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On Why Have U.S. Energy Policies Stopped Reducing Carbon Emissions? - Part 1

Thanks, John. For more on the limitations of government's ability to foment innovation, see my article "Government as Innovator -- Not So Fast" in Medium.

April 24, 2015    View Comment    

On Why Have U.S. Energy Policies Stopped Reducing Carbon Emissions? - Part 1

Nice job, John. I will look forward to your answers.

For now, I think this reinforces, again, that breakthrough innovations are going to be needed to make clean energy cheap (and useful) enough to fundamentally change the existing patterns of energy production and consumption.

That requires not just throwing more money at R&D and subsidies for uneconomical solutions. Rather, a basically different -- more open -- approach to research and innovation is needed. See my book, Energy Innovation for detailed explanation.

April 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Earth Day's Importance and Evolution Since 1970

"The important thing to understand about Earth Day is that it was not the celebration of the birth or maturation of the environmental movement in the United States, in the sense that the first Fourth of July was the celebration of the birth of a nation. It wasn’t the environmental movement that created Earth Day, but vice versa."

April 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Obama's Climate Agenda Is in Trouble: Here's How to Save It

Abigail, in a separate discussion of the CPP at OurEnergyPolicy, the point came up that nearly all the benefits (risk reduction) the EPA claims to justify the Plan come from reducing health hazards posed by various toxic pollutants. There is virtually no statement of any benefits related to reduced carbon emissions.

Indeed, that rationale may explain why the two objectives were merged in the first place: to bolster the claim that the Plan's benefits far exceed its costs.

If the EPA were to follow your suggestion, it could have a hard(er) time economically justifiying the CPP. I have no particular expertise about the CAA or MATS, but the inability to show benefits anywhere near comparable to (much less greater than) the substantial economic costs of the Plan could be an even more crippling defect.

Several of the comments in OEP discussion mentioned above cite a number of additional flaws in the CPP. The Plan would still be problematic even without the MATS issue you raised here.

April 16, 2015    View Comment    

On The Role of Energy Intensity in Global Decarbonization: How Fast Can We Cut Energy Use?

Excellent analysis, Jesse. But I was a bit surprised that (unless I missed something) you did not mention the implications of rebound effects, which you have addressed elsewhere: "So let’s be clear: rebound effects are not a problem for energy efficiency. But failing to take rebound seriously would be a huge problem for climate mitigation."

Your analysis here shows that increasing energy intensity has only limited prospects for aiding decarbonization. Adding rebound effects to the mix would seem to amplify that conclusion.

March 19, 2015    View Comment    

On The Divestment Distraction and a Positive Vision of Sustainability

Steve, the essential point of your argument here is correct. More productive investment is needed in research and innovation to develop clean energy options that are cheaper than coal. See my book, Energy Innovation, for a plan to do that.

You also are right that divestment makes little sense, potentially inflicting financial harm on those who divest while accomplishing nothing more than a feel-good gesture. Any impact on stock prices of divestment will be trivial compared to the effects of the kind of market forces that have lately made oil so cheap.

However, while it is better to "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative," I think you may overstate the case for psychological tactics aimed at cultural transformation. In a world where population and demand for energy are  both growing, especially among developing nations, there is little reason to believe such ploys will make much difference. What will have a big impact, again, is the development of alternatives to fossil fuels that can provide reliable energy at a cost that is at least equally affordable.


March 19, 2015    View Comment    

On Can a Nationwide Conversation Ignite a New Era of Nuclear Energy Innovation?

Nothing wrong with conversation.

But I suspect that nuclear energy innovation will proceed more rapidly in other countries, particularly developing ones, where the LWR establishment is less entrenched and where more modern regulatory approaches can be adopted.

March 5, 2015    View Comment    

On Keystone XL Pipeline Veto: Right Decision at the Right Time

Obama's veto continues the pattern of deferring an actual decision for procedural reasons. 

The veto fell short of being overturned in the Senate by only 4 votes. If Obama ultimately acts to block completion of KXL, do not be surprised if legislation negating his action passes the Congress by veto-proof majorities.

March 5, 2015    View Comment    

On Missing from the State of the Union: A Carbon Price

The focus of the SOTU speech was on the middle class. Obama's main proposal was to increase taxes on the 1% to pay for tax cuts and other benefits for the middle class. 

A carbon tax would mainly burden the middle class, working class, and poor. It is, in short, regressive. Exactly opposite of Obama's policy. Hence, it was not mentioned and is not being advocated.

What about proposals for refunds or dividends? The large majority of the public has little trust in government. Hence the public does not trust the government to give back money it would take with a carbon tax. (Understandably so, given past experience.) In practice, a carbon tax would raise prices of all goods and services in addition to the direct cost of the fuel consumers purchase. Refund schemes do not seem to provide compensation for those higher costs. So, again, carbon taxes are regressive.


January 26, 2015    View Comment    

On A Bipartisan Group Of Senators Is Pushing For Distributed Wind: Here's Why It Matters

I'm not sure even that explains it, Bob. The article here argues for distributed wind power. My impression is that grid-connected wind farms are the main interest in Iowa:

However, it appears that the Distributed Wind Energy Association also counts "utility wind turbines installed in distributed applications":

So maybe Grassley figures this is a way for Iowa farmers to harvest some additional federal subsidies. But that still doesn't explain why he is the only GOP senator interested in signing on.

January 5, 2015    View Comment    

On A Bipartisan Group Of Senators Is Pushing For Distributed Wind: Here's Why It Matters

Bipartisan? Oh, please. The letter was signed by six Democrats and only one Republican, Iowa's Chuck Grassley. The latter's voting record is well to the left of most GOP senators.

In case anyone missed the news, the GOP will have the majority and control of the Senate starting January 6.

In sum, not only is the case for distributed wind weak as Wilson and others point out here, the letter is politically meaningless. No tangible effect should be expected.

January 4, 2015    View Comment    

On India, Climate, and the Coal Conundrum

Good point, Nathan. 

This table indicates that nuclear power also has a notably lower carbon footprint (lifecycle) than photovoltaics:

The Berkeley paper did not address the potential for Compact Fusion Reactors like those being developed by Lockheed Martin, U. of Washington, and others. It seems that those would require even less heavy structures than advanced fission reactors, since there is no melt-down issue and much less hazardous waste to manage.

December 26, 2014    View Comment