Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
- Rep. Jay Inslee slams SuperFreakonomics: "People are still trying to write books to deceive the American public" on climate science.
- Republicans for Enviromental Protection push back on Big Oil's attack on Lindsey Graham
- Must-have PPTs: GOP witness details harsh impact Bush-Cheney policies had on U.S. manufacturing jobs
- During forged letter investigation hearing, coal industry lies under oath about its lobbying history
- Increasing competitiveness through clean energy: Taking on China's broad-based effort to be the world's clean energy leader
- Contrarian Chic: Why can't the media tell the difference between an attack on dubious 'conventional' wisdom and an attack on genuine scientific wisdom?
Posted: 30 Oct 2009 09:01 AM PDT
Yesterday, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) rebuked the authors of SuperFreakonomics for participating in a "continuing effort to deceive the American public" on the science of climate change. During an investigative hearing on forged letters sent by the coal industry to oppose climate action, Inslee condemned the industry's effort to "hoodwink, defraud, and deceive the American public now to cover up the toxicity to the world environment" of global warming pollution. Inslee then turned to Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, criticizing them for "absolute deception" in their work on global warming:
Levitt and Dubner's promotion of geoengineering as a "cheap and simple" alternative to carbon mitigation is in direct opposition to the views of Dr. Ken Caldeira, Paul Crutzen, and the world's scientific community. Although Caldeira objected to the chapter and has since repeatedly said he was misrepresented in multiple ways, the SuperFreakonomics authors have continued their deception, joining the billion-dollar effort by fossil-fuel companies and the radical right to thwart action on climate change.
Update 1: The House Committee on Science and Technology will be holding a hearing on geoengineering next Thursday, with witnesses including Dr. Ken Caldeira.
Update 2: Inslee, beware! Steven Levitt has licked ocean acidification, too:
Posted: 30 Oct 2009 07:40 AM PDT
A major denier group has started running falsehood-filled ads going after Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the conservative gamechanger who just made a climate bill likely. As Media Matters explains in their ad fact check:
Now Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) are pushing back with their own ad:
The inside-the-beltway GOP and conservative leadership have strayed far from their original roots with their single-minded determination to stop all efforts to preserve a livable climate. The photo and Goldwater quote above come from the REP website (as does the photo/quote below). Here is REP's news release that goes along with this ad:
Kudos to REP for supporting Graham's bipartisan efforts to address the twin issues of climate and energy security.
For more on the polluter-funded American Energy Alliance:
Republicans for Environmental Protection
Posted: 29 Oct 2009 03:45 PM PDT
That's from one of the strangest pieces of testimony you're ever going to see — by Paul Cicio, Executive Director, Industrial Energy Consumers of America.
Cicio was the GOP witness at the landmark hearings for the Senate climate and clean energy jobs bill today. He seemed to think that a strong argument against the clean energy bill was that the U.S. manufacturing sector has been devastated by eight years of conservative rule. I have argued many times that conservative do-nothing energy and economic policies led to sharp increases in energy costs (see "Senate GOP propose 25% 'Do-Nothing' energy tax on Americans") and sharp decreases in US competitiveness (see "Invented here, sold there").
But Cicio has the most (unintentionally) damning set of slides I've ever seen, a few of which I'm going to reproduce here since I'm sure progressives will want to use them in explaining why we must never go back to the Bush-Cheney policies. The figure above shows how conservative policies have killed manufacturing jobs. And lest you think that it is purely a coincidence that the manufacturing sector has been slammed by Bush-Cheney, Cicio provides this jaw-dropping figure which goes back another decade:
Invesment in industrial equipment recovered under the Clinton administration and stayed high for most of it, but simply collapsed under the Bush-Cheney administration and stayed low. Looks like those tax cuts for the rich didn't do very much other than enrich the rich. The data in green is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, but that amusing "trend line" is apparently from the Industrial Energy Consumers of America.
Here's one more figure:
Yes, imports of manufactured goods soared, especially after 2003. Again, thank you Bush-Cheney and a conservative Congress.
Sen. Boxer herself turned Cicio's argument on its head and said that she agreed completely with his historical analysis, but disagreed completely with his conclusion. The answer was not to continue these devastating do-nothing conservative policies, but to pass the clean energy jobs bill.
Posted: 29 Oct 2009 02:09 PM PDT
This is a Think Progress repost.
Today, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing investigating fraudulent letters forged by Bonner & Associates on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) to attack the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454). As the Wonk Room's Brad Johnson has reported, ACCCE President and CEO Steve Miller lied under oath when he told the committee that his organization has never opposed clean energy legislation.
Later during the hearing, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) asked Miller about the purpose of ACCCE. Miller replied that in addition to grassroots lobbying (astroturfing) and state-based lobbying, his front group has only began federal lobbying in "April of 2008″ in its "16 year history":
Miller's claim is another example of the coal industry's perjury under oath. In a six month period of 2007 alone, ACCCE, under its previous name of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, spent $2,660,000 lobbying the federal government. Senate disclosures show that the organization has spent millions more lobbying since 2001.
ACCCE was formed in 2008, according to its website, with the combined "assets and missions of the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC)." So when Miller noted his 16 year history, he was referring to the lobbying efforts of the coal industry's previous incarnations, ABEC and CEED.
