The Dernogalizer

October 14, 2009

Column on Campaign Slogans

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 12:19 am
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I had one of my rare humor columns out in the Diamondback Tuesday.  But, I did manage to sneak in a clean energy plug, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to post this one.

Campaign slogans: Making it memorable

Man, don’t you just love campaign slogans? “Change we can believe in.” “Country first.” “It’s morning again in America.” With the 2010 elections for state and county government right around the corner, expect to start seeing them on the road signs again pretty soon. I have to wonder how much stock voters put in these messages, seeing as how I don’t even remember any from 2000 or 2004. Then again, I probably blocked out those elections.

Back in the day, slogans were a little more interesting. Former President Jimmy Carter had “Not Just Peanuts.” Courting the vote of the allergic? Former President Herbert Hoover’s was a drawn-out “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Former President Calvin Coolidge tried to come off as the cool guy with “Keep cool with Coolidge.” In 1916, former President Woodrow Wilson’s was “He kept us out of war.” That didn’t last long. No one, however, tops Abe Lincoln and his “Don’t swap horses in midstream.”

If I decided to run for office, I’d go a different route and garner media attention with unusual and outrageous campaign slogans. After all, no one has any clue who I am because no one reads this column (whew), so I’d have to act up to get more attention than that fly President Barack Obama swatted. Some of these warrant an explanation, which I will provide in debates and apology speeches.

“Matt Dernoga: More than you deserve.” The logic behind this is people like to be told you’re too good for them, and a superiority complex can help with governing. “Matt Dernoga: I lost a bet.”  People can relate to me because we both have an addiction to gambling. “Matt Dernoga: God told me to.” This will easily court the religious right, which will be necessary for me since I’m a Democrat. “Matt Dernoga: Taxes up, services down.”  This is what the other politicians are doing; people will appreciate my honesty. “Matt Dernoga: That’s what she said.” Listen to her, folks.  “Matt Dernoga: Don’t ask.” This will throw the media off guard.

“Matt Dernoga: Just say yes.” I’ll only use this one if it works for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. His slogan is also used by the Coalition for Positive Sexuality, which promotes “irreverent and unabashed sex education” for teens.

Really, Google it. Probably not what the family values guy was going for. Running for state’s attorney? “Live long and prosecute.” The Star Trek geeks will come out in force. “Matt Dernoga: Not for sale, but my house is!” This is how you kill two birds with one slogan.

The thing is, I’m a crazy environmentalist, and I need slogans for all my voting constituencies — even the hippies. “Matt Dernoga: Act like you live here.” I mean, we do live here, right? “Matt Dernoga: Reuse and recycle.” Only if I’m running for reelection. “Matt Dernoga: Lights out.” Obviously I’m talking about turning your lights out when you leave the room. “Matt Dernoga: Clean as coal.” Because neither the extraction nor the burning of coal will ever be clean. “Matt Dernoga: Going green with your green.” Because breathing cleaner air, drinking cleaner water, avoiding catastrophic global warming and leading in the multi-trillion-dollar clean energy economy will require an upfront investment with immediate and long-term benefits.

“Matt Dernoga: Couldn’t resist.”

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

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October 6, 2009

Clean Energy: Betting on the Future

Cross-posted from: here

I have a column out in the Diamondback today about why despite the opposition of the fossil fuel industry, America needs to pass a strong Federal climate bill in order to thrive in the 21st century.

Clean energy: Betting on the future

This past June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark global warming and clean energy bill called the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Now Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is doing something exciting for a change by introducing the Senate counterpart to the House bill called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

Not surprisingly, the coal and oil lobbyists are out in full force against clean energy legislation. They’ll push the usual falsehoods about job losses and rising energy prices.  Oddly, they’ll try to link them to new energy policies, rather than our current dependence on fossil fuels where people have experienced the two. They’ll make this about the economy instead of the environment. They’ll cheat.In July, a lobbying firm called Bonner & Associates, hired by the coal industry, was caught after forging 13 letters to congresspeople by posing as constituents opposing the House legislation.

