Saturday, October 24, 2009

EPA estimates Senate climate bill costs modest The Associated Press

Biofuels coming to airplanes soon, industry group says Seattle Post Intelligencer

China steps up, slowly but surely Washington Post

Why the World Disagrees on Climate Change New York Times

Will There Be Snow in Moscow This Winter? New York Times

Japan debut for mobile fuel cell BBC News

Stealthy wind turbines aim to disappear from radar screens New Scientist

Nickel Deposits to Be Collected on Bottled Water in New York New York Times

Sweden Looks to Diet to Cut Global Warming New York Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for October 23: New poll finds climate action support; Chamber accelerates lobbying

Posted: 23 Oct 2009 10:30 AM PDT

New survey finds US and 37 others demand more aggressive climate action

The first-ever deliberative global survey of citizen opinion, World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews) has found that people from diverse backgrounds in the US and worldwide overwhelmingly want faster action, deeper GHG emissions cuts and stronger enforcement than either US climate legislation proposals or Copenhagen treaty conference preparations are currently contemplating. Among the survey's findings:

  • 90% of U. S. participants say it is urgent to reach a tough, new  agreement at the  UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December and not punt to  subsequent meetings;
  • 89% said by 2020 emissions should be cut 25-40% below 1990 levels (the  Kerry Boxer Senate bill would cut US emissions 20% below 2005 levels);
  • 71% want nations that fail to meet their obligations under a new agreement to be  penalized severely or significantly;
  • 69% believe the price of fossil fuels should be increased.

These views were echoed across 37 other countries on six continents. Global results showed participants wanted more aggressive action than their delegates to Copenhagen envision, including:

  • strict targets for keeping global warming within 2 degrees Celsius (half of participants, especially in countries hardest hit by climate change, want measures to hold temperatures at the current level or even bring them down to pre-industrial levels);
  • fairer and more proportionate burden sharing, including 2020 emissions reduction targets for fast- growing economies like India, China and Brazil, and low-income developing countries;
  • sanctions against countries that do not live up to their emission reduction commmitments;
  • strong new international financial mechanisms and institutions to support these goals.

By contrast, in current policy negotiations these goals are either much less ambitious or absent altogether. Preparations for Copenhagen and Congressional debate on climate change legislation are both following a similar pattern of lowering ambitions and expectations, focusing on limited areas of current agreement and incremental steps, and deferring more contentious issues of targets, timetables, funding and enforcement until later.

"We are hearing from climate policymakers that it will take more time to do things right, that we have to meet people where they are instead of imposing radical reforms from  above," said Dr. Richard Sclove, the US advisor to WWViews. "But these results show the people are way ahead of the policymakers. If Congress and Copenhagen delegates want to act in accordance with citizen views, they have to do far more and go far faster, not scale back and slow down."

As Chamber loses members, its lobbying accelerates

While a number of its members left because of its stance on climate change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was pouring record amounts into lobbying efforts.

The chamber spent more than $34 million on lobbying in the third quarter, with a portion of that money paying for advocacy on energy and climate legislation.

"This represents an increase of 260 percent above what it spent on lobbying during the second quarter, and an increase of 12 percent above what it spent during the first three quarters of 2008," wrote Michael Beckel on a blog of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The release of the lobbying data came during a crazed week for the chamber, which witnessed an environmentalist activist group called the "Yes Men" holding a fake press conference on climate policy in its name (Greenwire, Oct. 19). That followed departures of companies like Apple Inc. and Exelon from the chamber in recent months because of their disagreements with the group's stance on global warming.

In a statement earlier this week, Thomas Collamore, the chamber's senior vice president for communications and strategy, said, "The U.S. Chamber believes that strong climate legislation is not incompatible with the goals of improving our economy and creating jobs."

WaPo: We can afford to save the planet

Here is the good news on the climate front: The Europeans have ratcheted down their emissions targets, the Chinese are getting serious about solar power and energy efficiency, and Washington is lumbering toward a carbon cap.

These are steps toward the long-held goal: cutting global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. Such cuts would stabilize the thickness of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide blanket surrounding the planet at 450 parts per million (ppm) and, we've been told, ensure that the global average temperature increase would not exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from 1990 levels.

The bad news? Turns out that 450 ppm is so 2005.

In the past four years, climate scientists, led by NASA's James Hansen, have dramatically altered the goal. To avoid the collapse of the continental ice-sheets and a dangerous rise in sea levels, many scientists are now saying we have to get down to 350 ppm, and quickly.

This means what was already a heroic (and to many, impossible) target has become mind-boggling. Reaching 350 ppm would require a 97 percent reduction in emissions, entailing a complete conversion to renewable energy systems by mid-century, with the world economy virtually free of carbon emissions. Such a goal is far more demanding than any of the leading policy proposals under discussion.

Game over?

No. It's just time to rethink what is possible.

Climate bill crunch time

A climate change bill will get top billing Friday with a critical meeting among Democratic leaders to set a timeline for debate, a major speech by President Barack Obama and release of a crucial impact study by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the lead sponsor of a Senate climate bill, plans to meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday to set a timeline for committees to finish work on the legislation – possibly as soon as Thanksgiving. And Environment and Public Works Chairwomen Sen. Barbara Boxer said she plans to release new sections of the climate bill that she co-authored with Kerry on Friday. The release of her bill comes as the EPA is set to release a study of the economic impact of the Senate version of the global warming legislation.

While Democratic senators make their push in Washington, Obama will deliver a speech on clean energy and climate change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The flurry of activity around a bill that has suffered on the back burner during the health care debate gives environmentalists hope that the Senate could make substantial progress on a bill before international climate talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen.

White House encouraged by climate bill status

The White House is encouraged by progress on a climate change bill in the Senate and is working to advance it even if a December deadline passes, an aide to President Barack Obama said on Thursday.

Carol Browner, Obama's top adviser on climate and energy issues, told Reuters that White House officials were reaching out to Democratic and Republican senators in an aggressive push to move the bill forward.

"There have been some bipartisan conversations that we find very encouraging," Browner said in an interview. "We are going to continue to do everything in our power to keep this moving."

If a law is not passed by the time U.N. talks on a global warming pact begin in December in Copenhagen, the United States would still have a strong position on the issue in the negotiations, she said.

"Wherever we are in the process, we will be able to manage in Copenhagen."

Browner, who has expressed doubts that a bill would become law by December, said U.S. negotiators would stress Obama's domestic initiatives on climate change and renewable energy since coming into office.

"We'll have been in office by the time we get there, what, 10 months? And yet if you look at what we've accomplished, its quite significant," she said.

European countries and environmentalists want Washington to do more to encourage the Copenhagen talks.

Obama's presence at the talks would help. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he would go and called on other world leaders to attend, too.

But Browner said the time was not right to make that call. "As the president himself has said, it's just too early to make that decision," she said.

UK Foreign Secretary accuses public of climate change apathy

The Foreign Secretary accused the public yesterday of lacking a sense of urgency in the face of the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.

David Miliband said that people had grown apathetic about the issue when they needed to be galvanised into action before the Copenhagen climate change summit in December.

"For a lot of people the penny hasn't dropped that this climate change challenge is real and is happening now," he said. "There isn't yet that feeling of urgency and drive and animation about the Copenhagen conference."

Mr Miliband and his brother, Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, were opening an exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington designed to illustrate the potential impact of world temperatures increasing by 4C. Current models predict that this could happen by 2060 if no action is taken.

He stood by the Government's hard-hitting public information broadcast to promote the Government's Act on CO2 initiative.

The Greening of China

China and India agreed Oct. 22 to coordinate their efforts on climate change. The two countries are at one in holding developed countries responsible for taking the lead in cutting emissions. As the largest carbon emitter, China is being watched particularly closely in the approach to the December Copenhagen summit on climate change to see what position it will adopt.

Common Position

China's carbon emissions are said to have surpassed those of the U.S. in 2007, making it the world's largest contributing country and a key participant at the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen this December:

–On Sept. 22, President Hu Jintao said China would cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per unit of GDP by a "notable margin" by 2020. This has raised expectations that China might make a commitment to mandatory emissions cuts.

–On Oct. 14, Vice Premier Li Keqiang stressed the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities," which replicated the standard position on climate change from the mid-1990s.

Entering into a five-year agreement yesterday, China and India are making common cause on climate change, which will add to the weight developing countries will have at Copenhagen. The two sides maintain that:

–developed countries carry primary responsibility for cutting emissions;

–caps should not be imposed, because development is their priority; and

–developed countries should provide financial and technological resources to industrializing countries to help them control emissions.

Watch Obama's big clean energy speech live at 12:25 ET today

Posted: 23 Oct 2009 08:52 AM PDT

Hunters and anglers rally for climate bill — they see first-hand the impact of human-caused global warming

Posted: 23 Oct 2009 07:35 AM PDT

A recent poll by the National Wildlife Federation, which counts more than 420,000 members across 42 states, found that 66 percent of hunters and anglers surveyed believed that global warming was already occurring.

A Gallup poll in March 2009 found that only 53 percent of the general population shared the same view.

People who spend a lot of their time outdoors are more likely to see the obvious — the climate is changing and invasive species like the bark beetle are ravaging the West.  That's a key point of this piece in the NYT blog, Green Inc:


More than 13,000 hunters and anglers from across the country joined a "virtual town hall" teleconference on Tuesday to hear a discussion of the impact of climate change on fish and wildlife populations, and to voice their support for federal action to limit carbon emissions.

The call was hosted by the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, American Hunters and Shooters, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

"It's very important in my opinion that we do pass the climate change bill," said Ted Roosevelt IV, a prominent conservationist and the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, during the phone call.

The virtual meeting is part of a recent wave of climate activism by national hunting and fishing groups, whose conservative-leaning membership has expressed growing concern with the impacts of climate change on wildlife.

It's great to see a broader group of the population starting to engage in what will be the central issue of our time.  But then, for outdoorsmen and -women, the changes driven by human emissions are all-but-impossible to miss:

With their pastime bringing them close to the landscape, hunters and anglers are encountering changes in nature associated with the onset of climate change, from alteration in the seasons and the migratory patterns of animals, to increasingly intense wildfires across broad the West.

"We're already seeing the effects from climate change," said George Cooper, the president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

John Warner, a former Republican senator from Virginia who co-sponsored an unsuccessful carbon cap-and-trade bill with Senator Joseph Lieberman in 2007, recounted his own personal encounter with the impacts of climate change during the call.

Mr. Warner, a lifelong hunter and fisherman, described working for the Forest Service in the Idaho panhandle in the 1940s, in "pristine forests" where streams teemed with fish.

