Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cost of solar energy will match fossil fuels by 2013, claims Solarcentury

Falling production costs for solar panels and increasing nonrenewables electricity costs have brought parity closer

Adam Vaughan, Tuesday 12 May 2009 17.07 BST

Solar energy will fall in price to match the cost of conventional fossil fuel electricity far sooner than previously expected, the UK's largest solar company has claimed in a new report. Solarcentury said British homeowners will see solar achieve "grid parity" – the point where solar electricity rivals or becomes cheaper than conventional nonrenewable electricity – by 2013. Most predictions suggest that technological innovation will not bring the price down far enough until 2020 or later.
The company suggested falling production costs for solar panels and increasing conventional electricity costs have brought parity closer. Prices for solar and grid electricity in residential homes are expected to crossover at around 17p to 18p per unit of electricity (kWh) in 2013, followed by parity for commercial solar electricity in 2018.
Last December, the renewable energy analysts New Energy Finance predicted silicon costs – a key material for much solar panel technology – would fall by 31.5% in 2009 compared with 2008 levels. Energy consultants Element Energy, under commission from the government, have also forecast solar PV costs will fall by around half between now and 2020.
Derry Newman, CEO for Solarcentury, said: "When you reach grid parity, you have a watershed moment where the perceptions of investors and consumers shift. People have been programmed to believe solar is expensive and takes a hundred years to pay back, but when parity arrives people realise it takes 8-10 years to payback, and they can then be making money out of it."
Jeremy Leggett, executive chairman of Solarcentury said, "The feed-in tariff that the government has said it will bring in from April 2010 is vital. A burst of premium-pricing for solar energy, of the kind now on offer in 18 European countries, will stimulate a very fast-growing market."
Experts said the projections were based on significant assumptions in future energy prices, which have been extremely volatile over recent years – last year saw gas and electricity prices double, but now household bills are falling again.
Ray Noble, solar PV specialist at the Renewable Energy Association, said: "The predicted grid parity by 2013 could be possible if all of the predictions, both in terms of grid electricity prices increasing and reductions in the cost of solar PV, come through. However that's a big if – any slight changes in the pricing can add further years to this date." He added that the important message is that even if grid parity slipped to 2016, the moment when solar can compete on cost is not far off.
Chris Goodall, Green party parliamentary candidate and author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, warned the grid parity predictions were based on unrealistic price assumptions. "This projection of residential grid parity depends crucially on continually increasing prices of conventional electricity, but I just don't see any evidence that residential electricity will cost 17-18p a kWh in 2013. The 'underlying' retail price of electricity at the moment is no more than 11p per kWh," he said.
Newman argued that China will continue to take more fossil fuel and believes peak oil will begin to bite in 2013, which will both contribute to rising prices in fossil fuel electricity.
Other parts of the world, such as Spain and California, have already achieved grid parity on the price of solar, but only for large installations rather than small scale ones for homeowners.

Thames offshore wind farm gets green light from investors

Scheme to build the world's biggest offshore project is approved by backers E.ON, Dong Energy and Masdar
David Teather, Tuesday 12 May 2009 21.02 BST

The world's largest offshore wind farm is to be built in the Thames estuary after the partners behind the scheme said they had agreed an initial €2.2bn (£2bn) investment.
The London Array will be built 12 miles off the Kent and Essex coasts, with the first phase using 175 turbines, each the height of the tower housing Big Ben. Once complete, it could generate enough electricity to power a quarter of the homes in Greater London.
The prime minister, Gordon Brown, described the London Array as a "flagship project" in the drive to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Environmental groups also broadly welcomed the project although they warned that much more needs to be done to encourage the growth of the offshore wind industry. Nick Rau at Friends of the Earth said the decision to go ahead with the project showed that renewables were becoming "major league".
The future of London Array, which has been four years in the planning, had been in doubt since Royal Dutch Shell pulled out of the scheme last year. Falling energy prices and the credit crunch added to the uncertainty.
But in a joint statement, German energy firm E.ON and its partners, Danish company Dong Energy and Abu Dhabi firm Masdar, said they had decided to press ahead with the scheme.
They said a recent government proposal to increase support for offshore wind power through the renewables obligations certificates scheme had convinced them that the scheme was now "financially viable".
Work on the wind farm is due to begin onshore in the summer, with offshore work scheduled to begin in early 2011. The farm will be built on a 90-square-mile site in two phases. The consortium hopes the first phase, which will generate 630MW, will be completed by 2012, with the second phase taking the generating capacity up to 1GW and preventing the emission of 1.9m tonnes of CO2 every year.
The scheme is part of the second round of offshore wind farms that have been given consent, which together with the first phase would generate 8GW of power when they are fully built, although many of the projects have stalled because of the economic climate. Bids are in for a third round of nine sites off the coast of Britain, which would add an additional 25GW. If all the proposed wind farms were built, they would together generate 33GW, meeting 25% of the electricity demand in Britain.
The decision could help to rebuild confidence in the renewables sector, which has been undermined by retreats from BP and Shell in Britain and the closure of the only turbine plant in England.
John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace, described the London Array as "cutting edge" and said it "should be the start of a major expansion of offshore wind to help power Britain".
However, environmental campaigners are still urging the government to do more, including the development of a manufacturing base to build the turbines, components and installation vessels needed. They are also pressing for an offshore grid that would make it easier to plug wind-generated power into the National Grid.
Dr Spencer Fitz-Gibbon, a spokesman for the Green Party, said: "We very strongly welcome this development in itself but the government is not doing enough. Neither should this deflect from the fact that the government is working from the wrong targets. The most recent science tells us that we need a 90% reduction in emissions by 2030."

