Monday, January 31, 2011

Obama’s Climate Omission: Can We Disagree on Climate and Win on Clean Energy?

By Teryn Norris & Daniel Goldfarb | Originally published at Americans for Energy Leadership

President Obama’s exclusion of “climate change”from the State of the Union, combined with Carol Browner’s exit as the administration’s top climate advisor, has sparked wide debate across the climate movement. On one hand, many climate advocates are backing the president’s strategy. As Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) put it, “He's trying to unify… I think it was very smart of him.”

On the other hand, climate advocates like Joe Romm of Climate Progress and David Roberts of Grist are criticizing the president for not using climate change as a central justification for his clean energy proposals. Unfortunately, even after the collapse of cap and trade legislation, Roberts and other critics continue to follow a type of policy literalism that has undermined environmentalists and climate advocates for years.

The argument goes something like this. First, Roberts claims that without climate change as the central justification, the case for federal investment in the clean energy industry “is no stronger than the argument for supporting pharmaceuticals, or telecom, or any other industry that's likely to be big in the 21st century.” (Roberts wrote partly in response to Norris’ article on the rise of “innovation hawks.”)

However, as the American Energy Innovation Council and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recently explained in their reports, other industries like pharmaceuticals, aerospace, and computer electronics spend far more on research and development than the energy industry, due to a variety of market and non-market barriers. The underinvestment is dramatic: whereas pharmaceuticals invest about 18.7% of sales in R&D, the U.S. energy industry only invests 0.3%. The federal government already invests over $30 billion annually in health research, and $80 billion on military R&D, but only $3-5 billion in energy R&D.

Moreover, the current economic challenge from China and other “rising tigers” in clean-tech is clearer than any other industry, and it remains one of the most powerful motivating factors for the U.S. public and policymakers alike (analysts predict the global clean-tech market could surpass $600 billion by 2020). The importance of clean energy technology for the Department of Defense, and for saving the lives of American troops, is creating a new imperative in the defense community. Rising oil prices andinstability in the Middle East are simultaneously strengthening the energy security consensus to reduce U.S. reliance on oil. And disasters like Deepwater Horizon and Massey Energy continue to highlight the public health and environmental benefits of reduced fossil fuel consumption.

So much for the argument that only climate change can seriously justify major federal investment in clean energy technology over other industries. The case for expanding these investments for economic competitiveness, national security, and public health reasons is stronger than ever before. (And beyond domestic concerns, cheaper forms of clean energy can help alleviate the poverty of billions who lack electricity access and already suffer from the vagaries of the climate.)

The second reason Roberts criticizes President Obama is that he believes “The only way that well-worn partisan division can be transcended is through reference to climate change.” In anotherreaction to Obama's decision, Roberts asserts that “telling the truth about climate change is also good politics.”

Could it be true that only climate change can transcend partisan divisions? Was the president wrong to appeal to a broader set of public interests to advance clean energy RD&D investment and a portfolio standard? Let’s revisit the latest public opinion analysis. In a recent report titled "Little Change in Opinions about Global Warming: Increasing Partisan Divide on Energy Policies," the Pew Research Center concluded:

“Views about climate change continue to be sharply divided along party lines… Among Republicans, only 38% agree the earth is warming and just 16% say warming is caused by humans… Just 14% of Republicans say global warming is a very serious problem and 27% view it as a somewhat serious problem; only about a quarter (24%) think it requires immediate action by the government… Among Republican registered voters who agree with the Tea Party, fully 70% do not think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth is warming.”

No wonder Republican strategists have successfully used climate change as a wedge issue to rally their base and tarnish Democrats. Even with cap and trade gone, the Republican leadership sees opposition to EPA greenhouse gas emissions authority as a major linchpin of its 2012 election strategy.

How could Roberts and others possibly get the idea that focusing on climate change is good politics in this environment? Contrary to their assertions, a focus on climate change would only serve toundermine the possibility of clean energy reform, fueling an ever-greater climate war and potentially contributing to another major Democratic defeat in 2012.

