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Policy & Enforcement Briefing: 54.5 MPG, Carbon Tax Revenue, Solyndra Tax Breaks

The Obama Administration finalized standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by model year 2025. The standards issued by the Department of Transportation and the EPA follow implementation of the administration’s standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2011-2016. Those standards raised average fuel efficiency by 2016 to the equivalent of 35.5 mpg, the agency said.

A carbon tax of $20 per ton would generate $1.5 trillion over 10 years, revenue that would take pressure off lawmakers to form policy that closes the deficit gap and revives the economy, according to a study from MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. The tax also would lower pollution by 20 percent by 2050 compared with 2006 levels, prevent oil imports from rising, and shift markets to clean technology, The Hill reports.

The German cabinet approved a draft law to help the expansion of offshore wind development, a part of the country’s planned shift to renewable energy from nuclear. The draft law aims to reduce some investor risk linked to building wind platforms at sea, by passing on some of the costs to consumers. Germany aims to install more than 10,000 MW of offshore capacity by 2020, and 25,000 MW by 2030, to replace 20,500 MW in nuclear capacity, Reuters said.

The world’s chance to restrict the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius has passed, according to a UK senior scientific government adviser Prof Sir Bob Watson. The scientist, who leaves his position at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs next month, said efforts to control a sharp rise in global temperatures were now “unrealistic” and the increase could be as high as 5C, the BBC reports.

Brazilian judges upheld a ban on operations in Brazil for Chevron and its drilling contractor Transocean while charges over a November oil spill are being considered. Normally Brazilian oil regulator ANP’s statutory power would prevail over the courts, but the ANP’s failures as a regulator contributed to the 3,600-barrel November spill, the judges said, according to Reuters.

DOE and IRS lawyers say Solyndra needs to provide more information in its reorganization plan about tax breaks that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to private equity funds that control the failed solar power company. The DOE and IRS contend that the investment firms could use Solyndra’s net operating losses to avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in future income taxes from businesses unrelated to Solyndra, the Associated Press said.

Shell Alaska has requested an extension in its window for offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea. The company has proposed extending the time allowed for drilling by slightly less than two weeks beyond the Sept. 24 deadline. The company may miss another full drilling season in the Alaskan Arctic while waiting to receive its final federal permits, the Los Angeles Times said.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization director-general Jose Graziano Da Silva said the current food price surge – the third increase in four years – is not as a crisis, but it could reach that level in 2013 if harvests in the southern hemisphere are weak. The director said that farm producers in G20 countries must agree on action to ease concerns about food prices, which are increasing due to drought in the US and poor crops from Russia and the Black Sea region, Reuters said.

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