London approves giant wind farm

By Ed Crooks
Published: May 12 2009 17:58

The London Array, set to be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, has been given the go-ahead after being rescued by generous government subsidies.
The companies behind the project said they were proceeding with the first phase, at an estimated cost of £2bn, to put 175 turbines into the Thames estuary.

Its total capacity will reach 630 megawatts, four times the size of the largest offshore wind farm in operation today.
In January Eon, the German company that owns 30 per cent of the Array, said the project was ”on a knife edge” because of soaring costs and a shortage of financial support.
Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon UK, said on Tuesday: ”With current commodity prices and carbon prices, the London Array would not have been viable without additional support.”
In last month’s Budget the government changed the Renewables Obligation, the subsidy scheme for electricity from wind, waste and other renewable sources, to provide greater funds for offshore wind farms.
Projects approved this year receive twice the annual subsidy, known as “renewables obligation certificates”, paid to onshore developments.
That change sparked criticism from rival wind power generators. One described the measure as the ”’let’s get the London Array built’ clause”.
The government has put a high priority on the London Array, which was described by Gordon Brown on Tuesday as a ”flagship” project for his ambition to cut carbon dioxide emissions and secure energy supplies.
Frank Mastiaux, the chief executive of Eon’s global renewables business, said: ”It has been the upgrade to the renewables obligation certificates that has allowed us to get this into the economic range of other projects.”
He added that the Array had also been helped by the recession. Prices for raw materials used to manufacture turbines, such as aluminium and steel, had fallen ”by a mile”, he said, and the project partners were able to negotiate much better rates with suppliers. The turbines will be supplied by Siemens, the German engineering group.
The London Array has had a troubled history. Last year Royal Dutch Shell, one of the original partners alongside Eon and Dong Energy of Denmark, pulled out, saying it wanted to concentrate on onshore wind in the US, where the technology had a longer record and the returns were more certain. Shell has since said it has no plans to invest further in wind power, because oil and gas projects offer better returns.
The projects received a boost when Masdar, the Abu Dhabi renewable energy group, joined the consortium.
However, hopes that renewable energy would create large numbers of jobs in Britain took a blow last month when Vestas, the Danish wind turbine producer, said it was cutting 600 jobs in Britain and probably closing its factory in the Isle of Wight.
Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, said the renewables industry was going through difficult times worldwide, but the go-ahead for the London Array was a vindication for the government’s policies.
”People are thinking about where to invest, and this is a very big signal about investment in the UK.”
Environmental campaigners welcomed the decision, but urged the government to do more to support Britain’s renewables industry, including turbine manufacture.
Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth said: ”Ministers must ensure that more projects like this are developed so that Britain reaps the huge employment, business and environmental benefits of clean, green energy.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

China calls for deeper CO2 cuts from developed nations

Reuters, Wednesday May 13 2009
BEIJING, May 13 (Reuters) - China on Wednesday called on developed countries to commit to CO2 emission cuts of 25-40 percent during the upcoming U.N. Climate Conference at Copenhagen, an official with China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on Wednesday.
China also is proposing to establish a specific financing mechanism for technology transfers, said Li Liyan, an official with the Climage Change Office of the NDRC, China's chief economic planning agency.
"The success of Copenhagen needs strengthened and deeper cuts and more aggressive targets from developed countries," she told a conference in Beijing.
(Reporting by David Stanway and Tom Miles; Editing by Ken Wills)

