Climate & Energy

Australians R Us!

No country in the world is more like the U.S., so where’s our national climate-change leader?

Kevin Rudd. Photo: AP / Rob Griffith Culturally, politically, and spiritually, what country in the world is most like the United States? It's not Canada and it's sure not Great Britain. The answer is Australia. Ask anyone who's been there. It just feels like America there, from the sprawling suburbs to the cars people drive, from the obsession with sports to their unit of currency: the Australian dollar. Add these factors too: both countries were British colonies, both wiped out indigenous peoples, both have big cities in the east and vast frontiers to the west, both have huge coal deposits and per capita greenhouse-gas emissions that lead most of the world, and, in the last several years, both have had conservative national governments that basically deny the reality of global warming. The Aussies R Us! So how, then, did Australia just complete a national election where the issue of climate change played a central role and may have determined the outcome? How did a country so steeped in America's brand of fierce self-reliance, consumerism, and fossil-fuel addiction throw out a "climate skeptic" prime minister and hand a landslide victory to a Labor candidate who talked persistently about ratifying Kyoto? And most important, if they can do it Down Under, is there still hope for America?

A little Al for the rest of us

Blogging from Al Gore’s speech in Bali

Post by Richard Graves, U.S. youth delegate and editor of It's Getting Hot in Here As I wrote this post, I was listening to Al Gore give his speech at the U.N. Climate Negotiations. It had been a long trip here, and despite the schedule and the heat I was still excited. As we sat in the audience, we spoke with Kevin Knobloch from UCS and watched Kelley trying to talk with U.S. representative Paula Dobriansky ... but we were all here to listen to Al Gore. I was surprised to hear him lead with a reference from the Holocaust, but it hit home. How can we ignore those who are the harbingers of the threat of climate change. People can't ignore stories of people like Claire Antrea, a young nun from Kiribati whose home is being flooded. These threats are coming for us, and the sense of urgency must come from the fact the science is changing so fast that none of us, even in the developed world, can assume we are safe. This is a powerful idea, and one that seems to be coming true.

Annals of irritants, part three

Louisiana’s Sen. Landrieu votes against party, for Big Oil

When the energy bill went before the Senate yesterday morning, it had been stripped of the Renewable Energy Standard, but it still retained the tax package, which would have reversed $13.5 billion in tax breaks to oil and gas companies to help pay for $21 billion worth of investment in renewable energy. Republicans, as always, threatened a filibuster, so majority leader Harry Reid went for a cloture vote, for which he needed 60 votes. He got 59. The final roll call shows that only one Democrat voted Nay: Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. If she had voted Yea, the bill …

Drown my sorrows in rivers and celluloid

Ugh. That was rough. I need a pick-me-up, and the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival can't come soon enough. I've never been, but Nevada City is special and the South Yuba River Citizen's League does great work.

Annals of irritants, part two

Arlen Specter proclaims importance of fighting climate change in Bali; votes against it in D.C.

In a letter to the president (PDF), 52 members of Congress expressed their disapproval of the U.S. stance in Bali: The clear implication is that the United States will refuse to agree to any language putting the United States on an established path toward scientifically-based emission limits … We write to express our strong disagreement with these positions and to urge you to direct the U.S. negotiating team to work together with other countries to complete a roadmap with a clear objective sufficient to combat global warming. The United States must adopt negotiating positions at the Bali Conference of the …

Bali climate meeting goes overtime, drops specific emissions targets

The two-week United Nations climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, has gone into overtime, lasting past its scheduled end as the U.S., Canada, and Japan duked it out with European countries and developing nations in a battle over emissions targets. As expected, the U.S. team, led by Chief Negotiator “Snarlin'” Harlan Watson, has successfully negotiated against specificity; the European nations agreed to drop their insistence that developed nations aim for a target of cutting greenhouse gases between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 in favor of continuing to simply talk about cuts instead. However, Germany’s environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, insisted …


Well, looks like we managed to bolix that one up pretty well.

To those who are blasé about expanding the RFS

Once in place, the RFS will be nigh impossible to eliminate

Several posts during the past week, and countless ones elsewhere, have asked people to support the Energy Bill making its way through Congress. Some people have no problem with one of its major provisions, which calls for substantially expanding the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) -- the regulation that requires minimum amounts of ethanol, biodiesel, or other biofuels to be incorporated into the volume of transport fuels used each year. Indeed, some would even welcome the prospect. Many others do not like the idea, but seem to feel that it is a price worth paying in order to preserve solar investment tax credits as well as production tax credits for large-scale renewable projects. (A national Renewable Electricity Standard has already been dropped from the bill.) Some of those people then argue, in effect, we can always go back and repeal the RFS next year. Next joke.

'Right now, the president's got the upper hand'

Sen. John Kerry defends Dem decision not to force a filibuster on the energy bill

I took part this evening in a short conference call with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and a few other bloggers. It got a bit heated. He passionately defended the Senate’s accomplishments and urged critics to acknowledge the difficult position Congress is in at the moment, with the omnibus budget bill approaching. First, I asked him the question on everyone’s mind: Why not actually make the Republicans filibuster? Bill after bill keeps failing because it can’t get to 60 votes for cloture, but Republicans never have to take a public stand behind their obstructionism. Kerry responded with clear frustration (it obviously …

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