- Measure 49
- Passage of SB838, the renewable Energy Standard
- Passage of all five Oregon Conservation Network's (OCN) Priorities for a Healthy Oregon
- More positive pro-environment bills became law in 2007 than in the period from 1991-2005 combined
- The average schores in both the House and Senate climbed to heights not seen since 1977
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
That's what it must have said on the holiday card delivered today by the White House to ExxonMobil executives along with a nice, fat, $10.3 billion check.
The Bush Administration proposed a change to Interior Department leasing rules today that would massively expand the volumes of oil that companies could produce without having to pay any royalties to the federal government for the privilege of drilling on public land. The Bush Administration's own estimates are that taxpayers could lose up to $10.3 billion over the next 26 years as a result of this rule change.
Of course, it's not President Bush paying for Big Oil's $10.3 billion Christmas present, it's Joe and Jane Q Taxpayer, who will be out their rightfully-earned revenues from the production of oil on public lands. Nothing like stealing from the poor to give to the rich to get President Bush in the holiday spirit.
The proposed Interior Department rules will result in at least $3 billion in lost revenue for the federal government. However, the losses get much worse if Big Oil wins in an ongoing law suit. If the oil industry wins in the currently pending Kerr-McGee Suit, the Interior Department projects that losses to the American taxpayer would soar to $10.3 billion.
The Bush Administration has not yet appealed a recent Louisiana District Court ruling in the Kerr-McGee case in the oil industry's favor. The Department of Justice has until December 30 to appeal the ruling. Want to guess whether or not President Bush stands up for you, the American Taxpayer, or with Big Oil?
These proposed rule changes at Interior come on the heels of a successful effort by the Bush Administration to block Congressional Democrats' plants to close existing royalty loopholes, like the one expanded by the new proposed Interior Department rule, and end unnecessary subsidies for Big Oil and Gas in order to re-invest federal subsidies into the clean, homegrown renewable energy technologies of the 21st Century.
President Bush repeatedly issued veto threats targeting any bill that would have re-invested funds from oil and gas in clean energy technologies, arguing that the subsidies - which were created at a time when oil was less than $20/barrel - were still necessary to promote domestic production - despite the fact that oil now trades close to $100/barrel, providing strong market incentives to prospect for new oil sources.
In the end, Congress passed a stripped-down energy bill that did not include the re-investment plan.
Just in case you were worried that Old King Coal or the Nuk-ular Industry were feeling left out this Christmas season, rest assured: Senate Republicans also managed to get about $30 billion in risky loan guarantees for new nuclear and extremely carbon-intensive coal-to-liquids plants into the Omnibus Budget Bill passed last week.
So why do I share these dreary Christmas Eve tidings with you?
Well, for one, you should know what the Bush Administration is trying to pull over on you while you're focused on wrapping presents and sipping eggnog with loved ones.
But more importantly, I'm sharing this news with you to hopefully cement the notion that what America desperately needs in the coming new year is an historic power shift!
We need an end to politics as usual - from either Republicans or Democrats - for all it will yield is more devastating business as usual while our urgent window of opportunity closes, leaving America and the world forever impoverished.
What we need in 2008 is a deep commitment to ending the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous future.
That commitment begins with us, with you and me, individuals who make a pledge to fight to overcome business as usual, enact a Power Shift, and build a brighter tomorrow for ourselves and our children.
It begins with you and me, and we must spread that sense of commitment as quickly as possible, to our friends, and family, throughout our communities, and to our elected officials.
Solving the climate crisis and transitioning to a sustainable, just, and prosperous future will require changes at both the individual and institutional levels. We must be committed to both and seek champions in government that will help us enact the latter while we forge ahead with the former.
As we look ahead at the coming year, contemplate our New Year's Resolutions, and steel ourselves for what must come, we should remember what is truly at stake, for it is our very future - and the future prosperity of this nation - on the line.
I for one am not content to see the light of opportunity we now have at our fingertips flicker and die as our elected officials continue a devastating and irresponsible politics and business as usual.
Here's to a new year and to the opportunities it brings! Here's to the Power Shift!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
So I know this is an old video. I first saw it back in August. But in light of the "clean" coal ad blitz these days, this video spoof of a coal ad is just perfect.
Clean Coal USA has bought up the top Google Ad for "global warming" keywords for a while now (another reason you won't see Google Ads here on WattHead). I also just heard that people from the coal front group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices dressed up as Santa spent Tuesday standing at the Capitol South metro stop in Washington D.C. handing out fliers with the tag line "Even Santa is rethinking his position on coal" with a photo of a jolly old saint nick holding a piece of delicious, delicious coal in pristine white gloves. Barf!
So enjoy this parody. Then watch the real clean coal ad that follows and see which one you think is more ridiculous!
Now for the real ad, this one courtesy of GE's "ecomagination" series. This didn't run for that long on TV, given how audaciously absurd it is. I guess GE is simply following the age old wisdom of advertising: when all else fails, sexy sells!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Yuletide Gifts from Washington D.C.: Reflections on a Frustrating Week of Federal Energy, Climate Politics
It's been a long frustrating week of political shenanigans in Washington D.C...
While we were all distracted with the energy bill last week, and while Democratic leaders congratulated themselves on their "historic victory" on CAFE, the Bush Administration was planning this bait and switch on tailpipe standards and Senate Republicans (e.g. this guy!) were busy sneaking $30 billion in risky loan guarantees for new nukes and coal gasification plants into the Omnibus Spending Bill passed yesterday.
Despite all the rhetoric from both sides of the isle about a historic turning point in US energy policy, I can't help but feel we just got hosed ... big time.
This week has solidly proven that despite winning a narrowly-Democratic Congress in 2006, we have just begun the Power Shift we truly need to enact the transformational energy and climate policies that will set our nation on a path to a sustainable, just, and prosperous 21st Century.