Obama's key climate bill hit by $45m PR campaign

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 12 May 2009 23.11 BST

America's oil, gas and coal industry has increased its lobbying budget by 50%, with key players spending $44.5m in the first three months of this year in an intense effort to cut off support for Barack Obama's plan to build a clean energy economy.
The spoiler campaign runs to hundreds of millions of dollars and involves industry front groups, lobbying firms, television, print and radio advertising, and donations to pivotal members of Congress. Its intention is to water down or kill off plans by the Democratic leadership to pass "cap and trade" legislation this year, which would place limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
A defeat for the bill would have global consequences. The international community is depending on America, as the world's biggest per capita polluter, to set out a firm plan for getting off dirty fuels in the months before crucial UN negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
Without such action, the chances of getting a deal that scientists say is vital to limiting dangerous climate change are much reduced.
Those high stakes have intensified the fight for control over America's energy future. "There are an awful lot of people who have an awful lot to gain and lose and they have been acting accordingly," said Evan Tracey, founder of the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), who has tracked the proliferation of climate change ads.
But it is an unequal contest. Liberal and environmental organisations, as well as the major corporations that support climate change legislation, say they are being vastly outspent by fossil fuel interests.
"These guys are spending a billion dollars this year convincing Americans that they are clean, green, cuddly and warm," said Bob Perkowitz, founder of the eco- America PR firm. Perkowitz is to brief the White House yesterday on a new environmental messaging strategy. "The enviros are getting their message out, but they are being outspent by 10 to one." he said.On advertising, the ratio is about three to one. The oil and coal industry spent $76.1m on ads from 1 January to 27 April, according to CMAG data seen by the Guardian. Environmental groups, led by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, the Environmental Defence Fund and the Sierra Club, spent $28.6m on ads in the same period, Tracey said.
Despite its global significance, the fate of the draft "cap and trade" bill now lies in the hands of just a dozen Democrats, who have yet to back Obama's energy transformation. The Democratic leadership cannot take their support for granted. Seven of those pivotal Democrats received campaign donations in excess of $100,000 from the oil and gas industry, coal producers, and electricity firms during last year's elections, according to an analysis provided to the Guardian by the Centre for Responsive Politics. Another two received more than $90,000 last year.
Environmentalists say those Democrats, who hold the balance of power on the committee, pose a far greater threat to the chances of passing climate change legislation than a full vote in the House of Representatives. "If they can get that bill through the subcommittee what is going to emerge is a piece of legislation," said Tony Kreindler of the Environmental Defence Fund. "So this is ground zero for the vote."

Dozen wavering Democrats hold key to fate of crucial climate change bill

2,500 lobbyists, $45m on PR – but just 12 views could make or break global carbon deal