Based on this data, the recent collapse of cap and trade, and the current state of climate change politics, we conclude that the president’s choice made sense. Although climate change remains extremely divisive, Gallup and Pew polling continues to indicate that federal investment in clean energy technology remains one of the most popular forms of energy policy. These investments will drive down the price of low-carbon energy and pave the way for stronger deployment efforts -- perhaps even including a strong carbon price at some point -- both here and in the developing world, where the vast majority of future emissions will originate.

The question is not whether climate change is an important reason for action on clean energy. That is obvious. The question is what type of political and policy strategy can successfully expand the national clean energy consensus and begin shifting us in the right direction. In this context, the role of effective leaders is not just to "speak truth to power," but to bridge our divides to achieve the outcomes we need.

We can agree to disagree on the role of climate and focus on policy achievements in the near and medium term. Climate change will eventually get its moment in American politics. Until then, Obama and his administration have outlined a new approach, and climate advocates would be wise to get behind it.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Rise of Innovation Hawks

By Teryn Norris | Originally published at Americans for Energy Leadership


Last night, President Obama crystallized a new moment in U.S. political and economic history. The president is declaring it the “new Sputnik moment,” but whatever the label, it represents a major development in U.S. politics.

The catalyzing force behind this trend is the rise of China and the aftermath of the Great Recession, which is quickly producing new political fault lines. Just as the rise of the Soviet Union caused a fundamental political realignment in the United States, so the rapid rise of China is causing another today.

This realignment is just beginning, but one of the clearest implications is the rise of a new national economic strategy based on “innovation economics.” Instead of emphasizing spending cuts, even in the face of the Tea Party and new Republican House, Obama strongly promoted an active, innovation-centric federal strategy at the front and center of his agenda – a first for any modern president.

The key to American leadership in the face of China, Obama argued, is to make large-scale federal investments in the three pillars of economic competitiveness: innovation, education, and infrastructure. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” he declared. “That's how we'll win the future.”

By embracing an investment-centric strategy, Obama adopted a growing expert consensus: modern economic growth primarily emerges from technological innovation, and the federal government plays a central role in innovation. The information technology revolution was grounded in federal investments in microchips and the Internet – especially by the Department of Defense – and so were major growth sectors like aviation, biotech, and others.

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Obama's Breakthrough


By Devon Swezey, Originally Published at the Breakthrough Institute

With last night's State of the Union address, President Obama has shifted the debate from the partisan climate wars to an expansive energy innovation policy which has the potential to draw support from across the political spectrum.

"In embracing breakthrough innovation for solar and nuclear power alike -- for economic competitiveness rather than climate reasons -- President Obama took a bold first step toward a national commitment to energy innovation that is in the long tradition of bi-partisan support for science and technology," wrote Breakthrough Institute co-founders Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus in a statement. "While the road forward will not be easy, at least it is one America has traveled before."

In a State of the Union speech framed centrally around restoring America's global economic leadership, President Obama argued forcefully for increasing federal investment in energy innovation, declaring that "breakthrough" technologies have driven decades of innovation that "created new industries and millions of new jobs."

Obama's speech was a rejection of proposals to cut federal spending across the board, as he finally made the case before the American people about why public support for innovation is critical for the country's long-term prosperity:

"Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet. That's what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS. Just think of all the good jobs - from manufacturing to retail - that have come from those breakthroughs."

In its recent report, "Where Good Technologies Come From," Breakthrough Institute documents how America's blockbuster pharmaceutical drugs, high-yield agricultural crops, and revolutionary technologies like the iPhone were all due to the federal government's sustained, multi-decadal investments in innovation.

Obama also embraced a key element of the "Post-Partisan Power" proposal issued by scholars from the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Breakthrough Institute, which is to stop subsidizing the production of old technologies and start using competitive deployment and military procurement to purchase new ones.

"We're telling America's scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo Projects of our time...instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's"

In a fact sheet sent out after the speech titled "President Obama's Plan to Win the Future by Investing in Clean Energy Research and Development," the White House detailed new clean energy investments expected in the President's FY 2012 budget proposal, which are expected to grow modestly to $8 billion.

