May 16, 2010 – Vol.15 No.9
SENATE ENERGY AND CLIMATE BILL RAISES QUESTIONS.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
The American Power Act, the bill introduced by Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, is the US Senate’s version of Congresss attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while setting the country off on a new energy track.
Like much of what comes out of Washington, the bill tries to please all, make all interests happy. But this is not a happy time in the country and over the coming weeks and months many will find much to complain about in the bill. With a slim and tenuous hold on the Senate, Democrats need every vote in their own party, since the only Republican who supported the bill, Lindsay Graham, jumped ship not long ago.
To make the bill more palatable with the general public, Senate Democrats are going to have to be much clearer as to what voters and industry have to gain from its passing. Further, they’re going to have to do a better job of explaining the threat of global warming. Changing the nation’s energy future is a much easier sell. Thank BP for that.
Senator Kerry’s website offers a nice 4 page American Power Act Draft Short Summary. This would be a good place to start selling the bill to all of us. However, below are a few excerpts from the summary (in Italics) the need better explanation:
First: Consumers will come out on top. The American Power Act sends two-thirds of all revenues not dedicated to reducing our nations deficit back to consumers from day one. The rest is spent ensuring a smooth transition for American businesses and investing in projects and technologies to reduce emissions and advance our energy security. In the later years of the program, every penny not spent to reduce the deficit will go directly back to consumers.
--- From day one, two-thirds of revenues not dedicated to reducing our deficit are rebated back to consumers through energy bill discounts and direct rebates. We also provide assistance to those Americans who may be disproportionately affected by potential increases in energy prices through tax cuts and an energy refund program.
--- After the initial transition period, revenues go into a Universal Refund that will increase until all revenues not spent to reduce the deficit are refunded directly to consumers.
What exactly are these revenues? Are they from the sale of emission credits?
Then, when exactly would consumers receive these energy bill discounts, direct rebates and refunds?
The language uses the term deficit which is usually considered the annual budget deficit, not the accumulated deficits known as the national debt. Which is it?
Currently annual deficits are in the budget as far as the eye can see and thus theres no hope of paying down the national debt. These so-called revenues themselves might help reduce the annual deficits but not eliminate them. If we have deficits forever how can there be any money left over for to give back to consumers?
Investing in Clean Energy Research, Development and Deployment
--- The American Power Act funds critical investments in clean energy research and development, including renewable energy technology, advanced vehicle technologies and carbon capture and sequestration.
--- We also establish pilot projects to determine the regional feasibility of light- and heavy-duty plug-in electric vehicles.
How much funding would be available for these critical investments? So called clean coal would get $2 billion a year in incentives, what about everything else?
Further, here and there throughout the country electric vehicle charging infrastructure is being built. These arent pilot projects. These are commercial projects to support electric vehicles already on the market or soon to be. If the vehicle manufacturers, municipalities and utility companies have already agreed to build electric vehicle charging stations, then why are pilot projects needed? True, the regional impact of tens of thousands of electric vehicles on the grid might be good to know, but the utility companies that can figure this out, not Washington.
The bill seems to favor electric vehicles and natural gas vehicles. What if other technologies or fuels come along? There could be a real breakthrough with biofuels at any time, and hydrogen fuel cells, particularly using hydrogen-on-demand systems, could still make a big comeback.
Ensuring Coals Future
--- We empower the U.S. to lead the world in the deployment of clean coal technologies through annual incentives of $2 billion per year for researching and developing effective carbon capture and sequestration methods and devices.
--- We also provide significant incentives for the commercial deployment of 72 GW of carbon capture and sequestration.
No matter what you do, coal can never be clean. Coal is comprised mostly of carbon. Burning carbon rapidly oxidizing carbon will result in airborne emissions that contain carbon. Combust carbon, youll get carbon in the air unless you capture it all and stuff it away somewhere.
The current definition of clean coal includes carbon capture and sequestration: hiding carbon dioxide under the rug or pumping it into old oil wells to increase production rates. Somehow carbon dioxide would have to get from powerplant to where it would be pumped underground for future generations to deal with. Tanker trucks? Not likely. Pipeline? The number 23,000 has been used for the miles of pipeline needed to connect the nations coal plants to sequestration sites. Thats a lot of miles.
The bill is not a done deal by any means. It will certainly swell from its 1000 pages to a few thousand. Democrats may well lose seats in both chambers in the fall elections. If they cant sell the public on this bill by the end of the year, then its unlikely Obama will get a climate bill in his presidency.
Alternatively Democrats need to find a way to bring some Republicans on board. Show people how they will make money soon by cutting emissions and switching to new energy sources. Dont try scaring people with the dire consequences of global warming. Let bizarre and damaging weather events take care of that. Just explain the science in simple terms.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
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