Climate & Energy

Why grandfathering sucks

More on cap-and-trade systems

Here's a clear demonstration of why, in a cap-and-trade system, grandfathering emissions rights to historic polluters is a terrible idea: The UK's biggest polluters will reap a windfall of at least £6bn from rising power prices and the soaring value of carbon under the new European carbon trading scheme ... Critics argue ... that the scheme, under which nearly all allowances are granted free of charge rather than having to be bought by big polluters, has created a distorted market in which the worst offenders will enjoy bumper profits while incurring no extra underlying cost for producing greenhouse gases. That's just about right: handing out pollution rights for free, as the European emissions trading system did, creates the potential for massive, unearned windfall profits. Permits will have a market value -- someone will want to buy them. So when we hand out emissions permits at no cost, we're essentially handing out free money. There may be a few exceptions to this rule: a few economic sectors where free allocation won't lead to windfall profits. But they're the exceptions. The rule (as demonstrated in Europe) is that grandfathering is great for polluters, and bad for consumers. So maybe that's why lots of big oil and coal companies are so supportive of grandfathering ...

<em>The Ecologist</em> dishes it up

Climate refugees and Wi-Fi pollution

The Ecologist is such a great magazine. But I'm sorry that they don't make any of their content freely available online for me to link to here, because the Dec/Jan issue has some really important reading. For one, the world's first (human) climate refugees are about to lose their islands (in the Sunderbans Delta, which straddles the border of India and Bangladesh and is the world's largest mangrove forest, due to increased flows of water from melting glaciers in the Ganges headwaters). There's also a meaty discussion about the possible negative health effects of Wi-Fi. Whether or not Wi-Fi microwaves actually cause headaches, sleep disturbance, depression, memory loss, and worse, as some studies claim, it is pretty remarkable -- according to a physicist interviewed for the piece -- that this technology could come to market and become ubiquitous without having to undergo safety trials or scrutiny.

With oil prices rising, Asia turns to coal

You may have heard that oil prices are flirting with $100 a barrel; what’s an oil-dependent, energy-hungry globe to do? In Asia, home to a third of the world’s proven coal reserves, the answer seems obvious. Across the continent, billions of dollars are being poured into R&D of coal-to-liquid fuel and coal-bed methane extraction. Some tout the new technologies as clean ‘n’ green — but coal by any other name is still coal. Period.

The year ahead

What will it take to make 2008 great?

The following guest post is by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), originally published on Climate Progress. He is the co-author of Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy. ----- Now that our New Year's Eve party hats are put away, it's time to look to the next year in the battle against global warming. In the year 2007, some good things did indeed happen on this front. Measures significantly improving car mileage standards and promoting the growth of renewable fuels were signed into law. But if 2007 was a year that could be considered in some ways good, then 2008 needs to be a year that will be great. Nothing else will do. The cataclysms of one million square miles of ice melting in the Arctic, a several-fold increase in the rate of melting tundra, and the acceleration of melting in Greenland, foretell possible feedback mechanisms that demand a faster and more aggressive clean energy revolution than we even envisioned a year ago. Whatever we thought necessary on New Year's Day 2007 needs to be doubled in 2008. So what will it take to make '08 great? Three things will do the trick.

Compact fluorescents can cause health problems, say groups

As Australia, Britain, and the good ol’ U.S. of A make plans to phase out traditional energy-sucking light bulbs, health concerns are being raised about compact fluorescents, the most popular alternative. The British Association of Dermatologists says CFLs can cause rashes on folks with photosensitive skin, the U.K. Migraine Action Association suggests that the bulbs can trigger terrible headaches, and U.K. charity Epilepsy Action says CFLs can induce seizures. Health professionals say exemptions to country-wide bans should be made for people with special health circumstances, but lighting industry reps point out that there are alternatives to CFLs that still meet …

Monsanto counts its cash

Seed-and-chemical giant sees its profit triple

In a gold rush, the firms that supply the gold diggers with tools — not the gold diggers themselves — make the highest and steadiest profits. That’s a platitude, but it’s also usually true. And it’s now playing out in the boom in corn-based ethanol. Don’t waste much time envying corn farmers. Sure, they’ve seen the price of their product double over the past year and a half or so. But they’ve also seen their costs inch up. Fertilizer, land rents (much of the farmland in the midwest is rented), pesticides, and seeds — all have risen since the corn …

Bush plays Baker, part IV

Tom Carper totally knows the president

(An on we go, in a series on the WaPo piece so bad it required numerous separate gripes.) Tom Carper would like you to know that he’s a) committed on global warming, and b) tight with the president: People find all sorts of ways to lobby President Bush. Sometimes it comes in the form of a handwritten note slipped into his palm during a bill-signing ceremony. Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) tried that last week when Bush signed energy legislation that will curb greenhouse gases. “Congratulations and good work,” Carper recalled writing. “By the way, Joe Lieberman and John Warner …

In 2008, globe will cool down a bit — but still be bloody hot, say researchers

Thanks to a strong La Niña, this upcoming year is likely to have lower average global temperatures than have occurred since 2000, according to U.K. forecasters. (Note to climate skeptics: This is the point where you stop reading and write a press release gleefully announcing that the earth is cooling and global warming is a hoax.) For those of you still reading, the same scientists predict that 2008 will still likely be one of the 10 hottest on record. Says researcher Phil Jones of the U.K. Met Office, “The fact that 2008 is forecast to be cooler than any of …

Greening the Export-Import bank

Ex-Im to finance more clean energy exports

The appropriations omnibus bill just passed through Congress "recommends that the Export-Import Bank provide 10 percent of its financing capacity to promote the export of clean energy products and services." This was a recommendation by many groups, including the Center for American Progress: Having supported more than $400 billion dollars of U.S. exports during the past 70 years, the Export-Import Bank is one of the most powerful tools at the U.S. government's disposal for spurring innovation and economic growth. But in yet another backward-looking strategy typical of this administration:

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