Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘U.S. Energy Policy’ tag

Energy and Climate Change Discussions in Congress

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As Obama said during his campaign, and as this article reiterates, it’s preferable for Congress to take some sort of stand on a comprehensive energy policy. But if they’re not going to do it, the White House should use it’s tools to make something happen.

A buddy and I were just talking about this same set of policy decisions, drawing a parallel with how the last few weeks have impacted doing business in Egypt. Stick with me for a minute.

Corporate leaders around the world are eager to see who’s going to be in charge of Egypt, Africa’s largest economy, and an important leader in the Arab world. Of course this transition can’t be rushed, but investment will be withheld until there’s some certainty.

Good, bad, or indifferent, businesses will formulate their strategy based in large part on the policy environment in this important country.

Similarly, companies in the U.S. will make decisions regarding manufacturing practices, their vehicle fleets and transportation, and other, energy-intensive aspects of their business based in part on the policies about which our Congress continues to debate, without substantive action. Another article from the recent issue of The Economist discusses the influence of policy on energy prices as well as the trouble with policy uncertainty.

How many U.S. presidents, of both parties, have discussed the need for a comprehensive federal energy policy? I’m too tired to find the exact number, but it’s at least two. Thankfully, the article below is well researched and clearly delineates the desire on the part of several levels of government, including the present administration and the last one, as well as the call from business leaders to provide a decision on energy policy.

Plenty has already been written on this site about the need for balancing the objective of domestic, renewable energy, with economic realities, so rather than than pontificate about what SHOULD be done, I’ll just say that SOMETHING has to be done.

Congress, I know you’re busy, but this is important. If it’s only votes you’re after, figure out a way to win votes by making a decision. Dithering rarely wins the hearts and minds of voters.

Good, bad, or indifferent, whether you’re going to continue with the status quo by favoring imported fossil fuels; decide this is not a matter for the federal government and tell states they should formulate their policies independently; forge ahead with a more progressive policy that encourages research, development, and gradual implementation of domestic energy resources; or do something entirely different, please, just do something.

Grilling Lisa Jackson is a very small step. Take more steps. Soon.

Heated but hollow

Congress embarks on a rhetorical debate about greenhouse gases

Feb 10th 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | From The Economist print edition

 Grilling Ms Jackson

WHILE campaigning to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives, Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, vowed that he would grill Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in front of his committee so often that she would need her own parking space on Capitol Hill. On February 9th Ms Jackson submitted to her first interrogation, about one of the Republican Party’s pet peeves: the EPA’s plan to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and factories by decree.

That plan has been a long time in the making. During the administration of George Bush junior several states, frustrated by the administration’s refusal to address global warming, sued the EPA. They argued that it was required to use its powers under the Clean Air Act, a law from the 1960s aimed first at smog and later acid rain, to declare carbon dioxide a threat to the environment and public health and regulate it accordingly. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which decided in 2007 that the EPA did indeed have the authority to do this. But the Bush administration, which maintained that restrictions on emissions would raise the price of energy and so hurt the economy while doing little to help the climate, managed to prevaricate for almost two years before passing the buck to Barack Obama and Ms Jackson.

Read the entire article here.

UNICA Continues Pressure on U.S. to Drop Ethanol Tariff

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To listen to UNICA, the powerful voice of Brazil’s sugarcane and ethanol industry, you’d think the U.S. tariff on imported ethanol would be gone by the end of the week. I don’t see that happening, and definitely don’t think an all-at-once elimination would be good for Brazil.

Ethanol accounts for half of their transportation fuel by volume (slightly less on an energy content basis), and if the U.S. tariff were eliminated, Brazilian producers would likely sell a huge portion of their ethanol to U.S. buyers, forcing Brazilian drivers to pay higher prices, or, more likely, revert to far more gasoline. This could jeopardize Brazil’s energy independence and would impact their balance of trade, though probably only slightly.

Additionally, just as UNICA and the studies they cite may sound certain that this tariff of US$0.54 per gallon is terrible for American drivers, its elimination would not hurt corn farmers, and so is soon to be history, U.S. corn farmers and our ethanol industry, led by Growth Energy, the U.S. counterpart to UNICA, are equally sure that government support is necessary and here to stay.

