For Climate Work, Bloomberg Eyes Business Over Government
Environmental groups have been licking their lips at the prospect of getting former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's billions into closely watched races that they say can install green-friendly candidates and push a climate-change agenda.
But to hear Bloomberg talk, it doesn't matter who's in charge. The real change, he says, will come from the ground level.
"This is about people doing what's in their self-interest, not because it's a good thing to do," Bloomberg said Wednesday. "The public is way ahead of the government on this."
Speaking at the Future of Energy Summit hosted by his Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the former mayor said that "no matter what the government is, governments exist and survive at the will of the people." And that will, he added, was turning toward clean energy and acting on climate change.
He said the best government can do is to promote policies that will let the market play out. Businesses, he said, will always pursue their own bottom line.
"No matter what the law is, we'll find a way around it or we'll learn to live with it," he said. "Capitalism works. It's not pretty sometimes, it's not smooth."
To be sure, the independent Bloomberg won't be staying out of the political sphere. He was named in January to be the United Nations special envoy for cities and climate change and has been outspoken about the role of mayors and government officials in promoting policies that combat climate change. (Remember, that was the reason behind his endorsement of President Obama in 2012.)
But the philosophy he shared Wednesday seems to hew closer to the "Risky Business" initiative he founded with former Republican Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and environmental activist Tom Steyer, which will assess the economic risks of climate change by region and economic sector.
To illustrate his point, Bloomberg relayed a story about being asked to speak at an event hosted by media mogul Rupert Murdoch addressing his employees at News Corp., where Murdoch promised that the company would go carbon-neutral (Murdoch said in 2011 the company achieved its goal). Why, Bloomberg said, would the owner of Fox News set such an environmentally friendly goal? Because it made good business sense and would help public health.
"That's not altruism, it's just common sense," Bloomberg said. "And incidentally his newspapers don't go on and on as much about how climate change is some commie plot."
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ON GAS, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY? Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz hears daily calls to speed up approval of more natural-gas export applications. They're even louder now that export advocates have seized on the Ukrainian crisis to promote U.S. gas as a way to help reduce European reliance on Russia.
Moniz pointed out Tuesday that the 9.3 billion cubic feet per day of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports already approved (though mostly years away from flowing) is not exactly small potatoes. He said that scale is "not appreciated in general" and noted it's close to what flows from Qatar, the world's largest LNG exporter.
"It is not like this is a small amount that has been approved up until now," Moniz said at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York. A lot of that U.S. gas will head for Asia, where exporters can fetch higher prices. But Moniz, echoing other export supporters, said more LNG flowing globally will benefit gas-consuming nations regardless of where specific cargoes are heading.
"More LNG on the global market inevitably will help everywhere," he said.
HOUSE PANEL BACKS FASTER GAS-EXPORT APPROVALS. Speaking of exports, a House subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday that would green-light industry proposals to send LNG to World Trade Organization member nations. GOP Rep. Cory Gardner's bill would greatly pare back the Energy Department's current review process for LNG exports. It cleared the Energy and Power Subcommittee on a party-line vote and is expected to move through the full Energy and Commerce Committee soon. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has floated a very similar bill. Gardner, by the way, is challenging Udall for his Colorado Senate seat this year.
VIRGINIA REVIVES CLIMATE-CHANGE PANEL. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe plans to bring back the state's Climate Change Commission, which has not met in four years. The plans came as McAuliffe told attendees at the Environment Virginia Symposium that "we need to do everything we can to protect the commonwealth" from the effects of extreme weather. (Luanne Rife, Roanoke Times)
CALIFORNIA FRACKING MORATORIUM MOVES. A California Senate panel narrowly passed a bill that would place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state, although many Democrats withheld their votes saying they'd like to see more discussion before approving an outright ban. (Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times)
COMMUNITIES SWEATING EPA CUTS. Budget cutbacks will mean that EPA will have to reduce its enforcement, which has some poor and at-risk communities worried that their environmental concerns could go unnoticed. (Ronnie Green and Chris Hamby, Center for Public Integrity)
NO DECISION YET ON PEBBLE MINE. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska that there's no decision yet on whether EPA will block the controversial Pebble Mine project in that state, saying, "I have no idea of what the end point of this discussion is." That was little comfort to Murkowski, who pressed McCarthy on the impact of the uncertainty of the veto, especially after Rio Tinto left the project earlier this week.
KORNZE WINS CONFIRMATION. The Senate voted Tuesday night to confirm Neil Kornze to become the director of the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. (Laura Barron-Lopez, The Hill)
RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION TO ROLL OUT NEW RULE FOR OIL TRAINS. The Federal Railroad Administration is set to float a new regulation that would mandate that crude-by-rail train shipments be manned by a minimum of two crew members. (Blake Neff, The Hill)
TRANSPORTATION EMISSIONS SET TO SPIKE. According to a new United Nations report, vehicle emissions are poised to increase faster than emissions from any other source through 2050. (Stefan Nicola, Bloomberg)
PIPELINE VIOLATIONS HIT RECORD HIGH LAST YEAR. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration handed out penalties for pipeline violations to the tune of $9.78 million in 2013. (Patrick Ambrosio, Bloomberg)
WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING
SHOULD THE PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT FOR RENEWABLE-ENERGY PROJECTS BE REVIVED? Is the legislative outlook for an extension clear as day or cloudy with a chance of showers? What challenges await if the credit does move, and what's the most likely scenario under which it could be passed?
"I was there in the Senate when the subsidy was enacted in 1992, and want to underscore the fact that it was intended as a temporary support for the then-nascent wind industry. Even Congressman Phil Sharp, the author of the legislation, stated that the PTC should have 'a sunset provision to ensure that the temporary incentive does not become a permanent subsidy.' But the wind industry has now enjoyed the PTC for over 20 years. And the PTC has, in turn, served its purpose." —Don Nickles, CEO, Nickles Group and former Oklahoma senator
DOE HEARING. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on Energy Department science and technology priorities.
GRID SECURITY HEARING. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing titled "Keeping the lights on -- Are we doing enough to ensure the reliability and security of the U.S. electric grid?"
CORPORATIONS AND CLIMATE CHANGE. Representatives from a number of major corporations including Ikea and Sprint will meet with members of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change in a roundtable discussion held at the Capitol. The event takes place at 8:30 a.m. and will be live-streamed here.
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Exactly what I need as a busy college student."