Skip navigation.
Home
Aggregating Energy Since 2006

Climate Change

MN Leads

Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, recently used Minnesota as an example of a state which is leading on climate change legislation.

The US is actually beginning to show some leadership, based on innovative state policies.

The rest of piece discusses his fear that Congress will move in and create federal policies that preempt stronger state policies.

GHG Offsets

The local Institute for Local Self-Reliance's David Morris is quite skeptical of carbon offsets. I think he identifies many of the problems with offsets (both philosophical and practical) but I disagree with his assessment of cap and trade programs.

This summarizes my key objection to offsets:

Those who purchase offsets believe they are doing something significant when they are not. Their sense of mission accomplished undermines their enthusiasm for real actions that require more sacrifice, which indeed, may be the key selling point for those selling voluntary offsets.

Week Wrapup

SI Cover Photo

MEP's lobbyist, John Tuma explained what happened to climate change legislation in the Minnesota House this week. He also mentions progress on the conservation legislation.

In other interesting news this week, Sports Illustrated has a cover story this week on sports and global climate change.

As global warming changes the planet, it is changing the sports world. To counter the looming environmental crisis, surprising and innovative ideas are already helping sports adapt

I'm looking forward to reader reactions in the next couple of issues.

Carbon Dioxide Reductions Needed

Following my Climate Change Confusion post, we had a short discussion of what it takes to stop climate change. For some context, I wanted to alert people to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) entitled Electricity Technology in a Carbon-Constrained Future.

There is significant potential for emergence of U.S. government policies that will place constraints on greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2. To better understand our future options, EPRI conducted a technical analysis of the potential for significant CO2 reductions from the U.S. electric power sector within the next 25-30 years.

EPRI CO2 Future Emissions chart

Stopping climate change in the future, means significant actions now. This is not talk of reversing it, but stabilizing it in the future. To do that, scientists recommend an 80% reduction of emissions by 2050. This chart shows how much work we have to do in the electric sector to head in that direction.

I have not read the actual report (limited time, I'm trying to focus on issues directly in front of the MN legislature) but I hope others will and write about it.

The report comes with an executive summary and presentation.

As a side note, I hope that their prediction of wind generation in 2030 is low. I think we can do better than 6% ish by 2030.

Also, I'm not sure that I totally understand the chart and why plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are expected to lower the amount of emissions from the power sector. I believe the electric sector wants to get credit for them as it will provide the energy, but I would also expect a sudden spike in electricity demand as they hit the market.

Climate Change Confusion

I was just listening to an old Talk of the Nation - from 22 Feb - with Jonah Goldberg, Dan Kammen, and Barry Rabe talking about (in)action to mitigate climate change. You can download the mp3 here - the discussion is perhaps 30-40 minutes at the beginning of the segment.

After listening to Neil Conan describe the discussion about to take place, I thought I should write something to dispel a few major misconceptions about climate change and the debate around it. Neil Conan asked if "global cooling" or "reversing" climate change would be too expensive (this is the claim made by Goldberg).

To my limited knowledge, no one is seriously talking about "reversing" global climate change. We are talking about slowing it or, for the ambitious, stopping it. This is to say that we are going to slow human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Slowing substantially or stopping climate change will be a herculean effort - reversing it is almost beyond contemplation just now.

So to be clear, most arguments about climate change are about whether we should slow GHG emissions and at what rate.

In the discussion on TotN, Goldberg noted that a rising temperature on Earth is not that big of a deal because the earth has been warmer and cooler in the past. He also later claimed that talk of a rising ocean level is not persuasive to him. I find this odd because the ocean levels have been both higher and lower in the past.

It does not take much to figure that a higher temperature will impact the ocean levels. Even without melting ice, warmer water takes up more space than cooler water (called thermal expansion). Thus, there are two main contributors to higher sea levels. At this point, this is little scientific certainty as to how rapidly sea levels will rise with a warming climate but I have not heard of a single scientist predicting shrinking sea levels.

