Politics

Hope for a post-Kyoto agreement?

China is prepared to make a climate deal

Potentially a very big deal -- The Independent reports "China 'will agree to cut its carbon emissions'": China, now the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, will eventually agree to cut its soaring carbon dioxide emissions, one of the country's leading environmentalists forecast yesterday -- but only on the basis of a deal with the United States and the rest of the developed world. When is eventually? The Chinese would be very unlikely to set their own unilateral target for reducing CO2, said Professor C S Kiang, the founding dean of the College of Environmental Science at the University of Beijing. But they would join in the next, post-2012 stage of the Kyoto protocol, the international climate change treaty, and seek to reduce their emissions to a definite figure, as long as this was part of a global agreement that involved all countries acting together -- including the US -- and the transfer to China of modern energy technology, he said. Now, Kiang says, all the world needs is a new U.S. President:

OPEC issues bizarre oil threat, <em>Financial Times</em> also confused

OPEC nations demand that petroleum-consuming countries maintain current thirst for oil

NPR's Marketplace called me today for comments on this bizarre Financial Times article: "Opec to seek assurances on oil demand." Apparently these absurdly rich countries -- with projected revenues of $658 billion this year -- who are selling their product at nearly $100 a barrel, are threatening not to invest in new production unless the consuming countries promise to maintain demand. Seriously! No, seriously: Opec will this week seek assurances from some of the world's biggest oil consumers that they will maintain their demand as the members of the oil cartel come under intense pressure to boost investment in production capacity. This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, which is saying a lot considering who our president is. First off, who exactly can speak for the consuming nations and make a binding promise to keep up demand in the face of record-breaking prices? Nobody. This is capitalism. If high prices lead to fuel-switching, how could, say, President Bush, promise to stop it -- especially since he has already promised to encourage fuel switching? Second, as I blogged recently, pretty much every producing country, except Saudi Arabia, is producing flat out. Yet demand keeps going up even at these prices. If OPEC is really worried about demand destruction, then they should want to invest in as much new production as quickly as possible. Indeed, the IEA predicted back in July that the world will see "increasing market tightness beyond 2010, with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012." Third, IEA projects global oil demand will "expand by 1.9 million barrels a day, or 2.2% a year on average, reaching 95.8 million barrels a day by 2012, up from 86.13 million barrels a day this year." OPEC would be crazy not to invest in as much new supply as they could to meet this demand. Where is a better place for their money -- holding dollars? So what is the real motive behind this bizarre threat? And how is the normally dependable Financial Times confused?

Independent Québec

Backing away from corn ethanol

The big news north of the (U.S.) border is that Québec's government has decided that there is no future in corn ethanol. As explained in an article posted on Canada's Cyberpresse website, back in May 2005 Québec's then Minister for Agriculture, Yvon Vallières, gave a green light, "for obvious economic and ecological reasons," to the construction of the first plant to manufacture ethanol from corn kernels, in the town of Varennes. However, during an emission of the Enquête television program (click to view) on Radio-Canada last Thursday evening, Québec's Minister for Natural Resources, Claude Béchard, promised that the 120-million-litre-per year Varennes plant would be the first and the last of its kind. "It is necessary to turn to other [feedstock] sources," he said. No other ethanol factory based on corn will be built in Québec. On Sunday, a leader in one of Montreal's newspapers, The Gazette expressed satisfaction with the decision, declaring, "Backing away from ethanol makes sense."

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

NRDC says it supports ASCA

Forgive the intermittent posting. The live feed is coming and going a bit. It came back in just in time for me to hear David Hawkins say on behalf of the NRDC -- though not on behalf of USCAP -- that the bill's "emissions reductions in the early years are strong. Toward the end ... we'll need emissions reductions to be stronger than they are." But, he went on, it "merits an affirmative vote."

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

Prepared statements of those testifying before the committee

Prepared statements, now available: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca), Chairman, Committee on the Environment and Public Works David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council Dr. David Greene, Corporate Fellow, Geography and Environmental Engineering, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO Andrew Sharkey, President and CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute Donald R. Rowlett, Director of Regulatory Policy and Compliance, OGE Energy Corp.

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

Cardin wants more money for public transit

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) says he can support the bill if it provides more funds for public transportation, including at the state level. He said this in the context of a response to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who wants the bill changed to a sector-by-sector (as opposed to economy-wide) cap-and-trade system. Cardin suggested that Senators shouldn't be demanding extraordinary changes to the legislation and threatening to withhold support unless their demands are met. My guess? Cardin's suggestion is futile.

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

Tom Carper requests improvements in ASCA

Tom Carper (D-Del.) has said he will be able to support the legislation if it: includes provisions to mitigate pollutants like nitrogen oxide and mercury found most widely in the northeastern United States; moves to a more just allocation system -- one that devotes more credits to cleaner energy sources; contains no built-in punishment of early actors, companies that have already begun mitigating their emissions. Not the most ambitious of demands, but there they are.

The heart of the matter

Everything comes down to whether fighting climate change will hurt ordinary voters

Many, many, many, many people have criticized the astonishingly stupid headline on last Tuesday’s front-page Washington Post story: "Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats." …

Alaska oil-tax bribery scandal widens, may include members of Congress

For the last year or so, ugly truths about Alaskan politics have been oozing into the limelight as state and federal officials unravel a scandal …