When he returned to Idaho several years ago, he said, he found the same forests decimated by the invasion of the pine beetle, whose spread has been linked in part to rising temperatures in winter.

"It was one of the saddest trips of my life," said Mr. Warner.

Responding to a question from a hunter in Michigan about the prospects for Republican support for climate change legislation recently introduced in the Senate, Mr. Warner said he was hopeful the bill would receive bipartisan support, which may be crucial to its passage.

"I think we're going to see Republican participation," he said. "It would be a tragic situation for a bill to move through strictly on a partisan basis."

One goal of hunting and fishing groups is to secure dedicated funding for state wildlife agencies for "adaptive management" practices, which aim to reduce the impact of climate change on wildlife and wilderness areas.

The Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill contains provisions establishing a National Adaptation Council and National Climate Change Adaptation Program. Funding would come from a portion of proceeds from the sale of emission permits.

Chris Wood, the chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited, a sport fishing group with more than 140,000 members in 400 chapters across the country, said most members support the group's lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill in support of climate legislation — though he has received a few angry letters.

"In a couple of cases it's been vocal," he said. "It's been incidental to the support that we've been getting from the vast majority of members who are concerned about this."

If we don't act fast enough, human-caused climate change will wipe out the majority of species on land and sea, and turn a livable climate into "Hell and High Water."

Inhofe's climate change-denying Copenhagen 'truth squad' expands to a 'truth squad of three.'

Posted: 23 Oct 2009 06:47 AM PDT

From Think Progress

Last month, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) announced that he would travel to Copenhagen in December to act as a climate skeptic "truth squad" during international climate change treaty negotiations. "I think somebody has to be there — a one-man truth squad," Inhofe said on CSPAN. Today, on Bill Bennett's radio show, Inhofe revealed that his delegation has expanded to "a truth squad of three":

BENNETT: And John Barrasso's going with you, right? John Barrasso?

INHOFE: Yeah, Barrasso and there's another secret person going with me. We're going to have a team of three, a truth squad of three.

[JR Note:  Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) is the guy who tryied to block intelligence on the national security threat posed by climate change.]

Listen here:

When Inhofe first announced his plans for a "truth squad," TPM's Eric Kleefeld remarked, "It's nice to see how seriously foreign policy is taken these days — when a member of the political minority will send his own delegation to an international conference, in order to undermine the government and tell other countries that they can't work with the United States." Now it's at least two members of the political minority.

That Wolf Will Come Back to Bite You

Posted: 23 Oct 2009 06:30 AM PDT

No wonder polling shows more people don't know the scientific evidence that humans are warming the Earth has grown stronger. Revkin stunner on NPR: "I've made missteps. I've made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before."

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 04:30 PM PDT

UPDATE:  Yes, bad coverage by big media, including the NYT's Revkin, is one reason there has been a modest decline since April 2008 in the number of Americans who know that there is solid (in fact, overwhelming) evidence the Earth is warming and humans are the primary cause (see here).  Big media "did" the global warming story in 2006 and 2007 when Gore's movie came out and then throughout 2007 when the IPCC released its four major summary reports.  Looking for a new angle, the NY Times and others played up the global cooling myth.  Now couple that with a ramped up disinformation campaign from the deniers who keep repeating the global cooling myth and continued lame messaging from the scientific community (see "Why scientists aren't more persuasive, Part 1") and a progressive community filled with people who have been persuaded by bad analysis that they shouldn't even talk about "global warming" (see Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica's phrase 'our deteriorating atmosphere' isn't going to replace 'global warming' — and that's a good thing).  That's a recipe for an underinformed public.

I have serious doubts whether major journalists should be blogging very much.  It conflates different roles, which can be confusing to the reader, and I've always thought that the media's blogging was inherently lower quality journalism but still imprinted with the credibility of the journalist and his or her media organization (see "What exactly is the difference between journalism and blogging?").

Today's remarkble NPR interview of top NY Times climate reporter Andrew Revkin underscores my doubts and introduces yet another major problem I hadn't considered — sagging quality of the print reporting as a result of too much time spent blogging.  Or, in Andy's case, he's apparently doing the same amount of blogging but more print reporting.

Revkin says "I've been in print more, but I haven't slowed down on the blog."  The impact:

"I've made missteps. I've made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before.  That's kind of frustrating."

You aren't the only one who is frustrated, Andy!

The published articles reach a vastly larger audience.  I'd gladly do without every one of Andy's posts at his blog, many of which are quite informative — in return for his not repeatedly screwing up the facts and the framing of those facts in just one recent story, see "NYT's Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation."

I suspect (or, at least, hope) that if he had had more time to get the facts right, he might not have written that story at all or it would have completely reframed it.  And yes, if you check the sentences I said were wrong or misleading, he went back and changed every single one of them — although the change to the key opening sentence was just adding one word, "relatively," which is quite inadequate:

… global temperatures have been relatively stable for a decade and may even drop in the next few years.

That is still very misleading, with the phrase "relatively stable for a decade" not actually based on scientific data and the phrase "may even drop" not supported by the recent scientific literature, including the work of the one person Andy cites, Mojib Latif (see "Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist").

[I still haven't seen the print edition of that story -- if someone can find it and send me the PDF, I'd love to see it.  I think my blog post was too late to correct the print story.]

Let me end with a general statement I made after the terrific journalist James Fallows made some errant statements on climate (see "James Fallows, Physics for Future Presidents, Al Gore, blogging journalists, and what will become of hockey sticks on an ice-free planet?"):

Blogging journalists.  Now that global warming and clean energy have become a first-tier political issue, every major journalist is writing about it.  My unsolicited advice: This is the story of the century, so you should be writing about it, but it has many mine fields so please do your homework before opining on it….

FINAL NOTE TO MEDIA:  Time for you to go back to the basics of reporting the science.  You might stop the blogging and start with this story — 18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, "human activities are the primary driver," impacts are projected to worsen "substantially" and "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced."

Related Posts:

Confusion in Senate regarding allowance allocation

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 04:15 PM PDT

… let's be clear that, first, for the most part, the allocation of allowances affects neither the environmental performance of the cap-and-trade system nor its aggregate social cost….

Third, we should be honest that the legislation, for all its flaws, is by no means the "massive corporate give-away" that it has been labeled.  On the contrary, more than 80% of the value of allowances accrue to consumers and public purposes, and less than 20% accrue to covered, private industry.  This split is roughly consistent with the recommendations of independent economic research.

The above quote is from a May analysis of the Waxman-Markey clean energy and climate bill by Harvard University's Robert Stavins — who is certainly not anyone's idea of a progressive economist (see here and here), although he is obviously one of the country's leading economic experts on cap-and-trade.

Some commenters here and elsewhere have described the allocation distribution in the climate bill as a big giveaway to polluters.  The most credible progressive experts I know on energy economics dispute that description (see "Preventing windfalls for polluters but preserving prices — Waxman-Markey gets it right").

Today, Stavins posted "Confusion in the Senate Regarding Allowance Allocation," which notes:

According to an October 22nd  story in Environment & Energy Daily ("Climate:  GOP Fence Sitters Voice Concerns Over Allocations" by Darren Samuelson), several key swing-vote Senate Republicans — including Senator Lisa Murkowski, ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee — are voicing skepticism about the Senate's Boxer-Kerry climate bill's cap-and-trade system because of the free allocation of some of the allowances to various recipients in the private (and public) sector.

There may be sound reasons for concern about the developing Senate bill, but the so-called "free allocation" should not be one of them.  Indeed, this debate is unfortunately repeating the confusion which was prevalent in the press and the blogosphere about the allowance allocation in the Waxman-Markey legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2454).

Rather than being a "massive corporate give-away" of 80% of the allowances to private industry — as it was frequently characterized — the H.R. 2454 allowance allocation would result in precisely the opposite, namely, about 80% of the value of allowances accruing to consumers, small business, and public purposes, and some 20% accruing to covered, private industry (a split which is roughly consistent with the recommendations from independent economic research).

And directly to Senator Murkowski's and others' concern, the nature of the free allocation of allowances does not — with some relatively minor exceptions — affect either the environmental performance or the overall social cost of the system.

The deal-making that took place in the House and will take place in the Senate for shares of the allowances for various purposes is a good example of the useful, important, and fundamentally benign mechanism through which a cap-and-trade system provides the means for a political constituency of support and action to be assembled (without reducing the policy's effectiveness or driving up its cost).

I have explained all of this carefully in a previous post, and so rather than repeat it here, I offer this link to my post from May 27th on "The Wonderful Politics of Cap-and-Trade:  A Closer Look at Waxman-Markey."

Unlike Stavins, I think it's worth excerpting most of (rather than just linking to) what he wrote back then:

Despite all the hand-wringing in the press and the blogosphere about a political "give-away" of allowances for the cap-and-trade system in the Waxman-Markey bill voted out of committee last week, the politics of cap-and-trade systems are truly quite wonderful, which is why these systems have been used, and used successfully.The Waxman-Markey allocation of allowances has its problems, which I will get to, but before noting those problems it is exceptionally important to keep in mind what is probably the key attribute of cap-and-trade systems:  the allocation of allowances — whether the allowances are auctioned or given out freely, and how they are freely allocated — has no impact on the equilibrium distribution of allowances (after trading), and therefore no impact on the allocation of emissions (or emissions abatement), the total magnitude of emissions, or the aggregate social costs.  (Well, there are some relatively minor, but significant caveats – those "problems" I mentioned — about which more below.)  By the way, this independence of a cap-and-trade system's performance from the initial allowance allocation was established as far back as 1972 by David Montgomery in a path-breaking article in the Journal of Economic Theory (based upon his 1971 Harvard economics Ph.D. dissertation). It has been validated with empirical evidence repeatedly over the years.

Generally speaking, the choice between auctioning and freely allocating allowances does not influence firms' production and emission reduction decisions.  Firms face the same emissions cost regardless of the allocation method.  When using an allowance, whether it was received for free or purchased, a firm loses the opportunity to sell that allowance, and thereby recognizes this "opportunity cost" in deciding whether to use the allowance.  Consequently, the allocation choice will not influence a cap's overall costs.

Manifest political pressures lead to different initial allocations of allowances, which affect distribution, but not environmental effectiveness, and not cost-effectiveness.  This means that ordinary political pressures need not get in the way of developing and implementing a scientifically sound, economically rational, and politically pragmatic policy.  Contrast this with what would happen when political pressures are brought to bear on a carbon tax proposal, for example.  Here the result will most likely be exemptions of sectors and firms, which reduces environmental effectiveness and drives up costs (as some low-cost emission reduction opportunities are left off the table).  Furthermore, the hypothetical carbon tax example is the norm, not the exception.  Across the board, political pressures often reduce the effectiveness and increase the cost of well-intentioned public policies.  Cap-and-trade provides natural protection from this.  Distributional battles over the allowance allocation in a cap-and-trade system do not raise the overall cost of the program nor affect its environmental impacts.

