Politics

Well, There’s One Thing They Can Agree On

National party conventions aim to go green You’ve maybe noticed that green is the Hot New Thing these days — and the U.S. political arena is no exception. The 2008 Democratic and Republican national conventions both plan to get hip to the greenness. Denver, Colo., site of the Democratic potlatch, is primed to beat eco-friendly convention predecessor Boston by providing hybrid transportation from the airport, encouraging biking to and from hotels, reducing paper use, and recycling — which the convention HQ Pepsi Center doesn’t currently do but is, says a spokesperson, “looking forward to exploring.” Delightfully named Denver Mayor John …

What role coal?

The chair of the Select Committee on Global Warming weighs in

Congress is about to confront the challenge of coal, and much of what we hope to do to reduce the threat of global warming hinges on these decisions. There's a useful test to use whenever the challenges of fossil fuel dependence and global warming come up: We must reduce the threat of global warming without worsening our dependence on foreign oil; and we must reduce the threat of oil dependence without worsening global warming. When it comes to coal, it's that second part of the equation that brings up some sticky issues. Coal has been a big part of our energy mix, providing the majority of our electricity since the invention of the electric light. It has been a principal source of energy since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution -- a revolution that provided the basis for our economic prosperity, but also produced exponential pollution growth that was the genesis of the global warming issues we face today. Now is the time for a new Green Revolution. We must combine the economic reforms of a new industrial revolution based on clean energy development with the moral imperative to protect the planet. But where does that leave coal? Can our reliance on these carbon-packed nuggets of energy survive while we try to ensure the planet survives as well?

The most powerful force in nature

Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge … must … jump …

The most powerful force in nature isn't the nuclear force, or anything wimpy like that; it's the force of a bad idea whose moment has arrived. Whenever I wanted to do something stupid and argued that my friends had done it, Mom would always say, "If Johnny jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do that too?" From The Oregonian:

Many policies, one goal

It’s all about raising the price of carbon

Robert Reich — Secretary of Labor under Clinton, economic policy professor/pundit — has a somewhat confused column up advocating for a "carbon auction." In particular, it’s not clear whether he’s talking about politics or policy, which is a confusion that generally plagues this discussion. He rejects a carbon tax because it will be politically unpopular. The holy-and-sanctified Middle Class won’t put up with it. He rejects a cap-and-trade system because it would give the most credits to the biggest polluters, a la the initial attempt in Europe. The Goldilocksian just-right proposal? A "carbon auction," which is … a cap-and-trade system …

Energy, economics, and the environment

Political courage needed for change

Getting our energy policy right does not require new technology, added societal cost, or economic disruption. However, it does require the political courage to question the sacred cows that have shaped 100 years of electric-market regulation. A few ideas that are missing from the energy debate: Fossil fuel use in the U.S. is split approximately in thirds between transportation fuels, electric power generation, and heat generation (buildings, industrials, etc.). GHG emissions track accordingly. The electric industry is -- with very limited exceptions -- a regulated monopoly, subject to cost-plus pricing. This has been the case for 100 years. In other words, they have had a 100-year incentive to overconsume fossil fuel. Adam Smith never said anything about profits causing the public good. What he did say is that the pursuit of profits in a competitive market engenders the public good. The second half of this clause is entirely missing from the electric sector. Why this matters:

Oil lobby resorts to open extortion

Hardly new, but brazen nonetheless

Senate Democrats want to pay for renewables with taxes and royalties on oil companies. This pressure is causing the oil lobby to threaten higher gasoline prices: Bill Holbrook, communications director for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, told ABC News that there are conflicting signals about what path the nation will take coming from both President Bush and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The president is calling for a 20 percent reduction on gasoline use while some lawmakers are pushing for more biofuels. If you process gasoline, those in the industry say that none of those developments are necessarily going to …