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 12 May 2009 23.09 BST

It is one of the few visible growth ­industries of the recession: the lobbying and PR offensive aimed at influencing how, when and even whether Barack Obama moves America towards a new low ­carbon economy.
The battle for control over that ­generational shift is being waged as fiercely in the committee rooms of ­Congress – where the crucial climate change and energy law will be written – as in the heartland states where the changes will be felt the most.
Turn on the radio in a blighted town in America's rust belt, and a new ­advertisement paid for by a lobbying group with close ties to oil industry giants claims that ordinary families could be worse off by thousands of ­dollars if Congress passes the draft ­global warming law, which sets a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and makes polluters pay. "Some in Congress are now pushing an energy tax that would be the largest hike in history," it threatens. "This tax will further cripple our already struggling economy."
Surf the cable news channels and an advert paid for by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection claims the opposite. "I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of the big oil companies always bellyaching that we can't afford clean energy," says a grizzled old man in a faded checked work shirt.
The outcome of the PR wars is seen as critical not just to Obama's promise of building a clean energy future, but to the prospects of agreeing a global climate change treaty at UN talks in Copenhagen later this year. International negotiators have bluntly told US diplomats there is little prospect of a deal to avert dangerous global warming unless Congress makes serious progress on energy legislation.
That means passage in the house, if not the Senate, by the end of this year.
So there are no punches being pulled in the fight over the legislation – even in the throes of a recession. "There is a war of perception happening," said John Larsen of the World Resources Institute. "The facts almost don't matter. If I think this bill is going to bring a significant increase in my taxes I am going to let my congressman know and there is going to be a backlash."
He added: "I've never seen this much media spending on a bill that is only in the subcommittee."
The PR drive has already forced the Democrats to scale back their plans for climate change legislation. The White House this week embarked on health reform, prompting speculation Obama could shift focus from climate if Congress does not reach a deal this week.
Sources said Henry Waxman, the California congressman steering the bill through Congress, reached a partial deal on Monday night. There were also reports that the compromise would severely undermine US efforts to move away from coal and oil and cap carbon emissions in the short term.
Obama has thrown himself into the PR wars recently. He invited pivotal members of Congress to the White House last week amid signs of rebellion against the bill. A leading conservative Democrat said he would not vote for a climate change law under any circumstances. "This thing is out of control," said ­Collin Peterson, who heads the agriculture committee. "I've had it."
Lobbying on climate change was already a growth industry when Obama was elected. The number of climate change lobbyists in Washington rose to 2,430 last year – an increase of 300% over the previous five years – which works out to about four lobbyists for every member of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Centre for Public Integrity.
But since Obama came to the White House in January, the oil, gas and coal industry has increased its lobbying budget by 50%, spending $44.5m (£30m) in the first three months of this year to try to influence legislation, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, which monitors the influence of money on Washington politics.
Leading the big spenders for 2009 was Exxon Mobil, which bumped up its spending on lobbyists in the first three months of this year to $9.2m, from $6.6m for the same period in 2008.
Other oil firms ramped up their spending even more, according to research by DeSmog blog. Chevron Corp more than doubled its outlay on lobbyists, spending $6.8m this quarter. Conoco Phillips also doubled its lobbying budget to $6m. BP spent $3.6m. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a mining operators' group, has said it will spend $45m this year on advertising and PR. Electricity companies have also ramped up their spending, as have coal mining operators. Southern Company, which operates in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and ­Mississippi, has spent $3.6m on ­lobbying this year.
The battle for influence kicked up another gear last month with the introduction of a 648-page discussion draft bill – the American clean energy and security act – to the House of Representatives. It has escalated each week since then, with oil, gas, coal and electricity firms splashing out more on advertising to try to block the reforms or remake them to favour industry.
The draft proposal sets out a timetable for cutting America's greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 80% below 2005 levels by the middle of the century.
It would require power companies to get 25% of their electricity from clean sources such as wind and solar by 2025, and would require less polluting vehicle fuels. It also envisages a support fund for industries that would have the hardest time converting to the new regime.
Because of the new constellation of powers in Washington – with Obama in the White House and Democrats in control of Congress – it is the first climate bill ever to have a realistic chance of becoming law. The draft has also been crafted with a view to winning over industry as well as environmentalists, further improving its prospects.
It has a powerful lineup of supporters: environmental and liberal organisations as well as major corporations that support energy reform, even some religious organisations, are pushing back hard, launching new adverts on TV, in print, on the web, and even on subway platforms almost daily.
They too have hired lobbyists and PR firms. But Michael Oko, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), says they cannot compete with the fossil fuel industry. "Whatever we have to spend is such a small amount when you compare it to the deep pockets of big oil and other big energy companies," he said.
The Environmental Defence Action Fund spent $300,000 on lobbyists in the first three months of this year, and the US Climate Action Partnership, a consortium of major corporations such as DuPont and environmental groups, spent $250,000. NRDC spent $148,400, according to data from the Centre for Responsive Politics.
The Nature Conservancy, by far the biggest spender on lobbying among environment groups, spent $850,000.
Unlike the past battles over the science of climate change and the role of human activity, the core of the arguments on both sides is now economic.
The industry giants argue that putting a price on carbon will be ruinous for the average American family, and plunge the country deeper into recession.
"[Lawmakers] are literally rewriting the ground rules about what types of energy they want us to use," said Thomas Pyle, the president of the lobbying firm American Energy Alliance (AEA).
The AEA has close ties with the oil industry. Pyle was once a lobbyist for Koch Industries, a privately owned firm which started in the oil refining business. He also worked for the Institute for Energy Research, a thinktank that has been funded by Exxon, Brown and Root, and trusts set up by Koch before spinning off the AEA.
Environmental groups accuse Pyle of recycling long-refuted studies about costs to industry of climate legislation.
In the last fortnight, the two sides have redirected their PR offensive from the general public to the districts held by about a dozen Democrats, mainly from conservative heartland states, who hold the swing vote on the House of Representatives energy subcommittee.
AEA has produced radio adverts airing in the home turf of 10 of the key representatives. "There had been a macro-level campaign, trying to go out and change hearts and minds," said Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. "Now we are seeing it at micro level, targeted at individual members and going into specific districts."
The Democrats in the spotlight include some from conservative regions, some from coal-producing areas in Virginia and Pennsylvania, or oil-rich states such as Texas, as well as those from the now ailing manufacturing heartlands such as Ohio and Indiana, where people are becoming increasingly worried about rising electricity costs and possible job losses.
Republicans do not enter the political calculus because of their broad policy of non co-operation in Congress.
Some of the Democratic holdouts, like Jim Matheson of Utah, say they need more time to study the bill, and that their voters are not yet convinced this is the time to take on climate change. "For the general public, this is not on the radar screen," he told the Guardian. "I think that voters in my state want to have more energy independence and they want a secure source of supply and they want to keep prices low. Among the general public I don't know how much this issue of climate change has penetrated."
The PR war aims to drive each version of such awareness deeper and deeper into the US consciousness. The outcome will determine the fate of the bill – and, perhaps, a global treaty to combat global warming and the sea level rise.
A clean bill
The draft American clean energy and security act released by congressmen Ed Markey and Henry Waxman on 31 March 2009 would for the first time put a ceiling on carbon emissions, and require industry to pay the costs of cutting global warming pollution.
It envisages a phased reduction that would cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
But it offers no blueprint on the contentious issue of how many pollution permits – called allowances – will be given to industry and how many will be sold to generate government revenue.
The draft says those will be a matter for future negotiations. Other key provisions of the bill include a requirement that electricity companies get 25% of their power from clean sources by 2025, and for refineries to produce fuels that are 10% cleaner from 2030.

