Politics

Mankiw very much

Conservative economists agree: Taxes rule!

Stalwart Republican, former Bush advisor, and Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw makes the case for the carbon tax. He also thinks a carbon tax is the most achievable global policy: A global carbon tax would be easier to negotiate. All governments require revenue for public purposes. The world’s nations could agree to use a carbon tax as one instrument to raise some of that revenue. No money needs to change hands across national borders. Each government could keep the revenue from its tax and use it to finance spending or whatever form of tax relief it considered best. I guess …

Judge tosses out lawsuit brought by California against automakers

Automakers gained an edge yesterday in the Big Auto vs. California debate, as a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit against the world’s six largest auto companies brought by California Attorney General Jerry Brown. Brown had claimed that because of the harmful environmental effects of vehicles’ greenhouse-gas emissions, the Big Six were running afoul of California’s public nuisance laws. But U.S. District Judge Martin J. Jenkins ruled that the issue should be legislated, not litigated; that calculating the exact percentage of blame to be pinned on automakers was impossible; and that a ruling in favor of Brown would threaten the …

Discover Brilliant: The business of climate change

The final session of the day (hooray) is about "the business of climate change." On the panel: Climate Change Journal, Grant Ferrier, Editor (Moderator) Climate Solutions, K.C. Golden, Policy Director Sterling Planet, Alden Hathaway II, Senior VP, Business Development Environmental Resources Trust, Gordon Smith, EcoLands Director We start with Smith, who begins by, of all things, talking about forestry credits in carbon markets! He says they aren’t attractive in the compliance (mandatory) carbon markets, but voluntary offset customers love them. And they’re sketchy. But nonetheless, that’s what he specializes in. Uh … why? Doesn’t say. Hathaway starts by talking about …

Discover Brilliant: The policy and investment landscape

Next up, H. Jeffrey Leonard, president of the Global Environment Fund. He wants America to "get real." 1. Aggregate global use of fossil fuels will not fall in the next two decades. 2. American "energy independence" is an unrealistic pipe dream driving bad policy. 3. The Biofuels Initiative won’t achieve anything environmentally speaking, and is a grotesque example of pork barrel politics. 4. Consumer and lifestyle steps being taken by Americans are all but irrelevant. Chipper! One interesting point: China has no domestic access to natural gas. No nation has ever cleaned up its pollution or dealt with its environmental …

Tackling climate: Beltway tone-deafness edition

On subsidizing ‘green’ energy R&D

In its "green" issue this week, The New Republic features an excerpt from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger's new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Their basic point is that the emphasis of the political debate is all wrong. I'm not sure they really understand how things are shaping up, but they're saying that politicians should spend less "time" talking about regulatory approaches, and more time reiterating the importance of innovation. This gives pretty short shrift to the fact that a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program that auctions credits) is basically an in-kind subsidy to clean energy. But still, regulation and direct subsidies aren't mutually exclusive, and I think the reason you don't hear a lot of hand-wringing about subsidies for green R&D is that securing real (as opposed to de facto) subsidies -- in any future climate change bill -- to well-positioned clean energy companies will be the easy part.* * Keep in mind that part of the reason this will be easy is that the biggest subsidy winner will almost certainly be King Coal, who will almost without a doubt receive billions and billions of dollars to refine and implement carbon capture and sequestration technology across the country and, perhaps, the entire world.

Alaska joins regional climate initiative

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has created a climate-change committee and joined her state with the cool kids at the Western Climate Initiative.

Discover Brilliant: Energy security

A strange and old-fashioned way to start a hip, cutting edge conference

I’m in a session about “Energy, Climate Change & Resource Nationalism” with General Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Air Force in Japan, and Dr. Liam Fox, Shadow Secretary of State of Defence and Member of Parliament in the UK. These are old-school guys, fairly conservative, and they’re painting a grim picture. China is ravenous, buying up energy resources in a geostrategic way, growing its military capability. Russia is practically owned and operated by Gazprom and very much wants to restore the prestige of the USSR. The oil problem will be closely followed by a natural gas problem. Europe will soon …

Industry to Bush administration: “Please regulate me”

Long-standing shared love for voluntary standards aside, businesses and manufacturers have begun asking the Bush administration to begin regulating industry’s health- and planet-ruining ways. A variety of factors have contributed to the turnaround, including tougher regulations enacted by states, a Congress unafraid to crack down, publicly apparent failures of voluntary standards, and a flood of low-priced, unsafe imports into the market. (Oh, and industry’s deep commitment to public health and safety, of course.) Businesses also tend to appreciate the pro-industry approach of the Bush administration, which has shown willingness to write regulations with clauses that, say, disallow consumer lawsuits. But …

Cuomo arigato!

New York attorney general subpoenas energy companies over disclosure of coal-plant risks

A new weapon has been brought to bear in the war on coal, and it’s aimed right at the corpulent industry’s soft underbelly: risk. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just sent out a round of subpoenas to energy companies. He wants to see internal documents demonstrating that the companies — AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy — fully disclosed the financial risks of planned coal-fired power plants to investors. (This is Cuomo’s twist on a once-obscure statute — the Martin Act, a 1921 state securities law — that his predecessor Eliot Spitzer revived and used to …

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