Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chaffetz Labels Global Warming "A Farce"

Richfield -

In his recent "town hall meeting" held in three central Utah towns within his district, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah 3rd) has leveled a lot of criticism on the gathering forces behind clean energy and the philosophy of new cabinet secretary, Nobel laureate Steven Chu. In addition, Chaffetz extended his concern to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who are going to "plow right over us because they have the numbers," said Chaffetz.

photo courtesy of the Deseret News

Chaffetz seemed comfortable with mixing some oranges with his apples when criticising taxation floated by the democratically-controlled White House and congress. One of his oft-repeated attacks is that the Obama administration "spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much." But as he cites the apparent disparity where "the President of the United States has looked everyone in the eye and promised that 95% of Americans will not have any tax increase," Chaffetz immediately cites a different tax proposal (on tobacco) that has nothing to do with income taxes or the White House.

Admitting that the republicans "blew it," during the Bush 43 administration when congressional numbers favored his party, Chaffetz has charmed some Washington insiders, including the media (Stephen Cobert, Fox News and others) with his "cot-side chats" and vocal admonishments of "business as usual."

In his recent appearance in his district's coal-rich Sevier County, Chaffetz warned the predominantly fifty-and-sixty-something crowd that "cap and trade" would be a tax on everyone. "Regular-ol' households, you could see as much as a 65% increase in your energy costs. If you're a business," Chaffetz exhorts, "your energy costs are going to go up 100%," offering an atypical pause for emphasis. "As far as I'm concerned, so-called 'global warming' is a farce."

Chaffetz' congressional assignments include the "Energy and Minerals" subcommittee. He told his constituents to "take whatever you spend on energy and double it. This is not the time, when we are struggling with our economy, to be increasing this tax," prompting the clean energy proponents in his audience to observe that "cap and trade" is not a tax at all but rather a more honest way of describing and offsetting the real costs of doing "business as usual."

Steven Chu (left) in Stockholm, Sweden

Nobel laureate and cabinet Secretary of Energy Steven Chu maintains that he is not in favor of a "carbon tax," and that the "cap and trade" system currently being examined in congress may shed light on the true cost of "business as usual" when intangibles like health care (for those living near coal-fired power generation facilities) and the increase of collected mercury (and other) toxins in lakes, streams and the fish that inhabit them are accounted for. From this point of view, "cap and trade" is not seen as a tax at all, but in Sec. Chu's words, it is a way that America can take conventional power sources and "use them more wisely."

After Chaffetz' presentation, local AM radio KSVC's Bruce Mayhew posed what some thought to be a "nerf ball" soft question, asking what had been the most important part of his visit to Central Utah. Chaffetz reasserted that it was being in contact with the people and that they "have the chance to looking me in the eyes and ask me about what is going on in Washington D.C. and how it impacts our community." Congressman Chaffetz is featured on CNN's "Freshman Year," along with Colorado's newly-elected Jared Polis (D-Colorado 2nd).

Included in last Saturday's Richfield audience was cooperative energy operator Carl Albrecht, Six County Association of Governments chief Russ Cowley and Sevier county commissioner Gordon Topham, a former republican party leader in central Utah.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Utah Energy Policy Gets Wiggle Room

Utah State Capitol –

With the state’s legislative session winding down (less than 24 hours to go), and with Utah’s budget complete and ready for formal adoption, last-minute lawmaking put some serious amendments into new state energy policy. SB 412 seemed to provide ample wiggle room for doing things the old way and to allow Utah’s industries to ignore global-warming concerns from the world scientific community. The law would require a taxpayer-funded, comprehensive economic analysis before the state’s new energy policy could even be debated, defined and/or adopted. Supporters believe that it will ease the impact of climate change regulations issued by the federal government. Under SB-412, an economic impact study involving extraction industries and proposed power generating facilities would be mandatory.

In an interview on Wednesday, SB 412 was described by Senator Ralph Okerland (r, Monroe, Sevier County) as an effort to assess impacts of alternative energy development to existing industries. Some of his constituents say that it could actually restrict the state from adopting newer, emerging technologies and provide "startup setbacks" or barriers to the entry of new Utah green businesses.

Utah State Senator Ralph Okerland

"When the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining, I have 600 coal miners in my district who provide base-load power to the grid. We are interested in the economic impacts of policies issued by the federal government which may adversely impact existing industry and families in Utah," said Sen. Okerland. Critics of the bill wonder why climate change is the only subject requiring “special handling” prior to the debate and the adoption of a state energy policy.

The bill’s sponsors say that “global warming is not proven” while on the same day, scientists convening in Copenhagen indicated that the world's sea levels could rise substantially in the near future as a result of unchecked climate change.

Arch Coal in Salina, Utah (Senator Okerland's district) is a provider of coal which is trucked to power generating plants in several states throughout the intermountain West. The present policy discussion in Washington, D.C. involves the mandated recapture of "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide, emitted from older coal combustion generation facilities. Nobel laureate and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has not ignored the fact that America has a lot of coal, and that it is an inexpensive source of power for the country. His emphasis is on using it more wisely.

During the last days the lawmakers are at work in the state capitol, some laws, appropriations and amendments are introduced immediately prior to the session's adjournment. Sen. Okerland's SB412 calls for Utah to use "alternative compliance methods" to anticipated federal regulations "which would temper the effect of future climate change legislation" from the federal government. The Utah house of representatives will receive the bill today, the last day of the legislative session.


SB412 has died a technical death. (see comment update)

Utah New Media Conference at State Capitol

Utah State Capitol --

Ric Cantrell and the senate majority leadership will host a new media press event at the Senate President's office in Salt Lake City at 6pm tonight, March 11, 2009. Traditional media along with the blogging community and local lobbyists will attend and hear conversations on public policy and mass communications. Earlier today, "The Senate Site" streamed live video from the capitol, covering a press event that was on the capitol's schedule.

Utah state government has consistently won acclaim for the access it provides to its residents via new media and the internet.