In 1986, a McKinsey and AT&T study notoriously predicted there would be 900,000 cell phone subscribers by the year 2000. They missed by a factor of 120 — the number was 109 million. Right now, there are nearly 4.5 billion cell phone users.  AT&T paid dearly for their mistake and entered the cell phone market late by buying another company, McCaw Cellular, for $12.6 billion. Too many energy companies are underestimating how widespread renewable energy will be in 10 years.

Throughout our history, as new technologies have developed and society’s needs have evolved, businesses have had to face a choice. Fight the future, or embrace it. It’s how we went from the horse and buggy to the car, radio to television, and VCR to DVD player.

Companies that bet right emerge and prosper over those that are wrong. Right now, the writing is on the wall for the coal and oil companies that have bet on the past. They’re going to fail.

New fuel economy standards have been set. Hybrids will get cheaper as the battery technology is improved. Plug-in hybrids and electric cars will emerge as mainstream vehicles by the middle of next decade. Gas prices will go back up once the economy recovers. Oil consumption is going nowhere but down. Over 100 coal plants have been permanently blocked. Record amounts of wind and solar power came online in 2008. Far more is expected under an administration that prioritizes and puts strong incentives on clean energy.

From June 2008 to June 2009, coal’s percentage of our energy mix has dropped 13.1 percent.

The United States has a vested interest in bringing about the future faster, and not just because of global warming. Contrary to being a popular buzzword excuse for polluting, China is investing record amounts of money and incentives into wind and solar power.

China is expected to overtake us as the world’s largest wind turbine market by 2011. Solar companies in the United States such as Applied Materials Inc. are moving to China, where the business climate for clean energy is brighter. Just like companies, countries that bet on the past for too long pay a high price.

It’s time for us to demand the senate pass a strong clean energy bill. You can’t hold back the future. Some will try, but their fate is sealed. As for ours, place your bets.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com

**Update 10/7/09**  AP agrees clean tech if next boom

September 1, 2009

Four Day Workweek Column

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 11:35 am
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I have a column out on the benefits of a four day workweek, from a fiscal, energy, and environmental standpoint.  Enjoy!

Shortened work weeks: Take a day off

It must be tough being Gov. Martin O’Malley right now. He recently announced $454 million in budget cuts to address a $700 million budget shortfall. Not much there will win him a popularity contest. I have a way to cut costs and please everyone. Not magic — the four-day workweek!

Normally I wouldn’t suggest modeling anything after Utah, home to fundamentalist polygamists and Gary Coleman, but they’ve got the most successful four-day workweek program in the country. For a year, about 17,000 of the state’s 24,000 executive branch employees have been working 10 hours a day, four days a week. The result of having most of the electronics, heating and cooling turned off on Friday has been a 13-percent reduction in the government’s energy usage and $3 million in anticipated savings.

I’m not sure if our state employees are drinking the same water (if that’s what they’re drinking) as the Utah folks, but Utah’s workers love the four-day workweek. For one, it saves them money on their commute. By not having to drive on Friday, the state is estimating employees will save $5 to 6 million dollars yearly. At the same time, state employees are reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 12,000 metric tons.

The program is so popular that in order to keep it on track for meeting energy-saving goals, employees are modifying their behavior by turning off electronics and lighting when they are unnecessary. At the same time, workers find it easier to spend time with their families when they have three-day weekends, and they have no need to pay for child care on Friday. Overall in Utah, 82 percent of their workers prefer to keep the four-day workweek. It sure beats getting furloughed.

On top of the cost savings, Maryland could be an example for other governments. The last time the four-day workweek was seriously considered nationwide was in the 1970s during the oil embargo. It was seen as a way to save on oil. Can you imagine the effect of a nationwide four-day workweek for the vast majority of jobs? There would be an incredible reduction in miles driven, less congestion and faster commute times for those on the roads. We would reduce our oil dependence by millions of barrels every week. I can’t think of a way to more immediately reduce oil consumption and pollution so dramatically at no cost.

The university has an energy bill of about $50 million a year. Assuming we can’t beat the Utah government at their own game, a 13-percent reduction would save us at least $6.5 million a year. That’s not chump change.