While the Democratic leadership celebrated an incremental victory, we saw a week full of politics as usual.
We've got to be absolutely clear eyed in this: no more politics as usual. Period! All it will yield is more business as usual, and our urgent window of opportunity will close, leaving America and the world forever impoverished.
This quote sums it up pretty well:
“This is a problem of economic transformation, not environmental regulation,” said Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. “The transformation needed will require far more than just passing one law or signing one treaty. It will require the same level of focus and initiative that the Bush administration is devoting to the war on terror. No political leader in the U.S. is approaching this issue yet with anywhere near the seriousness required.”So let’s you and me - those of us who understand what's truly at stake here - make a pact today: we’ll let Pelosi and the Dems celebrate their incremental victory today.
But we in the movement for climate solutions and a sustainable, just, and prosperous future know what’s truly at stake - for it is our very future on the line - and we will not be fooled into complacency by incremental victories. We will not rest, will not let our leaders off the hook, nor will we declare “mission accomplished” until we complete the truly transformational Power Shift towards a sustainable, just, and prosperous future we desperately need!
How's that for a New Year's Resolution for you?
p.s. Stephen Johnson, President Bush, and Pete Domenici should expect giant lumps of coal for Christmas this year ... as they have for most of their lives I expect. Merry F-ing Christmas, climate culprits. Read more!
The Gift That Keeps On Giving: EPA Hides Behind Weakened Energy Bill to Deny California Tailpipe Standard Waiver
The weakened energy bill ultimately passed last week and signed into law by President Bush today is the gift that keeps on giving this holiday season.
Today, US Environmental
Protection Pollution Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson denied California's petition for a waiver allowing it and a dozen other states (both blue and red) to set greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks, using the just enacted energy bill to claim that the Bush Administration is already doing its part to combat global warming.
An EPA press release spun it this way:
The Bush Administration is moving forward with a national solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from American vehicles. The new energy legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Bush this week provides a federal fuel economy standard that offers environmental benefits, energy security and economic certainty for the nation.OK, now that you've vomited over this steaming pile of bullshite, lets move on...
"The Bush Administration is moving forward with a clear national solution – not a confusing patchwork of state rules – to reduce America’s climate footprint from vehicles," said U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "President Bush and Congress have set the bar high, and, when fully implemented, our federal fuel economy standard will achieve significant benefits by applying to all 50 states.”
David Roberts at Gristmill quickly pointed out that Administrator Johnson's arguments are full of more holes than a piece of swiss cheese:
The [EPA] announcement came with a veritable torrent of dishonest spin. Let me try to disentangle some of it.This isn't over, but it'll delay things even longer, as President Bush once again proves he's Climate Energy #1.
1. Johnson leaned heavily on today's passage of the energy bill, saying that a "uniform national standard" is preferable to a "confusing patchwork of state standards."
The "patchwork" line is completely disingenuous. There aren't multiple standards in different states. There's one: California's standard, which other states can choose by law to adopt, or not.
2. Johnson said that he'd had "hours and hours" of briefing from the EPA's "world-class professional staff," which provided him with many "pros and cons" upon which he based his decision.
There's good reason to believe this is false. According to House Oversight Committee chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and other sources, the EPA's professional staff was cut out of the debate (PDF), which proceeded almost entirely on political grounds. Indeed, EPA staff overwhelmingly believes that the waiver should be granted.
3. Johnson asserted that the newly passed CAFE standards (35mpg) are tougher than California's standards, which he said would amount to 33.5mpg.
The reason automakers have lobbied the White House so hard to get this decision is that California's standards are tougher than the new federal standards. The 33.5mpg number appears to have been pulled out of Johnson's rear. Regardless, the Calif. standards were always meant to be ramped steadily up over time, in keeping with their climate change action plan (the current standards go through about 2016). Make no mistake: this is a gift to automakers. [Jesse notes: the 33.5mpg number is the 2016 target for the California standard, which Johnson compares to the 2020 CAFE standard target (35 mpg), which I should also point out is actually only 33.8 mpg because the flex fuel vehicle loophole inserted into the final energy bill decreases the standard by 1.2 mpg... Fun with numbers!]
4. Johnson said he was denying the waiver on the basis of section 209 of the Clean Air Act. He said this request for a waiver was "distinct from all prior requests," in that the previous requests regarded local pollutants, and GHGs are global pollutants. Thus, California does not meet the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" called for by the Act.
This flies in the face of the clear language of the CAA and the just-passed energy bill, both of which explicitly reserve for California the right to exceed federal fuel economy standards. Johnson's legal reasoning has no support outside of Bush administration political appointees.
In short, as Johnson all but admitted, this decision was made based on a "policy preference" of the White House -- exactly what was prohibited by the Supreme Court's ruling in Mass. v. EPA.
Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. are preparing an immediate lawsuit. Sen. Barbara Boxer said she is "prepared to take all measures to overturn this harmful decision" via legislation. Waxman says his Oversight Committee will immediately launch an investigation into how the decision was made.
EPA Adminstrator Stephen Johnson just announced today that he plans to deny the waiver California applied for to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions from cars, SUVs and Trucks. Citing the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that President Bush signed into law today (the only major redeeming factor to the Energy Bill) Johnson stated that "The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution — not a confusing patchwork of state rules...I believe this is a better approach than if individual states were to act alone."
The newly adopted CAFE standards raise the average miles per gallon the vehicles sold in the U.S. must achieve to 35 mpg. While this creates a substantial jump in efficiency (meaning that in several years, the US will achieve the same efficiency as Chinese vehicles do now), the move to increase fuel economy is distinct from regulating tailpipe emissions. While less gas will be consumed to drive a vehicle under the new standards, regulating emissions as California proposes to do will result in more efficient combustion of gasoline and reductions in emissions above and beyond those the mileage standard will generate.
