Politics

Debunking Shellenberger & Nordhaus: Part II

Breaking the technology breakthrough myth

Do we need "disruptive clean-energy technologies that achieve non-incremental breakthroughs" to solve the global warming problem, as S&N (and Lomborg, and Bush, and his advisors) argue? Let's hope not -- for the sake of the next 50 generations. Why? Two reasons: Such breakthroughs hardly ever happen. Even when they do happen, they rarely have a transformative impact on energy markets, even over a span of decades. Consider that solar photovoltaic cells -- a major breakthrough -- were invented over 50 years ago, and still comprise only about 0.1 percent of U.S. electricity (and that amount is thanks to major subsidies). Consider that hydrogen fuel cells -- a favorite technology of the breakthrough bunch -- were invented more than 165 years ago, and deliver very little electricity (and what little they do deliver comes only because of major subsidies) and no consumer transportation. Consider fusion -- 'nuff said! I know this seems counterintuitive, when we see such remarkable technology advances almost every month in telecommunications and computers. But it's true -- and I will explain why in this post.

Greenland’s melting ice offers new mining opportunities, could fuel independence bid

Even while Greenland’s melting ice is slowly destroying the viability of subsistence hunting, it offers new economic opportunities that could ultimately fund the island country’s bid for independence from Denmark. Diamond hunters from North America have been coming to Greenland to search for the precious stones in rock uncovered by glacial retreat. Melting ice offers new opportunities for hydroelectric power. Gold found recently is already being mined. The government is in talks with aluminum giant Alcoa to build the world’s second-largest smelter in the country. And oil companies are vying to drill off Greenland’s expansive coastline. The country achieved a …

Why sustainable development is so damn hard: Philippines edition

Subsidized power leads to energy waste

Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spoke at the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative. Unintentionally, her remarks illustrated the challenge of sustainable development. First the good news -- green power: We are endowed with geothermal power and it fits very well with our Green Philippines program. We want to use clean energy, we want to have energy independence, and geothermal power gives us clean energy and energy independence. Just before coming here yesterday, I was in an island in Santro Philippines, in a geothermal field. In fact the biggest wet field of geothermal power in the world. And what we did was we presided over yesterday a turnover of a build, operate, and transfer project from the private sector to the government sector. I had a similar turn over a few weeks ago, and the private sector has been able to get, the investors have been able to get their money back before they turn it over to the national government. So it's been a well paying proposition for them, too. Now the bad news (which she thought was good news) -- subsidized power:

Jake in '08

A candidate I can really get behind

Forget Clinton, McCain, Obama, Edwards, and the rest of ‘em. I think I’ve found my candidate. He’s an avid biker, a Whole Foods shopper, and a willing participant in absurd “save the Arctic” protest activities. Plus, he looks damn fine in his organic Loomstate jeans. What else could you want in a President?

Interior Department urged to redo recovery plan for spotted owl

Was the Interior Department’s recovery plan for the northern spotted owl watered down because of political pressure to favor logging interests? Six peer reviews of the plan (five of them funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) suggest yes. So do 113 scientists who sent a letter yesterday asking the Interior Department to rewrite its draft plan, which favored shooting spotted owl predators instead of conserving the bird’s old-growth forest habitat. So do 23 congressional Democrats who sent a similar letter. What do you think? Let your voice be heard: comment on the plan before the deadline Friday. sources:

The environmental justice braintrust

A dispatch from the Congressional Black Caucus conference

The following is a guest essay by Lauren Trevisan, environmental justice program assistant for the Sierra Club. ----- Appropriately, the theme of this year's 37th annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., was "Unleashing Our Power." For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives has four African-Americans serving as chairpersons of major committees. In addition, 17 African-Americans lead major subcommittees, and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina is the House Majority Whip. Activists and health experts hope that this change in leadership will help enact serious environmental justice legislation to promote safe and healthy communities. Senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama drew a large crowd for his session on global warming. More than 1,000 people crowded in to hear Sen. Obama call for a comprehensive study of climate change impacts on low-income communities. He highlighted the job opportunities for young Americans that would stem from investment in retrofitting and renewable energy. Increased investment in public transit, Obama added, would help reduce carbon emissions and help low-income communities. But the best discussion of the day came from an annual panel called the Environmental Justice Braintrust. Clyburn convened this panel discussion for the ninth consecutive year. Panelists ranged from policy makers to medical professionals to civil rights attorneys, all of whom have been working to fight environmental injustice for decades.

U.K. judge rules Inconvenient Truth partisan but still OK to show in schools

A judge has ruled on a British citizen’s accusation that the United Kingdom’s distribution of An Inconvenient Truth to secondary schools amounts to political indoctrination. And the strange, strange verdict is: Yes, the documentary can be shown in schools — as long as teachers follow guidelines to not promote Al Gore’s “partisan political views” to impressionable schoolchildren. Because remember in the movie when Al Gore said “Kids, climate change is bad so you should always vote Democrat?” Yeah. Us neither.

Donning his cap

Dingell endorses a cap-and-trade climate plan

Just days after releasing his carbon-and-gas tax proposal for public comment, House Energy and Commerce Chair John Dingell (D-Auto) -- along with Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Coal) of Virginia -- has released a report [PDF] endorsing an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. In an odd but welcome turn, the 22-page white paper reads: The United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 60 and 80 percent by 2050 to contribute to efforts to address climate change. To do so, the United States should adopt an economy-wide, mandatory greenhouse gas reduction program. Further white papers will be forthcoming, meant to ... ... address a number of other cap-and-trade design elements and additional topics, including: cap levels and timetables, measures for containing costs in a cap-and-trade program, carbon sequestration, offsets and credits, developing countries, distribution of allowances, and additional measures. The bad news? "Government will distribute allowances equal to the level of allowed greenhouse emissions." Stay tuned for updates.

California A.G. petitions feds to regulate shipping emissions

California Attorney General Jerry Brown will join with environmental groups today to petition the Bush administration to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from ocean-going vessels. Shipping accounts for up to 5 percent of global GHG emissions, a number expected to grow 75 percent in the next 20 years. Ocean-going vessels make 11,000 calls at California’s ports each year, but often sail under foreign flags and traditionally fall under international jurisdiction. But the U.S. EPA, with the authority to regulate emissions, should intervene, says Brown: “Who comes into American ports is a matter for Americans to decide.” Attempts by the United Nations to …

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