Saturday, September 19, 2009

Besides whine we will do what? US Tax Breaks Subsidize Foreign Oil Production Reuters

Besides whine we will do what?
US Tax Breaks Subsidize Foreign Oil Production

In our States we are doing what? Schwarzenegger Creates 33% RPS By Executive Order Reuters

In our States we are doing what?  Schwarzenegger Creates 33% RPS By Executive Order

Activists will do what? Can condoms combat climate change? Los Angeles Times

Worldwide Dairy Industry to Sign Global Declaration on Climate Change Reuters

Merkel and Sarkozy in joint call for UN "mandate" on climate change Monsters and

Alternative Energy Machine May Double World Food Production Reuters

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Obama Admin: The Twitternomics of CBS correspondent Declan McCullagh is "flat out wrong"

Posted: 18 Sep 2009 07:38 AM PDT

When we last left CBS's Declan McCullagh, he was promoting another fossil-fuel-funded, falsehood-filled CEI attack on clean energy reform.  I've been at Elizabethtown College talking to their terrific faculty and students, so I haven't been able to respond in detail to all of the nonsense he has been peddling, but Wonk Room's Brad Johnson has another great post that I will reprint here.

Yesterday, libertarian blogger Declan McCullagh, a senior correspondent for, made the incendiary claim that the Obama administration was suppressing Treasury Department documents detailing the true cost of limiting greenhouse gases. After CBS published the story, "Obama Admin: Cap And Trade Could Cost Families $1,761 A Year," Republicans claimed this was a startling admission, since it has officially estimated an average household cost in 2020 of $80 to $175. It turns out, however, that the $1,761 figure was constructed by McCullagh himself, not the administration, using a new form of economic analysis, Twitternomics:

McCullagh's Twitternomics

Here's one more math formula: McCullagh Twitternomics ≠ Obama Administration Analysis. Assistant Treasury Secretary Alan Krueger responded simply that the CBS "reporting" was "flat out wrong":

The reporting on the Treasury analysis is flat out wrong. Treasury's analysis is consistent with public analyses by the EIA, EPA, and CBO, and the reporting and blogging on this issue ignores the fact that the revenue raised from emission permits would be returned to consumers under both administration and legislative proposals. It is time for an honest debate about how to solve a long-term challenge and deliver comprehensive energy reform – not for misrepresentations of the facts.

In a follow-up piece, McCullagh quotes the response from Treasury, but somehow failed to include the lines where his reporting was called for being "flat out wrong" and using "misrepresentations of the facts."

McCullagh is on the fringes of the right-wing Koch-Exxon pollution machine, writing for the Cato Institute (founded by David Koch and funded by ExxonMobil) and Reason Magazine (part of the Reason Foundation, funded by David Koch and ExxonMobil). Koch Industries' revenue last year was estimated by Forbes to be $98 billion — in McCullagh's Twitternomics, a tax on American families of $863. ExxonMobil's record 2008 revenue was $442.85 billion — a McCullagh tax of $3,902.

McCullagh's anti-government libertarianism sometimes reaches absurdities, as when he argued in 2004 that "Keynesian economists who believe in activist government intervention in the economy" were "fooled by the Soviet Union." Further, McCullagh — who exaggerated his position at CBS — is an old hand at ascribing outlandish headlines to liberals that he actually made up himself.. His real claim to fame is for establishing the false meme in 1999 that Al Gore made an "improvident boast" about inventing the Internet.

But none of this should come as a surprise, as McCullagh's CBS blog is titled, appropriately, "Taking Liberties."

Reid pledges to move cap-and-trade bill "as quickly as we can"

Posted: 18 Sep 2009 07:05 AM PDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted today that he hopes to move a comprehensive climate bill "as quickly as we can" but stopped short of endorsing action over the next three months before a major international global warming summit in Copenhagen.

Reid earlier this week fueled speculation that the climate bill would be punted until 2010 because of a cramped legislative calendar that also includes health care and Wall Street regulations. His comments left many foreign diplomats nervous ahead of this December's U.N. climate negotiations, where the Obama administration will be relying in large part on the fate of legislation on Capitol Hill.

So E&E News (subs. req'd) reports this morning.  After Reid's initial statement, of course, his aide immediately walked back the statement..

Even more important, I'm told, the climate science realists in the Cabinet had a come-to-jeepers* meeting this week with the political team, and the word went out from the White House that the climate bill is still a top priority of the administration, with a strong desire to see the Senate act this year.  That said, I thought the White House's commitment to the issue was fairly obvious from the big recent news:  Obama to speak at U.N. special session on global warming; Todd Stern testifies "Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible…. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue."

Here's more from Reid himself on the timing — and some relatively positive words for a surprising Senate source:

Asked about the international uproar over his comments that the bill may be delayed, Reid quickly replied, "I didn't say that."

"We've always talked about doing climate after health care, OK?" Reid added. "The president has been pushing hard on regulation reform. Maybe we do that first. I don't think so. But there's no reason we can't do both of them. Nobody talked about next year. What I said is this is a Congress. It lasts for two years. We've got tons of stuff we're going to have to do next year. Climate change is something we're going to have to do as quickly as we can."

Reid said he did not know how long the Senate would be occupied with the health care legislation. He also said that Democratic committee leaders no longer have a deadline to wrap up their pieces of the climate bill.

"We did have a date," Reid said, referring to the Sept. 28 target that he abandoned earlier this month. "And health care has pushed all that back."

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) are writing the core pieces of a climate bill, with plans for an introduction before the end of the month. The two are planning markups in October despite the all-out focus on health care.

