Climate & Energy

Against cap-and-dividend

Peter Barnes’ carbon policy proposal would not spur the economic changes we need

I should preface by saying that I am a fan of Peter Barnes. He's an emeritus board member of Redefining Progress. He's a smart and thoughtful guy. But I'm not a fan of his cap and dividend idea, mostly from an economic perspective. First, the idea that a price on carbon would be transformative, and that we should do that first and then come in with other complementary policies later, is dangerously wrong. Transportation and building heating/electricity are the two largest contributors to carbon emissions, accounting for well over half the total. The price elasticity on transportation fuels is very low, as we've seen. With gas prices up $2 per gallon in the last three years, we're now finally seeing small reductions in driving, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4%. $2 per gallon of gas is roughly the equivalent of $200 per ton of carbon, a price impact that the failed Lieberman Warner bill wouldn't have brought until beyond 2040, if then. Home energy use is not only terribly price inelastic (people light and heat their homes out of habit and necessity, not on the basis of price), so that we'd need very high prices to induce behavior changes, but is also characterized by a terrible market failure in information, where people have no idea what appliance costs them what in terms of electricity. As everyone should now be aware, rental units are subject to other serious energy market failures due to renter/owner split incentives and the liquidity constraints of many renters.

e360 and states

New Yale green site draws attention to state climate efforts

I think various Grist contributors have linked over there a few times already, but I’ve been remiss in not explicitly noting the debut of environment360, the new online publication from the Yale School of Forestry …

Garrisoning the global gas station

Challenging the militarization of U.S. energy policy

This essay originally ran on TomDispatch; it is reprinted here with Tom's kind permission. ----- American policymakers have long viewed the protection of overseas oil supplies as an essential matter of "national security," requiring the threat of -- and sometimes the use of -- military force. This is now an unquestioned part of American foreign policy. On this basis, the first Bush administration fought a war against Iraq in 1990-1991 and the second Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003. With global oil prices soaring and oil reserves expected to dwindle in the years ahead, military force is sure to be seen by whatever new administration enters Washington in January 2009 as the ultimate guarantor of our well-being in the oil heartlands of the planet. But with the costs of militarized oil operations -- in both blood and dollars -- rising precipitously, isn't it time to challenge such "wisdom"? Isn't it time to ask whether the U.S. military has anything reasonable to do with American energy security, and whether a reliance on military force, when it comes to energy policy, is practical, affordable, or justifiable? How energy policy got militarized The association between "energy security" (as it's now termed) and "national security" was established long ago. President Franklin D. Roosevelt first forged this association way back in 1945, when he pledged to protect the Saudi Arabian royal family in return for privileged American access to Saudi oil. The relationship was given formal expression in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter told Congress that maintaining the uninterrupted flow of Persian Gulf oil was a "vital interest" of the United States, and attempts by hostile nations to cut that flow would be countered "by any means necessary, including military force."

I'm melting

Breaking news: Permafrost loss linked to Arctic sea ice loss

A major new study published Friday in Geophysical Research Letters by leading tundra experts has found "Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss." The lead author is David Lawrence of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who I interviewed for my book and recently interviewed again via email about his recent work. The study's ominous conclusion:

<em>National Journal</em> confirms our low expectations

Republican members of Congress do not believe in climate change or deem it a priority

National Journal polls members of Congress: Matt draws our attention to one particular quote from a Republican No: "If there’s one thing poll after poll indicates, it’s that the science is not settled on this …

Still, waters run deep

Mainstream media misses connection between global warming and Midwest floods

The British and the Chinese understand global warming has driven their record flooding. The United States? Not so much. Although you wouldn't know it from most U.S. media coverage, the record "once-in-a-hundred-year flooding" the Midwest now seems to be getting every decade or so is precisely what scientists have been expecting from the warming. A 2004 analysis [PDF] by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center found an increase during the 20th century of "precipitation, temperature, streamflow, heavy and very heavy precipitation and high streamflow in the East." They found a 14 percent increase in "heavy rain events" of greater than 2 inches in one day, and a 20 percent increase in "very heavy rain events" -- best described as deluges -- greater than 4 inches in one day. These extreme downpours are precisely what is predicted by global warming scientists and models [PDF].

Manifestos for the next president

Climate action plans for the first 100 days and beyond

I am blown away by the depth and scope of the nonpartisan Presidential Climate Action Project. Its centerpiece is a first-100-days plan, detailed in a 300-page report, covering issues ranging from energy policy and green collar jobs to the farm bill and ethanol subsidies to the Law of the Sea. My only quibble is the continued support for grain ethanol -- although the project does advocate quick turnover to cellulosic sources -- how quick that evolution will be is a huge outstanding question. Apart from the report, the PCAP website also features a very cool Who's Who in Climate Action, a database of climate professionals and a Contact the Candidates link, where you can submit your own suggestions to the presidential hopefuls (the page needs to be updated; although I'm sure Giuliani would still welcome email about the state of the planet). And PCAP isn't the only player in the game. As Elizabeth Kolbert reports, a number of think tanks and coalitions have been cranking out climate recommendations for the next president of the United States. Whoever that turns out to be, the next president's problem won't be a lack of guidelines or expert advice ... if anything, it will be the opposite.

Dick move

Cheney perpetuates myth about China-Cuba oil partnership

During his “drill, drill, drill” rant yesterday, Dick Cheney complained that Cuba and China are drilling for oil closer to the coast of Florida than American companies are currently allowed. It’s become a common talking …

Dingell dangle

Dingell promises climate bill friendlier to manufacturers

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) has been saying for months now that a climate bill from his committee is on the way. Yesterday he talked about his pending legislation to industry …

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