Climate & Energy

Fact checking the union: Clean energy and global warming

A closer look at the SOTU’s energy claims

Last night, as President Bush stepped to the well of the House floor to deliver his final State of the Union address, at least one thing was clear -- this president is a big fan of recycling. Unfortunately, I am not talking about the plastics and glass in my bottle bill, but the retooling of old rhetoric on global warming and our energy future. Here is my attempt to inject a little reality into the old Bush rhetoric rolled out in the State of the Union: Bush claim: "To build a future of energy security, we must trust in thecreative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs andempower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment allrequire reducing our dependence on oil." Reality: President Bush threatened a veto on the tax portion of the recently-passed energy bill, which included major incentives for a new generation of clean energy -- incentives that would have heralded a new era in green technology development. The Bush veto threat also killed the Renewable Electricity Standard which would have required that up to 15 percent of our electricity be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. He also opposes any mandatory cap-and-trade bill that would unleash the technology to meet the climate challenge by setting a price on carbon emissions.

Will peak oil force the localization of agriculture?

Stuart Staniford says no. Sharon Astyk says yes. Jeff Vail also says yes.

California considers “feebate” bill to make polluting cars more expensive

California is pursuing new ideas to reduce vehicle emissions in the state after the U.S. EPA denied the state a waiver it needed to implement its vehicle greenhouse-gas emission standards. California lawmakers are expected to vote on a bill this week that would set up a “feebate” system for new car purchases. Excessively polluting vehicles would become more expensive to buy while the cost of buying efficient cars would fall. One-time fees of up to $2,500 would be charged for new inefficient vehicles like Hummers and Chevy Tahoes while cars like Civic and Prius hybrids could earn similarly large rebates. …

<em>No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming</em>: Now available free online!

Book shows we can meet hard targets in stopping climate change

As the climate crisis grows worse, many people question whether we can phase out human greenhouse-gas emissions before an irreversible feedback cycle begins. As a belated New Year's present for 2008, I want to offer for free the full text of my book Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming, to increase optimism. We not only have the technical capability to phase out fossil fuels over the course of 30 years, we can eliminate 94 percent of emissions within 20. The cost is close to zero: between savings from efficiency and renewable sources that are more expensive than fossil fuels (but not that much more expensive), the market cost will balance out to around what we pay now. That is before we gain benefits from less pollution and less climate chaos. A lot of people worry (and rightfully so) not about the technical solutions, but about the politics of implementing them. They are right to do so; but the fact that we are missing huge opportunities for efficiency gains -- even at current prices -- shows that there is a political opportunity as well as a political danger. Let the people of the U.S. and the world understand the great opportunities green technology offers for better living and real wealth creation for the vast majority. The old story that the Chinese character for "crisis" is composed of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity" is false -- but the metaphor is too good to drop. You can download the entire book as a single file (or chapter by chapter) here.

Massey watch

WV Supreme Court to get out of bed with Blankenship, reconsider his case

A while back, loathsome mountaintop-mining outfit Massey Energy was hit with a $50 million judgment in a West Virginia court, in a ruling that they had illegally driven other area mining companies out of business. They appealed to the W. Va. Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling in a vote of 3-2. Later, pictures turned up of loathsome Massey CEO Don Blankenship vacationing on the French Riviera with W. Va. Supreme Court justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard — one of those three votes — way back in 2006, as the case was being litigated. They were both in Monte Carlo by …

House carbon offsets 'a waste of taxpayer money'

Funds for offsets shouldn’t reward past environmental behavior

If you must buy carbon offsets, caveat emptor -- in particular, don't buy them from the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). That is the point of a terrific front-page article in the Washington Post: "Value of U.S. House's Carbon Offsets Is Murky, Some Question Effectiveness of $89,000 Purchase to Balance Out Greenhouse Gas Emissions." Yes, it is nice to be quoted above the fold in any major newspaper -- the quote in the headline is from me -- but the reason I think the article is important is that the reporter took the time to track down the offset projects the taxpayer money went to. The results are not encouraging. I am not a fan of offsets -- and certainly wasn't a fan of the House buying offsets from the CCX in the first place. But I was surprised by the overall lameness of the specific projects and utterly shocked to read the words of CCX CEO Richard Sandor (a man I have a fair amount of respect for):

Robust SOTU debunkery

Wow, if you want a full-meal-deal debunking of the SOTU, point your browser over to ThinkProgress. They’re dismantling the poor thing line by line. There’s the section on energy: Bush said: "Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future." FACT — BUSH AND ALLIES HAVE RAKED IN MILLIONS FROM COAL INTERESTS: During the 2000 campaign, the Bush campaign received more than $2.8 …

SOTU desultory liveblogging

Blah blah blah. You know, the guy uses so much flim-flammery, so many deceptive code words, so many feints and misdirections, it’s almost like he’s speaking a different language. I have utterly lost the ability to hear it the way an Average Voter might. My brain translates it automatically. Now he’s on the clean energy bit. Next steps — funding clean coal! Fund renwables and nukes. Fund batteries and auto technologies. Create a fund to fund the fund overseas. Funding! Funding! Never, ever regulation! Whoa — an agreement that would “eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.” Must include all …

Sebelius backing down?

New ‘air of cooperation’ between Kansas state gov’t and coal companies

This evening, Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius will give the Democratic rejoinder to Bush’s SOTU speech. There has been quite a bit of speculation — here on Grist, among other places — about Sebelius’ possible fitness as a VP candidate. Via Ezra, this actual Kansan blogger throws cold water on the notion. Particularly concerning: Her appointee, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby (a friendly acquaintance/source of mine), rejected two proposed coal plants on global warming grounds. Indeed, that action is the one that seems to have sparked the most recent round of praise for her. Except, whoops, it …