Climate & Energy

The fossil bloc makes its play

New Senate alternatives to L-W would take climate policy backwards — way backwards

George Voinovich. There’s an important story in yesterday’s edition of E&E (as always, $ub. req’d) about two alternatives to Lieberman-Warner that have recently been floated in the Senate. One comes from Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) …

Details matter: Winner-picking and social engineering

Lieberman Warner criticism, Part 3

This is the third in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See also part 1 and part 2. Let's do a thought experiment. Imagine that tomorrow morning, you wake up, reach in your pocket, and find that you suddenly have billions of dollars of cash. Before you have a moment to celebrate, you also realize that you are lying in the middle of an interstate, and there is a big truck coming. What do you do? (a) Issue an RFP for research, development, and deployment of technologies that will help you get off the highway; (b) Issue an RFP for research, development, and deployment of crash-retardant pajamas; (c) Invest in wildlife conservation measures to protect the flora and fauna on the side of the highway that are about to be covered in blood, guts, and twisted metal; (d) Set aside money for truck driver grief counseling, or; (e) All of the above. If you chose (e), read no farther. You have identified yourself as a person who thinks that the Lieberman-Warner approach to greenhouse-gas reduction is perfection incarnate. If, on the other hand, you think that there was a fairly important idea not even listed amongst the options above (hint: it has to do with getting your butt off the highway and/or stopping the truck), then you understand the flaws innate to the Lieberman-Warner approach. (And if you chose a, b, c, or d ... you're one odd duck. But at least you've signaled your self-interest in high-tech solutions to simple problems!)

Polar-bear listing decision must be made by May 15, says judge

The last time we checked in with the laggardly Interior Department, it was saying it needed until June 30 to decide whether to place polar bears on the endangered-species list. But the department had better …

Me on a podcast

I am on this week’s podcast from I’ll confess when the PA guy called me I didn’t know it was a record of “Marxist thought online,” but hey, let a thousand flowers bloom. As …

Carbon policy dilemma, 2

Two simple, effective, and diametrically opposed climate policy proposals

This is the second in a series; see part one. I said in my previous post that of the three goals of climate policy — simplicity, political buy-in, and efficiency — it is possible to …

The experiment

If biofuels are sustainable, we should be able to show it

A friend recently sent me a one-page press release from an ethanol lobby group that purported to debunk "myths" of biofuels. Our ensuing discussion helped me clarify why even people who once were excited and optimistic about biofuels (like me) are now so opposed to production subsidies (as opposed to R&D). My friend asked (paraphrasing), "If not biofuels, then what?" and noted that what we're doing now -- "squeezing oil out of rocks" -- is not exactly good for the planet. For me, the bottom line is simply this: Ethanol is no more a renewable fuel than hydrogen is. Rather, ethanol is a way for us to consume natural gas, diesel oil, and coal (not to mention a huge volume of water and vast acreage of cropland) to make motor fuels. All this is on top of serious problems raised by studies about land diversion for carbon emissions and food availability. It's important to remember that fossil fuels are biofuels (fuels made from once-living matter), so using that term alone isn't helpful.

Notable quotable

“So I hope that this film will help others to connect the dots the way it helped Tipper and me to connect the dots on the relationship between mountaintop removal — which is a crime …

U.S. should back off from biofuels to bring down food prices, says Texas guv

Has the U.S. push for biofuels contributed to rising global food prices? Well, yes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday: “There has been apparently some effect, unintended consequence from the alternative fuels effort.” But, …

Carbon tax shifts?

The only obstacle to more state carbon taxes is politics

One of Washington State's conservative think tanks has just proposed a carbon tax shift. Interesting. (Read it here.) The Washington Policy Center has garbed its tax shift proposal in anti-government clothing. Some of the rhetoric makes my skin crawl. But the proposal itself is sensible if modest. It includes a starter carbon tax that pays for a small sales tax reduction. As a bonus, it throws in a business and occupations tax reduction on all capital investment. It's not goofy. It's the kind of thing I was hoping we might get about a decade ago, when energy and climate issues weren't front-page news. Today, I hope we can do better: a comprehensive, auctioned, regional cap-and-trade system with built-in buffers for working families. I'm guessing that the political chances of WPC's proposal are somewhat slimmer than the odds for my preferred climate pricing policy. So rather than engage in a fight over the rhetoric, I'll use it as a springboard to answering four questions that I've had from readers and from people at my speeches on climate policy.

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