In his new budget blueprint, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is proposing to divert $210 million from the state's clean energy fund to use for general spending. The proposal would also take all that is left of the state's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) revenues: $473,000.
If the budget passes, it would be the third year in a row that Christie, a first-term Republican, has dipped into the state's clean economy coffers. His first two enacted budgets diverted a total of more than $400 million from the clean energy fund, instead of using it on energy savings for homes and businesses, according to a report Wednesday in the New Jersey Spotlight.
Christie's budget for fiscal year 2011 also took $65 million in RGGI revenues to help patch a budget shortfall. The money from the regional cap-and-trade scheme is supposed to be invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency and to help low-income customers pay their electricity bills.
Supporters of a federal wind subsidy vowed Thursday to double down on their effort to keep the tax credit alive for at least one more year. The message came hours after Congress killed what was seen as the incentive's last best chance for survival.
"Our campaign continues," Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, said in a statement. "By all reports, wind champions on both sides of the aisle in both the Senate and House ... are now working to get the job done by other means."
The production tax credit (PTC), which expires at the end of the year, is seen as crucial to the industry's growth. The last time it lapsed, in 2003, wind development dropped by almost 80 percent the next year. Vestas, the world's biggest turbine maker, says it may fire 1,600 U.S. workers if the subsidy lapses.
The nation's Republican governors are pressing forward with policies that promote the green economy—and in some cases they have moved further than their Democratic counterparts.
A new report by the National Governors Association (NGA) showed that 28 states enacted more than 60 new "clean" economic development policies between June 2010 and Aug. 2011. Among those states, more than half, or 16, have Republican governors. In five of the states, the policies were started under Democratic governors and were continued by Republicans who replaced them.
The wind industry's hopes for extending a key federal subsidy got a sharp jolt in recent weeks.
Some Republicans inside and outside Washington, along with the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have broken with many in their party to take a pro-green stance on the production tax credit (PTC) for wind projects. Wind operators say the 20-year-old subsidy allows them to compete with conventional fuels and supports thousands of jobs. It expires at the end of this year.
The American Wind Energy Association told InsideClimate News that federal support for wind has always been bipartisan, but Republicans are feeling pressure to speak out because of what's at stake. "Manufacturing jobs are on the line," said Ellen Carey, a spokesperson for the trade group. Lawmakers are "hearing from their constituencies who are employed in this industry."
If all goes as planned, more than a million ultra-clean cars will be zipping around California in the next decade, a 30-fold increase from today, thanks to tough new rules recently approved by state regulators.
It's not the first time the nation has set its sights on the million-mark for green vehicles. In 2009 President Obama pledged to put a million plug-in cars on U.S. roads by 2015.
But the president had no regulatory muscle to try to enforce his goal. And three years later there are fewer than 20,000 all-electric and plug-ins in the U.S., says Plug-In America, a San Francisco advocacy group.
Undaunted, California believes its clean car ambitions will be easily met because 12 of the world's leading carmakers helped craft its new rules and because the industry has six years to begin complying with them. The program is the first in the nation to regulate the kinds of vehicles to be sold in a state auto market.
Pressure has begun to build for President Obama to make good on his State of the Union pledge to greenlight vast solar installations on public lands by year's end, with supporters seemingly growing antsy that it's either that or nothing in 2012.
On Monday, about 20 solar industry advocates, electric utilities and major environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, urged Obama to formally put into effect rules for the country's first solar program on government-owned lands by this fall.
Architecture 2030, a building sector research and advocacy group, issued a report last week asserting that the greening of the U.S. building sector is on track to deliver far more energy savings than government officials predicted only a handful of years ago, with important implications for the country's energy and climate picture.
The report looked at data released without fanfare almost a year ago by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the analysis arm of the Department of Energy, which publishes projections for U.S. energy supply and demand each spring. Architecture 2030 compared EIA's 2005 and 2011 projections and found something that surprised them. The EIA had quietly, but dramatically, lowered long-term projections for energy use and carbon emissions from America's homes, office buildings and other commercial properties.
Energy consumption from buildings will increase by 14 percent from 2005 to 2030, the EIA said, down from the 44 percent spike it predicted seven years ago. Architecture 2030 says it amounts to eliminating the electricity output from 490 500-megawatt coal-fired plants over the same 25-year period.
The new projections mean Americans will save an additional $3.7 trillion on energy bills through 2030.
After decades of subsidizing fossil fuels, it's clean energy's turn to get bountiful federal support, President Obama said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
On this issue the president emphasized two goals. The first was to pass a federal clean energy standard to require utilities to buy a certain percentage of their electricity from cleaner sources by 2035; the second, to act on expiring tax credits and pass new ones, including a new $5 billion subsidy to prop up clean energy manufacturers.
The policies are meant to eliminate risk to private investors and accelerate the boom in renewable-power plant construction. Obama said they'll help "double-down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising."
But do the country's clean energy advocates, analysts and investors agree? InsideClimate News asked several leading U.S. players to weigh in on the president's policy choices.
How much political capital can Republican candidates and their aligned groups continue to squeeze out of Solyndra, the giant green stain on President Obama's first term?
It seems they're looking to find out, with a new ad campaign that aims to keep the failed clean energy investment in the forefront of voters' minds.
In response, Obama has tried to reframe the issue in the first T.V. spot of his re-election campaign, by redirecting the spotlight away from Solyndra on to what the president says are his job-creating clean energy policies.
The result of these dueling ad campaigns is a unique start to the 2012 campaign season, in which the clean energy economy has received top billing.
Chris Fox, co-director of policy programs at Ceres, a non-partisan coalition of investors and green groups, said the ads show deepening divisions between Republicans and Democrats on the question of whether clean energy can drive America's economic recovery.
"It's gotten to be such a partisan issue now, and we expect [the debate] to continue throughout the 2012 election season," he told InsideClimate News.
The battle of the ads began on Monday, when Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, launched a $6 million campaign to run one-minute spots on T.V. and social media sites attacking Obama for backing Solyndra, the California solar panel maker that received half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees before going belly-up in August.
A high-stakes legal battle is underway in California over whether the state's clean air agency can enforce a first-ever rule to slash carbon emissions in transportation fuels. The fight is being closely watched because the rule could choke global market demand for Alberta's carbon-intensive oil sands at a very precarious time for the industry.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration rejected a permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which could have increased imports of the fuel into the U.S. by up to 830,000 barrels a day. It was a major setback for the oil industry and its allies and an unexpected victory for environmentalists and their allies. The two sides are now facing each other down in this court case.
California's low-carbon fuel standard is the world's first attempt to require oil suppliers to slash the carbon footprint of their motor fuels, measured not just by emissions from tailpipes but across their full lifecycle, from extraction to combustion. Eleven Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and the European Union, are closely tracking California's case because they are working to adopt similar rules.
The state's influential Air Resources Board, or CARB, adopted the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 as part of its landmark global warming law, A.B. 32. The agency was supposed to begin enforcing the rule on Jan. 1, 2012. But oil companies, which say it unfairly penalizes high-carbon fuels like oil sands crude, have fought furiously to kill the standard. And on Dec. 29, a federal judge in Fresno, Calif., handed them a victory by ruling that CARB can't enforce the measure until an outstanding lawsuit by the oil industry and ethanol advocates is resolved in 2013.