Climate & Energy

Monday links

As promised, here’s yet another bunch of links for your leisurely perusal: Fortune writer Adam Lashinsky has a great round-up from the Brainstorm Green conference. …

Change now or change never

The longer we wait to move away from gasoline, the more high gas prices will hurt

Like Americans, Europeans are generally not fond of rising fuel costs. Unlike Americans, they’re much better at handling them. It isn’t difficult to understand why; …

Oh, say can I see a CCA?

How communities can choose renewable electricity, part 1

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Paul Fenn, who has written or helped write several pioneering pieces of legislation which allow communities to aggregate their electricity purchasing power in order to choose renewable energy. This policy framework is called community choice aggregation, or CCA (of course, if I mangle any of the specifics, it will be from my own lack of understanding). When a CCA is created, the city or town or county can contract with an energy service provider (ESP) to provide the power for all residents of the area, if the residents so choose (so far, only about 5 percent of residents haven't signed up with various CCAs). In the case of the San Francisco CCA, the electricity service provider (ESP) will produce 360 megawatts over three years: 103 from distributed renewables, mostly PV on buildings; 150 from a wind farm; and 107 from conservation and efficiency. That should constitute 51 percent of San Francisco's electricity needs (up to 20 states are pursuing CCAs). The utility still provides the transmission lines, billing, and electricity backup. In 2001, San Francisco voters also passed a proposition to allow for "solar bonds" to be issued by the city (with an assist from Adam Browning's VoteSolar Initiative). These bonds will be used to construct the wind and solar electricity generating equipment and "smart grid" equipment which will be paid back by the revenue from the electric bills of the San Francisco residents who are part of the CCA. This mechanism gets around the biggest problem we've had with building wind and solar electrical generating capacity -- the lack of upfront capital.

Word puzzles

Washington Post reporter not allowed to say what he knows about climate legislation costs

Steven Mufson’s a good reporter, but I swear to God, something about the conventions of traditional journalism just drives people to do things that might …

Details matter: One final detail

Lieberman-Warner criticism, Part 5

This is the fifth in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See also part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. I close out this series with one small, specific thing that Lieberman-Warner gets wrong -- not necessarily because it's the biggest or most important thing it gets wrong; rather, because it illustrates the challenge faced by big and complicated legislation: it's really hard not to mess up the little stuff. Not out of malice, necessarily, but simply because it's hard to get that much right. And sometimes -- as in this case -- the little things you get wrong can have big consequences. When all is said and done, good government policy isn't that much different from good human resources policy. If your employer makes it clear to you how your actions convert into your salary, you tend to work well together. On the other hand, if your employer gives you a 10-page incentive compensation plan with individual, department-wide, and corporate-level targets, bonus points for how many team-building sessions you go to, credit for attending various training seminars ... you get my point. In a nutshell, that's the crux of the problem with Lieberman-Warner. Rather than starting simple and adding on complexity only as needed, it starts really complicated and virtually ensures that lots of those little details are wrong, misdirected, and/or in conflict with one another. In this final post, I'll look at just one of those details: utility decoupling.

A trip to the Land of Strained Analogies

More blather about sacrifice from pundits who don’t really care about climate change

I see the pundits are still lobbing up chinstrokers about how addressing climate change is going to require "sacrifice -- serious wartime sacrifice." This sounds Very Serious. The only quibble I have is that it's probably not true. "Going green" in a carbon-constrained economy won't feel like sacrifice to most people. It will feel like shopping. Meaning, it will feel like all the decisions we make every day, but tilted imperceptibly by the price ramifications of a carbon cap. Studies suggesting that the overall economic effect of climate change legislation will be fairly small just keep piling up. The most recent one was from the environmental radicals at the IMF. So why all the sacrifice talk? Maybe because it's just plain hard to imagine what a decades-long economic transformation will look like. We tend to extrapolate crudely from where we are now. If you want to cut your individual carbon footprint 80 percent today, you might have to sell your car, give up flying, move into a smaller house, and start foraging for food. But that's not how this will go down. Fully decarbonizing will take several decades. The process will be unpredictable, creating winners, losers, opportunities, and benefits. Come with me now to Strained Analogy Land. Imagine going back in time to meet your hippie forebear ...

An interview with Fred Krupp, author of Earth: The Sequel and president of EDF

Fred Krupp. Fred Krupp has been piloting Environmental Defense Fund since he left private law practice in 1984. It hasn’t gone badly: Under Krupp’s leadership, …

Americans grow up

CBS/Times poll: We reject gas-tax holiday

The margin was narrow -- 4 percentage points. And 5 percent of those polled didn't choose sides. But a CBS News/NY Times poll released Sunday just might signal the moment when Americans began to grasp the intertwined realities of climate, energy and national security. The poll [PDF] found that 49 percent of Americans think suspending the gasoline tax this summer is a bad idea, while 45 percent approve of the plan (see Question 49). If memory serves, this is the first time in at least a generation that the American public expressed a willingness to be taxed more rather than less for energy.

Follow the money

Carbon costs and energy prices, NC edition

As the most ardent Gristophiles know, this site is hosting a lively debate over the degree to which prices imposed on carbon emissions will impact energy costs. To recap, if prices do impact costs, then a carbon tax provides an investment incentive. If they don't, then we need some carrots to go with the stick of a tax. Hot off the presses comes this bit of news from Greenwire ($ub req'd): Duke Energy Ohio is asking federal regulators to approve the transfer of its Ohio power plants to companies owned by North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp. whose rates are set in a competitive market instead of by state regulators. Why, you ask?