Politics

Countdown to the 2008 Farm Bill: Part I

Supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers

This is the first of five farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For the diehard policy wonks out there, you can also download the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's matrix (PDF) showing the status of sustainable agriculture priorities in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. Soaring demand for organic and local foods means exciting market opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers, but the current public policies required to support their entry are woefully inadequate. The future health and vitality of agriculture, the food system, and rural communities depends on policies in the 2008 Farm Bill that encourage this next generation of producers to get a start on the land. Now is the time to call your senators and representatives and tell them to urge the Senate and House Farm Bill conferees to include important provisions for beginning farmers and ranchers in the final farm bill.

Focus the Nation, save the planet -- now!

Eban Goodstein invites you to join in the largest climate teach-in ever

"If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we will do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment."-- Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change If these words don't get you off your butt, you better check and make sure you have a pulse. Yet what can we (everyday Americans, readers of Grist) do now, today, that will be strong enough to change the course of our future? Strong enough to overcome the powerlessness and denial gripping our country? It is clear that we are standing at a critical moment in human history. Unless we begin to cut global-warming pollution within a few short years, a window for our children and the creatures of this earth will close. Forever. Instead of stabilizing at 3 to 4 degrees F more warming, the best our kids will be looking at will be more than 5 degrees F. And every 10th of a degree matters, because it raises the possibility that we might trigger some catastrophic outcome -- massive sea-level rise, loss of forests globally driven by intensified fire, or large-scale methane releases from the tundra, pushing temperatures even higher. Today, cutting emissions on the scale required in the United States seems barely possible. Our nation is, truly, paralyzed. Yet this is a peculiarly American kind of paralysis, one we all understand from high school civics. Our system of government, with its checks and balances, was designed for gridlock, allowing an organized minority to block movement toward change. And yet we all also learned how we overcome this gridlock. When our government fails, Americans set aside their everyday business and drive the country in a new direction. From abolition to women's suffrage, labor rights to civil rights to anti-war causes, again and again, social movements reclaim the moral vision at the heart of America and set a new course for the country. Over the next year, a powerful, nonpartisan movement demanding global-warming solutions will sweep across this country and change the future, change our future. Or it won't. Each of us now has to decide: Will I be a leader in that movement? The science is clear. Our future will be determined, literally, by the readers of this post, who have heard the truth and have said yes -- or will say yes -- to this challenge. And unlike our forbearers, we are not threatened by dogs, fire hoses, blacklisting, firing, beating, torture, imprisonment, or lynchings. We are free (if we choose) to create the future. Here is how today, this week, you can lead:

Whom will Gore endorse?

First, in other primary news, Bill Richardson, whose energy plan was excellent but who failed to excite anyone, at all, even a little bit, has …

Save a tree, hug a Bush

White House to go online with 2009 federal budget

We may never know whether tree-loving or penny-pinching is his primary motivation, but it appears George Bush may finally, actually, maybe be doing something good …

The key ideas behind Sky Trust

A look at the framing behind the last climate policy proposal

Not long ago, a group of important environmental leaders published an essay on Gristmill -- "Creating an Earth Atmospheric Trust" -- about Peter Barnes' Sky Trust proposal. As it happens, Rockridge is about to release an analysis comparing Sky Trust with the Lieberman-Warner bill. We particularly evaluate what we call "cognitive policy," which is the set of ideas and values that underlie a legislative or social policy. The Rockridge Institute endorses the key ideas in the Sky Trust. The reasons for our endorsement are best understood by looking at the cognitive policy behind it. This "cognitive dimension" of their policy is the source of inspiration that makes the Sky Trust strong. The most fundamental principle behind this entire endeavor is this: An effective policy must gain popular acceptance if it is to stand the test of time and it must do so for the right reasons, namely because it promotes the right long-term values in the minds of citizens. The Sky Trust proposal is an exemplary effort to instill this principle firmly in policy. Keeping Our Air Safe and Clean The proposal begins with a cognitive foundation that contextualize the problem. This provides the moral context for addressing the climate crisis and shapes the material policy that emerges from it.

The high costs of doing nothing, part II

True costs of fossil fuels make renewables seem cheap in comparison

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- In November 2006, California voters rejected Proposition 87, a ballot initiative to raise the oil industry's taxes by $4 billion for research into renewable energy. Four months before the ballot, a survey (PDF) by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 61 percent of likely voters favored the idea, including 51 percent of Republicans. What changed between the survey and the vote? The oil industry pumped more than $60 million into a campaign to defeat the measure. Proposition 87 contained a specific provision that would have forbidden oil companies from passing the tax along to consumers. Nevertheless, a central part of the industry's message was that Proposition 87 would raise the price of gasoline. On the Hill and in the voting booth, the specter of higher costs and taxes is the big weapon in the fossil-fuel industry's arsenal against climate action. The question is, what's the defense? It is important to acknowledge and to anticipate that putting a price on carbon will raise energy prices. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an estimate (PDF) last November that carbon pricing to achieve a modest 15 percent reduction in emissions would cost the poorest fifth of the population between $750 and $950 a year on average. That's big money to a family living on $13,000 -- and fossil-energy costs presumably would grow as carbon caps get stricter. But we can mitigate those costs:

Green groups will sue over feds’ missed polar-bear deadline

Discontented with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement that it will not meet its deadline for deciding whether to list polar bears as a …

Clinton and McCain win New Hampshire primaries, attract green voters

Unseasonably warm weather brought out a record number of voters in New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday — and is it mere coincidence that the majority …

WCI and transportation fuels

Why the West should worry about transportation emissions

Well, Clark and I are traveling to Portland for a batch of meetings related to the Western Climate Initiative. On the off chance that you'll miss us, I thought I'd share some of what we're working on with WCI. Our biggest obsession right now is transportation fuels. Namely, we believe it's critically important that transportation fuels be covered by an "upstream" cap in the first phase of the program. Here's more: Why should the WCI cover transportation fuels in an economy-wide cap? More than half of all fossil fuel emissions in the WCI states come from transportation. In contrast, electricity generation represents 26 percent of fossil fuel CO2 in the region -- only about half of the emissions from the transportation sector. If the WCI region is to reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2050, it will have to start dealing with transportation as soon as possible. Is it complicated to cap transportation fuels? It's actually fairly straightforward to include transportation fuels in an economy-wide cap. As with all aspects of cap-and-trade, the politics may be tricky. But technically, covering transportation fuels may be simpler than electricity -- and certainly simpler than load-based regulation of the electricity sector. How would it work? The fuel supply chain has several "choke points," well upstream from consumers and filling stations. At a chosen choke point, fuel handlers -- either purchasers or sellers -- would be required to track fuel volumes, and obtain emissions permits for the carbon that will be released when those fuels are burned. What "choke points" would work for transportation fuels? We'd suggest two possibilities: