James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Obama’s lost year

Nov 5, 2009 17:10 UTC

Rahm Emanuel famously said that you “never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”  And certainly the sense of crisis earlier in the year helped the White House pass the $787 billion stimulus package. But where stands the rest of the Obama legislative agenda?

Healthcare. The House will likely pass a bill this weekend, but big difference remain with the Senate, including paying for the plan and what to do about a public option.

Cap-and-trade. Kerry-Boxer is going nowhere which is why Kerry and Graham are working on a a dual-track approach.

Financial regulatory reform. The House and the Senate have completely different notions about what to do about system risk regulation. Plus there may be new efforts to try and “shrink” the banks and limit the scope of future activities.

See you in 2010, Obama Agenda!

COMMENT

Everyone talks about how smart this president is. He is as dumb as a post. Bush didn’t pretend to be the smartest guy on the block. However, this guy Obama does pretend, but only fools people dumber than him like most of the people who elected him and the the DemoRat congress. He is just a hack that parrots things he has learned from his leftist mentors. This man does not have any principles or any original thoughts.

As a black man in America, I hoped that this guy would moderate and succeed. It seems that he is on the way to being a presidential failure because his welfare-state mentality and his weakness on foreign and military policy. He is someone that this black person will not ever respect unless he changes his leftist ways. (Which ain’t going to happen!)

Posted by Jack Smith | Report as abusive

US Chamber of Commerce and climate change

Oct 20, 2009 13:33 UTC

OK, here is the USCOC’s basic position on climate change from recent congressional testimony:

The Chamber supports the goals of the Committee to lower concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, become more energy efficient, and incentivize “green” energy technologies. The Chamber does not categorically support or oppose approaches such as cap and trade or carbon tax, but rather measures all climate legislation on a bill-by-bill basis against five core principles: any legislation or regulation introduced must (1) preserve American jobs and competitiveness of U.S. industry; (2) provide an international solution that includes developing nations; (3) promote accelerated development and deployment of greenhouse gas reduction technology; (4) reduce barriers to the development of climate-friendly energy sources; and (5) promote energy conservation and efficiency.

Me: One reason so many news organizations got suckered by yesterday’s phony press release is that it seemed pretty plausible that the Chamber would come out in favor of a carbon tax.  Plenty of pro-market folks have come out in favor of such a plan, especially if it was revenue neutral, perhaps offsetting payroll taxes.

2012 Watch: Romney goes after cap-and-trade

Oct 8, 2009 16:31 UTC

Mitt Romney attacks cap-and-trade via video over at his PAC website, Free and Strong America. He basically portrays it as an energy tax on Americans (which it is) that will hurt American competitiveness vs. India and China (which is it will.)

But, more interestingly, he makes is clear that does believe in climate change (which the conservative talk radio crowd generally does not).  And you can be sure his campaign for president will have a more expansive energy policy than just “drill, baby, drill.” During his last run, Romney told me he was certainly willing spend many billions on government investment in alternative energy and other new energy technologies. That’s right, government spending — though I am sure venture capital would play a huge role as well.

COMMENT

learn more about myths and facts about climate legislation here: http://www.wri.org/stories/2009/08/clima te-change-legislation-myths-and-reality

Posted by Sarah | Report as abusive

$10 trillion for clean energy? Maybe a bit overambitious

Oct 6, 2009 17:23 UTC

Working for the International Energy Agency must be hoot. Where else can you recommend a $10 trillion investment and kinda-sorta be taken seriously? From the WSJ:

The IEA, energy adviser to the world’s richest nations, urges more-aggressive reductions in carbon emissions than what many nations are currently planning. In the report, to be released Tuesday, the IEA calls for investment — in clean-energy initiatives such as solar power, new nuclear plants and other measures — of $500 billion a year over the next 20 years.

That is 37% more investment than what the IEA estimated was necessary just a year ago. Some analysts put the current level of investment in clean energy at around $100 billion a year.

And this is my favorite line in the story:

The IEA’s projections, though sometimes seen as overly ambitious, are generally regarded as relevant guideposts for the energy industry.

COMMENT

This is not really a huge deal compared to the size of the energy problem.
Large numbers should always be considered in context.
Let’s see, OECD primary energy consumption is ~5.5 bill tonnes oil equivalent per year. (http://www.iea.org/Textbase/stats/balan cetable.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=28) This corresponds to about 40.4 billion barrels of oil-equivalent. So $500 billion per year is $12.37/bbl oil-equivalent used in OECD per year.
Or, 29 cents/gallon-oil-equivalent. That seems quite reasonable.

Posted by Paul Leiby | Report as abusive

Obama’s unilateral move on climate change

Oct 1, 2009 11:54 UTC

OK, so the White House has greenlit the EPA to go forward with new rules, as the NYTimes puts it,  “to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from hundreds of power plants and large industrial facilities.”  I think this lobbyist quotes in the article gets the politics right:

Scott Segal, a utility lobbyist with the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani in Washington, said the rule should not be used to rush Congress into passing a poorly drafted bill.

