Thursday, August 27, 2009

National Parks: America's Best Idea

This six part television series produced by Ken Burns was filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales — from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska — "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background — rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story full of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration, set against the most breathtaking backdrops imaginable.

Electric Power Flash - August

The Monthly Flash Estimates of Electric Power Data (“Flash Estimates”) is prepared by the Electric Power Division, Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels, Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Department of Energy. Data published in the Flash Estimates are compiled from the following sources: Form EIA-826,“Monthly Electric Utility Sales and Revenues with State Distributions Report,” Form EIA-906, “Power Plant Report,” Form EIA-920, “Combined Heat and Power Plant Report,” and Form EIA-923, “Power Plant Operations Report.”

More Extreme HeatWaves: Global Warming’s Wake Up Call

This report from the National Wildlife Federation dated 2009 argues that global warming will bring more extreme heat waves. As the United States warms another 4 to 11°F on average over the next century, we will have more extremely hot summer days. Every part of the country will be affected.

Urban areas will feel the heat more acutely because asphalt, concrete, and other structures absorb and reradiate heat, causing temperature to be as much as 10°F higher than nearby rural areas.

Urban air pollution will be exacerbated by more extreme heat. Warm, sunny conditions accelerate the formation of ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. Even if air pollution is improved, as required by the Clean Air Act, global warming could mean an extra 10 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone during heat waves in the Midwest and Northeast, forcing some cities to take even more aggressive steps to meet the 75
ppb ozone standard.

Heat waves disproportionately impact the very old and very young, as well as people who are poor, have asthma or heart disease, or live in big cities. With often diminished health and a greater likelihood of living alone, the elderly are especially vulnerable. As the U.S. demographics shift toward an older and more urban population, efforts to protect these at-risk communities from extreme heat will become increasingly important.

Natural habitats and agriculture are also vulnerable to extreme heat. More extreme temperatures are already pushing wildlife and their habitats beyond their normal tolerance levels. Heat-related declines have been documented for wild salmon and trout, moose, and pika. Livestock and crops have lower productivity and increased mortality associated with heat stress and drought.

We can reduce the severity of heat waves and their impacts on vulnerable people. Curbing global warming pollution as much and as quickly as possible is an essential first step. Shifting to clean solar energy is an especially promising option because sunlight is plentiful during heat waves, when electricity demand for air conditioning peaks. At the same time, we must make our cities cooler and greener; for example, introducing more green space — parks, trees, and “green” roofs — can
greatly reduce the urban heat island effect. Furthermore, cities must implement public health measures to reduce the impact of extreme heat that we can not avoid.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rebuilding America: A National Policy Framework for Investment in Energy Efficiency Retrofits

This August 2009 report by the Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition is an examination of how the United States can build a low-carbon economy by harnessing energy efficiency as our “first fuel.” By retrofitting existing homes and businesses, we can cost-effectively reduce end-use waste and pollution, and at the same time jump start an economic recovery, create good jobs, and give consumers real energy cost savings—even as we ensure a safer, healthier, and more secure future by combating global warming.

This report sets a goal of developing an energy efficiency industry that will retrofit 40 percent of our nation’s building stock, or 50 million buildings, within the next 10 years. This project would require over $500 billion in public and private investment, and create approximately 625,000 sustained full-time jobs directly and indirectly throughout the decade. Rebuilding America’s buildings for energy efficiency will reduce energy use, household bills, and global warming pollution by 20 to 40 percent for 50 million homes and small businesses, all while generating $32 billion to $64 billion in annual consumer energy cost savings.

U.S. Solar Energy Demand Dynamics: Financing Structures, Government Incentives, and Market Drivers for Solar Photovoltaics Projects: 2009-2015

This report by Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides in-depth analysis of global clean technology markets, is the result of extensive interviews with both end-users and manufacturers conclude that for sustained growth in the U.S., incentives must be increased at the federal level.

Due largely to the credit crisis, funding for solar projects has been tight. In the U.S., this has particularly been the case, because banks are unwilling to lend to projects that have undetermined cash flows.

The five-year outlook is that the combination of federal and state incentives and falling module prices will work together to dramatically increase demand in the U.S.

This Pike Research report examines demand-side dynamics for solar PV projects in depth, analyzing government incentives, financing structures, and internal rates of return on a state-by-state level. Cost components for solar project development are quantified in detail, and the report also includes forecasts for leading solar PV markets around the world in addition to the U.S., providing a clear and actionable view of the size and timing of market opportunities.