In fact, the political process of states, districts, sectors, firms, and interest groups fighting for their share of the pie (free allowance allocations) serves as the mechanism whereby a political constituency in support of the system is developed, but without detrimental effects to the system's environmental or economic performance.  That's the good news, and it should never be forgotten.

But, depending upon the specific allocation mechanisms employed, there are several ways that the choice to freely distribute allowances can affect a system's cost.  Here's where the "caveats" and "problems" come in.

First, auction revenue may be used in ways that reduce the costs of the existing tax system or fund other socially beneficial policies.  Free allocations to the private sector forego such opportunities.  Below I will estimate the actual share of allowance value that accrues to the private sector.

Second, some proposals to freely allocate allowances to electric utilities may affect electricity prices, and thereby affect the extent to which reduced electricity demand contributes to limiting emissions cost-effectively.  Waxman-Markey allocates allowances to local distribution companies, which are subject to cost-of-service regulation even in regions with restructured wholesale electricity markets.  So, electricity prices would likely be affected by these allocations under existing state regulatory regimes.  The Waxman-Markey legislation seeks to address this problem by specifying that the economic value of the allowances given to electricity and natural gas local distribution companies should be passed on to consumers through lump-sum rebates, not through a reduction in electricity rates, thereby compensating consumers for increases in electricity prices, but without reducing incentives for energy conservation.

Third, and of most concern in the context of the Waxman-Markey legislation, "output-based updating allocations" provide perverse incentives and drive up costs of achieving a cap.  This merits some explanation.  If allowances are freely allocated, the allocation should be on the basis of some historical measures, such as output or emissions in a (previous) base year, not on the basis of measures which firms can affect, such as output or emissions in the current year.  Updating allocations, which involve periodically adjusting allocations over time to reflect changes in firms' operations, contrast with this.

An output-based updating allocation ties the quantity of allowances that a firm receives to its output (production).  Such an allocation is essentially a production subsidy.  This distorts firms' pricing and production decisions in ways that can introduce unintended consequences and may significantly increase the cost of meeting an emissions target.  Updating therefore has the potential to create perverse, undesirable incentives.

In Waxman-Markey, updating allocations are used for specific sectors with high CO2 emissions intensity and unusual sensitivity to international competition, in an effort to preserve international competitiveness and reduce emissions leakage.  It's an open question whether this approach is superior to an import allowance requirement, whereby imports of a small set of specific commodities must carry with them CO2 allowances.  The problem with import allowance requirements is that they can damage international trade relations.  The only real solution to the competitiveness issue is to bring non-participating countries within an international climate regime in meaningful ways.  (On this, please see the work of the Harvard Project on International Climate Agreements.)

Also, output-based allocations are used in Waxman-Markey for merchant coal generators, thereby discouraging reductions in coal-fired electricity generation, another significant and costly distortion.

Now, let's go back to the hand-wringing in the press and blogosphere about the so-called massive political "give-away" of allowances.  Perhaps unintentionally, there has been some misleading press coverage, suggesting that up to 75% or 80% of the allowances are given away to private industry as a windfall over the life of the program, 2012-2050 (in contrast with the 100% auction originally favored by President Obama).

Given the nature of the allowance allocation in the Waxman-Markey legislation, the best way to assess its implications is not as "free allocation" versus "auction," but rather in terms of who is the ultimate beneficiary of each element of the allocation and auction, that is, how the value of the allowances is allocated.  On closer inspection, it turns out that many of the elements of the apparently free allocation accrue to consumers and public purposes, not private industry.

First of all, let's looks at the elements which will accrue to consumers and public purposes.  Next to each allocation element is the respective share of allowances over the period 2012-2050 (measured as share of the cap, after the removal – sale — of allowances to private industry from a "strategic reserve," which functions as a cost-containment measure.):

a.  Electricity and natural gas local distribution companies, 22.2%

b.  Home heating oil/propane, 0.9%

c.  Protection for low- and moderate-income households, 15.0%

d.  Worker assistance and job training, 0.8%

e.  States for renewable energy, efficiency, and building codes, 5.8%

f.   Clean energy innovation centers, 1.0%

g.  International deforestation, clean technology, and adaptation, 8.7%

h.  Domestic adaptation, 5.0%

The following elements will accrue to private industry, again with average (2012-2050) shares of allowances:

i.   Merchant coal generators, 3.0%

j.   Energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries, 8.0%

k.  Carbon-capture and storage incentives, 4.1%

l.   Clean vehicle technology standards, 1.0%

m. Oil refiners, 1.0%

The split over the entire period from 2012 to 2050 is 59.4% for consumers and public purposes, and 17.1% for private industry.  This 17% is drastically different from the suggestions that 70%, 80%, or more of the allowances will be given freely to private industry in a "massive corporate give-away."

All categories – (a) through (m), above – sum to 76.5% of the total quantity of allowances over the period 2012-2050.  The unallocated allowances — 23.5% over 2012 to 2050 — are scheduled in Waxman-Markey to be used almost entirely for consumer rebates, with the share of available allowances for this purpose rising from approximately 10% in 2025 to more than 50% by 2050.  Thus, the totals become 82.9% for consumers and public purposes versus 17.1% for private industry, or approximately 80% versus 20% — the opposite of the "80% free allowance corporate give-away" featured in many press and blogosphere accounts.  Moreover, because some of the allocations to private industry are – for better or for worse – conditional on recipients undertaking specific costly investments, such as investments in carbon capture and storage, part of the 17.1% free allocation to private industry should not be viewed as a windfall.

Speaking of the conditional allocations, I should also note that some observers (who are skeptical about government programs) may reasonably question some of the dedicated public purposes of the allowance distribution, but such questioning is equivalent to questioning dedicated uses of auction revenues.  The fundamental reality remains:  the appropriate characterization of the Waxman-Markey allocation is that more than 80% of the value of allowances go to consumers and public purposes, and less than 20% to private industry.

Finally, it should be noted that this 80-20 split is roughly consistent with empirical economic analyses of the share that would be required – on average — to fully compensate (but no more) private industry for equity losses due to the policy's implementation.  In a series of analyses that considered the share of allowances that would be required in perpetuity for full compensation, Bovenberg and Goulder (2003) found that 13 percent would be sufficient for compensation of the fossil fuel extraction sectors, and Smith, Ross, and Montgomery (2002) found that 21 percent would be needed to compensate primary energy producers and electricity generators.

In my work for the Hamilton Project in 2007, I recommended beginning with a 50-50 auction-free-allocation split, moving to 100% auction over 25 years, because that time-path of numerical division between the share of allowances that is freely allocated to regulated firms and the share that is auctioned is equivalent (in terms of present discounted value) to perpetual allocations of 15 percent, 19 percent, and 22 percent, at real interest rates of 3, 4, and 5 percent, respectively.  My recommended allocation was designed to be consistent with the principal of targeting free allocations to burdened sectors in proportion to their relative burdens, while being politically pragmatic with more generous allocations in the early years of the program.

So, the Waxman-Markey 80/20 allowance split turns out to be consistent  — on average, i.e. economy-wide — with independent economic analysis of the share that would be required to fully compensate (but no more) the private sector for equity losses due to the imposition of the cap, and consistent with my Hamilton Project recommendation of a 50/50 split phased out to 100% auction over 25 years.

Going forward, many observers and participants in the policy process may continue to question the wisdom of some elements of the Waxman-Markey allowance allocation.  There's nothing wrong with that.

But let's be clear that, first, for the most part, the allocation of allowances affects neither the environmental performance of the cap-and-trade system nor its aggregate social cost.

Second, questioning should continue about the output-based allocation elements, because of the perverse incentives they put in place.

Third, we should be honest that the legislation, for all its flaws, is by no means the "massive corporate give-away" that it has been labeled.  On the contrary, more than 80% of the value of allowances accrue to consumers and public purposes, and less than 20% accrue to covered, private industry.  This split is roughly consistent with the recommendations of independent economic research.

Fourth and finally, it should not be forgotten that the much-lamented deal-making that took place in the House committee last week for shares of the allowances for various purposes was a good example of the useful, important, and fundamentally benign mechanism through which a cap-and-trade system provides the means for a political constituency of support and action to be assembled (without reducing the policy's effectiveness or driving up its cost).

Although there has surely been some insightful press coverage and intelligent public debate (including in the blogosphere) about the pros and cons of cap-and-trade, the Waxman-Markey legislation, and many of its design elements, it is remarkable (and unfortunate) how misleading so much of the coverage has been of the issues and the numbers surrounding the proposed allowance allocation.

NRC: Burning fossil fuels costs the U.S. $120 billion a year — not counting mercury or climate impacts!

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 01:01 PM PDT

Coal wall

A new report from the National Research Council examines and, when possible, estimates "hidden" costs of energy production and use — such as the damage air pollution imposes on human health — that are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them.  The report estimates dollar values for several major components of these costs.  The damages the committee was able to quantify were an estimated $120 billion in the U.S. in 2005, a number that reflects primarily health damages from air pollution associated with electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation.  The figure does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize.

As the Senate gears up to discuss clean energy legislation this fall, the Senate may have—despite its awareness—another healthcare debate on its hands.  If we cannot direct our use of energy towards those forms that do not carry hidden burdens, we better hope that Americans have good health insurance.

The National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recently found that our current level of energy use is costing us a lot more than our environment—it is also costing us our health. In the newly released "The Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use," the NRC explores the external costs of energy, costs that are certainly not factored into its market price.  Requested by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the report reveals that there are substantial "hidden" costs to our energy production and use, primarily reflected in damages to human health. The report monetizes these unseen energy costs at $120 billion annually by tracing the full cycle of our energy use—extraction, development, deployment, and waste. These costs result in the death of 20,000 people each year—10,000 due to coal alone.

The NRC reports that most of the "hidden" costs of energy are attributed to coal-fired electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation—they extract an annual toll of $62 billion and $56 billion, respectively. In reporting its cost figures, the NRC only included the estimates for the non-climatic costs imposed by our energy use, specifically those costs related to health, agriculture, and built infrastructure. Although other pernicious side-effects of our energy use—such as ecosystem disruption, other pollutants (like mercury), and national security risks—impose costs to Americans, these environmental costs were examined in the report but were excluded from the final cost figures. (Note: this actually made the reported costs much clearer due to the panoply of possible monetary values the NRC calculated for these other damages). The conclusion is resoundingly clear: our current energy use has implications for much more than debates about the climate.

