Tag Archives: EPA

This week in green energy: The EPA takes a stand on CO2

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/51/Anacortes_Refinery_31911.JPG/800px-Anacortes_Refinery_31911.JPGOn Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington formally declared that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases are pollutants that threaten public health. This is an important ruling that empowers the agency to directly regulate emissions of CO2, under the rules of engagement of the Clean Air Act.

The decision comes just a few weeks after a sweeping draft legislation was released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that — among other things — provides a blueprint for a cap-and-trade system designed to regulate carbon emissions.

The cap-and-trade provision of the climate change bill, formerly known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), is raising concerns both from Republicans and moderate Democrats, who fear this added cost will hurt the coal industry. Underscoring the growing opposition was a Senate vote not to fast track climate change legislation.

Although the EPA ruling was widely applauded by environmentalists, the reality is that it will take months, even years, for the agency to draft comprehensive rules to regulate the 7.3 billion metric tons of CO2 the U.S. produces every year. However, on the upside it does pressure Congress to approve a climate change legislation with strong cap-and-trade provisions.

As Time Magazine’s Bryan Walsh pointed out: “As momentous as the EPA’s decision was — the finding stated ‘in both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem’ — no one actually wants the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Not even [EPA Administrator Lisa] Jackson or [President] Obama, both of whom have repeatedly stated that they would much prefer Congress to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions directly, most likely through a cap-and-trade program.”

As reported by Bradford Plumer in The Vine, Congressman Ed Markey, D-Mass., who co-sponsored the ACES draft bill with Henry  Waxman, D-Calif.,  said it best, when he bluntly summarized what was at stake by asking: “Do you want the EPA to make the decision or would you like your congressman or senator to be in the room and drafting legislation? … Industries across the country will just have to gage for themselves how lucky they feel if they kill legislation.”

Despite some positive tremors over the past couple of weeks that indicate the U.S. economy may have bottomed out, we are still  far from a full blown recovery as was indicated by data released by Dow Jones’ VentureSource, showing that investment by venture capital firms had taken a nose dive during the first quarter of ‘09.  According to VentureSource, U.S. VC  firms invested $3.9 billion in companies during the first quarter, a 50 percent decline from the almost $7.78 billion invested during the same quarter last year. The cleantech sector was particularly hit with VC funds investing $189 million in 15 deals during the first quarter, compared to $457 million invested in 24 deals last year.

The days of plenty are clearly over. And while VC professionals, like the rest of the economy, are tightening their belts, investments are still going on, but the amounts are smaller and flowing to companies with stronger fundamentals that offer a clear  exit strategy.

That is likely the rationale backing  this week’s $700,000  early stage investment from  Boston-based Polaris Ventures to Sun Catalytix, a Cambridge, Mass.,-based  startup that has developed a “sun fuel” technology.

The Department of Energy also stepped in this week with stimulus money, awarding $41.9 million to 13 companies to develop and deploy fuel cell technology.

As for projects that were able to secure funding before the economic crisis, some are now partially completed and coming online, including BP’s 400-megawatt Fowler Ridge wind farm in Indiana, which started operating this week.

Sempra Generation, which like BP has a large enough balance sheet to support clean energy projects,  said this week that it will add a 48- megawatt expansion to its 10-megawatts Copper Mountain solar power facility in Nevada. In Vermont local regulators greenlighted the extension of a wind project and in Indiana, Indianapolis Power and Light, a unit of AES, has launched construction on a 106-megawatt wind farm that it’s jointly developing with EnXco, the U.S. unit of France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles.

Waxman – Markey set for full House vote; USDA steps in as environmental overseer

House Democrats reached a deal on the Waxman – Markey climate change and energy bill last night that will see the Agriculture Department (USDA) play a lead role in overseeing agriculture carbon offset programs. Since clearing the Energy and Commerce Committee, a little more than a month ago, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s lead authors, along with Edward Markey (D-Mass.), have been negotiating with members of their own party, mostly from farm and coal-producing states, who oppose some of the bill’s carbon-cutting measures such as cap-and-trade.

The agreement reached yesterday paves the way for a full House vote Friday, as previously reported by GER, here.

The deal reached with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) will put the USDA in charge of carbon-offset programs that would pay landowners and farmers to construct environmentally friendly projects that offset their CO2 emissions. Under this scheme, a large farm could install methane-capturing systems to manage animal waste or support the construction of a wind or solar project; it could even plant trees to absorb CO2. In exchange, the government would pay the farmer in carbon credits that would allow it to continue emitting agreed levels of CO2. Permit holders could even trade them as part of a cap-and-trade system, another key provision of Waxman – Markey. Continue reading Waxman – Markey set for full House vote; USDA steps in as environmental overseer