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Dingell floats it; Boucher knocks it down

Hmm? What's all this now? John Dingell is floating the possibility of a carbon tax? From CongressNow (sub. rqd.): Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who will play a key role in crafting the House version of comprehensive climate change legislation, on Wednesday night downplayed speculation that the House bill could include some form of a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Boucher, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce energy and air quality subcommittee, last night said that no decisions have been made about a carbon tax, despite comments by House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) yesterday that a carbon …

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One small step forward, one step, uh, sideways

You may have heard that today the Senate reached a compromise on CAFE: they will keep the 35mpg-by-2020 requirement, but drop the 4%-every-year-thereafter requirement. The loophole for SUVs will be closed. (Bizarrely, newly minted environmentalist Ted Stevens [R-Alaska] was instrumental in keeping the amendment alive.) This is good news, in a symbolic sort of way (suffice to say, when there are working vehicles on the road that get 100mpg, we shouldn't be satisfied with glacial, incremental gains). But it's offset by the bad news that an amendment to levy around $30 billion in taxes on the oil industry, with the …

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In Black

Hey, L.A.-area folk -- if you're around this weekend, head to the Jazz Bakery in Culver City at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, to watch talented teenage jazz musicians In Black. (Here's their MySpace, with songs for your listening pleasure.) The Culver City stop is part of the group's climate-focused Solutions Tour, and you can chat with them next week when they participate in Grist's InterActivist column. I'd say "get jazzed" -- but since David informed me this morning that I "put the dork in dorky," perhaps I shall refrain.

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It’s about more than money

It's official. China is now the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases. Having spent much of this spring reporting in China, I'd like to second just about everything David said yesterday on the topic. But I have one ginormous point to add. It's not just money that's needed. Yes, it'd be a good thing if Hill folks stopped bashing technology-exchange programs as lending an "unfair competitive advantage." And yes, let's stop painting China as the international bad guy. It ain't helpful, especially when the Chinese can rightly point out that Americans and Europeans are still, per capita, the world's energy …

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Even in Canada

So, about a year ago I wrote briefly about Marc Jaccard, a Canadian economist whose book, Sustainable Fossil Fuels, has been exceedingly popular in Canadian policy-making circles. No surprise there -- any book that says we can have our cheesecake and eat it too is going to find a wide audience among politicians averse to making any tough decision, ever. I was, you could say, less than charitable to Jaccard's ideas. But the latest news from Canada's Conservative do-nothing-about-global-warming government makes me almost feel sorry for him. Jaccard seems to have briefly been a golden boy for the Conservative government …

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Dirty energy lobbyists are out in force

Argh: Senate Democrats yesterday were scrambling to prevent the sweeping energy overhaul bill, a top domestic priority, from crumbling amid growing regional divisions within their party and Republican concerns. "The moment of truth on this energy bill is coming very shortly," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said. Also, argh: Three powerful lobbying forces -- automakers, electric utilities and the coal industry -- are confounding Democrats' efforts to forge a less-polluting energy policy. This is it: crunch time. Time to fight. We finally have a chance to drag the country's energy policy back toward sanity, and entrenched industrial dinosaurs will fight it …

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What good carbon policy should — but often doesn’t — reward

Too much of the debate on carbon-control policy starts from flawed assumptions. Take those assumptions away, and one quickly realizes that we have a lot of pretty good options. Let's parse the carbon policy argument, and think for a moment about how to best engender the most economically beneficial carbon reduction policy. First, let's strike any false assumptions from our logic: Let's not assume that it costs money to reduce carbon emissions until proven otherwise. Let's not presume that any of us know what the answer is. Take these away, and you can pretty quickly get a good model. Picture, …

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Orange You Glad We Didn’t Say Switchgrass?

Fruit may be the latest source for biofuel madness Could your kumquat power your Kia? A team of U.S. scientists has made a low-carbon fuel from fructose, the sugar in many fruits. It could be a better bet than ethanol, with 40 percent more energy, less vulnerability to water, and more stability; since it can also be made from plant cellulose, it could also skirt the food-vs.-fuel debate. DMF -- 2,5-dimethylfuran, the result of mixing fructose with salt water, hydrochloric acid, a solvent, and a copper-coated catalyst -- "should be a great fuel," says James Dumesic of the University of …

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Turns out we don’t know how much there is

Yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences released a Congressionally mandated report on coal-related R&D challenges. Coal-state senators Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) and Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) requested a report on possible impediments to future coal production, and areas that need to be researched to keep the coal coming. Given that essentially coal-positive mandate, naturally NAS introduced the resultant report in its press release thusly: Because coal will continue to provide a substantial portion of U.S. energy for at least the next several decades, a major increase in federal support for research and development is needed to ensure that this natural resource is …

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The chair of the Select Committee on Global Warming weighs in

Congress is about to confront the challenge of coal, and much of what we hope to do to reduce the threat of global warming hinges on these decisions. There's a useful test to use whenever the challenges of fossil fuel dependence and global warming come up: We must reduce the threat of global warming without worsening our dependence on foreign oil; and we must reduce the threat of oil dependence without worsening global warming. When it comes to coal, it's that second part of the equation that brings up some sticky issues. Coal has been a big part of our …