The punch line? Coal-fired power plants and motor vehicle transportation account for roughly $118 billion of non-climatic damage to the U.S. each year. Natural gas, which accounts for 20% of our nation's electricity generation and the "vast majority" of heating demands, only costs us a little over $2 billion dollars annually in unseen costs (also note that the Energy Information Administration projects that the market price of natural gas will be 14.6 times lower than that of oil through 2030). Comparatively, the report shows, renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) costs us very little in external damages. With a tremendous renewable energy potential and an abundant untapped supply of natural gas, the U.S needs to—and can!—reduce these hidden energy costs by generating clean energy that does not obscure the real costs of its production and use.

Jonathan Aronchick, an intern for the Energy Opportunity team at the Center for American Progress.

Related Posts:

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Of Climate Change and Nuclear Power New York Times

United States Scientists Visit Cuba to Discuss Overfishing, Coral Reefs, Ocean ... Reuters

How much are coral ecosystems worth? Try $172 billion--A year Scientific American

DOE, Siemens Begin Tests on Massive Wind Turbine New York Times

Study: Impact of bioenergy crops on climate change underestimated Washington Post

Time to (finally) de-guzzle our cars? Los Angeles Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for October 22: Southeast most exposed to climate change impacts; Thinking solar power? It's never been cheaper

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 09:41 AM PDT


Southeast U.S. exposed to climate change impact: Oxfam

Poverty and climate hazards make the southeast United States the country's most vulnerable area to climate change impact, Oxfam America said on Wednesday.

A report released by the relief organization identified high-risk "hotspots" across 13 southeast states from Arkansas to Virginia where poverty factors combined with high risk of drought, flooding, hurricanes and sea-level rise.

"Social factors like income and race do not determine who will be hit by a natural disaster, but they do determine a population's ability to prepare, respond, and recover when disaster does strike," Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said in a statement accompanying the report.

"As climate change increases and intensifies floods, storms, and heat waves, many of the world's poorest communities, from Biloxi (Mississippi) to Bangladesh, will experience unprecedented stress," Offenheiser added.

Oxfam said the study, using a method developed by experts from the University of South Carolina's Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, for the first time overlaid risk of climate hazards with social variables….

The Oxfam report, available at, includes layered maps that depict different levels of social and climate change-related hazard vulnerability in the U.S. southeast, which accounts for roughly 80 percent of all U.S. counties that experience persistent poverty….

For example, one identified high-risk area was Iberia Parish in Louisiana, which had some of the highest hazard exposures — 76.8 percent of land in a flood zone, 78.9 percent in the extreme drought zone, 56 percent in a sea-level rise zone, and all within a hurricane wind zone.

It also had some of the highest social vulnerability scores, due to its growing Latino population with young children, racial inequalities, and employment dependencies on industries like fishing, oil, and gas….

Poor families were among the worst affected when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in Louisiana in 2005.

Miami-Dade County in Florida — a state viewed by many as a playground for the rich — was also qualified by the report as a high-risk area,

Thinking solar power? It's never been cheaper

Jillian Lung says she's no environmentalist. Still, she couldn't pass up a chance to install a carpet of solar panels atop her co-op in Queens.

"At these prices, why not?" Lung said.

The government has plowed so much cash into the solar industry that it's effectively pulled the luxury tag off of home solar systems. Combined with local incentives, buyers can save up to 90 percent on a system, whether it's for a single-family home or a 75-unit condo in the city.

Thousands of homeowners are finding they can pay off a rooftop solar system in just a few years and then start pocketing the energy savings.

Lung, the co-op president, stumbled into solar subsidy programs last year as she priced out roof repairs. City, state and federal incentives covered nearly three-quarters of the tab for a $394,514 solar system.

The building flipped the switch on in July and already cut last month's electric bill in half.

"This was just icing on the cake," Lung said. "We had to change the roof anyway."

Solar power has been getting cheaper for years. Panel prices declined 31 percent from 1998 to 2008 because of lower manufacturing and installation costs and state and local subsidies, according to a study released Wednesday by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. But it still took a ramp up in federal incentives this year to bring the cost within many people's reach.

More than half the states in the U.S. and Washington D.C. offer enough incentives to cut the costs by 40 percent or more, according to Amy Heinemann, a policy analyst at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

NYC sees economic gold in green jobs

Recession-stricken New York City plans to double its current green work force by creating over 13,000 new jobs in the next decade, partly by competing with London to become the new center for carbon trading, a city official said on Wednesday.

London, whose prominence as a financial capital rivals New York City and Tokyo, got an early lock in trading pollution credits by training lawyers, accountants and other experts "before the market even existed," Seth Pinsky, president of the Economic Development Corporation, told Reuters.

New York City's new boot camp in green finance will be run by the State University of New York's Levin Institute. It will be open to laid-off workers or future entrepreneurs, much like an already "booming" incubator for financial start-ups, Pinsky said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made his first fortune as a Wall Street bond trader before getting into politics, is expected to announce on Thursday this green job branch to his two-year-old PlaNYC program, which set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases, planting 1 million trees and crowning skyscrapers with wind turbines.

The mayor's $7.5 million green jobs plan will call on Columbia University to help offer public school pupils "hands-on" learning in energy efficiency, according to Bloomberg, who is running as an independent candidate for a third term. His plan also will create an Urban Technology Innovation Center to tap academic research. Existing city and state funds and federal stimulus dollars will pay for it.

Britain publishes doomsday climate change vision

Two British Cabinet ministers showed off a doomsday vision of disappearing cities and rising seas on Thursday, part of an effort to push nations to strike a new pact on curbing emissions of global warming gasses.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband and his brother, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, published an online map detailing the predicted impact of a 4 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in global temperatures.

Ed Milband said the map, which was prepared by scientists at the British Meteorological Office, shows that the "stakes couldn't be higher" as nations prepare for a December summit in Denmark. The Copenhagen meeting aims to strike agreement on new action to limit temperature rises as a result of climate change to 2 degrees Celsius.

Britain has pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

"With less than 50 days left before agreement must be reached, the U.K.'s going all out to persuade the world of the need to raise its ambitions so we get a deal that protects us from a 4 degree world," Ed Miliband said.

Gore 'Optimistic' About Climate Bill, Skeptical of Biofuels

Former Vice President Al Gore said today that he was "optimistic" the U.S. Senate's climate bill will pass, citing support from Republicans including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Gore, whose remarks in Beijing focused on solar, wind and geothermal power, expressed skepticism that natural gas, nuclear power or biofuels were realistic energy sources to harness in order to achieve large reductions in carbon emissions.

Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work to publicize the dangers of global warming, said nuclear power was too expensive and could be used to make weapons, biofuels might spark food price rises and natural gas, which emits two-thirds the carbon of oil, was only a "promising transition fuel."

Before Gore spoke, he met with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who said the U.S. and China should cooperate to promote clean energy and combat climate change, Xinhua News Agency reported. Earlier today, Chinese President Hu Jintao talked to President Barack Obama on the phone and said China wanted a successful outcome to the Copenhagen climate talks, Xinhua also reported.

"Although problems remain in talks for a final deal, there are hopes for a positive result at the Copenhagen conference as long as the convening parties work together closely," Xinhua reported Hu as saying.

Chamber of Commerce Spends $34.7M on 3Q Lobbying

Losing key members and facing political headwinds, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent a record $34.7 million in the third quarter lobbying against the Obama administration's proposals to overhaul energy policy, financial regulation and health care.

The Chamber's money paid for more than a dozen lobbyists to visit Congress, the White House and agencies from Agriculture to Treasury. Most of the Chamber's positions — free trade, unfettered credit card lending, Cash for Clunkers rebates — enjoy broad support among the Chamber's diverse corporate members.

The Chamber's lobbying agenda encompasses virtually any issue that affects business — so the group has a stance on virtually every issue. Debates on far-reaching effects, like health care, often occupy the most attention. But the Chamber disclosure also shows the group devoted serious resources to issues important to a smaller number of members — Internet taxation, immigration enforcement and forcing children to speak English.

However, on one broad issue considered critical to the Obama administration's success the Chamber's anti-regulatory postures created a rift. On the question of how to address climate change, the Chamber has seen a growing number of companies defect. They say the self-proclaimed "voice of business" doesn't speak for them when it denies global warming and lobbies against climate change legislation.

Europe offers to cut emissions 95% by 2050 if deal reached at Copenhagen

Europe attempted to reassert its international leadership in the fight against global warming today, offering to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95% by 2050 and by 30% by 2020 if a climate change pact is sealed in Copenhagen in six weeks' time.

"This should be seen as a clear message to the world," said Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish environment minister who chaired the Luxembourg meeting. "We expect to reach an agreement in Copenhagen," he added, after environment ministers from 27 countries finalised a common EU negotiating position.

But his optimism contrasted with the increasing doubts around the world enough time remains to deliver a binding agreement in Copenhagen. The EU also still has to settle disputes over the EU's carbon trading scheme and how the developing world will be paid to cope with the impacts of global warming.

Yesterday, European finance ministers failed to agree on a funding package for developing countries, with Poland and other poorer eastern European countries unhappy at being asked to subsidise action in countries such as China and India whose economies are growing strongly. Poland is also leading the dissent on the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS).

The EU negotiating position offers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95% by 2050 and to deepen cuts from 20 to 30% by 2020 if other world powers sign up for similar action. The ministers said they also reached accord on tough action on deforestation and agreed that aviation would have to cut its emissions by 10% by 2020 compared with 2005 levels and shipping by 20%.

However, reluctance from the big players – the US, China, and India – to unveil targets or specific figures for a climate change pact, the EU was divided over tactics ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen in December.

Germany and Italy were reluctant to name a figure publicly so early, believing this could weaken the European bargaining position.

"I've heard arguments about tactics," said Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment. "But by telling the decision now, we encourage other countries to come with their proposals. We don't gain anything by not reaching a decision."

Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands supported this view, believing that Europe had more to gain from playing pioneer and seizing the leadership in the run-up to Copenhagen.

India brings new hope to global climate negotiations

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 08:04 AM PDT

This guest repost is by CAP's Andrew Light, Julian L. Wong, and Sabina Dewan.  Above, Secretary of State Clinton and India's Junior Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh discuss climate change during Clinton's visit to India in July.

Most of the attention in the lead up to the December United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen has been focused on the United States and China—the two biggest annual emitters of greenhouse gases. But India may be the country that provides the necessary breakthrough in international negotiations to help developed and developing countries reach an agreement. Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is urging the Indian government to commit to action without the promise of financial and technological assistance, and subject its domestic efforts to international scrutiny. And this change of position could not come at a more critical time.

