Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Clark Williams-Derry's Posts


EPA reports massive drop in U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions

Don't be confused, we've got some good news.Photo: Corie HowellCross posted from Sightline's Daily Score blog. Great Scott, how did I miss this? Late last month, the EPA released a draft greenhouse gas inventory, showing that net climate warming emissions from the U.S. fell by a whopping 15 percent from 2000 through 2009 [PDF]. A 15 percent decline? Wow. Just wow. But the story gets even more dramatic. Over the same period, the U.S. population grew by about 9 percent. Combining the two trends, net per capita greenhouse-gas emissions fell by 21 percent over the decade. And most of that …


The Coase isn't clear

The shaky foundations of free-market environmentalism

Photo: Steve RhodesCross-posted from Sightline Daily. [CORRECTION: As mentioned in the comments under this post on Sightline, this discussion of the "Coase theorem" contains several errors -- most notably, that Coase himself did not present his arguments mathematically. In fact, according to a number of sources, there really is no single "Coase theorem" -- instead, there are several different and somewhat conflicting notions that followers and interpreters of Coase have presented as theorems. For more, please read the comments on Sightline.] Those inclined to be uncharitable might see the phrase "free-market environmentalism" as somewhere between oxymoronic and greenwashing. But I'm …


Size Matters

Smaller SUVs are safer than bigger ones, but walkability trumps all

Cross-posted from Sightline Daily. You might think that vehicle safety studies are all about the crash dummy tests you see on TV, with simulated collisions. But those kinds of tests don't tell you how often collisions occur. A car that does well in a simulated crash test might not actually be all that safe in the real world, particularly if it's bulky and hard to maneuver on on the road.  And that's what Dr. Tom Wenzel of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has pointed out repeatedly over the past decade: Bigger vehicles like SUVs aren't always safer vehicles.  There's a …

Read more: Cities, Living


The Young and Not-So-Restless

Fewer and fewer young people are driving — but why?

This Advertising Age article discussing the massive decline in driving among young Americans is a bit old now. But it's both fascinating enough, and aggravating enough, to be worth some attention.  The basic facts are the fascinating part: Young people simply don't drive as much as they used to. Between 1978 and 2008, for example, the share of 17-year-olds with a valid a driver's license fell by a third. Likewise, the share of total miles logged by 20-somethings fell from 20.7 percent in 1995, to just 13.7 percent in 2008. All the evidence points in the same direction: younger people are …

Read more: Living


Taking Stock of BP

As happens with stock charts, this one is likely to be out of date even before I get this post published.  But here's Google Finance's chart comparing the stock price of British Petroleum (in red), an energy-stock index fund (in blue) and an S&P 500 index fund (in yellow). Since the oil spill in the Gulf in late April, BP's stock has tanked.  Meanwhile, the broader stock market has inched downward; and the energy mutual fund, dominated by big oil and gas companies, has done only a wee bit worse than the broader market. But remember, BP (in red) is …


Opinion vs. Science

The six Americas of climate change

Researchers at George Mason University and Yale broke down U.S. public opinion into six different categories [pdf], based on people's belief in, and concern about, global warming.  For the nickel version, see the graphic below: Of course, I'm sure there are more than six ways of slicing this pie. It seems likely to me that public opinion lies in a continuum, rather than in six discrete groups. Still, the authors' analysis yields some interesting findings. My favorite is this: folks who are convinced that global warming is a hoax -- the "Dismissives" -- admit they haven't thought all that much …

Read more: Climate & Energy



James Hansen vs. cap-and-trade

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has a new book out about climate policy, with excerpts in this month's issue of The Nation. And in my view, he's got a pretty good policy idea: tax carbon, and use the revenue to give out rebates in equal, per capita shares to every U.S. citizen. It's a twofer -- the carbon tax helps drive down emissions, and the rebate makes sure that it's fair to middle- and lower-income folks who'd otherwise bear the brunt of the tax. If I were the globe's climate czar, Hansen's tax-and-dividend plan is one of the top 5 …


NASA climate scientist should come back to earth

Eric's take on Jim Hansen's opposition to cap and trade is exactly right.  Hansen is a renowned NASA climate scientist.  But on climate policy, he's just lost in space.  Now, I'm not going to call Hansen's support for carbon taxes misguided.  Remember, we LIKE carbon taxes. We've given BC's pathbreaking carbon tax lots of sloppy wet kisses over the years. Instead, what's misguided is Hansen's belief that cap and trade is fundamentally different from carbon taxes.  That's just wrong.  As Paul Krugman points out, carbon taxes and cap-and-trade are like two peas in a pod. The both put a price …


Dogs Vs. SUVs

Editor's note: Clark will be on NW Cable News tomorrow morning (Nov 3) around 8:30 to talk more about this issue. You may have seen the meme circulating around the internet:  some researchers from Australia are claiming that owning a dog has as much impact on the planet as owning an SUV.  I'll let New Scientist summarize their case: [A] medium-sized dog...consume[s] 90 grams of meat and 156 grams of cereals daily in its recommended 300-gram portion of dried dog food...So that gives him a footprint of 0.84 hectares... Meanwhile, an SUV...driven a modest 10,000 kilometres a year, uses 55.1 …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


The hidden cost of coal

This post originally appeared at Sightline's Daily Score blog. Last week, Dave Roberts blogged about a recent -- and very important -- study by the National Research Council on the enormous hidden costs of energy consumption. I'm surprised that the study hasn't gotten more press coverage.  It's fact-rich, sober, and completely non-ideological -- and, at the same time, it's an incredibly damning indictment of the nation's energy system.  The report looks at a variety of "external" costs of energy -- that is, the costs that energy consumers themselves don't pay, but pass on to the public at large.  The costs …

Read more: Climate & Energy