Climate & Energy

Obama says will move immediately on international climate pact

Prior to his weekend wins in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barack Obama promised to begin developing the U.S. position on an international pact to halt global warming now, instead of waiting until 2009. “I’ve been in conversations with former Vice President [Al] Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can’t wait until you are sworn into office to get started,” Obama proclaimed. “I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I’m presumptuous, but because there’s such a sense of urgency about this.” …

Welcoming our new efficiency overlords

Have you been naughty with your light bulbs? You need some good old command and control.

The so-called incandescent light bulb ban (not actually a ban) included as part of the recent energy bill has prompted a low-level but consistent set of complaints that deserve further consideration, because they betray a fair amount of confusion about which policy tools to break out for which issues. On the right, the reaction to the new lighting efficiency standard has ranged from hysterical whining to hysterical snark. But even on the left, it's fairly common to run across the high-minded opinion that finicky legislation like the lighting efficiency standard only wastes time and stirs up needless recrimination. Instead we should set a price on carbon, and let the market sort out the rest. It's an excellent theory, one that I subscribe to under most circumstances, but sometimes command and control really is just the thing. The math on light bulbs is pretty easy to run. Follow along if you're interested, or just skip the next two paragraphs.

G7 countries call for clean-technology fund for developing nations

The Group of Seven richest nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. — have called for investment in a multibillion-dollar fund to provide climate-change-fightin’ clean technology to developing countries.

A climate for old men

Spearheading transit for livable cities at 93

I recently ended 100 days without Grist. And wouldn't you know, the title of the first post I saw, "No climate for old men," spoke directly to the reason I was away. No, I wasn't with the McCain campaign. Rather, I was immersed in a project, spearheaded by a really old man, that could become a terrific tool for beating back the climate crisis. That man is 93-year-old Ted Kheel, legendary New York labor-lawyer-turned-environmentalist. His project is a study of the feasibility of financing free mass transit in New York City through congestion pricing and other charges on driving. I directed the study (PDF), which has just been released, and I think its implications could be huge, not just for New York but for every city in the U.S. and around the world.

Monday link dump

A little of this, a little of that

This week I am, officially anyway, on vacation, spending a week in a condo at the bottom of Mt. Hood, snowboarding by day, soaking in the hot tub by night. Yes: sweet. I will nonetheless be posting occasionally, because, well, I just don’t know how to quit you. Before I go I want to clear out all the stuff that’s been building up in my browser for, oh, months now. So a link dump it is, and away we go! This post on Dot Earth about sustainable cities reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Steffen’s long and …

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:

Turn on your TV today

National Geographic’s ‘Six Degrees Could Change The World’

I haven't read the book -- who has time? Oh, but TV or a YouTube video -- well, that's another matter: This Sunday, February 10th at 8pm EST on the National Geographic Channel, "Six Degrees Could Change The World," which offers a hypothetical look at how the world might change, degree by degree, if we don't curtail our emissions: