Ceci n'est pas une carbon tax

Color me unimpressed

You can color me unimpressed by the big news today in the Globe and Mail: Quebec just became the first Canadian province to pass a carbon tax. For one thing, the tax is tiny, just 0.8 cents per liter of gasoline, and at comparably low levels on natural gas and diesel. (For non-metricized Americans, that's 3 cents per gallon.) So that makes Quebec's new approach not quite as aggressive as -- to pick just one example at random -- Idaho's 5 cent per gallon increase circa 1996. Now in fairness to Quebec, the new carbon tax revenue, which weighs in at about $200 million, will be spent on seeking greenhouse gas reductions. That's a big improvement over previous gas taxes in the States, where the money normally gets shoveled back into roads. Strangely, however, Quebec's government seems intent on preventing the tax from actually influencing consumer behavior. To wit: Natural Resources Minister Claude Béchard called on the oil companies to be good corporate citizens and do their share to protect the environment by absorbing the cost of the new tax. "We call on their good faith and social responsibility." Wait, what?

Howard emulates his hero

Australia tries to distract from Kyoto

Looks like somebody’s been taking lessons from Bush. Get this: “The Kyoto model — top-down, prescriptive, legalistic and Euro-centric — simply won’t fly in a rising Asia-Pacific region,” Howard told an Asia Society Australasia dinner. Gag.

The presidential candidates on global warming

A guide to their positions

I keep meaning to mention this incredibly useful guide to the presidential candidates’ positions on global warming, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. Why didn’t we think of that?

More on the G8 climate statement

The U.S. outmaneuvered European leaders, yet again

All right, the more I read about this G8 climate agreement the more it becomes clear that the Bush administration completely outplayed the other developed countries on this. That, at least, they’re good at. Blair, Merkel, and Sarkozy all went into the summit staking their credibility on forcing an agreement: mandatory emissions cuts based on a shared target. The U.S. said: f*ck you. They begged. They pleaded. The U.S. repeated: f*ck you. Meanwhile, the U.S. made a canny counter-proposal: a series of new talks, including China and India, to stretch out 18 months and produce "aspirational goals." Obviously it’s toothless, …

Students keep up momentum with a pre-election Climate Summer

A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience on climate change, and, most recently, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He serves on Grist’s board of directors. Thursday, 7 Jun 2007 LEBANON, New Hampshire If you’re worried — and who isn’t? — that the pressure for action on global warming will crest and fade after the last six months of steady growth, you should have been on the town green of this small western New Hampshire burg on Wednesday night. Twenty-five college …

'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 …

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