Politics

Tackling climate: Beltway tone-deafness edition

On subsidizing ‘green’ energy R&D

In its "green" issue this week, The New Republic features an excerpt from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger's new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Their basic point is that the emphasis of the political debate is all wrong. I'm not sure they really understand how things are shaping up, but they're saying that politicians should spend less "time" talking about regulatory approaches, and more time reiterating the importance of innovation. This gives pretty short shrift to the fact that a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program that auctions credits) is basically an in-kind subsidy to clean energy. But still, regulation and direct subsidies aren't mutually exclusive, and I think the reason you don't hear a lot of hand-wringing about subsidies for green R&D is that securing real (as opposed to de facto) subsidies -- in any future climate change bill -- to well-positioned clean energy companies will be the easy part.* * Keep in mind that part of the reason this will be easy is that the biggest subsidy winner will almost certainly be King Coal, who will almost without a doubt receive billions and billions of dollars to refine and implement carbon capture and sequestration technology across the country and, perhaps, the entire world.

Alaska joins regional climate initiative

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has created a climate-change committee and joined her state with the cool kids at the Western Climate Initiative.

Discover Brilliant: Energy security

A strange and old-fashioned way to start a hip, cutting edge conference

I’m in a session about “Energy, Climate Change & Resource Nationalism” with General Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Air Force in Japan, and Dr. Liam Fox, Shadow Secretary of State of Defence and Member of Parliament in the UK. These are old-school guys, fairly conservative, and they’re painting a grim picture. China is ravenous, buying up energy resources in a geostrategic way, growing its military capability. Russia is practically owned and operated by Gazprom and very much wants to restore the prestige of the USSR. The oil problem will be closely followed by a natural gas problem. Europe will soon …

Industry to Bush administration: “Please regulate me”

Long-standing shared love for voluntary standards aside, businesses and manufacturers have begun asking the Bush administration to begin regulating industry’s health- and planet-ruining ways. A variety of factors have contributed to the turnaround, including tougher regulations enacted by states, a Congress unafraid to crack down, publicly apparent failures of voluntary standards, and a flood of low-priced, unsafe imports into the market. (Oh, and industry’s deep commitment to public health and safety, of course.) Businesses also tend to appreciate the pro-industry approach of the Bush administration, which has shown willingness to write regulations with clauses that, say, disallow consumer lawsuits. But …

Cuomo arigato!

New York attorney general subpoenas energy companies over disclosure of coal-plant risks

A new weapon has been brought to bear in the war on coal, and it’s aimed right at the corpulent industry’s soft underbelly: risk. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just sent out a round of subpoenas to energy companies. He wants to see internal documents demonstrating that the companies — AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy — fully disclosed the financial risks of planned coal-fired power plants to investors. (This is Cuomo’s twist on a once-obscure statute — the Martin Act, a 1921 state securities law — that his predecessor Eliot Spitzer revived and used to …

Quote of the day

White House advisor reveals Bush view of climate change policy

White House science advisor, on the options available for addressing climate change: You only have two choices; you either have advanced technologies and get them into the marketplace, or you shut down your economies and put people out of work. Remind me again how long until these clowns are gone?

More thwarting

Ladies and gentlemen, Bush’s ‘scientific enquiry’ is still a sham

Every few months, if you pay close enough attention, you'll discover new and exciting ways the Bush administration is gumming up the machines of scientific inquiry. This will happen basically every time the likely results of a particular line of inquiry will be at odds with public policy as determined by the Bush administration. It's an elegant system. And as a result, there's a quick and dirty way to find examples of meddling. For instance, while you're unlikely to find meddling in biotechnological research (non-stem cell), most government-funded environmental research will eventually be sabotaged in some way. That's the basic pattern. The latest example comes to us from the good people at The New York Times: An effort by the Bush administration to improve federal climate research has answered some questions but lacks a focus on impacts of changing conditions and informing those who would be most affected, a panel of experts has found ... [T]he report cited more problems than successes in the government's research program. Of the $1.7 billion spent by the [Climate Change Science Program] on climate research each year, only about $25 million to $30 million has gone to studies of how climate change will affect human affairs, for better or worse, the report said ... Only two of the program's 21 planned overarching reports on specific climate issues have been published in final form; only three more are in the final draft stage. And not enough effort has gone to translating advances in climate science into information that is useful to local elected officials, farmers, water managers and others who may potentially be affected by climate shifts, whatever their cause, the panel found ... A major hindrance to progress, the panel's report said, is that the climate program's director and subordinates lack the authority to determine how money is spent. And so on. And so on. And so on.

U.S. Transportation Secretary blames bikes for decay of roads and bridges

When one rides a bicycle, one is able to transport oneself from place to place — thus, one might call a bicycle “transportation.” But not if one is U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. Despite the fact that 10 percent of all U.S. trips to work, school, and store happen on bike or foot, Peters said in August that bike paths “are really not transportation.” She strongly opposes increasing gas taxes to pay for aging infrastructure; instead, she has implied that the 1.5 percent cut of the gas tax that goes to bike paths and walking trails is stealing tax money …

BBC convinced by Bush adviser that climate change is real

Breaking news: The US chief scientist has told the BBC that climate change is now a fact. Yes, if President Bush’s science advisor is 90 percent certain about it, then it must be true. It feels so good to finally know.

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