he is eager to listen to the panel and would try to reserve judgment.

Ken Caldeira, Senior Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, testified that he thinks “we can and will make this transformation to a clean energy system of the future.” He spoke of the two types of geoengineering: solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Within SRM, he mentioned two proposals: 1) the introduction of particles in the stratosphere that mimic the aftermath of a volcano and 2) seeding and whitening clouds over the ocean. Both result in the reflection of sunlight back into space and cooling. He said these could introduce “new environmental and political risks.” He talked of two basic types of CDR that are unlikely to introduce new risks, growing forests to store carbon dioxide in its organic form and chemical techniques to remove carbon dioxide. He added that the climate change problem is “too serious to take options off of the table.”

John Shepherd, Professor at University of Southampton, testified that geoengineering “is not a magic bullet” and that “none of these methods provide an easy or immediate solution.” He said that although geoengineering will not be ready for deployment any time soon, the technology and environmental impacts should be studied now. He added that the technology should not be seen as an alternative to reducing emissions, which he calls the “safest and most predictable method to limiting climate change.”

Lee Lane, Co-Director of the Geoengineering Project at the American Enterprise Institute, testified that the costs of a research and development (R&D) effort for SRM geoengineering technologies “are miniscule compared with [the] possible gains,” but added that this does not account for unforeseen costs of possible unwanted side effects. Like Caldeira, Lane spoke of the promise of the cloud whitening and the stratospheric aerosols methods. He added that CDR should have lower priority for R&D. He said that multiple tools are available to deal with climate change and that “a mix of climate policies is better than placing too much stress on any one response.”

Alan Robock, Professor at Rutgers University, testified that geoengineering “certainly needs more research.” He said we do not know how to implement the stratospheric aerosol geoengineering because we have no equipment that enables us to do this today. He added that a small-scale test is not possible with this method without doing the geoengineering itself. He said a research program is needed so that we know whether or not we have a “plan B”.

James Fleming, Professor at Colby College, spoke about the history of weather and climate control and gave many examples of people throughout history trying to control the weather. He said climate change is not just a technical issue, but is a “technical hybrid, and our effective response to it must be historically and technically informed, interdisciplinary in nature, international in scope, and intergenerational in its inclusion of graduate, undergraduate, and younger students.”

Chairman Gordon asked each witness to discuss what they think should be the critical features of a geoengineering program, what scale of investment is needed, and which U.S. agencies should be involved. Fleming replied that there needs to be more humanists involved and that it should be a multi-agency endeavor. Shepherd suggested that the program be international and research both geoengineering methods in parallel, but he favored more research on CDR. Caldeira stated that the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should head the SRM projects. He added that the Department of Energy (DOE) already has projects to remove the carbon monoxide coming out of power plants and suggested that this could be expanded to remove gases from the atmosphere. Lane said he would reverse Shepherd’s judgment of priorities and suggested that research focus on SRM projects because they have a “greater potential to reverse rapid, highly destructive climate change.” Robock added that, although the Pinatubo eruption did cool the planet, it also caused problems such as drought and ozone destruction. He said the SRM projects need to be done “in a coordinated way” and should be lead by NSF with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and/or NASA.

Representative Suzanne Kosmos (D-FL) asked Caldeira to discuss the SRM experiments.  Caldeira replied that the simulations of sunlight deflection found they were “able to reduce most of the climate change in most places most of the time.” He referred to Robock’s comments on the eruption of Pinatubo and agreed that there are “negative consequences we need to be aware of and study more deeply” when it comes to stratospheric aerosol methods of geoengineering. He added that we need to know what kind of chemical reactions will occur when we put the chemicals into the atmosphere and we need to be careful about conducting these experiments. Shepherd added that volcanoes emit a lot of extra stuff into the atmosphere and that they are “not a perfect analogue.”

Representative Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) asked the panel to discuss the legal steps needed to deal with climate change. Lane replied that other countries’ interests in geoengineering may differ. He suggested that the U.S. learn about all of the potential risks and benefits of different geoengineering projects. He added that “each country needs to be clear on their own interests” before they can be ready for international bargaining

Ranking Member Hall asked Lane to discuss the costs related to mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Lane replied that he thinks the conditions are not yet in place for a global agreement regarding emissions reductions and that until they are in place, there is “not much the U.S. can do to change the global trajectory of emissions.” Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) compared the country’s attitude towards climate change to the stages of dying that begin with denial and bargaining and suggested that we are in those stages now. He asked the panel what small changes could be done to minimize energy consumption now. Robock replied that solar panels should be added to rooftops.

Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) agreed with Baird and stated that “there is a public attitudinal problem” and many people think that “we don’t need to worry about [climate change] because the scientists will come up with a solution.” He said that he is skeptical about saying geoengineering is the answer to the climate change problem until more research has been done. He added that the U.S. cannot have just one solution to the problem. He asked for comment on these thoughts. Caldeira replied that he thinks Ehlers is correct and that “while the panel disagrees about the scale and scope of what the research should be,” the entire panel agrees that there is need for a research program. Robock added that people cannot use geoengineering solutions as an excuse to stop thinking about mitigation.

Representative Adrian Smith (R-NE) asked the panel to speak about the impacts of climate change on the livestock industry. Lane replied that there might be a potential to apply the removal of GHGs from the atmosphere to the removal of methane in barns. Fleming said that climate change may bring about behavioral changes and people may be encouraged to eat less beef. When asked if he was suggesting that beef is bad for the planet, Fleming said he was not, but thought eating less beef would be one mitigation strategy.

Representative Baird spoke of fixing the behavior of people and asked, “What is easier: to change our behavior or change the planet?” Shepherd replied that the problem is not so black and white and that both should be modified. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) said he hoped people would not need to be told they cannot fly to see their families or eat beef.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) submitted a list of scientists that doubt that climate change exists, adding, “There is ample reason for us to question if the things talked about today are really needed.” He said that there have been reports that when the airplanes were grounded on 9/11, that the temperature of the planet increased one degree Fahrenheit. Robock replied that this was part of natural weather variability and had nothing to do with the planes. Rohrabacher argued that “whenever it doesn’t fit into global warming it becomes variability and when it does fit in it is proof of global warming.” He stated that there are many times during geologic history that had a higher carbon percent than today. Caldeira said that was true, but that there is some risk involved and we must do what we can to mitigate that risk. Rohrabacher responded that we do not have much money now “to mitigate [something] that might or might not be true.”

Testimony from the chair and panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing and a related press release.

-MMP

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on “S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”
October 29, 2009

Witnesses
Preston Chiaro
Chief Executive Officer, Rio Tinto
John Rowe
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation
Willett Kempton
Professor, University of Delaware
Bob Winger
President, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
Fred Krupp
President, Environmental Defense Fund
Mike Carey
President, Ohio Coal Association
Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau Federation

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chair (D-CA)
James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Max Baucus (D-MT)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Tom Udall (D-NM)

On October 29, 2009 the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on “S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.” Arlen Specter (D-PA) started off by saying that he hoped that the committee would “hold its fire until [it] had heard from all the witnesses.” Despite his request, the committee members voiced their concerns about the bill in their opening remarks. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said cap and trade does not work and gave four suggestions for reaching climate goals: build 100 new nuclear power plants, electrify half of the cars and trucks in the U.S. over the next 50 years, explore offshore for more natural gas and oil, and create mini-Manhattan projects in carbon capture, solar, electric batteries, and the recycling of nuclear waste. Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) thought the bill fails to protect electricity consumers from price increases and fails to protect workers. John Barrasso (R-WY) testified that “a massive energy tax will unplug the American economy” and will hurt the Midwest states. Thomas Carper (D-DE) disagreed with several of these early remarks and said the best way to bring jobs and energy independence to the country is through a cap on carbon.

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) pointed out that although the U.S. can build electric cars and green technologies, “who will buy them?” He added that the bill favors some states more than others, giving preference to western states. As his time ran out and Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) repeatedly hit her gavel, Voinovich continue to insist that the bill should not be “jammed” through. Boxer replied that the EPA analysis found there would be “barely any regional differences,” and she had worked with the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to make sure the bill is deficit neutral. She added that she felt the “aggressive kind of argument ...is misplaced” and hoped the Republicans would not attempt a boycott of the markup of “a landmark bill.” Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) spoke of his dismay with the “fear mongering from the other side.” He added that “what we need to be looking at is what we face if we don’t do anything.”

Preston Chiaro, Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Product Group at Rio Tinto, testified that there are three features that need to be addressed in climate policies and he related each feature to elements of the bill. First he spoke of the need to accelerate the development and deployment of low emissions technologies, which he added the bill does by supporting carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Second, he stressed the importance of provisions to minimize the cost of climate policies and said the bill includes important key features, such as flexibility through banking and borrowing. Third, he talked about the threat of “carbon leakage”, which he described as the migration of  jobs and industry from a country that regulates carbon to a country that does not., He supports the bill’s use of output-based rebates for industry to help deter this type of “carbon leakage”.

John Rowe, President and CEO at Exelon Corporation, testified that bill is a “very good beginning although [Exelon] hopes certain alterations will be made.” He suggested four provisions be added to the bill: 1) a formula that allocates the emission allowances in a way that protects electricity customers, 2) a cost containment mechanism that will protect the economy and jobs, especially at the beginning stages of the program, 3) less aggressive and more reasonable timetables for curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 4) support for large-scale deployment of nuclear power.

Willett Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware, testified that offshore wind “is the U.S.’s largest ocean energy resource” and offers over twice the resources of all U.S. offshore oil. He added that many of the largest sources of carbon-free power are regionally concentrated and that offshore wind power is ideal along the East Coast. He said that research and development (R&D) is necessary to develop offshore wind turbines and he thinks the bill can be used for this purpose.

Bob Winger, President of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, spoke favorably of the bill’s CCS demonstration and deployment programs but did have some suggestions. He said the goal of cap and trade programs is to reduce emissions in an efficient and cost-effective way, however, the bill’s programs fall short of these goals. Like Rowe, Winger also suggested the addition of cost containment provisions and a more reasonable timeline for GHG emission reductions.

Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defense Fund, testified that not only can the country meet the emission targets by 2020, he thinks they can be achieved at low cost and create jobs in the process. He added that the clean energy sector is “poised to grow” and in doing so the nation has an opportunity to become more competitive in the global market. 

Mike Carey, President of the Ohio Coal Association, testified that the green job economy is a myth. Not many new jobs are actually created, and those that are generally pay low wages. He stated that the effects of the legislation will vary dramatically from region to region, but that almost the whole country will see lower standards of living. He added that the bill will “kill the coal industry” and has insufficient funding to make CCS technology ready by 2020.

Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, testified that the Federation opposes this bill for several reasons. He stated that the bill did not provide a cost-effective plan for transitioning to a clean energy economy and that it would not “provide an alternative source of energy to the fossil fuels that will be lost.” He said the bill does not make economic sense for agriculture and does not include agriculture and forestry in the offsets program. He added that the increased fuel prices will put U.S. farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage compared to other countries that do not have similar GHG restrictions. He ended by saying that the Farm Bureau believes that “agriculture and forestry can play a key role in any future national energy policy” and the bill does not recognize this role.

Boxer stated that with so much happening already on a state-by-state basis, she asked the witnesses whether a national program to control GHG emissions would be more helpful. Rowe replied that nearly every state in which he does business has adopted some measure to deal with climate change, mostly in a mix of renewable energy technologies. Chiaro added that a global system would be better than each state having a different cap and trade system.

Boxer asked the panel if the nuclear titles in the bill would benefit the nuclear industry. Rowe replied that they would. He added that a large number of nuclear plants will be needed in decades to come. He said a market based portfolio is needed and that is why Exelon supports cap and trade. Voinovich mentioned titles in the bill that encourage natural gas and expressed concern that this would take pressure off building nuclear plants. Rowe agreed and said that the low costs of natural gas would probably remove the stress placed on advancing new nuclear or renewables. He added that six or eight nuclear units are supported by existing federal loans and they should be in operation by 2020. He said there will be more by 2030, but he doubts it will be anywhere near the 100 plants requested. Alexander noted that nuclear power is not counted as a renewable energy and asked the panel if they thought there should be a carbon free goal rather than a strictly renewable goal. Rowe strongly agreed that a carbon free goal would be preferable. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked Rowe what incentives are needed to get 150 or so nuclear plants built in the decades to come. Rowe replied that nuclear plants should be included in the renewable energy package. He added that there needs to be a legislative finding that the onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel is an acceptable solution in the long-term. Lastly, he suggested increasing the amounts of loan guarantees available for new nuclear power plants.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) asked Kempton what kinds of jobs are created when clean energy companies are created. Kempton replied that the jobs created are not “green jobs” or exotic jobs, but are “American jobs at American plants.” Voinovich spoke of the nation’s “feeling” that we will somehow replace coal and gas through wind and solar. He added that this is not the route the rest of the world is taking and asked for comment. Carey reported that, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA), 80 percent of the coal jobs will be gone by 2030. He said that these are well paying “American jobs” and that this would be a “real hit to the Appalachian economy.”

Voinovich asked Winger to comment on where the technology is for CCS. Winger replied that the “technology is not there yet.” He said without the bill and the incentives it provides for CCS to progress, the technologies will never get there. He added that no power plants are being built right now because of uncertainty relating to future emissions regulations, but that “coal needs to be a part of the energy mix.” Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) spoke of other member comments about the “sweeteners” within the bill for coal. He asked Carey why he is opposed to the bill if it does in fact “take care of coal.” Carey replied that CCS needs to continue to be studied and that basing CCS on a cap and trade scenario is not the right way to do it.

Inhofe noted that agriculture is exempt from a carbon cap under the bill and asked Stallman why he opposed the bill. Stallman replied that although agriculture is exempt, “We are not exempt to the affects of this bill.” He said that because 20 percent of agriculture costs are energy related, there would be serious cost increases and an effective downsizing of agriculture. Udall addressed Stallman and told him he thinks preventing severe climate change is critical to protecting agriculture, especially in the Southwest. He added that he thinks the way to support agriculture is to “be aggressive and forward with climate change legislation.”

Lautenberg talked of companies like DuPont, Ford, and BP supporting the bill and asked Krupp if these companies would support the bill if it adversely impacts society. Krupp said he does not think there is any way the companies would support the bill if they believed that. He added that their statements all support that “they believe that this legislation will yield a real economic growth in this country.”

Testimony from the panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.

