Roadblock at Bali Climate Conference? Not U.S.!

The U.S. sits on the sidelines rather than leading the charge in a war on climate change

Americans have a history of joining together in times of crisis. But the terminology of war is the most familiar rallying cry. So it's understandable that when he's talking about global warming, John Edwards often implores Americans to be "patriotic about something other than war." And when Al Gore accepted his Nobel Prize this week, he said, "We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war." So, where is America the strong, free, brave, visionary? Where is America, defender of the world's climate? The U.S. is not leading the charge at this week's U.N. climate conference in Bali. American delegates have insisted they would not be a "roadblock" to a new international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Not be a roadblock? Was it irony or simply poor word choice?

Senate Republican minority blocks energy bill

The Senate held a cloture vote this morning to overcome a threatened filibuster from Senate Republicans. It failed 59-40 — one vote short of the …

White House pressured EPA to ease toxics reporting requirements, GAO says

Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, has concluded that the Bush White House pressured the U.S. EPA to ease toxics reporting requirements for businesses. …

On corn, meat, and the myth of Big Farma

Why we shouldn’t target farmers for our farm bill frustrations

We're very pleased to run this guest essay by Elanor Starmer, an independent activist scholar who lives in California. Elanor recently published an important paper (PDF) on the livestock industry with Tim Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. As the farm bill lurches to its conclusion amid shrill rhetoric about the "farm bloc," Elanor redirects our attention to the real beneficiaries of both federal farm policy and conventional attempts to reform it: the agribusiness giants that control the food system. This essay, first in a series, originally appeared on Ethicurean. ----- In a recent Grist column, Tom Philpott ran down the list of problems that this year's Farm Bill debaters have blamed, loudly and repeatedly, on subsidies: "everything from the obesity epidemic to the explosion in CAFOs in the late 1990s to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico ... [to] steamrolling farmers in Mexico, Africa, and elsewhere." Most mainstream media outlets and, points out Philpott, many progressive causes (Oxfam is one prominent example) are only too willing to point to subsidies as the delinquent dad when our food system spawns yet another bad seed. Philpott is frustrated by what he sees as a lack of complexity and nuance in the debate over subsidies. I'd like to voice my own frustration about a different but related issue here. I've noticed that in the debate over subsidies, both in the media and among progressive reform groups, there is often no distinction made between the subsidy policy itself and the farmers who receive payments. Commodity farmers, once considered the salt of the earth (almost literally), are now characterized quite differently: as a wealthy, powerful, politically savvy lobbying force capable of shaping the global food system to meet its needs, leaving the rest of us to pick up its mess. Call it Big Farma.

Aaawkwaaard [sing-song voice]

Which is more painful, Giuliani’s line that we can deal with global warming through energy independence or Romney’s line that it’s not “American warming” but …

State of play in Bali

Second-to-last issue of the Bali ECO newsletter

Issue #10 if the Bali ECO is here (PDF). You may need to read between the lines a bit if you haven't been following the negotiations. But it's not hard.

Now it's the CAFE standards

Yet more energy bill woes

This may seem narrow and technical, but it's actually extremely significant: The White House has raised last-minute concerns over regulation of automobile emissions and fuel economy that aides said Tuesday could lead to a presidential veto of the energy bill now before Congress. The bill, which passed the House and is pending in the Senate, requires automakers to meet a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, but does not specify which government agency should enforce the new rule. Primary regulation of mileage standards has historically fallen to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department. But vehicle tailpipe emissions are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a Supreme Court ruling this year affirmed the E.P.A.'s authority to regulate emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from passenger vehicles, which basically would mean regulating their fuel use. The administration's argument is that the energy bill will create unnecessary confusion over which agency has proper jurisdiction over mileage standards. And at a glance it seems like a reasonable argument. But, of course, it's absolutely not reasonable at all. This is better understood as a bank-shot effort by the Bush administration to block the EPA from functionally regulating carbon emissions from automobiles on behalf of the interest groups that don't want to be bothered with reducing auto pollution.

Call your senator now!

Energy bill to be voted on in Senate tomorrow

Some days are uneventful, with little but the promise of extra pie for dessert to get you through. And then ... some days are pivots upon which the course of history turns, moments in time when each of us are called upon to decide the kind of future we want for ourselves and our children, and take to the ramparts. Tomorrow is one such day. Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on a revised energy bill. Negotiators have jettisoned the renewable electricity standard (RES) and altered some of the revenue-raising tax provisions to make it more palatable to oil-aligned senators and the White House. Still in are CAFE and critical solar investment tax credits necessary to bring solar into the mainstream. The vote will be extremely close -- the bill needs 60 votes to pass, and the opposition is burning up the phone lines, urging Senators not to vote for a bill that eliminates unneeded production incentives for the oil and gas industry. Word is the good guys are one vote short. Some people are taking advantage of this moment in history to call their senators and tell them how they feel about renewable energy. Those people find the number of their senators here. Bill text, bill summary, and solar talking points can all be found here.


The sad state of Bush’s science advice

Most science advisers have taken as their job to inform the president and his administration, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the thinking of the scientific community on key science issues of the day. Bush's advisor, John H. Marburger III, takes the opposite view. He believes his job is to inform (misinform? disinform?) the scientific community, as well as Congress, the media, and the public, of the "thinking" of the Bush Administration on key science issues. In 2006, he summed up the "technology, technology, blah, blah" strategy of Luntz/Bush: It's important not to get distracted by chasing short-term reductions in greenhouse emissions. The real payoff is in long-term technological breakthroughs. Don't get distracted by actions to save the climate from destruction. The real payoff is in never doing anything. Realclimate has a good report on Marburger's lecture at the huge American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, titled "Reflections on the Science and Policy of Energy and Climate Change":