Here is Brad Johnson's post:
In the hearing investigating fraudulent letters forged on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) to attack the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), ACCCE chief Steve Miller told Congress his organization has never opposed the legislation.
The record shows otherwise.
ACCCE Called Waxman-Markey A 'High-Risk Proposition.' On June 18, a week before the House of Representatives voted on the legislation, ACCCE ran a full-page ad in Politico with the headline, "If a climate bill goes too far, too fast it could keep us from getting where we need to go." The ad described the greenhouse gas pollution reductions in H.R. 2454 as a "high risk proposition."
ACCCE Criticized Waxman-Markey For 'Skyrocketing Energy Costs.' On June 18, ACCCE published on its website the claim that Waxman-Markey could "have consumers paying higher costs for decades." "In its current form, H.R. 2454 does not do enough to guarantee that consumers are protected against skyrocketing energy costs."
ACCCE Said It 'Cannot Support' Waxman-Markey. Following the passage of the legislation in a 217-213 House vote on June 26, ACCCE issued a statement in opposition to the legislation: "ACCCE cannot support this bill, as it is written, because the legislation still does not adequately protect consumers and the domestic economy or ensure that the American people can continue to enjoy the benefits of affordable, reliable electricity, which has been so important to our nation."
Posted: 29 Oct 2009 01:37 PM PDT
I hope you have been watching panel 3 of today's Senate climate bill hearings. It has been incredibly informative about the international competitiveness issue, especially China's aggressive efforts to become the clean energy leader and the complete turnaround in the thinking of Chinese business and policymakers since Chinese President Hu Jintao's UN speech (see "Are Chinese emissions pledges a game changer for Senate action?"). I'll do a post on it later. Here is the testimony of CAP president and CEO John Podesta. I have reprinted the extensive discussion of China's efforts to forever seize leadership in clean energy, which we can only match if we pass the clean energy bill.
Madam Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify before you this afternoon. I am very pleased to have this time to share my thoughts on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733, and its power to boost our economy's competitiveness.
The Senate global warming debate has focused on pollution limits and timetables, carbon markets and allocations. But we have lost sight of our principal objective: building a robust and prosperous clean energy economy. Moving beyond fossil fuel pollution will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities. Our current national discussion about constraints, limits, and the costs of transition overshadows the economic opportunity of clean energy investments. It is as if, on the cusp of the Internet and telecommunications revolution, debate centered only on the cost of digging trenches to lay fiber optic cable.
Many of our economic competitors see investments in clean energy technologies as key to their long-term sustainable economic growth. Germany, Spain, Japan, China, and even India are building the foundation for a prosperous low-carbon future. Many leaders in the American business community realize the competitive threat to the United States if we do not join other nations by investing in our clean-energy sector. Venture capitalist John Doerr and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt warn, "There is still time for us to lead this global race, although that window is closing. We need low-carbon policies to exploit America's strengths—innovation and entrepreneurs."
To gain the lead in the clean-energy race—as we have done in other sectors—we need to reduce our global warming pollution as the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act requires. The bill puts a price on carbon pollution that recognizes the harms and costs of global warming, and it would level the playing field between the prices of dirty and cleaner energy sources. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, combined with companion measures before the Senate, would create a clean-energy investment program that would cut greenhouse gas pollution, spur clean-energy technology innovation, create new jobs, and increase American energy independence.
Here is Podesta's discussion of China's astonishingly broad-based clean energy efforts (footnotes are here):
Two months ago, I led a small American delegation to China that included Senator Tom Daschle, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, MIT Professor John Deutch, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy deLeon, and SEIU President Andy Stern. Our group spent three full days speaking with some of the senior-most government officials, leading academics, and members of the financial industry about a range of issues of utmost importance between our two countries.
These discussions made us realize that climate change and clean energy rank among the very top issues of importance to China's social and economic development challenges. China fully grasps the strategic economic opportunity that the clean-energy sector represents. As Li Keqiang, first vice premier of China and Premier Wen Jiabao's deputy, has publicly said on various occasions, the development of new energy sources represents an opportunity to stimulate consumption, increase investments, achieve stable export opportunities, and adjust China's energy structure, all while enhancing its international
China is also diversifying into clean energy sources for energy security concerns. It already imports almost 50 percent of the oil it consumes, and for the first time in 2007, started to import coal. With China's consumption expected to grow from eight million barrels of oil a day currently to 20 million barrels of oil a day by 2030, its demand for global oil resources is bound to rise steadily and drive oil prices up.14 It has started to build a strategic oil reserve, encouraged its state-owned energy companies to invest in overseas energy assets, and sealed multibillion dollar oil and gas supply contracts with
Over the past few years, China has quietly made significant investments into low-carbon infrastructure.16 Although reported numbers vary, allocations to clean energy and sustainable development account for 14.5 percent of China's $586 billion economic stimulus in 2008, while the proportion is as high as 34 percent if supporting rail and grid infrastructure is included.
China is making steady progress to meet its goal to reduce energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. It has steadily grown its wind power industry as part of its long-term effort to increase its share of non-fossil fuel power to 15 percent of its overall energy mix by 2020. China's installed wind power capacity has doubled for each of the past four years, and this year it has launched major investment programs in solar photovoltaic installation to catalyze the domestic solar market.
