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Senate Energy Committee Clip

Last week, Elizabeth Wilson from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and Brenda Ekwurzel from the Union of Concerned Scientists gave testimony to the Minnesota Senate Energy Committee on S.F. 192 - Senator Anderson's global climate change bill. The bill institutes a greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program on the electricity generation sector. Full disclosure: Wilson is my advisor at the HHH Institute.

There is a 20 minute audio segment (18 MB MP3) that I found particularly interesting. It starts with Wilson's comments about energy issues - slides are available here - and continues during some questions posed by the Senators.

This discussion deals with many of the issues that have come up over the hours of discussion about climate change legislation. Currently, the committee is moving beyond the climate change bills while it convenes stakeholder groups to discuss potential compromises.

Ban Bulb Bans

After recent announcements that both California and Australia are considering bans of incandescent light bulbs, a Slashdot post suggests GE has made them more efficient. The press release has more information.

The new high efficiency incandescent (HEI™) lamp, which incorporates innovative new materials being developed in partnership by GE’s Lighting division, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and GE’s Global Research Center, headquartered in Niskayuna, NY, would replace traditional 40- to 100-Watt household incandescent light bulbs, the most popular lamp type used by consumers today. The new technology could be expanded to all other incandescent types as well. The target for these bulbs at initial production is to be nearly twice as efficient, at 30 lumens-per-Watt, as current incandescent bulbs. Ultimately the high efficiency lamp (HEI) technology is expected to be about four times as efficient as current incandescent bulbs and comparable to CFL bulbs. Adoption of new technology could lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 40 million tons of CO2 in the U.S. and up to 50 million tons in the EU if the entire installed base of traditional incandescent bulbs was replaced with HEI lamps.

Kevin Nolan, Vice President of Technology for GE Consumer & Industrial, said: "In addition to offering significant energy savings comparable to CFLs, the 21st century version of Edison’s bulb provides all the desirable benefits including light quality and instant-on convenience as incandescent lamps currently provide at a price that will be less than CFLs. We and other lighting manufacturers have been aggressive in developing and marketing CFLs. But consumers want more options and we plan to respond to their needs and deliver environmental benefits, too. It’s important that we offer consumers a full range of products that meet their personal desire to reduce their negative impact on the environment while preserving their ability to pick the best lighting product for their needs. That’s why we are moving aggressively to commercialize these new lamps."

Notice that the new bulbs are still not as efficient as CFLs but may be if GE's predictions are accurate. This is yet another sign that outright bans of incandescents are a poor policy choice. A good policy choice would likely be regulating an efficiency in light bulbs - perhaps a minimum of x lumens per Watt. Another possibility is taxing bulbs that fall below some line.

Outlawing such lights outright is foolish because it is not the most efficient way to reduce GHG emissions without dampening the public's enthusiasm for positive changes.

Market and Coal

In a sign that the market is increasingly moving against coal and other technologies responsible for high Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, TXU is being bought out and its plans to build many more coal plants have been scaled back. TXU is an energy company that serves 2.5 million customers in Texas.

If the investors succeeded in taking over TXU, Mr. Reilly said, they would commit themselves to scale back significantly on TXU’s plan to build 11 new coal plants and adhere to a strict set of environmental rules.

I have not been following this story closely, but I take it to be good news that a company looking to build more coal plants was punished by the market.

Within TXU, the controversial plan to build a raft of coal plants had become so damaging to its stock price that its board had been privately weighing a plan to scrap part of the project, said people involved in the talks, bringing the number of new plants to 5 or 6 from 11. Shareholders had sent the stock on a roller coaster ride from more than $67 a share to as low as about $53 over concerns about the risk and vast expenditure; the stock closed at $60.02 on Friday.

The article is not totally clear, but it appears that TXU will still build three coal plants and cancel plans for the other eight. Of the three plants still going forward, at least one is being fought by locals and may not be approved. As of now, this action does not seem to have impacted other utilities who still want to invest in coal facilities.

As for where TXU is going, this seems like a good start.

