Climate & Energy

Maxed out

We’ve borrowed more than we can afford to borrow, sprawled more than we can afford to sprawl

There are a lot of moving parts involved in the current, sputtering condition of the economy, which can’t yet be declared a recession but may well become one. I’ll summarize as best I can. Very cheap credit led to a housing upturn, which became a boom, which became, in many parts of the country, a speculative bubble. The cheap credit was the result of a number of factors, including lax monetary police at the Federal Reserve, but of high importance were the huge foreign exchange reserves accumulated by a number of commodity-exporting nations, which led to a global savings glut. …

U.N. General Assembly holds climate gathering in New York

The United Nations General Assembly convened a two-day climate conference, starting today, at U.N. headquarters in New York City that it hopes will keep up and/or spur momentum in the lead up to a meaningful post-Kyoto climate agreement by 2009. The event is being billed as a “thematic debate” and has attracted celebrities including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire biofuels proponent Richard Branson, and green-leaning actress Daryl Hannah. Representatives from nearly 100 nations have signed up to speak, but since nothing is going to be negotiated, it’s unclear what the United States’ role at the conference will be. …

Bodman as Orwell

DOE erases ‘most successful’ weatherization program from website

Late last week, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) raked Energy Secretary Bodman over the coals -- the best possible use for that fossil fuel! Within days of uncompassionately zeroing out the low-income weatherization program at a time of record energy prices, Bodman's DOE altered the DOE website. Until a few days ago, the website of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Weatherization Program describe the effort as "this country's longest running, and perhaps most successful energy efficiency program" (click on "cached text" -- thank you, Google). Having run EERE, I can certainly attest to the accuracy of that description. Once Bush/Bodman whacked the program, that phrase was whacked too (click here), like something out of the Ministry of Truth -- Minitrue -- in the book 1984. You can see how Samuel "deer in the headlights" Bodman responded to Markey in this video clip. Just for the record, as the website notes, over 30 years, the DOE weatherized the homes of "more than 5.5 million low-income families," reducing: ... heating bills by 31% and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices. This spending, in turn, spurs low-income communities toward job growth and economic development. So what does the administration do? Zero the program out during an economic slowdown that itself has been driven in part by record energy prices. You just cannot make stuff up! Below is Markey's press release and a picture of the website before and after:

Notable quotable

“The [Lieberman-Warner] bill, as reported out of committee, would be the most historic incentive for nuclear in the history of the United States.” – an aide to Sen. Joe Lieberman

Knee-brace gadget harvests energy from walking

Frustrated by your iPod batteries dying while you’re on the treadmill? Keep an eye out for a new knee brace designed to harvest energy from a walker’s stride. From only one minute of movement, the device outlined in the journal Science can generate enough energy to power a cell phone for half an hour. A lightweight version of the brace could be available within 18 months and “promises to have significant medical, military, and consumer applications,” says lead researcher Max Donelan. “It allows a soldier to get back home safely. It benefits stroke victims, amputees, and others who rely on …

The shape of the race

The next U.S. president will favor a carbon cap. What effect this has on the race is anyone’s guess.

Now that John McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee, the shape of the debate over climate change takes on different contours. Hillary and Obama are offering substantively similar climate plans, so there's no need to wait for the Democratic contest to be decided before we start gaming out a few scenarios. 1) Will climate change take on more or less prominence as an issue in the general election? Argument for less: with everyone preaching from the same book, the media sees no hay to make. This suits the candidates fine. McCain knows the topic alienates conservatives. Hillbama knows their policy position makes them look liberal and McCain look independent/centrist. Under different circumstances, the Dem could have tried to portray the Republican as reactionary, but no longer. Everyone changes the subject to war and the economy.

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