Eric de Place

Eric de Place is a senior researcher at Sightline Institute, a Seattle-based sustainability think tank.

The way to carbon neutrality

My co-presenter at last weekend’s Carbon Neutrality Unconference, smart-guy Pete Erickson of Stockholm Environment Institute, used four slides that are worth sharing again. Taken together, they’re an excellent — if somewhat wonky way — to think about the basic structure of reducing emissions. 1. What are the cheapest reductions? (Click for larger version) This McKinsey Institute chart depicts the cost of various carbon “abatement” (i.e. “reduction”) strategies given current technology. The bars that fall below the horizontal axis depict abatement opportunities that pay for themselves (such as energy efficiency). The bars above the x-axis show the strategies that cost money …

Two Can Play At This Game

A lesson from California’s bad ballot measure

California’s nascent cap-and-trade program appears to be threatened by a ballot measure that is both substantively idiotic and yet diabolically clever. Basically, the measure would suspend implementation until California’s unemployment rate declines to below 5.5 percent. Financial backing comes from oil companies and other big polluters. Shocking, I know. Anyway, it’s a stupid idea on the merits because, apart from one industry-funded study, detailed analysis has shown that the bill would actually be beneficial to California’s economy, lowering energy bills and creating jobs. (Plus, the measure would, of course, reduce the state’s sizeable contribution to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions; and California’s carbon …

Energy Independence Through Greater Addiction

According to President Obama, the only path to energy independence is greater addiction! Or something: Reversing a ban on oil drilling off most U.S. shores, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced an expansive new policy that could put oil and natural gas platforms in waters along the southern Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and part of Alaska. “This announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy. And the only way this transition will …

A lesson from Denmark

Carbon neutral caution

There’s been a lot of ambitious talk lately about carbon neutrality. It’s exciting stuff, but it’s worth pausing to consider just how huge that challenge is. And what, precisely, does it mean? Zero emissions, or lots of offsets?  I thought it was interesting to take a look at the climate action plan from the city of Copenhagen. It’s certainly a contender for the title of the greenest and most progressive city on earth, and it’s a city that has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025. But what you find is that even for the Danes, carbon neutrality is more …

The Maine Lesson of Cap and Trade

Last week, I referenced an official from Maine saying: “The investments we are seeing in renewable energy, in energy infrastructure, appear to be the largest wave of capital investment in the state’s history.” Which is obviously great news for the state, especially during a recession. Since then, the Kennebec Journal has reported on the formation of the Efficiency Maine Trust, which is significantly funded by the auction of RGGI carbon permits (as well as by federal stimulus dollars). The Trust is exactly the right kind of intersection between carbon pricing, energy effiency investments, and green jobs. It will: …focus on reducing the demand …

The State of Electricity Prices

I was messing around with some spreadsheets, and out popped this little guy: The chart plots the 50 states — minus Hawaii but plus DC — with the price of electricity on the vertical axis and consumption on the horizontal axis. (I left off Hawaii because it’s a serious outlier, with average electricity prices nearly twice as high as any other state.) A simple regression shows that price “explains” about 42 percent of consumption. My conclusion? Price seems to be a factor in residential electricity consumption. In fact, the same kind of relationship appeared when I ran a couple of regressions using utilities instead of states. …

the real track record

Myths and realities of cap-and-trade

Worries about “gaming” or market manipulation often crop up as objections to climate and energy legislation. While these concerns are understandable, they are not warranted — and they can be addressed in a well-designed system. So let’s look at some of the most common myths. Myth #1: Cap-and-trade markets have no track record. Reality: Cap-and-trade has been tested and proven in the United State. More than a half dozen American cap-and-trade programs are already up and running — with no evidence of market manipulation. The U.S. Acid Rain Program, administrated by the EPA, has a track record dating to 1995. …

Cap-and-Trade Works

Grading RGGI’s first year

For all the haters who can’t abide cap-and-trade, I give you a new report by Environment Northeast, (ENE) grading RGGI — that’s the carbon cap-and-trade program that’s been operational for over a year now in the northeastern United States. I’m going to steal their thunder and take you right to the conclusion: States deserve significant congratulations for coordinating to create RGGI, and for following through with excellent implementation, particularly around the success of the auction markets – the first public carbon market auctions in North America. The investment of RGGI auction proceeds in high value energy efficiency programs is contributing …

Can cap and dividend cut the Congressional ice?

Cantwell’s climate bill gathers steam

There’s an interesting insurgency that may give lie to recent predictions of federal failure on cap and trade. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has a modified “cap and dividend” bill, called the CLEAR Act, that’s slowly but surely picking up momentum. On Wednesday, the Washington Post gave it a nod: Is there no alternative between simple do-nothingism and House complexity? In fact, there is. An alternative proposal increasingly capturing interest on Capitol Hill is the CLEAR Act… It would also raise costs, of course, but the government would rebate 75 percent of the revenue from the permit auctions back to the populace. …

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