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Don't discount the Stern Review

Discount rates: Boring but important

This post will address two questions. What exactly is the discount rate? Did Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, use the wrong discount rate in his landmark 2006 report, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change? These may seem like abstruse economic questions, but for analyzing the cost-benefit analysis of climate action -- whether we must act urgently or at leisure -- the discount rate is probably the single most important factor. The discount rate basically represents the so-called time value of money, how much more $100 is worth to us today than …

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Dingell and Boucher back off worst elements of Energy Committee proposal

Chalk up a win for Pelosi

Well hey, look at that! No sooner do I write a post on the horrible legislative proposal out of Dingell's Energy Committee than I find out that Pelosi has more or less beat it back. A memo Dingell sent to the committee today (PDF) says that he and Boucher are removing most of the controversial elements: the CTL subsidies, the weak fuel-economy standards, and perhaps most significantly, the preemption of state (read: California) tailpipe air quality standards. The memo says: Almost one month ago, we began circulating a series of staff discussion drafts of energy legislation that generated, as we …

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D.C.

Wherein I chat with House types

Hi! I'm back. And -- if you'll indulge me in a little whining -- I'm sick as a dog, woefully behind on the news, buried under work, and just generally frazzled and bedraggled and haggard. And what's with time zones? They're stupid. Woe is me, I tell you. I wanted to do a quick post about my D.C. trip, though, which was a blast. Of course the party was great. Somebody (me?) will probably do a separate post about that later. But aside from that, I ran around town meeting all sorts of interesting people -- congressional staffers, members of …

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Why geosequestration is another distraction

Always keep the bait dangling just out of reach

The July/August 2007 issue of World Watch magazine (produced by the Worldwatch Institute) includes a concise demolition of carbon geosequestration in the form of a letter to the editor by one Luc Gagnon, "a senior advisor on climate change for Hydro-Quebec." I'd quote the letter but the Worldwatch site doesn't have it online yet. So I went searching for more by Gagnon and found this short, powerful PDF making essentially the same point (in almost the same language). An interesting table indeed, of "energy payback ratio of electricity generation options based on life-cycle assessments": Short summary: No matter how much …

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Umbra on passive solar

Dear Umbra, Not to belabor the home heating series, I'm considering installing a masonry stove. I've read that they're quite efficient, though costly to build. What's your take in relation to the other options you've discussed? What about other alternative heating methods like passive solar heating and radiant floor heating? John Logan, Utah P.S. I'm glad you mentioned insulation and glazing. We've been remodeling and recently upgraded these items, and it's made a tremendous difference. Dearest John, Not to belabor solar energy ... but I do want to discuss passive solar, and yours is the only question I could unearth …

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Prospects May Have Shifted During Flight

Booming airline industry gives nod to climate change The world's biggest air show opens in France today, and the commercial airline industry is all hepped up on salted peanuts: after two years in the red, it's expected to reap $5 billion in profits this year. Both Boeing and Airbus announced billions of dollars of aircraft orders today, and the industry -- which spews about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions -- shows no signs of slowing down. It does, however, show signs of recognizing its impacts. Last week, Airbus exec Louis Gallois pledged a 25 percent increase in R&D …

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Dorgan Grinder

As oil prices dip, industry faces questions about summer supplies Oil prices dipped from a nearly nine-month high today, and everyone's atwitter over what the summer will hold. The industry is beset by turmoil, with hostage-takings in Nigeria and turf battles in Gaza the latest contributors to price and supply instabilities. In addition, the U.S. biofuels push is leading Big Oil to cut back on refinery-expansion plans. U.S. motorists used 143 billion gallons of gasoline in 2006, and had been expected to demand 161 billion gallons by 2017 -- a scenario that saw Big Oil planning a 10 percent boost …

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Give ethanol a chance: The case for corn-based fuel

With the right rules in place, it could work

Working Assets is my long-distance phone company. I love it dearly for its combination of business efficiency, social responsibility and progressive politics. Each month, my phone bill carries alerts that urge me to take action on a specific issue or two. Recent Citizen Actions suggest the gravity of the issues chosen: "Save Our Constitution," "Impeach Dick Cheney," "Close Guantanamo." This month Working Assets urged me to "Say No to Ethanol." How did the use of ethanol end up alongside tyranny and torture as an evil to be conquered? A couple of years ago, I was waiting my turn to speak …

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Spinning the news on Cape Wind

Disagreement over threat to national security

Cape Wind claims to have cleared another hurdle today. From their press release: Today's Department of Defense (DOD) report is good news for Cape Wind. The report clearly finds Cape Wind to be outside of the wind-turbine offset zone being proposed for PAVE PAWS radar systems. Now the DOD has reached the same determination as the U.S. Air Force -- that Cape Wind will not negatively impact the Air Force PAVE PAWS radar system. This report puts to rest in a final form any reasonable concern about this issue. The reality is that projects like Cape Wind strengthen national security …

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The geopolitics of 'energy independence'

More than meets the eye

If you think that the current governmental and corporate interest in ethanol has something to do with global warming, think again. It is dawning on the U.S. government that (1) most of the remaining supplies of oil are in unfriendly hands, and (2) that there isn't enough oil remaining to feed a constantly growing global demand. With oil production plateauing, governments can turn to three main strategies to maintain fuel supplies: (1) consume what's left of the planet by growing huge amounts of biofuels; (2) fry what's left of the atmosphere by converting coal to oil or exploiting dirty, expensive …

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