November 2008

Europe is unlikely to achieve its renewable energy ambitions, which would cost about €500bn, according to a new study.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week said that she “did not believe it would be right to sacrifice the well-founded climate goals of the European Union." She was referring to the EU’s 2007 promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels.

Merkel is not to be believed. In fact her administration his been dismantling the EU’s climate goals, albeit slowly, since they came into existence. Read more here, here, and here.

Meanwhile, Merkel faces a rebellion from her own party. Benny Peiser’s CCnet today carries the following story, from Germany's 'Handelsblatt: "Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is coming under growing pressure by her own party to reject the EU climate bill unless there will be far-reaching exemptions for the German industry and energy providers. In a position paper presented yesterday, the leadership of the parliamentary Christian Democrats demands that all sectors of the producing industries should be exempt completely from the emissions trading scheme…."

Over at The New Republic’s Environment and Energy Blog, “The Vine,” Bradford Plumer has written a post about how the Bush Administration is supposedly placing GOP loyalists in upper level science positions in the civil service.

Here’s Mr. Plumer’s snarky intro:

“You know what the federal government needs right now? A bunch of Bush appointees without any sort of scientific background getting slotted in key science-related civil service positions, that's what…”

Mr. Plumer’s source material is an article from Sunday’s Washington Post. He quotes from the article at length, yet I doubt he read it, because his assertion that these are “key, science related civil service positions” is way off base, at least according to the material he cites.

In fact, the article names three political appointees who have been promoted to three positions: a non-science administrative role at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; a non-science administrative role at the Department of Energy; and a job at the Drug Enforcement Agency, which is hardly a scientific agency.

The Gore-ing of the Bull

by William Yeatman on November 25, 2008

in Blog

Congressional leadership fights often give the best sense of where the political zeitgeist is drifting. Think of the combative Newt Gingrich narrowly edging the establishment candidate Ed Madigan for House Republican whip in 1989. That contest, hardly noticed outside of conservative Republican circles at the time, would have dramatic implications, auguring the GOP’s 1994 emergence from decades of political desert.

In the 1980s, a Communist secret police agent infiltrated clandestine economics seminars hosted by Vaclav Klaus, a fiery future leader of the Czech Republic, who had come under suspicion for extolling free market virtues. Rather than reporting on Marxist heresy, the agent was most struck by Klaus's now famous arrogance.

Obama Watch

by William Yeatman on November 25, 2008

This week President-elect Barack Obama promised to “lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change" at an international climate change summit in California. In a previously-recorded video message to the 800 attendees, Obama repeated his campaign pledge to push for a cap-and-trade scheme that would reduce U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama also promoted his plan to spend $15 billion annually for ten years to create 5 million green jobs.

Obama faces an uphill battle to meet these promises. The economic crisis will be a major impediment to Obama’s vision of an era of global cooperation on climate change. Countries are increasingly reluctant to commit to economically harmful climate mitigation policies during what appears to be a global recession (see “Around the World, below).

The economic downturn also will impede Obama’s cap-and-trade plans. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) this week announced that she will introduce a cap and trade bill in January (see Inside the Beltway, above), but the Senate rejected the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill last summer because of its adverse economic impact, and the economy is much worse now. Just last week, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told reporters that the financial crisis has forced the Congress to relegate cap and trade legislation to the backburner. He said that he didn’t expect the Congress to address cap and trade until 2010.

Obama’s plan to spend billions in taxpayer money to create green jobs is much more plausible in the short term. Members of Congress are likely to embrace an opportunity to spread around $15 billion among constituents.

Eastern EU member states want to see a fresh proposal from France regarding the European Union's planned climate and energy package, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Monday

Cuts and delays to investment in Europe's energy infrastructure caused by the financial crisis and the recession will weaken future energy security and undermine the fight against climate change, a leading consultancy has warned.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced calls from fellow conservatives Sunday to fight to water down a European Union climate pact until the recession-wracked economy is moving again.

What a Racket!

by William Yeatman on November 24, 2008

California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a declaration this week with Indonesia and Brazil to develop efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation. This treaty-lite will make it cheaper for California businesses to purchase emission credits abroad than reduce their emissions.

Tropical forestry is a natural choice for carbon offsets because nothing has to be produced. As in California, the trees are merely left to grow a little longer before they are logged. No hassles trying to produce “clean” energy in developing countries for this bunch; these projects don’t accomplish something helpful like building natural gas fired power plants for Nigerians currently using their forests for fuel, for instance.
But guilt-laden Californians could also be doing more harm than good. The countries where they will supposedly be investing in forests have proven records for corruption. Brazil tied with China and India at 72 on the 2006 Transparency International Perceptions of Corruption Index. And Indonesia tied with that paragon of virtue, Russia, near the bottom at number 143.
Regular charities disclose the percentage of their donations that are spent on administrative costs and executive salaries. Yet the companies affiliated with these projects typically don’t release information on what percentage of their funds actually goes to the owners of tropical forests.

One of the primary companies supplying tropical forestry offsets is Sustainable Forestry Management, whose principal revenues are “derived from supplying and trading emission credits and offsets, the harvest of environmentally certified timber, agro-forestry, bio-fuels, biomass energy and agricultural products,” according to their website. Yet they’ve spent $280,000 already this year lobbying the House, Senate and White House.