Although the greenhouse gas emissions released from the tailpipes of cars contribute to global warming, the EPA did not find that the California standard did not "meet compelling and extraordinary conditions" required to merit the waiver.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger responded to this decision in an official statement saying:
While the federal energy bill is a good step toward reducing dependence on foreign oil, the President's approval of it does not constitute grounds for denying our waiver. The energy bill does not reflect a vision, beyond 2020, to address climate change, while California's vehicle greenhouse gas standards are part of a carefully designed, comprehensive program to fight climate change through 2050.
In addition to California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have all adopted the California emissions standards — have adopted the California emissions standards, and the governors of Arizona, Colorado, Florida and Utah also plan to adopt them.
Despite this setback, work is still moving forward to get additional states to adopt the California emissions standards and to challenge this decision in the courts. Don't worry, this issue is not over - it has just experienced a road block.
Cross-posted on It's Getting Hot In Here
Global warming: Is it an inconvenient truth or an opportunity to transition towards a more sustainable, just, and prosperous future?
Many of us agree that it is both, but the positive message of future opportunities is often drowned out by messaging that is fear driven – melting glaciers, species extinction, water wars, displaced island/coastal peoples, etc. Our environmental groups have been towing the line on this message for decades, and where has it gotten us policy-wise?
The time is ripe for a new message, a positive vision of the future. We need the “I Have A Dream” speech for global warming. And Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, agrees. Our message is trickling up!
“With one stroke of the pen, America can be on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 25 percent of what we need to do to save the planet. With one stroke of the pen, we set America on a path to produce $22 billion in annual savings to our consumers. With one stroke of the pen, we take America down a path to create hundreds of thousands of new green jobs and train 3 million workers for new green jobs.”
Indeed, this is the same woman who spoke to us at Power Shift as we chanted “GREEN JOBS, NOT JAILS” and “WE WANT MORE!” If she had tossed in a reference to limiting energy generated by coal, the above statement would directly reflect the 1 Sky platform which we all used to lobby our legislators last November: 1) Green Jobs, 2) Cut global warming pollution, 3) No new coal. Later in the statement she refers to her motivations as a grandmother to be working on this issue and establishing a new direction for America.
And that’s exactly what the country needs – a new direction.
I’m not talking about the same new direction that Nancy is — a Democratic direction. I’m talking about an undivided effort to address climate change and its root causes. And this new direction will be catalyzed by a new message, a message driven by an urgent sense of hope and opportunity.
This message is already being championed by many, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is only the most recent VIP member of the new cool club.
Don’t get me wrong, fear and awareness of catastrophic consequences to global warming can be an extremely powerful organizing tool. However, most folks already know these consequences. We don’t need to run a global warming public education campaign in the same way that was required a few years ago.
Thanks Al, you did your job well, but it’s time to turn to the next phase of public outreach.
We need to run a campaign to build excitement around solving this problem. No one is going to jump on the solution bandwagon if it’s headed inevitably for species extinction and social hysteria. You better believe that motivates me, but the way to build a movement is a positive vision.
We, the youth of this nation, have a dream (and an accompanying message). We communicated it with Nancy Pelosi loud and strong. And as we continue to inspire, our messaging for a positive vision for a sustainable, just, and prosperous future will keep trickling up!
[From ItsGettingHotInHere.org, by Jamie Henn:]
Just when you thought we were breaking into the news cycle, take a look at this video from LCV on how the mainstream media is dropping the ball:
Check out the “What Are They Waiting For?” website to sign the petition.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This Monday Congress agreed to guarantee loans for up to 80% of construction costs for new nuclear reactors. The legislation directs the Department of Energy to provide $20.5b for nuclear energy, $10b for renewables and $8b for “clean-coal” technology.
Numbers don’t lie. Only $10b of almost $40b in this bill is going towards the solution. What Congress is saying with this allocation is that renewables come in a distant second behind the already proven dangerous nuclear option.
What can be done to impress on Congress the need for real investment in real renewable energy? Focus the Nation teams have invited more than 100 members of the House and Senate to come to their campuses and discuss global warming solutions. That means about 400 of them still need to hear from you.
There’s another number of note here. Even if we generously assume that all the historical safety issues with nuclear reactors have been solved and that we can adequately secure them from terrorist attacks, nuclear power has a very low EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) ratio. Depending on whose numbers you use, nuclear plants may in fact take more energy to construct, maintain and deconstruct than they generate over their lifetimes, which is to say the EROEI is less than one.
Wind turbines have an EROEI between 18 and 25, and produce no emissions. Could it be any clearer?
Apparently it needs to be made a whole lot clearer to decision-makers in D.C. On Jan. 31, hundreds of local and state elected officials are already committed to engage with us on global warming solutions. It’s time to turn up the heat on Federal legislators and demand their attention.Read more!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Apparently the United States delegation to the Bali International Climate Negotiations - well the fake delegation, not the real delegation - has finally been dragged, kicking and screaming, into some kind of agreement on a road map to proceed on post-Kyoto Protocol international climate change negotiations.
Details on what that deal is are emerging, and I hope to hear more soon from our "correspondent" at Bali, Richard Graves. However, for now, this is from Reuters:
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - The United States on Saturday dropped opposition to a compromise plan to launch talks on a new U.N. climate treaty after pleas from other nations.
"We will go forward and join consensus," Paula Dobriansky, heading the U.S. delegation, told the 190-nation meeting to cheers from many in the audience, minutes after triggering boos by saying Washington was opposed.
The proposed compromise, breaking a deadlock between rich and poor nations, had been supported by all other previous speakers, including the European Union.
The Bali Negotiations these past two weeks have revealed as the farce it is the US arguments that point the finger at China and other developing nations rising emissions as an excuse for the world's largest emitter* to sit on it's hands while our chances to build a sustainable, just, and prosperous future slip away.