-MMP 

 Senate Commmittee on Environment and Public Works“Legislative Hearing on S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.”
October 27, 2009

Witnesses:
Panel 1
John F. Kerry
United States Senator (D-MA)

Panel 2
Steven Chu
Secretary, Department of Energy

Ray LaHood
Secretary, Department of Transportation

Ken Salazar
Secretary, Department of the Interior

Lisa Jackson
Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

Jon Wellinghoff
Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman (D-CA) James Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)

Max Baucus (D-MT)

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Christopher Bond (R-MO)

Arlen Specter (D-PA)

Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Tom Udall (D-NM)

George Voinovich (R-OH)

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

John Barrasso (R-WY)

Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

David Vitter (R-LA)

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Bernard Sanders (I-VT)

Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)

 

 

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on October 27, 2009, entitled “Legislative Hearing on S. 1733, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act”. Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) welcomed the witnesses and the attendees, before introducing the legislation written by Senator Kerry and herself. Boxer explained that this bill would cost an additional 30 cents a day for each American family. That investment, though, is enough to gain energy independence and secure the future of our environment, in addition to sparking American innovation. Boxer stated that she is proud to be leading a committee with the legacy of passing America’s landmark environmental legislation by refusing to shy away from its challenges, and that now “global warming is our challenge.” Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) discussed the costs associated with this bill, deriding the expense it presents. He questioned the claims that the bill will result in net job creation, quoting reports which argued that a cap and trade bill would hurt the US economy.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) then took the floor as a witness, starting off by establishing that the world’s leaders have already made it clear that we need to deal with climate change. He stressed the urgency of the legislation, giving the example that current ice loss is much greater than expected from earlier modeling and thus the problem is likely even more significant than we thought. Kerry described how dangerously close we are to a two degree increase in global temperature which is predicted to yield “catastrophic” results. Kerry rationalized that he could not guarantee their occurrence, but “if the best scientific minds that we have… are all in unity, telling us this is the potential consequence”, that the senators had a responsibility to respond. Even if the climate predictions are wrong, Kerry thought the legislation would not because it would create new jobs, stimulate new sectors of the economy, and secure our energy future at a time of growing global demand. He then referenced broadly supported studies demonstrating a net job increase in the state of each senator present, and that similar studies would be done for the remaining states. Kerry noted the report by retired U.S. admirals and generals considering climate change a “threat multiplier”, and the national security problems the issue raises. He ended by warning that America’s leadership role is on the line, both politically and economically, if we fail to take action on this matter.

The remainder of the senators in the room then gave their opening statements. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Arlen Specter (D-PA) were in support of the need for energy and climate legislation, but were lukewarm on the bill itself for economic reasons. Mike Crapo (R-ID) was generally receptive to the legislation, while David Vitter (R-LA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) agreed to the need for energy legislation, but questioned the costs of this bill and advocated for nuclear and other options. John Barrasso (R-WY) warned of the economic damage this bill would do, while Christopher Bond (R-MO) and George Voinovich (R-OH) questioned the speed with which this bill has been pushed and the validity of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s economic analysis of the bill. Democrats largely supported the bill, including Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Benjamin Carter (D-MD) who argued for the urgency of the bill in light of the changes in our planet already being observed. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) railed against the divisiveness on this issue and the unreasonable arguments being expressed, suggesting to the committee that they bring in “a bunch of children… and explain to them why it is that we want to fight about this”, asking if his fellow senators saw any risk to their children from the climate change evidence they were considering. Senators Carter, Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) argued that the economic benefits of the plan would be significant. Several of them pointed out that this will show the “realistic” cost of energy with carbon costs added in. Tom Udall (D-NM) commended his colleagues on the bill, praising its “do it all, do it right” approach to energy.

Testimony from the witnesses began with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, who quickly recapped some of the arguments for climate change he had presented during his previous testimony before the committee. Moving past the science, he testified that the big question now is who will benefit from the impending transformation of economies. “When the gun sounded on the clean energy race, the United States stumbled,” admitted Chu, though he remains confident that we can make up ground. While the stimulus act was a start, Chu argued that we need comprehensive climate legislation to really address the problems. He stressed a commitment to research and development (R&D) as integral, confirming that efforts were already well underway at the Department of Energy (DOE).

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood committed that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will play a big part in combating climate change. He encouraged the need for public transportation communities, with their corresponding smaller carbon footprint. To this end, the DOT has begun investing the $8 billion allocated for high speed rail, which LaHood considers just “a down payment” that will be followed by other significant investments. He noted that the DOT and EPA are working together to reach national emissions standards for trucks and other vehicles. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration is developing performance standards for greenhouse gas reductions, the Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the role of airplane emissions in climate change, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is working to improve access to public transit.  FTA is also conducting research on how to achieve higher performance efficiency for the public transit system.

Secretary Ken Salazar of the Department of the Interior (DOI) began his testimony with three “imperatives” the nation should be guided by:,1. Energy independence, 2. Creating millions of new energy jobs, and 3. Protecting our children and planet from pollution. He hoped that “at the end of the day,” they would have a bi-partisan bill that “this country can be very proud of.” In support of this effort, he concluded that the role of the DOI is to be the stewards of our nation’s resources, to provide education to the public on these issues and to provide the science to solve them. He described the Department’s current plans for renewable energy on public lands.  DOI is developing solar energy on about 1000 square miles, which would produce enough energy for 29 million homes. Plans for wind power include 800 megawatts to be developed onshore, and further consideration of the huge potential for wind power offshore. He also indicated plans for geothermal projects and electricity transmission corridors on public lands. Salazar mentioned some of the efforts by DOI to have the U.S. Geological Survey move forward with protocols for the deployment of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson commended Kerry and Boxer for their work on the bill, and also Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his work, noting that the bill should be bi-partisan.. This bill would transform America’s economy from a dirty, inefficient one to a clean, efficient one, Jackson said. She warned that America is getting progressively more dependent on foreign oil, and that Americans are getting sick of the corporate interests which have prohibited progress on these issues. She ended by reiterating the four points of the EPA’s assessment of this bill: it will transform the economy, the costs would be “well below” fifty cents per day per person, cost differences between regions would be minimal, and it will prevent the Earth from reaching the two degree warmer global temperature threshold.

Chairman Jon Wellinghoff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began his testimony by noting that FERC is hard at work on improving energy transmission. He said  that dirty energy is deceivingly cheap and that prices for coal and other sources are more realistic if their impact on the environment is taken into consideration. This bill will help to diversify our energy supply, which Wellinghoff described as important to avoid shortages, in addition to the potential for “huge energy savings”. Especially key in this bill is funding for the regional energy distribution systems necessary for a transformation of the electrical grid. Proper pricing of electrical power and transmission would make our environmental and economic policy goals possible and Wellinghoff concluded that “S. 1733 is the key to getting it right.”

Boxer began the questioning by asking Salazar how the legislation would protect our natural resources, and what the alternatives would be. Salazar assured Boxer that the bill would do much by mitigating the effects of climate change, and painted a gloomy picture of lakes and rivers drying up and glaciers disappearing if climate change is not confronted. Boxer asked Jackson to comment on how the acid rain regulations contained in the Clean Air Act. Jackson responded that the acid rain standards were successful because the standards were clear and industries knew how to implement them to reduce the problem. Chu added that industries can prepare for the long term with clear standards because companies are basing their investments on the time they will take to show a return, and if standards are unclear then that time will be incalculable. Jackson also confirmed the acid rain regulations had come online ahead of schedule after incentives were put into place.

During his allotted question time, Inhofe rebutted Kerry’s testimony, challenging the status of the science of climate change. “The science is more definitive than ever, you keep saying that because you want to believe it so much”, said Inhofe. He described a list of scientists who previously supported climate change but who are “solidly on the other side right now”, saying that “it has already shifted”. If the bill comes to debate on the floor, Inhofe committed that he would say “the science is not settled, everyone knows it’s not settled, but for the sake of this debate let’s assume it is”. Inhofe thinks the debate should and will focus on economics, even though he believes the science is not settled. Voinovich asked Chu if there was realistically enough funding in the bill to accomplish its ambitious goals, and Chu responded that yes there was: ten years was a feasible timescale for deployment of several of the technologies in question. Chu confirmed for Lautenberg that it was definitely possible to achieve twenty percent emissions reductions by 2020.

One of the major issues addressed was the question of jurisdiction over carbon standards. Voinovich cautioned that this legislation should did not “pre-empt” the Clean Air Act, and that the door shoud be left open for the EPA to independently address carbon emissions. Jackson pointed out that the legislation did not cover every industry, but Voinovich and Specter each countered that a piece of clear legislation with all of the bases covered and long term standards was key to solving climate change. Specter asked Jackson to present any issues she had to the committee so that they could be dealt with in the bill. Whitehouse asked the EPA to take notice of the problem of Midwest power plants building taller smoke stacks to export pollution to other states rather than cleaning out their emissions.

Several senators asked about the best approaches to reducing carbon emissions. Chu described converting our existing infrastructure as the cheapest and easiest option available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, we could save $100 billion by load shifting energy generated during non-peak hours to peak hours, that potentially as much as 26 percent of emissions reductions could come from efficiency projects and that in the end we would actually save money on our efficiency measures. The barriers to efficiency were capital up front and inertia, but that if projects were done in a “mass produced” sort of way in which neighborhoods all retrofitted their homes together, not only was it cheaper but “it’s a block party.” DOE is pursuing such community events  as an option for the near future.

Public transportation was discussed as another key to reducing emissions. LaHood admitted that the U.S. is so far behind in public transit because it has “never made the investment”, but DOT is beginning such investments now. Efficiency within the transit system is also needed, according to LaHood, who maintained that we were now committed to a broader, comprehensive transit system which would help to get people out of their cars and lower their carbon footprints. The roles of individual energy technologies were also discussed, with the role of nuclear power finding support from Klobuchar and Whitehouse. Udall noted a potential 100 year supply of natural gas, which Chu commented was even less than some of the numbers he was seeing for gas reserves, speaking highly of its potential. Renewable energy was also broadly supported, with Udall and Wellinghoff discussing the potential for a 25 percent renewable energy standard. Chu commented that the cost of wind and solar are coming down, and they will continue to do so. Boxer ended by thanking the witnesses for their time and the committee members for their work, which would be continued over the course of two more hearings in the following days.

The opening statements of committee members, testimony of the witnesses, and a webcast of the hearing may be found here.

-JJF

 House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Hearing on “Roadmap to Copenhagen–Driving towards Success”
September 10, 2009

Witnesses
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change, U.S. Department of State

Committee Members Present
Edward J. Markey, Chair (D-MA)
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Ranking Member (R-WI)
Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Jay Inslee (D-WA)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Emanuel Cleaver II, (D-MO)
Shelley Moore Capito, (R-WV)

On September 10, 2009, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing on “Roadmap to Copenhagen–Driving towards Success.” Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-MA) referred to global warming as a “global problem in need of a global solution.” He feels that we need to set an example for other nations by reducing the pollution from the United States, which will hopefully advance the negotiations with other nations at Copenhagen. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) noted that he agreed with many other developed countries which think that developing countries should not have contracts concerning such issues as climate change.

Todd Stern of the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate agreed with Chairman Markey and acknowledged the difficulty in regulating developing countries. Stern said the solution needs to be global, however this is difficult to achieve because developing countries see climate change as a problem that they did not create. In addition, dealing with climate change may slow their ability to improve their standard of living. In response, developed countries do not want to commit without the participation of developing countries. Still, some of the biggest developing countries, such as China, Brazil, India, and South Africa have already implemented plans concerning climate change. Stern said the biggest challenge will be to get countries to make an international agreement on the issue because “countries like these are often willing to do more than they are willing to agree to do.” He said that we should be able to expect the major developing countries, such as China, to “take actions that significantly reduce their emissions… reflect those actions in an international agreement… and [then] these actions must be subject to a strong reporting and verification regime.” Stern said the climate change agreement is not just about limiting emissions, but also about forwarding low-carbon development. 

Markey asked what role provisions relating to renewable electricity standards and energy efficiency standards in the United States would play in UN negotiations at Copenhagen. Stern replied that having these policies for our country would set an example and push other countries to enter into commitments in a timely manner and to carry them out.

Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) stated that the UN has collected no money and, given the economics, there are concerns that money will not be available to provide assistance to developing countries. He asked the witness if this would cause China and India to be more resistant to participation. Stern replied that funds will be generated through the sale of emission allowances. 

Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) mentioned the Kyoto negotiations between the United States and China and asked the witness what the difference is between then and now. Stern answered that the business community in China is much more interested in clean energy and see it as “the way to go”. Markey asked Stern what progress has been made with the United States–China relationship and bilateral negotiations. Stern said that because China and the United States together emit 40 percent of global emissions, climate change has to be seen as a central important issue between us. He added that although China is a tough negotiator, he thinks they really do want to get involved.

Jay Inslee (D-WA) asked the witness where China fits in with developing and developed countries. Stern replied that China is both a developed and a developing country. He said we cannot treat China like we would other poor countries in Latin America and Asia and instead need to treat them, and other so-called “emerging countries”, in a way that pushes them to take real action. He continued to say that over time China needs to be treated exactly the same as a developed country. Stern thinks the biggest hurdle is the expectation that the United States needs to push China for the next five years, but in the end could end up chasing China if they capitalize on the new market opportunities emerging and the United States does not.

Markey stated that once countries have agreed to do certain tasks, a verification process would need to be in place to ensure the countries are following through with their commitments and to track emissions. Markey asked the witness how the sharing of technical expertise and emissions verification would work and if such processes would be overly intrusive. Stern responded that the technical expertise of countries like the United States would be an important resource for various countries to have the capacity to measure emissions credibly. He said that verification is important to ensure that countries are doing what they agreed to and that it could be done without being overly intrusive. Stern said it would be important to have an outside expert to review what is being represented and determine its accuracy.

Inslee brought up two scenarios concerning developing countries such as India and how their emissions could be regulated. In his opinion, there are two options: 1) a cap is agreed upon, or 2) a set of vigorous standards is maintained. He believes that if developing countries had the same cap as developed countries, it would take too long for the developing countries like India to reach it. Therefore, Inslee supports setting standards for each country.

Stern closed by saying that it is most important to pass legislation that gives us credibility and leverage in negotiations first, before we ask the same of other countries.

Testimony from the chair, ranking member, and panelists can be found here, as well as video highlights from the hearing.

-MMP

 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on “Climate Change and National Security”
July 30, 2009

Witnesses
The Honorable John Warner
United States Senator (Retired)
Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn USN (Ret.)
Member, Military Advisory Board, Center for Naval Analyses
Mr. Jonathan Powers
Chief Operating Officer, Truman National Security Project
Mr. David B. Rivkin
Partner, Baker Hostetler, Co-Chairman of the Center for Law and Counterterrorism at the
Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chair (D-CA)
James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Christopher S. Bond (R-MO)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
John Barrasso (R-WY)

On July 30, 2009, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on “Climate Change and National Security.” Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) noted the importance of this hearing saying the U.S. could be drawn into international conflicts more frequently as climate change causes more drought, water shortages, and refugees to need homes. The “business as usual approach to energy” will be dangerous, so a clean energy economy is in our best interest. Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) contradicted Boxer saying he “doesn’t think global warming poses a national security threat” or that the science proves it even exists and that our focus on cap and trade or unilateral action will not help our national security. He added that we do have a national security issue in our dependence on foreign oil and so we need to make use of all our domestic sources of energy. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) said that “climate change has a direct impact on U.S. security” citing problems that are likely to arise surrounding droughts and lack of drinking water around the world in the coming decades. Christopher Bond (R-MO) stated that the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454) will do nothing to stop wars in the future or terrorism, but will incite trade wars between the U.S. and other countries and eliminate 2.5 million jobs in the U.S.

