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Climate Issues; Ag Economy; and; “Analysis From Brussels”

Climate Issues: Domestic Developments- EPA Endangerment Finding

A news release issued yesterday by Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska stated that, “[Sen. Murkowski] today announced her intention to file a disapproval resolution to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski’s resolution comes in the wake of the agency’s recent endangerment finding, which will result in damaging new regulations that endanger America’s economy.

“‘I remain committed to reducing emissions through a policy that will protect our environment and strengthen our economy, but EPA’s backdoor climate regulations achieve neither of those goals,’ Murkowski said. ‘EPA regulation must be taken off the table so that we can focus on more responsible approaches to dealing with global climate change.’”

Yesterday’s news release indicated that, “The administration introduced the endangerment finding the week before the president travelled to Copenhagen, instead of working with Congress to find a bipartisan solution to the nation’s climate and energy challenges. Congress should be given the time it needs to draft, debate and ultimately pass climate legislation.

“‘The EPA has taken these actions despite the fact that Congress is continuing to work on climate legislation. I find that highly counter-productive, especially as our nation struggles to regain its economic footing,’ Murkowski said. ‘The endangerment finding must be stopped so that Congress can pass responsible legislation that is sound on its own merits, and not merely a defense against the threat of damaging regulations.’”

The news release explained that, “Upon introduction, a disapproval resolution is referred to the committee of jurisdiction, which in this case will be the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. If the committee does not favorably report the resolution within 20 calendar days, it may be discharged upon petition by 30 Senators. Once a disapproval resolution is placed on the Senate calendar, it is then subject to expedited consideration on the Senate floor, and not subject to filibuster.”

Sen. Murkowski also delivered a speech on the Senate floor with respect to this issue yesterday (full transcript) where she noted in part that, “This is where it becomes evident that EPA regulation is an awful choice for climate policy. You see, if a pollutant is regulated under one section of the Clean Air Act, it triggers identical treatment in other sections of that statute. So while the EPA initially intends to address only mobile source emissions – meaning vehicles – the agency will also be required to regulate stationary source emissions, as well. Think of it this way: if the EPA attempts to control any greenhouse gas emissions, the agency will be required to control all greenhouse gas emissions.”

Sen. Murkowski added that, “If the administration truly wanted something to highlight in Copenhagen, it should have prioritized climate legislation over health care. The Senate Majority could have devoted weeks spent on a tourism bill and other matters to working through a climate bill here on the floor. And even if climate legislation could not be agreed to, Congress has now had nearly six months to take up the comprehensive bill we reported from the Energy Committee. That bill would have allowed the President to highlight significant accomplishments on energy efficiency, clean energy financing, and renewable energy generation. Instead, he’s left to tout regulations that his administration doesn’t really want, that a wide range of stakeholders dread, and that many members in both chambers of Congress actively oppose.

“We need only look back to the development of the Clean Air Act itself for an example of how this process can, and should, work. The product of both presidential leadership and congressional unity, the 1970 Clean Air Act was unanimously passed by the Senate. I hope the current administration will take note of that example. And should we ever reach a point where the President is able to sign climate legislation into law, I truly hope it will be the result of his administration having brought Congress together to complete this important task.”

Also yesterday, GOP Senator John Thune (SD) indicated in a news release that, “[Sen. Thune] today applauded and pledged to support a resolution of disapproval proposed by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would reexamine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announced endangerment rule on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. The Murkowski resolution would allow Congress to nullify the EPA’s new regulation under the terms of the Congressional Review Act.

A replay of Sen. Thune’s comments on the Senate floor yesterday regarding this issue is available here.

Climate Change: Alternative Domestic Bill

Jim Snyder reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “One of the ironies in the debate over climate legislation, arguably the most significant environmental measure Congress has ever considered, is that some environmental groups don’t much like the bill that’s been at the center of the legislative push.

“The view is not universal, but groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace attacked the House climate bill for not forcing utilities and other industries to cut their emissions more steeply, more quickly.”

The Hill article explained that, “But now some critics may have something to rally around: a bill introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Friday that would regulate far fewer segments of the economy and offer direct rebates to households to offset higher energy costs.

“Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch said the Cantwell-Collins bill is more ‘climate-friendly and consumer-friendly’ than a compromise framework from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unveiled on Thursday.

“If Cantwell-Collins has attracted support from some new quarters, however, it could lose support from segments of the business community that have helped propel the climate legislation with successful votes in the House and a Senate committee.”

