Energy and Environment

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Trump Carbon Reduction Rule Displeases Environmentalists

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a regulation that mandates a reduction in U.S. carbon emissions of 30% over 2005 levels by 2030. Environmentalist say it does not go far enough.

 

The new carbon emissions regulation is a replacement of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Under that rule, which would have required states to take a host of steps to restructure the power sector with the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Under the Trump plan, states will have more flexibility to meet its goals.

 

Critics decry the EPA’s actions as being insufficient. They say that the U.S. must cut carbon emissions by at least 60% in order to prevent a 2 degree increase in global temperature. Because of the phase-out of high-carbon coal power plants, U.S. carbon emissions have been falling in recent years. Some observers say the nation is on track to meet the new regulatory goals because of this effect.

 

President Trump came into office vowing to support the coal industry and roll back Obama Administration environmental policies. The president has also expressed skepticism about humans causing global warming.

 

Do you support federal climate change rules that mandate how electricity is produced to reduce carbon emissions? Or should the federal government set an overall carbon emissions reduction goal and let states determine how to meet that limit?

House Calls for Action on Climate Change

President Trump is not a big fan of the Paris climate change agreement, which requires countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. He has pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. This week the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent him from doing so.

 

HR 9 would require the president to develop a plan that would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28%, based on 2005 levels. It would also prohibit the use of federal funding to withdraw from the Paris agreement. This bill passed 231-190, with 3 Republicans voting for it and no Democrats opposing it. An amendment by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) that would have stripped the prohibition from withdrawing from the Paris agreement failed by a vote of 189-234.

 

President Obama signed the Paris Agreement in 2015, but did not submit it to the Senate for ratification. He argued that it was not a treaty that required ratification. President Trump has pledged to withdraw from the treaty by 2020.

 

The treaty, signed by more than 190 countries, requires the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and commit money to assist climate change efforts in developing countries.

 

Supporters say such an agreement is necessary to stop climate change. They say that if the U.S. does not participate it will hurt efforts to slow down global warming. Critics say that it would kill jobs and hurt U.S. economic growth.

 

HR 9 now goes to the Senate, where it is unlikely to be brought for a vote.

 

Should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? What do you think should be done about climate change, if anything?

Senate Takes up Green New Deal

The Green New Deal sets an ambitious agenda for the U.S.: zero greenhouse gas emissions, upgrading all existing buildings for energy efficiency, shielding business owners from unfair competition, and providing education, health care, and housing for everyone. Senators will soon go on the record as to whether they support this plan.

 

In the House of Representatives, newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been championing the Green New Deal. Even though that body is controlled by Democrats, her House resolution is unlikely to get a vote. However, in the Republican-controlled Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is bringing up this plan for a vote.

 

Here is how he Congressional Research Service summarizes the various proposals in the S.J. Res 8, Green New Deal resolution:

 

  • Building smart power grids (i.e., power grids that enable customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods);
  • Upgrading all existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
  • Removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
  • Cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
  • Ensuring businesspersons are free from unfair competition; and
  • Providing higher education, high-quality health care, and affordable, safe, and adequate housing to all.

 

The planned Senate vote has some Democrats displeased. Many, if not all, are planning on voting “present” when the resolution is considered. They accuse the majority leader of playing politics. Senator McConnell, however, says that if this is such a popular idea in the Democratic Party, then Democratic senators should not be upset that he’s holding a vote on it.

 

Do you support the Green New Deal? Should the U.S. pursue a policy of zero greenhouse gas emissions? Is it the government’s place to provide health care, education, and housing to everyone?

 

Trump Admin Announces Nuclear Power Support

With the Senate readying a vote on the Green New Deal this week, the Trump Administration recently announced a big boost for nuclear power.

 

Speaking to nuclear power plant employees in Georgia, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that “This is the real new green deal.” He used the opportunity on Friday to announce that the federal government would issue taxpayer-backed guarantees for building new nuclear power plants. This is similar to arrangements made during the Obama Administration to support construction of new nuclear plants.