The group, which included Mr. Reilly, Mr. Bonderman and Frederick Goltz of Kohlberg Kravis, worked out a "10-point plan" that included a commitment by the investors to return the carbon-dioxide emissions by TXU to 1990 levels by 2020 and support a $400 million energy efficiency program.

Though I am thrilled to see the market acting on signals from people and government actions (signals pointing to a rising price to emit GHGs), we still have a lot of work to do to make government policies correctly inform the market and line up the incentives correctly.

A Mighty Wind

The 2007 February issue of Outside featured a fun read on one small Danish island's efforts to be energy independent. People reading this site will probably find little surprising in the article, but it is a fun weekend read.

Geopolitics also played a part. In 1973, OPEC imposed an oil embargo against the U.S. and the Netherlands for supporting Israel's war against Syria and Egypt, and nearly quadrupled the price of petroleum for everyone else. The U.S. at the time imported about 35 percent of its oil; Denmark imported more than 90 percent. Keenly aware of their vulnerability, the Danes spent the next 30 years figuring out how to secure an energy-independent future, all without nuclear power, which parliament outlawed in 1982.

Now, remarkably, Denmark is about 150 percent self-sufficient. A net exporter of energy—most of it oil and natural gas from the North Sea—it also sells wind power to it neighbors.

The American response to the embargo, by comparison, was more of a cheap-oil-is-our-birthright hissy fit. In the late 1970s and early '80s, to be fair, the U.S. launched some serious alternative-energy schemes, complete with tax credits and federal funding for renewables, and for a brief moment California actually became the king of wind power. Then, during the Reagan era, federal and state subsidies expired, making it impossible for wind and solar to compete with oil and coal. Today, the U.S. imports nearly double the oil that it did in 1973—or about 60 percent of what it consumes. Wind power makes up less than 1 percent of the American electricity pie.

Ethanol and Coal

Given the short-sighted and counterproductive idea of using coal to produce ethanol (rather than natural gas), I was at first horrified to read about a new ethanol plant in North Dakota which uses coal.

Then I realized it was using waste heat from the coal plant.

The ethanol plant is co-located with the 1,100 MW Coal Creek Station and will use excess heat from the adjacent power plant to process an estimated 18 million bushels of corn into 50 million gallons of fuel ethanol annually. Blue Flint may be unique in the ethanol industry in its co-location with the power plant.

While this strikes me as a good idea from Headwaters and Great River Energy, I see that they are also cooperating on a coal-to-liquids plant. Coal to liquids is awesome for the anti-oil-import crowd but a rather poor idea after factoring in the externalities of coal extraction and climate change.

Introducing Green Options!

If you are looking for ways to "green the good life," then start today, because you now have a fantastic tool at your fingertips. Green Options is a site that provides practical, personal information on ways we can all live a more efficient, healthy, and eco-friendly lifestyle. I'm blogging daily there as well, covering the national renewable energy scene.

In addition to a blog hosted by a stable of writers covering issues like green business, politics (the site is strictly nonpartisan), and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) posts, Green Options features a Green Life Guide, discussion forums, daily green news, and other tools.

We haven't even been live for a full month yet, but we're adding more tools all the time and still have more to come. In response to suggestions that we cover more geographic areas then just green living in the United States, we've added a blogger from Israel and may be adding more. And stay tuned for more practical, applicable tools coming out in the near future to help you incorporate renewable energy into your life.

RES Official

It is official, Minnesota might have the most aggressive renewable electricity standard in the country. Governor Pawlenty has signed the bill and Minnesota utilities are now on track to massively increase their generation from renewable sources.

Minnesota Air, Water, and Waste Environmental Conference (MAWWEC)

Short Description: 

Hear from others who are making a difference, learn about new trends, and discuss important current and emerging environmental issues as they relate to Minnesota and our region.

Location: 

Sheraton Hotel 7800 Normandale Boulevard Bloomington , MN 55439 952-835-7800 952-893-8419 (fax) Parking is free at the Sheraton.

