Enough with Chariots of Fire nostalgia

July 29, 2007 | Michael Shellenberger,

Thankfully somebody is starting to talk some sense against all of those doping is destroying cycling! people (read: sports columnists), who seem to have a memory that stretches back half a decade, max.

Jere Longman writes in the Times

While the world's most famous bicycle race is now under threat, only the most naive have considered cycling to be clean. It seems inhuman to ask athletes to pedal their bikes at great speed some 2,200 miles in three weeks, often up tortuous mountain passes, without chemical assistance.

Fausto Coppi of Italy, who won the Tour in 1949 and 1952, was once asked if he ever fueled himself with amphetamines.

"Only when necessary," he said.

How often was that?

"Most of the time," Coppi replied.

Jacques Anquetil of France, a five-time winner, once said with sarcasm, "Do they expect us to ride the Tour on Perrier water?"

The line we all wish we had said first goes to Charles Yesalis, a professor emeritus of health policy and kinesiology at Penn State University:

Don't give me any of that 'Chariots of Fire' stuff; cut the box of Wheaties bull . . . There's nothing pure about it.


Oil, gas, coal, nuclear energy - is a serious threat to the planet and each of us ... Propose a mutually beneficial partnership for the project a clean energy source which is gravity. For more information visit: www.energyland.org.ua For the interested partner is ready to discuss specifics. Sincerely, Igor.

By Energyland on 2010 05 16

As an American from the West Coast who lived in Australia for six months, I can attest to the serious and prolonged burrito drought ravaging the entirety of the continent! Anyone with the gumption to start a burrito chain in Oz could make some good money...

Great profile of a great BTGen fellow. Leigh is missed around here.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2010 04 01

ruusia will come back sovit union

By adham on 2010 02 01

Once I read about this Greentech company in a newspaper. This article is more interesting than that report. Thanks for sharing such nice blog here. I am glad to post here. I like this site very much as it has such nice article.

By accessoires psp on 2009 10 06

If only the "schedules" had a more desirable name...

By Danny on 2009 10 05

I would like to examine why American innovation has so few friends in Congress. I guess the beginning is to look at who the enemies are:

1. Big corporations. They like the status quo, which is predictable and profitable for them, and they don't like new inventions that would make their inventory obsolete and might give competitors an advantage. They don't like clean energy innovations because they might be forced to spend money to install them. They don't like the prospect of new markets that they can't dominate. They contribute heavily to re-election campaigns of their friends in Congress. "What's good for General Motors is good for America" used to be their battlecry, until GM went bankrupt.

2. Academics. Whatever money is available for research somehow winds up going to exotic pure science like string theory, cosmology, particle physics, hot fusion, etc. etc. instead of the grubby applied science and engineering that will be needed for clean energy cheap.

3. Department of Energy. DOE's clean energy research, which is limited to chemical CO2 capture and underground storage (e.g. the FutureGen project), is doomed to failure, like trying to fly by flapping mechanical wings. But that's all DOE is going to look at. Despite a very critical GAO report last year, institutional inertia keeps digging deeper dry holes.

4. Polluters. Despite their green talk, they really want nothing to change.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 10 03

It sounds like something we need right now, jobs and clean energy.

By chris on 2009 10 02

The UCS document has not been published on their website. It was provided to us via email and we have uploaded it here for others to download.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 10 01

This is a measured response given how CP has slammed BTI this year. Well done.

BTW, Romm's inside-the-beltway perspective is that ACES is all that DC can muster, no ratification of a climate treaty is possible, and, without ACES, the chance of avoiding klimakatastrophe is zero (and only a little better with it). This is not the same as saying ACES is a strong bill, just as good as it gets.

I think you all would find common ground with the following haiku assessment of ACES:

Jacks or Better


By Greg Robie on 2009 09 29

By Allexx on 2009 09 28

The Chinese government has full authority over utilities and wields a strong hand in many investment decisions. That is not the case in the US, so here the amount of government spending isn't the key. The Waxman-Markey bill has emissions targets and a host of policy provisions. The private investments which they'll generate will be worth many times what the bill sets aside for the government to spend. Your piece frets that apples are not oranges; both can be used to make a fruit salad.