U.N. climate talks in trouble

The last preliminary round of the U.N. climate negotiations in Bangkok two weeks ago did not go well. Developed and developing countries were once again in opposition, lobbying charges and countercharges at each other through the media about who is trying to derail progress more. Sudan, the new incoming chair of the G-77 group of 130 developing countries, accused the United States in particular of attempting to sabotage the talks, renege on efforts to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, and introduce their own new treaty proposal.

Sudanese chair of the G-77 Lumumba Di-Aping, put it this way: "Feelings are running high in the G-77. It is clear now that the rich countries want a deal outside the Kyoto agreement. … This is an alarming development. The intention of developed countries is clearly to kill the protocol." Yet such charges are completely misleading.

The reality is that all members of the Framework Convention on Climate Change at the U.N. climate summit in Bali in 2007 authorized a parallel track within the U.N. framework for negotiations to create a potential alternative to the protocol. This second track is dubbed the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action, or LCA track. Countries submitted language to the LCA for a new treaty option to replace the Kyoto Protocol last spring. The current negotiating text is approximately 200 pages and consists of language submitted by a variety of countries including Australia, Costa Rica, and Norway—not just the United States.

What really happened at the Bangkok round was that the European Union began to signal that it is willing to discuss alternative structures for a new climate treaty rather than extending the Kyoto Protocol, in more or less its current form, beyond 2012. Some developing countries struck back and started falsely claiming that they had been blind-sided by discussion of a new treaty.

U.S. negotiators have been pushing the LCA track over continuing with the Kyoto Protocol because the Kyoto agreement does not reflect modern day carbon realities. Kyoto divided the world between developed and developing countries—"Annex 1" and "non-Annex 1" countries in Kyoto parlance. It sets binding cuts in emissions for developed countries and does not require similar measures for developing countries. Yet the world's best scientists argue that we must cut global emissions by half by 2050. Developed countries cannot do this alone.

Scientific consensus contends that the goal of having developed countries cut their emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 will not be enough to reach the target of halving all emissions given current levels of carbon pollution in the "major developing emitters," principally China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico. Only a new architecture for the climate treaty can create a regime that will move these developing countries to binding emissions cuts of their own so that we can meet the global 2050 goal.

The fight over whether to continue the Kyoto Protocol or construct an alternative may seem like it is destroying any hope of producing a new international climate agreement. But the extreme maneuvering of the Sudanese leadership over the last two months against the LCA track may have cracked the G-77 coalition and set off a wake-up call to major carbon developing emitters. The new leadership of the G-77 has presumed to speak for the major developing emitters, who have all been signaling in different ways their willingness to move to substantial emissions cuts of their own and be counted as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. These major emitters are now concerned that their smaller allies are derailing the prospects of getting a hopeful outcome in Copenhagen.

India offers a new hope

China was until recently toeing the usual G-77 line of refusing to commit to any climate action unless developed countries committed to deep cuts in emissions—25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2020—and agreed to provide enormous sums to developing countries, as well as technological and financial assistance, for mitigation and adaptation activities. Yet this summer China started to take a more conciliatory tone, publicly announcing that it was considering setting a future date in which it would peak its emissions growth, enacting targets to reduce carbon emissions per unit of GDP, and being willing to play a constructive role in the international climate negotiations.

India had seemed even more stubborn than China in the negotiation process, but now seems poised to go a step further. The Indian media is citing leaked correspondence from Indian Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to the Indian prime minister that calls for India to distance itself from the G-77's latest positions. The correspondence refers to some specific language in the LCA track proposed by Australia, dubbed the "schedules approach." This approach would allow different countries to pledge a variety of actions for cutting emissions such as renewable electricity standards and provisions to avoid deforestation rather than relying on economy-wide caps on emissions as the indication of a country's commitment. Ramesh suggested that such alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol structure were acceptable "as long as it maintains this basic distinction [between developed and developing countries] and nature of differential obligations."

Ramesh also said that India will need to alter its long-held G-77 position that it would only undertake international commitments if developing countries supported them with technology and finance. And it now appears that Ramesh had previously advocated, in a separate letter to the prime minister, that India should willingly subject itself to the international verification of its own domestic climate programs—a move that China and other developing countries have so far resisted.

There is no doubt that Ramesh's positions will be met with some resistance in the Indian government. But if the Indian leaders follow through on Minister Ramesh's proposals it would mark a remarkable turnaround. Ramesh told U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton just three months ago on her visit to New Delhi that, "there is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions."

Ramesh now appears to be singing a different tune. "We are not going to be a dealbreaker in Copenhagen," he declared at a conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, after describing a suite of domestic policies that India would be willing to adopt in renewable energy and energy efficiency—although he stopped short of committing to internationally binding targets.

It will be interesting to see how India's position evolves in the last 50 or so days leading up to the Copenhagen summit. Ramesh appears to be leaning toward a structure that would commit India to binding its domestic actions to an international agreement and subjecting those actions to international scrutiny. This would represent a sea change in India's previous positions on submitting itself to an external verification regime for its emissions cuts. India is often thought of as the most intransigent of the major developing countries when it comes to climate action, but now appears to want to be, as Ramesh puts it, "pragmatic and constrictive, not argumentative and polemical."

Moving forward on a climate change agreement

India stands to lose a great deal if global warming continues. Indeed, Ramesh said in his appeal to the prime minister that a change in stance was necessary "because we need to mitigate in self-interest." The dire implications of global climate change have become hard for India to ignore as low-lying areas such as Kolkata get flooded by rising sea levels, displacing hundreds; rising sea levels cause sea water to flow into the Ganges, threatening ecosystems and turning fertile farmland barren; and melting glaciers in Kashmir cause regional chaos over water shortages.

Yet climate change and energy policies in India are subject to domestic concerns about the additional cost that may come with capping emissions, just as they are in the United States and other counties. Most Indians want to maintain the competitiveness and relatively high levels of economic growth to which they have grown accustomed. And doing so has become necessary to maintain political stability.

The Indian government has established the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, making it the only country in the world with a separate ministry charged with transitioning the country to an economy that runs on more clean and renewable energy sources. Nine percent of its installed power capacity consists of renewable sources excluding hydropower, which accounts for another 25 percent.

India has adopted a comprehensive climate change action plan, which, among other things, creates a market-based scheme for the trading of energy efficiency certificates that is worth an estimated $15 billion, sets energy efficiency standards for home appliances and buildings, puts in place fuel economy standards for automobiles, and aims for the world's largest installed solar photovoltaic capacity at 20 gigawatts by 2020, which is equivalent to the capacity of 20 new nuclear power plants. India is also the world's fifth largest installer of wind energy capacity, and Indian company Suzlon is one of the world's leading wind energy companies. The national government is giving serious consideration to enacting national renewable electricity standards, and at least a dozen progressive Indian states have already set their own requirements, ranging from 0.5 to 10 percent.

It remains to be seen whether the Indian prime minister will heed Minister Ramesh's call to action. India needs the space to maneuver through its domestic political constraints, just like the United States. Let us not forget that India's per capita emissions are just 7 percent that of the United States'. And some 400 to 600 million of India's 1.1 billion population is without or only has limited access to electricity, which makes the coutry resistant to capping carbon emissions ahead of the United States.

The United States is the one clear roadblock to this progress. Internal opposition to action on climate change will strengthen in India if the United States does not demonstrate leadership on this issue. The more the United States is willing to do, the easier it will be for the best impulses of some sectors of the Indian government to prevail. Worries about whether the United States will reduce emissions slow progress in countries like India and China just as U.S. concerns about progress in these countries stymies legislation in our country. Progressives on climate change there are fighting battles that mirror the ones we are fighting here.

The path to a deal in Copenhagen lies in highlighting the potential economic opportunity that the transformation to a energy economy brings for all the countries involved, as well as making clear the importance of developed countries doing their share to provide resources that will facilitate clean development in emerging and less developed countries. India's recent initiatives reflect the country's understanding of the potential that the energy transformation brings to their own economy. As hearings begin next week in the U.S. Congress on the Senate companion to the House climate and energy bill, we hope that the United States will do the same.

Andrew Light is a Senior Fellow, Julian L. Wong is a Senior Policy Analyst, and Sabina Dewan is Associate Director of International Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress.

GOP proposes to cut solar technology funding and the clean energy jobs it would bring

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 07:46 AM PDT

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) is continuing his effort to limit the scope and spending of a solar technology bill headed to the House floor today with an amendment that would limit the length of the program and cut its funding levels.

Broun has proposed a new amendment to H.R. 3585 that would provide $750 million to the program over three years rather than $2.5 billion over five.

Today's story by E&E News (subs. req'd) underscores precisely why so many clean energy technologies are "Invented here, sold there" as Tom Friedman put it.

The United States created the solar cell industry and literally launched it into space 50 years ago.   And, yes, solar PV is going to be one of the largest job-creating industries of the century, projected to grow "from a $20 billion industry in 2007 to $74 billion by 2017."

Back in the June debate over the climate bill, Broun received applause on the House floor for calling global warming a 'hoax', asserting:

Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.

That is, of course, nonsense, as yesterday's letter to Senators by 18 leading scientific organizations makes clear.

But while conservatives work hard to kill the clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill that is America's only real hope of remaining globally competitive, the rest of the world eats our lunch, a lunch we were kind enough to cook for them using on our own no-longer-secret recipe (see "China begins transition to a clean-energy economy" and "Why other countries kick our butt on clean energy: A primer").

Sadly, whenever conservatives have the presidency or control of Congress, they have gutted or blocked funding for clean energy:

  • President Reagan gutted Jimmy Carter's renewable energy program (see "Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan").
  • Newt Gingrich blocked President Clinton's effort to boost funding for solar PV research and deployment programs.
  • Conservatives in general like John McCain and George Bush and Judd Gregg opposed the kind of funding and incentives that countries like Japan and Germany embraced.

But don't get all friggin' sentimental on me. Think of the few billion dollars U.S. taxpayers saved!

The fundamental tenets of conservative ideology say that if countries like China and Taiwan and Spain make most of the PV cells, it must be because they have an inherent "comparative" advantage over us. You gotta start reading your Ricardo, people.

Any card-carrying conservative knows that if other countries manage to get millions of their workers' hands dirty actually making stuff, it's only because they are better at it. We're still the brainiacs who invent the technologies first and then wisely save a few pennies of the taxpayer dollars not promoting American technologies into billion-dollar American industries. We've still got all those Internet-related jobs, and it's not like the government had anything to do with that.

