Catching up on transcripts
Build Back Better, the Supreme Court, and community choice aggregation.
I'm trying to speed up the process of producing podcast transcripts for those of you who prefer reading to listening. Hopefully it won't be months before the next round. Here are three more good ones, along with a few juicy quotes from each.
Erin Mayfield on the massive consequences of Build Back Better
Enacting the climate and clean energy investments in Build Back Better would cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 billion tons between 2022 and 2030. This would put the US on track to reach President Biden's commitment to cut emissions by half of peak levels by 2030. Importantly, though, without the Build Back Better Act or some equivalent, the recently enacted infrastructure bill would leave annual greenhouse gas emissions more than 1 billion tons short of the nation's 2030 goal, which is a huge gap.
On average, annual household energy expenditures will decline by about $300 by 2030. This comes from investments in things like heating electrification, energy-efficiency measures, and electric vehicle purchases, so households displacing expenditures on gasoline and heating fuels.
The Build Back Better Act has the potential to reduce public health impacts from air pollution, driven by the retirement of coal power plants and the electrification of our vehicle fleet. The benefits are on the order of 25,000 mortalities avoided from the passage of Build Back Better.
Jack Lienke & Kirti Datla on the ridiculous (but extremely important) EPA case before the Supreme Court
For the most part, the Supreme Court doesn’t have to take cases; they get to pick their cases, and they don't take that many. This was a choice on their part. They wanted to take this case, despite this serious question about whether anyone has standing and whether there's any need for them to step in. This is what they're choosing to spend their quite precious limited time on.
For decades, EPA, under administrations of both parties, has been using these flexible emission reduction techniques, like trading, under a variety of Clean Air Act provisions that don't expressly authorize that sort of thing. We've done trading for vehicle fuels, auto emission standards, stationary combustion turbines, emergency generators – and courts have repeatedly said, as long as there's not an express prohibition on doing that, we're going to let you read this vague language to allow this very sensible, cost-reducing thing. Traditionally, Republican administrations were very fond of this.
In the Clean Air Act, in the Clean Water Act, these big environmental statutes, Congress wrote forward-looking, capacious, technology-forcing statutes that were designed to be adaptive, because command and control is inefficient and doesn't work. It’s really an impossible fit between statutes that give agencies and the EPA that kind of authority, and this view that ”I don't know, the briefs don't say what Congress should have done here.”
David Hsu on the grassroots policy that lets communities control own energy supply
There are about 1,900 municipalities that have so far chosen to use community choice aggregation. It’s authorized by state legislation in 10 states: Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, California, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, and Rhode Island. These 1,900 municipalities represent about 36 million people, or about 11 percent of the US population.
They tell these great stories of introducing these non-binding resolutions, like they’d go to the utility and the utility guy would literally laugh at them. He would say “this is my territory, this is never going to happen.” He would laugh them out of the office.
The word that academics would use is “policy diffusion.” Another academic, pretentious-sounding phrase that we use is “epistemic communities” – communities of lawyers and energy advocates start hearing about this through journals. Another theory is policy imitation: states start imitating other states that are doing the same thing.
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