Anybody catch the election results?

The big post-election buzz among climate wonks is that the change in congressional leadership will significantly accelerate the arrival of more comprehensive climate policy action in the United States. Previously, those close to the issue were looking forward to ’08 as the first opportunity for any sort of substantive action. Now there’s a general feeling that we could see major legislation within the next two years.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. The main hook that people are hanging their hopes on is the removal of James “global warming is a hoax” Inhofe from the head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Although Inhofe was undeniably a huge impediment to progress on global warming, I’m not bold enough to hazard any guesses as to what the next two years will bring. Certainly the sense of renewed optimism is refreshing, and between RGGI and the California Global Warming Solutions Act, it does feel as though we may be turning a corner.

Other post-election climate tidbits:

  • A former wind engineer by the name of Jerry McNerney won a seat in California’s 11th district. The victory has been billed as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with a hefty dose of poetic justice — McNerney kicked out Richard Pombo, who used to unhelpfully chair the committee responsible for writing environmental laws.
  • California’s Prop 87, which would have established a tax on oil companies to fund alternative energy research, went down to resounding defeat in California. Oddly, the defeat is being hailed as a victory for alternative energy “awareness” by just about everyone, including those who opposed the measure. Said one such anti-87 group: “If you don’t understand the need to develop alternative energy, you need to get on board the love train.” Ironically, the love train is powered by coal.
  • Boulder, Colorado, passed the nation’s first carbon tax. The tax itself, estimated at $1.33 per month per home, is unlikely to alter anyone’s lifestyle significantly. But the proceeds will be used to conduct energy audits, which hopefully will have a positive impact.
  • Washintonians passed Initiative 937, requiring large utilities in the state to derive 15% of their power from renewable sources. Washington already derives 66% of its electricity from hydroelectric, but this is excluded from I-937 requirements. Go figure.

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  1. Bill LaBorde - November 14, 2006

    As one of the leaders of the campaign for I-937 (and a board member for a hydro-based municipal utility) I wanted to explain why we excluded hydro as an eligible renewable resource. The initiative was intended to address utility choices for meeting future demand, not the choices utilities made 30-75 years ago.
    While many state renewable portfolio standards do include low-head hydro, usually under 30 MW, we chose not to for two reasons: (1) Not a single utility in Washington is planning on building any new dams, primarily because all the good hydro sites have been taken. And, of course, the Endangered Species Act listing of several salmon species has also made it much less likely that any new dams will be built in state. (2) It seemed unnecessary to direct a public policy intervention on behalf of a resource that already provides 66% of our electricity. With global warming impacting our snowpack, diversity of renewable resources is all the more important.
    The reality is that the choice facing utilities in Washington for meeting future demand is either new non-hydro renewable resources (along with conservation, which is also required by I-937), or coal and other fossil-fueled resources. Several utilities were including coal in their long-range resource plans and, at the same time, as many as 19 coal plants intended to serve the Washington and Oregon markets are on the drawing boards. Our hope is that the 15% by 2020 renewable requirement in I-937 will displace any market demand for coal.
    Because of our hydro base, Washington has the second cleanest electric production emissions profile. With I-937, we hope to keep it that way.

  2. Chet - November 15, 2006

    In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power offers the option of purchasing wind energy. For an additional monthly fee we have purchased the number of “blocks” that Rocky Mountain Power estimates the average house would use.

    Hey, if Uintah Brewing Company does it it must be good. :) In reality, it is a nice option. Does anyone seeing this grow from state to state?

  3. Adam Stein - November 15, 2006

    Thanks for the info, Bill. I kind of figured as much, but I wasn’t able to find a good explanation in any of the news accounts. Congrats on the passage of your bill.
    Chet, a number of utilities nationwide offer green power purchasing programs. We’re a fan. TerraPass also offers its own home energy offset.