Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Modest Proposal

As my Climate Change and Energy class was talking on Tuesday, I floated a modest proposal. 

Cap and trade CO2 emissions at existing power plants and other industrial consumers of fossil fuels to meet the 80% decrease from 1990 level by 2050 goal, but also put in place a little command and control regulation.  With respect to new coal-fired (and I suppose natural gas) plants, impose a uniform, national technology-based performance standard under the Clean Air Act requiring new plant carbon dioxide emissions to be equal to or less than the emissions from IGCC with carbon sequestration and storage [i.e. roughly zero].  To assure a level playing field, impose a ban on licensing of any new nuclear power plant unless and until there are fully permitted, environmentally safe locations for permanent storage of all nuclear waste produced from existing plants and the plant to be licensed.   This would assure that every new power plant built be roughly carbon neutral and more environmentally benign.

While arguably burdensome NSPS and NSR requirements for new power plants  previously created strong incentives for utilities and others to continue to use old plants, retool them, and game applicability thresholds set on modification/reconstruction, those incentives would be substantially reduced if existing plants faced a relatively steep CO2 phase-down requirement.

So what's wrong with a little command & control?  It would certainly create strong incentives for the power industry to install IGCC or develop alternative technologies, and hasten the establishment of CSS technology and sites.  From what I read, it is technically feasible to require IGCC and CSS.  We have plentiful coal resources.  We could share any clean coal and nuclear waste storage technological developments fostered by these requirements with other countries which undoubtedly will be using more coal and nuclear.

And....the cost per ton of carbon dioxide emissions avoided is likely to be much less than that achieved through ethanol, biodiesel, and hybrid transportation technologies.  So start here now!  Besides, if we can get clean electricity, then the electric car may rise from the dead  and the production of hydrogen for transportation may become economically feasible.

What do you think???

October 4, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

What would Americans say about the best leadership on climate change

According to the Washington Post poll [ Poll ], Mr. Bush now enjoys his lowest level of support in the last five years.  Although his current rating of 33-64 has been matched -- earlier there were more strong supporters and fewer strong opponents.   Americans are not impressed with Congress and regard it as not accomplishing much, but they tend to blame Bush and the Republicans, not the Democrats.  Americans regard the Democrats as better able to handle the war, health care, the economy, and the deficit than the Republicans. [On a related note, the WSJ reports that even Republicans are starting to doubt the benefits of free trade to the US economy].

At the same time, Clinton (Hilary that is) is in ascendance.  For Democrats, she is increasingly regarded as the strongest leader, more honest and trustworthy, and most inspiring candidate as well as most likely to be elected and best representing core Democratic values . 

So, where's Hilary on climate change?  [I was going to add "and other environmental issues" but frankly this is not only the most crucial environmental issue, it is a good bellweather of how a candidate will address other issues].

While Clinton's climate change position is not particularly daring (she favors renewable energy, clean coal / carbon sequestration, and the McCain-Lieberman bill), I am fond of her for her willingness to give Michael Crichton a hard time when he was called last Congress as a climate change science witness (I guess he was the best that Inhofe could do).  See reports below.


But even if Bill is the albatross around Hilary's neck in some respects, his work on climate change suggests that she will be a far stronger leader on climate change than her current position statements suggest.  As Bryan Walsh's article in Time on Saturday indicated, Bill's Global Climate  Initiative, launched in August 2006, has brought business and philanthropy together to fund local efforts to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. As Walsh noted:

While UN action on climate change remains stalled by the deadlock   between the developed and the developing world, Clinton has proved   remarkably successful in fostering real engagement and investment             on global warming across national lines. "Clinton just really gets it            (EMPHASIS ADDED BY ENVIRONMENTAL LAW PROF)," says Ted Nordhaus,    co-author of the new environmental politics book Break Through.The success of the Clinton Initiative is emblematic of how people who care about climate change in America have chosen to approach the problem in the near total absence of action from Washington. Lobbying has shifted to the corporate world, where large companies like Wal-Mart have implemented energy efficiency polices far more aggressive than anything coming from the government. High-profile celebrities like Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have made green cool for consumers. And hardly a day goes by without news of a leap forward on solar, wind or hybrid cars, thanks to private investment — again, in the absence of significant government spending.  Time - Walsh article


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October 4, 2007 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Legislation, South America, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

President Bush on Climate Change: He Still Doesn't Get It

I listened as casual acquaintances approached me last week and made fun on Bush's "leadership" on climate change: voluntary measures, soft "aspirational" goals, and R&D money for technology.  Yawn.....  And Rice has the audacity to say that the US is ready to assume world leadership on climate change....what universe does she live in???
Here's the world view from Worldwatch:

Reflections on Climate Week and The Path Forward   

By Janet L. Sawin       

Created Oct 2 2007 - 12:25pm   
Last week’s climate talks started with a bang and ended with a thud. A clear message emerged from the UN summit on climate change [1] early in the week—now is the time to act. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, citing widespread calls for immediate and urgent action, stated [2] that the meeting of more than 80 heads of states “succeeded beyond our expectations.” In sharp contrast, the week ended with a less-than-inspiring gathering of major greenhouse gas emitters in Washington, where President George W. Bush wasted a golden opportunity to move the process forward and propel the United States into a leadership role on climate change. While the President’s rhetoric [3] about the problem has evolved, his understanding of the urgency of climate change and the form and scale of the response required clearly have not changed.    

Policies that Promote Solutions, Not Problems   

Experience has demonstrated that voluntary measures and “aspirational” goals do not work; mandatory and binding commitments will be required to reduce emissions in time to avoid warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius and catastrophic climate change. It is critical to establish short- and long-term limits on global emissions and national caps that put the world on the path toward 50-percent reductions by mid-century.   

The technologies required for starting down this path are available now. Renewable energy and energy efficiency options are ready to be scaled up today and can meet rising needs for energy services while reducing global emissions.[1] [3] Although research and development funding for advanced technologies is important and can help in the longer-term, it is even more critical to establish frameworks and policies that promote solutions that can begin immediately to reduce the world’s emissions. Key among these are mandatory emissions targets that help to create markets by putting a price on carbon.   

The climate problem will not be solved one smokestack at a time. Rather, the challenge is to create a new energy system that will not only protect the climate but will be economically superior to the one in place today. The European Union is already moving ahead in this direction, with significant commitments for emissions reductions and parallel increases in renewable energy and efficiency. What’s driving this shift? EU leaders see it not only as necessary for reducing the threat of climate change, but also as “an investment in [Europe’s] economic future.”[2] [3] If saving the climate becomes a race for who dominates one of the fastest growing sectors of the 21st-century economy, recalcitrance and delay will no longer be viewed by climate negotiators as the keys to “success.”

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October 4, 2007 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)