Politics

The right target

How much should we aim to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions?

As faithful Daily Grist readers know, yesterday six western states (and two Canadian provinces) formally debuted the Western Climate Initiative, a cap-and-trade agreement aiming to lower GHG emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Carbon neutral in his lifetime. Inevitably, announcements like this are met with heated debate over the target. Is it strong enough? Fast enough? Politically palatable? The 80%-by-2050 target seems to be gaining steam in political circles, though some bills propose a mere 70% or even 65%. Some enviros argue we need 90%. The intensity with which this numerical parsing is debated has always struck …

Violence, in a gentle manner

Romney on energy

Here’s Romney on energy: … his plan to get America “energy independent, by increasing oil, gas, nuclear, and liquid coal development,” calls for it to be done in an environmentally sound manner.

Alternative information

GA state legislature tries to figure out whether climate change is real

Wow. Via the indispensable Aunt Phyllis, this is old school: On Tuesday the Georgia legislature held a hearing called "Climate change: fact or fiction?" Listen to these blasts from the past: “In the media, we hear the gloom and doom side,” said Rep. Jeff Lewis (R-White), chairman of the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee that held the hearing. “There is alternative information out there.” Indeed there is! Puzzlingly, the "alternative information" continues to be offered exclusively by the same four or five people that have been offering it for years now. But no mind! "What this has done is …

Roads vs. transit

Seattle enviros face a Hobson’s choice in November

This November, those of us who live in and around Seattle will vote on a $17.7 billion transportation package that would expand light rail (by 50 miles) but also include billions for road expansion -- including roads that will primarily serve sprawling developments to Seattle's south and east, making the package a Hobson's choice for environmentalists. (The state legislature tied the roads and transit votes together last year, on the theory that road supporters will only support transit if it's accompanied by pavement, and vice versa.) A lot of the debate around whether the package is good or bad, environmentally speaking, has centered around whether the roads part of the package (known as the Regional Transportation Investment District, or RTID) consists mostly of "good" or "bad" roads. There are a lot of elements to this debate, the first of which is: What constitutes a "good" road? Are new HOV lanes "good" (because they serve people who are carpooling) or "bad" (because they're still new road miles), and could they have been created by converting preexisting general-purpose lanes to HOV lanes? Another issue is whether roads that are designated primarily for freight, but can be used by single-occupancy cars, count as "good" or "bad." Further confusing matters is the question of whether already-clogged roads produce more or fewer greenhouse gases when they're expanded to accommodate more traffic, because traffic moves more smoothly (at least for a little while.) Given all those variables, it's not surprising that Seattle's environmental community is split on whether RTID/Sound Transit is a good or a bad thing.

Brown Knows

San Bernardino County, Calif., will account for greenhouse-gas emissions One of the largest, fastest-growing, most sprawl-happy counties in the U.S. will have to measure its greenhouse-gas emissions and set targets for reducing them by 2010, according to a legal settlement announced Tuesday. California’s San Bernardino County had been sued by State Attorney General Jerry Brown after county officials updated a 25-year growth plan without accounting for emissions. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the settlement, and enviros crossed their fingers that the ruling will set a precedent for other counties and municipalities to limit sprawl and create denser communities. Because driving …

My My, Is It 2007 Already?

Judge requires feds to submit climate research plan, impact assessment The Bushies are big stinkin’ lawbreakers, a federal judge ruled this week. A 1990 federal law requires the U.S. government to provide a scientific report every four years on climate change and its effects on the environment, the economy, and public health, but the Bush administration chose to ignore its 2004 deadline for such a report. Green groups sued, and U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong ruled in favor of timeliness, demanding the required impact assessment by May 31, 2008. The laggardly administration also owes a plan to guide federal climate …

All Pact and Ready to Go

Six Western states, two Canadian provinces agree to regional climate pact Yesterday, the leaders of six Western states and two Canadian provinces agreed to their own regional climate pact, aiming to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The Western Climate Initiative aims to have a cap-and-trade system in place by August 2008 and wants to partner with other trading systems like the European Union’s and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the U.S. Northeast. While the 15-percent target isn’t quite ambitious enough for some, greens are hopeful that the growing movement to set even relatively …

Big Oil's biggest toadies

And the ‘Climate Balls of Steel’ award goes to …

A new report penned by the environmental movement's genius uber-strategist Daniel J. Weiss of The Center for American Progress and his alliterative sidekick Anne Wingate examines exactly how big Big Oil's influence on individual members of Congress is. Working with OpenSecrets.org, Weiss and Wingate found that the 189 members who opposed a Democratic measure to redirect $16 billion in oil and gas subsidies to clean energy like wind and solar received on average $109,277 in contributions from Big Oil between 1989 and 2006. The 221 representatives that voted successfully to shift the subsidies to clean energy had only received an average of $26,277 over the same period. While I'm sure some of those representatives who voted against the measure may sincerely believe that Exxon Mobil needs an extra few billion so that its shareholders don't go hungry, I suspect that most were just doing it to keep the petrodollars flowing right into their campaign account, and were willing to ignore the climate crisis to do it. It's amazing how cheaply those representatives are willing to sell their votes: $109,277 over 17 years isn't that much money -- generally less than 5 percent of what those candidates spent on their campaigns during that time. It shows how contributing to political candidates remains one of the most effective ways to spend money: had Big Oil won this round, they would have spent one dollar for every $774 dollars they got back in subsidies (and that's just this one vote; actually their $20-million-plus in contributions have got them more than $35 billion annually in subsidies and tax credits). Industry has long known this, but environmentalists can get the same bang for the buck by directing more of their resources towards campaign contributions. Heather Wilson. I'd like to highlight a few of the biggest recipients of Big Oil's big money: New Mexico's Heather Wilson (R): $492,120 New York's Thomas Reynolds (R): $155,661 Virginia's Tom Davis (R): $134,360 But I've got to give today's Climate Balls of Steel award to New Jersey's Mike Ferguson (R), who sucked in $95,500 in oil money, but voted against Big Oil anyway. There aren't many people who can suck on Big Oil's teat and then spit crude oil in the harlot's face, but apparently Ferguson (at least in this instance) is one.

Teddy Would Be Proud

Conservation organization sues feds over energy development The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has sued the U.S. Department of the Interior over the authorization of thousands of new oil and gas wells, roads, and miles of pipeline in a wildlife-rich area of Wyoming. News that an organization has sued the federal government over environmental travesties is, well, not really news — unless it’s TRCP, a non-litigious group with a largely Republican membership. The move is indicative that even the Bush administration’s usual allies are fed up with a one-track-mind approach to energy development. Case in point: The Bureau of Land Management …

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