EESI Moves & "Greens" Its New Office Space
After 24 years on Capitol Hill, we moved our offices to 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC on April 1. In preparing for the move, we looked for opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint and be even gentler to the earth. For example, we installed a shower to encourage employees to ride bikes to work. We designed walls with clearstory windows to bring natural lighting to interior spaces. We specified the use of low VOC paint and installed biobased carpeting thanks to a discount offered by Interface Flor. Offices have motion sensor light switches to reduce energy usage; and we immediately installed compact fluorescents light bulbs where applicable. We replaced more of our old CRT monitors with energy efficient LCD monitors. The mover provided reusable, stackable boxes so we avoided packing in disposable cardboard. We will, of course, continue our previous practices of recycling and reusing as much as possible; using 100% post-consumer recycled, chlorine-free copy paper; buying environmentally friendly cleaning products; using bio-based cutlery, cups and plates for meetings; providing public transportation benefits to staff and interns; and more. We send a special thank you to all of the donors who contributed to our "Operation Green Office" to make many of these actions possible.
EESI Testifies Twice before Congress
EESI Executive Director, Carol Werner, testified Feb. 7, 2008 at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing on biofuels. We expressed strong support for the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) enacted as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). The RFS calls for a total of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, with 21 billion gallons of this to be derived from advanced biofuels (i.e., derived from biomass other than cornstarch) which will be required to meet a 50-60 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline. Carol discussed the importance of the greenhouse gas (GHG) screens as a way to guarantee that the RFS accomplishes real carbon reductions. She also discussed the importance of fixing the definition of 'Renewable Biomass' in the RFS regarding the use of woody biomass from federal lands; currently the definition excludes any thinning materials. Carol Werner made the argument that broad exclusions rule out a large quantity of feedstocks that do not induce a land use change, while not protecting forest lands from some of the most prevalent dangers such as wildfire and urban encroachment. Instead, the opportunity was missed to allow biomass utilization to be used as a tool to increase the quality of sustainable forestry and achieve a number of management objectives, such as fuel reduction, habitat management, and other types of restoration forestry, which provide multiple values to the country's forests.
On May 6, Jetta Wong, EESI's Senior Policy Associate of the Sustainable Biomass and Energy Program, testified before the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the "U.S. Helsinki Commission") regarding the complexities involved in the rise in food prices and that the fundamental cause is largely higher energy costs, documented by an April 2008 study by Texas A&M University. Much of the media has jumped to point fingers at biofuels without doing due diligence on the issue. Rather, a number of demand and supply factors are currently influencing world food prices including production shortfalls due to severe drought (especially in China and India), diminishing commodity stock levels, soaring energy costs, the falling dollar, changing demand due to new consumption patterns, speculation in financial markets, bans on grain exports by numerous countries, as well as the production of biofuels from agricultural commodities. She said, "It is critically important that sustainable biomass be considered a part of the strategy to not just reduce energy costs, which it is doing now, but also to revitalize agriculture, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and restore the United States as a world leader." She noted that sustainable biomass can use a wide variety of locally appropriate feedstocks, including agriculture residues, wood wastes, forest thinnings and other waste materials that do not induce a land use change, along with using sound production practices at the appropriate scale.
Plug-ins Come to Capitol Hill
In celebration of Earth Day, EESI helped organize a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) "ride-and-drive" on the Capitol Mall on Sunday April 20, 2008, the House side on April 22 and the Senate side on the 23rd. There were two versions of the same vehicle, a XH-150, which is a modified 2007 Saturn Vue Greenline SUV developed by AFS Trinity Corp., based in Bellevue, Washington, that gets up to 150 miles-per-gallon equivalent. Its energy storage system combines lithium-ion batteries with ultracapacitors. Adding ultracapacitors allows the vehicle to achieve top speeds and rapid acceleration in electric-only mode equal to a conventional hybrid. For a typical daily commute of 40 miles round trip, the vehicle does not use its internal combustion engine at all. (AFS Trinity is an EESI Associate.)
EESI Senior Policy Associate Fred Beck contacted staff at both General Motors and the US Post Office about the event - which paid off. The top Post Office buyer and four of his staff spent over an hour with the AFS Trinity team. Additionally, GM's top man in DC dropped by and went for a very long drive. A shift to manufacturing flexible-fuel PHEVs could revitalize the American auto industry by positioning domestic automakers as leaders in this emerging technology. A September 2007 Harris National Study found that more than one quarter of vehicle owners would consider purchasing a PHEV as their next vehicle. Nissan recently announced they plan to have a PHEV in the market by 2010.
