Politics

Capping carbon: Is nothing better than something?

On whether to advocate weaker climate change bills

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. How fearsome must the headlines be about tomorrow before people change their ways today? -- Nancy Gibbs, TIME In Greenland today, the ice is thawing at a pace that is alarming climate scientists. Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Congress remains frozen on the issue of carbon pricing. And that may be a good thing. Carbon pricing, as most readers of Gristmill know, is the idea that some portion of the costs of greenhouse-gas emissions should be reflected in the price consumers pay for carbon-intensive fuels. The energy that is causing global climate change would cost more than the energy that isn't, and the marketplace would become the ally of climate stabilization. There are two schemes on the table. The first is a carbon tax -- simple, straightforward and, according to conventional wisdom, political suicide. The second approach is carbon trading. Carbon emissions would be capped; polluters would buy and sell emission permits. Carbon trading is more complex and would take longer to make a difference, but because it is not a tax, it appears to be the favored approach in Congress. Several cap-and-trade bills have been introduced in Congress, some setting tougher goals than others. The word on the street is that the leading bill will be proposed soon by Senators Warner and Lieberman. It reportedly will call for a 15 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, compared to current levels. Therein lies the rub. Is the glass (of melted ice) half empty or half full?

PARK(ing) Day

Parking lots transform into parks for one day

There are two kinds of public demonstrations. Those that attract people to the cause and demonstrate new possibilities, and those that just piss people off and make enemies out of potential friends. Here's a beautiful example of the former. "Parking" can either mean leaving an expensive hunk of climate-changing steel to cool on greasy asphalt, or it can mean sitting on the grass with friends, drinking wine in the fresh, clean air. These guys have an elegant way of getting people to think about which definition of "park" should get more city space. If you are in SF, NYC, LA, DC, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, St. Paul, Boston, Austin, Salt Lake City, Tampa, Miami, then check it out. Some pictures below the fold, courtesy of Transportation Alternatives.

Sanders-Boxer TKO

New WRI report compares climate bills

The World Resources Institute has a new report out comparing the various climate bills floating around Congress. Here’s what you need to know (click for larger version): This confirms what we already knew, that Sanders-Boxer is the best bill and the only one that has a chance of stabilizing CO2 at levels we can live with. Call your legislator!

Whither the energy bill?

Rep. Ed Markey looks down the road on climate and energy

The Center for American Progress hosted Rep. Ed Markey at a roundtable for reporters to give a sort of primer for what to expect in the run-up to and during the marathon of international climate-change events in the coming week. He was, to my ear, a little bit sanguine about the energy bill, which he expects will be completed and sent to the White House this fall, in time for the Congress to then turn its attention to a climate-change bill. Markey said, "The NRDC estimates that that bill, if it was signed by the president, would meet 25 percent of the greenhouse-gas goals of the United States by 2030." It's unclear, though, whether he was talking about the NRDC's ambitious benchmarks or the president's laughably dubbed "aspirational goals" for long-term greenhouse-gas reduction. And in any case, it would depend upon all of the emissions-mitigating provisions of the bill -- some now in the House version, some in the Senate version -- finding their way into the final version that emerges from the conference committee.

Feds apologize for encouraging employees to buy fuel-efficient Japanese cars

A Bush administration official has apologized for encouraging government employees to consider buying fuel-efficient Japanese cars. Which is why we have a “dumbassery” tag.

ADM's man at the USDA

USDA secretary resigns; industrial-corn man takes charge

Big doings at the USDA yesterday: Mike Johanns, the reliably pro-agribiz former governor of Nebraska, resigned from his post as USDA chair — right in the middle of Farm Bill negotiations, now in the Senate. He says he’s going to run for the Senate seat that Chuck Hagel is vacating. Chuck Conner, currently the USDA’s no. 2 man, will be the agency’s acting secretary. Conner joined the Bush administration in 2001 as the president’s "special assistant" on ag issues, and joined the USDA in 2005. Before working for Bush, Conner spent four years as executive director of the Corn Refiners …

Forget the light bulbs: Part II

Tidwell responds to scientists responding to Tidwell

The following is a guest essay by Mike Tidwell. It's a response to "The Power of Voluntary Actions," written by a phalanx of social scientists, which was itself a response to Tidwell's "Consider Using the N-Word Less." Tidwell is director of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network based in Takoma Park, Md. ----- My Sept. 4 essay on the merits of voluntary versus statutory responses to global warming triggered quite a firestorm of debate. Lots of readers agreed with me: All those happy lists in magazines and on web sites -- "10 things you can do to save the planet!" -- actually trivialize the scale of the problem. We'll never solve the climate crisis one light bulb at a time. What we need, à la the civil rights movement, are ten historic statutes that ban abusive and violent practices like the manufacture of gas-guzzling cars and inefficient light bulbs. Other people -- including a whole panel of PhDs from around the world -- were critical of this point of view. They accused me -- wrongly -- of dismissing altogether the virtues of voluntary change. As I type this essay from my solar-powered house, with a Prius in the driveway and a vegetarian lunch in the oven, I assure you I view voluntary measures as very important. They just won't save us in time, that's all. The Arctic ice is melting way too fast.

Mistrial declared for eco-activist accused of inciting vegans to bomb

A mistrial has been declared in the case of an eco-activist in California who was charged under an obscure, seldom-used federal law making it a crime to tell others how to make explosives with the intent of encouraging a lawless act. In 2003, Rodney Coronado, who had served some four years in prison for burning down a mink research facility at Michigan State University, spoke to a group of vegans (and at least two undercover agents from area law enforcement agencies) at a community center in San Diego. At the speech, in response to a question from an audience member, …

Knowing as little as possible: a candidate competition

Thompson and Romney quibble over oil drilling in the Everglades

Here's a fun game for campaign reporters: Ask Fred Thompson questions. The results are often hilarious: Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson seemed taken by surprise when asked Tuesday about oil drilling in the Everglades, apparently unaware it's been a major Florida issue. Before answering, he laughed at the question. "Gosh, no one has told me that there's any major reserves in the Everglades, but maybe that's one of the things I need to learn while I'm down here," Thompson said after talking over state issues with Gov. Charlie Crist. Thompson, who has called for seeking U.S. oil resources wherever they exist, was asked by an Associated Press reporter whether that included drilling in the Everglades. "I'm not going to start out by taking this, that or the other off the table in terms of our overall energy situation," he said. Upon learning of this, Mitt Romney took an obvious, but I suppose laudable, political swipe at Thompson: "You're kidding?" said Romney, who also was campaigning in Florida. "Let's take that off the table. We're not going to drill in the Everglades. There are certain places in America that are national treasures and the Everglades is one of those." Of course, Romney is a huge fan of the idea of drilling in ANWR and off the Gulf Coast of Florida. About the latter he made the cool, sober point that, "If we don't do it, Castro will," according to the DNC. I'm sure that what we have here is a principled disagreement about what, exactly, constitutes a "national treasure."

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