"Even though we're competing for space and time with health care, the fact of the matter is, these are problems of enough magnitude and enough importance that there's an urgency attached to them," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the EPW Committee.

Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said today that she is still reluctant to move too quickly on the global warming bill.

"I do have concerns about agriculture and consumers, in terms of the cost of food and things that I don't think have really been fleshed out," Lincoln said. "It looks like the bill they're going to produce has placeholders for some of those. I don't know. If it's got some ideas of how we answer those questions, I'll look forward to looking at it. But I haven't seen it."

The Senate health care debate "is kind of sucking all of the air out of the room" as other colleagues try to discuss climate change, Lincoln said.

But she is already working toward more hearings on global warming and drafting language that can be inserted into the Boxer-Kerry bill without a markup.

"I don't anticipate the need to mark up a bill," Lincoln said. "If it comes to that point, I'm not afraid to do it. But I certainly don't see the need. I think, working with my colleagues, we can come up with some good things."

Those are certainly more positive words than we've heard from Lincoln to date (see "Much ado about not much: New Ag Chairwoman may not change Senate dynamic on climate bill push").

*[I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter, so I have to be more careful what I say -- and I dictate all of my blog posts using Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.  In place of her saying "Oh, Jesus" -- and no, that wasn't me she was imitating -- we've taught her to now mostly say "Oh jeepers, Batman"!]

A message from Van Jones: What you can do

Posted: 17 Sep 2009 12:39 PM PDT

Van Jones: building an The agenda of the people who smeared Van Jones is a matter of public record — see Fox News blurts out its agenda: "Now that Jones has resigned, we need to follow through…. First, stop cap-and-trade, which could send these groups trillions," and then put "the whole corrupt 'green jobs' concept outside the bounds of the political mainstream."

Now Van Jones has written a message to his friends and supporters laying out his agenda — a call to action, really:

Dear Friends:

My family and I want to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support that we have received over the past week or so. I resigned from the White House on Sept. 6, and I have remained silent since then—in keeping with my promise not to be a distraction during a key moment in the Obama Presidency.

Over the past several days, however, many people have been asking how they can help and what they can do.

The main thing is this: please do everything you can to support both President Obama and the green jobs movement. Winning real change is ultimately the best response to these kinds of smear campaigns.

I ask everyone to:

1. Support President Obama's efforts to fix our nation's health care, energy and education systems. His victory last fall did not represent the "finish line" in the fight to renew America; his election was just the "starting line." This autumn, it is time to make history again—with victories on health care and clean energy.2. Sign up to support groups that are working for green jobs.

As others seek to vilify or marginalize the movement for a clean energy economy, the leading groups deserve increased support. This is the year to ensure that the clean energy transformation creates good job opportunities for everyone in America.

3. Spread the green jobs gospel. The ideas and ideals of the green jobs movement are grounded in fundamental American values—innovation, entrepreneurship, and equal opportunity. My true thoughts can be found in my book: The Green Collar Economy. Check it out from the library—or order a copy and share it with a friend. See for yourself why clean energy and green jobs are good for our country.

4. Stay connected and speak up for me via your favorite blogs (e.g., Huffington Post, Grist, Jack & Jill, etc.), on message boards and all of your favorite social networking platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Supporters have set up a couple of them, to help you stay engaged, including: I Stand With Van Jones and I Love Van Jones.

In due course, I will be offering my perspective on what has happened—including correcting the record about false charges. In the meantime, I must get my family affairs in order and sort through numerous offers and options.

I want to be clear that I have nothing but love and admiration for President Obama and the entire administration. White House staffers are there to serve and support the President, not the other way around. At this critical moment in history, I could not in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. The White House needs all its hands on deck, fighting for the future.

Of course, some supporters actually think I will be more effective on the "outside." Maybe so. But those ideas always remind me of that old canard about Winston Churchill. After he lost a hard-fought election, a friend told him: "Winston, this really is just a blessing in disguise." Churchill quipped: "Damned good disguise." I can certainly relate to that sentiment right now. :)

Nonetheless, we must keep moving forward. Let's continue our work to make an America as good as its promise. These are historic times. And we have a lot more history to make.


Van Jones

Energy and Global Warming News for September 17: White House plays down talk of climate delay to 2010; India ready to issue non-binding emissions cut; Duke Energy CEO says "I actually can see a future where coal is not in the equation in 2050."

Posted: 17 Sep 2009 12:03 PM PDT

White House plays down talk of climate delay to 2010

The White House on Wednesday played down the possible impact of putting off major U.S. climate change legislation to 2010, vowing to press for progress on the issue ahead of global talks in December.

Asked whether a delay would amount to a setback for President Barack Obama's priorities on the issue, spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters: "No, I think we can continue to make progress."

"We've got to make progress and the international community's got to make progress getting China and India and developing nations, and evolving world economies like Brazil, on board," he said.

Gibbs spoke one day after Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the prospects of putting off action on the legislation until 2010, only to have his chief spokesman say Democrats still sought action this year.

"We are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year," Reid said Tuesday. "And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to."

Asked about his comments, spokesman Jim Manley replied: "We are still committing to passing health care reform, regulatory reform and global warming legislation by the end of the year."

The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the legislation in June, and leaders of key Senate committees are due to unveil their version later this month after agreeing to a delay of a few weeks from a mid-September target date.

India says ready to issue non-binding emissions cut

India is ready to quantify the amount of planet-warming gas emissions it could cut with domestic actions to fight climate change, the environment minister said on Thursday, but will not accept internationally binding targets.

Jairam Ramesh's comment marks a shift in the position of India, which is under no obligation to cut emissions and is trying to reach out to rich nations by underscoring the actions it is taking to fight global warming.

