Monthly Archives: September 2009

Pageantry at the Capitol: Senate Climate Bill Released


I took this photo today at the Capitol, where twelve senators, two national security figures, and scores of supporters gathered for the announcement of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

We’re excited that work in the Senate is beginning in earnest, and look forward to working with the Senators and staff to pass a smart, tough bill.

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Kerry-Boxer Draft Marks Beginning of Senate Climate Change Negotiations

Environmental Defense Fund today welcomed the release of draft legislation that gives the Senate its vehicle for enacting a comprehensive bill to cap U.S. global warming pollution.

“This draft is an important starting point for Senators to negotiate effective climate legislation that can win 60 votes,” said Environmental Defense Fund Legislative Director Elizabeth Thompson.

The discussion draft released today by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry would put a mandatory cap on U.S. global warming pollution and give the private sector the flexibility to pursue the most affordable emissions reduction opportunities.

The draft calls for reducing U.S. emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels in 2020, slightly more than the reductions called for in the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act. The bill is silent on how emissions permits would be allocated, leaving room for negotiations as the bill moves forward in the Senate.

“We look forward to working with Chairmen Boxer and Kerry and their colleagues to pass a bill that’s environmentally effective and economically smart,” Thompson said.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Tries to Tap Dance Out of PR Disaster

Thomas Donahue, president and CEO of the Chamber, issued a statement today in response to heavy public criticism of the Chamber’s position on climate change.

His attempts to tap dance out of a public relations disaster, like the Chamber’s defense of the status quo, will do nothing to address the serious questions of American energy independence, climate change, and the development of a domestic clean energy industry.

Donahue says it is ‘dead wrong’ that the Chamber is opposed to efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. But just a month ago, his senior vice president, William Kovacs, publicly demanded that the Environmental Protection Agency hold a hearing to put the ‘science of climate change on trial.’ Kovacs also told the media the hearing would be ‘the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century … It would be evolution versus creationism.’ There could not be a clearer repudiation of Donahue’s claims than that.

Donahue also blames environmentalists for his predicament when he says, ‘Some in the environmental movement claim that, because of our opposition to a specific bill or approach, we must be opposed to all efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, or that we deny the existence of any problem.’ But it’s not the environmental movement that’s opposing Donahue – it’s his own membership.

In the wake of Kovacs’ statement, the Chamber has lost three prominent members — Chicago-based Exelon, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM).  Johnson & Johnson and Nike have also publicly criticized the Chamber’s stance on climate change. These companies have made it clear that the Chamber is not representing their best interests when it opposes legislation that will create both jobs and profits in the lucrative new clean energy economic sector.

In a public letter to Donahue, PG&E chairman and CEO Peter Darbee wrote, ‘Extreme rhetoric and obstructionist tactics seem to increasingly mark the Chamber’s public stance on this issue … an intellectually honest argument over the best policy response to the challenges of climate change is one thing; disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality of these challenges are quite another. Unfortunately, it is difficult to read the Chamber’s latest maneuvers on this issue as anything but the latter … I fear it has forfeited an incredible chance to play a constructive leadership role on one of the most important issues our country may ever face.’

That should disprove Donahue’s statement that the Chamber’s views are shared by ‘the business community.’

Donahue also says the Chamber is leading the fight to clear the roadblocks that are delaying renewable energy development. But right now, the biggest roadblock to renewable energy development is the Chamber of Commerce itself, and its relentless attempts to undermine every good faith effort to create a new American energy policy.

If Donahue wants us to take his claims seriously, he should start by talking to his own membership about why so many businesses think a clean energy bill is a good idea. Then he needs to make sure the Chamber’s policies reflect the views of those businesses. Visionary American companies will undoubtedly be international leaders in the 21st century clean energy economy; the question is whether the Chamber will lead with them, or become a business relic like the phonograph or the pony express.

Steve Cochran is the director of EDF’s national climate campaign.

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6 Reasons to Love the New EPA Car Labels

Flickr phot by: Helen Taylor

As we’ve reported here, here, and here, EPA has designed and released for public comment two options for new information labels one of which will go on new cars in 2012.  Both labels have a slick new look as well as helpful information comparing fuel efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, tail pipe emissions between vehicles, and annual fueling costs.  Label Option 1 contains additional information, a letter grade that reflects fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions and fuel savings over a five year period based on average use.



Letter grades make car buying easier.

