Environment and Energy
Interesting. The Wall Street Journal was the first media outlet to sit down with the new China ambassador, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. And the interview offered a glimpse of the White House's top priorities: "Before setting out for China, Mr. Huntsman said, Mr. Obama told him to focus on a few big-picture issues: global economy, energy and climate change."
Contrary to earlier fears, it looks like the budding electric-car craze isn't going to be doomed by a global shortage of lithium, after all—at least not any time soon. So that's good news. On the other hand, a shortage of neodymium and terbium might be something to fret about…
For months now, various right-wing bloggers and Glenn Beck have been trying to whip up outrage over Van Jones, Obama's green-jobs guru. Their accusations to date—that he's a secret communist, say—have been absurd and easily ignored. But all of the sudden Jones may be turning into a real political headache for the White House. Yesterday, he had to apologize for an old YouTube clip in which he called Republicans "assholes" for thwarting environmental legislation.
In the Boston Globe today, Christina Larson has a terrific piece looking at China's highly inconsistent brand of environmentalism. As you'd expect, the headlines these days don't tell the whole story. Yes, the country's taking serious and dramatic steps to promote wind power, kick-start its solar industry, and improve the energy efficiency of its factories and plants. Climate change really has become a pressing concern in Beijing.
Maybe it's time for a Charlie Crist watch. Streetsblog's Elana Schor points out that the once-green Florida Republican, facing a right-flank threat in his bid for the Senate, is backing away from the carbon caps and high-speed rail project he used to support.
Last week, when the Chamber of Commerce announced it would petition the EPA to hold a "Scopes Monkey Trial" on the science behind global warming, we wondered whether some of the Chamber’s more climate-friendly members might protest.
As the odds that the Senate will pass a climate bill this year grow dim, the major question is what this means for the climate talks at Copenhagen in December. It's now looking increasingly unlikely that world leaders will be able to finish up a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2009, and some U.N. officials are already lowering expectations. "Copenhagen has to be viewed as a very important step," said U.N. Development Chief Helen Clark this week. "Would it be overoptimistic to say that it would be the final one? Of course.
Once 2012 rolls around, old incandescent light bulbs will start disappearing from stores here in the United States (the whole process is scheduled to take about two years). So will there be riots in the streets? Filament tea parties? Calls to repeal? Nah, presumably the transition will just look similar to what's going on in Europe right now, where a ban on incandescent bulbs took effect this week. Some Europeans are stocking up on their beloved old bulbs. Some are grumbling about the flat light from CFLs. There's sporadic confusion over how to clean up broken fluorescent bulbs.
The chances of global-warming legislation passing through the Senate before the end of the year are looking increasingly bleak. Onlookers had been expecting Barbara Boxer and John Kerry to introduce a comprehensive climate and energy bill on September 8, shortly after Congress returned from recess.
Infrastructure—roads and rails, ports and pipes, bits and bytes—determines how efficiently and rapidly people, goods, and information move within and across our major metropolitan markets, driving their success and prosperity. It's only slightly hyperbolic to contend that the past 12 months marked a new era in U.S. infrastructure.