Environmental Protection Agency
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.
July 01, 2010
Washington—One of the strangest lead sentences I have ever encountered appeared in Politico last week.
Byrd's Late Coal Conversion
June 29, 2010
I didn't get a chance to mention this yesterday, but Robert Byrd's death definitely jumbles the political landscape for climate/energy legislation—though maybe not in the way most people would assume. For a long time, Byrd had been a staunch coal guy (it's West Virginia, after all) who was firmly opposed to doing anything about global warming.
Cap And Trade And Systemic Failure
June 28, 2010
Politico details the Republican turn against cap and trade: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), under pressure back home from a conservative primary challenger, hasn’t come anywhere close to the climate issue that was once a key component of his “maverick” credentials. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) on cap-and-trade legislation in 2008, challenged the Obama administration earlier this month by forcing a floor vote that would have removed EPA’s authority to write its own carbon rules. Sen.