Tag Archives: environment

Waxman-Markey Updates

Every environmentally-knowledgeable person I’ve talked to the last few months has come to the same conclusion: the ACES bill (aka Waxman-Markey) is not going to do anything for the environment, at least for a couple of decades. This has put us all in a quandary. Do we say that its better than nothing and support it, or come out against it, understanding that it will be harder to get the process started later.

Most of the folks I know who are serious about this space have decided that they’ll support it despite its warts. I’ve been on the fence for some time, but have finally concluded that W-M is too dangerous to pass. Not only will it not do anything for the environment, it poses serious risks to our economy and to ongoing, effective environmental activities, and those risks cannot possibly be justified by its ineffective results.

Yes, This Is Historic

First, its important to recognize that, whether it passes or not, W-M is a historic piece of legislation. Never before has a serious piece of climate legislation even made it close to this far, and the people involved deserve credit for that. It’s also important, though, to give credit to the states that have been making progress for quite some time. Other than the pork and the giveaways, I don’t think there’s anything substantive in the bill that hasn’t already been implemented at a state and/or regional level. States are driving real change, and hopefully the outcome of W-M will not slow them down (more on that later).

Why Everyone Is Disappointed

Just go down your average enviro’s wish-list for climate legislation and its easy to see why W-M is not a big hit.

Cap on Carbon. While W-M specifies a cap, it is a very poor one. With all of the free allowances and offsets, W-M will actually allow for an increase in US emissions between now and 2025. (add link to CBO, etc)

Carbon Market. The scheme outlined in W-M is ‘market-based’ in the same sense that the Soviet Union was ‘market-based’. Sure people bought and sold things, but the price ranges, supplies and demands were all carefully managed by a panel of bureaucrats, with plenty of leeway for political favors (many of which are actually written right into the bill!).

Price on Carbon. As mentioned above, the market is so managed that the price of any given deal will not be a real signal in any economic sense. But worse than that, for your average company or household, you will get no carbon price signal. You will have no idea how many free allowances or cheap foreign offsets were used to cover the emissions from your gasoline, natural gas, or electricity.

Increased Energy Efficiency. The energy efficiency standards were neutered when that part of the bill was combined with the renewable energy section. It is now far less aggressive than the laws that already exist in many states.

Increased Renewable Energy. (notes from Breakthrough analysis here)

Increased Spending on Innovation. The bill has not direct stimulation of innovation. It assumes that the combination of caps, mandates and incentives will indirectly drive the innovation that will be required for us to truly make progress.

Decreased Government Support for Carbon-Rich Energy Sources. Existing subsidies are all still in place. In many ways, through allowances and offsets, this actually may take pressure off of many coal plants and vehicle emissions standards.

The Risks

Some have looked at the list above and said “Oh, well, at least other good stuff is still going on” (link).

Impact on the Economy

Slow Down or Stop Things That Are Already Working

Some have looked at the list above and said “Oh, well, at least other good stuff is still going on” (link).

Give Environmental Legislation a Bad Name

Revkin: Looking to Ground a Broader Discussion?

Andrew Revkin’s Friday Times Dot Earth piece, Study: Cool Spells Normal in Warming World talks about how climate change is communicated and understood.

He starts by noting an upcoming academic publication that reinforces the point that an upward temperature trend may still have decade or two long periods without warming or even moderate cooling. This, of course, is important for both sides of the argument: we need to be careful reading too much into short term trends (of course that argument applies in both directions, which could have deserved some mention).

Personally this was not as interesting as the last portion of the post where he reviews efforts to create a common language to talk about the climate, and where he proposes to explore some of the other academic theories surrounding climate change and what we can expect. If he does so in an intellectually honest way he can help create a more open discussion about the possibilities of what we face. While we can’t read too much into the current data, it is data nonetheless. And there are qualified, well-meaning scientists who don’t line up with the IPCC party line, and aren’t just on the big oil payroll.

It is important that the middle ground of this discussion occurs, and I applaud Andrew if he can be someone who can help it come about.

The Core Tension of Cap and Trade

The Core Tension of Cap and Trade from Roger Pielke, Jr. on Prometheus blog:

“This quote from an anonymous White House official in The Washington Post sums up the core tension of cap and trade.

We think a well-designed cap-and-trade program will not have an adverse short-term impact on energy prices. But if we’re completely eliminating the price signal, then we’re removing the incentives for investments in energy efficiency.

No cap and trade bill can at once send a meaningful price signal while at the same time not have an adverse impact on energy prices (in short or long terms). The following description of cap and trade in the Washington Post story also reflects this core tension:

. . . climate legislation will aim to reduce emissions by putting a price on carbon, raising the cost of everything from gasoline to plastics to electricity.

Will Congress act to raise the cost of everything? I don’t think so.”