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House Energy Cmte: RES Yes

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As V recently summarized, the Minnesota House Energy Committee has passed the same Renewable Energy Standard bill as the Senate did recently. I summarized much of the RES testimony here.

Listen to the committee hearings via MP3 - look for Mon, Feb 12. You can also find the video archive here.

As Representative Peterson (author of the bill) noted, this will be the most aggressive RES in the country for states with comparable energy markets - meaning pretty much everyone but California. Once the whole House approves this and Governor Pawlenty signs it, it will require all Minnesota utilities except Xcel to generate 25% of their electricity from eligible renewable sources by 2025. Xcel Energy will generate 30% by 2020.

Before the committee dealt with the actual bill, Chairman Hilty indulged a private citizen by the name of Don Dane to some loony testimony. I'm new to this, but if there is a Committee Chair more indulgent than Chair Hilty, I sure would not want to sit in on it.

Don Dane, retired mechanical engineer generally proclaimed his scientific ignorance (for which he was later commended by Representative Beard). As V noted, he proclaimed coal to be an alternative energy that could supply the whole world with $.50 per gallon gas for hundreds of years. An added benefit of this strategy is that we would put the Middle East countries out of business and stop terrorism! w00t.

As a commenter to V's post noted, his testimony appears to have been inspired by the work of Fred Singer and Dennis Avery. They have a book entitled Global Warming Every 1500 Years that appears to be well-regarded among climate change flat-earthers.

The Real Climate blog discussed this line of reasoning a few months ago.

The existence of climate changes in the past is not news to the climate change scientific community; there is a whole chapter about it in the upcoming IPCC Scientific Assessment. Nor do past, natural variations in climate negate the global warming forecast. Most past climate changes, like the glacial interglacial cycle, can be explained based on changes in solar heating and greenhouse gases, but the warming in the last few decades cannot be explained without the impact of human-released greenhouse gases. Avery was very careful to crop his temperature plots at 1985, rather than show the data to 2005.

Perhaps the best point is this:

Natural and human-induced climate changes both exist. Studying one does not imply disbelief in the other.

One of the other Don Dane points is that the carbon accumulation in the atmosphere does not correspond exactly to temperature changes. Carbon dioxide accumulation at times follows temperature increases. Real Climate dealt with that question here.

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data.

Representative Beard seized upon his testimony to question the "fad" of global warming and misconstrue the testimony of Betsy Engelking from Xcel Energy. He claimed that for "every kilowatt of wind you build, ya gotta have something to back it up." This is not true though you do have to have some backup ready and this is one of the functions of MISO.

He suggests that low wind availability several weeks ago caused the tightness in the spare capacity on those cold days when utilities asked people to reduce consumption. Engelking had testified that the shortage was due to both planned and unplanned outages in other facilities (both coal, I believe). His concerns about wind are overblown and his attention to detail quite poor.

He wraps up with: "In about six or seven years, this fad too shall pass and we'll be on to something else."

Representative Peterson noted that this is not a fad and noted the testimony of experts in the previous weeks. I get a kick out of Representative Magnus' attempts to equate the testimony of a retired mechanical engineer who read a book with people who have spent decades studying climate.

I am not an expert in climate issues nor mechanical engineering but if I stood before a House Committee to testify about building codes in skyscrapers because I read a Petroski book, I hope they would laugh at me.

On to the amendments! Note that Peterson wanted no amendments so they could pass the bill using the same language as the Senate and avoid the delay of a conference committee to work out the changes.

Representative Westrom introduced several amendments relating to C-BED and other issues but they were all shot down. He later discussed his desire to extend the University's IREE (Initiative on Renewable Energy and the Environment) funding from 2008 to 2020 with an increase. 3 cheers for that!

Representative Magnus passed out some research from the Republican Caucus in which he noted his concerns regarding the validity of the background information they were using to put the bill together. He again misrepresented the testimony of Michael Noble about Minnesota "falling behind." Noble was very clear that our REO is in the middle of the pack for its aggressiveness but that Minnesota's installed wind capacity is 4th in the country.

Magnus then stated his concern that Minnesota needed a comprehensive long range plan. He is concerned about doing this on a piecemeal basis and putting off C-BED (community development) and CIP programs (conservation and efficiency) until later because time has a habit of running out unexpectedly.

In the end, it all came down to a voice vote and it sounded like only a single person said no. The bill now goes to the Ways and Means Committee.