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Policy & Regulatory Briefing: Edison’s Bryson Nominated; India Plans Efficiency Trades

President Obama has announced his choice for commerce secretary: John Bryson, former chairman and CEO of utility company Edison International – the parent company of Southern California Edison and Edison Mission Group – and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Bryson is a director at Boeing, Disney and Code Automotive, a senior advisor to KKR and trustee of the California Institute of Technology. He also served as president of the California Public Utilities Commission and chairman of the California State Water Resources Control Board. Obama described Bryson as “a fierce proponent of alternative energy”, the Hill reported. Republicans quickly attacked the nomination, with House oversight and government reform committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) calling Bryson a “green evangelist” and describing Obama’s choice as “deeply out-of-touch with our current energy challenge.” Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said Tuesday that he will be “working actively” to defeat the nomination. “By selecting John Bryson to head the Department of Commerce, President Obama is clearly demonstrating that he has no intention of backing down from his job-killing agenda,” Inhofe said in a statement Tuesday.

The Indian government is planning the world’s first “national market-based energy efficiency trading mechanism,” the New York Times reports. The initiative, called Perform, Achieve and Trade, would set benchmark efficiency levels for 563 of the country’s biggest polluters, and would allow businesses that use more than their allotted energy to buy tradable energy-saving certificates from those that use less. This would create a $16 billion market when trading starts in 2014, the government projects. India has also recently established a trading program for renewable energy certificates. During the May 25 session, 14,002 renewable energy certificates were traded, valued at 207.8 million rupees ($4.6 million) – compared with just 260 units at the previous session in April. But the Times reported that some are concerned about how the two programs will fare, because of a lack of data and training, and because of weak penalties for companies that don’t comply.

Germany’s decision to shut all its nuclear plants by 2022 will add up to 40 million metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere each year, or an amount equivalent to the annual emissions of Slovakia, analysts told Reuters. These emission will in turn raise the price of carbon permits, some of the analysts said. “We will see a pick-up in German coal burn,” said Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen. “Longer term, they will be using more renewables and gas but this year and next, we should see a lot of support for coal burn.”

An Energy Department advisory panel will meet today and tomorrow with industry and environmental leaders to discuss the safety of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, the Hill reports. Expected participants include Shell, Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy, service companies Halliburton and Schlumberger, non-profits the Sierra Club, NRDA and Earthjustice, and state regulators. The committee says it aims to identify immediate steps that can be taken to improve the safety and environmental impacts of fracking, and also plans to develop advice for government agencies.

Today the House energy and commerce committee will hear opening statements on two energy bills, the Hill says: one that would require further economic analysis of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, and another that would speed up permitting for Arctic offshore drilling projects. Both bills passed a subcommittee last week, and a full committee vote is scheduled for tomorrow.

The House natural resources committee is holding a second hearing on identifying roadblocks to the development of wind and solar energy on public lands and in public waters.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said yesterday that the U.S. should eliminate all energy subsidies, Politico reported. In response to a question about ethanol subsidies, Palin told reporters, “I think all our energy subsidies need to be re-looked at and eliminated… And we need to make sure that we’re investing and allowing our businesses to invest in reliable energy products right now that aren’t going to necessitate subsidies because, bottom line, we can’t afford it.”

An unusual outcome for anyone trying to visit the website of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency that regulates the U.S. electricity supply. A rather spare-looking home page informs visitors, “Due to a power outage in the vicinity where FERC Headquarters is located, all systems are currently down. We will inform you when the situation has been corrected.” According to the site, emergency personnel are on duty, and all other staff are on administrative leave. Filings with due dates of May 31 or June 1 will be considered timely on the next business day that FERC is open.

 

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