Sponsor: 

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)

Cost: 

After 1/31/07 ranges from $145 to $240 for conference and $75 for each training session

Full Description: 

What is this conference about? This three-day event fosters opportunities for professionals in the environmental arena to network, build relationships, and explore new ideas. By bringing together differing viewpoints and discussing the challenges that impact environmental policy and protection, we will all be able to work more effectively and efficiently to better the environment. What you’ll find at the conference: MAWWEC’s focus is on sharing and learning: Pre-conference training day National and local speakers discussing the hottest trends in environmental management. Up to 100 exhibitors Environmental hot topics, regulations, industry-driven issues, new technologies and current/emerging issues in 10 topic tracks: Air quality Demolition Emergency response Environmental innovation Hazardous waste Household hazardous waste Remediation Solid waste Energy and climate change Water quality

What is Clean Coal?

I have major problems with the talk about clean coal. The term is not accurate nor appropriate for coal discussions. All the talk of "clean" coal surrounds the technologies which burn it and what happens to pollution and carbon emissions during that process. It totally ignores the many problems of the coal extraction and shipping industry.

The idea of "clean coal" is often used to refer to coal plants which use carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies. The idea is to snatch the carbon dioxide out of the exhaust stream and store it deep under ground where most of it will stay for thousands of years (or ideally longer).

The big question is what type of coal plant is best suited to adding CCS systems after it is built (retrofitting). I had believed that IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) was better suited to CCS but now the NY Times is reporting that pulverized coal may still be more economic when it comes to CCS.

"Other than recommending that new coal combustion units should be built with the highest efficiency that is economically justifiable, we do not believe that a clear preference for one technology or the other can be justified," the draft concludes. The M.I.T. study said it was critical that the government "not fall into the trap of picking a technology 'winner.'"

Regardless, CCS is not a proven technology that will function at the level we need it to. The idea of building more coal plants before we know that CCS can be massively commercialized is crazy given a carbon-constrained future.

Even if CCS does become available and its added costs keep coal competitive with other forms of electricity generators, we still have the problem that coal is fundamentally dirty from its birth.

Left-leaning AlterNet has a fantastic article that explores the problems with coal and the debate in West Virginia between coal and wind advocates.

Though coal from Wyoming may not be as devastating to the environment as it has been in West Virginia, the simple fact is that coal mining has many externalities which are not factored into its price.

"Them people up there have no idea of what it's like to live underneath the rule of a coal company. I've watched my mother pull a gun on an insurance man so she could get my father's black lung benefits; I've watched my daddy die of black lung, watched black water roll down my streams, watched my grandson stand in a stream full of dead fish, watched our children go to a school full of coal dust with a sludge dam and a mountaintop removal site behind it," she says.

...

The truth is, while people have spent considerable energy and money figuring out a cleaner way to burn coal, no one has yet come up with a way to get coal out from inside a mountain without destroying the environment and adjacent communities. So, "clean" coal is not much of a solution to people who lives in areas of extraction.

Bear this in mind as you hear about "clean" coal.

Global Warming Testimony

The Senate Energy Committee started with testimony on the governor's bill, 145. They then moved to bill 192. While we did not have anyone as exciting as Don Dane from the House Energy Committee, we did get two coal front groups with innocuous names testifying against anything that would take action.

Ed Garvey, Deputy Commissioner of Commerce, kicked off the hearing with a discussion of Governor Pawlenty's proposal - S.F. 145. I discussed that bill here

He noted that climate change is real, but does have uncertainties both in terms of the science (how much will it change) and how it will affect Minnesota. He used the Governor's language that Minnesota did not cause this problem but can help to solve it. I imagine that the Governor is worried about being attacked from the right by flat-earth climate change deniers.

First question - Senator Koch wanted to know more about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and its costs. Garvey seemed to suggest that it was the most effective way to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) but I think he actually meant it was the best way to continue using coal and cutting emissions. Throughout the day, no one suggested that CCS is anywhere close to being cost effective currently.

Senator Dibble was concerned with offsets (continuing to emit at the plants, but paying others to reduce or remove GHG emissions) and whether all offsets are created equal. He wondered if they can tighten the offset language to make it more effective. Later, he noted that the PUC prefers clear language from the Legislature on issues such as this.

