Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

by Daniel Farber | February 21, 2017

At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, but this might not matter because "arguably, you're seeing market-based decarbonization" due to technological changes. Case in point: Texas.

Market trends are pushing Republican stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all of the state's grid, recently projected that in the next fifteen years, Texas will add almost 20 gigawatts of solar, equivalent to 15-20 new nuclear reactors. In fact, under virtually every scenario ERCOT considered, the only new capacity is solar, with no new fossil fuel plants expected. ERCOT also expects to retire about a third that amount in coal generation along with some older, inefficient natural gas plants. Regulatory changes could nudge these numbers upward or downward. Both the use of renewables and the fossil fuel retirements would just about double with stronger environmental mandates. On the other hand, coal retirements would decrease without federal haze limits that are now in litigation.

You might be wondering why wind power doesn't play a greater role in these projections. The reason is probably that Texas is already #1 in the nation in terms of wind; in fact, if it were a country, it would be #6 in the world. So there's more potential for growth in the comparatively small solar sector.

Another modeling effort provides a reality check on ERCOT's projections, reaching comparable ...

Tax Credits and Public Spending on Infrastructure

by David Driesen | January 30, 2017
Donald Trump based his candidacy on the claim that he would serve working-class people who established politicians have neglected. He promised $1 trillion of infrastructure investment over 10 years, which could generate a lot of blue-collar employment while potentially repairing crumbling bridges and roads, replacing antiquated wastewater treatment systems (in Flint and elsewhere), and creating a mass transit system that could move us into the 21st century in that realm. A sound infrastructure program, unlike anything else that Trump has ...

Distracter-in-Chief

by Matthew Freeman | January 25, 2017
Only a few days into the Trump administration, and a “gang that doesn’t shoot straight” narrative is taking root in the media. From outright lies about crowd numbers at the inauguration, to fictionalized accounts of millions of illegally cast votes, to hashtag-ready assertions about “alternative facts,” it’s been a rough start, and the media is covering it all, exposing the dishonesty. That, at least, is how I imagine the conversation is going in Washington, D.C., news bureaus. But while all ...

Uninformed and Unqualified: A Brief Run-Down of Rick Perry's Energy Department Nomination

by Alexandra Klass | January 23, 2017
There are few reasons for the Senate to confirm former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and many reasons to oppose his confirmation. He famously vowed to abolish the DOE when he ran for president in 2012 (along with several other federal agencies) but then could not even remember the name of the agency when asked about it during the Republican primary debates. One might have guessed at that time that he knew ...

A Win-Win Energy Law in Illinois

by Daniel Farber | January 11, 2017
It went pretty much unheralded by the national media, but in December, Illinois adopted a major new energy law – and with strong bipartisan support. Each side had some things to celebrate. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner touted the impact of the law on utility bills. According to the governor, the law "contains a guaranteed cap that energy prices cannot increase more than 25 cents on the average residential home, and cannot increase more than 1.3 percent on commercial and industrial ...

The Trump Troika and Regressive Energy Policy

by Joseph Tomain | December 15, 2016
As President-elect Donald Trump continues to shape his cabinet, we are seeing plenty of indications of how agencies like the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and even the State Department will approach energy and environmental policy. Trump's stated policy preferences and those of his nominees threaten to upend decades of progress toward a clean energy future as they exacerbate the politicization of and polarization around energy development and our environment. Throughout the 20th century and into the ...

An Uncertain Anniversary

by Joseph Tomain | December 12, 2016
This blog post is based on the Introduction to my forthcoming book, Clean Power Politics: The Democratization of Energy (Cambridge University Press, 2017). One year ago, 195 nations met in Paris and signed what has been hailed as an historic climate agreement.[1] To date, 116 parties have ratified the convention, and it went into force on November 4 of this year.[2] President Obama acknowledged the talks as a "turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would ...

Trump Can't Sweep Safeguards Away as Easily as He May Think

by Matthew Freeman | December 09, 2016
In a statement Wednesday responding to President-elect Trump’s choice of climate change denier Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, CPR President Robert Verchick said that the choice was “a clear indication that the administration plans a full-throated assault on environmental protections.” In an op-ed in The New York Times this morning, CPR Member Scholar William Buzbee describes some of the challenges Pruitt and Trump will face as they undertake that regressive effort to unravel the fabric of rules ...

With or Without the Clean Power Plan, It's Up to the States to Transition to Clean Energy

by Alice Kaswan | December 05, 2016
Environmentalists are understandably wringing their hands over the likely post-election demise of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration's rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, which are the nation's single biggest source of carbon emissions. But, with or without the Clean Power Plan (the Plan), the states hold the cards to a clean energy transition.  Even if the fossil fuel interests intent upon perpetuating a profitable status quo end up dominating Congress and federal energy and environmental ...

