Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind New York Times

Blowin' in the Wind
New York Times

Phoenix can lead on solar energy Arizona Republic

Clean energy to boost US manufacturing jobs-study Reuters

Painting a street green hasn't stimulated one new job Washington Post

Climate Change Prompts Call for 'Urgent' Action Beyond Emissions Cuts Christian Post

Lifting the lid on climate change talks

Ocean Power wins grant for Australian wave project Reuters

Wind sector cash inflow may blow small firms away Reuters

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Three reasons you should follow Climate Progress on Twitter

Posted: 07 Nov 2009 09:40 AM PST

To follow Climate Progress on Twitter, click here.  Here's why you should:

  1. It's a modern, portable version of a news teletype.
  2. I will be in Copenhagen and tweeting.
  3. Your (online) neighbors are doing it!

Let me elaborate:

1.  It's like a modern news teletype.  Some may think Twitter is only for dishing out 140 characters of trivial information to the kind of people who are interested in what Ashton Kutcher had for lunch.  But in fact, for a blog, Twitter is more akin to an old fashioned "teleprinter (teletypewriter, Teletype or TTY)," which for much of the second half of the 20th century was a must-have in newsrooms and anywhere else that wanted to keep up with the latest breaking news.

As Climate Progress articles are posted, Twitter followers get the headline plus a TinyUrl to access the whole piece.  Since the next several months will likely to see lots of breaking news on the climate bill, Copenhagen, and clean energy, you'll get the news delivered immediately to you ahead of everyone else.  And I promise to work on shorter headlines, too!  Not only won't this cost you a penny, it's surely a lot better than this ever was:

2.  I'll tweet from Copenhagen.  I will actually start doing "real" tweets at home and abroad.  Yes, I'm aware that Twitter purists don't consider the headines from blog posts to be genuine tweets.  In particular, I'll be in Copenhagen December 14 – 21 covering the big international climate conference.  Thousands of delegates, climate experts, activists and journalists will be there, and I'll be interviewing, reporting, blogging, and tweeting.

3.  Your (online) neighbors are already following Climate Progress on Twitter! Since going on Twitter in April (see "How tweet it is") I have amassed 2,066 followers (as of noon today), which I'm told is a lot.  I'm also told that latest behavioral psychology research says the best way to persuade people to adopt a certain behavior is to make sure they know that their neighbors and people are doing it.  Well, they are.  All the time.  Do they know something you don't?  Do they also have more compact fluorescent light bulbs and a bigger solar PV system and a smaller carbon footprint than you?  Get with it, readers.

To follow Climate Progress on Twitter, click here.  Do it for your kids.

"Let's Learn About Coal": Industry front group distributes coloring book on the "advantages" of coal

Posted: 07 Nov 2009 06:25 AM PST

This is a Think Progress repost.  Click on cartoon to see the whole coloring book.

Coal Coloring Book

Friends of Coal (FOC) is a front group created by the West Virginia Coal Association. Its mission is to "inform and educate West Virginia citizens about the coal industry" and "provide a united voice" for the industry. To make dirty coal seem appealing, FOC has sponsored or initiated license plates, football games, basketball practices, plane jumps, fishing events, and scholarships.

FOC is now selling coal to children. ThinkProgress obtained the "Let's Learn About Coal" coloring book, which asks children to unscramble statements about the "advantages" of coal, such as "Than coal other cheaper is fuels" ("Coal is cheaper than other fuels"). Kids also learn that coal is "important" and "provides jobs for lots of people!"

The FOC Ladies Auxiliary has been handing the coloring book out to children around West Virginia as part of a "Coal in the Classroom" campaign. Coal officials go into schools and give presentations about the importance of coal. "We'd really like this to be statewide, that it be mandatory in the schools that they learn about coal," said FOC ladies auxiliary president Regina Fairchild in January. The ladies auxiliary is also recruiting members for its "junior" FOC group, open to "girls and boys ages 8 to 16."

Additionally, FOC ladies auxiliary members have visited children in West Virginia hospitals to give them a "special present": Mr. Coal, "a small, black Labrador stuffed puppy meant to bring a smile to kids' faces during hospital stays." (Coal pollution kills 24,000 Americans each year.)

Last year, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another industry front group, also tried to make coal seem warm and fuzzy by creating the "coal carolers" — illustrated lumps of coal singing Christmas carols whose altered lyrics praised coal power. After widespread scorn, ACCCE took down the carolers. Find out more on what coal is really doing to Appalachia at Appalachian Voices.

Energy and Global Warming News for November 6: Philippines targets $2.5 billion geothermal development

Posted: 06 Nov 2009 12:29 PM PST


Geothermal energy is a core climate solution (as discussed here).  The U.S. currently has 3 gigaWatts (3000 megaWatts) of geothermal, one third of the world's capacity, generating $1.8 billion electricity sales.  The US Geological Survey estimates the US could generate 150,000 megawatts of geothermal.  A major 2007 study by MIT on Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) found that it could be a provider of substantial baseload (24/7) power.  MIT's panel concluded that "with a combined public/private investment of about $800 million to $1 billion over a 15-year period" — "less than the cost of a single, new-generation, clean-coal power plant" — "EGS technology could be deployed commercially on a timescale that would produce more than 100,000 MWe or 100 GWe of new capacity by 2050."

The Philippines has almost 2,000 MW of geothermal and are looking to harness another 620 MW.   Above is a view of the National Power Corp.'s Makiling-Banahaw Geothermal plant in Laguna province south of the capital Manila.

Philippines targets $2.5 billion geothermal development

The Philippine government aims to approve contracts to explore and develop the country's massive geothermal energy resources, which could attract more than $2.5 billion in private investment, an official said.

The Philippines, the world's second-largest developer of geothermal energy, plans to approve 19 deals in the next five months to allow foreign and domestic companies access to geothermal projects, the division chief for geothermal energy at the Philippine Energy Department, Alejandro Oanes, told Reuters.

Philippine power producer Energy Development Corp and Envent, a unit of Geysir Green Energy, one of Iceland's biggest geothermal energy companies, were among groups vying for contracts to tap the country's geothermal resources, he said.

"Incentives for renewable projects are giving (the country's) geothermal development a much needed boost," said Oanes in a telephone interview from Manila.

Tax holidays and tariff exemptions for renewable energy projects are boosting investment in clean energy in the Philippines, with the government recently awarding 87 contracts to develop alternative energy sources.

Geothermal power accounted for 17 percent of the country's total power mix at the end of 2008, with installed capacity close to 2,000 megawatts, energy department data showed.

The government was issuing tenders for the development of 10 geothermal sites and negotiating nine more deals directly with various companies, Oanes said. Combined, the deals could harness more than 620 megawatts of geothermal energy.

Geothermal sites covered in the deals include Mount Isarog, in Camarines Sur province, where about 70 MW of geothermal power could be developed. The government is also looking at resources in Mount Labo, Camarines Norte with a potential capacity of 65 MW.

APEC seeks sweeping world emission cuts by 2050

Asia-Pacific leaders plan to call for sweeping cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at a summit here next week, according to a draft communique obtained by AFP Friday.

"We believe that global emissions will need to peak over the next few years, and be reduced to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, recognising that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries," the draft said.

Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, including the United States and China, will meet in Singapore on November 14-15 to discuss global economic recovery, environmental issues and free trade.

The summit will come ahead of crucial world climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The leaders, including US President Barack Obama, are expected to reaffirm their commitment to reaching a "good agreement in Copenhagen to enable the full, effective and sustainable implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," the draft said.

"Human-induced climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world," it said.

"Global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will need to be accompanied by measures to support the most vulnerable countries to assist them to adapt to the adverse impact of climate change."

Fossil fuel subsidies "bringing us closer to irreversible climate change"

The Green Economy Coalition is urging G20 finance ministers to rapidly put an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a letter to the ministers, the coalition argues that these subsidies are contributing directly to climate change and making it difficult for the world to transition to a greener economy.

"These subsidies are a massive diversion of public funds that could be better spend in other ways," says Mark Halle, executive director of IISD-Europe, a member of the coalition. "Subsidies create false impressions about the relative cost of lower-carbon energy alternatives and this is brining us closer to irreversible climate change."

The Green Economy Coalition estimates that an end to fossil fuel subsidies would bring about a reduction of global carbon dioxide emission by 10 percent—the equivalent of Russia and Japan's combined total.

"The current annual fossil fuel subsidy bill of hundreds of billions of dollars would be better spent on health, education, renewable energy or other actions that would accelerate the transition to a green economy," the coalition writes.

They add that the problem isn't just subsidies for consumers, but those given out to large fossil fuel corporations.

"Whereas it is principally the developing world which grants low fuel prices to consumers, various more subtle subsidies are used to reduce the costs of producing and refining fossil fuels in all countries—developed and developing. To achieve the full benefits of subsidy reform, and to ensure that the burden is equitably shared, production subsidies should be explicitly included in G-20 members' reform packages," the letter says.

However, the Green Economy Coalition also states that subsidies must be phased out in a way that ensures the world's poor are not negatively affected: "subsidy reform will need to be accompanied by specific 'flanking' measures that relieve or compensate for that burden on the poor."

G20 leaders agreed in Pittsburgh in September to phase out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. While the Green Economy Coalition has welcomed that commitment, they say phasing out the subsidies should come faster.

U.S. Chamber Blasted for Weak-Kneed Response to Climate Change Legislation

On Tuesday, November 3, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a press release in which it said it supports strong federal climate change legislation. In a letter to Senators Boxer and Inhofe, the Chamber called for a fresh approach that strikes the right balance between new and conventional sources of energy to smoothly transition to a low-carbon future.

Several prominent companies, including Apple Inc. and PG&E Corp., have recently left the Chamber in protest of its opposition to the climate bills in Congress. Tuesday's statement appeared to be a softening of the Chamber's position in response to pressure it has received from some members.

Proponents of climate change legislation were quick to capitalize on the Chamber's statement. Senator Boxer immediately issued a press release citing the letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in trying to break a Republican boycott that could prevent her committee from voting on a cap-and-trade.

Huge emitter lobby undercuts climate efforts

Moves by governments to regulate carbon emissions and efforts to secure a new international climate change treaty are being successfully thwarted by the sheer number of lobbyists and amount of funding being brought to bear by heavy greenhouse emitting companies, a study by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) claims.

The study examined lobbying efforts and campaign contributions in the United States, European Union, Japan, China, India, Australia, Brazil and Canada. The chances of a meaningful climate change agreement being struck in Copenhagen are being retarded by "a far-reaching, multinational backlash by fossil fuel industries and other heavy carbon emitters aimed at slowing progress on control of greenhouse gas emissions", the investigation concluded.

See: The Global Climate Change Lobby report

Ecologist George Woodwell on Cape Cod Wind and Copenhagen: "We have poisoned our global habitat and must move rapidly to correct the trend."

Posted: 06 Nov 2009 10:46 AM PST

Today's guest blogger is Dr. George M. Woodwell, founder, Director Emeritus and Senior Scientist at the The Woods Hole Research Center.  He has published more than 300 papers in ecology.   His "research has been on the structure and function of natural communities and their role as segments of the biosphere….  For many years he has studied the biotic interactions associated with the warming of the earth."

The most recent caper by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has been to enlist two tribes of the Wampanoag Indians to claim that Nantucket Sound is "traditional cultural property" and must be protected as a whole from the 130 wind turbines of the Cape Wind Project.  The claim, coming only now after more than eight years of  discussion, two extensive environmental impact reviews, a comprehensive book by local authors, and scores of news reports and editorials, is outrageous, simply silly, and should be dismissed out of hand.

After more than a century of accelerating reliance on fossil fuels as the principal source of energy to drive a rapidly expanding technological society, the world is beset by a global environmental emergency.  We have poisoned our global habitat and must move rapidly to correct the trend. The Cape Wind project is a powerful and appropriate step, a model for the world.

It would with 130 wind turbines, well off the Cape shore,  produce power equivalent to ¾ of the base-load of Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket.  Other wind turbines have already been installed on the Cape and still others are planned or are being installed currently. One, the Woods Hole Research Center's  100 kw turbine, has in the first few days of operation produced about 7% of the total annual use of energy by the entire institution. It is expected to produce annually an excess  of energy above the institution's demand. While the total energy production of all of these machines is not yet known, it will take but little in addition to the Cape Wind Project  to make the Cape and the Islands a net source of electrical energy for the New England region, a powerful example for the nation and the world.

In December there will be an important meeting in Copenhagen of the approximately 190 parties that have ratified the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. The hope for that meeting is that it will produce an agreement among the nations to common action in systematically implementing the Convention. Success there would set a path for abandoning fossil fuels and preserving the remaining primary forests whose destruction is also a significant source of carbon dioxide for the atmosphere.

How good it would be at this point for the US to enter those discussions with the announcement that the nation is underway not only with the Cape Wind Project, now so extensively reviewed, and endorsed by state and federal officials, but also with an array of other projects whose sum will exceed the needs of the region to make the Cape a net source of  renewable electrical power for New England.  The US would swing, suddenly and ominously, from laggard to leader on energy management for the world.

That is the leadership we and the rest of the world expect of our nation.

Dust Has Yet to Settle Over New Concrete Plant New York Times

First Look at Carbon Capture and Storage in a West Virginia Coal-Fired Power ... Scientific American

What will it take to force political action on climate change? Scientific American

Al Gore: 'Civil disobedience has a role to play'

BYU scientists rip lawmakers over climate change

h2go Fuel Cell Car lets kids play with renewable energy Coolest Gadgets

Surface Permafrost Likely to Vanish in Alaska U.S. News & World Report

Inventors' high-flying kites harness wind power San Francisco Chronicle

Developer: Proposed wind farm site is too windy The Associated Press

Friday, November 6, 2009

Support the president Chicago Tribune

Support the president
Chicago Tribune   

Lobbying Against Climate Change Progress Multinational, Powerful, and ... Treehugger

No global climate change treaty likely for up to a year, negotiators admit

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Sen. Baucus (D-MT): "There's no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation."

Posted: 06 Nov 2009 06:00 AM PST

Contrary to reports from many in the media, the prospects for a climate bill are as good as ever now that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has finished its work.  E&E News makes that clear in a series of interviews with key Senate swing votes,"Senate moderates see an opening now that EPW gridlock is history" (subs. req'd):

Baucus insisted that the bill would cross the finish line, which would require both Senate passage and a successful conference with the House. "There's no doubt that this Congress is going to pass climate change legislation," he said. "I don't know if it's going to be this year. Probably next year."

