Climate & Energy

Canada should consider adopting carbon tax, says panel

Canada should strongly consider adopting a carbon tax along with an emissions cap-and-trade system, a panel of experts advised the government today. The panel had been asked for advice on how Canada could meet its goal of reducing emissions by 45 to 65 percent of 2003 levels by 2050. Environment Minister John Baird put the kibosh on a country-wide carbon tax last year, but the province of Quebec has implemented one and appears to be doing très bien, merci.

Gnashing my teeth over globalization

Can economic democracy make the global economy more sustainable?

Worried about more coal plants, carbon emissions from transportation, and a crumbling infrastructure? Evidence provided by several recent reports point to one of the least explored causes of these problems: globalization, that is, the transfer of manufacturing capacity from developed to developing countries, particularly China. The mechanisms differ. The U.S. and Europe, which could manufacture using environmentally benign techniques, instead use old, polluting technologies that wreck China's environment and increase global carbon emissions. The 70,000 cargo ships that ply the seas moving all of the globalized goods emit more than twice as much carbon as all airline traffic. And because major corporations no longer feel tied to their local communities, they also no longer lobby governments for a world-class infrastructure. Now, I recently proposed that it would be a good thing to manufacture locally (and Ryan Avent took me to task for saying so). But what I want to propose is not protectionism, but the idea that if local companies were employee-owned and -operated, the problems I describe in this post would go away -- as utopian as that may first sound. But first to the NYT article, "China Grabs West's Smoke-Spewing Factories":

Technology begets technology

Battery technology continues to improve

This is my hybrid bike charging at a 7-11 while I ate some lunch. I was hauling a heavy load and had been tormenting another cyclist who had been trying to close a 10-foot gap with me for a couple of miles on Sand Point Way. I took my batteries to their limit of 4.6 amp-hours, so I had to pull out of the dogfight to refuel with 14 miles on the odometer. Yet-Ming Chiang (formerly a researcher at MIT) combined lithium ion technology with nanocarbon particles to invent the batteries that power my bike, saw, and drill. These batteries solved just enough technical problems to make the hybrid electric bicycle fully feasible, and will probably do so for the first plug-in hybrid cars. Yi Cui (a researcher at Stanford) heads a team that has come up with an improvement on the A123 battery by combining lithium ion technology with silicon nanowires. "It's not a small improvement," Cui said. "It's a revolutionary development [producing 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion batteries]."

Forest Wisdom

The Forest Guild on climate change

Here's a window into how foresters are looking at climate change: the Forest Guild is a national, nonprofit network of practicing foresters whose advice and efforts on behalf of their landowner clients has a big role to play in the health and future of privately owned forests. The Guild "promotes ecologically, economically, and socially responsible forestry as a means of sustaining the integrity of forest ecosystems" (and the welfare of those dependent on them). So it's not a big surprise that the new edition of their publication, Forest Wisdom (large PDF), goes to some depth in exploring the challenges presented by climate change. It includes articles like "Recent Trends in US Private Forest Carbon" (of nine forest regions identified by the Forest Service, four are most important in terms of potential carbon gains and losses -- the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest/Lake states, and Pacific Northwest -- due to their high ratio of private ownership, high productivity, and intensity of management), and also a piece on carbon markets. What caught my eye was the cover story by editor Fred Clark, "Forest Stewardship in a Changing World," the main issues of which he describes like this: Forest practitioners will be on the frontlines in the effort to protect our forests and our environment from the effects triggered by changing climate. Guild members already possess many of the tools and skills that will be most needed ... [and] are well-suited for meeting both the new realities and expectations that society is rapidly placing on forests. The "What's New" section of their site links to this edition of the publication, and lots of other interesting papers all delightfully full of forester-speak, but I wanted to (heavily) paraphrase here some of Fred's main points contained in the cover story:

