A little percolation on energy policy

June 11th, 2007

Posted by: admin

Two things I noted today:

1- From the No S#%@! category, the Bush Administration seems eager to let everybody know that there will be no movement whatsoever on regulating carbon until January 2009 at the earliest. If you caught even a bit of the G8 news you already knew that (and somebody got me saying as much before G8). But apparently the Bush Administration wants to drive the point home, so last week they turned EPA Administrator Johnson loose at a House hearing:

U.S. President George W. Bush wouldn’t sign into law an anti-global warming bill that includes a so-called cap and trade program, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator told U.S. lawmakers Friday.

During a congressional hearing, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash. asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson if the president would sign into law legislation that would create the nation’s first cap and trade program aimed at specifically limiting climate change-causing pollutants.

Johnson simply replied, “No.”

In response, Inslee, a cap and trade policy proponent, criticized Johnson, saying he hopes Johnson has his prediction wrong.

“I hope you’re premature. I hope you haven’t checked with the president,” he said, during a hearing held by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “I hope you’re not authorized to say that.”

Two things caught my attention here. As far as I can tell, Johnson’s appearance before this House Select Committee was entirely voluntary [that's the first item of note] since this is a select committee with no legislation-writing authority, no subpoena power, no budget authority, and no jurisdiction over any federal agency. So Johnson’s willingness to appear was either:

a) a really nice gesture, showing that he, the EPA, and the Bush Administration genuinely want to discuss climate change in the open in front of this House committee; or

b) a way for the Bush Administration to make a strong and very public statement to Congress to not bother wasting anybody’s time on trying to pass a carbon tax or cap-and-trade [that's the second item] because it’s going to be vetoed faster than Bush can click-click his ballpoint pen.

2- Senator Bingaman has been crazy busy getting energy legislation to the floor. His package passed cloture today and will start seeing floor action tomorrow. I am still very interested in how the whole coal synfuel mess will play out. I won’t be surprised if the final bill includes either mandates or heavy subsidies for liquid coal synfuels without mandating that any coal-derived liquid fuels include carbon capture and sequestration. If this happens Congress will essentially be encouraging a strong ramp up in the carbon intensity of our fuel supply.

Secondly, if you peruse the legislation on the floor and the ancillary materials out there you might notice the conspicuous absence of yesterday’s hot energy item: hydrogen. Hydrogen hype has apparently been replaced with biofuels hype, perhaps because there is a natural constituency for biofuels (the entire Midwest) and a much diminished one for hydrogen production. Or perhaps because energy thinkers finally got through to the speech writers that hydrogen is and always will be EROI negative?

Finally, I note the sad passing of Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming. His absence might change the tenor of the coal debate as he was a strong supporter of coal, the Powder River Basin being in his state. This change in debate might be a good thing, but Senator Thomas’ passing was not, obviously for his family but also for the Senate in general. He was one of the nicest men I came across in my short time there, I had great interactions with his staff and I know he was well respected across both sides of the aisle.

4 Responses to “A little percolation on energy policy”

  1. Don Thieme Says:

    EROI = Energy Return on Investment?

    That was a term with which I was not familiar. I am glad to see some activity on this blog, and I had not seen mention elsewhere of Craig Thomas’ passing. He did seem like a voice of reason on the big energy side.

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  3. jfleck Says:

    This raises interesting questions, given Bingaman’s insistence that he’s trying to come up with a bill that has a genuine chance of passing and getting signed – and I take him at his word here, having not found him to be a frivolous legislator. If the President won’t sign cap and trade, then game over. But it does look like Bingaman’s going to forge ahead:


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  5. Harry Haymuss Says:

    Or, c1) Bush is sincerely interested in the economy and has no intention of condoning yet another leech system on the economy since “Global Warming” seems to have stopped in its tracks,

    c2) Bush’s team is not yet entrenched in said cap and trade broker (aka leech) system.

    BTW, hydrogen is not a “fuel source” but a highly inefficient energy transport system. It still must be produced elsewhere, and due to the small molecules and high pressures involved it makes no economic sense (in terms of adding value). This does not make corn any more viable, as every ear of corn grown for energy removes one for food (we don’t have enough land for both), and the expanding third world needs all the food it can get until it stabilizes its population and stops wasting arable land.

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  7. DeWitt Payne Says:

    Electricity is also EROI negative. But it’s a lot easier to transport and use safely than hydrogen.