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United States - June 4

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Technology seen key to oil sands: Chu

Reuters
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Monday he believes technology can solve environmental problems associated with Canada's oil sands and that the huge nearby resource contributes to U.S. energy security.

Chu told the Reuters Global Energy Summit that the balance between the environmental impact from the huge energy resource in northern Alberta and its importance to U.S. energy supply is a complicated one that will require solutions from the industry.

Environmental groups have mounted major campaigns to get the message out to Americans that the expansion of Canada's oil sands industry threatens to intensify global warming, deforestation and damage to water resources.

"It's a complicated issue, because certainly Canada is a close and trusted neighbor and the oil from Canada has all sorts of good things. But there is this environmental concern, so I think we're going to have to work our way through that," he said. "But I'm a big believer in technology."
(1 June 2009)



Waxman Irks Allies by Bargaining With Companies on Climate Bill

Lorraine Woellert, Bloomberg
Representative Henry Waxman has taken on everyone from drugmakers to the tobacco lobby in three decades in Congress. Now, leading the most comprehensive U.S. effort yet on global warming, he’s clashing with close allies.

Waxman, who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee, drew criticism from Greenpeace and other environmental groups last month when he pushed a bill through his panel to cap greenhouse-gas emissions and create a system to trade pollution permits. They said he conceded too much to businesses such as Duke Energy Corp., and they will seek to revamp the measure before it goes to the full House for a vote.

... he must strike a balance between environmental and economic needs to maintain the support he has worked for months to build. This week, he began the process of shepherding the bill through as many as eight more committees, off the House floor and into the Senate, where a bill addressing climate change stalled last year.

Doling Out Permits

Waxman won a 33-25 vote on May 21 to advance the climate bill through the energy committee. He lowered environmental targets and doled out billions of dollars in free pollution permits until he had the votes of lawmakers such as Rick Boucher, a Democrat of coal-rich Virginia, and John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan.

The main beneficiaries of the strategy were coal-fired power companies such as Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke, heavy manufacturers like New York-based Alcoa Inc., and automakers including Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co.

That angered Greenpeace, Environment America and other groups, which charged Waxman with abandoning principles for pragmatism. Consumer watchdog Public Citizen labeled the bill “a huge disappointment” and a “boon” to energy industries.
(3 June 2009)



Climate Bill Earmarks $500M for Clean Coal

David Sassoon, SolveClimate
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has been trying for the past year to get Congress to set up an independent corporation dedicated to clean coal development. He introduced the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act (HR 6258), which provoked some hearings in 2008, but it went nowhere and died. So this spring he reintroduced the bill, virtually unchanged (HR 1689).

What happened next is further proof of the enormous leverage Boucher wields as a coal state Democrat in shaping national climate legislation.

His bill was incorporated wholesale as pages 52-75 into the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), the climate bill Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey are shepherding through the House.

It fills section 114 of the Clean Energy Title of the Waxman-Markey bill, and it is a giant gift to the utility industry. It would create the Carbon Storage Research Corporation and funnel $10 billion to support the corporation over the next 10 years, with up to $500 million designated simply for "administrative expenses" to be spent at the discretion of its officers.

The most curious part is where all that money is going to come from. The answer: from every ratepayer who uses electricity, in the form of an almost invisible tax that would average 50-cents-a-month, conveniently referred to as an "assessment."

Republican opponents of climate legislation have been telling the public that a cap-and-trade bill would impose a "light switch tax." It was a witty and effective slogan used to scare voters during a recession.

The political irony is that Boucher, together with 20 co-sponsors including Republican climate-bashing Reps. Joe Barton and John Shimkus, have imposed a light switch tax of their own, with 100% of the proceeds earmarked as an enormous hunk of pork for coal-fired utilities.
(2 June 2009)

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