Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remembering Borlaug

One of the things that drives me crazy about the modern environmental movement is its seeming inability to look at things as they usually are: in shades of gray. Take agriculture for example, many environmentalists seem to want agriculture to be all organic, small and picturesque -- never mind that this would result in the mass starvation of much of the world. A case study for this unfortunate argument is the environmentalist criticism of Norman Borlaug - whose work revolutionized world agriculture by allowing the sector to overcome pests and boost yield from fertilizers that enabled feeding a much larger population than ever believed possible.

Awhile ago, I signed up to get regular emails from the authors of "Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility." Below is their latest email update focusing on Borlaug's work. I thought this piece fit perfectly into the Eco-Pragmatism mindset I'm promoting. Enjoy!

Dear Friend,

Last Saturday, a truly great American died. Norman Borlaug, known throughout the world as the father of the green revolution, was 95. A farm boy from Iowa, Borlaug revolutionized modern agriculture by developing new seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers that exponentially increased agricultural yields and today sustain more than 6 billion of us globally.

One of the great stains on the modern environmental movement was its opposition to Borlaug's work. Stanford professors Paul Ehrlich and current White House science adviser
John Holdren famously argued in the late 1960s that halting food aid and sterilization would be more humane than new agricultural technologies. In Silent Spring, Rachel Carson warned that pesticides would be humankind's downfall. Andmany environmentalists remain largely hostile to Borlaug's work, for which he won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize.

There's little doubt that chemical fertilizers and pesticides have been abused. But to focus exclusively on the unintended consequences of those technologies while ignoring the extraordinary accomplishments of a revolution that virtually ended famine and malnourishment in most parts of the world is ingratitude at its worst. And Borlaug's innovations, along with those of other agricultural pioneers who came before him, did more than save lives.

If you make your living today doing something other than agricultural labor, as virtually all of us do, you can thank Norman Borlaug, and thousands of others like him, for the innovations that make such lives possible. Three hundred years ago, when virtually the entire human population devoted its labors to growing enough food to sustain themselves, such lives would have been unimaginable.

Yet, even in Borlaug's death,
some environmentalists today ask whether or not modern agricultural technologies are "sustainable." But since when did we evaluate technologies for whether or not they lasted forever? We don't, thank god, use the same machines or agricultural practices of our grandparents much less our Neolithic ancestors. The existence of technologies that allow us to feed a growing global population while liberating almost all of us from backbreaking agricultural labor is something we should celebrate - and improve.

Recently, two friends of Breakthrough, Colin Beaven and Adam Werbach, have come out with books that raise their own questions about the meaning of sustainability. Colin's book
"No Impact Man" (Farrar 2009) is about a year-long experiment that he and his family undertook to massively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For Colin, sustainability is more about achieving personal fulfillment non-materialistically than it is about reducing emissions and waste. He describes the journey from being an environmental scold, berating his wife and himself for basic acts of consumption, to merrily proselytizing for community-building, through charades with neighbors to Sunday strolls to biking to work.

So often
environmental books demonize our high-technology lifestyles as "unsustainable" without any expression of gratitude for the kind of comfortable lives these technologies allow us to have. For this reason, the best part of the book is when Colin and his wife attempt to hand-wash their clothes. It turns out to be hugely time-consuming and difficult. They quickly - and justifiably - abandon the effort for the laundry machine in their apartment basement.

Adam's book,
"Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto" (Harvard Business Press, 2009), calls on firms to go beyond easy fixes like carbon offsets to embrace larger changes of continuous innovation and creative efforts to improve the quality of life for their employees. Adam became controversial after working for Wal-Mart. But what few people know is that his work there was about broadening the definition of sustainability to include Personal Sustainability Programs for employees, all while advocating that firms look beyond themselves to the larger world of policy and politics. A single firm cannot decide to pay much more for clean energy, for example, or else it will suffer a competitive disadvantage. Rather, it must engage in the larger world of business, policy, and politics to support society-wide innovation in how we generate energy and recycle materials.

In our view, these new books by Adam and Colin are reminders that we should have gratitude and even awe in our modern technologies - from hybrid seeds to washing machines - and to the shared investments in innovation that made them possible. This gratitude should motivate us to make investments in the next generation of technologies to power our civilization in ways that allow our species to thrive while also protecting, creating, and nourishing those nonhuman animals and systems upon which we depend.

All of this may lead us to question the elevation of sustainability as the principle that purports to organize ecological thought and action. The response by Borlaug to imminent famine was not to sustain natural systems but rather change them. This is what humans have done since time immemorial and it is precisely this adaptive and innovative spirit that will sustain us long into the future.

Michael and Ted

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Even Solar Power is Controversial??

It is unfortunate that we live in a time when common sense and pragmatism often get shelved for petty, local politics. Case in point -- even though there is WIDESPREAD call by almost all environmentalists to generate new sources of clean power . . . just about every time someone who can actually provide this elusive goal steps forward, they face criticism for not being "the perfect" solution.

Until now, I thought solar power was the exception - it seemed to be the preferred darling of the environmental community . . . even though its scale and cost have kept it from being a mainstream source of power generation. But just when you have a company with the expertise, engineering and capital to make this leap, it is being objected to by who?? environmentalists??

To be fair, not all environmentalists oppose a proposed solar power plant in the Mojave desert - probably not even the majority of them do, but as you will see in the article below -- some local environmentalists and Senator Feinstein do. And the kicker is that the basis for the objection is the protect the desert . . . from solar power? Really, I can't make this stuff up!!

As long as people refuse to see the big picture and *gasp* prioritize the problems we face, environmentalists and environmentalism will remain a small, divided issue rather than a large, transforming movement.

Here's hoping that with some more thought and illumination, this misguided effort gets turned back!

RENEWABLE ENERGY: RFK Jr., enviros clash over Mojave solar proposal (Greenwire, 09/08/2009)

Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter

SAN FRANCISCO -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no stranger to hardball politics.

The environmental attorney has confronted polluters of the Hudson River, been arrested in Puerto Rico for trying to block U.S. Navy training operations and scrapped with oil companies looking to drill in remote parts of Alaska.

