cap and trade

Activists shine light on issues getting short shrift inside Copenhagen climate negotiations

The scene outside the global climate talks in Copenhagen is a cornucopia of innovative artwork, inspiring panel discussions and provocative characters with fascinating stories to tell, the InvestigateWest team reports.

In fact, there were so many interesting events and people that the sheer number made it hard to focus on any one today, InvestigateWest correspondent Alexander Kelly told me by Skype just now.

But he’s focused enough to know that he will be doing a piece on the critique of cap-and-trade, which many economists and politicians promote but which many environmentalists in Copenhagen this week oppose.

[caption id="attachment_6879" align="alignleft" width="226" caption="In this panel discussion at a symposium known as KlimatForum09, Hanne Marstrand Strong, president of the Manitou Foundation, based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado speaks of her group, which provides land grants and financial support to religious organizations and environmental groups. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan."]In this panel discussion at a symposium known as KlimatForum09, Hanne Marstrand Strong, president of the Manitou Foundation, based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado speaks of her group, which provides land grants and financial support to religious organizations and environmental groups. InvestigateWest photo by Mark Malijan.[/caption]

And he’s considering writing about ocean acidification, which is a big concern to the maritime community of the Pacific Northwest.

Folks -- are there climate-related topics you’d like to hear about that probably are being discussed in Copenhagen?

No matter what Senate climate bill really says, looks like it's too late to help in Copenhagen

Whew! The crush of news about climate over the past few days was breathtaking:

First, late Friday night, details finally rolled out about what exactly the Kerry-Boxer climate-change bill in the Senate says. Journos were scrambling around 'til all hours trying to figure it out, and even today the smoke is still clearing.

David Roberts at Grist had an incisive if bleary-eyed look at why the common wisdom -- that Kerry-Boxer is more ambitious than the House's Waxman-Markey -- is wrong.

On Saturday -- even as the journos were still slaving over the details of Kerry-Boxer -- worldwide demonstrations called attention to the need to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide to a pre-industrial level of 350 parts CO2 per million parts of atmosphere.

The folks at Bill McKibben's 350.org apparently did a fair job turning out demonstrators around the globe, according to The New York Times' coverage. Marketplace had a worthwhile curtain-raiser.

Today folks in D.C. are still scurrying around trying to find out what this Kerry-Boxer thing says. It starting to sound like both the House and Senate bills allow lots of offsets for industries to get out of the greenhouse gas caps   -- offsets that may not, in fact, do anything to reduce global warming (so-called "anyways" offsets for stuff that was going on already.)

Lobbyists for industry are saying the analysis coming from the government is questionable. For example, Frank Maisano of the Bracewell & Giuliani firm charged in his weekly note advancing D.C. goings-on:

 There are a few flaws in EPA's analysis. Besides using insufficient models and old data, there are overlapping mandates and caps that will increase cost and diminish the effectiveness of the trading system. . .

Marshmallows and musical chairs help teach Cap'n Trade 101

Well, this week has been a historic one on the climate change front. The Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was going to place more stringent regulations on the nation's largest carbon emitters -- which represent only 2 percent of U.S. businesses, but 70 percent of greenhouses gases -- and Senate Democrats released a draft bill that included even more zealous carbon cuts than one passed by the House earlier this year. (More in Emily Gertz's roundup.)

While most agree that curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and working to slow global warming is a hunky dory idea, especially when you've got walrus pups being trampled alive in Alaska as a result of disappearing sea ice, many still disagree over the means to that end.

[caption id="attachment_4696" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Alan Durning. Photo courtesy of Sightline.org"]Alan Durning. Photo courtesy of Sightline.org[/caption]

One of the ways politicians have proposed combating emissions is through a carbon cap and trade system. While the idea has been kicked around in Congress for a few years now, the concept is still widely debated and -- not surprisingly --  still perplexing to many.

