Climate & Energy

Myth: All solutions to climate chaos raise prices

Busted: Majority of emissions cuts can come from public spending

A common rap by environmental economists is "any means of cutting emissions raises prices." Though it is used in defense of a valid point (in the long run we will have to institute either a carbon tax or a permit system), it is simply not true. The vast majority of emissions cuts can come via public spending that won't raise prices. We can subsidize efficiency improvements to buildings, fund a conversion of most long-haul trucking to rail, and in the long run electrify all transit and decarbonize electricity generation. But doesn't the money for these subsidies have to come from somewhere? Yup, but a lot these are areas where the private (as opposed to social) gains exceed the subsidy -- meaning even if the people receiving the subsidy end up paying for most of it from taxes, they come out ahead. However, there is no reason the people receiving the subsidies have to pay for most of them. Most of our military budget is devoted to aggression rather than protecting us. We have had enormous tax cuts for the rich from Jimmy Carter forward. We have wasteful existing subsidies for fossil fuel and various unsustainable practices. There is an old liberal-mocking slogan I'd like to turn around and adapt: "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the fellow behind that tree."

Response to EDF's Tony Kreindler

Has EDF spun out of environmentalism?

Tony Kreindler reiterates EDF's position that the short-term targets in Lieberman/Warner are strong, that its essential framework is sound, and that we have 40 years to strengthen its weak areas ... but don't expect to do so anytime soon. In his recent Grist series, Kreindler wrote, "the political landscape in 2009 will be much like today's as far as climate change legislation goes." This is an astonishing admission about the state of U.S. environmentalism. The hard work of decades, over a billion in assets dedicated to climate action, the certain election of a pro-cap-and-trade policy president, a Northwest Passage ice free for the first time in human history, and methane bubbling so furiously in Siberian bogs that melt water does not freeze ... will have no significant impact on political conditions, in EDF's view. It's much worse than that, of course. Kreindler's appraisal was made months before gasoline broke $4.00 a gallon and our supposed majority support vanished as quickly as spilled gasoline hitting hot pavement.

Never let your enemy choose the battlefied

The crucial mistake Dems made in the energy fight

Following up on this — I think the Democrats have made a specific and costly error. Consider the following Republican argument: Americans are hurting from …

Voluntary programs not so effective, says gov’t watchdog

Shocker: Voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse gases don’t work so well, the U.S. EPA Inspector General’s Office said Thursday. Despite the Bush administration’s adoration of …

What about Bob?

Sen. Robert Menendez chats with Grist about climate legislation

Sen. Robert Menendez. In the Senate debate over the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act last month, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) stood out as one of the most …

Clear and present endangerment

Republicans block subpoena of EPA climate document, while Boxer releases choice excerpts

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has been foiled in her attempt to obtain and make public a U.S. EPA document on the legal basis for regulating …

Retire your carbon, offset your guilt

Carbon Retirement sees opportunity in European allowances

Carbon Retirement -- you read it here first (or maybe second). I don't normally endorse individual companies. But I have long thought European allowances were the best alternative to offsets and am delighted someone has made a business out of it. The business opportunity is clear -- offsets suck. At a policy level, they can destroy the environmental value of climate legislation. At a personal level, lots of vendors are selling very dubious offsets, including CCX. I can't imagine why you would waste your money on the most popular offsets, trees (certainly not a Northern forest -- heck, even offset seller Terrapass disses trees). And don't get us started on the other popular offset, RECs. But I know some of you out there really want to be carbon neutral, and while you have bought 100 percent renewable power for your superefficient home that uses a geothermal heating and cooling system to replace natural gas, and you bought a Prius for the family car and you telecommute, you just haven't figured out how to avoid some driving and flying. What to do? Buy real emissions credits from the European market and retire them permanently! Now that is the best idea since solar baseload.

The biggest low-carbon resource, by far

Energy efficiency is the core climate solution, part 1

Energy efficiency is the most important climate solution for several reasons: It is by far the biggest resource. It is by far the cheapest, far cheaper than the current cost of unsustainable energy, so cheap that it helps pay for the other solutions. It is by far the fastest to deploy. It is "renewable" -- the efficiency potential never runs out. This post focuses on number one -- the tremendous size of the resource.

WCI's new proposal

What the Western Climate Initiative does right — and what it could do better

Draft is here [PDF]. Just the major points. First off, the proposal is basically pretty good. We should keep in mind that what WCI is doing represents a big -- gigantic -- step in the right direction for the climate. So I'll raise a glass to everyone who's worked so hard on the WCI proposal so far. But there's room for improvement. Below, I highlight the core areas of the proposal. These are bedrock issues that make me concerned.