Let me be clear that I am not a fan of corn ethanol. I have become much more encouraged about cellulosic and other technologies on the near horizon, but still believe that corn is produced irresponsibly and at great harm to ecological, human, and even bovine health. I don’t blame farmers for this, as they are working within a system that rewards growing corn without taking into account the negative externalities.

All this said, the best scenario would likely be reducing the tariff on U.S. importation of Brazilian ethanol to meet the “advanced biofuels” mandates laid out in George Bush’s Renewable Fuels Standards, as allowed by the recent EPA findings in the RFS2 decision in February. This would gradually increase Brazilian ethanol’s presence in the U.S., while also encouraging the much needed move to second and third generation biofuels technologies, reducing our dependence on imported oil and increasing our energy independence and security.

Any of this, of course, must be done in concert with vastly increased efforts towards energy efficiency, driving less, more efficient vehicles, etc.

Here are a few of the pieces from UNICA…

Scholars call for phase-out of U.S. ethanol tariff at Wilson Center seminar

(left to right) Joel Velasco, Alexandros Petersen, Paulo Sotero,
Robbin Johnson and C. Ford Runge

An open and globalized biofuels market is essential to promote greater efficiency and competitiveness, and phasing out the US$0,54 per gallon tariff imposed by the United States on imported ethanol would be a key step in the right direction. The recommendation came from two University of Minnesota scholars during the “Biofuels: Food, Fuel, and the Future?” panel, organized by the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C, on Friday, July 23.

Read the entire article here.

And a second piece, citing the study from the University of Iowa:

Universidade americana vê ganhos para consumidores com fim de tarifa sobre etanol importado

Em meio a um debate aquecido e ganhando cada vez mais visibilidade nos Estados Unidos, um estudo divulgado na terça-feira (20/07) por um renomado economista agrícola do meio-oeste americano está desafiando conclusões catastróficas, geralmente disseminadas por grupos de lobby do etanol de milho, sobre o que poderia acontecer se a atual tarifa de US$0,54 por galão (3,78 litros) imposta ao etanol importado expirar no final deste ano como planejado. O estudo, realizado por Bruce Babcock, chefe do Centro de Agricultura e Desenvolvimento Rural (CARD em inglês) da Universidade do Estado de Iowa, apresenta um cenário bem diferente.

Read the entire article here.

And the University of Iowa study to which they are referring:

CARD Study Shows U.S. Ethanol Production and Corn Demand Will Grow With or Without Subsidy and Tariff

Bruce A. Babcock ; babcock@iastate.edu
Sandy Clarke; sclarke@iastate.edu

July 20, 2010

America’s growing interest in renewable fuels has spurred a robust discussion about the pros and cons of continuing or changing current U.S. federal government ethanol policies, specifically, (1) mandates to increase the use of renewable fuels like ethanol from approximately 13 billion gallons today to 36 billion gallons by 2022, (2) a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for “blenders” who add ethanol to gasoline, and (3) a 54-cent-per-gallon tariff, which increases the price of foreign imports.

Read the entire article here.

Senate Democrats forced to accept much slimmer energy bill

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This bill is a fraction of what Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman had proposed earlier this year, which may not be a terrible development.

The funding for natural gas-powered cars, a la T. Boone Pickens, could help build energy independence, but the necessary changes in infrastructure and vehicle fleet mean this will be a slow process.

What is very disappointing about this bill is the paltry attention paid to energy efficiency, which seems such a no-brainer, and one that should transcend party politics. The $5 billion on home energy efficiency is a start, but home energy consumption pales in comparison to industrial energy or energy for transportation.

Clearly, whether or not this bill passes next week nothing more will be done before elections, but early next year could see a much larger bill drafted with much greater bipartisan efforts as Republicans cut into or even overturn the Democratic majority in Congress.

It’s still a fascinating time to be working on energy issues, even if that fascination is drawn out over months and years of political bureaucracy.

Without enough votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been forced to abandon a comprehensive energy bill. Gone is any tough climate provision. Will the House buy it?

By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / July 24, 2010

The US Senate late Friday was poised to move ahead with a vastly slimmed down energy bill, minus the much fought-over climate provision that would have capped carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions – in addition to boosting renewable energy.