The stand is likely to strengthen India's stance at crucial negotiations in Copenhagen in December on a treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which obliges 37 developed nations to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Talks are currently deadlocked on the question of levels of emission cuts to be taken by rich countries and developing nations. Rich nations will also have to come up with billions of dollars in aid and green technologies for the poor.

"We do not see a problem in giving a broad indicative number on the quantity of (emission) reduction as a result of our domestic unilateral actions," Ramesh told Reuters.

The emission reduction would not take the shape of legally binding targets open to outside scrutiny. Neither would it form a new negotiating position for India.

The minister described the new stand as a "nuanced shift" in India's position aimed at calling the bluff of rich countries which want growing economies such as India to take emissions targets because it is among the biggest polluters.

White House Wants Fuel Subsidy Cuts on G-20 Agenda

White House officials are calling for international efforts to end fuel and electric power subsidies as part of the agenda for next week's G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, according to a letter from a senior administration official.

The White House also says G-20 nations should take steps to improve oil market transparency and scale up financing for tackling climate change.

Michael Froman, the White House's deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, said in a Sept. 3 letter that cutting the subsidies would improve energy security and help fight climate change by encouraging conservation and boosting new technologies.

"The move away from subsidies should be managed to protect those most vulnerable to price increases," Froman wrote. "The G-20 should commit to take the lead in eliminating non-needs based fossil fuel and electricity subsidies and to provide technical assistance to non-G-20 countries taking steps to reduce fossil fuel and electricity subsidies."

A White House spokesperson could not be reached for comment about the letter, which is addressed to "colleagues."

Energy Secretary Chu Says Deep Emission Reductions Not Politically Achievable in US

Reuters has some interesting quotes from Energy Secretary Steven Chu on how we shouldn't undermine the post-Kyoto climate change treaty to be hammered out in Copenhagen in three months time by setting unachievable emission reductions targets. Unachievable politically, Chu means, and in the US:

"What the United States can bring and can agree to is certainly unknown but I think probably 40-30% (cuts) might be too aggressive for 2020 for the United States."

Chu is of course just talking about political feasibility. He's stated on a number of occasions that its technically possible to reduce emissions 30-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. It would be a "very aggressive" but "achievable" goal, he's quoted as saying in this particular Reuters piece.

Keep in mind that it's these sort of reductions that China, India, Brazil, several low-lying island nations, as well as a host of other developing nations are calling on the rich countries of the world to make. And keep in mind that these are the sort of reductions scientists say are required to keep temperature rise below 2°C — something which the US (as part of the G8) has agreed is a good goal, though doesn't seem to grasp what's required to achieve it.

Chu went on to say that setting lower targets and improving energy efficiency could essentially prove to people that green policies are not detrimental to the economy.

"If you could get all those gains in the first 20, 30 percent reduction in carbon, just by using energy efficiently, you can teach people that there is a path."

Fair enough, the value of energy efficiency seems to be sidelined sometimes in the climate debate in favor of more physically tangible renewable energy and infrastructure projects. But Chu's really dancing around the central issue here.

How China Thinks China Can Reduce Carbon Emissions

China has finally admitted it: It's current approach to growth is unsustainable.

There just aren't enough fossil fuels on the planet to support the developing country, says a Beijing think-tank, in a new report called "China's Low Carbon Development Pathways by 2050."

While this is not an official government report, Reuters says, "coming from a prominent institute that advises officials, it illuminates some of China's key concerns less than three months before the climate pact negotiations culminate in Copenhagen."

Chinese scientists laid out three sections to help their country achieve a low carbon solution:
1. Set greenhouse gas targets: the country should move towards a cap-and-trade market that buys and sells emissions. This would involve setting an absolute limit on emissions, a suggestion that may hurt economic growth.
2. Create carbon taxes: apply taxes to fossil fuels, natural gas, oil. The scientists propose a tax of 100 yuan ($14.6) for ever metric ton of carbon from 2010, and 200 yuan from 2030.
3. Energy market reforms: force coal-users to pay for environmental costs, and promote investment in clean energy.

The China Energy Research Institute, who wrote the report, doubts the world can keep its temperature increase below 2 degree Celsius, given the monstrous economic growth and energy consumption of the Asian giant. That ought to worry environmentalists hoping to stave off the effects of global warming.

With enough dedication and money, though, China's emissions could peak around 2030-2035 and fall to 2005 levels by 2050. If unchecked, its emissions in 2050 will be 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon a year. The world together emits 8.5 billion tonnes now.

Catholic agency: EU proposals on aid to fight climate change too low

European proposals to give developing countries up to 15 billion euros ($22 billion) a year to help them fight climate change have been branded immoral by a Catholic aid agency.

The English and Welsh bishops' Catholic Agency for Overseas Development wants the European Union to at least double the amount and to insist that the contributions of its 27 member states to combat climate change must be in addition to existing aid budgets.

The European Commission, which runs the European Union's day-to-day affairs, has suggested between 2 billion and 15 billion euros as a target annual contribution to be reached by 2020.

But Liz Gallagher, head of climate finance policy at CAFOD, said in a statement that the proposal, announced Sept. 9, "seriously lacks ambition" and that the figure should be in the region of 35 billion euros.

"The commission's communique is going for the lowest common denominator," she said in a Sept. 10 press statement.

"There is no mention that the money provided by rich countries must be additional to pledged aid levels," she said.

"The commission is neglecting its responsibility to compensate poor people for the damage our emissions have caused," she added. "Poor people will suffer the first and worst due to climate change and yet have done the least to cause it."