They include:

  • "More than doubling" the current $300 million budget for the Department of Energy's ARPA-E.
  • Doubling the number of the Department of Energy's Energy Innovation Hubs, from three to six.
  • Doubling the investment in applied R&D, including efficiency, vehicle technology R&D for advanced batteries, and building technology R&D.

Obama's plan includes investment in more than R&D, and embraces the tripartite clean energy competitiveness framework--R&D, manufacturing, and markets--that Breakthrough Institute and ITIF first advanced in "Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant."

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A Lesson from the History of Clean Energy Research

By Tucker Willsie | Originally published at Americans for Energy Leadership

The focus on innovation in Obama's State of the Union marks a new high point for clean energy R&D advocacy. In the coming months, politicians and policy makers will likely align around proposals to encourage everything from basic research to putting solar panels on our roofs and hybrids in our garages. It is easy, in such an environment, to forget the barren stretch of time between the oil crisis induced renewable energy craze of the 1970s and the present day. During this time, funding dried up, programs were cut, and renewable energy research and deployment was forced to go abroad or wither in an apathetic United States.

Politicians, policymakers and enthusiasts talk about ways that new programs will help America race past its competitors as it did in the space race, but there is not enough attention on how the old programs died and what was the full impact of their disappearance. There are important lessons to learn, the biggest of which is that inconsistency in policy can be crippling to research. While proponents of clean and renewable technologies should welcome the renewed interest and funding, it is important that they learn from the past and focus on creating a support system that is not only robust but also provides some assurances of long-term commitments.

Most of the renewable energy technologies today owe their existence to research done in the United States over the last century. Many of the key technologies in modern windmills, including the variable speed drives and special composites used to make the blades, were developed here. Domestic research in semiconductors and other materials in American universities and national and private labs led to the birth of photovoltaics. This research was driven by a select group of dedicated programs. Prof. William Paul's group at Harvard, Prof. Hellmut Fritzsche's group at U. Chicago, and Prof. Richard Bube's group at Stanford were all examples of such labs that contributed important discoveries to photovoltaic technology. Given the resources to target renewable energy research, they were able to attract the brightest minds and give these scientists the experience in the field required to make them true experts.

But scientists need paychecks, and when programs in photovoltaics lost their funding, the individuals in these labs were forced to respecialize. Not only did their work get put on hold, but they were not able to attract and train the next generation of scientists to continue their legacy. As Paul, Fritzsche and Bube near retirement, some of their combined expertise in the field of photovoltaics will undoubtedly be lost.

Research teams of this caliber take time to create. Throwing a billion dollars at renewable energy research tomorrow will generate a mob of scientists willing to delve into the topic, but it might take years before they gain the level of collective expertise established in some of these labs. Continuity is essential to maintain a core of scientists that are true experts in the field and can lead new research initiatives. Even low but consistent levels of funding allow such cores to survive. An excess of funding might be wasteful if it goes to groups not capable of such high level work.

As America debates renewable energy policy, it should remember that research cannot thrive in a fickle funding environment driven by the mood swings of congress. In the last decade, America began to understand the massive research initiative it will require to maintain international competitiveness, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and restabilize the environment. The original America COMPETES Act, passed under President Bush in 2007, was a strong first step toward creating a well-trained group of American scientists to lead this initiative. However, momentum has only just begun to build and if funding is cut then much of the progress made over the last few years will be wasted.

Thankfully, the America COMPETES Re-authorization act was passed in the final days of the lame duck congress and finally signed into law. However, the appropriations committees of the next Congress will determine the actual amount of funding to be allotted for research initiatives. COMPETES was already reduced from $84 to $43 billion in order to pass the Senate, and the final amount appropriated could be much lower. This is particularly true with a new wave of Senators and Congressmen coming to Washington to cut spending. If America wants to see the volume and caliber of research that brought us these technologies in the first place (and propelled us past the Soviet Union during the Sputnik crisis), we must allow these research groups to form and collective expertise in these fields to build. While our support for research yields exciting discoveries today, we are also preparing the ground for the greater discoveries of tomorrow. We must take care not to falter in our commitment to these groups as we did before or we will forego the greatest rewards of their work.