As I had noted last week, while the media was quick to jump over some seemingly negative statements from the Montana Senator, in fact it was clear from his words that Baucus will be voting for the final bill.

While many key moderates made clear they would not vote for the Boxer-Kerry bill that EPW voted out of Committee yesterday, everyone realizes that the process is going to start anew with Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman, who "will be working closely with the White House" to develop a separate bipartisan climate bill that can get 60 votes.

And contrary to some reporting, the EPW process has not undermined prospects for the new bipartisan bill:

Other moderate senators also said they would not reject voting for a climate and energy bill now that it is freed of the EPW Committee's partisan gridlock.

"I presume that a lot is going to happen before then," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee.

"It's not the end of the process," added Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). "That's just the beginning of the process. So there's lots of time and lots of opportunity for everybody to engage."

So Boxer delivered on her promise back in early February, as Greenwire reported (see "Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won't pass a climate bill this year"):

"Copenhagen is December," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told reporters. "That's why I said we'll have a bill out of this committee by then."

Ideally Kerry and Graham and Leiberman and the White House will flesh out the key details of the new bill by Copenhagen, ultimately leading to a successful Senate floor vote in February, and a bill on the president's desk sometime in April.

Road to Copenhagen, Part 4: A New Social Contract

Posted: 06 Nov 2009 05:26 AM PST

As we approach the climate conference in Copenhagen, politicians are balking and diplomats are burning the midnight oil, deprived of sleep. But we can take heart. Some unlikely new heroes may come to the rescue.

One prospective hero is The Citizen-Consumer.  Consumers are not the first group that pops to my mind when I think about environmental leadership. Unbridled consumption without regard for consequences has much to do with the mess we're in.

Then came a poll by Time magazine over the summer. It found that nearly four of every 10 American consumers over age 18 regularly and deliberately choose products made by "socially responsible" companies.  If conspicuous consumption got us into this mess, can it be that conscionable consumption will get us out? Maybe. Based on its poll and several other factors, TIME concludes:

In America, we are recalibrating our sense of what it means to be a citizen, not just through voting or volunteering, but also through what we buy…We are seeing the rise of the citizen consumer – and the beginnings of a responsibility revolution.

We might be tempted to assume these green consumers – Time calls them the "responsibles" – come from the liberal wing of America's vast customer base. We'd be wrong.  According to Time's poll, "responsibles" are almost equally divided between people who classify themselves as conservatives, moderates and liberals.

The second unlikely hero is The Corporation. New evidence suggests that companies around the world are beginning to discover that "green" is golden. A significant number of companies apparently are committing to social responsibility and sustainability.

For example, after interviewing more than 200 corporations that represent 75 percent of the $36 trillion equities market in the United States, Siemens and McGraw-Hill Construction concluded that "corporate America's embrace of sustainability has more than doubled in strength in the past three years with 76 percent of the largest U.S. firms reporting efforts and commitments that exceed those required by law."

After surveying nearly 1,600 business leaders around the world, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported this fall that 92 percent of the respondents said their companies are addressing sustainability in some way.  Corporate interest in sustainability has remained strong even during the recession, BCG found, and there was a strong consensus among the business leaders it interviewed that companies "will play a key role in solving the long-term global issues related to sustainability."

McKinsey & Company reports that in its annual survey of business leaders last year, "executives for the first time were more likely to view addressing social and political issues as an opportunity than as a risk."

This view – social issues as opportunities — continued in this year's survey.  McKinsey found:

The financial crisis has increased the public's expectations of business's role in society. Most companies have maintained or increased their efforts to address sociopolitical issues, and many have already derived better-than-expected benefits from doing so…

The 2009 survey supports their views: at companies with clear criteria about the business goals of their sociopolitical agendas, executives report a variety of business benefits, including access to new markets and improved operational and workforce efficiency.

Most executives polled by McKinsey believe that of all issues concerning the public, including health care and executive pay, climate change and other environmental issues are the most likely to attract the public attention and to affect shareholder value over the next five years.

In an interview with McKinsey the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, describes the business case for becoming a "values-driven" company:

It is very clear that this world has tremendous challenges. The challenges of poverty, of water, of global warming, climate change.  And businesses like ours have a role to play in that. And frankly, to me, very appealing. We have every day, in our business, about two billion consumers that use our brands, and so [there is] a tremendous opportunity to touch many consumers. And if we do the right thing, leveraging that tremendous skill, we can actually make major progress in society….

And we see the consumer asking for this, to be honest, in today's environment. Again, the consumer's trust in business, unfortunately, is lower than we would like it to be. And the standards that the consumer sets—the expectations, her own proactiveness and influencing with her purchase decisions, and her own beliefs—are only going to increase as we move forward, I believe. So, companies with a strong social mission will be companies that are more successful long term.

The evidence of a growing green marketplace is accumulating so fast, TIME believes we're seeing "a new social contract among consumers, business and government".  I don't know whether that contract really exists, but I am certain about one thing: It would be a very good thing if it did.

So let's write one. Let's invite corporations, governments and citizen-consumers to sign a win-win-win commitment. Its obligations would include these:

Government – Two of government's biggest roles in building a green economy are as consumer and regulator. The federal government is so large a consumer of energy and products, ranging from battleships to paperclips, that it has the power by itself to create large sustained markets for green products. President Obama has flexed that power in his Oct. 5 executive order, which requires federal agencies to reduce their carbon emissions, use less energy and water, and comply with new sustainability requirements. Every state and local government in the United States should follow suit.

Governments at all levels should follow Wal-Mart's example by greening their supply chains – i.e., requiring suppliers to comply with progressive standards that reduce their environmental footprints.

Federal, state and local governments can create their own social responsibility and sustainability plans and report progress annually with third-party verification. Among other things, these plans would detail how state and local governments are using their substantial existing authorities to promote sustainable practices in buildings (through building codes), power production (through utility regulation), transportation systems (through regional planning and the investment of federal transportation money) and urban design (through zoning, tax policies and infrastructure development).

Corporations: Despite the positive news from the business sector, corporations have a long way to go. The majority of respondents in the BCG survey said "their companies were not acting decisively to fully exploit the opportunities and mitigate the risks that sustainability presents." More than 70 percent said their companies have not developed a clear business case for sustainability.

Contradicting the Siemens' survey, BCG found that among the companies it surveyed, most sustainability actions are the minimum required by law. TIME's poll found that 40 percent of the 1,000 largest companies in the United States have not created publicly available environmental policies; fewer than 8 percent use third parties to verify progress on their corporate social responsibility policies.

In the new social contract, every company hoping to earn the loyalty of green consumers would create and regularly publicize its corporate social responsibility and sustainability policies. Companies would set clear stretch goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, improving their resource efficiency (including water and energy), using recycled content in their products, and replacing high-carbon with low-carbon energy.

In addition to setting environmental standards for their suppliers, certifying their progress and reporting annually, corporations would develop green labels that disclose the life-cycle environmental footprints of their products. They'd avoid green-washing by following the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides on labeling.