GE Energy to set up its 1st wind turbine unit in India

Power generator GE Energy today announced its plans to set up its first wind turbine generator plant in the country and help in shaping the nation's renewable energy agenda.

"It is a moment of great pride for all of us at GE as this is going to be our first wind turbuine generator plant in India. We appreciate the government's support in providing the project with necessary infrastructure to commence operations", GE India President and CEO T P Chopra said here on the occasion of 'GE Day' celebrations.

The plant would commence production in second half of 2010, he said.
The company's 1.5 XLE model wind turbine, most suited for India's low wind environment, would eventually grow its capacity to ship 300 wind turbines yearly in line with the growth in demand, Chopra said.
The facility would also enable GE Energy to create a larger sourcing base from India for critical items, including blades, towers, gear boxes, castings and forgings.

"Today India is ranked as the fifth largest market globally for wind power in terms of installed capacity and this will only elevate in years to come. This is an important time to be involved with wind energy and in helping to shape the future of our nation's renewable energy agenda," he said.

"With our decision to set up a wind turbine generator plant, we want to make sure that we fully capitalise of opportunities available," he added.

EU calls on US to do more to tackle climate change

The United States must do more to tackle climate change, the EU presidency said Wednesday, in a challenge to President Barack Obama ahead of a key international summit in Pittsburgh.

"I hope to speed up the talks all over the climate issue," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in online comments, the day before a EU summit Brussels.

While acknowledging a promise by Japan's incoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to target 25 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Reinfeldt has been less impressed by Washington's efforts so far.

"We need also clearer signals from the United States on mitigation efforts," as well as other parts of the developed world, Reinfeldt said.

The European Union prides itself on taking the lead in the battle against climate change, with member states agreeing to make 20 percent cuts in CO2 emissions by 2020 from 1990 levels.

EU leaders are seeking a more ambitious global goal at international climate change talks in Copenhagen in December, and are ready to commit to 30 percent cuts if the rest of the world does likewise to attain the overall goal of restricting global warming to two degrees Celsius.

Duke Energy CEO Questions Viability of 'Clean' Coal Technology, Future of Coal

Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, raised questions on Wednesday about the viability of capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants underground, and suggested that coal may not even be part of the energy mix by 2050.

"I actually can see a future where coal is not in the equation in 2050," Rogers told reporters at an event in Washington.

He argued that it's unlikely that the United States will be able to develop and bring to scale carbon-capture-and-storage – often called "clean coal" technology. "I think there's no way we can scale in this country," he said. "It's more likely that China will develop and bring CCS to scale. I'd like to be China for a day so we can get CCS done. They're more likely to get it scaled and deployed than we are. We're going to be buying their technology."

He also acknowledged that concerns about coal extraction methods like mountaintop removal may make coal more expensive in the near-term. "I'm under incredible pressure on moutaintop mining," said Rogers. "Most of the coal we use in the southern part of the country is from mountaintop mining. I'm doing the math now and looking to determine my contracts and posing the question to my team, what if we made a policy decision that we're not going to buy coal as a consequence of mountaintop mining."

The future of mountaintop removal grew less certain last week as the Obama administration put the breaks on 79 surface mining permits in Appalachia. Rogers also cited concerns about the amount of space and infrastructure that would be needed to make CCS a reality, as well as concerns about the viability of storage. Instead, he says he foresees nuclear rising to become the biggest source of baseload power by 2050, along with solar and "a little wind," and improved efficiency.

"On the time horizon, I have a higher probability of coming up with the next generation recycling [of nuclear waste], and it's manageable," he said. He argued that the spent fuel from the last 40 years from every nuclear power plant in the United States could be put on one football field, stacked seven feet high. But he said his company's calculations have found that even storage of 20 percent of carbon emissions would require ten cubic miles over the life of a power plant.

Worst headline of the week — "Vilsack: Climate change could help rural economies"

Posted: 17 Sep 2009 11:57 AM PDT

No, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack did NOT say global warming would be good for rural communities.

What he said was that taking action on global warming would be good for rural communities, as the rest of The Journal Record's article makes clear:

He also called climate change an opportunity, because the first country to develop technologies to deal with widespread changes in the environment and move those innovations into the market will be recognized as a worldwide winner.

Vilsack knows that the climate change from unrestricted greenhouse gases emissions would be a disaster for farmers (see "A Stormy Forecast for U.S. Agriculture").  Oklahoma would do worse than most, probably becoming a permanent dust bowl in the second half of the century.  Vilsack has testified that the economic benefits of climate bill for farmers 'easily trump' the costs.

The story isn't bad, but the headline is dreadful — and that's a problem because many people don't ever get past the headline.  The headline could have been "Vilsack: Action on climate change could help rural economies" or "Vilsack:  Fighting climate change could help rural economies."

The paper's "About Us" section asserts:

Our mission: To be Oklahoma's foremost influential and trusted information service.

Our commitment: To serve our audiences with quality products and timely, accurate information that helps them gain success..

Not quite there, folks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Obama Seeks National Oversight of Waters New York Times

Obama Administration Reveals Bedrock Ocean Policy Details -- and ... Huffington Post

New England govs agree on regional energy vision Boston Globe

Investors call for action on global warming

Clean Energy Jobs Now! Tour to End With Pittsburgh Rally September ... Reuters

World's Oceans Were Warmest on Record in June Through August Bloomberg

Three Ways Climate Action Offers a Business Advantage Reuters

More Government Health Care Means A Smaller US Military Wall Street Journal

Obama couldn't be that crafty could he?  Nah.

More Government Health Care Means A Smaller US Military
Wall Street Journal

Oh yes.  We sell him soooooooooo short, and soon,
it will be to late for us to repair the damage our blindness
and cynicism is delivering.

