Environment and Energy
The lead letter in Science this week is signed by 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences and begins: "We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular." They go on to explain that, yes, there are always uncertainties in any scientific enterprise, but at this point there's too much compelling evidence that humans are drastically warming the planet to wave away and dismiss.
The latest word on the climate bill? Even though Republican Lindsey Graham has dropped out of the talks, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are still going to push ahead with legislation—they're planning to release it week Wednesday. Yesterday, Kerry predicted that Graham was "going to vote for the bill" regardless of whether he was at the unveiling or not. And what does Graham himself think? E&E News has a long interview with the South Carolina senator today. He says he's still "paused" in the climate-bill negotiations because he's upset with the Senate taking up immigration reform this year.
Early on Monday, BP’s boyish CEO, Tony Hayward, sat in an open-collared white dress shirt and, rocking back and forth in a studio chair, submitted to a series of four network interviews about his company’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The questions from NBC, CBS, ABC, and the BBC differed slightly, but to all the anchors, Hayward delivered a similar line: “This is not our accident.” In other words, it's not BP's fault.
Since environmentalists are all trying to pivot off the Gulf disaster to make the case for climate and energy legislation, I suppose you can't really blame the ethanol industry for wanting to join in the fun, too.
Let's get some good news for a change. I've written before that the climate bills in Congress could stand to be a lot more ambitious, and the reason is that U.S. emissions are already plunging at a fairly rapid clip. Case in point: The Energy Information Administration just put out a new report finding that CO2 emissions in the United States from energy sources—that is, excluding cow belches and landfills and whatnot—are now down 10 percent from 2005 levels. Is that all due to the economic slump? Nope. Only about one-third of the drop is from the recession. Another third is due to the U.S.
Yesterday, William Galston had an excellent piece on our site exploring the snuggly relationship that oil companies had with the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS), which is supposed to oversee offshore drilling, during the Bush years. The most glaring example: Back in 2003, government regulators decided that oil companies didn't have to install $500,000 remote-control shutoff switches at their rigs—the sorts of devices used in places like Norway in Brazil.
A few years ago, I wrote about China's struggles to implement its own (often ambitious) clean-energy and emissions plans. Usually the pattern went like this: The central government in Beijing would make lots of nice-sounding promulgations—clean up the coal plants, make the buildings more efficient, build some wind turbines—but provincial officials, who have gained a lot of autonomy over the years, wouldn't always carry them out. Well, it seems that's still very much a problem. China, recall, has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity—the amount of carbon per unit of GDP—by 45 percent by 2020.
Earlier today, John Kerry was at a green jobs conference here in Washington to talk up the still-not-public climate bill he's been crafting with Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. (Graham's still upset about the Dems' immigration push and may never come back to the talks, though yesterday Lieberman said they were prepared to move forward without him.) Interestingly, Kerry didn't really focus on the Gulf spill as a reason to push for big reforms to the energy sector.
To add a little to the last post: Yes, it's surreal that the c.w. in Washington is that a massive oil disaster might make it more difficult to pass a big energy bill intended to wean us off from fossil fuels. But here's Harry Reid taking the counterintuitive view: “I think it should spur it on,” Reid said. “We have to take care of this issue.
It's certainly possible. Back when Lindsey Graham was still negotiating over a climate and energy bill in the Senate, recall, there was a lot of talk about how expanded offshore drilling was going to be the thing that attracted Republican votes (as well as conservative Democrats like Louisiana's Mary Landrieu). True, new drilling might upset the liberal Dems, the thinking went, but surely they'd yield if that was the price that needed to be paid for a cap on carbon emissions and clean-energy investments. Well, maybe not.