The four-day workweek might not solve all our problems, but for all governments, institutions and businesses looking for innovative ways to save money without causing pain to existing programs or raising taxes and tuition, here is your no-brainer.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com

July 9, 2009

Mike Tidwell Links Climate Change and Health Care, Calls on Obama to Step Up

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 1:18 am
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This slipped my mind the other day, but the director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network(CCAN) Mike Tidwell, also terrific author and a friend, had a great column out in the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday.  In it, he shows the linkages between avoiding catastrophic climate change and addressing health care, and makes the case that we shouldn’t put climate change aside to deal with solely health care.  The main target of this demand is President Obama, who has done a lot of work talking up health care in the public and holding town hall meetings, which he hasn’t done thus far on the climate bill.  Tidwell gave me a copy of this op-ed this past Tuesday when we both took part in a lobbying meeting with Senator Cardin’s Staff and the Senator, and I made a mental note to post it on here, but forgot.  I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion of the column, which is that Obama needs to get louder and more vocal if a meaningful bill is to pass the Senate.  The only part of the column I take issue with is when Mike calls the bill barely better than nothing.  Although I have my fair share of criticisms, I’ve written before that I feel this bill does plenty more good than harm.  I’m reposting the column below.

Don’t put climate on back burner

By Mike Tidwell

July 7, 2009

President Barack Obama may have made history last November, but he seems deaf to history’s loudest call right now. The president clearly believes that health care reform, above all else, will define his early presidency. But even if Mr. Obama scores total success on health care, few future Americans will care or remember as long as the Earth’s ailing atmosphere goes untreated.

Climate change, it turns out, is the ultimate public health issue. And yet the House of Representatives passed a mere band-aid of a bill last month on global warming. Why so weak? Because Mr. Obama, with his 63 percent approval rating, was surprisingly AWOL for most the climate debate, essentially telling House leaders to hurry up and pass something – anything – so we can get on to the real issue of health care.

But cheap prescription drugs won’t do much good if our cities have filthy drinking water in coming years due to global warming. A “public option” on heath insurance? I’m all for it – but it will mean little if killer heat waves and mega-droughts parch the nation while Florida becomes a chain of malarial islands

If this sounds melodramatic, keep in mind that a joint report from 13 federal agencies – released by the White House last month – stated that, due to global warming, hurricanes are already getting bigger and droughts are lasting longer in America. And sea levels will continue to rise, up to four feet this century, according to the massive scientific report.

If there’s one thing health experts agree on, it’s this: Clean water is a core determinant of good health. Just visit Calcutta or much of Africa to see what a bacteria-laced gulp does to a 5-year-old child. It’s alarming, then, to know that New York City alone has 14 wastewater treatment plants located exactly at sea level now. And Philadelphia’s main source of drinking water is already dangerously vulnerable to saltwater intrusion from rising seas.

Where will the clean water come from along much of the East Coast after just one or two more feet of ocean rise? Will we ring ourselves and our sanitation infrastructure in levees, living at the mercy of earthen walls? That didn’t work out well for the health of New Orleans.

No one’s arguing that health care reform should take a back seat to climate action. It’s just that if we do one without the other – if we make short-term health care affordable but long-term health systems impossible – we’ve failed.

The truth is, we can do both. Drastically cutting our use of fossil fuels, especially coal, will simultaneously reduce a whole host of conventional pollution dangers, ranging from asthma to elevated mercury in our fish. These avoided health costs, combined with the growing affordability of fuel-efficient cars and powerful wind farms in the Midwest, mean even strong action on global warming will cost just a few cents per day for average Americans.

This is why Mr. Obama must take charge right now and totally redirect the climate debate in the Senate. The Waxman-Markey bill, narrowly approved by the House, is barely better than nothing at all. It sets weak reduction targets for greenhouse gases and gives free pollution permits to many of America’s dirtiest corporations. It strips the Environmental Protection Agency of the power to regulate carbon from coal plants and creates a mind-numbing trading system of carbon derivatives.

