In a bold move; well timed to coincide with the US Climate Summit decision at Copenhagen, this week the EPA will declare carbon dioxide a “Public Danger” – - triggering the certainty of regulation for big greenhouse gas emitters such as power stations, cement kilns, crude-oil refineries and chemical plants, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The move essentially guarantees that fossil industries feel either the very sharp stick of this EPA ruling…or they allow some of the Senators they control to cross the aisle for the first time on energy legislation and ratify what President Obama has said he is taking to Copenhagen as the US offer: a carbon cut of 17% below 2005 by 2020.
Senator Inhofe, the recipient of $2,182,631 from the fossil industry, has announced he is heading the delayer contingent in Copenhagen. But he might be better off staying home and ending his boycott of working on the legislation that the Republicans have filibustered for years, that by comparison with the EPA stick; is quite a juicy carrot.
He led the childish boycott of the recent hearings on the Senate Climate bill that provides the numbers for the Copenhagen agreement and that, once passed, would begin the transition to renewable energy for this country.
The CBO found that the virtually identical House bill would cost consumers under $110 a year, because they are largely shielded from any inaction that they cannot control – for example if their utilities attempt to pass down the costs of fines or the extra costs of new plants built to comply under CEJAPA. The trade part of the bill would help defray those costs to utilities by creating funds to add renewable energy; acting like a “Feebate”- a pollution fee and a rebate to clean up.
The bill would yield carbon cuts of 17% (or better: 20% is Senator Boxer’s preferred level) below 2005 levels by 2020, to reach 83% below by 2050, by putting a cap on carbon emissions.
Since 67% of the Senate has to ratify the Copenhagen agreement for it to be in effect, at least 5 of the 40 Republicans will have to cross the aisle for the first time on climate or energy legislation. Only two have done so consistently: Senators Collins and Snowe.
The Senate Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act is relatively painless compared with the EPA ruling. For just one example, it provides extra rewards for coal plant owners to switch to natural gas because that has only half the CO2 emissions.
A national Renewable Portfolio Standard that Republicans have filibustered at least five times is again in this climate bill, for another example. In individual states that have passed it, the RPS has led to renewable energy adoption rates of as high as 55%.
The EPA ruling would set stringent emission standards to require high emitter firms to install the best available technology, to keep emissions below a 25,000 ton cap. Go over the cap, get heavily fined. This will likely trigger a run on just fossil plant energy efficiency tech like the use of CH&P: combined heat and power energy and waste-to-energy to power plants.
The DOE has demonstrated a variety of these options to the fossil industry this year (one previous story). Not only do these kinds of options cut pollution, but they are cost effective, because these technologies increase the ratio of produced energy per unit of wasted energy. A recent study found that fossil power plants are only 30% efficient and another found that 7 quadrillion BTUs of energy goes to waste in the US each year.
But if the carrot-and-stick combo works as intended, and we do sign a climate bill and ratify this nation’s first climate treaty ever, expect to see a blossoming of the full range of exciting innovations in renewable energy that Europe trailblazed, and that this administration’s Department of Energy is jumpstarting.
Some examples of DOE innovation funding:
California to Get Smart Grid Funds to Bottle Wind which was part of
Solyndra Solar Wins First DOE Funding which was just the first solar investment, then:
Stay tuned. The US could once again take the world leadership position it abdicated years ago in not signing Kyoto.
Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.