What Planet Am I From? (Clean Power Plan)
What Planet Am I From?
Between the UN Climate Meeting in Bonn, the NARUC Conference in Baltimore and Thanksgiving at the old homestead, I have not had a good opportunity to dump my thoughts, er....I mean write a column.
But as I slide away from being thankful, and prepare for the onslaught of the next holiday, I want to share some thoughts that, as the title says, prompt me ask myself if I am from another planet and have not realized it yet. I am normally asking other people what planet they are from based on some comment they make or action they take, but I am looking in the mirror for the moment.
Note: These thoughts are not to be confused with my column of a couple of months ago called "That's Not Right". On second thought, maybe the theme is not that far off.
Oh well, here goes.
Clean Power Plan
It is no secret that the Administration is moving forcefully to pull the CPP back, but when the EPA only holds one public hearing and it is located in West Virginia, I begin to wonder just how blatant things can possible get. Seems like the equivalent would be to hold a hearing on a federal plan to shut down coal plants and only hold one hearing - in Berkeley.
Several European countries have received positive notices for their environmental commitments and efforts. Taking a country approach to environmental improvement makes sense. But when I learn that countries like Germany and Norway are wavering, I wonder exactly what one can expect.
Notable at the COP in Bonn were the German protesters calling attention to the expanded coal mining operations that were taking place not that far away. Chancellor Merkel also was visibly reluctant to go too far in her recent remarks about clean energy, since the political winds are changing in her country.
In the case of Norway, that country (which has the largest penetration of electric vehicles of any nation) is now talking about expanding its offshore oil and gas supply operations.
It is tough to pursue a clean energy agenda. But on the planet that I supposedly live on that is the only agenda that makes sense - no matter which way the political winds blow.
Syria Scores a Rare Point
That's right - Syria. I am sure you all saw that Syria became the next to last country to declare support for the Paris Agreement. I am also sure you all know who the very last one is.
Puerto Rico Strong - or Strained?
If I were ranking this list of planetary disturbances in my universe, this one would probably be number one. As I write this, I am not even sure of the number of people who, 10 weeks after the storm, still don't have electricity but I know it is a big number. I don't know the exact number because the media has moved on. If I am wrong to feel ashamed at the way our fellow Americans on that island are being treated, then someone please inform me, or tell me what other planet I am from.
The good news is that there are some efforts to change the electricity scene in PR, with some of them NGO-based. I hope to learn more about them and then write about them in the near future.
Congress Does Its Taxes
I could argue that the House and Senate Tax Bills are bad policy in a number of different and basic ways, not the least of which being that they are putting clean energy incentives and financing in play for possible reduction or elimination. But the biggest generic problem is that it looks pretty certain that the ultimate bill will blow up (increase) the deficit significantly. If the policy objective is tax cuts, and assuming no one wants to increase the deficit (I think my kids would prefer I not do that that) then why in the world (in my planetary context) is a carbon tax not being at least discussed as the bird that would kill two stones (deficit and support for clean energy).
A Game of Inches?
I often refer to energy/electricity policy as a game of inches, using the football analogy to refer to the fact that it is tough to gain too much in one fell swoop. One often has to grind it out and look for ways to gain a few yards, secure a first down, and eventually reach the end zone. In my opinion, playing the game that way is fine when you are in the first quarter or first half. But if you are behind as the clock winds down in the second half, you sometimes have to play what is called a "hurry-up" offense, because you don't want the clock to run out.
I think when it comes to energy and environmental policy, we are at a point in time where we are playing like it is the first half, when based on the reports coming out from climate scientists and researchers we should be scrambling and not acting like we have all the time in the world.
Winner Take All
You may recognize that subtitle because I did a whole column on it earlier this year. It refers to my increasing frustration when I hear a member of the administration, or a pundit, say something that bluntly translated is "if the voters elected President Trump then whatever he does must be something that the voters wanted". Whether you support the President or not, the American voter is a complicated animal. He or she might pull the lever to vote for a party line/slate of candidates, but everyone has their own set of issues that they care about and they come down differently on them. So when I see the polls continuing to creep up in terms of support for clean energy and concern about climate change, and they include voters from both parties, I see a situation where the voters did not vote on these specific issues. Yet the representation being made is that they did.
The New Dynamic Duo
I have often talked about China in my columns, and referenced energy-related news items on it and sometimes on India as well. I have no particular interest in either country although they are fascinating to me in many ways. But I do have interest as you know in grid modernization and clean energy. And when I read stories about how India is ramping up its clean energy (especially solar) game with Chinese technology (instead of that from the US), and I put that next to the stories that brag about how the U.S. has become such a major oil and gas producer, I can't help but ask: Who is racing towards the future and who is racing towards the past?
As I write this, stories are breaking that the former CEO of Massey Energy, a West Virginia coal company, is planning to run for the US Senate as a Republican. He is in position to do this because he is now out of jail after having served a one-year sentence related to one of his mines in 2010 that killed 29 people. Word is that he is seeking a pardon from the President. On my planet, coal would not still be considered by some to be king, and a former coal executive would not be the first person I would think of as the kind of person who can lead the clean energy revolution we need.
Whew.....I think I will take a walk over to the Smithsonian Planetarium. Maybe they can help me figure all of this out.