The Senate must now make a U-turn, heading back to the president’s own original climate framework unveiled last February. All polluters must pay for greenhouse gas emissions, the president said then. No exceptions. And 80 percent of the money should be rebated directly to middle- and lower-income Americans. That leaves a healthy $15 billion per year for investments in clean energy and green jobs. The Obama approach was simple, fair and – with populist appeal – built to last.

But the president didn’t fight for the plan, yielding to House Democrats who caved in to the pollution lobby. How do we get back on track? First, look at health care reform again. It, not climate policy, dominates the front pages for one simple reason: It’s what Mr. Obama talks about loudest. He’s involved. With a similarly strong voice on global warming in the Senate, Mr. Obama can redirect national attention toward a more complete, long-term picture of health.

James Hansen, America’s top climate scientist, says we have less than 10 years to reverse the rise in greenhouse gases worldwide. Less than 10 years to save the planet’s health and our own. Mr. Obama must now be our Lincoln – our Churchill. The ineffectual U.S. House bill passed last month shows Congress simply cannot do it without a push from the president.

As U.S. climate policy is ironed out in coming months, American voters should beseech the White House at every legislative step: Where was Mr. Obama on key committee votes? The floor debate? How much did he do? How hard did he work?

We must ask these questions now, holding our president accountable, knowing that future Americans – their health at stake – will ask the same questions for centuries to come.

Mike Tidwell is executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in Takoma Park and author of “Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.” His e-mail is mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org.

July 1, 2009

Republican Column Supporting Climate Bill

I’ve mentioned before not all Republicans have their heads in the sand on clean energy and global warming, just most.  There’s a good column in the Washington Post today by Michael Gerson(former speechwriter for George W. Bush) that makes a good case for why the 8 Republicans who voted for the Waxman-Markey bill which passed the House should not be burned at the stake by their own kind.  I’m pasting it below.

Cap and Traitors

8 Republicans Stand Tall on Climate Change

By Michael Gerson

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

With the cap-and-trade bill passing the House of Representatives last week by seven votes, the eight Republicans who supported it were bound to feel some rapid political warming. Conservative Internet and radio accused them of single-handedly passing President Obama’s “cap-and-tax” legislation, which is a myth; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi probably would have forced the requisite number of Democratic votes in the absence of Republican backing. But these eight Republicans were still termed “traitorous.”

It is typical that we praise independent judgment and political nerve in our elected officials — until they show those qualities.

Admittedly, this was not the best time to display conspicuous Republican environmental conscience. Obama’s ideological overreach on issues from the fiscal stimulus to health-care nationalization has put conservatives in a scrappy mood. The recession has brought the public’s economic anxiety into sharp focus and moved environmental concerns — droughts in the Sahel or floods in Bangladesh — into the hazy distance. And the House cap-and-trade bill itself was a riot of loopholes, concessions and offsets — legislative sausage-making with an excess of offal.

But none of these political considerations change an underlying reality. A serious concern about global climate disruption remains the broad (not unanimous but predominant) view of the scientific community, including the National Academy of Sciences. Global warming since the 19th century is undeniable — a trend not disproved by year-to-year variations. These changes are closely correlated with increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution. Climate disruption has become so rapid in some places that it is overwhelming the natural process of adjustment, reducing crop yields and leading to the extinction of species. Meanwhile, global carbon emissions are increasing faster than expected. Some scientists warn of possible “tipping points” — the rapid disintegration of the ice sheets, the sudden release of methane from warming northern soils — that could turn a challenge into a catastrophe of lethal heat waves and rising sea levels.

Is this scientific viewpoint certain or guaranteed? Not when the scientific models concern a system as complex as the Earth’s climate. Neither is it guaranteed that an Iranian nuclear weapon would be used against that country’s enemies. But the realistic possibility of disaster, in both cases, would recommend a serious response.

The range of serious responses is limited. The federal government might spend directly on new technologies that produce energy without emitting carbon. But government’s record in picking technological winners and losers is poor.

Others propose a carbon tax — a cost per ton emitted, with no special exemptions. This system would be simple to implement and difficult to game. But it would also disproportionately punish some energy-intensive American industries — cement, glass, steel and paper — that face intense international competition.

