Climate & Energy

Markets, not technologies

A long-term extension of the solar investment tax credit is vital

Joe is correct to point out that solar energy is not a monolith -- but he's got the categories wrong. The relevant division is not between technologies but markets. Market No. 1 is distributed generation solar -- that is, solar sited on the customer side of the meter, serving on-site load. Think rooftops. This market will be served almost exclusively by photovoltaics (for electricity -- hot water is another case) -- and the relevant cost comparison is the retail price of electricity, not wholesale generation values. Market No. 2 is utility-scale solar -- that is, central station generation for wholesale power. Think big plants in the desert that sell electricity to utilities for further distribution and sale to their customers. The relevant cost comparison is the future price of non-renewable alternatives, such as coal. This market will be served by many different technologies, including solar thermal electric (from parabolic troughs to power towers) to concentrated photovoltaic to dish Stirling engines to thin film solar of various flavors.

Bush may turn about-face, ask Congress to address climate change

President Bush may soon announce that he wants Congress to pass a climate-change-fightin’ bill, and will lay out suggestions for what that should include as early as this week, according to the Washington Times. Republican …

Clinton, Obama questioned on climate change at religion forum

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were asked about climate change as part of the Compassion Forum, a gathering focused on eliciting the candidates’ views on matters of faith. Asked whether Americans can …

A surge of wonkery

Presidential advisers discuss climate and energy on C-SPAN

On Friday, C-SPAN hosted an event with energy/environment advisers from all three campaigns — attending were Jason Grumet (Obama), James Woolsey (McCain), and Todd Stern (Clinton). (A slightly different threesome than the one I saw …

Succeeding in the free market

One of my favorite writers, Jonathan Chait, has an article in The New Republic on “the latest in global warming denialism” (the latest being acknowledging it exists but refusing to do anything about it). It …

Cheap clean coal now dirty, expensive

The WSJ energy blog points out that skyrocketing demand for coal in the developing world is rapidly driving up the commodity price. (And WSJ proper points out that rising prices for coal mean rising prices …

When does additionality matter? Part 4

The carbon offset market needs additionality

This post is the slightly tardy conclusion of a series (see parts one, two, and three). Let's wrap this up by shifting gears a bit. Additionality is central and essential part of the carbon offset market. Additionality is also, in the long term, probably not relevant to the energy efficiency market. The reason hinges on the difference between carbon offsets and carbon allowances. Both are often lumped together under the term "carbon credits," but they're different in important ways that are sometimes lost in discussions of cap-and-trade systems. Some basic definitions are in order. Carbon allowances are those things that everyone is eager to auction off these days: pollution permits for greenhouse gas emissions. Under a cap-and-trade system, the government issues a fixed number of these permits, and every year the number drops. That's the cap, and as long as it covers a sufficiently large swath of the economy, it's difficult for polluters to evade. (New Yorkers can't, for example, buy electricity from China.) Carbon offsets, on the other hand, are pollution permits generated from specific projects that exist outside the cap. For example, no matter how big a chunk of the economy the cap covers, it probably won't cover cow manure on small dairy farms. If you can demonstrate that you took specific measures to reign in a certain number of tons of dairy farm methane, you can use those emissions reductions to satisfy your obligations under a cap.

Open skies the limit?

As nonstop flights between the U.S. and E.U. increase, what will be the effect on climate?

Throw open the skies and get your passports ready! You may have heard by now that the proverbial jump across the pond is about to get much easier and, perhaps, cheaper. As of March 30, …

World Bank should get out of carbon-offset market, says report

Carbon-offset dealings by the World Bank have been criticized (and not for the first time) in a report released Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies. In the past two years, the report charges, the …

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