The rapid growth in renewable energy deployment in China has compelled its policymakers to revise their 2020 target for wind power from 30 gigawatts to 100 to 120 gigawatts, and for solar power from 1.8 gigawatts to 10 gigawatts. China also plans to make significant investments in nuclear energy—$130 billion over the next 15 years. It plans to expand its nuclear capacity from 11 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts in 2020. China had nearly twice the amount of installed renewable energy capacity, excluding large hydro, compared to the United States by the end of 2008 (76 gigawatts versus 40
China is also an emerging world leader in ultra-high-voltage, or UHV transmission lines, with more than 100 domestic manufacturers and suppliers participating in the manufacturing and supply of UHV equipment. A transmission line from Shanxi to Hubei boasts the highest capacity in the world, and is able to transmit 1,000 kilovolts over 640 kilometers. The State Grid Corporation of China will invest $44 billion through 2012 and $88 billion through 2020 in building UHV transmission lines. China will unveil in the coming months plans to build an extensive smart grid by 2020.
As the world's largest auto market, China is serious about making the clean-energy vehicles of the future. They have slashed gasoline subsidies and increased taxes on cars with bigger engines while reducing taxes on smaller cars. They are spending $2.9 billion on developing energy efficient vehicles. China wants to raise its annual production capacity of hybrid and all-electric cars and buses to 500,000 by the end of 2011. This would account for only 5 percent of total car sales, but is up from only 2,100 in 2008.
Thirteen cities will roll out pilot subsidy programs for the purchase of "new energy vehicles," ranging from $7,350 for small hybrid passenger cars to $87,700 for large, fuelcell-powered commercial buses. The subsidies will target public-sector purchases such as public transportation, sanitation, and postal services. The State Grid plans to deploy pilot networks of charging stations for electric cars in Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai, while Nissan-Renault plans to help establish a pilot charging infrastructure network in Wuhan.
China's emerging leadership in electric vehicles is based on its innovation in energy storage technology. The world's first mass-produced, plug-in hybrid is the F3DM, launched by China's BYD Auto last December. Just six years ago BYD Auto was only in the business of making batteries for mobile phones. The F3DM sells in China for approximately $22,000, and the founder of BYD, Wang Chuanfu, is now China's richest person.18
During our delegation's visit to Beijing, we rode on a high-speed train to Tianjin, traveling 65 miles in just 30 minutes—less than half the time compared to conventional rail. This is part of the largest railway expansion in history. China plans to spend almost $300 billion expanding its railway network from 78,000 km today to 120,000 km in 2020. Of this, 13,000 km will be high-speed rail. The 1,300 kilometer Beijing-Shanghai line is under construction and will reduce travel time between those destinations from 14 hours to 5 hours when it opens in 2013. This will attract an estimated 220,000 daily passengers and should dramatically reduce air travel between the metropolises. What's more, China is poised to have the world's largest network for intracity urban rail transit. About 2,100 km of railway lines will be laid and operational by 2015 in 19 cities.
Ten cities currently have 29 urban rail routes, totaling 778 km, and 14 cities are building 46 urban rail lines, which total 1,212 km. Aside from infrastructure, China is also leading the way in manufacturing clean-energy technologies and products. It accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global production of solar photovoltaic panels. Historically, the vast majority of this production has been exported, but as described above, a push to develop the domestic solar market will mean that more solar panels will stay in China to produce clean electricity for the benefit of its own people.
China's rapid wind power expansion has also created a vibrant wind power manufacturing sector. Where some five years ago there were virtually no domestic manufacturers of wind components, now there are as many as 70 to 100 companies, with Sinovel, now the seventh largest in the world, producing one thousand 1.5 MW turbines in 2008 and with a capacity to produce twice this quantity. Though the first priority of these companies is to satisfy the growing domestic market, they are starting to explore international markets.
China's program to increase renewable energy and efficiency will also lower its greenhouse gas pollution. The Washington Post noted that "last week, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the efforts are starting to pay off…[and] lowered its estimate of future Chinese greenhouse gas emissions."19 China has also signaled for the first time that it intends to manage carbon emissions growth. Last month, President Hu Jintao announced that China will reduce its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by a "notable margin." How quickly such a deceleration leads to a peaking of China's total emissions depends on the specific carbon intensity targets, but senior Chinese officials have recently given public assurance of its desire to peak its carbon pollution "as early as possible."20
All these actions send signals to the international business community. According to a recent report, the clean tech market in China alone has a potential to develop into a $500 billion to $1 trillion per year market by 2013.21 Enterprising American companies such as First Solar and American Superconductor have sensed the economic opportunity by investing directly in the Chinese clean energy market or, in the case of Duke Energy, partnering with Chinese companies to develop clean-energy projects here in the United States.
Make no mistake about it—China wants to lead the world in the development and production of clean-energy technologies for use at home and abroad. The United States should assume that China is in the clean-energy technology race to win.
Posted: 29 Oct 2009 11:27 AM PDT
The Atlantic Monthly named Freeman Dyson a "Brave Thinker" for the "contrarian view" he's taken on climate change. They tout his quote, "I like to express heretical opinions. They might even happen to be true."
Like the authors of the error-riddled Superfreakonomics, Dyson is contrarian for the sake of contrarianism — the truth is secondary. Coincidentally, the same is true of the reporter who profiled him for the NY Times magazine — see Media stunner: When asked "Does it matter, from a journalistic point of view, whether [Freeman Dyson is] right or whether he's wrong?" his NYT profiler replies "Oh, absolutely not."
