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Incoming Chair of US Senate Energy Committee Says US Will Miss Window to Tackle Climate Change

25 November 2006

Environmental Finance. In a speech at the London School of Economics on Tuesday, US Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) warned that the US will not be able to take sufficient action to curb its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the timeframe scientists say is necessary.

Scientific and economic calls for more expeditious action on global warming are increasing. Also in London on Tuesday to accept the Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal from the WWF, NASA scientist James Hansen said:

There is still a huge gap between what is understood about global warming by the scientific community, and what is known about global warming by those who need to know—the public and policymakers.

We must close that gap and move our energy systems in a fundamentally different direction within about a decade, or we will have pushed the planet past a tipping point beyond which it will be impossible to avoid far-ranging undesirable consequences.

The recently published Stern review (earlier post) called for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to be signed in 2007, not in 2010 or 2011 as is currently expected due to the urgency of addressing the situation.

But speaking at the London School of Economics, Senator Bingaman, currently ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who will become chair of the Committee when the Democrats take control of the Senate in January 2007, said: “I think that the reality is this issue is probably not going to ripen and mature and get solved in that window.”

Moreover, Bingaman indicated that the US could opt for a domestic solution for cutting emissions, rather than join the Kyoto Protocol after its current targets expire in 2012. He said: “I really don’t think the Kyoto Protocol is something that anyone is debating in the US. The debate is now to the question of what are realistic goals that we could hope to agree and accomplish.”

But he added: “The ideal end result will be to get a cap-and-trade system that will be world-wide. The US has got to do something credible at the national level.“

However, Bingaman suggested that it would be difficult to complete action on a cap-and-trade system until 2009, when a new White House comes to power.

“Many of the potential presidential candidates have stated their support for a system of mandatory controls,” said Bingaman.

November 25, 2006 in Climate Change, Policy | Permalink | Comments (59) | TrackBack (0)

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The US is so hugely important to the world economy that the new Democrat-led Congress would be wise to spend 6-12 months just on public hearings to educate themselves about the current state of the science of both climate change and the likely consequences of proposed policy option to fight it. The subject matter is complex and I suspect many legislators are still ill-equipped to cast a vote. The process should include inviting those states and cities that are ahead of the curve to give testimony.

There is still a lot of convincing left to do before the US electorate will accept the inevitable downsides to their standard of living: switching to smaller vehicles, postponing vacations to pay for home insulation, cutting down on meat consumption to free up land for biofuel production etc. Serious climate change mitigation costs serious money, so it's more important to get the policy right than to get it right away.

However, industry should be given incentives to get cracking even in the absence of a national policy. One option would be to give those corporations taking substantive measures pro-actively more influence over how the legislation is drafted, including emissions credits for these earlybirds.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/24/AR2006112401361.html

Unfortunately, campaign contributions tend to trump all other considerations in the US Congress, so to will be difficult to herd the cats in this way. Ms. Pelosi has her work cut out for her.

I'm 37 years old and I remember being made fun of for a passion for alternative energy. I was the only kid pushing wind power. Yesturday at UMass Amherst I heard a bunch of college kids talking about climate change. The general quotes went something like this. 'Your generation wasn't sure about global warming'. Or 'People may not have know for sure with your generation but now it's pretty much everyone knows it's real and here'. Even people speaking about the need for more cellulose funding for vehicle fuel. This at a pizza shop. The kids today know it's here and real and going to get worse. The next generation may grow algae just to bury it and sequester carbon.

Imagine a Carbon Tax funding industrial scale algae to bury, in a world scale. A dream but the Carbon Tax should be here and used agressively.

Please explain this algae/bury thing. Do they make bio-diesel first and then bury the algae??? What gives??

Regardless of what Bingaman thinks about the window, he should get cracking now and put a global warming bill on the table. A bill should be introduced and debated. If the Republicans filibuster it, it will be clear who is obstructing this critical action. If Bush vetoes it, it will be also be clear who are the obstructionists.

