Business & Technology

Letter from Europe

In Copenhagen, it’s the same old business

Actress Cate Blanchett tried to warm business leaders’ hearts on the subject of global climate change.Copenhagen Climate Council If Al Gore and Ban Ki-moon weren’t able to get the job done, you might have thought Cate Blanchett would saved the day. But even an impassioned and remarkably erudite speech by the Oscar-winning actress failed this week to persuade world business leaders to go beyond mere rhetoric in pushing for action on climate change. The scene was Copenhagen, the site of this December’s vital negotiations on a new deal to combat global warming before it runs out of control. The event …

Moving money from A to B does not cause it to disappear

Cap & trade: Carbon tax or wealth transfer?

It’s an article of faith that cap-and-trade will raise our energy costs, but it’s not necessarily true. The ubiquity of this faith makes clear that the Smart People who write, talk, and vote about CO2 policy don’t really understand the issues. A quick discussion, and then some math to clarify. There are two core problems with the theory that carbon pricing schemes will raise energy costs: We habitually confuse sector-specific wealth transfers with economy-wide pain; the two are not necessarily the same. Rather than admit our failure to imagine how the world would adapt to carbon pricing, we tend to …

Duke Energy: We can ‘decarbonize’ without painful electricity price hikes

Major coal utilities are now publicly endorsing electricity decarbonization, an all but unimaginable position even 12 months ago.  And although Duke is a member of USCAP, which was the basis of Waxman-Markey, it remains remarkable that the company has joined the call for strong climate action (see How does Duke CEO Jim Rogers sleep at night, generating so much coal-fired CO2: “Lunesta”). Jim Turner, chief operating officer of Duke Energy Corp, explains the utility’s view in an Energy Daily (subs. req’d) column: For over 100 years electricity has powered the economic growth of this nation. In the last 30 years, …

Leverage on a bun

What the financial collapse can teach us about the food system

In a recent New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten published a lucid, entertaining essay on the financial collapse. Titled “The Death of Kings,” it focuses on the hedge-fund managers, stock gurus, and private-equity wizards who reaped billions from the credit bubble.Is Big Ag running the food system into the ground the same way Wall Street wrecked the economy?iStock Photo What were those people thinking? Turns out, Paumgarten relates that during the flush times, many in the world of finance had a “moment of clarity, an inkling of doom” about what was coming. “The sky was full of signs,” Paumgarten writes. For many, …

'Tell them to seal the deal'

Ban Ki-moon’s speech at World Business Summit on Climate Change

The following is the text of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s May 24 speech at the World Business Summit on Climate Change (as released by the UN). Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening of the World Business Summit on Climate Change.UN Photo/Eskinder DebebeSECRETERY-GENERAL BAN: I am delighted to be here. Perhaps more important, I am glad you have chosen to take the time to be here today. We meet at a critical moment in human history. Our planet is warming to dangerous levels. In December, the UN Climate Change Conference will meet here in Copenhagen to find solutions to this grave …

CAFE serves up tasty emission cuts

Critique of auto standards misses how they save consumers money compared to gas taxes

Robert Stavins thinks an increased gasoline tax or cap-and-trade would make Obama’s tougher auto efficiency standards redundant.  This offers an excellent illustration of how even economists who are not market fundamentalists can miss the way well-designed regulation improves economic efficiency. Yes, cap-and-trade or a rising gasoline tax will reduce driving and gasoline use. But because drivers respond slowly and reluctantly to price increases it takes large surcharges to produce small decreases in use. How much consumer demand drops in response to price increases is called “elasticity” in economic jargon.  Total U.S. consumer response to price increases shows about a 50% …

A Trench View of the Climate Wars

Fighting Coal in the Rockies

Fighting for the Waxman-Markey climate bill may be sexy and hip (and worthwhile), but here in the Roaring Fork and Vail Valleys of Colorado, without much fanfare, we are engaged in some trench fighting to solve climate change. A view from one of the ski lifts at Vail in Colorado.Courtesy Pravin8 via FlickrThe battle: trying to elect progressive board members to the rural coop (Holy Cross Energy) that supplies power to  the heart of ski country and and two of the largest, and most high profile, ski resorts in the United Sstates — Aspen and Vail. It’s a tough fight because nobody knows …

“an important step forward”

AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney endorses approach of Waxman-Markey climate and clean energy bill

For those who know the history, the relationship between the environmental movement and the labor movement has been cool, at best, for a long time. But the two groups have been talking to each other much more in recent years and have come to a better understanding of how to work together.  The environmental movement has been talking jobs, jobs, jobs so much that Obama has even appointed a green jobs czar clean energy jobs handyman, Van Jones. The labor movement increasingly understands that ending our addiction to oil, preserving a livable climate, and promoting clean energy means millions of …

EDF's Climate Corps

Planting green moles in corporate America

On the 28th floor of a San Francisco skyscraper, a cadre of 26 young men and women called the Climate Corps is being briefed. They won’t be planting trees or serving as Al Gore’s cap-and-trade shock troops. Rather, these are MBAs on a mission to infiltrate the Fortune 500 and help them save … money (and the planet too) by rooting out energy inefficiency and developing strategies to cut corporate carbon budgets. The Climate Corps is an internship project of the Environmental Defense Fund, and I’m at EDF’s San Francisco outpost as a three-day boot camp gets underway to train …

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