What it apparently will include, he and others say is:

• An oil spill title based on the Senate Energy Committee’s Outer Continental Shelf Reform Act. It also includes a provision raising the liability cap for oil companies under the Oil Pollution Act – up to $10 billion from $75 million currently.

• A $5 billion home efficiency incentives package to encourage retrofits called HomeStar.

• Natural gas vehicle incentives of about $4.1 billion.

• Expanded land and water conservation.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

July 25th, 2010 at 7:54 am

CBO says energy bill would cut deficit by $19B

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I’m not necessarily convinced by the numbers presented by the CBO or Congress. Teaching statistics gives great insight as to how complex models can be manipulated, often with the most ethical of intentions and methods, to present very different pictures.

It is still entirely plausible to me, however, that investing in domestic, clean, renewable energy can be extremely positive for the U.S.

8 Jul, 2010
9:16am, EDT

“Senator John F. Kerry’s signature energy and climate change legislation would cut the deficit by $19 billion, according to an estimate released yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office,” the Boston Globe reports. “The legislation faces strong opposition from Republicans and some Democrats from energy-producing states, but the report gives the Massachusetts Democrat and his allies a compelling financial argument amid concerns about the implications of a burgeoning deficit.”

Read the entire article here.

Senate Tentatively Moving Forward with Energy Bill

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For many reasons, it would be important to have Republicans at the table for these discussions, only one of which being the votes needed to pass a bill. With oil continuing to gush into the Gulf, maybe the U.S. public can weigh in on this important issue and convince law makers that we need to put the process in motion to achieve energy independence within the next two decades.

This would of course include much more use of natural gas, more domestic drilling, more nuclear power plants, and market based incentives to encourage research and development and increased use of energy from renewable sources. Most important of course would be increasing energy efficiency.

Even with government and citizen support, it’s difficult to see how this legislation could be passed before the August recess or even this fall’s elections, but it will be interesting to watch the discussions.

Senate Democrats poised to start energy bill

Legislation could include a carbon cap on utility companies. Many Democrats hope a summer discussion on energy will establish a strong contrast with Republicans before this fall’s election.

FeinsteinFrom left, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.); Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ; and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar speak before a subcommittee hearing on Minerals Management Service reorganization. (Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images / June 23, 2010)
By Lisa Mascaro and Richard Simon Tribune Washington Bureau
Reporting from Washington —
With the gulf oil spill creating political opportunity, Senate Democrats will begin crafting a sweeping energy bill this week that could include a first-ever, though more modest, cap on global-warming pollution, believing they must act now despite differences within their ranks and political jitters in an election year.
Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

June 27th, 2010 at 8:35 am

Lieberman encouraged that energy bill will be on track

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This comes as only somewhat of a relief after yesterday’s news that tripartisan talks on the energy bill had broken down the day before a draft of the legislation was to be released. I say “only somewhat” because saying it may be done “this year” is a far cry from previous estimates that it would be done in the next couple of months.

The reason I see the energy bill as so important is not because I’m hoping for one set of policies or another. Yes, I have my preferences, but it seems all of industry is waiting to hear what’s in this bill so they can plan their energy use and investment strategies accordingly. Clearly, however it shakes out in the particulars, this bill will demand at least some changes in energy use on the part of business, government, and regular citizens.

This does not necessarily put us solely in the reactive position, as many stakeholders have been proactively engaged, from regular voters voicing concerns to elected officials, to industry, to utilities, and to  oil, coal,  gas, and alternative energy providers.

The sooner the politicians enact the voices of the people who’ve spoken and release this bill, the sooner we can move forward.

WASHINGTON — A day after bipartisan support for an energy and climate change bill appeared to crumble, a Senate sponsor said yesterday he was optimistic the coalition would regroup and lawmakers would consider the measure this year.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said that he was encouraged after talking to Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who were at odds over Reid’s suggestion that an immigration overhaul might be considered before the energy bill.

Read the entire article here.

Five myths about green energy

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Mr. Bryce raises several very important points here. While some of his numbers may be debatable, the fact that some of the technologies we often paint with a green brush have some rather unsightly flaws beneath the veneer.

