RELEASE: Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Fight Climate Change and Boost RI Economy

From the Whitehouse press office:

Sen. Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Fight Climate Change and Boost RI Economy

Carbon Fee Bill Would Return All Revenue to the American People

Washington, DC – With Rhode Island continuing to face the effects of climate change and struggling to rebuild its economy in the wake of the Great Recession, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is fighting back on both fronts.  Whitehouse today introduced the American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act, legislation to make polluters pay for the damage caused by carbon pollution and generate as much as $2 trillion over ten years – all of which would be returned to the American people.

 

“For years now, Rhode Island has been on the losing end of the fossil-fuel economy,” said Whitehouse.  “We suffer the effects of climate change caused by carbon pollution – from rising seas that damage property to warming waters that affect our fishing industry.  Meanwhile, the big polluters get to offload the cost of that harm without having to pay a dime.  Today I’m introducing legislation to put the costs of carbon pollution back on the shoulders of the polluters where it belongs, while also creating an even playing field for Rhode Island clean energy businesses to compete and generating much-needed revenue to benefit families in Rhode Island and across the nation.”

 

The American Opportunity Carbon Fee Act would require polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon pollution they emit.  The fee would start at $42 per ton in 2015 and increase annually by an inflation-adjusted 2 percent.  The price of the fee follows the Obama Administration’s central estimate of the “social cost of carbon,” the value of the harms caused by carbon pollution including falling agricultural productivity, human health hazards, and property damages from flooding.

 

The fee would be assessed on all coal, oil, and natural gas produced in or imported to the U.S. and cover large emitters of non-carbon greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide from non-fossil-fuel sources.  The U.S. Department of Treasury would assess and collect the fee, working with the Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Information Administration to ensure the best research methods and data are used.

 

A study from Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank, estimates that a carbon fee tracking the social cost of carbon would reduce carbon pollution by about 50% within a decade from the electricity sector alone compared to business-as-usual. The electricity sector is the largest source of carbon pollution, emitting about 40% of annual emissions.

 

All revenue generated by the carbon pollution fee – which could exceed $2 trillion over ten years – would be credited to an American Opportunity Fund to be returned to the American people.  Possible uses include:

Economic assistance to low-income families and those residing in areas with high energy costs

Tax cuts

Social security benefit increases

Tuition assistance and student debt relief

Infrastructure investments

Dividends to individuals and families

Transition assistance to workers and businesses in energy-intensive and fossil-fuel industries

Climate mitigation or adaptation

Reducing the national debt

 

The Whitehouse bill would raise enough revenue to, for example, cut the federal tax rate on Rhode Island businesses from 35 percent to 30 percent, give every Rhode Island worker an annual $500 payroll tax rebate, and boost the Earned Income Tax Credit by hundreds of dollars a year for 84,000 low-income Rhode Island families.

 

By requiring fossil fuel companies to factor the cost of their pollution into their product, Whitehouse’s legislation would also give clean energy businesses a fair chance to compete in the energy market.  “By making carbon pollution free, we rig the game, giving polluters an unfair advantage over newer and cleaner technologies,” Whitehouse noted.  Rhode Island clean- and renewable-energy businesses today applauded Whitehouse’s legislation:

 

“In order to level the playing field that results from the many subsidies that the fossil fuel industry has in place, the biodiesel industry today is controlled by a number of mandates, regulations and subsidies that are continually changing or are eliminated altogether for periods of time.  This makes investment in biodiesel production and infrastructure very tenuous,” said Bob Morton, managing partner at Newport Biodiesel in Newport, RI.  “Since biodiesel produces up to 86% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum diesel, a carbon fee would make biodiesel a much more cost effective fuel and would insure investors that the industry is here to stay.  We at Newport Biodiesel want to thank Senator Whitehouse for his continued efforts to raise the awareness of climate change impacts and to develop practical solutions that can help to address those issues.  Introduction of this legislation is an important step in bringing climate change to the forefront of the national discussion.”

 

“Bioprocess Algae is one of the pioneers in biofilm-based algae production and we are currently operating one of the longest-standing biological carbon capture and re-use facilities in the country,” said Tim Burns, CEO of BioProcess Algae in Portsmouth, RI.  “Our co-located facility utilizes waste heat and CO2 from a corn-ethanol plant to produce high quality feedstocks for nutritionals, animal feeds, biochemical and fuels.  Senator Whitehouse’s leadership on introducing the carbon fee bill, which creates a platform for carbon utilization, is outstanding and a vision for the future.”

 

 

Sen. Whitehouse Statement on Keystone Vote

Sen. Whitehouse Statement on Keystone Vote

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) released the statement below regarding today’s vote in the Senate on legislation to force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which failed by a vote of 59-41.  60 votes were required.

 

“The Keystone pipeline isn’t any normal pipeline.  It would transport Canadian tar sands oil, which is one of the dirtiest fuels on earth.  It would only create about 35 permanent jobs – all while contributing to the harm carbon pollution is doing to our atmosphere and oceans – problems we have to live with in Rhode Island.  Furthermore, this bill would set a dangerous precedent by undermining the Administration’s authority to ensure the project is in our national interest.  I’m glad the Senate rejected this bill today, but it’s clear that Senate Republicans will continue to try to force this issue in the new year.  I’ll keep fighting to prevent this bill from passing, and I hope the Obama Administration will ultimately decide to reject the Keystone pipeline, and veto any efforts to steamroll orderly process.”