Alaska feels heat with climate legislation

In a state where nearly one-third of the job force works in the oil industry, Alaskans are feeling the heat on climate legislation. Hundreds of people are meeting in rallies and discussions about the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill Congress is considering that would levy additional costs on the oil industry, reports Elizabeth Bluemink of the Anchorage Daily News.

Opponents of the bill's cap-and-trade system worry it will hurt the economy by forcing oil jobs offshore, leaving individuals jobless and independent refineries bankrupt.

Supporters say the long-term environmental and economic costs of not implementing the bill would be much higher than the economic ones in the near future. Alaska is already experiencing melting sea ice and permafrost, and warmer temperatures are threatening coastal life from fish to humans, as InvestigateWest reported earlier.

– Emily Linroth

Global warming? Ha -- throw another lump of coal on the barbie, Australians say

Americans make up 5 percent of the world's population, and with that we manage to crank out 25 percent of the greenhouse gases that have us hurtling toward climate catastrophe.

[caption id="attachment_2708" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Gnu free documentation license"]Gnu free documentation license[/caption]

 

So, we're the worst offenders, you'd think. But no. That would be Australia, where the per capita greenhouse gas production rates are even higher than here in the U-S of A.

Writing for The Wall Street Journal from Canberra, Rachel Pannett offers an interesting look at what she bills as a possible preview of what's to happen here on the Waxman-Markey Cap'n Trade bill.

The report from Down Under definitely inspires a sense of deja vu:

Like the U.S.

Saskatchewan favors Obama's emissions plan

Saskatchewan would rather adopt the U.S. carbon emission reduction plan than cap-and-trade systems proposed by Canada because it would be easier on the coal industry in the province, reports Brian Laghi of The Globe and Mail. Saskatchewan is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in Canada, largely due to burning of coal to generate electricity for mining and refining deep oil reserves. The province worries Canada's strict requirements on capping carbon emissions would cripple its economy. The U.S. plan would reduce carbon emissions on each barrel of oil produced, increasing overall production and allowing continued growth of oil sands production. Whatever plan Canada adopts, Saskatchewan would like to see modifications targeted to specific industries.

– Emily Linroth

Faked letters to Congress on behalf of coal industry show twists of modern news media

The case of the coal industry's faked letters to members of Congress from  "constituents" is providing an interesting look at the modern news media as it changes.

Sure, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other behemoths had their own stories when news broke that a lobbying firm working for a group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity had hired a subcontractor that sent the bogus letters.

But nearly a week later, who's really following the scandal? It's getting legs in large part because so-called "new" media such as Talking Points Memo and Grist.org are bearing down on the story.

Kate Sheppard at Grist even found a new angle merely by looking in her news organization's past files (once known as a "morgue," which never made it sound enticing to dead-tree journos.) She offers today:

Grist contributor Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies reported in May 2008 that a representative for ACCCE, then known as Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), was caught misrepresenting the group in a phone call that aimed to drum up opposition to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

Climate legislation: a scary sequel

If you thought the energy and climate legislation just passed by the House made a lot of concessions to coal and other polluting industries, just wait to you get a look at what the Senate’s coming up with.

So says the LA Times’ Jim Tankersley today in a dispatch from D.C. In order to get the votes necessary to overcome near-unanimous Republican opposition in the Senate, the Democratic leadership will need to cut deals to ease certain industries’ transition to a lighter carbon footprint. In particular look for bones to be thrown to Dems representing industrial states like Ohio and Michigan, coal-dependent Indiana and oil-rich Louisiana, Tankersley reports.

Sure to cause consternation is the idea that in order to ram through the Cap’n Trade bill, the Obama administration will have to agree to more offshore oil drilling. There’s also talk of giving great sway to those who would build major transmission lines to, say, move wind energy from where it’s abundant in the Midwest to Eastern population centers. Local objections would go out the window.

If you’d like a look at the early handicapping, see this item from the brave folks at Grist.org, taking a look at which senators are likely yeas, which are likely nays, and a looong list of senators who are hard to call at this point.