Retired Senator John Warner, co-sponsor of the 2008 Senate climate legislation, testified to the committee about the importance in considering U.S. national security as related to climate change. He said that “global warming is contributing to insecurity in the world today” particularly in unstable sovereign nations. He asserted his support of nuclear power saying “there is no greater supporter of nuclear energy than this humble soul,” adding that during his time with the Navy there were no life-threatening problems with nuclear power. Warner also spoke about his belief that the Senate Armed Services committee should be involved in climate legislation work because national security is so important to the issue.

Retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, a member of the Military Advisory Board of the Center for Naval Analyses, testified that all of the U.S. economic, energy, climate, and national security problems are “inextricably linked.” He said that the financial crisis we are experiencing today “will look like the good ole days” in the future if we do not act now to prevent the crises likely to occur. He warned that growing competition for oil resources will lead to an increase in conflicts if we do not act, which will place a burden on U.S. armed forces. McGinn added that we should look at climate change as a “threat multiplier,” and we “cannot drill our way to sustained energy security.” He called on the U.S. to develop “bold, comprehensive solutions” to this problem where we will diversify energy sources and increase energy efficiency.

Mr. Jonathan Powers of the Truman National Security Project testified that it is “time for the U.S. to lead by example” by acting to address climate change, adding that it will “affect the safety of every American.” He said that the demand for our armed forces to respond to natural disaster emergencies will increase as severe storms increase with climate change. Powers also urged the committee to establish policies that will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. David Rivkin of Baker Hostetler and of the Center for Law and Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified that unilateral action by the U.S. on climate change is not a good idea because other countries will not follow our lead. He said that the Waxman-Markey bill will make developing countries less likely to reduce emissions and the bill will not benefit the global climate. Rivkin stated that “a unilateral cap-and-trade regime, which would do nothing for the climate, is a huge leap in the wrong direction.”

Cardin asked the witnesses if certain regions will be unable to control their problems due to instability from climate change. Warner said that there would “unequivocally” be regions in this situation, where instability can arise quickly. McGinn agreed and said to think of it like putting a magnifying glass over all the conflict zones in the world  and see the tensions getting larger. He listed the border regions of India, Pakistan, and China as potential problem areas. McGinn said that fragile nations can easily become failed states and there is a big concern if they have nuclear weapons, as in Iran. He called the mixture of extremism in places like Pakistan and Egypt a “daunting scenario.”

George Voinovich (R-OH) asked about the issue of border tariffs and the non-discrimination principle of trading within the World Trade Organization (WTO) with countries that do not reduce emissions saying, “How do we get everyone to participate?” Rivkin responded that amending the WTO framework would help, but there is concern that if rules are changed for climate change, they could be opened up for other issues as well. He said that we need to treat climate change like any other national security issue and negotiate with other countries in binding terms as we would for arms control or human rights, using an inventory of U.S. emissions as leverage. McGinn said that other nations are realizing business as usual practices are not working for them and they will need to change. He said the U.S. serves as the world example technically, economically, and politically, so others will be watching us. Warner called for the U.S. to “step out and lead” because the “consequences are going to be catastrophic” if we do nothing. He said that he would bet others would follow the U.S.’s lead.

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) asked Warner what he would say to his former Senate colleagues about passing a global warming bill. Warner said he was impressed with the large turnout in the committee at the hearing and that everyone, on both sides, had constructive statements on the issue. He said he believed the Senate will be the body to lead on climate change and get something done.

Lautenberg also asked about national security if the U.S. delays action on climate change. McGinn responded that each day we wait to act the options get narrower and more expensive. He cited products like asbestos and DDT that we used to believe were safe but later banned because of their harmful impacts as proof that we can recognize a problem and change course. He added that we need to recognize “the full and true cost of fossil fuels” and change our energy strategy.

John Barrasso (R-WY) asked if China views their economy and environmental issues as part of their national security. Rivkin said that they do, and they are looking to “rebalance their national system.” He said they want to address climate change, but in a way that will serve their other interests too. Barrasso followed up asking how U.S. unemployment in energy sectors will impact our national security. Rivkin said it would put a stress on society, hurt the economy, and hurt our national security. Rivkin specifically cited “the leakage problem,” where more carbon is emitted than thought to be by an entity trying to reduce emissions, as a major concern.

Thomas Carper (D-DE) asked the witnesses how we can ensure that China and India will reduce their emissions if we do. Warner said that “we have to lead” adding these other countries have pride and will not want to do nothing if other countries are acting. He said, “It’s that first long stride that we have to take, and they will follow.” Warner also said we need to recognize the “key leadership” of the President on this issue.

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asked the witnesses about the security risk of losing our manufacturing base in renewable energies to other countries if we do not pursue more development in these areas. McGinn said there is a risk and we have the opportunity to enhance our economy with clean energy jobs. He said we can produce the right set of incentives for businesses to develop clean energy jobs in the U.S. if we have the right comprehensive energy portfolio.

Testimony from the chair and panelists as well as a video of the hearing can be found here.

-SMP

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on “Moving America toward a Clean Energy Economy and Reducing Global Warming Pollution: Legislative Tools”
July 7, 2009

Witnesses
Panel 1:
The Honorable Steven Chu
Secretary, United States Department of Energy
The Honorable Lisa Jackson
Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary, United States Department of the Interior

Panel 2:
Rich Wells
Vice President of Energy, The Dow Chemical Company
David Hawkins
Director of the Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council
John Fetterman
Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania       
The Honorable Haley Barbour
Governor of Mississippi

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman (D-CA)
James M. Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Kit Bond (R-MO)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Frank J. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)

On July 7, 2009, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee conducted a hearing to discuss the Waxman-Markey bill, also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), which was passed by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009. The historic Senate hearing was held only two legislative days after the House bill passed by a slight margin of 219-212. Four Cabinet level witnesses testified on the first panel, while the second panel consisted of stakeholders from state and local governments and industry and environmental concerns.

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) started the hearing with comments on the importance of addressing climate change and investing in clean energy. She warned that the debate would produce “fierce words of doubt and fear from the other side of the aisle.” Nonetheless she continued,  the committee should reflect the “Yes we can, and yes, we will” attitude of the President and move forward with the House energy bill that she believes would create millions of clean energy jobs, reduce American dependence on foreign oil, and protect future generations from air pollution. All members of the Cabinet level witness panel agree with her that the Senate committee should pass the Waxman-Markey bill.

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) was less enthusiastic about the bill, declaring that the public does not want to pay for renewable energy with higher utility costs and the largest tax increase in American history. He was quick to refute Boxer’s comment that the bill has a tax credit for consumers. Inhofe called for an all inclusive domestic energy policy instead, and was frustrated that the House had added sections to the lengthy bill at 3 am on the morning of the House vote. Kit Bond (R-MO) also attacked the multiple versions of the bill, calling the carbon cap and trade program “a bureaucratic nightmare.”

In his opening statement, the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu discussed the need to act now to create sustainable, clean energy with costs estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at less than 50 extra cents per day for each household. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson also referenced these low costs asking, “Can anyone honestly say that the head of an American household would not spend a dollar a day to safeguard the wellbeing of his or her children, to reduce the amount of money that we send overseas for oil, to place American entrepreneurs back in the lead of the global marketplace, and to create new American jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced?” Both Chu and Jackson stressed the need for the U.S. to invest in renewable energy to reclaim the lead in innovation and the global economy.

The other members of the Cabinet level witness panel included the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Vilsack and Salazar also commented on renewable energy investments, both reiterating the positive consequences of the bill. Vilsack concentrated on the effects of the bill on rural America, where farming costs would probably increase, but jobs and incentives for wind and biomass energy production would benefit them in the end. He thought a greenhouse gas offset program would be necessary for the farmers, ranchers, and forest owners, whose land is a net sink for carbon. Salazar talked about the new renewable energy development that is beginning in the southwest and offshore. He recommended a booklet released by the National Academies of Science and the U.S. Geological Survey on the impacts of global warming seen around the U.S., calling for the Democrats and Republicans to come together to reach a solution.

A recurring concern for committee members was the creation of jobs in America, and the prevention of job outsourcing as renewable energy is developed. Generally, Democratic senators proclaimed the bill a way to create new green jobs in America. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) commented, “It’s time we start investing in the farmers of the Midwest and not the oil cartels of the Mid East,” while Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) emphasized the immense potential for economic growth from renewable energy development in New York. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Thomas Carper (D-DE), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) all heralded the new green jobs that the bill would create.

The Republican committee members were more skeptical. They worried that higher costs in the U.S. would drive production of renewable energy technology, and therefore manufacturing plants and jobs, to countries where production is cheaper. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) emphasized that the only available, affordable option to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is nuclear energy. He explained that nuclear energy is currently 70 percent of non-CO2-emitting energy sources, but is not specifically addressed in the bill. Alexander called for 100 new nuclear power plants to be built while research and development of renewable energy is doubled.

Mike Crapo (R-ID) echoed the nuclear energy concern, and asked Energy Secretary Chu why nuclear power is not considered part of the renewable energy standards established in the bill. Chu responded that nuclear power is incorporated as a carbon free source, and a carbon cap will lead towards more nuclear energy production. He affirmed his support of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission speeding up approval processes for new nuclear plants, indicating that the nuclear industry needs to be revived so the U.S. can take back the lead in nuclear power. Tom Udall (D-NM), Carper, and Cardin were also in favor of nuclear energy expansion, while Sanders was against it, stating, “Nuclear waste is highly toxic. We don’t know how to get rid of it. The folks in Nevada at Yucca Mountain have said they don’t want it. Maybe the people in Wyoming want it, maybe the people in Missouri want it, and we’ll send it there. Right now, to the best of my knowledge, no state in the Union wants this highly toxic waste.” Sanders instead emphasized Salazar’s comment that 29 percent of electricity in the U.S. could come from solar power plants.

Committee members also had concerns regarding transportation. Cardin asked about the benefits of public transportation, and Chu endorsed public transportation for the energy it saves and suggested using trains instead of trucks for long distance freight. Jackson added that most of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that come from the transportation sector are from cars. Carper asked Jackson to think of a way to get more cars off the road, because recent trends in transportation show that more people are driving and making more driving trips every year. Carper does not believe the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that were passed as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 had an impact, claiming that the CAFE standards “effectively took 60 million cars off the road in terms of the emissions reductions” but people continued to drive further and longer.

Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) pointed out that 62 million more cars are on the road and asthma rates have doubled since the 1980s, confirming with Jackson that this all relates to air pollution. Arlen Specter (D-PA) expressed his worry about the coal business in Pennsylvania, but also acknowledged that the atmosphere needs to be cleaned to protect his grandchildren.

John Barrasso (R-WY) was clearly against the bill, questioning Jackson about an article in the Washington Post that said the bill would not stop climate change. Jackson responded that the bill is a step in the right direction, and it is a bill for jobs, energy, and climate change. Barrasso also complained about a lack of transparency in the EPA.

Inhofe also asked if reducing emissions in the U.S. would make a global difference if developing countries like China continued to emit the same amount of greenhouse gases. He showed a graph from the EPA that indicated global carbon dioxide concentration levels would be unaffected by a U.S. reduction. Chu disagreed with the graph, while Jackson emphasized the importance of the U.S. to take the lead in reducing emissions.

The second panel of witnesses at the hearing consisted of various stakeholders, including: Mr. Rich Wells of The Dow Chemical Company, Mr. David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Council, Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and Missouri Governor Haley Barbour who is also the Chairman of the National Governors Association.

Mr. Rich Wells of The Dow Chemical Company testified to the energy-intensive nature of the products his company produces. However Dow is “committed to sustainability,” and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 1990. His company is looking for further ways to reduce emissions through efficiency and alternative energy sources. Wells testified that Dow prefers an “economy-wide U.S. program, the centerpiece of which should be cap and trade” to address climate change because setting a price on carbon will be the best way to promote development of new breakthrough technologies. He also spoke about the need for different solutions over different timeframes which will most effectively “slow, stop, and then reverse the growth of greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.” He recommended that any climate change legislation should avoid harming the U.S. competitiveness by not penalizing the use of fossil energy in feedstock material, providing free allowances to the most vulnerable U.S businesses susceptible to carbon leakage, and taking steps to minimize switching from coal to natural gas in the power sector. Wells also pointed out that a price on carbon will not necessarily raise costs for businesses, but will instead cause them to change their behavior and technologies. Chairwoman Boxer was impressed that Dow had saved over $8 billion since 1995 by becoming more energy efficient. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was also impressed by Dow’s actions saying “Dow should ramp up advocacy” for energy efficiency in the business community.

Mr. David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) testified that climate change legislation in the U.S. can “help deliver economic, energy, and climate security” saying, “Clean, sustainable energy is one of the pillars of growth and prosperity in the 21st century…[and]…the time to act is now.” Hawkins asserted that “enacting U.S. legislation this year is the single most important step we can take to unlock the global negotiating gridlock of the past decade.” Hawkins said that NRDC recommends increasing emissions reductions to 20 percent by 2020 because we need a strong start in capping emissions. He added that “energy bills can decrease because of energy efficiency.” He testified that the bill has a strong cap and trade architecture built in, but there are problems with the offset provisions. He said that NRDC supports cap and trade, adding that “a cap can be designed so it is fair to all regions” in the country. They also support “complementary standards” to the cap and trade that will achieve emissions reductions through energy efficiency, renewable electricity, and carbon pollution control standards.

Boxer asked Hawkins, “What parts of the Clean Air Act should be restored?” He responded that ambient and total air quality standards were important in the Clean Air Act. She also asked if the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) scoring provisions for energy efficiency were off. Hawkins said they probably needed to be changed because “the CBO position is difficult to defend.” He added that the more money we invest in energy efficiency “the better off we’ll be.” Boxer asked if there is some type of awards system to ensure a national cap and trade system will work without states’ systems undermining it. Hawkins responded there are incentives for a “single harmonized system” adding that “states are usually a step ahead.” Hawkins also added that NRDC supports “a performance standard” for aging power plants so they are slowly decommissioned over time as they come to the end of their useful lives.

Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, Pennsylvania testified to the loss of economic vitality in his community due to declining steel jobs in the area saying, “We need change – and we need it now.” Fetterman asserted that the new path for the U.S. is a “cap on carbon pollution [because] it offers us a chance to create new jobs.” He added that a cap will “spur our companies” to be innovators in new technologies and market leaders in a new energy economy. Fetterman asked the Senate “to be as bold as the House has been” and pass climate change legislation so the U.S. can move forward “to build a new energy future.” Boxer agreed with Fetterman and the other panelists that “there is a tremendous opportunity in front of us,” to create new jobs and technologies. If we do not act now, “we’re losing out.” Whitehouse asked for confirmation from Fetterman that he sees climate change legislation as an opportunity for his community and not a threat, and Fetterman responded that he absolutely sees it as “an opportunity to create new jobs” and to improve air quality.    