US set for compromise bill on emissions

By Edward Luce in Washington
Published: May 12 2009 23:15

Democrats in the US House of Representatives are expected to announce a compromise move on Wednesday that would give the go-ahead to a bill to tackle global warming. Success would beat expectations in a political climate increasingly hostile to cap-and-trade.
The bill, which will disappoint some environmental groups, is likely to give away more than half the carbon permits under the cap-and-trade system, and water down the original emission reduction targets envisaged by the two leading congressional sponsors, Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

However, moderate environmental groups say that any climate-change legislation would amount to a triumph during a severe economic downturn.
They point to a Pew Research Center opinion poll shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, showing global warming at the bottom of the list of the public’s 20 highest concerns, with only 30 per cent of voters saying tackling the problem should be a top priority.
The issue came below “moral decline”, immigration, lobbyists and the military. “If you look at what is possible, then this bill is both environmentally effective and politically attractive,” said Tony Kreindler, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group.
Under the likely outline, which could be read out as soon as Wednesday, up to 40 per cent of the carbon permits would be given away to local electricity distribution companies, another 12-15 per cent would go to energy-intensive manufacturers, and up to 5 per cent would be allocated to the oil sector.
The bill would also dilute the original target set by Mr Waxman, who had hoped to reduce US carbon emissions to 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. That reduction figure would be trimmed to between 14 and 17 per cent.
The likely bill would contravene Mr Obama’s campaign pledge to ensure a full system of auctions for carbon permits. It could also complicate his budget arithmetic. Proceeds from the auctions had been earmarked by the White House to fund Mr Obama’s “Make work pay” tax cut for the middle classes.
However, supporters say the changes are necessary to bring in centrist Democrats, particularly from the coal and manufacturing-intensive states, such as Rich Boucher of Virginia, John Dingell of Michigan and Gene Green of Houston, the US oil capital.
Supporters add that the House compromise will serve as a good template to bring along Democratic centrists in the Senate, where passing any global-warming legislation looks far tougher.
“If you can get a bill that satisfies legislators such as Boucher and Dingell in the House then you raise its chances in the Senate,” said Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank.
Mr Waxman had set himself the target of getting the bill through his committee before Memorial Day weekend in late May, since the Democratic leadership has indicated that much of June will be devoted to pushing healthcare reform – an equally controversial topic.
If it passes muster with Mr Waxman’s committee, the bill could be voted on as early as July.
However, few believe that the Senate will pass anything before the world climate-change summit in Copenhagen in December, where countries such as China and India are seen as unlikely to take steps unless the US has first showed leadership at home.
Nikki Roy, of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said: “Historically, America has only passed big environmental bills after a big disaster, like Bhopal [the industrial gas mass poisoning in India in 1984]. No one wants a big disaster, but I fear that it will be difficult to get this past the Senate while voters are so focused on the economy.”
Others believe that Mr Obama’s hand could be strengthened in Copenhagen if the bill has been passed by the House but not by the Senate. Under this scenario, Mr Obama could use the Senate’s reluctance as leverage to extract concessions from the large developing countries.
His task could get tougher if he emerges from the summit with a treaty, which would require a two-thirds Senate approval. The Democrats have 59 seats, and 67 votes would be needed.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

An Environmentalist's Thesaurus

'Global warming' is so passé.


