A Breath of Not So Fresh Air

So now that the Waxman-Markey bill has passed the House, we can all breath a sigh of relief right?  Unfortunately, no.  Hopes are high as the United States ventures into breaking ground with its first piece of climate legislation. Yet many are also  disappointed with the implications of the bill.

For one thing, the bill still bases its reductions on the 450 ppm (parts per million) carbon level, rather than the more realistic and recommended level of 350 ppm.  Then it goes a step further (maybe lower is a better word here), since, the way it looks now, the bill will help in making a big, no gigantic, reduction of about 4-5% by the year 2020.  The bill says its 17%, but that’s based on the 450 ppm level, which just won’t work.

The other problem is the amount of carbon allowances that will be given directly back to the companies who just paid them.  Polluting entities are set up to get all the way up to 85% back of the fines they will pay for excess emissions.

So how does a climate bill end up rewarding polluters more and setting pretty insignificant numbers for pollution reduction?  Wasn’t the point of this bill to begin punishing polluters who have gone too far and begin helping people who are in need in our country by helping provide new job opportunities and moving to cleaner energy?

This scenario with this bill has gotten so bizarre that my friend has begun calling it the Wackey-Merman bill, which, in his words, is, “like a mythic half/man, half/sea creature: the head has the science that tells us what is necessary yet the lower half of the body is the slimy political part that can’t seem to walk the talk.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

PNM and Carbon Pollution: Will consumers get the shaft?

Jeff Sterba

PNM Resources CEO Jeff Sterba

Right now in Washington, members of Congress are debating a twist to climate control legislation that could lead to a massive corporate giveaway for oil and gas companies.

The Energy & Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is considering the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, (ACES) a comprehensive climate and energy legislative package that would limit carbon pollution and require the development of renewable energy. The bill is expected to go on to the full House of Representatives, and later this summer, to the Senate.

The fact that Congress is finally moving to limit carbon pollution by “capping” the overall amount of emissions allowed and issuing permits to emit carbon within those limits is a crucial step toward slowing global warming. Read what Al Gore has to say about it here.

What’s not so great is what Congress may decide to do with the trillions of dollars that could be generated by requiring companies to pay for the permits.

The plan that makes the most sense is to make companies pay for the permits, therefore making them financially responsible for limiting their emissions and forcing them to develop alternative forms of energy. The estimated billions that would be raised by a 100 percent auction of the permits would be returned to energy customers – you and me.

But this week, news emerged that some in Congress are apparently being swayed by the powerful oil and gas companies, who want Congress to agree to give them the permits for free.

New Mexico’s own Jeff Sterba (CEO of PNM Resources) was among a long string of utility executives who told the House committee last month that requiring companies to cap carbon emissions and develop alternate forms of energy would force them to charge their customers more.

New Mexicans know PNM well.  It’s the company that was just fined $6.9 million for federal and state air quality violations at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in the Four Corners. According to the New Mexico Environment Department, it was the largest fine ever levied by the state for air quality violations.

In light of those violations and others, New Mexicans need to question whether we can really trust utility companies to act on their own to reduce carbon emissions.

Moreover, if there is really no penalty for polluting (because the fines will be given right back to energy companies like PNM), then where is their incentive to “pass the savings” back to the consumer?  The whole construct just doesn’t make sense.

Congress needs to resist pressure from the oil and gas industry and hold companies financially responsible for their carbon pollution. Implement the carbon caps – and give the billions of dollars raised by the 100 percent auction of the carbon pollution back to energy consumers where it belongs.

Power Shifting on Home

power shift

Juan and I have just arrived back home from Power Shift 09, where over 12,000 young people took over Washington, D.C to make their voices heard on the issue of climate change. It was both inspiring and motivating to meet such a diverse group of young people who are working everyday to make change in their communities and on the federal level.

The event consisted of renowned speakers, work shops, rallies, and an organized lobby day where young folks were able to meet, many for the first time, with their respective elected officials to talk about why we need to set new policies that support a new, clean and green economy. Other highlights from the event included a variety of amazing documentary screenings and a hyped performance by The Roots!

Power Shift 09 may have come to an end, but I know that it has only helped to promote and even stronger movement where young activists across the nation are going home with a new set of tools to move our country in a new positive direction…after a good, well-deserved nap, of course!

(Video to Follow)