Friday, April 22, 2011
Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) Becomes First Democrat to Co-Sponsor RGGI Repeal Legislation; Urges His Colleagues in Trenton to Get on Board
HAVE YOU REGISTERED YET FOR OUR EXCLUSIVE WEB SIMULCAST OF AFPF’S PRESIDENTIAL SUMMIT , FRIDAY, APRIL 29? SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS!
Today, you and I are one step closer to sending the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) Cap & Trade scheme to the ash heap of history!
The fight to put an end to the job-killing RGGI scheme took a major step forward when State Senator Paul Sarlo (D-36) publicly announced his co-sponsorship of the repeal effort.
Click here to watch a video of the press conference.
When the original legislation paving the way for New Jersey’s entry into RGGI was passed in 2008, it was done so on a bi-partisan basis. Likewise, dismantling RGGI will require support from members of both political parties.
By joining the movement to repeal RGGI, Senator Sarlo became the first Democrat to back the effort to kill this Cap & Trade tax and opened the door for more of his Democrat colleagues in the Legislature to do the same. In fact, at today’s press conference Senator Sarlo urged his fellow Democrats today to do just that.
Senator Sarlo did not arrive at this decision lightly. But when presented with the indisputable facts about the RGGI scheme -- including its lack of transparency, exploitation by “insiders” looking to speculate and profit on the backs of ratepayers, as well as the devastating consequences for New Jersey’s economy and jobs -- the senator made the call to stand up for New Jersey’s economic future.
Alongside primary sponsors of the repeal bills in the Legislature, Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) and Assemblywoman Alison McHose (R-24), Senator Sarlo expressed his concerns about the RGGI program and his reasons for co-sponsoring the repeal effort.
CLICK HERE SEE TO PICTURES FROM YESTERDAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE.
Senator Sarlo’s announcement is a critical step forward in winning this fight, but the job is not finished.
Governor Christie has publicly stated that his administration is now reviewing the RGGI program and expects to make a decision on RGGI within the next two months. 41 legislators are on board but many still are not and they need to hear from you and me!
In the weeks ahead, AFP will be targeting key legislators throughout the state. We will continue with our media campaign both on radio and TV. And with your help, we will continue our push to have as many town councils and freeholder boards as possible adopt our RGGI repeal resolution.
While you and I are moving the governor and other legislators in the right direction, it is more urgent than ever that we continue to ramp up the pressure on the governor and those legislators who are not on board.
Here’s what you can do to help right now...
Contact Governor Christie at 609-292-6000 and tell him to back the repeal effort and withdraw New Jersey from the RGGI scheme before it is too late!
Join in our campaign to pass RGGI repeal resolutions throughout the state. Click below to download a repeal resolution and urge your local elected leaders to take a stand against RGGI:
Idaho Senate Kills Existing Wind Power Subsidy; Corruption Allegations Plague Maryland and Idaho Alternative Energy Proposals
By Dave Stevenson, Caesar Rodney Institute
In a major surprise to lobbyists and industry insiders, the Idaho Senate killed an existing wind energy subsidy during the final days of their recently completed legislative session. See http://idahobusinessreview.com/2011/04/11/idaho-senate-kills-much-debated-energy-rebate/
Under current Idaho law, alternative energy producers received a rebate of state sales taxes paid on equipment. The rebate program will now expire June 30, 2011. Wind energy producers were a primary beneficiary of the rebate.
Idaho State Senator Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, led the opposition, blasting the measure as nothing more than a deal to help specific companies.
"This has been crafted by people who will enjoy that rebate," Stegner said. "It's not been developed by policymakers with regards to whether it's going to be good policy for the state. It's been developed by the industries that will benefit."
Tauna Christensen, a resident of Firth who helped found the group Idahoans for Responsible Wind Energy, said she was "elated" that the rebates weren't extended.
"We already give them massive federal subsidies," Christensen told The Associated Press after the vote. "If they can't survive on those alone, they should not have any more of our taxpayer dollars."
David T. Stevenson, Director of the Caesar Rodney Institute's Center for Energy Competitiveness in Dover, said developments like these in Idaho, and the Maryland Legislature's recent decision to kill Gov. Martin O'Malley's Atlantic Wind Farm proposal, show that it's possible to roll back flawed environmental initiatives.
"Delaware legislators have a similar opportunity with HB 86, which would suspend Delaware's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative ("RGGI"). A regional, state level cap and trade system like RGGI is a great policy for industry insiders. But it's terrible policy for the people of Delaware," Stevenson said.