So please, all you progressives and enviros out there, stop your whining. The plan is unfolding as it should, indeed as it must. Do not argue with the invisible hand. People will think you're crazy.  Or at least conservatives will.

Back to Broun:

The bill, introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and slated for debate on the House floor today, would direct the Energy Department to appoint a team of experts — a solar roadmap committee — to craft a long-term solar energy research plan for its transition into commercial use. The committee would direct DOE on spending 75 percent of the $2.5 billion slated for fiscal 2010 to 2015.

But Broun and other Republicans have balked at the price tag.

"It's time we recognize the simple fact that we don't have all the money for all the things we would like to do," Broun said during a Science and Technology Committee markup of the bill earlier this month.

Broun opposed the bill during the committee markup, proposing an amendment that would provide the research bill $600 million over three years. That amendment failed along party lines.

Broun is continuing his effort to limit the program with his new amendment. An aide said the funding level has been increased from $200 million per year to $250 million per year in the current amendment because solar programs received $225 million in the fiscal 2010 energy and water appropriations conference report.

Thankfully, the green FDR is President and progressives lead both houses of Congress.

Related Post:

Something's Coming: 350 ppm in South Bay L.A.

Posted: 22 Oct 2009 06:13 AM PDT

350 LA

This followup to "a genuinely ballooning effort to achieve 350 ppm" is by guest blogger and long-time commenter Joe Galliani aka Creative Greenius.  Galliani is chair of the South Bay 350 Climate Action Group, which has an event "on the beach in Manhattan Beach on October 24, 2009 in support of's International Day of Climate Action."

I started feeling it on October 10 and I song-Tweeted the feeling via my Twitter plug-in.  That song from West Side Story, "Something's Coming," kept playing in my head, and I couldn't get it out.  So I shared it with my small group of Twitter followers, because even though I reference show tunes from over 50 years ago, I do it via social media to friends all around the worldwide web.

It was on October 10 that we could all sense it. What had started just three months earlier as a meeting at the Community Church with 25 local people to brainstorm ideas for a South Bay 350 climate action event, had now become a Los Angeles County-wide event at the beach.  And you could just smell that it was destined to keep getting bigger.

And that's exactly what has happened because there is a hunger to get involved that is palpable with everyone we reach out to.  Every individual, every group, every elected official, every city, every school, every church, every professional we asked to donate their special skills and talents.  They all just kept saying "Yes."  And then they say, "What else can I do?  How can I help make this a success? Do you need any money?"

It started with our friends at Greenpeace who brought not only tremendous energy, but also incredible organization, outreach, canvassing and phone banking skills.  Jenny Binstock, the Southern California Field Organizer we reached out to, immediately involved all of Greenpeace USA who in turn have given us incredible support.  Greenpeace sent an army of highly-trained young volunteers down from the Bay Area last week and they have been working on the ground here in our South Bay-Los Angeles community from the moment they got here.  They've trained other volunteers and we'll have over 70 people working well defined roles on the day of our event. Here's some photos from last Sunday's training session.

The City of Manhattan Beach stepped up early and volunteered to become our host city, passed a unanimous resolution in their city council, and has worked as our partners every step of the way.  They've strung banners across major streets, created fliers and posters, and have literally involved every city department to help make this 350 Climate Action a huge success.  Red tape?  Bureaucracy? Delays and multiple layers of management to get decisions made?  We don't know anything about those things in working with Manhattan Beach and the incredible Sona Kalapura the City's Environmental Programs Manager.

And when we needed money to help pay for those banners our alliance partners the Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter stepped up and made it happen.  So did the South Bay Environmental Services Center.

Northop Grumman gave us their parking lot and the County of Los Angeles donated buses for free park and ride shuttles to our event site.  The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition volunteered to do a bicycle valet.

We got our permit fees for using the beach waived thanks to the board of Supervisor for the 4th District, Don Knabe.  When we told the the Executive Director of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments that we needed a plane, it took less than 24 hours before we were hearing from the Public Affairs Director of the So Cal Gas Company with details of his plane and proposed flight plan over the beach.  And when we needed a great pro videographer and top still photographer to volunteer to take that flight to capture our Amazing Waving Human Tide Line, once again we had volunteer help almost instantly.

None of us have ever seen anything like this here.  There's a stronger sense of urgency and momentum then we felt during the Presidential election and that was the most exciting one I had ever been through.

And the more momentum we gain, the more we get.  Supporters introduced us to new friends and people, like the renown Miguel Luna and his Urban Semillas, who represent the Spanish speaking communities throughout broader Los Angeles on water issues, joined us and  in-turn reached out to their friends.  We all share the beach, and we'll all share what's coming to the beach if we don't work together now.

Every day some new group, business, school or elected official reaches out to us and says, "I want to be part of that climate action on the beach this Saturday."  From senior citizen groups, to girl scout troops, to college sororities, to volleyball teams to kayaking groups, what we're hearing is "It's about time somebody was doing this.  Hell yes we want to be there!  If we don't take care of this now we're in real trouble."

All this does is give me and all our volunteers renewed energy and passion and we're all working harder than we've worked on any other project before.

And that song in my head?  It just keeps getting louder every day.  Something's coming all right, and we've got two full days of great work ahead of us to make sure it arrives.  I'm betting it gets here on Saturday.

The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

For more information, click here.

– Joe Galliani

18 leading scientific organizations send letter to Senators affirming the climate is changing, "human activities are the primary driver," impacts are projected to worsen "substantially" and "If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced."

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 03:46 PM PDT

Here is the letter from 18 top U.S. scientific organizations:

Dear Senator:

As you consider climate change legislation, we, as leaders of scientific organizations, write to state the consensus scientific view.

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.

These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades. [See Footnote #1 below]

If we are to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases must be dramatically reduced. In addition, adaptation will be necessary to address those impacts that are already unavoidable. Adaptation efforts include improved infrastructure design, more sustainable management of water and other natural resources, modified agricultural practices, and improved emergency responses to storms, floods, fires and heat waves.

We in the scientific community offer our assistance to inform your deliberations as you seek to address the impacts of climate change.

Well it's a start (see "Publicize or perish: The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change").  But I still prefer the Bali declaration by more than 200 of the world's leading climate scientists, which embraces the 2°C target and specific emissions reductions targets.

The footnote reads:

The conclusions in this paragraph reflect the scientific consensus represented by, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and U.S. Global Change Research Program. Many scientific societies have endorsed these findings in their own statements, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, and American Statistical Association.

You go, statisticians — now if you would only clue in your Danish counterpart (see "The Bjorn Irrelevancy: Duke dean disses Danish delayer").

Here are all the organizations that signed on:

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • American Meteorological Society
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • American Statistical Association
  • Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
  • Botanical Society of America
  • Crop Science Society of America
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Natural Science Collections
  • Alliance Organization of Biological Field Stations
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
  • Society of Systematic Biologists
  • Soil Science Society of America
  • University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

No American Physical Society?  They've got some explaining to do.

Kudos to all those scientific organizations who did sign on!

Oops: Some comments accidentally went into spam folder

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 03:20 PM PDT

I just realized that a combination of a computer glitch and human error (mine) accidentally tightened the spam filter for about two days.  A couple dozen comments were caught.  I just went through and released them.

I hope I found them all amidst the staggering amount of real spam (e.g. "buy xanax cheap" — not that such offers wouldn't come in handy somedays).

My apologies to new and old readers alike if you tried to post and failed.  Please keep those comments coming!

Northwest states project efficiency measures could meet 85% of new electricity demand through 2030

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 02:52 PM PDT

In an ambitious draft proposal, the official planning agency for the four Pacific Northwest states said last week that energy efficiency measures could meet at least 85 percent of new electricity demand over the next 20 years, with renewable generation and a limited amount of gas-fired power plants meeting the rest.

As Energy Daily (subs. req's) reported recently, efficiency investments are the focal point for a detailed new plan drafted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The Council, with members from Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, is responsible for developing long-term (20 year) electric power plans and revising those plans every five years. Here's a snippet from their press release for this plan, the sixth in a series:

"Energy efficiency is the keystone of the power plan," said Chair Bill Booth, an Idaho member of the Council. "The Council has identified an impressive amount of low-cost energy efficiency, and we're looking forward to hearing comments about our analysis of that potential."

Sounds pretty good. An economically attractive, environmentally sensitive approach to meeting energy demand through increased efficiency investments. But c'mon, that wouldn't be the first time efficiency has been touted in this blog. So what's newsworthy about the introduction of this plan, especially as it originates from the granola crunching part of the Western U.S.?

First of all the numbers. According to energy experts, efficiency measures could provide at least 85% of new electricity demand over the next two decades. Not mentioned in the EE Daily article is a more impressive fact—that close to 60% of energy needs over the next 5 years could be provided through efficiency investments. Anyone out there want to compare this to how long it takes to get a coal or nuclear plant on-line, or for that matter to stack it up against the short-term (e.g. five years) solar and wind potential for that part of the world?

Second headline—the report actually acknowledges that Congress and the President will do something to put a price on carbon. It goes further—it says that the benefits of the efficiency strategy, one that promises economic and environmental gains, would be greatly enhanced by the passage of pending legislation. As reported by Energy Daily:

But if Congress adopts cap-and-trade legislation, the plan has the potential to reduce regional power system emissions to below 1990 levels, or 30 percent below 2005 levels adjusted for normal hydro conditions. And a carefully coordinated retirement and replacement of existing coal-fired generation with conservation, renewable generation and lower-carbon emission resources such as natural gas could cut emissions to 35 percent of 1990 levels.

Another take away is how rapidly the planning scenarios for major swaths of the national grid are changing. Just five years ago the Council figured that 2900 megawatts of energy efficiency savings would be affordable and doable. The new plan projects that over the next five years approximately 5800 megawatts would be cost effective.

The Pacific Northwest has been no stranger to problems associated with unreliable energy supplies.  It is, after all, the home of WHOOPS aka the Washington Public Power Supply System,  "which made the record books with the largest municipal bond default in history" after a failed attempt to finance the construction of five nuclear power plants.

And the plan is not without its critics. Here's what some of the enviros had to say, as reported in Energy Daily:

"While no net increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be a groundbreaking achievement, we urgently need actual reductions," a statement issued Thursday by a dozen regional and national groups declared. The draft [plan] will not make that happen."

But let's not bury the lede—more and more agencies, responsible for ensuring an adequate supply of electric power for the next two decades, are doubling down on energy efficiency AND want Congress and the President to adopt energy legislation that helps.