__

Tucker Willsie is a Contributor in AEL’s New Energy Leaders Project and his work will be regularly featured on the website. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of AEL.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

EPA Vetoes Massive Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine

By JW Randolph, originally posted at Appalachian Voices

EPA announced Thursday that they will be vetoing the largest mountaintop removal permit in WV history.

Appalachian Voices is thrilled to hear that EPA will be vetoing this permit in order to protect human health and aquatic ecosystems in central Appalachia. EPA's own science has shown that mountaintop removal has permanent negative impacts on Appalachia, and we hope they will continue to stand strong in stopping mine permits that will have a negative impact on the well-being of the central Appalachian land and people.

EPA's Peter Silva hit the nail on the head:

The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend. Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s water. We have responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.
The bottom line is that we don't need to poison our streams and our communities in order to mine coal in the central Appalachian region. Three cheers to EPA for doing what is right, even though they faced tremendous political pressure to let this harmful and toxic mine just slide by.

Congress can make these protections permanent, while adding stability and clarity to the process by passing popular bipartisan legislation such as the Clean Water Protection Act (House) and Appalachia Restoration Act (Senate). Recently, 50 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA thanking them for doing the right thing by taking steps to end mountaintop removal. Congressman Rahall (D-WV) also said that legislation to end the practice had more than 400 votes in the House, but that he was the only person blocking the bill. Its time that Representatives like Congressman Rahall and Senator Manchin start protecting their constituents and stop wasting their time and political capital defending a destructive, toxic, and unnecessary practice like mountaintop removal. Its time that our elected officials start thinking less about appeasing the coal lobby and more about protecting Appalachian citizens who live in communities where coal is mined.

In one of his last public statements, Senator Robert C. Byrd said:
It is also a reality that the practice of mountaintop removal mining has a diminishing constituency in Washington. It is not a widespread method of mining, with its use confined to only three states. Most members of Congress, like most Americans, oppose the practice, and we may not yet fully understand the effects of mountaintop removal mining on the health of our citizens.
Ken Ward has more at Coal Tattoo and Jeff Biggers has a beautiful piece at HuffPo called EPA Vetoes Largest Mountaintop Removal Permit: New Era of Civility in the Coalfields? .

Congratulations to every single person who helped make this possible.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Energy in China: Innovation, Competition, and Meeting Soaring Demand

Live Webinar Jan. 31, 1 PM ET / 10 AM PT

According to a 2010 International Energy Agency report, Chinese energy consumption has doubled over the past decade, and will soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of total global consumption growth. To date, the largest portion of this demand has been met by burning coal, raising serious concerns about CO2 emissions and the battle against climate change, but China has also begun to aggressively invest in alternative energy.

In light of this, The Energy Collective's latest webinar seeks to explore how China may rise to the challenge of meeting its rising energy demand while fighting climate change, and how those efforts will impact energy markets and technology in the rest of the world.

Energy in China webinar

The webinar will explore:

  • Innovation: Will China will be able to move down the innovation learning curve and successfully design new technologies, or continue to manufacture Western-designed technologies? Is there evidence this is happening?

  • Competition: Will China's policies and investments in alternative energy put on-par competition out of reach for the U.S., or is there hope the U.S. and EU will keep pace?

  • Coal and Energy Demand: What role will coal inevitably continue to play to meet steep energy demand increase projections for China? Can Carbon Capture & Sequestration help limit increases in coal-generated emissions?

Featuring:

Gardiner Hill is the Senior Advisor on CCS Technology, Regulations and Policy for BP Alternative Energy. He is responsible for developing strategies and advising on all matters related to carbon capture and storage across the portfolio of the BP group of companies. Hill has been involved heavily in the research and development of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) and in 2000, Hill joined BP’s central Group Technology function and project managed the CO2 Capture Project, the first international joint industry scheme of its kind. Hill sits on the board of a range of associations and special projects including; Chairman for the Carbon Capture and Storage Industry Association, Chairman for the CO2 Carbon Capture Project, and Vice Chairman of the Zero Emissions Power Technology Platform in Europe.

