UC Berkeley / LBL Letter to the Federal Bicameral Task Force on Climate


Congressman Henry Waxman, Co-Chair

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Co-Chair

Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change

Dear Congressman Waxman and Senator Whitehouse,

We are delighted and honored to have been asked to reply to your thoughtful and critically important

request for recommendations as to:

1. What actions or policies could federal agencies adopt, using existing authorities, to reduce
emissions of heat-trapping pollution?

2. What actions or policies could federal agencies adopt, using existing authorities, to make our
nation more resilient to the effects of climate change?

3. What legislation would you recommend Congress enact to strengthen the ability of federal
agencies to prevent and respond to the effects of climate change?.

In framing recommended actions, we are mindful both of President Obama’s emphasis on climate

change in his second Inauguration Speech and the promise of legislative attention to these issues

reflected in the creation of your Bicameral Task Force.

The University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory advance climate

change research, energy innovation, and sustainability science, as well as economics, law and policy

scholarship, as key elements of our educational and research missions. In addition to this response to

your call for suggested federal action, we offer to engage with the Bicameral Task Force as an ongoing

partner as different initiatives and policies are examined and evolve. Please call on us as needed to

support the work of the Task Force, including testifying as needed.

It is clear that current politics are highly polarized on energy and climate issues, so sustainable solutions

will need to address a diverse set of challenges— not only climate, but also job creation, industrial

leadership and national strategy, leveraging an interdisciplinary mix of technical, social, business and

policy approaches.

This initial response to your call for recommendations presents complementary sets of ideas addressing:

proactive ways to address drivers of global warming, including reducing heat-trapping gas emissions;

more responsive ways to make help the nation more resilient to the effects of climate change; and

additional considerations related to new federal legislation.

We describe our response within the framework of two complementary sets of ideas, one of which is

proactive in terms of addressing the core source of global warming, and another aimed at a more

responsive set of solutions to emerging climatic events, specifically adaptation strategies, making our

nation more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In terms of addressing the first set of ideas mentioned above, we have focused on specific critical areas

and actions. We see three starting points to a portfolio of responses that fit with the President’s call for


1. Sustain innovation to make clean energy a leadership, scientific, engineering and business priority
for the nation;

2. Create and expand attractive markets for clean energy products, and efforts to make international
markets more accessible for US-based businesses; and

3. Efforts to rebalance the economic analysis of energy and environmental choices to reflect the
true costs to the nation of our current and potential future costs, as well as understanding the
risks and costs of environmental change.

We utilize these categories to organize and comment on a set of transformative initiatives that we at

UCB/LBNL see as viable avenues to address the three types of initiatives for which you are requesting


Sustain innovation to make clean energy a leadership, scientific, engineering and business

priority for the nation.

• Increase overall support for ARPA-E (current support levels ~ $200M/year are insufficient to the
task). Sustained and consistent funding for innovation has been quantitatively demonstrated to be
a key driver of private-sector investment.

• Support full-spectrum approaches linking basic science and innovation, with market
innovation, finance and deployment to key technology sectors that can unlock wider
gains across the energy generation/use landscape. As an example, the SunShot
initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy drives solar energy toward grid-parity
costs by 2020 (“$1/watt solar”). Technology areas where this approach could be
particularly important:

a) Carbon capture and storage: addressing the full life-cycle of emissions;

b) Energy storage for both stationary approaches and mobile ones (eg electric vehicles);

c) Transmission and distribution at both grid and micro-grid scales, including breakthrough 
technologies such as wireless transmission.

Create and expand attractive markets for clean energy products, and efforts to make

international markets more accessible for US-based businesses.

• Identify barriers to the adoption of low-carbon energy technologies where ancillary technologies and
practices could transform the sector. As an example, the SunShot initiative of the US Department
of Energy is focused on driving the costs of solar energy to grid-parity costs by 2020 (“$1/watt
solar”). A particularly effective federal integrative activity would be to establish an inter-agency
group designed to identify these challenges and opportunities across a diverse set of technologies.

• Enable and launch ‘clean energy’ or ‘green’ banks at the federal, regional, state and local levels.
Incentives for banks that specialize in these technologies can be exceedingly effective in bringing
project developers and financiers together.

• While a well-crafted national renewable energy standard for electric utilities could dramatically increase
and then stabilize domestic markets, the reality of differing resources in various states has stalled
efforts to create a singular national standard. Instead, require each state to create its own
standard, and reward states for higher targets with research and development funds and by
relaxing dormant Commerce Clause restrictions to enable more ambitious states to promote local
economic development.

