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An interview with Rep. Jay Inslee, clean-energy champion from Washington state

David Roberts, Grist
Rep. Jay Inslee’s two central passions, clean energy and global warming, received scant attention during his last eight years in Congress. Now, after a power shift on Capitol Hill, he’s at the center of high-profile efforts to attack climate change and promote a new energy economy — not to mention get his colleagues up to speed on the issues.

The Democrat from Washington state’s first district, which encompasses suburbs north and west of Seattle, holds spots on two House committees that will play key roles in debates over how to tackle the climate crisis: the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, created this year by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Happily, he’s prepared. Inslee has focused on energy issues since the early 1970s and amassed a wonk’s expertise. This fall, he will release a book called Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy, about the challenges and opportunities facing America as it navigates the twin crises of global warming and peak oil.
(11 April 2007)

Gingrich Goes Green in Kerry Climate Debate

Richard Bell, Global Public Media
Tuesday’s debate on global warming between Senator John Kerry and semi-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich filled one of the most ornate rooms in the Senate Russell Office Building, but in the end, the event fizzled. (Full disclosure: I was the blogmaster for John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004).

Gingrich signaled that the fireworks were going to be damp in his very first remarks, when he held up a copy of This Moment on Earth, the newly issued book on environmental activism by John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Gingrich said he agreed with about 60% of the book, and especially liked the stories of individuals fighting against government bureaucrats to stop environmental abuses.

Gingrich rode to power by abusing government bureaucracy and high taxes, and he tried to stick to his old guns, using the word bureaucracy over and over again when he referred to proposals for a national cap-and-trade system, the system that has the most support from Democratic members of Congress, including Kerry.

… The old fire-breathing Newt just wasn’t there. Unlike some of the more rabid anti-climate change members of Congress like Republican Senator James Inhofe, Gingrich agrees that global warming is happening, that human activities are driving global warming, and that the nations of the world need to act quickly to forestall a damaging rise in global temperatures.

Having taken all the normal Republican bugbears off the table, Gingrich had little left to contest. Cap-and-trade though, in Gingrich’s estimation, was a prescription for a massive expansion of government power into every nook and cranny of the economy. In his opinion, what the country needed to deal with global warming was “a new science and technology-based entrepreneurial environmentalism.”

…One of the most telling, and most poignant, moments came when Kerry asked Gingrich what he had to say to his Republican colleagues like Senator James Inhofe, who continued to reject the science on global warming. (Inhofe has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Gingrich replied in a confessional tone:

There is sufficient science that we should move towards steps to remove CO2.It’s very challenging if you’re a conservative. For most of past 30 years, legislating [about the environment] has been a powerful tool for bigger government and higher taxes. Even though it may be the right thing to do, you end up fighting it because you don’t want bigger government and higher taxes. There needs to be a green conservatism.

(12 April 2007)
AP also covered the debate.

UPDATE: From the Telegram: Kerry backs focus on renewable energy

EPA stays course on ethanol

Zachary Coile, SF Chronicle
The Bush administration — a week after a rebuke by the Supreme Court for refusing to regulate greenhouse gases — insisted it would plow ahead with the president’s plans to boost ethanol production and ask Congress for more power to raise fuel economy standards.

The announcement fell well-short of the comprehensive steps that environmentalists, energy experts and many lawmakers say are needed to ease America’s dependence on oil and to combat climate change.

…Administration officials were seeking to drum up support for Bush’s “20-10” proposal — unveiled in his State of the Union speech in January — to reduce America’s use of gasoline by 20 percent over the next decade.

EPA officials said they would boost the amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels that refiners must blend into gasoline to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012, part of a mandate from Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Bush has set an ultimate target of 35 billion gallons by 2017.

Johnson said the new target would help farmers, increase America’s energy independence and protect the environment by cutting greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 13 million metric tons a year by 2012.

Critics said the announcement contained little that was new. Since Congress passed the ethanol mandate, the industry has grown so quickly it is already exceeding the yearly targets set by lawmakers — and sparking side effects such as raising the price of corn, which has helped Midwest corn farmers but hurt ranchers.

Environmentalists and energy experts questioned the administration’s efforts to pin its strategy for global warming and energy independence on ethanol. Scientists point out that corn-based ethanol produces a relatively small net energy gain — about 1.6 units of energy for every one unit of energy input, according to federal estimates.
(11 April 2007)

Governor likes LNG despite panel vote

Mark Martin, Chronicle
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger voiced his support for liquefied natural gas in California on Tuesday, a day after a state commission voted to deny an Australian company’s bid to build the state’s first liquefied natural gas terminal off the Ventura County coast.

Although Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and state Controller John Chiang were the deciding votes in a 2-1 decision against BHP Billiton, Schwarzenegger said he would continue reviewing the project and that “liquefied natural gas should be a part of California’s energy portfolio,” according to a statement he released after the end of the state Lands Commission meeting.

The meeting Monday marked what could be the first of many such decision-making hearings for public officials on LNG during the next few years, as three other proposals for California are being pursued by other energy companies.
(11 April 2007)

California governor exports his brand of ‘green’

Carla Marinucci, SF Chronicle
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who developed a powerhouse international career in action films and body building, now appears to be exporting a new Arnold product: a signature blend of California conservatism that has growing appeal to political leaders in other countries.

The governor’s distinct political recipe — melding bipartisanship, business sensibilities and a strong environmental message — is one reason he has been invited to address the 2007 conference of the British Conservative Party. The gathering of 10,000 in late September in Blackpool will be headed by Tory leader David Cameron, the dynamic young spokesman for the political opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The news of the invitation came in a week in which Schwarzenegger’s environmental credentials have been underscored on the national stage: He is featured on the covers of Outdoor and Newsweek magazines as an international “green” leader.
(11 April 2007)