In fact, the media's adoration of contrarians means it is a lot less brave to be a contrarian these days than it used to be in, say, Galileo's day. Dave Roberts at Grist makes that point in a terrific piece (reposted below):
Ditto! Scientific wisdom was, like, so last year.
Krugman had it right in his first take on the Superfreaks: "If you're going to get into issues that are both important and the subject of serious study, like the fate of the planet, you'd better be very careful not to stray over the line between being counterintuitive and being just plain, unforgivably wrong." Last week, in "Contrarianism without consequences," the Nobel laureate added:
Krugman links to a terrific post by contrarian Daniel Davies on the Superfreaks, "Rules for Contrarians: 1. Don't whine. That is all," which I'll repost at the very end
Contrarian Dyson was one of the "geniuses" pushing Project Orion — the absurdly impractical idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs. Hard to beat that for being contrary to good old-fashioned common sense. You want real bravery? How about Dyson test piloting the thing?
More recently he started saying stuff like, "There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global" (see "Freeman Dyson, Climate Crackpot"). Contrarian? Yes. But it doesn't happen to be true. The warming is global and occurring in virtually every region of the planet, as made clear in this figure from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies comparing the temps during the 2000s with those from 1951-1980 (you can make your own map here):
And Dyson started proposing outlandish "solutions" (see Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible 'genetically engineered carbon-eating trees'):
Oh, well, replacing 25% of existing trees with imaginary genetically-engineered carbon-eating trees will solve the problem. Why didn't anyone point this out before? It certainly would've saved the IPCC a lot of time.
Wait, I can improve his idea. It's obviously too risky to take the carbon and "bury it underground." What if it leaked? Let's put the carbon on rocket ships powered by nuclear bombs. That way we can be sure the carbon won't ever return to our atmosphere.
Dyson and his fawning, fact-check-free NYT interview goes on and on:
Except that ain't happening. Quite the reverse (see "Science: Global warming is killing U.S. trees, a dangerous carbon-cycle feedback" and "Climate-Driven Pest Devours N. American Forests" and "Nature on stunning new climate feedback: Beetle tree kill releases more carbon than fires").
But that's the beauty of being an 85-year-old theoretical physicist with no training or publications in climate science — you don't have to concern yourself with the facts.
Well, yes. Of course, sea levels were 250 feet higher back then. But Dyson says not to worry:
Note to Dyson: Sea levels are rising because the planet is getting hotter, causing the water to expand and the land-locked ice to melt and/or flow rapidly into the oceans. Those are the "causes." Duh. Either read the scientific literature or shut up. Start here: Startling new sea level rise research: "Most likely" 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100.
You can read more debunking of Dyson here.
Dave Roberts full response to Dyson and the Superfreaks is well worth reading:
Jon Stewart's "interview" of Levitt was indeed one of his worst in recent memory, but people should realize that Stewart has not taken the time to educate himself on climate science, preferring to take the contrarian role himself in his May interview with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson — see Treehugger post here:
Brad Johnson of Wonk Room spares me the trouble of critiquing Stewart and yet another debunking of the Superfreaks:
UPDATE 1: Stephan Faris writes:
UPDATE 2: Geenfyre's Mike Kaulbars writes:
Finally, here's Daniel Davies of Crooked Timber:
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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
- Memo to Baucus: Your state's trees are being ravaged by warming-driven pests now and Montana faces 175% to 400% increase in wildfire burn area
- Energy and Global Warming News for October 28: Solar industry takes on coal and oil lobby; White House continues to step up climate efforts
- Washington Post mocks Inhofe as "the last flat-earther"
- The weak El Niño appears to be strengthening, as expected, so record temperatures will continue.
- The landmark Senate climate hearings: Day 1 debrief
- Obama announces $3.4 billion in smart grid investments "to build a clean energy superhighway." Creating a clean energy economy will require an "all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II…. I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical."
Posted: 28 Oct 2009 10:16 AM PDT
In an effort to inject drama and conflict into a hearing that lack both, the WSJ and other media outlets trumpeted the fact that Baucus said he thought Boxer's proposed bill was too strong.
In fact, it's obvious to everyone else that one couldn't get 60 votes for Boxer's bill and the final bill is going to be different (see Breakthrough Senate climate partnership: Graham (R-SC) and Kerry (D-MA) join forces and assert they are "convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress"). The WSJ story never mentioned this fact, but ominously writes, "Supporters of the climate proposal can ill afford to lose any Democratic votes in the Senate, given stiff Republican opposition." Baucus himself said (full remarks at the end):
So Baucus will be voting for the final bill.
One part of the media focused on the real story that Montanans are increasingly concerned about: Climate change is already hitting their state hard now and is poised to devastate it utterly. American Public Media's Marketplace has be done a terrific multipart series on climate change, which can be accessed here, along with a map of how different regions of the country are being affected now and how they are likely to be hit in the future.
The first piece "Climate change in our own backyards," tells the amazing story of the warming-driven bark beetle infestation around Helena. And yes, this is the same exact story that the NYT screwed up in July (see "Signs of global warming are everywhere, but if the New York Times can't tell the story (twice!), how will the public hear it?").
