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On Beyond Electrification: Why Fuels Matter for Energy Access

Wilson makes the key point here. Energy poverty is poverty. Reducing poverty requires modern energy infrastructure: substantial, reliable, dispatchable power.

As the article and some of the comments note, there are some renewable, relatively low-cost options to provide cleaner energy for cooking and such. But those do not meet the broader needs for economic development.

December 10, 2014    View Comment    

On While Critics Debate Energiewende, Germany is Gaining a Global Advantage

Schalk, re the McKinsey report you noted, I found the graphics not so obvious. However, if Google's English translation of the page is anywhere near accurate, it seems that McKinsey concluded that many of the goals were unrealistic and that progress since 2012 had been, if anything, negative.

October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Should the Climate Movement Turn Down the Radicalism?

Pause to look at this argument from the other side of the table: Should conservatives reach out to climate activists to get them to see the error of their ways?

Here is an example of what that argument might look like:

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/341989/harvard-crimson-conservatives-love-us-or-leave-us-david-french

 

And this is a good indicator of how Stenhouse's argument sounds to those he aspires to 'engage':

http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/07/evidence_of_an_ominous_american_climate_change.html

 

Where there is such an engagement, as in this example, this is where it may lead:

http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/reform-conservatism-and-climate-change/

Finally, there is chronic confusion in forums such as this one, hinging on the word "we." Those who commonly weild it presume, erroneously, that their views are popular, even universal -- as opposed to those of a maleficent or benighted minority of "they." To the extent that "we" is used to refer to members of TEC, it masks the actual diversity of viewpoints present in the group. When "we" is brandished to suggest that the speaker's views and interests are the same as those of the majority of the US electorate, or even the entire world population, it denies the realities of political plurality and polarization.

October 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

Bob, as Sen. Pat Moynihan often said, you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts. Money spent to recommend or oppose candidates is not the same as money donated to candidates -- the error you made.

Yes, money is spent on politics and campaigns. The First Amendment prohibits government from regulating political speech. (Rightly so.) Don't like it? Amend the Constitution.

The UK has no constitution. It strictly regulates political speech during elections, which makes for much quieter campaigns. It also has an Official Secrets Act which empowers the government to throw you in prison for saying something the government wants to keep hidden. It's the sort of thing that impelled Americans to rebel against British rule, declare independence, and compose a constitution with a bill of rights to limit government power to interfere with individual liberty.

Iran's "democracy" is even more efficient. It's Supreme Leader can decide who can and cannot be a candidate, what parties are legitimate or banned, what can be said or not, what kind of clothes people can wear, or just about anything else. Those who dare to protest risk being shot in the street.

The U.S. constitution includes provision for revising it if you can get enough people to agree to a change. If that's what you want, you are free to try. But be careful before you empower the government to silence speech; it may decide to shut you up. See Thomas More: http://j.mp/ZUwyzW.

 

October 11, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

Bob, you are confused about the nature of the Citizens United vs. FEC decision. The issue in that case was whether corporations, including nonprofits like the Sierra Club or Environmental Defense Fund, as well as labor unions, could make independent expenditures on political advocacy less than 60 days before an election. SCOTUS concluded in a 5-4 decision that that restriction in federal campaign law was unconstitutional.

But note that:

"The case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office...."

"This ruling was frequently interpreted as permitting corporations and unions to donate to political campaigns,[23] or else removing limits on how much a donor can contribute to a campaign.[24] However, these claims are incorrect, as the ruling did not affect the 1907 Tillman Act's ban on corporate campaign donations (as the Court noted explicitly in its decision[25]), nor the prohibition on foreign corporate donations to American campaigns,[26] nor did it concern campaign contribution limits.[27] The Citizens United decision did not disturb prohibitions on corporate contributions to candidates, and it did not address whether the government could regulate contributions to groups that make independent expenditures.[22] TheCitizens United ruling did however remove the previous ban on corporations and organizations using their treasury funds for direct advocacy. These groups were freed to expressly endorse or call to vote for or against specific candidates, actions that were previously prohibited." (http://j.mp/1svAvWS)

So your references to campaign contribributions from various industry interests to congressional campaigns had no relevance to Citizens United.


