NPR's Marketplace called me today for comments on this bizarre Financial Times article: "Opec to seek assurances on oil demand." Apparently these absurdly rich countries -- with projected revenues of $658 billion this year -- who are selling their product at nearly $100 a barrel, are threatening not to invest in new production unless the consuming countries promise to maintain demand. Seriously! No, seriously: Opec will this week seek assurances from some of the world's biggest oil consumers that they will maintain their demand as the members of the oil cartel come under intense pressure to boost investment in production capacity. This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard, which is saying a lot considering who our president is. First off, who exactly can speak for the consuming nations and make a binding promise to keep up demand in the face of record-breaking prices? Nobody. This is capitalism. If high prices lead to fuel-switching, how could, say, President Bush, promise to stop it -- especially since he has already promised to encourage fuel switching? Second, as I blogged recently, pretty much every producing country, except Saudi Arabia, is producing flat out. Yet demand keeps going up even at these prices. If OPEC is really worried about demand destruction, then they should want to invest in as much new production as quickly as possible. Indeed, the IEA predicted back in July that the world will see "increasing market tightness beyond 2010, with OPEC spare capacity declining to minimal levels by 2012." Third, IEA projects global oil demand will "expand by 1.9 million barrels a day, or 2.2% a year on average, reaching 95.8 million barrels a day by 2012, up from 86.13 million barrels a day this year." OPEC would be crazy not to invest in as much new supply as they could to meet this demand. Where is a better place for their money -- holding dollars? So what is the real motive behind this bizarre threat? And how is the normally dependable Financial Times confused?
The big news north of the (U.S.) border is that Québec's government has decided that there is no future in corn ethanol. As explained in an article posted on Canada's Cyberpresse website, back in May 2005 Québec's then Minister for Agriculture, Yvon Vallières, gave a green light, "for obvious economic and ecological reasons," to the construction of the first plant to manufacture ethanol from corn kernels, in the town of Varennes. However, during an emission of the Enquête television program (click to view) on Radio-Canada last Thursday evening, Québec's Minister for Natural Resources, Claude Béchard, promised that the 120-million-litre-per year Varennes plant would be the first and the last of its kind. "It is necessary to turn to other [feedstock] sources," he said. No other ethanol factory based on corn will be built in Québec. On Sunday, a leader in one of Montreal's newspapers, The Gazette expressed satisfaction with the decision, declaring, "Backing away from ethanol makes sense."
Forgive the intermittent posting. The live feed is coming and going a bit. It came back in just in time for me to hear David Hawkins say on behalf of the NRDC -- though not on behalf of USCAP -- that the bill's "emissions reductions in the early years are strong. Toward the end ... we'll need emissions reductions to be stronger than they are." But, he went on, it "merits an affirmative vote."
Prepared statements, now available: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca), Chairman, Committee on the Environment and Public Works David Hawkins, Director, Climate Center, Natural Resources Defense Council Dr. David Greene, Corporate Fellow, Geography and Environmental Engineering, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO Andrew Sharkey, President and CEO, American Iron and Steel Institute Donald R. Rowlett, Director of Regulatory Policy and Compliance, OGE Energy Corp.
Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) says he can support the bill if it provides more funds for public transportation, including at the state level. He said this in the context of a response to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who wants the bill changed to a sector-by-sector (as opposed to economy-wide) cap-and-trade system. Cardin suggested that Senators shouldn't be demanding extraordinary changes to the legislation and threatening to withhold support unless their demands are met. My guess? Cardin's suggestion is futile.
Tom Carper (D-Del.) has said he will be able to support the legislation if it: includes provisions to mitigate pollutants like nitrogen oxide and mercury found most widely in the northeastern United States; moves to a more just allocation system -- one that devotes more credits to cleaner energy sources; contains no built-in punishment of early actors, companies that have already begun mitigating their emissions. Not the most ambitious of demands, but there they are.
Many, many, many, many people have criticized the astonishingly stupid headline on last Tuesday’s front-page Washington Post story: "Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats." The Republican base still clings to denial of plain reality, …
For the last year or so, ugly truths about Alaskan politics have been oozing into the limelight as state and federal officials unravel a scandal involving cash bribes, an oil tax, bowling scores, and sleeping …
At the end of October, both New Jersey Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg and, believe it or not, Mississippi Republican Senator Trent Lott, passed their cosponsored bill in the Senate to allocate $1.9 billion per year for six years to expand passenger rail in the U.S. According to Parade magazine (yes, the one that's inserted into Sunday newspapers), the main goal is "to develop high-speed, short-haul rail corridors modeled on the European city-to-city routes. They could run between Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C.; Portland and Seattle; Chicago and Detroit; Miami and Jacksonville, Fla." In addition, the Senate wants to give Amtrak a solid long-term financial foundation. (Imagine!) The same Parade article, entitled "A better way to travel," extols the benefits of rail: Many transportation experts insist that the best answer to transportation gridlock is efficient intercity rail travel. Trains use one-fifth less energy than cars or planes ... Amtrak ridership was up for the fifth year in a row, reaching record levels -- despite the fact that a third of trains arrived late last year ... Severe weather will further add to the transportation turmoil, leading travelers to look for alternatives to air travel. And what about global warming? The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) released a report in September 2007, "Public Transportation's Contribution to Greenhouse Gas Reduction" which directly addresses the issue. According to their calculations, public transit, use saves 37 percent of the CO2 that would have been emitted had private transportation been used (19.2 million metric tons, including traffic congestion) instead of public transit ( 12.3 million metric tons). And that's including a lot of diesel-powered trains and buses.