Today's Know Nothing Movement, Seen from Boulder Huffington Post

Hiring a boy to do a man's job

WHERE'S THE WHIP!  Despite the blood, sweat and tears we sheeple
have put into things these last 10 months (talking and typing are
hard work!) Obama has let things slip.  HOLD HIM FOR ME!!!

Obama Administration Pushes Climate Talks Into 2010
New York Times

Obama Administration Pushes Climate Talks Into 2010 New York Times

EU plans 30 cities to lead world on "smart" energy Reuters

EU plans 30 cities to lead world on "smart" energy Reuters

College students protest coal use on campuses The Associated Press

The Largest Geothermal Gathering in the World Expected at ... Reuters

Former Cold War Foes Team Up to Probe Warming Seas New York Times

Japan energy min calls for expanding feed-in tariff Reuters

Global investors call for binding climate policy Reuters

White House Wants Fuel Subsidy Cuts on G-20 Agenda New York Times

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Australia is #1 - New World Leader in Global Warming Emissions Reuters

Chinese government adviser warns that 2C global warming target is ...

An inconvenient truth about global warming BBC News

Md. turning to offshore wind energy Baltimore Sun

Largest Group Ever of World Investors Calls For Strong Global ... Reuters

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

"The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences."

Posted: 16 Sep 2009 06:41 AM PDT

"They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent…  Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger.  The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences….  We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…"

Winston Churchill, November 12, 1936

Paul Gilding, former executive director of Greenpeace International, has another piece I'm reposting, "The Parallel Universes of Climate Change. Where do you live?" You may remember Gilding from Tom Friedman's Ponzi scheme column (see here).

Some days my head hurts, as I shift between what feels like two parallel universes in the climate change debate. First I have these conversations with world-class scientists who calmly lay out the scientific view of the various risks posed by climate change and their relative scale and likelihoods. They tell me the science says it is almost certain the impacts will be serious and destabilising for our society and our economy. The science also describes a lower level of risk – which they find hard to quantify but generally say between 10% and 50% – that the impacts of climate change will be catastrophic, perhaps even civilisation threatening. This could include widespread famine, war and economic collapse. Not certain, but a reasonable possibility.

It is very clear when you listen to these scientists and read their peer-reviewed reports that, on any calm and rational analysis, we should be preparing for a carbon reduction war. Yes, a war – with all that implies about focus, effort and sacrifice. The threat posed is, after all, a "clear and present danger" and the response should be strong, global and immediate. This should be a 'whatever it takes' moment.

Then I shift into the parallel universe.

I spend time in corporate boardrooms and listen to the analysis of business executives who explain how we mustn't damage the economy by "over-reacting". They explain their concern about protecting jobs and economic growth, how we must not jeopardise "our" (insert India, China, South Africa, USA, Australia etc) national competitiveness by acting "early" because, after all, without a global solution what difference will our actions make anyway? When I engage with policy makers, even those supportive of climate action, I get only a marginally stronger response.

Of course, each of these arguments has its narrow appeal. There's always a bit of truth and rationality, and that's why people use them. But the collective consequence of these arguments is the real story here – the story that historians will tell. We have had the risk thoroughly analysed and explained to us and we are choosing, with endlessly shifting reasons for prevarication and delay, not to act commensurate to the level of risk.

I wonder what it was like in the lead up to WWII, the last time we had a serious and clear global threat. When Hitler invaded Poland, did Winston Churchill order an economic modelling exercise to understand the implications of spending over a quarter of GDP on the war effort? When Pearl Harbour was bombed, did US industry argue we shouldn't over-react, that America shouldn't respond until there was a global agreement to act so as to avoid a disproportionate share of the cost?

No, fortunately for us, that wasn't their response. In fact, just four days after Pearl Harbour was bombed, the auto industry was ordered to cease all civilian production in order to focus on the war effort. Such actions soon spread across the economy. I imagine US political leaders thoughts were something like this: "Well damn the objectors, this is a threat to our freedom and to our way of life. In fact, this is such a profound threat we will throw everything we have at it and make it work, even though we don't know whether we will succeed nor the costs of trying."

They would have said: "We will have to do this because if we don't, our children will curse our lack of courage and our selfishness. If we act we may fail. But if we don't act, we won't be able to live with ourselves for not trying."

In our present day to day lives, when the weather is a bit warmer than normal but often rather pleasant, and our economy is showing signs of improving, it is hard for most of us to think like this. The business leaders I talk to about this topic are not bad people.. Nor are the policy makers grappling with the complexities of transforming an economy and the uncertainty of the outcomes. They are normal people with children and friends – they go to church, they volunteer in their communities and they care about the world. (OK, there are a few exceptions, but not many!)

But they still fall for the easy way out, the path of denial and avoidance. Not because they're bad people, but because they're not thinking clearly and courageously.

My message on this topic is clear and direct. We are at a crucial moment in human history. 2009 is to climate change what 1939 was to WWII. Poland has been invaded – the Arctic is melting, the bushfires are burning, the droughts are strengthening and the floods are sweeping away communities. There is only one question you have to ask yourself: "what will I tell my children?"

So now, imagine yourself in 2030. The world is teetering on the edge of geopolitical and economic chaos (this is not a certainty, but it is certainly a reasonable risk). You are talking to your children (add 20 years to their current age) and explaining what it was like in 2009 – what the scientific consensus was and how you personally responded, then and there, when the reality became clear. What did you do in 2009 and why?

In 2030, the parallel universes will have closed and there will only be one left. It will be called reality and you and your children will be living in it. Imagine the conversation. Do it now, then decide what to do.