This post is by guest blogger Stewart J. Hudson, President of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation:

Related Posts:

E&E News: "At least 67 senators are in play" on climate bill; Murkowski open to voting for "cap and trade"

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 12:04 PM PDT

Okay, it may not exactly be a stampede of elephants crossing over, but there is real movement by key swing Senators, as E&E Daily makes clear in an excellent new analysis, "On road to 60, Senate swells with fence sitters," (subs. req'd).  They count 31 "yes" votes, 11 "probably yes," and

24 senators now belong in the "fence sitter" category that leaves them up for grabs headed into the winter push for 60 votes that sponsors will need to overcome an expected Republican filibuster.

That should read "expected (and immoral) conservative filibuster" — since it now seems clear, the bill will get a number of GOP votes (see "Murkowski praises Kerry-Graham climate plan. The Washington Times writes, "Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress").

I'll list the Senators in each category below, but first it is worth noting continued movement by one key swing Senator, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  As Reuters and the NY Times reported over the weekend:

A senior Republican in the United States Senate, conservative Senator Lisa Murkowski, said she would consider voting for a "cap and trade" climate change bill Democrats are pushing if it also contains a vigorous expansion of nuclear energy and domestic oil drilling.

"Count me as one of those who will keep my mind open as we move forward," she said in a C-SPAN interview that aired Sunday.   In the interview she said she recently talked with Sen. Graham about is bipartisan proposals and "It was a good conversation."  She acknowledged the state has been ravaged by climate change:

"When you see changes to the land coming about … what is causing the loss of the sea ice that adds to the erosion issues, yes, in Alaska we are seeing change," she said. "That's why I have been one of those Republicans who has stepped out front a little bit more on the issue of climate change."

So I think the final bill has a very realistic chance of getting her vote.  For more, see her updated Grist profile.

Here are some specifics from E&E:

For starters, the bill's lead sponsors, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), can safely rely on 31 "yes" votes as they work on building their coalition. That list includes Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tom Udall of New Mexico. All appeared at a Capitol Hill campaign-style rally last month during the public unveiling of the legislation, S. 1733.

Here is that list:

  1. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii)
  2. Barbara Boxer (Calif.)
  3. Ben Cardin (Md.)
  4. Tom Carper (Del.)
  5. Chris Dodd (Conn.)
  6. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
  7. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)
  8. Tom Harkin (Iowa)
  9. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
  10. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
  11. Ted Kaufman (Del.)
  12. John Kerry (Mass.)
  13. Paul Kirk (Mass.)
  14. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
  15. Herbert Kohl (Wis.)
  16. Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)
  17. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
  18. Joe Lieberman (Conn.)
  19. Robert Menendez (N.J.)
  20. Jeff Merkley (Ore.)
  21. Barbara Mikulski (Md.)
  22. Patty Murray (Wash.)
  23. Jack Reed (R.I.)
  24. Harry Reid (Nev.)
  25. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)
  26. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)
  27. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.)
  28. Mark Udall (Colo.)
  29. Tom Udall (N.M.)
  30. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
  31. Ron Wyden (Ore.)

Then we have the 12 probables:

Another 12 senators fall into the "probably yes" camp, from Michael Bennet of Colorado to Al Franken of Minnesota and Mark Warner of Virginia. Bennet and Warner are not slam dunks given the fossil fuel interests in their home states, while Franken dropped off the "yes" list when he signed a letter with nine other Democrats in August that raised concerns about President Obama's stance against trade sanctions on carbon-intensive goods from developing countries that do not have strong enough climate policies

  1. Roland Burris (Ill.)
  2. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
  3. Jeff Bingaman (N.M.)
  4. Robert Casey (Pa.)
  5. Susan Collins (Maine)
  6. Russ Feingold (Wis.)
  7. Al Franken (Minn.)
  8. Kay Hagan (N.C.)
  9. Tim Johnson (S.D.)
  10. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
  11. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
  12. Mark Warner (Va.)

Finally we have the 24 fence sitters:

As for the fence sitters, the list continues to swell from both directions as key senators hedge their bets.

For example, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) no longer reside in the "probably yes" camp given their recent statements on allocations and oversight of the carbon markets, respectively. Baucus may drive the hardest bargain as chairman of the Finance Committee, where he is sure to negotiate on behalf of coal-state Democrats who think the House-passed bill unfairly favors electric utilities that service the East and West coasts.

Two senators have recently been upgraded to the fence from the "probably no" camp are Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Byrd has long questioned action to curb emissions but has taken a lead role on carbon sequestration language that Kerry and Boxer are trying to wrap into their proposal. Voinovich has a reputation for bipartisan consensus building, and recent signals supporting the nuclear power industry are raising hopes in some sectors that the retiring senator should still be considered in play.

"If you engage in a very proactive way to get a bill done, he will negotiate and compromise," said a former Senate Republican aide.

E&E's analysis is based on interviews with senators, plus dozens of Democratic and Republican sources, industry and environmental groups….

GOP interest is significant for the climate bill's overall prospects given that Democrats are unlikely to carry all 60 of their own votes on the floor.

In all, E&E now lists eight Republicans as "fence sitters" on the climate bill, with the two from Maine — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — holding firm as "probably yes" votes given their past efforts on the issue. Collins and Snowe are likely to compensate for the loss of Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the only Democrats listed among 11 "probably no" votes given their many comments questioning the environmental agenda of the Obama administration and Senate leaders.

Elsewhere, sponsors got their biggest boost when Kerry went public with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on a partnership that they had been quietly working on since the summer. The senators pledged in an Oct. 11 New York Times op-ed that they would try to find compromise on several key areas, including nuclear power, offshore drilling and a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid high environmental standards.

"I can see a way to get to 60 votes, and so can he, if we pull the right folks to the table and do this in the right way," Kerry said last week. "And that's what we're going to do."

There are also a lot of fence-sitting Dems:

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, for example, is crafting language to help manufacturers.

From July:  Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says he won't filibuster climate bill

Michigan's Debbie Stabenow hopes to release long-awaited agriculture ideas. And Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania will be forced to take a stand as early as next month when Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee holds a markup on its bill.

Other influential Democratic fence sitters include Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, who said last week that he expects to push at least four issues once the bill nears the floor.

Levin said he will be seeking a national greenhouse gas emission standard and repeal of state-specific standards. Like Franken, he said a border tax adjustment needs to be part of the bill. And Levin said he wants a "fail-safe provision in case the technologies don't advance as quickly as some people think they will."

"And you've got to fairly proportion the burden," Levin added.

Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) also remains on the fence. The two-term senator said last week that she wants to get a better grip on the effect that a climate bill would have on farmers and in the cost of food to consumers.

"I don't disagree with the objective, and I hope we'll stay focused on the objective, which is to lower our greenhouse gases and emissions and our carbon output," Lincoln said.

Lincoln in past years has cosponsored efforts to address the cost fluctuations in climate legislation. Environmental groups are banking on her and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) as key votes that get them to across the 60-vote threshold.

But an industry source tracking the climate debate doubts that Lincoln can sign off on climate legislation as she heads into a heated re-election battle next November. "No amount of National Wildlife Federation polling is going to help her in the delta," the source said. "She has an issue."

Election-year politics also may influence several other Democrats. Specter faces a primary challenge from his left in Rep. Joe Sestak, a campaign that has put an even larger spotlight on his vote.

From August:  Arlen Specter: "No doubt about" voting for cloture on the climate bill

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) faces the same unemployment concerns as Lugar but with the added pressure of a 2010 re-election campaign. So far, Bayh has not drawn a significant challenger and political analyst Charlie Cook ranked the race earlier this month as "solid D" for the incumbent. But political observers still see Bayh as vulnerable to home-state concerns.

Other Democrats on the fence include a number of senators representing either coal-consuming or coal-producing states, including Claire McCaskill of Missouri, North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Jim Webb of Virginia. Conrad and Dorgan may be among the most difficult fence sitters to win over. Both have insisted for months that Senate leaders should start with energy-only legislation and save the big climate change measure for later.

Beyond Nelson and Landrieu (who are listed correctly as probable no votes), Lincoln and Dorgan will be the hardest to get, I'm told.

We may get only 56 or 57 Democratic votes for cloture — and thus may need at least 4 and preferably 5 or more GOP'ers, which I think is now in sight.  The bill is not a sure thing, but it is likely, especially since Obama is ramping up his push.  More on that later.

Here is the full list of 24 on the fence:

  1. Max Baucus (Mont.)
  2. Evan Bayh (Ind.)
  3. Mark Begich (Alaska)
  4. Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
  5. Robert Byrd (W.Va.)
  6. Maria Cantwell (Wash.)
  7. Kent Conrad (N.D.)
  8. Byron Dorgan (N.D.)
  9. Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
  10. Judd Gregg (N.H.)
  11. George LeMieux (Fla.)
  12. Carl Levin (Mich.)
  13. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)
  14. Richard Lugar (Ind.)
  15. John McCain (Ariz.)
  16. Claire McCaskill (Mo.)
  17. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  18. Mark Pryor (Ark.)
  19. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.)
  20. Arlen Specter (Pa.)
  21. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
  22. Jon Tester (Mont.)
  23. George Voinovich (Ohio)
  24. Jim Webb (Va.)

Those are the ones to focus attention on, especially Dorgan, Gregg, LeMieux, Lincoln, Lugar, McCain, Murkowski, and Voinovich.  Getting at least 2 of those and preferably 3 or more would probably give us the bill.

Energy and Global Warming News for October 21: Developing nations join West in deforestation fight

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 11:10 AM PDT

Developing nations join West in deforestation fight

Six developing countries will join five western nations, including the United States and Britain, to combat climate change by better managing forestry resources, the World Bank said Tuesday.

The Forest Investment Program (FIP) will meet for the first time on October 29 in Washington to kickstart the program and discuss the criteria for selecting countries or regions of the world that could benefit most from the effort. Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Morocco, Nepal, and Romania will join donor nations Australia, Denmark, Norway, Britain and the United States, who have jointly pledged some 350 million dollars to fund the project.

The FIP is among the first of a new generation of partnerships between developing and developed countries working to combat the threat of climate change through forest management, the World Bank said.

"This new program will provide much-needed upfront investment to developing countries and forest-dependent communities to help them prepare for and benefit from financial flows for the sustainable management of forests," said Eduardo Saboia, who represented Brazil in earlier meetings aimed at designing the FIP.

Global deforestation, which is advancing at a rate of five percent per decade, is responsible for 20 percent of all the annual carbon dioxide emissions. The 20 percent figure is roughly equivalent to the total annual emissions of either the United States or China, and surpasses the total yearly emissions from every car, truck, plane, ship and train on Earth, according to estimates provided by the United Nations.