 

The Trump Administration has long supported nuclear power, pointing out that it is a way to produce electricity without carbon emissions. They also note that nuclear power can generate electricity regardless of the weather conditions. Administration officials say that this power source should be a big part of any strategy to combat climate change.

 

Some Democrats, however, have a different view. They prefer renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind, for carbon-free power generation. The Green New Deal does not include provisions to increase the use of nuclear power.

 

Because of strict regulations and a high cost to construct new facilities, nuclear power plant operators rely on federal loan guarantees. Even with these guarantees, however, some new plants are behind schedule for completion. The electricity produced by these plants is also more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas plants, which is causing issues for existing nuclear power plant operators.

 

Do you think that the federal government should guarantee loans for nuclear power plant construction? Are nuclear power plants a good way to produce carbon-free electricity?

Styrofoam Ban Advances in Maryland

It may soon be illegal for Maryland businesses to serve food or drinks in Styrofoam containers.

 

This week the state Senate passed legislation that would outlaw the use of polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers in food service. Retailers are also banned from selling such containers under the legislation.

 

Three of Maryland’s largest counties already ban the use of this product, as does Baltimore City.

 

Supporters of the measure said that it was a good way to cut down a product that could not be recycled and did not easily biodegrade. They said this ban would save space in landfills and reduce litter. Opponents argued that the burden would fall on small businesses. They also said that it would have no real effect on litter or the environment, since only a tiny amount of litter involved Styrofoam.

 

The legislation now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration.

 

Do you support a ban on Styrofoam food containers?

Ocasio-Cortez Wants Tax Hike to Fund “Green New Deal”

She’s only a freshman member of Congress, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already spurring a national debate over tax rates and environmental spending. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recently proposed increasing the top marginal tax rate to 70% in order to pay for a variety of environmental programs known as the “Green New Deal.”

 

While there is no formal proposal, this Green New Deal is a concept that has been discussed over the past few years in liberal and progressive circles. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is supporting a plan that would transition the U.S. to an economy that stops using carbon-based energy (such as oil, natural gas, and coal), spend trillions of dollars, guarantees federal jobs, and addresses inequality. These are goals, not policy proposals. She has called for House leadership to form a select committee to study the issue and develop legislation.

 

In order to pay for this plan, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has said that the tax rates on wealthy individuals should be increased to 70%. She has floated the idea that on income of $10 million or above, that this rate should apply. She argues that marginal tax rates in the past were much higher, so this idea has already been tried. In her view, the wealthy should pay their “fair share,” which means taxing $10 million in income at a much higher rate than it is taxed today.

 

This idea was immediately attacked by critics who said that it would be a massive tax hike, putting the U.S. rates far above other nations’ tax rates. This would discourage work and encourage tax avoidance. These critics pointed out that while high marginal tax rates existed in the past, there were also many more loopholes for high-income taxpayers.

 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has also said that taxes may not need to be raised to pay for environmental programs. She argues that other measures, such as tax cuts and military spending increases, are paid for by deficit spending, so the Green New Deal could be funded in that way, too.

 

Do you support increasing the tax rate to 70% on incomes over $10 million? Should the federal government spend trillions of dollars on new environmental programs?

Idea to End Gasoline-Powered Cars Floated in Massachusetts

In 2040, there will be no more gasoline-powered cars or light trucks in Massachusetts. At least, that is what a state commission is recommending as a goal for state transportation policy.

 

Governor Charlie Baker assembled the group to examine the future of transportation in the Bay State. This panel recently released a host of recommendations to reshape the state’s transportation policy with an eye on reducing carbon emissions.

 

One of the proposals is to phase out the use of cars and light trucks that are powered by gasoline and instead phase in the use of electric vehicles. The state could do this by offering financial incentives for people to purchase these vehicles. They group also recommended more electric charging stations around the state as well as converting the state government fleet into electric vehicles.