By jay alt on 2009 07 31

Apart from the grid connected solar power plants, the Indian government is also focussing on roof top solar power plants. Utilities such as NDPL (Delhi state power distribution utility) have come up with net metering schemes for roof top power systems connected to the grid. This would boost the solar power market through distributed generation.

For more information visit http://www.solarindiaonline.com/

By Nimisha Garg on 2009 07 28

Green Energy
I think clean energy is a point which should be considered by each person in particular, not only by the government.
Two years ago, my brother, who is an inventor, created a solar-powered mini-electric station, which we use up till now, and half a year ago a small electromobile for kids, now he is working on other useful things, and he does not need billions of dollars for this. He takes his ideas mostly from
So I think we should not only sit and wait for help from the authorities. We can start making our planet clean today!

By Lucy on 2009 07 27

"getting most Americans to realize that the only way to solve the problem is"

I think this is where the problem ultimately lies, it will take another 10 years to get 'most' Americans onside.

By Gotta Go Green on 2009 07 27

A quick comment - why all the harping on
emission reductions in capped US sectors?
Do you or do you not agree that global greenhouse
gas emissions would decrease by the amount mandated by the bill (ie by an amount equal to 20% of US emissions by 2020, etc.)? And isn't that what
ultimately matters?

By Prasad Kasibhatla on 2009 07 21

Hi Katherine, thanks for the comment. The WashPo figure is an annual figure ($44-66 billion annually) and the figure above is the sum-total of the 10 year investment plan China is reportedly planning ($440 to $660 billion over ten years). Hope that explains it.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 07 20

There would be a huge demand for solar energy in China and India. The right government investment policies will definitely help to grow the industry.

By Magniwork Generator on 2009 07 19

I think there may be a typo here. The Washington post article lists China as planning to invest 44-66 billion. Thanks for the great analysis.

By Katherine Philipson on 2009 07 19

Despite the questionable science around global warming or climate change, we are likely to replace most of our fossil fuels with fuels from agricultural products in the next century. As a result, these fuels will be carbon neutral.

For the Natural Laws of Innovation see http://hallingblog.com/2009/07/15/natural-laws-of-innovation-1/

By Dale B. Halling on 2009 07 16

All these words, but not one word about the two instances of the most dangerous word in ACES, nuclear!

By Harold One Feather on 2009 07 13

This is something that I posted on climateprogress.org on July 9, responding to Joe Romm's blog about James Hansen's HuffingtonPost article. This has relevance to "The Need for a New Framework ..." (aka "Plan B"), so I'm cross-posting it here. (Joe Romm has not yet released this from moderation quarantine -- not sure if he's going to. Some readers may find my perspectives to be offensive or objectionable.)


For all of Waxman-Markey's faults, I think it gets two things right: (1) allowance set-asides to fund tropical forest conservation, and (2) a meaningful price floor. These measures move U.S. policy closer to the rational and pragmatic goal of minimizing emissions within limits of cost acceptability. However, they leave W-M with no coherent policy foundation, because its other regulatory mechanisms -- the cap, trading, economy-wide linkage, banking, borrowing, and offsets -- all operate to achieve the converse objective of minimizing costs within limits of a predetermined (and unsustainable) emission cap.

The irrationality of the latter objective is demonstrated by the U.S. SO2 trading system, which continues to focus regulatory incentives on further cost reductions -- not emission reductions -- even when allowances are selling at a fraction of what was expected when the cap-and-trade system was enacted, and even when quantifiable benefits of further emission reductions would exceed costs by a factor of 25.

[Note to JR re "... So they do more than is necessary ...": That is because of banking, which has the effect of shifting the over-allocation into future compliance periods. They do more now only so they can do less later.]

Suppose that the SO2 allowances had been sold at fixed price (no emission cap), with sales revenue distributed according to the same proportionate allocation formula that was used for allowance allocation (or any other preferred formula). If the price were set at the lower limit of the original expectation level (about $650/ton, compared to the actual market of about $200/ton) then SO2 scrubber technology would have been adopted much sooner, and the more ambitious goal of the EPA's recent Clean Air Interstate Rule might have been achieved years ago without further regulatory intervention.

