Congress considers major global warming measure

Apr 19, 2009 By DINA CAPPIELLO , Associated Press Writer
FILE - In this Aug. 2, 1978, photo a fence bars the contaminated Love Canal dump site in Niagara Falls, N.Y. From 1969 to 1980, Congress passed a wide range of environmental bills tackling air and water pollution, garbage, protections for fisheries and marine mammals, and endangered species; in 1990 Congress tackled acid rain by overhauling the Clean Air Act. Now in the week of April 20, 2009, lawmakers begin hearings on an energy and global warming bill that could revolutionize how the country produces and uses energy, and could for the first time reduce the pollution responsible for heating up the planet. (AP Photo/FILE)

(AP) -- The last time Congress passed major environmental laws, acid rain was destroying lakes and forests, polluted rivers were on fire and smog was choking people in some cities.

The fallout from , while subtle now, could eventually be more dire. That prospect has Democrats pushing legislation that rivals in scope the nation's landmark anti-pollution laws.

Lawmakers this coming week begin hearings on an energy and global warming bill that could revolutionize how the country produces and uses energy. It also could reduce, for the first time, the pollution responsible for heating up the planet.

If Congress balks, the Obama administration has signaled a willingness to use decades-old clean air laws to impose tough new regulations for motor vehicles and many industrial plants to limit their release of climate-changing pollution.

The on Friday said rising sea levels, increased flooding and more intense heat waves and storms that come with are a threat to public health and safety. The agency predicted that warming will worsen other pollution problems such as smog.

"The EPA concluded that our health and our planet are in danger. Now it is time for Congress to create a clean energy cure," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., one of the sponsors of the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

If passed, it would be the first major environmental protection law in almost two decades. In addition to attempting to solve a complex environmental problem associated with global warming, the bill also seeks to wean the nation off foreign oil imports and to create a new clean-energy economy.

"It's a big undertaking," said the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Waxman and Markey presented their 648-page bill last month.

From 1969 to 1980, Congress passed more than a dozen environmental bills tackling everything from air and water pollution and garbage, as well as protections for fisheries, marine mammals and endangered species. In 1990, the Clean Air Act was overhauled to address the problem of created by the sulfur dioxide released from coal-burning power plants.

"We had two decades of extraordinary legislation and almost two decades of nothing," said Richard Lazarus, a Georgetown University law professor and author of "The Making of Environmental Law." "If this one passes, it will certainly be an outburst."

There are many reasons why Congress' chances to succeed in passing global warming legislation are improved this year, but by no means assured.

After President George W. Bush did little about global warming in his two terms, there is "a lot pent up demand" for action on climate, said William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Both the Democratic-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama agree that legislation is needed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and radically alter the nation's energy sources. They want to pass a bill by the end of the year.

"For the first time ever, we have got the political actors all aligned," said Lazarus. "That is not enough to get a law passed, but that is a huge start. We haven't been close to that before."

Unlike the 1970s, when the first environmental laws passed nearly unanimously, Republicans are opposed. They question whether industry and taxpayers can afford to take on global warming during an economic recession.

Then there is the question whether the public will have the appetite to accept higher energy prices for a benefit that will not be seen for many years. Climate change ranks low on many voters' priority lists.

Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record. Sea ice in the Arctic and glaciers worldwide are melting.

But the problems are not as apparent as they were in the 1970s, or even the early 1990s, when Congress addressed acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer.

"If carbon dioxide were brown, we wouldn't have the same problem," said Gus Speth, who organized the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970. "But it's a subtle issue. ... The problems are chronic not acute, and it is largely invisible to people unless they're reading the newspaper or checking the glaciers or going to the South Pole."

In 1969, oil and debris in the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland burst into flames, an incident that led to the passage of the Clean Water Act. That same year, a blowout at an offshore oil platform off Santa Barbara, Calif., spilled millions of gallons of oil onto beaches. And long before that, a smog episode in Donora, Pa., in 1948 killed 20, sparking a crusade against air pollution.

"There was so much evidence - sort of smell, touch and feel kind of evidence - that the environment was really in trouble," said Ruckelshaus. "We had real problems, real pollution problems that people could see on the way to work. And there were rivers catching on fire and terrible smog events."

With climate, "you are asking people to worry about their grandchildren or their children," he said. "That is why it will be so tough to get something like this through."

---

On the Net:

House Energy and Commerce Committee: http://tinyurl.com/c68ukd

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/

Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org/

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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dachpyarvile
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 19, 2009
Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record.


This is a very subtle obfuscation. 2008 was coldest winter of the 21st century thus far and there has been a net cooling trend over the last three years. If the trend that is unfolding this year continues, this year will be colder than last.

