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Gar Lipow's Posts

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Predetermination

Thumb on the scale in the comparison of fuel taxes and efficiency standards?

A new review of the literature [PDF] by Resources for the Future (RFF) suggests that gas taxes motivate drivers to use less gasoline far more cheaply than auto efficiency standards like the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. There are a number of reasons to be suspicious of this conclusion. In order to argue that CAFE has high costs, the study dismisses the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) [PDF] estimate -- that less than $900 is added to the cost of the average passenger car -- as an "engineering" approach, preferring econometric modeling. There is nothing wrong with modeling …

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The Rising can defeat the pirates of the new age

Can the climate bill's death help build a living climate movement?

Environmentalists who want to solve the climate crisis need to stop using institutional barriers and opponents' unfair tactics as an excuse for failure, and instead build a grassroots movement that can overcome both. Such a grassroots movement must put forth exciting, attractive policies to fight climate chaos, rather than limp, pre-compromised proposals nobody can work up enthusiasm for. David Roberts, probably as close to an official voice as Grist magazine has, blames the climate bill failure on five obstacles: 1) The broken Senate, especially the filibuster, 2) The economy, 3) Republican obstructionism, 4) Centrist Democrats, 5) Obama. Brad Plumer at …

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Flying Energy Generators: maybe the next big thing.

Because it has been documented that today's technology could replace all or most fossil fuel consumption with renewable sources[1], the most important focus for writing on technical solutions to the climate crisis is what can be done today. There is too much yammering about "innovation", and not enough attention paid to mature conservation, efficiency and renewable technology we already know how to build, and simply need to deploy. But that does not mean potential technical breakthroughs are unimportant. While conservation and efficiency that save energy are cheaper than today's fossil fuels, renewable sources of heat and electricity are mostly more …

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Replace zombie cap-and-trade

The climate bill is dead. Long live the climate bill!

Months after the Waxman-Markey/Kerry-Lieberman bill died, Harry Reid and environmentalists have finally admitted it is dead, and may even be ready to remove its rotting corpse from the living room and give it a decent burial. Though the death was clearly murder by Republicans and "centrist" Democrats, malpractice from mainstream environmental groups helped kill a chance for the climate that a different treatment might have saved. The fundamental error was to try and pass a bill via deal-making rather than grass-roots pressure, partially on the assumption that the Obama administration shared environmentalist priorities, and would spend political capital to pressure …

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Wind electricity from flying energy generators cheaper and more reliable than coal?

A technology that might provide clean electricity that is cheaper and more reliable than coal is ready for testing. Some of the world's leading scientists think it will work. So why aren't we spending a few million (not billion but million) dollars to find out? The basic idea: wind blows harder and more constantly at high altitudes where aircraft fly than over the tops of towers we install wind turbines on today. Attach wind turbines to tethered helicopters and we can generate many times the energy of conventional turbines. We can use the tethers both to send electricity to the …

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Biochar – probably not going to save the world after all

Biochar is being promoted as a way to save the world. (I admit to being optimistic about this myself for a very brief time.) It certainly sounds good. Take agricultural or forestry waste that is pretty much pure carbon, with almost none of the other nutrients plants need. Burn it without oxygen, producing a bit of bio-gas for fuel, and a bit of high value pyloric oil suitable for a number of advanced uses. What is left is charcoal which can help build soil and permanently store carbon. As a a bit of added glamor it is based on the …

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Kerry-Lieberman has zero chance of passing

I recently posted that Kerry-Lieberman is not worth fighting for. It also won't pass. This proposal is dead on arrival. I've heard supporters describe two paths to passage, though they sound more like wishes upon stars. One is that Obama suddenly prioritizes climate, and makes a large scale push to support the bill. I'll let true believers debate that one. The other path is a massive grassroots surge in support of the bill. Given how awful even supporters admit the bill is, that is even less realistic. The usual examples supporters give of weak bills that led to big changes …

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Kerry-Lieberman is worse than nothing, no matter how loudly supporters clap.

The main argument for supporting Kerry-Lieberman seems to be "it's a crappy bill, but once it passes it will get better". KL proponents often point out that social security was loophole ridden in a way that excluded most African-Americans when it first passed. But a combination of demographic shifts, and changes to law extended social security to the point that today it covers almost all old U.S. citizens today. Similarly, the civil rights act of 1957 was almost unenforceable as written. But it did create substantial desegregation in limited sectors of society, made civil right enforcement a Federal issue and …

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American PRIDE Alternative to Lieberman-Kerry Climate bill -short executive summary

This is the executive summary(doc) of the American PRIDE (Promote Renewable Infrastructure & Develop Efficiency) proposal.  The PRIDE(doc) proposal is a two decade ~400 billion a year jobs bill that makes a profit, while creating two to five million new jobs per year, reducing U.S. oil use by a third within ten years, and reducing U.S. greenhouse gases around 60% by 2020. It phases out close to 90% of U.S. emissions by 2030 and reduces greenhouse gas pollution to around zero by 2040.   Possible technical means To show that this political proposal is reality based, it includes one feasible …