The figure above is from a major recent study, which projects a staggering increase in "wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States" — "with the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains experiencing the greatest increases of 78% and 175% respectively" by 2050. The graph "shows the percentage increase in area burned by wildfires, from the present-day to the 2050s," if we only see an "average global warming of 1.6 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050." If we don't start reducing emissions sharply — sharper than Baucus wants — the UK Met Office says the plausible worst-case is 13-18°F warming over most of U.S. by 2060. Montana would be an inferno.
You can see how serious Marketplace is about getting the climate story right from the very first words of Kai Ryssdal (audio and transcript here):
American Public Media has "sustainability reporters"!
Here's a photo from the NYT story — the pine trees have "been turning red and dying because of infestation of beetles":
You'd never learn this from the NYT, but global warming has created a perfect climate for these beetles — Milder winters since 1994 have reduced the winter death rate of beetle larvae in Wyoming from 80% per year to under 10%, and hotter, drier summers have made trees weaker, less able to fight off beetles.
"The pine beetle infestation is the first major climate change crisis in Canada" notes Doug McArthur, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. "We're seeing changes in [mountain pine beetle] activity from Canada to Mexico," said Forest Service researcher Jesse Logan in July 2004 (here), "and the common thing is warming temperatures."
A 2005 study, led by the University of Arizona, with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey, "Regional vegetation die-off in response to global-change-type drought," examined a huge three-million acre die-off of vegetation in 2002-2003 "in response to drought and associated bark beetle infestations" in the Four Corners area (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah). This drought was not quite as dry as the one in that region in the 1950s, but it was much warmer, hence it was a global-warming-type drought. The recent drought had "nearly complete tree mortality across many size and age classes" whereas "most of the patchy mortality in the 1950s was associated with trees [greater than] 100 years old."
Most of this tree death was caused by bark beetle infestation, and "such outbreaks are tightly tied to drought-induced water stress." Healthy trees defend themselves by drowning the tiny pine beetles in resin. Without water, weakened, parched trees are easy meals for bugs.
Marketplace makes this all crystal clear in one of the best stories ever produced on how global warming is harming this country right now. It deserves to be read in its entirety:
Yeah, well, Mayor Smith, it matters to Montanans that this is in fact being driven in large part by human emissions — because it means that Montanans, like all of us, are partly culpable and that things are going to get much, much worse if you and your Senator don't support strong action.
How bad could it get?
Back in 2004, researchers at the U.S. Forest Services Pacific Wildland Fire Lab looked at past fires in the West to create a statistical model of how future climate change may affect wildfires. Their paper, "Climatic Change, Wildfire, and Conservation," published in Conservation Biology, found that by century's end, states like Montana, New Mexico, Washington, Utah, and Wyoming could see burn areas increase five times.
For completeness sake — and because I remain optimistic that more in the media will routinely make the connection between increased forest fires and global warming — let me note that back in 2006 Science magazine published a major article analyzing whether the recent soaring wildfire trend was due to a change in forest management practices or to climate change. The study, led by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, concluded:
That 2006 study noted global warming (from human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide) will further accelerate all of these trends during this century. Worse still, the increased wildfires will themselves release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, which will serve as a vicious circle, accelerating the very global warming that is helping to cause more wildfires.
Let me end by reprinting Sen. Baucus's (hurried) opening remarks yesterday that made so much news:
Who can doubt that — notwithstanding the status quo media's spin — Baucus will vote for the final climate bill?
But the real story here is that Montana is being ravaged by climate change and won't be recognizable in a several decades if we don't make the deepest and most rapid emissions reductions possible. That's what Baucus and the media should be talking about.
Posted: 28 Oct 2009 09:42 AM PDT
A solar industry leader smacked down the oil and coal industries on Tuesday, calling for renewable energy proponents to open their wallets to level the playing field in Washington.
"The full promise of solar power is being restrained by the tyranny of policies that protect our competitors, subsidize wealthy polluters and disadvantage green entrepreneurs," said Rhone Resch, chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, according to prepared remarks for a speech he is to give at the opening of the Solar Power International conference.
The event, being held in Anaheim, Calif., is the solar industry's biggest annual get-together in the United States, and is usually a celebration of the industry's breakneck growth of recent years.
But Mr. Resch said that with the fossil fuel industry devoting tens of millions of dollars to defeat climate change legislation now before Congress, the solar industry needs to start throwing its weight around Washington.
"How our country proceeds on climate change will permanently shape the market for solar," he said in his remarks.
Oil and coal interests "are spending millions of dollars on lobbying, P.R. and advertising, and much of it is financing a deliberate effort to discredit our industry," Mr. Resch added. "At the end of the day in Washington, good intentions won't stand a chance against millions of dollars and intense political pressure. We have relied on good will long enough, and if that's the only arrow in our quiver, we will lose."
Actually, the solar industry is coming off quite a successful year in Washington, winning a slew of tax breaks, incentives and loan guarantees for solar energy development.
But Mr. Resch said fossil fuel industries received $72 billion in federal subsidies between 2002 and 2008 while the solar industry scored less than $1 billion. "Taxpayers are forced to subsidize companies like ExxonMobil, companies that are the richest in the history of the world," he said.
His solution: Start playing the influence game, raising big money for politicians and mobilizing constituents to pressure Congress to support the solar agenda. "In 2008, the oil industry contributed $22 million to political candidates, the utility industry $21 million," said Mr. Resch. "The solar industry: $138,000. We cannot compete with the entrenched energy interests unless we step up our game."