 

From Appalachia, Another Example of Why This is a Golden Age of Energy Philanthropy – Inside Philanthropy

If you’re not tracking the explosion of giving by energy companies, you should be—especially if you raise money for STEM, higher ed, or workforce. Just look at this big give by Chevron in Appalachia.

From Appalachia, Another Example of Why This is a Golden Age of Energy Philanthropy   – Inside Philanthropy: Fundraising Intelligence – Inside Philanthropy.

Kresge Is Into Boosting Energy Efficiency, and Here’s One Housing Group It Loves – Housing – Inside Philanthropy

The trifecta of reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy dollars, and creating jobs, makes investment in energy conservation a priority for the Kresge Foundation. Meet one of its core grantees for this work.

Kresge Is Into Boosting Energy Efficiency, and Here’s One Housing Group It Loves – Housing – Inside Philanthropy.

New Normal in Japan After Fukushima

Just Keep Smiling

Common Dreams

Fukushima’s disaster task force has started issuing leaflets with a bird character called Kibitan telling children to stay away from pools and ditches where radioactive cesium from the damaged nuclear power plant might have accumulated.

The smiling, round Kibitan explains why radiation is dangerous, urging children to make a habit of washing their hands and gargling their mouths after coming in from the outdoors.

Radiation can make people sick if allowed to get inside their body, says the cartoon bird, which is a variant of the local narcissus flycatcher.

The bird is definitely well-informed on the dangers of radiation, and the autoradiographs of a dead Fukushima flycatcher posted in April by a Japanese photojournalist confirm that.

Below are the photos, from the blog Fukushima Diary.

‘hot’ enough to develop photo paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Ghostly Outline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cute public safety cartoons in this century are as sinister as Duck and Cover was in the last. But it’s not all bad. You can send away for a pocket geiger on your cell phone.

From here in Rhode Island, it’s hard to vet internet content of blogs from Japan. On American news sites Fukushima is completely off the radar. On Japanese sites like Japan Times and Daily Yomiuri the nuclear crisis is off the front page but continues to develop. Japanese citizen journalists say their government is not giving them the whole truth. The news stream at Uhohjapan2 blog is deeply frightening.

The people of Japan have suffered enough in the wake of the disasters of 2011. They should not be further harmed by panic and despair. But the people of Japan are owed the truth. The world, also, needs to know the true extent of the nuclear contamination from the Fukushima disaster. Nations are rushing to build more nuclear plants, for energy and for war.

During the last presidential debate, when the topic was energy, I noticed an interesting omission from President Obama. He did not say the ‘N’ word. He did not mention nuclear power. Mitt Romney did, at least twice.

President Obama did support nuclear power as part of the mix, but I wonder if the global picture is looking different now. The economic costs and ongoing environmental effects will slow the rush to nuclear.

The Fukushima disaster is not over, but if we are lucky the damage will be limited, and if we are wise we will learn that dangerous, expensive and centralized power is not the way.

Solar Saves When the Grid Goes Down

From today’s Scientific American, Solar Power Helped Keep the Lights on in India.

Every day, at least 400 million Indians lack access to electricity. Another nearly 700 million Indians joined their fellows in energy poverty over the course of the last few days, or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.

Oddly enough, some of the formerly energy poor—rural villagers throughout the subcontinent—found themselves better off than their middle-class compatriots during the recent blackouts, thanks to village homes outfitted with photovoltaic panels. In fact, solar power helped keep some electric pumps supplying water for fields parched by an erratic monsoon this year.

Local and diverse, though David Biello, the author of the article, argues that we need to look at the grid in the USA, or else stock up on flashlight batteries. You can read the rest of his short and interesting blog post here.

And here’s from the financial magazine, Forbes…

While national renewable energy policies – or the lack there of – remain mired in Congressional election-year politics, the great green future has already arrived in California.

On Tuesday, state regulators announced that California’s three big investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison – had reached a mandated target – called the renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, to obtain at least 20% of the electricity they sell from renewable sources.

In 2011, the three utilities collectively secured 20.6% of the electricity sold to retail customers from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable power generation.

Perfect time for the USA to win the energy race and lead the world in more efficient and cheaper solar and renewable technology. We’ve done this kind of thing before, that’s why our flag waves on the moon. Now it’s time to get serious about planet earth.

The Stupid Human Factor

My GPS is a miracle of 21st Century technology. Linking to satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the GPS uses timing down to a milisecond.

When I turn it on it displays a message– Do not program the GPS while driving the car. Duh.

It’s not that we’re that stupid, it’s that when there’s a temptation to get it done fast, human nature leads us to figure we can get away with it. And we do. Until we don’t.

The same goes for corruption. Ever since I was a kid punching a power press in a factory, and the boss came around in a panic turning the safety shields back into the proper position– instead of pushed to the side so we could work faster– I am unsurprised by expedience. OSHA didn’t have teeth even then, but the prospect of a fine made more of an impression than protecting workers from losing fingers. Of course, after the inspection, he turned the shields back to where they were out of the way.

Raw Story posts this item from today’s Ashahi Shimbun…

A subcontractor at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant told workers to lie about possible high radiation exposure in an apparent effort to keep its contract, reports said Saturday.

An executive at construction firm Build-Up in December told about 10 of its workers to cover their dosimeters, used to measure cumulative radiation exposure, with lead casings when working in areas with high radiation, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and other media said.

The action was apparently designed to under-report their exposure to allow the company to continue working at the site of the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, media reports said.

If we build more of these nuclear plants, we are creating a permanent hazard for future generations. Will human nature evolve fast enough to carry this burden?