Reid aide walks back Senate Majority Leader's comment on climate bill timing

Posted: 16 Sep 2009 06:12 AM PDT

Just hours after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) floated the notion that cap-and-trade bill MAY wait till 2010, a top aide unfloated it, as E&E News (subs. req'd) reports today:

Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman, insisted last night that "no decisions have been made" on floor timing for a comprehensive climate and energy bill. "We still intend to deal with health care, [Wall Street regulatory] reform and cap and trade this year," Manley added in an e-mail.

Again, it's probably 50-50 at this point with the bill is voted on this year.

The story also has news on the progress Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) are making putting together their draft bill:

Boxer and Kerry had originally planned to release a draft cap-and-trade bill last week, but they punted on that schedule to continue negotiations with other senators over unfinished pieces to their proposal.

Yesterday, Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he and Boxer still plan to get the draft legislation out by Sept. 30. "We have a mental deadline," Kerry said. "We are aiming for this month."

The climate bill authors are "making great progress" as they meet with other senators to map out key features of the bill, Kerry added. "We are going to be working very, very hard, almost every night over the next two weeks," he said.

Kerry said he plans to hold a markup in the Foreign Relations Committee in October. Boxer said she too remains on schedule for passing the legislation out of her Environment and Public Works Committee next month. "The feeling is that it's moving in our direction," she said.

And conservatives remain, well, conservatives:

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) said he doubts a climate bill can lead to any positive results. "What do we get in terms of actual economic benefit from controlling greenhouse gas emissions?" he asked.

Hmm, other than creating 1.7 million clean energy jobs and not ruining the health and well-being of the next 50 generations — what benefit is there, really?  (see "Waxman-Markey clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill creates $1.5 trillion in benefits")

Are Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue's Ties to Union Pacific Railroading the Companies that Support Climate Policy?

Posted: 16 Sep 2009 04:54 AM PDT

The President of the US Chamber of Commerce, who is resisting calls from his own board members to stop fighting against federal climate policy, is being richly compensated by Union Pacific, a company which — along with some of its key businesses partners — is vigorously fighting against federal climate policy.

When we last left the Chamber it had admitted that calling for the 'Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century' on climate science was dumb, but it was still aping the deniers.  But even before that, many wondered, Why is the Chamber of Commerce a right-wing echo chamber when much of its Board supports a strong clean energy and climate bill? Pete Altman, NRDC's Climate Campaign Director, has an explanation in this piece first published on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Why is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on such a different page from its major members when it comes to climate change legislation?

Last spring we raised the question of who the US Chamber of Commerce is really representing when it comes to the issue of climate change. It seemed curious that although 19 of the companies' on the Chambers' board were on record supporting climate legislation while only four (including three coal companies) were against it, the US Chamber staff continued to take a hard-line position on the issue. And as I've previously discussed, the US Chamber announced in June 2009 that it would spend $100 million fighting proposals it opposes, including on climate policy.

Now, a new question has arisen, prompted by this 2006 item about the 25th anniversary of a railroad line built by Union Pacific railroad to carry coal from southern Wyoming to the rest of the U.S.

What is the connection between Union Pacific Railroad (ticker symbol UNP), dirty coal and the US Chamber? The dots connecting them draw what has the appearance of a conflict of interest between Tom Donohue's role as President of the US Chamber of Commerce and his role as an 11-year member of the Union Pacific Railroad's Board of Directors.

Starting with Mr. Donohue: US Chamber President Tom Donohue has been on the board of directors at Union Pacific since 1998. As a Union Pacific board member, Donohue has been well cared for.

  • He has been paid annual retainers by Union Pacific amounting to at least $1,134,333 since 1998.
  • As of 2008, Donohue has been granted over 43,000 shares of Union Pacific stock, and is entitled to the value of nearly 20,000 more shares when he leaves the board – a package whose combined value would be over $3.8 million if he were to sell it today.
  • So being on the Union Pacific board can be seen as worth about $5 million to Tom Donohue, so far. (You can piece all this compensation together from the company's proxy statements.)

In addition, Union Pacific has been good to the US Chamber:

  • Union Pacific has given $700,000 to the US Chamber since 2004, including $500,000 to the Chamber's "Leadership Fund" (a common name for PACs run by Chambers of Commerce), $100,000 to a voter education project in 2006 and $100,000 to an award ceremony in 2007. (These contributions to the Chamber are reported in the company's 2009, 2008 and 2007 proxy statements.)

Ok, but it is common for people in Donohue's position to be on various boards and such. So what? Well, I don't know what the US Chamber's policy on conflict of interest says, but if it doesn't cover this situation, it needs fixing.

Union Pacific has a vested interest in making sure it can continue to haul lots of coal.

  • Union Pacific is big in the business of carrying coal from mines to power plants, including from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the source of about 38% of all the coal produced in the U.S.
  • Coal shipments are estimated to make up about 20% of freight revenues enjoyed by the big rail carriers, including Union Pacific.
  • In Union Pacific's own words,

    "We May Be Affected by Climate Change and Market or Regulatory Responses to Climate Change…Restrictions, caps, taxes, or other controls on emissions of greenhouse gasses, including diesel exhaust, could significantly increase our operating costs…[and] could also affect our customers…[which could] reduce the amount of traffic we handle and have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, and liquidity."

  • Which explains why Union Pacific has spent over $3 million on lobbying activities so far this year, including efforts to oppose the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

  • Not surprisingly, Union Pacific is a member of the beleaguered coal coalition known as ACCCE, which is hemorrhaging members opposed to its extremist agenda on climate change legislation.

Clearly, Union Pacific is worried about what climate legislation would do to its business, and decided to oppose the climate bill that the US House passed in June.

