Tales from the Trail

What is the cost of staving off climate change?

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. 
 USA/
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) 

Brad Pitt tries out role as lobbyist

brad1Hollywood star Brad Pitt made the rounds in Washington on Thursday keeping a low profile while calling on some some high-profile people to promote sustainable housing.******Pitt dropped by the White House for a private meeting with President Barack Obama but the White House said there was “no read-out” on the visit.******Pitt also went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip James Clyburn. He joined them for that time-honored Washington tradition: a media availability behind a bank of microphones.******Pitt thanked Pelosi for taking time to talk to him about the post-hurricane rebuilding effort going on in New Orleans, where his “Make it Right” foundation is constructing sustainable houses for low-income residents in the city’s Lower 9th Ward.***    ***Pelosi hailed Pitt as a role model. Clyburn thanked Brad for his help …  and for giving him bragging rights.******”I did not realize when the speaker asked me to chair the Katrina- Rita Task Force that it would lead to my getting in a position to make my grandchildren so envious of me because this effort brought the two of us, Brad Pitt and myself, together,” the South Carolina Democrat said.  ***   ***For the record, Pitt was flying solo on the Hill.  Angelina Jolie was making her own low-key appearance in town shooting a scene for a movie in a blond wig.

The First Draft: Tuesday, Jan. 6

MALAYSIA

On a dark and drippy Washington morning, President-elect Barack Obama meets with his economic advisers to discuss the 2010 budget.

At the White House, President George W. Bush will create the biggest protected marine area on the planet, a trio of national monuments in the Pacific.

The new U.S. Congress convenes today, with clouds hanging over two Democrats: Roland Burris of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota.

from Environment Forum:

Obama is just the facts on environment

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on "the facts" as it put together policy.

"We understand the facts demand bold action," he said.

In case listeners didn't get the point that the new administration thinks it's different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

"There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science -- welcome doctor," he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.

from Environment Forum:

Palin asks Schwarzenegger to terminate shipping fees

palin3.jpgCalifornia environmentalists are in tizzy this week, accusing Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of telling their governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, how to do his job.

At issue is a letter Palin sent to Schwarzenegger last month, asking him to veto a bill that would raise shipping container fees to pay for pollution-reduction programs at three major California ports.

The letter, which Palin sent to Schwarzenegger a day before she was announced as John McCain's running mate, began circling on the Web on Thursday.

McCain: ending offshore drilling ban eased oil price

ASPEN, Colo. – Republican presidential contender Sen. John McCain said on Thursday the recent sharp fall in the price of oil had been helped by the end of the U.S. federal offshore drilling moratorium.

“I think several factors have contributed to the recent drop in the price of a barrel of oil. I think the practice of conservation and the reduction in our demand has probably been a major factor,” he told the Aspen Institute.

“I also don’t think it was entirely accidental that the day that the president announced lifting the federal moratorium on offshore drilling, the price of a barrel of oil dropped.”