Green gap is more of a chasm

The presidential debates once again highlight the obvious

Matthew Yglesias notes the environmental policy gap between Democratic and Republican presidential contenders: "On the Republican side, we have Mike Huckabee who thinks global warming is a serious problem but doesn't have any particular ideas about dealing with it." It strikes me as worse than that. When I read Andy Revkin's run-down of the weekend's debates, this made me want to get my shrill on: Mike Huckabee called for a billion-dollar prize for the first 100-mile-per-gallon car (a concept that might seem a bit goofy, but that has been embraced by some influential economists). It did indeed seem a bit goofy at first. Then I thought again. This idea goes well beyond goofy to ... deeply unserious? Insulting? Inane? Consider: 100 mpg-equivalent cars already exist. 100 mpg isn't all that ambitious. A bunch of kids are planning to bring a commercially viable 200 MPGe car to market in 2009. 100 mpg cars aren't a hugely important policy goal. So, let's see: a climate change an energy independence plan consisting of a billion-dollar prize for technology that already exists will probably soon be supplanted, and isn't a high priority. Of course, this was just one throwaway line in a debate. But I'm thunderstruck by the level of policy discourse on one of the most important issues of the day. Then I remember that voters don't actually care about this stuff, and it all sort of makes sense.

Moving money in the economy

More on climate policy in the Dem debate

Responding to some of the comments on Dot Earth: Obama is right that a cap-and-trade program with 100 percent auctioned permits would be the functional equivalent of a carbon tax. Yes that does, in Richardson’s rather daft phrase, "take money out of the economy," in the sense that any tax does. Happily, the other half of Obama’s plan is to plow the money right back into the economy, reducing the financial hit on the working class, supporting renewable energy programs, and creating green jobs programs. The effect will not be to remove but to move money in the economy, from …

Clinton v. Obama on energy

Clinton hangs 2005 energy bill around Obama’s neck

Quite interesting that Clinton went after Obama specifically on energy tonight: You know, the energy bill that passed in 2005 was larded with all kinds of special interest breaks, giveaways to the oil companies. Senator Obama voted for it. I did not because I knew that it was going to be an absolute nightmare. Now we’re all out on the campaign trail talking about taking the tax subsidies away from the oil companies, some of which were in that 2005 energy bill. A perfectly legitimate point, and a sharp one.

DeSmogBlog owes Obama three apologies

Obama is in no way ‘George Bush Lite’

I am a big fan of the climate website, DeSmogBlog. So I was shocked when, the day after his unprecedented victory in Iowa, DeSmogBlog gave Barack Obama "the inaugural 2007 SmogMaker Award for blowing smoke on global warming." Gimme a break. How could anyone win that award any year -- let alone in its inaugural year -- when George W. Bush is still president? [Not to mention a year in which Lomborg and Inhofe continue their influential disinformation compaigns!] After all, the "Prize honors those who sow confusion and delay on Climate Change." Seriously. Bush is easily the confuser and delayer of the year ... and the decade ... and he surely will be on the short list for the entire century. Yet DeSmog says Obama is "looking like George Bush lite." How can they make that claim? By misreading -- or failing to read -- Obama's terrific climate plan. DeSmogBlog claims: But he is campaigning on a greenhouse gas reduction "target" that the U.S. won't have to meet for 42 years ... While the world's leading scientific bodies tell us we need to act immediately to avoid catastrophic climate disruption, Obama has set his own target date at 2050, long past any opportunity for voters to hold him accountable. Uh, no. In fact, his plan (PDF) explicitly states: Obama will start reducing emissions immediately in his administration by establishing strong annual reduction targets, and he'll also implement a mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Based on the links in their post, DeSmogBlog's research on Obama's climate apparently consists of reading a one-paragraph story on BusinessWire with Obama's statement on Bali -- which they link to not once, but twice! They claim he is an unrepentant coal supporter, based on a June 2007 Washington Post article about his support for his state's coal industry. And yet in his climate plan he bluntly commits:

Carbon policy in tonight's Dem debate

Obama puts the 100 percent auction idea into the mainstream

There were presidential debates on both sides tonight. I don’t have cable, so I didn’t watch them. However, a friend sent along this bit of transcript from the Dem, from a question on climate policy: GIBSON: All right. Let me turn to something else. Reversing — you invoked the name of Al Gore a few moments ago — reversing or slowing global warming is going to take sacrifice. I’m sort of sorry Chris Dodd isn’t here because he’s talked a lot about a carbon tax in this election. Al Gore favors a carbon tax. None of you have favored a …

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