Climate & Energy

Notable quotable

"Coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is the crack cocaine of the developing world." – Alan Zarembo, L.A. Times, 18 Nov. 2007

Busting ethanol market bad news for investors

The U.S. ethanol boom has been brought up short by market glut, making corn-based fuel “2007’s worst energy investment,” a Bloomberg News Service article declared today. President Bush made ethanol a centerpiece of his energy plan and lavished it with subsidies; ethanol distilleries that went up quickly in anticipation are now having to shut down. Producer Pacific Ethanol Inc., backed by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, dropped 70 percent in New York trading this year. The biggest producer of the fuel, U.S. ag giant Archer Daniels Midland, may have to begin exporting it. Analysts suggest that the ethanol market may stabilize …

A litmus test for good economic policy

Pro-business vs. pro-market

Much of the debate around the big issues of our day -- from energy to healthcare -- hinges on whether one is "pro-market" or "pro-government," with Cato and the Wall Street Journal op-ed page lining up on one side and any number of PIRGs on the other. Unfortunately, neither side appears to understand the pro-market position. Herewith, my attempt to add a bit more rigor to the debate. So what does a market look like? At the most basic level, a market is defined by its characteristics. There are various definitions out there, but they all come down to the same basic tests: No barriers to entry No barriers to exit Price transparency (e.g., prices reflect costs) No participants can independently affect price Meet these tests and Adam Smith's magic starts to work, whereby the self-interest of each participant leads to social benefit for all in the form of better products and services, at lower prices. Why? Because life in a perfect market sucks! If you're running a firm in a market as defined above, you don't sleep well at night. New entrants keep cropping up. If you can't stay competitive, you're going to lose your money. Tiny changes in raw material costs have big impacts on your profits, which you are completely powerless to change. This causes you to do two things:

CNN on Grist's climate forum

Wherein I joke about John Edwards’ hair

CNN did a short segment on our presidential climate forum and the difficulty of raising the issue’s political profile. It’s actually a fairly astute piece. I appear toward the end.

Latest IPCC climate report comes out strong, lays groundwork for Bali talks

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal,” warned the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its hardest-hitting report yet, released on Saturday. Delegates from more than 140 countries came to agreement on the document, which summarizes three previous reports and warns of the grave dangers posed by climate change. The new report is intended to be a guide for policymakers — particularly the ones who’ll be meeting next month in Bali, Indonesia, to begin hammering out a new treaty to pick up where the Kyoto Protocol leaves off. “Today the world’s scientists have spoken, clearly and in one …

They write stories

Coverage of Grist’s presidential climate forum

Here’s a quick roundup of coverage of Grist’s presidential climate forum. If you see other stories, leave them in comments. From MSM: CNN: “Climate Change Politics“ AP: "Edwards, Clinton aim at climate change" The New York Times: “Democrats Outline Plans to Improve Environment“ L.A. Times: “Democratic candidates buff green credentials“ ABC News: "Candidates Talk Climate Change: West Coast Energy Forum Attracts Dem ’08ers“ FOX News: “Hillary Clinton Heckled During Forum on Global Warming in Los Angeles“ New York Daily News: “Edwards goes atomic on Hil for dodging nuclear energy question“ Columbia Journalism Review: “Fusing Climate to the Campaign“ KESQ: “Clinton, …

More light, less heat

Reflections on Grist’s presidential forum on climate change

On Saturday, presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton gathered in L.A. to discuss climate and energy at a forum co-sponsored by Grist and PRI’s Living on Earth. The forum was moderated by Steve Curwood of LoE, with Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board and me providing questions. Despite a delay getting started — Clinton was late arriving — things went off without a hitch. Well, mostly without a hitch. When Clinton came on stage, there was persistent, boorish booing from one part of the crowd. Said boo-er, in the middle of Clinton’s remarks, stood up …

What do we know about climate change?

Contents of the IPCC Sythesis Report Summary for Policymakers

For those not familiar with it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988 to write periodic assessments of the state of climate science. Its goal is to produce policy-neutral reports that inform policymakers about the best thinking of the scientific community. These reports have tremendous impact on the debate, owing to the credibility of the IPCC process. The IPCC is actually split into three working groups. Working group 1 focuses on basic climate science, working group 2 focuses on the impacts of climate change and human adaptation to it, and working group 3 focuses on mitigation efforts (efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions). In 2007, as part of the IPCC's fourth assessment report, each of the three working groups issued a report (e.g., see here for a discussion of the working group 1 report). Now comes the final part of the fourth assessment report: the synthesis report. This report ties together the three working group reports in an effort to create a single unified picture of what we know about climate change.


The Grist presidential forum on climate and energy went off without a hitch and was a huge success. I’ll have much more to say about it tomorrow, but for now I just want to thank, again, all the groups that worked to bring it together, the wonder-working production crew at the venue, and the candidates who participated. As for me, the adrenaline from the event has worn off, but the subsequent alcohol intake has not, so I believe I’ll go to bed. More later.

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