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United States & Canada - Feb 27

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U.S. Congress Begins Talks On Energy Bill

Ben Block, WorldChanging
Just days after U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a gift to the renewable energy industry - a multi-billion-dollar stimulus package - leaders in both Congress and the Administration discussed plans Monday for an energy bill that would greatly expand clean energy capacity.

Renewable energy projects spread quickly across the United States last year before economic recession brought many plans to a halt. But the country needs much more than an economic stimulus to fulfill Obama's goal of providing 25 percent of U.S. energy needs with clean energy by 2025, according to a panel of political experts.

The newly announced measures include a national "smart grid" electricity transmission system and a national renewable energy portfolio standard, Congressional leaders said at the National Clean Energy Project event in Washington, D.C., organized by the Center for American Progress.

"The one single most efficient, job-creating, economy-stimulating measure," former Vice President Al Gore said, "is this national unified smart grid."
(25 February 2009)



Let the Clean Energy Revolution Begin

Ted Glick, ZSpace
... In other words, there is much evidence to indicate that, right now, the Democratic Party Congressional leadership, and perhaps the White House, has decided to "go wobbly" on the critical and urgent issue of climate change. Or, being charitable, perhaps they've been distracted by the battle over the economic stimulus package and now that that fight is over, they may soon come to realize the necessity of moving expeditiously in both houses of Congress to put a steadily declining cap and a rising price on carbon emissions.

There is no question but that there are practical difficulties in getting the needed 60 votes to get such legislation through the U.S. Senate, and it's not just because of the fossil (fuel) mentality of the vast majority of Republican Senators. It's also because of the unreliability of the 15 or so Democratic Senators, most of them from states where coal or oil extraction are major industries, who are by no means prepared to vote the right way on this issue. There are also problems in the House with similarly problematic House members.

This is why it is soooooooo good that Power Shift 09 (http://www.powershift09.org) and the Capitol Climate Action (http://www.capitolclimateaction.org) are taking place over the weekend of Feb. 27 to March 2 in Washington, D.C.
(26 February 2009)



The Climate Change Lobby Explosion

Marianne Lavelle, Center for Public Integrity
... But while the Obama team readies to take on the global warming challenge, the special interests that seek to derail, blunt, or tailor any new climate policy to their narrow agendas have already gathered in staggering numbers. A Center for Public Integrity analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms shows that more than 770 companies and interest groups hired an estimated 2,340 lobbyists to influence federal policy on climate change in the past year, as the issue gathered momentum and came to a vote on Capitol Hill. That’s an increase of more than 300 percent in the number of lobbyists on climate change in just five years, and means that Washington can now boast more than four climate lobbyists for every member of Congress. It also means that 15 percent of all Washington lobbyists spent at least some of their time on global warming in 2008, based on a tally of the total number of influence-peddlers on Capitol Hill by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Based on the data, the Center estimates that lobbying expenditures on climate change last year topped $90 million. About 130 businesses and interest groups spent more than $23.5 million on lobbying teams solely focused on climate, but that vastly understates the money devoted to the effort. More than 95 percent of climate lobbyists work on other issues such as tax and health care for their clients as well, and they don’t have to report how much they’re being paid on global warming specifically. But even if just 10 percent of their time last year was spent on climate, that would add nearly $70 million to the grand total spent lobbying on climate in 2008 and push expenditures past $90 million.
(24 February 2009)
Marianne Lavelle was a journalist for US News & World Report and has contributed to Energy Bulletin.

Related: Lobbyists Flock to Climate Issue (Andrew C. Revkin, blog, NYT)
New report shows explosive growth in climate change lobby (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
-BA



Administration blocks more Bush-era oil shale development leases

Jim Tankersley and Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times
The Interior Department on Wednesday blocked a Bush administration plan to open parts of the Mountain West for oil shale development, announcing that it would first study the water, power and land-use issues that complicate one of the nation's most abundant but controversial untapped sources of energy.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar canceled shale development leases on federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming and launched a second round of leases in the region limited to research purposes. In doing so, he rebuked what he called former President George W. Bush's "headlong rush" to begin development.

"Those who have fantasized that oil shale is a panacea for America's energy needs have been living in a fantasy land," he said.
(26 February 2009)
And yet: Obama Administration Restarts Oil Shale Leasing in Colorado, Utah.

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