And here's a big one: Corporations would promise to adhere to the same environmental standards overseas that they use in the United States.

Citizen-Consumers:  Consumers would favor green and socially responsible companies not only in their purchases, but also in their investment portfolios. They would pledge to conserve energy, to recycle and reuse, and to support local investments in mass transit, hiking-biking paths, urban forestation and smart growth.

Who would manage such a contract and how would it be enforced? I have no idea. But the federal government could help by finishing work on a system to track national progress on sustainable development – an exercise that has been underway for years in the White House. That system could include indicators of how government, business and citizen-consumers are meeting the terms of the new social contract.

The cap-and-trade bill being considered in Congress would be a game-changer in the economy, for the first time creating price signals that discourage consumers from purchases that contribute to global warming.  We need that, but we need a deeper change, too – a signal that we've changed our world view and consumption ethic as well as our price signals.

We need a global movement in which good government, good business and good citizenship are mutually reinforcing, with verifiable commitments to environmental and social responsibility. That would indeed be revolutionary.

– Bill Becker

One error retracted, 99 to go. Superfreaknomics authors will, in future editions, correct their claim that Caldeira believes "carbon dioxide is not the right villain"

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 06:13 PM PST

The outrage over — and debunkings of — the error-riddled book Superfreakonomics continue, even as coauthors Levitt and Dubner slowly concede their mistakes.

Perhaps the most scathing takedown to date comes from Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, on RealClimate, in an"An open letter to Steve Levitt."  Pierrehumbert accuses his U of C colleague of "academic malpractice in your book."

So far, Dubner has apologized to me for one false accusation in his Sunday, October 18 post attacking my accurate debunking of his book (see here).  Now he has finally conceded on his blog that one of the many key errors I pointed out in his book — that climatologist Ken Caldeira did not believe or ever say that "carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight" (see here).  He still has not retracted the countless other mistakes I and others have pointed out.  Indeed, Berkeley economist Brad DeLong urged both authors to "abjectly apologize" for the whole chapter.

And Dubner has not retracted the claim that is still being parroted by the deniers and delayers around the web that I did a "smear" on the book.  It is clear for all to see now that there never was a smear. Everything I wrote in my original debunking was accurate – see Error-riddled 'Superfreakonomics': New book pushes global cooling myths, sheer illogic, and patent nonsense — and the primary climatologist it relies on, Ken Caldeira, says "it is an inaccurate portrayal of me" and "misleading" in "many" places.

I challenge Dubner and Levitt to identify any errors in my critique. Yes, I used strong language in a private e-mail to Caldeira, though nothing near as strong as what Pierrehumbert has written in his public letter to Levitt.  But I challenge either coauthor to identify what charges in that post are false and constitute a smear.

Ironically, by failing to retract the errors I pointed out in my post weeks ago, Levitt has brought upon himself the detailed and devastating takedown by his fellow U of C Professor, which focuses on the same exact errors I debunked.  Pierrehumbert concludes:

The point here is that really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you that the claim that the blackness of solar cells makes solar energy pointless is complete and utter nonsense. I don't think you would have accepted such laziness and sloppiness in a term paper from one of your students, so why do you accept it from yourself? What does the failure to do such basic thinking with numbers say about the extent to which anything you write can be trusted? How do you think it reflects on the profession of economics when a member of that profession — somebody who that profession seems to esteem highly — publicly and noisily shows that he cannot be bothered to do simple arithmetic and elementary background reading? Not even for a subject of such paramount importance as global warming.

And it's not as if the "black solar cell" gaffe was the only bit of academic malpractice in your book: among other things, the presentation of aerosol geoengineering as a harmless and cheap quick fix for global warming ignored a great deal of accessible and readily available material on the severe risks involved, as Gavin noted in his recent post. The fault here is not that you dared to advocate geoengineering as a solution. There is a broad spectrum of opinion among scientists about the amount of aerosol geoengineering research that is justified, but very few scientists think of it as anything but a desperate last-ditch attempt, or at best a strategy to be used in extreme moderation as part of a basket of strategies dominated by emissions reductions. You owed it to your readers to present a fair picture of the consequences of geoengineering, but chose not to do so.


I hope this forever puts to rest the notion that my post's far less sweeping language was somehow too harsh.  Pierrehumbert accuses Levitt of multiple instances of "academic malpractice," questioning whether anything Levitt writes can now be trusted.

Anyone who knows climate science or anything about solar energy would have been as outraged as I was in reading the chapter.  Anyone who knows Caldeira's work, anyone who had read his September comments in the Washington Post — "Geoengineering is not an alternative to carbon emissions reductions," he said. "If emissions keep going up and up, and you use geoengineering as a way to deal with it, it's pretty clear the endgame of that process is pretty ugly." — or anyone who had interviewed him recently on that very subject would have been as outraged as I was by how the Superfreaks misrepresented his work.  And they still to this day don't get that.  As award-winning journalist Eric Pooley wrote in his Bloomberg story, "Freakonomics Guys Flunk Science of Climate Change":

Caldeira, who is researching the idea [of aerosol geoengineering], argues that it can succeed only if we first reduce emissions. Otherwise, he says, geoengineering can't begin to cope with the collateral damage, such as acidic oceans killing off shellfish.

Levitt and Dubner ignore his view and champion his work as a permanent substitute for emissions cuts. When I told Dubner that Caldeira doesn't believe geoengineering can work without cutting emissions, he was baffled. "I don't understand how that could be," he said. In other words, the Freakonomics guys just flunked climate science.

So every single aspect of my initial critique has been thoroughly vindicated by subsequent analysis and reporting, including what I wrote about the infamous "villain" line:

One sentence about Caldeira in particular is the exact opposite of what he believes (page 184):

Yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.

Levitt and Dubner didn't run this quote by Caldeira, and when he saw a version from Myrhvold, he objected to it.  But Levitt and Dubner apparently wanted to keep it very badly — it even makes the SuperFreakonomics Table of Contents in the Chapter Five summary "Is carbon dioxide the wrong villain?"  It fits their contrarian sensibility, but it makes no actual sense.

As award-winning journalist Eric Pooley wrote in his Bloomberg story, "Freakonomics Guys Flunk Science of Climate Change":

Caldeira, like the vast majority of climate scientists, believes cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions is our only real chance to avoid runaway climate change.

"Carbon dioxide is the right villain," Caldeira wrote on his Web site in reply. He told Joe Romm, the respected climate blogger who broke the story, that he had objected to the "wrong villain" line but Dubner and Levitt didn't correct it; instead, they added the "incredibly foolish" quote, a half step in the right direction. Caldeira gave the same account to me.

Levitt and Dubner do say that the book "overstates" Caldeira's position. That's a weasel word: The book claims the opposite of what Caldeira believes. Caldeira told me the book contains "many errors" in addition to the "major error" of misstating his scientific opinion on carbon dioxide's role….

So finally, finally, Dubner writes a post acknowledging this error alone and promising to change it in future editions.  He writes:

Caldeira A1

Here's Caldeira's full reply:

A: Reality is just slightly more complex.

I did receive a version in MSWord. I did not read it all but just searched for my name. (I feel no need to fact check things that come in over the transom.)