In an interview Monday evening, Mr. Resch said the new aggressiveness reflects the solar industry's continued growth, even in a deep recession. He noted that attendance at the Solar Power International conference has doubled since 2007, with 25,000 people expected in Anaheim this week.
"We need to take a different role in our advocacy, in our relationships in Washington and our ability to influence directions that affect the outcome of our economy," he said.
The Obama administration and some Senate Democrats expressed fresh urgency on Tuesday about the need to address climate change and refashion the nation's energy economy.
But they faced determined opposition from Republicans, new concerns from some Democrats and reminders of the financial, technological and political hurdles in remaking the way the nation produces and consumes power.
In a Senate hearing on a new climate change and energy bill and in coordinated appearances by President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the administration promoted measures to cap greenhouse gas emissions and support new means of fueling homes and vehicles with far less carbon dioxide intensity. Mr. Obama appeared at a solar energy installation in Florida and Mr. Biden at an auto plant in Delaware that will produce electric vehicles, talking about the potential of alternative energy to create jobs.
On Capitol Hill, five senior administration officials appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to speak in support of a bill to address global warming and encourage development of nonpolluting energy sources. They said such measures were important not only to the environment but to the nation's economic competitiveness.
"When the starting gun sounded on the clean energy race, the United States stumbled," Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Senate panel, saying that spending on green energy technology in China and several European nations was far outstripping that of the United States. "But I remain confident that we can make up the ground."
He added, "When we gear up our research and production of clean energy technologies, we can still surpass any other country."
The climate change measure, sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California, both Democrats, aims to cap emissions of the gases linked to the warming of the planet by setting up a program under which industries can buy and sell emissions permits.
The measure also provides a variety of incentives for new energy technology, including billions of dollars in subsidies for research on capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
House and Senate conferees yesterday approved a $10.3 billion spending plan to fund U.S. EPA for fiscal 2010, a 36 percent boost over last year's levels.
Included in the conference report are significant boosts over fiscal 2009 for EPA programs to address climate change, drinking water and Great Lakes restoration.
The package also includes controversial measures that stalled negotiations over the spending bill, including two measures to limit EPA's regulatory authority over air emissions and another to impose wage requirements on federally funded water infrastructure projects.
The rider from House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) would exempt 13 steamships that operate on the Great Lakes from pending EPA regulations that set limits on the sulfur content of fuel used in internal U.S. waters and along U.S. coastlines. It would also allow EPA to extend waivers to certain ships if their operators show that they would otherwise go out of business, Obey said.
Obey's rider has drawn the ire of environmental groups and air regulators, who have cautioned that such a measure could disrupt pending international negotiations over shipping emissions.
"It's not something I necessarily desire," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. But she insisted that the negotiated language was carefully tailored to affect only a limited number of ships. Feinstein said she had also been contacted by Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, who supported the measure.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the amendment raises serious questions. Large ships are responsible for a very high level of sulfur pollution, Lewis said, and "the language could disallow us to effectively deal with those problems, not just around the Great Lakes, but around our country and dealing with foreign-flagged ships as well."
Obey defended the amendment, saying he takes "a back seat to no one" when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes and all other environmental areas. "But the fact is that the EPA proposed regulation with respect to steamships has one inconvenient problem — it would require steamships to use fuel which if they did use, would blow up the boilers. That could be a bit of a problem on Lake Superior or Lake Michigan."
Without this action, he said, the EPA regulations would put the Great Lakes states at an economic disadvantage.
The final conference report also includes an amendment from the House-passed bill to exempt manure management systems at factory farms for one year from an EPA rule requiring greenhouse gas emissions reporting. The amendment from Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) was included in the House-passed bill but had been removed from the conference report. The measure was later reinserted.
EPA finalized a rule last month to require about 10,000 facilities to begin to collect emissions data. The only agricultural sources that are required to report their emissions are manure management systems at livestock operations where greenhouse gas emissions meet or exceed the 25,000-ton limit. About 100 livestock operations meet that threshold, according to the agency.
U.S. EPA is working on a new strategy aimed at providing a clearer road map for industrial investment in air pollution controls, the agency's top air official said yesterday.
EPA's air chief, Gina McCarthy, said she wants to implement a more industry-friendly approach to rulemaking that will allow companies to invest in controls that curb multiple pollutants at once rather than using a more expensive piecemeal strategy.
The agency is poised to issue a slew of new air pollution rules — some are Bush-era rules that were tossed out in courts; others are new climate initiatives that the Obama administration has taken on. And McCarthy wants to coordinate those rules under what she calls a "multipollutant" or "sector-based" strategy.
"We need to look at it all and strategically make sure that the driving investments — particularly in the utility sector — don't just look at the next challenge, but they paint the picture of all the challenges ahead and what we need to do moving forward," McCarthy said yesterday at an air quality conference hosted by the Energy & Environmental Research Center.
Some initiatives McCarthy said she hopes to coordinate are the upcoming replacements for the Bush-era programs to curb mercury and soot- and smog-forming pollutants from power plants.
EPA is under a court deadline to issue a final rule requiring strict maximum achievable control technology, or MACT, for power plants by November 2011. Environmentalists have pressed the agency to issue the new rule since a federal appeals court last year tossed out the Bush administration's Clean Air Mercury Rule, an effort to regulate mercury under a cap-and-trade program.
