Climate & Energy

Google plugs in

Notes from a plug-in hybrid conference

Silicon Valley came to Washington this week to talk about plug-in hybrids at a great conference organized by with Brookings. The combination of tech visionaries, electric cars on display, Washington heavy hitters such as John Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and even a couple of film stars, Peter Horton and Anne Sexton of Who Killed the Electric Car?, made for a great meeting. Here are my notes from the standing room only event ...

Drill on the Hill

Republicans expanding their drill base, at least to other Republicans

While Dick Cheney’s busy cheerleading for increased domestic drilling from the White House, House Republicans have been cooking up yet another bill to open up …

GHG policy thoughts, economics edition

The goal of climate policy is not high GHG prices

There's an implicit assumption in much of the climate policy debate that to meaningfully lower greenhouse-gas emissions, we need a high price on carbon. The assumption is wrong. Economics 101 In a market setting, price is a function of supply and demand. For a given commodity, prices will be high when demand outpaces supply and low when supply outpaces demand. Thus oil, for instance, is expensive. And autographed copies of my pen and ink cartoons are cheap (in spite of their rarity, I might add). A cap-and-trade system is an attempt to create a market around a particular commodity, namely GHG emissions. The same dynamic will apply: if demand for GHG reduction outpaces supply, the price of GHG reduction will be high; if supply of GHG reduction outpaces demand, the price will be low. If we pass a cap-and-trade policy that yields sustained high prices for GHG emissions, it will not be a sign of a successful policy. Quite the opposite: it will mean that the supply of GHG reduction is insufficient to meet the demand.


CEI deniers praise Andy Revkin, diss Tiger Woods

I'd like to thank the Competitive Enterprise Institute for publishing such an unintentionally informative and amusing newsletter. Rarely has the anti-scientific nature of global warming denial been so well stated in a mere two sentences: A scientist who says that the atmosphere is warming, and cites certain physical processes, is still a scientist. A scientist who argues that people must take certain acts to avoid disaster has become a priest. In other words, "A doctor who diagnoses your diabetes using medical tests is still a doctor. A doctor who tells you to exercise, change your diet, monitor glucose levels, and/or take insulin to avoid acute complications has become a priest."

Gas prices to peak soon?

EIA: Making the same mistake again and again

If you believe the Energy Information Administration, U.S. gas prices will peak at $4.15 per gallon in August. Whew. That's a suprise for most Americans, 86 percent of whom believe that prices will top $5 by the end of the year. We can be confident that the EIA -- the agency that does the country's official projection of oil prices -- knows what they're talking about. Yessiree. If you detect a note of sarcasm in my post maybe that's because the EIA has a hilarious record of forecasting world oil prices. And even when it comes to domestic gasoline prices, it's as if their forecasts are completely impervious to reality. To wit:

Notable quotable

Toyota and Honda could sure learn something from Chevy!

“I don’t have to tell you how sexy the [Chevy] Volt is. The Japanese and Chinese couldn’t possibly put out something that appealing to middle …

The price isn't right

Nuclear power is expensive

In mid-2007, a Keystone Center nuclear report (PDF), funded in part by the nuclear industry estimated capital costs for nuclear of $3600 to $4000/kW including interest. The report notes, "the power isn't cheap: 8.3 to 11.1 cents per kilo-watt hour." In December 2007, retail electricity prices in this country averaged 8.9 cents per kwh. Mid-2007 has already become the good old days for affordable nuclear power. Jim Harding, who was on the Keystone Center panel and was responsible for its economic analysis, e-mailed me in May that his current "reasonable estimate for levelized cost range ... is 12 to 17 cents per kilowatt hour lifetime, and 1.7 times that number [20 to 29 cents per kilowatt-hour] in first year of commercial operation." At the end of August, 2007 Tulsa World reported that American Electric Power Co. CEO Michael Morris was not planning to build any new nuclear power plants. He was quoted as saying, "I'm not convinced we'll see a new nuclear station before probably the 2020 timeline," citing "realistic" costs of about $4,000 per kilowatt. So much for being a near-term, cost-effective solution to our climate problem. But if $4,000 per kilowatt was starting to price nuclear out of the marketplace, imagine what prices 50 percent to 100 percent higher will do.

Maintaining relations

Council on Foreign Relations releases new report on climate change and U.S. policy

The Council on Foreign Relations released a new report this week on how the United States should approach foreign policy as it relates to climate …

Guess I won't be seaing you

Arctic sea ice update: 2008 poised to repeat — or beat — 2007

For months, the deniers have been extolling the fact that the Arctic sea saw record refreezing last fall. And they have been claiming that this somehow fits into the absurd claim that the planet is now in a major cooling trend. But back in the real world, the planet keeps warming, and the Arctic is taking the worst of it, which could lead to potentially catastrophic methane emissions from the tundra, as noted here. The National Snow and Ice Data Center just reported: