Politics

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.

10 things <em>we</em> can do: Rebuilding civil society

It’s not that individuals can’t do anything about climate — they just can’t do it by themselves

I’ve been thinking about this debate over voluntary individual action and its place in the larger fight for sustainability (see here, here, and here). It’s missing something. A huge gulf has developed in America between public and private life. This has put green activism — all of progressivism, actually — on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, private life has become all but coextensive with consumerism — what we choose to buy. Shifting consumer dollars around isn’t a sufficient solution to any substantial problem. On the other hand, the levers that control the state are out of …

The lash is back

Stratfor analysis of the backlash against ethanol

Stratfor’s Bart Mongoven on why the growing negative buzz around ethanol is having limited political effect: … the backlash against biofuels is in full swing. The critics, however, are running head on into the powerful agricultural lobbies in the United States and Europe that so successfully championed the issue in the first place. These advocates say that ethanol, biodiesel and other nonpetroleum-based transportation fuels reduce pollution, help fight climate change and improve national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Though many policymakers find these arguments compelling, the biofuels issue would not have achieved the political momentum it has without …

U.S. climate-change research found inadequate in many ways

The good news: the National Research Council finds that the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, started in 2002, has gathered some useful climate data. The bad news: well, where do we start. Less than 2 percent of the money spent by the program has gone to studying how climate change will affect humans. The NRC finds that the 13 federal agencies involved in climate research have been “inadequate” at combining results, assimilating priorities, supporting decision-making, managing risks, and disseminating information. Only two of 21 planned reports have been published. Many climate research opportunities, particularly those designed to gather long-term data, …

Sigh

Hopes for energy bill this session fading

According to John Broder, things are not looking good for comprehensive energy legislation this session: The prospect of a comprehensive energy package’s emerging from Congress this fall is rapidly receding, held up by technical hurdles and policy disputes between the House and the Senate and within the parties. FWIW

Bill to phase out incandescent light bulbs gains steam in U.S. Congress

Momentum is building in the U.S. Congress for a bill that would require phasing out regular incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescents and other, more efficient lighting technologies. The bill now in the works would require bulbs to be three times more efficient by 2020 and would require the phase out of 40-, 60-, 75-, and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs by 2014. Ye olde incandescents typically convert only 5 percent of the electricity they consume into visible light, and proponents say that installing more-efficient bulbs, including CFLs, next-generation incandescents, LEDs, and other lighting alternatives could save U.S. consumers …

The good German

German Chancellor Merkel focuses on climate change

In Germany, when the going gets tough, the tough go green: Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have realized that, contrary to the song lyrics, sometimes it's quite easy being green. Mrs. Merkel has shied away from the biggest fight at home: the deep economic restructuring she advocated during her campaign two years ago. And on the matter of the suspected terrorist plot in the heart of Germany, she has remained in the background, apparently happy to cede the limelight to her interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. But in the past month Mrs. Merkel could be found inspecting glaciers in Greenland and calling for new measures to combat global warming at a conference in Kyoto, Japan. It was as if Ronald Reagan had turned into Al Gore after being elected. But the voters loved it, awarding her the highest approval ratings any chancellor has enjoyed since World War II. [my emphasis] The fact that a center-right politician can ride eco-campaigning to popularity could be a lesson for U.S. Republicans. Though Fred Thompson recently ridiculed global warming, polls show doing so might not be the smartest political move. The environment is the one issue on which Republican politicians are most out-of-step with the Republican base. According to a recent Pew study, 65 percent of Republicans want stricter environmental laws (though it's questionable how much of a voting priority it is). Ultimately, however, Merkel's ability to pull off a green hat trick shows the importance of creating bipartisan support for environmental protection.

Govs to automakers: Get on board

An open letter from 13 governors to U.S. automakers

As you know, today automakers lost their big lawsuit in Vermont — the judge ruled their their objections to higher tailpipe emission standards were, um, silly. Now, the governors of 13 states have sent an open letter to the automakers. "We do not believe it is productive for your industry to continue to fight state implementation of clean tailpipe standards," they say.  "We would prefer to follow a path that encourages innovation, not litigation." You can read the full letter here (PDF). At this point, if the Bush EPA denied California its waver, it would be as naked and open …

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