Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bill Allowing Oil Exports Gives Bigger Lift to Renewables and the Climate

Congress's omnibus spending bill extended tax credits for renewable energy, giving momentum to the Paris climate agreement's goals. (Credit: Reuters) Click to Enlarge.
Environmentalists have a hard time swallowing the end of the oil export ban, because it is antithetical to  the latest climate science that decrees most fossil fuels ought to be left in the ground.

The concession to Big Oil was especially stinging, coming on the heels of the new Paris Agreement that augurs the end of the fossil fuel era sometime in this century.

But it’s hard to count this is as a clear Republican win. Basically, the Democrats were putting their money on an up and coming industry, and the Republicans on one that looks down and out.
In addition, what the Democrats gained in exchange for allowing crude exports went well beyond the tax credits for renewables.

The "omnibus" bill, as the grab-bag budget legislation is known, also ensured financing for land and water conservation and beat back anti-environmental policy riders.  It also gave the green light for President Barack Obama to begin making the contributions he has pledged to the Green Climate Fund, a crucial element of the United Nations climate program and a down payment on the financing goals of the new Paris Agreement.

The legislation’s boost to investments in renewables is especially significant in light of that new climate treaty, which Republicans in Congress have been trying to thwart at every turn.

Investments in wind and solar are crucial toward meeting the U.S. pledges to steeply reduce emissions under by 2025.
But Michael Levy, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, citing projections by the Energy Department, said that "its best guess of reality" was that lifting the ban might make no difference at all.  If oil resources turn out to be greater than expected, production of oil might go up by 220,000 barrels a day.

Levy also wrote that he expected no more than 10 million tons a year of extra carbon dioxide emissions over the next decade, or roughly 0.2 percent of all U.S. emissions.  Policies like the new Clean Power Plan, protected under the budget agreement from a legislative repeal, "dwarf the impact on carbon emissions of allowing oil exports."

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the group would respond to the "major disappointment" of the oil export provision by stepping up the fight against offshore and Arctic drilling and on other fronts.

Even so, she said, "It protects funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and increases funding for the Department of Interior; it removes numerous obstacles sought by Republican leaders to block progress on climate change, clean air, clean water, land protection and endangered species; and it extends essential incentives for solar and wind power long enough to provide some real certainty for those industries.  As a result, the public will be healthier and the U.S. will continue making progress on climate change."

Read more at Bill Allowing Oil Exports Gives Bigger Lift to Renewables and the Climate

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