This line "What about China?" has been heard for a decade, every time someone even utters the words "international climate agreement" or "binding emissions reductions" in the United States. Well, in the words of Richard Graves,
"At Bali, the Chinese government and many other developing countries came forward with real proposals to act. They came in all seriousness, recognizing the urgency of action, and the United States and Canada blocked CHINA and other developing countries from acting. If the Bali conference puts a stake in the heart of that dirty little lie, it will at least have done something positive."
Check out ItsGettingHotInHere.org for tons of dispatches from Bali, written by several members of the international youth delegation to Bali, the true stakeholders at the negotiations. There's been dozens of posts over the course of the past couple weeks. Look for the "BaliBuzz" tag in the headlines for stories from Bali.
*OK fine, China may have surpassed the US in terms of total annual emissions, but a) the United States effectively "offshores" all of the emissions associated with the goods we import - much of it from China; and b) since carbon dioxide sits in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, cumulative emissions what drive climate change, and the US is responsible for the most cumulative emissions and will be for some time. So the US is still the nation most responsible for global warming.
The Democratic Majority quickly abandoned any effort (if there ever even was a plan to exert force?) to keep the $13.5 billion renewable energy tax package in the final Energy Bill.
The tax package would have given greatly needed tax breaks to emerging clean energy industries and removed corporate loopholes and subsidies for big oil & gas. Further, a Democratic analysis showed that the $13.5 billion in taxes over 10 years amounted to ONLY 1.1 PERCENT of the net profits that five largest oil companies would be expected to earn given today's oil prices! The Democrats simply allowed the tax package to fall away rather than push – even just a little bit – for a filibuster. Check this list to see if your Congressman was one of the “shameful 40” who stood with big oil and gas, and hold him or her accountable.
The revised Energy Bill gained strong bipartisan support and passed 86-8, with none of the presidential candidates returning to vote AND Sen. Hagel (NE) not voting... anyone know why?
So, we now have a watered-down Energy Bill expected to return to the U.S. House, where it will likely pass easily as-is, and then move to the White House. The White House issued a statement yesterday afternoon that President Bush will NOT veto the bill; it could be signed into law even before Congress moves to its extremely long holiday recess!
Beyond the bitter aftertaste the intial vote, tax package removal, and final passage has left in our mouths, we can feel good about the increase in CAFÉ standards, RFS and the efficiency provisions included in the final bill. These were important steps in the right direction, just not enough by any means... and the dangers posed by other upcoming legislation such as the General Appropriations Bill are quite concerning (to say the least!)
All eyes shift to the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill now; it was voted out of the Senate Environment committee last week, and is expected to hit the Senate floor for a full vote in mid-February. It is absolutely critical that this bill does not suffer the same watered-down fate. What happens there will truly lay the ground for
Thursday, December 13, 2007
As predicted, the Senate took its second stab at the Energy Bill this morning; the vote was expected to be very close with 60 votes needed to end the cloture vote and move the Energy Bill forward. The Energy Bill currently includes the first overhaul in fuel economy standards in 35 years, a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and a $13 billion clean energy tax package that would close corporate loopholes and repeal subsidies for the big oil and gas companies.
The Senate just failed clearing the cloture hurdle by a mere SINGLE VOTE (59-40)!! Sen. McCain was the only Senator missing from the vote… even the other presidential hopefuls found time in their busy calendars. It is despicable and horribly irresponsible that forty senators stood behind oil and gas companies this morning, rather than an investment in the future prosperity and sustainability of this country. Coincidently, senators have received over $8 million from big oil and gas over the last four years...
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has since called to bring the bill back for yet another vote this afternoon. Before the vote, however, Reid and the Democratic Majority, having already stripped the bill of RES, must now likely remove the bill's entire clean energy tax package in order for it to pass – even more disappointing!
Reid should NOT just give in to this reckless Minority! This is an opportunity for the Democratic Majority to show some backbone, rather than just roll over and let the tax provisions fall away from an already watered-down bill. The Democrats could actually push back, and force this bill into a filibuster situation, rather than allow an empty compromise -- which is what will happen otherwise. They could force the shameful 40 to do a little more as they continue to stand behind the oil and gas corporations that are preventing us from developing emerging sectors of our economy.
So, does the bill still include anything worthwhile -- if the taxes fall? If Reid moves ahead with what he pledged earlier today, we will lose the tax provisions. The RFS provision does contain some promising biofuels provisions, including a measure to consider the total global warming pollution generated during biofuel production (rather than just the decrease in oil use), investment in cellulosic ethanol and other environmental protections. The overhaul of the fuel economy standard is also an important step in the right direction. The final bill is still expected to include improved energy efficiency standards for buildings.
Stay tuned for the next vote, or filibuster?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Bits and pieces of information are coming in today indicating that the Senate is gearing up to take a second stab at passing an energy bill later this week.
After failing to pass the full energy bill passed by the House last week, Senate leaders negotiated over the weekend to seek a compromise that would net the bill the crucial 60 votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster threat.
It appears they are nearing that compromise and a second attempt to end debate and pass the bill is scheduled for Thursday, December 13th. If it passes the Senate, the bill will return to the House for passage on Friday before heading to President Bush's desk. Whether or not the President will veto a bill expected to save Americans billions at the pump and on their utilities bills at a time of record high gas prices remains to be seen...
Word has it that the renewable energy standard has been dropped from the bill and that the bill will include a stripped down package of tax incentives for renewable energy. The final makeup of that tax package is still under negotiation and details are sparse, although it is expected to include a two-year extension of critical credits for renewable energy generation, enough to get us into a new President's term and a new Congress.
Clearly losing the renewable energy standard, which would have required large utilities to acquire 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, is a major disappointment (although Reid has pledged to try to pass it as a stand-alone bill in 2008).
