Climate & Energy

CCX marks the spot

House buys carbon credits through Chicago Climate Exchange

Perhaps this (sub. rqd.) is not the best strategy: The House purchased these carbon credits to offset the impact of 30,000 tons of carbon emitted by the U.S. Capitol's coal-burning power plant each year. The funds will be used on carbon reducing measures, such as planting trees and underground storage of carbon dioxide, as well as green technologies like wind and solar power. The auction was oversubscribed with a weighted average clearing price of $2.97 per ton. I hope they didn't plant a lot of trees -- they aren't the greatest offsets (see here also). And I really hope the underground storage carbon dioxide isn't used for enhanced oil recovery -- a very dubious offset. I personally wouldn't recommend the Chicago Climate Exchange for offsets -- too many environmental groups have doubts about it, and I have heard some serious concerns directly from people involved in their offset projects. At least the House is cleaning up its own act first: The House will become carbon neutral by purchasing wind power for the electricity it uses, and by substituting natural gas for coal to generate the House's portion of the electricity produced by the Capitol Power Plant. To offset the carbon emitted from burning natural gas, the House will purchase carbon offsets. That's much, much better than just trying to offset coal power with, say, trees. This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The salty, oily flavor of progress

80% by 2050? Try 2010.

Got a headache from all the recent back and forth over rhetoric and politics of climate change? Last week, Frito-Lay served up a refreshingly rhetoric-free reminder that the future is coming no matter what we might do to encourage (or stop) it. Under their net zero initiative, the salty snack behemoth will be taking an Arizona potato chip factory almost entirely off the grid, running it on renewable energy and recycled water. The project stands out to me mostly for what it is not:

Greased lightning

Here's an interesting biodiesel stat: [T]he region's supply of fryer grease is limited. Each Oregonian contributes about a gallon of used cooking oil a year to the grease market. [Emphasis added.] That's really not much grease -- especially considering that Oregon residents consume about a gallon and a half of highway fuels per person each day. So as much as I love biodiesel, fryer grease just isn't going to power rush hour.

OPEC joins Bush, Gingrich, and Lomborg in climate technology strategy

Research vs. cap-and-trade

Yes, OPEC is now "pledging $750 million for research into climate change technology" (while opposing a cap-and-trade system). [Note to President Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Bjørn Lomborg -- it ain't a good sign when your climate strategy is the same as OPEC's.] OPEC, however, seems a tad confused on just what a technology-based strategy could do for oil:

Groups announce voluntary carbon standard for offset market

In an attempt to rebut accusations that buying and selling carbon offsets amounts to a whole lotta nothin’, a coalition of three groups has announced new voluntary standards for the international offset market. The standard …

Plug-in reality check

The debate on plug-ins begins

Alan Durning's article makes a lot of good points about the need to do more than just improve the efficiency of our personal transport. It's a great article, but it also contains a few inaccuracies that I feel obligated to clear up before the global warming deniers (among others) try to use them. I can tell from the comments on Alan's post that some readers are under the mistaken impression that his conclusions are a reflection of the EPRI/NRDC (PDF) report cited, but many are actually counter to that report. For example:

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 …

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:

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