Goldberg's argument that we should not mitigate GHGs comes from the apt observation that millions of people die every year from problems that could be solved with the money and attention that is being paid to global warming. He cites a number predicting 1 million climate change related deaths in 100 years and believes we are focusing on the wrong problems based upon that metric.

This seems to be THE main argument from economists for inaction on climate change. If one only valued human life and only knew that 1 million death prediction (I believe this describes many economists) then it makes sense that they argue our focus on climate change is misplaced.

However, climate change impacts all creatures on earth and there are significant moral questions to valuing cheap fossil fuels over mass extinctions. Even from a human-centric view, these mass extinctions can be dangerous because humans depends on food chains for sustenance. Nonetheless, there are far greater costs to global climate change than most economists take into account (in part because it is difficult to place a monetary value on them).

On the other hand, scientists are often specialists. They know a lot about things like climate change, biological diversity, and the dangers of them. They rarely spend time deciding if the money used to prevent problems in their field would create more utility for humans (or the planet) if it were used somewhere else (say to alleviate poverty in poor countries).

Thus, scientists and economists argue in part because they do not understand where the other comes from.

Another issue I have heard recently in popular culture is the idea that the ozone hole is/isn't healing and that it means we cannot stop climate change.

Climate change is occurring regardless of the problems in the ozone layer. The ozone hole is dangerous for other reasons beyond just climate changes. Healing the ozone layer will not stop global warming. These are two different problems that are interrelated, but not in the sense that solving one will solve the other.

The final issue on climate change is the terminology. I use the term "global climate change" rather than "global warming" because idiot talk radio hosts are obsessed with refuting "global warming" by noting any low temperature or cooling trend in the world. While the average temperature of the planet is warming, it does not get warmer everywhere by the same degree. Some places may even cool.

I prefer climate change because it is easier to explain to the lay person because it does not have the connotation as global warming. However, some argue that climate change suggests it is a natural process rather than one caused by human actions. Though it may that impact on some, I still find it a more accurate term.

Climate Change Testimony

I listened to the Feb 22 Minnesota Senate Energy Committee meeting (audio available here, scroll down for the day) and had some thoughts about the testimony on the climate change legislation before the committee.

Otter Tail Power (OTP) started by bragging about decreasing its carbon intensity since 1990 and said it has plans to continue decreasing it. This is the same language that the Bush Administration uses when trying to obfuscate its energy policy with a policy that actually does something. Business as usual means Otter Tail Power will decrease its carbon intensity. It is called being more efficient. If Otter Tail Power decided to stop being more efficient, that would be dumb for its investors because they would be wasting money.

Thus, OTP essentially begins its presentation by bragging about something it must do. This is not action. Though future reductions of carbon intensity for OTP seems like a course of action, it is not. It is business as usual. Well, business as usual and a strong RES (renewable electricity standard). Business as usual will not mitigate greenhouse gases (GHGs) and commits everyone to a rapidly changing climate.

The testifier next discussed what Minnesota should do. OTP wants a stakeholder process to recommend policies on GHGs and to inventory MN GHG emissions. Other actions supported by OTP are to make plans to eventually do something. Notice that they do not want to do anything, they want to contemplate doing something.

They continue to characterize a Minnesota cap-and-trade program as being "unilateral" despite the fact that many other states have done so and offer a market for us to tap into. Though this market will work better with all states involved, we have to start somewhere.

I think he seriously stretched the truth about the growing electricity load in Minnesota. To hear him tell it, electricity demand must rise. Keep in mind that California has nearly flat-lined its per capita load growth over the last 30 years. Given proper incentives and investment, Minnesota could also keep load growth quite low despite a growing population.

A major question for future electricity demand rests with plug-in hybrid vehicles. The mass adoption of those vehicles over the next 10 years will certainly add substantially to electricity demand. As someone who is pushing for no new coal plants right now, I don't actually have a good solution for how to deal with rising demand for power aside from policies to encourage efficiency. This seems to fall apart when plug-in cars are introduced due to the large amounts of electricity they will require.

