Quick, which gets subsidized more heavily around the world, fossil fuels or renewable energy? Bloomberg crunches the numbers and finds that it's not even close—oil, gas, and coal get a whopping twelve times as much total government support: Governments last year gave $43 billion to $46 billion of support to renewable energy through tax credits, guaranteed electricity prices known as feed-in tariffs and alternative energy credits, the London-based research group said today in a statement.
Remember when people were all excited about the coming nuclear renaissance? About how the first new wave of reactors since the 1970s were on their way? It looks like the climate bill's slow death in the Senate is putting all that in peril: Constellation Energy and the French EDF Group say they're committed to building an enormous nuclear-power plant next to the one Constellation already operates at Calvert Cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay. But the $9 billion project looks less and less certain with each month that goes by.
Over the past few years in Europe, anti-immigration groups have been trying to strike an alliance with greens in an attempt to reach a broader audience. So, for instance, in Britain, the ultra-right BNP has started arguing that immigration leads to greater sprawl and congestion and over-consumption. In Austria, the Jörg Haider-founded BZÖ party combines support for stringent border restrictions with an interest in organic farming and heavy pollution taxes. These parties haven't wooed many environmentalists, but that hasn't stopped them from trying. And what about in the United States?
Let's see, what unnerving bit of geoscience is going to drop on our laps this week? Michael O'Hare points to a grim new study in Nature about phytoplankton. Yep, that should do the trick. These microscopic organisms live in the ocean and account for half of the organic matter created on the planet. They're gobbled up by larger plankton, which, in turn, underpin the marine food web. Fish and whales depend on them for survival. And that means we do, too. And it turns out that the number of phytoplankton has been declining steadily for the past half century—down about 40 percent since 1950.
BP has capped its leaking Macondo well, but that doesn't mean oil spills are now a thing of the past. Up in Michigan, a million gallons of crude have sloshed out of a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River. Governor Granholm has already declared the region a disaster area—and this may turn into the worst oil leak ever in the Midwest.
Don't look now, but cap-and-trade is coming to the United States—and there's nothing the Senate can do about it. Earlier today, California, New Mexico, and three Canadian provinces—Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia—unveiled a plan to set up a carbon-trading system for greenhouse gases by January 2012.
Is the Senate capable of passing anything these days? It turns out that even Harry Reid's stripped-down, near-skeletal energy bill might not survive a Republican filibuster. Here's The Hill's Darren Goode Republican leaders said Wednesday they cannot support the bill in its current form—mainly due to language retroactively removing a liability cap for oil-and-gas producers—and also want assurances they can offer amendments. What's this liability fight all about? A quick recap.
On a press call this afternoon, Senate staffers walked through the details of the minimalist energy bill that's hitting the floor this week. As expected, the bill will tighten up oversight on offshore drilling and lift the ceiling on the amount of damages oil companies are liable for in the event of a spill. (Naturally, the unlimited liability would apply retroactively to BP.) Plus, there's some money for the Home Star program, which will give owners rebates for making their homes more efficient, as well as various incentives for natural gas and electric vehicles.
Many economists will tell you that the simplest way to address climate change is just to put a levy on carbon emissions at the source (i.e., coal at the mine, gas at the wellhead, etc.) and use the money to cut taxes elsewhere. The price signal will nudge people away from dirtier energy and toward conservation and cleaner types of power. And now there's even a real-life model to examine. Back in 2008, the Canadian province of British Columbia passed a carbon tax that rises by $5/ton per year.
Will a hotter climate mean more immigration? In some places, yes, that's quite possible. Earlier this week, a team of researchers led by Princeton's Michael Oppenheimer published a study suggesting that as global warming causes agricultural yields in Mexico to decline, an additional 1.4 million to 6.7 million Mexicans could migrate to the United States by 2080. (The team analyzed data on emigration, crop yields, and climate from 1995 to 2005 in order to make their forecasts.) As always, caveats abound. The social consequences of global warming are always the hardest things to predict.