Oh, and Democrats are a joke. They are all for harming the environment if it means getting pet projects built such as solar arrays and wind farms. They also are for harming the economy.

Good thing they also push for more social programs so they can look good to the public while wreaking havoc on the economy with their legislation.
LuckyBrandon
1.3 / 5 (3) Apr 19, 2009
the environment doesnt take NOTHING as a hit with solar arrays and wind farms by comparison to current methods, so your argument is entirely flawed. The environmental savings of such energy production are IMMENSE by comparison.
And the whole damned government is a joke, not just democrats. Democrats, republicans, none of that matters, they are ALL idiots. As is anyone who actually thinks they are different. They are ALL merely a bunch of liars and manipulators who had enough money to make their face known...and thats all.
Arkaleus
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2009
Another useless article promoting terrifyingly bad science fused with insane social policy. You can't harvest sunbeams from cucumbers. You can't adjust the world's climate by spending money. You can't pretend you cause climate change when you are a tiny factor in the global process. Humans are not the major driving force in any natural process yet.
dachpyarvile
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 20, 2009
the environment doesnt take NOTHING as a hit with solar arrays and wind farms by comparison to current methods, so your argument is entirely flawed. The environmental savings of such energy production are IMMENSE by comparison.

And the whole damned government is a joke, not just democrats. Democrats, republicans, none of that matters, they are ALL idiots. As is anyone who actually thinks they are different. They are ALL merely a bunch of liars and manipulators who had enough money to make their face known...and thats all.


You are incorrect. You need to do some real research and find out what a terrible cost to the environment solar arrays and wind farms are in both the manufacturing and maintaining, not to mention the cost of habitat to build and maintain them.

On the other hand, a little "extra" CO2 will not do the same amount of damage. Only bad science and propaganda makes such claims. Fact is, once upon a time the levels of CO2 were in the 1000s ppm and life was not affected negatively but flourished and there was so much nutrition that many species became gigantic in size as a result.

Saying that the whole government are idiots does not say much when the majority of government is controlled and filled by a majority of Democrats at the moment.
GrayMouser
1 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2009
Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record.

This is a very subtle obfuscation.

You're being too kind. It's a flat out lie. They are ignoring anything before the 1950s/60s so that they don't include the 1930s-1940s warm period (much less the Medieval Optimum.)
Damon_Hastings
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2009
Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record.

This is a very subtle obfuscation. 2008 was coldest winter of the 21st century thus far and there has been a net cooling trend over the last three years.

Three years is nothing on the time scales we're talking about. It's random noise. You have to look at the overall trend spanning many decades, which you can see here: http://en.wikiped...cord.png

You can clearly see that the data is full of many random fluctuations upward and downward, but the overall trend is strongly upward. To isolate just three years of data and try to extrapolate anything meaningful from it is futile.
Damon_Hastings
5 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2009
Every year since 2001 has been among the 10 warmest years on record.


This is a very subtle obfuscation.


You're being too kind. It's a flat out lie. They are ignoring anything before the 1950s/60s so that they don't include the 1930s-1940s warm period (much less the Medieval Optimum.)


Actually, the 1930s and 1940s are included in this graph, and you can see we're well above that level today: http://en.wikiped...cord.png

And here's a longer graph that includes the Medieval Optimum: http://en.wikiped...ison.png

Moreover, the most alarming thing is not the fact that the global temperature is warmer now than it has been for millenia; it's the fact that that temperature is *rising* faster than it has in *eons*.

In the end, it's the rate of increase that really matters. And very few scientists dispute that the current rate of temperature increase is phenomenal.
GrayMouser
3 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2009
Actually, the 1930s and 1940s are included in this graph, and you can see we're well above that level today: http://en.wikiped...cord.png



Moreover, the most alarming thing is not the fact that the global temperature is warmer now than it has been for millenia; it's the fact that that temperature is *rising* faster than it has in *eons*.



In the end, it's the rate of increase that really matters. And very few scientists dispute that the current rate of temperature increase is phenomenal.


That graph is one put out by the IPCC or GISS. It removed the warming in the 1930s so that you don't see the actual temperature in 1938 was higher than anything after 1998.

None of these graphs go back that far but they will show you that it has been chilling since early 2000
http://icecap.us/...ENDS.jpg
http://icecap.us/...KPDO.JPG
http://icecap.us/...DELS.JPG

And the graphs in here go back farther and have an informative comentary:
http://scienceand...tter.pdf
lengould100
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2009
With climate, "you are asking people to worry about their grandchildren or their children," he said. "That is why it will be so tough to get something like this through."
A "feature" of the climate issue which the deniers exploit mercilessly.
LuckyBrandon
not rated yet Apr 23, 2009
the environment doesnt take NOTHING as a hit with solar arrays and wind farms by comparison to current methods, so your argument is entirely flawed. The environmental savings of such energy production are IMMENSE by comparison.



