Clark Williams-Derry

Clark Williams-Derry is research director for the Seattle-based Sightline Institute, a nonprofit sustainability think tank working to promote smart solutions for the Pacific Northwest. He was formerly the webmaster for Grist.

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 …

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 …

Sugar Crash

Of car crashes and Snickers bars

As my high school physics teacher once explained to me, energy comes in all sorts of different forms:  heat, light, motion, electricity, and even the “potential” energy in chemical bonds and bowling balls perched on …

Coal the culprit in rising emissions intensity

I wrote last week about a curious fact:  even though total CO2 emissions from the US electric power sector have dropped during the recession, the emissions intensity of the US power supply — that is, …

Carbon goes the wrong way

Power plant performance down in 2008

Here’s an interesting followup to last week’s post about about the uncertain links between recession and long-term climate change: Shakeb Afsah at Climate Data Due Diligence wrote to tell us that even though total carbon …

Driving downhill

“Peak” gas in 2007?

The Wall Street Journal reports that an increasing number of energy analysts think that U.S. gasoline sales will never surpass their 2007 record: Among those who say U.S. consumption of gasoline has peaked are executives …

Cap-and-Cashback: Regional fairness

Climate policy can be fair to families all across the country

As regular readers know, we’ve done a bit of cheerleading for the “cap and dividend” concept, which is also called “Cap-and-Cashback,” since it would hand cash receipts from government-run carbon auctions right back to consumers. …

Miles and miles

Despite lower gas prices, driving is still down — but perhaps not for long

I keep looking for signs that the collapse in gas prices has started to have an impact on how much people drive. In a normal economy, you'd expect that as gas got cheaper, people would drive a bit more -- the reverse of the trend we saw last summer, when gas prices were reaching record highs and people were cutting way back on car travel. But this simply isn't a "normal" economy. Just as gas prices fell, family incomes started taking a beating too. So, sure, it costs a lot less to fill a tank now than it did last summer, but people also had less money to spend on gas. And the two contradictory trends leave me scratching my head: will gas consumption continue to dip, stay flat, or start to trend upwards again? The latest federal numbers on vehicle travel may offer some hints. As the Contra Costa Times notes, gasoline consumption fell in December 2008, compared with the previous December. But looking at the numbers, the year-over-year decline was actually the smallest since the previous February -- suggesting, perhaps, that low prices are beginning to subtly boost driving.

Cap and trade works!

European climate program reduces emissions

A few years back, Europe's cap-and-trade system, called the ETS, was taking a beating in the press. Some of the criticism was legit: the program really did make some silly missteps in the early years. The biggest bungles were tied up with how the ETS handed out emissions permits. First, they decided to give them out for free -- which, as Sightline has discussed ad nauseum, was a recipe for windfall profits for the firms that got free permits. And second, for lack of reliable emissions data, the ETS handed out more permits than firms actually needed. Ultimately, the glut of permits led to a collapse in the price of carbon, and very little progress in reducing emissions. But the good thing about making a mistake is that you can learn from it. And that's just what the ETS has done. To fix the windfall problem, nations participating in the ETS have begun auctioning off permits rather than handing them out for free. And now, there's evidence that the ETS has really begun to reduce emissions. The New York Times reports: In a boost for the system ... a prominent research company, New Carbon Finance, said its calculations showed that the largest cause of a reduction in emissions in the European Union last year was attributable to the trading system -- because it had encouraged greater use of gas in power generation rather than dirtier fuels like coal.European emissions dropped by roughly 3 percent in 2008. So it took a little while, but Europe's cap and trade system is having the intended effect: by putting a price on carbon emissions, it's made a meaningful dent in climate-disrupting pollution.

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