The final alternative is a cap-and-trade system, which sets an overall limit on carbon emissions while directing relief to specific industries through rebates and offsets. Cap-and-trade has been used with dramatic success to reduce acid rain — but it has never been employed on the massive scale that the regulation of carbon requires.

Critics argue that carbon restrictions, even if fully implemented, would reduce global temperatures only by minor amounts, which is true. We are not going to regulate our way out of global climate disruption. The only eventual solution is technological — the ability to produce affordable, clean power on a large scale.

But conservatives seem strangely intent on ignoring the power of markets to encourage such innovation. Right now, the emission of carbon is essentially cost-free. Putting a price on carbon would make the development of cleaner energy technologies more profitable. New technologies could be employed, not only by America, but also by China, India and the rest of the developing, polluting world. And it is an added (but not minor) benefit that American resources would no longer be transferred to Saudi princes, Russian autocrats and Venezuelan dictators.

It is perfectly legitimate to argue that the House cap-and-trade system is flawed beyond redemption — so complex and confusing that it only benefits regulators and the lobbyists who outwit them — and that Congress should start over with a carbon tax.

It is also legitimate to contend that, while the cap-and-trade system is flawed, it is better than inaction and necessary to spur innovation. And for eight House Republicans who took this stand at great political risk, it is not only legitimate — it is admirable.

**Update** 7/2/09:  Another good Post column on the bill on the risks moderate Dems took.

June 18, 2009

Column on Waxman-Markey Bill

I have an op-ed out today about how the Waxman-Markey bill is being misrepresented, and despite its flaws we should still support it, and push for strengthening.  Sources at the end.  By the way, this doesn’t mean I’m not at direct actions protesting what I find objectionable.

The environment: Don’t hate, legislate

MATT DERNOGA

Issue date: 6/18/09

There are multiple perspectives being offered on a federal climate change bill called the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The bill’s authors, Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, laud the bill as strong and tough on coal. The environmental camp is split into those who feel passing this bill is better than passing nothing, and those who think the bill is so weak it should fail. The bill’s opponents think it will bring about economic Armageddon. 

For the record, I’d like to see a bill that slashes greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, sells 100 percent of all its “permits to pollute” to industry for a steep price, has zero offsets, prevents construction of all new coal-fired power plants and invests $50 billion a year in clean energy. I’m feeling like Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs: 0 for 5.

The near-term target reduces emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, equivalent to 4 percent below 1990 levels. Most of the permits to pollute are given away for free. There are billions of tons of offsets available for use, coal plants can still be built and only $10 billion a year is invested in clean energy. Easy to make it sound bad. The reality is proponents of the bill exaggerate its strength, some environmentalists exaggerate its weakness and opponents are just plain wrong.

Take the 2020 emissions reduction target; it seems far too weak, until you look at the energy provisions in the bill, including a 20 percent renewable electricity standard, increasing emissions standards for existing coal plants and a mandate that all new buildings be 30 percent more efficient than they are now by 2012 and 50 percent more efficient by 2016. When these additional provisions are factored in, the bill can achieve a maximum reduction of 17 percent below 1990 levels. We’re going to overshoot our target. The energy efficiency provisions in the bill alone would save each American household $750 by 2020 and create 250,000 jobs. 

Ideally, you would want polluters to pay for 100 percent of the permits to pollute. The first test of the provision is how many permits are sold versus how many are given away for free. The bill fails here, giving away 85 percent at no cost. The bill is criticized as a massive corporate concession. Such quick judgment has disregarded the second test: How many of the permits are given away to public purposes versus to private industry? The critics have overlooked the fact that 80 percent of the permits are allocated to public purposes such as consumer rebates, low-income relief, international and domestic adaptation and technology transfer, just to name a few. Not a corporate giveaway.

These are just two examples of how the bill has been misrepresented. Opponents are expected to do this, but environmentalists undermine public support by calling the bill a lost cause. The media reports the misrepresentations of both sides, and neither gives Americans a reason to mobilize to make the bill stronger. It’s a real shame, since this bill is the only chance we have to get an international treaty in Copenhagen at the end of the year. As it currently stands, the legislation is mediocre, and it needs to be made stronger. Simply increasing the energy efficiency mandate by 5 percent would yield an extra $50 billion in consumer savings by 2030. 

There’s potential to do that and more, but people need to be inspired to step up. So, if you support producing more clean energy and less pollution, call your congressman. If you’re opposed, I’ve already cut your phone lines. 

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/12/AR2009061202072.html (17%)

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/greenpeace-waxman-markey-clim (on 4% equivalent, just search  “4”)

http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/analysis/stavins/?p=108 (permit allocations)

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/economics/pdfs/WM-Analysis.pdf (search offsets)

http://pdf.wri.org/usclimatetargets_2009-05-19.pdf (when energy provisions are considered % cut,  PG 3, bottom chart).

http://climateprogress.org/2009/06/04/waxman-markey-national-energy-codes/ (on building codes)

http://aceee.org/press/0906waxman.htm (on energy efficiency numbers)

http://www.grist.org/article/2009-06-06-renewable-biz-protests-RES/ (20% renewable standard)

http://www.grist.org/article/2009-06-06-renewable-biz-protests-RES/ (on 10 billion a year investment number, go to “investments in energy technology”, subtract 60 billion from the 190 number cause carbon sequestration isn’t clean energy, you get 130, bill goes into effect in 2012, and these numbers are for up to 2025, which is 13 years.  130 billion divided by 13 years is 10 billion a year).

June 1, 2009

Poor Post Op-Ed

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 6:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

There’s a very primitive article written by Martin Feldstein, a professor of Economics at Harvard, which is interesting since I thought they had standards regarding who taught at their institution.  To see a real analysis of cap and trade by a professor of Economics at Harvard that actually uses the degree earned for the position, see HERE.  I’m going to make a few quick points below about how poor this column is by taking his paragraphs and providing real context to them.

“The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have proposed a major cap-and-trade system aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists agree that CO2 emissions around the world could lead to rising temperatures with serious long-term environmental consequences. But that is not a reason to enact a U.S. cap-and-trade system until there is a global agreement on CO2 reduction. The proposed legislation would have a trivially small effect on global warming while imposing substantial costs on all American households. And to get political support in key states, the legislation would abandon the auctioning of permits in favor of giving permits to selected corporations.”

Only the first 2 sentences is right.  Yes there’s a proposed system, and yes emissions will lead to serious consequences.  However not just environmental consequences, also economic and national security harms as well.  So there’s a problem, but…we should wait for a global agreement.  It looks like Feldstein has just taken us back to the delayer strategy from 12 years ago with Kyoto.  That was a brilliant idea.  Do nothing and set action back a good 10 years.  While an auction is preferable, the notion that all the permits are being given to corporations is a false one.  Once again look at the analysis by the real Harvard economist here.

“The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the resulting increases in consumer prices needed to achieve a 15 percent CO2 reduction — slightly less than the Waxman-Markey target — would raise the cost of living of a typical household by $1,600 a year. Some expert studies estimate that the cost to households could be substantially higher. The future cost to the typical household would rise significantly as the government reduces the total allowable amount of CO2.”

Wrong!  Once again severe dishonesty.  This is under the assumption that 100% of the permits are auctioned off, and that none of the money is returned to consumers.  However, 80% of the allowances in in some way allocated back to consumers.  An EPA analysis actually takes into account the allocations and lump-sum rebates being given back to consumers through local distribution company allowances pegs the cost to be on average $90-150 a year.  It’s also worth noting that because electricity prices will go up, consumption will go down, but consumers will get rebated for the higher prices separate from electricity costs.  This means energy consumption will fall, energy conservation will rise, and the cost to consumers may end up being negligible.

“Americans should ask themselves whether this annual tax of $1,600-plus per family is justified by the very small resulting decline in global CO2. Since the U.S. share of global CO2 production is now less than 25 percent (and is projected to decline as China and other developing nations grow), a 15 percent fall in U.S. CO2 output would lower global CO2 output by less than 4 percent. Its impact on global warming would be virtually unnoticeable. The U.S. should wait until there is a global agreement on CO2 that includes China and India before committing to costly reductions in the United States.”