Also of concern were allegations of corruption and sweetheart deals which plagued the Idaho and Maryland wind power initiatives.
Multiple sources reported that Gov. O'Malley's former Chief of Staff and "best friend" stood to gain substantial personal financial benefit from the Atlantic Wind Farm. See
And in Idaho, there was coverage of possible corrupt inside deals, potentially even benefiting members of the Idaho legislature personally, involving alternative energy projects in that state. See http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MECMKO0.htm
According to Stevenson, the lack of transparency and public accountability surrounding so many of these programs, particularly RGGI, is perhaps the greatest concern about them.
"The RGGI auctions are run by non-governmental entities, and most of the money is spent by a non-governmental entity out of the the public eye."
"Stories like these give the distinct impression that these programs are a corrupt enterprise, profiting well connected political insiders with limited transparency and accountability.
"Regardless of the economic and scientific concerns surrounding the affordability and effectiveness of cap and trade programs, programs like RGGI should be suspended if for no other reason than to demand absolute transparency regarding their financial aspects.
"When the power of government is being used to levy an effective tax on energy and create a market for the sale of credits, citizens have a fundamental right to know who is buying what and who is benefiting (or getting rich) on the backs of ratepayers."
"Until that level of transparency is granted regarding RGGI, Delaware shouldn't be a party to it," Stevenson said.
Federal land managers in Arizona, where about half of all illegal alien apprehensions took place in 2010, denied a U.S. Border Patrol station permission to build a road deemed necessary for “achieving or maintaining operational control” of an area along the southwest border.
According to an April 15 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), land managers, including officials from the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture, denied permission to build the road because of environmental restrictions related to the Wilderness Act.
The GAO, which surveyed 26 stations along the southwest border, also found that Border Patrol headquarters had denied two of them funding for infrastructure along the southwest border which was required to “achieve or maintain operational control.”
Federal lands comprise about 820 miles, or more than 40 percent, of the approximately 2,000-mile southwest border. As of Sept. 30, 2010, the U.S. government had established operational or “effective” control along less than half (873 miles) of that border.
The GAO says illegal cross-border activity on federal lands “has increased substantially” since the 1990s.
Seventeen of the 26 stations reported having “experienced delays and restrictions in patrolling and monitoring portions of federal lands because of various land management laws,” including the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act.
However, only four of the 26 stations reported that access delays and restrictions had affected their ability to achieve or maintain “operational control” along the border.
Instead, the GAO said, factors such as “remoteness and ruggedness of the terrain or dense vegetation, have had the greatest effect on their abilities to achieve or maintain operational control.”
The GAO defines maintaining “operational control” as “the capability to consistently detect entries when they occur; identify what the entry is and classify its level of threat (such as who is entering, what the entrants are doing, and how many entrants there are); effectively and efficiently respond to the entry; and bring the situation to an appropriate law enforcement resolution, such as an arrest.”
At one Border Patrol station in Arizona, the agent-in-charge reported that his ability to achieve operational control had been “affected by a shortage of east-west roads in the unit,” the report said. “He told us that some of his area could potentially reach operational control status if there was an additional east-west road.”
However, the station’s request for such a road was denied by the land manager, “because the area is designated as wilderness.”
“As a result of this denial, the patrol agent-in-charge did not pursue a request for resources through the Border Patrol’s operational assessment,” the report added.
Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Alan Bersin reported late last year that about half of all apprehensions in 2010 took place in Arizona’s Tucson sector.
Another one of the four stations highlighted in the GAO report had also not asked Border Patrol for help in attaining access to federal borderlands.
In the remaining two cases, Border Patrol officials denied funding for roads needed to “achieve or maintain operational control” along federal borderlands “because of higher priority needs of the agency.”
“Border Patrol sector or headquarters officials had denied the stations’ requests for resources to facilitate increased or timelier access – typically for budgetary reasons,” the report said.
GAO noted that land managers did show willingness to work with Border Patrol in preventing environmental laws from getting in the way of its activities on federal lands.
Several environmental laws had interfered with Border Patrol monitoring and restricted access to areas where illegal cross-border activity is taking place.
On one occasion in Arizona, it took Border Patrol more than four months to get a permit from land managers, by which time “illegal traffic had shifted to other areas.”
“As a result, Border Patrol was unable to move the surveillance system to the locale it desired, and during the 4-month delay, agents were limited in their ability to detect undocumented aliens within a 7-mile range that could have been covered by the system,” the report said.
The GAO cited “limited staff” and lack of funds within land management units as reasons for permit delays.