Marc Gunther is a veteran journalist, speaker, writer and consultant whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc is a contributing editor at FORTUNE magazine, a senior writer at Greenbiz.com, a lead blogger at The Energy Collective. He's also a husband and father, a lover of the outdoors and a marathon runner. Marc is the author or co-author of four books, including Faith and Fortune: How Compassionate Capitalism is Transforming American Business. He's a graduate of Yale who lives in Bethesda, MD.

Jesse Jenkins is Director of Energy and Climate Policy at the Breakthrough Institute, and is one of the country's leading energy and climate policy analysts and advocates. Jesse has written for publications including the San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, Yale Environment 360, Grist.org, and HuffingtonPost.com, and his published works on energy policy have been cited by many more. He is founder and chief editor of WattHead - Energy News and Commentary and a featured wr iter at the Energy Collective.

Register today and spread the word on Twitter and Facebook using http://bit.ly/EnergyChina

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A New Energy Economics and Security Consensus

By Daniel Goldfarb

Originally published at Americans for Energy Leadership

A confluence of recent events, both tragic and inspiring, have once again reminded us that America's national security is inextricably linked to its energy posture. As a result, a new consensus is emerging within government and the private sector: the U.S. military can make the nation and its soldiers safer while simultaneously aiding in an economic transformation to a less carbon intensive economy.

The emerging consensus was highlighted in this week's announcement of the military authorization's "Buy American Provision," which provides a glimmer of hope for U.S. competitiveness yet also sends shivers down the spines of those worried about a trade war with China. The importance of this development can only begin to be understood as the realization within Congress, and hopefully the general public, that clean energy stands at the nexus of economic recovery and the nation's security.

The horrifying shooting of Rep. Gabriel Giffords, a champion of renewable energy, prompted a thoughtful article by Politico's Darren Samuelsohn about Rep. Gifford's now notorious questioning of General Patreus. During a congressional hearing last June, Rep. Giffords posed a question about how the military was moving to adress the increasingly obvious link between troop safety, national security, and military energy practices:
“In places like Kandahar, where we have a large presence, we have been plugged into a very unsustainable and incapable grid system,” Giffords said. “We know that a major part of the upcoming Kandahar offensive will include some serious repairs and upgrades to the energy system, which will include small-scale solar and hydropower systems and also some solar-powered street lights. I’m just curious, General, whether or not there’s plans to utilize any of these same technologies at our bases around Afghanistan, and wouldn’t that greatly reduce our need for fuel?”

Gifford's rather straightforward question drew the ire of conservative pundits around the nation. Soon she had become a target of Glenn Beck, the Red State blog, and a number of other sources which moved to question her patriotism. Yet those attacking Rep. Gifford's poignent question failed to pick up on an emerging consensus amongst think tanks, legislators, but most importantly the DoD itself: the military must move to change its energy sources and usage.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Economists Moving Beyond Carbon Pricing

Over at the Economist, Ryan Avent notes that economists are beginning to move beyond a simple reliance on carbon pricing as the sine qua non of climate policy:

The typical baseline economist response to the problem of global warming is a very simple and straightforward one. Climate change is a negative externality, and the carbon emissions that generate it are easily targetable. The clear thing to do, then, is to place a tax on carbon emissions which will lead economic actors to internalise the cost of the warming they create with their decisions. This will discourage carbon-intensive activities and contribute to the development of clean alternative, reducing emissions and climate change.

