The US Congress broke up for the summer without any progress on climate or energy legislation. The chances of getting any legislative progress on cap-and-trade, which have been small for some time, now look miniscule. However, rather than giving up, the Obama administration has responded with three actions that are signs of serious commitment.
On 11 August 2010, Energy Secretary Chu announced the award of grants to 15 CCS projects. The grants totalled only $21.3 million, so are not enormous, and the following day some reports suggested that one of the projects, the FutureGen Coal Project in Illinois, had withdrawn (see Edie: Carbon Capture and Storage pilot withdraws only hours after schemes announced). Nevertheless, it is encouraging that the administration sees CCS as good climate and economic policy. Given the mid-term elections, it also obviously regards support for CCS as good politics.
More significant in climate terms than these grants was the proposal on 12 August 2010, by the EPA, of rules to ensure that businesses planning to build new, large facilities or make major expansions to existing ones will have to obtain Clean Air Act permits for greenhouse gas emissions. These will cover power stations and large industrial facilities, such as oil refineries. The EPA proposes that this should begin in 13 states and be in force from January 2011.
Also on 12 August 2010, the US and Brazil signed an agreement to reduce debt payments to the US in return for more protection for Brazil’s Atlantic forests:
“Brazil‘s debt payments will fall by about $21 million over five years and the South American nation will use those funds to support conservation, improve natural resource management and develop new livelihoods for people who depend on forestry.
“The agreement was concluded under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998, a debt-for-nature pact that is aimed at encouraging preservation of global tropical forests. It is the 16th such agreement that the United States has concluded.
“The deal with Brazil will help it protect the Atlantic Rainforest and two other major ecosystems that cover about 50 percent of the country’s territory and are home to unique species of birds, frogs and other animals and to Brazilian rosewood.”
(See Reuters: U.S., Brazil sign debt-for-nature deal.)
This deal was presented as a conservation and biodiversity initiative – which of course it is. However, keeping forests standing is also the fastest way to reduce damage to the climate.