Ernest Moniz at an appearance in France in 2011. (Photo by jeanbaptisteparis via Creative Commons)
By Justin Elliott
When President Obama nominated Ernest Moniz to be energy secretary earlier this month, he hailed the nuclear physicist as a “brilliant scientist” who, among his many talents, had effectively brought together “prominent thinkers and energy companies” in the continuing effort to figure out a safe and economically sound energy future for the country.
Indeed, Moniz’s collaborative work – best captured in the industry-backed research program he oversaw at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – is well known. So, too, is his support for Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy – one that embraces fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy sources.
But beyond his job in academia, Moniz has also spent the last decade serving on a range of boards and advisory councils for energy industry heavyweights, including some that do business with the Department of Energy. That includes a six-year paid stint on BP’s Technology Advisory Council as well as similar positions at a uranium enrichment company and a pair of energy investment firms. →
Michael Vickerman, program and policy director of RENEW Wisconsin.
By Michael Vickerman
Only in Wisconsin will you find lawmakers who treat renewable energy as though it were radioactive.
A legislator from Brown County, Rep. Andre Jacque, has introduced a bill (AB 34) to incorporate nuclear energy within Wisconsin’s 14-year-old renewable electricity standard.
The bill defines the terms under which utilities could apply the output from in-state nuclear power plants toward their existing 10 percent requirement, which would be renamed the Advanced and Renewable Portfolio Standard (ARPS). Right now, Wisconsin has three operating nuclear reactors at two locations five miles apart along Lake Michigan.
Two of the three nuclear power stations–Point Beach units 1 and 2–are located within Rep. Jacque’s district. The adjoining district contains the other nuclear unit , the 560-MW Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant owned by Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based utility holding company. Late in 2012, Dominion announced that it would shut down and decommission Kewaunee this spring, while cutting the plant’s 650-person workforce in half. →
The prospect for bipartisan energy policy was on the agenda last week in Washington.
Former members of Congress spoke last Wednesday about restoring the “legacy of bipartisan support for renewable energy” at a policy forum organized by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
The next day, the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank separately released a set of recommendations (pdf) endorsed by a task force of Republicans and Democrats for improving the nation’s electricity grid.
The conversations around both events offer a few rays of hope that the heightened level of partisanship that’s bogged down the discussion of clean energy in recent years may be starting to fade.
“I think there are some positive signs,” said Joe Kruger, energy and environment director for the Bipartisan Policy Center. →
Whoever fills the vacancy in the administrator’s office at U.S. EPA will be given a long list of expected rules and be warned of legal battles needed to implement them.
Then he or she will have to brace for continuing controversy over how to use what will likely be less resources.
As Lisa Jackson bids farewell to the agency, the new administrator has an extensive to-do list for climate and air quality efforts. Carbon emissions limits for newly built power plants that were proposed last March must be finished, and standards for existing power plants — the leading source of carbon dioxide emissions in the country — have yet to be drafted.
The agency must also propose performance standards for CO2 from oil refineries. These New Source Performance Standards are the outcome of a settlement between EPA and a coalition of environmental groups and states in 2010.
“If there’s anything we’ve learned in environmental protection over the past 40 years, it’s that uncertainty is a killer,” said Becker. “Uncertainty in funding makes our already difficult challenges more daunting.”
The next EPA administrator “will have to be extremely strategic and thoughtful about resources allocation in the agency,” added Becker. “Much of that will be totally out of their control.” →
The ongoing war of words over the “fiscal cliff” that intensified this week left unanswered one of the most important questions for energy watchers: What will happen to a suite of expired or expiring tax credits?
The debate over those incentives, including the wind production tax credit and subsidies to promote energy efficiency and alternative fuels, has largely simmered on the back burner amid the broader debate over across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. That is still the case, although observers continue to believe they have a good chance of being included in a year-end cliff package, if there is one. →
(Photo by Timothy K. Hamilton via Creative Commons)
An increasingly vocal proponent of clean energy, former President Bill Clinton will speak in Chicago Wednesday to celebrate the growth of wind power in the Midwest.
The event will be hosted by Wind on the Wires, a St. Paul-based non-profit organization founded in 2001 with the aim of creating a “road to market” for wind energy, including improvements to make the grid more conducive to wind and other renewables.
Wind on the Wires is a member of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News, and Midwest Energy News is a media sponsor for the event.
In recent years, Clinton, like his former vice president Al Gore, has become an outspoken champion of renewable energy and specifically wind power. Wind on the Wires executive director Beth Soholt said Clinton is playing an important role in translating complicated and technical issues for the general public, and also in helping to correct misinformation that has spread as wind power has become more prevalent and a more viable alternative to fossil fuels.
“He will be able to put a fine point on a lot of these important messages,” said Soholt. “We spend a lot of time on education and outreach to all different kinds of people – it could be a land owner, a government official or anyone in between. (Clinton) is able to communicate in a way that’s elegant and concrete and has a sense of urgency.” →
A screen capture from an ad by the utility-backed Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan opposing Proposal 3.
In September, a Lansing, Michigan, based polling firm surveyed the state’s electorate, and found that 55 percent of Michiganders supported Proposal 3, a ballot measure that would have strengthened the state’s modest renewable energy standard by requiring the state’s utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. At the time, only 34 percent opposed it.
But on Election Day, 62 percent of the state’s voters rejected Proposal 3, stunning renewable energy advocates and forcing them back to the drawing board.
So what happened? And what lessons can be drawn from Proposal 3’s defeat? →
Many climate advocates hope that the recent bout of extreme weather will awaken Americans to the dangers of climate change.
Advocates and scientists have pointed to superstorm Sandy and the Texas drought as clear and present signs of the climate crisis. Although the public does seem to be taking notice, I fear these efforts could backfire if we do not proceed cautiously with our framing around extreme weather and climate change. Our challenge to solve the climate crisis could become more difficult in the end.
How? Let’s consider where efforts to tie extreme weather to climate crisis might lead: →
Factors leading to Midwest gasoline price spike not seen as long-term trend • Musk tells climate advocates to turn tables on skeptics • Towns along scenic stretch of Mississippi River seek frac sand mining ban • Michigan lawmakers raise concerns about Ontario nuclear waste site