Along the way, he has worked for environmental groups large and small, lending his famous name to a burgeoning movement fighting to bring attention to macro-issues like climate change while protecting local wildlife habitat. In 1999, he was named a Time magazine "Hero of the Planet" for his work with the advocacy group Riverkeeper.

But in California's emerging battle over renewable energy development, Kennedy has gained new enemies: fellow environmentalists.

Kennedy, the son and namesake of the late Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), is at the center of a nasty dispute among environmental groups, energy developers and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) over the future of federal lands in the sun-soaked Mojave Desert.

The Mojave's 22,000 square miles straddle California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah. Given its elevation, heat, aridity and proximity to population centers on the California coast, the region is viewed by many as the ideal venue in North America for building a new generation of large solar-thermal power plants, especially in a state where utilities are required to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010 and likely 33 percent by 2020.

Among the leaders in a group of aggressive solar prospectors is an Oakland-based company called BrightSource Energy Inc., which has been making a splash lately for its plans to build 2.6 gigawatts of power for California's investor-owned utilities, much of it to be located -- on paper, at least -- in the Mojave Desert.

But some California-based activists are worried that solar developers like BrightSource are getting a free pass in a headlong rush to build clean energy and capitalize on federal stimulus dollars now available for such projects. These activists have enlisted Feinstein to push for the declaration of a national monument in the desert and intend to unveil legislation with the senator in September that would apparently protect 1 million acres in the eastern Mojave to limit development.

Enter Kennedy, who calls the national monument, as it is likely to be drawn, a bad idea. To Kennedy, the instinct to protect local ecosystems has collided with the goals of a progressive national energy policy.

"I respect the belief that it's all local," Kennedy said in an interview. "But they're putting the democratic process and sound scientific judgement on hold to jeopardize the energy future of our country."

But here's the rub: Kennedy has a stake in BrightSource through VantagePoint Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley that was instrumental in raising $160 million in financing for the solar startup. Other investors include Chevron Corp., Google.org and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

That Kennedy is a senior adviser at VantagePoint, and an open promoter of BrightSource in public speeches, is an irony not lost on David Myers, an activist who charges Kennedy with shilling for a company intent on using his political clout. To Myers, the lure of profit if BrightSource makes it big is why Kennedy, a cousin of California's first lady, Maria Shriver, wants to stop the national monument before it ever gets off the ground.

"I'm getting pretty tired of BrightSource using their Kennedy connection," said Myers, executive director of the Wildlands Conservancy. "BrightSource [is pursuing] the worst projects in the worst locations, but they have the best PR firm, because Robert Kennedy is involved."

Feinstein's monument

Next, enter Feinstein, a longtime advocate of desert conservation and lead appropriator for the Interior Department in Congress. Her office is working on a bill to be released this month that some sources said will cut off 1 million public acres in the desert -- up from a previous estimate of 600,000 acres -- to protect a threatened species of desert tortoise and preserve its habitat.

Feinstein, according to several sources who spoke anonymously, is livid about the pace of development on public lands and has bluntly told the solar developers not to challenge her on the national monument designation. Calls to several solar companies seeking comment seemed to bear this out, as none would take a position on the measure.

Myers has been instrumental in developing the boundaries of the monument, sparking rumors that he is cozy with Feinstein and is dictating the terms of the legislation. The boundaries would stretch from Joshua Tree National Park to Mojave National Preserve, including nearly 100,000 acres of National Park Service lands and 210,000 acres spread across 20 wilderness areas controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

That area includes lands previously owned by Catellus Development Corp., a real estate subsidiary of the former Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroad. Myers insisted that the purchase was made years ago in the name of conservation, a promise that he says Feinstein takes seriously.

And though he would not release details of the bill, Myers said none of the land would come from the federal energy zones marked by the Interior Department for development. Nor does he believe solar companies will have trouble finding land to build on elsewhere in the region.

"The land in the monument is minuscule," Myers said. "There are so many other places where solar is being proposed throughout the state."

But Kennedy disagrees. BrightSource and 19 other companies have petitioned BLM and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to build in an area called Broadwell that would be shut off under the Feinstein bill. Those applications represent about 10,000 megawatts of power, or 30 large-scale solar power plants; and though much of that would never get built, Kennedy says closing down Broadwell is a significant blow to the companies that have invested there under the guidance of federal land managers.

"This area is probably one of the best solar areas in the world," Kennedy said. "All that the solar industry has said is, 'Look, let's respect the robust process in place,' a process that is among the most transparent in the world through the CEC and BLM."

That process is still proceeding. BLM has received 66 applications for solar, totaling 577,000 acres, most of which would be located in the desert, an agency spokesman said. BLM is also processing 93 wind applications, representing 815,000 acres.

Yet the monument bill may have already produced a chilling effect. John White, a renewable-energy policy expert at the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, says the proposal has cast a "shadow" over these projects just as they are vying for financing and federal stimulus dollars only available until 2010. To White, setting aside 1 million acres in the eastern Mojave would mean "less land for solar than for off-road vehicles ... in the very best land that has the highest solar radiation."

"I'm astonished that nobody's said that," said White, who refused to comment further on the political wrangling.

Myers countered that most of those 19 companies have agreed, in private discussions with Feinstein, to build elsewhere. Florida Power & Light Co., Cogentrix Energy LLC and Stirling Energy Systems Inc., among others, have informed Feinstein that they filed "shotgun applications" in the Broadwell area and are more than willing to drop those and find other areas, he said.

"They're fine going outside the monument," Myers said. "BrightSource is the laughingstock of the industry right now."

Kennedy vs. Myers

For his part, Kennedy was unfazed by Myers' allegations or his harsh take on BrightSource, calling the political heat familiar territory, given his family's unique place in U.S. history. In the same breath, he urged Feinstein to take a step back before proceeding with the monument.

"I don't think it does anybody any good to start making personal attacks," Kennedy said. "Let's argue this on the merits. I think if we argue this on the merits, I think BrightSource and 19 other companies are going to win the debate."

Kennedy added that he has a "limited stake" in VantagePoint and denied asking for special treatment through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) or anyone else in the state government.

"I don't care enough about BrightSource to compromise my integrity or the national interest," Kennedy said. "I've never talked to anyone about choosing BrightSource over anybody else. I've never asked for any favors from any politician or any regulator or any human being, ever."