In response to Senator Anderson's question about whether the offsets would need to be permanent (to avoid trees being planted as an offset and later chopped down), Garvey said they would not need to be permanent. Garvey foresees a future with better options and noted that what is important is that we get started today. He believes we will have better options in the future, that is why they want to have flexibility in the language.

Looking back on his testimony after having seen the whole hearing, I'm glad to be reminded that Pawlenty supports action rather than the inaction proposed by the coal front groups and Senator Tomassoni's soon-to-be-introduced bill. More on that below.

Big Stone II (proposed big, dirty coal plant in South Dakota for Minnesota electricity demand) will be effected by this legislation. Garvey has been in "communication" with the proposers of Big Stone II and has been discussing different approaches to dealing with Big Stone II.


The committee then took up Anderson's bill, S.F. 192. She started by noting that it has a delete-all amendment and moved it in order to update the bill's language. I will look closer at this bill once I get the new text.

As she talked about her bill, she noted that the Climate Strategies group that Governor Pawlenty wants to bring in does not have a problem with Anderson moving foward on her bill. They have apparently worked under similar circumstances with other states.

The bill does not allow back-sliding. She is fearful that coal plants will be built during the period between now and when the plans for controlling GHGs are enacted (at a minimum of 1 year, but possibly more years away). Power plants can offset by reducing GHG emissions from an existing plant or by purchasing allowances from a different state with a cap-and-trade system.

She explained the logic of cap-and-trade because it seizes on the power of the marketplace. Forcing all utilities to freeze or reduce their emissions is inefficient because some firms may be able to reduce more cheaply than others. Cap and trade encourages the companies that can most efficiently lower their emissions to do so. This means that emissions targets are met by making the reductions where they are cheapest and most cost effective.

Interestingly, the cap-and-trade will likely auction off the permits (as do NY and MA) rather than giving them out for free. While this intuitively makes the most sense and raises revenue for clean energy projects, it tends to solidify utility opposition which is why many states do not auction all permits. Apparently, the allocation of permits is not yet written in stone. More on this after I read the new bill.

She emphasized several times that her bill is a stopgap. The emissions goals for the future are non-binding and are there to send a message to the long term planners of utility companies that they should not invest in GHG-intense generation units that will last a long time.

Anderson noted that the new Renewable Energy Standard and upcoming efficiency standard (to be dealt with later) will help utilities keep emissions stable or even decreasing. Minnesota needs to move on this in anticipation of federal law in order to be benefit when the country acts. If we are more efficient, we can sell credits to others when they are forced into a national program.

Senator Jungbauer asked about carbon sink farming. If someone takes land and plants trees or prairie grasses, can they sell emissions credits to the system? This would be up to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) because they will be working out such details and administering the program.


Senator Tomassoni will be introducing a bill relating to all this. He is concerned that MN is moving too fast and needs to more fully develop the cap-and-trade ideas. He thinks cap-and-trade is too big to let administrative agencies to develop so the legislature should study the issue for awhile before acting on it.

Apparently, he finds cap-and-trade too confusing because it is a new-fangled idea. Despite its decades of use in controlling pollution, he finds it all too new and complex and scary. As if to prove he does not understand cap-and-trade, he argued that such programs would force the development of new technologies or shrink the economy. He might be forgiven these concerns had the committee not just spent weeks discussing alternatives to fossil-fuel derived electricity and if there not obvious offset language included in both the bills he criticized.

His bill will require all large emitters (10,000+ tons per year) to report their emissions. Chair Prettner Solon was devastatingly underwhelmed by Tomassoni's bill (causing me to chuckle aloud). He presented it as an alternative to Anderson's bill but it is really a do-nothing approach. There was talk about closing coal plants but Tomassoni did not discuss it at all and I cannot comment on it without having read it.

Given Tomassoni's RES bill, I remain confused as to whether he actually represents humans or just utility companies.

Following Tomassoni's time, we started a small parade of coal front groups to give testimony. While half listening, I googled them to see what they have been up to.

First was Scott Wiseman from Center for Energy/Economic Development (CEED). Great name. You would never know that CEED is a pro coal group that has long fought climate change legislation. Well, once he started talking, it was pretty obvious.