 

Supporters of the increased use of electric vehicles argue that only by moving away from burning fossil fuels can the U.S. combat climate change. They say that with cars and trucks emitting large amounts of carbon, it only makes sense to use electric vehicles if the state is going to get serious about lowering carbon emissions. Skeptics of the plan say that it will be very expensive to make this type of change. They also note that the electricity that powers electric vehicles may be produced by burning coal, which also emits carbon.

 

The goal of the commission is to consider ways to reduce congestion as well as to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Among the group’s recommendations to deal with congestion is to impose congestion pricing for drivers into Boston, which would mean drivers entering at more popular times would pay higher tolls.

 

Governor Baker has not endorsed any of the report’s recommendations.

 

Do you think that states should set a goal to phase out the use of gasoline-powered cars? Should the government offer subsidies for people who purchase electric cars?

Feds Authorize Seismic Testing for Oil & Gas in the Atlantic

The Trump Administration took another step down the road of expanding offshore exploration for oil and natural gas this week. The federal government approved permits for companies to use seismic testing off the Atlantic coast to determine how much oil and natural gas exist there.

 

The process of seismic testing involves companies using airguns to test the seabed. The loud blasts help determine where energy deposits are and how much oil and natural gas may be in certain areas.

 

This testing has been opposed by many coastal politicians. They argue that the loud airguns will disrupt wildlife. Many of the elected officials also opposes offshore drilling, and they view this as only the first step towards that type of energy development being approved. Supporters of seismic testing say that it has minimal disruption to sea life. They also note that it is necessary to determine where oil and natural gas exist in order to pinpoint where any new drilling would occur. They say without testing that drilling would be much more widespread.

 

The debate over offshore oil and gas drilling has being ongoing for years. The Outer Continental Shelf is currently off-limits to oil and gas production. The Obama Administration initially supported expanding areas for energy exploration, but reversed course. The Trump Administration has signaled that it would like to see more areas opened up for drilling.

 

The permits issued by the federal government for seismic testing could cover areas from New Jersey to Florida. It is unclear where testing will actually take place, however.

 

Do you support using seismic testing to see how much oil and natural gas exist off the Atlantic coast? Do you think the U.S. should expand offshore drilling?

Washington May Ban Plastic Bags

If you go grocery shopping in Washington, you had better bring your reusable bags. At least, that is what some legislators in that state want to see begin happening next year.

 

Under a proposal unveiled by legislators this week, stores could no longer offer single-use bags to customers. Instead, customers who do not bring their own reusable bags would be required to pay ten cents for each bag they use at a store. Certain types of bags, such as those for produce or prescriptions, would not be subject to this ban.

 

This law is similar to a California law. Other local governments around the country have also enacted bans or fees on plastic bags. Twenty three local governments in Washington have some kind of restrictions on plastic bag use. This law would establish a statewide standard.

 

Supporters of this law argue that it is a good way to discourage the use of bags that end up in the ocean and harm marine wildlife. They say that banning stores from giving the bags out for free will lead to less litter and fewer bags in landfills. Opponents point out that plastic bags are a miniscule proportion of the waste that ends up in oceans. They contend that such bans hit poor shoppers harder than wealthier shoppers.

 

The Washington legislature convenes in January. It is unclear if this legislation has enough support to be approved by either chamber.

 

Do you think that states should ban stores from giving customers plastic bags?

House Votes to Remove Wolves from Endangered Species List

The House of Representatives waded into the debate over endangered species during the current lame duck session. By approving legislation to end the endangered status of gray wolves, members of the House took a step that was cheered by many ranchers but panned by environmental activists.

 

While they were once declining, gray wolf populations in the United States have been growing in recent decades. In some areas of the country, such as Idaho and Montana, wolf populations have reached a point where they have been taken off the endangered species list, a process called “de-listing.” In the Great Lakes region, a judge halted a 2011 Interior Department regulation to de-list the wolf population.

