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."

Greens actually change someone's mind

Greens helped convince Lieberman that auctioning permits is the way to go

As I noted earlier today, Sen. Lieberman indicated that he’d be open to moving toward 100 percent auction of pollution permits under his and Sen. Warner’s cap-and-trade proposal. I called David McIntosh, Lieberman’s counsel and legislative assistant for energy and the environment, to find out why this potentially tectonic shift has suddenly become a live option. He said: The environmental community and Senators whose views are going to be important have effectively communicated to Sens. Lieberman and Warner that they want to see free allocations to emitters phased out over time and why they believe that is justified. Within the …

Non-sucky cap-and-trade now a possibility?

Lieberman expresses openness to auction all carbon permits

A cap-and-trade system begins by placing a cap on carbon emissions and distributing permits (permission to emit a certain amount of CO2) equal to the capped amount. The notion is that permits will be bought and sold, allowing market forces to determine where emission reductions can be made fastest and easiest. The question is how to distribute those initial permits. When the EU carbon trading system was established, permits were given away based on emissions, meaning the biggest polluters got the most permits. The idea was that those polluters most needed the money because they had the biggest reductions to …

Coal industry asks for still more handouts, and Washington lends an ear

We’re gradually learning how the U.S. government will approach our country’s energy needs in the carbon-constrained future — and if you were envisioning a future free of mining the earth for dirty energy, you should probably check the optimism. Same coal, same coal. Photo: iStockphoto Two important hearings on Capitol Hill earlier this month strongly indicated that we’re stuck with coal — and a coal industry generously supported by the American taxpayer — for the foreseeable future. Coal industry representatives were invited to explain to key members of the U.S. House of Representatives why the federal government should ply it …

Discover Brilliant: Trends in smart-grid policy

Next up, a discussion of trends in energy industry smart-grid policy. Starring: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Rob Pratt, Staff Scientist and Manager of Gridwise Activities Gridwise Council, Alison Silverstein Snohomish County PUD, Jessica Wilcox, Government Affairs Wilcox (who is, I add inappropriately, gorgeous): Most people on Capitol Hill don’t even know what a smart grid is. Even the people writing the bills that include smart grid provisions don’t understand or much care about it. The problem is smart grid is getting defined much too narrowly. It needs to be expanded to include renewables, conservation, responses to climate change, etc. People …

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