“Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter!” – President George W. Bush, bidding farewell to the G8 meeting with a joke, upon which “Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock”
A few months ago, the debate about greenhouse gas policy in Washington was in the Senate focused on Lieberman-Warner. That effort ultimately failed, as a good idea (reduce GHG emissions within a market framework) got turned into a really crummy bill. Good intentions were bedeviled by lousy execution. Conventional wisdom says that the next effort to develop a U.S. GHG plan will emerge from the House, and specifically from the House Energy committee. This week, we got our first look at where their priorities lie, and it is not pretty. If there was any lesson taken from L-W's failure, it seems to have been that if your long-term goal is a crummy bill, you might as well just skip the whole good intentions part.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund emails out a great daily report (sign up here). Today's subject is Dick Cheney's one Vader man war to use Jedi mind tricks censorship to keep the American public in the dark side on the dangers of climate change. In this case, he censored the testimony on the "health threat posed by global warming" by Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last October. She had planned to say the "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern." But who really cares what the CDC has to say on the subject anyway when we have White House Press Secretary Dana Perino to assure us "There are public health benefits to climate change"? After all, Perino is an expert on the subject thanks to here bachelor's degree in mass communications and a masters in Public Affairs Reporting. Here is the Progress Report in full:
Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he'd be open to letting Big Oil drill on previously-protected public lands. And now this: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on President Bush to release oil from the government's emergency reserve to knock down gasoline prices she says "are helping push the economy toward recession."Pelosi, D-Calif., in a letter to Bush noted that the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has been used three times before and each time the action has served to stabilize oil markets and lower gas prices. [...]Bush turned to the reserves when hurricanes Katrina and Rita disrupted oil supplies in 2005. A total of 21 million barrels were made available to refineries "with great effectiveness to address emergency energy needs in the crisis," according to an Energy Department inspector general's report. Hate to be the petroleum party pooper, but am I the only one who's worried about what happens if a major hurricane hits the Gulf of Mexico this summer? If we're pushing the post-hurricane panic button now, what do we push when there's actual panic? Can our panic meter go to 11?
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is far from a perfect GHG bill. It is heavily allocation loaded, focuses only on a small sector of the economy (power plants >25 MW), and doesn't have any direct carrots to go with sticks. The good news, such as it is, is that RGGI leaves many details to the discretion of the states, such that they can provide state-level patches to correct those absences in the overarching model. They can also make it worse. Earlier this week, Connecticut chose the latter. As Restructuring Today ($ub. req'd) reports, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) has decided that if the price of carbon gets too high, she should rebate the money back to rate payers to make their energy cheaper. In other words, rather than letting markets allocate capital in response to the price of carbon, we should hide that price from energy users. Yuck. Story below the fold.
Any article on how politicians are gearing up to "do something" about oil prices is bound to contain more than the usual share of silliness. Still, though, this managed to stop me cold:
I was afraid of this. The irrationality being exhibited about the price of gasoline is on prominent display this week in Congress. According to the New York Times article "Congress feeling pressure for action on oil prices," some of the things being considered are 1) drilling, of course, 2) anti-speculation legislation, and 3) "incentives for renewable fuels," ergo, corn ethanol.
Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said RV trailer manufacturers knew that the trailers they sold to the government had excessively high levels of formaldehyde but didn’t disclose the information for fear of bad press. The trailers, which were used to house hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, have been a touchy subject at FEMA ever since occupants began reporting headaches, nosebleeds, dizziness, and shortness of breath. The agency has since asked many families to move out of the trailers. One trailer-company chairman told the Oversight Committee he thought the results of tests showing high levels of …
The NYT's Andy Revkin dissed the G8 climate statement with the blog headline, "Rich and Emerging Greenhouse-Gas Emitters Fail to Set Common Long-Term Goal for Cuts." The headline of the NYT's article on the subject, however, is "Richest Nations Pledge to Halve Greenhouse Gas." The Grist story begins, "world leaders reached a landmark deal: agreeing to cut emissions in half by 2050," calling it a "significant step" for the Bush Administration, whereas NRDC's international climate policy director, Jake Schmidt, blogs, "Yup, Just as I Predicted ... No G8 Leadership!" What is going on? You can read the "G8 statement on climate change and environment" and decide for yourself. I think your reaction depends on whether you are a "glass is 90 percent empty" or "glass is 10 percent full" type of person and whether you judge the president on the relative basis of his dismal, pathetic, unconscionable climate record (in which case what he agreed to at the G8 was a big deal) or on an absolute basis of what needs to be done to avoid catastrophic climate impacts for the next 10 billion people to walk the earth (in which case what the G8 did was give a placebo to a diabetic -- a sugar-coated placebo, that is). The Guardian online asked for my commentary, "Ignoring the climate change alarm." Here are some excerpts:
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