Climate & Energy

Don't celebrate this holiday

We need to be freed from gas, not the gas tax

John McCain’s proposal to institute a gas tax “holiday” during the summer driving season is as clear an example of a pander as one is likely to see during election season, but its inclusion in …

Bush’s unambitious climate speech bashed by other major economies

President George W. Bush took his unambitious views and goals on climate and stuck them into one mediocre speech Wednesday. Bush called for U.S. emissions to “slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and …

Green journalists out of touch?

I’ve been thinking more about the SEJ event I wrote about here. It’s been bugging me. To be honest, while I was quite impressed with the presidential advisers, the environmental journalists were … disappointing. Right …

Blocking Ferrari-ready driveways

Maine becomes third state to pass tough coal law

Yesterday, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed LD 2126, "An Act To Minimize Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Coal-Powered Industrial and Electrical Generating Facilities in the State." The law, which was sponsored by Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Maine), requires the Board of Environmental Protection to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for coal facilities. It also puts a moratorium in place on building any new coal plants until the standards are developed. Three states (Calif., Wash., and Maine) as well as New Zealand now have laws effectively blocking new coal plants that don't meet a carbon dioxide emission standard roughly equivalent to that of a combined cycle gas plant (i.e., 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour). That standard could be met with even a moderate level of sequestration, but so far no utilities have stepped to the plate. As a result of Washington state's standard, Energy Northwest's proposed Pacific Mountain Energy Center in Kalama was rejected by regulators in November because its plans for carbon capture and sequestration were judged to be merely "a plan to make a plan." Laws such as Maine's LD 2126 are valuable in blocking plants that merely declare themselves "carbon capture ready." As NRDC's David Hawkins told Congress (PDF): "A 'carbon sequestration optimized' coal power plant is not defined and could mean almost anything, including a plant that simply leaves physical space for an unidentified black box. If that makes a power plant 'capture-ready' Mr. Chairman, then my driveway is 'Ferrari-ready.'"

V -- but not for victory

Who might like the president’s bogus climate principles

One person undoubtedly taking note of the president's "principles" on climate change is Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. He is reportedly working on his own weak, coal industry-friendly climate amendment to the Lieberman-Warner bill. Voinovich reportedly will try to couple such an amendment with related provisions to weaken the Clean Air Act. Sound familiar?

Carbon tax loses a congressional voice

Dingell takes his ‘hybrid tax’ off the table

The carbon tax camp lost a powerful congressional voice yesterday when Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) announced he was taking "off the table" the hybrid carbon tax proposal he floated last fall that featured a national carbon fee, supplemental increases in taxes on gasoline and aviation fuel, and a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction for super-large houses. In a prepared statement, the Michigan lawmaker, who for much of his 54 years in Congress has chaired the House Energy & Commerce Committee, reiterated that "economists and other experts continue to inform us that a carbon tax is the most effective and efficient way at getting at the problem of global warming." Dingell also noted that his online poll query, "Do you approve of the idea of a carbon tax?," earned a "Yes" from 61 percent of the 2,900 respondents. In his statement, which was first reported yesterday in The Hill, Dingell pointed to rising gas prices and the gathering recession, saying, "Times have changed; our economy has taken a hard downward turn and now is not the time for us to put any additional financial burden on the working families of Michigan or this nation." The irony is that a revenue-neutral carbon tax would not act as a drag on economic activity, since the return of the tax revenues to Americans via tax-shifting or dividend rebates would fully offset the higher costs of fuels and energy.

Notable quotable

“So what can one conclude from environmentalists’ insistence that coal be removed from the country’s energy portfolio? That their focus has moved from reducing pollution to abolishing human development and prosperity.” – the Las Vegas …

From the peanut gallery

Responses to Bush’s climate speech

Here's a roundup of responses to Bush's climate speech. We'll add to it as more come in. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:"By the time President Bush's plan finally starts to cut global warming emissions, the planet will already be cooked. The President's short-term goal is to do nothing, his medium-term goal is to do nothing much, and his long-term goal is to do nothing close to what's needed to save the planet from global warming." Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-Conn.):"I share the President's preference of a market-based approach over carbon taxes. I remain encouraged by EPA's finding last month that the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act will achieve strong results in curbing global warming without imposing economic hardship on Americans. I don't think that the President's statement will have any negative impact on our efforts to attract votes to the Climate Security Act on the Senate floor this June. I remain confident about the prospects of this critical legislation." Sen. John Warner (R-Va.):"The President's announcement today that he supports measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is welcome news as the Senate prepares to consider climate change legislation this summer. This personally delivered message is recognition that a growing problem faces America -- and the world -- caused by erratic fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature variations and rainfall patterns. I am pleased the President is prepared to engage on this vital issue, both on Capitol Hill and on the international stage." National Association of Manufacturers President John Engler:"President Bush has laid out a constructive and balanced set of principles to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 ... We agree with President Bush that Americans deserve an honest and open discussion of climate change solutions by their elected representatives rather than decisions imposed by unelected regulators and judges. However, the primary federal legislation (S. 2191) sponsored by U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) set for debate in Congress would do more economic harm than environmental good. We look forward to working with Congress and the administration on legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions without damaging the economy."

Same as it ever was

Thoughts on Bush’s latest speech on climate change

The whole media world is in a frenzy, yet again, over a Bush speech on climate change. A new strategy! An effort to secure a legacy! Exciting new principles and goals! Even my own bosses …

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