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Elizabeth McGowan's articles

Obama Tax Deal Leaving Out Clean Energy, Putting Jobs at Risk

Thus far, 1,179 solar projects with total investments of $1.3 billion in 42 states have been built with support from an expiring program

Dec 8, 2010

WASHINGTON—If President Obama’s final tax package doesn’t include grants for renewable energy projects, the industry expects hundreds or perhaps thousands of solar and wind workers to add to already-lengthy unemployment lines.

What’s known as the renewable energy convertible tax credit program—or the Treasury grant program—is set to expire by year’s end. And a plan submitted by Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus, D-Mont., to extend the program for a year died over the weekend.

Now leaders from all renewable energy fields are hoping legislators can reach some sort of compromise to keep jobs and projects from being jeopardized. Ideally, they are seeking a two-year extension of the grant program.

“This is not a program that has just benefited blue states,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s a program that has benefited all states. They need to put their partisan bickering aside … to ensure that these industries continue to grow.”

Outgoing Rep. Bob Inglis Still Touting Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax

He’s trying to convince bona fide conservative Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to reintroduce the carbon tax measure they co-sponsored

Dec 8, 2010

WASHINGTON—It is tempting to label six-term Rep. Bob Inglis as an equal opportunity annoyer.

But in the nuanced halls of Congress, that would be far too simplistic.

The outgoing South Carolinian is a burr in the GOP’s rigid saddle because he discomfits dominant House Republican groupthink: he admits he trusts the science that says human activities are causing the planet to warm.

He simultaneously perplexes the Democratic co-authors of the American Clean Energy and Security Act by rejecting their cap-and-trade effort at reining in heat-trapping gas emissions.

“I can understand why Ed Markey would be frustrated by somebody like me,” the Republican said about the Democratic Massachusetts representative in an interview with SolveClimate News. After all, “cap and trade is a market-based, conservative concept.” 

“But over the years, I’ve committed various heresies against Republicans. The one that’s most enduring is saying that climate change is real and let’s do something about it.”

Bipartisan Groups Want to End Ethanol Subsidy and Save Taxpayers Billions

A diverse coalition of organizations and lawmakers say the ethanol subsidy is fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unwise.

Dec 6, 2010

WASHINGTON— It’s a rare day when somebody pleads with Congress not to take action.

But that’s exactly the stand Kate McMahon, biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, is proposing. By not lifting a finger to renew a corn ethanol tax credit of 45 cents per gallon—which will expire at the end of this month if federal legislators choose to let it—she estimates taxpayers will reap an annual savings of roughly $6 billion.

And she’s not alone.

Friends of the Earth is part of an unconventional and diverse amalgam of 59 organizations from the faith, progressive, environmental, agricultural, conservative, humanitarian and public interest sectors that made a case against the subsidies in a late November letter to House and Senate leaders.

“At a time of spiraling deficits, we do not believe Congress should continue subsidizing gasoline refiners for something that they are already required to do by the Renewable Fuels Standard,” they wrote. “Experts like the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office have concluded that the subsidy is no longer necessary, and leading economists agree that ending it would have little impact on ethanol production, prices or jobs.”

Storms Drown Out Markey Committee's Swan Song

A funereal feeling permeated the hearing room on a stormy day that kept people away from the global warming's committee's final act

Dec 2, 2010

WASHINGTON—It was his global warming committee leadership swan song, and Rep. Ed Markey had counted on going out with a bang.

Through no fault of his own, however, the event he called “Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges” turned into somewhat of a whimper.

The Massachusetts Democrat was forced to do some last-minute recalibrating Wednesday when stormy weather and a cancellation diluted the planned one-two star-power punch of the final hearing of his Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

With so many countries being forced to adjust to the ravages of climate change, perhaps it’s fitting that the chairman of such a committee had to practice his own brand of adaptation.

Secrecy of Fracking Chemicals Takes Beltway Spotlight

“It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”

Dec 1, 2010

WASHINGTON—Convincing the natural gas industry that a chemical disclosure protocol should be mandatory has proven to be much more formidable than blasting apart shale rock where the coveted hydrocarbons lurk underground.

And conservationists fear that the disclosure debate is slowing progress on resolving environmental impacts associated with natural gas drilling and its sister act of “fracking”—which is geological slang for hydraulic fracturing.

Those disparities became grist for a polite but enlivened exchange among three topic experts at the conservative Heritage Foundation. It was one of two fracking forums that unfolded in the nation’s capital Tuesday afternoon.

“The industry needs to deal with those issues rather than glibly keep saying they are America’s clean fuel source,” senior policy adviser Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund told those gathered for “The Promise and Perils of Hydraulic Fracturing: Best Answers to the Hardest Questions.”

