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.

Picture of the week

Condi in a Tesla

I give you Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, riding in a Tesla electric car: More gape-worthy Tesla pics here. More about Rice here. (thanks LL!)

Cutting carbon by 80% by 2050

Continuing the debate

Recently, in the post "Global Warming and the vision thing," I criticized the use of numbers in advocating policies, arguing instead on behalf of concrete images. Jon Warnow, a Step It Up 2007 organizer, responded to my post, and I thought it would be appropriate to give him the benefit of a separate post, along with my reply:

'A politics of reason faces a strong headwind'

I’ve been Gored in my own neighborhood

"A politics of reason faces a strong headwind." These were Al Gore's words last night, at New York's 92nd Street Y, where I had the unique pleasure of seeing him interviewed by Charlie Rose. The main topic of discussion was Gore's new book, The Assault On Reason, which not surprisingly is #1 on Amazon's bestseller list ("It's not about K-Fed," Gore was quick to chime in). Apart from offering a scathing critique of the Bush administration, the book lambastes the shallowness of today's media -- the amount of time spent on Pamela Anderson versus, say, the still ravaged landscape of New Orleans. And Rose, it was refreshing to see, did not fall into the trap, as did Diane Sawyer, of lobbing the precise sort of vacuous soundbites that Gore goes after in his book. It was also pretty stunning to hear a man as versed in the details of the Federalist Papers as he is in the melting rates of the Antarctic ice shelf. In response to the Rose question, "When did the decline of reason begin?", he skipped seamlessly through a history of the Enlightenment, the emigration of those ideas to a fledgling nation across the pond, and the firm establishment of reason in the founding fathers' design of the U.S. government. He talked about the dawn of television -- a box with flickering lights that Americans sit motionless in front of for about 3.5 hours a day -- and the accompanying decline in substantive media. I won't go into all the details here, or try to regurgitate the conversation, but suffice to say I was duly impressed.

Cap-and-trade is looking like duck-and-cover

A rejoinder to Environmental Defense

Can any of Environmental Defense's three main points stand up to scrutiny? ED: A carbon tax can be gamed as easily as a carbon trading scheme. CTC: A carbon tax may be subject to gaming, but cap-and-trade positively invites it. USCAP concedes that some allowances will be given out (not auctioned) at the outset, which means protracted, high-stakes negotiations ("a giant food fight," a leading utility executive called it) over free allowances that will be worth billions. How will these be allocated? What baseline year? Watch earth burn as the polluters jockey for the baseline giving them the most allowances! With a carbon tax, by contrast, any tax preferences or exemptions will at least be visible and locked in, and thus potentially removable. This difference is part of why former Commerce Undersecretary Robert Shapiro wrote recently that carbon taxes, compared to cap-and-trade, "are much less vulnerable to evasion and market manipulation, providing a more stable and transparent system for consumers and industry alike."

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