Climate & Energy

Bush: the uncompassionate, anti-technology president

Dubious 2009 energy budget released

On the heels of giving away the (decorative) centerpiece of his climate technology effort, NeverGen FutureGen, Bush released a heartless and mindless FY09 energy budget yesterday. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent around an email on the President's Budget Request for FY2009 (I will post budget details later). Bingaman is "pleased to see overall growth in the DOE budget, particularly in the area of basic research," but critical of a number of dubious administration choices:

Scientists identify ecological systems most at risk from climate change

Scientists have identified the ecological systems most at risk from climate change in a study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers warned that within 100 years, a …

For whom the bell coals

More bad news for coal as big banks reconsider financing

I assume you’ve all heard the good news that three huge investment banks are planning to impose stricter standards on investments in coal-fired power plants. See WSJ’s Jeffrey Ball here and here. I’d like to …

Stop pacin'. Time's wastin'

Nelly, reimagined

Jenny Owen Youngs covers “It’s Getting Hot In Here,” gives it an eco-bent:

Acronyms uber alles!

Climate change mitigation in fewer than seven words

In response to David's challenge, I decided to summarize not only the problem of global warming, but the solution, in fewer than seven words. I cheated, of course -- each word is an acronym (one stolen from David), with a phrase behind it and an accompanying elevator speech. XTRA-COOL: (XTRA Carbon Out Of Our Lives) URGE2 (Use Renewably Generated Electricity Efficiently) RAPID RESPONSE (Regulation And Public Investment Develops Renewable Energy, Supplies Power to Our Nation & Supports Efficiency) CARE (Cap & Auction, Rebate Everything) GROUPHUG (Greens Reach Out, Unity with Progressives Helps Us Grow) The elevator speeches follow: XTRA-COOL: (XTRA Carbon Out Of Our Lives) Fossil fuels, logging, and industrial agriculture all emit carbon and other greenhouse gases, and turn the atmosphere into a garbage dump for those emissions. It turns out that we have filled up all that dump space we can use safely; the overflow is already causing disasters, and continued emissions will lead to catastrophes, including famine, flooding, diseases, and mass deaths from climate extremes. To prevent as much of this as possible, we need to stop the extra carbon emissions by phasing out the use of fossil fuels, and switching to more sustainable forestry and agriculture.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Green energy projects bloom in California

Right on the heels of Tappergate, The New York Times comes out with a couple of articles exploring the economic benefits of fighting global warming. As is evident to anyone but a Taphole, the energy business is the largest business there ever is or was or will be, and therein lies not only enormous money-making opportunities but jobs, jobs, jobs. These things, we hear, are good for the economy. So, take California, which decided to get serious about developing a solar industry. The state committed $3 billion in declining incentives over a 10-year period, and in return leveraged a lot more than that in private equity. Venture capitalists have put $625 million into California solar companies in 2007 alone. Manufacturers are feverishly commercializing new technologies, and if you can spell solar you can get a job out here. So, how does an enterprising young state get a piece of that action? I'm glad you asked. Last Wednesday, in Denver, with Governor Ritter on hand, we released a report that we developed with the Center for American Progress titled "Developing State Photovoltaic Markets" (PDF). It's a blueprint for making a solar market work. The premise here is that the key to lowering solar's costs -- and generating good jobs while you are at it -- is creating markets. The folks at NREL have done a great job in developing the technology; photovoltaics work great. Government R&D efforts should be redoubled, but using policy to open markets will leverage orders of magnitude more in private equity and further accelerate solar's entry into the mainstream. Secondly, without an extension of the federal investment tax credit, everything we are trying to do gets 30 percent harder -- and it's quite hard enough as it is, thank you very much. There's a great argument to be made for putting an extension in the financial stimulus package, as the Senate is currently considering. Congress, if you are reading this, won't you please consider a very easy action that will jumpstart the economy, fight global warming, and establish energy independence all at the same time? These things are popular with voters, we hear.

Vaporware

It’s a few days old now, but don’t miss Tyler Hamilton’s column on CCS in the Toronto Star. It focuses on Canada, but the story is basically the same: despite all the talk and hype, …

Three Wall Street banks announce funding restrictions for new coal power plants

Photo: iStockphoto Three major investment banks, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, will announce new environmental standards today that are expected to make it more difficult for large coal-fired power plants in the United …

Holistic climate medicine

Our command-and-control air-pollution regulations are working against our climate policy

With the climate policy discussion now settling into lines of cap & trade vs. carbon tax, and allocation vs. auction, it has implicitly moved beyond the top-down, command-and-control models favored by early plans (and in particular the multi-pollutant, "4P" bills). This market focus is a good thing, on balance. What isn't good is that it's only being applied to greenhouse gas pollution. Our existing air pollution laws create disincentives to GHG reduction. Modernization of these (non-carbon) pollution laws may be the single most important thing the federal government can do to lower GHG emissions. As we head out of the harbor, it's time to haul up the anchor. Relevant history The Clean Air Act, coupled with New Source Review, has dramatically lowered SOx, NOx, and particulate emissions. It has also substantially increased GHG emissions. The reasons why are three-fold: 1. The rules were set on a so-called "input basis." Come under a certain parts-per-million of exhaust and you are OK. Exceed it and you're in violation. This has the perverse effect of discouraging energy efficiency: if I lower absolute pollution (tons/yr) by 40% and cut fuel use by 50%, I have reduced the flow of fuel and combustion air by more than I've reduced pollution (e.g., the "millions" in the parts-per-million formulation). Thus my ppm actually increases and I can't get a permit anymore.

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