Whitehouse did voice concerns about the “overabundant” allowances in the Waxman-Markey bill, citing in some cases 107 percent of allowances would be given out. Wells responded that allowances allow companies to stay here in the U.S. and it is “an issue of transition,” from slowing to stopping to reversing emissions. He added if we reversed emissions right away it could hurt the economy. Hawkins asserted the conditions for using allowances would differ between sectors, and a greater fraction of allowances would go to “energy efficient, cost effective strategies.”

The National Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour is against the cap and trade program, stating in his testimony that electricity rates will increase by 20 to 50 percent. He believes it will put unnecessary costs on the consumer without changing the global dynamics of the problem. Like others he referenced the EPA graph that showed the bill will not alter global emissions because China will still be emitting carbon dioxide. When Barrasso asked how the bill would affect families in Mississippi, Barbour responded that more jobs would be lost than created. He concluded, “The public needs to know the facts, and the longer the facts are in front of the public, then the better decisions they will call their Senators about.” Inhofe agreed with Barbour, saying that the bill will pass the committee, but will not pass the Senate because the American people will have had time to look it over and will oppose it.

Overall, the committee was in favor of passing some sort of climate change legislation, with varying degrees of commitment to the bill from committee members. Most Democratic senators agreed that the status quo of U.S. energy production and greenhouse gas emission must change with the U.S. at the forefront of global reform. The Republican senators were more hesitant, with Inhofe, Bond, and Barrasso most strongly against the bill. However, a major point for debate from both sides will likely be the inclusion of nuclear energy expansion in the bill.

Links to the testimonies from the witnesses and a video of the hearing can be found here.

-RHP and SMP

House Agriculture Committee Hearing to “Review Pending Climate Change Legislation”
June 11, 2009

 

Witnesses
Panel I
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Panel II
Mr. Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Steve Ruddell
Senior Associate, First Environment, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Earl Graber
Second Vice President, National Association of Conservation Districts, Basile, Louisiana
Mr. Fred Yoder
Past President and Climate Change Task Force Member, National Association of Corn Growers, Plain City, Ohio
Mr. Roger Johnson
President, National Farmers Union, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ken Nobis
Treasurer, National Milk Producers Federation, St. Johns, Michigan

Panel III
Mr. Ford West
President, The Fertilizer Institute, Washington, D.C.
The Honorable Glenn English
Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Arlington, Virginia

Committee Members Present*
Collin C. Peterson, Chairman (D-MN)
Frank D. Lucas, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Tim Holden (D-PA)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA)
Steve King (D-IA)
Tim Walz (D-MN)
Mike Conaway (R-TX)
Brad Ellsworth (D-IN)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Deborah L. Halvorson (D-IL)
Adrian Smith (R-NE)
Betsy Markey (D-CO)
Robert E. Latta (R-OH)
Larry Kissell (D-NC)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)
Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA)
Kurt Schrader (D-OR)
Glenn W. Thompson, Jr. (R-PA)
David Scott (D-GA)
Dennis A. Cardoza (D-CA)

*Additional committee members may have been present

On June 11, 2009, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review the Waxman-Markey bill, or H.R. 2454, which aims to significantly address climate change and introduce a cap and trade market in the U.S. All committee members from both sides of the aisle expressed serious concern with regard to how farmers and ranchers would be affected by the bill. A common sentiment expressed by the members was that the bill is moving too quickly through the House. Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) said that “we need more hearings, more outreach, more information, and more understanding about this bill.” Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) expressed uneasiness with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having authority over agriculture carbon offsets as directed in the current version of the bill, a feeling also held by several other members. Peterson said, “I do not want EPA near our farms,” preferring that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the authority. Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-IA) stated that “as the bill stands today, I can’t vote for it.” 

The first panel consisted of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who testified to the importance of transitioning to a clean energy economy saying that we “will be in a much stronger position to prosper in the world economy.” He added, “America cannot allow its economy to be left behind. America must be a leader.” He emphasized this point in light of the upcoming international conference in Copenhagen stating this bill “is an important first step” in showing we are serious about leading on climate change and clean energy. Vilsack stressed that farmers and ranchers should see climate change as an opportunity rather than a problem and “the potential of our working lands to generate greenhouse gas reductions is significant,” making agriculture an important part of any climate change reduction efforts. He called on everyone to realize “we will need to go beyond what is available now and develop new farming methods” and to recognize the large scale of implementation needed. He also asserted that “USDA is ready to help” make sure all of these steps happen.

Lucas asked Vilsack if he supported the bill to which he responded that he “supports the notion that work has yet to be done on the bill,” but “if it is set up properly, we in the countryside can benefit” from the legislation. Lucas followed up asking, “Does the Obama Administration support the bill?” Vilsack responded that the President supports a cap and trade bill and thinks it “absolutely essential that we take action” to create a new economy in which we move toward clean energy.

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) asked the Secretary, “Do you believe our economy will be stronger under cap and trade?” Vilsack expressed his belief in America as innovators “of first resort,” a sentiment he repeatedly conveyed throughout his testimony. He also stated his belief that the U.S. will develop the new technologies and new jobs will be created as a result, including those that cannot be outsourced from the U.S. Congressman Jerry Moran (R-KS) wanted to know if the Secretary endorses the Waxman-Markey bill or just “the idea of the bill.” Vilsack responded that “we are prepared to advocate for agriculture in cap and trade.” He also stressed the importance of giving farmers “a wide range of options so they can make the best decisions” for addressing carbon offsets. He also warned against inaction saying “the longer you delay…the more costly it may be” for American farmers to address this problem.

Congressman Robert Latta (R-OH) asked the Secretary why the U.S. should engage in cap and trade when China has indicated they will not, especially given their new status of top carbon emitter in the world. Vilsack responded, “We provide an easy out for them” to ignore climate change if we do not act. He added that “China wants to be recognized as also a leader” on this issue and indicated his belief in their willingness to take serious actions to address this problem. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) expressed concern about the “indirect land use cost modeling from EPA,” and Vilsack acknowledged that peer review was needed to assess the accuracy of the models.

Mr. Bob Stallman, from the American Farm Bureau Federation, reiterated many of the concerns expressed by the congressmen in their testimony. He stated that “agriculture will incur higher fuel, fertilizer and energy costs as a result of the legislation.” Stallman testified that American farmers will be put at a disadvantage in international trade as a result. He also testified that “any legislation must give the USDA the primary role in administering agricultural offsets” and the USDA role must be spelled out in the bill. He already expressed a common concern that early adopters of conservation practices would not be recognized in the Waxman-Markey bill.

Mr. Steve Ruddell of First Environment testified to the opportunities of incorporating forests into the Waxman-Markey bill to take advantage of “the potential to ensure that forested ecosystems are maintained and enhanced in the U.S.” He warned that if we do not put the right incentives in place “we run the risk of losing the tremendous climate mitigation tool we now have. He expressed concerned with regard to the bill saying “there is a tremendous lack of clarity” in how the EPA might incorporate forests into offset markets. Ruddell recommended that all private forests should participate in such a market and there needs to be a strong USDA role, a clear recognition of forest project types, rewards and recognition for early action to develop offset projects, environmental integrity standards, and third party verification to ensure program integrity. He added “what’s really exciting is we have the technologies and expertise to undertake these activities today.

Mr. Earl Graber testified on behalf of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) to the success of conservation districts in implementing, capturing, and monitoring soil carbon sequestration projects. He testified, “We recommend that climate change legislation recognize the contributions of agriculture, forestry and community conservation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions via market-based payments for emissions offsets.” Graber also echoed the previous witnesses by stating “USDA should have a primary, leadership role” in establishing agriculture offsets and we should not “penalize early adopters” of conservation efforts and risk losing the benefits of their work.

Mr. Fred Yoder, from the National Corn Growers Association, reiterated many of the same concerns of the other witnesses including the role of USDA in an agriculture offsets market. He supports the bill “not subjecting the agricultural sector to an emissions cap” and believes “Congress should structure a cap-and-trade system that delivers an offsets program where the value exceeds the cost to farmers and ranchers,” but “H.R. 2454 currently falls short of this goal.” He added, “It is important to provide an initial list of project types that are considered eligible agricultural offsets” and testified to the importance of allowing producers to “stack” credits to maximize the benefits of the market.

Mr. Roger Johnson of the National Farmers Union also testified to the importance of agriculture being incorporated into an offsets market and of USDA being the primary player in working with the market. He talked about including provisions for additionality, reversals, and stackable credits to maximize benefits from a carbon market. Johnson added if a cap and trade system is developed which “includes a robust and flexible offset program, the cost of compliance for capped sectors will be reduced and significant amounts of GHG emissions can be mitigated.”

Mr. Ken Nobis testified on behalf of the National Milk Producers Federation that the Waxman-Markey bill “at hand is flawed, but there are opportunities to craft a real market opportunity from it.” He talked about the commitment of the dairy industry to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and complying with any laws passed to do so, but legislation must specifically address agriculture in such a way that it will not negatively impact the industry.

Mr. Ford West testified for The Fertilizer Institute on his industry’s concerns regarding the proposed allowance allocation program “designed to provide transition assistance for energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries.” West stated the number of allowances that would be allocated for the fertilizer industry “falls short of what would be needed to ensure global competitiveness for U.S. fertilizer producers.” He warned that if the price of natural gas significantly rises as a result of H.R. 2454 “it would place U.S. fertilizer producers at a competitive disadvantage” and U.S. farmers would likely become more dependent on foreign sources of fertilizer. Half of nitrogen fertilizers used in the U.S. come from foreign sources including the Middle East, countries of the former Soviet Union, Libya, Egypt, China, and Venezuela. He added the fertilizer industry has already achieved reduced greenhouse gas emissions in its production process, but “there will come a point where, due to the constraints of chemistry, the efficiency gains will be limited.”

Mr. Glenn English of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) testified, “At this time, NRECA is not able to support the bill.” English cited the disproportionate allowance allocation methodology that awards some utilities more than 100 percent of the cap while others much less as a major fault of the bill. In addition, reduction requirements should “be adjusted during the first 15 years of the program to more accurately reflect the expected availability of technology.” English recommended that a “covered entity not be constrained by an artificial limit on the use of offset credits to satisfy its compliance obligation,” and that addressing planning, siting, cost allocation and recovery, and integration of renewable resources is necessary in the adoption of a national transmission policy.

All committee members and witnesses expressed their concern in the current form of H.R. 2454, but also reflected the potential for agriculture to be incorporated into the bill in a way that will not excessively harm the farming industry.

Testimony from the panelists can be found here.

-SMP

Senate Foreign Relations Committee on “Challenges and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation on Climate Change”
June 4, 2009

 

Witnesses
William Chandler
Senior Associate and Director, Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC
Elizabeth Economy
C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY
Kenneth Lieberthal
Visiting Fellow in Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

Committee Members Present
John F. Kerry, Chairman (D-MA)
Richard G. Lugar, Ranking Member (R-IN)
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)

On June 4, 2009, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing regarding progress made between the United States and China in addressing climate change, and the next steps that are needed to make real advances in addressing this global problem. The topic is important to both countries since the U.S. is the largest historical emitter of carbon, and China has now surpassed the U.S. to become the largest emitter in the world. In addition, efforts at the multilateral international level in Copenhagen this fall are being seen as largely dependent on actions taken by the U.S. and China.

Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) made clear the importance of U.S.-China cooperation on climate change in his opening statement by saying that the 192 nations negotiating at Copenhagen this year “will be taking their cues from just two nations” and “our words and our actions will set the tone” for what is accomplished. He said that he visited China last week to assess where China stands on current climate and energy issues, and what he saw “was enormously encouraging.” He spoke about how much has changed in the past few years and he wants to end the myth that China is apathetic to climate change saying, “They do care, and they are acting.” He highlighted his support of collaboration in clean energy projects and generating the next generation of battery and electric vehicle technology saying that “the opportunity is immense.” However, he warned that “bilateral cooperation with China is not an alternative to a global treaty process,” but instead a part of the global solution. He concluded that any agreement will need to include “measurable, reportable, verifiable (MRV)” emissions reductions.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), opened with a more sobering statement that called the Chinese response to climate change negotiations “complex and contradictory,,” citing their desire for reduced emissions but continued construction of coal-fired power plants. He said the U.S. needs the Chinese “to agree to verifiable steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions” to ensure they are upholding reduced emission commitments. He believes that “talks should be pursued” and it is “critical” that Americans have a better understanding of the problem of climate change if an agreement is to be reached. He added that without this understanding, it is likely that any climate policy enacted will be “ineffective, economically damaging, and divisive.”

Kenneth Lieberthal, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, testified that while China’s rate of pollution continues to increase they are taking “serious measures” to bring emissions under control even as they pursue economic growth. He asserted the reasons for China’s rapidly growing emissions are that 70 percent of their economy is based on coal and they “retain many of the problems of a developing country.” While about 400 million people live in highly developed cities, another 800 million live in rural areas under the conditions of a developing country. This “affects every dimension of economic, social, and political life.” He stated that Chinese leaders lack the “institutional and technical capabilities” to implement the energy solutions they would like to, which leaves room for U.S.-China cooperation to improve these capabilities. Another major issue is the large-scale urbanization occurring in China, including the 200 million people who have moved to cities since 1992. This presents a challenge for increased power generation, buildings, health services, and transportation since “China has to build urban infrastructure and create urban jobs for a new, relatively poor city of 1.25 million people every month,” most likely for the next two decades. Most of the coal-fired power plants are being built “relatively clean” as they try to reduce emissions. Cooperation between the U.S. and China is possible because we have similar capabilities, but this cooperation needs to be based on trust and “that trust is not there yet.” Lieberthal recommends that “China should be pushed hard” to accept targets for greenhouse gas emissions that are verifiable, but difficult to achieve. Also, the U.S. and China should adopt a clean energy partnership to demonstrate the two countries are serious about clean energy and “provide new momentum to the Copenhagen efforts.”

Kerry wanted to know what the negotiating team going to China next week should try to accomplish. Lieberthal recommended working toward a bilateral agreement in the form of a “clean energy partnership” and to discuss Copenhagen, but to keep the two tracks separate. They also should require concrete commitments regarding carbon capture and sequestration, electric vehicles, and building energy efficiency standards.

Elizabeth Economy, from the Asia Studies Council on Foreign Relations, contradicted some of the previous testimony by saying few within China’s elite discuss climate change “with a sense of urgency.” The priorities remain on economic growth and social stability, so they will only address climate change “to the extent that these priorities coincide.” However, the number of people engaged in climate-related activities has “exploded” in the past few years. Now it is important to help local provinces assess their individual emissions. She identified the need for “a more transparent, accountable, rule-based system” in China to eliminate the problems associated with disconnected communications between the central government and smaller local governments. She recommended working closely with the Chinese as they transition to a more urban country and that an eco-partnership would be a beneficial way to do this. A major challenge lies in the vast urbanization taking place, in which urban Chinese will use 3.5 times more power than rural Chinese. In addition, only 5 percent of buildings comply with energy efficiency standards. A program similar to Energy Star would be a beneficial program to start in China. In addition to climate change, urbanization is damaging the environment through vast deforestation taking place to meet the building demands. China is the largest importer of timber, half of which is illegally logged. This is causing climate change-related problems in other countries, such as Indonesia.

