Environmental Protection Agency
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.
Leaving Global Warming To The Bureaucrats
June 21, 2010
In his TRB column this week, Jon Chait argues that EPA regulation is the best option left for tackling global warming, given the deadlock in the Senate. True, relying on the EPA's regulatory tools won't be the most elegant or efficient way of reducing greenhouse gases—a market-based cap-and-trade system would be far more flexible. But Senate conservatives are dead-set on blocking the elegant and efficient solution.
June 21, 2010
In Obama’s June 15th Oval Office speech on the oil spill, he railed against a “failed philosophy that views all regulation with hostility—a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to play by their own rules and police themselves.” Obama was getting at a real problem. As economic historian Edward Balleisen points out, the trend over the past half century has not been less regulation per se, but a greater acceptance of “self-regulation,” whereby industry funds government oversight, and government outsources oversight to industry.
June 21, 2010
Five years ago, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham joined a handful of senators traveling to the Yukon territory to view firsthand the effects of climate change. Witnessing melting ice caps and permafrost, and Inuit communities struggling to cope with a transforming environment, Graham was “moved.” “Climate change is different when you come here, because you see the faces of people experiencing it,” he said. In the following years, he asserted that “climate change is real” and promoted a cap-and-trade bill in the Senate. Today, Graham is sprinting in the other direction.