Oh and the whole we alone will not solve global warming, so therefore we must do nothing argument.  Well..if we want a U.S. China deal, or to capitalize on Russia’s new stance, then we might want to be able to bring something to the table so we can get a global deal.  Yes I might just be 1 out of millions of Americans, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make environmentally conscious decisions just because my neighbors aren’t.  Lead by example.

“The CBO estimates that the sale of the permits for a 15 percent CO2 reduction would raise revenue of about $80 billion a year over the next decade. It is remarkable, then, that the Waxman-Markey bill would give away some 85 percent of the permits over the next 20 years to various businesses instead of selling them at auction. The price of the permits and the burden to households would be the same whether the permits are sold or given away. But by giving them away the government would not collect the revenue that could, at least in principle, be used to offset some of the higher cost to households.  The Waxman-Markey bill would give away 30 percent of the permits to local electricity distribution companies with the expectation that their regulators would require those firms to pass the benefit on to their customers. If they do this by not raising prices, there would be less CO2 reduction through lower electricity consumption. The permit price would then have to be higher to achieve more CO2 reduction on all other products. Some electricity consumers would benefit, but the cost to all other American families would be higher.”

Once again, you’re misrepresenting the permit allocation, and how the burden to households if affected by rebates given back to them.  See HERE.

“In my judgment, the proposed cap-and-trade system would be a costly policy that would penalize Americans with little effect on global warming. The proposal to give away most of the permits only makes a bad idea worse. Taxpayers and legislators should keep these things in mind before enacting any cap-and-trade system.”

This isn’t judgement.  Judgement weights facts.  Nevermind that there’s absolutely no mention of the job creating potential of green investments.  Nevermind the value of getting off of foreign oil.  Nevermind the value a stable livable climate.  Nevermind energy savings from conservation.  Go back and get your degree checked.

**Update** 6/2/09** Joe Romm of Climate Progess has a very insightful post on this column.  The best part which I’m coping here adds light to the $ cost stated in the op-ed.

“But what about the claim the CBO recently estimated that “the resulting increases in consumer prices needed to achieve a 15 percent CO2 reduction — slightly less than the Waxman-Markey target”?  Well, that was based on a 2000 analysis of a 15% cut from 1998 levels, quite different than Waxman-Markey.  And that study didn’t model the aggressive clean energy deployment strategies that Congress and Obama have advanced in the stimulus and the climate bill.  And that study was at a time of low prices whereas the reality of high oil prices again makes any target much easier and cheaper to meet.”

**Update 6/3/09** Economist Paul Krugman has also trashed Feldstein’s column.

**Update 6/7/09** A good letter to the editor in the post responding to this column.

May 12, 2009

Declining Chesapeake Bay

 It came to light yesterday that efforts to clean up the bay have failed, and things just plain aren’t looking good.  The Washington Post has an editorial out today regarding the declining health of the Chesapeake Bay which is right on the mark, but in my opinion doesn’t go deep enough into what Governors O’Malley and Kaine are doing wrong when it comes to the Bay.  

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the editorial…

“But both states could do more, and much of the bay’s problem comes not from sewage plants or chicken farms but from elsewhere — roads, parking lots and other features of development that send warm, polluted stormwater runoff into the bay.”

ICC anyone?

May 6, 2009

Washington Post Climate Column

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 12:43 am
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I’ve been blogging about the Markey-Waxman climate bill that’s in Congress quite a bit.  Since this is the most important piece of legislation in quite a long time, I plan on continuing to provide updates and commentary for as long as it’s being debated.  Today there was a great op-ed by two people dealing more in the economics and business of climate change than the science.  They talk about why passing a climate bill will not be the kind of burden on businesses that opponents make it out to be.  Here is the link.  Notable excerpts are posted below.

“The real cost of carbon emissions is far from zero. Each new scientific report brings proof of a changing climate that promises to disrupt agricultural patterns, set off a scramble for dwindling resources, raise sea levels, propel population shifts and require massive emergency spending as we try to react to the growing crises. These are the costs of inaction.”