The fact that the Senate has had such difficulty passing an energy bill with strong support for clean, domestic renewable energy is a clear sign that we've got a lot of work ahead of us to keep up the Power Shift! We need to work hard to ensure that political realities change over the next year to closely match what real reality demands of Congress!
However, it still looks like an energy bill well worth passing is heading for a vote tomorrow and it's time again to get on the phone and urge your Senators to get the job done and pass a clean energy bill!
The bill heading for a vote is expected to include:
So call your Senators today and urge them to finish the job and pass a clean energy bill tomorrow! The future prosperity of this country depends on the success of the clean, domestic energy technologies of the 21st Century, and this bill is a critical first step towards unlocking a clean energy revolution.
You should feel free to let your Senators know you were disappointed that they couldn't pass the House version of the energy bill, but tell them you expect them to still pass a strong bill tomorrow, including critical tax incentives for renewable energy generation.
So what are you waiting for? Get on the phone...
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Breakthrough Generation Spring 2008 Conference
April 10th -- 13th, 2008
[From: Breakthrough Institute]
Sick of politics as usual? Ready for the current political establishment to retire? Have a few big ideas of your own? Then you may be part of the Breakthrough Generation.
On April 10th, 2008, a small group of the country's top young progressives and post-environmental thinkers and activists will come together in Washington, DC to outline a vision and a strategy for a new progressive movement, one that leaves behind the old generation's narrow and complaint-based politics.
Young people today are faced with an unprecedented opportunity to change the course of this country. The collapse of the Bush presidency has ended three decades of conservative ideological dominance, and U.S. political identities are adrift. It is clear that how young adults seize this opportunity will determine the course of U.S. politics for years to come.
The new progressive movement has begun, and youth are already taking the lead. The youth climate movement has quickly become one of the largest student movements in decades, and it has the potential to significantly influence national politics and establish new and lasting political identities. In November, the Power Shift 2007 Conference took the movement to a new level, drawing over 6,000 students from across the country and gaining the attention of key federal policymakers.
Breakthrough Generation -- the youth initiative of the Breakthrough Institute -- aims to capture this moment by fostering the creation of a new and powerful politics that transcends the politics of the Baby Boomer generation and establishes strategic vision and clarity among today's young leaders for overcoming our present and future challenges. This conference will be its foundational meeting.
The founders of the Breakthrough Institute have made their own case for a new politics to overcome our ecological crises. But they do not view these writings as the final word on the new politics, and are committed to an intellectually fervent, open debate that engages youth. Breakthrough Generation will be led by a new generation of leaders who are hungry for a fresh, positive, inspirational approach to our challenges, and it will develop its capacity to become a key intellectual innovator and advocator for young Americans.
Download Application Here
The Breakthrough Generation 2008 Conference seeks highly motivated and talented young individuals who are willing to challenge accepted social and political norms and possess an ability to think and work in new ways.
Please submit a letter of no more than 1,500 words explaining why you would like to attend the conference, what you would like to see it accomplish, and what you see as the central challenges and opportunities facing today's youth movement.
All expenses but travel are covered. Breakthrough will offer a limited number of travel scholarships as need is demonstrated.
Applications should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12:00 PM PST on February 4th, 2008. Entrants will receive confirmation of receipt via email.
Please forward all inquiries to email@example.com.
Ted Glick, coordinator of the US Climate Emergency Council (USCEC) and on the 99th day of a climate emergency fast, along with a number of other people, continues their sit in at the office of Senator Mitch McConnell. They are demanding a meeting with Senator McConnell to discuss the need for a strong renewable energy package to be included in the Energy Bill currently being negotiated within the Senate.
Senator McConnell's office is scheduled to close at 6 PM. Glick and others plan to refuse to voluntarily leave at that time and will risk arrest if necessary to press their demands.
“Negotiations are going on in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats as we speak,” Glick said. “We are demanding in those negotiations that they have to retain a strong renewable energy mandate.”
To do otherwise, he said, “is morally wrong, wrong for the planet and wrong for our pocketbooks.”
Courier Journal coverage here.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Ted Glick is one of the most inspiring leaders in this movement. His continued commitment, second by second, is admirable. Below is this week's version of his column, Future Hope.
"This Tuesday morning, around 10 a.m., on the 99th day of my climate emergency fast, I'm going to the Senate office on Capitol Hill of Mitch McConnell, the top-ranking Republican in the Senate. And I'm going to stay there for a while, attempting to draw attention to the anger that a lot of us feel about this latest outrage by Republican leaders in Washington out of touch with even their own rank and file. According to a recent Zogby poll, 77% of Republicans agree that utilities should be required to produce some of their energy from clean sources such as wind and solar.
Despite this reality, McConnell led the Republicans in a successful effort Friday morning to defeat a surprisingly good-for this Congress-energy bill passed by the House on Thursday. A key part of that bill, and a part singled out by Republicans as a main reason for their opposition, was a requirement that 13 years from now, by 2020, utility companies must get 15% of their power from renewable sources, from the sun, wind, tides, the earth's heat and other clean sources.
Never mind the fact that half the states have already passed legislation mandating something similar, some of them with stronger requirements. Never mind the fact that there was a 20% reduction in the amount of sea ice in the Arctic between the end of this summer and the end of the summer of 2005. Never mind the fact that the House renewables requirement is actually quite modest, as is true for other parts of the bill.
It is absolutely clear that what we need is not a 1% a year increase in renewable energy, or a 3/4 of a mile per year increase in fuel efficiency standards, which is what the CAFÉ provision of the House bill provides for, to an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. After all, mpg for cars is over 40 for Europe and 35 for China right now!