In New Mexico, red tape requiring “environmental and historic property assessments” of an area which illegal aliens were known to use had prevented Border Patrol from monitoring that span of the border for almost eight months.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on federal lands, has introduced legislation that would prohibit environmental laws from interfering with Border Patrol operations.
Border Patrol is a component of the Department of Homeland Security.
News Journal Supports Cap and Trade Scheme After Blasting Waste of Program's Funds in "Weatherization Scandal" Just Two Weeks Ago
In an editorial today, the News Journal expressed support for Delaware's participation in the regional, state level cap and trade scheme known as RGGI. The editors touted the use of RGGI energy taxes to make buildings in Delaware more energy efficient. See "Delaware's cap-and-trade is paying off for the state"http://www.delawareonline.com/
article/20110415/OPINION11/ 104150345/Delaware-s-cap- trade-paying-off-state? odyssey=mod|newswell|text| Home|p
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
High electricity prices kill jobs. Companies are leaving Delaware and new companies are reluctant to locate here. Delaware
has lost one third of its manufacturing jobs in the last decade. For example, Occidental Chemicals chlorine manufacturing facility moved operations to another state when electric costs jumped from $1 Million a month to $2 Million. Delaware manufacturers pay almost 50% more for electricity than manufacturers in other states. Most of this added cost is because we import 60% of our power from other states over capacity limited transmission lines. We are charged a penalty for causing grid congestion.
One solution is to build 1000 Mega Watts of new base load generating capacity in Delaware to cover our shortfall. Just building the power plants would add several thousand construction jobs, up to 700 permanent direct jobs and another 2000 indirect jo
bs. New generation capacity can lower electric prices to save jobs and entice more jobs. Those new power plants will most likely be fueled by natural gas, which offer an excellent combination of low cost and clean burning fuel.
Only a few years ago it looked like natural gas would be in short supply and prices quadrupled. Fortunately, huge, formerly unproductive, gas fields have come on line thanks to new technology and prices are lower than ever and are expected to continue to decrease. By some estimates we now have one-hundred ten years of natural gas reserves. Furthermore, one of the largest fields is located nearby under the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York and the gas can reach us by existing
pipelines. Extracting the gas is providing investment, jobs, royalties, and tax revenues in some of the poorest sections of America.
The new technology combines horizontal drilling techniques with a hydraulic fracturing technique (fracking) to coax gas to flow from fields where other technologies failed. Vertical wells are drilled between 2000’ and 6000’ deep. Horizontal wells are then drilled up to a mile long. More than one bore hole may be drilled from the same pad further reducing the surface footprint. Water, mixed with sand and additives, is forced into t
he well under high pressure opening micro-cracks in the shale. The micro-cracks may extend 100’ to 150’ laterally from the central bore and 30’ vertically. The sand holds the cracks open. The additives, such as friction reducers, biocides and oxygen scavengers, make the sand and water mix flow easier, prevent biological growth in the fractures, and prevent oxygen from corroding pipes In most drilling operations the fracking mixture is recycled. Much false information has been offered about the additives used in fracking. Table 1 provides a list of common fracking additives along with other common household uses of these materials.
There have also been exaggerated claims of frack
ing causing methane contamination in drinking water wells. Over the last sixty years over one million wells have used fracking. A 2004 EPA study found fracking posed no hazard to drinking water. Several highly publicized recent complaints of well contamination have been found to be false. Methane comes with trace chemicals typical of a specific source and this evidence confirmed the contamination came from other sources. This makes sense since the fields are far deeper than the drinking water wells and are separated by deep, impermeable rock formations.
But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.
Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream.
But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability.
This year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence. Prices rose 15 percent from October to January alone, potentially “throwing an additional 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty,” the World Bank said.
Soaring food prices have caused riots or contributed to political turmoil in a host of poor countries in recent months, including Algeria, Egypt and Bangladesh, where palm oil, a common biofuel ingredient, provides crucial nutrition to a desperately poor populace. During the second half of 2010, the price of corn rose steeply — 73 percent in the United States — an increase that the United Nations World Food Program attributed in part to the greater use of American corn for bioethanol.
“The fact that cassava is being used for biofuel in China, rapeseed is being used in Europe, and sugar cane elsewhere is definitely creating a shift in demand curves,” said Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University who studies the topic. “Biofuels are contributing to higher prices and tighter markets.”
In the United States, Congress has mandated that biofuel use must reach 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. The European Union stipulates that 10 percent of transportation fuel must come from renewable sources like biofuel or wind power by 2020. Countries like China, India, Indonesia and Thailand have adopted biofuel targets as well.
