Environmental Protection Agency
The Coming Coal Shutdown
July 26, 2010
Enviro-types don't have much to be cheery about these days. Climate legislation has sputtered out. Jay Rockefeller is trying to delay the federal government's ability to rein in greenhouse gases. And the party of climate denialism is poised to grab a bunch of seats in Congress next year. So that means carbon emissions are just going to keep rising without end, right? Well, not necessarily.
Did a climate bill ever have a chance to squeak through Congress? Could anything have saved it? Politico's Darren Samuelsohn has a piece today about the usual, tiresome round of recriminations among greens after Harry Reid killed cap-and-trade. (Okay, technically Reid's putting it off until after August recess, but the odds of survival are grim.) The underlying question, though, is a good one: Peering back over the past two years, there were a few pivot points where things might have turned out very differently. What if McCain had won the election?
How the States and EPA Can Save Climate Policy
July 23, 2010
The Senate has basically given up on passing a climate bill. So where does that leave us? Yesterday, I noted on Twitter that the action is going to shift to the states and federal agencies. Remember, the EPA is obligated to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and Lisa Jackson is moving ahead with those rules. (Here's my primer on that.) Meanwhile, as I've reported before, plenty of states are moving ahead with their own climate policies. There's already a (modest) cap-and-trade system for utilities in the Northeast called RGGI.
Bust a Cap
July 22, 2010
For years, most Democrats and environmentalists have been in rough agreement about how to tackle global warming. Set an overall limit on carbon-dioxide emissions, let polluters buy and sell permits, and watch the market work its magic. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigned on this idea, and the House passed a climate bill last year centered on an economy-wide cap. Sure, experts might have quibbled over the fine print, but the basic framework was pretty straightforward.
Is The Coal Industry Suicidal?
July 21, 2010
For years, the coal industry's strategy for dealing with climate change has gone something like this: 1) Fight off caps on carbon pollution for as long as possible. 2) Convince politicians to throw gobs of money at fancy low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and sequestration. 3) Pray that those fancy technologies actually work. The strategy has succeeded so far. Seeing as how half the electricity in the United States comes from coal, there's never a shortage of members of Congress willing to do whatever the industry wants. And yet...
The talks over the Senate energy/climate bill are still very, very fluid. A whole lot could change in the next ten days as Harry Reid's office tries to cut and paste from different pieces of legislation and assemble something that can garner 60 votes. But, right now, the odds look pretty bleak that a cap-and-trade system will make it into the final bill. Which raises the obvious question: If there's no cap on carbon, what else is there?
This post might get a tad wonky, but bear with me, it's important. Politico is reporting today on a critical development in the Senate energy-bill talks. Remember, a cap on carbon pollution isn't dead yet. There's still a strong possibility that Harry Reid will include a cap-and-trade system that just covers electric utilities in the final climate bill. But before he can do that he needs to get utilities on board.
Why Electric Cars Aren't Catching On--Yet
July 14, 2010
The Wall Street Journal has a great piece today on some of the obstacles preventing electric cars from catching on in the United States. Most of the looming uncertainties are things we've covered before, like that pesky chicken-or-egg problem of how to build a critical mass of charging stations to make electric cars viable for drivers.
2010 Is Busting Heat Records
July 12, 2010
According to NASA, the first six months of 2010 were officially the hottest half-year on record—and we're now on track to witness the hottest year on record (although that will largely depend on La Niña conditions later this year). A few of the usual bullet points on how this relates to global warming: 1. One hot year doesn't, on its own, prove that humans are warming the planet any more than one cold year disproves it. That said, there's a clear upward trend here, and reams of evidence that the planet is heating up.
Is Our Favorite Renewable Energy Source A Disaster?
July 08, 2010
When most people hear the phrase "renewable power," they tend to think of solar panels and wind turbines. But in the United States, the reality is quite different. Right now, the country gets about 8 percent of its power from renewables, and most of that is from large hydropower dams (2.6 percent) and biomass (2.3 percent). And even if Congress were to pass some sort of clean-energy legislation, that would remain the case for the foreseeable future.