Climate & Energy

A future for FutureGen?

Senate slips life support for ‘clean coal’ boondoggle into war supplemental package

Remember FutureGen, the pilot program that was supposed to yield the nation’s first zero-emissions, “clean coal” power plant? The one that even the Bush administration realized was a bad idea, after the price tag on …

Windfall beneath his wings?

McCain might not be as opposed to a windfall profits tax as his fellow Republicans

Via the Democratic National Committee’s blog, this video makes it seem like John McCain might not be as opposed to a windfall profits tax on oil companies as are his colleagues in the Senate and …

EPA plans to loosen air-quality rules near national parks

Photo: Wolfgang Staudt Call us crazy, but rewriting the Clean Air Act to ease the way for new coal plants near national parks seems to fly in the face of that whole “clean air” thing. …

Them's the breaks

‘Energy and Tax Extenders Act’ clears committee, heads to House floor

The House advanced legislation yesterday that would renew billions of dollars in tax breaks for wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources, and extend a proposed new tax credit for biofuels derived from sources …

Cap-and-trade or carbon tax? Both!

Five ways BC’s carbon tax shift can strengthen Cap and Trade

The Vancouver Sun gives some ink to a cluster of issues that I've been pondering of late: how BC's carbon tax shift fits with Cap and Trade. I'm famously infatuated with carbon tax shifting. I'm also a zealot for auctioned Cap and Trade. The good news is that with careful policy design, Cap and Tax can be better than either Cap or Tax. The Tax toughens the Cap, the way steel rebar strengthens concrete. The bad news is that without careful design, the two could weaken each other. The challenge for policy makers is gaming -- firms' aptitude for subverting market rules established with good intentions. Remember how Enron and its ilk manipulated the California electricity market in 2001? The interaction of a carbon tax in British Columbia with a regionwide carbon Cap-and-Trade system in the West could open channels for such profiteering. In the worst case, gaming could both undermine and discredit the policies, risking their political survival. Fortunately, such gaming is preventable, as I'll explain in a moment. First, though, the upsides:

Who's zooming who?

Subsidies for wind power pale beside subsidies for nuclear

I long ago swore off the Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- the last straw for me was their cruel swipe at departed "dope fiend" Jerry Garcia back in 1995. But on Monday a friend forwarded me a WSJ editorial whaling away at renewable power's production tax credit: Solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and ... nuclear power $1.59. Wind and solar have been on the subsidy take for years ... Now, they insinuate, it's time to kick wind and solar out of the nest to fly (or not) on their own, just like Uncle Nuke did, decades ago. What's up?, my pal asked, knowing that I not only have a thing for wind power but used to be a walking encyclopedia of nuclear power costs. After a quick trip down memory lane, pencil in hand, here's my brief on federal subsidies for windmills and nukes. The score (in 2007 dollars): Reactor subsidies, 1950-1990: $154 billion, or $3.75 billion a year. Wind power subsidies, 1983-2007: $3.75 billion 25-year total.

Cause and effect

Human-caused warming is resulting in a broad range of impacts across the globe

Nature has published the first article to "formally link observed global changes in physical and biological systems to human-induced climate change, predominantly from increasing greenhouse gases." See news story here and the article, "Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change" (subs. req'd, abstract below). NASA's discussion of the piece here explains, "human-caused climate change has made an impact on a wide range of Earth's natural systems, including permafrost thawing, plants blooming earlier across Europe, and lakes declining in productivity in Africa." The image at right: "Impacts from warming are evident in satellite images showing that lakes in Siberia disappearing as the permafrost thaws and lake water drains deeper into the ground." The lead author explained:

Subsidize my love

Grist asks McCain about contradictory messages on nuclear subsidies

John McCain hosted a call-in with bloggers today following his address in Columbus, Ohio, in which he outlined his priorities for a first term in office. Grist got in a couple of questions: You mentioned …

Stop me if you've heard this one

The eternal cycle of liquid coal reincarnation

Ali Velshi on CNN, Wednesday morning: "What if you could take a lump of coal and turn that in to your gasoline?" What if, indeed? A brief (very brief) stroll through the archives...

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