Energy Policy

A dollar that's what I need

Giving clean energy developers cash works better than tax credits, stupid US policy notwithstanding

One of the great undercovered aspects of U.S. energy policy is the fact that most of it happens through the tax code. That’s one reason it’s so unbearably lame. Why do we do energy policy this way? There are many reasons, but a big one is that decades of conservative agitprop have made it almost impossible to spend money (eek, big government!) on a particular industry (eek, picking winners!) in a way that’s transparent and democratically accountable. Oh, we still direct money to favored industries, of course; we’ve always had industrial policy and always will. We just don’t do it …

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 …

a walk through the week's climate news

The Climate Post: Trace radiation isn’t the only global fallout from Fukushima

As Japan’s nuclear disaster stretched into its second week, traces of radiation from the stricken power plants showed up in several U.S. states, and as far away as Iceland. With the reactors and uranium fuel rods still proving difficult to bring under control, the disaster could be the “death knell” for nuclear power, some analysts said. Countries around the world — from China to Germany — are taking a closer look at their nuclear plants and plans, while the U.S. intends to complete an initial review of its reactors within three months. Some are still arguing publicly for more nuclear, such as European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and …

here, shoot this apple off my head

Obama administration can’t wait to sell China all the coal it can burn

Here’s a recipe for climate catastrophe: First, authorize enough new coal production in Wyoming to yield 3.9 billion tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Then authorize a new export terminal in northwest Washington to ship that black gold to Asia, where the other half of Chimerica will burn it to power the factories we shipped them in the infinite wisdom of globalization. This process is called carbon offshoring, and it’s the nastiest, planet-killingest scheme of which you’ve probably never heard. China is just the beginning: In a statement on November 12, the chairman of Coal India Ltd., a state-controlled entity and …

a brief tour of america's ticking timebombs

How the U.S. narrowly avoided its own Fukushima-style disaster in 1992

Turkey Point nuclear power plant in Miami-Dade county, Florida.Photo: ShelahDThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is refusing to update its worst case scenario models for the flooding of coastal U.S. nuclear power plants. Potentially, this puts the backup safety systems at reactors like the Turkey Point plant in Miami-Dade county, Florida, at risk of damage or destruction by hurricanes. That’s the bombshell buried in a piece by Alyson Kenward of Climate Central: The extent of sea level rise that [utility company Florida Power and Light] has incorporated into their estimates of the maximum possible storm surge has already become a point …

Americans for disparity

New David Koch building gets energy upgrade — courtesy of the climate program he loves to hate

Image: Positioning GreenCross-posted from Positioning Green. Billionaire conservative financier David Koch doesn’t know it, but the cutting-edge energy-saving technologies included in a brand new $211 million research lab that bears his name were partly funded through a government program to reduce global warming pollution. It happens to be the very same program under a blistering attack by one of Koch’s biggest political beneficiaries, the group Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Here’s the story, which is cross-posted at Climate Progress, but has not otherwise been publicly reported: The David H. Koch Institute, dedicated earlier this month at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, …

The change King Coal has been waiting for

Obama administration announces massive coal mining expansion

The future’s looking sooty.Photo: Tami Heilemann, DOIInterior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday an enormous expansion in coal mining that threatens to increase U.S. climate pollution by an amount equivalent to more than half of what the United States currently emits in a year. A statement from Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife put the announcement in perspective: When burned, the coal threatens to release more than 3.9 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants, further cementing the United States as a leading contributor to climate disruption … Salazar’s …

Ride that pony

Bingaman tries to make policy out of Obama’s hopey-changey Clean Energy Standard

Is Obama wasting Sen. Bingaman’s time?Photo: The White HouseIn his State of the Union speech, Obama introduced an ambitious plan to encourage clean energy in the U.S. At least I think it was ambitious. Kinda hard to tell — it was vague. Thinking about it since, I’ve come to see the Clean Energy Standard (CES) as paradigmatic of Obama’s energy initiatives. It is well-meaning and makes a certain internal sense, but politically it’s ham-handed and tin-eared. Like his freelancing on offshore oil last year, it undercuts existing congressional efforts while doing little to build new coalitions. Now the CES is …

Man-up, America

U.S. energy policy as a teenage boy

With all the media frenzy around the Japanese nuclear situation, one topic hasn’t been covered much : Why don’t the Japanese love fossil fuels? Not only have they pushed hard into nuke but they’re also world-beaters in photovoltaics, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. How come? The economic incentives are pretty obvious: Japan doesn’t have any domestic fossil fuel reserves, but its industrialization required massive growth in energy supply, so Japanese leaders had to figure out how to avoid spending all their money on fuel imports. As an added bonus, every time there’s an energy crisis, they win the future. (The …

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