“4 Ways Election Results Could Intensify U.S. Energy Battles” – National Geographic, 5 November 2014

After November’s midterm elections and the newly elected Republican majority in the both houses of Congress, President Obama might have a difficult time moving forward with his climate policy agenda. Now there’s a chance that Republicans will obstruct the EPA‘s funding so that it won’t be able to enact its proposed regulations of curbing power plants emissions. Meanwhile, we might get closer to authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and repealing our 1970s crude oil export ban. Only a few days before the elections, the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change issued another report with grave warnings about the effects of climate change.

One method that Republicans can employ to hinder the Obama administration is with a joint congressional resolution of disapproval, which asks for a majority vote in favor of blocking proposed regulations. However, in order to advance their own bills, Republicans need 60 votes to stop filibusters by Senate Democrats, or a two-thirds majority to quash any of Obama’s vetoes.

Though those odds might seem unlikely, the Republicans can still play a huge hand in climate policy and the energy debate by:

  1. Further Opposing the EPA‘s Power Plant Regulations
    Previously, climate activist and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; however, now the position will transfer to Republican Senator James Inhofe (OK), a staunch climate denier and author of the 2012 book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.That title itself says it all. Inhofe is staunchly again the idea that climate change is caused by human activity. So it’s reasonable to assume that his goal — along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — is to block funding for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, where the EPA’s goal is to reduce existing power plants’ emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

  2. Advancing the Keystone XL Pipeline
    Another one of McConnell’s targets is the Keystone XL Pipeline — he would do whatever possible to advance the project, including strategizing a plan that would make sure the legislation would end up on Obama’s desk. Obama would then have to either approve the pipeline or use his veto power.Obama is more likely to approve the pipeline if it has no impact on emissions; according to the State Department, Keystone will not increase emissions.
  3. Increasing Fossil Fuel Exports
    Republicans are now more motivated than ever to end the circa-1970s crude oil export ban that was authorized amid the Arab oil embargo. So far, the Department of Energy has already authorized a few projects that would allow the US to export natural gas, but Republicans would like to push more through.Many Republicans and those in the oil industry contend that exporting crude could push gas prices down even more. Environmentalists assert that repealing the ban might prompt the US to generate more oil, at the cost of the environment.
  4. Introducing a Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill
    Republican Senator Rob Portman (OH) and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH) have created a bipartisan bill that advocates for energy efficiency in many spheres, including residential, commercial, and federal buildings. The bill tried to get through the Senate in 2014, but was unable to because of the debate around Keystone. The bill will have another go, but might very well be blocked by Republicans who don’t support implementing rules that require stronger efficiency guidelines for appliances.

(From National Geographic)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 26, 2015

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“Obama vows drastic emissions cut, gets little back from China in new deal” – KCA News Info, 12 November 2014

Earlier this month, President Obama revealed that the US and China have been in secret talks about a climate accord between the two nations.

According to the agreement, the US’s new goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 26 percent and a maximum of 28 percent in the next 11 years. Obama’s new goal is now significantly higher; previously, he vowed that the US would reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

General Secretary Xi Jinping has set a much more open-ended goal for China: that the country’s emissions will climax by 2030, or conceivably earlier. Jinping also agreed that China will decrease its dependency on fossil fuels and seek out alternative energy sources. The number of coal-fired power plants has recently increased in China, which has vastly been contributing to China’s emissions. China releases 30 percent of the world’s emissions.

While the incoming Republican majority-held Congress will greatly dislike the new legislation — many view the plan as impossible and a detriment to jobs — environmentalists and many Democrats are supporting Obama’s decision. Obama’s plan, which will be the US’s offering at the 2015 Paris worldwide treaty, shows how assertive Obama is willing to be in the climate debate, using his legislation both as a tool to lessen the impact of climate change and push other nations to also provide ambitious goals for decreasing the effects of climate change.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 12, 2014

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The Washington Post’s “A Climate for Change”

The Washington Post announced that it is initiating a series of editorials, called “A Climate for Change,” urging a shift in the way climate change is spoken about and acted upon in the US.

In America, many still hold the paradoxical belief that climate change doesn’t exist, and/or there is nothing we can do about it, and use a number of reasons to justify their skepticism and distrust. While the general public often places the importance of the economy and jobs above the environment, Republicans contend that we can’t trust the science, curbing emissions will further injure our already-hurt economy, and the US won’t make an impact if China and India don’t also cut down on their emissions. Democrats who represent coal states don’t necessarily stand behind their party’s climate policy because it could damage their chances for reelection. Conversely, a number of environmentalists and Democrats push to win trivial conflicts, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Action on climate change has declined since President Obama arrived in the Oval Office in 2008. Obama has made climate change a key cornerstone of his agenda for both his terms, as did 2008 presidential hopeful John McCain. But when Obama took office in 2008, the Republicans simultaneously took a fierce opposition to his climate policy, forcing Obama to enact his Climate Action Plan through executive order.

Now the world desperately needs us to rethink how we deal with climate change. Sea levels, temperatures, and the likelihood of natural disasters are rapidly rising, all of which will impact every corner of the earth. As the Washington Post points out, Obama and the EPA might not even be doing enough to counteract the effects of climate change. The US should be a leader in introducing new climate change policy, which will hopefully spur other nations to follow suit.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 25, 2014

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“California’s Cap-and-Trade Revolt” – Wall Street Journal, 30 June 2014

While West Virginia and Kentucky Democrats are bucking Obama’s climate policy, California Democrats are also fighting similar policy in California, the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is directly effecting the poorest Californians.

Recently, 16 of members of California’s Democratic Assembly wrote a letter to the California Air Resources Board, encouraging the board to revise or postpone California’s cap-and-trade program. The program calls for big manufacturers and power plants to adhere to a state-ordered carbon cap by buying carbon permits or limiting emissions. Transportation fuel suppliers will also have to acquiesce to permits in 2015.

via SF Public Press

via SF Public Press

Assembly Democrats’ minds are on gas prices, which could surge anywhere from 15 to 40 cents per gallon. California has the highest gas prices in the country, in large part due to fuel blending obligations and taxes. In 2012, the Boston Consulting Group anticipated that gas prices would rise anywhere between $0.49 and $1.83 per gallon by 2020. While the program’s objectives are pure—boosting gas prices is supposed to persuade people to drive less, carpool, or purchase electric cars—California’s cap-and-trade is invariably hurting those who cannot afford it. A majority of the 16 Democratic Assembly Members represent minorities and low-income populations.

The Air Resources Board maintains that the objective of the program isn’t to finance new state governmental programs, though California’s 2014 budget does allocate $250 million from carbon permit auctions, as well as 25 percent of future yields, to fund a high-speed rail. The auctions will bring in anywhere between $12 billion to $45 billion by 2020.

Assembly Democrats are in agreement with the California Chamber of Commerce, which is suing the Air Resources Board to invalidate California’s program.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 30, 2014

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