I highlit the offending sentence and wrote the following comment:

And yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.[KC1]

[KC1]My views differ significantly from Lowell's and Nathan's. I do think we are being incredibly foolish emitting CO2 and that avoiding all of this environmental risk is a good way to invest a few percent of our GDP. My pessimism stems from the apparent difficulties of solving the "prisoner's dilemma"- and "tragedy of the commons"-type aspects of this problem.

I expected, based on this comment, that the highlit sentence would be removed but did not explicitly request them to remove it. Instead, Levitt and Dubner added a line about "foolish" preceding the line that I was concerned about. So now the text reads:

He believes "we are being incredibly foolish emitting carbon dioxide" as we currently do. Yet his research tells him that carbon dioxide is not the right villain in this fight.

Did I object to the line? Arguably, yes. Was I clear and explicit about not wanting the line in there? No. Was there room for people acting in good faith to differ regarding what my highlighting meant? Yes.

All of the other statements attributed to me are based on fact, although there are differences in detail, nuance, etc.

As I have tried to say several times now: my views, beliefs, policy prescriptions, etc., differ from those of Myhrvold, Wood, Levitt, Dubner, etc., however, I do not question their good intentions.

I can and do frame my own beliefs differently and set them in a different context.

Since Dubner publishes this without disputing it, I assume he agrees with it.

But this response is 100% consistent with what I wrote — and what Pooley wrote based on his interview of Dubner and Caldeira.  The only "just slight" difference, to use Caldeira's phrase, is whether this was "good faith."  That is a matter of opinion.  Caldeira is certainly entitled to his view.  Note, by the way, that Caldeira coyly says, "I did receive a version in MSWord."  Yes, but as Caldeira told me, he received it from Myhrvold, not the authors themselves, which is not standard practice for any book I've been involved with or any interview I've ever given, not from an author who was supposedly trying to get this important story right.

Pooley clearly doesn't see this as "good faith."  And all I wrote was:

Levitt and Dubner didn't run this quote by Caldeira, and when he saw a version from Myrhvold, he objected to it.  But Levitt and Dubner apparently wanted to keep it very badly — it even makes the SuperFreakonomics Table of Contents in the Chapter Five summary "Is carbon dioxide the wrong villain?"  It fits their contrarian sensibility, but it makes no actual sense.

The first sentence is what happened.  The first half of the second sentence is my theory, which no one has ever refuted and many have agreed with after reviewing the facts, including Pooley.  Same for the final sentence.  No smear there.

Now Dubner tries mightily in this latest retraction to leave people with the impression that Caldeira doesn't find any other errors in the book or that he doesn't think the the book misrepresented his work.  But in fact, as Pooley's reporting shows, Caldeira did say, just as I reported, the book contained "many errors."

If you go to Caldeira's website (click here), he doesn't send people to the interview above, but rather writes:

For comments on SuperFreakonomics, please see an interview at Yale Environment 360 (21 Oct 2009)

For Caldeira, the Yale interview (which I wrote about here) is his comment for the public on the book (regular readers can skip this part, but I repeat this part for the record):

Yale Environment 360: I want to start with this little dust-up over SuperFreakonomics. In the book, you are quoted as saying, when it comes to global warming, "Carbon dioxide is not the right villain." Is that accurate?

Ken Caldeira: That is not accurate. I don't believe I said anything remotely like that because I believe that we should be outlawing the production of devices that emit carbon dioxide, and I don't think we can solve this carbon climate problem unless we drastically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions very soon.

e360: They also write that you are convinced that human activity is responsible for "some" global warming. What does that mean?

Caldeira: I don't think we can say with certainty whether we're responsible for 90 percent of it or we might be responsible for 110 percent of it. But the vast majority of global warming, I believe, is due to human release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

e360: Another thing that plays in to the same kind of sensibility is the idea [which the book quotes Caldeira saying] that the "doubling of CO2 traps less than 2 percent of the outgoing radiation emitted by the Earth." When that's phrased like that, it makes it sound like it's not really much of a problem.

Caldeira: You should think of the whole global warming problem as a 1 percent problem, at least for doubling of CO2. In absolute temperature Kelvin — scientists like to use the Kelvin scale — the current Earth temperature is around 288 degrees Kelvin, and a 3-degree warming on top of that is basically a one-percent additional warming. And so this whole issue of climate change, when viewed from an Earth-system perspective, is a story about 1 percents and 2 percents. Two percent might sound like a small number, but that's the difference between a much hotter world, and the kind of world we're accustomed to….

e360: Overall, do you feel like your work has been accurately and fairly represented in this book?

Caldeira: The main misrepresentation is the quote that says that CO2 is not "the right villain." Now, again, I don't use "villain" talk myself, but if you say what's the primary gas responsible for the planetary warming, I would say it's carbon dioxide.

Now, there's a tougher question when it comes to the other statements that are attributed to me. All of those other statements are based in fact and based on studies that either I have published or other scientists have published. And if we pull back to the case of the biosphere taking up 70 percent of CO2 — well, yes, we have a published study that said that. It also presented results saying that we might warm up the planet enough to risk melting Antarctica ultimately. And so there is a selective use of quotes.

If you spend several hours talking to somebody and they take a half-dozen things and put it in a book, then it's going to be in the context and framing of arguments that the authors are trying to make. And so the actual statements attributed to me are based on fact, but the contexts and the framing of those issues are very different from the context and framing that I would put those same facts in…

So I think that the casual reader can … come up with a misimpression of what I believe and what I feel about things.

Which is what I wrote.  Indeed, I knew this based on my previous interviews with him, which is why I asked him to make this point, which he did, writing:

So, yes, my representation in the Superfreakonomics book is damaging to me because it is an inaccurate portrayal of me. The problem is the inaccurate portrayal, not my actions or statements.

And then after he emailed me that quote, I took the extra step of explicitly asking him if I could use it, and he said yes because it is what he believes.

So, I made no false statements or smears in my original post or the headline, although I probably should have put that quote in the first post, instead of merely excerpting in the headline.  Dubner's original post falsely claims that Caldeira didn't actually say what I wrote in the headline.  But he did.  And, of course, he told the same thing to Pooley and Goodell.

As an ironic aside, a sharp-eyed reader pointed out to me (and sent this screen shot) that in the first version of the retraction Dubner published online this Wednesday, he actually introduced Caldeira's quote this way:

Caldeira OLD

And Dubner mistakenly linked to the Yale e360 interview! So Dubner knows what was in the Yale interview — much as he knows what Pooley wrote, since Pooley talked to him at length — and thus knows that again it completely vindicates what I wrote.

Dubner still has not corrected his original, false claim that I smeared him, which he wrote on October 18 (emphasis added):

But more broadly, he made it sound as if we had distorted Ken Caldeira's views in the worst way: "He [Caldeira] has responded to many e-mail queries of mine over the weekend," Romm wrote. "He simply doesn't believe what the Superfreaks make it seem like he believes."

This was the blog post that launched a thousand more. The headlines varied a bit but the general thrust, perhaps inspired by Romm's exciting headline, was always the same: two guys who aren't climate scientists wrote a book with a chapter about climate science and one of the main climate scientists in this chapter is saying they badly misrepresented his views.

Yikes. If that were true, I would come after us with pitchforks too.

It is true.