EESI - World Travelers & Advisors
EESI Senior Policy Associate Jetta Wong went to Berlin, Germany in December to give a presentation at an international conference entitled Agrofuels: Opportunity or Danger? A Global Dialogue on U.S. and EU Agrofuels and Agriculture Policies and their Impacts on Rural Development in North and South. In August 2007, Carol Werner went to Brazil to give a presentation at the Biofuels and the Promise for Sustainable Energy conference organized by Pace University. Recent website visitors have come from 115 different countries ranging from Australia to India and Germany to South Africa. Staff also has met with and made presentations to delegations from many countries including Indonesia, Sweden, Estonia, Brazil and Finland. (see sidebar for other EESI conference and event presentations.)
Getting Ready for the New Administration
The National Energy Center for Sustainable Communities, in partnership with The Johonson Foundation, held several leadership summits over the past two years to review the nation's sustainable development goals in light of global warming, and to build a five-year action plan. EESI Executive Director, Carol Werner, has been a participant in this series of National Climate Summits held at Wingspread. Ideas and principles from this process have been utilized by the Presidential Climate Action Project to develop a non-partisan plan for presidential leadership in the first 100 days of a new administration - The Presidential Climate Action Plan (PCAP). PCAP represents a specific and comprehensive blueprint for bold leadership, rooted in climate science and designed to ignite innovation at every level of the American economy, rooted in the conviction that we must build an innovative, environmentally-sound economy for the new realities of the 21st Century. That economy must achieve three goals for this and future generations: security, opportunity and stewardship. The first version of the plan is available from the PCAP website, and the Project welcomes feedback. The website includes a wealth of other materials including The Wingspread Principles on the US Response to Global Warming. EESI will be conducting a briefing on PCAP once it is finalized.
Our woody biomass initiative continues to develop on a number of fronts. Our discussion series has expanded, bringing our total number of participants to 246 - representing foresters, land managers, academics, researchers, environmental NGOs, public decision makers, and energy producers. We continue to engage this network on a number of topics, including forest sustainability, feedstock assessment, environmental impacts, upcoming research, etc. Based on their input, we have compiled a list of the most pressing research needs and knowledge gaps. A particularly important issue to many of our contacts is the definition of renewable biomass in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), enacted as part of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Even though the RFS contains "screens" requiring fuels to meet standards of life-cycle carbon reduction, the definition excludes feedstocks coming from all federal forests and many private forests.
Most small community groups, land-based conservation organizations, and other organizations involved in on-the-ground management of natural resources see the inherent value in biomass utilization. On a daily basis, these groups face the consequences of catastrophic wildfire, development pressures, and stagnant or declining rural economies. These groups see building markets for biomass as a positive force that could bring jobs back to working landscapes, provide paying alternatives to development, and allow communities to take an active role in sustainable stewardship of the forest resource for a multitude of values. These groups understand that the least sustainable forest is the one you can't afford to keep. We have a broad array of organizations with very significant professional and academic expertise and a great deal of history and experience as part of our working group. Working with the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, the National Woodland Owners Association, and others, we plan to bring together a loose coalition of interested groups and individuals to explore this issue further and identify key elements of a renewable biomass definition that could achieve a high level of consensus while incentivizing good environmental stewardship.
Climate Change Legislation Briefly Debated by Senate
The long awaited debate on the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 (S. 3036) ended alm ost before it began. The legislation would cap emissions of greenhouse gases from covered sources at 19 percent below current levels by 2020 and 71 percent below current levels in 2050 through a market-based trading program for businesses to meet the cap. Debate began on June 2 and June 6, by a vote of 48-36, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture (cut off a filibuster) on the bill. Of the 16 Senators not present to vote, six entered statements indicating they would have voted 'yes.' While the debate never addressed key issues and amendments that will be critical to any future climate change legislation, 54 Senators in all spoke up for the need to advance serious legislation on global warming, surpassing the 43 votes garnered in previous climate change votes (2003 and 2005). This included 10 Senators who had not supported cap-and-trade climate legislation in prior votes.
