Climate & Energy

Food prices are high, and so are Big Ag’s profits

Food prices hitting you hard in the pocketbook? Agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland feels for you, it really does — but gee, its profits jumped 42 percent this quarter, so it can’t really empathize. ADM’s grain-processing division is doing lively business keeping up with the bumper corn crop. And, they’ll have you know, high food prices are due to high oil prices, not to the ethanol push. Backing away from biofuels would be “foolish,” “dangerous,” and an “empty gesture,” says ADM CEO Patricia Woertz, adding, “It won’t fill anyone’s stomach. It won’t fill anyone’s gas tank.” It won’t fill ADM’s …

Reason #689,251 oil sands suck

Killing ducks?! Come on now.

Carbon policy dilemma, 3

Trading efficiency for inevitability

This is the third in a series; see parts one and two. To briefly recap: Simplicity, efficiency, and political buy-in are important elements of climate policy, but if you want the first, you can only get one of the other two. Peter Barnes’ cap-and-dividend proposal gets simplicity and political buy-in; Sean Casten’s output-based standards get simplicity and efficiency. Which should we prefer? The answer depends in part on how you think about climate policy, not the verb of it — obviously it’s supposed to reduce GHG emissions — but the adverb of it. That is: reduce them in what way? …

'ANWR, nukes, more ethanol, new technology, blah, blah, blah'

Bush’s energy/food strategy unsurprisingly underwhelming

Bush had a press conference yesterday morning to blame Congress for soaring energy and food prices: "Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all [Americans] are getting is delay." What does non-delayer Bush propose? Well, of course, new technology -- what else is new old? Heck, he even said the long-term answer was hydrogen. (Not!) Oh, but he did offer some "short-term" solutions. His answer to rising electricity prices: Nukes!

Recycling a carbon tax into carbon fighting

Perpetual montion does not work any better in economics than it does in technology

In David Roberts' post on the carbon policy dilemma, David defines an "efficient" carbon policy as follows: First, in a given sector, you set up a system that transfers capital directly from those over-emitting to those reducing emissions, in an agnostic fashion -- that is, preferencing no particular set of technologies or practices. A ton of CO2 ought to be worth the same no matter how it is emitted or prevented, and there should be no net loss of capital in the sector (as there would be if the feds took the revenue and spent it on other things). Second, you remove existing regulatory barriers to that capital flow. As long as capital continues flowing from emitters to savers, you've got a perpetual economic motion machine. My guess is the use of a perpetual motion machine as a metaphor was a message from David's subconscious, because it is impossible to set up a mechanism where the transfer "to" is as efficient and automatic as the transfer "from."

The unbearable tightness of oil markets

America is ill equipped to handle expensive oil

The Times‘ Jad Mouawad has written a piece describing the state of the world’s oil market. It is, in a word, tight. Production volumes have been flat at best, and consumption growth has continued. Kevin Drum comments: I imagine that a global economic slowdown will flatten oil consumption a bit over the next year or two, and eventually higher prices will rein in demand more permanently. On the other hand, we’ve seen oil prices double three times in the past eight years without producing so much as a blip in rising demand. So if we’re in a genuine, long-term supply …

Colbert on ethanol and the energy war

Coal and agrofuels win the subsidy sweepstakes

Via the WSJ energy blog, follow the money: Since 1999, federal energy subsidies have more than doubled-from $8.2 billion to $16.6 billion in 2007. Who gets the most? 'Renewables' landed $4.8 billion last year, but that includes $3.25 billion for ethanol and other biofuels. Coal and cleaner-burning "refined" coal took home $3.3 billion, while the nuclear power industry got $1.3 billion. In all, about 40% of the energy subsidy pie went toward electricity production; the rest for things like alternative fuels and energy conservation. More here.

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" --

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