Politics

Johnson's staff

EPA staff say they were excluded from waiver decision; suspect Cheney’s involvement

Reporting in the L.A. Times, Janet Wilson confirms (as Juliet Eilperin did earlier) that EPA staff unanimously recommended granting California’s waiver, and that they were …

Japan says it won’t hunt humpback whales, at least for now

Under pressure from, well, most of the world to stop targeting humpback whales, Japan has announced it will hold off on its hunt for the …

Who's the greenest of them all?

Vote for the most heroic eco-hero of 2007

Check out our nominations for the most ass-kicking hero of 2007, then vote at the bottom of this post. (And tell us who we missed.) Barbara Boxer. Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) has been pushing for tough climate and energy legislation as chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and going head-to-head with James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on global warming. She's also trying to make Capitol Hill more energy efficient. Leonardo DiCaprio. This green-leaning actor shined a spotlight on the world's top environmental leaders in his eco-documentary The 11th Hour, plotted a reality TV series about green building, and topped Grist's list of green celebs. John Edwards. Edwards pushed other Democratic presidential contenders to go greener by coming out first with an aggressive climate plan and environmental platform. Al Gore. This climate crusader won a Nobel Peace Prize, starred in an Oscar-winning film, and, uh, was named first runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year. James Hansen. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, has been outspoken and aggressive about the need to fight global warming. He's taken his share of hits, and punched right back. Van Jones. Jones has been everywhere this year fighting for environmental justice and promoting a green economy. Plus, he's a hottie. Angela Merkel. German Chancellor Merkel has made fighting climate change a top priority this year. She had hoped to advance her cause at the G8 summit this past summer; unfortunately, the U.S. got in the way. Nancy Pelosi. The House speaker doggedly pushed through an aggressive energy bill -- though the Senate neutered it before it got to Bush's desk. Pelosi has also kept up demands for action against climate change, called for green-collar jobs, and worked to green the Capitol -- even if she doesn't "carry a big stick." Kevin Rudd. Elected as Australia's prime minister in November 2007, Rudd followed through on his campaign promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on his first day in office, leaving the U.S. all by its lonesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator continues to be California's most pumped-up environmental defender and ambassador. Watch out, Bush, cause he's pissed about the EPA's auto-emissions decision.

Who's the meanest of them all?

Vote for the most villainous eco-villain of 2007

Check out our nominations for the most reprehensible eco-villain of 2007, then vote at the bottom of this post. (And tell us who we missed.) George W. Bush. You've heard of him, right? Pete Domenici. Sen. Domenici, top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, played a key role in neutering the just-signed energy bill, pushing successfully to remove a provision that would have required utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources -- even though Domenici's home state of New Mexico is well-positioned to profit from renewables. He also relentlessly shills for the nuclear industry. Stephen Johnson. Bush's man at the EPA, Johnson just denied California's request for a waiver that would let the state regulate greenhouse gases from cars and trucks -- against the advice of the career professionals at the agency. Julie MacDonald. This Bush appointee to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly resigned in May 2007, just as Congress was about to consider charges that she had altered scientific reports to minimize protection for numerous species under the Endangered Species Act (and had inappropriately released government documents). Ongoing review of her decisions continues to turn up trouble. Robert Murray. He is owner of the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, which collapsed in August, causing nine deaths -- and which had racked up hundreds of safety citations since January 2004. Murray insisted his mine was safe (all evidence to the contrary), whined about federal mine regulators, complained about proposed climate-change bills, bitched about the miners union, and moaned about how hard the whole collapse had been for him. Harlan Watson. Before attending the December climate negotiations in Bali as chief U.S. negotiator, Watson told Reuters, "We don't believe targets and timetables are important, or a global cap-and-trade system." He also argued that the U.S. shouldn't be singled out for criticism for rejecting Kyoto, because Turkey rejected it too. No surprise, then, that the U.S. gummed up the climate talks and watered down the final deal. Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. Once ABEC, now apparently "America's Power" (perhaps the patriotism didn't come across well enough), this coal front group is the leading wedge of a multimillion-dollar PR campaign aimed at buffing dirty energy's clean image among lawmakers. Last seen sponsoring presidential debates and sending Santas out to dispense coal-shaped chocolates (really). UNGREEN. The nefarious United Nemeses aGainst Reliable Eco Experts Network kidnapped our beloved advice maven, Umbra Fisk -- forcing her to (horrors!) eat from Styrofoam containers, use energy-inefficient appliances, and live in a sprawling McMansion. Fortunately, with the help of our readers, she was released.

Waxman investigates

Per his threat yesterday, House Oversight Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has initiated an investigation into the EPA’s decision to deny California’s waiver.

Disentangling the confusion of Bali

Tom Friedman is very confused about exactly what happened at Bali and why. So are M.I.T. science journalist fellows. So what are your chances of figuring it out? Well, they are a lot better if you read this excellent Bali debriefing by my friend Holmes Hummel (PDF), a Stanford Ph.D. and Congressional Science Fellow. One interesting point she makes: Some media coverage left the misimpression that the Bush team opposed language that would have committed Annex I (i.e., rich) countries to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. But that isn't correct. The language they vehemently rejected merely said this:

Person of the Year

Bush beats Gore, again!

Until last week, this long-beloved annual tradition seemed to be a lock for one person -- Nobel laureate, itinerant educator, and media superstar Al Gore. Sadly, he only makes first runner-up this year. Like Time magazine, our Person of the Year is awarded to the person or group who "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in the climate arena. By single-handedly stopping any international action on climate at Bali, by stopping California from regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, by forcing Congress to drop almost all non-oil-related provisions to cut GHGs from the energy bill -- all in one week! -- one man proved his unchallenged high-impact misleadership on the issue of the century: Dick Cheney George Bush.

The corn supremacy

A new piece on the insanity that is U.S. ethanol policy

I have an article in Salon on the insanity that is America's ethanol policy. The new energy bill sets this country on a path to finish the assault on the world food supply begun by the (even lamer) 2005 energy bill. As I explain, our ethanol policy does not help fight global warming, but it does threaten food supplies: In just the past two years, food prices have jumped 75 percent in real terms ... The Economist points out the amazing statistic that "the demands of America's ethanol program alone account for over half the world's unmet need for cereals." By law (the 2005 energy bill) we are going to increase corn ethanol production at least 50% over the next few years. And the new energy bill will probably require corn ethanol to triple from current levels! But current levels are already bringing havoc down on the global food market.

Tax incentives for clean energy not yet renewed — but probably will be

A renewal of tax incentives for building and installing clean energy sources was stripped from the recently signed energy bill, putting wind and solar boosters …