But he also said that the proposal “strengthens the president’s negotiating hand in Copenhagen.”

“Even if the Senate does not act,” Mr. Segal said, “he can legitimately say to other nations, ‘We are taking action on a unilateral basis. What are you doing?’ ”

COMMENT

With reference to the above article, the short article below explains the scenario in the Asian Climate Change context.

“Green Energy : A Paradigm Shift in Sustainability”

Green energy is not something new since the discovery of the depletion of the ozone layer and global climate change as a direct impact of green house effect on a worldwide scale.

Various international conventions/agreements on the reduction of green house effect will remain forever on glossy papers if countries around the world are not serious in committing themselves towards real implementation within national boundary.

Political will power, or even real politics for that matter alone, is insufficient in promoting green energy as attested by the economics of reality in both developed and developing countries.

A paradigm shift is needed in forging a new instrument of international co-operation within the wider framework of Free Trade Agreements and joint conviction shared by stakeholders such as the OECD, major banking bodies(i.e. IMF, World bank, ADB) and leading industrial/corporate entities.

……………………………….
Jeong Chun-phuoc
lecturer-in-law
[an an advocate of Competitive & Strategic Environmenting]
Jeongphu@yahoo.com

Posted by JEONG CHUN PHUOC | Report as abusive

The cap-and-trade endgame on Capitol Hill

Sep 30, 2009 16:54 UTC

The great Dan Clifton of Strategas Research hears the same thing I am hearing:

We continue to believe the Senate does not have 60 votes for a meaningful cap and trade bill and today’s events are largely designed to keep the process moving. With healthcare taking up so much of the calendar and financial regulation to follow, cap and trade is now squarely put into the election calendar. Should something pass next year, we expect the legislation to a be a stripped down energy bill (as opposed to cap and trade) and that will feature a Renewable Portfolio Standard and possibly easing of approval for transmission lines.

COMMENT

Still, we can not take it for granted. Proposed cap and trade legislation would cost Americans thousands in increased energy costs as well as lost jobs. Write to Congress at http://tiny.cc/pxIgi.

Posted by CCit26 | Report as abusive

Climate change: 3.6 degrees or $46 trillion

Sep 28, 2009 17:02 UTC

They may not know all the stats and numbers, but people instinctively don’t seem to want to pay a lot of dough to limit carbon emissions. Not even close.  In fact, you can find plenty of climate experts who doubt they ever will, particularly in India and China. Betting on mitigation and technology seems the more realistic route. A bit from Bjorn Lomborg:

Urged on by environmental activists, many politicians are vowing to
make carbon cuts designed to keep expected temperature rises under 3.6
degrees (2.0 Celsius). Yet it is nearly impossible for these promises
to be fulfilled.

Japan’s commitment in June to cut greenhouse gas levels 8 percent
from its 1990 levels by 2020 was scoffed at for being far too little.
Yet for Japan — which has led the world in improving energy efficiency
– to have any hope of reaching its target, it needs to build nine new
nuclear power plants and increase their use by one-third, construct
more than 1 million new wind-turbines, install solar panels on nearly 3
million homes, double the percentage of new homes that meet rigorous
insulation standards, and increase sales of “green” vehicles from 4
percent to 50 percent of its auto purchases.

Imagine for a moment that the fantasists win the day and that at the
climate conference in Copenhagen in December every nation commits to
reductions even larger than Japan’s, designed to keep temperature
increases under 2 degrees Celsius. The result will be a global price
tag of $46 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing
just $1.1 trillion, according to climate economist Richard Tol, a
contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose cost
findings were commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center and are
to be published by Cambridge University Press next year.

Update: A good post from John Tierney on why government isn’t doing more to look for technological fixes like atmosphere scrubbing.

COMMENT

your updated link 404′s me.

Why strong climate change legislation is dead

Sep 11, 2009 14:44 UTC

My new favorite blog, New Geography, does a fine piece of analysis that reveals why 80 percent cuts in climate change emissions are a fantasy without a radical technology breakthrough:

According to a recent poll by Rasmussen, slightly more than one-third of respondents (who provided an answer) are willing to spend $100 or more per year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. About 2 percent would spend more than $1,000. … If we do a rough, weighted average of the Rasmussen numbers, it appears that Americans are willing to spend about $100 per household per year.  … At $100 per household, it appears that Americans are willing to spend on the order of $12 billion annually.

At $100 per household, Americans are prepared to pay just $2 per greenhouse gas ton removed. All of this is in a policy context in which the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that $20-$50 per greenhouse gas ton is the maximum that should be spent per ton. The often quoted McKinsey/Conference Board study says that huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved at $50 or less, with an average cost per ton of $17. International markets now value a ton of greenhouse gas emissions at around $20. At $2 per ton, American households are simply not on the same “planet” with the radical climate change lobby as to how much they wish to spend on reducing greenhouse gases.