Cheaper hybrid buses filling city fleets

In the past decade, transit systems across the country have begun using hybrid-electric buses that emit less pollution and get far better mileage than models that run solely on diesel.

Though they are more expensive than their diesel counterparts, the hybrid buses cut costs elsewhere, such as a 45 percent improvement in fuel economy that saves about 50,000 gallons of fuel per bus.

In New York, which boasts the nation's largest hybrid bus fleet at just under 1,000, transit officials were pressed in the mid-1990s to find cleaner-burning buses to improve the city's air quality.

"We were looking at what to do to reduce bus emissions as quickly as possible that didn't have a major cost," said Joseph J. Smith, senior vice president for the department of buses for the MTA New York Transit Authority.

One option was to switch to a fleet that could run on compressed natural gas, but the capital investments needed for such a transition were prohibitive. The city decided to test its first 10 hybrid-electric buses in 1998 at a cost of $1 million each. Early signs of success — including a significant drop in soot and nitrogen oxide levels — prompted the purchase of many more.

"People say that it's expensive to switch from diesel to hybrids or natural gas," said Daniel Becker, director of the safe climate campaign of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington. "The question is, 'how much are your kids' lungs worth?'"

GE, Whirlpool and Others Launch Smart Green Grid Initiative

GE, Whirlpool Corporation and a number of other companies today announced the creation of a new collaborative effort aimed at demonstrating the role of smart grid technologies and practices in the achievement of climate change goals. Called the Smart Green Grid Initiative (SGGI), the effort will include educational events at the upcoming climate change meetings in Copenhagen. SGGI has been approved by the United Nations to be an official smart grid delegation to the Copenhagen meetings. SGGI will also be sponsoring educational events in the U.S. in the weeks preceding the meetings in Copenhagen.

One of the groups that SGGI will work with in Copenhagen is the Pew Center Global Climate Change. "It is important that we look at all of the options that can help address and mitigate climate change," said Eileen Claussen, President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change "and smart grid's role in enabling energy efficiency and other climate-friendly technologies deserves greater attention. We look forward to participating in an SGGI side event in Copenhagen that will help carry this message to the broader climate change community."

"We need to help the world understand the real potential for Smart Grid technologies to help slow climate change," said Bob Gilligan, vice president of GE Energy's Transmission and Distribution business. "Smart Grid solutions are often viewed primarily for their efficiency and cost savings, but every kilowatt saved is also a carbon savings. Add the potential carbon benefits we get through easier integration of more renewable energy, like wind and solar, and the Smart Grid can have a major effect on the carbon impact of our energy infrastructure."

"We launch this effort today to try to illustrate the relationship between a smart grid with smart products and technologies, and the global effort to mitigate climate change," said Jeff Noel, corporate vice president, Communications and Public Affairs, Whirlpool Corporation. "Complementary policies in these areas benefit consumers, create jobs, and reduce environmental impact. Today, these two areas are for the most part in different silos, and there is not enough awareness or understanding of how important development of the smart grid can be to meeting climate change goals."

India, China ink pact to fight climate change together

India and China Wednesday signed an agreement to cooperate on ways to fight climate change. They will also continue to work together in international climate deal negotiations.

There is virtually no difference between Indian and Chinese "negotiating positions" on international climate treaties, India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said here shortly before the agreement was signed.

Xie Zhenhua, China's environment minister, nodded from the dais as Ramesh made the statement. The agreement is significant in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, with developed and developing countries at odds over who should reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

Ramesh said he would hold more discussions with Xie to see "what India and China should do to ensure a successful outcome at Copenhagen that not only protects the environment but promotes the interests of developing countries".

Restore American cities with renewable energy tax credits (Rep. Brian Higgins)

Our cities form the backbone of our economy and the foundation of our international strength and competitiveness. Yet older, historically-manufacturing-based cities across America are suffering. Not only should we be reinvesting in and rehabilitating these cities, but we should give them the tools they need to leverage their greatest assets – a ready infrastructure and a workforce trained in manufacturing – into attracting investment in the 21st century version of the steel mill – the manufacture of green energy equipment such as solar panels and windmills.

America is falling far behind Europe and Asia in attracting alternative energy manufacturing. This is in large part because other countries have adopted more aggressive policies to encourage their own domestic demand for these energy technologies. We need to adopt smarter incentives too, to create the demand that will encourage manufacturers to locate in the U.S. But we should also be telling these manufacturers that when you do locate in America, you should put your factory in one of our cities that most need the investment and are also best equipped to get the job done.

In 2006 the Brookings Institution produced a study entitled "Revitalizing Weak Market Cities in the U.S." which identified a number of cities that are suffering from stagnant economies. Taking cue from that study, we have an opportunity to utilize and restore our country's historic cities like my own hometown of Buffalo that have the built-in infrastructure and workforce to accommodate today's new green manufacturing companies that would make this enterprise a success.

U.S. must tackle emissions first: Chu

The United States should get its own carbon-emitting house in order before looking to slap tariffs on energy-intensive goods from developing countries like China and India, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Tuesday.

Lawmakers have debated adding border fees on carbon intensive goods imported from developing nations should those nations not take action to reduce their own carbon emissions.

But the fees could be a headache for the U.S. government to administer and it's uncertain that they would be allowed by global trade rules.

"You don't have to talk about tariffs yet,", Chu told the Reuters Washington Summit. "Let's figure out what the U.S. can and must do," to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon tariffs have been supported by several U.S. senators, especially ones from manufacturing states that are hit hard by high unemployment. A plan for how the fees would work was included in the climate bill narrowly passed by the House of Representatives in June.

Under the House bill, tariffs on imports of energy-intensive goods like steel, glass, cement, and chemicals from China, India and other countries would be triggered late in the next decade if the developing countries did not live up to promises of taking action on climate.

CO2 emissions of developed nations rose in 2007 — U.N.

The carbon dioxide emissions of industrialized nations rose 1 percent in 2007, a "worrying rise" ahead of the climate summit in Copenhagen this December, the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat reported today.

Emissions in 2007 by 40 developed countries with reporting requirements to the United Nations were around 4 percent below 1990 levels, the secretariat said. However, from 2000 to 2007, emissions rose 3 percent.

"The continuing growth of emissions from industrialized countries remains worrying, despite the expectation of a momentary dip brought by the global recession," said U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer.

Much of the decrease in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels is due to the economic decline of countries in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Since 2000, emissions from these countries have risen 3 percent, the agency said.

Coauthor of SuperFreakonomics apologizes to me

Posted: 21 Oct 2009 10:49 AM PDT

[Note:  The error-riddled book is now searchable again on Amazon, so readers can confirm that all of my excerpts were correct and in context.  The book has garnered a number of positive comments from (fast) readers, even on the climate chapter whose main conclusion has been rejected by its two primary scientific sources -- see Dubner is baffled that Caldeira "doesn't believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions" and Myhrvold jumps ship on Levitt and Dubner.]

Deep in his Sunday, October 18 post attacking my accurate debunking of his book, Dubner has buried this apology:

[ADDENDUM (Oct. 21, 2009): It turns out I was wrong when, two paragraphs above, I wrote above that "the text was never searchable on Amazon." I had asked our publisher if the book had been searchable prior to publication and was told the answer was no. But a few days after I wrote this post, the publisher informed me that I'd been given wrong information. Here's a statement from them:

"Stephen Dubner asked us if his book SuperFreakonomics had been posted on Amazon Search Inside the Book, and we told him it hadn't been," said a HarperCollins spokesperson. "But the search function was accidentally enabled for a brief time last week. As soon as we saw this, it was disabled because it is generally our policy not to allow search until after the book goes on sale."

I apologize for this error, and especially to Romm for the accusation. (To our friends at Harper who fed me the wrong information — I know who you are and, believe you me, I'll be stuffing your Christmas stocking with some lumps of coal non-carbon heating fuel.)

For the record, a "brief time" was from at least October 9, when I first used it to confirm that the PDF of the climate chapter I was sent was genuine, through at least October 14, as noted in my second post on the book -- "Error-riddled 'Superfreakonomics', Part 2."

On the one hand, this does appear to be an unintentional mistake by Dubner.  I believe Harper because they also published my book, Hell and High Water, and they sent me a personal note saying it was their mistake, not Dubner's.

On the other hand, this correction has been buried deep in a pretty old post so few if any of their many readers will see it.  That's the primary reason I'm writing this post.

Most of Dubner's readers, however, probably read his harsh comments about my now-verified claim:

Much of the outcry was made by people who had read Romm but not our book — which isn't surprising, since the book isn't out until October 20. As the noise grew, Romm added on the charge that "the publisher has stopped Amazon from allowing people to search the book" – that is, to read the actual text online. Smells like a conspiracy theory, no?

But nobody stopped anything. The text was never searchable on Amazon for the simple reason that the book wasn't yet published, which is standard procedure. I don't know where Romm got this fact – or if perhaps it was just too good a rumor to not be true.

It's an easy bet that Romm and others like him will keep it up. That's their job. We should probably sleep with our shoes on for a while.

The larger point is Dubner's whole framing is wrong.

He complained that people were criticizing the book without having read it.  But the publisher made me take down the chapter I had posted.  And unbeknownst to the authors, the publisher also stopped the searchability, would have again allowed people to confirm everything I wrote.  [Yes, it does appear that the searchability was stopped simply because they realized it was premature.]  As Berkeley economist Brad DeLong wrote Dubner:

As I said, I can't read your chapter–by your publisher's choice.

That's very bad for you: Romm's posting your chapter and a link to it is a way for him to establish credibility–"see for yourself"; your publisher's pulling it down is a way to diminish yours.

The way Dubner and Levitt decided to defend their error-riddled book was to attack me personally (and falsely, see "Bloomberg interview of Dubner and Caldeira backs up my reporting on error-riddled Superfreakonomics") — rather than the substance of my accurate critique.  The problem with that strategy was that the problem with the book wasn't my critique — it was the book's contents.  Anybody who actually read the chapter could see that it was error-riddled — for instance, Nobelist Paul Krugman:

Legalistic quibbling about who said what in an email isn't going to help Dubner and Levitt here: in this crucial chapter, there's an average of one statement per page that's either flatly untrue or deeply misleading.

And the other strategy of letting Myhrvold "defend" the book on their blog backfired when he repudiated the core argument of the chapter!  Delong posts on his blog an extensive debunking of that post, written by Nicholas Weaver, which ends with perhaps the best one-sentence judgment on the book and its key source that I've seen so far:

what is happening is I have to conclude that anything Myhrvold says has to be assumed to be false until proven otherwise, and by unquestioningly accepting his assumptions, anything Drubner and Levitt say may need to be taken the same way.