Gore to pen a sequel: The Path to Survival will be published next spring to coincide with Earth Day on April 22. According to the publisher, Rodale Books, Gore will spell out a blueprint for the changes that individuals and governments need to make to avoid catastrophic climate change. I expect the book will be built around Gore’s 10 policy recommendations to Congress, which remain the gold standard as far as I’m concerned.
The basic trick is to show up looking nice, well dressed, civil, and then, in a composed voice, lie and dissemble to your heart's content. All in evidence at today's hearing, focused on coal and carbon capture, of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): "Some estimates that I read are that the cost of [a carbon] cap would increase the cost of electricity to the consumer by as much as 45 percent." Well, perhaps. But here we have an analysis from George Bush's EPA of the Climate Stewardship Act (cosponsors John McCain and Joe Lieberman). On page 3, it reads: Electricity prices are projected to increase 22% in 2030 and 25% in 2050, assuming the full cost of allowances are passed on to consumers (as is the case in a full auction). If allowances are given directly to power companies, the cost of those allowances would not be passed on to consumers in regulated electricity markets, so electricity price increases would be lower in much of the country.
For readers out there who understand the climate crisis well (I assume basically all of you), a lot of this will be recap, but today's hearing underscored how desperate the situation really is and how urgently it needs to be addressed. That urgency is a source, at least to me, of tremendous frustration. To a great extent, we've reached this point precisely because energy industries and their political patrons spent years blocking action, rejecting science, and rhetorically casting "alarmists" as cartoonish hippie-fascists. So successful were their efforts that we now face a crisis of such magnitude that the very same actors are using the urgency they created to bully lawmakers into providing them significant handouts in order to fix the problem. As my previous post points out (or was meant to point out), the bullying is proving effective. This post is a reminder that it's only effective because things look pretty dire.
In the course of a Washington Post story on the fate of the House and Senate energy bills, we hear this about Bush’s feelings on climate change legislation: But Bush still opposes unilateral U.S. action. Sometimes, anyway.
As I suggested earlier, the crux of today's hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change was to suggest that carbon capture and storage is necessary quickly, via enormous government subsidies, or else we're screwed. Remember, this is Ed Markey's committee. He's the guy who's supposed to advise Congress about upcoming climate-change legislation, and, for all intents and purposes, he's an ally to Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the environmentally minded members of the Democratic caucus. This we expect from Markey: There are over 150 new coal-fired power plants on the boards in the United States, and globally, it is predicted that something on the order of 3,000 such plants will be built by 2030. These new plants alone would increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent and global emissions by 30 percent. That would spell disaster for the planet. But this? Fortunately, carbon capture and storage -- or 'CCS' -- offers a path forward for coal ... All indications are that CCS is a viable interim solution to the coal problem. Markey taking this line means that if we're lucky enough to see major action out of Congress on climate change, CCS is going to be a huge part of it. But we already knew that, right?
If you dream of a near future in which coal mines are abandoned, coal workers are employed in emerging green energy fields, coal executives are feeding at the trough of welfare assistance (and not corporate welfare), and China and India are all too happy to buy our clean technologies at a healthy price ... well, then it's good you didn't attend this morning's hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change. I'll be posting a few entries here detailing the most significant ground Markey's hearing covered. But the nickel version is that, though everybody from the governor of Wyoming to the wonks at the Center for American Progress think a cap-and-trade program is inevitable, they also think that many, many billions of dollars in subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration technology will be crucial to any greenhouse-gas reduction strategy. Which is to say that I had a rollicking and hilarious morning!
Ted Stevens, the Republican senator whose vacation home was recently raided by the FBI, and who made over $800,000 from a shady real estate deal last year, has come up with a brand-new theory of global warming. He told a NBC reporter in Alaska: We're at the end of a long, long term of warming, 700 to 900 years of increased temperature, a very slow increase. We think we're close to the end of that. If we're close to the end of that, that means that we'll start getting cooler gradually, not very rapidly, but cooler once again and stability might come to this region for a period of another 900 years. This was Stevens' way of telling the villagers of Shishmaref, which is being washed away by rising waters despite the Army Corps of Engineers' construction of massive sea walls, that they're on their own. It'll be interesting to see if the denialists at Planet Gore, so quick to attack anyone who dares make an issue of global warming, will leap to the defense of Stevens' claim, which as far as scientists can tell, appears to be a personal fantasy.
Here's the inside skinny on yesterday's liquid coal hearing before the House Science & Technology Committee. It was four on two (NRDC's David Hawkins and me vs. the other witnesses). You can read my testimony here and all the witness statements here -- not that I would recommend doing so unless you are a serious liquid-coal junkie like me. About 10 members of Congress were there at any given time -- about evenly split on how they view liquid coal. The ranking Republican on the full committee, Ralph Hall from the great state of Texas, interrogated me at length -- trying to get me to say that I was anti-fossil fuel, that I was pro-tax (or that a cap-and-trade system was the same as a tax), and that I never offered any solution to the global warming problem. I think I held my own.
A federal judge poured cold water on the U.S. government’s plans to build a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada this week — or, more accurately, he left the feds high and dry. The Department of Energy has been seeking 8 million gallons of state-controlled water to drill test holes at Yucca Mountain; the state of Nevada, which wants to be rid of the dump, has said no way. In a sharp slap to the DOE, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt ruled that the federal government had “failed to demonstrate the necessity of its voracious water demands,” and …