1. It’s simple: Focus groups and market experts alike emphasized the need for a simple, easy-to-understand label format.  The letter grades achieve this by providing a central focus to the label that gives information on the performance not just of that vehicle but relative to other vehicles. 

2. It’s familiar: Letter grades for new vehicles, like health and safety grades for restaurants, provide you with a single piece of data that is instantly familiar and thus meaningful to you.

3. It’s informative: The label with a letter grade contains more information not less than the alternative.  The letter grade simply provides an easy-to-remember representation of the more detailed information contained in the rest of the label and the website.  This doesn’t mean you haven’t checked the numbers for yourself; it means you now have a single representation of all those details.

4. It’s Easy to Remember: Imagine this scenario.  You’re discussing the front runners in your search for a new car with your partner.  This is a big purchase so you’ve done some background research on all the candidates but you have a lot of numbers swimming in your head.  Would it be easier to have one fuel efficiency letter grade to refer to that represents multiple numbers which you remember easily?  Or do you want to pore over a spread sheet with city mpg, highway mpg, not to mention miles/kwh etc. for electric vehicles?

New labels will help consumers and the environment.

5. First national environmental metric for vehicles:  EPA focus groups show that nine percent of consumers currently consider environmental impacts in their car buying decision.  With the information clearly displayed right on the sticker, maybe it will be easier now to factor the environment in without having to research the issue extensively.

6. Easy comparison between vehicles: EPA focus groups also show that consumers don’t tend to limit themselves to one class or type of vehicle when shopping.  Most vehicle manufacturers wanted comparisons made only within a class of vehicle.  EPA’s new labels give you what you need and set fuel efficiency, environmental performance and fuel costs in context among all vehicles.

Let EPA know what you think about the new labels here.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce Loses Another Member

The exodus from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues. A third energy company is dropping its membership over the Chamber’s short-sighted opposition to the clean energy bill.

Chicago-based Exelon announced today that it will not renew its membership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That comes on the heels of last week’s announcements from California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) that they were were leaving the Chamber.

Of course, what it really follows is the Chamber’s ridiculous demands for a “Scopes Monkey Trial” to debate whether climate change is real.

The New York Times has the full story, and the Wonk Room has good quotes from Exelon’s CEO, John Rowe. You can also hear John Rowe on how climate change can be addressed affordably in an ad he did with us earlier this year.

All three refugees from the Chamber are members of USCAP (as is EDF). That means they’re pushing for Congress to pass a cap on carbon pollution  — a move they see as a good business opportunity.

So, if three of its biggest members see a carbon cap as a money-making opportunity, why is the Chamber of Commerce opposing it?

See this story from NPR that explores whether it’s because the president of the Chamber is also on the board of directors of Union Pacific — a company that makes a large part of its money shipping coal.

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EPA Sets Requirements for Big Polluters to Disclose Their Annual Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency is ready to launch America’s first comprehensive national greenhouse gas emissions reporting program.

The EPA announced today that it has finalized the requirements for its new program. That means America’s biggest polluters will have to start publicly disclosing their annual emissions — data we need to create effective federal policy to fight climate change. Data collection will begin January 1, 2010, with disclosure required in the first quarter of 2011.

Mark MacLeod, an EDF expert on climate policy, praised the announcement:

The public has both a need and a right to know about the country’s biggest emitters. The transparency provided today will inform smart policy that targets the biggest sources of heat-trapping emissions.

Here are some key details about the new program:

  • It will apply to about 10,000 large emitters. Those emitters are responsible for about 80-percent of all the heat-trapping gases emitted in the country.
  • It sets a reporting threshold of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That’s the equivalent of 131 rail cars of coal or 58,000 barrels of oil consumed, or the emissions from the annual energy use of about 2,200 homes.
  • Businesses that emit less than 25,000 tons of emission per year are NOT covered. That means the rule does NOT apply to churches or schools, as some have falsely claimed. The rule also does NOT create the totally spurious  “cow tax.”
  • The rule will cover the most dangerous global warming pollutants including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and other fluorinated gases.

The new EPA program is based on valuable efforts that are already underway. Forty-one states are currently participating in The Climate Registry. And since 1995, fossil-fuel fired power plants over 25 megawatts in size have been subject to mandatory reporting requirements for carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act. These two efforts have started providing an important database of emissions. Now the EPA program will allow us to take the next necessary step.

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