In the next breath, Kennedy went negative himself and questioned Myers' relationship with a competitor to BrightSource, Pasadena-based eSolar Inc. Like BrightSource, eSolar is a solar-thermal outfit whose business model is built around reflecting radiation from mirrors into a large tower to convert steam into electricity. Unlike BrightSource, eSolar has no stake or planned projects in the Broadwell region.

Myers, Kennedy pointed out, has his own overlap issues with Silicon Valley money through eSolar. A major donor to the Wildlands Conservancy is the venture capitalist David Gelbaum, who has poured his own funds into eSolar and reportedly owns a fat stake in the company. eSolar would stand to benefit from the national monument, several sources said, because it is not involved in the Broadwell area.

Adding to the fire is Myers himself, who recently appeared at an eSolar press event in person to praise the company for siting projects on industrial lands near power lines in Lancaster, Calif. Yet Myers denies an inappropriate relationship and blamed Kennedy and BrightSource for stoking the rumors.

Gelbaum, Myers said, donated $45 million seven years ago to help acquire the Catellus lands. Myers said the donation and pledge to keep the lands off-limits took place well before BrightSource came into being.

Not stopping there, Myers slammed Kennedy for opposing a wind project off the coast of Nantucket, Mass., and questioned his recent environmental credentials. He said Kennedy is hiding behind the local versus national environmental debate when his real motivation is turning a profit through VantagePoint.

"Bobby Kennedy told us they did not want to see windmills in Cape Cod, that they had to put it all in the California desert," Myers said. "The real story here is, Bobby Kennedy is on the side of major industrial development, and he's against distributed generation."

Kennedy responded in kind. "He is very focused on a narrow piece of land, which I respect," he said of Myers. "All I've ever asked for is a rational process that is democratic, that is transparent, that is robust. That process is in place."

View from the bleachers

Spectators on the sidelines were hesitant to comment on the flare-up between Kennedy and Myers or the shape of the monument designation. Most said they could not take a position on the forthcoming Feinstein bill until it is publicly available, which a spokeswoman said has not been finalized.

Officials at BrightSource, who contacted Kennedy for an interview after receiving a call for this article, said the focus had been placed unfairly on their company when the future of the entire solar industry is at stake.

"The debate over renewable development and desert protection is not adversarial," said Keely Wachs, a spokesman at BrightSource. "We all have the same end goal of protecting the environment."

White, whose organization is meant to bridge industry and environmental groups, said "a little bit of land rush" followed the stimulus frenzy and perhaps led to tense feelings on both sides. He urged the players to learn from the experience, even as he cautioned that the political process has yet to play out.

"It's one thing to introduce a bill and another thing to get it through both houses," White said. "I think that this really is the beginning of a long conversation about where and how to put solar in the desert."

Elden Hughes, a former chairman of the Sierra Club's California-Nevada Desert Committee, blamed BLM for promoting lands bought from Catellus years ago and said officials there should have respected a promise that those lands be conserved. He said BLM has only recently changed its tune.

Calling BLM officials "two-faced SOBs," Hughes said, "For some months, they were telling us they were protecting the land, while at the same time they were taking developers out there."

BLM spokesman John Dearing would only say that the agency's job is to process applications. BLM has no right to block any entity from seeking a right of way on the Catellus lands, he said, adding that the agency will pursue "high-level reviews" for any proposed impacts to lands meant for conservation.

"They might want to steer away from that area," Dearing said of the developers. "But they're not prohibited from making an application."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Saving the Rainforest: Markets Succeeding Where Blame Game Failed

Protecting the environment does not mean stifling the economy. In fact, its just the opposite -- only in wealthy countries, where the economy is developed, can you turn toward priorities like preserving and cleaning up the environment. The sooner this lesson is learned, the sooner we can move beyond environmental partisanship and toward the implementation of actual solutions.

Below is a terrific example of this thinking. You've no doubt heard quite a bit about deforestation. Unfortunately, what you've probably heard is that biofuels are causing rainforest destruction. First of all, that's not true - as this article points out, by FAR, the leading cause of deforestation in Brazil, for example, is cattle production, not biofuels.

But the more important point is this: why are people spending thousands of dollars on "campaigns" to blame one thing or another for the destruction of rainforests vs actually creating a market to value rainforests as forests??

There are so many reasons why the rainforests are being cut down in developing countries. To attack one reason in a vacuum would merely shift the destruction to occur for the myriad of other reasons still pushing in that direction.

Instead, as the effort below shows, there are ways to create a market to preserve the forest -- a market that also allows people in developing countries to use their land and make a living -- which simply MUST happen if any cessation of rainforest destruction is to be sustained.

I hope more people will follow the example of John Carter - profiled in this story . . . and create markets to solve problems, rather than rhetorical blame game campaigns!! Just maybe, funders of environmental groups could start funding solutions instead of problems!!

I urge any and all of you who are interested in this issue to visit the website for Aliancia da Terra - the group that John Carter started and discussed in this article. If you are going to give money to fight this problem, give it to folks like this!

Can cattle ranchers and soy farmers save the Amazon?
An Interview with John Cain Carter:
Rhett A Butler, mongabay.com
June 7, 2007

The key to making conservation successful is making it profitable. John Carter may hold that key.

Since the early 1970s, environmental groups have spent billions of dollars on conservation efforts in the Amazon, but have failed to slow the destruction of its rainforests – the Brazilian Amazon has lost more than 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 square miles) of forest in that time. As donor dollars poured into the region, deforestation rates continued to climb, peaking at 73,785 square kilometers (28,488 sq mi) of forest loss between 2002 and 2004, before falling sharply in 2005 and 2006 due to declining commodity prices. To many, it's become apparent that the market, not conservation measures, will determine the fate of the Amazon.

The reasons for land-clearing in the Amazon are compelling: cheap land, low labor costs, and booming demand for commodities driven by a surging China and growing interest in biofuels. These factors have helped Brazil become an agricultural superpower – the world's largest exporter of beef, cotton, and sugar, among other products – in less than a generation. Amazon landowners have seen their land values double every 4-5 years in areas that just a decade ago were pristine rainforests. The market is driving deforestation.

