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Feb. 4, 2013 by Alexandra Klass

Climate Progress Possible With Energy Efficiency Standards for Appliances -- Under Laws Congress Already Passed

President Obama's focus in his second inaugural address on the need to address climate change was welcome after many months of near silence on this critical issue. While tackling climate change will require significant efforts limiting emissions from power plants, automobiles, and other sources, the President has recognized in the past that improving energy efficiency in general, and setting stricter energy efficiency standards for appliances specifically, can have a major impact on reducing both U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and consumer energy costs. Indeed, according to one recent study:

taking into account products sold from the inception of each national appliance standard through 2035, existing standards will net consumers and businesses more than $1.1 trillion in savings cumulatively. … On an annual basis, products meeting existing standards reduced U.S. electricity use in 2010 by about 280 terawatt-hours (TWh), a 7% reduction. The electricity savings will grow to about 680 TWh in 2025 and 720 TWh in 2035, reducing U.S. electricity consumption by about 14% in each of those years.

Until 2009, with the rise of the Tea Party, energy efficiency had been one of the few bipartisan issues surrounding energy policy, with both Republic and Democratic Congresses …

July 13, 2012 by Alexandra Klass
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In a CPRBlog post in May 2011, I discussed the lawsuits filed on behalf of children against all 50 states and several federal agencies alleging that these governmental entities have violated the common law public trust doctrine by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  The suits were filed by Our Children’s Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit. The claims sought judicial declaration that states have a fiduciary duty to future generations with regard to an “atmospheric trust” and that states and the federal government must take immediate action to protect and preserve that trust.  At the time, I opined that although these claims were novel and would likely have little, if any, immediate effect on state climate policy, they relied on what has proved to be a flexible and powerful common law doctrine in at least some states.  As a result, I concluded …

Aug. 8, 2011 by Alexandra Klass
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Last month, the Nevada Supreme Court held in Lawrence v. Clark County that the public trust doctrine limited the ability of the state to freely alienate certain lands that, though dry at the time of the decision, were submerged under navigable waters at the time of statehood. The case is significant for at least two reasons. First, the court made clear that the public trust doctrine in Nevada places inherent limitations on state power and cannot be easily abrogated by state legislation, thus protecting state resources for present and future generations from the politics of the day. Second, the court clearly grounded its protection for such resources in what I have referred to in earlier scholarship as “ public trust principles.” These public trust principles derive not solely from the common law doctrine but are based on a combination of common law, state constitutional provisions, and statutory provisions …

May 6, 2011 by Alexandra Klass
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On Wednesday, Our Children's Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, made headlines when it began filing lawsuits on behalf of children against all 50 states and several federal agencies alleging that these governmental entities have violated the common law public trust doctrine by failing to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.  The claims seek judicial declaration that states have a fiduciary duty to future generations with regard to an “atmospheric trust” and that states and the federal government must take immediate action to protect and preserve that trust. Although these claims certainly are novel and may have limited or no success in many states because of lack of precedent, they rely on what has proved to be a flexible and powerful common law doctrine in some states that has pushed the legal envelope in the name of environmental protection in the past. As a result …

Jan. 13, 2011 by Alexandra Klass
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The report of the President’s Gulf Oil Spill Commission answered some questions and raised others. But one thing still puzzles: Why didn’t the Gulf Oil Spill start a national conversation about our dependence on oil development and the need for renewable energy?

At first, it appeared it might, but the focus quickly turned to reforming the regulatory agency with oversight for the spill and fixing the technical failures that caused the well blowout in the first place. Both were important areas of inquiry, but the focus on oversight failures and technological quick fixes allowed us to avoid more fundamental questions that had to do with our failure to make the investments necessary to create a future grounded in renewable energy.

We know from history that a larger policy conversation might well have been triggered. In the mid-1970s, Love Canal triggered such a national reexamination, and …

May 11, 2010 by Alexandra Klass
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A federal task force of the EPA and a host of federal agencies are  currently working on a proposal, due to President Obama by June, on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) policy; they’re now holding a series of public meetings (for background on CCS generally, see the CPR Perspective I wrote examining some of the arguments for and against). I had a chance recently to discuss with members of the task force the key property rights and takings law issues associated with injecting billions of tons of CO2  into the ground. Here are some of the points I made:

In order to store the billions of tons of CO2 a kilometer below the surface over millions of acres (which is what will be required to use CCS as a viable climate change mitigation technology) lawmakers will need to address the extent to which that …

Oct. 5, 2009 by Alexandra Klass
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This post is the third in a series from CPR Member Scholars examining different aspects of the Boxer-Kerry bill on climate change, which was released September 30.

The Boxer-Kerry bill, like the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House, provides for funding, study, and emissions allowances for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). In terms of developing a technology in the short-term to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from power plants, this is sound policy. On the other hand, it will be important to ensure that funding, CO2 allowances, and other support for CCS deployment do not shift the focus away from the imperative need to support and develop the necessary transition toward greater energy efficiency and more sustainable energy production.

In both a CPR Perspectives Piece and an earlier CPRBlog entry, I discussed CCS technology and the pros and cons of CCS. The Boxer-Kerry bill (like Waxman-Markey) requires that …

Aug. 6, 2009 by Alexandra Klass
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One of many approaches to combating climate change is “Carbon Capture and Geologic Sequestration” (CCS). It’s a pretty straightforward idea: capture climate-change-causing carbon emissions and lock them up underground, rather than letting them float up into the atmosphere where they would contribute to global warming.

The concept may be simple, but the actual engineering of it is as complicated as you might guess. The first problem is capturing and transporting CO2 emissions to their “resting place.” And then comes the second, injecting the CO2 into a deep geologic formations that will trap it underground for hundreds to thousands of years. Suitable homes for such captured CO2 include oil and gas fields (they’re already drilling deep down anyway), saline aquifers, and deep coal seams. As it happens, several CCS projects are underway in Norway, Algeria, and Canada and more are planned in the United States, China …

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