And the whole damned government is a joke, not just democrats. Democrats, republicans, none of that matters, they are ALL idiots. As is anyone who actually thinks they are different. They are ALL merely a bunch of liars and manipulators who had enough money to make their face known...and thats all.




You are incorrect. You need to do some real research and find out what a terrible cost to the environment solar arrays and wind farms are in both the manufacturing and maintaining, not to mention the cost of habitat to build and maintain them.



On the other hand, a little "extra" CO2 will not do the same amount of damage. Only bad science and propaganda makes such claims. Fact is, once upon a time the levels of CO2 were in the 1000s ppm and life was not affected negatively but flourished and there was so much nutrition that many species became gigantic in size as a result.



Saying that the whole government are idiots does not say much when the majority of government is controlled and filled by a majority of Democrats at the moment.




The arguements I have seen about it so far have been things like "oh shit we're covering 1 mile of desert and thats gonna be bad...deserts arent supposed to have shade"...crap like that.
I don't think the usage of solar plants and wind farms would come close to causing the damage our current methods cause. I should have been clearer in my statement though that I was speaking of us eliminating all usage of current power production, and using that as the comparison..aka, all fossil fuels, or all solar/wind.

As far as my government rant...I said it before and I'll say it again, republican or democrat does not matter..I don't say our governemtn is crap because of either one of them...we have a government that is destined to fail...it is after all what happens when you model your government after one that has already collapsed (cough cough roman cough cough empire cough cough). Our government merely gives the illusion of freedom, when in reality, we are all living in a large prison cell every day......thats my opinion of it anyways :)
Soylent
3 / 5 (2) Apr 25, 2009
Renewable mandates are worthless.

Wind and solar do not noticably decrease CO2 emissions, see Germany and Denmark for reference. They are not sustainable because they are too dependent on natural gas and coal to operate.

If this was an honest attempt to reduce CO2 emissions it would instead set limits on the CO2 per kWh and let the market handle it. This is a porkbarrel project for the fossil fuel(mostly gas) and renewables industries that will force the utilities down a road that is neither sustainable, cost-effective for their customers or lower in CO2 emissions.
lengould100
not rated yet Apr 27, 2009
Soylent: Though you are correct about most present wind and Solar PV, your conclusion soes NOT apply to solar thermal (collect heat with mirrors, use heat to drive steam turbines, store heat from 3x solar collectors in thermal storage for use in turbine generator when sun not shining). This reputable Chicago engineering firm, experienced in generation station design, no axe to grind, concludes solar thermal would be cheaper that nuclear, competitive with new coal in USA southwest, if only 8 GW were built.

http://www.nrel.g...40.pdf"
Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology - Cost and Performance Forecasts - Sargent & Lundy LLC Engineering Group Chicago, Illinois

[QUOTE]For the more technically aggressive low-cost case, S&L found the National Laboratories%u2019 %u201CSunLab%u201D methodology and analysis to be credible. The projections by SunLab, developed in conjunction with industry, are considered by S&L to represent a %u201Cbest-case analysis%u201D in which the technology is optimized and a high deployment rate is achieved. The two sets of estimates, by SunLab and S&L, provide a band within which the costs can be expected to fall. The figure and table below highlight these results, with initial electricity costs in the range of 10 to 12.6 ¢/kWh and eventually achieving costs in the range of 3.5 to 6.2 ¢/kWh. The specific values will depend on total capacity of various technologies deployed and the extent of R&D program success. In the technically aggressive cases for troughs / towers, the S&L analysis found that cost reductions were due to volume production (26%/28%), plant scale-up (20%/48%), and technological advance (54%/24%).[/QUOTE]

Given Sargent & Lundy Engineering's worst case scenario provides peak time solar electricity at $0.062/kwh by only building 2.8 GW and doing a few minor and definitely achievable R&D improvements, plus transmission, and a clear path is provided to offering 83% capacity factor using cheap sand and gravel tanks for thermal storage with 3x collector area and no additional central plant, which should make the installation no more expensive PER KWH if only the industry can get to 2.8 GW installed, I don;t see what we are waiting for.

It also appears to me that the more agressive forecasts of NREL / SunLab of $0.035 / kwh if we can get to 8.2 GW insalled quite quickly is entirely within reach.

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