What we need is a full-fledged, deep-seated, through-going clean energy revolution. If we're going to have a chance of avoiding the catastrophic climate change that we're staring down the gun barrel at right now, we must make that qualitative and quantitative shift as soon as possible. We must do on the energy issue what we did in 1942 when the U.S., following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, rapidly shifted from a peacetime to a wartime economy in the battle to defeat Hitler and Japanese fascism.
This time, we need to defeat the oil and coal interests and their enablers in other parts of the economy and in Congress. Those are the corporate interests who are behind what McConnell his partners did on Friday.
I was asked yesterday by someone I was trying to recruit for this sit-in idea what I thought could come of it.
One thing that might come of it is an intensification of grassroots pressure-calls, faxes, emails, visits-to the offices of Senators, demanding that they must include support of renewable energy in any energy bill they pass. An energy bill without significant support for renewables is like sex without love, religion without God, or democracy without free and fair elections.
Another thing that should come of this is that some Republicans and, for that matter, weak-kneed Democrats might think twice next time before they do something like this again.
But perhaps more important, what an action like this can do is give hope and courage to those thousands of young people who attended the historic Power Shift conference over a month ago, encourage their taking action where they are. It can help to build a spirit of resistance within the broader environmental, climate and progressive movement that we are going to need going forward into 2008 and 2009 when the absolutely decisive showdowns in Washington, D.C. will be taking place over a new U.S. government climate policy.
I know that there'll be others with me on Tuesday morning, hopefully a lot of us, and I hope that there'll be similar actions this week at the district offices of Senate Republicans who voted with McConnell and for the corporate polluters on Friday . McConnell's office is room number 361-A in the Russell Building on Constitution Avenue up on Capitol Hill.
Resistance is forming, no war, no warming!"
Ted Glick is on the 97th day of a climate emergency fast and is the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council. More information on the energy bill struggle and the fast can be found at www.climateemergency.org. Ted can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 240-396-2155.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
George Monbiot recently wrote a piece in The Guardian about what a new international climate treaty should do. His piece is below:
When you warn people about the dangers of climate change, they call you a saint. When you explain what needs to be done to stop it, they call you a communist. Let me show you why.
There is now a broad scientific consensus that we need to prevent temperatures from rising by more than 2°C above their pre-industrial level. Beyond that point, the Greenland ice sheet could go into irreversible meltdown, some ecosystems collapse, billions suffer from water stress, droughts could start to threaten global food supplies(1,2).
The government proposes to cut the UK’s carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. This target is based on a report published in 2000(3). That report was based on an assessment published in 1995, which drew on scientific papers published a few years earlier. The UK’s policy, in other words, is based on papers some 15 years old. Our target, which is one of the toughest on earth, bears no relation to current science.
Over the past fortnight, both Gordon Brown and his adviser Sir Nicholas Stern have proposed raising the cut to 80%(4,5). Where did this figure come from? The last G8 summit adopted the aim of a global cut of 50% by 2050, which means that 80% would be roughly the UK’s fair share. But the G8’s target isn’t based on current science either.
In the new summary published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you will find a table which links different cuts to likely temperatures(6). To prevent global warming from eventually exceeding 2°, it suggests, by 2050 the world needs to cut its emissions to roughly 15% of the volume in 2000.
I looked up the global figures for carbon dioxide production in 2000(7) and divided it by the current population(8). This gives a baseline figure of 3.58 tonnes of CO2 per person. An 85% cut means that (if the population remains constant) the global output per head should be reduced to 0.537t by 2050. The UK currently produces 9.6 tonnes per head and the US 23.6t(9,10). Reducing these figures to 0.537t means a 94.4% cut in the UK and a 97.7% cut in the US. But the world population will rise in the same period. If we assume a population of 9bn in 2050(11), the cuts rise to 95.9% in the UK and 98.3% in the US.
The IPCC figures might also be out of date. In a footnote beneath the table, the panel admits that “emission reductions … might be underestimated due to missing carbon cycle feedbacks”. What this means is that the impact of the biosphere’s response to global warming has not been fully considered. As seawater warms, for example, it releases carbon dioxide. As soil bacteria heat up, they respire more, generating more CO2. As temperatures rise, tropical forests die back, releasing the carbon they contain. These are examples of positive feedbacks. A recent paper (all the references are on my website) estimates that feedbacks account for about 18% of global warming(12). They are likely to intensify.
A paper in Geophysical Research Letters finds that even with a 90% global cut by 2050, the 2° threshold “is eventually broken”(13). To stabilise temperatures at 1.5° above the pre-industrial level requires a global cut of 100%. The diplomats who started talks in Bali yesterday should be discussing the complete decarbonisation of the global economy.
It is not impossible. In a previous article I showed how by switching the whole economy over to the use of electricity and by deploying the latest thinking on regional supergrids, grid balancing and energy storage, you could run almost the entire energy system on renewable power(14). The major exception is flying (don’t expect to see battery-powered jetliners) which suggests that we should be closing rather than opening runways.
This could account for around 90% of the necessary cut. Total decarbonisation demands that we go further. Preventing 2° of warming means stripping carbon dioxide from the air. The necessary technology already exists(15): the challenge is making it efficient and cheap. Last year Joshuah Stolaroff, who has written a PhD on the subject, sent me some provisional costings, of £256-458 per tonne of carbon(16,17). This makes the capture of CO2 from the air roughly three times as expensive as the British government’s costings for building wind turbines, twice as expensive as nuclear power, slightly cheaper than tidal power and 8 times cheaper than rooftop solar panels in the UK(18). But I suspect his figures are too low, as they suggest this method is cheaper than catching CO2 from purpose-built power stations(19), which cannot be true(20).
