The carbon plan of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is considerably lamer -- and more transparently a poison pill -- than early reports suggested. So I strongly disagree with Chris Dodd, Friends of the Earth, and Gristmill's Charles Komanoff, who all applaud the bill. Here's why. First, as Dingell himself has said, he wanted to design a bill with maximum pain to prove to everyone how unpalatable greenhouse gas mitigation is (see below). Why else include a pointless $0.50 gasoline tax on top of the carbon tax? Dingell actually has a double agenda here -- to torpedo climate legislation and a toughening of CAFE at once. Taxes are unpopular enough -- but two of them? Come on! We've seen gasoline prices jump two dollars a gallon in recent years, with little impact on usage. What would another 50 cents do, except piss people off? It would never make the final bill, and Dingell knows it. Second, Dingell "phases out the mortgage interest on primary mortgages on houses over 3,000 square feet." But why? Here is the lame answer:
Determined not to let British Columbia hog the green spotlight, the province of Quebec has introduced Canada’s first carbon tax. The tax, to be levied on gasoline, diesel, heating oil, and coal, is expected to raise $200 million a year to fund the province’s emissions-reduction plans. Apparently Quebec never got the memo that taxes are communist plots developed by the French … hey, wait a minute!
The Army Corps of Engineers is seeking support from three coastal Mississippi counties for a proposal to buy out 17,000 homes and encourage residents to move inland. The Corps generally reserves buyouts for areas prone to river flooding; the new proposal is an indication that the U.S. may be seriously considering the risk of sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and stronger hurricanes. Intentions of safety aside, resistance to the voluntary project is high. “The whole concept of trying to remove people and properties from the coast is very, very challenging,” says Susan Rees of the Corps. “The desire to live by …
Once again, a prime example of our misguided farm policies hits like a ton of factory-farm manure sludge -- or in this case, a massive sack of federally insured, genetically modified corn. Last Wednesday, Monsanto announced that the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) approved a pilot program that will give farmers a 20 percent discount on insurance premiums if they plant a majority of their corn acres with seeds featuring Monsanto's trademarked YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple stack technology. This is the first time the FCIC Board has approved a crop insurance discount for specific crop traits, but not likely the last. For the moment, let's set aside the potentially sordid nature of this public/private arrangement. What is particularly ironic and imbalanced is that organic producers pay an extra 5 percent surcharge when they sign up for crop insurance because of the perceived additional risks associated with organic production. That's right. Organic producers are actually penalized for using production practices that have been shown to lessen risks. Simply put, this is bad policy that should be reformed when the Senate takes up the farm bill this month.
I heartily recommend this month’s Atlantic Monthly cover story, "It’s Not Charity" (via Yglesias). It’s mostly about Bill Clinton’s post-presidency adventures and the new model of philanthropy he’s trying to develop. Embedded within is a description of a fascinating climate program he’s been developing with Ira Magaziner. An excerpt: The climate initiative, in typical Magaziner style, has many moving parts, including technical assistance to cities, networks for sharing best practices, software to measure progress, financial support, and a full-time foundation staff member assigned to each city. But the make-or-break component is a plan to re-equilibrate the market for energy conservation. …
There's a great line often ascribed to Yogi Berra: "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." This perfectly describes U.S. energy policy -- and offers a way forward that would not only create lots of social benefits, but just might make energy policy something that matters to U.S. electoral politics. To see why, try ranking those events in political history when politicians really got it right. Declaration of Independence? Emancipation Proclamation? Man on the moon? Pick whichever ones you'd like. Here's my prediction: those great moments were all framed around goals we sought to achieve, without prejudice to the path we took to get there. Why does this matter to energy policy? Because we've never had an energy policy that got beyond a narrow focus on the path.
The Foreign Minister of China, Yang Jiechi, gave a talk at CGI that would have made President Bush -- or Frank Luntz -- proud. Brian may have liked the rhetoric, but I (and a number of others I spoke to in NY) thought the comments were divorced from reality, pure spin. You can judge for yourself from the entire transcript, which I will excerpt and comment on here because I think the speech is much more important and ominous than Bush's recent climate speech. After all, Bush will be gone soon, but if this speech reflects China's view of the climate problem, we are all in deep, deep trouble. Yang says: A review of history shows that climate change occurs in the course of development. It is both an environment issue and a development issue. But ultimately, it is a development issue. Uh, not really. He presumably meant to say "rising greenhouse gases (GHGs)" instead of "climate change." And he presumably means to imply that you can't have development without climate change/GHGs.
Shocking, shocking news can be discerned from U.S. EPA and Justice Department data: the EPA is totally slacking on cracking down on polluters.
This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. John McCain. Photo: hatch1921 John McCain likes to project a tough-guy stance on the issues, and global warming is no exception. “Americans solve problems. We don’t run from them,” he’s quoted as saying on the environment page of his website, which goes on to argue that “ignoring the problem reflects a ‘liberal, live for today’ attitude unworthy of our great country.” McCain has earned the right to put his own conservative spin on the fight against climate change. The first high-profile Republican to …
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