Politics

Global warming and political will

The Lieberman-Warner bill is not strong enough to do the job

Bernie Sanders. As a member of both the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee it is my view that the time is long overdue for Congress to go beyond deal making and "politics as usual" in addressing the crisis of global warming. The droughts, floods and severe weather disturbances our planet is already experiencing will only get worse, potentially impacting billions of people, if we do not take bold and decisive action in the very near future. While the Lieberman-Warner cap and trade bill is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough in creating the policies that the scientific community says must be developed if we are to avert a planetary catastrophe. It is also lacking in paving the way for the transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies. Here are some of my concerns with the Lieberman-Warner bill: First, virtually all of the scientific evidence tells us that, at the least, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050 if we stand a chance to reverse global warming. Lieberman-Warner, under the very best projections, provides a 66 percent reduction. Second, this legislation allows major polluters to continue emitting greenhouse gases for free until 2036. In fact, old-fashioned dirty coal burning plants could still be built during this period. That's wrong. The "right to pollute" should not be given away for up to 24 years. Further, in calculating emission reductions, the bill relies much too heavily on "offsets," a process which is difficult to verify and which could significantly undermine the actual emissions caps. Third, this bill provides a massive amount of corporate welfare to industries which have been major emitters of greenhouse gasses while requiring minimal performance standards and accountability. According to a report by Friends of the Earth, the auction and allocation processes of the bill could generate up to $3.6 trillion dollars over a 38 year period. While a large fund exists in the bill for "low carbon technology," there is no guaranteed allocation for such important technologies as wind, solar, geo-thermal, hydrogen or for energy efficiency. But, there is a guaranteed allotment of $324 billion for the coal industry through an "Advanced Coal and Sequestration program" and $232 billion for the auto industry for "Advanced Technology Vehicles." The time is late, and if Congress is serious about preventing irreversible damage to our planet because of global warming we need to get moving in a bold and focused manner. And we can do it.

Global warming and America's energy future

Grist to sponsor first presidential candidate climate and energy forum

Haven't had your fill of the energy and environmental platforms of the presidential candidates? On Sat. November 17 at 2pm PST, Grist will be sponsoring the first-ever candidate forum focusing on the issues of energy policy and climate change, in Los Angeles. It will be webcast live on this page. All major presidential hopefuls were invited; Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have agreed to attend. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will introduce the evening, Living on Earth host Steve Curwood will moderate, and questions will come from panelists Mary Nichols of the Calif. Air Resources Board and David Roberts of Grist. The event will be presented in partnership with the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, California League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Center for American Progress Action Fund, NRDC Action Fund, and the Presidential Forum on Renewable Energy. Registration is full, but click here to get on the waiting list. You never know.

Centrist dog food

NYT’s Andy Revkin pens another stinker on the so-called ‘center’ of the climate debate

“This wind is extremist!” Andy Revkin has been doing such great stuff on his Dot Earth climate blog, I wanted to ignore the story he published yesterday in the NYT: “Challenges to Both Left and …

A look at Mitt Romney’s environmental platform and record

Update: Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race on Feb. 7, 2008. Key PointsRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn’t convinced humans are a big contributor to climate change, but he supports efforts that would …

NYT sez: Don't gut it

New York Times supports renewables in energy bill

Just in time to be too late? The New York Times has some good advice for the congressional leadership: The House bill requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind by 2020. Republicans, pressured by a few big utilities like the Southern Company, blocked a similar provision in the Senate. Almost two dozen states have already figured out that this is both good for the environment and good for the economy and have enacted renewable energy standards, which will create jobs, stabilize natural gas prices and reduce global warming emissions.Yet this provision is in greater danger than any other of getting tossed overboard. Ms. Pelosi should insist that it remain in the bill and Mr. Reid should enlist the support of governors from those nearly two dozen states to change Republican thinking in the Senate.

Hope for a post-Kyoto agreement?

China is prepared to make a climate deal

Potentially a very big deal -- The Independent reports "China 'will agree to cut its carbon emissions'": China, now the world's biggest greenhouse-gas emitter, will eventually agree to cut its soaring carbon dioxide emissions, one of the country's leading environmentalists forecast yesterday -- but only on the basis of a deal with the United States and the rest of the developed world. When is eventually? The Chinese would be very unlikely to set their own unilateral target for reducing CO2, said Professor C S Kiang, the founding dean of the College of Environmental Science at the University of Beijing. But they would join in the next, post-2012 stage of the Kyoto protocol, the international climate change treaty, and seek to reduce their emissions to a definite figure, as long as this was part of a global agreement that involved all countries acting together -- including the US -- and the transfer to China of modern energy technology, he said. Now, Kiang says, all the world needs is a new U.S. President:

OPEC issues bizarre oil threat, <em>Financial Times</em> also confused

OPEC nations demand that petroleum-consuming countries maintain current thirst for oil

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?

Independent Québec

Backing away from corn ethanol

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."

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: Senate Environment Committee hearing

NRDC says it supports ASCA

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."

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