Politics

Policies to reduce and increase driving at the same time

Subsidizing drivers needs to end

This article in the NYT highlights the absurdity of current transportation policy. While New York City is trying to get federal funding to help it pay for a congestion pricing and traffic congestion policy, the federal government is, at the same time, handing out large tax breaks to help people reduce the costs of driving to work. It's yet another example of government policy gone awry, badly. The solution isn't sexy, won't get you on TV, and doesn't make for great headlines that will earn prestige: eliminate all government subsidies, and either cap pollution or tax it. It's not rocket science.

Interview with Thomas Casten, part four

Making money cutting carbon

DR: There hasn’t been any public pressure to change the electricity system. Most people don’t even know how electricity is made. It comes out of the wall like magic. TC: You are so right. In Ontario, they did a massive peer-reviewed study to identify the health and environmental effects of making power with coal, and what they thought would be saved if they replaced the coal with gas or nuclear. They talked about being able to save $3 billion a year in health and environmental costs. When you divide that number by the kilowatt hours made from coal plants, it …

Al Gore calls for civil disobedience

Against climate polluters

From The New York Times's Nicholas Kristof ($ub req'd): I ran into Al Gore at a climate/energy conference this month, and he vibrates with passion about this issue -- recognizing that we should confront mortal threats even when they don't emanate from Al Qaeda. "We are now treating the Earth's atmosphere as an open sewer," he said, and (perhaps because my teenage son was beside me) he encouraged young people to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources. "I can't understand why there aren't rings of young people blocking bulldozers," Mr. Gore said, "and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants." Say it, Al! But it's not just young people who need to do it -- everyone needs to join in, starting with you. Shutting down coal plants, blockading palm-oil importers like Imperium Renewables and other rainforest destroyers, and stopping work at oil refineries could move the climate debate beyond just personal action and put the spotlight squarely on the big polluters who are the real culprits behind the problem. This could be Al Gore's Gandhi moment (especially appropriate for a Nobel Peace Prize nominee). It would be great if you (in conjunction with say, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, and other civil disobedience-oriented environmental groups) announced a day of civil disobedience to confront polluters -- and were the first one to get arrested. You'll find thousands of people, myself included, to back you up. If you're interested in being one of those people, click here to send Al Gore a fax letting him know you're ready to participate in civil disobedience on behalf of the planet.

The real 'surge' in Iraq: Rent-a-soldier

In a privatized war, mercenaries outnumber soldiers — and bring home cash for their bosses

Everybody thought it was a big deal last spring when President Bush announced his "surge" of 20,000 troops in Iraq, which brings the total number to 160,000, four years after the invasion. Meanwhile, with little public or Congressional scrutiny, the president has been eagerly shelling out billions to maintain an even larger private armed force in Iraq. According to the journalist Jeremy Scahill — without whose dogged reports in The Nation and on Democracy Now the story would be virtually unknown — U.S. taxpayers are now supporting a private-security force of 180,000 in Iraq. That’s larger than our formal military …

Hastert aging, mellowing, retiring … going green?

Also via Brian Beutler (TOWTM) comes the exceedingly strange news that Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), former Speaker of the House and heretofore undistinguished party apparatchik, wants to leave Congress with a bang by … passing climate change legislation with Nancy Pelosi. Wonders never cease.

Galbraith says what he really thinks

Economist goes over to the dark side

Some facts to hang your hat on: Good governance might save the day. Bad governance could just make things worse. I generally agree with Galbraith's opinions. However, there is always a reasonable probability that some of his opinions are wrong (as is true of anybody's opinions, including my own). He's quoted in David's post: "Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. In the past that was unavoidable because we had no way to record history so future generations would learn from others' mistakes. We don't have that excuse now. Ignoring history in today's information age can't be blamed on ignorance.

Rep. Hilda Solis

She’s cool

One of the most (OK, only) active members of Congress around the intersection of climate change and race is Rep. Hilda Solis (CA-32). She’s the one who sponsored the Green Jobs Act that Van Jones is so excited about. Here’s a short interview with her, from OpenLeft: Tomorrow, Solis is hosting a community forum of global warming. Check it out if you’re in the area.

U.S. taxpayers are paying to increase carbon emissions in the developing world

Makes total sense!

On the one hand, Bush and the Republicans say we’re helpless to do anything about global warming until China and India act. On the other hand, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. are funneling billions in taxpayer dollars to huge corporations (think Halliburton and Bechtel) to help them construct carbon-intensive hard infrastructure projects: According to their own reports, the two agencies approved projects in recent years that annually emitted more than 125 million metric tons of CO2 — the equivalent of putting 31.3 million new cars on the road or increasing U.S. carbon emissions by 2%, …

A carbon tax even Dingell haters can love

From Rep. John Larson

Love the carbon tax but can’t stand Dingell? Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) is your man. He just introduced a kick-ass carbon tax bill (PDF) to the House. From Greenwire ($ub req’d): Larson’s legislation would set a $15 tax in its first year for every ton of carbon dioxide emissions from the oil, gas and coal industries, with the tax rising 10 percent annually while also keeping pace with inflation. Larson’s office also released a memo (PDF) saying the tax would be “easy to implement and administer” by covering about 2,000 oil refineries, coal processing plants and other points where fossil …

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