Senators Force ALEC Bill Through Committee Without Counting Votes
Bitter from a lack of support for his attacks on clean energy incentives, North Carolina Rep. Mike Hager is promising some new, dirty tricks to revive the effort. His colleagues in the NC Senate appear to be helping by advancing the Senate version of Rep. Hager’s bill yesterday through committee without counting the votes.
The bill was clearly a contentious one with a close “voice vote”—it’s impossible from listening to tell whether the yeas (anti-clean energy votes) or nays (pro-clean energy votes) were actually louder. Yet the Senate Finance committee co-chairman Bill Rabon talked over Senators requesting a hand vote and quickly adjourned the meeting. The Raleigh News & Observer writes:
Opponents of the bill loudly voted “No!” to show their frustration at the Republican chairman’s decision not to count individual votes. In what was clearly a razor-thin margin, both sides said they would have won if votes had been counted.
See the video below. Watch the last minute for the rushed conclusion and clear frustration among dissenting Senators.
Rep. Mike Hager is a former engineer at coal-burning utility Duke Energy—the largest utility in the country and one of the biggest carbon polluters in the world—and a member of the contentious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which created the model bill that became Rep. Hager’s attack on renewable energy on the dime of companies like Duke, Exxon, Koch Industries and Peabody Energy.
Rep. Hager’s own House Utilities Committee recently slapped down his anti-clean energy bill by 18-13, but Rep. Hager says he’s going to keep reintroducing H298, which would freeze or repeal North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Hager says he hopes his colleagues opposing the renewable energy rollbacks “miss the meeting” when he reintroduces it.
This existing RPS law requires utilities in North Carolina, a market essentially monopolized by Duke Energy, will increase generation of electricity from renewable sources to 12.5 percent by 2020. According to Duke Energy, the company plans on generating only 3 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2032, so bankrolling organizations like ALEC that kill clean energy incentives works fine for Duke.
Duke Energy aside, a legion of national interests financed by the billionaire Koch brothers and multimillionaire Art Pope have flooded North Carolina with misinformation on clean energy and provided support to Rep. Hager’s ALEC bill. Most of these groups–like Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Heartland Institute and John Locke Foundation–are coordinated through an umbrella of corporate front groups known as the State Policy Network.
ALEC and the State Policy Network groups have made killing clean energy incentives a national priority this year; after failing in Kansas, facing delays in Ohio and having a rough start in North Carolina, they’re hungry for a trophy to show to the fossil fuel interests that fund their dirty work. And they’re willing to resort to dirty tricks to reach their goals, like skipping that part where you count lawmakers’ votes.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLE ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
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Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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