John Cain Carter with his Xavante Indian neighbor
Given this landscape, John Cain Carter believes the only way to save the Amazon is through the market. Carter is a Texas rancher who moved to the heart of the Amazon 11 years ago with his Brazilian wife, Kika, and founded what is perhaps the most innovative organization working in the Amazon, Aliança da Terra. Carter says that by giving producers incentives to reduce their impact on the forest, the market can succeed where conservation efforts have failed.

While deforestation rates in the Amazon have accelerated, the problem is not a lack of laws, but rather a legal system where enforcement is so slow and so corrupt that it renders the laws effectively useless. On paper, cattle ranching in the Amazon may be the most restricted in the world, with landowners required to keep 80 percent of their land forested – a limitation no rancher in Texas faces. Carter wants to see farmers in Brazil benefit in following the law, by turning this restriction into a marketing advantage. However in order to do so, Amazon producers have to ensure that consumers ( i.e., buyers of commodities like McDonalds, Wal-Mart, and Cargill) can confidently say that agricultural products are produced legally and even more sustainably than stipulated by the law. The incentive for producers is market access: Aliança da Terra helps Brazilian farmers and ranchers get the best price for their products, but only if they follow the rules. While producers get higher prices for their goods, buyers like Burger King and Archer-Daniels Midland can say they are using legally and responsibly produced beef. Meanwhile more rainforest is left standing, ecosystem services preserved, and biodiversity conserved. Everybody wins.

Accountability has other benefits. Aliança da Terra's growing clout even helps fight corruption – officials know they can't solicit bribes from Aliança's members while members know that passing bribes will only get them kicked out of the system. The promise of Aliança da Terra is so great that conservation groups and landowners are sitting down at the same table, when just two years ago they were the most bitter of adversaries – a substantial achievement and one that bodes well for the success of these efforts.

What is most remarkable about Aliança's system is that it has the potential to be applied to any commodity anywhere in the world. That means palm oil in Borneocould be certified just as easily as sugar cane in Brazil or sheep in New Zealand. By addressing the supply chain, tracing agricultural products back to the specific fields where they were produced, the system offers perhaps the best market-based solution to combating deforestation. Combining these mechanisms with large-scale land conservation and scientific research offers what may be the best hope for saving the Amazon.

In a June interview with mongabay.com Carter explains his experiences in Brazil and his approach to saving Earth's largest and most important rainforest.

To read the interview with John Carter, click here

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's About Competitiveness, Not Just the Climate

Over and over again I have heard the argument that we can't adopt policy that encourages greater energy efficiency in the U.S., a greater market for home made and home grown energy sources because we would be taking on a burden that the Chinese will never join. What's sad is that so often, this argument is made by people who have NO clue what is going on in China, have never been to China, and probably couldn't point to China on a map!

The article below does a great job of outlining why this argument is actually, all backwards. That in fact, China is already moving faster into the "clean energy" market than we are!! Though China may achieve gains differently than our policy structure (i.e. not taking a carbon cap) that is hardly a surprise when you consider how completely different their government and culture are from our own. Just one example, China's authoritarian government means that they literally "turn on" the nation's air conditioning on a set date and same with the nation's heating. They dictate things like the temperature allowed in business offices, and how many cars can be on the road.

I am NOT advocating for this type of complete government control. It makes my skin crawl. But the point is that China can and is controlling its energy use in ways that we would never consider. Just because they do it differently, does not mean they have no regard for energy efficiency and moving toward more clean energy.

This excerpt from the article below shows the amazing amount of activity in this area within China:

Consider: Chinese cars are more than one-third more fuel-efficient than U.S. cars. China is investing 10 times as much on clean power, as a percentage of gross domestic product, as the United States is. China is on track to create 150,000 jobs through the deployment of 120 gigawatts of wind power by 2020 -- an amount equivalent to today's global total and nearly five times America's. As a result, China is already curbing its carbon emissions substantially. This year alone, it will abate almost 350 million tons of CO2, as compared with business as usual. That's as much as is emitted by Argentina.

And why is China doing this? I think it is safe to say its not for the environment - but that is the larger point we seem to continually miss. They are taking these measures because they realize that controlling as much of their own energy use and production as possible means being less dependent on unstable and pricey foreign sources. More control over a country's energy means more strategic independence and a more efficient economy over the long run.

In the debate about whether the U.S. should adopt policies that send a market signal saying "invest in clean energy and efficiency," let's PLEASE remember that the larger reason for doing this is actually economic competitiveness with the environment getting a side benefit.

I urge you to read the article below co-authored by GE's Jeff Immelt for some very good examples of what I'm talking about.


The Washington Post
Falling Behind On Green Tech

By John Doerr and Jeff Immelt
Monday, August 3, 2009

America confronts three interrelated crises: an economic crisis, a climate crisis and an energy security crisis. We believe there's a fourth: a competitiveness crisis. This crisis is particularly evident in America's worldwide standing in the next great global industry, green technology.

There is no topic of greater importance to America's economic future. The question is whether the United States will lead or lag in tomorrow's global energy markets. And the difference between these two futures is dramatic.

Energy in the United States costs more than $1 trillion a year -- for oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. This is on top of a similar sum spent on the things that use this energy -- our homes, shops, factories and cars. That means about $2 trillion a year is at stake right here.

Do we want to win the race to lead the next great global industry, clean energy? That is the choice before us.

We are clearly not in the lead today. That position is held by China, which understands the importance of controlling its energy future. China's commitment to developing clean energy technologies and markets is breathtaking.

Consider: Chinese cars are more than one-third more fuel-efficient than U.S. cars. China is investing 10 times as much on clean power, as a percentage of gross domestic product, as the United States is. China is on track to create 150,000 jobs through the deployment of 120 gigawatts of wind power by 2020 -- an amount equivalent to today's global total and nearly five times America's. As a result, China is already curbing its carbon emissions substantially. This year alone, it will abate almost 350 million tons of CO2, as compared with business as usual. That's as much as is emitted by Argentina.

What do Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have in common? Two things: They are the world's five leading Internet technology companies, and they are all American. But when it comes to wind power, the most mature of the clean-energy sectors, of the top five manufacturers (Vestas, GE, Gamesa, Enercon and Suzlon) only one is American. Similarly, the United States is home to only one of the 10 largest solar panel producers in the world and two of the top 10 advanced battery manufacturers. How can we catch up? Not through protectionism or massive government intervention but through the power of good old home-grown innovation.

