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Green Energy Sector Weekly Update: EPA’s Green Agenda Under Attack

Following a series of symbolic votes by the newly reenergized Republican Party, including one to “repeal” the health care law, this week saw a GOP-led effort to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ambitious green agenda.

Three Republicans — Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.), Representatives Fred Upton (D-Mich.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) – released the latest legislation aimed at preventing the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases and carbon emissions.

The bill’s sponsors are both predictable and powerful. On the predictable front: Inhofe is one of Capitol Hill’s most passionate climate change denier and a proud supporter and beneficiary of oil and gas dollars.

And as for power: Upton, the new Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, can ensure that the bill will get easier passage through the House.

In the weeks leading to his takeover of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton strategically communicated his doubts about climate change. It was surprising because he had been known for his more moderate stance on energy and climate change issues. The consensus view is that Upton needed to tilt to the right to ensure his committee chairmanship.

An industry source, who met Upton shortly after he took over the Energy and Commerce committee, told G.E.R. that the Michigan congressman is more moderate than his recent comments suggest. After all, his employment-challenged state has been reaping billion in government subsidies to ramp-up the electric car industry and he would have hard time opposing such support.

If enacted, the Inhofe-Upton-Whitfield bill would prevent the EPA from enacting a “back door” carbon tax – a goal that even some moderate senate Democrats, like West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller, laud.

Ironically, many of the moderate Democrats who oppose the EPA’s proposed regulations blanched at the prospect of passing comprehensive climate change legislation last year.

Two years ago, the Obama administration came into office with big goals. One was regulating and pricing carbon to curb emissions. Months into his administration, when it became clear Congress would not support his green agenda, Obama opted for the regulatory route.

Enter Lisa Jackson’s EPA, which, last year, in a milestone announcement, said the Clean Air act gave her agency the power to regulate carbon and greenhouse gases. The decision pleased environmentalist but angered the business sector, which had supported a cap-and-trade regime largely to avoid the regulatory option.

Despite the backlash, the agency still has some powerful friends in the Senate where Democrats still lead. So far Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has worked to protect the EPA. As a consequence, we don’t expect any Republican-sponsored bill to get anywhere in the senate, but it will generate some much needed discussion on the need to tackle problems legislatively as opposed to administratively.

While Republicans are working to anchor their carbon-friendly agenda, President Obama is surprisingly, pushing a clean energy agenda. We call it surprising because, with the Republican resurgence, we had expected the White House to tone down its green ambitions. But, following his state-of-the union call to “out-perform, out-innovate,” Obama announced cuts of oil and gas subsidies and the rollout of tax credits to encourage businesses to make their commercial buildings more energy efficient.

Underscoring how serious Obama is about reviving its stalled clean energy policy, earlier this week he met Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. The meeting was noteworthy because — as we’ve reported – Bingaman has been critical of the White House’s call for a lax Clean Energy Standard, that includes nuclear and clean coal. Bingaman has backed the much tighter Renewable Electricity Standard, which only includes solar, wind and other pure renewables. It’s not clear how the two men will resolve this difference but, following his meeting with President Obama, Bingaman said he would support the president’s agenda and work to get a clean energy standard signed into law.

VC and PE Watch

HydroVolts, a Seattle-based developer of hydropower turbines, secured $700,000 from more than 12 angel investors and one strategic partner, the company tells G.E.R.

Ramblings and Musings

In past week-in-reviews we’ve repeatedly warned that green energy policy was all but dead, at least for the next two years. Is it? A Clean Energy Standard, a meeting with a powerful Senator and for the first time in a long time, a mention by Obama of the dangers of climate change… are good things ahead?

By. Green Energy Reporter




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