 

By a vote of 196-180, the House approved H.R. 6784, the Manage our Wolves Act. One section would remove the gray wolf population in Wyoming and the Great Lakes from protections under the Endangered Species Act. Another section would dictate that no gray wolves in the lower 48 states would be considered endangered. Mexican wolves are not covered under this legislation and would still have protected status.

 

If an animal is listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act, there are numerous restrictions on what humans can do to the animals. In the case of wolves, these restrictions led to many conflicts with landowners, especially in the west. Ranchers were especially concerned about wolves killing their livestock. Supporters of removing the wolves’ endangered status say that this will allow states to design plans that will both protect wolves but also take into account landowners’ concerns. Opponents of this legislation argue that wolves play a vital role in ecosystem management, and their numbers show that they still deserve federal protection.

 

This legislation now moves to the Senate. Given the short time before the lame duck session ends, it is unlikely that this body will approve it before adjourning.

 

Do you support removing wolves from the endangered species list?

Judge Temporarily Halts Keystone Pipeline

The long fight continues over whether or not the Keystone XL Pipeline will be built. Yesterday a federal judge issued an order that will temporarily stop plans to construct the controversial pipeline. According to this judge, the federal government needs to do more environmental evaluations before it can allow construction to proceed.

 

If completed, the Keystone XL Pipeline will transport oil from Canada and the upper Great Plains to Nebraska. It has been controversial with environmental and Indian groups. They argue that the oil it will transport is produced in ways that are very damaging to the environment, and that the pipeline runs across land that is sacred to Native Americans. Pipeline supporters counter that obtaining this oil from Canada will reduce U.S. reliance on Middle Eastern oil, increasing our national security and decreasing the power of nations that are unfriendly to the U.S.

 

The Obama Administration considered and eventually rejected an application by TransCanada, the pipeline’s owner, to construct it across the U.S./Canadian boundary. President Donald Trump reversed course, approving the pipeline application. However, there have been numerous lawsuits filed to stop its construction.

 

One of those lawsuits alleged that the State Department and TransCanada violated the National Environmental Policy Act. A federal judge has agreed, ordering the Trump Administration to do further environmental review before allowing pipeline construction.

 

This ruling is not a rejection of the federal government’s approval of TransCanada’s application. Instead, it merely requires the federal government to do further environmental reviews to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act. It is likely that once those reviews are completed, the Trump Administration will conclude that the Keystone XL Pipeline can be built.

 

Do you support construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Colorado Oil and Gas Production May Face New Restrictions

Colorado is one of the top oil- and natural gas-producing states in the nation. But a ballot measure may have a dramatic impact on the future of this industry. Proposition 112 would impose new setbacks that opponents contend would kill much of the state’s energy development. Supporters counter that these new rules are necessary to protect the public.

 

The oil and gas industry has a long history in Colorado. With the advent of the shale revolution, which led to a significant oil and gas output thanks to hydraulic fracturing, Colorado’s energy production underwent a renaissance during the past decade. This increased production has led to conflicts with some municipalities and residents over pollution claims and noise complaints.

 

There have been a variety of legislative efforts to curb oil and gas production in the state. These range from local laws to citizen-led initiatives, although many have failed to gain traction or have been shut down in the courts. Proposition 112 is the most significant of these proposals. It would mandate that any new oil and gas development be set back 2,500 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds, rivers, creeks, and anything else local governments determine as a “vulnerable area.” Currently the state imposes a 1,000 feet setback from high-occupancy buildings such as schools, 500 feet from occupied homes, and 350 feet from playgrounds.

 

The supporters of Proposition 112 argue that oil and gas production, especially when it involves hydraulic fracturing, poses a variety of health threats to the public. These setbacks, they argue, will ensure that these hazardous operations are not too close to people.

 

Opponents of Proposition 112 say that these setbacks would essentially end almost all new oil and gas production in the state. They contend that few areas would be left to explore for oil and natural gas after the setbacks are put into place. They point out if that happens it could lead to tens of thousands of jobs being lost, the state’s economy taking a big hit, and tax revenue going down. They also argue that Colorado has strict regulations on oil and natural gas development, so a new setback rule is unnecessary.