He began by fear-mongering on spikes in energy prices and noting that the poor would be hardest hit following increases in energy prices. As he worked up a crocodile tear, I thought it stunning that so many energy companies care so much about the poor when it suits them and yet when it comes time for winter, states actually have to pass legislation to prohibit them from turning off the lights and heat in the winter when those same poor people cannot afford it. I realize the irony here in that the higher prices sometimes also come from legislation, but we need to be reminded what motivates coal companies - and it has more to do with short term profits than social benefits.

Next came Tom Hewson from Energy Venture Analysis. He seemed too slick to be a coal man, I would have guess oil if I didn't know better.

I started zoning out after he talked about planting trees as the best offset for carbon dioxide. Anderson asked him how many trees needed to be planted for the 153 currently proposed coal plants in the U.S. He evaded the question by noting that not all those plants would be built and some that are built would replace older, less efficient coal plants.

I think the whole planting trees to offset coal is nonsense anyway. Yeah, planting trees is nice and pulls some carbon temporarily out of the air, but eventually the tree dies and something happens to the carbon unless we can ship in into space on a solar operated space elevator. Planting trees to justify more coal plants is not a good idea.

Some other coal guy from "Americans for Affordable Energy" or similarly innocuous name got up and prattled on about the same stuff. To hear these people tell it, we shouldn't try to reduce emissions from the power sector because there are emissions from other sectors too. We need to start somewhere!

The last person offering testimony was Rick Lancaster from Great River Energy - a massive cooperative electrical utility. He was vehement about section 6 of Anderson's bill which he claimed would prevent them from being able to build any power plants until the cap-and-trade system were active.

Dibble pointed out that he read it wrong and that power plants could be built but would need to be offset. My take home message from this hearing is that the whole business of offsets really needs to be examined and the language tightened up.

He defended Big Stone II, saying it will be the most efficient power plant in the U.S. and that it could eventually be retrofitted with CCS. This strikes me as being overly optimistic. Pulverized coal plants are not suited to CCS, regardless of how efficient they are.

It was a long hearing.

Australia moving to ban incandescent bulbs

A California legislator isn't the only person proposing a ban on incandescents. The Australian government recently announced a plan to gradually ban the sale of incandescent bulbs. The plan is supported by Prime Minister John Howard, who is cited in the article as a recent global warming convert. The plan would supposedly reduce Australia's GHG emissions by 12 million tons by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 percent.

The article talks about a different tactic that Gov. Pawlenty and other US policymakers may want consider... In Cuba, Castro formed "youth brigades" which went from household to household replacing incandescents with fluorescents in a move to stem the blackouts which afflicted the island. That's one way to "encourage" conservation!

Personally, I'm not sure I would support an outright ban. A lot of people are very sensitive to light quality and prefer incandescents in some locations. Does anyone know which brands of CFLs have the softest light? The best I've found are GE Soft Lights.

Minnesota Citizens Conference for Climate and Energy Action

Short Description: 

REGISTRATION DEADLINE WEDNESDAY, 2/21/2007
The Minnesota Citizens Conference for Energy and Climate Action is an inclusive, educational and results-oriented summit being organized by Macalester College and University of Minnesota students, with the intent to establish WeCAN, the World Energy Community Action Network, a coalition of citizens including students, union members, members of faith communities, local businesses, farmers, non-profit groups, and Minnesota residents dedicated to helping their communities with the transition to clean energy and sustainable ways of living.

Location: 

University of Minnesota

Sponsor: 

Macalester College and University of Minnesota students, ReAMP, WeCAN

Cost: 

Free but Preregistration required to be able to receive food

Full Description: 