COMMENT

Sorry, Drewbie, I gave you half an answer. It takes energy, energy to sort the CO2 out from the N2, O2, etc. in the atmosphere, and then, lucky you, you’ve got a load of CO2 on your hands. You could pump it underground, if you trust that idea. It uses a lot less energy to just not put it in the atmosphere in the first place. And as for plants, give them some water and fertilizer and you’re turning atmospheric CO2 into solid carbon compounds with solar energy, with little or no cost for equipment.You might be interested to know that there’s a company with a process for using electric power to turn CO2 into gasoline. They can take the CO2 from the atmosphere, but they had power plant exhaust in mind to make it cheaper. They were talking about doing this with wind power at night, when they felt there would be a great excess of wind power. But putting the wind power directly into an electric vehicle battery has got to be more efficient. And of course if you burn the gasoline, the carbon goes back into the atmosphere. The essential point is again that this process takes energy.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

3 reasons why cap-and-trade is in trouble

Sep 8, 2009 20:23 UTC

The man who will almost certainly become Japan’s next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is promising to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

That is a far more ambitious target that can be found in the legislation currently making its way through Congress. The cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives would trim U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels. That translates to around a 6 percent cut from 1990 levels.

But even that lesser reduction seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Climate change legislation faces a tough road in the Senate, and it may get pushed back to 2010 or beyond.

Cap and trade is, like healthcare reform, in trouble, and for many of the same reasons:

- There doesn’t seem to be an acute crisis. Polls show that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with their healthcare. Reasons for complacency can also be found in recent developments in climate change. A new NASA study notes global temperature increases have stalled out this decade, likely because of decreasing solar irradiance.

Obviously some dire event, such as a terrible swine flu season or a brutal spike in temperatures, could refocus public attention and concern. But for now there doesn’t seem to be an emergency to motivate either voters or lawmakers.

- Most people won’t see an immediate benefit. Proposed changes in the U.S. healthcare system wouldn’t immediately change the current insurance coverage of most Americans, despite new government spending and higher taxes. Likewise, cutting carbon emissions will likely incur big costs today with any tangible benefits coming later this century. During a recession, neither provides the sort of cost-benefit analysis that strapped Americans are likely to find compelling.

- Both plans seem off point. If you asked Americans what was the biggest problem facing America, polls show, the most common answer would probably be unemployment rather than healthcare or the environment. And that is one problem, at least as gauged by the unemployment rate, seemingly getting worse rather than better.

To quote the man who jumped from a burning airplane with no parachute, “First things first!” Americans seem to agree.

Given a possible weak economic recovery and worker anxiety about jobs, neither a strong cap-and-trade climate change bill, nor a carbon tax bill, may happen anytime soon.

Instead, a better option might be more government-funded research into technological fixes. The Bjorn Lomborg-led Copenhagen Consensus recently released a list of proposals — such as marine cloud whitening and carbon storage — that could give more bang for the buck than new regulation and taxes.

If politics is the art of the possible, new green technology may be all that environmentalists can realistically expect from America.

COMMENT

Any impact will come from technology to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere, not lower emissions. Only working to lower emissions to stop global warming is like taking your foot off the gas when you’re in a car headed down hill with no brakes. You might crash at a slower speed, but you still crash.

The way forward on climate change …

Sep 7, 2009 15:50 UTC

This, from Tom Barnett amplifying on a Bjorn Lomborg op-ed, seems like a policy that could actually work in the real world. Reducing economic growth is a sure loser:

Instead of CO2 cuts, why not focus on adaptation? Why cut GDP growth over the century by 12-13% when the costs of adaptation will be much lower (“the majority of economic models show that unconstrained global warming would cost rich nations around 2% of GDP and poor countries around 5% by 2100.”). And Lomborg argues that putting serious technology efforts online as part of this adaptation effort can actually make it a winning proposition.

Meanwhile, “a high carbon tax will simply hurt growth if alternative technology is not ready, making us all worse off.”

In short, spend (on technology) to save, not cut (emissions).

COMMENT

With reference to the above article, the short article below explains the scenario in the Asian Climate Change context.

“Green Energy : A Paradigm Shift in Sustainability”

Green energy is not something new since the discovery of the depletion of the ozone layer and global climate change as a direct impact of green house effect on a worldwide scale.

Various international conventions/agreements on the reduction of green house effect will remain forever on glossy papers if countries around the world are not serious in committing themselves towards real implementation within national boundary.

Political will power, or even real politics for that matter alone, is insufficient in promoting green energy as attested by the economics of reality in both developed and developing countries.

A paradigm shift is needed in forging a new instrument of international co-operation within the wider framework of Free Trade Agreements and joint conviction shared by stakeholders such as the OECD, major banking bodies(i.e. IMF, World bank, ADB) and leading industrial/corporate entities.

……………………………….
Jeong Chun-phuoc
lecturer-in-law
[an an advocate of Competitive & Strategic Environmenting]
Jeongphu@yahoo.com

Posted by JEONG CHUN PHUOC | Report as abusive
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