State Incentives for Advanced Biofuels
With the goal of determining what incentives best support the commercialization of environmentally sustainable, low-carbon, advanced (non-corn starch based) renewable fuel technologies, EESI has undertaken a project to produce a State Policymakers Guide to Advanced Biofuel Incentives. EESI will be examining existing state policies that help deploy advanced biofuels, such as California's low carbon fuel standard and the University of Tennessee Biofuel Initiative. The guidebook will include the top incentives that are most effective in enhancing the economic viability of advanced biofuel technology projects and include information about complementary policies, so that states can position themselves to help meet federal biofuels mandates.
Congressional Staff Discussion Series
Working with the offices of Senators Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), EESI is co-sponsoring a series of informal conversations about renewable energy technologies. The series is designed to help Senate staffers better understand how different renewable energy technologies work and the possibilities they present. After each briefing, the speaker presentations will be made available on the EESI website at www.eesi.org. The first meeting, held May 16, 2008, explored the potential of concentrating solar power.
A small group of energy experts will lead each interactive discussion, and will answer a variety of questions, including:
- How does the technology work?
- Where is it currently used and where can it be deployed?
- How much of our energy could we get from the technology?
- What are the upfront costs and long term benefits?
- How many design, construction, operation, & maintenance jobs are created?
EESI also is working with the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus to coordinate a similar discussion series this summer and fall.
New Partners for Planning, Energy & Climate Change Project
Piggybacking on the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Washington, DC in February 2008, EESI and our partner - the American Planning Association (APA) - convened a meeting of people interested in our three-year project, Planning and Climate Change: Mitigation and Clean Energy Strategies. Planners have a real opportunity to effect change through their strategic position as advisors to policymakers in towns, cities, counties, and regions across the county. We had a lively discussion, which provided valuable input on how to help planners better integrate energy and climate change into their daily work. We continue to research and compile leading documents, publications, and other resources we are using to build a database of best practices, which will help guide planners as they address energy and climate issues in their work. We also briefly reviewed results from our second survey of planners' knowledge on the topic. Just a few of the findings include:
- Awareness of energy issues is steadily increasing among planners.
- Climate change has become the top motivator for communities to address energy concerns, and citizen interest continues to be a major factor.
- The biggest obstacles to moving forward on energy planning actions continue to be a lack of political interest and the complexity of the issue.
- Planners know more about alternative energy topics and technologies than they did in 2005, but say additional education is needed.
- Most communities have not yet integrated energy concerns into their zoning ordinances and development review procedures.
The meeting was part of EESI's work to build a national network of planners and allied interests who are working to address energy and climate issues at the local and regional level (aka the Planners Energy & Climate Network). For more information on the survey results or other project-related information, go to http://www.planning.org/energy.
Advancing High Performance Buildings
Accounting for more than 40 percent of total US annual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, buildings are a critical component of a low-carbon future. Energy-efficient buildings that use renewable energy represent one of the most important and cost-effective solutions for mitigating climate change. However, being "green" is not enough. If a green building is destroyed or rendered nonfunctional during a storm, how valuable is it? Low-energy buildings must also meet other critical attributes such as durability, occupant health and safety, accessibility, and affordability if they are to be valuable to the people who own them, use them, finance and insure them.
Congress has sought to address this issue by defining a "high performance building" in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Sec. 914) and EISA '07 (Sec. 401). EPAct required the buildings industry to assess standards that relate to high performance buildings (this effort is almost complete) and a new technical assistance and grant program to support the development of voluntary consensus-based standards for high performance buildings that are based on the findings of the assessment. EISA required the General Services Administration to set up a new office on high performance buildings and set goals for commercial buildings and requirements for federal buildings to be carbon neutral by 2030. EESI is working with policymakers, industry organizations, product manufacturers, and many others to look at a variety of policy options that will decrease the total energy used by buildings, while at the same time improving the health, safety, comfort, and productivity of building occupants. Our May 14 briefing on High Performance Manufactured Housing presented the potential of high quality factory-built housing to serve a dual role as disaster-relief shelter AND long-term affordable housing. (See our website for more information.)
International Parliamentarians Discuss Renewable Energy at EESI-organized Luncheon
Working with the House and Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucuses, EESI helped organize a parliamentarian luncheon on March 5, 2008, in conjunction with the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC). Parliamentarians from Germany, Spain, Melanesia-Solomon Islands, Romania, New Zealand, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, and Brazil, gathered with their peers from the House of Representatives to discuss what their countries can do, and are doing, individually and globally to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency. Issues discussed included international agreements and trade, mandatory vs. voluntary targets for energy from renewables, feed-in tariffs vs. renewable electricity standards, and the need to raise public awareness and familiarity with existing renewable energy technologies.
