January 6, 2009

Tour de News
Strap in for a whirlwind tour of recent articles that caught my attention. They point to all the moving parts involved with addressing climate change, from cap-and-trade to climate treaties to investment to regulation. First we've got news via Joe Romm that cap-and-trade legislation may have to wait until 2010. According to Environment and Energy Daily (sub req'd):
...Pelosi said she has sufficient backing in the Democratic-controlled House to move a cap-and-trade bill, but will not force the issue. "I'm not sure this year, because I don’t know if we'll be ready," Pelosi said. "We won't go before we're ready."
This somewhat complicates the latest round of negotiations for a new international climate treaty which requires countries to have domestic cap-and-trade deals in place in advance of a meeting in Copenhagen later this year. Of course, no one really expected the US to manage it and, given the last eight years, serious progress on the legislation will likely be enough to satisfy most negotiating partners.

Next we move to Dot Earth, where Andy Revkin reports that China's power generation growth and associated carbon emissions fell off a cliff in 2008 due to the world financial and credit crisis.

Romm observes that this may help the international situation since it presents Obama with an opportunity to get China on board the emissions-cutting bus. It's easier when a lousy economy does some of the work for you.

Which brings us to the UK, where the Transportation Minister Lord Adonis (really. Lord Adonis. Could there have been a better nom de plume for me? Ah well.) announced plans for a British SUPERTRAIN. Via Business Green.

The plans... would see new 200mph rail lines built linking the existing channel tunnel rail link with new high speed lines heading north to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Scotland, and West to Bristol.

The new lines would centre on a new 12 platform rail hub at Heathrow, allowing travellers to easily reach the airport by car and also cutting rail journey times to the continent. A trip from Birmingham to Paris for example would be almost three hours quicker than it is now.

Clearly, we need one of those here in the US. The bad news for the Brits is that their supertrain may be used as a carrot to cram a much-maligned Heathrow expansion down UK environmentalists' throats (or is that not how you use a carrot?). Anyway, it's an awfully big, sweet, tasty carrot.

It's all part of the UK's stimulus package, which Prime Minister Gordon Brown is touting as a way "to take the next step towards building a far more environmentally sustainable economy." The opposition Tories, of course, think that's a load of hogwash because the ruling Labor Party's plans DON'T GO FAR ENOUGH. In a recent speech, opposition leader David Cameron, again via Business Green, denied:
Brown's claims that the UK had established itself as a genuine leader in the emerging clean tech market, arguing that the government had not done enough to encourage investment in low carbon initiatives.
You mean it's not normal to have the opposition be foot-dragging, anti-science climate deniers? Who knew?

Finally, we see an example of how regulation can beat the pants off a tax. California is planning to limit power consumption of flat panel tvs, effectively banning power-hogging plasma tvs. From the LA Times:
LCD -- liquid crystal display -- sets use 43% more electricity, on average, than conventional tube TVs; larger models use proportionately more. Plasma TVs, which command a relatively small share of the market, need more than three times as much power as bulky, old-style sets.
If you just added some kind of powerhog tax on those tvs, they'd still sell like hotcakes - people who spend that much on a tv aren't sensitive to a tax. Sometimes the government needs to step in and just say no. What kind of difference would it make? Try this on for size:
During a peak viewing time when most sets are on, such as the Super Bowl, TVs in the state collectively suck up the equivalent of 40% of the power generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station running at full capacity. Televisions account for about 10% of the average Californian's monthly household electricity bill.
Second only to refrigerators as the single most power hungry daily-use item in most people's homes. So it's no coincidence that refrigerators are the regulatory model for the new tv plan. Interestingly, some California utilities like PG&E are getting behind the proposed regulations since it would take so much stress off the grid.

There you have it. This disparate collection of news provides a good demonstration that, when presented with the various choices for addressing climate change, the answer is all of the above.

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