Some experts think the environmentalist movement has an image problem. According to them, greens are losing the battle against primeval despoilers of Nature's awesome bounty because they continue to use antiquated, in-your-face terms like "global warming," "cap and trade," and yes even "the environment." So says a new report by ecoAmerica, a cutting-edge, Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in environmental marketing and messaging, as reported in the New York Times (henceforth known as the Green Lady).
According to ecoAmerica, which has conducted rigorous, focus-group research in this area, environmentalists are taking it on the chin because politically charged terms like "global warming" conjure up images of hirsute, confrontational '60s types. "When you say 'global warming,'" Robert M. Perkowitz, ecoAmerica's president and founder, told the Times, "a certain group of Americans think that's a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues."
Sadly, Mr. Perkowitz never explained how this "certain group" manages to draw a connection between global warming and gay marriage. And it must be said, I'd love to see his raw data on the subject.
In any event, to right the listing ship of sustainable biodiversity, ecoAmerica recommends that environmentalists mothball the textured scientific lingo and get right down to the nitty-gritty. That means ditching excessively technical terms like "carbon dioxide" and substituting catchy phrases like "moving away from the dirty fuels of the past."
EcoAmerica also recommends jettisoning the cumbersome term "the environment" and replacing it with the infinitely more felicitous "the air we breathe, the water our children drink." The organization probably got paid tons of money for this high-level research, so its advice should not go unheeded.
Clearly, ecoAmerica is on to something with this bold initiative. But perhaps the subtle neologisms it's proposed don't go far enough. No one pays any attention to bloodless expressions like "depletion of the ozone layer" anymore. Moreover, "depletion" is a stupid word, since what it's supposed to decry is "catastrophic destruction" of the ozone layer, not its mere shrinkage.
What is needed here is more graphic language that the man on the street can understand. Thus, instead of saying something like "If mankind continues to deplete the ozone layer, we will cause irreparable damage to the environment," activists should say: "If we keep using the dirty fuels of the past to mess up that awesome thing in the sky that prevents our butts from like totally frying at the beach, then we might as well just spew filth into the air we breathe and the water our children drink and all curl up and die right now. Am I right, or what?"
Anyone can see how more colorful, less partisan, less politically rancorous language would enable environmentalists to seize the higher ground. Now it no longer sounds like some prissy elitist's butt that's going to fry. It could be somebody in a trailer park. Maybe even Dick Cheney.
There are many other environmentalist catchphrases that could use fine-tuning. "No carbon footprint" is a term so trendy, so precious, that it cannot help but reinforce the image of environmentalists as condescending do-gooders. Surely something less deviously euphemistic would work better.
Instead of hanging a sign in the window reading, "As of midnight Tuesday, this dining establishment will no longer leave a carbon footprint," restaurant owners could hang a placard reading: "Starting Tuesday, we will no longer allow disgusting fumes to belch all over the food your kids are eating and stinking up the air you breathe. We already warned the cook."
Similarly, instead of talking about "the melting of the polar ice cap," a phrase too apocalyptically antediluvian to scare anyone anymore, environmentalists should start referring to "dead polar bears in your driveway." "Degradation of habitat" could be replaced by a more evocative phrase like "torching Bambi's crib."
The one term environmentalists should probably deep-six, though, is "biological diversity." The ding-dongs who confuse "global warming" with gay marriage might think that biological diversity refers to features of the environment that only ethnic minorities care about. At this rate, we'll never get the planet back in working order.
Mr. Queenan, a satirist and writer, is the author of numerous books. His memoir, "Closing Time," has just been published by Viking.

EPA Chief Says CO2 Finding May Not 'Mean Regulation'


WASHINGTON -- The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday a finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a public health danger won't necessarily lead to government regulation of emissions, an apparent about-face for the Obama administration.
The comments follow revelations of an administration document warning the EPA of potential economically harmful consequences from an agency finding last month that proposes declaring greenhouse gases a danger to the public. The document represents comments from various federal agencies, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget for EPA rule-making.

