Climate & Energy

Simple answers

Noel Sheppard: Capitalist democracies around the world should be very concerned about the level of socialism being discussed at the United Nations’ climate change meeting in Bali. Not only are international hands being extended to collect funds from countries like the United States in order to help poorer nations deal with a problem that might actually be disappearing since global temperatures peaked in 1998, but climate change is also being used as a means of stripping intellectual property rights from companies that have created new more eco-friendly energy technologies. If such a power-grab for the so-called benefit of the downtrodden …

Coal's fired

More backlash against new coal power plants

The headline says it all: "PacifiCorp labels coal a no-go for new plants." PacifiCorp has backed away from plans to build any new coal plants within the next 10 years, conceding that coal no longer can overcome tightening regulations and environmental opposition. This seems like a big deal, since -- in my opinion at least -- the gravest long-term climate threat from our part of the world is coal-fired power. Nationwide, coal power plants represent America's largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions; and there's still an awful lot of coal in the ground in the American West. Until recently, coal's abundance, coupled with rising demand for electricity, has made a rapid proliferation of coal power seem more or less inevitable. But this announcement throws that into a cocked hat. Perhaps the lesson here is that the politics of climate change are changing so quickly that what seemed inevitable as recently a few years ago is starting to look unthinkable.

The dinosaur lobby weighs in on the energy bill

Fossil-friendly biz groups send letter to Senate requesting reversal of Supreme Court decision

Today, an extraordinary letter about the energy bill was sent to the U.S. Senate by a coalition of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oil, gas, forestry, and mining lobbying groups. With what can only be described as brass balls, they are asking the Senate to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. They say "the energy legislation must contain explicit language clarifying that nothing in this bill can be construed as triggering the regulation of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act" and for good measure, " the legislation must address …

Climate change and flooded freeways

Climate disruption comes home to the Northwest

In the late 1990s, after pineapple express storms caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides across the Northwest, National Climatic Data Center Chief Scientist Thomas Karl said the storms were "an example of the type of weather patterns that would be expected to become more frequent and yield an increase in precipitation extremes as the climate continues to warm." Welcome to the future. The Northwest was fire-hosed again in recent days, flooding communities and leaving them in the dark throughout western Washington state, while cutting I-5 from Portland to Seattle, and rail service to boot. As of today, a lengthy detour to the east or an air flight remain the options for travel between the two major U.S. Northwest cities. Costs are placed at $4 million per day, and that is before expensive repairs to the I-5 roadbed are taken into account. The connection of global warming to increased storms and rainfall is as easy to make as the connection of steam rising from a pot of water to the stove flame beneath -- Heat causes evaporation. Global warming is heating the oceans, and the steamy, moist air rising from ocean surfaces is rocket fuel for storms. A warmer atmosphere also holds moisture better. The line of clouds pointing from the tropical Pacific to the Northwest that show up on the weather report satellite photos are the physical illustration of these phenomena. Of course, the scientific caveat is that no one weather event conclusively demonstrates global warming. The point here is that global warming loads the dice for more frequent and intense storms such as the Northwest has seen in recent days. When rainfall in the rain city of Seattle hits the second greatest one-day level in recorded history, and the record was set only in 2003, it provides a very suggestive indicator.

Ireland will phase out incandescent light bulbs

So Australia wants to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2010? Ireland plans to do it by as early as January 2009. Anybody wanna try to top that?

Me, in the Guardian, on the energy bill

I have a new piece up on the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free opinion site, running down the latest action on the energy bill and What It All Means. Check it out.

California declares emissions-reduction target, requires industry to track emissions

As California’s landmark global-warming law requires the state to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, the state Air Resources Board has determined just what that goal will be: 427 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. The number was devised from some 13,000 separate calculations, from the impact of the aviation industry to the number of cows and horses in the state to where Californians source their power. California currently emits some 500 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year; officials estimate that if no steps are taken, that will jump to 600 million metric tons in 2020. …

Bartlett opposes energy bill over RFS

I’m a fairly enthusiastic supporter of the energy bill that just left the House, but I am painfully aware that the Renewable Fuel Standard, which would mandate (insofar as one can mandate ponies) 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2036 — and worse yet, 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol by 2015 — is a grotesquerie that will do far more harm than good. I tend to think that it will get ratcheted back by a subsequent Congress, particularly once the perversity becomes clear and the backlash full-fledged. We can’t do what the RFS mandates we do; the question is …

Cap dunce

A carbon tax isn’t the only solution

At least someone gets it: All three of the leading Democratic candidates have proposed cap-and-trade plans that auction 100% of their CO2 permits. This is, economically speaking, the same thing as a carbon tax. The context: New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is complaining that no major presidential candidate has proposed a carbon tax -- which he takes as evidence that nobody has had the guts to take a stand in favor of policies that would "trigger a truly transformational shift in America away from fossil fuels." But as uber-blogger Kevin Drum points out, this is simply rubbish.