“Ultimately, households and businesses care more about their total energy bill than costs per gallon or per kilowatt hour. Gas at $4 per gallon is cheaper in a car that gets 40 miles per gallon than $3-a-gallon gas in a clunker that gets 20 mpg. American entrepreneurial and research genius can move us to far greater energy efficiency quickly, using mostly existing technologies, when a carbon price rewards the effort.”

The cost of inaction is high and could be catastrophic. But, contrary to claims, the cost of switching to cleaner energy and dramatically lower emissions will spur competitive gains, cost far less and come much more quickly once we have set our goals, adjusted our incentives and corrected the market’s false signals.”

Kristen Sheeran is executive director of the Economics for Equity and the Environment Network, a nationwide group of economists focused on environmental policy. Mindy Lubber is president of Ceres, a national coalition of investors, environmentalists and public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            *Update*  Here is an article about some of these businesses including Nike threatening the Chamber of Commerce to stop opposing climate legislation.    

May 5, 2009

Column: Need for Climate Bill

 

Before the clock strikes midnight

Before the clock strikes midnight

 

Here is my column today on why now is the perfect time to pass a climate change bill to help the economy.  Enjoy!

 

Clean energy: Make the case before it’s too late

MATT DERNOGA

Issue date: 5/5/09 Section: Opinion

I’ve found over the years that timing is not the strong suit of environmentalists. There’s a joke that whenever there’s a global warming rally, it’s probably going to snow. Just a couple of weeks ago, Earth Day became rain day. The earth has been playing coy, saying, “If you want to save me, you’re going to have to work for it.” 

When it comes to clean energy, the economy has been dragging its feet as well. Right when we get a Congress and president capable of passing a strong climate change bill, the economy is jumping off a cliff with a bungee cord made of defaulted bank notes. You can always depend on detractors of regulating carbon emissions, such as the oil, coal, gas and utility companies, to insist this just isn’t the right time. We can’t be burdened by job losses and higher energy prices during a severe recession. By sheer coincidence, I’m sure, opponents use the same argument when the economy is thriving.

This is interesting, considering our policy of not putting a price on pollution in the name of saving manufacturing. From 2000-2008, the U.S. workforce saw a loss of over 4 million manufacturing jobs. Auto companies kicked and screamed at fuel-economy standards for decades, only to witness Japanese carmakers with more fuel-efficient cars come in and take their jobs. Electricity prices rose sharply in many parts of the country without carbon regulation. Oil companies benefited from billions of dollars in tax breaks while claiming regulation would hurt American families at the pump – kind of like what happened last summer with obscene gas prices and no viable substitutes.

We would do well to observe these trends and recognize there needs to be a different way of producing energy in this country. Our economy needs to be transformed and retooled for the global markets of the 21st century. Energy needs to be affordable, abundant and clean. The green provisions of the stimulus bill were a nice spark. We need a lightning bolt. We need a strong climate bill to rescue the economy, and now is the perfect time.

Manufacturing has caught on to this opportunity. Turns out wind turbines are made of steel. Labor groups, such as the United Steelworkers and the Communications Workers of America have teamed up with environmental groups to form the Blue Green Alliance. By investing $100 billion generated from a climate bill into retrofitting buildings, mass transit, a smart eletric grid, wind and solar power and advanced biofuels, 2 million jobs can be created in the next two years.

The reality is the only burden special interest groups are concerned about is their own balance sheets. The question isn’t whether we can afford to pass a climate bill. It’s whether we can afford not to. The truth is, regulating carbon will put our fast-emerging industries at an advantage over foreign competitors. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is coming to the campus May 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Baltimore Room in Stamp Student Union for a Clean Energy Town Hall Meeting. There’s a climate bill with a serious chance of passing, which will start getting marked up in the Energy and Commerce Committee the same day. How’s that for timing? This is your chance to weigh in. Don’t miss it for the world. 

Matt Dernoga is a junior government and politics major and the political liason for UMD for Clean Energy, one of the groups hosting Rep. Hoyer. He can be reached at mdernoga@umd.edu.


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