Easy enough. Unfortunately, this strategy quickly runs into difficulty. One big problem is political. It's very difficult to convince people to accept higher energy costs, and it's very difficult to coordinate policy across countries, which is necessary to ensure that the policy works correctly. But there are also economic challenges. ... Economies are good at finding substitutes for key technologies, but it does take some time. And so because the world has waited so long to act, it now seems that the disaster-avoiding carbon tax path may itself be too economically damaging. So what's an economist to advocate?
Avent writes that while many economists continue to advocate carbon pricing -- even if they recognize that such policies, when implemented in real world political systems, are inadequate on their own terms -- a growing body of researchers are putting their focus elsewhere: "the potential role of positive policies--measures that encourage, rather than constrain, activities."
The authors of one recent paper on this subject presented at a great session on climate policy in Denver. "The environment and directed technical change", begins by arguing that the carbon externality isn't the only relevant externality in the mix. There is another important dynamic in which technological innovation draws on previous research, and so firms are more likely to continue on established innovation trajectories than to start new ones. Put simply: if most firms have been researching and building coal technologies in recent decades, they're much more likely to keep on working with coal than they are to switch to, say, solar. ...

What that means is that clean energy research will lag, even in the presence of a carbon tax. And the optimal policy response then is to subsidise clean technology research. Even a temporary subsidy will do; because of the innovation externality, the clean innovation trajectory will run on its own once established.
This isn't the only obstacle to clean energy innovation and a rapid and economic transition to a clean energy system. While economists risk stretching the term 'externality' beyond recognition in attempts to incorporate each of these obstacles into their neo-classical economic worldview, more and more economists have identified 'spill-over risks,' 'network failures,' 'incumbent infrastructure lock-in,' and many barriers to clean energy innovation and adoption.

(For a good summary of these barriers, see the discussion, "Barriers to Widespread Clean Energy Adoption and the Public Investment Imperative" in our Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant report, or this excellent paper from energy economist and analyst Karsten Neuhoff,)

After a thorough accounting of each of these challenges, a carbon price looks much less like the holy grail of climate action and more like just one tool to help overcome one (of the many) barriers to a clean economy -- and a tool plagued by political difficulty at that...

As Avent concludes:
At any rate, economics is clearly moving beyond the carbon-tax-alone position on climate change, which is a good thing. If the world is to reduce emissions, it needs technologies that are both green and cheap enough to be attractive to economically-stressed countries and people. And a carbon tax alone may not generate the necessary innovation.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Why Climate Deal Day?

Solving climate change could be the best bargain ever offered to humanity.

A number of studies have estimated that we should invest roughly 500 billion dollars per year—slightly less than one percent of global GDP—in clean energy and solutions to climate change.



Why is this potential investment such an amazing deal? I will give you three reasons.

First of all, if we can replace fossil fuels, which are the main source of climate change, we will solve other problems as well. How many geopolitical problems—such as terrorism, corruption, and autocratic rule—are in part fueled by oil and the vast un-earned wealth it produces? Also, numerous health problems result from air soiled by smog and particulate matter, which are the non-greenhouse gas byproducts of burning fossil fuels. Every year millions of people die prematurely from this air pollution. One cannot put a price tag on life, but, some studies show that aggressively fighting climate change will largely pay for itself, because cleaner air will create fewer health problems. And all these benefits are in addition to whatever geopolitical solutions arise.

Second, even without these extra benefits, the cost of investing in solutions is far less than the cost of adapting to climate change. Although $500 billion dollars of investment per year is an enormous figure, it pales in comparison to the potential damages of climate change. Lord Nicholas Stern, one of the UK’s top economists, has estimated that unmitigated climate change could damage the world economy by more than five percent, costing the world trillions of dollars per year because of droughts, storms, and rising sea levels.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the $500 billion we need to spend per year is not wasted, but instead is an investment in next generation solar, wind, and electrical grids—the technologies of the future. Regardless of health, climate, or geopolitical concerns, the world has a finite amount of coal, oil, and gas, and we must have alternative fuels. As scarcity of traditional fuels grows, prices increase. We are seeing this on a regular basis with oil, even now it is climbing back up toward $100 per barrel. We need to create choices to lessen demand to keep prices low. The companies and countries that develop cheap alternatives will be those with winning economies, with new jobs and economic growth. In fact, we are already witnessing the clean technology boom—jobs in clean energy are growing faster than almost any sector, and clean technology will likely be the world’s third largest industrial sector by 2020.

