Politics

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 …

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 …

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.

One Step Backward, Two Steps Back

U.S. government continues to turn a blind eye to climate change Happy World Environment Day! Let’s celebrate this auspicious holiday by taking a look at the latest climate news from the U.S. government. First, a …

Sen. Sanders' energy legislation

On the cutting edge

The Burlington Free Press has a story on some energy legislation Sen. Bernie Sanders is about to introduce: Sanders' proposed energy grants could be used by Vermont towns and counties to update building codes to require construction of energy-efficient homes and businesses, retrofit old buildings with newer technology, experiment with alternative energy, create incentives for residents to car pool or ride the bus, and organize voluntary efforts to encourage people to save energy by turning down their thermostats or replacing traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting. The Senate also will vote on a Sanders amendment that would create a program to train workers to install solar panels, retrofit older homes and offices, and perform energy audits to educate people about how to save money. The article also contains the bizarre reasoning of the folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, about how Sanders' legislation will destroy the economy. On Thom Hartmann's Friday (June 1st) podcast, Sanders made the following remarks: