Climate & Energy

Let the sunshine in

Judicial ethics and global warming

Community Rights Counsel has spent much of the last decade researching and documenting undue, anti-environmental corporate influence on the federal judiciary, exposing the proliferation of privately-funded junkets billed as "judicial education seminars." Through reports such as 2004's Tainted Justice, we've highlighted the agenda of particular hosting groups, one steeped in libertarian economics and a regulatory agenda that is deeply opposed to government efforts to combat global warming. Recent ethics rules for the federal judiciary have addressed judges' participation in these junkets, but contained loopholes that have continued to benefit their supporters.

Barbara Boxer is on the hunt …

… for 60 votes (sub rqd) to overcome the inevitable filibuster of Lieberman-Warner. Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth — the only green group to come out against L-W early and consistently — has launched a “fix it or ditch” campaign on the bill. It’s running print ads in The Hill and Roll Call. Frankly, I don’t see any scenario in which the L-W bill is “fixed” during this session of Congress. Everything Boxer’s going to have to do to get the votes is going to make an already-weak bill weaker. In the immortal words of Han Solo, I’ve got a …

Obama joins Illinois legislators pushing to revive FutureGen

When the DOE announced it was yanking support for FutureGen, I wondered where Obama would come down on it. Pro-Illinois, or pro-green-coal-haters? Here’s our answer: Nine members of Illinois’ congressional delegation are urging President Bush to keep the FutureGen clean-coal power plant on track. In a letter sent to the president today, the bipartisan group said it has lost faith in Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman after meeting with him Tuesday. Bodman, in that meeting, told the lawmakers that his agency wants out of the public-private partnership planning to build the plant in Mattoon. The Energy Department, which was supposed to …

An infrastructure problem

Public works and investment must be part of the solution to global warming

As I've said before, certain types of goods -- public goods -- simply cannot be allocated efficiently through market mechanisms alone, even if we get prices right. Now this is not a "government good/private sector bad" post. It is a suggestion, as was my original post on this subject, that a market system requires not only regulation but large-scale public investment, and that one of the places we are making way too few public investments is energy infrastructure. Again, this is not to say that public investment is the way to run everything; just as there are public goods, there are private goods. But we are trying to meet needs that are clearly public goods via private means. Full social pricing, though needed, will not change that. Before focusing on energy, consider health insurance. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation, and gets worse results. There are various reasons for this, but one is that a competitive market in health insurance tends to provide more insurance and less healthcare than public insurance mechanisms. (When I gave this example back in October, biodiversivist argued that our healthcare system "does not resemble any free market I know of." That does not change the fact that our healthcare system is less regulated than healthcare systems in any other rich nation.) Every intervention that can be cited as possible government over-involvement in our medical system can be found in other systems that spend much less on healthcare and get far better results. If I have to, I'll do a whole post on healthcare -- but the bottom line is that moving a large part of the health insurance system from private to public spending would improve efficiency. Note that we are talking health insurance, not health care. A major part of fighting global warming will consist of switching from polluting to clean energy. That is largely a matter of major infrastructure, and infrastructure, at least since the fall of feudalism, has always required large public investment, not just regulation.

Gasoline will be free

Sheryl Crow chats about TP, Rove, and the price of oil

In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sheryl Crow talks about the One-Square Scandal: Last spring, you were held up as a parody of environmental correctness when you proposed restricting the use of toilet paper to one square per bathroom visit. What was that about? I think it’s a fantastic and eye-opening example of how the media is operated by political figures, of how Karl Rove was humiliated in the media and how, within 24 hours, he was able to humiliate me and take any sort of credibility away from me. What are you saying? You think Karl …

Battlefield earth

In a piece in Foreign Policy, Jamais Cascio goes straight at one of the things that scares me most about "geoengineering" — the potential, should such techniques be developed, that they will be used for less-than-benign ends. Nuclear war scares the hell out of us, right? Why would it not scare us to think that any country on earth could, relatively cheaply, alter the entire planet’s atmosphere? Or even that a concerted group of individuals could? It’s nuts. Anyway, read Jamais’ article: "Battlefield Earth." More notes on the piece here. The gist: geoengineering (or "terraforming") is inevitable, since no country …

Department of Energy backs away from funding Future

The U.S. Department of Energy has told lawmakers that it plans to pull funding for FutureGen, its ambitious and crazily expensive “clean coal” demonstration plant. The feds had planned to cover some three-quarters of the $1.8 billion price tag, and cited ballooning costs as its reason for backing out. The announcement pissed off lawmakers from Illinois, where the plant would have been sited and was expected to create 3,000 construction jobs. Sen. Dick Durbin (D) pledged that the state delegation “is going to make the case for FutureGen directly to the president,” while Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a statement saying …

Breaking: Dept. of Energy pulls support for FutureGen

Whoa! The Dept. of Energy just announced that it’s yanking its support for FutureGen, the much-ballyhooed and much-delayed “clean coal” demonstration plant that greens refer to, never more appropriately, as NeverGen. What’s behind the decision? “Ballooning costs.” But wait … I thought coal was cheap!? UPDATE: Note that Senator Dick Durbin expresses great outrage and promises to appeal directly to the president, but there is, conspicuously, no comment from his fellow Ill. Senator Barack Obama. Both of them fought like hell to get the plant sited in Ill., but Obama has taken lumps from greens for supporting clean coal. I’ll …

Answering the college

Focus the Nation events to heat up campuses across the U.S.

Focus the Nation, a series of climate-change-focused educational events on over 1,000 campuses across the United States, is basically the student-centered cousin of Step It Up. And if you were one of the thousands who attended SIU (or SIU 2), you know that raising climate consciousness doesn't have to be a drab affair. It can be a colorful, creative, youth-infused party of a time. Enter Focus the Nation. Hoping to pick up where SIU left off, Focus the Nation is gathering together thousands of students and teachers for climate festivities, billing it as the largest teach-in in U.S. history. It all goes down Jan. 31. (Or, you know, whatever the kids say these days.)

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