Global environmental challenges
from Tales from the Trail:
Could "heroism fatigue" be yet another bump in the road for any U.S. law to curb climate change? And what is "heroism fatigue" anyway?
To Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, heroism fatigue is what happens when the Congress has spent most of the year doing something heroic, like trying to hammer out an agreement on healthcare reform, when what lawmakers might rather be doing is naming a new post office. Following one big, gnarly piece of legislation with another -- like a bill to limit climate-warming carbon dioxide -- can seem daunting.
"Especially Democrats want to get back to some meat-and-potatoes job-creation stuff," Bledsoe says. "They're going to need a little time after healthcare."
Congressional down-time doesn't sound like part of the Obama administration's game plan on climate and energy. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said last week that the president expects a comprehensive bill on this in 2010. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech to Congress could be a good barometer of how much he wants this, as my colleague Richard Cowan wrote. The speech has yet to be scheduled, but is expected within the next few weeks.
One can presume that Chevron Chief Executive David O’Reilly is not a fan of the current deep worldwide recession — which was worsened by a credit-market lockup blamed in part on hard-to-value securities.
from Tales from the Trail:
Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
"It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas," warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. "According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry."
There's a problem, though.
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
John Reilly, an economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
"Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong," Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
"If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward)," Stewart said.
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress' leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in -- electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps -- he said that would "significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills."
For more Reuters political news, click here
Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Demonstrators for clean energy hold a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 2)