Politics

Energy bill for dummies

What’s going on with the energy bill in Congress

The following is a guest essay from Julia Bovey, federal communications director for the Natural Resources Defense Council and blogger at NRDC’s Switchboard. —– When I left my native Boston for Washington, D.C., I bought …

U.S. Mayors Climate Conference: Gore III

Gore: It’s not Kyoto but its successor that needs political support

Tallahassee Mayor John Marks stood to introduce himself and Gore said dryly, "I spent a lot of time there." Marks: "I wasn’t mayor then!" He asked Gore how to influence Congress to adopt Kyoto. Gore’s …

China's immoral energy policy: Part II

The efficient alternative to coal power in China

China's rapacious coal plant building is neither moral nor sustainable, as discussed in Part I. Yet many supply-side alternatives, like nuclear and hydro, are problematic for the country. What should China do to satisfy its insatiable thirst for energy? Go back to their amazing energy efficiency policies of the 1980s and early 1990s. China's energy history can be divided into several phases, as we learn from Dr. Mark Levine, cofounder of the Beijing Energy Efficiency Center (see terrific video here). The first phase (1949-1980) was a "Soviet Style" energy policy during which there were subsidized energy prices, no concern for the environment, and energy usage that rose faster than economic growth (GDP). The second phase (1981-1999) was "California on steroids," when the country embraced an aggressive push on energy management and energy efficiency, surpassing the efficiency efforts California achieved since the mid-1970s. This came about as a result of Deng Xiaoping heeding the advice of a group of leading academic experts who suggested a new approach to energy. Chinese strategies included:

China's immoral energy policy: Part I

China’s coal policy is breathtaking (literally)

Yes, America's climate policy is immoral. But that doesn't make China's rapacious coal-plant building moral. The N.Y. Times has published the sobering numbers, which bear repeating: The country built 114,000 megawatts of fossil-fuel-based generating capacity last year alone, almost all coal-fired, and is on course to complete 95,000 megawatts more this year. For comparison, Britain has 75,000 megawatts in operation, built over a span of decades. China is now the main reason the world is recarbonizing -- the carbon content of the average unit of energy produced has stopped its multi-decade decline, as noted. Yes, America is still responsible for a great deal more cumulative emissions, which is what drive concentrations, and China is doing much of its dirty manufacturing for U.S. consumers (I never said our hands were clean). But China seems to have adopted a policy of building as many coal plants as humanly possible until they are forced to stop -- or, I suspect, until they get a deal that pays the country to shut them down (much as they have gamed the clean development mechanism under Kyoto). If China won't alter its coal policy to make its environment livable today even with the Olympics coming, it will require very strong international leadership (led by an America with a moral climate policy of our own) to have any chance at making them alter it to preserve a livable climate in the future. So why doesn't China pursue alternatives? The NYT story explains:

Activists ask Congress to close regulatory loopholes for oil and gas companies

At a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing yesterday — Wait! It’s not as boring as it sounds! — scientists and conservationists asked Congress to plug legislative loopholes that exempt oil and gas …

Bush names a new USDA chief

The former governor of North Dakota loves biofuel and GMOs

Speaking yesterday at a gathering of the Grocery Manufacturers Association — a trade group whose member list reads like a directory of multinational food corporations — President Bush waxed coy about his new choice for …

U.S. House passes groundbreaking mining bill

The U.S. House of Representatives has, in a fit of sanity, voted to make mining companies pay royalties on minerals they dig up on public land. By a vote of 244-166, the House approved the …

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: What's next?

America’s Climate Security Act passes out of subcommittee

America's Climate Security Act -- aka the Lieberman-Warner bill -- passed through its first markup hearing today, but not without losing support from the Senate's most vigilant advocate for action against climate change, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) The hearing was, in a sense, a tête-à-tête between Sanders and the bill's primary author, deal-maker extraordinare Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.). It was a chance for Sanders to attempt to improve the bill in ways he must have known would be rejected, and a way for Lieberman to do the actual rejecting -- if only to keep his fragile coalition together. All but one of Sanders' proposed amendments failed badly, including bids to strengthen the auction of pollution allocations, lower the cap on emissions, earmark subsidies for renewable energies, demand accountability from the auto industry, and diminish industry's capacity to stall simply by buying carbon offsets. In most cases, the only man voting alongside Sanders to improve the bill was New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg.

Baby got Amtrak

Could intercity public transit finally be getting some support from Congress?

I don’t have time to do this justice right now, but it’s quite exciting to hear that Amtrak may finally be getting some support from Congress. I’ve never understood why Amtrak is supposed to be …

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