Tales from the Trail

from Environment Forum:

As if 2007 never happened?

If four years is a lifetime in politics, it's an eternity in climate change politics. Events in Washington this week might make climate policy watchers wonder if 2007 really happened.

At issue is the decision by American Electric Power to put its plans for carbon capture and storage on hold, due to the weak economy and the lack of a U.S. plan to limit emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Read the Reuters story about it here.

Carbon capture and storage, or CCS for short, has been promoted as a way to make electricity from domestic coal without unduly raising the level of carbon in the atmosphere. Instead of sending the carbon dioxide that results from burning coal up a smokestack and into the air, the plan was to bury it underground. But that costs money and requires regulatory guarantees, and neither are imminent in the United States. Legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions bogged down on Capitol Hill a year ago and has not been re-introduced.

Sarah Forbes of World Resources Institute called AEP's decision "a surprise, but not a shock."

"Given that U.S. climate legislation stalled last summer, companies have less incentive to move forward with CCS, which has proven difficult to advance at scale," Forbes said in a statement.

Amidst the shivering in Washington, the case for global warming

WEATHER/OK, it’s cold in Washington. It’s really cold. And snowy. And blizzardy. It’s hard to recall that long-ago moment — what was it, six days ago? — when you could go for a walk without cross-country skis and a flask of brandy. But just because it’s winter doesn’t mean global warming is a myth.

But the storms gave conservatives fresh fodder for mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his efforts on global climate change.  Senator Jim DeMint tweeted “It’s going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle’,” Politico reported.

For decades, scientists have struggled to explain the difference between weather, which changes in the short term, and climate, which changes over the long term. There’s a good explanation at the new government Climate Service Web site called “Short term cooling on a warming planet.” The new site went up this week, between blizzards, and is supposed to guide consumers and businesses so they can adapt to climate change. The Climate Service itself is expected to be up and running by the start of the next U.S. fiscal year that begins on October 1.

Healthcare and the holidays

It’s Christmas Eve and there is a lot more stirring than just a mouse.  In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Senate just voted to approve a wide-ranging healthcare overhaul bill with Democrats and Republicans divided as they have ever been.

All 60 DemocrUSA/ats voted for the legislation while 39 Republicans opposed it (Republican Senator Jim Bunning was absent), ending a month-long marathon debate in the Senate with the first Christmas Eve vote in more than a century (1895).

In what some could interpret as a sign of just how important this legislation is to President Barack Obama’s agenda, his vice president, Joe Biden, presided over the session serving in his dual role of president of the Senate.

First Draft: cooling off

Let it snow. Why should London have all the fun? Washington weather calls for a few inches, just enough for a snowball fight for hearty Midwesterners like President Barack Obama.

But guard that snow gear. The New York Times says reports of stolen snowplows are up in cold-weather states as the economy declines.

USA-OBAMA/Speaking of the declining economy, Obama doing separate interviews this afternoon with just about every TV channel in the vicinity of the White House — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and FOX.

Obama to shivering Washingtonians: Toughen up

President Barack Obama, steeled by Chicago’s harsh winters, had some unsolicited advice for shivering Washingtonians on Wednesday — toughen up.
 USA-OBAMA/
Obama took a joking dig at residents of Washington, his new adopted home, after his daughters’ school was closed because of icy streets and sidewalks in the nation’s capital.
 
“My children’s school was canceled today, because of what? Some ice,” he said to laughter as he spoke to reporters while sitting down with corporate executives to discuss his economic recovery plan.
 
As one of his girls, who both attend the private Sidwell Friends school, pointed out, Obama added, “in Chicago, school is never canceled. … You’d go outside for recess. You wouldn’t even stay indoors.”
 
“We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness,” he said in an amused tone.
 
Asked whether was calling Washingtonians wimps, Obama — who moved his family from Chicago before his presidential inauguration last week — said, “I’m saying when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things.”

For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama meets business leaders)

The First Draft, Tuesday Dec. 30

Israel’s military operations in Gaza continue to dominate front pages of major newspapers and morning talk shows. Wall Street is looking for a positive start as oil and gold prices ease back from the price spikes that followed the onset of the Israeli strikes against Hamas.USA-OBAMA/

President George W. Bush remains at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, while President-elect Barack Obama continues his vacation in Hawaii.

GMAC said it will resume financing auto loans following a $5 billion investment from the U.S. Treasury. The latest financial rescue also included a $1 billion loan to General Motors to purchase equity in GMAC.

The First Draft, Monday Dec. 29

WASHINGTON – Israeli air attacks in Gaza dominate morning talk shows and front pages of major U.S. newspapers. The attacks pushed up oil prices by more than $3 a barrel to over $40. Gold prices also moved higher. Nevertheless, U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street in what is expected to be a light trading.tanks2

President-elect Barack Obama remains in Hawaii and President George W. Bush is at his ranch in Texas.

Winter weather extremes and dismal holiday shopping season featured on morning talk shows.

The First Draft: Wednesday, Dec 17

USA-POLITICS/DEMOCRATS

President-elect Barack Obama is almost done with his first chore.

Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, holds a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday to announce he has picked former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to head the agriculture department and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary.USA-POLITICS/

With those selections, Obama moves closer to filling the last of the Cabinet posts in his administration, with nominees for transportation, labor and U.S. Trade Representative still to be named. 

It is a rapid pace for the next president, who has moved faster than his recent predecessors in making Cabinet selections. He hoped to have most of them out of the way before he heads to Hawaii on vacation at the end of the week. 

Weather looks good for most of U.S. on Election Day

WASHINGTON – Election Day is finally here, the final opinion polls are in and now it’s time for Americans to make their way to the voting booth — but will weather be a factor?

According to the latest forecast maps, most of the country will not have adverse weather conditions, but there could be rain showers in two battleground states.

Good weather historically has helped Democrats.

Virginia, which has voted Republican since 1964, is now a toss-up state between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama and will likely see showers most of the day stretching from Newport News north to the suburbs outside Washington, D.C., and west toward Roanoke.

Sunny skies on Nov. 4 could help Obama

The gods could be smiling on Barack Obama come Nov. 4.

Weather forecasters AccuWeather.com predict sunny skies across much of the country on Election Day, and good weather has historically helped Democrats at the polls.

A 2005 study found that lousy weather typically helps Republicans, as less-dedicated voters who typically favor Democrats tend to stay home rather than wait in line in the rain and snow.

To be precise, turnout drops by just under 1 percent for every inch of rain, or one-half percent for every quarter inch of snow, according to University of Pittsburgh professor George Krause, who co-authored the study.