An OMB spokesman said, however, that the document doesn't represent administration policy. And statements in the document are at odds with the EPA's reasoning for the "endangerment" proposal.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson previously has said that such a decision "will indeed trigger the beginning of regulation of CO2," echoing similar remarks by White House climate czar Carol Browner.
But speaking before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Ms. Jackson said Tuesday: "The endangerment finding is a scientific finding mandated by law...It does not mean regulation."
EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy later said Jackson was referring to the proposal, and not a final endangerment designation. "No news here," Ms. Adora said, adding: "The proposed finding does not mean instant regulations."
Other administration officials also tried to downplay the comment, saying it wasn't a reversal of policy, and they reiterated the administration preferred a legislative solution.
Ms. Jackson told the committee: "It is true that if the endangerment finding is finalized, EPA would have the authority to regulate green-house-gas emissions and...we would be judicious, we would be deliberative, we would follow the science, we would follow the law."
Sen. John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) asked Ms. Jackson about the inter-agency document sent by the OMB to the EPA before the agency published its proposed endangerment finding. Ms. Jackson said she disagreed with several of the document's characterizations. "It's deliberative and so it's people's opinions," she said.
Ms. Jackson added, however: "We do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming," and she reiterated the administration's belief that "the best way to address that is through a gradual move to a market-based program such as a cap-and-trade program."
The document warns the EPA, that "Making the decision to regulate CO2 under the (Clean Air Act) for the first time is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities."
The document -- marked as "Deliberative-Attorney Client Privilege" -- doesn't have a date or a named author.
OMB Director Peter Orszag said later Tuesday on his department's Web site that "the OMB simply collated and collected disparate comments from various agencies during the inter-agency review process of the proposed finding."
Mr. Orszag said that since they came from multiple sources, "they do not necessarily represent the views of either OMB or the administration."
An administration official said the comment that the EPA finding would hurt small business came from the head of the office of advocacy at the Small Business Administration, "a Bush holdover because the Obama folks haven't begun to staff" the agency. He didn't say where the other comments originated.
"The bottom line is that OMB would have not concluded review, which allows the finding to move forward, if we had concerns about whether EPA's finding was consistent with either the law or the underlying science," Mr. Orszag said.
Mr. Barraso called the document a "smoking gun" that shows the endangerment findings "were political, not scientific."
The White House legal brief starts by questioning the link between the EPA's scientific argument for endangerment and its political summary, raising concerns about the evidence presented. It also warns of a cascade of unintended regulatory consequences.
The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's environment and regulatory affairs, William Kovacs, said the memo "confirms almost everything we've been saying on the spillover effects of regulating greenhouse gases." He said the document exposes the administration and the EPA to litigation if it finalizes the endangerment finding and begins to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, particularly because it was drafted during the deliberation process.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said the disclosure of this document "suggests that a political decision was made to put special interests ahead of middle-class families and small businesses struggling in this recession."
Frank O'Donnell, head of the environmental group, Clean Air Watch, called the document "nothing short of a direct attack on the EPA's proposed finding.
"It is very clear from this that the Obama administration contains people who are trying to sabotage the administration's climate strategy...(and) there are a lot of knives within the bowels of the bureaucracy," he said.
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House Democrats Reach Accord on a Climate Bill

Legislation Lowers Targets for Cutting Emissions and Gives Breaks to Utilities, Auto Makers, Other Industries


WASHINGTON -- House Democratic leaders said Tuesday evening they had reached agreement within their caucus on climate-change legislation that sets easier targets for emissions reductions and renewable-energy requirements than originally proposed.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.) has been negotiating with a group of Southern and Midwestern Democrats on his committee who have withheld support for his bill because they feared it would hurt the economies in their states.

Mr. Waxman's bill calls for capping emissions of greenhouse gases, and requiring companies to hold permits in order to emit such gases. But the original version of the proposal was silent on the degree to which companies would have to pay for those permits, versus being given them free. Utilities dependent on coal and other carbon-intensive industries such as steel plants or oil refineries have been lobbying Congress to give them the permits for free, at least initially.
"I think we have the basis of an agreement with members of the Democratic caucus," Mr. Waxman said. He said a new version of the proposal would be made public Thursday and that he expects the Energy and Commerce Committee to vote on the measure next week.
Virtually all of the Republicans on the panel are expected to oppose the bill, but Mr. Waxman may not need their support if most of the Democrats are on his side. "I expect we're going to have the votes to pass this out of committee," he said.