The Kyoto Protocol, whose replacement the Bali meeting will discuss, has failed. Since it was signed, there has been an acceleration in global emissions: the rate of CO2 production exceeds the IPCC’s worst case and is now growing faster than at any time since the beginning of the industrial revolution(21). It’s not just the Chinese. A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that “no region is decarbonizing its energy supply”(22). Even the age-old trend of declining energy intensity as economies mature has gone into reverse(23). In the UK there is a stupefying gulf between the government’s climate policy and the facts it is creating on the ground. How will we achieve even a 60% cut if we build new coal plants, new roads and a third runway at Heathrow?
Underlying the immediate problem is a much greater one. In a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering in May, Professor Rod Smith of Imperial College explained that a growth rate of 3% means economic activity doubles in 23 years(24). At 10% it takes just 7 years. This we knew. But Smith takes it further. With a series of equations he shows that “each successive doubling period consumes as much resource as all the previous doubling periods combined.” In other words, if our economy grows at 3% between now and 2030, we will consume in that period economic resources equivalent to all those we have consumed since humans first stood on two legs. Then, between 2030 and 2053, we must double our total consumption again. Reading that paper I realised for the first time what we are up against.
But I am not advocating despair. We must confront a challenge which is as great and as pressing as the rise of the Axis powers. Had we thrown up our hands then, as many people are tempted to do today, you would be reading this paper in German. Though the war often seemed impossible to win, when the political will was mobilised strange and implausible things began to happen. The US economy was spun round on a dime in 1942 as civilian manufacturing was switched to military production(25). The state took on greater powers than it had exercised before. Impossible policies suddenly became achievable.
The real issues in Bali are not technical or economic. The crisis we face demands a profound philosophical discussion, a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means. Debating these matters makes us neither saints nor communists; it shows only that we have understood the science.
1. See, for example, IPCC, 2007. Climate change and its impacts in the near and long term under different scenarios. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_topic3.pdf and:
2. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (Editor in chief), 2006. Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. http://www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/climatechange/research/dangerous-cc/pdf/avoid-dangercc.pdf
3. Royal Commission On Environmental Pollution, June 2000. Energy – the Changing Climate. http://www.rcep.org.uk/newenergy.htm
4. Gordon Brown, 19th November 2007. Speech on Climate Change. http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page13791.asp
5. Sir Nicholas Stern, 30th November 2007. Bali: now the rich must pay. The Guardian.
6. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Fourth Assessment Report. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Summary for Policymakers, Table SPM.6. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf
7. All the following figures are for CO2 from the burning and flaring of fossil fuel. http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iealf/tableh1co2.xls
8. Currently 6,635m. http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html
9. The latest figures are for 2005. http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iealf/tableh1co2.xls
10. Population figures for 2005 came from http://www.prb.org/pdf05/05WorldDataSheet_Eng.pdf
11. This is a conservative assumption.
12. Josep G. Canadell et al. 25th October 2007. Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sinks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0702737104
13. Andrew J. Weaver et al, 6th October 2007. Long term climate implications of 2050 emission reduction targets. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 34, L19703. doi:10.1029/2007GL031018, 2007
14. George Monbiot, 3rd July 2007. A Sudden Change of State. The Guardian.http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/07/03/a-sudden-change-of-state
15. Frank Zeman, 26th September 2007. Energy and Material Balance of CO2 Capture from Ambient Air. Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 41, No. 21, pp7558-7563. 10.1021/es070874m
16. Stolaroff’s figures are $140-250/US ton-CO2. I have converted them into £/metric tonne-C. The weight of CO2 is 3.667x that of C.
17. You can read his PhD here: http://wpweb2.tepper.cmu.edu/ceic/theses/Joshuah_Stolaroff_PhD_Thesis_2006.pdf
18. Department of Trade and Industry (now the DBERR), 2003. Energy White Paper - Supplementary Annexes, p7. www.dti.gov.uk/energy/whitepaper/annexes.pdf
19. The DBERR gives figures for C savings through capture-ready power stations of £460-560/tC.
20. It cannot be true because the concentration of CO2 in thermal power station effluent is many times higher than that in ambient air.
21. Josep G. Canadell et al, ibid.
22. Michael R. Raupach et al, 12th June 2007. Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol.104, no. 24. Pp 10288–10293. www.pnas.org_cgi_doi_10.1073_pnas.0700609104
24. Roderick A Smith, 29th May 2007. Lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering.Carpe Diem: The dangers of risk aversion. Reprinted in Civil Engineering Surveyor, October 2007.
25. Jack Doyle, 2000. Taken for a Ride: Detroit’s big three and the politics of pollution, pp1-2. Four Walls, Eight Windows, New York.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
After long hours of negotiations that have stretched long into the night for the past week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to have cobbled together a deal that will send a strong energy bill out of the House, likely Thursday.
Rumors last month that essentially every major provision but increased fuel economy standards might get stripped from the bill followed by long weeks of speculation have given way today to confirmation that the energy package heading for a House floor vote tomorrow will include some version of every major clean energy provision under consideration: a 35 mpg CAFE standard, a biofuels standard, and in a surprise turn, both a 15% by 2020 national renewable electricity standard and a $21 billion tax package for clean energy sources.
The passage of the bill, expected tomorrow in the House, will be a major victory for Speaker Pelosi, who has fought hard to advance a strong energy bill to the floor over opposition from Republicans, industry and even influential members of her own party - namely influential Michigan Congressman John Dingell.
Even after securing passage in the House, the bill will be heading towards a tough vote in the Senate where opposition from ranking member of the Senate Energy Committee, Pete Domenici (R-NM) will mean the bill will require a filibuster-proof 60 votes to secure passage. And it won't end there: President Bush has re-iterated threats to veto the bill if it includes certain provisions, including a renewable electricity standard and tax provisions financed by ending subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
Details on the components of the energy package below. But first, a look at the tumultuous - and still-unfolding - saga of the 2007 Congressional Energy Bill.