Barring a comphrehensive bill, we need to start by banning coal fired plants unless they will be sequestering co2.

No denialist rants yet? Must be too early in the day. ;)

Pizmo -

I guess Sen. Inhofe is still in his turkey-induced annual tryptophane stupor. Ironically, moderate Republicans - a small but resilient bunch mostly out West - will look to get back in the game / keep the Presidency in GOP hands in 2008 and, may choose to co-opt the Dems on climate change. This could happen if even their supporters conclude the bloody and expensive wild goose chase in Iraq was really mostly about the oil, after all. If so, even a veto from #43 might be overriden.

Every study/report I hear regarding CO2 emissions further convinces me that the only way to counter our environmental issues is through population control laws. Who knows what the true carrying capacity of this Earth is, but sustaining a world of 1 billion pople vs 10 billion seems a lot more feasible to me.

How about excessively taxing people that choose to have more than one child?

Surely, someone will twist this message into something it is not, but the fact is one way to reduce energy demands is to reduce consumption.

Perhaps some students at a university know what this climate change stuff is all about.

But your average American. Heck.. even your average journalist still has no idea.

What we need now is direct dialog... Repetative, Republican style (beat it into your heads) dialog & and warnings about climate change.

And about the instability of depending on oil.

If the Democrats knew about technology themselves... they would:

0. Make it clear that the most patriotic thing to do at this point is to drive an electric vehicle. It may also be the best thing to do to help our children and grandchildren survive in a stable world.

Establish a V2G protocol. Create implementations.

1. Use government funds to get GE and perhaps Energizer or whoever to build LiIon battery factories in the US. Build them for massive scale. Talking a WW2 level of effort here.

2. Incentivize the purchase of these battery packs for use in vehicles. 20 million cars are purchased annually in the US. All must be electric.

3. Once these factories are in place & the money is ready to go... Pull out of Iraq. There will be chaos. Price of oil will go up. But we'll be ready with electric cars.

4. continue with buildout of wind farms. deep offshore wind farms. pump serious $$$ into solar cell research. & advanced battery research.


Gotta start moving.

One more thing:

Let people know that the one change required for them is:

Forget about pumping up at the gas station.

The way we'll be doing it from now on will be to charge up overnight.

If on a road trip, then we'll charge up over 30 minutes -- over a meal.

Otherwise... you can rent a car for a long road trip.

The way we'll be doing it from now on will be to charge up overnight.

If you plan is premised on that, the plan's not going to work.

If they gasify biomass, they can use the H2 and sequester the CO2 in spent NG wells. This would use the plants to take CO2 out of the air while providing energy.

Good suggestions Matt. But we still must get to EVs via a transition technology and that today is hybrid. If we are pumping up with biodiesel and ethanol/butanol - at least we are burning renewable energy with reduced GHG.

The transition across hybrid to EV will take a while - there is infrastructure to consider since millions of EVs recharging in 30 minutes will severely strain the grid.

GHG awareness is greater than ever before. Once the entrepreneurs show us there is $$ in clean energy - a lot of big boys will climb aboard. Watch the algae CO2 scrubbing technologies to lead the way.

Matt -

BEVs are still having serious performance problems in cold winter weather. This is an example of how pushing a particular solution without a fair analysis of all available options can lead to a poor decision, especially if it is enshrined in legislation or regulation (cp. the push for a hydrogen highway that is largely the result of California ARB's insistence on protecting its ZEV mandate at any cost).

Government should specify the macroscopically desired outcome and pick effective but blunt instruments such as population health and tax philosophy to set the context for industry and consumers.

Pols ought to steer clear of prescribing the specific technological means to achieve their goals, to avoid stifling future innovation. The main reason they don't is because they get campaign contributions from favored companies; also, voters are often more willing to support concrete solutions available today than general public policy goals. Journalists rarely have scientific or engineering backgrounds and anyhow tend to have limited column inches or airtime available to them. In-depth features (e.g. feature-length movies) cost money and require effort on the part of generally lazy consumers. Discovery Channel et al. are great but their audience is small compared to outlets for traditional entertainment drivel.