Climate Change: Policymaker Perspectives

Keith Johnson reported yesterday at the Environmental Capital Blog (The Wall Street Journal) that, “Everybody wants to get a word in edgewise in Copenhagen—even the politicians who can’t make the trip.

“California Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, meant to give a big speech at the Copenhagen climate summit. ‘The press of Senate business’ kept her from delivering it in person. So she passed it to Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, for distribution in Denmark.

Her main points: The U.S. is taking action to tackle climate change, which is a good thing for the economy, and the recent ‘Climategate’ scandal doesn’t much matter.”

Mr. Johnson added that, “On U.S action in Copenhagen, Sen. Boxer took square aim at Senate colleagues who have vowed to shoot down legislation:

“‘Sen. [James] Inhofe, who has said that global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetrated, says he’s going to tell the participants in the Copenhagen talks that there will not be serious action to address climate change in America. He is entitled to his opinion, but he is not entitled to his own facts. I am here to set the record straight. America has already acted. We continue to act. And we are doing more every day,’ Sen. Boxer said, according to prepared remarks.”

An update posted yesterday at the National Journal’s Copenhagen Insider’s Blog noted that, “Boxer said senators on both sides of the aisle are coalescing around legislation. She touted as progress two announcements last week: a broad legislative framework by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., that President Obama will take with him to Copenhagen this week, and a bill by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, based on a ‘cap-and-dividend’ system that offers direct rebates to households to offset higher energy costs. That draft would envision a smaller role for government regulation.

“‘The more senators get involved in this discussion, the better,’ Boxer said of those efforts. She described a recent op-ed by Sen. Robert Byrd, a Democrat from coal-dependent West Virginia, as a ‘huge breakthrough.’”

Climate Change: Agriculture

A news release issued yesterday by USDA stated that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in cooperation with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), today released The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems today at the climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“‘Climate change poses significant threats and challenges for farmers, ranchers, and those who make a living off the land, which will have a serious impact on our ability to feed the people of the United States and the world,’ said [Agriculture Secretray Tom] Vilsack.”

The release indicated that, “Based on a wealth of source and review literature, the report concludes that climate change is already affecting U.S. agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity, and will continue to do so. The report identifies the effects climate is having and is expected to have on natural resources and ecosystems services in the U.S. over the next several decades.”

And Bob Meyer reported yesterday at Brownfield that former Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative Clayton Yeutter “says he doesn’t see anything definitive coming out of Copenhagen nor anything much beyond that. ‘It will be back on the agenda in Congress in 2010 but that’s an election year. It’s hard to deal with a complex, complicated, difficult, contentious issue like that in an election year so the odds are it will spill over into 2011 and who knows what the political-economic situation will be in 2011.’”

Climate Change: Biofuels

A news release issued yesterday by ethanol producer POET stated that, “POET CEO Jeff Broin arrived in Copenhagen today to join global biofuel and agriculture leaders in a discussion about how biofuels can be deployed sustainably, achieve rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fossil fuel use and spur development.”

And Growth Energy indicated yesterday that, “Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chciarman of Growth Energy, will deliver a keynote address on global energy security in a climate-affected world at Danish Climate Consortium, in Copenhagen. Gen. Clark’s remarks will come during an officially-sanctioned COP15 event that will include a panel discussion including world leaders in energy, business and policy.”

Climate Change: Copenhagen Developments

Darren Goode reported yesterday at the National Journal’s Copenhagen Blog that, “Top U.S. climate delegate Todd Stern said late Monday that while some progress has been made so far in talks here, ‘there’s still a long way to go if we’re going to reach the kind of agreement’ that major players would back.

“The core issues remain unresolved for U.S. negotiators, including convincing major developing nations to ‘indicate their resolve’ to implement emission reduction goals with ‘adequate transparency,’ Stern said. He said the progress made over the weekend was ‘clarifying and defining more clearly where there are differences.’”

Bloomberg writer Kim Chipman reported yesterday that, “The U.S. is unlikely to boost its emissions-cut goal at the Copenhagen climate talks or disclose how much it’s willing to give poorer countries to help cope with global warming beyond 2012, an official close to the talks said.”

And Juliet Eilperin reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Global warming talks were suspended for hours Monday because of a walkout by developing countries, as rich and poor nations struggled to reconcile the divisions that have dominated international climate policy for decades;” however, the Post article added that, “Tim Wirth, president of the U.N. Foundation, said the delay would not undermine the possibility of a deal, which is supposed to be finalized Friday when more than 110 world leaders convene in Copenhagen.”