• Create a “Race for the Top” for renewable energy by awarding federal funds to regions that establish
and implement effective programs to promote renewable energy deployment across contiguous

• Establish an aggressive procurement policy for the federal government that incentivizes or requires
agencies to buy low-carbon technologies first. The military has been quite effective in establishing
guidelines for these programs, and could be an ideal model for a wider federal effort, where the
market could be 3-5 gigawatts, more than enough to accelerate the entire industry. In addition, we
attach to this report the Comments of Professor (Emeritus) Arthur Rosenfeld to the Spring, 2013
Edition of the IEA’s “Journal”. We endorse the concept that a white roof is a low-carbon
technology. Federal agencies already have the power to mandate all of Rosenfeld’s suggestions for
federally owned or leased buildings, but Rosenfeld suggests further that the white roof mandates
already in the building codes of the State of California and the cities of Chicago and New York be
extended nationwide to all buildings with flat roofs.

• Identify and reward or enable the deployment of energy technologies in dual-use contexts. For
example, solar deployment along aqueducts (where permitting, and land use/land ownership
issues might be clearer than in other contexts). This reduces the cost of deployment, and
expands the range of applications for low-carbon energy systems.

• Streamline permitting processes through support for identifying and sharing best practices, and
performance-based incentives for applicable agencies linked to federal funding streams.
A prime example is the ‘priority permitting’ for solar home system permits that some cities have
adopted (e.g. Oakland, CA), which saves homeowners and contractors significant time at
municipal permitting offices.

• Engage the Farm Bill as an avenue to fund and provide extension for the deployment of costeffective
solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal energy to meet local energy needs and to
enhance employment. Analysis indicates very significant employment benefits from the
deployment of low-carbon energy technologies in farming regions.

• Engage a federal-state task force on the re-invention of the utility business and innovation
model. This effort, some times called ‘Utility 2.0’ would look in detail at the costs and
benefits of facilitating large-scale grids relative to investing in distributed energy as the
backbone of the physical network and the business proposition.

• Launch a federal commission to evaluate the impacts of subsidies in the energy sector, including for
first-generation biofuels, fossil-fuels, among other issues.

Efforts to rebalance the economic analysis of energy and environmental choices to reflect the
true costs to the nation of our current and potential future costs, as well as understanding the
risks and costs of environmental change.

• A carbon tax that returns the revenue from the tax to the citizens. While the initial response to
anything termed tax can be a challenge, the additional element of dividend repayments, or direct
off-sets of other taxes can arguably change this calculus in ways that may gain bi-partisan support.

• Standardize financial products to make investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy for homes,
businesses, and renters as easy as the products that are available for home renovations. At outlets
such as Home Depot, loans for home improvement are available ‘at the counter’ when consumers
are examining hardware for their home or office renovation.

• Launch first a national, and then a global Directorate or Commission on clean energy innovation.
While firms usefully compete to drive down prices, governments and government laboratories
can usefully cooperate to identify key technology and enabling policy needs. Examples where the
US could launch and chair or co-chair key international efforts include: standardization of electric
vehicle charging and information technology infrastructure; ‘soft costs’ associated with solar
energy systems; and permitting and the dissemination of emissions testing for the use of urban
waste for power generation so that local governments do not need to take on this significant
management burden.

• Create a national Manufacturing Policy. Currently the US is the only major industrial economy without
one. Such an initiative would tie closely to the recommendation above, that a clean energy
innovation Directorate is needed to coordinate activities across agencies that are not currently
significantly engaged in these issues. Sematech, in the semiconductor space, is a particularly
useful example that could serve as a model for clean energy, and could further be used as a model
for an international effort that the U. S. could chair or co-chair.

• Gather information and disseminate best practices for urban agriculture and urban silviculture,
practices that have significant co-benefits.

• Identify opportunities for federal support and encouragement of increased recycling efforts at the local
level. These efforts can include “take-back” and “upcycling”, both of which are supply chain
programs more commonly seen in Europe that the U. S.

• Launch and empower an inter-agency water-energy-climate nexus task force that examines the
opportunities to minimize the water demand for energy, and the energy demand of water
movement and treatment. Preliminary studies have indicated very significant carbon and cost
savings that are possible for both of these critical resources.

Making our nation more resilient to the effects of climate change

In addition to clean energy technologies and carbon taxes, the nation must address the more

immediate and significant threats posed by climate change. These pervasive threats extend to the

personal safety of individuals, the stability of the national infrastructure, the economy and the

national security of the United States (1).

A large array of federal agencies (including NOAA, FEMA, HUD, ACE, DOT, and DHHS)

should be involved in addressing this imminent threat. We propose a four-pronged approach.

The first of these approaches involve proactive measures focused on vulnerable settlements and

infrastructures, which can be directly undertaken to reduce the potential destruction of escalating

natural disasters and other calamities resulting from climate change. They must include:

1. Reducing the vulnerability of coastal and flood plan communities to severe storms
and resultant storm surges through construction of protective infrastructure.
Elsewhere in the world, large infrastructural projects, such as the Thames Barrier in
England and the Oosterscheldekering in the Netherlands, have successfully protected
coastal cities. The destruction resulting from Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane
Katrina has been estimated to have caused $50 billion and $108 billion ($128 billion
adjusted for 2012) respectively in damages2; such extensive damages begin to rapidly
justify these preventative infrastructural investments. In addition, planning policies
and construction regulations must be revised to establish riparian buffer zones,
facilitate relocation away at-risk locations, and rebuild wetlands, estuaries, dunes, and
barrier island systems.