We are American businessmen. Our job is building businesses and commercializing innovation. Every year, GE invests 6 percent of its industrial revenue in research and development to produce more efficient and cleaner wind turbines, jet engines, locomotives, power turbines and appliances. Kleiner Perkins has invested $680 million in 48 of the most compelling new clean-energy technologies, with $1.1 billion more to invest. We are trying to do our part. But our government's energy and climate policies are our principal obstacle to success.

Right now, the United States has no long-term market signal to tell companies and consumers that it values low-carbon energy. It has no policies to discourage sending hundreds of billions of dollars a year overseas for energy. It does not offer adequate sustained R&D funding to be a serious competitor in this huge business.

Today's policies stifle American innovation and competitiveness. But good policy can flip this dynamic. Five basic changes are needed:

-- Send a long-term signal that low-carbon energy is valuable. We must put a price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions. No long-term signal means no serious innovation at scale, which means fewer American success stories.

-- Get the rules of the road right for utilities. We must make our utilities a driving force for repowering America, driving efficiency through incentives, a renewable electricity standard and a national unified smart grid.

-- Set energy standards that grow steadily stronger. America should strive to have the most efficient buildings, cars and appliances in the world. The savings will land in the pockets of U.S. consumers and businesses.

-- Get serious about funding research, development and deployment, at scale. The federal government currently spends only $2.5 billion on clean-energy R&D a year -- 0.25 percent of our annual energy bill. Sen. Jeff Bingaman's Clean Energy Deployment Administration is a good idea that would be fast and flexible. But more such programs are needed.

-- Fulfill President Obama's commitment to "become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy." We need a robust trade policy that seeks to open markets abroad -- including the Chinese market -- for U.S. clean-energy products through new trade agreements. Such policies unleash American competitiveness disciplined by market forces. This is widely endorsed by U.S. companies that compete internationally and by the broad-based President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

We should carefully design policy to bring in other nations. Think of the Copenhagen climate summit in December as an opportunity to create world markets and momentum for a low-carbon future, just as the Internet set the world on course for an information-rich future. Some say we shouldn't move until China moves. In fact, China is moving full speed ahead -- with or without us.

There is still time for us to lead this global race, although that window is closing. We need low-carbon policies to exploit America's strengths -- innovation and entrepreneurs. We know that building such policies is a heavy political lift. But, without doubt, bad energy policy has cost our country dearly, and the costs of continuing it are incalculable.

John Doerr is a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Jeff Immelt is chairman and chief executive of General Electric.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Irrationality of Indirect Analysis

The indirect land use issue has gotten a lot of attention recently.  For those not familiar with this topic, it basically revolves around EPA calculating the emissions from indirect land use changes that are likely to come from increased ethanol production in the U.S.  Specifically, the assertion has been that greater production of ethanol in the U.S. means an increased demand for corn production elsewhere (i.e. Brazil). 

I have long contended that this is a flawed approach to dealing with de-forestation - and that in fact, if you take this view then anything that decreases yields in the U.S. is increasing deforestation and should be banned.  So, for example, any enviornmental regulation on say clean water, air or endangered species that reduces agriculture's productivity, is increasing deforestation because it shifts ag production abroad.

The article below brings up a whole new set of reasons why the indirect land use analysis is a flawed policy lens to use!

If the problem is de-forestation, we have to provide incentives to counter that . . . DIRECTLY, rather than pretending that there is some magical puppet master that can control all the indirect forces leading to de-forestation.


The Irrationality of Indirect Analysis

June 3, 2009, 5:32 p.m. 
By Robert Zubrin
Special to Roll Cal

Those wishing to counter global warming have for some time been pushing for measures that would favor fuels whose utilization adds the least carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. In recent statements, however, the Environmental Protection Agency has announced that in seeking to assess the ethanol program, it will take into account not only the carbon released as a direct measurable result of the production and use of the fuel, but immeasurable indirect effects, such as Third World deforestation, allegedly caused by business activity here. This is a mistake.

 The indirect analysis method was first made popular by former Environmental Defense Fund staff attorney Tim Searchinger via a well-publicized report issued by the German Marshall Fund in February 2008. In that paper, Searchinger conceded that in terms of its role in replacing gasoline derived from petroleum with fuel derived from biomass, and thus the Earth’s atmosphere, the U.S. corn ethanol directly decreased carbon emissions. However, according to Searchinger, since the program also reduced the dumping of U.S. corn on Third World countries, it indirectly increased net global carbon emissions by encouraging the expansion of agriculture abroad.

The Searchinger indirect analysis approach has been criticized by scientists who pointed out that the putative indirect link between the U.S. corn ethanol program and deforestation elsewhere is not measurable or falsifiable, and thus simply not a scientific assertion. A more cogent critique, in my view, would be a moral one, as the Searchinger argument, now apparently embraced by the EPA, presupposes that it is or should be a proper goal of American policy to restrict the economic growth of underdeveloped nations.

However, whatever one might think of the right of poor foreign countries to economic development, the indirect analysis method of carbon accounting must be rejected by American policymakers because, if it is embraced, it must perforce prevent the implementation of any positive policies here, not just in biofuel production, but in any field of endeavor whatsoever.

Consider: If an American goes to the supermarket and buys groceries, regardless of their origin, he is acting to bid up the price of agricultural commodities internationally. This then encourages the growth of agriculture everywhere, and thus plausibly deforestation. So anything that allows Americans to buy increased quantities of groceries can be said to cause deforestation and thus global warming. Therefore, according to indirect analysis, any policy or technological development that contributes to income growth or increased levels of employment in the U.S. needs to be prevented. Instead of seeking to stimulate the economy that we should be seeking to depress it.

But that is not all. According to indirect analysis, public education should also be shut down because it leads to higher incomes and health care needs to be ruined as thoroughly as possible because, by keeping people alive, it also increases their total purchases. If indirect analysis is accepted, then the EPA’s otherwise commendable activity in combating toxic air pollution should be reversed because, by reducing smog-induced cancer rates, the EPA has extended the lives of thousands Americans, thereby allowing them to continue to buy things and thus further global warming. Also the EPA should think twice about encouraging high-fuel-economy cars because, by reducing the amount that consumers need to spend on gas, such vehicles indirectly allow more to be spent on groceries and thereby contribute to deforestation.