If the bill can get passed by his panel, which is among the largest and most ideologically and geographically diverse in Congress, the legislation is widely seen as having a strong chance of passing the full House and possibly the Senate as well.
Bowing to members of his party whose states depend heavily on cheap, coal-fired electricity, Mr. Waxman told reporters late Tuesday that he has agreed to amend the legislation so that it requires a cut in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, rather than a 20% cut in that time frame, as called for in the original version of his proposal.
Mr. Waxman said Tuesday he has agreed to give away to electric utilities 35% of the emissions permits that would be created by the bill, at least initially, rather than require them to pay for the permits.
People familiar with the outlines of the deal said that under the revised proposal, auto makers initially would receive 3% of the permits free, and that certain trade-sensitive industries, such as aluminum, glass and steelmakers, initially would get 15% free.
Those concessions would be a win for the affected industries, potentially worth billions of dollars. It wasn't clear how long the free permits would be granted.
A senior Republican on the committee, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, said Republicans are preparing to introduce as many as 200 amendments aimed at slowing down the bill and eliminating major provisions of the legislation. "Bring your No Doze," he said, predicting numerous late-night meetings of the panel next week.
Republicans and other interest groups were already turning up the heat on Democrats and the Obama administration ahead of Tuesday's deal. Earlier in the day, Republicans pounced on a White House document that says regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act "is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities."
The document, an amalgamation of comments by government agencies sent from the Office of Management and Budget to the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year, presents a more dire view of the consequences of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act than the Obama administration has publicly stated.
Asked about the memo at a Senate hearing Tuesday, the EPA's administrator, Lisa Jackson, said the agency's recent declaration that greenhouse gases endanger health and welfare is preliminary and might not lead to regulations under the Clean Air Act. She reiterated the administration's preference for legislation such as Mr. Waxman's that would cap and gradually reduce emissions, while allowing companies to buy and sell emissions permits.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) said the OMB memo "suggests that a political decision was made to put special interests ahead of middle-class families and small businesses struggling in this recession."—Ian Talley contributed to this article.
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Climate-Bill Breaks Bode Ill for Deficit


WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said Monday that it expected even wider deficits this year and next than previously forecast, and Congress could undermine the administration's push to narrow the gap by slashing the revenue generated by the president's plan to curb greenhouse gases.
On Monday, White House budget director Peter Orszag revised the fiscal 2009 deficit upward by $89 billion to $1.84 trillion, 12.9% of the economy. That is a level not seen since 1945. Next year's deficit forecast was raised $87 billion, to $1.26 trillion.

White House officials still say they are holding to a long-term goal of cutting the inherited budget deficit in half by 2013. But that effort is threatened by the weak economy and by congressional politics. White House economists didn't revise their expectation that the economy would be growing by 3.5% by the end of this year, despite the fact that some private economists have been lowering their forecasts.
Congress is debating proposals to give away to utilities and other businesses the pollution credits that would be created by a cap-and-trade system. Such a system is designed to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by instituting caps, and requiring that businesses buy permits to pollute that they can trade like commodities.
Beginning in 2012, the White House budget had counted on the sale of greenhouse-gas emissions permits to bring in $77 billion to $79 billion a year through 2019. Of the $624 billion in revenue, the White House allocated $504 billion to a $800-per-family tax cut for households with incomes below $150,000, in part to offset the impact of the cap-and-trade system on electricity rates. An additional $15 billion a year was dedicated to developing and deploying renewable-energy efforts to replace the fossil fuels being hit by the pollution trading system.
If Congress decides to give away permits, that would mean less money for policy ideas such as the president's Making Work Pay tax cut and his push to wean the nation off fossil fuels, and less money for deficit reduction.
"At least half the revenue that the administration is expecting is just not going to materialize," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely allied with the Obama White House.

A White House official said Monday that the tax cut won't be extended beyond 2010 if the administration can't find a way to pay for it. The administration is still holding out hope that the sale of emissions permits will generate more than enough revenue to finance its alternative-energy plan.
Just how much money the administration might have to work with will become clearer when House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) unveils his full climate-change bill this week. He hopes to have a vote on the bill in his committee by Memorial Day.
Congressional aides and lobbyists familiar with the bill say as much as 75% of the emissions credits will be given away free in the first few years of the plan. Many of those free credits will go to coal-fired utilities that would struggle to cover the cost of permits for all the carbon they emit. Energy-intensive industries that face stiff global competition would get most of their emissions permits free in the first years of trading as well.
It may be 10 to 15 years until all the emissions permits will be sold, according to people familiar with the legislation.
Seeking to bolster public support for climate legislation, the Obama administration is consulting pollsters who advocate avoiding phrases such as "cap-and-trade" and "global warming." On Monday, the White House Council on Environmental Quality was scheduled to meet with Robert Perkowitz, president of ecoAmerica, a Washington-based nonprofit that uses "psychographic research" to "shift personal and civic choices of environmentally agnostic Americans," according to its Web site.
"We're trying to give them phrases that work," Mr. Perkowitz said in an interview. He said that in a survey of some 2,000 Americans conducted by his group in March and April, less than half of the respondents said they would support a "cap-and-trade" policy, and that only 24% said they knew what the phrase means. "If you call it 'clean energy dividend'...almost anything other than 'cap and trade,' you'll get people responding a lot more favorably," he said.—Stephen Power contributed to this article.
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