Climate change heats up this summer

Climate change heats up this summer – the issue as well as the air temperature – and what takes place this spring and summer will determine what we as a nation will do – or not do – to mitigate climate change.

No surprise, no action on climate is coming out of a deadlocked Congress . This month there were anti-climate amendments to a very good – now dead – energy efficiency bill, one of them sponsored by our own Dean Heller. And in the lack of action, the thirty-eight members of the Congressional Safe Climate Caucus continue to fight the “conspiracy of silence in Congress about the dangers of climate change” by standing up and talking about it at any opportunity. Their grandchildren will thank them.

Nevada’s Congressional Representatives Dina Titus, Joe Heck, Mark Amodei, and Steven Horsford are not part of the cCongressional Safe Climate Caucus. Maybe their constituents should ask that they join. Their grandchildren will thank them.

Executive action

It’s clear that the Obama Administration has settled on executive action to do what Congress will not. Here’s a rundown of how all this climate activity relates to Nevada.

EPA carbon standards for existing power plants due June 2

The EPA will issue draft standards for carbon pollution from existing electrical generation on June 2. The standards will apply to all existing electrical generation facilities, and they are the subject of much speculation: How much leeway will states have to draft standards to fit their own circumstances? Will utilities be allowed to use energy efficiency and renewable energy to offset their carbon emissions? Will the standards direct an actual reduction in the total amount of carbon emitted, or only a reduction in the carbon intensity? And finally, who will sue the EPA first?

What will Nevada do?

Nevada is in a good position to comply with new carbon standards. With the closure of three units of the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant this year, the closure of the forth unit next year, and withdrawal from its share in the Navajo Plant in Arizona, NV Energy’s only remaining coal-fired generation facility will be the Valmy Generating Station in northern Nevada. Natural gas has become the fuel of choice for NV Energy, and while some carbon pollution results from the burning of natural gas to generate electricity it is much less than coal. (Though methane pollution from mining, transporting and incompletely burning natural gas does occur – and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.)

NV Energy also plans to replace a portion of the coal generation with renewable energy. If NV Energy established a firm commitment to move to renewable energy for most or all of its generation capacity, with the state’s abundant renewable resources, the state could be a leader in a clean energy economy.

Nevada’s Dean Heller joins in Republican resistance derailing Portman Shaheen energy efficiency bill

Republican resistance to EPA’s upcoming carbon standards helped derail a bipartisan energy efficiency bill this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow Republican amendments supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline and opposing the pending carbon regulations. Neither side backed down, and the bill died. Heller’s proposed amendment would have required the EPA to go through an exhaustive list of potential economic impacts before establishing any pollution standards for the production, use or supply of energy.

National Climate Assessment released last week – Nevada fact sheet

Last week the Obama administration released the third U.S. National Climate Assessment—the most comprehensive scientific assessment ever generated of climate change and its impacts across every region of America and major sectors of the U.S. economy. Here’s the climate change bottom line for our region:

“Increased heat and changes to rain and snowpack will send ripple effects throughout the region, affecting 56 million people – a population expected to increase to 94 million by 2050 … Severe and sustained drought will stress water sources, already over-utilized in many areas, forcing increasing competition among farmers, energy producers, urban dwellers, and ecosystems for the region’s most precious resource.”

Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate
change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest.
Fire models project more wildfire and increased risks to communities across extensive
areas. ”

Maybe Dean Heller should start proposing amendments directing the EPA to evaluate the costs of drought and wildfire in the lack of significant action on climate change. This is, after all, the region he represents – as climate change heats up.

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