Senator Kerry was very interested in how MRV reductions can be implemented. Economy recommended that the framework be drafted in the next few months and tested with the National Model Cities for Environmental Protection in China to see if the framework can work. Kerry also questioned if the Chinese would be ready to measure reductions by Copenhagen, and Economy responded simply, “No.” She declared they could not do it in the next few months.

William Chandler, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, testified that to make progress in cooperation between the U.S. and China we need to work together on the three areas of joint interest: rapid development of energy efficient technologies, joint research and development particularly for low carbon vehicles and power plants, and reaching a global agreement acceptable for the U.S. and China. He asserted that to make the cooperation work we need to implement a cap and trade system “to show China we are serious” about addressing climate change. He said that we need to show leadership on this issue first before “they will work with us.” Within China, though, he identified a disconnect in priorities between the central and local governments as a major problem in implementing clean energy programs.

A major focus of Lugar’s questions for the witnesses centered on how the American public can gain a better understanding of climate change and the costs that will affect them as a result of addressing it. Lugar asked, “What kind of public education is necessary in the next few years?” He wanted to know why Americans should to pay to change their lifestyle to address climate change. Lieberthal acknowledged this question is “critically important” and the fact is “Americans are already paying a high price” for not adapting to climate change. He stated this problem will affect us in global cooperation in all areas, saying we need to “bring home the reality that if America doesn’t lead here, we won’t lead anywhere else.” Both Lieberthal and Chandler believe that President Obama is the person to make the case to the American public because of his effective communication. Chandler talked about the needs for Americans to understand that becoming more energy efficient will actually save them money rather than cost more. Economy stated that climate change should be viewed as an “opportunity” to take a leading economic role in the world and we should “get excited about clean energy.”

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) was concerned with the effect this will have on trade, asking the witnesses if there is a way “to not exacerbate the trade imbalance with China.” Economy recommended that a sanctioning agreement for all parties be included at Copenhagen. Lieberthal said if China is making a verifiable effort we should back off because the Chinese are “worried that environmental concerns will be used to put up protectionist walls.” He feels any type of extra tax we put on imports from China will be viewed as confirmation that the U.S. is trying to limit China’s economic growth.

The hearing revealed that many challenges remain before any serious climate change agreements between the U.S. and China can be reached. However, it appears the issue has gained important notice in China and real strides to address this problem are more possible than even just a few years ago.

Testimony from the chair, ranking member, and panelists can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.

-SMP

House Science and Technology Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Hearing on "Expanding Climate Services at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Developing the National Climate Service"
May 5, 2009

 

Witnesses
Panel 1
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce

Panel 2
Dr. Arthur DeGaetano, Director, Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC), Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Dr. Eric Barron, Director, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO.
Dr. Phillip Mote, Director, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Oregon Climate Services, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR.
Mr. Richard Hirn, General Counsel and Legislative Director, National Weather Service Employees Organization.

Panel 3
Dr. Michael Strobel, Director, National Water and Climate Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Department of Agriculture
Mr. David Behar, Deputy to the Assistant General Manager, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and Staff Chair, Water Utility Climate Alliance
Mr. Paul Fleming, Manager, Climate and Sustainability Group, Seattle Public Utilities
Dr. Nolan Doesken, State Climatologist for Colorado and Senior Research Associate, Colorado State University

Committee Members Present
Brian Baird (D-WA)
Bob Inglis (R-SC)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH) Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)

The House Science and Technology Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Environment heard testimony from several witnesses on May 5, 2009, including the new director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Jane Lubchenco, regarding the development of a new National Climate Service.

In his opening statement, Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) explained the need for a national climate service that could disseminate useful climatic information at the regional and local scale. Baird indicated that long-term records show the climate is changing, and regardless if the change is human-induced or part of a cyclical phenomenon, the U.S. must structure a service that harnesses the vast amounts of data and utilizes the expertise in climate science to best assist planners and managers in adapting to this change nationwide. Such a plan has been on the drawing board since 2008 when the Bush Administration requested an examination of how to best structure such a service from NOAA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). Two of the major recommendations from this study (PDF) identified NOAA as being the flagship agency to oversee federal activity in support of a national service.

Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), first addressed Lubchenco by stating, “[I’m] pleased to have a real scientist leading your organization.” Woolsey asked Lubchenco about the role a national climate service would play in monitoring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Lubchenco told Woolsey that monitoring of all types of GHGs would be part of the mission of a climate service, and “we will need to do more monitoring on a greater scale for verification [of predictive models].” Woolsey also asked what role a national climate service would play regarding the oceans, to which Lubchenco noted how critical information provided by a climate service would be for planners and the fishing industry. Both groups are already dealing with changing ocean ecosystems due to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and rapidly eroding coastlines due to higher sea levels.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), introduced as an avid surfer by Chairman Baird, welcomed Lubchenco to her position stating, “I’m a long time fan of NOAA and I wish you success and look forward to working with you.” He then questioned Lubchenco as to when in her career and why she shifted from using the term “global warming” to “climate change.” Lubchenco said that most scientists have likely used both terms at different points in their careers, but for her personal views on the terminology she stated, “The words ‘global warming’ to me, imply something that is gradual, and something that is only about temperature, and the sum total of the changes that are underway are much more than just gradual and just temperature.” Rohrabacher further questioned her on the prevailing vernacular in the scientific community as to whether the global cooling period in the last eight years had anything to do with the change. Lubchenco responded by indicating the shift in terminology was an “honest attempt to communicate better with the public about the range of changes that are underway.” Rohrabacher added that he felt many in the scientific community changed the language from “global warming” to “climate change” because “many were wrong and refuse to admit it.” Lubchenco addressed Rohrabacher’s statement of recent cooling, saying that in the study of climate change a much longer record is needed than the eight year time span.

Rohrabacher finished his question period by asking whether over the last several million years the planet’s climate has been stable or fluctuating. Lubchenco responded that the Earth has indeed gone through cycles in the past, but that “good evidence” from ice cores of climate fluctuations over the last 650,000 years has led scientists to believe “what is happening now is outside of the normal ranges of the climate cycle.” Chairman Baird finished up the open question time by asking her whether what is happening to the oceans is due to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Lubchenco replied, “There is no controversy at all” as it is clear that chemical processes of atmospheric-ocean exchange of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic and that over the last 100 years a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity has occurred. This ocean acidification is significantly altering coral reefs, microorganism populations, as well as skeletal- and shell-based organisms.

The second witness panel detailed their ideas to the subcommittee as to what the most critical needs are in structuring a national climate service to provide the most useful information and guidance for regional and local users. Dr. Eric Barron presented the key recommendations from the 2008 SAB report Options for Developing a National Climate Service (PDF). Barron presented what he identified as five critical recommendations, including: (1) an internal reorganization of NOAA, (2) defining the role of cooperating agencies, (3) place service under the authority of the White House, (4) allocate a large, dedicated budget, and (5) establish a federated structure, ideally by using a non-profit federation option. Dr. Arthur DeGaetano and Dr. Phillip Mote added information on how current regional climate centers and cooperative endeavors function, and both stressed the importance of these entities in a national climate service.

Mr. Richard Hirn offered an alternative view on how to best structure a national climate service. He stated that creation of a separate line office within NOAA would be an unnecessary expense, as it would duplicate the historic and current mission of several programs within NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). Hirn noted that based on a 2008 statement by NWS director Jack Hayes, the NWS is “already the nation’s climate service.” Hirn pointed out that among the many conclusions from the 2008 SAB report, a national climate service should be imbedded into the NWS, a move that the report stated was “from every practical standpoint, the option that is the simplest to implement.” Hirn also indicated his suspicion of the non-profit oversight federation structure recommendation from the SAB study, stating that such an arrangement is susceptible to earmarks and “pet projects.” 

Ranking Member Bob Inglis (R-SC) asked the panel about how the somewhat confusing array of services and agencies that handle climate data can pass information on to stakeholders and end users. DeGaetano and Moat gave examples of how regional climate centers and research institutes collaborate to inventory climate data and process it into usable information. However, according to Barron, the current process described by DeGaetano and Moat does not meet the needs of the future. “I just want to point out that despite all of these components, it’s still not good enough,” Barron commented. He indicated that climate centers are too small to meet the needs of a broad range of users that are likely to develop as climate change forces planners and managers who have not had to consider climate information before to suddenly rely on this information. Barron concluded, “We don’t have anything in place to allow these communities of users to intersect with environmental prediction, climate modeling, [and] forecast groups, just as an example.”  In his final commentary however, Barron pointed out that “the ground is fertile to do so many beneficial things.” He cited examples of where certain scientific issues could benefit from long range climate forecasting, areas such as societal reaction to approaching hurricanes in the Gulf region (using Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as an example), or in reforesting areas of Rocky Mountains that have been devastated by pine beetles. Moat summed up a majority of the panel’s recommendations by stating such a service “needs to be about the users, and it needs to be a high-level multi-agency partnership.” And as Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) stated, the question regarding development of a national climate service is “not where the house is but how the pieces of the structure fit together.”

A third panel of witnesses not covered in this summary was composed of end users in the private and public sector who rely on climate and weather information. They shared with the panel their thoughts on how a national climate service could best benefit users across the nation. Their written and oral testimony can be found here, as well as a video archive of the entire hearing.  

-CPC

Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "The Global Implications of a Warming Arctic"
May 5, 2009

Witnesses
Dr. David Carlson, Director, International Polar Year International Program Office
Dr. Scott Borgerson, Visiting Fellow for Ocean Governance, Council on Foreign Relations
Dr. Lawson Brigham, Chair of the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, Arctic Council
Ms. Lisa Speer, Ocean Program Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
Mr. Mead Treadwell, Chair, U.S. Arctic Research Commission

Committee Members Present
John Kerry (D-MA)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Mark Begich (D-AK)

On May 5, 2009, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) held a roundtable meeting with several experts on Arctic issues to discuss the global implications of an ice free Arctic Ocean during Arctic summers. The fourth in a series of roundtable meetings held by Kerry, the discussion covered a myriad of topics ranging from navigational issues for cargo shipping to geopolitical concerns regarding potential disputes over seafloor claims among the nations bordering the Arctic, especially in relation to fisheries and petrochemical development. Alongside Kerry for part of the meeting were Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D). Each of the participants in the meeting, including the senators, made opening statements before the open forum-style discussion began. In her opening comments, Murkowski identified several critical issues regarding a warming Arctic and noted the changes she has personally witnessed in her home state in recent years. She noted that “[Alaskan] residents aren’t waiting for data from NASA, they see it every day.” Murkowski shared the story of the 2007 visit to Barrow, Alaska by hundreds of German tourists who arrived because a cruise ship was able to navigate the famous Northwest Passage that summer and dock at Barrow. Because of the national security implications of a warming Arctic, Murkowski concluded her remarks by urging Kerry to expeditiously hold meetings on the issue with the full committee. In his opening remarks, Begich echoed Murkowski’s concerns and also added that the U.S. Coast Guard needs to strategize its role in the Arctic.

Dr. Lawton Brigham shared three key issues potentially impacting shipping as identified in the Arctic Council’s 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment report. First, Brigham pointed out that globalization of the Arctic will bring profound changes to the region, noting the current wild-west nature of the area where no standard Arctic shipping standards are yet defined, including environmental regulations for ships. Second, a longer navigation season in the Arctic will bring more traffic in the region, including Arctic marine tourism. Third, Brigham expressed concern with this growing use of the Arctic because currently, the region lacks a comprehensive marine infrastructure with appropriate sea charts, maps, communication systems, and rescue services.    

Dr. Scott Borgerson shared the implications of a rapidly melting ice sheet on geopolitics. Borgerson indicated that Arctic summers are predicted to be ice-free by 2013, and that Arctic sea ice melting is much faster than what policy can keep up with. He noted that the world is at a unique moment in history for Arctic geopolitics, and offered several suggestions to the senators. Borgerson noted that there should be optimism that the opening of the Arctic will be peaceful and cooperative, but urged the need for robust diplomacy and hedging by the U.S. since one-quarter of the world’s recoverable hydrocarbons exist in the Arctic. Borgerson supported Murkowski’s belief that the U.S. must ratify the Law of the Sea (LOS) treaty to protect the nation’s interests.  

In his opening comments, Dr. David Carlson discussed the physical characteristics and observable trends of the ice sheet in the Arctic. Carlson identified 3 major ice masses in the Arctic: (1) the land based ice sheet covering Greenland, (2) the frozen sheet covering the Arctic Ocean, and (3) land based permafrost throughout the region above the Arctic Circle. Carlson explained that making predictions in the Arctic is difficult, as the system is changing faster than ever witnessed before. What scientists are relatively confident with is that there will be greater and more pronounced variability season by season in the timing of complete sea freeze and with the extent and thickness of the ice.

Regarding Greenland, Carlson shared the alarming prediction by a consensus of Arctic scientists that the Greenland ice sheet will disappear completely over the coming decades, and that ocean levels will rise by about one meter (3.3 feet) by the year 2100 from the Greenland ice sheet melting alone. Kerry asked Carlson how fast the rate of melting on Greenland was. Carlson informed the senator that it is still unclear how fast the melting is occurring, and that the Arctic Council has researchers studying this process. As for Arctic permafrost, Carlson explained that researchers observed that the faster sea ice melts, the faster the permafrost is disappearing as well. Melting of permafrost could have a significant impact on release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere, as release of methane from beneath the thawed soils will likely occur. Carlson concluded that Greenland is receiving the most urgent focus from Arctic Council researchers. He also pointed out what is at stake with the widespread Arctic melting- the potential for entire species at all levels of the food chain to be wiped out, disrupting the entire ecosystem. Such a change would cause dramatic lifestyle changes for indigenous populations in the Arctic, as Carlson pointed out “cultures could survive, but will be drastically changed.”

Ms. Lisa Speer shared with the roundtable an overview of the impacts of Arctic warming on fish populations and the fish industry. Although she indicated that it is hard to predict exactly what will happen with fish behavior, it is thought that because of warming temperatures, warmer water fish will be present further north, and that cold water fish will have no where to go, which will likely cause dramatic drops in cold water fish populations. Speer suggested halting fishing in the Arctic until an international agreement and set of rules is structured among nations that are looking to press fishing operations into the unfrozen Arctic Ocean. Speer also indicated that “the conversations [for an agreement] aren’t happening at the right levels.” She stressed that the senators play a very important role in pushing the Obama Administration in developing policy specifically targeted at the Arctic. Speer also indicated in her final comments that “We need to hit the reset button with Russia” in regards to all Arctic issues. 