Solutions to climate change will thus create health, geopolitical, and economic benefits—in addition to avoiding climate change. This is an enormous deal for society. Unfortunately, global investments in clean energy are less then half what they need to be.

So, how do we spur this investment?

We need leadership from individuals, companies, and governments. We need governments to make it easier to invest, and we especially need companies to show their eagerness to make these investments.

At Climate Deal Day, we are attempting to encourage this investment. The “enormous deal” consists of countless smaller deals, such as companies investing in renewable energy projects or announcing major efficiency retrofits on buildings, or individuals around the world improving the efficiency of their homes and changing how they get to work.

The goal of Climate Deal Day is to help highlight and encourage these deals.

The first Climate Deal Day will be held on January 26th during the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The World Economic Forum is a meeting of top business leaders, international political leaders, and intellectuals who come together to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world. During the Climate Deal Day event, representatives from companies will meet and make or announce climate deals. These deals can be in a number of different categories—energy, transportation, forestry, and others—and we encourage companies who are attending the World Economic Forum to take part.

Too many people think of climate change and think of either 1) the disastrous consequences of global warming or 2) the “sacrifice” that they believe is necessary to avoid these consequences. Few think of opportunity or the possibility of a more prosperous, cleaner world. Yet thanks to the innovators and entrepreneurs, the creation of this better world is already underway, and through Climate Deal Day we will help showcase and encourage more climate deals to accelerate the improvement of quality of life for all of us.

If you have a Climate Deal that you would like to announce, you can do so on our website, ClimateDealDay.org, or through contacting us at deals[at]climatedealday.org.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

What A Difference a Few Years Makes: GOPers Flee from Greener Past


Here's an intriguing story to kick off the new year with a little retrospection...

Flash back to 2008, and nearly all of the top GOP contenders for a 2012 presidential run were taking global warming pretty seriously and offering real, if measured, endorsements of Congressional or state action to curb pollution and GHGs.

On the campaign stump, in books, speeches and nationally-televised commercials, aspiring GOP White House candidates such as Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney have warned in recent years about the threats from climate change and pledged to limit greenhouse gases. Some have even committed the ultimate sin, endorsing the controversial cap-and-trade concept that was eventually branded “cap and tax.”
Back in 2008, Newt Gingrich took to a couch next to the Right's current-day arch-nemesis, Nancy Pelosi, to endorse Congressional climate action in an ad sponsored by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection.

And as Politico notes, even Sarah Palin has flip flopped on the issue:
Just days after McCain picked her as his running mate, Palin told ABC News she believes human activities "certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming, climate change" and that "we’ve got to do something about it, and we have to make sure that we’re doing all we can to cut down on pollution."
Politico's Darren Samuelsohn calls it the McCain effect, with John McCain's prominent endorsement of cap and trade legislation making it safe for GOPers to talk about climate.

"I think McCain is moving in a responsible direction," then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told E&E News in May 2008. "Clearly the issue of climate change is on the minds of a lot of people. Humans clearly contribute to this. It just really depends on what kind of a cap-and-trade system, what kind of safety valves are in there."

Flash forward just a few years and each of these prominent GOPers are likely running for an excuse, a mea culpa, or another way to distance themselves from green records that are now liabilities with a Republican base strongly influenced by the Tea Party movement.

So what happened? Was it simply the polarizing direction of the cap and trade debate? The shift in the economic winds? The rise of the Tea Party? The inherent politics of a proposal centered on making our current base of energy sources more expensive, rather than making the cleaner alternatives cheaper?

Whatever the constellation of causes, the change is quite stark. Looking ahead to 2011 and beyond, can we build a new and enduring consensus around an innovation-centered approach to energy reform, building a clean economy, and responsibly reducing pollution? And can we make it sustained enough to avoid the factors that turned the endorsements of prominent GOP leaders into liabilities just a few years later?

We welcome thoughts from our readers...

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