“Nothing good is going to happen in the natural gas industry … until this disclosure issue is behind them,” Anderson continued. “It’s not as if it looks like the industry is hiding something. They are hiding something.”

Tax Pledge Adds Another Political Hurdle to U.S. Climate Action

“They’re continuing to argue against the laws of physics.”

Nov 30, 2010

WASHINGTON—Americans for Prosperity might promote its “No Climate Tax” pledge signed by 530-plus local, state and national elected officials as merely a badge of fiscal responsibility.

But their critics view the carefully worded pledge as a power grab and yet another hurdle for broad action on climate and energy legislation when the 112th Congress convenes in January.

There are already many. 

For one, with the exception of New Hampshire’s representative-to-be Charlie Bass, Republican freshmen legislators joining the House and Senate doubt the scientific veracity of global warming. Two, one survey shows more than half of all of the Republicans in the GOP caucus next year have questioned whether human activities are contributing to climate change.

In Rubble of Cap-and-Trade, Big Green Taking a Beating

In the search for what's next, a range of options including civil disobedience, state-level action, and continued work on Capitol Hill

Nov 23, 2010

WASHINGTON—Barely a week ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assured West Virginia governor-cum-senator Joe Manchin that any attempt to control greenhouse gases via a cap-and-trade system is dead and six feet under.

Grassroots and left-leaning environmental organizations, however, claim the Nevada Democrat showed up nearly a year late to the funeral of the much-maligned, market-based measure. A majority of them aren’t mourning the evident demise of poor ol’ cap and trade.

For the most part, they abhorred the book-length version of legislation that Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey of Massachusetts cobbled together and the House eventually passed as the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June 2009. And they cringed at the versions of its evil twin that reared themselves afterward in the Senate.

While they united against compromised legislation, these more progressive green advocates aren’t unified on a single way forward on how to curb heat-trapping emissions—and if SolveClimate News's interviews of these groups is any indication, consensus will be hard to come by.

In McKibben's Toolbox for Cancun, Art Visible from Space

350 EARTH project based on the notion that art gets to people in ways that science doesn’t

Nov 19, 2010

WASHINGTON—Bill McKibben might be an optimist.

But he isn’t delusional enough to think that what he’s billing as the first planetary art show centered on climate change will cause world leaders to suddenly hug, then break into a verse or two of Kumbaya while signing a treaty that slices greenhouse gas pollutants to scientifically recommended levels.

He’s cognizant that the march toward meaningful, binding action on taming carbon dioxide is a painfully sluggish slog.

“Every movement that has ever been successful has appealed to people’s emotions and reason,” the founder of the advocacy organization 350.org tells SolveClimate News in an interview from his Vermont home. “It is necessary if we’re ever going to get anything done in Washington or anywhere else. We need to build support to force recalcitrant actors to act.”

Lame Duck Effort to Stall Clean Air Act Is Quietly Quacking

Bill's sponsor Jay Rockefeller fears that Republicans could gut the entire tenor of his proposal if it were introduced next year

Nov 17, 2010

WASHINGTON—Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s single-handed effort to stall the EPA’s newest initiative to curb heat-trapping gases could fade away if a vote isn’t shoehorned into an already jam-packed and topsy-turvy lame duck session that began Monday.

Months ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had promised the Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia that his proposal would gain floor time. But this week the Nevadan appeared to backpedal on that pledge.

“We are at a critical time here,” Reid told The Hill newspaper Tuesday, the same day he and Rockefeller were scheduled for a strategy meeting. “It is real hard just to say ‘yeah, we can do this,’ because we have limited time to go through all the procedural motions. But if there is a way we can do it, I will be happy to work with him.”

Understandably, the measure Rockefeller introduced in March has environmental organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council on edge.

Clean Energy May Backslide in Pennsylvania but Remains Intact in Colorado

In Colorado, a broad coalition keeps clean energy on track. But Republican gains in Pennsylvania threaten to derail legislation

Nov 15, 2010

WASHINGTON—It turns out there is more than one way to stir up the color purple on the post-midterm elections paint palette.

Look, for instance, to Colorado and Pennsylvania for variations on that hue.

While geographically distant, the two political battleground states share numerous characteristics. Both supply bountiful energy resources—Colorado with coal, oil, natural gas and uranium, Pennsylvania with coal and natural gas—and are split between urban progressives with a wide green streak and rural conservatives who tend to be more leery of environmental initiatives.

And until Election Day, both states had bold Democrats in their respective governor’s mansions who are disciples of renewable energy, clean technology and low-carbon economies. However, results from Nov. 2 indicate that while that legislative momentum likely remains intact in Colorado, it could backslide in Pennsylvania.