Will the Media Rise to the Trump Challenge or Just Fall into His Trap?

by Matthew Freeman | November 29, 2016
Ever since Richard Nixon's vice president, Maryland's own Spiro Agnew, described the nation's ink-stained journalists as "nattering nabobs of negativism," attacks on the media have been reliably base-pleasing material for conservative politicians. But Donald Trump is in a category all his own. For most pols, attacking the press is a way to deflect criticism. For Trump, it was a defining element of his candidacy. At his rallies, he kept the press corps literally penned up so that he could more ...

Florida's Constitutional Amendment 1 Is Anti-Solar Energy

by Joel Mintz | November 08, 2016
Today, Florida residents are voting on a number of items including Constitutional Amendment 1, misleadingly titled "Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice." Although it gives the appearance of promoting solar energy, Amendment 1 is actually a deceptively worded attempt by big, investor-owned utility companies (including FPL and Duke Energy), masquerading under the banner of "Consumers for Smart Solar," to suppress the growth of solar energy in the Sunshine State and maintain the utilities' current monopoly in the state's ...

Untapped Potential: Emissions Reduction Initiatives Beyond Clean Power Plan Are Warranted, Workable

by Alice Kaswan | October 27, 2016
It's been a month since the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments on the Clean Power Plan, and the nation is in wait-and-see mode. But our report, Untapped Potential: The Carbon Reductions Left Out of EPA's Clean Power Plan, released today by the Center for Progressive Reform, shows that, even if the Plan is upheld, continued climate initiatives to control existing power plant emissions are warranted and workable. Our analysis demonstrates that EPA identified numerous available reduction opportunities that were not ...

Climate Change Goes Missing from the Debates

by Matthew Freeman | October 26, 2016
Whatever else may be said about Ken Bone, the red-sweatered citizen questioner at the second presidential debate earned an important place in the pantheon of presidential debates: He's the only person to ask a debate question remotely related to climate change in the last eight years. As it happens, his question wasn't all that direct, since it didn't actually use the words "climate change." Here's what he asked: "What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time ...

'Super Polluters' Under the Microscope

by Matthew Freeman | September 30, 2016
In a story published yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity takes a deep dive into the public health impact of the nation’s “super polluters,” a collection of industrial polluters that account for an outsized share of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Produced in collaboration with USA Today and The Weather Channel, the story focuses in on Evansville, Indiana, a city of 120,000 nestled in the southwest corner of the state and ringed by no ...

Maryland's Environmental and Energy Policy Moving Backward under the Hogan Administration

by Jeremy Baker | September 29, 2016
Larry Hogan promised to be the "best environmental governor that's ever served" in Maryland. But three recent policy developments call that claim into question.  Earlier this year, the Hogan administration vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have raised Maryland's renewable energy portfolio standard – the share of electricity that energy providers must derive from renewable sources – from 20 percent by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020. A stronger commitment to renewable energy could have had a tremendous ...

CPR Member Scholars Earn Top Marks in Environmental Law Scholarship

by Brian Gumm | September 13, 2016
Every year, Thomson Reuters and West Publishing compile a set of significant and influential articles from a number of legal scholars who focus on land use and environmental law. The Land Use & Environment Law Review represents some of the best scholarship on these issues, and peer reviewers recently included five pieces on environmental law published in 2014 and 2015.  Among the selected articles are two from CPR Member Scholar Hannah Wiseman, Professor at Florida State University College of Law, ...

Verchick in Slate: Connecting the Dots Between Climate Change and Our Vulnerable Energy Grid

by Brian Gumm | August 29, 2016
It's common knowledge that our energy choices impact the planet's climate, but less widely known is how climate change and its intensified storms, heat waves, droughts, and water shortages affect our energy grid. Already vulnerable, the grid can suffer catastrophic damage when a storm like Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy strikes.  In an Aug. 26 article in Slate, Center for Progressive Reform Board President Rob Verchick explores these vulnerabilities and connects the dots between climate change and the grid. He ...

'Cultural Cognition' Theory Offers a Path to Climate Change Progress

by Matthew Freeman | August 25, 2016
Over the course of the last few decades, one of the great communications challenges facing progressives has been, and continues to be, how we talk about climate change. The difficulty in persuading politicians and the public about the need for action isn’t just that the effort has run head-long into a massive and well-funded industry campaign designed to sow confusion. It’s also that the policy changes needed to  make a difference fairly drip with disruption of one sort or another ...

Energy

When it comes to energy policy, the nation faces difficult choices. Researchers have made important strides on bringing renewable sources of energy into the mainstream, gradually replacing more familiar, but nevertheless unsustainable, high-polluting sources of power for our homes, cars and factories.

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