A 2013 panel of Utah’s Congressional Delegation answering the question “What Would You Do to Improve Utah’s Future Energy Position?” (L to R: Sen. Mike Lee; Rep Rob Bishop; Rep Chris Stewart)
This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled additional controls are coming on greenhouse gas emissions—specifically from coal-fired power plants throughout the US—and extended attainment goals through the year 2030. Since Utah has maintained a large coal production in the Eastern region of the state, where several coal plants operate on what many call “outdated” coal technologies, President Obama’s Climate Action Plan promises to be a long and complex adjustment for the Beehive state.
Monday’s announcement included “market-driven” climate action solutions which EPA chief Gina McCarthy described as respectful of local market conditions, and far less imposing than has characterized by the private conservative group, the US Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber released a statement the week before the administration’s announcement, saying the new goals would cost the nation $50 billion in gross domestic product. Politicians and pundits of every stripe took to the airwaves with opinions related to the Obama administration’s efforts to rein-in US pollution and to promote the US as one of the world’s leaders in greenhouse gas reduction. McCarthy said she was surprised about the Chamber’s claims, since they hadn’t had the opportunity to obtain and review the administration’s information about the plan before they released their statement.
One market approach, often known as “cap and trade,” creates a system where the total number of carbon emissions are capped with carbon credits granted to industry by the government. Excess credits can be sold from lower polluting industries to higher producing industries with the market setting prices. At its onset, conservative Republicans in congress labeled it a “tax” that would undermine state economies and household budgets—a talking point frequently repeated by Utah congressional representatives like Jason Chaffetz.
At last year’s Energy Development Summit, Utah’s Republican congressional delegation assailed the Obama administration’s efforts at cap and trade. Representative Rob Bishop (Republican) announced a bill that would strip the President of his powers granted by the Antiquities Act (an old law used to designate wilderness and National Monuments without congressional approval) in an attempt to appease oil and gas interests which are abundantly represented at Utah’s development summits. Bishop and other Utah politicians are expected to be in attendance this week at the 2014 conference to discuss their reaction to the President’s plan, and to describe their opposition to the EPA’s announcement.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s Office of Energy Development, headed by Cody Stewart, a former industry lobbyist, begins this year’s summit on today, June 3. The headline speaker has already accepted invitations from alternative and renewable energy advocates for the tomorrow at a different venue.
Ted Nordhaus, Chairman and co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute of Oakland, California will address the Governor’s conference on Tuesday and continue the topic at a free community panel titled “Energy – Utah – 2014 – Expanding the Discussion” beginning at 3:30 pm on Wednesday, June 4 in the Tessman Auditorium at Salt Lake’s City Library.
[pullquote]Interestingly, the official Utah state website announcing the summit has removed any reference to Nordhaus’ conciliatory statements on the need for alternative energy strategies besides those that are strictly carbon-based.[/pullquote]Nordhaus and his partner, Michael Schellenberger, have authored several essays and position papers centering on pragmatic solutions to the world’s energy dilemma. They have repeatedly stated that cooperation among the global community should avoid unilateral, across the board, reductions.
The authors declare as “ineffective” the efforts from continually deadlocked negotiations and supposedly failed domestic policy proposals. Instead, they advocate a solution based upon common ground and plans that can be palatable for both sides of the issue.
The Governor’s Energy Development Summit is limited to those registered and paid for his event, and is often populated primarily by industry representatives and lobbyists. Panelists for Wednesday’s free community discussion include Robert Gillies of the Utah Climate Center, Linda Johnson of the League of Women Voters, and Hans Ehrbar, PhD, from the University of Utah Dept of Economics.