Capitol Comments

Yesterday's Greenwire featured a story profiling the use of a municipal solid waste (MSW) facility in Alexandria, Virginia that turns roughly 5,000 tons of trash generated by staff, members, and visitors at legislative buildings of the House of Representatives into enough electric power for 250 homes. The decision to switch from an on-site composting facility and use of corn-based utensils, to a MSW facility has some observers guessing that it could rekindle an interest in expanding the growth of the "energy recovery" industry - perhaps even in state renewable programs and rules.

The Chairman of the Western Governors' Association (WGA), Governor Gary Herbert of Utah, recently announced the publication of its 10 Year Energy Vision. The aspirational document outlines several broad goals and objectives "on which the governors all agree: achieving energy security; generating clean, affordable and reliable energy from a diversified portfolio of energy sources; increasing energy efficiency; having sufficient and reliable infrastructure; protecting wildlife, the environment and natural resources, and making the West the leader in energy education and innovation."

Today, President Obama announced broad and expansive plans to use executive authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's electric utilities.  The proposal would be the first ever for existing power plants, directing the EPA to issue new rules by June 2014 to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

At a forum organized by the magazine New Republic the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Heather Zichal, said “We are poised to take meaningful action" to address climate change and that it was a "legacy" issue for the Administration's second term. The comments triggered considerable speculation in energy/environment industry and trade circles that the Administration would make good on a pledge made in the President's State of the Union address to take executive action on climate change policies - including a controversial proposal to potentially expand carbon dioxide restrictions beyond just new plants but for existing power plants as well.

Today's Wall Street Journal featured a front page story highlighting that US crude oil production grew by 14% last year. The finding came from an annual compilation of industry trend lines that is published by BP  called the Statistical Review of World Energy, which noted that the increase was the largest in the world and the largest in US history. Rising domestic crude oil production, according to the report, was largely tied to increased use of hydraulic fracturing that has led to rapid growth in shale production in North Dakota and Texas.