Climate & Energy

Non-sucky cap-and-trade now a possibility?

Lieberman expresses openness to auction all carbon permits

A cap-and-trade system begins by placing a cap on carbon emissions and distributing permits (permission to emit a certain amount of CO2) equal to the capped amount. The notion is that permits will be bought and sold, allowing market forces to determine where emission reductions can be made fastest and easiest. The question is how to distribute those initial permits. When the EU carbon trading system was established, permits were given away based on emissions, meaning the biggest polluters got the most permits. The idea was that those polluters most needed the money because they had the biggest reductions to …

Like hearing a Rolling Stones number during a chastity belt ad

New book praising biofuels has an unexpected author

There are combinations that are just too weird: chocolate cake and grape juice (to steal from an old Dick Van Dyke show), or hearing the Rolling Stones' music used to market chastity belts and abstinence pledges. Or like seeing the Worldwatch Institute's name on a book praising biofuels ... the very fuels Les Brown, WWI's founder, is crusading against. The gist of the book seems to be, "We need a completely different kind of biofuels than we have or are likely to ever see, but if that better, fairer system came along, it might be good for the poor." In other words, the Les-Brown-less WWI is now providing cover for people who don't give two burps about the poor, but sho' do love them some subsidies. And for people who will be throwing this book around the way Bush threw around Colin Powell's notorious UN speech on Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction."

Hope for efficient gaseous CO2 removal?

New membrane technology for capturing CO2

Well, here's hoping ...

A little karate

On electricity deregulation

In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi advises that "It is good to know karate. It is good not to know karate. It is not good to know a little karate." With the price caps now coming off in the few states that partially deregulated their electricity grids, there is a rising backlash against competitive markets, with some of that backlash even coming from normally pro-market groups like The Cato Institute. This backlashers generally argue that partial deregulation has taught us that deregulation doesn't work in the electric sector. But we ought to remember Mr. Miyagi's advice, lest we draw the wrong lessons from our little bit of karate. This subject deserves more discussion on Grist, as evidenced by some of the debate which followed my last post. Let's take a closer look.

Short-sighted government chronicles

Ontario has higher capacity for renewable energy projects than the government estimates

The Toronto Star has been doing some excellent work on the environment and energy issues in Ontario lately -- I pointed to some not too long ago. Many of those stories come from the Roberts-endorsed Tyler Hamilton. Yesterday, Hamilton had an excellent piece in the front of the business section. It's on the alternatives to nuclear construction that the province is ignoring; it tallies up all the missed opportunities. The conclusion is that Ontario could build ten times as much renewable energy as the government currently estimates, more than enough to displace the planned and allegedly necessary nuclear reactors.

Revenge of the offset nerds

Thursday event in D.C. seeks carbon questions

Gear up your brains and flex those diatribe muscles, carbon offset nerds -- the offset debate is coming to the Capitol, and you're all invited to participate. Institute of Ecosystem Studies Dr. William Schlesinger is going to be speaking at 6:00 pm this Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., about his recent work on the interaction between forests and climate -- and its implications for how and whether carbon offsets should be allowed. I'm on the board of the American Lands Alliance, the organization sponsoring the event, and we'd like to get some hot questions to fire at Schlesinger -- which is where Gristmill's offset nerd legions come in. If you're an outside-the-Beltway climate nerd, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. If you're an inside the Beltway climate nerd, you should just come. Schlesinger, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the top authorities on this topic -- and he's shown a rare willingness, for a scientist, to venture into the policy and political arena. In 2005, for instance, he endorsed a carbon tax, calling it "potentially the most effective means to improve our energy-use efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide emissions." He also serves on the board of TerraPass, a company that provides offsets to people and corporations that pollute. American Lands invited Schlesinger because we're very concerned about the impact a massive expansion in biofuels production could have on wildlands, in national forests and elsewhere. If we're cutting down ancient forests to grow woody biomass tree farms, it will be neither climate nor ecosystem friendly. But we're also intrigued by the possibility of allowing polluters to get carbon credits for protecting intact ancient forests. Conceivably, it could radically alter the financial incentives in national forests and elsewhere so that timber companies and others could make more money by helping restore forests than logging them. But, if not carefully managed, there's also potential for abuse. Such a system is largely dependent on having a robust cap-and-trade or cap-and-auction system in place as well; if we adopt a carbon tax, does that mean that forests and other native ecosystems won't benefit from the massive investments in tackling the climate crisis?

Notable quotable

Nate Tyler, organizer of Lights Out San Francisco: If we don’t do something, by 2050, all the polar bears will be gone. That’s where Santa Claus lives, man. That’s a bummer.

Why coal is the enemy of the human race: Reason no. 836,372

Mercury moves from coal plant to fish dinner as fast as its name implies

A Scientificblogging post explains that it only takes three years for mercury emitted by coal-fired plants to travel up the food chain into fish that we eat: "Before this study, no one had directly linked atmospheric deposition (mercury emissions) and mercury in fish," says study co-author Vincent St. Louis of the University of Alberta.The experiment filled a major gap in scientists' understanding of how mercury moves from the atmosphere through forests, soils, lakes and into the fish that people eat.It's immediate value is that it provides undeniable proof of a direct link, said St. Louis, who specializes in what is called whole-ecosystem experimentation.He said it should spur policy-makers to enact regulations for more rapid reductions in mercury emissions by industry.


We had a lot of great stuff on the blog yesterday — so much that it was difficult to keep up. If you have time, go back and check out: Bill McKibben’s review of two new books on climate change politics, one by Bjorn Lomborg, on from Shellenberger & Nordhaus. Sierra Club head honcho Carl Pope also reviewed S&N’s book. PETA VP Bruce Friedrich responded to the hullabaloo over his organization’s latest campaign. Joe Romm sang the praises of renewable portfolio standards. An embarrassment of riches!

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