Since we are talking about politicians and batteries - The Lithium battery was invented and developed at Sandia National Labs, using taxpayer money.

Just before Duracell was sold to the Japanese for untold $B. Sandia was told to sell the rights to the Lithium battry to Duracell for $1. (Energizer is also owned by the Japanese)

All this happened on Rayguns watch.

Ever wonder why they invited him to Japan right after he left office and gave him $3M for speaking fee.

(At a time when he couldn't remember his first name)

I was interested to hear about an interview and talk by Dr James Hansen, physicist, adjunct professor: Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, director: NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Science at the Oil Drum (http://europe.theoildrum.com/story/2006/11/18/93514/869#more).

The main point that I had not heard before was that the projected emissions from gasoline and natural gas aren't critical to climate change since what's estimated to be left in the ground simply isn't that much.

What we all should really be taking aim at is coal. This kind of makes me change my perspecitve a little on electric vehicles although any reduction in CO2 has to be positive and zero emission cars would certainly better the air here in LA.

Texas governor Rick Perry is doing his best to force through construction permits for 17 new dirty coal plants ASAP before there is any change of legislation. Of course China is also another major worry. In my opinion those countries/regions willing to impose CO2 costs should also impose CO2 import duties on goods from regions where these costs aren't taken into account. A world wide trading group could then form with those regions excluded feeling more and more isolated and, more importantly, being damaged economically.

Lucas:

Duracell is owned by Gillette, which is now part of Procter & Gamble (NYSE symbol PG); Energizer Holdings is based in St. Louis, MO (NYSE symbol ENR).

The most important manufacturers of rechargeable batteries now are the Japanese (Sanyo, Panasonic, and Sony), but the new technology for lithium came out of MIT (A123), Reno, NV (Altair Nano), and others.

The point is we're not dependent on Japan, or anybody else, for lithium batteries for our future BEVs and HEVs.

Marcus. Import carbon duties have been proposed in Europse and btw the target, among others, would be the United States. Something needs to be done to get the U.S. off the dime. Bring on the pain.

CS1992:

Reducing population does not necessarily translates into a NET reduction in energy consumption and pollution emissions. Americans and Canadians over consume at 2+ times the average European and Japanese, 5 times the average Chinese and 17 times the average Indian and by almost 5 times the world average.

Active energy conservation may be a better solution. Americans and Canadians could easily reduce their per capita energy consumption by 50+% together with associated GHG and fine particles (PM) emission.

It is often just a matter of making the proper choices. More efficient HVAC, home appliances, lights, residences, offices, factories, cars, trucks, trains, power plants etc., don't cost that much more but could consume 50% to 60% less while polluting much less.

Twice the actual USA + Canada population could consume half the energy and pollute half as much as we do now and have a very high standard of living.

Every time I see a two legged pork barrel eating a 3000+ calories meal it makes me sick. Many people eat like three. No wonder we over consume energy by about 5 times the world average.

No denialist rants yet? Must be too early in the day. ;)

I happen to think that reality is somewhere in between Sen. "Global warming is a hoax" Inhofe and Dr. James "We're all DOOMED!" Hansen. But anyone who shows any hint of skepticism here is immediately attacked from all sides.

My reasons for wanting alternative energy may be different than yours, but I had hoped we could come together here and find mutually satisfactory solutions.

The politicians are still running scared from the false choice Bush used for rejecting the Kyoto protocol. Namely, significantly reducing our CO2 emissions will hurt our economy. Politicians would do well to make the opposite point that solving the global warming problem would benefit us far more than it would cost us.


I recently helped convert a Toyota Prius to a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Driving around afterwards in PHEV mode convinced me we have found a way to significantly reduce our addiction to oil. Range is not a problem for PHEV's since they have greater range than conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles. Our PHEV can be charged quickly (240 volt), charged overnight (120 volt outlet), or not charged at all if you don't mind paying more for fuel.