OTP apparently does not appreciate the potential for such policies - the testifier believes that all appliances purchased from Target and plugged into the wall will increase electrical demand. However, many of those appliances will be replacing existing appliances. In a perfect world, each new appliance would be more efficient than the one it replaces.

The final point of OTP's representative was that pushing a cap-and-trade program or other programs that require offsets will cause OTP to rely on older, less efficient coal generation than if Big Stone II is built. Big Stone II will be very efficient and comparatively clean (thanks to strong environmental laws that utilities like OTP tend to challenge legally at every opportunity). The testifier suggested that if BSII is built, they will retire their 50+ year old generators in Fergus Falls. This strikes me as being a bit of wishful thinking and bluster built into one.

Regardless, it strikes me that a policy that punishes new coal generation (via offsets as in both Anderson and Pawlenty's plans) while not at least dealing with the grandfather issue is lacking. Ultimately, it seems to me that we want to cap emissions - not coal. Ideally, we would want Big Stone II built and older plants decommissioned in such a manner as to keep emissions flat-lined or begin decreases.

I find it ironic that these utilities and other interests opposed to GHG regulation are pushing for more studies like the wind integration study. Many of them actually cite that study as being a good example. This comes mere weeks after they attacked the study in committee testimony as being wrong, based on erroneous assumptions, and generally unhelpful when it comes to putting more wind on the grid. Now they want to do the same thing with GHG emissions?

Before ending this rant, I do want to note that utilities such as OTP resist this legislation for a reason - they are committed to providing cheap, reliable electricity. If rates suddenly rise or electricity becomes less reliable due to legislation (however necessary it may be), most people will get angry with them, not with the legislature. Nonetheless, I do believe that utilities like OTP must be compelled to invest carefully for the future given what we know and what technologies are available.

Gore's House

Climate change deniers and right wing pundits are thrilled to see a report suggesting Gore's Nashville mansion used 221,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in 2006. While the report comes from a right-wing think tank, it appears to be credible judging from additional A.P. reports and the response from a Gore spokesperson. The average U.S. home uses around 10,000 kw hours per year.

She said Gore subsidizes renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind power and methane gas to balance 100 per cent of his electricity costs.

She said Gore participates in a utility program that lets people buy blocks of "green power" for $4 a month. Gore purchases 108 blocks a month, the equivalent of 16,200 kilowatt hours.

The Gore home is also under renovation to add solar panels, Kreider said.

This falls perfectly into the discussion we have had about whether offsets are valuable in themselves or whether there should be an efficiency consideration. I think this is the perfect example of a major downside of offsets. People like Gore should be selling their mansions to families of 50 or investing in super efficient insulation and lighting at the minimum.

This attack is clearly politically motivated, but Gore's personal life does appear to be incompatible with the changes needed for reducing GHGs. Efficiency is more important than offsets despite being less public and braggable.

Update: Some had used this realization, coupled with Bush's apparently enviro-friendly house in Texas to suggest that Bush is friendlier to the environment than Gore.

This is absurd. Whereas Gore apparently lives less efficiently in his Nashville home than Bush may in Crawford, the simple fact is that these differences do not even exist when compared to national energy consumption. What is important is policies and how they drive the market. Gore's policies are right and his lifestyle choices are questionable. Bush's (ahem, when it comes to energy, Cheney's) policies are wholly wrong whereas he appears to have made less deleterious personal choices in building his mansion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Geoengineering

You heard of the people who want to intentionally put sulfur in the atmosphere to stunt global warming? Such schemes have a name. Geoengineering and Wired magazine thinks it is pretty cool.

House Energy Cmte: RES Yes

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.

The times, they are a changin'

No, hell hasn't frozen over, but Alaska is thawing. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is sponsoring a bill that would raise CAFE standards for cars to 40 mpg, citing the danger posed to his state by global warming. Just two years ago, Stevens voted against the same standards. Stevens isn't the only politician who has changed his tune- former Detroit allies on both sides of the aisle appear willing to back tougher standards in the name of energy security and doing something about global warming.Ted Stevens

Syndicate content