And guess what, even your University of Chicago colleague came after you with the academic version of pitchforks, even noting "the way Superfreakonomics mangled Ken Caldeira's rather nuanced views on geoengineering."  So have many others.  Nobelist Krugman wrote, "in this crucial chapter, there's an average of one statement per page that's either flatly untrue or deeply misleading."

And Dubner's false charge against me launched a thousand more.

It is time for Levitt and Dubner to retract the smear charge and issue a bunch of other corrections in their book.  It shouldn't be hard.  They've already retracted one false charge , apologized to me, and agreed to one correction in the book.

The GOP's phony excuse for delaying the climate and clean energy bill

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 04:32 PM PST

Since 2001, the Senate has debated at least eight energy or global warming bills where there was no analysis by EPA, Congressional Budget Office or the Energy Information Administration completed in advance of Committee deliberations.

Our guest bloggers are Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and energy team interns Jaren Love and Michael McGovern.  This is a Wonk Room repost.

GOP EPW BoycottSenate Republicans are demanding lengthy economic analyses of progressive clean energy policy, despite having spent careers voting for and against major energy legislation without such delay. This week the Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted its debate on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), claiming that the Environmental Protection Agency's analysis of the economic impacts was not sufficiently thorough. Before they launched their boycott, committee ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. George Voinovich demanded a "full analysis" that satisfied their particular requirements:

As we've noted in previous letters and requests, getting a thorough, comprehensive economic analysis of the Kerry-Boxer bill is an essential component of a meaningful legislative process. To accomplish that, EPA needs to do a series of model runs examining key provisions in the bill, with a number of sensitivity analyses on critical issues, including, among others, the availability of offsets, potential growth in nuclear power, and the extent of emissions reductions by developing countries. Anything less than a full analysis of this kind will be unacceptable.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Republican Conference, piled on: "We want to participate in any clean energy bill, but we're not willing to do that until we know what it costs."

"It undermines the credibility of the process," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). "It's not constructive to the process to proceed without knowing what it costs."

On Monday, senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) joined Inhofe to demand a "complete and substantive analysis of any bill that attempts to address this issue" and "complete data and a thorough vetting" before the EPW Committee took action.

Yesterday, senators Gregg, Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter to the EPA saying, "We cannot support legislation" without "a clear picture of the bill's impacts on our economy," saying the EPA analysis needs to be completed "prior to any action in EPW."

Their arguments fall flat, however, because these and other senators routinely voted on energy and global warming bills without any analysis. Since 2001, the Senate has debated at least eight energy or global warming bills where there was no analysis by EPA, Congressional Budget Office or the Energy Information Administration completed in advance of Committee deliberations. In several cases, there was no full analysis before the bill was voted on by the entire Senate:

Energy Policy Act of 2002 (H.R. 4): EIA and CBO analysis conducted after both committee passage and full Senate consideration.

Climate Stewardship Act of 2003 (S. 139): EIA analysis conducted before full Senate consideration. No committee consideration.

Energy Policy Act of 2003 (H.R. 4/S. 1005): EIA and CBO analysis conducted after committee passage. Limited CBO analysis completed before full Senate consideration, EIA analysis after.

Climate Stewardship Act of 2005 (S. 342): No analysis conducted before full Senate consideration. No committee consideration.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 (S. 10): CBO analysis completed after committee passage, before full Senate consideration.

Energy Savings Act of 2007 (S. 1321): CBO analysis completed after committee passage, before full Senate consideration.

America's Climate Security Act of 2007 (S. 2191): EIA and EPA analysis completed after committee passage, before full Senate consideration.

American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (S. 1462): CBO analysis completed after committee passage.

Sen. Murkowski notably had no problem voting for the American Clean Energy Leadership Act this June, even though CBO analysis was only completed in September.

The fact that these and other bills moved through committees without any analysis sharply contrasts with the mountain of assessments of this year's clean energy legislation. Full EPA, EIA, and CBO analyses were conducted of the House bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), and the EPA has conducted additional analysis of the Senate legislation. The Republicans' interest in analysis is little more than an excuse for delay and defeat of clean energy legislation. In one of the boycotted hearings this week, Sen. Boxer noted that the "EPA has also indicated that this economic analysis reflects hundreds of thousands of pages of backup documentation" about the related House bill. Environmental Protection Agency Director of Congressional Affairs David McIntosh appeared before the Committee to reiterate that S. 1733 and H.R. 2454 were very similar:

[EPA economic] models are not designed to detect fine-grain details in this kind of legislation. So changes in the legislation at that level of detail will not even show up in the economic computer model. Second, it costs the EPA at least $135,000 and 1600 man-hours of time to run a bill through the agency's full suite of economic computer models.

Nonetheless, Republican boycotters wanted EPA to spend five weeks and $135,000 of taxpayer money to conduct a redundant analysis before they would agree to a vote.

Today, the committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act on an 11-1 vote. Every Republican was absent without leave.

Media stunner: Newsweek partners with oil lobby to raise ad cash, host energy and climate events with lawmakers — while publishing the uber-greenwashing story, "Big Oil Goes Green for Real"

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 01:08 PM PST

In September, I wrote a post "Newsweek gets duped by Big Oil — for real — in worst Big Media story of the year."   The Newsweek piece by Rana Foroohar was titled "Big Oil Goes Green for Real" with greenwashing lines like "So how should we take the spate of new green announcements from the world's major oil firms?"  Not.

What I didn't realize is that Newsweek was not getting duped by Big Oil — it was getting cash from the American Petroleum Institute in return for "access," as journalism and ethics experts told E&E News (subs. req'd).

Newsweek since 2007 has sold advertising packages to the oil industry's biggest influence group that included the right to co-host forums on energy issues, including two where members of Congress sat side-by-side on panels with the association's president.

American Petroleum Institute ranks among advertisers that have reached a spending threshold that allows them to attach their name to a Newsweek event and have their top executive as a panel speaker. API President and Chief Executive Jack Gerard was the sole industry speaker joining Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) at an "executive forum" the magazine and API held at the U.S. Capitol in March.

Newsweek and API have teamed on four forums so far and are planning another — "Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?" — for Dec. 1, when the Senate could be holding a floor debate on climate legislation. An invitation sent yesterday to lawmakers' offices said Gerard again would be a panelist and that requests to speak were "currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate." Lawmakers receiving invitations included Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

I urge all lawmakers to shun this event.

TPM Muckraker also has a good story on part of this, "Newsweek And Oil Lobby Team Up To Host Climate Change Event With Lawmakers," which noted:

In February 2008, the news weekly and the oil lobby held a panel discussion on "Globalization Trends and Energy and the Growing Competition for Resources." That event featured Foroohar, the author of the recent Newsweek story lauding big oil, as well as Tony Emerson, the managing editor of Newsweek International, API's then-CEO Red Cavaney, and an energy specialist for the Chamber of Commerce. Emerson, moderating, described API as "an advertising partner."

Remember, the API is spending millions to spread disinformation about the climate bill (see here) and create fake grassroots campaigns against it (see "Leaked memo: Big Oil manufacturing 'Energy Citizen' rallies to oppose clean energy reform").

