Politics

Splitting up is hard to do

Pelosi joins Reid in bifurcating the energy bill

A couple weeks ago, as I wrote here, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was keeping mum about her efforts alongside Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass the energy bill. She would neither confirm nor deny rumors about a split bill. Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that she's no longer keeping quiet: Democratic leaders have wrestled for months with how to meld the Senate bill, which includes a new fuel-economy mandate for auto makers, and the House bill, which would require power companies to use greater amounts of wind, solar and other renewable fuels. With only a few weeks left in the year, Democrats are now considering a new option: moving two separate bills.One measure would include the proposed fuel-economy increase as well as a proposal to boost production of ethanol and related biofuels. The companion bill would include the utility mandate, as well as a tax package rolling back oil industry tax breaks. How this makes the utility mandate any less likely to be filibustered remains a total mystery to me. But I suppose there is some logic to moving as many parts of the bill as are immediately passable, thereby narrowing the battle to one over renewables alone. Maybe Reid will just jam clean energy into some difficult-to-filibuster legislation down the road.

USFWS to reconsider seven endangered-species rulings due to “improper influence”

Seventeen imperiled species may have another shot at getting increased protections now that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted that a political appointee who …

Congressional fuel-economy deal near

A possible compromise in energy legislation negotiations

The Detroit Free Press reports: Congressional negotiators are close to agreement on an increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with some caveats to satisfy U.S. automakers. What caveats? The compromise would preserve the distinction between cars and trucks, something Detroit automakers have fought for, while giving federal regulators strict limits on how to put the increases into place. It also would include a provision backed by the UAW aimed at keeping small-car production in the United States. Still, much better than no deal at all.

How not to make an energy policy

A strong and realistic energy policy is not dependent on any one fuel, technology, or supplier

First a caveat: When it comes to electricity generation, I (Jason) am an agnostic. In other words, I try to evaluate energy sources on their own merits, from cradle to grave, and I try my best to keep ideology out of the analysis. When we're talking about our energy future, it is essential to look at the big picture. We should evaluate each fuel source -- its pros, cons, and its potential for the future -- in light of all the geopolitical, economic, and environmental challenges we face. We should develop a comprehensive plan that maximizes energy potential, minimizes risk, and makes room for new technological developments. There are two things we absolutely must not do: turn reactionary decisions based on short-term situations into long-term policy, and base our energy future on wishful thinking. Speaking of coal and CO2 sequestration ... Reactionary decision-making In the early 1970s, this country had about 12 percent of its generating capacity in natural gas-fired power stations. Then the OPEC embargoes hit, and we legislated against using natural gas in power stations (the Fuel Use Act of 1979). The gas share of electric generating capability dropped to around 7 percent. Then, after the Fuel Use Act was repealed in 1986, we went on a gas-fired power construction binge in the late 1990s. Today, we have more gas-fired generating capacity than we have coal-fired! However, because the price of gas is so high, those plants only account for about 12 percent of actual kilowatts generated. Hmmm ... 1970: 12 percent. 2007: 12 percent. Also in the '70s, we were on a path to replace a significant amount of coal capacity with nuclear. Then Three Mile Island occurred. All the planned nukes were canceled, and we were back to relying on coal. Not only that, but the economics of the Clean Air Act of 1990 encouraged utilities to switch to western coal, because even though it had less energy per unit weight (a lower-quality fuel than most eastern coal sources), it was low in sulfur and less expensive, even when transportation costs were factored in. Power plants representing tens of thousands of megawatts switched to western coal, because it was cheaper in the short-term (based on regulated utility economics) than adding sulfur dioxide scrubbers or other alternatives. So now we not only use much more coal, we use lower quality coal, with poorer efficiency, that emits more CO2. The result of all these jumps and starts is that despite some interesting cycles in the trend lines, our energy source mix today looks remarkably like it did forty years ago.

George Bush fetes Al Gore in Oval Office

Yesterday, George W. Bush fulfilled the U.S. president’s traditional obligation to fete the winners of the Nobel Prize in the Oval Office — including, of …

The GOP and climate

One small step for Republicans on climate, but giant leaps still needed

I've noticed recently that some conservatives -- particularly Andrew Sullivan -- have offered kind words to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being the only presidential candidate in the Republican field to take the climate change issue seriously. It's difficult to know what to make of this. On the one hand, the country would be in a much better position to seriously address the crisis if John McCain's environmental views fell in the mainstream of his party, instead of where they actually fall -- radically at odds with the views of his party's leaders, virtually all conservative thinkers, and almost every last pundit on the right. If that's ever going to change, it will probably require more people like Andrew Sullivan to highlight -- and praise -- the fact that McCain isn't a typical right-wing denialist or industry shill. At the same time, though, this really brings to light just how far behind the issue green conservatives are, and, as a corollary to that, the fact that the party of the filibuster is light years away from accepting the sort of legislation that will be necessary very, very soon if the problem is to be addressed adequately.

Our defining moment

The next president needs to move with speed and clear vision on mitigating climate change

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. Rajendra Pachuari. As I mentioned in a previous post, many of my colleagues in climate-action circles are delighted at the detailed commitments the presidential candidates in the Democratic field are making around global warming. It seems ungrateful to ask them for more. But ask we must. We need to know what they'll do to act quickly. And we need to hear their unifying vision for the post-carbon world. On speed: We've all read Jim Hansen's warning that the international community must take significant action within a decade if we wish to avoid the most dangerous consequences of global warming. Now the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has moved up the deadline. In announcing the IPCC's final report on Nov. 16, Rajendra Pachuari warned, "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."

Notable quotable

“I know that this president does not harbor any resentments. Never has.” — White House press secretary Dana Perino, on President Bush’s private meeting with …

Australia elects prime minister who wants to ratify Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol climate treaty may soon welcome a new industrialized country to the fold. Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced he …