Climate Policy

Is Obama’s weak-sauce energy policy just savvy political Kung-Fu?

For the next couple of years, Obama is playing defense on climate change, and that could explain the fairly tame energy policy he announced yesterday, says Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. Like the Kung-Fu masters of yore, he knows that he cannot hope to defeat his opponents in a frontal assault. These are, after all, politicians who would strip the EPA of even its existing power to regulate greenhouse gases, so there's no way in hell they'd vote for strong action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, he's got to bend like the reed. If he puts forth a …

Climate Policy

Internationally linking carbon trading systems is the wave of the future

The latest rage in Washington policy discussions these days (that’s relevant to climate change) is renewed interest in renewable electricity standards, this time in the form of so-called “clean energy standards.” I’ve written about this policy approach recently and will do so again in the near future, but for today I want to turn to an important issue — for the long term — on the related topic of the international dimensions of climate change policy. The current state of affairs Despite the death in the U.S. Senate last year of serious consideration of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system for carbon …

Small number of senators ready to act like grownups

In the midst of a hair-pulling, face-scratching tussle over the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases, a number of senators are looking into reviving 2008’s bipartisan “energy gang.” The last gang crumbled under bickering about high gas prices — but not before swelling its ranks to 20 senators, and putting forth a bipartisan plan that involved offshore drilling (boo!), but also electric car and biofuel investment (yay!) and limits on oil and gas industry tax breaks (woohoo!). Of course, given the strong environmental principles of some congressional Democrats — like, say, the ones who are proposing amendments that merely handcuff …

Where does Obama stand on climate change?

Obama didn’t say much about climate change in his speech yesterday, even as he laid out some ambitious energy goals. This leaves the media and activists guessing at what his next move will be — he’s a sort of Schroedinger’s President, who can be interpreted as a climate hawk or a climate wuss. Here are some of the post-speech visions of Obama going around this morning: Mother Jones: He is — at least potentially — a beaten-down, defeated climate Judas. “[I]t's notable that Obama barely even mentioned climate change or greenhouse gases in his big energy speech today. This concession …

Obama to reduce oil imports by a third via magic

Obama's energy speech today promises to be mostly a re-hash of previous administration announcements regarding efforts to make America more energy independent, but at least one bombshell has already been leaked by the White House: Obama wants to reduce America's oil imports by a third in 10 years. It's hard to think of anything — short of an economic crash bigger than any ever seen in U.S. history, or perhaps an alien race forcing all of us to take to our bicycles — that could conceivably accomplish such a goal. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that we will import …

There’s an EPA showdown on the way

Playing in Congress this week: Gunfight at the EPA Corral. And the GOP has an itchy trigger finger. Age-old enemy of the planet Sen. James “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” Inhofe has introduced a bill to nullify the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Sen. Mitch McConnell has proposed the same thing as an amendment to a small business bill. And Democrats have countered with two amendments of their own, which either delay or limit EPA powers without completely stripping them. THANKS, DEMOCRATS. The likelihood is that none of these measures have enough …

Obama tells government to prepare for climate change, whether Congress likes it or not

Congress may dither and dig in their heels about whether global climate change is even a real thing, let alone an emergency that must be prepared for. But soon all Federal agencies — not to mention a lot of private businesses that deal with the government — will be implementing plans for adapting to climate change, due to Obama's executive order 13514. That order was signed in 2009, but you probably haven't heard anything about it. Since it was an executive order, there was no arguing or filibustering or petitions or whatever. It just quietly went into effect, and then …

Das ist gut

Germany continues breaking clean energy records

A German wind farm.Photo: Dirk Ingo FrankeAs the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to dominate the world’s attention, Germany has quietly broken more renewable energy records. The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, struggling to stay ahead of public attitudes toward nuclear power in the run-up to regional elections, issued its annual report on the contribution of renewable energy to the German energy market in 2010. Wind turbines, hydroelectric plants, solar cells, and biogas digesters now provide nearly 17 percent of Germany’s electricity. Meanwhile, the German network agency Bundesnetzagentur issued its final update on the installation …

Save the Earth Summit

RIO+20: Toward a new green economy — or a green-washed old economy?

  I’ve got good news and bad news about the future of the planet. Good news first. Next year, a honking big global Earth Summit is coming our way — one with a proud heritage. Formally titled the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, the meeting is known as RIO+20 because it will come 20 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. That original Earth Summit (itself 20 years after the equally important Stockholm Convention on the Environment and Human Development) gave us an embarrassment of policy riches: the Climate Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustainable Development …