October 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

Roger, being an advocate certainly does not make one wrong. But the role of an advocate is to persuade and motivate action. The role of an intelligence agent, a scientist, and a reporter is inform.

I don't know what you include or not in "mainstream media." Most reporters and editors strive to report the facts as fairly and realistically as they can. Editorialist and columnists opine. In many publications, these distinctions are respected. Some less so. I do not consider Fox News or MSNBC to be journalistic ventures.

After my academic training in math, physics, and other physical and social sciences, I spent most of my professional career as an analyst, evaluator, planner, and strategy consultant, as well as a sometimes journalist, author, and editor -- with occasional stints as a teacher and lecturer.

My friend Adam Urbanski, longtime teacher and union president, came to America as an immigrant from Communist Poland. He told a seminar I invited him to speak at several years ago that most Americans do not understand what leadership is. They think, he said, that a leader is one who gets people to do what he wants them to do. A real leader though, Urbanski explained, is one who helps people make informed choices.

I agree. At least, that is what I've tried to do in my work.

BTW, I do not believe I have advocated on behalf of nuclear energy, as you put it. I have pointed out, as others have, that nuclear power -- like most things -- has benefits, costs, risks, advantages, and disadvantages. Also it is not just one thing, but a category that includes a variety of different technologies and designs. As such, it is an option that deserves to be considered alongside others and evaluated for its merits and liabilities relative to other alternatives. As a strategist, I've suggested that for those concerned about AGW, it seems foolish to reflexively reject all nuclear options out of hand without assessing alternatives or having other effective solutions available. I also have criticized TBI and others who advocate nuclear power wholeheartedly for focusing on the minimal mortality from nuclear accidents while ignoring the reality of the 'dread' factor in social psychology. And I have often pointed out that the light water nuclear reactor design originally developed for submarines was a poor choice for civilian power production that was promulgated more for political purposes than for technical merit.

That is analysis, not advocacy.

October 9, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

Roger, Klein had early training and experience in journalism, to be sure. She describes herself as a journalist. Wikipedia calls her an author and activist, which seems more accurate.

Whether columnists, which she has been, are journalists is a matter of opinion. Those certainly are different jobs.

"Journalism" has several alternate definitions, some more lax than others. The one I think is most apposite is: "writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation."

By that standard, what Klein has done in the more visible and successful phase of her career is not journalism.

The operant term in the definition of "polemic" is "attack." That is just what Klein's best-known work does. You may like it or not; agree with it or not. But it's not journalism.

The term "advocacy journalism" has been used by some to blur these distinctions. In the same vein, Klein defines herself as an "activist journalist." To me and other critics, advocacy or activist journalism makes as much sense as fertile celibacy.

It is important to understand that facts and bias are not mutually exclusive. In a criminal trial, both defense and prosecuting attorneys may not knowingly present false evidence or call on witnesses to commit perjury. Yet the narratives the competing lawyers tell the jury aim at mutually exclusive conclusions. That is because attorneys are advocates, they are not journalists or scientists. Objectivity is what is required of the judge and jury. The advocate is not supposed to be objective, and is not.

Neither is Klein, who is an admitted advocate.

October 9, 2014    View Comment    

On The Transition to Renewable Energy is Difficult but Feasible

Good reality check, Bob.

October 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

This is an outstanding, thoughtful essay Sieren.

But Naomi Klein is a "journalist"? Perhaps, if you think Captain Kangaroo was a marsupial.

"Polemicist" may be a more apt label. In any case, in a recent article, Matthew Nisbet categorizes "public intellectuals" engaged in climate change politics into three, notably different types. (I think there are clearly more than those Nisbet listed, and indeed he concludes that further such analysis of other groups is needed.) He puts Klein aptly in the most radical group, Ecological Activists.

