Political dynamics delay energy legislation as EPA regulation moves forward
Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, says Congress has just a few weeks to work on a long list of signature issues before the November 2 elections. “In the final days of the summer work session, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gave up on moving a limited energy bill (S. 3663) to the floor,” says English. Leader Reid said his decision was due to a failure to overcome Republican opposition to moving any energy legislation. Senate Republicans countered that Leader Reid wanted to avoid having a number of moderate Democrats vote instead for a Republican alternative proposal.
Between the crowded fall schedule and election-fueled partisanship, there is probably very little chance that we will see comprehensive energy and/or climate legislation move forward in the legislative process, says English. Still, the renewable energy community, which desperately needs a renewable electricity standard (RES) to survive economically, will be looking for the needed 60 Senate votes.
In a lame-duck session that starts November 15, we could see energy legislation with an RES and transmission provisions. Climate proponents will also continue to urge the White House to take aggressive regulatory actions to address greenhouse gases.
With a cap and trade carbon system on the side line and EPA regulation of carbon going forward, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and others have been working to delay Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of greenhouse gases. Sen. Rockefeller’s S. 3072 bill faces low odds for enactment because President Obama has said he would veto it. This push for a vote, however, keeps pressure on Congress to develop an alternative to EPA regulation. Some recognize a carbon bill is unlikely to pass this year and are now switching focus to intensify their campaign against legislation that would block EPA’s carbon regulation.
Carbon capture and storage could boost oil production
The deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for power plants and other industrial facilities could significantly increase the use of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) in the United States, according to a report released by consulting company Advanced Resources International (ARI). That would facilitate greater domestic oil production and reduce imports — in addition to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).
The process of injecting CO2 into wells to enhance the recovery of oil is proven technology, ARI said. Commercial-scale CO2-EOR projects have been in place for more than 30 years. Since 1986, more than 1.3 billion barrels of incremental oil has been recovered using the technology.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck, N.D., is already using this form of CCS. While not meant to enhance oil production, a CCS project in Illinois is moving forward. The recent completion of a 3-D seismic survey was essential for determining the internal structures of deep underground saline reservoir where CO2 will be injected at the Archer Daniels Midland Ethanol Production Facility. Starting in 2011, CO2 from the facility will be compressed to a liquid state and injected over a 3-year period.
Test for radon during Radon Action Week Oct. 18-24
Radon gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of the deadly disease for non-smokers. Yet many people in Illinois have no idea if their homes have high levels of this health hazard. That’s why the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is encouraging people throughout Illinois to test their homes for radon during Radon Action Week October 18-24.
“It’s estimated that nearly 1,200 radon-related lung cancer deaths occur each year in Illinois,” said IEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III. “Our studies have found homes with excessive radon levels in every county in Illinois. The only way to know if your home has too much radon is to test.”
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the soil. It can enter homes and buildings through small cracks in the foundation, sump pumps or soil in crawlspaces.
Homeowners can either test the home themselves, using test kits available at most home improvement and department stores, or hire a radon measurement contractor.
IEMA collects and analyzes radon home test results throughout the state to determine the potential radon risk by county. Those results showed that nearly 40 percent of Illinois homes tested have radon levels above the USEPA-recommended 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).
For more information about radon, radon testing results from your county or to find an IEMA-licensed radon measurement or mitigation contractor in your area, visit www.radon.illinois.gov.
approves first U.S.
offshore wind farm
After almost a decade of federal study and analysis, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) approved the $1 billion Cape Wind project on April 21, allowing the first U.S. offshore wind farm to move ahead. Cape Wind is a 130-turbine wind power project off the Massachusetts coast. It will have a maximum electric output of 468 megawatts (MW), with an average anticipated output of 182 MW. Those in opposition to the project say it would disturb culturally significant sites on the seabed floor and would visually interfere with their cultural activities.
But Secretary Salazar disagreed, noting that Nantucket Sound is far from pristine, already featuring undersea power lines, communication towers along its coasts, and the visual impacts associated with aviation, shipping, fishing, and recreational boating. Those visual impacts are far greater than the impacts of wind turbines located at least 5.2 miles from the mainland, according to Secretary Salazar.
In approving Cape Wind, DOI noted that there are other offshore wind power proposals in neighboring northeastern states, all seeking to tap the region’s estimated offshore wind power potential of 1 million MW.
Energy and environmental trade-offs create tough choices
Hydroelectric dams are among the greenest and most affordable electricity sources in the world and by far the most widely used renewable energy sources. Environmentalists, however, say they also take a heavy toll in the form of compromised landscapes, ecosystems and fisheries. Hydroelectric dams have been an important component of America’s energy mix since the powerful flow of rivers was first harnessed for industrial use in the 1880s. Today hydroelectric power accounts for 7 percent of U.S. electricity generation-and some two-thirds of the country’s renewable power-according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Green groups including American Rivers, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, the Endangered Species Coalition, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club are pushing the federal government to mandate the removal of four dams along the Snake River in Washington State that help the region have the lowest power-related carbon footprint in the country. The scheduled removal of two century-old dams on the Elwha River in Washington State’s Olympic National Park beginning in 2011 may well serve as test cases for larger dam removal projects.
“There’s no one solution to the energy crisis, but hydropower is clearly part of the solution and represents a major opportunity to create more clean energy jobs,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu told reporters last year. “Investing in our existing hydropower infrastructure will strengthen our economy, reduce pollution and help us toward energy independence.”
Illinois co-ops’ energy efficiency wall goes to Washington
The Energy Efficiency Wall (“The Wall”), developed by Prairie Power, Inc. and 10 of its member Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives, gained Capitol Hill attention when it showed up inside the halls of Congress on July 21 to demonstrate ways to make homes more energy efficient. Laura Schepis, Deputy Government Liaison for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), first saw “The Wall” at the 2010 electric co-op conference in Kansas City in May. She knew it would be a great visual for policymakers in Washington, D.C. however getting it into the hallowed halls of Congress required an invitation.
Enter Chris Schepis, Laura’s husband and a staffer in the office of Illinois Sen. Roland Burris. Sen. Burris is a co-sponsor of the Rural Energy Savings Program Act which would allow organizations like co-ops to administer government-backed loans for certain types of home energy efficiency improvements. Once the official invitation was received plans were made. Bob Dickey and Aaron Ridenour, both managers of marketing and economic development for their respective cooperatives, Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative and Prairie Power, Inc., made the 1,700-mile road trip to Washington, D.C., with the wall in tow. They were met in D.C. by Jim Coleman, President/CEO and Kevin Bernson, Vice President of Media and Public Relations for Shelby Electric Cooperative and the 18-foot wall was assembled in the Russell Senate Office Building.
On July 21, Dickey made a presentation to more than 70 senate and congressional staffers. Since that presentation, inquiries have been made by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D–ND) to bring “The Wall” to his state and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D–OR) would like to see it return to D.C. The Midwest Governors’ Association has also submitted a request to bring it to one of its meetings.