Climate & Energy

Wasting time

A safety valve in Lieberman-Warner is senseless

I see no point whatsoever in passing a climate bill this year that includes a safety valve. I have blogged on this before, but it bears repeating as we appear to be getting to the endgame negotiations in the Senate on the Lieberman-Warner bill. Bottom line: If you want to get a 60% to 80% greenhouse gas cut in four decades, you just can't waste time with safety valves. We need to get to a price of $30 to $40 a ton for carbon dioxide as soon as possible -- and if it needs to go higher than that because conservatives block the progressives and moderates from legislating aggressive technology deployment strategies that would keep costs low, well, as the saying goes, "We'll burn that bridge when we come to it." If you just want to pass a bill that makes it seem like you're doing something while in fact doing little, then go for it! But surely a year's delay (waiting for a somewhat wiser Congress and an infinitely wiser president) is better than a pointless bill. In an article titled "Sponsors of Senate emissions bill seek compromise on cost provisions," Greenwire (subs. req'd) reports:

Fire and rain

The ‘hell’ before the ‘high water’ in the U.S.

I just wanted to alert Grist readers to an excellent post at The Oil Drum called "Fire and Rain: The Consequences of Changing Climate on Rainfall, Wildfire and Agriculture." The author points out that "Current climate change predictions for much of the West show increased precipitation in the winter or spring, along with earlier and drier summers." To summarize his post, the drier summers will have profound impacts on the forests, grasslands, and agricultural areas. It seems that many kinds of trees are very delicately attuned to particular patterns of precipitation and temperature; changes lead to weakening, disease, and then "megafires" that are much more destructive than "normal" fires. The author discusses the biggest fires in American history, over 100 years ago, that seem to have been caused by the massive deforestation then occurring. A question I have is, is the dessication of the American West similar to the accelerating dessication of the Amazon, both the result of deforestation? The post also discusses the plight of agricultural areas; basically, you're damned if you depend on rainfall that will be decreasing during the summer, and you're damned if you depend on irrigation, because the aquifers and mountain ice packs are decreasing. He details the effects on grains and other agricultural produce. I didn't know that potatoes, orchards, and vegetables all depend on irrigation for most of their water needs. I realize that modeling the long-term behavior of the climate is hard enough, but it seems to me that it would be important to model the effects of those changes on our local ecosystems as well.

James Carville vs. his wife

Mary Matalin calls global warming ‘a largely unscientific hoax’

Mary Matalin, conservative operative and wife of liberal operative James Carville, explained on CNN today why conservatives don't like McCain's views on global warming: It's "a largely unscientific hoax." Oh, well, then never mind. Her husband takes a different view (duh): "What we need to do, as a party, is try our best to focus on those two issues, energy independence and global warming, above the other environmental and energy issues out there." So to him, global warming is the top environmental issue. To her it is a hoax. If they can be married, why can't the Sunnis and Shiites live in harmony?

Massey incest redux

So, remember how two justices on the W. Va. Supreme Court have recused themselves from the Massey case? One was photographed frolicking on vacation with Massey CEO Don Blankenship on the French Riviera. The other has publicly criticized Blankenship. The latter fellow said that a third judge — Justice Brent Benjamin, who received $3.5 million in support from Don Blankenship in his 2004 election — should also recuse himself. Well, Benjamin has offered an answer: screw you, I’m staying. Again, for the record: Don Blankenship, the CEO of the company involved in the case, spent $3.5 million to get this …

Grid, grid, grid

Tyler Hamilton speak. You listen.

United Nations calls climate change a matter of human rights

If climate change is a “largely unscientific hoax” and “political concoction” (in the words of Republican strategist Mary Matalin), it’s a hoax and concoction that could threaten the rights of millions of people. Or so said the United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights this week. “Ultimately climate change may affect the very right to life of various individuals,” said Commissioner Kyung-wha Kang, adding that countries have an obligation “to prevent and address some of the direst consequences that climate change may reap on human rights.”

Lutz strikes back

GM exec defends calling climate change a ‘crock of shit’

A couple weeks back, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, at a roundtable with reporters, casually mentioned that he thinks global warming is a "crock of shit." (His point was that it makes sense to develop an all-electric vehicle either way.) Lots and lots of people, mainly bloggers, got in a huge uproar about it. Yesterday, Lutz wrote a defiant post on GM’s blog addressing the controversy. His point is that it doesn’t matter a bit what his personal beliefs are; what matters is what he does, and what GM does. And he claims GM is on the ball: General Motors …

Companies not following through on pledge to lobby for carbon reduction

Companies participating in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership have pledged to lobby for a mandatory cap on U.S. carbon emissions, but — and there’s always a but — many of those same corporations are working behind the scenes to undermine greenhouse-gas regulation. Just a few examples: USCAP members General Electric and Caterpillar sit on the board of a group called the Center for Energy & Economic Development, which opposes greenhouse-gas regulations. USCAP member Duke Energy has joined notorious coal lobbying group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. Eight USCAP members sit on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which …

Staying hooked on oil is expensive, too

Gas pricing, Big Oil, and carbon pricing

Apropos of British Columbia's big announcement, I have some ranting to get off my chest. One of the most frustrating things about U.S. climate policy is the reflexive fear that if we ever raise the price of gas -- or of driving generally -- people will riot in the streets or something. This makes it exceedingly difficult to rearrange the economy away from oil and its carbon contents. But, of course, the price of gas keeps rising anyway. In fact, crude oil prices have more than tripled over the last half-dozen years, with futures closing above $100 recently. To be sure, there's a silver lining to higher prices: they really do dampen demand, despite what you hear all the time. But it's a silver lining to a dark and ugly cloud: high energy prices mean that consumers are taking it on the chin -- and especially low-income consumers. And worse, all the revenue from the high prices goes to the energy companies. If prices had risen because of taxes or carbon fees, then the public could be reaping the windfall that big oil is raking in now. For a decade, lawmakers have balked at the prospect of $20-per-ton carbon taxes (a figure that is sometimes kicked around as a price that would get us on the right track). Eighty dollars per ton sets off screaming and wailing. But those figures translate into an additional 20 to 78 cents, respectively, per gallon at the pump. In the time that we've all been afraid of those comparatively modest figures, the price at the pump has jumped $2 or more. We could have been intentional about getting ourselves off oil, and about protecting consumers from price spikes. But instead, we've opted for the expensive and volatile route: we'll do nothing and hope for the best. Now let's just hope we can figure out a cap-and-trade program that doesn't send any price signal to drivers.

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