Minnesota Citizens Conference for Climate and Energy Action by Macalester College and University of Minnesota Students The Minnesota Citizens Conference for Energy and Climate Action is an inclusive, educational and results-oriented summit being organized by Macalester College and University of Minnesota students, with the intent to establish WeCAN, the World Energy Community Action Network, a coalition of citizens including students, union members, members of faith communities, local businesses, farmers, non-profit groups, and Minnesota residents dedicated to helping their communities with the transition to clean energy and sustainable ways of living. This conference is the first step towards expanding our coalition to all reaches of Minnesota and bringing together all levels of ideas and action. The conference will provide a forum for the sharing and exchanging of ideas and for the development of new strategies. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of background or experience. Participants in the conference will be asked to expand and facilitate, to any extent which they are capable, initiatives in their communities moving towards the goal of energy and climate change solutions and to return to their communities with new plans constructed during the conference. Through discussions, skill based trainings, working-group meetings, and initiatives shared by various groups and individuals the members of this coalition will gain information on new ways to implement changes in their own communities, as well as form connections with others with similar fields of experience across the state. Together we will develop and implement our plan of action, the Minnesota Roadmap to Power Transition. In addition to the primary goal of building our network and fomenting local action, this conference will provide a forum for the expansion and creation of community energy groups, groups of volunteers—both participants in the conference and other community members— from diverse backgrounds that work to implement new energy strategies, efficiency initiatives, and smart design projects within their individual communities. WeCAN will work to form these councils across the state of Minnesota while fostering broader public engagement through the growing web of citizens working to confront global warming and create the transition to a renewable energy society across the state and beyond. The Citizens Conference is planned to take place from 3pm on Friday, February 23 until noon on Sunday, February 25 at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. The conference is free but, please, register only if you are committed to attend and participate in the continuing efforts of the emerging network. If you plan on attending the conference, please register soon! The registration deadline is Wednesday, February 21, 2007. You will be unable to register past this date.

2 Day Short Course: Woody Agriculture: Theory and Practices

Short Description: 

Woody Agriculture is one of the most promising practical ways to deal with global warming, renewable biofuel, and food production in one system. It is a unique approach to agriculture thought out from the ground up, developed for the modern world and the third world. Checkout the website, www.badgersett.com Dont know why the date is weird, but it's actually on March 31st 2007 at 9:00am. More info below in a badly formatted paragraph (also don't know why)

Location: 

Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, Lanesboro, MN

Sponsor: 

Badgersett Research Corp

Cost: 

$250

Full Description: 

Who Should Attend- Hybrid Hazelnut growers and potential growers; Extension education personnel; graduate students; academic faculty; hybrid Chestnut growers.  Cost: $250 before March 15; late registration fee $35 Includes 1 night lodging and 5 meals, starting with breakfast on Saturday. Additional nights lodging available at $15/night.  Classes start promptly at 9 AM on Saturday, finish at 4 PM Sunday. Space is limited, so we do recommend registering as soon as possible. Send fees and participant information (address/phone/email) to: Badgersett Farm Woody Agriculture Short Course, 18606 Deer Road, Canton, MN 55922 --------------------------------------- This is the second year this course has been offered, so details of the content are still subject to update. Syllabus below may change slightly. While much of the course material this year will be the same as last, there will be some changes.  There will be segments on chestnut biology and culture, a very short segment on the hybrid hickories, and a moderate segment on marketing.  Several of the participants from last year are intending to attend this year also. The class is intended to be an annual event, and to become the beginning of the certification process that will be necessary for the franchised nurseries/growers now being discussed. This year's Saturday dinner coincides with a "Dinner on the Bluff" event; an enjoyable gourmet dinner and lecture, and plenty of folks from outside our own group.  That's partly responsible for the slightly higher cost this year, but well worth it. Weather permitting, those who can stay for the Monday following the course are invited to tour the plantings at Badgersett Farm, for informal observation and discussions. First Day classes will focus on Woody Agriculture theory, and will include: Woody Agriculture System Energetics; Hybrid Swarm Genetics; breeding and selection; Hazelnut Biology - plant morphology, physiology, genetics, species ecology, Pest Management; mammals, birds, insects, fungi; Harvest, hand and machine; Post Harvest - processing, storage. Second Day classes will focus on specific practices with Badgersett Hybrid Bush Hazels, including various paths tried, failures and successes. The intention is to describe the state of the art, with suggestions for specific paths to be tried. Included will be: Field Planning Establishment Field Maintenance/Management: years 1- 10; 10-20 Field Renovation: Coppice and other Cloning - high and low tech - we will examine actual plants in class.  Harvest - details of hand harvesting.  Post Harvest handling - this will include all class members participating in cracking, analyzing, and taste-testing hazelnuts. It is not recommended to attend only one day. Instructor: Philip A. Rutter, MS; Founder, Badgersett Research Corporation Founding President, The American Chestnut Foundation; Past President, Northern Nut Growers Association. Mr. Rutter created the concept, and coined the phrase "Woody Agriculture", and is the originator of the "poly-hybrid swarm" breeding technique.

Climate Change Legislation

The Minnesota Senate Energy Committee is taking up bills that deal with global climate change. From what I can tell, there are 2 major bills - one advanced by Chair Prettner Solon on behalf of Governor Pawlenty and one authored by Senator Anderson. I'll discuss the Governor's bill now and Anderson's later if no one beats me to it.

S.F. 145 has H.F. 436 as its House companion bill (also introduced by that Energy Committee's Chair) and has many components Article 5 is entitled "Climate Change" and is summarized as follows

Defining nonrenewable resource power purchase agreement; modifying the certificate of need issuance standards, allowing the PUC to modify proposals for nonrenewable projects or nonrenewable resource power purchase agreements; requiring the commissioner of commerce to develop a climate change action plan in conjunction with the pollution control agency (PCA), departments of natural resources (DNR), agriculture, employment and economic development (DEED) and transportation (DOT) to identify and invite an independent expert entity to conduct a review of potential policies and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The bill first increases the power of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by enlarging the scope of certificates of need. Previously, building large energy facilities required the PUC to find that it was necessary after weighing a number of other options. Now the PUC must also issue a certificate of need for a "nonrenewable resource power purchase agreement."

This includes any power purchase agreement (for instance, if a utility wants to buy power from Big Stone II) of more than 50MW or with a term of longer than 5 years if the generation facility is powered by nonrenewable fuel.

In order to get a PPA certificate of need, the utility must have arranged

(i) to offset the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from the nonrenewable resource through:

(A) capture and geologic sequestration of those emissions;
(B) the purchase of greenhouse gas emission reduction credits issued by a tracking and crediting organization approved by the commission; or
(C) another method approved by the commission after notice and opportunity to comment; and

(ii) it has explored the possibility of generating power by means of renewable energy sources and has demonstrated that the alternative selected is less expensive, including environmental costs and the costs of compliance with item (i), than power generated by a renewable energy source.

The PUC is also given power to modify proposals for nonrenewable projects or PPAs in order to require conservation or renewable energy projects.

The other major section of this article calls upon the commissioner of commerce to "conduct a structured, broadly inclusive stakeholderbased review of potential policies and initiatives that can be implemented in Minnesota to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from activities in this state." The plan will cover all sectors.

Governor Pawlenty previously announced his desire to bring in the Center for Climate Strategies. This is what they do:

We enable governors and other state leaders to lead state-wide climate action planning processes that result in a comprehensive set of effective policies, broad bipartisan stakeholder support, and successful implementation. We help achieve results with our process that would likely have been impossible for states to otherwise realize.

The commissioner of commerce will coordinate this plan's development and present it by Jan 1, 2008.

Senator Anderson's bill is a bit more complicated, but I hope we have some information up about it within the next few days.

RES Almost There

MEP's John Tuma wrote last week about the RES at the Capitol and upcoming energy related legislation. Looks like the whole House will discuss the RES today.

While both V and I have been frustrated with House Chairman Hilty's indulgence of off-topic testimony, Tuma found much to laud in his first 2 months as Chair:

I have to say as an old political veteran that I was very impressed with how well Rep. Peterson and the committee chair, Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), handled the situation. As a first-time chair, this was the opening big test on how Rep. Hilty will be able to handle difficult issues. He ran the committee with grace, but with a clear conviction of where he was going. With other major energy issues ahead of us that will present even greater challenges, Chairman Hilty’s show of firm leadership with his committee is a positive sign.

Tuma thinks the next big energy tasks are the Global Warming bill and biofuels.

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