Also under way is an overhaul of the Clean Air Interstate Rule, another George W. Bush administration program designed to curb soot-forming sulfur dioxide and smog-forming nitrogen dioxide in 28 Eastern states and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has temporarily reinstated the rule after initially tossing it out in July 2008. McCarthy said in July that the agency plans to propose a CAIR replacement in early 2010 and to issue a final rule by early 2011.
EPA will also review by 2011 the national air quality standards for all six of the "criteria" pollutants subject to EPA regulation, McCarthy said. Some of those reviews are aimed at revising rules set under the Bush administration, including the national limits for particulate matter and ozone.
McCarthy said she hopes to coordinate all those activities to tell each sector what it needs to do to make progress on clean air as a whole, not just on individual pollutants.
"The last thing that we want to do is figure out all the technology challenges and all of the reliability concerns associated with the utility MACT rule and fail to look at the CAIR rule moving forward, fail to look at the changes in criteria pollutant standards and regulations as we move forward," she said. "We need to look at it all, and we need to look at it comprehensively."
A possible nuclear energy title in the climate bill with strong financial and regulatory incentives has been touted as one of the top negotiable items to obtain the necessary 60-votes needed to pass the Senate climate legislation.
But how much would strong incentives for nuclear power help spur U.S. industry and quicken the pace of a "nuclear renaissance"?
There are currently 17 applications for 26 reactors before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for which the expected review time is about four years and construction time an additional four to five years. Furthermore, the industry faces several significant hurdles including a bottleneck in the global supply chain for nuclear components — some of which have only one manufacturing facility, a looming shortage of qualified workers and a recalcitrant Wall Street that is hesitant to invest in projects, even with loan guarantees from the U.S. government.
"If someone were to waive a magic wand and give loan guarantees to every single plant, you still wouldn't expect anywhere near all of them to be built all at once," said an industry source.
"There are real constraints on the supply chain and there is a real sense of caution in the industry and especially on Wall Street as to when and for what price new nuclear plants can be built here," the source added.
The Nuclear Energy Institute yesterday unveiled legislative priorities it says are necessary to build 45 reactors by 2030. NEI wants $100 billion in additional loan guarantees for clean energy technology, additional production and manufacturing tax incentives, improving regulation review efficiency and increased funding for nuclear technology research and development.
"What we are trying to do is optimize the opportunity for building new nuclear plants," said Alex Flint, NEI's senior vice president for governmental affairs. "What needs to be put in place is a regulatory and financial framework for new plant construction" so companies and investors can move forward, Flint said.
The NEI proposal echoes nuclear energy language and provisions laid out over the past year by several key moderate Republicans — including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona — for whom a "robust" nuclear title is necessary, if not sufficient, to vote for a climate bill.
"The only way we get there … is if we really ramp up nuclear," Murkowski said in a C-SPAN interview last week.
Graham recently reinvigorated negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over cap-and-trade legislation with a commitment to work with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) to include robust nuclear and domestic oil and gas drilling titles in the bill.
Hong Kong or Beijing may become the hub for carbon trading in the Asia-Pacific region within the next three years, with Australia needing to pass climate change laws to be a potential contender.
"I think in another two or three years we will see either Hong Kong or Beijing as the hub," John Marlow, London-based global head of environmental financial products for Macquarie Bank, told the CarbonExpo Australasia conference on Queensland state's Gold Coast today. Australian states are competing against each other to be the hub, rather than working together, he said.
Governments from around the world will meet in Copenhagen starting Dec. 7 for the final round of talks on a climate accord to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The negotiations are being run by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Australia's houses of parliament are expected to vote on domestic carbon legislation by the end of November.
"I think if Australia really wants to be a leader or a hub, then it better get its act together and do something quickly, including passing" the climate change bill, Geoff Sinclair, London-based global head of carbon sales and trading for Standard Bank, said today. Singapore and Hong Kong are working aggressively to become the regional center, he said.
China already has several carbon trading exchanges which have started up, said Mina Guli, Beijing-based vice chairman of Peony Capital. There is involvement from the U.S. to help them grow and expand, she said.
"I think you will see China become increasingly involved in this space," Guli said.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will press for more access for American companies in China's clean energy sector, an area where Washington feels it can make inroads on its enormous trade imbalance with China.
China's ambitious wind power plans, as well as national policies to reduce emissions and use water and fuel more efficiently, create a potential market for U.S. firms who have developed those technologies, Locke said in Hangzhou before the annual Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) meeting.
China's overcapacity in some sectors, including solar panels, drive low-cost exports that have created friction with trading partners, while Western firms have complained they are cut out of China's most lucrative domestic projects.
"These are the issues we've been raising in a number of discussions that are part of the JCCT. Our objective is to allow American companies to compete," Locke told reporters, in response to a question about market access for U.S. firms.
"We recognize that the Chinese companies also have much to offer the United States, and we seek a level playing field for both sides," he said.
Ahead of the JCCT, U.S. industrial services company Harsco Corp. inked a joint venture on Wednesday with Zhejiang Construction Group, one of China's 10 largest construction firms.
"Chinese companies are becoming more aware of the need for efficiency," said Harsco president Geoff Butler, adding his company uses less equipment and labor, reuses materials more and brings greater safety to the construction process.