Energy storage technology that does not rely on rare materials, metals and others that are not only rare but highly toxic, is a major hurdle that will have to be overcome. Efficiencies of solar and wind will need substantial improvement if they are to grow beyond the 1-2% of U.S. energy they currently supply.

These and many other factors lead me to call for an energy strategy that relies first on increased energy efficiency–using less energy reduces costs, exposure to risk, and environmental damages associated with ALL energy resources–and then on further, market-led development of a wide variety of energy technologies.

By Robert Bryce

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Americans are being inundated with claims about renewable and alternative energy. Advocates for these technologies say that if we jettison fossil fuels, we’ll breathe easier, stop global warming and revolutionize our economy. Yes, “green” energy has great emotional and political appeal. But before we wrap all our hopes — and subsidies — in it, let’s take a hard look at some common misconceptions about what “green” means.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 25th, 2010 at 9:39 am

Posted in Efficiency,Policy,Renewables,The Economy,The Environment,U.S.

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Sen. Graham walks away from climate and energy bill

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It has been so encouraging to see Graham (R), Kerry (D), and Lieberman (I), work on this bill together, not just because a comprehensive energy bill is so important to our country, but also because, at a time when our country is so terribly divided, their tri-partisan efforts have been a welcome bright spot in an otherwise dim Congress.

Hopefully they can resolve their differences and get back to work quickly.

UPDATED: 6:30 p.m.

By Juliet Eilperin

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) abandoned his effort to push a climate and energy bill Saturday, saying he would continue only if Democratic leaders promise to relinquish plans to bring up immigration legislation first.

Graham’s departure likely dooms any chance of passing a climate bill this year. He is the sole Republican working with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) on a compromise proposal that they had planned to unveil Monday.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 25th, 2010 at 9:21 am

Posted in Agriculture,Bioenergy,Efficiency,Nuclear Energy,Petroleum,Policy,Renewables,Smart Grid Technology,The Economy,The Environment,Traditional Energy Resources,Transportation,U.S.

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Circling the wagons, the firing squads and the arguments: ethanol wars explode in print, TV

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Among many interesting topics to be discussed here is that UNICA is targeting more progressive outlets with their ads. While it’s fairly clear why progressives may not fall in line with big business in the corn belt, it’s not clear to me that they’ll be very excited about sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, given the rather negative press it’s sometimes received. This isn’t to say that that negative press is true, I’m just curious what more folks think.

Who's on which side, now?

The US corn ethanol industry has been up against it lately. For one, the meat and dairy industries have abandoned their alliance with corn for a partnership with environmentalists,. A second front opened when Brazilian and US ethanol interests split over the ethanol tariff.

The ethanol cold war developed into a hot one this week when television and print advertising campaigns debuted both from Brazil’s UNICA and the US-based Growth Energy.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Ken Green told the New York Times that there’s no mystery in the timing. “Senator Kerry is now saying that they’re going to have an energy bill in the next three weeks. [The ethanol lobbies] want to turn up the heat on what’s in this new energy bill and how it treats ethanol.”


The UNICA ads will appear, at least through this month, in Roll Call, National Journal, Congressional Quarterly and the website Politico, and will also feature a sponsorship campaign on public radio and the debut of a new sweeteralternative.com website. Total UNICA ad buys are “less than one-tenth” of the Growth Energy budget, according to UNICA’s estimate as quoted in the Times report.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 21st, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Agriculture,Bioenergy,Brazil,International,Policy,Renewables,The Economy,The Environment,U.S.

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Is It Worth the Investment for Energy Independence?

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Is it worth the investment to have energy independence and more renewable energy?

Optimism for a clean energy future

By MAGGIE L. FOX | 4/20/10 10:47 AM EDT

Read the entire article here.

But the good news is that, behind all the daily political turmoil, the Senate is working on an agreement to forge a new energy future that will help our economy, promote energy independence and give us millions of new jobs.

Written by Jason

April 21st, 2010 at 8:34 am

Posted in Bioenergy,Efficiency,Nuclear Energy,Petroleum,Policy,Renewables,Smart Grid Technology,The Economy,The Environment,Traditional Energy Resources,Transportation,U.S.

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