Climate & Energy

'Mideast Oil Forever?': Part II

The coming oil crisis

After the introduction, the next part of "Mideast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd) predicted in 1996 that we would have an oil crisis in ten years, and that we would be in a weak position to respond if Congress succeeded in gutting our clean energy programs. That may seem obvious now, but oil prices were low in the mid-1990s -- in the previous three years, oil prices had averaged about $16 a barrel -- and only a few oil/security analysts (whom we cite) were raising alarms. This prediction proved to be right in the main, and I am especially proud of the final paragraph in this section, where we made what was, at the time, a fairly original geostrategic argument that has been proven all-too-true. Here is what we wrote:

The blame game

Who is at fault for the fires in SoCal?

After burning nearly half a million acres, the devastating wildfires of this past week in southern California have been put down. Controversy raged with the flames; now that the air is beginning to clear, it's time to comb through the wreckage for some insight worth remembering. And there's a lot to examine, as experts of all types came forward with reactions -- some to lead, some to offer insight, and some to smear. The San Francisco Chronicle had uncharacteristically kind words for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bill Whalen pointed out that: Throughout the week, he stayed optimistic, talked action and results, and resisted the media's bait to blame someone -- anyone -- for California's misfortunes. It's exactly what you look for in a leader. The governor won accolades, and the firefighters, working brutally hard while in danger, battling day and night against sixteen fires, fueled at the start by 100-degree temperatures and gale-force winds. Watching the fires in southern California burn through the night. (Photo: San Diego Fire photo pool, via flickr)

Memo to the Air Force

Stop misleading the public on liquid coal

TO: William Anderson, assistant Air Force secretary FROM: Climate Progress, blog SUBJECT: Your nonsensical claims in a recent Reuters piece, "US Air Force Eyes Alternative Fuel, Slashing CO2." EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Liquid coal cannot be part of a plan to "zero out" the Air Force's carbon output -- contrary to your repeated claims. BACKGROUND: The following press release masquerading as a genuine news story appeared this week: The world's most powerful air force is seeking to wean itself from foreign oil and nearly zero out its carbon dioxide output as part of a sweeping alternative energy drive, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday. Well, that certainly would be big news, if it were actually true. The press release story continues:

Whether Daylight Savings Time saves energy or not, don’t forget to turn your clocks back

Most American clocks will fall back at 2 a.m. on Sunday — a week later than last year, thanks to legislation that passed through Congress in 2005. The bill’s sponsors argued that moving the time that the time moves would save energy, a claim that is shabbily supported statistically. Especially since everybody spends that extra hour of daylight with all the lights on, running all electronics and appliances on high. Or is that just us?

Sanders alone

Why isn’t Joe Lieberman scared of Bernie Sanders?

Readers following Brian’s excellent coverage will have noted that Joe Lieberman rejected most of the amendments offered by Bernie Sanders to the Lieberman-Warner climate bill. And if you watched the hearing, you’ll have seen that Lieberman was fairly obsequious to the Republicans on the subcommittee but briskly dismissive of Sanders. There are two theories for why this happens: Ex-Dem Lieberman is congenitally deferential to those on his right and scornful to those on his left. It’s just an ingrained habit. He gave a tiny bit of ground to greens in private before introducing the bill, but in public? No. Lieberman …

Grist: not yet universally beloved

So, the field hearing of the House global warming committee is just getting underway. I was chatting with Rep. Jay Inslee a few minutes ago, when a burly, ruddy-faced man tried to get past us. Inslee said, "Jim, this is David Roberts, he runs a blog with lots of environmental stuff of interest, you might want to check it out." The man scowled, grunted, and kept going. I was puzzled, until I saw him sit down behind a nameplate: "U.S. Representative Sensenbrenner." Ah.  More on the hearing in a little while. 

My reply to Bloomberg's speech in Seattle

Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and getting things right

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg just gave a bombshell speech here in Seattle calling for a federal carbon tax. (Full text of the speech is here, scroll down.) First off, way to go, Bloomberg! (In fact, Sightline Institute's Anna Fahey has written about Bloomberg's awesome framing.) But now, with my researcher's hat on, I think it's worth it to clarify a few things. While many of Bloomberg's arguments in favor of a carbon tax were spot-on, he made some very selective criticisms of cap-and-trade programs -- criticisms that seem targeted at only the worst way of doing it. As far as I can tell, Bloomberg completely ignored the right way to do cap-and-trade, which starts with auctioning the credits, not giving them away for free. So as a service for wonky readers, here's a little primer that I whipped up this morning:

Bloomberg speaks out in Seattle

NYC mayor climbs aboard the carbon tax train

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared his support today for a national carbon tax, according to a report posted on the New York Times City Room blog by metro reporter Sewell Chan: Mayor Bloomberg plans to announce today his support for a national carbon tax. In what his aides are calling one of the most significant policy addresses of his second and final term, the mayor will argue that directly taxing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change will slow global warming, promote economic growth and stimulate technological innovation -- even if it results in higher gasoline prices in the short term. Mr. Bloomberg is scheduled to present his carbon tax proposal in a speech this afternoon at a two-day climate protection summit in Seattle organized by the United States Conference of Mayors. (A copy of the speech was provided to The New York Times by aides to the mayor; the full text is available from The Times, along with the complete Times story.) With his speech today, Mayor Bloomberg joins former Vice-President Al Gore as the nation's leading advocates of a carbon tax to cap and reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. French President Nicolas Sarkozy called last week for a national carbon tax on global-warming pollutants and a European levy on imports from countries not complying with the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions. In September, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, the powerful chair of the House Commerce Committee, proposed a hybrid carbon tax combining a straight carbon tax on coal, oil, and natural gas with a surcharge on gasoline and jet fuel.

U.S. Mayors Climate Conference: Gore VI

Gore: What we can learn from the ozone hole

Kelly Fergusson, mayor of Menlo Park, Calif. ("investment capital of the world!"), asks: we’ve overcome huge environmental challenges like DDT and the ozone hole before. What can we learn from those successes? First, Gore causes me to do a double take by saying that his mother used to read to he and his sister from Silent Spring. Jeebus! I guess that explains a lot. However, he knows more about the ozone fight. And boy does he know about it — here he launches into a mini-history about CFCs, the Nobel chemists who discovered them, how they still affect the chemical …