 

Both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor oppose Proposition 112. If the voters approve it, there will likely be a legal fight prior to its implementation.

 

Do you think that oil and natural gas production should face stricter regulation?

Bloomberg Backs Washington Carbon Fee Initiative

Efforts to impose a fee on carbon emissions in Washington State received a big boost yesterday when Michael Bloomberg pledged $1 million to the effort.

 

An initiative, I-631, is on Washington’s ballot this year to impose a fee on each metric ton of carbon emitted. The fee would start at $15 a ton in the first year and increase by $2 a year every year until the state’s carbon emissions goals are met. The revenue from this fee would go to air quality programs, forest health projects, and community investment.

 

Supporters of this initiative say it is a good way to help transition Washington away from the use of fossil fuels. They contend that putting a price on carbon emissions will help reduce emissions that cause climate change and provide an incentive to use renewable fuels. Opponents say that this will increase the cost of fuel. They also contend that this increase in energy costs will hurt the state’s businesses, leading to job loss and lower economic growth.

 

Other states have considered a carbon tax, but none have passed one. If Washington voters approve I-631, that state will be the first in the nation to impose a tax or fee on large carbon emitters.

 

Do you support a tax or fee on carbon emissions?

Electric Car Subsidy May Be Boosted in California

 

Buying an electric car in California may soon get you a $4,500 subsidy from the state.

 

The California Air Resources Board is meeting this week to consider boosting the state rebate for purchasing an electric car from $2,500 to $4,500. This money comes from credits purchased by businesses in order to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

 

Currently the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric car purchases. However, this subsidy is designed to decrease once the manufacturers of electric cars grow large enough to sell 200,000 cars per company. As the companies reach this threshold (Tesla has already done so), the tax credit decreases in increments.

 

Supporters of increasing the electric car subsidy say these zero-emission vehicles are essential to combatting climate change. They say that these companies need government help to gain a market foothold and compete with conventional vehicles. Those who oppose the subsidies say the government should not be picking winners and losers in the automotive marketplace. They contend that if people want to buy electric vehicles, they should do so without government assistance.

 

The electric car credit is only one issue being considered by the Air Resources Board. The board members may also require fewer carbon emissions by oil companies, bigger subsidies for electric-charging stations, and a requirement that some mass transit systems in the state must buy only hydrogen- or battery-powered buses by 2030.

 

Do you support subsidies for people who purchase electric vehicles?

Trump Clean Air Rules Give States More Flexibility

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed overhauling Obama-era clean air rules in a way that would give states more flexibility in meeting federal goals. The president touts these new regulations as a way to help the ailing coal industry. Environmental advocates, however, are expressing their strong opposition to what they call a step backwards in federal air quality standards.

 

The new Affordable Clean Energy Rule would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Both regulations are aimed at reducing air pollution. The Clean Power Plan had come under fire by states for exceeding federal authority over energy sources. It would have mandated that states meet certain goals for carbon dioxide emissions. If the state did not submit a plan to meet those goals, the federal government would impose one on the state.

 

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule allows states to set their own goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It also focuses on driving plants to improve their efficiency.

 

The EPA says this would lead to better air quality while also staying within the law, something that critics contend the Obama rules did not. President Trump also hails it as a way to help keep the coal industry alive. Critics of this new rule counter that this is simply a way to prop up the coal industry at the expense of cleaner energy sources and the health of Americans. They say that the new rule will lead to dirtier air compared to what the Clean Power Plan would have accomplished, with more Americans dying as a result.


This rule is now open for public comment before it takes effect. There is likely to be a legal fight over its legality that could postpone its implementation for years.

 

Do you think the Trump Administration’s new clean air rule is a good move? Do you think the Trump Administration is right to reduce regulations that are hurting U.S. coal production? Or is the Trump Administration bailing out the coal industry at the expense of air quality?