But that's not the kind of program that Hansen and other carbon-tax advocates are propounding for GHG regulation. Their proposals are very similar to Obama's original 100% auction, 80% tax dividend plan, the main difference being that allowances would be sold rather than auctioned. Obama, to his credit, knows how to recognize a brick wall when he sees it and he backed off on his original plan. The carbon-tax lobby, by contrast, is still banking its head against the wall in its insistence that carbon taxes operate primarily to extract revenue from the regulated industry. In my view, it is this dogged and dogmatic adherence to a "punitive" regulatory approach that leaves W-M as "the only game in town".

However, if tax revenue is used only to finance or incentivize emission reductions in the taxed industry, then I think there would be three consequences: (1) Industry costs would be dramatically lower (even if emission-reduction incentives are much higher than cap-and-trade's), so pricing instruments would lose their political stigma. (2) Price certainty, in addition to low costs, would make pricing instruments much more attractive to industry. (3) Pricing instruments would be more compatible with sectoral policies having limited scope, and hence limited political opposition. (Monolithic, economy-wide policies like W-M's tend to lead to "monolithic, economy-wide" political opposition, but the rationale for economy-wide linkage disappears when the policy objective is minimum emissions -- not minimum costs.)

Passage of W-M is not a sure bet, so it would be prudent to start thinking about some kind of viable "Plan B".

By Ken Johnson on 2009 07 11

To the guy above, I guess it depends what state the carbon is in...lots of things are good until they are modified or used in high quantities.

I pray that electric cars become a reality in the next 10 years because of our terrible reliance on oil.

By Green Recycling Gal on 2009 07 09

He wouldn't need an artificial volcano - just lift the sulfur controls on coal burning plants.

Of course, the government would never think of doing something so simple.

By Sam on 2009 07 09

Re "a New Framework": One alternative approach is the following:

"A Decarbonization Strategy for the Electricity Sector: New-Source Subsidies"


(This is a draft publication submitted to Energy Policy.)

By Ken Johnson on 2009 07 08

After some simulation, I think the real problem with the reserve is not that it violates the cap, but that it fails to address volatility. It turns out to be hard to generate price trajectories that release many allowances, and those that are released are self-defeating because they compete with open-market stabilizing operations. See http://blog.metasd.com/2009/07/07/strategic-excess-breakthroughs-nightmare/ and preceding entries.

By Tom Fiddaman on 2009 07 08

I am glad that China and India are cooperating on Launch New Solar Energy Projects.

By solar panels on 2009 07 08

Breakthrough Institute Team,
I would love to feature this article on my solar news site - solarfeeds.com - with your permission. I will linkback, etc. and even set up your blog as a contributor if you want. please email me to discuss. thanks!

By scott weitzman on 2009 07 08

Big emitters of CO2 (e.g. coal-fired power plants) pretend in public that they really want to do something. But the economic reality is that pollution control costs money, and doesn't increase profits, therefore shareholders don't like it. The last thing the big emitters want to see is new technology that solves the problem they create, because the EPA might compel them to buy it.

Knowing that the potential customers are so reluctant, private sector technology developers are not willing to spend money on R&D for clean tech no one will buy. So the "free market innovation" that policy makers count on to address the CO2 problem faces a strong headwind.

If there were a realistically high price on CO2 emissions, something near what it would actually cost per ton, with no bogus Nigerian tree offsets, then there might be an economic incentive for a breakthrough. But after ACES it is clear that this will not happen.

So that leaves government research as the only hope. But ACES killed that hope too. Even if there were adequate money available for a serious research effort, it would probably go into the usual DOE dry holes: chemical capture, sequestration, hot fusion, particle physics, etc. That's the inertia to be overcome by Secretary Chu, who seems to have been appointed to be the fall guy for Congress and the Obama Administration, with all of the responsibility and none of the resources for doing the job.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 07 04

There is already a solution for CO2. It is called Nuclear Power. The French already get 90% of their electricity from Nuclear Power and Hydroelectricity.

The trouble is the Greens would rather melt the icecaps than admit that Nuclear Power is part of the solution.

