Climate & Energy

The book to read on 'freedom from oil'

Sandalow explains the ins and outs of oil dependency

For years, I have been looking for a good, readable book on the oil problem and its solution -- just as I'd been looking for a good book on clean technology. Well, I found the Clean Tech book in August, and now I've found the oil book. It is Freedom from Oil, by Brookings scholar and White House veteran David Sandalow. It is an unqualified success -- cleverly told as a series of policy memos from the cabinet of a near-future President, who begins the book by telling his staff: I plan to deliver an address from the Oval Office one month from today. The topic will be oil dependence. In the breathless narrative that follows, you learn the stripped-down facts about oil dependency, plus the growing strategic and environmental danger posed by oil dependency -- and key solutions like plug-in hybrids and revised CAFE standards (as well as stories of fascinating figures in the oil game). You get a "unique window into the White House at work" from a former assistant secretary of state and senior director on the National Security Council staff. Sandalow's President ultimately offers an aggressive plan to free the country from oil dependence, which includes:

Climate equity: Tom Athanasiou

Justice requires fair burden-sharing

((equity_include)) This is a guest essay by Tom Athanasiou. Athanasiou is a long-time left green, a former software engineer, a technology critic, and, most recently, a climate justice activist. He is the author of Divided Planet, co-author of Dead Heat, and the director of EcoEquity.This essay is part of a series on climate equity. —– "Climate equity" names an almost impossible problem with no easy answers. For one thing, it’s too late for easy answers; the climate crisis is now a climate emergency. For another, this is a world so mired in its own injustice that it can barely move, …

Are scientists losing the global warming debate?

Delayers are replacing deniers

There's been some hand wringing about the fact that science does not have the traction it should in the political debate over climate change. This is the genesis of the framing argument, most recently pushed by Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet. Basically, this thesis says that scientists need to put their scientific results into a "frame" that allows the general public to better understand how to interpret their results. I've never particularly liked "framing," and here's one reason: I think that the scientific community has been extremely effective at getting the word out about climate change. Look at this article:

Kansas denies permit for coal-fired power plant due to concern over CO2 emissions

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Thursday became the first government agency in the United States to reject a permit for construction of a coal-fired power plant based on its carbon dioxide emissions, saying such emissions could harm human health and the environment. The final decision rested with secretary of the KDHE, Roderick Bremby, who said, “I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.” Sunflower Electric Power wanted to build …

Coal is the enemy of the human race: Roderick Bremby is a hero edition

Kansas coal plant air permit denied on basis of CO2

More bad news for coal / good news for humanity. This is a particularly delicious morsel, to be savored slowly, like a fine truffle. Roderick L. Bremby, enemy of coal, friend of the human race Photo: KDHE. For years now, a power company called Sunflower has been pushing to build two 700MW coal-fired power plants in Kansas, backed by the usual happy-horseshit PR about how clean and modern and awesome the plants would be. Then there was a public comment period, and guess what? The public wasn’t into it. And also, remember when the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA …

Coal is the enemy of the human race: Human race figures it out edition

Bad news abounds for Big Coal

If there’s anything that could drag me out of my hungover stupor today, it’s some bad news for coal, and luckily there’s plenty of it! Get this AP story: At least 16 coal-fired power plant proposals nationwide have been scrapped in recent months and more than three dozen have been delayed as utilities face increasing pressure due to concerns over global warming and rising construction costs. The slow pace of new plant construction reflects a dramatic change in fortune for a fuel source that just a few years ago was poised for a major resurgence. [happy dance] It’s important to …

A green civil war?

Environmental Defense has abandoned other green groups on Lieberman’s bill; how should they respond?

Over at, the always devastating Matt Stoller writes that "the green civil wars need to begin." He's urging other environmental groups to go after Environmental Defense for offering a ringing endorsement of the latest Warner-Lieberman climate bill. Environmental Defense is justifying a large corporate giveaway under the rubric of environmentalism, and the rest of the green community is letting ED get away with it. In terms of the policy, Environmental Defense is alone here. The green groups are remarkably polite to each other, as most of them started in the 1970s convinced that protecting the environment was a value system. At the time, it might have been. Today, the question is how to manage a commons, and these groups just don't agree with each other. There is no movement around the environment anymore, there are progressives, corporatists, and deniers, all fighting over a large multi-trillion dollar rapidly shrinking commons. The lack of robust internal debate among green groups means that ED's Fred Krupp can nonetheless speak for "the environmental movement," scoop up his corporate money, and throw everyone else to the curb. Having worked in the environmental movement, I've got to say that there is loads of "robust internal debate" and I know from my environmental friends that there has been very spirited debate on this exact issue within the green groups. But on the larger point, Matt is spot-on. Environmental Defense is once again destroying the unity of the environmental movement by endorsing this bill now despite some major weaknesses. In contrast, other environmental groups like Sierra Club are working hard to improve the bill -- and are reserving judgment until the final details are hammered out.

Economics and environmental protection

Nobel winner explains why markets can’t replace public goods

From Reuters: Societies should not rely on market forces to protect the environment or provide quality health care for all citizens, a winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for economics said on Monday. ... "The market doesn't work very well when it comes to public goods," said [Professor Eric] Maskin ... Mechanism Design Theory is one explanation for why even a well-regulated market with external costs priced via Pigovian or green taxes is inadequate in areas like environmental performance or health care. Certain types of goods -- public goods -- simply cannot be allocated efficiently through market mechanisms alone. This was known long before Mechanism Design Theory came along. For example, the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation, and gets worse results. There are various reasons for this, but one is that a competitive market in health insurance tends to provide more insurance and less healthcare than public insurance mechanisms.

If you'd like to see a good energy bill this year ...

Take action on the energy bill

... go here and sign the petition. As we've seen, the bill is hanging by thread with a threatened presidential veto and partisan squabbling in the Senate. Still, if Bush is going to threaten a veto, best to actually make him do so, and force the key issues, fuel economy standards and a renewable portfolio standard, into the public eye and hopefully the presidential campaign. This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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