Dr. Mead Treadwell explained to the roundtable that improving relations and cooperation with Russia is a must if positive steps are to be made towards protecting the Arctic. He noted, “We can’t go anywhere in the Arctic, Russia denied U.S. research vessels 11 of 13 times when requesting to enter Russian waters.” He also indicated that the U.S. Arctic Research Commission (USARC) is working on many topics regarding the melting ice, including study of the impact of black carbon (soot) on the pace of melting. Treadwell also expanded on Carlson’s comments on methane, by noting the amount of the gas currently locked in soils by permafrost is the GHG equivalent of all of the carbon dioxide currently in the atmosphere.

During the open forum each of the panelists urged Kerry to push his colleagues towards signing LOS, a move that is essential for “freedom of navigation” according to Brigham.  It is also key, as Treadwell noted, when the Outer Continental Shelf is divided among the eight Arctic nations since the U.S. is set to gain an area twice the size of California that comes with a $1 billion per year fishing industry. Speer also shared that the existing fabric of hard and soft laws in the Arctic are insufficient, as there are currently no mandatory guidelines regarding fishing, shipping, or other activities occurring in the region. Shipping would be regulated by LOS, as Article 234 allows nations to place stringent control of shipping within their waters, a rule that Carlson noted the Russians like to employ often, dictating the need for improved relations with the Arctic neighbors.

Kerry asked the panelists if melting of the Arctic ice will allow shipping across the ocean in the summer, to which Carlson noted that it is dependent upon the patterns of frozen ice drift, as it has been observed that where the ice gathers varies by season.  Kerry also inquired about the status of the U.S. ice cutter fleet, to which Borgerson responded it is “geriatric,” noting the nation has only 3 ice cutters and one is not functional at all. Compared to the 18 ice cutters Russia has, the U.S. is seemingly light years behind in capability to clear navigable lanes in the sea ice. The problem will not be alleviated anytime soon as ice breaker ships take years to build and the U.S. is lacking in ship building infrastructure for these types of ships.

To conclude the meeting, Kerry assigned the panelists some “homework,” by asking them to provide 1 to 2 page summaries with what they felt were the most urgent issues to take before the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Arctic policy.    

A link to a video archive of the hearing can be found here (click on the title of the hearing to access the video).

-CPC

House Science and Technology Committee hearing “Monitoring, Measurement, and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions II, The Role of Federal and Academic Research and Monitoring Programs.”
April 22, 2009

Witnesses
Dr. Alexander MacDonald, Director, Earth Systems Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Dr. Beverly Law, Professor, Global Change Forest Science, Oregon State University, and Science Chair, AmeriFlux Network
Dr. Richard Birdsey, Project Leader, Climate, Fire, and Carbon Cycle Science, USDA Forest Service, and Chair, Carbon Cycle Scientific Steering Group
Dr. Michael Freilich, Director, Earth Sciences Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Ms. Dina Kruger, Director, Climate Change Division, Office of Atmospheric Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Deputy Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Dr. Albert J. Heber, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Director, Purdue Agricultural Air Quality Laboratory, Purdue University, and Science Advisor, National Emission Monitoring Study

Committee Members Present

Bart Gordon, Chairman (D-TN)

James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)

Ralph Hall, Ranking Member (R-TX)

Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)

Brian Baird (D-WA)

Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)

Bob Inglis (R-SC)

Pete Olson (R-TX)

Adrian Smith (R-NE)

Paul Broun (R-GA)

Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

Alan Grayson (D-FL)

Paul Tonko (D-NY)

Brian Bilbray (R-CA)

Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA)

David Wu (D-OR)

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)

Charlie Wilson (D-OH)

Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the House and Senate work to develop climate change legislation by the summer of 2009, numerous hearings on both sides of Congress have been conducted to receive testimony from climate and economic experts to help shape legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Many hearings have sparked passionate and at times heated moments that clearly exhibit the divide in the climate change debate on Capitol Hill. The House Science and Technology Committee hearing on April 22, 2009 was no exception, as several minority committee members grilled the witness panel with their doubts on the current state of climate change science. The hearing was held by the full committee to gather information from seven panelists to assess whether current capabilities available to monitor greenhouse gases are suitable for a carbon mitigation program and to determine whether more congressional support is needed to enhance monitoring and measurements.

The diverse background of the witness panel was indicative of the broad spectrum of organizations and agencies that measure and monitor GHGs. Each witness explained to the committee the status of their respective organization’s ability to monitor, measure, and inventory GHG data. The witnesses also provided recommendations to the committee regarding what resources are most critical to meet the needs of monitoring and measurement capabilities should a global emission-reducing system such as cap-and-trade be implemented. Although each witness touted their organizations’ current monitoring abilities, the panel left no doubt that significant steps are required in the near future to ensure an accurate and thorough inventory of global GHG emissions.

A common theme in each of the witnesses testimony was the need for more monitoring equipment at both the top-down (e.g. satellites and remote sensing) and bottom-up (e.g. land and ocean based sensors) levels. Dr. Michael Freilich indicated that the current uncertainty in quantifying the feedback processes between emissions and climate change results in large differences in predictions from climate models, and that enhanced monitoring networks are essential to improving climate modeling capabilities. Dr. Beverly Law indicated the need for additional resources at all levels to sustain an effective monitoring program, including better coordination of participants in the AmeriFlux monitoring network. She also advocated for continuity in data recording, as some sites have significant gaps in data.

Dr. Richard Birdsey stated that improvements need to be made in the assessment of land-based carbon source and sink areas, and described how land-use change impacts the atmospheric carbon budget. Dr. Albert Heber pointed out that although livestock only contributes 2.5 percent of GHG emissions in the U.S. and significant advances have been made in understanding livestock-based emissions already, more research is necessary to reduce GHG emissions from livestock operations. Dr. Patrick Gallagher pointed out perhaps the most important needs for a global cap-and-trade system, include a better assessment of baseline emissions and improved monitoring technologies. He indicated that there is still great uncertainty in the emissions from key sectors of the economy and third-world countries, and that technological advancements are essential if site-specific sources are to be monitored in a cap-and-trade system.   
     
Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) expressed his concern to the panel about the coordination of efforts among the wide range of entities that track GHG emissions within the U.S. and internationally. He pressed the panel as to what needs to be done to coordinate efforts. Dr. Alexander McDonald addressed the question, but did not have a direct response when Gordon asked what agency coordinates data collection protocol, standards, and inventory nationwide. McDonald stated that the current practice at NOAA is strictly voluntary among participating groups, to which Gordon asked McDonald, “If we’re going to bet billions of dollars on a system and raise peoples rates and be concerned about our children’s future, is that [the coordinating effort] adequate?” McDonald responded, “No, I think we’ll have to improve it, it’s been a cooperative effort so far. We have the right kind of coordination going on but we’ll have to increase it significantly.” Gordon followed up very pointedly, “We’re getting ready to write some legislation here pretty soon, and I’d like some help in determining ‘do we have enough assets, are they coordinated, what needs to be that body that brings it together?’” Ms. Dina Kruger added that the current efforts among monitoring participants are robust, but that an expansion in the policy dimension may be needed to aid coordination efforts. Gordon replied, “I’m getting a little scared here, because we’re getting ready to make a multi-billion dollar bet and again in our children’s future, in our industry, and in our pocketbook, we gotta have a little more than faith here.” Birdsey indicated to Gordon that the Interagency Working Group coordinates scientific efforts, but Gordon concluded his question time indicating his uneasiness with the answers he was receiving.

David Wu (D-OR) expressed his concern with moving from an era of climate change denial to a sudden global monitoring system and whether such a system can be technically managed to meet the needs of a cap and trade system. Birdsey indicated that the U.S. has a strong historical baseline of GHG emission data and carbon sources and sinks, but that he has reservations about prognostic models accounting for events that are hard to anticipate. Law indicated that more sites are needed for the AmeriFlux system and Gallagher pointed out that although he has confidence in regional-scale emission estimates, more resources need to be allocated towards local-scale measurements.

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) questioned the panel about costs of monitoring efforts, indicating his concern for the level of funds required to monitor a process that he doubts is even occurring. Rohrabacher referenced several scientific opinions, including those of Russian scientist Yuri Israel, former vice-president of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who stated that carbon dioxide and other gases do not create global warming or alter the climate. When Rohrabacher indicated that he was submitting the dissenting scientific comments to the hearing record, a smiling Chairman Gordon chided Rohrabacher for quoting and betting on a Russian scientist to which Rohrabacher responded, “In the past I have called into question the Russians, but they do have a great deal of knowledge about the Arctic and Greenland.” Rohrabacher then asked the panel whether the viewpoints of conceding scientists with alternative viewpoints on climate change should be addressed, or whether it is “case closed, debate’s over, let’s spend the money.” The panel remained silent until Heber indicated that although he was not an expert on climate change, he felt the skeptics should be heard and that their points should be addressed. Rohrabacher concluded his remarks by calling for a debate on the entire climate change issue before the Science and Technology Committee. Gordon remarked that although it was good to have skeptics keep the committee “honest,” 170 nations, including the U.S. (certified by former President George W. Bush), confirmed that global warming is occurring due to human activity.

Paul Broun (R-GA) lambasted the witness panel in his allotted question time. Broun, a medical doctor, identified himself as an applied scientist and told the panel “I believe that when Mr. Rohrabacher asked you all a question, the answer of silence was deafening, except for one individual [Dr. Heber]. I must say I’m extremely disappointed, I think you all have absolutely zero scientific integrity because you all have drank the kool-aid and have decided absolutely this belief process that human-induced global warming is absolutely a fact. I disagree with the chairman, respectfully so, and our former president, he was misled, he was wrong, you’re wrong, there is a tremendous panel of a thousand or more scientists around the world that disagree with human induced global warming.”

Following Broun’s statements, Chairman Pro Tem Brian Baird (D-WA) sternly told the committee to “be respectful of our panel and to avoid concluding that because someone disagrees with you that they have no integrity and you do. This is a committee that respects diversity of opinion and in this case it’s not just opinion it’s also scientific evidence.” Baird pointed out that the U.S. emits 20 percent of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide, yet has only about 4 percent of the world’s population. He asked the panelists if there is sufficient evidence to link anthropogenically consumed fossil fuels and rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. All panelists but one answered yes. Heber told Baird that “I am skeptical that there is sufficient evidence to absolutely conclude that carbon dioxide production from human activities has created that significant amount of increase in carbon dioxide. There are other effects such as volcanoes and natural cycles.”

The partisan volley of opinion continued to the end of the hearing as Rohrbacher questioned the panel on the actual overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The panelists sat silent for several seconds while looking at one another and prompting Rohrbacher to purge, “Come on, we have the experts here, what percentage of the air is carbon dioxide?” The panel informed Rohrbacher that the percentage of the atmosphere comprised of carbon dioxide is 0.03 percent. Rohrbacher asked what percentage of that 0.03 percent is derived from human activity, to which McDonald answered about one-third. Rohrbacher indicated that this amount was much higher than the 5 to 10 percent the committee had been told in past hearings. Rohrbacher continued to act out a math calculation with a pencil and pad while questioning the panel, noting that the U.S. contribution is 20 percent of the 0.01 percent of human-derived carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, an amount he called “miniscule, ultra-miniscule.” Rohrbacher concluded that “what we’re talking about, Mr. Chairman, is a massive effect on the lives of our people and a miniscule if not even recordable impact on the amount of carbon dioxide going into the air.”

Brian Bilbray (R-CA) added his concern to the current state of monitoring and proposed cap-and-trade system being considered by Congress, noting that a cap-and-trade system creates a “huge potential for corruption.” Bilbray also informed the panel of how important their work is in the scheme of climate science and policy, noting how verification of carbon dioxide emissions in California helped that state adjust its emissions standards that were originally based only on assumptions of emissions. Bilbray added, “I don’t want us to spend millions if not billions about arguing the climate change issue, I want us to use that money to research what is and isn’t working, and continue to talk about the issue of what can be done to reduce it.” He further added, “I really resent the fact that this town is into picking winners and losers in this issue rather than going with the good science…I’m sick of a town full of environmental Jimmy Swaggart’s who wrap themselves in green blankets and claim that god demands that we give our money to them because they will save the Earth, when in fact the science doesn’t reflect that.”

Although the hearing often strayed from its original intent of gathering information on GHG monitoring capabilities into a heated forum on whether climate change exists, the panel did manage to get their message across that federal agencies do have the capabilities now and with further support to meet the needs for future GHG emission tracking. The message is perhaps summed up best by Kruger, who remarked in her opening statement that “the greenhouse gas monitoring challenge is complex but solvable.” 

Links to witness testimonies and a video archive of the hearing can be found here.

-CPC

House Committee on Approprations, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies hearing entitled "Critical Satellite Cimate Change Datasets"
March 18, 2009

Witnesses
Dr. Antonio Busalacchi, Jr., Director, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland
Dr. Tom Karl, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Data Center

Committee Members Present
Allan Mollohan, Chairman (D-WV)
Chaka Fattah (D-PA)
Jo Bonner (R-AL)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD)

Two leading climate researchers presented testimony to the Subcommittee on  Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies regarding the status of climate monitoring satellites and associated datasets at the Capitol building on March 18, 2009. During the testimony, the panelists discussed a variety of topics with the subcommittee about the current status of U.S. satellite capabilities in relation to monitoring key climate change indicators and future needs to maintain and enhance these capabilities.

In his opening statement, Dr. Tom Karl described the importance of climate data records (CDRs) in the study of climate change, noting that raw data from satellites is rarely useful unless the data are analyzed and compared with other data and models. CDRs also require a sufficient period of collection to be useful for long term climate studies, typically on the order of several decades. He indicated that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) have several decades of satellite-based observations suitable for rapid weather forecasting, but these data sets are not applicable for climate research without an investment into further archiving and analysis. Another issue shared by the NOAA scientist was the inconsistency in the quality of data from the dozens of NOAA and NASA satellites over the past few decades. Changes in technology, resolution, orbital configurations, and equipment calibration were just a few of the numerous factors causing data inconsistency according to Karl. He also noted that the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent Fourth Assessment Report identified key uncertainties and gaps in observational datasets that must be addressed to improve the confidence in climate change predictions.

Dr. Antonio Busalacchi shared background on the types of measurements made by various satellite sensors and how these tools identify climate variables essential to tracking changes in atmospheric patterns. He also gave a brief explanation as to why understanding ocean behavior, particularly ocean surface temperatures, is critical in climate change predictions. Busalacchi remarked that he is often asked the question “if we can’t predict our weather more than one week in advance, why should one believe we can predict future climate?” He indicated that the answer lies in the oceans. The equations applied in predictive analyses of climate need to include factors that account for the transfer of heat within the oceans as well as between the ocean and the atmosphere to make the models applicable to predicting long-term trends.

