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David Morris' Posts

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New Cantwell climate bill is simpler and more equitable

Cross-posted from AlterNet. On Sept. 22, in a speech to 100 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to discuss climate change, President Barack Obama declared the U.S. "determined to act." But at the same time, word began to circulate on Capitol Hill that the Senate might be equally determined not to vote on the climate bill any time soon. "We are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "We still have next year to complete things, if we have to." The bill is bogged down in part …

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Why does the much-touted climate bill look like it was stolen from the Republican playbook?

"Command and control" is a military term the Republicans long ago appropriated to caricature and condemn Democratic programs. Republicans like to contrast the Democrats' embrace of a command and control, regulation-based you-will-do-as-I-say-or-else strategy with their own, presumably, more effective market-based we-will-make-it-worthwhile-for-you-to-do-what-we-want approach. Nowhere is the phrase "command and control" used more often and with more passion than when Republicans attack environmental regulation. The 2008 Republican Party platform, for example, declares, "Republicans caution against the doomsday climate change scenarios peddled by the aficionados of centralized command-and-control government." Well, when it comes to climate change policy making, the Republican Party can justly …

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A smart grid, yes. A new national grid, no.

The new mantra in energy circles is "national smart grid." In the New York Times, Al Gore insists the new president should give the highest priority to "the planning and construction of a unified national smart grid." President Barack Obama, responding to a question by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, declares that one of "the most important infrastructure projects that we need is a whole new electricity grid ... a smart grid." We lump together the two words, "national" and "smart" as if they were joined at the hip, but in fact each describes and enables a very different electricity future. The …

Read more: Politics

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Memo to President-elect Barack Obama on democratizing the energy system

Dear President-elect Obama, Congratulations on your historic election. Now the truly heavy lifting begins. You have declared your intention to make "a new energy economy" your "No. 1 priority." We urge you to follow a path that leads not only to changes in the fuels underpinning our energy system but also to changes in the structure and dynamic of that system. You have promised a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The key distinguishing characteristic of renewable energy, its virtually universal availability, offers you and the country an unprecedented opportunity to decentralize and democratize our energy system. Dispersed and …

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Strengthening community is an important benefit of eating locally

The following is a guest essay originally posted at AlterNet by David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Some 30 years ago NASA came up with another big idea: assemble vast solar electric arrays in space and beam the energy to earth. The environmental community did not dismiss NASA's vision out of hand. After all, the sun shines 24 hours a day in space. A solar cell on earth harnesses only about four hours equivalent of full sunshine a day. If renewable electricity could be generated more cheaply in space than on earth, what's the problem? A …

Read more: Cities, Food

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With the right rules in place, it could work

Working Assets is my long-distance phone company. I love it dearly for its combination of business efficiency, social responsibility and progressive politics. Each month, my phone bill carries alerts that urge me to take action on a specific issue or two. Recent Citizen Actions suggest the gravity of the issues chosen: "Save Our Constitution," "Impeach Dick Cheney," "Close Guantanamo." This month Working Assets urged me to "Say No to Ethanol." How did the use of ethanol end up alongside tyranny and torture as an evil to be conquered? A couple of years ago, I was waiting my turn to speak …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Toward a community-owned, decentralized biofuel future

President Bush visits the Virginia Biodiesel Refinery in 2005. Photo: whitehouse.gov Biofuels won't single-handedly solve the climate crisis, nor will they deliver energy independence. But a base of widely dispersed, farmer- and citizen-owned biofuel plants can displace significant amounts of fossil fuels -- while also building local economies. What follows is a strategy for tweaking existing federal energy and farm policy to create such an energy landscape. Before getting to that, though, given the scorn heaped on biofuels by many well-intentioned and not so well-intentioned commentators, I'll make the case that biofuels have an important role to play in any …