The E&E story, "API's partnership with Newsweek raises ad cash and ethics questions," is so shocking that I will excerpt the rest of it at length below:

Newsweek said it imposes ethical safeguards for the events, including that industry sponsors have no say in who is invited as panelists or what questions will be asked by the moderator, usually a Newsweek editor. API has no direct contact with the magazine's newsroom, which sometimes covers the forums, said Mark Block, the magazine's director of external relations. Outside media are invited and attend, and everything said is on the record for publication.

"There's absolutely no conflict of interest, because they're not driving our editorial" content, Block said. "These events are transparent. They're on the record. They're inclusive of media. They're inclusive of people that might disagree. There's no concern of appearance of impropriety because it's an open and transparent process."

But journalism and ethics experts decried the arrangement.

"You're selling access," said Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. "Newsweek is using its reputation as a great news organization to convene these officeholders to talk about public policy. Then it's renting out a space at the table for one of its customers who would not be at the table if not for giving money to Newsweek."

John Watson, associate professor of communication law and journalism ethics at American University in Washington, agreed.

"You're enticing them to buy these ads to get this thing of value," Watson said.

And they aren't just selling access to lawmakers, they are selling access to journalists.  Hence the green-washing story I critiqued, "Big Oil Goes Green for Real."

Newsweek has had the co-presentation partnerships with advertisers since at least 2003, Block said. The relationship with API started in May 2007, when API and the magazine teamed up for a forum called "Progress on Energy Legislation in the 110th Congress." At that forum, like the one earlier this year, API's president had the stage along with members of Congress. Panelists were then-API President Red Cavaney, Rep. Jim Matheson (R-Utah), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and a Newsweek representative.

Newsweek under the program also has held events sponsored by petroleum company BP, a question-and-answer session in 2007 and a Q&A and roundtable discussion in 2008 on "the Future of Energy." BP chose not to have an executive appear as part of either one, although it was eligible to do so. Newsweek has teamed with Ricoh and Lufthansa Airlines on more expansive leadership conferences that featured two to three 45-minute discussions. There are partnerships with others, as well.

About 20 to 30 advertisers reach the spending level where they are "afforded the opportunity to co-present an event with Newsweek," Block said. The majority chose not to do so, he said, because they either don't have an issue that would work with a forum or don't want the publicity.

Block declined to reveal the level of advertising required, but said that, "they're all at a very high level that they'd be offered that opportunity."

Newsweek develops the content of the events, with no input from the advertising partner, he said. Of the advertisers, he said "what they are allowed to do, they will have their most senior person take part in the discussion. That is the extent of their participation."

The person chosen to speak "must be credible and must be accredited," Block said. He described Gerard and his predecessor Cavaney as meeting both criteria because "they're speaking on behalf of a lot of people."

… Newsweek and API also united for an event in February 2008 called "globalization trends and energy and the growing competition for resources." Cavaney, API's president at the time, spoke at that along with Karen Alderman Harbert, who at the time had just left her job as Department of Energy assistant secretary for policy and international affairs. There was another event in May 2008 at Stanford University on energy research innovation.

At the Washington events, Block said, Newsweek invites outside media, lawmakers and people from think tanks and schools.

"The panel is very objective and does not have the editor speaking directly with the panelist before the event," Block said. "It's not influencing A. how Newsweek covers the story, B. how the moderator asks questions, or C. how the audience" responds and asks questions.

"There's absolutely no conflict of interest because they're not driving our editorial" content, Block added.

So then it was just a coincidence that, as TPM wrote (linking to me):

In September, Newsweek ran a story by Newsweek International editor Rana Foroohar entitled "Big Oil Goes Green For Real," which infuriated environmentalists by asserting that oil industry investments in alternative energy were no longer just green-washing, but rather were "the real deal."

Yes, as TPM notes, Newsweek has written some tough-minded stories on Big Oil, but nothing can compare to their September Big Wet Kiss to Oil [Note to self:  That is one mixed metaphor!].

Back to E&E's story:

Asked whether the events give API and other advertisers access to lawmakers, he said that "Jack Gerard and API are sophisticated and organized enough that they have the ability to reach these people without Newsweek."

The safeguards Newsweek puts into place at the events don't negate the conflict, said Watson with American University.

"There should be an impenetrable wall between media fundraising, which is what advertising is, and the newsroom," Watson said. Rules put into place "after the fact," he added, are "bandages to cover a gaping ethical wound."

"The firewall is there not only to prevent the quid pro quo but the appearance of quid pro quo," Watson added. Journalists must be considered credible to convey information readers trust, he said.

"As soon as there's any connection between income and newsroom employees, you've stepped off the precipice," Watson said.

As the Old Media's business model dies, more and more publications are selling access.

Newsweek is not the only publication that holds events sponsored by industry. Atlantic Media and the Wall Street Journal are among those that accept corporate funding. Criticism of Newsweek's arrangement with advertisers comes not long after the magazine's parent, the Washington Post Co., suffered a major ethical black eye.

The Washington Post this summer had planned to have a series of off-the-record dinners at the home of its publisher, Katharine Weymouth, where corporations, lobbyists and interest groups could pay $25,000 for private access with public officials and journalists. The series of "salons" was canceled after a flier on it slipped out and Politico reported the plan.

That scandal, and the partnerships that Newsweek and others have with industry, come as newspapers and magazines suffer plummeting circulation. Most media companies are looking for new sources of revenue.

"This is a crisis period for journalism," Watson said. "Everybody is looking for a new market paradigm. The danger is that everything else of value to journalism is at risk because you have to stay alive."

… Atlantic Media surpasses Newsweek in terms of number of events with industry. So far this year, it has hosted 54 sessions alongside corporations, advocacy organizations and sometimes nonprofit groups, said Zachary Hooper, a spokesman for the company. There are usually multiple sponsors for each event, he said, and they are "people who have a particular vested interest in a topic." Many of those same people are advertisers, he said.

Companies sometimes directly help fund conferences, Hooper said. Other times, they buy ad packages that include funding a conference.

Last week, Atlantic Media held an event on water as an environmental concern. Agriculture and biotechnology company Monsanto Co. and Black & Veatch, an engineering, consulting and construction company, sponsored the gathering. Monsanto Co.'s CEO Hugh Grant and Dan McCarthy, president and CEO of Black & Veatch Water, spoke during a panel discussion during the event. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Anne Castle, Interior assistant secretary for water and science, also spoke at the summit.

Atlantic Media with the Aspen Institute co-sponsors the Aspen Ideas Forum and its D.C. counterpart, Washington Ideas Forum. Corporate sponsors of the 2009 Aspen Ideas Forum held in July included Altria, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Ernst & Young, Philips, Shell, and Thomson Reuters. Atlantic Media and the Aspen Institute charge admission for the Aspen festival.

"I don't really think there is a conflict" of interest, Hooper said. "These are structured as an open dialogue. These are all on the record." Outside media can attend, he said, adding "the panels are structured to encourage debate and not focus on any one particular agenda."

The Wall Street Journal holds six forums a year that are sponsored by companies as part of an advertising package, said Robert Christie, vice president of communications for Dow Jones & Co., which owns The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones sells tickets to the events that are restricted to certain people. To attend the chief executive officer council, for example, one must be the head of a large enough company.

The events are open to outside media, Christie said, and are covered by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. The newsroom side of the company handles the content of the events, and "they meet the same standards as the stories that go into the Journal," he said.