To be sure, many factors help drive up the price of food, including bad weather that ruins crop yields and high oil prices that make transportation costly. Last year, for example, unusually severe weather destroyed wheat harvests in Russia, Australia and China, and an infestation of the mealy bug reduced Thailand’s cassava output.
Olivier Dubois, a bioenergy expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said it was hard to quantify the extent to which the diversions for biofuels had driven up food prices.
“The problem is complex, so it is hard to come up with sweeping statements like biofuels are good or bad,” he said. “But what is certain is that biofuels are playing a role. Is it 20 or 30 or 40 percent? That depends on your modeling.”
While no one is suggesting that countries abandon biofuels, Mr. Dubois and other food experts suggest that they should revise their policies so that rigid fuel mandates can be suspended when food stocks get low or prices become too high.
“The policy really has to be food first,” said Hans Timmer, director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank. “The problems occur when you set targets for biofuels irrespective of the prices of other commodities.”
Mr. Timmer said that the recent rise in oil prices was likely to increase the demand for biofuels.
It can be tricky predicting how new demand from the biofuel sector will affect the supply and price of food. Sometimes, as with corn or cassava, direct competition between purchasers drives up the prices of biofuel ingredients. In other instances, shortages and price inflation occur because farmers who formerly grew crops like vegetables for consumption plant different crops that can be used for fuel.
China learned this the hard way nearly a decade ago when it set out to make bioethanol from corn, only to discover that the plan caused alarming shortages and a rise in food prices. In 2007 the government banned the use of grains to make biofuel.
Chinese scientists then perfected the process of making fuel from cassava, a root that yielded good energy returns, leading to the opening of the first commercial cassava ethanol plant several years ago.
“They’re moving very aggressively in this new direction; cassava seems to be the go-to crop,” said Greg Harris, an analyst with Commodore Research and Consultancy in New York who has studied the trade.
In addition to expanding cassava cultivation at home, China is buying from Cambodia and Laos as well as Thailand.
Although a mainstay of diets in much of Africa, cassava is not central to Asian diets, even though the Chinese once called it “the underground food store” because it provided crucial backup nutrition in lean harvest years. So the Chinese reasoned that making fuel with cassava would not directly affect food prices or create food shortages, at least at home. The proportion of Chinese cassava going to ethanol leapt to 52 percent last year from 10 percent in 2008.
More distant or indirect impacts are considered to be likely, however. Because cassava chips have been commonly used as animal feed, new demand from the biofuels industry might affect the availability and cost of meat. In Southeast Asian countries where China is paying generously for stockpiles of cassava, farmers may be tempted to grow the cropinstead of, for example, other vegetables or rice.
And if China turned to Africa as a source, one of that continent’s staple food crops could be in jeopardy, although experts note that exporting cassava could also become a business opportunity.
“This is becoming a more valuable cash crop,” Mr. Harris said. “The farmland is limited, so the more that is devoted to fuel, the less is devoted to food.”
The Chinese demand for cassava could also dent planned biofuel production in poorer Asian nations: in the Philippines and Cambodia, developers were recently forced to suspend the construction of cassava bioethanol plants because the tuber had become too expensive.
Thailand’s own nascent biofuel industry may have trouble getting the homegrown cassava it needs because it may not be able to match the prices offered by Chinese buyers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Biofuels development in wealthier nations has already proved to have a powerful effect on the prices and the cultivation of crops. Encouraged by national biofuel subsidies, nearly 40 percent of the corn grown in the United States now goes to make fuel, with prices of corn on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange rising 73 percent from June to December 2010.
Such price rises also have distant ripple effects, food security experts say. “How much does the price of corn in Chicago influence the price of corn in Rwanda? It turns out there is a correlation,” said Marie Brill, senior policy analyst at ActionAid, an international development group. The price of corn in Rwanda rose 19 percent last year.
“For Americans it may mean a few extra cents for a box of cereal,” she said. “But that kind of increase puts corn out of the range of impoverished people.”
Higher prices also mean that groups like the World Food Program can buy less food to feed the world’s hungry.
European biofuels developers are buying large tracts of what they call “marginal land” in Africa with the aim of cultivating biofuel crops, particularly the woody bush known as jatropha. Advocates say that promoting jatropha for biofuels production has little impact on food supplies. But some of that land is used by poor people for subsistence farming or for gathering food like wild nuts.
“We have to move away from the thinking that producing an energy crop doesn’t compete with food,” said Mr. Dubois of the Food and Agriculture Organization. “It almost inevitably does.”