 

Seattle Bans Plastic Straws

 

If you buy a latte in Seattle, don’t expect to receive a plastic straw with it. If you order carryout food there, you won’t be getting a plastic fork, either.

 

Seattle recently banned retailers from offering plastic straws and utensils to their customers. Previously, the city had enacted a law that mandated that any food containers or cups offered by retailers must be recyclable. Straws and utensils were originally exempt, but they are now being covered by the same mandate.

 

Advocates say this law is necessary to reduce plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. They contend that animals ingest plastic, shortening their lifespan. A plastic straw ban, according to them, will help reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste that enters the environment.

 

Opponents of the straw ban point out that straws make up a miniscule fraction of the plastic waste that reaches the oceans. They also note that biodegradable straws are much more costly than plastic straws and do not work as well. Many business owners oppose this law because they say it is expensive and complicated to comply with.

 

Under this ordinance, retailers cannot offer straws to customers. If a customer asks for one, then the straw must be both biodegradable and compostable. Business owners that violate this law could face fines up to $250.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws to help the environment? Or is a straw ban a feel-good gimmick that will have little effect on pollution?

 

Who Can Regulate Oil and Gas Production in Colorado?

 

Colorado is one of the top energy producing states in the U.S. This oil and natural gas development has come with some pushback, however. Local governments are attempting to impose restrictions on oil and gas producers. State courts have generally struck down these local rules, saying such regulatory power lies with the state government. This issue could come to a head on November’s ballot.

 

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, oil and gas production has thrived over the last decade in Colorado. Some residents have pushed their local governments to enact new setbacks for oil and gas drilling rigs or imposes other restrictions on how this energy development can proceed. Some activists are also working with local governments to restrict or ban hydraulic fracturing, which they contend is dangerous.

 

When cities or counties enact these rules, the energy companies affected have argued that the state government has the authority to regulate oil and gas drilling. They have generally found sympathy from the state’s judiciary, which has ruled that state laws and regulations pre-empt local efforts to enact rules government energy production. The state Supreme Court struck down two high-profile city ordinances that would have banned oil drilling or placed a moratorium on it.

 

Currently, some Coloradans are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would enshrine the state power over energy production rules in the state constitution. They say it is necessary to end any confusion that exists over whether or not local governments have this regulatory power. They further contend that there should be one set of rules for energy production across the state, not a hodge-podge of local regulations. Opponents of this measure counter that doing this would remove any potential for local elected officials to respond to their constituents’ concerns over oil and gas drilling.

 

The backers of this initiative have until early August to collect enough signatures. If they do so, Colorado voters will have the chance to decide in November at what level of government energy production rules should be made. 

 

Do you think that the state government should set uniform rules for oil and gas production in Colorado? Or should local governments have the power to set oil and gas drilling rules that are tailored to meet their unique circumstances?

 

California Mandates Solar Panels on All New Homes

 

If you want to build a new home in California after 2020, you’ll need to put solar panels on it.

 

In mid-May, the California Energy Commission voted to impose this requirement on most new construction. This mandate would apply to houses as well as apartment buildings and condominiums that are up to three stories high. There would be limited exceptions, such as for homes that are too shaded or that do not have enough roof space.

 

The commission originally considered a mandate that would require all new homes to be “net zero” in terms of energy use. That is, the homes must produce as much energy as they consume. However, because of technological limitations and concerns about the availability of renewable energy sources, the commissioners settled on a solar mandate. In 2007, the commission adopted a “net zero” goal for new home construction.

 

Supporters say that this mandate is a good way to help the state meet its carbon-reduction goals. Opponents contend that requiring solar panels for new homes will increase costs to home buyers, making an expensive housing market in California even worse.

 

Some experts estimate that this new mandate, as well as other energy efficiency requirements, could boost the cost of a new home in California by $30,000.

 

Do you support mandating that all new homes should have solar panels? Or should the decision to install solar panels be left to home buyers?