It's easy to understand Union Pacific's interest in maintaining its lucrative coal traffic. Union Pacific and BNSF, another giant railroad (and ACCCE member!) have invested hundreds of millions over the last 25 years in a joint rail line capable of moving the coal.

It's a big deal to these companies – they even issued a press release celebrating the 200,000th rail car of coal being shipped out of the Basin, an event memorialized in this group picture – which happens to show that the coal being shipped in the 200,000th train came from a coal mine owned by Peabody Energy (another ACCCE member! and one of the four US Chamber board members that opposes climate policy.)

(Arch Coal and Western Fuels Association (both ACCCE members!) didn't make the picture I guess, even though they also have coal mines in the same region and rely on Union Pacific to move their coal.  In fact, every one of Arch Coal's western mines rely on Union Pacific trains.)

So to review:   The President of the US Chamber of Commerce, who is resisting calls from his own board members to stop fighting against federal climate policy, is being richly compensated by Union Pacific, a company which — along with some of its key businesses partners — is vigorously fighting against federal climate policy..

This isn't actually the first time that Mr. Donohue's potential conflicts of interest have come up. In 2005, the New York Times reported on concerns about Mr. Donohue's roles on corporate boards, though at the time climate policy was not one of the issues mentioned.

So, it would seem fair for some of the companies on the Chamber board that want to move forward – Johnson & Johnson, Nike, PNM Resources, Dow, and recent ACCCE abandoners Duke and Alcoa – to wonder whether they are getting railroaded. And it would seem fair to ask Tom Donohue to explain how he's going to address this apparent conflict of interest.

Bumble Bee, Dell, DuPont, FPL, Google, HP, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Nike, PG&E and Xanterra urge the Senate to pass a bill this year that will cut GHG emissions and "jumpstart a clean energy economy": "A rapidly changing climate is reshaping the American landscape and poses a long-term threat to our nation's economy and to our children's future."

Posted: 16 Sep 2009 04:52 AM PDT

The U.S. Senate is about to begin an historic debate over whether to pass comprehensive legislation to create a clean energy economy and combat climate change. We are writing this open letter to urge the Senate to pass a bill this year that will reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases and harness market forces to spur technological innovation, invest in effective solutions, and jumpstart a clean energy economy – both in the U.S. and around the world.

So begins an open letter to the Senate last week from a dozen leading businesses.   These companies speak from their own experience reducing emissions while increasing profits:

We have reformed business practices in order to curb emissions. In our experience, these changes have not only been good for the climate, they've been good for business. We are now urging Congress to undertake comparable reforms on behalf of our nation, for the benefit of all nations. In June, the House of Representatives did its part by passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

We now ask the Senate to pass its own legislation to build a 21st century clean energy economy and address the global challenge of climate change. We need to ensure that U.S. climate legislation makes major reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions in an economically sound way across the U.S. economy.

The scientific evidence is clear. In a recently released study begun under the Bush Administration, a blue-ribbon panel of scientists details the damaging climate impacts already affecting our nation with negative consequences for our farms and forests, our crops and coastlines, and our wildlife and water resources. A rapidly changing climate is reshaping the American landscape and poses a long-term threat to our nation's economy and to our children's future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that unless global emissions of greenhouse gases peak and begin to decline in the next 10-15 years, we are likely to face severe and even catastrophic impacts.

Our companies have long recognized that unchecked carbon emissions are resulting in large-scale climate change that threatens serious economic, social and environmental consequences. We also recognize that this is a global challenge requiring a global response. As leading companies committed to creating real solutions, we are proving that it is possible to grow our businesses while reducing our collective climate impact. We recognize that ignoring climate change is not an option. The real threat to our long-term economic growth is a failure to take action.

With this joint letter, we wish to make clear to the American public and their elected officials that leading voices in the business community believe it is in our interest for the U.S. to act swiftly to address climate change. Passing legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions will send a strong signal to the private sector unleashing new business opportunities, leveling the playing field for all U.S. businesses and ensuring that the U.S. economy can compete in growing global markets for clean energy. By acting now, in advance of critically important climate talks in Copenhagen this December, the Senate will show that the U.S. takes climate change seriously and intends to lead the world to a solution.

America can and must prosper in the face of growing climate change. Our companies have taken the first step by showing the economic opportunities of strong climate action. Now it is the Senate's turn. For the sake of our economy, our national security and our children's future, we urge you to act without delay.


E&E: Reid says cap-and-trade bill MAY wait till 2010

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 04:29 PM PDT Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today said the Senate may not act on comprehensive energy and climate change legislation until next year, given the chamber's busy fall schedule.

This E&E News PM (subs. req'd) piece is mostly a "Dog Bites Man" story — especially with the key qualifier "may" — isn't really news to anybody who's been paying attention or reading this blog:

I'd say right now it's about 50-50 we get a vote this year,  and as readers know, I don't think it matters terribly much.  There's gonna be a Senate vote on a climate bill — that is clear from Obama's decision to speak at U.N. special session on global warming (and Todd Stern's testimony). Even Inhofe knows that.  We get one bit at this man apple, so the key is to work hard and pick the best time to pass the damn thing.

That said, I'd say the ideal time for a vote might be the first week in December, right before the international conference at Copenhagen.  That's when maximum attention and pressure can be brought to bear on this historical vote.  But I do expect Copenhagen to 1) not have a final deal but 2) to move the negotiations forward, so  having the debate and vote in January can also work.

