EPA Chief: Cap & Trade a Distant Hope

Agency head says “green jobs” are the priority now

Remember those national carbon trading bills that were moving through Congress as Barack Obama was setting up shop in the Oval Office? The head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency says: Don’t hold your breath.

EPA chief Lisa Jackson: "What America's talking about right now is jobs."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s appearance on KQED’s Forum Wednesday seemed to confirm that her boss is picking his battles carefully. “What America’s talking about right now is jobs,” Jackson told host Michael Krasny. “Green jobs are what we have to be working on with everything we do.” The message seemed to be that environmental goals will take a back seat, unless they can be linked to job creation.

Krasny walked Jackson through the checklist of recent controversies, such as today’s decision to postpone greenhouse gas regulations beyond a September 30 deadline, and to let stand Bush-era standards for ozone pollution.

Jackson wriggled out of directly addressing the backlash against President Obama’s green jobs initiative since the collapse and federal investigation of Fremont-based Solyndra Corp. Jackson said only that this is “an important moment,” and that “We have to double down” on clean energy commitments, rather than retreat in the wake of one corporate calamity. “It’s more important than ever that instead of backing away, we continue to insist on investment by our elected officials in that sector of our economy.”

As to the proposed tar sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, a project that has prompted demonstrations outside the White House, Jackson said no decision has been made but that “certainly people are hearing” the public outcry against the idea.

And speaking of outcries, on the recent controversial decision by the President not to tighten ozone standards:

“It was a tough call. I respect it. We have a huge green agenda. It is one decision.”

Asked if a national cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions is “dead:”

“My hope is that reason will return and that–in a reasonable way–business will eventually become the biggest advocate for a mkt-based program. It’s certainly not gonna happen in the near future.”

Jackson said that right now, controlling emissions of mercury from power plants is “Job One.” So what’s “Job Two?” Implementing cross-state air pollution rules, said Jackson.

On Republican claims that her agency is a job-killing machine: “That’s nonsense. It just is.”


EPA Chief: Cap & Trade a Distant Hope 15 September,2011Craig Miller

One thought on “EPA Chief: Cap & Trade a Distant Hope”

  1. “Double-down on clean energy commitments” means continue the government handouts for subsidy-hound developers. Too many of these “green” energy projects are start-ups proposed by developers who make their money off the subsidies then turn around and flip.

    Case in point is the 5,000 acre solar project & substation proposed for Panoche Valley, San Benito County. A group of developers with a history in oil drilling, ethanol & digital communications (all highly subsidized industries) created a company to enter the utility-scale solar field.

    Solargen hopes to capitalize on ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) cash grants then flip the project and sell to a utility. In the meantime, their major investor is the same Chinese firm that backs the Chinese start-up solar panel manufacturer Solargen is in contract to purchase 4 million solar panels from.

    What Solargen didn’t expect was the huge public outcry from farmers, ranchers and environmentalists since the project is proposed for prime farm land currently 100% in grazing production and supporting a unique grassland that is home to a suite of genetically unique threatened & endangered animals, as well as being a designated Important Bird Area of Global Concern.

    A lawsuit ensued and Solargen had to sell off a majority of their business and renamed themselves PV2 in an effort to distance themselves from the controversy surrounding the project and gain new investors. The lawsuit is currently on appeal and won’t be decided for another year.

    No established, reputable solar company is planning these type of utility-scale projects. Instead it’s startups with no depth in the field. It’s no suprise that Solyndra went belly up. Cut off the subsidies and growth will slow but at least it will be real growth – not just an illusion.

    As far as jobs growth, there are none in utility-scale solar beyond the temporary construction field. A small staff of 10 can run a 5,000+ acre project flipping switches, occasionally cleaning panels and providing security. Unless the U.S. becomes major players in solar panel manufacturing or starts supporting distributed power on rooftops and in cities, close to point of use, there will be no significant jobs growth.

    Germany and Spain are current world leaders in solar energy production. They didn’t do this by paving over their limited agricultural areas and wildlife habitat. They did it through incentives for the people & municipalities to install their own distributed power systems and feed-in tariffs that guaranteed excess power produced would be purchased by utilities at a fair rate.

    The U.S. big energy market does not want to lose their monopoly over energy production and is spending big money to fight legislation that supports distributed power. They spread propaganda saying renewable energy mandates can’t be met without utility-scale projects – a completely false statement that has been disproven time and time again.

    Read the lectures of Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and advisor to the European Union for the past 10 years. He was also a key advisor to Spain and Germany during their renewable energy growth. He has the following to say, “The same design principles and smart technologies that made possible the internet, and vast distributed global communication networks, will be used to reconfigure the world’s power grids so that people can produce renewable energy and share it peer-to-peer, just like they now produce and share information, creating a new, decentralized form of energy use. We need to envision a future in which millions of individual players can collect, produce and store locally generated renewable energy in their homes, offices, factories, and vehicles, and share their power generation with each other across a Europe-wide intelligent intergrid. ”

    Until the incestuous relationship between U.S. government and big business ends, we will have no real jobs growth and renewable energy is no exception.

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Craig Miller

Craig is a former KQED Science editor, specializing in weather, climate, water & energy issues, with a little seismology thrown in just to shake things up. Prior to that, he launched and led the station's award-winning multimedia project, Climate Watch. Craig is also an accomplished writer/producer of television documentaries, with a focus on natural resource issues.

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