Fishery Management Plan for Fish Resources in the Artic Management Area

This plan dated August 2009 prepared by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce will prohibit the expansion of commercial fishing in federal Arctic waters until researchers gather sufficient information on fish and the Arctic marine environment to prevent adverse impacts of commercial harvesting activity on the ecosystem. The Arctic Fishery Management Plan will be implemented through regulations to be published in the Federal Register. Fisheries managers have identified Arctic cod, saffron cod, and snow crab as likely initial target species for commercial fishing in the region.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Prohibitions On Market Manipulation in Subtitle B of Title VIII of The Energy Independence Act of 2007

In this document, the Federal Trade Commission (“Commission” or “FTC”)
issues its Statement of Basis and Purpose (“SBP”) and final Rule, pursuant to Section 811 of Subtitle B of Title VIII of The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (“EISA”).1 The final Rule prohibits any person, directly or indirectly, in connection with the purchase or sale of crude oil, gasoline, or petroleum distillates at wholesale, from (a) knowingly engaging in any act, practice, or course of business – including the making of any untrue statement of material
fact – that operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon any person, or (b) intentionally failing to state a material fact that under the circumstances renders a statement made by such person misleading, provided that such omission distorts or is likely to distort market conditions for any such product.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Climate Change Policy: Preliminary Observations on Options for Distributing Emissions Allowances and Revenue Under a Cap-and-Trade Program

This testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO-09-950T) dated August 4, 2009 states that the method for allocating allowances in a cap-and-trade program can have significant economic implications for the government, regulated entities, and households.

The government could allocate these allowances to regulated entities in three main ways. First, it could auction all of the allowances and collect a significant amount of revenue that it could use, for example, to compensate households affected by the cap-and-trade program. Second, it could give away the allowances to entities affected by the program and thereby transfer the value of the allowances to those entities. Third, the government could give away some allowances and auction the rest.

According to the economic literature and economists we interviewed, regardless of the mechanism for distributing allowances, consumers will bear most of the costs of a cap-and-trade system because most regulated entities will pass along their increased costs in the form of increased prices; however, these costs could be largely offset depending on how revenues are used.

Available literature and economists we interviewed point to five main options for distributing a program’s allowance revenues, although numerous other options exist. First, the government could lower the overall cost of the cap-and-trade program to the economy through accompanying reductions in taxes on income, labor, or investment. Second, auction revenues could be distributed to households through lump-sum payments, which could offset the higher consumer prices resulting from a cap-and-trade program and mitigate any disproportionate impacts on low-income households. Third, the government could expand the scope of the Earned Income Tax Credit to further benefit low-income working families. Fourth, the government could compensate regulated entities and their shareholders for lost profits by allocating them free allowances. Finally, revenues might be used to fund climate-related programs, such as research on low-carbon technologies, or used to support climate change mitigation activities in developing nations.

Energy Market and Economic Impacts of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009

This report by the Energy Information Administration, Office of Integrated Analysis and Forecasting, U.S. Department of Energy dated August 2009 responds to a request from Chairman Henry Waxman and Chairman Edward Markey for an analysis of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA). ACESA, as passed by the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009, is a complex bill that regulates emissions of greenhouse gases through market-based mechanisms, efficiency programs, and economic incentives.

Key findings are:
1. Given the potential of offsets as a low-cost compliance option, the amount of reduction in covered emissions is exceeded by the amount of compliance generated through offsets in most of the main analysis cases (Figure ES-1).

2. The vast majority of reductions in energy-related emissions are expected to occur in the electric power sector.

3. If new nuclear, renewable, and fossil plants with CCS are not developed and deployed in a timeframe consistent with emissions reduction requirements under ACESA, covered entities are expected to respond by increasing their use of offsets, if available, and by turning to increased natural gas use to offset reductions in coal generation.

4. Emissions reductions from changes in fossil fuel use in the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors are small relative to those in the electric power sector.

5. GHG allowance prices are sensitive to the cost and availability of emissions offsets and low-and no-carbon generating technologies.

6. ACESA increases energy prices, but effects on electricity and natural gas bills of consumers are substantially mitigated through 2025 by the allocation of free allowances to regulated electricity and natural gas distribution companies.

7. ACESA increases the cost of using energy, which reduces real economic output, reduces purchasing power, and lowers aggregate demand for goods and services. The result is that projected real gross domestic product (GDP) generally falls relative to the Reference Case.

8. The free allocation of output-based allowances reduces the impact of ACESA on energy-intensive, trade- vulnerable industries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Use of Offsets to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

This Congressional Budget Office Brief dated August 3, 2009 states that while reducing greenhouse gases often focus on limiting the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity or power cars and trucks, yet a variety of other actions—
including disposing of waste in different ways, changing methods of farming, and lessening deforestation—could also reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases.