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Michael A. Livermore's Posts

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Counting the benefits of climate legislation

While reducing greenhouse gases will have costs, so will the results of climate change. That may seem obvious, but up until now the debate over climate legislation has only focused on the costs, without looking at the benefits. Last week, a federal interagency taskforce released preliminary findings that began to set a dollar value for the negative effects of climate change. Often referred to as "the social cost of carbon," this estimate is key to exposing the hidden costs of a high-carbon economy. If we only focus on the costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, we are seeing only half …

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The senator from Montana and the middle class

This morning, the Senate took its final step on climate change before its summer vacation—a hearing pulled together by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus from Montana on how carbon allowances are allocated under the Waxman-Markey bill. The main takeaway: Under the House bill, the middle class does the heavy lifting to pay for the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The focus of the hearing was how the Senate can improve the allocation of the carbon allowances, which are likely to be worth more than $100 billion per year. Dallas Burtraw, a senior economist at Resources for the Future, …

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Small changes at EPA could have big environmental impacts

While climate change legislation works its way toward 60 votes in the Senate, President Obama's EPA has been quietly working on some serious revisions to the guidelines it uses to conduct cost-benefit analysis.  Tweaks they might make to the powerful but low-profile Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses could have major impacts on the environment and could spur greenhouse gas reductions if the Senate fails to take action.  The Guidelines is little known outside of EPA, but used regularly by the agency to design every major environmental regulation.  Before any rule is adopted, it must go through an economic analysis according …

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The three things Cass Sunstein should do on his first day

Cass Sunstein.After some minor drama, it looks like Cass Sunstein is finally on the road to confirmation for director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) after being nominated by President Obama in January.  The Senate should schedule a vote as soon as possible so he can get to work.  As I've mentioned before, Sunstein's appointment is pivotal for environmental regulation and green advocates should be looking forward to his first official day on the job.  His inbox is probably overflowing with tasks, but here are the top three that he should work on first:  (1) Work with …

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State budget crisis could be key to climate change

If the Governors of a few key states pick up their phones in a hurry they could shrink their gaping budget shortfalls and help climate change legislation pass the Senate with one call. On Wednesday, Adriel Bettelheim at CQPolitics explained: The climate change bill (HR 2454) the House passed on June 26 would distribute allowances from 2012 to 2025 to each state to protect consumers from energy price hikes, help utilities and other industries transition to clean energy and to spur conservation efforts and new technologies. The states would establish State Energy and Environmental Development, or SEED, accounts -- essentially …

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Obama’s new CAFE standards keep the pressure on Congress to act

It's an annual rite as familiar as April showers; Americans again jumped in their cars in droves this past weekend to celebrate the unofficial start of summer. It was fitting that last week President Obama took a major step, announcing regulations that will increase fuel efficiency within a few years. With this move, Obama ensured that the Memorial Day weekends of the future will not leave as big a carbon footprint. These standards will save billions of barrels of oil, stop millions of tons of carbon emissions, and may help pull Detroit out of its funk as it forces new …

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Obama could create a cap-and-trade system without Congress

The new Congress has been making up for lost time on climate change. Senators and Representatives have been rushing to get a cap-and-something passed this year. At the same time there are fears that it may be impossible to build a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for a good climate bill, leaving greens with two options: either accept a bad bill, or accept inaction. But things might not be as bad as they seem. In a report released today, the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law found that if push comes to shove, Obama could …

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Obama is right to return most carbon revenue to taxpayers

As a climate change policy, President Obama's carbon cap is a winner. It gets greenhouse reductions at the lowest possible cost and spurs the innovation and invention that will drive us to a clean-energy economy. But if folks are eyeing the carbon cap as a way to raise money to pay for clean energy programs, they are barking up the wrong tree. Unless these funds are returned to the American public, the cap will have severely regressive effects on lower-income Americans. And in the end, it would come back around to bite us by sapping support for environmental spending in …

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Who’s to blame for the crisis in the auto industry?

Detroit is in a free fall. Some say it's their own doing by deciding to push big gas guzzlers rather fuel efficient cars. With that choice, the Big Three maximized their short-term profits but conceded the auto market of the future to foreign companies. There is plenty of blame to pass around. Executives made exceedingly poor investment decisions. Union officials were blinded by the good times and failed to protect their members' future. An army of lobbyists was hired to protect the industry from tighter laws. The most recent casualty: Congressman Dingell made one too many concessions to the auto …

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‘Midnight regulation’ abounds after June 1 deadline

In less than a week, this country will have a new president ... but the old administration will still be hard at work, potentially pushing through last minute regulations for three more months. That leaves plenty of time for more bad news for the environment and public health. This spring, the White House chief of staff Josh Bolten instructed [PDF] all agencies that June 1 would be the deadline for any changes to regulations past, present, or future unless there are "extraordinary" circumstances. This is a smart measure considering the urge some regulators might get to unleash an avalanche of …

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