Keeping an Eye on U.S. Environmental Sustainability: An Energy and Climate Policy Update

— Edited by Jovita A. Tolbert, Development Director, National Alliance for Sustainable Communities

Romney Releases Energy Plan. Romney says his newly released energy plan will help North America achieve energy independence by 2020. The plan would focus on domestic fossil fuel development and would call for a streamlined environmental review. For more, check out this article.

Study Further Links Climate, Weather. The National Academy of Science has published a report, by NASA scientist James E. Hansen and colleagues, that more conclusively links recent extreme weather patterns and events with climate change. Read the news coverage or visit the NASA website to learn more.

Presidential Candidates Face Off on Wind. While campaigning in Pueblo, CO, President Obama highlighted his support for the wind production tax credit. What’s more, he repeated his call to end subsidies to oil companies. Contrastingly, Mitt Romney seems committed to the stance that the renewable incentives should end, and all sources of energy should compete on a level playing field. This is despite pushback from key Republican congressmen, such as Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) who wrote the original 1992 legislation that created the wind production tax credit.

Oil and Gas Production on Federal Lands: A Revenue Maker? Not so much. As it turns out, opening up all federal land to oil and gas production would have a modest impact on federal revenue. Learn more by reading the Congressional Budget Office report, Potential Budgetary Effects of Immediately Opening Most Federal Lands to Oil and Gas Leasing.

Building the Infrastructure to Export Natural Gas. Lawmakers in the House are urging the Energy Secretary to fast track approval of liquefied natural gas export terminals in order to improve the economics of natural gas. Congressional members from Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas say the combination of rapid growth in natural gas supplies in other parts of the country and historically low prices threatens drilling in their states. Reports from analysts and economists indicate that increasing the market for U.S. natural gas by compressing and shipping natural gas to places like Japan — which will pay six to seven times the $2 – $3 per MMBtu price that natural gas is selling for in the U.S. — could help improve the market for domestic natural gas.

West Virginia Requests Help in Promoting Clean Coal.  Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) is asking the coal industry and environmental advocates for ideas on how to encourage and stimulate technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration, to help the development of coal in the state. Read more about the Senator’s request.

Big Boost in Renewable Power Development. Seven Western solar and wind energy projects capable of producing 5,000 megawatts of electricity will be fast-tracked by the Obama administration. The projects are the latest ordered expedited under an executive order issued in March, at which time President Obama ordered expedited approval of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. That section of the pipeline recently received final approval. The move also follows an announcement that the Defense Department will free up 16 million acres of federal land on or near military bases for development of renewable power.

EPA Under Attack over Federal Renewable Fuels Standard. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing opposition to the federal renewable fuels standard from the oil and gas industry as well as farmers and ranchers. The American Petroleum Institute claimS the standard is impractical because 1) increased requirements for ethanol will damage engines that use the fuel, 2) the EPA has not resolved the problem of fraudulent renewable fuel credits, and 3) the mandate requires the use of cellulosic ethanol, which isn’t yet commercially available. Voicing the concerns of farmers and ranchers, a group of twenty-six Senators are requesting the EPA reduce the ethanol mandate, because they believe more grain should be made available for the livestock and poultry industry due to drought and shrinking corn supplies.

Source: Congressional Quarterly