Politics

Wider, but still paper thin

Reality checking the polls

Public opinion polls show a significant increase in the number of Americans who support strong climate action. Deeper digging shows this support is superficial, too thin to drive the rapid sociopolitical change now required. For the first time, however, a small, but measurable number of Americans -- probably no more than 3% -- identify climate change as the greatest threat. U.S. environmentalists' carefully buffered climate narrative, calculated to not frighten the majority, does not engage these "three percenters." A significant shift in U.S. public opinion on climate has been measured in recent polls. 27% of those polled in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll between May 4-6, 2007, said global warming is "extremely important" and 26% "very important." 33% believe that global warming is the "single biggest environmental problem facing the world," according to a April 5-10, 2007 ABC News/Washington Post Poll, up from 16% in March. Public support for "immediate action" on climate has increased to 34% in January, 2007, from 23% in 1999, according to a NBC/Wall Street Journal tracking poll. When asked to choose what is most important -- either in open-ended polling questions or picking one issue from a list -- climate change, and environmental issues in general, are barely mentioned:

Bush's 'new climate strategy'

Shockingly, it’s the same as the old climate strategy

Today’s headlines are full of the news that President Bush is "unveiling a new climate strategy." If your immediate reaction is cynicism, well … looks like you learned something over the last seven years. Let’s look a little closer. In a speech today, Bush said he wants to convene a series of meetings of the 15 major GHG emitting countries to hammer out “global emissions goals.” To give credit where it’s due, there is considerable symbolic significance to the news that the U.S. is shifting from a stance of truculent foot-dragging to active engagement. Perhaps he’s desperate for a PR …

Just Say Noh

Forty nations condemn Japan’s “scientific” whale hunt The International Whaling Commission has been meeting in Anchorage this week, and as always, Japan is making a splash. Yesterday saw fierce debate over a resolution condemning that country’s “scientific hunt,” in which it’s allowed to kill about 1,000 Antarctic whales. The resolution, sponsored by New Zealand, ultimately passed by a vote of 40-2 — but Japan and 26 other countries angrily abstained. “I find [this resolution] extremely disturbing, vexatious, and in some ways irrelevant,” said one commissioner. “It is frivolous, devoid of action, and meaningless.” Apparently deemed less frivolous was a resolution …

Did I say no more CTL?

I meant just one more

There’s a growing tension between the subsidy-happy proclivities of Congress and its self-imposed mandate to reduce carbon emissions. You just can’t spend all the available federal dollars on ethanol and CTL and expect to reduce emissions. Bills like this one, introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), are going to bring that tension to a head: A bill about to be introduced in the Senate would push utilities to generate drastically more of their power — 15%, compared with the current 2% — from sources such as wind or the sun by 2020. While three similar measures have died after passing …

Testing, Testing … Is This Thing On?

Federal chemical testing program inadequate, scientists say In 1996, Congress mandated that the U.S. EPA launch a chemical testing program within three years. My, how time flies. The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program is now set to begin in 2008 — and shockingly, critics say it panders to Big Chemical. They point to the EPA’s plans to only do high-dosage tests, despite evidence that low-dosage exposure to some chemicals can be harmful. The agency also plans to either use a rat breed known to be insensitive to some chemicals, or to let companies pick which kind of rat they want tested. …

One more on liquefied coal

And then I’m done

All right, one more and I’ll let the liquefied coal thing go. For today at least. First, note that Brad Plumer has a great piece on CTL at The New Republic. Second, I once again want to draw attention to two bits from the much-commented NYT piece this morning. First, this bit: Coal executives say that they need government help primarily because oil prices are so volatile and the upfront construction costs are so high. “We’re not asking for everything. All we’re asking for is something,” said Hunt Ramsbottom, chief executive of Rentech Inc., which is trying to build two …

Big Business, cap-and-trade, and carbon taxes

Business is splitting from Republicans; the time is right for a tax

In Washington Monthly, Chris Hayes draws attention to the "revolt of the CEOs." Big Business is parting ways with the Republican Party, actively seeking greater government involvement in the realms of health care and climate change. Why? Two reasons. One, CEOs recognize that rising health care costs and global warming are real problems that will affect their bottom lines. Two, they see the way the wind is blowing. They realize that public pressure is building for gov’t action, Democrats are likely to win the White House in 2008, and, well: The Chamber of Commerce’s [Bruce] Josten summed up his members’ …

Energy efficiency vs. liquefied coal: Which do you think Congress is subsidizing?

Hint: We’re talking about Congress here

Those of you with strong stomachs will want to marvel at the contrast between two New York Times stories out today. Marvel … and tear your fracking hair out. First, there’s this story on energy efficiency. It makes the simple and familiar point that the cheapest, fastest source of energy is negawatts — not using the energy in the first place. In particular, efficiency is cheaper than coal: “When we started talking about this in 1990s in terms of energy efficiency versus coal energy, we were talking 4 cents a kilowatt-hour for coal, and 4 cents for energy efficiency,” said …

Kunstler nails it

Taking on the belief that technotoys will allow the status quo to continue

James Howard Kunstler, dyspeptic critic and peak oil Paul Revere, nails the people whose approach to the twin calamities of global heating and peak oil is to spend all their time trying to cobble together the McGyver solution that saves the day, rather than trying to adapt to the new, low-energy imperative.

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