In the question and answer portion of the hearing, Chairman Allan Mollohan (D-WV) asked the panel if the instrumentation on the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is still in the development phase, will provide proper information for addressing the needs of climate change assessment. Busalacchi indicated that the new technologies available on the satellites will address the needs, but that there is concern of another gap in observation records. NPOESS is not slated to launch until 2014 at the earliest and the current satellite NOAA relies on for sea surface temperatures is “on its last legs” and is not expected to last more than 3 years. The panelists noted that data from international collaborators may be needed to fill in the data gaps should they occur. Mollohan then asked Karl which aspects he feels good about with the satellite program and what areas need to be addressed. Karl indicated to the chairman that he “feels pretty good” about the formal program now underway for data collection at NOAA and its collaborators, which will lead to “important scientific data stewardship.” However, Karl indicated that much work needs to be done to integrate data with the emerging computer processing power and storage capabilities now available to researchers. Karl noted that infrastructure is critical. A system must be developed that is simple for NOAA and its collaborators to link together with agreed-upon standards, and also allows for efficient transfer and archiving of data.

C.A. Ruppersberger (D-MD) asked the panel to elaborate on whether satellites were the best resource for climate data. Busalacchi responded that there was “no one best technology,” but that satellite and in situ (sea and land based sensors) are needed to form a coordinated approach to obtaining data, and emphasized the need to integrate the strengths of both source types. Ruppersberger’s first question was a setup for his second comment, which highlighted his concern about the costs of such satellite programs. He noted that in light of the current economic downturn the money is not there for the three agencies (NOAA, NASA, and Department of Defense (DOD)) all competing for satellite funds.  Ruppersberger asked the panelists if there were negotiations between the agencies to share future projects and data. Karl indicated that there are many instruments in space operated by DOD and NASA that do not directly monitor climate variables, but with proper processing and refinement they could be used to derive climate indicators. Ruppersberger further told the panel that due to scarcity of funds “you have to get a plan,” a plan that emphasizes how important weather and climate data are for national security reasons. He used Hurricane Katrina, the dire predictions of rising sea levels, extended droughts, and reduced snow packs as examples of national threats equal to standing armies or terrorism. 

Chaka Fattah (D-PA) asked the panel how NOAA appropriations from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will be used. Karl indicated that the agency plans to focus on converting decades of raw data into functional CDRs using the latest research technologies, as well as expanding the range of variables that are useful climate change indicators. In addition, NOAA is planning to use ARRA funds to supplement current CDRs with current and future satellite observations from NASA and international satellites. Karl told the subcommittee that “it’s a great start, but it needs to be sustained.”   

Links to witness testimonies can be found here.

-CPC

House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing entitled "Competitiveness and Climate Policy, Avoiding Leakage of Jobs and Emissions"
March 18, 2009

Witnesses

Dr. Margo Thorning, Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, American Council for Capital Formation
Ms. Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change
Mr. Martin McBroom, Director, Federal Environmental Affairs, American Electric Power
Mr. Richard Morgenstern, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
Paul Cicio, President, Industrial Energy Consumers of America
Mr. Jack McMackin, Jr., Representative for the Energy Intensive Manufacturers Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Regulation

 

Subcommittee Members Present

Edward Markey, Chairman (D-MA)

Steve Scalise (R-LA)

Joe Barton, Ranking Member (R-TX)

Ed Whitfield (R-KY)

John Dingell (D-MI)

John Barrow (D-GA)

Joseph Pitts (R-PA)

John Shadegg (R-AZ)

John Shimkus (R-IL)

Lee Terry (R-NE)

Fred Upton (R-MI)

Doris Matsui (D-CA)

Michael Doyle (D-PA)

Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Gene Green (D-TX)

Cliff Stearns (R-FL)

Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Greg Walden (R-OR)

Jay Inslee (D-WA)

Charlie Melancon (D-LA)

Michael Burgess (R-TX)

Jim Matheson (D-UT)

Jerry McNerney (D-CA)

G.K. Butterfield (D-NC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Energy and Environment subcommittee heard testimony on March 18, 2009 from six panel witnesses to gather information on possible measures to protect certain sectors of American manufacturing from unfair international competition in the pending Carbon Leakage Protection Act (CLPA) (H.R. 7146) proposed by Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Michael Doyle (D-PA).

The catalyst for the hearing discussion centered on the question of how to best protect six U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting manufacturing sectors - aluminum, cement, iron/steel, paper/pulp, glass, and basic chemicals -  from foreign competition should a cap-and-trade (CT) program be enacted by the U.S. to curb GHG emissions. Concern over increased vulnerability of U.S. manufacturers to foreign competition under a mandatory CT program prompted the introduction of CLPA in 2008. As recognized universally by each witness and in opening statements from Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) and Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX), a CT policy without a mechanism to keep U.S. manufacturing competitive internationally would do great harm to the U.S. It would be economically harmful and actually cause more GHG emissions should U.S. industry be lured to developing nations with little to no GHG regulations. The subcommittee and witness panel discussed two possible measures to protect U.S. manufacturers - one that would provide free allowances to certain GHG-intensive manufacturers from allocations funded by CT revenue, and another that would impose tariffs imports from nations that do not implement any GHG mitigation programs. 

The subcommittee looked to the witness panel for input on these two measures and how they could be best implemented, either separately or in tandem with the CLPA. The hearing also included dialogue on the effectiveness of the cap-and-trade concept in general, a very partisan topic on Capitol Hill. To add even more controversy to the issue, some subcommittee members expressed their doubt that climate change is occurring at all, a viewpoint that has been expressed on an almost predictable basis in many recent climate-themed hearings in the House and Senate.

In his opening statement, Mr. Jack McMackin expressed his organization’s general support of CLPA, although he provided recommendations to modify the bill, most notably regarding the issue of the selection process of what industry sectors receive allocations from CT funds. Mr. Martin McBroom testified that his organization, American Electric Power (AEP) supports a CT system and noted that import tariffs on non-compliant nations would provide leverage for U.S. negotiators working with developing countries that until now have been resistant to any international GHG mitigation efforts. Emphasizing the need for the U.S. to push international cooperation, McBroom stated, “We [AEP] believe that such legislation also must include mechanisms that foster international participation and avoid creating inequities and competitive distortion that would otherwise harm the U.S. economy.”   

Mr. Paul Cicio echoed Mr. McBroom’s sentiments with, “The [U.S.] industrial sector needs a globally level playing field that lets the best companies win. Adding costs by unilateral action helps ‘all’ of our competitors in other countries take our business and our jobs. We need U.S. leadership to forge a global effort to address industrial sector GHG emission reductions that is focused on fair trade and productivity.” Mr. Richard Morgenstern also provided information from model analysis on the negative impacts of a unilateral GHG-reduction program on the industrial manufacturing sector in the short- and medium-terms. Ms. Eileen Claussen presented findings from a recent study of the impacts on U.S. competitiveness internationally if a unilateral GHG reduction plan were imposed. She indicated from the empirical analysis that such measures would decrease U.S. competitiveness by 0.7 percent, a “modest” decrease that “can be readily managed with a range of policy instruments.” Like many of the other panelists, Claussen urged international cooperation in developing a global mitigation plan for GHGs, but, contrary to Mr. McBroom’s plan, Claussen indicated border tariffs would be ineffective for forcing more international cooperation and could put U.S. exporters at risk to retaliatory trade measures in foreign markets. Cicero noted the intricate relationship between climate policy and the numerous facets of the overall American economy stating, “For the industrial sector, climate policy is also trade, energy, economic, and employment policy.” He also pointed out that the industrial sector’s GHG emissions contribute 6 percent of the total U.S. GHG output, a number which has increased only 2.6 percent since 1990, while the transportation, residential, and energy production sectors have all increased their GHG emissions by nearly 30 percent in the last two decades. Dr. Margo Thorning shared findings from economic models that indicate a mandatory CT system would do significant harm to the U.S. economy and not make measurable reductions in GHG’s in this century. She recommended that if the U.S. enacts any measures for reducing GHG emissions, a carbon tax program should be implemented in lieu of a CT system.

During the open question part of the hearing, Markey addressed the issue of whether the allowance system or the border tariff approach would be most useful in CLPA. McBroom replied, “We [AEP] agree that both should be utilized. I don’t think they’re inconsistent. There’s no reason they can’t serve complimentary purposes.” Claussen, however, expressed her reservations on the use of border tariffs, indicating that they “should be a last resort” so as not to set off a trade war among industrial nations. Countering Claussen’s recommendations, Fred Upton (R-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) both pointed out how Chinese leadership considers any sort of GHG program as “unfair” and a “disaster” to the emerging Chinese economy. These comments prompted Pitts to ask the panel, “How can we make China play?”

Many panelists recognized the importance of passing CPLA in order to get any sort of CT measure passed in Congress. Gene Green (D-TX) remarked, “If we don’t have a measure like Inslee-Doyle (CLPA), we’re not going to have cap and trade”. He noted that the U.S. can provide leadership worldwide in implementation of a GHG program, even if an international program has not yet been developed.

The tone of the hearing became somewhat tense when John Shimkus (R-IL) pressed the panel on the impacts a CT system would have on jobs. Shimkus held up a large picture of Illinois coal miners and asked Claussen “How long can these jobs be saved?” to which Claussen replied, “Please don’t ask me about new source review.” Thorning shared numbers from various studies on the impacts a CT program would have on jobs, noting the potential for over 4 million jobs lost in the U.S. by 2030 due to a CT program. In his final remarks Shimkus emphatically stated, “Higher energy cost [due to CT] leads to higher job loss. I challenge the Democrats to move this bill.”

In response to Shimkus’ remarks on job loss, Jay Inslee (D-WA) countered by indicating a “titanic flaw” in the background assumptions of the economic forecasts that Thorning presented and asked whether she looked at studies of job loss impacts if no action were taken to reduce GHG emissions. She indicated that such analyses had not been done to which Inslee responded, “I find it stunning for an economist not to compare apples to apples.” He also responded to Thorning’s comments regarding the scenario of unilateral action not having an impact on reducing GHG emissions worldwide as a “defeatist statement that does not reflect American leadership.”

Links to witness testimonies can be found here.

-CPC

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Hearing “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science”
February 25, 2009

Witnesses
Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chairman, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Dr. Christopher Field, Director, Department of Global Ecology, Stanford University, Co-chair of Working Group II, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Dr. Howard Frumkin, Director, National Center for Environmental Health, Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Dr. William Happer, Professor of Physics, Princeton University
 

Committee Members Present
Barbara Boxer, Chairwoman (D-CA)
James Inhofe, Ranking Member (R-OK)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Arlen Specter (R-PA)
Jeff Merkley (D- OR)
Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
John Barrasso (R-WY)
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Thomas Carper (D-DE)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

The hearing “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science” provided the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works with the latest updates and predictions in global warming research and potential associated impacts from the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Also presented was an alternative viewpoint from a dissenting scientist who questioned current climate research and its preliminary findings. The information presented to the committee created a spirited dialogue from the onset of the hearing, beginning with Chairwoman Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe’s (R-OK) opening remarks. In Boxer’s initial comments, she expressed optimism in receiving accurate accounts of the dangers global warming poses to human health from Dr. Howard Frumkin, indicating that “the last time the CDC testified here on the public impacts of global warming, we discovered that the written testimony had been heavily redacted [under the previous administration] by the White House.”  In his opening statement, Ranking Member Inhofe discussed his concern for the economic impacts of drastic changes made by the U.S. to curtail carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, calling such changes a “climate bailout.” He also questioned the effectiveness of the U.S. acting unilaterally in reducing carbon emissions while nations like China and India would continue to increase their CO2 output. Inhofe also noted that contrary to what the UN and media report, there is a growing body of scientists who are openly rebelling against the so called “consensus” of global warming. Chairwoman Boxer responded immediately to Inhofe’s comments on economic impacts, stating “to say the people in this room don’t care about jobs, that’s ludicrous,” and indicated the potential for massive economic growth with a shift towards more climate-friendly energy technologies.

Committee members expressed their views and concerns on warming in opening statements, with most members offering support for continued efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including Arlen Specter (R-PA). Bernard Sanders (I-VT) expressed his concern about the costs of not acting, citing potential wars, widespread disease, mass human migration, and submerged coastlines in response to Inhofe’s comments on how the costs of mitigation would negatively affect the American taxpayer. Christopher Bond (R-MO) echoed Inhofe’s opening statements, expressing his concern in the “futility” of proposed action, stating that if the U.S. shut off all carbon emissions the world would still be unlikely to reach the suggested levels of CO2 due to emissions from other developing nations.
 
The first witness, Dr. R. K. Pachauri, presented the committee with an overview of how the IPCC works in regards to selection of panel scientists, the size and structure of the panel, and the exhaustive peer-review process implemented for studies presented in the report. Pachauri indicated that the report has been endorsed by authoritative science organizations in the U.S., including the American Meteorological Society and the National Academy of Sciences. Pauchari stated that, based on the findings in the assessment, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, there is no cause at all for scientific doubt on this.” Pachauri then shared some startling results from the report. Over the last 100 years, the planet’s average surface temperature has increased at a rate of 0.074 degrees Celsius (°C) per decade, and in the last 50 years, the rate of increase has been 0.128 °C per decade. He also noted that 11 of the past 12 years have ranked amongst the 12 warmest years on record. Pachauri then told the committee that humans have only 6 years to stabilize CO2 levels in the atmosphere at 445-490 parts per million (ppm) to prevent average surface temperatures from increasing beyond 2.4 °C, and even with these efforts the planet is on track to warm at least 2 degrees on average.

Dr. Christopher Field shared that the IPCC has “evidence that human’s actions are very likely responsible for most of the warming of the last 50 years.” He validated their conclusion by saying, “We have a wide variety of fingerprints, fingerprints that allow us to test whether it’s GHG’s or some other putative mechanism, and what we see consistently in each of these fingerprints is that the quantitative results, the qualitative results, point toward the unequivocal role of GHG’s in driving the warming that has occurred.” Field noted that if no policy change occurred, projected average increases in surface temperature by 2100 could range from 1 to 6.4 °C. Perhaps one of the most alarming observations presented was that effects of warming have already impacted water resources in the western U.S., such as decreased snow pack in the winters, earlier and shorter spring runoff peaks, longer and more expansive heat waves, and an increase in wildfires.

Dr. Howard Frumkin presented to the committee likely impacts on human health from warmer worldwide temperatures, including increases in heat-related illnesses, severe weather, air pollution, allergies, vector-borne diseases, water-borne diseases, dislocation and migration of population, and changes in water and food supply. Frumkin noted that the food supply is especially vulnerable from temperature increases, noting studies that indicated warmer temperatures decrease the protein content in crops, thus reducing the nutritional content of grains.

Perhaps the most contentious dialogue of the hearing occurred following Dr. William Happer’s testimony to the committee. After sharing temperature data contradictory to what Pachauri and Field presented, Happer compared the current global warming alarm to prohibition and the passage of the 18th Amendment. He also stated that an increase in CO2 would actually be good for the planet, and that a worldwide average increase of 1 °C “isn’t very much.” After his initial testimony, Boxer addressed Happer stating, “Your words are very alarming to me, sir, because you’re basically saying to these three men that they are feeding us propaganda.” Boxer also stated that in past commentary, Happer has already compared climate scientists to “Germans during the Nazi-era.” Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) added to the discussion by first commenting, “Mr. Happer, I admire your courage,” but made it clear he disagreed with Happer’s views. Lautenburg then questioned Happer if he disputed the validity of a consensus on planet-wide warming. Happer replied, “You know, consensuses are often wrong in science and other spheres of life. Consensus is not the way to determine the truth.” Lautenberg then asked, “Do you think there is a conspiracy, Dr. Happer?” Happer replied, “No, not at all,” stating that he felt his fellow witnesses were not part of a conspiracy or a hoax, but were making a mistake in their assessments.