So to summarize, according to indirect analysis, all measures that improve the economy, education, health, the environment or technology are to be condemned. This result must follow because all of these help humanity, and so long as humanity engages in any activities that cause carbon emissions, anything that helps humanity can also be said to cause global warming.

Clearly such an absurd theory cannot be accepted as a basis for policy. If it is, we will end up legislating depression, banning all technological and medical advances, and ultimately, perhaps requiring environmental impact statements every time a lifeguard rescues a swimmer or a midwife assists in the birth of a child. Instead, the proper, scientific, ethical and sane way to proceed in assessing carbon emissions, whether of ethanol use or any other human activity, is to base such judgments strictly on the direct effects of the activity itself. These can be measured and therefore reduced in detail as technological alternatives permit. If we operate otherwise, then no constructive solutions will be possible.

Robert Zubrin is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What are you For?

I'm sure many of us have had the experience of being in a meeting with someone who constantly shoots down every idea in the room, but can't come up with an alternative.  It's beyond frustrating - it is obstructionist.

For too long, the modern environmentalist point of view seems to have been defined more by what they oppose, than by what they support.  And when they (as a sector or group) can agree on support for something, it is usually so filled with caveats and unworkable engineering . . . or is so insanely costly that it is worthless in the practical world.

This is part of why it is so important to re-define the environmentalist movement.  Real environmentalists want progress - both for the environment and for the people it supports.  We have the crazy situation before us today where wind projects can't get built because ENVIRONMENTALISTS oppose them.  They don't want coal-fired power, nuclear is a dirty word (even though it has ZERO ghg emissions and kills far less people in its production than coal or natural gas), wind kills birds and is "unsightly," solar is ok -- but people, we can't power our way of life on solar alone -- and if there was an actual proposal to do so, there would be opposition to that because the physical footprint you generate with solar for large projects is huge.  We can't focus on biogas generated power because that would "reward" large animal feeding operations . . . and the list goes on and on.

To be fair, not all enviros oppose all these energy types, but dig a little deeper into most enviro organizations and I'll bet you'll find that most of them have at least internal disagreements about what to support.

The point is that there seems to be an obsession with calculating every wrong impact that could come from energy source a or b, while forgetting the fact that WE WILL USE ENERGY, so the issue should be minimizing the impacts not picking a "perfect" winner that doesn't exist!

The environmental movement as a whole needs to get comfortable with the concept of a "net environmental benefit" which makes the hard choice sometimes, that while there may be damage caused by a wind turbine, lets say, its a hell of a lot less than a coal plant, so, let's all get on board with supporting wind.  Perhaps this could happen if the environmental movement diversified itself to include a few more engineers and businesspeople instead of constantly alienating them.

The exact same problem is unfolding over electric transmission.  Environmentalists want renewable energy, but not the new transmission lines it will take to bring it to electrical users.

The Wall Street Journal is doing stories on the "green tape" that holds up renewable energy projects . . . And now, we have the chamber of commerce out there calculating all the energy projects that are being blocked by environmental opposition.  The chamber of commerce is hardly a helpful ally when it comes to environmental issues.  But they have a point on this issue.  And when environmentalists oppose everything, they set their opponents up to look like the reasonable ones.

You can't be FOR the environment in theory and oppose every means to make some improvement on the ground merely because there are trade-offs.  

Life is filled with trade-offs.  The only alternative, is to do nothing -- and tell me, how is that reducing pollution? 

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Environmental Divide

When times are tough, as they are now, there often emerges an even sharper contrast of visions.  In some ways, the extremists for any cause thrive in the crisis times when they can use the "urgency" of the underlying crisis as reason to stop compromising and give in to the feel-good approach of self-righteous ideological grandstanding.  The justification becomes that "times are too urgent" for half measures.  

Let's think about this.  If times are so bad, doesn't it make more sense to work WITH other people?  Don't we need pragmatism now more than ever?  When you consider that extreme positions rarely if ever accomplish anything (other than fundraising and self-aggrandizement), you realize that when times are tough economically, that's when you need swift action . . . forward progress!  America's government is not designed for this - it is designed to require compromise and steady, thought-through action that has the agreement of a wide cross section of our very diverse country.  So in the end, it is pragmatism, bridge-building and finally, shared understanding that moves large issues forward in a sustainable way.

Keep all of this in mind as you read the article below from the Economist.
There is an interesting divide emerging within environmentalists with some using the urgent needs of the planet as an excuse to be as uncompromising and ideological as they want.  I feel the need to keep asking these folks:  "What actual good has your position brought?"  If you oppose new transition lines being built for a project that will increase renewable energy . . . how are you helping the overall environment?  

I've long been frustrated that there seems to be NO ability or willingness in the majority of the environmental community to prioritize!!  There are ALWAYS trade-offs -- and there are even for "good" energy projects.  The path of opposing everything leads us to actually support the dirtiest options -- SINCE THEY ARE THE ONES THAT ALREADY EXIST!  Enviros are forever engaging in intellectual puzzles that try to assess all the impacts of any action.  There is certainly a place for understanding impacts to the best of our ability -- but there is also a place for recognizing that if you wait until the "perfect" energy source is ready to be commercialized, you are in fact prolonging the life of the dirtier option because you are unwilling to take a more modest step forward.

I hope that the public and those that fund environmental organizations begin to see the real trade-offs from extremist rhetoric on both sides.  

I know I'm often hard on the environmentalists for their refusal to be pragmatic -- but let us also recognize that these groups would have far less power in our society if there had been more good-faith efforts from industry to address environmental problems head on.  So - there is plenty of blame to go around.

Feb 12, 2009

Tree-huggers v nerds
Feb 12th 2009 | LOS ANGELES 
From The Economist print edition

As the planet heats up, so do disputes between environmentalists

LAST December California approved a power line between San Diego and the Imperial Valley—a spot blessed with sun, wind and geothermal energy resources. The Sunrise Powerlink would twist around a state park, an Indian reservation and much of a forest (see map). Its builders would be banned from harming burrowing owls or rattlesnakes. It is just the sort of green infrastructure project that might be expected to delight environmentalists. Their response? An appeal and a petition to the state Supreme Court.