I do think this vindicates my original recommendation back in January that "Obama needs to pass in 2009 the mother of all energy bills" and then pass a climate bill in early 2010.  But now I think it is much too late to split the bills, as much as some members might like that.  Nor does it appear that is Reid's preference:

Speaking to reporters about the possibility of taking up the bill this fall, Reid said the Senate must first finish work on health care and regulatory reform.

"So, you know, we are going to have a busy, busy time the rest of this year," Reid said. "And, of course, nothing terminates at the end of this year. We still have next year to complete things if we have to."

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) acknowledged the current focus on health care but said he is hopeful climate will remain part of the packed agenda this year. Asked whether he and Reid are discussing the climate and energy bill amid the current health care push, Durbin said, "It's all health care, all the time. I shouldn't say all the time, because we have a list of about a dozen things we have to do, and that is one of the elements that we want to finish before the end of the year."

Reid also downplayed but did not rule out the possibility that Democrats could decide to move the energy piece separately from the climate change portion.

"That was an initial discussion that we had many, many months ago," Reid said. "We've focused on what the House has done, and that is do it all in one package.. But we have — that's a bridge that's still a long ways away."

The House has passed a climate bill with shrinking emissions caps, and that's what the Senate needs to do in order for there to be a global deal and have a serious chance of  averting catastrophe.

Related Post:

Inhofe flip-flops, admits the climate bill is "Alive and Well" — thanks to grassroots clean energy push

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 11:58 AM PDT

Right after the House passed the climate and clean energy bill, uber-denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OIL) told Tulsa World that, from a Senate perspective, "It's dead in the water."

In a CleanSkies op-ed Monday titled, "Sen. Inhofe: GOP Beware: Though Now Stalled, Cap-and-Trade is Alive and Well," admits, the climate bill "is very much alive."  But  what is most amazing about this op-ed is the unintentionally revealing explanation Inhofe offers for the revival of the bill's chances:

… their [Democrat's] allies outside the Beltway are preparing a massive $20 million campaign to push legislation forward.

This effort should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who believes cap-and-trade is dead and buried—it is very much alive.

Inhofe uses the term "outside the Beltway" as if that's a bad thing.  Only to a guy like Inhofe, who kowtows to DC's Big Oil lobbyists, are people "outside the Beltway" some sort of foreign entity whose actions are to be criticized and attacked.

Yes, despite the massive disinformation campaign from Inhofe's polluter buddies, grassroots organizations and the American public want action on the climate and clean energy bill, as every major recent poll shows:

What has caused Inhofe to flip flop, to feel he needs to go on the attack for legislation he claimed was headed to the morgue?

Green groups are repackaging cap-and-trade as "clean energy legislation."

No, not  repackaging — this was always pushed as a climate and clean energy jobs bill.  And it is not just the "green groups" pushing the key messages (see "Clean Energy Works launches: New grassroots effort unites faith, labor, veterans, environmental, sportsmen, business, youth, farm, and community groups to fight for for clean air, clean water, clean energy job bill").  But the grassroots have gotten organized — and that  is always scary to someone who is trying to block what the American public wants.

And you can skip the rest of the op-ed.  It is Inhofian disinformation, which I'd call par for the course, except that most of his falsehoods are double bogeys

White House rolls out details of fuel economy, emissions standard — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 11:38 AM PDT

Back in May,  the Obama administration announced it would move forward on national standards for new vehicle fuel economy and tailpipe greenhouse gas emission (see here):

"This is a very big deal," said Daniel Becker of the Safe Climate Campaign, a group that has pushed for tougher mileage and emissions standards with the goal of curbing the heat-trapping gases that have been linked to global warming. "This is the single biggest step the American government has ever taken to cut greenhouse-gas emissions."

Today the Administration rolled out the final details.  The AP reports:

The Obama administration is unveiling plans to require higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and tougher rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson planned to release the proposed regulations Tuesday. They call for the auto industry's fleet of new vehicles to average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The plan follows up on President Barack Obama's announcement in May that the government regulations would link emissions and fuel economy standards.

Greenwire (via the NYT) notes, "The carbon dioxide limit under the plan — which will apply to passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles — would reach an average of 250 grams per mile per vehicle in 2016."

The Obama administration estimated earlier this year the requirements would cost up to $1,300 per new vehicle by 2016 but take just three years to pay off the investment and save about $2,800 over the life of the vehicle through better gas mileage.

During a visit to a General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, Obama said the new standards are overdue.

"This action will give our auto companies some long-overdue clarity, stability and predictability," he said….

A congressional official briefed on the details said the proposal was expected to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by about 5 percent annually, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and save an average car buyer more than $3,000 in fuel costs. The plan would also conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly in advance of the White House announcement.

The administration was expected to note that the proposal's plan to reach 35.5 mpg by the 2016 model year would put it four years ahead of a 2007 law approved by Congress that would have required the auto industry to meet a 35 mpg average in 2020.

Kudos to team Obama.

Click here (pdf) to read the notice of intent.

UPDATE:  Dan Becker has issued a statement:

"Keeping President Obama's promise, today's proposed clean car rule is the biggest single step the US has taken to curb global warming and our oil addiction.   It demonstrates to the world that the United States is now confronting the threat of global warming.  It shows that we can use the Clean Air Act and other existing laws to tackle the pollution spewing from vehicles and power plants.

"Controlling global warming pollution is auto mechanics, not rocket science.  All automakers have the advanced technologies – engines, transmissions, high strength, lightweight materials and aerodynamics — to safely achieve this new standard and to go beyond it.

"The devil is in the details. Detroit's lobbyists have done their best to riddle this decision with credits and other loopholes.  We urge the Administration to close these loopholes or implement an automatic backstop to ensure that the president's promise of 35.5 mpg average vehicles in 2016 will be kept."