Politics

'Breakthrough' at G8: U.S. agrees to consider a process of setting a goal to agree on a commitment t

Progress … we think

I confess I haven’t had the intestinal fortitude to closely follow the negotiations at the G8, but it looks like they’ve come up with something being billed as a "breakthrough." This phrasing in the Washington Post story is curious: The goal is to agree to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, Merkel said, hailing the decision as a “huge success.” "The goal is to agree"? Does that mean they’ve agreed to agree, or that they agreed to try to agree? Tell us more! But the declaration falls short of an ironclad commitment, saying only that the world’s biggest …

Jim Connaughton, Jedi master of doubletalk

Witness the verbal mangling at today’s press conference

The White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair showed off his legendary verbal skills at a G8 press briefing yesterday (PDF). Here are the two best bits. Yoda Connaughton was enumerating the President's "domestic agenda on climate" when he said: The President has set out his support at the state level for renewable power mandates, and we now have the United States of America, 80% [sic] of our power under state renewable power requirements. Packed in a lot of doubletalk in one sentence, he has. The president opposes a federal renewable power mandate (even though he signed one into law in Texas). Second, 80 percent is just plain wrong. The 20 states with renewable mandates (plus D.C.) account for 42 percent of electricity sales. Can anyone can explain what he meant? The second example is even more garbled:

Mr. Right, or Mr. Right Now?

Getting carbon cap and trade right for renewables

For the 110th Congress, this is not just a question for Saturday night. One of the reasons why federal carbon cap and trade legislation is so slow in coming -- besides coal state mendacity -- is because it is damn complicated. Of the critical design choices, there is insufficient common understanding of implications, to say nothing of agreement. We will only be successful in fighting global warming via a transition to renewable energy. Carbon capture and sequestration is not going to save us. In contrast to renewables, no one is doing it now and the technology is not game time. At best it's years out; at worst it's a trojan horse, locking us into a path of further dependence on coal. The danger with carbon cap and trade is that the wrong design could seriously hurt -- hurt, not help -- renewable energy markets. Robert Harmon and Michelle Hirschhorn of the Bonneville Environmental Foundation have written an important paper (PDF) on the dangers of making the wrong choice. If carbon legislation is modeled on the current SO2 scheme, the markets for renewables will be severely undercut. To their arguments I'd add that the best structure will allow people who make investments in renewables (distributed generation or wholesale) or energy efficiency to be able to monetize their carbon-free contribution. An output-based approach would not provide an obvious way for this to happen. Under a load-based cap and trade system, utilities would clearly be incentivized to encourage their customers to do both. For the 110th Congress, it is more important to get it right than to get it right now.

Clean Water Is Highly Overrated

Bush administration limits reach of Clean Water Act If you assumed the federal Clean Water Act should apply to all bodies of water in the U.S., well, you have made an ass out of u and me. The Bush administration unveiled guidelines this week that say only bodies of water large enough to float a commercial boat in and their adjacent wetlands will get automatic protection under the law, while decisions on smaller streams will be made on a case-by-case basis. The new rules attempt to provide guidance in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that found justices split …

A handy comeback

Use this one to win every argument

Today’s Wicked Awesome Comeback comes from Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. Doesn’t matter whom he said it to, or why (OK, it was to Big Auto because they’re raising a stink about fuel efficiency) — it’s applicable in all kinds of situations: “I think your position is yesterday forever.”

Really short book review: Monbiot's <em>Heat</em>

Skip it

You can skip George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Slightly longer book review: Because there are far too many climate books to read, I confess I apply a litmus test. I look up "hydrogen" in the index. If the writer thinks it's a climate solution, the book can be skipped. I thought I would like this book, since I like many of the columns by the British author, including an early excerpt on the connection of the global warming deniers to big tobacco. But on page 162, he writes, "hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to look like a feasible technology for motor transport, if not on the time scale the producers predict." No. Not even close. They are looking less feasible these days. They are a post-2050 climate solution at best. And Monbiot is a man in a hurry -- he believes the only hope for mankind is "for rich nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent by 2030." Heck, it would require three major breakthroughs -- in fuel cells, storage, and renewable hydrogen -- just for hydrogen cars to be 1% of the cars on the road by 2030 -- and they would still be a lousy way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Ecuador to world: Help us, and we won't drill in the rainforest

Ultimatum to the rest of the world

In response to intense pressure from indigenous and environmental organizations opposed to drilling for oil in an Amazon rainforest, this May Ecuador asked the world for financial help, according to the Environmental News Service. The oil fields under Yasuni National Park are estimated to contain 900 million to 1 billion barrels of oil, about one-quarter of Ecuador's total reserves. In about a year, international oil companies will be allowed to bid for the right to drill. To avoid this fate, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is asking the international community for about $350 million a year.

Flaws in the Boucher bill

It would pre-empt state fuel efficiency laws

An energy bill is emerging from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but it has some "unacceptable" provisions, according to leading energy and environmental experts. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, has a draft bill online, along with summaries of key provisions. The bill has a variety of important provisions aimed at promoting energy efficiency in electricity and vehicles -- and some useful provisions to promote low carbon fuels. But it has at least two serious flaws. First, it helps subsidize coal to liquids, which is an irredeemably bad idea, as I have argued repeatedly (here and here). Yes, the bill would require carbon capture and storage, but even so, the process still generates high-carbon diesel fuel. Also, such storage would take up the space in underground geologic repositories that could otherwise be used for storing carbon dioxide from future coal plants, which results in carbon-free electricity -- vastly superior to high-carbon diesel fuel. Second, the bill would "prevent California and other states from taking independent action to regulate greenhouse gas emissions," as noted by Environment & Energy Daily (sub. req'd -- article reprinted below). In an email, David Hawkins, director of NRDC's Climate Center, called this provision "absolutely unacceptable." Others who question this provision can be found in today's E&E Daily:

Spitting out the Kool-Aid

Condi Rice goes out on limbs

First she rides in an electric car, now she says disagreeing with your government is not unpatriotic? Condi better watch her back.

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