Climate & Energy

Should we laugh or cry?

Florida Power & Light on wind power

Florida Power & Light is fairly notorious as a utility that embraces competition so long as it doesn't happen in their service territory. On the regulatory side, they have worked pretty hard to make sure that no one can build power in their state except themselves. But on the unregulated side, their sister company FPL Energy has been one of the leading installers of wind turbines. (Not coincidentally, you will find that they tend not to do projects anywhere near Florida. Mind the hand that feeds you ... ) Needless to say, there are some conflicts there. Which have recently come back to bite them.

Oh, Canada!

More on B.C.’s carbon tax shift

On February 19, one of my colleagues at Sightline applauded British Columbia's new carbon tax shift. I've now had time to digest the plan. It's even better than we said, and the province could tweak it to make it better still. This policy is the purest instance of a tax shift that I've ever seen. It's an exceptionally faithful implementation of tax shifting -- a policy innovation Sightline has been promoting since 1994 and especially since our 1998 book. (A small brag: Gordon Campbell read the book that year and told me he was going to shift taxes in his second term as premier. I didn't hold my breath, but now he has delivered.) The carbon tax shift (as opposed to the larger government budget it's wrapped in) is almost entirely untarnished by handouts to special interests. It is built on four principles:

Thirty years later, they still won't make us safer

The history of the ‘safety valve’ debate

The new publication from E&E News, ClimateWire, ($ub. req'd), has a long article on the "safety valve" debate and its history. I will reprint it in its entirety below because The issue is important and not going away. It is the most thorough piece I've seen. I was interviewed at length for it. One of my quotes they used is not something I would have said in a short interview. First, some background: I have blogged repeatedly on why a safety valve is a bad idea. However, the reporter called me because he said that a number of people in the Clinton administration said I was a key player in the discussions leading up to Kyoto, in which the administration ultimately rejected a safety valve (or price ceiling on carbon emissions permits). The No. 1 highlight of my time in the administration was at the October 6, 1997, "White House Conference on Climate Change," during my brief tenure as acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy. At 12:40 p.m. [I kept the ticket and wrote the time and the quote on the back], the president said, "I'm convinced the people in my Energy Department labs are absolutely right." He was talking about the 5-Lab study that I oversaw, which found that the United States could return to 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 2010 without raising the nation's overall energy bill -- if we had an aggressive technology deployment effort. Rather than me giving a solipsistic explanation of what happened, you can read an account by Art Rosenfeld (the first article, his autobiography), now California energy commissioner, then science adviser to the assistant secretary. Or not. I was certainly proud of my role in the administration. Economic agencies like the Treasury Department and Council of Economic Advisers rarely lose policy debates. But they did this time. That said, I was hardly the main reason they lost. In fact, as I recall, President Clinton explained at the Georgetown conference that the main reason he didn't believe his economic agencies' gloomy predictions for the economic impact of Kyoto was this: They had made similarly gloomy predictions about the impact of his balanced budget bill, which, instead of causing an economic slowdown as predicted, created millions of jobs. That said, the subsequent incident described in the ClimateWire article is the No. 2 highlight of my time in the administration, although I foolishly didn't keep the piece of paper. Anyway, here is the article (for ease of reading, I won't bother indenting it):

E.U. likely to cut subsidies for farmers

With crop prices through the roof and scientific concerns being raised about the greenness of biofuels, various European countries have cut back tax breaks and …

Denver hopes to reduce car emissions by encouraging better driving

The city of Denver has unveiled a “Driving Change” pilot program designed to reduce vehicle greenhouse-gas emissions by encouraging drivers to ease off the lead …

All close together now

A post-petroleum American dream

"This craziness is not sustainable," concludes The New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert, and he's talking about the economy, not the environment. He continues: Without an educated and empowered work force, without sustained investment in the infrastructure and technologies that foster long-term employment, and without a system of taxation that can actually pay for the services provided by government, the American dream as we know it will expire. And without petroleum. Oil is shooting over $100 per barrel, caused ultimately by a looming decline in global supply, and exacerbated by rising demand in China and India, foolish policies such as the occupation of Iraq, and repressive regimes such as in Nigeria. And if we are serious about reducing carbon emissions to near zero in order to avert climate catastrophe, we must scale back our use of petroleum to near zero. While we're learning to live without petroleum, we need to rebuild the workforce, infrastructure, technologies, and tax system, as Herbert suggests. I will argue in this post that we can accomplish all of these goals by replacing internal combustion engines with electric motors, using other energy sources for other petroleum uses, and perhaps most importantly, by changing the arrangement of the buildings, production, and people in our society in order to eliminate the need for so much petroleum. In order to understand how to accomplish all of this, we need to know how petroleum is used, so let's look at some numbers!

China's emissions path: not so good

Projected CO2 emissions dwarf previous expectations

This recent paper on the likely path of China's CO2 emissions is striking in that the projections are much greater than once thought. They are so large that they dwarf any reductions by all other nations who have signed the Kyoto Protocol. On top of this is the fact that China doesn't have all that much non-fossil fuel energy potential and in fact is highly dependent on coal. The questions that need to be asked are these: Is it possible for China to actually decrease absolute emissions? If so, how, and how much will it cost? Who will pay for it? If China can't reduce absolute emissions, how much more do all the rest of us need to decrease our emissions to offset China's increase? Is this feasible? Within what time frame? And again, how, and how much will it cost? If we can't answer these questions, we really are in big trouble.

World’s pollutingest countries to meet for climate talks in Japan

The world’s 20 biggest-polluting countries will meet in Japan on Friday for a three-day climate conference designed as a run-up to the July G8 meeting …

ECO:nomics: Immelt vs. the ideologues

GE CEO explains practical realities to free marketeers

The Wall Street Journal‘s ECO:nomics conference is taking place at the Bacara Resort, a gorgeous old Spanish-style complex perched on the edge of the Pacific …