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Sean Casten's Posts

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Goooooooooal

Moving toward a better energy policy

There's a great line often ascribed to Yogi Berra: "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." This perfectly describes U.S. energy policy -- and offers a way forward that would not only create lots of social benefits, but just might make energy policy something that matters to U.S. electoral politics. To see why, try ranking those events in political history when politicians really got it right. Declaration of Independence? Emancipation Proclamation? Man on the moon? Pick whichever ones you'd like. Here's my prediction: those great moments were all framed around goals we sought …

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A little karate

On electricity deregulation

In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi advises that "It is good to know karate. It is good not to know karate. It is not good to know a little karate." With the price caps now coming off in the few states that partially deregulated their electricity grids, there is a rising backlash against competitive markets, with some of that backlash even coming from normally pro-market groups like The Cato Institute. This backlashers generally argue that partial deregulation has taught us that deregulation doesn't work in the electric sector. But we ought to remember Mr. Miyagi's advice, lest we draw the …

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Parsing the carbon storage debate

‘Carbon-friendly’ utilities may not necessarily be in the public interest

Following the discussion under David's latest post about Edwards' position on carbon capture at coal plants, I thought it appropriate to point out a few things about the electric business that are critical to this debate -- but not widely appreciated. An electric utility is a weird amalgam of lots of historic political philosophies -- most of which are in direct contradiction to modern ideas, but are difficult to repeal. According to the modern pro-market ideal, businesses should have profit incentives in competitive markets, so that Adam Smith's invisible hand will create consumer value. But to an early 20th-century regulator …

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Markey and the FTC

Rep. Markey asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate voluntary carbon offsets

Rep. Markey has asked the FTC to investigate whether or not the sale of voluntary carbon offsets violates the Guides for the Use of Evaluating Environmental Marketing Claims, as laid out by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has responded and agreed to commence an investigation, noting that: The FTC staff has been monitoring this nascent market as part of the Commission's ongoing consumer protection programs in the energy and environmental areas. The carbon offset market poses potential consumer protection challenges. Carbon offset claims may present a heightened potential for deception because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to …

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An inflection point?

U.S. energy consumption decreased from 2005 to 2006

According to new data from the DOE, total U.S. energy consumption actually declined from 2005 to 2006, in large part due to an increasing demand for renewables. Rather fascinating stuff. Details here.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Coal logic

Not your father’s Old Coal

In thinking and responding to posts about the latest EPRI propaganda, a couple questions came to mind. Questions I'm a bit embarrassed I hadn't thought of before, so I pose them to you now: If coal isn't cheap, is there any reason to build it? If we're willing to pay 12 cents/kWh for baseload power, would you preferentially pay it to coal? Those may seem odd questions to ask, but follow me through the math. Today, we don't deploy as much [fill in your favorite clean technology here] as we might like to, in no small part because the price …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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EPRI: The secret to carbon reduction is more coal

Really?

The Electric Power Research Institute just released "The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions" (PDF), its discussion paper to "provide stakeholders with a framework [to] develop a research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) Action Plan that will enable sustainable and substantial electricity sector CO2 emissions reductions over the coming decades." It is crazy, mathematically bogus, economically disastrous, and generally inane ... but will reach an audience vastly larger than its rigor warrants. First, a bit about EPRI. It is the research arm of the nation's regulated utilities. It has historically been funded by charges on electric bills, but with restructured markets, it's …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Unspun climate numbers

Move over, 1998

Turns out that in the U.S., 1934 was a bit hotter than 1998. Which matters not a whit for global temperatures, but it's worth reading the story below before the spin machine gears up. Mr. Limbaugh has already started. "1934, not 1998, the hottest year on record, NASA confirms," from Greenwire ($ub req'd): The hottest year on record in the United States was 1934 -- not 1998 as had long been believed -- NASA scientists announced this week. The change to the record books came about when Canada-based blogger Steve McIntyre of the blog Climateaudit.org e-mailed NASA earlier this month …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The World Bank and global warming

An attempt at censorship by Wolfowitz

Sad, but perhaps not surprising. "Wolfowitz attempted to censor World Bank report on global warming," from Greenwire ($ub req'd): Former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz attempted to shift the organization's focus away from climate change during his tenure, according to documents made public through the Government Accountability Project yesterday. Wolfowitz's behavior is indicative of a political climate at the bank that was not receptive to discussing the threat posed by global warming, the documents show. A Wolfowitz deputy attempted to tone down climate references in one of the bank's main environmental strategy papers, the bank's chief scientist, Robert Watson, said …

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Romm on the policy and politics of global warming

Watch him on ‘OnPoint’

Very good piece here from E&ETV ($ub req'd). Worth the time to watch. Description: CAP's Joseph Romm calls conservatives 'deniers and delayers' on warming policy Author and Center for American Progress senior fellow Joseph Romm says if aggressive action on climate change is not taken soon, the effects on the planet will be dire. In his new book, Hell and High Water: Global Warming -- the Solution and the Politics -- and What We Should Do, Romm explains why he thinks a state of "planetary purgatory" is inevitable. During today's OnPoint, Romm, a former Department of Energy official under President …