All of the events have members of Congress attending, Christie said. He rejected the idea that companies at the events have special access to those lawmakers.

"All of our conferences are public, whether you attend or you just view on," Christie said. About the lawmakers who attend, he said "most of them just make a speech and leave."

Again, it doesn't matter that the conferences are public or the dialogue is on the record.  As I've said, the access to big time reporters is as valuable as anything else Big Oil is buying.

Media watchdogs remain vigilant to expose these cash-for-access stories, stories that were, ironically, once the stock and trade of Big Media itself.

Kudos to TPM and E&E for breaking this important story.

As the Old Media's business model dies, more and more publications are selling access.

Newsweek is not the only publication that holds events sponsored by industry. Atlantic Media and the Wall Street Journal are among those that accept corporate funding. Criticism of Newsweek's arrangement with advertisers comes not long after the magazine's parent, the Washington Post Co., suffered a major ethical black eye.

The Washington Post this summer had planned to have a series of off-the-record dinners at the home of its publisher, Katharine Weymouth, where corporations, lobbyists and interest groups could pay $25,000 for private access with public officials and journalists. The series of "salons" was canceled after a flier on it slipped out and Politico reported the plan.

That scandal, and the partnerships that Newsweek and others have with industry, come as newspapers and magazines suffer plummeting circulation. Most media companies are looking for new sources of revenue.

"This is a crisis period for journalism," Watson said. "Everybody is looking for a new market paradigm. The danger is that everything else of value to journalism is at risk because you have to stay alive."

Energy and Global Warming News for November 5: China Sets Its Sights on Green Cars; New business group backs climate-change bill

Posted: 05 Nov 2009 12:12 PM PST

China Sets Its Sights on Green Cars

The parent of SAIC Motor, the biggest automaker in China, plans to invest 6 billion yuan to develop and manufacture clean-energy vehicles over the next couple of years, Xinhua, the official news agency, has reported.

Of the investment, which will be equivalent to about $880 million, one-third will go to research and development of green cars and the rest will be invested equally in green vehicle and component manufacturing, Xinhua quoted Hu Maoyuan, the SAIC chairman, as saying late on Tuesday.

SAIC, the Chinese partner of General Motors and Volkswagen, will introduce its self-developed hybrid Roewe sedans next year and electric cars by 2012, the state-run Shanghai Securities News reported Wednesday, quoting an unidentified company executive.

The automaker, which is based in Shanghai, may outsource batteries for its green cars and is in discussion with potential partners including BYD, the newspaper said.

BYD, a Chinese automaker 10 percent owned by a unit of Berkshire Hathaway, rolled out its plug-in hybrid car, F3DM, in China late last year. Chery Automobile, another Chinese automaker, rolled out its first electric car, S18, in February.

Beijing announced a plan earlier this year to subsidize the purchase of clean-energy vehicles for public transportation fleets in 13 cities to help its automobile industry develop green technology. The plan is to promote the use of electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles by public transport operators, taxi companies and postal and sanitary services in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Subsidies will be based on the gap in prices between energy-efficient vehicles and those with traditional engines, with subsidies running as high as 600,000 yuan for a large commercial bus powered by a fuel cell.

New business group backs climate-change bill

A new group of businesses – including retail giant Gap Inc. and several large utility companies – joined the lobbying fray over climate change on Wednesday, arguing that Congress must pass legislation to limit greenhouse gases as soon as possible.

American Businesses for Clean Energy will push for passage at the same time that other business groups, most notably the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, try to block or change global warming bills wending their way through Congress.

"We're way behind in taking action, and we need to go now," said Tom King, president of National Grid U.S., a utility serving parts of New England and New York.

"We know that leveraging each others' strengths will only help to drive this important work forward more quickly," said Kindley Walsh Lawlor, senior director of global responsibility at Gap, which is based in San Francisco.

Other business organizations, such as the United States Climate Action Partnership, have spent years urging Washington to fight global warming.

Organizers say the new group won't delve into the fine details of legislation the way those other associations do. Instead, it will focus on a simple message, supporting congressional action to slash greenhouse gas emissions. It will complement other business organizations pushing for climate change bills, not compete with them.

"If your house is on fire and someone offers you an extra bucket of water, you accept," said Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for the Aspen Skiing Co. His ski resort business, which could be devastated by a warming climate, was among the first to join American Businesses for Clean Energy, which lists 22 members on its Web site.

The group is being formed at a time of intense debate within the business community over global warming.

Several prominent companies, including Apple Inc. and PG&E Corp., recently left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest its opposition to the climate bills in Congress.

Facing mounting criticism, the chamber on Tuesday sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., saying it would work with Congress to draft climate change legislation the chamber could accept. The letter, however, warned that the group would continue to oppose "bad policies that resemble the failed climate proposals of the past."

King and other members of American Businesses for Clean Energy said Wednesday that they welcome the chamber's new tone, even if it doesn't completely satisfy them.

"It's important to see that followed up with action, because action is what we're supporting," King said.

CEO: Utilities must join climate-change debate

The chief executive of a North Dakota-based electric power cooperative says utilities must be engaged in the climate-change debate and use their unified voice.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative CEO Ron Harper says utilities can help develop a comprehensive plan that addresses climate change, encourages technology development and gives utilities time to develop that technology.

His comments came Wednesday during Basin Electric's annual meeting.

Harper also said utilities must fight to protect coal's place in the nation's energy future. But he says there's also a responsibility to explore new ways to use it.

Basin Electric provides power to nine states: Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado and New Mexico.

Rich countries call on African bloc to keep climate talks on track

Rich countries today piled pressure on Africa not to derail climate talks after the poorest countries in the world shocked the UN by walking out of the official negotiations, demanding that their concerns be met.

The chair of the Africa group of nations, Kamel Djemouai, was recalled from Barcelona by the Algerian government and other African delegations reportedly received "strong" phone calls from their capitals urging them not to imperil the last negotiations before Copenhagen. Algeria admitted that its negotiator had been recalled but it was denied that this had anything to do with Africa's stand.

The African bloc complained that rich nations' carbon cuts were far too small to avoid catastrophic climate change, and refused to participate until more was done. The move forced the UN to abandon several sessions and reschedule others to give rich countries more time to debate emissions cuts. Countries have agreed to devote 60% of the remaining time to those discussions.

France has been supportive of Africa's position ahead of the climate change talks in Copenhagen. But French negotiators are known to have been angered and dismayed by the African move. "They are shooting themselves in the foot," said one French diplomat.

The Guardian has learned that Africa's intervention was not a spur of the moment decision by negotiators. The decision to make a stand to try to force rich countries to increase their commitments was taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month when African heads of state met to coordinate their positions before the talks.

"It was a political act, not a negotiating stand. The negotiators here in Barcelona were told to make a dramatic action," said one source close to the group.

"We took a risk and it worked. We are very pleased with the reaction," said Bruno Sekoli, head of the Lesotho national climate office and chair of the least developed countries group of the world's poorest nations.

"Africa had no choice because of the reality of climate change. The negotiations have been going a long time and have not shown much progress. It's not about money. Climate change is an issue of life or death for us. The developed countries have to shift policies. A bad deal is not good for Africa or vulnerable countries," said Sekoli.

"The impacts of climate change have come too soon, so soon. I am scared to think of the consequences," he said.