Thursday, July 24, 2014

EPA's Emissions Target for Washington is Right On Target

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) wrote in her July 22 op-ed for the Seattle Times that the EPA’s 72% target emissions reduction for Washington is “counterintuitive.” It may appear so, but EPA’s methodology for determining each state’s reduction is based on a state’s ability to cut their emissions. Washington has a head start on other states. Furthermore, Washington’s only coal-fired power plant, which accounts for 70% of electric power emissions, will phase out by 2025, making it a cinch to meet EPA’s target.

We do have alternatives to EPA’s regulations. Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s legislative’s proposal would place a nation-wide fee on carbon and return all revenues to households as a monthly dividend. This would level the playing field for low-carbon energy, including nuclear, and the monthly dividend would offset increased costs to consumers. A recent study by an independent economics modeling organization showed that such an approach would reduce emissions by 33% by 2025, and 52% by 2035, and add between 2 and 3 million jobs.
As a parent and grandparent, I share Representative McMorris Rodgers’ concern that we leave a “stronger America for our children and grandchildren,” and I urge her to work with her colleagues to reign in emissions by passing carbon fee and dividend legislation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Climate Change Has a High Price

The Wenatchee World, July 17, 2014
by By Steven Ghan and Alex Amonette

Much as we may hate to admit it and don’t want to think about it, our burning of fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect.
This results in climate change. It costs us. Local costs include the loss of agriculture in the Yakima Valley as less summer snowmelt is available for irrigation because more winter precipitation falls as rain in a warmer climate. National costs include the billions of dollars the U.S. government spends annually on imported oil and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and the trillions of dollars of property value that will be lost as sea level rises, subsidized by National Flood Insurance.

The costs keep rising, and are rising with interest. The costs of climate damage are higher than the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As time marches on, it will only become more and more expensive to pay for these costs and mitigate these effects.

The administration is moving ahead with EPA rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants and the Supreme Court has already upheld EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Most of the solutions, such as cap and trade, proposed to mitigate global warming involve an economic penalty. As an alternative, a number of conservatives, like former Secretary of State George Shultz, are urging fellow conservatives to support a market-based approach as an insurance policy to solve the problem by using a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

In this system, as proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a $15 per ton fee is placed on fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas — at their source — well, mine, port of entry/refinery. There are about 2,000 entities involved at this point on whom the fee is placed. The fee rises $10 per ton per year annually in a predictable manner until we reach a safe level of emissions. Then, 100 percent of the revenue is returned to every American household. Not one dime goes to the government. Administrative costs are miniscule and no new bureaucracy is created. Domestic manufacturers and producers are protected through a border tax adjustment.
The Citizens' Climate Lobby Fee & Dividend Approach
 The American people get a monthly dividend check or automatic deposit in their bank account. This provides cash to pay for any price hike in fuel costs. We will also have more money to spend on food, insulation, a more fuel efficient vehicle, health care, etc.. By 2025, if this system had been implemented in 2015 each household would have $300 a month as a steady dividend.

A study commissioned by CCL showed that the economy would grow, millions of jobs would be created, thousands of lives saved, emissions would be reduced and we would begin the gradual transition off of fossil fuels onto low- or zero-carbon energy sources that will eventually help us stabilize our climate system.

Each of us would have an incentive to reduce emissions because the taxes we pay decrease as we use less carbon energy. Other countries would have an incentive to reduce emissions because the border adjustment depends on whether they tax carbon energy.

In 2008, British Columbia began a carbon tax, with the revenue returned to citizens through lowered income taxes. A new peer-reviewed study reported on British Columbia’s emissions and economy through 2012. The results are impressive. Polls show that public support for the British Columbia carbon tax has grown to 64 percent.

We can do the same in the United States. Because CCL’s carbon fee and dividend is revenue-neutral, it offers the most effective first step for us to both stabilize our climate and stimulate our economy. It beats cap and trade and government regulations.

Please contact our representatives. In the 4th District, Rep. Doc Hastings; In the 5th Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in the 8th, Rep. David Reichert. Ask them to enact the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Carbon Fee and Dividend legislative proposal now. We reap what we sow.

Steve Ghan is a climate scientist. Alex Amonette is a trained geologist and chemist. They are volunteers with the Tri-Cities Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Volunteers Advocate for Cutting Greenhouse Gases and Creating Jobs

by Jim Russell
Citizen lobbyists from around the U.S. take market-based solution for global warming to Capitol Hill during a conference held June 22-24 in Washington D.C. About 600 volunteers attended including seven from Eastern Washington
(Photo by Erica Flock/Citizen’s Climate Lobby website)

Tired of the swarming debates about taxes, regulations and job losses to reverse global warming? Would you believe there is a Fee and Dividend proposal that reduces carbon emissions without regulations and sends you a dividend check to pay for increased energy costs and increases jobs?  Then you may be interested in the bipartisan individuals in Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), who fervently believe they are making progress in Congress.

