The Week Ahead: Obama to Lay Out Climate Change Vision June 25; House Committee May Focus on Drastic Cuts to Funding for Renewable Energy Programs


President Obama plans to lay out his vision of what the United States must do to address and adapt to climate change in a June 25 speech at Georgetown University.

"We need a national plan to reduce our emissions and prepare our country for the impacts of climate change," Obama said June 22 in a White House video. He said the United States needs to lead global efforts to fight climate change and called for a new clean energy economy.

During the past few weeks, the White House has been more vocal about fighting climate change.

As detailed in a June 19 Energy and Climate Reportarticle, Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, said at a forum that the administration is looking at executive actions to address climate change that do not require new funding sources or additional legislation.

Zichal said possible actions include regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, rules for increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, and building renewable energy projects on federal land. Zichal did not specify whether the power plant regulations would apply to both new and existing sources.

Also June 19, Obama called in a speech in Berlin for a "global compact" to address climate change and acknowledged the United States needs to do more to address the problem.

House Could Consider Slashing Funding for Renewables

The House Appropriations Committee may consider a bill the week of June 24 that would cut Energy Department spending on renewable energy programs in half.

As detailed in an article, the $30.4 billion appropriations bill would cut funding for clean energy and other programs at DOE by $1.4 billion, including a $911 million cut for renewable energy programs compared to 2013 enacted levels.

The fiscal year 2014 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill was approved by the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development June 18.

Democrats vowed to oppose the measure.

Renewable Fuel Standard to Be Subject of Hearing

On June 26, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will hold a hearing on "An Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard: Government Perspectives."

Pressure to reform the renewable fuel standard has been mounting with opponents claiming it is driving up food and fuel costs by requiring increasing amounts of ethanol to be added to the pool of gasoline sold in the contiguous 48 states.

As covered in a June 20 article, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would repeal the renewable fuel standard in its entirety.

The June 26 House subcommittee hearing will cover a series of white papers called for by committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) to help in determining if the standard needs to be revised.

As detailed in a June 11 article, the committee's first paper considered issues surrounding the ethanol “blend wall” as well as the impact of higher ethanol blends on vehicles. The second paper looked at the impacts of ethanol production on the agriculture sector. The third white paper asked about any unintended environmental impacts of the renewable fuel standard as well as its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The fourth paper asks interested parties to discuss how the standard relates to larger energy policy and whether the economic assumptions underlying the renewable fuel standard have changed in recent years.

Senate to Focus on Energy Efficiency, Forests

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy will hold an oversight hearing June 25 to examine two bills. One, S. 1084, would establish the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as the lead federal agency for coordinating federal, state, and local assistance to promote retrofitting schools to be more energy-efficient. The other bill, S. 717, would direct DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz to establish a pilot program to award grants to nonprofit organization to retrofit their buildings.

Also on June 25, the Senate and Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on "Improving Forest Management on Federal Lands."

Climate, Energy Issues on California's Agenda

The California Air Resources Board will hold the second of a series of workshops June 25 on the state's cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. The workshop will cover market-related reporting and cost containment. A June 3 workshop focused on the treatment of natural gas suppliers in cap-and-trade, and a July 18 workshop will cover proposed revisions to the program. 

On June 26, CARB will hold a regional workshop in Diamond Bar to discuss its proposed 2013 scoping plan to implement the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (A.B. 32), which requires greenhouse gas emissions to be cut to 1990 levels by 2020.

The 2013 update will be the first five-year review of the scoping plan, which CARB said will look beyond 2020 and focus on transportation, fuels, and infrastructure; energy generation, transmission, and efficiency; waste; water; and agriculture.

CARB plans to hold additional workshops in San Francisco and the San Joaquin Valley but hasn't specified dates. The first workshop was held Jan. 13 in Sacramento. 

CARB's board will meet June 27 to consider several research proposals that cover such topics as zero-emissions vehicles, renewable natural gas, heavy-duty vehicle engines, and others related to health impacts of air pollution.

Negotiations on HFCs Expected to Begin

A working group of parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has scheduled a June 24 meeting in Bangkok during which U.S. and Chinese delegations are expected to begin negotiations on phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons  in air conditioning and refrigeration units.

As detailed in a June 10 article, the United States and China announced an agreement to cooperate on reducing emissions of HFC, which is considered a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Other Climate, Energy Events

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) will hold a webinar June 26 on "Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Energy Efficiency and Combined Heat and Power."

Resources for the Future will hold two events in Washington, D.C., in the week ahead. A June 26 event will cover "The Role of Carbon Tax in Tax Reform and Deficit Reduction." On June 27, panel discussions will be held on "Managing the Risks of Shale Gas Development."

The United States Energy Association will host an event June 25 in Washington, D.C., on "The Cost of Carbon Capture and Storage on Fossil Fuel Power Plants."

The European Institute will hold a meeting June 24 in Washington, D.C., on "Climate Policy and the Path to a Low-Carbon Economy: A Perspective from the Czech Republic." Tomas Chalupa, minister of the environment for the Czech Republic, will compare policy approaches in addressing climate change in the European Union and the United States.