I suspect that, contrary to the suggestion that the marchers in New York spanned some spectrum of the Left, they were fairly concentrated in the same class. I'd guess that the third group, Ecomodernists, were not much represented -- given that members of that group such as Pielke have often been attacked, even vilified as "deniers" by the more radical activists.

One observer on the scene perceived, moreover, that the common target of the large majority of marchers' protest was fracking -- which, paradoxically, has been instrumental in reducing GHG emissions by permitting the replacement of coal with increasingly abundant natural gas.

The march itself had far less significance than the activists would like to believe. In a TEC post, Jesse Jenkins compared the turnout to a number of other, historical protest march events in the U.S. What is notable about the list is how little tangible impact any of those events had. By now, growing concerns about ebola and a new Middle East war have left the climate summit and march mostly forgotten.

October 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Did the "People's Climate" March Leave Conservatives on the Sidelines?

This is an outstanding, thoughtful essay Sieren.

But Naomi Klein is a "journalist"? Perhaps, if you think Captain Kangaroo was a marsupial.

"Polemicist" may be a more apt label. In any case, in a recent article, Matthew Nisbet categorizes "public intellectuals" engaged in climate change politics into three, notably different types. (I think there are clearly more than those Nisbet listed, and indeed he concludes that further such analysis of other groups is needed.) He puts Klein aptly in the most radical group, Ecological Activists.

I suspect that, contrary to the suggestion that the marchers in New York spanned some spectrum of the Left, they were fairly concentrated in the same class. I'd guess that the third group, Ecomodernists, were not much represented -- given that members of that group such as Pielke have often been attacked, even vilified as "deniers" by the more radical activists.

One observer on the scene perceived, moreover, that the common target of the large majority of marchers' protest was fracking -- which, paradoxically, has been instrumental in reducing GHG emissions by permitting the replacement of coal with increasingly abundant natural gas.

 

The march itself had far less significance than the activists would like to believe. In a TEC post, Jesse Jenkins compared the turnout to a number of other, historical protest march events in the U.S. What is notable about the list is how little tangible impact any of those events had. By now, growing concerns about ebola and a new Middle East war have left the climate summit and march mostly forgotten.

October 8, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Mitigating Global Climate Change be a Free Lunch?

Excellent analysis, Matt. The "don't worry, be happy" argument made by Krugman and the reports he cites belong in what might be called the If-pigs-had-wings" class. That is per the old saying that "If pigs had wings they would fly." But they don't. So they can't. And they won't. You did a good job explaining why.

The invocations of BC's carbon tax -- such as Roger's here -- share the same flaw. They presume that different states are fungible: What (supposedly) works for BC should work for the world. But that makes no more sense than arguing that because hummingbirds can fly, ostriches and elephants can too. The reality is that BC is not a proxy for the US, nor even for Canada. BC's peculiar social, political, and economic conditions are not found in many other places, if any.

In a comment in the third part of his report here on the political shortcomings of the carbon tax, Jesse Jenkins debunks the argument about BC as a precedent or model. After noting the BC annual carbon tax comes to only $125 per household, Jenkins explains:

$125/year is right in the middle of the $80-200/household per year range evidenced in the WTP research I surveyed in my paper. If you translated that $125/year to the average U.S. household, which emits ~34 metric tons of CO2 per year, that would be equivalent to support for a carbon price of just $3.68 per ton of CO2 in the U.S. So it seems like BC's much higher carbon price is much more a function of the low carbon footprint per household in BC (due to very low CO2 from the power sector there) than it is the income tax cuts and rebates. (Although one could pessimisticly read the BC case as evidence that you need to more than fully offset the annual costs for an average household just to secure even that modest a WTP...).

In other words, BC's carbon tax is hardly more than a symbolic gesture. It imposes little economic and thus political pain on its residents because their carbon emissions were already much less than is common in many other places, certainly than in the US. So what they are willing to pay (WTP) really isn't costing them much.

October 2, 2014    View Comment