 

New Jersey Passes Subsidies for Renewable, Nuclear Energy

 

 

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers in the Garden State grappled with what to do about climate change. With a new Democratic governor and Democratic control of the legislature, there was general agreement that energy subsidies were the path forward. What emerged for Governor Phil Murphy’s signature were bills that increased the government’s renewable energy mandate and provided subsidies for nuclear power.

The first bill dealt with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which mandates that a set percentage of electricity in the state must be generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind. The bill that Governor Murphy signed into law would set one the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation. Previously, New Jersey’s renewable energy mandate was 24.5% by 2020. Under the new bill, this would be dramatically increased. The legislation would require the following:

  • A 35% renewable energy goal by 2025
  • A 50% renewable energy goal by 2050
  • An increase in both offshore wind and solar usage
  • More usage of utility net metering

 

Since renewable energy sources generally cost more than other sources of electricity, this mandate will likely lead to an increase in energy prices paid by New Jersey consumers.

 

These consumers will also be paying higher prices due to the other piece of energy legislation, a bill that gives subsidies to the state’s nuclear power plants. The operating costs of these plants make it difficult for them to compete with lower-cost energy sources, especially natural gas. Because they were losing money, the plants owners said that they would shut them down unless they received state aid. Legislators and the governor agreed, providing them with $300 million in yearly subsidies.

 

Supporters of these bills say they are necessary to help the state achieve its goal of achieving an 80 reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. They point out that nuclear power plants generate 40% of the state’s power without producing any carbon. If these plants shut down, they say, there would be no way for the state to lower its carbon emissions. The nuclear subsidies, as well as the state support for renewable energy, will put New Jersey on the path to a lower-carbon future, according to advocates.

 

Opponents of the bills note that New Jersey ratepayers will be facing higher bills under this legislation. They contend that the nuclear subsidies are simply corporate welfare for well-connected energy companies. They also say that the renewable energy targets are unrealistic, considering the very small amount of energy that can currently be produced using wind or solar.

 

Governor Murphy and legislators have laid out an ambitious plan for carbon-free energy in New Jersey. It remains to be seen whether the state’s government support for these energy sources will allow the state to meet its ambitious environmental goals.

 

Do you think that electricity consumers should pay more to subsidize nuclear power plants and renewable energy? Or are subsidies for these carbon-free energy sources necessary to address climate change?

 

 

Renewable Energy a Hot Topic in Arizona

 

In November, Arizona voters may decide how much of their electricity must come from renewable energy. In anticipation, legislators are already passing bills on this issue. Renewable energy advocates, however, are not happy with what lawmakers are doing.

 

California billionaire Tom Steyer is bankrolling a movement to put a strict renewable energy mandate on the state ballot. This initiative would require that 50% of all electricity in the state must be generated from renewable sources by 2030. Nuclear power could not be counted as “renewable energy.” Current Arizona regulations mandate that 15% of all electricity must be from renewable sources by 2025.

 

Legislators responded by passing legislation specifying that if voters approve the initiative, the maximum fine that utilities would face for violating it would be $5,000. They are also considering placing an alternative measure on the ballot that would also impose a 50% renewable energy mandate, but allow it not to be implemented if it would raise consumers’ electricity rates.

 

Renewable energy advocates say that the legislature is trying to undermine their goal of forcing state utilities to produce cleaner energy. They contend that the legislation capping fines for non-compliant utilities essentially gives these utilities a license to ignore the new mandate, since the cost for violating it would be minimal. They also say that the alternative ballot proposal is a blatant attempt to confuse voters.

 

Those backing these legislative renewable energy measures counter that they are protecting Arizonans from out-of-state interest groups that are looking to confuse voters with an initiative that will impose heavy costs on consumers. Legislators say that they are merely giving Arizonans an alternative choice through another ballot measure. With renewable energy sources less reliable and more expensive than traditional energy sources, they contend, this referendum would give voters who support renewable energy more flexibility.

 

It remains to be seen if either of these measures will be on November’s ballot.

 

Do you think it is a good idea to mandate that 50% of Arizona’s energy must come from renewable energy sources?

 

 

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