“Environmentalists have never been a well-mannered lot”, says Terry Tamminen, who has advised Arnold Schwarzenegger on climate change. But they seem to be becoming more ornery. A growing fear that the environment is on the brink of collapse is making many greens less willing to compromise, even with each other. And George Bush’s departure from the White House has removed a common adversary.

The fiercest disputes are over electricity transmission. Many environmentalists, including Mr Schwarzenegger, argue that more power lines must be built to connect cities with potential sources of renewable energy. The governor strongly supports the Sunrise Powerlink project. The Sierra Club opposes it, along with another line that would run east from Los Angeles. Together with the Centre for Biological Diversity, the organisation is holding out for a guarantee that the line will be used to transmit electricity solely from renewable sources. Environmental groups in Nevada and the Midwest have issued similar ultimatums.

To an extent this is a dispute between pragmatism and idealism. Politicians like Mr Schwarzenegger tend to believe that energy projects should be judged on whether they improve on current practice. Activists, by contrast, prefer to measure them against an environmental ideal. “A little bit better than the status quo isn’t good enough,” explains Bill Magavern, the Sierra Club’s California director. He wants power to be generated close to those who will use it, and envisages a rash of solar roofs in San Diego.

A more profound difference has to do with how the problem is diagnosed. Although no big environmental group is unconcerned with global warming, they view the threat in different ways. The big divide is between those who fret about measurable changes in greenhouse-gas emissions and those who worry more about harm to natural habitats, whether caused by global warming or anything else. The first group—call them the environmental nerds—includes people like Al Gore and Mr Schwarzenegger. The second group—call them the tree-huggers—includes the Sierra Club, the Centre for Biological Diversity and other established conservation groups.

The dispute is likely to intensify in the next few months as Washington weighs in. This week Congress reached a deal on a stimulus plan that encourages the construction of yet more power lines. Barack Obama wants to create green jobs, but he needs to create jobs above all, and quickly. Environmentalists, who know how to hold up big projects better than anybody, will not be bounced so easily. A shame: after all, the greens are winning.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Germans Exporting Energy Efficiency - We Should Too!

Awhile back I participated in a farmer-to-farmer exchange between the U.S. and Germany looking at renewable energy and climate-friendly agricultural practices that might count as offsets to a mandatory climate cap-trade system some day.

While in Germany, I was extremely impressed with the amount of bio-gas production they had going on.  The government guaranteed a 22 cent/kilowatt price for bio-gas created energy (over double the usual price for electricity) and as a result, almost every farm of any size has added a bio-gas production facility.  

So - from time to time, I check in on what's going on in the German renewable energy sector -- as they seem to be very innovative and focused on solving the problems of promoting more low-carbon energy -- German engineering indeed!

Today I saw a press release from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.  Their latest offering is a database that allows buyers to find energy-efficient technology made in Germany.  This resource says so many things - not only is Germany largely engaged in low-carbon energy technology, but they are major exporters of this technology -- and they are promoting it in a very good way.  

Now imagine how much the U.S. could do on this front - with all its resources . . . and what that new economic activity could do for our struggling economy.  Yes, I realize that America has far more fossil resources to use, and thus, it makes sense that the U.S. would develop that resource.  But, its often said these days that "We just don't make anything here anymore."  Well, think of energy efficiency and low carbon/renewable energy as "a whole lot of stuff" we could make very well -- and that much of the world increasingly wants to buy!  

Even more important from my perspective -- is how much MORE is actually done to solve energy problems through engineering and science than through rhetoric and partisanship. 

Below is the press release so you can read all about it.  And, you can check out the database by clicking here.


Database of German providers of energy-efficient products and services now online free of charge: The Energy Efficiency Export Initiative launches its international debut

Starting today, potential business partners from around the world can search online for German providers of energy-efficient products and services, thanks to the English-language website of the Energy Efficiency Export Initiative (www.efficiency-from-germany.info/en). In order to be included in the database, German companies can register themselves free of charge at www.efficiency-from-germany.info. The process takes just a few minutes. After registering, German companies can then create a company profile which enables them to be identified in online searches by interested users from around the globe. In the few weeks since the German-language version of the website went into operation, more than 350 companies have registered with the Initiative. And the numbers keep going up.

The database covers a comprehensive spectrum of products and services that range from "architects" to "ventilation systems". This makes it possible for entrepreneurs, policymakers and other interested parties from around the world to gain quick access to potential business partners in Germany, who are grouped together under a single international label: "Energy Efficiency - Made in Germany". The database also provides information on a dynamic network of partners in specific target countries. All of these features make the website a one-stop-shop and central point of contact for anyone who is looking for German suppliers and business partners in the field of energy efficiency. And German companies benefit as well: the website gives them a direct platform for making their products and services known to potential international customers, providing them with a "gateway to the world" that enables them to build contacts to new export markets both quickly and easily.

The newly launched English-language website is targeted toward companies and opinion leaders in export markets that are of key importance for Germany's energy efficiency industry. It is a crucial addition to the extensive German-language website of the Energy Efficiency Export Initiative, which provides numerous services to support the export activities of German companies.

Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Michael Glos stated: "This new online database covers the entire spectrum of energy efficiency and will help match international stakeholders with the right contact persons at qualified and knowledgeable German companies that provide technology and services. At the same time, we are providing the German energy efficiency industry with a web-based platform for expanding their export business. We want the label 'Energy Efficiency - Made in Germany' to become internationally recognised as a mark of first-rate quality."

Since the 2007, the Energy Efficiency Export Initiative - which is run by the Federal Government under the lead responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology - has been supporting the export activities of German firms in the field of energy efficiency. The Initiative provides support above all to small and medium-sized enterprises that offer energy-efficient products and services.

For further information, please contact the Energy Efficiency Export Initiative (full contact information is available at www.efficiency-from-germany.info/en).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Congress' Climate Plan: Partisan or Passable?

A new Congress has been seated in the U.S. and soon, a new President will be sworn in.  Now is the time when legislative plans are being made for the year and the new President's priorities either clash or harmonize with the Congress.