The fervor of the CCL has risen at the same time powerful Republicans voices have risen in the report, Risky Business Project. It urges businesses reduce greenhouse gases that pose serious economic risks to agricultural yields, labor productivity, human health, energy systems, insurance, coastal properties, wildfires and infrastructure.

“When people like former Treasury Secretaries Hank Paulson and George Shultz, both Republicans, start talking about the extreme risk of taking no action on global warming, it increases the pressure on Congress to come up with solutions,” said Mark Reynolds, CCL executive director.

CCL’s plan requires energy companies pay a fee on carbon emissions at the source, 100 percent of which is redistributed to households by the federal government. Energy producers reduce carbon emissions by purchasing less-expensive energy systems from industries that increase jobs to respond to the demand.

The study estimates a carbon fee that increased every year for 20
 years would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, add 2.8 million jobs to the economy and save lives lost to pulmonary disease.

CCL is a nonprofit, honest-to-goodness grassroots group of informed volunteer advocates. It trains volunteers who spend their own money to advocate in Congress and through the media.

Seven people from Eastern Washington joined 600 others to attend a CCL conference June 22-24 in Washington D.C. They learned more about the Fee and Dividend system and how to present the information to Sen. Maria Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray and to the staff in Doc Hastings’ and Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ offices.

Two of the members responded to my emails asking why they paid to participate: Steve Ghan and Jim Amonette from the Tri-Cities.

Ghan is a climate scientist who was co-author of three Nobel Peace Prize reports on climate change and is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. “I started speaking to the public about climate change three years ago when I saw a deliberate misinformation campaign has confused the public into thinking the issue has not been settled in the scientific community.” He joined the CCL as a private citizen because it is bipartisan and because the Fee and Dividend plan is attractive to all interests.

“The interest was most obvious when every one of the five offices I visited wanted to see the study showing that the CCL solution stimulates the economy. It does seem to be a game changer, and gives me considerable hope that a political solution can be negotiated.”

Hope for congressional action on global warming? That’s unusual. Amonette also is hopeful. He’s a soil chemist who has focused on environmental issues such as reducing the organic carbon released into the atmosphere by tilling the soil. When he realized governments weren’t acting on climate science, he researched how to get involved. CCL “was precisely what I was looking for.”

“The Fee and Dividend approach seemed a much better route than other approaches such as regulation, subsidies and cap-and-trade, none of which do anything to help the average citizen deal with the necessary rise in the cost of energy that comes from a switch from fossil fuels, and all of which are subject to significant political or legal maneuvering that could prevent us from achieving the primary goal. I was also attracted by the grassroots nature of the organization coupled with a very high ethical standard,” Amonette said.

His most memorable experience was hearing former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC). “Here was a rock-ribbed Christian conservative politician who fervently believes that something needs to be done about the climate (and entirely consistent with conservative principles) and lost re-election because of his courageous stand.

Despite that, “I saw progress being made on Capitol Hill towards a nonpartisan common-sense solution to global warming.”

Information on CCL and the Fee and Dividend are at http://citizensclimatelobby.org/about-us/.

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Posted by Empire Press on Jul 16, 2014 in All News, Communities, Community News, Douglas County, Voices

Monday, July 14, 2014

What the EPA Proposes for Washington State

From EPA's Web Site

Climate change threatens our health and economy 

Carbon pollution leads to long-lasting changes in our climate, such as rising global temperatures, rising sea level, and changes in weather and precipitation patterns. The Third U. S. National Climate Assessment outlines how climate change will impact states like Washington.  

States are taking action

Before issuing this proposal, EPA heard from states, utilities, labor unions, nongovernmental organizations, consumer groups, industry and others to learn more about what programs are already working to reduce carbon pollution.  We learned that states are leading the way– especially through programs that expand energy efficiency and renewable energy. Washington already has programs in place that could be part of its individual or regional plan to reduce carbon pollution, including: 
  • Greenhouse gas performance standards in the form of emission limits, emission rates for electricity purchased, or requirements to capture emissions
  • Energy efficiency standards or goals
  • Demand-side energy efficiency programs that advance energy efficiency improvements for electricity use
  • Energy efficiency codes (meeting 2006 International Energy Conservation Code) for residential buildings
  • Energy efficiency codes (meeting ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2004) for commercial buildings
  • Appliance and equipment efficiency standards
  • Renewable energy portfolio standards or goals

Proposed state goals build on state leadership

To set state-specific goals, EPA analyzed the practical and affordable strategies that states and utilities are already using to lower carbon pollution from the power sector. These include improving energy efficiency, improving power plant operations, and encouraging reliance on low-carbon and zero-emitting electricity generation. Together, these make up the best system for reducing carbon pollution. They achieve meaningful reductions at a lower cost. 

