In Sydney, Australia, today at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, U.S. President George Bush referred to APEC as OPEC, then tried to cover up his gaffe by explaining that Australia’s prime minister had invited him to a summit of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries next year. Unfortunately, Australia has never been part of OPEC. Bush also called Australians “Austrians,” mispronounced leaders’ names, walked the wrong way off the stage, and, when asked whether there had been any new message in his speech, bristled, “Haven’t you been listening to my past speeches?” Which is all far more interesting than …
Reports coming out of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit say that a draft statement on climate change from the Pacific Rim nations is on the way. Early reports, however, contain this nugget: To strike the accord, negotiators agreed to set a target to reduce "energy intensity" -- the amount of energy needed to produce economic growth, Al-Farisi said. Australian Prime Minister John Howard previously called for reducing energy intensity 25 percent by 2030. A Southeast Asian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that goal was included in the draft. This is, as I blogged about before, a huge scam. Greenhouse-gas intensity is the emissions per unit economic output. Multiply this quantity by the size of the economy and you get total greenhouse-gas emissions. Historically, greenhouse-gas intensity has declined all by itself as the world's economy has evolved from manufacturing (which takes a lot of energy) to services (which take less), and as equipment has naturally become more efficient. Over the past few decades, U.S. greenhouse-gas intensity has declined somewhere between 1 and 2 percent per year without any government policies. Based on the historical data, the target of decreasing our greenhouse gas intensity by 25 percent over 23 years is essentially a do-nothing target. We would expect such a decrease to occur naturally. And given such a modest decrease in intensity, we can still expect emissions to continue to grow rapidly -- and hence climate change will continue unabated. If this is indeed their target, it should be clear that the leaders of the APEC nations are not making any legitimate effort to head off the risk of climate change.
In a major speech today on national security, presidential candidate John Edwards talked about how fighting the climate crisis is an integral part of battling terror (it also requires less duct tape): Finally, we must achieve energy independence. If we reduce our reliance on oil from instable parts of the world, Middle Eastern regimes will finally diversify their economies and modernize their societies. And fighting global climate change will reduce global disruptions that could lead to tends of millions of refugees and create massive new breeding grounds for desperation and radicalism.
Gore to pen a sequel: The Path to Survival will be published next spring to coincide with Earth Day on April 22. According to the publisher, Rodale Books, Gore will spell out a blueprint for the changes that individuals and governments need to make to avoid catastrophic climate change. I expect the book will be built around Gore’s 10 policy recommendations to Congress, which remain the gold standard as far as I’m concerned.
The basic trick is to show up looking nice, well dressed, civil, and then, in a composed voice, lie and dissemble to your heart's content. All in evidence at today's hearing, focused on coal and carbon capture, of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.): "Some estimates that I read are that the cost of [a carbon] cap would increase the cost of electricity to the consumer by as much as 45 percent." Well, perhaps. But here we have an analysis from George Bush's EPA of the Climate Stewardship Act (cosponsors John McCain and Joe Lieberman). On page 3, it reads: Electricity prices are projected to increase 22% in 2030 and 25% in 2050, assuming the full cost of allowances are passed on to consumers (as is the case in a full auction). If allowances are given directly to power companies, the cost of those allowances would not be passed on to consumers in regulated electricity markets, so electricity price increases would be lower in much of the country.
For readers out there who understand the climate crisis well (I assume basically all of you), a lot of this will be recap, but today's hearing underscored how desperate the situation really is and how urgently it needs to be addressed. That urgency is a source, at least to me, of tremendous frustration. To a great extent, we've reached this point precisely because energy industries and their political patrons spent years blocking action, rejecting science, and rhetorically casting "alarmists" as cartoonish hippie-fascists. So successful were their efforts that we now face a crisis of such magnitude that the very same actors are using the urgency they created to bully lawmakers into providing them significant handouts in order to fix the problem. As my previous post points out (or was meant to point out), the bullying is proving effective. This post is a reminder that it's only effective because things look pretty dire.
In the course of a Washington Post story on the fate of the House and Senate energy bills, we hear this about Bush’s feelings on climate change legislation: But Bush still opposes unilateral U.S. action. Sometimes, anyway.
As I suggested earlier, the crux of today's hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change was to suggest that carbon capture and storage is necessary quickly, via enormous government subsidies, or else we're screwed. Remember, this is Ed Markey's committee. He's the guy who's supposed to advise Congress about upcoming climate-change legislation, and, for all intents and purposes, he's an ally to Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the environmentally minded members of the Democratic caucus. This we expect from Markey: There are over 150 new coal-fired power plants on the boards in the United States, and globally, it is predicted that something on the order of 3,000 such plants will be built by 2030. These new plants alone would increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent and global emissions by 30 percent. That would spell disaster for the planet. But this? Fortunately, carbon capture and storage -- or 'CCS' -- offers a path forward for coal ... All indications are that CCS is a viable interim solution to the coal problem. Markey taking this line means that if we're lucky enough to see major action out of Congress on climate change, CCS is going to be a huge part of it. But we already knew that, right?
If you dream of a near future in which coal mines are abandoned, coal workers are employed in emerging green energy fields, coal executives are feeding at the trough of welfare assistance (and not corporate welfare), and China and India are all too happy to buy our clean technologies at a healthy price ... well, then it's good you didn't attend this morning's hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change. I'll be posting a few entries here detailing the most significant ground Markey's hearing covered. But the nickel version is that, though everybody from the governor of Wyoming to the wonks at the Center for American Progress think a cap-and-trade program is inevitable, they also think that many, many billions of dollars in subsidies for carbon capture and sequestration technology will be crucial to any greenhouse-gas reduction strategy. Which is to say that I had a rollicking and hilarious morning!
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