Motor City audacity

Obama speech indicates new day is here

Dave gives Obama's speech short shrift. I would argue that this speech -- taking it to the automakers on their home turf, apparently to some applause -- is a big-time deal. The same could be said of the speech what Dave wrote in starry-eyed fashion when the outlines of the TXU deal became public: "The 'tipping point' concept is cheap from overuse these days, but to me this is the clearest sign yet that we have entered a fundamentally new stage in the fight against global warming." Sure, the policy recommendations behind the speech may not be the boldest out there, but can you imagine a presidential candidate giving this speech even a year ago, let alone at this point in 2003? In 1999, Gore was running as hard as he could from Earth-in-the-Balance-like proclamations like this one by Obama today: "The auto industry's refusal to act for so long has left it mired in a predicament for which there is no easy way out." I'm interested in others' thoughts. And keep your eyes on Grist -- as the race heats up, we will be conducting the definitive green interviews with presidential contenders.

CAFE news; Obama's speech

The logjam is breaking

It appears that after a long period of haggling — involving the bizarre tableau of Republican Ted Stevens pushing for tougher regulations — the Senate Commerce Committee is ready to cough up a bill that would raise CAFE standards to 35mpg by 2019 (35mpg across the fleet, including light trucks). The committee is expected to vote through the proposal tomorrow; that would lead to the first floor vote on CAFE since 2002, and if passed, the first fuel-economy boost in 30 years. The bill could be better — it’s got "off-ramps" in case the requisite technological improvements are just too …

Why do we respond to bozos?

Churchill, not Chamberlain

Why are we letting pro-fossil fuel bozos hijack the only forum that environmentalists and climate-change activists have for wrestling with the daunting task of transforming America?

What to do now?: Conclusions and recommendations

A little something to take home with you

((brightlines_include)) It is within the capacity of U.S. environmentalists to refocus our energies on a tougher, more realistic climate agenda. We have the necessary resources, skills (in alumni as well as current staff and leadership), political power, and principles of action. The things we lack -- a national structure, institutional support services, strategic planning, a dedicated environmentalist core -- could be put in place if it were a priority. Cost, it must be emphasized, is not the problem. U.S. environmentalists are spending between $100 and $150 million on climate, according to an unpublished foundation report, more than enough to launch the sort of effort presented here. The problem is nicely illustrated by comparing this challenge to the effort to shift from petroleum to renewables. Just as it is extremely difficult to replace fossil fuels by developing renewables when energy demand is rising, so it is tough for environmentalists to drop a program that is financially rewarding, familiar, and effective (at least by comparison to the last decade). U.S. environmentalists are proceeding on a self-reinforcing, linear trajectory, just as fossil-fuel extraction companies are. The environmentalist "market" is dominated by a few major players, employing familiar fundraising and advocacy technologies, competing in three narrow areas (political access, membership support, foundation funding), all of which cut against alternative approaches. Economies of scale have been achieved for our present agenda; indeed, the market is experiencing explosive growth and each additional increment of investment reaps tremendous benefits. To the extent that a pan-environmentalist culture exists, our worldview does not accept the precautionary climate science view. That being said, environmentalists are not oil company executives and our organizations cannot continue much further on our present track -- the already significant contradiction between climate science findings and environmentalist solutions will shortly become to large to bridge.

Time's a wastin'

Wind farms or poor farms?

The torpor with which we here in the U.S. are responding to strong, clear, and persistent signals that the old era -- of abundant cheap energy in a stable climate -- is ending is nothing short of astonishing. The fact that supposedly serious people could have a debate about tourism vs. offshore wind turbines is astounding. Implicit in such a discussion is the premise that tourism is going to continue even if we don't build a lot of ways to attain a lot of non-fossil energy. Perhaps the best best way to understand stories like that is to consult a book outside the "environmental" section -- an oldie about what happens when people in power ignore strong, clear, and persistent signals that what they're doing isn't making it: The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman.

Carbon tax news

Could the unthinkable become thinked?

Over on MyDD, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) discusses the carbon tax bill he recently introduced. My legislation, the Save Our Climate Act (H.R. 2069), would tax coal, petroleum and natural gas at a rate of $10 per ton of carbon content. Applied when these fossil fuels are initially removed from the ground, the tax would increase by $10 each year, freezing when a mandated report by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Energy determines that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by 80 percent from 1990 levels. As far as I know, this is the first real carbon tax …

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