Locke's visit is overshadowed by a number of trade disputes, including recent U.S. decisions to enact duties on Chinese products that U.S. industry says are flooding U.S. markets.
The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday set preliminary duties on imports of steel grating and concrete steel wire strand, citing Chinese government subsidies. A final determination on the duties is due in January.
The Obama administration in September imposed safeguard duties on imports from China for the first time, with duties on tires that Chinese officials warned would reduce their willingness to make concessions at this week's JCCT meeting.
Posted: 28 Oct 2009 07:59 AM PDT
That's Dana Milbank in his regular "Washington sketch" column writing about yesterday's Senate climate hearing. Milbank is being kind not to count his fellow WashPost colleagues George Will and Fred Hiatt in calling Inhofe (R-OIL) the last flat-earther (see "WashPost recycles another denier WSJ op-ed, this time from coal apologist Bjorn Lomborg. Funny how two new senior Post editors came from the WSJ" and "Memo to Post: If George Will quotes a lie, it's still a lie").
If you've been dissed by the WashPost as being too head-in-the-sand on global warming, you must be buried up to your toes. Milbank shows just how out of the mainstream, how devoid of sense Inhofe has become by quoting from his fellow Republicans on the science:
Hmm. Lamar, if fire chiefs of the same reputation told me that I was about to burn down my own house by throwing gasoline and coal all over the furniture, I'd stop doing that first. And who the heck is going to sell an arsonist fire insurance? So we appreciate the shout out to scientists, but let's work on our metaphors.
Then Milbank skewers Inhofe again:
Okay. I printed that last bit twice. I just wanted to make it clear that this is settled science: Inhofe is a flat earther whose responses make no sense.
Posted: 27 Oct 2009 02:04 PM PDT
NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center (and most other models) have been predicting for a couple of months that the weak El Niño would strengthen, but it hasn't. Until now, that is.
This sea surface temperature (SST) data is from the NOAA's October 26 weekly update on the El Niño/Southern oscillation, "ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions":
It is the warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific that is typically used to define an El Niño. The region can be seen in this figure:
How are El Niño and La Niña defined?
As the planet warms decade by decade thanks to human emissions of greenhouse gases, making this the hottest decade in recorded history by far, global temperature records tend to be set in El Niño years, like 2005, 1998, and 2007, whereas sustained La Niñas tend to cause relatively cooler years.
Most models are not predicting an uber-El Niño as we saw in 1998, but NOAA's own CFS (Climate Forecast System) issued last week projects a moderate El Niño lasting through next summer:
What would that mean?
Back in January, NASA had predicted: "Given our expectation of the next El Niño beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance."
The recent outstanding AP story, "Statisticians reject global cooling," ends:
UPDATE: Gavin emailed me that "I actually meant that a cooling trend from 1998 wouldn't be talked about again. Obviously, if 2010 is a record year then the talk will turn to a cooling trend from 2010 as early as summer 2011. These people, unlike the climate on a year to year basis, are extremely predictable."
Yes, if the ensemble mean CFS prediction above comes true, then 2010 will probably break the temperature record and the "no warming in 10 years" meme will die — at least until the next La Niña or major volcano and/or general lapse in coverage by the status quo media, as the "best climate blog you aren't reading" depicted with this figure:
It's always cooling, except, of course, when it's not.
Posted: 27 Oct 2009 01:56 PM PDT
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works began its hearings today on the climate and clean energy bill. I don't think there was any big news. Sen. Baucus (D-MT) and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) were a tad more negative than I expected. I've no doubt Baucus will support the final bill, but I definitely have doubts Voinovich will. This Wonk Room post is a great summary of everyone's position on the key issues:
This week, hearings begin in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733). This comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), will establish a mandatory global warming pollution reduction market that will fund clean energy and climate adaptation, as well as establish new renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The 19 members of the committee — 12 Democrats and 7 Republicans — are overseeing a three-day marathon of legislative hearings this week, starting with Administration witnesses today.
The committee members can be sorted by their degree of support for clean energy, progressive reform, and strong climate action:
Below is the Wonk Room's summary of some key issues that will be debated at the hearings, ranging from support for policies to ensure a clean energy future to favored attacks on any action by the Republican members.
– Brad Johnson
Actually, there is plenty of credible analysis that this bill will create jobs (see "Investing in a clean energy recovery to create 1.7 million net new jobs"). And is even more obvious that failing to act will destroy jobs and a livable climate (see "When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green").
Obama announces $3.4 billion in smart grid investments "to build a clean energy superhighway." Creating a clean energy economy will require an "all-hands-on-deck approach similar to the mobilization that preceded World War II…. I also believe that such a comprehensive piece of legislation that is taking place right now in Congress is going to be critical."
Posted: 27 Oct 2009 12:12 PM PDT
The President said today that we're having a debate "between those who are ready to seize the future and those who are afraid of the future."
The White House announced this major down payment on the effort to jumpstart the transition to a clean energy economy. Obama himself said:
I'll repost Obama's entire speech at the end. It is a good follow on to his M.I.T. speech.
Here's more on where the $3.4 billion went and its projected impact:
The Administration says the full effect of these investments, when fully implemented, will be to:
And the President's speech delivered another great speech on clean energy at the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia, Florida:
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