2. Investing in resilient infrastructures to make communities, transportation networks,
and other major infrastructure systems more resilient in the face of diverse and
growing climate challenges. Recently, in the United States prolonged and
geographically uncommon heat waves have resulted in the buckling of rail ties which
have been blamed for train derailments3. Alternately, extreme ocean temperatures
have forced coastal nuclear power plants to shut down for lack of a properly
conditioned cooling element4. Systematic replacement of aging infrastructure with
more resilient infrastructures is required to accommodate challenges linked to climate

The second part of our recommendations on adaptation and resilience relate to social vulnerability

and environmental justice. The experience of recent extreme weather events related to climate change

revealed the differential vulnerability of individuals to health risks and social dislocation.

Prolonged heat waves led to mortality among older people who were also poor, isolated, and

living without air conditioning. Poor people and people of color suffered disproportionately

during both Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, due to lack of mobility, the location of their

communities in more vulnerable locations with other infrastructure, and social isolation and lack

of social networks that more affluent residents were able to mobilize in these emergencies.

Improving the resilience of vulnerable communities will require targeted investments in their

physical infrastructure, transportation options, and health care service delivery systems.

The third part of our suggested approach involves measures to develop new adaptive response

technologies to improve emergency response in the wake of climate-related disruptive events. In the

past decade frustrated Americans have repeatedly watched a series of inadequate responses to

environmental disasters. New adaptive response technologies include mobile sensor-based

monitoring devices and communications/coordination networks; advanced scenario and

simulation planning technologies to prepare responders and communities for disruptive

circumstances; and redundant control systems that can be geographically dispersed to help ensure

that vital systems within a disaster zone continue to operate despite one control center or system

being compromised.

The fourth aspect of our approach relates the governance of communities, cities, and

metropolitan regions. Climate change poses a national threat and requires vigorous national

responses. But many measures to render the nation’s communities, cities and regions more

adaptive and resilient must be tailored to specific places and contexts, and involve land use and

transportation systems that fall under state and local jurisdiction. But local land use and

transportation planning powers in the US are weak and typically dominated by home rule politics

and policies that limit the capacity of agencies to address vulnerable settlement patterns, land use

and construction practices, and infrastructural decision-making. Robust evidence-based

metropolitan planning authorities that involve diverse stakeholders, empowered by legislation

such as California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, will be

required to address such weaknesses in governance.

We appreciate this opportunity to participate in formulating plans for a federal government approach to

address climate change. We are impressed by the list of 300 organizations to which the request for

assistance was sent. We are certain that you will receive many excellent suggestions for action from these

organizations. We believe we can also serve this effort by offering to provide assistance in analyzing and

prioritizing the hundreds of actions that will be offered. We would be pleased to work with you on such

an effort. As you will see below, a number of UC Berkeley faculty and Laboratory scientists participated

in formulating our suggestions. In order to maximize the expertise of any subsequent correspondence

about our proposals, please direct such requests to Graham R. Fleming, Vice Chancellor for Research,

University of California, Berkeley (vcrfleming@berkeley.edu).

Yours Sincerely, 

Graham Fleming 
Vice Chancellor for Research &
Melvin Calvin Distinguished 
Professor of Chemistry 
University of California, Berkeley

Paul Alivisatos
Director, Berkeley National Lab & 
Professor of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley

Dan Kammen
Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy
Professor in Energy and Resources Group & 
Goldman School of Public Policy
Department of Nuclear Engineering
Founding Director, Renewable & Appropriate Energy Laboratory
University of California, Berkeley 

R. Ramesh
Professor of Materials Science, Engineering & Physics
University of California, Berkeley &
Founding Director, SunShot Initiative, US Department of Energy

Arthur Rosenfeld
Distinguished Scientist Emeritus
Berkeley National Lab 

Paul Wright 
Director, Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) & 
Director, CITRIS @ Berkeley
A. Martin Berlin Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of California, Berkeley

Jennifer Wolch
Dean, College of Environmental Design &
William W. Wurster Professor of City & Regional Planning
University of California, Berkeley

1 Michael McElroy and D. James Baker, “Climate Extremes: Recent Trends with Implications for National

Security”, Harvard University, Center for the Environment, October 2012


2 Porter, David “Sandy was second in cost to Katrina, Philly.com, February 13th, 2013 – Retrieved February 13th,

2013, http://www.philly.com/philly/news/nation_world/20130213_Sandy_was_second...

3 “D.C. Metro Derailment: Excessive Heat To Blame”, Huffington Post, July 7th, 2012 –2013


4 Wald, Matthew “Heat Shuts Down a Coastal Reactor”, The New York Times, August 13th, 2012 – Retrieved

February 13th, 2013 http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/13/heat-shuts-down-a-coastal-reac...

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UC Berkeley LBNL Response to Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change Feb 20.pdf275.76 KB