Climate & Energy

Hansen for the plebes

A non-technical piece on climate science

The nation's top climate scientist, James Hansen, has just published a general-audience article, "Tipping Point" [PDF], in State of the Wild 2008-2009 from Island Press. It is well worth sending to folks who don't like all the math. His key points: We are at the tipping point because the climate state includes large, ready positive feedbacks provided by the Arctic sea ice, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and much of Greenland's ice. ... Prior major warmings in Earth's history, the most recent occurring 55 million years ago ... resulted in the extinction of half or more of the species then on the planet. ... In my view, special interests have undue sway with our governments and have effectively promoted minimalist actions and growth in fossil fuels, rather than making the scale of investments necessary. You might also like this figure on "cumulative fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions by different countries as a percent of global total" --

The latest on the expensivest cheap power around

The fight over coal heads to a climax in Kansas

The fight over coal in Kansas is headed to a climactic battle on Wednesday, when the legislature gathers to finish its session. Twice it has sent bills to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that would allow two blocked dirty coal plants to move forward; twice she has vetoed. The game on Wed. is for pro-coal legislators to scare up enough votes to override the veto. There’s a good rundown on the action in the Kansas City Star, which includes this laugh-out-loud quote: “We’re not Enron,” said Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller. “We’re just a bunch of farmers … trying to keep the lights …

President Bush stumps for ANWR drilling and dirty-energy expansion

In a speech Tuesday, President Bush aimed to pacify Americans’ concerns about skyrocketing fuel and food prices with the assurance that it’s all Congress’ fault. Bush advocated tackling energy prices by throwing environmental protection to the winds (in not quite those words), urging Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and rah-rah-ing new coal and nuclear power plants. Bush also expressed openness, though not support, to a summer-long gas-tax suspension, an idea backed by presidential contenders John McCain and Hillary Clinton but not Barack Obama.

OPEC chief joins $200 oil chorus

Bush, Big Oil offer more of the same

Yesterday, David noted comments by an oil analyst who predicted $200 oil by 2012. Today, that analyst was joined in his prediction by none other than the chief of OPEC, Chakib Khelil (who's also Algeria's energy minister). Mr. Khelil's comments were not date-specific, though this article leads me to believe he was thinking $200 oil could come much sooner than 2012. Meanwhile, we saw more of the same from both President Bush and Big Oil.

Markets vs. emission reductions

Why secondary carbon markets should be minimized in climate legislation

It is fine and necessary to put a price on carbon, via either a carbon tax or 100 percent auctioned cap-and-trade permits. But in the latter case, when those permits are not sold directly to polluters but are released into a secondary market (either via auctioning or, worse, via giveaways), those markets tend to prioritize maintaining their own existence over reducing emissions. In short, a price is fine; an actual market is not.

The fossil bloc makes its play

New Senate alternatives to L-W would take climate policy backwards — way backwards

George Voinovich. There’s an important story in yesterday’s edition of E&E (as always, $ub. req’d) about two alternatives to Lieberman-Warner that have recently been floated in the Senate. One comes from Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and the other — not so much a bill as a “set of principles” — from a coalition of the nation’s biggest and dirtiest coal companies. Together they serve as an excellent primer on the conservative movement’s latest approach to climate change. What do they want? No mandatory caps or a safety valve. Voinovich’s bill ditches cap-and-trade entirely, at least for a three-year evaluation period. …

Details matter: Winner-picking and social engineering

Lieberman Warner criticism, Part 3

This is the third in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See also part 1 and part 2. Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine that tomorrow morning, you wake up, reach in your pocket, and find that you suddenly have billions of dollars of cash. Before you have a moment to celebrate, you also realize that you are lying in the middle of an interstate, and there is a big truck coming. What do you do? (a) Issue an RFP for research, development, and deployment of technologies that will help you get off the highway; (b) Issue an RFP for research, development, and deployment of crash-retardant pajamas; (c) Invest in wildlife conservation measures to protect the flora and fauna on the side of the highway that are about to be covered in blood, guts, and twisted metal; (d) Set aside money for truck driver grief counseling, or; (e) All of the above. If you chose (e), read no farther. You have identified yourself as a person who thinks that the Lieberman-Warner approach to greenhouse-gas reduction is perfection incarnate. If, on the other hand, you think that there was a fairly important idea not even listed amongst the options above (hint: it has to do with getting your butt off the highway and/or stopping the truck), then you understand the flaws innate to the Lieberman-Warner approach. (And if you chose a, b, c, or d ... you're one odd duck. But at least you've signaled your self-interest in high-tech solutions to simple problems!)

Polar-bear listing decision must be made by May 15, says judge

The last time we checked in with the laggardly Interior Department, it was saying it needed until June 30 to decide whether to place polar bears on the endangered-species list. But the department had better find its Decider Pants soon, as a federal judge has sided with green groups to impose a new deadline of May 15. “Other than the general complexity of finalizing the rule, defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the delay [from the original deadline of Jan. 9], much less further delay,” wrote U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken. The department proposed in Dec. 2006 that …

Me on a podcast

I am on this week’s podcast from PolticalAffairs.net. I’ll confess when the PA guy called me I didn’t know it was a record of “Marxist thought online,” but hey, let a thousand flowers bloom. As it happens I was talking about a market-based carbon policy, kind of an odd subject for a Marxist podcast, but it was fun. If you listen closely, you can hear me stirring my lunch on the stove as I talk. Multitasking might explain why I was talking so damn slowly. It sounds like I’m high. (I wasn’t, promise.) I start in around the halfway mark:

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