As I have discussed here before, there is a real danger that the new leaders of the climate issue in the Congress will move to the left on the climate issue (less flexibility in allowing regulated entities to meet their cap and a very limited or no offsets option).  Currently, most Republicans remain absent from the climate debate - and the few that are engaged are trying to stand in front of a political train that will merely run them down.  Therefore, it will fall to a select group of conservative or "blue dog" Democrats and some moderate Republicans to ensure that the climate legislation that moves forward is workable and, dare I say it, SUSTAINABLE in this difficult economy.

Below is a good overview article laying out the Congressional agendas for the climate issue. 

Climate Change - Environment and Energy Daily
Jan. 16, 2009
Waxman begins four-month march to move emissions bill
Darren Samuelsohn, E&E senior reporter

Let the vote-counting begin.
Minutes into his first hearing yesterday as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) boldly pledged to move a comprehensive climate change bill through the panel by Memorial Day. But the road to the House floor isn't that simple.

Democrats hold a 36-23 edge on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That is a big margin for Waxman to work with as he takes the lead in writing a cap-and-trade climate bill over the next four months. But lawmakers from both parties warn that there are no guarantees Waxman will be able to satisfy any Republicans, let alone some of his own Democrats who represent districts with heavy industrial bases.

"That's the question: Are you going to insert the word 'Ohio?' Are you going to insert the word 'Pennsylvania?'" asked Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the GOP's former top House vote counter. "What are you going to put in this that allows people in states that are particularly dependent on coal, either as a producer or user of coal, to move forward?"

Waxman, an 18-term congressman, did not give specifics on the climate bill he has in mind during yesterday's hearing on global warming, the first since he took over late last year as the new chairman.

But Waxman did explain that he has a wider range of recommendations available to pull from, including previous versions of cap-and-trade legislation introduced by other Democrats and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership blueprintreleased yesterday that calls for a reduction of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to 20 percent of 2005 levels by 2050.

"A consensus is developing that our nation needs climate legislation," Waxman said. "Our job is to transform this consensus into effective legislation. The legislation must be based on the science and meet the very serious threats we face."

As he moves forward, Waxman can claim support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). In a prepared statement, Pelosi called Waxman's Memorial Day schedule an "aggressive timetable for action to reduce global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. I share his sense of urgency and his belief that we cannot afford another year of delay."

Across Capitol Hill, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) issued her own statement saying she was "very pleased" with Waxman's plans. She pointed out that while she pushed a cap-and-trade bill through her committee in December 2007, the House took no action on global warming legislation over the last two years.

Looking ahead, Boxer promised to release "a set of principles for my new legislation in the coming weeks." And she said that Waxman's schedule, coupled with the U.S. CAP announcement, suggest "the writing is on the wall that legislation to combat global warming is coming soon."

House and Senate Democratic leaders say they will be consulting closely with the Obama administration on its preferences for global warming legislation, a strategy repeated during confirmation hearings this week by EPA Administrator designee Lisa Jackson.

The Obama administration will likely release a series of legislative principles out of the Obama White House, as opposed to a detailed bill, according to an aide to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the newly created House Energy and Environment Subcommittee with primary jurisdiction on a global warming bill.

"Frankly, I think what we're going to get from this administration is what we got from the tail end of the Clinton administration and not the start of the Clinton administration," the Markey staffer said. "One of the great mistakes of the health care debate is they tried to write a 300-page bill. Congress doesn't take dictation very well."

'The fossil fuel Democrats'

Given the size of the Democratic majorities, Blunt predicted cap-and-trade advocates would find success when it comes to moving climate legislation, though it may mean making some concessions.

"If Barack Obama is pushing for it, and Nancy Pelosi is pushing for it, and Barbara Boxer is pushing for it and Henry Waxman is pushing for it, it probably happens," Blunt said. "But that doesn't mean it happens in the right way, or the right time frame."

Blunt also would not rule out Republicans voting in support of a Waxman-led climate bill. "It's too early to tell," he said.

Several Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee said they had already made up their mind they would be opposed to a cap-and-trade bill, including Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois.

Shimkus, a seven-term congressman from southern Illinois' coal country, sounded off during yesterday's hearing against the economic implications of a new carbon cap in the United States. And he predicted political fallout for Democrats from similar industry-heavy districts if they back Waxman's legislation.

"I'm going to hold the fossil fuel Democrats accountable," Shimkus said. "You better be prepared to defend your vote as global climate change legislation will destroy the fossil fuel industry."

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said he did not buy the argument offered by U.S. CAP members that it would cost more to stave off the effects of climate change in future years if lawmakers do not move now to curb emissions with a cap-and-trade bill.

"You hear that in a lot of issues: A stitch in time saves nine," Gingrey said. "But right now, I don't believe we have a stitch left when we get through trying to save the economy and restore some of these 2.5 million jobs lost last year."

Warnings from Shimkus and Gingrey underscore the work Waxman has to do to win over Republicans. Meantime, some of the so-called fossil fuel Democrats who serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee said they planned to be active participants in the drafting of climate legislation.

"I want to be able to support a bill," said Rep. Baron Hill, a five-term lawmaker from southeastern Indiana. "But if coal is not addressed, then I cannot support a bill. It's just as plain and simple as that."

Rep. Charles Melancon (D-La.) said Waxman's Memorial Day target would require giving lawmakers like him time to study the climate bill. "Mr. Waxman is a very experienced legislator, and I think he realizes he can't just dump this on us one day and move it forward," said Melancon, a three-term congressman representing the state's southeastern swampland.

Asked if the committee's Democrats would be a "rubber stamp" on whatever legislation Waxman produces, Melancon replied, "That'd be a firm no. But I have committed to be open minded and try to resolve issues rather than just take an opposing position."

"I think the work starts today," added Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.)

DeGette, the Democrats' chief House deputy whip, also predicted GOP support for the legislation, though she would not name any names. "I'd have to take a survey," she said.

Off Capitol Hill, environmental groups and companies involved in U.S. CAP welcomed Waxman's decision to spell out a four-month game plan.

"There's a lot of work to be done," said Francis Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "But you'll never know how long it takes if you don't get started."

Jeff Sterba, president and CEO of PNM Resources Inc., a New Mexico-based electric utility company, said he wanted to see Congress write and vote on climate legislation this year. "They can move quickly if they want to," he said.