Climate & Energy

Thought of the day: Don't call 100 percent auctioning cap-and-trade

If 100 percent auctioning is done right, the trade component will be trivial

If all permits are auctioned, where is the need for large-scale trading? With modern electronics, there is no reason most permits can't be bought directly by those using them. Yes, there will be some trading: people will buy too many and need to resell, or engage in hedging, or use a broker for convenience's sake. But if the auctioning process is not made a major pain, these should be trivial in scale compared to direct purchase. Our short name should not emphasize the role of trade. Why is the terminology important? If you refer to support for 100 percent auctioning as a variation on cap-and-trade, you make political judo easy for giveaway advocates. They can take all the political effort that was put into building support for 100 percent auctioning and use it to win support for giving free permits to large corporations. After all, it is all cap-and-trade, the giveaway advocates will say. Only extremists, the gifts-for-Big-Coal supporters will say, would make a fuss about the exact form cap-and-trade takes. Seriously, brand differentiation is important in politics. If you think 100 percent auctioning is important, don't use a term that lets your opponents pretend there is little daylight between you and them.

Tell us something we don't know

The Kansas City Star: New coal plants are expensive

The Kansas City Star reports: Electric bills are poised to soar for customers of utilities building coal-fired power plants. Coal-based electric utility executive responds: We're moving forward regardless of what you namby-pamby, cheap-energy-loving hippies think.* Michael Dworkin then raises the obvious question: You've got to ask: "Do you think we have reached a point where it economically doesn't make sense?" It will be interesting to see how this affects the Sunflower Electric debate, since the state does now seem to be getting beyond the false belief that coal is cheap. *Italicized text implied but entirely fabricated by the author.

Sebelius vetoes coal bill

Governor plays chicken with legislature over coal in Kansas

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed Senate Bill 327, whereby the state legislature would have constrained the powers of Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment Secretary Roderick Bremby, prohibited "consideration of any standards beyond the Clean Air Act" (which, remember, U.S. EPA refuses to apply to CO2, despite the Supreme Court’s orders), and green-lit two new coal plants — 11 million tons of CO2. This is from Sebelius’ statement: Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives. With …

Bill to allow new dirty coal plant vetoed by Kansas governor

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has vetoed a bill that would have allowed a new two-unit coal plant to be built in her state. The legislation would have overturned an October decision by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to deny Sunflower Electric a coal-plant permit on the basis of greenhouse-gas emissions. The bill Sebelius kicked to the curb would also have stripped the KDHE of the authority to hold power plants to stricter standards than the not-so-strict federal Clean Air Act. “Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each …

Biodiesel in the dumps

To survive, producers wanly import feedstock and export fuel

At this point, serious greens still promoting biofuels are in a tight corner. Global grain stocks are at all-time lows and prices at all-time highs. That means heavy incentives to clear new land to plant crops — in precious rainforest regions in South America and Southeast Asia that sustain indigenous peoples and store titanic amounts of carbon. These lands are also concentrated centers of biodiversity. Sacrificing them for car fuel is a heinous crime. Anyone who wants to argue that such efforts amount to “economic development in the Third World” will have to account for a stark fact: transnational agribusiness …

Clinton and Obama boost coal in West Virginia

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both did some coal-boosting while campaigning in West Virginia this week. Clinton told West Virginians she’s always been in favor of “the cleanest coal possible,” but that “coal fits in very importantly” to America’s energy future. Asked about mountaintop-removal mining in a radio interview Wednesday, she hedged, saying she didn’t “know enough to have an independent opinion” but considered it a “trade-off” between “economic necessities and environmental damage.” (By the by, coal jobs have dropped 80 percent in the past half-century while coal production has increased. And the environmental damage is significant.) Obama has spoken …

Chris Mooney: That's not kryptonite after all

Does refuting deniers only strengthen and empower them?

Science journalist Chris Mooney, author of must-read The Republican War on Science, has a post at Science Progress titled "Enablers: Sometimes refuting unscientific nonsense reinforces it." This is a provocative and timely post, given the recent tussles I've been having with deniers and delayers. I've talked to Chris, and his occasional co-blogger Matthew Nisbet (who has a related post here) many times. And while we are probably 95 percent in agreement on most things climate, I don't quite buy their argument here: So we've reached a point where we may well be wasting our energies if we continue to battle climate skeptics. Indeed, we run the risk of propping them up far more than they deserve. For that's the other problem with constantly rebutting anti-science forces -- not only does it waste our time, but it may play right into their hands. Consider: Over at his blog, Framing Science, Matthew Nisbet makes a very strong case that the rhetorical strategy of the Heartland Institute is exceedingly similar to that of the anti-evolutionist think tank the Discovery Institute. If so, it follows that the defenders of climate science ought to be at least as leery of outright engagement with Heartland as the defenders of evolutionary science are when it comes to engaging with Discovery. The reason is that if you actually bother to rebut the Heartlands and Discoverys of the world, you instantly enter into a discourse on their own terms. The strategic framing these groups employ to attack mainstream science heavily features the rhetoric of scientific uncertainty ...

Biggers to Obama: Free Appalachia from coal

Jeff Biggers suggests an ambitious and risky Appalachian strategy for Barack Obama: By the 1920s, plundered for their coal and unable to compete with the non-union labor in Kentucky and West Virginia, the southern Illinois coal towns had turned into deforested and eroded wastelands, and were depicted by one government report as a “picture, almost unrelieved, of utter economic devastation.” Southern Illinois lay claim to the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. Today, stripmining in the central Appalachia coalfields is producing the same results. More than 470 mountains and their adjacent communities have been leveled, despoiled, and economically ruined …

Poof! 132 coal plants disappear

The magic mouse of Guy Caruso

Want to kill one coal plant? Use a lawyer. Want to kill a hundred? Use a spreadsheet. On March 4, without fanfare, a bureaucrat named Guy Caruso caused 132 coal plants to disappear with a wave of his magic mouse.

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