The Energy Bill's Saga
After some Senate Republicans blocked a formal conference committee to reconcile the two version of the energy bill passed by the Senate and House this summer (see previous posts here and here), Democratic leaders opted to move forward without a formal conference. They have instead been meeting in closed sessions to hammer out details on what provisions are in and what are left on the cutting-room floor. They concluded those negotiations late last night and have referred a full bill to the House floor for a vote sometime Thursday.
While the hundreds-of-pages long bill includes scores of smaller provisions, including some excellent new energy efficiency provisions, four major provisions were at the center negotiations - and speculations - this past week:
The fuel economy provisions were the source of contention between Speaker Pelosi and Energy Chairman Dingell, who has been a key advocate for the auto industry and fought the 35 mpg CAFE standards.
The latter two provisions were the source of the most conflict between Democrats and Republicans, and between the House and the Senate, and have drawn veto threats from President Bush.
Although of questionable environmental character, the biofuels package, in contrast, is widely seen as the political "glue" that holds the bill together, drawing in "farm state" Republican moderates.
All this led to much speculation and anticipation over the course of what was a very secretive negotiation process, as small bits of information leaked of closed negotiation chambers and rumors spread.
Veil of Secrecy Parted To Reveal Strong Energy Bill
In the end, the bill heading to the House floor will be stronger than many - perhaps most - speculated, including some version of all four major provisions:
The bill also includes a number of other provisions intended to advance America towards a clean energy future, including strong new energy efficiency standards and a "Green Jobs" provision intended to create 3 million new skilled jobs in the clean energy economy.
Speaker Pelosi's summary of the bill can be found here.
The Saga Continues... Showdown Looms in the Senate
While the energy bill is expected to pass the House, where simply majority rules, it's fate in the Senate is still unclear. A "supermajority" of 60 votes will be required to move the bill in the Senate past Republican opposition in the form of a filibuster threat, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is unsure whether or not he has the needed 60 votes.
If the bill cannot secure passage in the Senate in it's current form, speculation is that Democrats will begin stripping provisions from the bill until 60 votes can be earned. What the bill looks like at the end of that process is still unclear, and the possibility of a presidential veto looms over the whole thing (sounds pretty familiar...).
Stay tuned (and call your Senators!).
by Natasha Chart (cross-posted from PacificViews):
The House has a new energy proposal out that you should support. Not because it's perfect, but because it's the right thing to do right now, to recognize the tremendous efforts it required of Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Markey to pull off. I described it last Friday as a miracle, because no one thought higher fuel efficiency standards had a prayer of making it in. This is what Rep. Markey said about the bill in a recent oped in the subscription-only Roll Call, emphasis mine:
... The bill will, by 2030, save more than twice the amount of oil America currently imports from the Persian Gulf and will make a significant down payment on the global warming emissions reductions needed to save the planet. Democratic leaders will continue to fight for renewable electricity standards that will boost the use of wind, solar and other alternative fuels, and to repeal billions of dollars in giveaways to the oil industry. ...
It's a down payment, as he says, and we need to start somewhere. It reassures me that he understands there's more work to be done and that he won't give up. Adam Siegel makes a clear case for supporting the House legislation now that acknowledges the good and bad, estimating in the end that this represents a step forward. A necessary bridge to where we need to be.
So contact your representatives in the House as soon as possible to ask them to support the new Energy Bill with the higher CAFE standards, and ask your representatives in the Senate to support these important amendments by Sen. Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Sanders (I-VT) to the the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.
[Editor's note (Jesse Jenkins): the Climate Security Act is being debated and amended in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wed Dec 5th and Thu Dec 6th. The bill is not yet consistent with strong, science-based and just principles, but the following amendments may strengthen the bill, making it significantly better]:
Clinton Amendment #1.
Clinton amendment #1 would eliminate the free allocation of carbon permits to fossil fuel fired electric generators, rural cooperatives, energy intensive manufacturing, petroleum producers or importers, and HFC producers forcing this industries to buy all of these permits in an open auction. In addition, the amendment eliminates bonus allowances for carbon capture and sequestration.
Clinton Amendment #2.
Clinton amendment #2 reduces the amount of auction revenue given through the "advanced coal and sequestration" program under the Energy Deployment and Technology fund, limiting the program to what's needed to get carbon capture and sequestration commercially viable. The amendment disperses unused funds to other programs in the Energy Deployment and Technology fund for purposes such as sustainable energy and cellulosic ethanol development and deployment.
Sanders Amendment #3.
Standard for Receiving Bonus Allowances: This amendment would strike the portion of the bill that describes the emission performance standards that make a project eligible to receive bonus allowances (a tiered approach) and would insert in its place the eligibility language as it was voted out of Subcommittee (an 85% standard).
Sanders Amendment #4.
Emission Reduction Targets: This amendment would require the Administrator to promulgate rules to revise the post-2020 emission allowance table in Sec. 1201 (d) and promulgate further rules in order to achieve an 80% reduction in all U.S. global warming emissions by 2050, as compared to 1990.
Sanders Amendment #5.
Scientific Lookback: This amendment would require the EPA Administrator, following a report by the National Academies of Sciences (required by the underlying language), to promulgate regulations to tighten the emissions caps if the latest science suggests that we are not on track to avert a 2 degree Celsius increase in global average temperature. The language explicitly recognizes that Congress should be given an oversight role by saying that any regulations promulgated under this language would be subject to the Congressional Review Act.
Again, contact your representatives as soon as possible, preferably by phone. Congress is like your mom that way. When you call, they know you really care.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Anyone who attended Power Shift 2007's Saturday keynote presentations/festivities was surely struck by the performance of Youth Speaks poet Just Greg. Greg delivered an inspired and powerful performance of his spoken word piece, "There's Something in the Water" before the pumped up crowd up thousands at Power Shift.
Now, thanks to some digging by Jenny Bedell-Stiles, I can finally post a link to a video of Greg's performance for those who missed out, or who just want to see it again.