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Carbon policy details: Part 4

Spots vs. strips

This is the fourth post in five-part series on the details required to get carbon policy right. See also parts one, two, and three. We now get into an issue that will seem a bit arcane, because no one's talking about it, at least not explicitly. But it's a real choice, and in many conversations about carbon policy we are implicitly getting it wrong. Should we price carbon in spots, or strips? Or, to take it out of financial jargon, should we: set up markets such that people who are selling or buying emissions credits have to go to the …

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Urgency and solvability: The "we" campaign

Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection unveils ambitious $300 million ad campaign

If you read Juliet Eilperin's great rundown in the Washington Post, you know that today marks the launch of a massive PR effort from Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore has concluded that U.S. politicians will continue to be timid on climate change until the public demands otherwise. "The simple algorithm is this: It's important to change the light bulbs, but it's much more important to change the laws," he said. "The options available to civilization worldwide to avert this terribly destructive pattern are beginning to slip away from us. The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C." …

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Peak Oil? Bring it on!

Solving the climate problem will solve the peak oil problem, too

I have a new article in Salon on perhaps the most misunderstood subject in energy: peak oil. Here is the short version: We are at or near the peak of cheap conventional oil production. There is no realistic prospect that the conventional oil supply can keep up with current projected demand for much longer, if the industrialized countries don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption, and if China and India don't take strong action to sharply reduce consumption growth. Many people are expecting unconventional oil -- such as the tar sands and liquid coal -- to make up the …

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More signs of the Apocalypse?

Soy, corn, and wheat prices puzzling economists

Just in case you weren't worried about rising food prices, The New York Times has an article out that makes the food markets seem even more volatile. Apparently, identical bushels of corn, wheat, and soybeans are selling for two different prices on the derivatives and cash markets. Now, I'm not an economist, but the first line of the article makes the whole thing sound freakish. From the article: Economists note there should not be two prices for one thing at the same place and time. Could a drugstore sell two identical tubes of toothpaste, and charge 50 cents more for …

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When does additionality matter? Part 1

The deceptively simple concept at the heart of carbon markets

Sean recently wrote a provocative post on why "additionality" -- one of the bedrock principles of carbon markets as presently designed -- is an expensive waste of time. This is a rich topic, and my perspective as a carbon offset retailer differs from his as an energy producer. It's worth spending a few posts exploring why. When we ask whether a greenhouse-gas reduction is "additional," we're asking if it would have happened in the absence of whatever incentive we've applied. According to the logic of additionality, if the reduction would have happened anyway, then we've wasted our money. Additionality is …

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Survey says ... environment and economy not mutually exclusive!

Americans favor conservation and see economically sound opportunities in protection

Standard survey questions often uphold (or manufacture) false dichotomies. Case in point: the perpetual practice of pitting the environment against the economy. Nonetheless, these questions can reveal interesting trends over time. And every now and then, the numbers show that the public sees right through "either/or" questions that just don't add up -- like recent research that shows Americans link economic opportunity to environmental protection. First, recent trends on that pesky "environment vs. economy" question: According to a new Gallup poll conducted March 6-9, despite fears of a looming recession, Americans continue to favor protecting the environment even at the …

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The Clorox debacle continues

Sierra Club removes leadership of its Florida chapter

The following is a guest essay from Peter Montague1, executive director of the Environmental Research Foundation. ----- The Sierra Club's national board voted on March 25 to remove the leaders of the Club's 35,000-member Florida chapter, and to suspend the chapter for four years. It was the first time in the Club's 116-year history that such action has been taken against a state chapter. The leadership of the Florida chapter had been highly critical of the national board's decision in mid-December 2007 to allow The Clorox Company to use the Sierra Club's name and logo to market a new line …

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Toward a green economy

Two NYT pieces exploring green jobs

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- If you're interested in the media's version of Green Jobs 101, a good place to start is Wednesday's New York Times article, "Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar." But it's not a perfect start, because the article fails to demonstrate an understanding of the scale of this movement, and the author could have taken heed to one of his co-worker's pieces on green education and job-training. Here's how the article describes green jobs (emphasis added): Presidential candidates talk about the promise …

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Carbon policy details: Part 3

Carbon taxes vs. carbon trading

This is the third post in a series about details we are still getting wrong in the climate policy discussion. See also part one and part two. There is no shortage of economic analysis and policy discourse that shows that carbon tax and cap-and-trade methodologies can deliver economically equivalent outcomes. The general consensus -- at least today -- seems to be that since they're equivalent, it really comes down to politics, and it's politically difficult to do anything with the word "tax" in it, so we'll do cap-and-trade. I like the conclusion, but the rationale is pure bunkum. To understand …

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Casten gospel reaches NYT

Congrats to our own Sean Casten for getting the following letter to the editor in The New York Times: Re "States' Battles Over Energy Grow Fiercer With U.S. in a Policy Gridlock" ("The Energy Challenge" series, March 20): Proponents of coal-fired power argue falsely that coal is cheap. Coal is a cheap fuel. But who cares? Coal can't run an iPod. And electricity from coal -- which also includes fuel, maintenance and capital recovery costs -- is expensive. Indeed, no one is building coal plants without first securing regulatory guarantees of equity recovery. But when we guarantee that equity, we …