The discussion shifted as Jeff Merkley (D-OR) pointed out the stark contrast in reported temperature trends amongst the witnesses, with Pachauri reporting that 11 of the past 12 years have been the warmest on record and Happer stating that a cooling trend has been observed over the last decade. Field pointed out that 1999 and 2005 were the two warmest years on record, and there is “no doubt that current temperatures are the warmest we’ve seen in the last 400 years and likely the last 2,000 years.” Pachauri added “the trend is unmistakable.” Merkley then asked the panel about target CO2 concentrations necessary to minimize rates of warming. Following commentary from Fields and Pachauri, Happer countered by stating “We’re really in a CO2 famine now” when compared to CO2 levels of 3 to 4 times the current concentration observed over geologic time. Confounded, Boxer asked Happer how far into the past he would be citing and he responded that “most people think primates evolved around 80 million years ago.” Chairwoman Boxer incredulously replied, “Ok. There you go. I don’t even know how to say this, but a lot has happened since then, in terms of where people are living and working, we have a society now. So to say to go back to those days, I shudder to think what’s going to happen. Either I’m missing something or you just don’t seem to think times have changed.” Happer responded, “Well, I don’t think the laws of physics and chemistry have changed over the last 80 million years.” Boxer then directed a question to Field, asking what would conditions be like with CO2 levels 3 to 4 times the current level. His response was that CO2 levels have not been this high for 650,000 years, and then the world had much higher ocean levels.   

The hearing ended with Chairwoman Boxer’s call for commitment by her Senate colleagues to make progress on this issue, citing historic achievements such as the Clean Water Act as an indicator of positive change that can come from this influential committee. 

-CPC

House Committee on Ways and Means Hearing on Scientific Objectives for Climate Change Legislation
February 25, 2009

Witnesses:
Dr. James Hansen, Adjunct Professor, The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Climate Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists 
Dr. John Christy,  State Climatologist and Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville

The House Ways and Means Committee continued the climate change series it started in the 110th Congress with this hearing to discuss what scientific objectives climate change legislation should seek to achieve. According to Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), “The development of climate change legislation will be a priority for the Ways and Means Committee during the 111th Congress.  The Committee must define the environmental objectives that we hope to achieve with climate change legislation before we can design such legislation.  These objectives must be based on science.”

The witness list included Dr. James Hansen, a noted climate scientist who has testified in front of Congress many times in the last few months. He acknowledged President Obama’s initial steps towards curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but cautioned that “it must be recognized that these steps address the symptoms of the problem, not the root cause.” He called for an end to subsidized fossil fuels, and proposed a “Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend” plan to encourage renewable energy and energy efficient innovations, avoiding the slow and costly response of a “cap and trade” system.

Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) called for an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 with a near term goal of 35% reductions by 2020.. The UCS estimated that “approximately 10% of these reductions can come from tropical forest protection and the rest can come from emissions reductions in the electric, transport and agricultural sectors of the economy. To reach this goal [UCS recommends] a comprehensive package of climate and energy policies, including a cap and trade program that ensures near-term reductions and includes a mechanism for course correction to respond to new scientific evidence.”

Dr. John Christy was skeptical whether there was any way for the U.S. to make detectable changes in global warming. He feared that the scale of carbon emissions is “simply too enormous,” and the only possible solution is to start a large nuclear energy campaign. According to Christy, “The actions being considered to ‘stop global warming’ will have an imperceptible impact on whatever the climate will do, while making energy more expensive, and thus have a negative impact on the economy as a whole. We have found that climate models and popular surface temperature data sets overstate the changes in the real atmosphere and that actual changes are not alarming. And, if the Congress deems it necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the single most effective way to do so by a small, but at least detectable, amount is through the massive implementation of a nuclear power program. Other currently available alternatives simply cannot produce enough energy to be significantly noticed at a price and geographic scale that is affordable.”

This was the third hearing on climate change held by the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee primarily deals with tax issues, but if new climate provisions generate revenue or call for various carbon taxes the committee could be needed to outline legislation. Rangel’s obvious interest in drafting climate legislation leaves many wondering if he will work with the other committees with primary jurisdiction over energy and climate policy, such as the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Rangle has denied any sort of ensuing turf battle to the media, highlighting that his concern is to get a climate bill to the floor by Memorial Day. In E&E Daily, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee insisted there is no “turf war,” but the committees are producing two separate bills without any expected overlap. Waxman explained, “We are not going to do the same thing, but we are going to work together.”

-CCD

House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment Hearing “How Do We Know What We Are Emitting? Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”
February 24, 2009

Witnesses:
John Stephenson, Director, Natural Resources and Environment Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Jill Gravender, Vice President for Policy, The Climate Registry
Leslie Wong, Director, Greenhouse Gas Programs, Waste Management, Inc.
Rob Ellis, Greenhouse Gas Program Manager, Advanced Waste Management Systems, Inc.

Committee Members Present:
Brian Baird, Chairman (D-WA)
Bob Inglis, Ranking Member (R-SC)
Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
Daniel Lipinski (D-IL)
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Lincoln Davis (D-TN)
Ben Lujan (D-NM)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)

The first hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment in the 111th Congress focused on the issue of measuring, monitoring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Several topics were discussed, including the current progress of GHG monitoring, consistency and uniformity in measurements, verification of reported data, and the direction efforts need to move to provide the most reliable data available for management of GHG emissions. Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) began the hearing by sharing relevant but unfortunate news of a failed rocket launch attempt over California just five hours prior to the hearing. The rocket was carrying the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s (NASA) Orbiting Carbon Observatory, a system dedicated to detecting where carbon dioxide (CO2) was being emitted and absorbed on the Earth’s surface. The failure of this mission marks a set-back in U.S. capabilities to monitor GHG emissions, but it did not stop the committee from underlining the importance of continuing such efforts.

In his opening statement, Chairman Baird stressed that in an effort to control and reduce GHG emissions accurate measurement capability is of utmost importance for evaluation of either mandatory or voluntary GHG-reduction programs. Baird also stated that despite the efforts to monitor emissions as part of the acid rain program under the Clean Air Act, there are many facilities that still need to be monitored, and tools developed for future monitoring should be accurate but not burdensome on regulated entities. Ranking Member Inglis (R-SC) stated in his opening comments the importance of accurate and reliable measurements of GHGs and the problems with a cap and trade system. In terms of management schemes, he felt cap and trade as a monitoring system for carbon would require a massive tax increase and instead stressed a move towards a simple carbon tax accompanied by an offsetting reduction in payroll taxes.

Mr. John Stephenson of the GAO first provided witness testimony by discussing the importance of developing reliable emissions data for GHG’s emitted by power plants, industrial facilities, and other sources before any effective nationwide market-based mitigation programs are implemented. Stephenson pointed out the critical issue of where GHG’s are to be monitored, either at “upstream” (fossil fuel producers and importers), or “downstream” locations (individual facilities or operations). He stressed that upstream measurement locations would likely involve less than three thousand locations and cover nearly all of the CO2 emissions and have less complex data requirements, whereas a downstream measurement program would involve up to ten thousand facilities and only measure about half of the emitted CO2. Stephenson also discussed the drawbacks of the cap-and-trade program currently implemented in Europe. He stated that the lack of emissions data in Europe caused an inaccurate allowance of carbon allocations at the onset of the program, which has since hindered the effectiveness of the cap-and-trade program in use there. The European plan also covers only one GHG, CO2, and monitors emissions at only individual power plant locations. Stephenson also pointed out that measurement capabilities for the five other GHG’s (methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride) are much less reliable and advanced than those for CO2 and historical data for these gases are inconsistent at best. Although data collection and baseline definition of non- CO2 GHG’s would be challenging, Stephenson stressed the importance of all six gases being monitored for any program to be effective.   
 
Ms. Jill Gravender presented the subcommittee with information from the Climate Registry (Registry), a non-profit organization created amongst several U.S. states, Canadian provinces, territories, and native sovereign nations. The mission of the Registry, as described by Gravender, is to set consistent and transparent standards to calculate, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions in a single North American directory. She described the monitoring protocols implemented by the Registry that are in use for both voluntary and mandatory monitoring programs. Gravender also shared with the subcommittee current challenges facing in-place and future programs, most notably the lack of organizational and management systems in place at emitting facilities, uncertainty in measurements, and the lack of implemented technology to measure greenhouse gases other than CO2. Gravender’s concluding recommendations to the subcommittee called for improvements in GHG monitoring, specifically updating of emission factors and quantification methods, developing industry specific protocols, and improving measurement methodologies.    

Ms. Leslie Wong presented the subcommittee with a background on Waste Management’s (WM) GHG emissions program and current efforts to measure and better understand company-wide emissions. Wong pointed out that although landfill waste only produces 3% of GHG emissions in the U.S., there has been a 75% reduction in GHG emissions from municipal solid waste between 1974 and 1997 through technological advances, environmental regulations, and emphasis on resource conservation and recovery. Wong came up with specific suggestions regarding programs for waste management sites based on the GHG monitoring efforts by WM. She first pointed out that estimating current landfill emissions is still a work in progress as technology to quantify emissions continues to emerge. She thought a phased approach to inventory development will be a more efficient and workable approach to developing a data collection system, and any sort of effort in creating such a system takes significant amounts of time.

Mr. Rob Ellis provided the subcommittee information on the verification process of GHG emitters from the perspective of his company, Advanced Waste Management Systems, Inc (AWMS). AWMS was one of only six companies nationwide to pass the application process set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to meet international greenhouse gas standards. Ellis briefly detailed the protocol AWMS follows in verifying a client’s GHG emissions. In his concluding remarks, Ellis pointed out the potential for conflict of interest issues in the verification process. He stressed the need to monitor the corporate relationships between the verification bodies and their clients in any inventory or reduction program a company undergoes.

“One of the things that strikes me about this process is that it is extraordinarily complex,” Chairman Baird voiced following the individual witness testimonies. Many questions and concerns about GHG monitoring were expressed by the subcommittee members in the question-and-answer portion of the hearing. Baird first questioned the witness panel about their thoughts on whether upstream or downstream management would be more beneficial. Stephenson stated that “upstream is easier just because of the number of entities” and pointed out that many more resources are available right now for CO2 measurements, but the same is not true for the other five GHG’s so having fewer entities to measure would provide the most accurate quantification from the limited resources. Gravender provided an alternate view to Stephenson, pointing out the usefulness of downstream measurements because companies “can’t manage what they don’t measure.” She further explained that the Registry has allowed companies to develop corporate-wide carbon footprints to inventory their emissions and to determine areas of operations where emissions could be further reduced. Wong emphasized that from her perspective with work in waste management, the carbon life-cycle needs to be further assessed, stating “you have to have a place to start, and that’s the life-cycle inventory.” Ellis further added support to downstream management by telling the subcommittee “the downstream program encourages forward thinking,” and shared that with current inventory efforts like those of the Registry, companies have already taken steps in reducing their carbon footprints voluntarily.

Chairman Baird expressed concern over the unlikelihood of a uniform, worldwide measuring protocol being implemented in the near future, and called upon the witnesses to share their opinions if one would even be attainable. Stephenson reiterated how difficult it will be to monitor the other greenhouse gases based on current technologies, and that measuring all GHG emissions “is going to be very difficult and time consuming.” Chairman Baird added that he was concerned about market manipulation and reporting of dishonest numbers, asking how to ensure fraud does not occur in GHG monitoring programs. “The simple answer is third-party verification,” replied Ellis. Rigorous verification would “smooth market-fluctuations because there is faith that the product actually exists.” Wong countered Mr. Ellis’ comments by stating “an [already] extremely complex system with added complexity because third-party validation…is not going to get us very far. What’s going to get us to real reductions is a simple system that’s predictable, that can be implemented quickly. You may not get all the reductions you want immediately, but you will get some demonstrable reductions.”

Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) momentarily stumped the witness panel with his concern over water vapor, which is one of the most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. He pointed out that if GHG’s already in the atmosphere are presently raising temperatures worldwide and water vapor content continually increases with warmer climates, temperatures will increase even more and incite a perpetual cycle of warming. He then asked the panel if there were any efforts underway to track water vapor levels in the atmosphere. The witness panel remained silent for a few moments after the question was posed before Stephenson answered that none are currently in place. Bartlett also provided more insight into climate change by pointing out that cows emit significant amounts of methane (which is 20 times more potent than carbon as a greenhouse gas) and produce more GHG’s than all the cars in the world. Bartlett further questioned the panel by asking, “If we’re really worried about global warming, shouldn’t we have a focus on having less animals? That would mean more vegetarians and longer life for all of us.”  Stephenson replied with a smile, “I guess it has to be implementable. The public hasn’t shown its’ desire to give up meat.” After some more commentary on people’s dietary habits influencing the amount of methane emitted into the atmosphere, Bartlett concluded that “if all or most people became vegetarians, that would make a far greater contribution to reducing greenhouse gases than every one of us driving a Prius.” Chairman Baird redirected Bartlett’s question to Gravender, who indicated that the Climate Registry is currently not measuring or obtaining methane emission values from livestock.

Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) asked the witness panel to explain the difference between the Registry and the Chicago Climate Exchange, an organization that deals with trading of carbon credits. Gravender and Wong explained in detail that the Chicago Climate Exchange acts as cap and trade system that requires reduction in emissions by its voluntary members and that the Registry is an organizational body with a set of protocols designed to encourage inventory and reduction of carbon emissions, but does conduct cap and trade programs. Lipinski was still concerned if there were consistent measurement protocols between the two organizations. Stephenson confirmed that there were indeed inconsistencies in measurements between the two.

Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) addressed the panel with her questions of mandatory versus voluntary compliance, particularly in regards of “self-policing” with voluntary emissions reporters. Gravender responded by indicating that the Registry is voluntary, but not self-policing, as they use a third-party verification process for data reported to their organization. Edwards was also curious about incentives for programs to install accurate and straightforward voluntary monitoring programs. Gravender shared with the subcommittee that any kind of program, voluntary or mandatory, can help a company better understand its carbon footprint, and help identify areas where improved efficiency may lead to both reductions in carbon emissions and financial gains. Gravender also indicated that public perception plays an important role in a company’s vitality, indicating that the public today likes to know that companies they purchase goods or services from are making efforts towards improving the health of the planet. 

Links to witness testimonies can be found here.

-CPC

 

Sources: Hearing testimony, E&E Daily

Contributed by Corina Cerovski-Darriau, Government Affairs Staff; Clint Carney, 2009 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern; Stephanie Praus, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Rachel Potter, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Mollie Pettit, 2009 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern; Joey Fiore, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Maureen Moses, 2010 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.

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

Last updated on March 4, 2010.

 
 

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