Climate & Energy

The flaccid mind of Stephen Johnson

National Journal on the EPA tailspin

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been failing spectacularly to do what the law requires, as determined by numerous federal judges (including the Supreme Court). For a more in-depth look, consider a pair of articles by Margaret Kriz in the National Journal. "Vanishing Act" looks at many of the failures of the EPA. "The President's Man" presents an interview with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and gives insight into his twisted thinking. For example, when asked about issuing ozone standards weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA's independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Johnson replies:

Notable quotable

“Emissions are growing much faster than we’d thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we’d thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of climate change seems to be faster.” – Nicholas Stern, author of the seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, on why he thinks his report underestimated the danger of global warming

Nicholas Stern says climate change worse than he thought

Nicholas Stern, the British economist known for a major report in which he declared that combating climate change would cost less than ignoring it, has announced that he was wrong — about how bad the problem is. “We badly underestimated the degree of damages and the risks of climate change” in the Oct. 2006 report, he said in a speech Wednesday. “All of the links in the chain are on average worse than we thought a couple of years ago.” Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, oceans are acidifying faster than expected, and carbon sinks are becoming less effective, said Stern. …

Don't celebrate this holiday

We need to be freed from gas, not the gas tax

John McCain’s proposal to institute a gas tax “holiday” during the summer driving season is as clear an example of a pander as one is likely to see during election season, but its inclusion in a major economic policy speech suggests that this is no easily ignorable one-off. As Joseph Romm notes, any hope progressives might have had that the maverick, straight-talking conservative could bring some principle to the table on climate and energy issues has now gone out the window. How badly does the tax holiday plan fail? Let us count the ways. First, it will offer consumers little …

Bush’s unambitious climate speech bashed by other major economies

President George W. Bush took his unambitious views and goals on climate and stuck them into one mediocre speech Wednesday. Bush called for U.S. emissions to “slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and begin to reverse thereafter,” an aim far short of what other developed countries are suggesting and what experts think is needed. He relied, as ever, on “accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies.” He gave a bear hug to nuclear power and coal. He decried raising taxes. He expressed concern about a patchwork of regulation, without initiating any overarching regulation. If Bush had hopes …

Green journalists out of touch?

I’ve been thinking more about the SEJ event I wrote about here. It’s been bugging me. To be honest, while I was quite impressed with the presidential advisers, the environmental journalists were … disappointing. Right now there is so much interesting stuff happening around climate and energy — policy details being hashed out, legislation being debated, important new aspects of the discussion getting attention, state efforts blossoming, international action moving ahead, etc. There is an embarrassment of riches in this area, right there in the thick of current events. So what do environmental journalists ask the presidential advisers? Will you …

Blocking Ferrari-ready driveways

Maine becomes third state to pass tough coal law

Yesterday, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed LD 2126, "An Act To Minimize Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Coal-Powered Industrial and Electrical Generating Facilities in the State." The law, which was sponsored by Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Maine), requires the Board of Environmental Protection to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for coal facilities. It also puts a moratorium in place on building any new coal plants until the standards are developed. Three states (Calif., Wash., and Maine) as well as New Zealand now have laws effectively blocking new coal plants that don't meet a carbon dioxide emission standard roughly equivalent to that of a combined cycle gas plant (i.e., 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour). That standard could be met with even a moderate level of sequestration, but so far no utilities have stepped to the plate. As a result of Washington state's standard, Energy Northwest's proposed Pacific Mountain Energy Center in Kalama was rejected by regulators in November because its plans for carbon capture and sequestration were judged to be merely "a plan to make a plan." Laws such as Maine's LD 2126 are valuable in blocking plants that merely declare themselves "carbon capture ready." As NRDC's David Hawkins told Congress (PDF): "A 'carbon sequestration optimized' coal power plant is not defined and could mean almost anything, including a plant that simply leaves physical space for an unidentified black box. If that makes a power plant 'capture-ready' Mr. Chairman, then my driveway is 'Ferrari-ready.'"

V -- but not for victory

Who might like the president’s bogus climate principles

One person undoubtedly taking note of the president's "principles" on climate change is Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. He is reportedly working on his own weak, coal industry-friendly climate amendment to the Lieberman-Warner bill. Voinovich reportedly will try to couple such an amendment with related provisions to weaken the Clean Air Act. Sound familiar?

Carbon tax loses a congressional voice

Dingell takes his ‘hybrid tax’ off the table

The carbon tax camp lost a powerful congressional voice yesterday when Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) announced he was taking "off the table" the hybrid carbon tax proposal he floated last fall that featured a national carbon fee, supplemental increases in taxes on gasoline and aviation fuel, and a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction for super-large houses. In a prepared statement, the Michigan lawmaker, who for much of his 54 years in Congress has chaired the House Energy & Commerce Committee, reiterated that "economists and other experts continue to inform us that a carbon tax is the most effective and efficient way at getting at the problem of global warming." Dingell also noted that his online poll query, "Do you approve of the idea of a carbon tax?," earned a "Yes" from 61 percent of the 2,900 respondents. In his statement, which was first reported yesterday in The Hill, Dingell pointed to rising gas prices and the gathering recession, saying, "Times have changed; our economy has taken a hard downward turn and now is not the time for us to put any additional financial burden on the working families of Michigan or this nation." The irony is that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would not act as a drag on economic activity, since the return of the tax revenues to Americans via tax-shifting or dividend rebates would fully offset the higher costs of fuels and energy.

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×