Congress enters new phase of global climate change deliberations

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 8 -- US House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) recognizes some familiar complaints and proposals as Congress discusses energy and environmental issues in 2008. He also expects the coming battles to be the toughest yet.

"It probably will be the most complex and difficult discussion in my time in Congress. The Energy Information Administration's role in analyzing potential impacts of various proposals will be critical," the veteran federal legislator told attendees Apr. 8 at EIA's Annual Energy Outlook conference.

"This is one of the most crucial periods for energy policy in the history of this nation," said Dingell, who was a major force behind EIA's creation 30 years ago. "We now confront the same issues we have over the years. We seem to enacting the same kind of legislation in response to the same problems: limited supplies, rising prices, and citizen complaints."

The major difference is that voters and lawmakers are incorporating global climate change issues in energy discussions, he said. "We ended 2007 with an energy bill we all can be proud of, with tougher automotive fuel efficiency standards and expanded biofuels incentives," he said.

"EIA did not endear itself to Congress when it reported that the benefits won't be fully realized because the programs probably won't be fully funded, but that's why we put it in business: to offer unbiased assessments of our actions, even when it isn't what we'd like to hear," Dingell said.

The next phase
Congress now is in a new phase of its global climate change deliberations as it considers whether to enact a carbon cap-and-trade program, Dingell said. The Senate has the bill cosponsored by Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) while Dingell's committee is discussing whether elements of the successful sulfur dioxide program from the 1980s can be used in the more difficult carbon dioxide situation.

"We are moving forward, but not as quickly as we'd like. But we are determined to get it right," he said of his committee's efforts. One question is whether a carbon cap-and-trade program would use State Implementation Plans, New Source Review, or an entirely new approach, Dingell said.

"We're looking at carbon capture and storage, new technologies, and other components to continue using coal in an environmentally proper way, since the United States is, in fact, the 'Saudi Arabia of coal.' Any plan also must include judicious use of our domestic natural gas resources. It is my hope that we can adopt legislation to address all these problems before the end of this year," he said.

Robert M. Simon, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's staff director, said he does not expect Congress to pass a comprehensive climate change bill in 2008. "Our chances of having one by the end of this session aren't good, so the question becomes what smaller steps can be taken," he said.

Simon said Congress has passed three major laws (namely, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the America Competes Act of 2007, and the Energy Independence and Security Act) that started to address global climate change.

'Robust oversight'
"The whole process of moving an important policy forward is remembering what you've done and continuing to make progress," Simon said. "Part of this is a robust oversight program to make sure these laws' provisions are implemented and the results are what Congress intended."

John Shanahan, who until recently served as senior minority counsel on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and two current congressional Republican staff members each said that US carbon emissions reduction programs won't have a meaningful impact unless other countries participate.

"Last year, [the US Environmental Protection Agency] found that without China taking aggressive action, emissions would continue to go up even if the United States adopted aggressive standards," Shanahan said. "If, by our actions, we let China off the hook, we will have economically retrenched without environmentally benefits," he warned.

Frank Macchiarola, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's minority staff director, said while China and India represented only 13% of the world's total energy consumption in 1990, the most conservative estimates put their share around 30% by 2030. "Such statistics show that energy and environmental issues must be addressed globally. Literally dozens of climate change bills have been introduced but none of them require reductions by our global competitors," he said, adding that he expects congressional enthusiasm for global climate change initiatives to be dampened by growing economic concerns.

David J. McCarthy, minority chief counsel for energy and environment on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, generally agreed. "Most members of Congress are hearing from their constituents about the impact of higher gasoline prices. It's not just disgruntled Soccer Moms, but small businesses such as the florist who canceled deliveries one day last week because the price of flowers did not equal the cost of gasoline," he said.

Gas collection points
Shanahan said the Lieberman-Warner bill is headed for the Senate floor without substantive hearings before the Environment and Public Works Committee on questions such as natural gas carbon cap-and-trade payment collection points which could create unexpected problems. Republicans who proposed 108 amendments were told that questions such as nuclear power's role would be addressed during floor debate, he said. "Then the message became that the bill can't be changed and will be recalled if it is watered down," Shanahan said.

Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee's ranking minority member, said the US should reduce carbon dioxide emissions but added that impacts will be minimal without international cooperation. "Some of America's foremost economists are questioning the value of a cap-and-trade system. As we approach floor debate on the Lieberman-Warner bill, I hope common sense prevails," he said in separate remarks on Apr. 4.

"We have to consider complex issues in a sober manner, but we can't stand still," said Simon. "Absent an effective program to address global warming, we're stuck. We're not building new coal-fired power plants, nuclear isn't being serious considered and we're continuing our de facto reliance on natural gas to generate electricity. Even if we do nothing, energy prices will continue to go up."

Macchiarola said any climate change strategy will need to tap private markets. Simon responded that investors are waiting for Congress to set the ground rules. "When you get a bunch of investment bankers in a room, their first question is when Congress will put a price on carbon," he said.

Former US Rep. Philip R. Sharp (D-Ind.), the current president of Resources for the Future, who moderated the panel discussion with the four congressional staff members, recalled that Congress debated plans to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions for years in the 1980s but did not act until George H.W. Bush became president and initiated a specific plan. The same could be true of a carbon cap-and-trade program and George W. Bush's successor, Sharp suggested.

The congressional staffers observed that there can be a major difference between what a candidate says during the campaign and what he or she actually does upon election. McCarthy added that of the 4,000 interviews that the two major parties' presidential candidates have given, only four dealt with global climate change. "Health care and the economy are bigger issues now," he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

EPA offers new, twisted excuse to stall Keystone XL

02/16/2015 Anyone puzzled by the delay in approval of the Keystone XL pipeline border crossing-running 6 years now, and counting-should read the Obama adminis...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations' other problems

02/16/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...

Real climate change

02/16/2015

"Climate change is real and not a hoax."

BOEM publishes second final SEIS for 2008 Chukchi Sea lease sale

02/13/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management published a fresh supplemental environmental impact statement for a Chukchi Sea federal oil and gas sale o...

Horn Petroleum to reduce Puntland exploration program

02/13/2015 Horn Petroleum Corp., Vancouver, BC, will reduce its presence in Bosaso, Puntland (Somalia), and will “refrain from any operational activity and as...

Alaska LNG project partners file resource reports with FERC

02/12/2015 A series of draft environmental and socioeconomic reports for the Alaska LNG project have been submitted to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commis...

US House vote sends Keystone XL approval bill to Obama’s desk

02/12/2015 The US House of Representatives voted by 270 to 152 to pass S. 1, which would deem the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline approved more than 6...

Groups object to White River National Forest draft leasing decision

02/12/2015 The Western Energy Alliance, West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, and Public Lands Advocacy jointly filed a formal objection to the US Fo...

TransCanada challenges EPA’s comments on Keystone XL SEIS

02/11/2015 TransCanada Corp. responded to the Feb. 2 comment letter from the US Environmental Protection Agency on the US Department of State’s final suppleme...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected