By Shelli Dawdy
As I noted yesterday, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler held a press conference earlier this week wherein he announced a methane gas drilling project that was just beginning at the Bluffs Road facility.
The City’s Public Works department had commenced drilling 60+ wells and installing a piping system to capture methane gas from the dump site. Plans included using the methane gas to generate electricity.
While there were a few things that raised my eyebrows about the press conference, I knew I needed further information before forming an opinion. There were a couple of statements by Mayor Beutler that bothered me immediately, however, and one of them was his mention that he had decided that Lincoln would voluntarily lower its emissions.
What really sent up red flags for me in watching the report on Lincoln’s KLKN-TV was the Public Works Director’s assertion that the costs of the methane capture system installation would be more than repaid from the income generated by the carbon credit income.
As I noted in the previous article, it is very puzzling that any elected official would be mentioning carbon credits since the federal legislation commonly known as “Cap & Trade” had failed to move through the legislative process after passing out of the House of Representatives in June 2009. Absent a national system of carbon credits, how can it be that the City of Lincoln would be engaging in a carbon exchange?
There are a few explanations, all falling squarely within a category that is negative, and the only differences are matters of degree.
- The Mayor is playing pure politics by touting the potential carbon credit income.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notified municipal governments that they are implementing a carbon cap and credit system via their regulating authority and citizens have not yet been made aware of this fact.
- The Mayor has decided that Lincoln, Nebraska will participate in some kind of carbon exchange.
There may well be additional scenarios which I am not considering. If anyone reading this has any others, I invite you to leave a comment.
In scenario #1 our Mayor would simply be using language familiar to his “base”, the extreme left that is “all-in” for the radical environmental agenda. Perhaps all of these folks, including the Mayor, have high hopes that some future legislation will be passed to revive their dreams. The Mayor has made a very public commitment to this agenda, having already stated repeatedly that he wants Lincoln to be a model “green capital city of the plains“. Further, he suffered some embarrassment not all that long ago when his proposed budget include the cutting the of City Forester position. As I pointed out in an article at the end of August; how can the “Cleaner Greener Lincoln” guy be a hypocrite and fire the tree supervisor?
In scenario #2, our Mayor would simply be quietly implementing federal regulations over which he has little control. It is a fact that the EPA declared carbon dioxide emissions a danger to public health in December of 2009. If that is the case, Lincoln would be at the leading edge of the implementation. This explanation doesn’t totally fit, however, since the implementation as explained previously, seemed to involve only higher-level emitters, and does not appear to include an exchange as did the Cap & Trade legislation.
Scenario #3 requires that the City of Lincoln would be participating in some kind of global climate exchange. There are several independent global climate exchanges. Some brokers of these services do work with government entities. It cannot be that the City would participate in an American exchange, as the only one that existed, the Chicago Climate Exchange recently collapsed.
All of these scenarios are troubling, of course, with #1 be very distasteful, but damaging only to Mayor Beutler’s reputation in the end. EPA implementation-by-stealth of cap & trade regulations (#2) is a real problem that we can hope will be addressed in the upcoming session of Congress, any one of the pending lawsuits now working their way through the legal system, or one can also hope, through states asserting sovereignty.
If the Mayor and Public Works Director have determined there is a boon of revenue to be generated through the sale of carbon credits and therefore the City should participate in an global carbon exchange, of course those of us who live, work, and pay taxes in Lincoln would sure like to know just where our dear Mayor got the idea he could do so arbitrarily.
Based on information to date, there was no authorizing vote by our City Council for such an action. Reportedly, the methane gas project was a simple line item in the City’s most recent budget, paid for by stimulus dollars (of course…what else?). There was no discussion of a carbon credit exchange participation.
Besides the necessary authorization according in our city for such participation, residents and taxpayers would likely want to know what such participation would entail. Would the legally binding nature of such an endeavor mean that carbon emission of all kinds within the City of Lincoln would fall under the guidelines?
Setting aside these troubling questions for the moment, let us presume Lincoln would participate in a carbon exchange. Would it be a financial windfall? The answer comes in the form of a question, at least to start: Why did the Chicago Climate Exchange fail?
The obvious answer is that the carbon exchange market itself is collapsing. Carbon credits on the CCX, having reached a peak price of $7.50 per ton in 2008, dropped to a low of $.10 per ton in August, and were still falling.
As “The Great Collapse of the Chicago Climate Exchange” article reports, the revelation of the “Climategate” scandal and other events mean there is no real market for carbon credits in the United States. While, as noted above, there are other carbon exchanges in the world, the most active are required by law.
We continue to research the facts on the methane drilling project and to just what, precisely, the Public Works Director referred when he mentioned carbon credits. We will ultimately answer the following question as well…Does Mayor Beutler have delusions of grandeur ala Walter Mitty, is he simply a crafty politician, or has he decided to “go rogue”?