Climate & Energy

Hog heaven, part 1

Increased offshore drilling does not substitute for national energy policy

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. When it comes to energy policy, Amory Lovins has proven again and again that he's a pretty smart guy. At the moment, nothing seems more insightful than one of Amory's comments in the May/June issue of Mother Jones. Asked what energy policies the next president should champion, Lovins was skeptical. He believes energy policy will continue to be made not at the national level, but by communities and states. "With modest exceptions," Amory said, "our federal energy policy is really a large trough arranged by the hogs for their convenience." Right now, the hogs are eating very, very well. With voters struggling from record prices for gasoline and all of the products made from petroleum and with no end in sight, the oil companies are pushing for more leases to drill for more oil on more public lands. President Bush, Big Oil's special friend in the White House, is pushing for more drilling, too, as are a number of people in Congress. At the moment, most Democrats on the Hill seem to be holding fast against this strategy -- but there's an election coming up.

Thank carbon trading for latest defeat to clean air

Clean Air Interstate rule struck down because it devalues sulfur trading permits

The court decision striking down the Clean Air Interstate Rule, a major loss for clean environmentalists, can be traced directly to the sulfur trading program often (mistakenly) considered an example of the success of trading over other forms of regulation. Because the new permitting process would have overwritten existing permits, the electric utility industry was able to successfully argue that these regulations would have resulted in economic damage. You won't find this in the New York Times article itself but in the mp3 of a background interview in a sidebar of the NYT online story. Although the court was careful not to say so directly, in essence this was a "takings" argument. [Update] (In response to comments, I don't think I successfully make a case that this is a movement towards takings. I'll return to the subject of at a later date. But the main point of this post is that undermining the value of permits is one basis for this ruling - and they do say that right in the ruling (linked in a an early comment.)) The court ruled that that the EPA was not allowed to devalue certain acid rain permits. This is a damn good reason not to turn pollution into property rights (or pseudo property rights in the first place. And thanks to Brian Tokar for his email -- sent to a list I'm on -- that pointed this out.

Scenarios for a low carbon, no-nuke future

Renewables and efficiency would provide more GDP than fossil fuels

The attached Excel spreadsheet takes specific technologies, the known cost of implementing them, and various scenarios for responses to such implementation and technical improvements (including no technical improvement!) and calculates costs and benefits. This is intended to be an open source model. The comment section will be used to revise the spreadsheet with links to the old versions added to the bottom of this post as revisions are made (for the sake of transparency.) There is also a Word document with a narration of assumptions. The conclusion in this 1.0 version: Unsurprisingly, the key to eliminating emissions profitably is large efficiency increases. With maximum efficiency improvements even a scenario with (completely unrealistic) zero technical progress in efficiency or renewables would make our economy as a whole richer than if we stuck to fossil fuels. If we combine aggressive efficiency improvements with aggressive (but reasonable) improvements in technology we would end up richer by more than a trillion dollars a year. Aggressive efficiency spending which yields small reductions, unsurprisingly has poor financial payback. Warning: There is an easy misinterpretation the data does not support -- that we can do nothing. The fact that eliminating most fossil fuel use is more profitable than continuing to use fossil fuels to society as a whole does not mean that elimination will happen without policy changes. Nor does it mean that is currently profitable to those who could make the technical changes. For example, transforming commercial office space into a green building raises worker productivity by a minimum of 4 percent. If a landlord makes that transformation, and somehow gets hold of the confidential data needed to document that productivity gain, how much can she increase rents based on those productivity improvements? If you guessed zero, you are right and win the no-prize. Incidentally, even if the building is 100 percent owner occupied, what do you think the odds are they will invest in improved lighting and ventilation for the sake of productivity improvements?

Greenpeacers climb Eiffel Tower in anti-nuclear protest

About 15 Greenpeace activists scaled the Eiffel Tower Sunday and unveiled a banner to protest France’s nuclear-energy policies. France uses more nuclear power than any …

Czar Schwarzenegger?

California governor says he’d be willing to serve in Obama’s cabinet

On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a McCain supporter, suggested that he’d be willing to serve as “energy czar” for Democratic …

Hill heap

A weekly roundup of greenish news from the capitol

• According to a new EPA analysis, the “value of a statistical life” is now worth $6.9 million, which is nearly $1 million less than …

Barack in the Buckeye State

Dem presidential candidate talks up energy plan in Ohio

Barack Obama gave a speech on energy policy in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, and used the opportunity to rip on rival John McCain. He knocked …

Salzburg: day two

Smart Power tips on how to market clean energy

Listen Play "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," from The Sound of Music Yesterday’s sessions transitioned rather seamlessly into post-session drinking networking, which went on until 4:30 …

Yes, Americans are a bunch of whiners …

As a big Obama supporter I am delighted that McCain's national co-chair and economic adviser Phil Gramm was stupid enough to talk about America being in a "mental recession" and the country being a "bunch of whiners"; it's going to be the gift that keeps on giving (Obama had a great line about how the country doesn't need a new Dr. Phil). Gramm was 100 percent wrong about the "mental recession" part -- we are teetering on a real recession if not already in one -- but he actually was right about America being a bunch of whiners, although not for the reasons he thinks.