Climate & Energy

U.S. emphasis on Canada’s tar sands a bad idea, says report

As the United States expands its oil-refining capabilities, more than two-thirds of planned capacity will be devoted to processing crude oil from Canada’s tar sands, says a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and …

South Dakota vote is step toward first new U.S. oil refinery in decades

Plans have moved forward for the first new U.S. oil refinery in more than 30 years, as voters in South Dakota’s Union County approved a rezoning that would allow the project to be built. Energy …

Nuclear questions for Lovins

What should I ask the efficiency guru about nuclear power?

Amory Lovins. Photo: © Judy Hill Amory Lovins is on the warpath against nuclear power, battling the industry PR push that says nuclear is a viable climate solution. He’s got a new report, co-authored with …

Delay, delay

Senate GOP delays climate debate still further by forcing clerk to read Boxer amendment

Today in Senate action on the Climate Security Act, Republicans are forcing the clerk to read the entirety of the Boxer substitute amendment [PDF], claiming they haven’t had enough time to read it yet. It’s …

The truth will set you free

Democrats are undermining the strongest message behind climate policy

In this post, I argued that the best, simplest, and most impactful message for advocates of climate legislation is this: Good climate policy will rescue American families from a sinking ship. I meant to add …

The problem with 'We Can Solve It'

An ad campaign on climate needs spokespeople who believe what they’re saying

Idly watching TV the other day, my attention was caught by the arresting image of Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson sitting on a sofa. The artfully shot, 15-second spot is one of the first blitz of television ads from We Can Solve It, Al Gore's $300 million project to build up a public base of support for climate action. The two resemble each other, looking as sleek and plump as sea otters after a good feed. Sharpton and Robertson fence good naturedly, following the strange-bedfellows format of the ad series. Robertson puns, "So get involved; it's the 'right' thing to do," and Sharpton ripostes with the Reagan line, "Now there you go again!" The thing is well done and I enjoyed it, but I was also aggravated by the choice of spokespersons -- and the more I thought about it, troubled by the deeper meaning of the ad.

James and the giant lie

Oklahoma senator makes stuff up, wastes time in climate change debate

James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate’s leading climate change denier, had plenty of kooky and alarmist things to say in yesterday’s debate over climate change legislation. Think Progress has video of one of his wing-nuttiest contributions …

Ah, the 'Can't do' spirit

Standing up to Samuelson

This post is by Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. ----- In Monday's Washington Post, and a parallel piece in Newsweek, Robert Samuelson gets it wildly wrong on cap-and-trade, parroting a litany of falsehoods and misrepresentations concerning the most probable federal policy for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Like most detractors of action on global warming, Samuelson continues to push the unsubstantiated notion that reducing emissions will tank the economy, and thus is not worth the effort. The problem with this argument is that it ignores the last three decades of science, misunderstands basic economic theory, and overlooks the enormous opportunity presented by the clean energy economy. Inaction is by far the most expensive policy option, as many recent studies make clear.

Hi, my name is Sean and I'm fallible

The challenges of reconciling science and policy

This is a post that I'm virtually certain will be misinterpreted. But it's an important enough issue that I'm going to bet that my writing skills are sufficient to provide clarity to a rather muddy issue. First off, though, a disclaimer: Science is good. Policy informed by science is good. Leadership informed by science is good. The alternative to all of the above is bad. Nothing I am about to say is to be taken as support for creationism, global warming denial, diminution of White House science advisers or the re-excommunication of Galileo. However, there is a conflict that lies between the fuzziness that is innate to scientific inquiry and the precision that is required for policy -- and more broadly, leadership. We see this conflict whenever global warming deniers trot out scientists who disagree with mainstream theories and we are forced to explain to the deniers that while the nature of scientific inquiry invites debate, the presence of a debate per se does not imply anything about the preponderance of evidence. As Joe Romm has pointed out, Einstein's revisions to the laws of motion did not prove that Issac Newton was an insufferable quack. It just meant that science is innately fallible and subject to revision. Or as Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" So far, I don't think I've said anything novel or controversial. But here's the catch: The same logic that compels us to acknowledge that science is fallible and evolves must also compel us to acknowledge that policy based on science might be wrong. This is not to suggest that a 1-percent doubt ought to stand in the way of policy based on 99 percent certainty, but rather to recognize that good policy must retain sufficient flexibility to "change its mind."