Meanwhile, John M. Broder and James Kanter reported in today’s New York Times that, “China and the United States were at an impasse on Monday at the United Nations climate change conference here over how compliance with any treaty could be monitored and verified.

“China, which last month for the first time publicly announced a target for reducing the rate of growth of its greenhouse gas emissions, is refusing to accept any kind of international monitoring of its emissions levels, according to negotiators and observers here. The United States is insisting that without stringent verification of China’s actions, it cannot support any deal.”

In a more detailed look at China, Shai Oster reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “China looms large over the global climate summit in Copenhagen, where Chinese officials are pressing the U.S. and other rich nations to accept new curbs on their emissions and to continue to subsidize poor nations’ efforts to adopt clean-energy technology. China is the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions. Less understood is the way China is now becoming a source of some of the solutions.

“China’s vast market and economies of scale are bringing down the cost of solar and wind energy, as well as other environmentally friendly technologies such as electric car batteries. That could help address a major impediment to wide adoption of such technologies: They need heavy subsidies to be economical.

The so-called China price — the combination of cheap labor and capital that rewrote the rulebook on manufacturing — is spreading to green technology. ‘The China price will move into the renewable-energy space, specifically for energy that relies on capital-intensive projects,’ says Jonathan Woetzel, a director in McKinsey & Co.’s China office.”

With respect to Australia, Meraiah Foley reported in today’s New York Times that, “Fresh from failing — twice — to pass his widely contested plan to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd headed to Copenhagen on Monday hoping to succeed internationally where his domestic agenda has thus far fallen short.”

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton penned an Op-Ed regarding climate issues that was published in today’s New York Times.

In part, Sec. Clinton noted that, “Our world is on an unsustainable path that threatens not only our environment, but our economies and our security. It is time to launch a broad operational accord on climate change that will set us on a new course.

A successful agreement depends upon a number of core elements, but two are shaping up to be essential: first, that all major economies set forth strong national actions and resolve to implement them; and second, that they agree to a system that enables full transparency and creates confidence that national actions are in fact being implemented.”

Ag Economy

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “Commercial farmers are going to have credit options going into 2010, but traditional bankers may not be a lending option, and small farmers could struggle more than larger farmers to get credit, a major leader in the Farm Credit system says.

“Donnie Winters, president and CEO of Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, laid out the challenges of the current lending environment to farmers attending the DTN/The Progressive Farmer Ag Summit Thursday in Chicago. Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, with $15.4 billion in assets, serves 88,000 customers in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

For farmers needing constant loan service for their business, banks could become a dwindling resource, Winters said. There will be some banks to serve farmers, he said, but in the broad-brush picture, banks are struggling.”

After more in-depth analysis, Mr. Clayton stated that, “It is notable, Winters said, that larger commercial producers are more likely to find access to loans than ‘traditional’ smaller farmers, primarily because lenders are not interested in the smaller operations. Banks that loan to smaller, part-time farmers also have ‘basically left that market,’ he said.

“‘It’s kind of a strange twist of things when the larger farmers have more loan options than the smaller farmers, but that’s where we are today,’ he said. ‘There are places in our area where if you wanted to borrow to buy 100 acres, Farm Credit is the only entity around that would do that.’”

Meanwhile, the AP reported yesterday that, “Rains late in the growing season that inundated some cropland and pummeled rice and cotton plants caused an estimated $309 million in losses, according to economists at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.”

A separate AP article from yesterday reported that, “Some Southern lawmakers are seeking billions of dollars in emergency aid for farmers after recent natural disaster declarations in at least 20 states.”

The article added that, “Lawmakers from Mississippi and Arkansas are helping lead a push for at least $2.1 billion in emergency farm aid and hope to gain approval by year’s end from a Congress that has been focused on other spending packages and the health care debate.

“‘I believe we have a good argument for providing direct payments to farmers whose crops have been ruined this year by floods, drought and other disaster conditions,’ said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.”

And DTN reported yesterday that the U.S. “Corn harvest progressed to 92 percent complete this week according to USDA’s Weekly Crop Progress report. That’s 4 percentage points above last week.”

“Analysis From Brussels,” Romanian Cioloş Named as New EU Farm Commissioner-Designate

Roger Waite, the Brussels-based editor of AGRA FACTS has written a background piece on the Commissioner-designate for the EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development.

To read Roger’s article, “Romanian Cioloş Named as New EU Farm Commissioner-Designate,” just click here.

Keith Good