Wednesday, July 28, 2010

3 Great Green Bills in NYS Limbo

As long as the price of petrol is low, it doesn't appear that free markets will do much about reducing our dependence on it. Gas doesn't look too awfully expensive now, so people stop buying hybrids and companies see too long a payback on converting to renewables.

With mixed feelings, then, we look to the avenue of government to advance urgently necessary causes that are otherwise blocked or stalled. Unfortunately, when the New York State legislature adjourned July 1, they left behind at least three bills with the potential to "make New York a real leader in solar power development."

Those same rascally lawmakers are back tonight for the special session Gov. Paterson called, but "expectations are that nothing will actually get done," according to the Albany Times-Union, due to continuing political gridlock. Nevertheless:

The Solar Industry and Jobs Development Act

The Solar Jobs Act would require New York State's electric utilities to get 2.5% of their power from solar energy by 2025, enough electricity to power one million homes. That's starting from the current merest sliver of a percent. Backers say the bill would generate $20 billion in economic activity, including 22,000 quality jobs in an array of fields, all while costing ratepayers an average of 39 cents a month. (From a report by the Vote Solar Initiative, an industry advocate).

In a July Op-Ed in the Times-Union, Jeff Jones claims, "Solar energy represents less than one tenth of one percent of our state's energy mix, yet creates more jobs per megawatt than any other electricity resource," and then he gets specific:

"Think of the glassmakers that have lost auto contracts but could be covering solar panels; semiconductor factories that no longer make computer parts but could be making solar cells; public and private educational research and development facilities ready to partner with industry and foster the next generation of solar technology."'s blog had a great crack that, " As if that weren’t enough to motivate New York lawmakers, the report’s authors emphasize that inaction on the bill equates to losing to New Jersey: 'New York is already losing solar trainees and economic output to neighboring New Jersey, which installs nearly five times as much solar annually.”

Lose to Joisey! Say it ain't so, Joe.

(Two more to come in follow-up posts…)

Friday, July 16, 2010

A CLEAR-Headed Idea for Reducing Emissions

Two U.S. Senators have proposed what looks like a brilliant framework for not only reducing carbon air pollution, but putting some money directly into our pockets, and doing it with what sounds like a refreshingly simple system.

The 4 Sisters smokestacks go down
(Are you kidding me? Can I be forgiven for fearing, in these nutty times, that it's too good to be true? Well, I just read this morning that the White House and Senate allies decided this week, "to press ahead with a scaled-back energy bill," and they didn't mention this one, so it might turn out to be. Nevertheless:)

In December, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act. They wrote,
"Our concept is simple: Instead of cap-and-trade, our approach is 'cap-and-dividend,' with the dividends going where they belong: into the pockets of hardworking Americans."

"The legislation would set up a mechanism for selling "carbon shares" to the few thousand fossil fuel producers and importers through monthly auctions. Seventy-five percent of the auction revenue would be returned to every citizen and legal resident of the United States through equally divided rebate checks -- averaging $1,100 for a family of four each year. The remaining 25 percent would finance clean-energy research and development…" and more.
This would be done "without disrupting the economy, using a gradually declining 'cap.' The concept is to gradually accelerate emission reductions," aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020, and 83% by 2050.
Quotes from "A cap-and-dividend way to a cleaner nation and more jobs," Cantwell and Collins' Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, Friday, 6/18/10.
There are literally a host of good ideas contained in this one bill, beyond the obvious lure of a check from the guv'mint, for a change: transfer money directly from those who profit from polluting to those who suffer from it the most. Set a predictable price for carbon that everyone can plan on, one that's market-driven within set limits, and all with a minimum of government involvement since an independent trust would be set up to handle the auction. (A few nods to the Republican side of the aisle, there — bully! Let's get everybody on board.)

And how about these perks? "We create a level playing field instead of providing pollution credits to whichever entities have the best lobbyists," the Senators write. "The act cuts out Wall Street speculators and price manipulators. It minimizes destructive price volatility."

And, perhaps most radically of all, the actual bill is only 39 pages long! That means all those members of Congress will be able to actually have a concept of what's in there, for a change. (Candid Representatives have admitted there's no way you can know all the provisions in your common 2,000-page bill.) Between the few pages and the mechanism proposed, it also means that special interests wouldn't have anywhere in the system to hide big payouts to themselves.

The idea is that now that companies will have to pay for the carbon they allow into the atmosphere (that we're all breathing, and in effect swimming in together), they will be economically incented to reduce that output. At long last they'll find the will and the way to do what they'd put off for as long as possible, simply due to the cost. Polluting did not figure into their bottom line — aside from compliance costs during earlier eras when the EPA was actually on the job. Now it would.

By golly, they even made a cute little video for YouTube to explain it:

"How the CLEAR Act Works" (PDF, from

First saw it here:
"Double Dividend: Make Money by Saving Nature"
George Lakoff, Huffington Post
Photo from Wikipedia —
the controlled demolition of four giant coal smokestacks, known locally as the "four sisters," in a Toronto suburb (2006). The plant was labelled a heavy polluter by the Ontario government; and we who live downwind, to the east, thank you.

VIDEO: Tim-berrrr! (53 sec., no sound)

Related, here:
Posts tagged "Green tech"

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Conservation Tips For The "Heat Wa-a-a-ve!"

Public Service Electric and Gas, New Jersey’s largest utility, and PJM Interconnection, the electric grid operator for 13 states and D.C., put out an urgent release yesterday, July 7th, asking everybody to conserve electricity, and since it's no cooler today I thought I'd pass along these highly-relevant tips they included.
(Unless you tend to live this way already, in which case Bully for you! And thanks.)

These are some of PSEG's conservation tips:

• Turn off everything you’re not using; lights, TVs, computers, etc. Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.
• Close blinds, shades and draperies facing the sun to keep the sun’s heat out and to help fans and air conditioners cool more efficiently. (Duh.)
• Close doors leading to uncooled parts of your home. With central air, close off vents to unused rooms.
• Delay heat-producing tasks such as washing and drying laundry or dishes until later in the day, and (or least) wait until a load is full.
• Don't use nonessential appliances, like an extra refrigerator in your garage. Consider setting air conditioners to 78 degrees, health permitting.

More "Energy Conservation Tips from PSEG"

"In the New York City area, Con Edison said its crews were working 24 hours a day to maintain service. Con Edison on July 6 broke its 2010 record for peak electricity use when the company delivered 12,963 megawatts at 5 p.m. A news release said usage would have been even higher if not for the efforts of Con Edison’s customers, who responded to the company’s request for conservation."
- News, where I saw a piece on PSEG's release.

(Can't resist on a day like this:)
"Heat Wave" — (the music starts at 1:40 in)