Briefings and Events
In 2007, EESI reached more than 4,300 attendees through our record-breaking 35 Congressional briefings and other events. Attracting a sizable and wide-ranging audience including Congressional staff, media, businesses, environmentalists, government officials and others, EESI briefings are an invaluable addition to the policymaking process. In addition to providing reliable information, they create issue visibility, spur hearings, develop Congressional leadership, attract media coverage and affect policy positions. Because of EESI's reputation for high quality, balanced events, we are able to feature top-notch scientific, policy and industry presenters. Thus far in 2008, we have reached an average briefing audience of 110, with 15 briefings and events under our belt. Since our last issue of EESI Update, we have organized the following events:
- Renewable Energy Payments in the US: Prospects and Perspectives 6/18/08
- Renewable Energy and Transmission:Opportunities and Barriers 6/13/08
- Woody Biomass:Scale and Sustainability 5/15/08
- High Performance Manufactured Housing: Success Stories From Mississippi's Response to Hurricane Katrina 5/14/08
- Can Renewable Energy Meet the Urgent Challenge of Climate Change? 5/6/08
- Growing Cooler: Policies for Climate-Friendly Development and Transportation 4/25/08
- Congressional Plug-in Hybrid "Ride-&-Drive" 4/22-4/23/08
- Water Availability: A Matter of Quantity, Quality and Use 3/20/08
- Parliamentarian Luncheon on Renewable Energy and Climate Change, Held in conjunction with Washington International Renewable Energy Conference 2008 (WIREC) 3/5/08
- Competitiveness and the Future of Carbon Trading: A View from Europe 2/29/08
- Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: Reviewing FY 2009 Budget Request and Key Tax Incentives 2/14/08
- The Effects of Climate Change on Forest Resources 2/11/08
- EESI/APA Partner Dialogue Meeting 2/7/08
- State Energy Activities- Innovative Solutions and Funding Issues 2/5/08
- Beyond CAFE: Tackling Transportation in Climate Policy 1/17/08
New Staff at EESI
EESI has named Ellen Larson Vaughan to fill its newly created position of Policy Director. Vaughan will be helping develop and manage an Institute-wide effort to contribute to the design and adoption of policies that control U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, with a focus on the role that green buildings and energy efficient and renewable energy technologies can play. "Ellen brings considerable policy experience as well as great knowledge of the building sector. This will be critical as EESI addresses energy and climate change challenges and opportunities in 2008," said Carol Werner, EESI's Executive Director. Vaughan has over 20 years of experience in energy policy, building design/construction, and government relations. Previously, Vaughan worked for Steven Winter Associates, a building systems and architectural/engineering consulting firm, where she functioned as the Program and Policy Manager of the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council.
EESI also has hired Meghan Condon as a Fellow with our Sustainable Communities and Transportation Program, starting May 7. Meghan comes to us prepared to hit the ground running, having interned for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG), working with former EESI staffer Naomi Friedman, to develop its Regional Climate Change Initiative. Meghan conducted original research on regional sustainability/smart growth/climate change efforts that was shared with the U.S. EPA, the Board of Trade, and the Delaware Regional Planning Commission. Megan holds a degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Laura Parsons is EESI's new Communications Coordinator. Our former Communications Coordinator, Leanne Lamusga, recently moved to Chicago. Laura joined EESI in summer 2007 as an intern in the Sustainable Biomass and Energy Program. Most recently, she has been working as an independent contractor on EESI's state low-carbon biofuel policy guidebook, which will be published in late summer. Laura previously worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and has a degree in mathematics.
EESI Update and EESI's other valuable work in energy, climate change, agriculture, transportation and smart growth are made possible through financial support from people like you. Your tax-deductible contribution will help EESI develop innovative policy solutions for a cleaner, safer, healthier world. EIN: 52-1268030. For more information, click here or contact Susan Williams at swilliams [at] eesi.org or 202-662-1887.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute is a non-profit organization established in 1984 by a bipartisan, bicameral group of members of Congress. EESI protects the climate by educating Congress, developing innovative solutions, and building broad coalitions to move America to efficient and renewable energy for a more sustainable future.