The Agency applied these strategies consistently, but each state’s energy mix ultimately leads to a different goal that is unique to the state.

In 2012, Washington’s power sector CO2 emissions were approximately 7 million metric tons from sources covered by the rule. The amount of energy produced by fossil-fuel fired plants, and certain low or zero emitting plants was approximately 19 terawatt hours (TWh)*. So, Washington’s 2012 emission rate was 763 pounds/megawatt hours (lb/MWh).  

EPA is proposing that Washington develop a plan to lower its carbon pollution to meet its proposed emission rate goal of 215 lb/MWh in 2030. This amounts to a 72% reduction (Note that 70% of Washington's electric power emissions are generated by one coal-fired plant and it is being phased out by 2025),

*includes existing non-hydro renewable energy generation and approximately 6% of nuclear generation. The 2012 emission rate shown here has not been adjusted for any incremental end-use energy efficiency improvements that states may make as part of their plans to reach these state goals. 

States decide how to cut carbon pollution 

The state goals are not requirements on individual electric generating units. Washington will choose how to meet the goal through whatever combination of measures reflects its particular circumstances and policy objectives. A state does not have to put in place the same mix of strategies that EPA used to set the goal.

Washington may work alone or in cooperation with other states to comply with the proposed rule.  EPA estimates that states could achieve their goals most cost effectively if they work with others.  

EPA encourages states to look broadly across their electricity system to identify strategies for their plans to reduce carbon pollution.  Strategies can include:   
  • Demand-side energy efficiency programs
  • Renewable energy standards
  • Efficiency improvements at plants
  • Dispatch changes
  • Co-firing or switching to natural gas
  • Construction of new Natural Gas Combined-Cycle plants
  • Transmission efficiency improvements
  • Energy storage technology
  • Retirements
  • Expanding renewables like wind and solar
  • Expanding nuclear
  • Market-based trading programs
  • Energy conservation programs
Washington's Energy Mix in 2012 (Source: The EIA form 923)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Americans seem to be loving soccer and that really bothers Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg needs to get a life. He seems to have nothing to ponder besides why liberals hate America. In his latest angst-ridden, rambling diatribe, Goldberg remarks on a PEW survey that found fewer Americans today think America “stands above all other countries in the world.” Naturally, he blames liberals, saying that, “The polling data only proves what has been obvious for a while,” which (wait for the drum roll), is that liberals aren’t proud of America.

What’s obvious, is that Goldberg is ignoring the point that the survey found the decline to be “particularly acute among Republicans.” That doesn’t jibe with Goldberg’s long-held world view that liberals hate America, so Goldberg jumps from his selective reference to the Pew survey to taking Georgia Rep. John Lewis to task for saying that, “If the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.” Goldberg slyly implies that Lewis, who risked his life multiple times challenging Jim Crow laws in the South, is applying reverse racism against Republicans, although even Goldberg is hard pressed to do this without at least mentioning congressional gridlock. I have news for Mr. Goldberg, not only would the Civil Rights Act not pass, it isn’t even surviving Republican efforts to dismantle it at the federal and state levels.

Showing his remarkable dexterity with hyperbolic prose, Goldberg leaps to the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case and rants about Hillary Clinton’s “shocking, inarticulate” criticism of the decision and lumps it together with the “glib anti-Americanism” of liberals generally, who have the temerity to call the decision partisan, sexist, and religiously motivated, and who not only hate America, but seemingly love soccer, which is doubly bad, because America is clearly not exceptional at it.
The idea that Americans should consider soccer seriously more than once every two years during the World Cup (the women play, too, and won the championship twice, but only liberals care about that) is the strange segue for Goldberg’s next foray into liberals’ denial of “American exceptionalism.”

Goldberg lambasts President Obama for his remarks during a foreign policy speech at West Point during which he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” According to Goldberg, American exceptionalism is, “a complex concept describing the uniqueness of the American founding and American character,” and Goldberg resents the President reducing the concept of American exceptionalism to the idea that actions speak louder than words. Of course he does, because Goldberg is all about words; words thrown out helter-skelter as in this piece in the hopes of hitting a responsive conservative chord.
 Least he fail to hit that chord in the first 17 paragraphs of his 19 paragraph polemic, he throws in this dally in his final two, to wit, the Tea Party is full of patriotic Americans, who are thwarting liberals attempts to impose European style socialism in America and “liberal resentment over that fact is palpable.”