As the senior energy services engineer for an electric utility, and as someone who has looked at this issue carefully, plugging in electric vehicles will not overwhelm our electrical distribution system. Time-of-use rates can encourage off-peak charging at night. PHEV's may even be able to reduce our system peaks if they are equipped with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) capabilities to feed power back to the grid during peak periods. Coming up with the additional energy is not a problem either since installing 350 ft2 of solar PV on your roof would generate as much energy as a PHEV consumes in a year. The solar/PHEV combination helps level out the loads on our power grid by filling in the low valleys at night during charging and the solar reduces the peaks during the day when the car is out and about on the road.


The Prius we converted has an AC and DC-to-DC charger on board. Each night the charger is used to charge an extra battery pack installed in the back of the Prius. In PHEV mode, the charger takes energy from the battery pack to keep the Prius's standard NMH battery pack fully charged. With the all-electric mode enabled on the Prius, it will drive without the gasoline engine coming on for as long as the extra battery pack holds out (10 to 40 miles). Once the extra battery pack runs low, the gasoline engine kicks in and the car runs like a regular hybrid. The all-electric mode can handle most of your daily commuting needs, and your gasoline usage is reduced dramatically.

In both parties there are several groups of people.

In the gop you have the unbeleivers. They simply dont trust any of this because well lets face facts alot of the people invlved are scammers. Also alot of people in the unbelivers are in the boat of having power and money now and not wanting to waste it on anything that will weaken them and thier ability to get through what even a halfwit has to see is gona be BAD TIMES.

Then there is the tech fortress. I am part of this group to some extent. We figure mankind is about as likely to manage anything like this as michael jackson is of becomming pres of the boyscouts of america. We so figure that teching up and preping for all bleep breaking sloose is a good idea.

And finaly there is the pragmatists. They already know we are going to heck in a handbasket and they plan accourdingly. They will work on global warming projects... not to save the world but to make money so they can save themsevles.

The dems are in a number of groups too.

The rose glasses group that just HOPES beyond hope that somehow we fix this. Denilaists realy most of em will go stark raving nutbnunnies soon.

The power and money gang. Want to be in charge and taking bribes and gathering money. They see power as a way to stay alive.

The grant whores. Who will say and do anything for a grant and will do anything but come up with something to end thier grants;/ as in actauly fix anything.

The true beleivers. The ones who just want to make the world well again. Nice bunch of people ... tho about as likely to et ahnything done as ever.

And the hangers on. These are on both sides and are made of people you see standing behind people getting noticed. They dont actauly do anything at all but they are everywhere.



Now the fun starts when various groups inside these two parties get together on things. Like my group often gets together with the rosies and the eal the worlds and several other groups and makes stuff happen. Why? Because the dems can get power and money off our tech projects the rosey people can feel good about thew work the healers can feel we are healing something and he pragmatists can also make money off it and so on and so forth.

Thats why the tech up is the setup that is winning. We simply bribe everyone else:) Hell even the unbeleivers like it because they can make money off it and its patents.
And that is the world today.

Oh and the political change of office is also just a panned gimmick as everything else is. The dems and gop and both amke a killing off a change in leadership and the techies can make what we want the rosies will feel all rosy the healers will feel healed and the unbelivers will gather alot of moola from it and get patents and whatnot and so on and so forth. And we will still be going exactly where we have always been going and always will.

James,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. This is what I think GreenCar is for, to bring facts to the table and come to some valid conclusions about what makes a GreenCar.

James:

I'm very currious. What brand/size/cost/properties did the battery you use have? What kind of controller (assuming you added one) did you use. How long did it take? What was the final cost?

Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, June 1992:

“We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse”.

“sustainable development... can be implemented by deliberate quest of poverty… reduced resource consumption… and set levels of mortality control”.

Aaron Wildavsky, professor of political science at Berkeley:

"Warming (and warming alone), through its primary antidote of withdrawing carbon from production and consumption, is capable of realizing the environmentalist's dream of an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth in favor of a smaller population's eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally.”

Nothing really new under the sun.

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