The Middle East

NYT: The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq. Discuss.

Congestion pricing saves more than it costs

Bloomberg’s law: Environment equals economic growth

This guest essay comes from Steven Cohen and Jacob Victor. Steven Cohen is executive director of Columbia University's Earth Institute and director of its Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs. Jacob Victor is an intern at Columbia's Earth Institute. After overcoming numerous obstacles in Albany, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial congestion-pricing plan finally appears to be slowly moving forward. Thanks to a last-minute deal between Bloomberg and the leaders of the state Assembly, it is almost certain that New York will receive a $500 million federal grant to fund the equipment and upgrade mass transit in order to begin the program. While New York City has not been given permission to charge tolls to enter Manhattan south of 86th street, the first steps in implementing congestion pricing were authorized by New York state's famously dysfunctional state government.

Boxer Sticks It to Johnson

Senate hearing probes EPA chief’s delay on tailpipe decision Can U.S. states enact stricter tailpipe regulations than the feds? That question has been hovering in the air since California requested a waiver from the U.S. EPA in late 2005. Why no answer yet? At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing yesterday, EPA head Stephen Johnson said the delay is due to a “rigorous analysis” of 60,000 public comments. But committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said some 53,000 of the comments were a mass mailing supporting the waiver, and Johnson’s position is weak. “When history is written, I …

At Last, Some Consensus

House votes today on universally despised farm bill Today finds the House scrambling to pass its controversial version of the 2007 farm bill. And by controversial, we mean everyone hates it — Democrats, Republicans, and the White House. The $286 billion package, which contains about $42 billion in subsidies, ends subsidies to farmers with an income of over $1 million, down from $2.5 million. Some Democrats want to lower that cap further, and other Dems worry that the bill doesn’t contain enough funding for conservation and nutrition. Republicans are upset about a proposed tax on the American holdings of overseas …

Economic effect of cap-and-trade: A wager

Will you take it?

So, Reuters took a look at the EPA’s economic analysis of the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act (so I didn’t have to!). In case your memory is hazy, the CSA is a cap-and-trade bill that would cut emissions 65% by 2050. Here’s the nut: The EPA found that the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007 would shave up to 1.6 percent, or $419 billion, off a baseline forecast for U.S. gross domestic product in 2030 and up to 3.2 percent, or $1.332 trillion, by 2050. That is, by any reasonable measure, a modest price to pay. Even so, I bet …

Cheney suppressed evidence of market manipulation in California power crisis

New investigative report

Don’t miss Jason Leopold’s crack investigative reporting on Truthout today: This story is based on a two-month investigation into Cheney’s energy task force; how the vice president pressured cabinet officials to conceal clear-cut evidence of market manipulation during California’s energy crisis, and how that subsequently led Cheney to exert executive privilege when lawmakers called on him to turn over documents related to his meetings with energy industry officials who helped draft the National Energy Policy and also gamed California’s power market. Truthout spoke with more than a dozen former officials from the Energy Department and FERC as well as current …

Grist gets results

When I interviewed Richard Louv — author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder — back in 2006, he jokingly said, "If we were really interested in education reform we’d have a ‘No Child Left Inside’ movement." Well lookee here: John Sarbanes (D-Md.) has just introduced the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007. (via GreenOptions)

Cost containment for the carbon market: A step toward cap-and-trade

Moderate senators are ready to get on board

As Joe mentioned yesterday, four moderate-to-conservative senators — John Warner (R-Va.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) — just proposed a measure to achieve "Cost-Containment for the Carbon Market." I wanted to spend a bit of time on what’s in it and what it means. You might think, given the business-friendly senators involved, that the measure’s going to be a gimmick to let industries off the hook. Happily, it was jointly developed with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, a sharp new outfit at Duke University. It appears to be a credible attempt to devise …

A better idea than the 'safety valve'

Borrowing and banking carbon — the new black

So you want to have greenhouse gas standards with teeth, but you want to minimize the risk they take too big a bite from the economy. And, of course, like me, you don't like the safety valve idea. What do you do? Banking and borrowing, of course. With "banking," the right to emit carbon can be saved for future use. With "borrowing," current emissions are extended against future abatement. What is fascinating is that today a detailed banking and borrowing proposal, "Cost-Containment for the Carbon Market," was put forward by four moderate senators -- Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and John Warner (R-Va.) -- with the help of Duke University's environmental program. A Greenwire piece (sub. req) notes "a top environmental group also didn't shy away from the latest idea": "This is an interesting proposal to help address cost concerns while maintaining the integrity of the emissions cap," said David Doniger, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Borrowing and repayment is far preferable to the safety valve, which breaks the cap by allowing firms to increase emissions with no payback requirement. I agree. Kudos to the Senators for moving the debate forward. Here are more excerpts from the piece:

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