Yeah, and soccer isn’t real football, either!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A More Perfect Union

Almost immediately after Barack Obama was reelected as the 44th President of the United States, a wave of petitions to secede from the Union flooded the new White House web site, “We the People.” The web site was established by the Obama Administration to make it easier for citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to petition their government “for a redress of grievances.”

Eventually, petitions were filed from all fifty states, but only eight states filed petitions containing the necessary number of digital signatures warranting a response, originally 25,000 (later changed to 100,000). Those eight states were: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. The response from the White House was, to put it simply, “No.”

I was born in 1938, just three years before America entered World War II. In that war Americans were brought together by the external threat it posed to our freedom. But only 77 years before my birth, the United States was setting about destroying itself from within, and that internecine war was also about freedom.
As a consequence of victory in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the United States was expanding westward. Disputes broke out on whether new territories, including Texas, would be free or slave holding. As part of a compromise, congress passed a reprehensible law, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Act required American citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves. Any white could be “deputized” to do so. Bounty hunters were hired to track down, capture, and return suspected slaves to their “masters.” Free blacks, too, were captured and sent to the South in shackles. They had no legal right to plead their cases. Thousands upon thousands of blacks, free and slave, were shuttled south in chains to toil under the yoke of slavery.

The Fugitive Slave Act, followed two years later by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s best-selling novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, inflamed the passions of the Abolitionists and northerners in general and exacerbated the differences between free and slave-holding states. One state, South Carolina, in its declaration of secession in 1860, noted, "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slave holding states to the institution of slavery." They protested that northern states had failed to "fulfill their constitutional obligations" to return fugitive slaves to bondage and in fact, were known to interfere with the process. Other southern states echoed the sentiment. Mississippi, in its declaration, “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery,” and went on to contend that, “a blow at slavery is a blow to commerce and civilization.”
In witnessing the inauguration of America’s first black president it is instructive to revisit the words of Abraham Lincoln on his inauguration in 1861 regarding the attempted secession of the slave holding states. The first thing Lincoln did was to assure the southern states that he had, “no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.” He said that he had no lawful right to do so. But with regard to secession, Lincoln said, “I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.” He pointed out that, “no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” He then went on to describe the process and precedent by which the Union was created. It has to be one of the most cogent and at the same time, concise descriptions of our great nation’s creation. Lincoln concluded by saying that the Union could not be, “peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it...no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union.”

One hundred and fifty-two years after Lincoln’s inauguration speech the United States of America elected its first black president. Americans regardless of race, creed, or color, felt justly proud of the progress made since those dark days of slavery. Yet only days after Barack Obama was reelected, tens of thousands of disaffected residents of the southern states, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas, and over 600,000 Americans nationwide, raised their voices in a digital cry of secession. Whatever their grievance; abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, Obamacare, or Obama himself, their cry of secession is a sure sign that “we the people” are not all guided “by the better angels of our nature.”

As we move in the days and years ahead to confront the critical issues facing our nation, our attitudes must not be shaped by fear, but by courage, and we must not be defined by our differences, but by our common dreams for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and for our posterity. We must do together what the Founding Fathers set out for us to do, form a more perfect Union.

Monday, June 30, 2014

How Does Global Warming Increase Wildfire Risk?

From the National Wildlife Federation


The frequency of large wildfires and the total area burned have been steadily increasing in the Western United States, with global warming being a major contributing factor.
  • Longer fire seasons will result as spring runoff occurs earlier, summer heat builds up more quickly, and warm conditions extend further into fall. Western forests typically become combustible within a month of when snowmelt finishes. Snowpack is now melting 1 to 4 weeks earlier than it did 50 years ago.
  • Drier conditions will increase the probability of fire occurrence. Summertime temperatures in western North America are projected to be 3.6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher by mid-century, enhancing evaporation rates, while precipitation is expected to decrease by up to 15 percent. The Southwest will be hit particularly hard, perhaps shifting to a more arid climate.
  • More fuel for forest fires will become available because warmer and drier conditions are conducive to widespread beetle and other insect infestations, resulting in broad ranges of dead and highly combustible trees. Higher temperatures enhance winter survival of mountain pine beetles and allow for a more rapid lifecycle. At the same time, moderate drought conditions for a year or longer can weaken trees, allowing bark beetles to overcome the trees’ defense mechanisms more easily.
  • Increased frequency of lightning is expected as thunderstorms become more severe. In the western United States a 1.8 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature is expected to lead to a 6 percent increase in lightning. This means that lightning in the region could increase by 12 to 30 percent by mid-century.
The bottom line is that the overall area burned is projected to double by late this century across 11 western states if the average summertime temperature increases 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit, with Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah being hit particularly hard.