By Joel Upchurch on 2009 07 04

Exactly our point, R... Browner's legislation based approach may work for something like the banning of BPA in plastics, but just yesterday I was at the store looking for a sports bottle and saw that manufacturers are already taking it out voluntarily--in response to public pressure and the threat of bad PR!!! When legislation can only accomplish things that good PR pressure can do much quicker-- a BPA ban is right now stalled in the Senate!-- what we need is an innovator at the head of our energy and climate task forces, someone who's not afraid to break some of the old paradigms. Unfortunately, Browner just isn't it.

By Tyler Burton on 2009 07 01

To get rid of CO2 the way we got rid of lead and asbestos would require a much more massive substitution. There are simply not that many existing ways to make energy without using carbon and many of those require energy storage technologies that do not exist currently. Maybe that is why so many politicians seem to bury their heads in the sand on the climate issue.

By R Margolis on 2009 07 01

nice info

By John on 2009 07 01

Wow. You are voicing the concerns of the wrong critics. People who can get away with saying that any law to reduce carbon emmisions must raise prices and make it painful for the consumer with a straight face must really hate the United States of America.

Do not get me wrong. Green initiatives and a move toward renewable energy is needed. It does not need to ruin the economy, cause economic stife within the family unit and work soley through negative reinforcement.

Instead how about if this blog was truly a blog of BIG ideas. How about if we promote green initiatives through incentivizing and how about if we move to carbon neutral energy by looking at Nuclear.

What this site and many like it fail to realize is that Nuclear is not a dirty word. New Nuclear technologies can be used to actually REDUCE the amount of nuclear waste we have on hand already. By reproccessing existing waste we can produce energy and reduce the toxicity of said waste as well as it's unstability.

By Bryan on 2009 07 01

(1) There's an important incentive in the pre-implementation phase here that isn't acknowledged. In the run-up to the implementation of a cap and trade system with free auctioning (and before the free allocation plans are defined), firms could have an incentive to increase (or not reduce) their emissions or perform other "gaming" techniques to maximize the number of allowances they receive. And this creates an extremely cumbersome bureaucratic process for allocating allowances, as compared to auctioning. Of course, this depends on how the allocation process is defined in the bill, and I haven't had time to take a deep dive into this part of the bill. If you do, let me know what you find.

(2) You're still not addressing my first point, which is that free allowance distribution significantly reduces what is arguably the most important component of cap and trade, major public investments in clean energy technology. Given that these public investments are likely to produce more developments in clean energy tech than the very low carbon price in ACES will -- and given that making clean energy cheap is arguably the single most important factor for achieving global emission reductions -- how does it make sense to argue that free distribution vs auctioning results in the same environmental result? Yes, in a closed system, free distribution and auctioning may achieve the same result, but the mass majority of future emissions will come from developing countries, and the public investments we make in energy technology are critical for addressing those.

By Teryn Norris on 2009 06 30

"free allowance distribution doesn't produce the right incentives ... because it doesn't provide as strong of an incentive for polluters to reduce their emissions"

This just isn't true. Money is money. Energy companies are going to try to maximize profits all the same (despite some, i.e., utility companies, being heavily regulated), and if they can reduce emissions for less than the market price of a carbon permit, they'll do so. Also, large companies aren't like ordinary people; they pay the utmost attentions to finances and the bottom line.

Auction or no auction, emission reductions will be the same.

By Stephen Collins on 2009 06 30

Thanks for your comments. There are a number of reasons why free distribution of permits is problematic:

(1) Free distribution of allowances reduces or eliminates the single most important component of cap and trade, the revenue stream for direct public investments in clean energy technology. The world's top energy experts have consistently called for $30 billion/year of federal investment in clean energy RD&D, and our analysis shows that a full suite of RDD&D requires $50 to 80 billion per year in the United States. ACES would only invest around $10 billion due to the small number of auctioned allowances.

(2) Free distribution of allowances to utilities and other energy industries can enrich corporate polluters. That's why Budget Director Peter Orszag stated, "all of the evidence suggests that what would occur is the corporate profits would increase by approximately the value of the permit." Pew Environment Group(which ironically is a member of US-CAP) strongly emphasized this point in a review of the European ETS:

"Free credit giveaways can lead to windfall profits and do not guarantee that costs are not passed on to consumers. A significant portion, if not all, of allowances should be auctioned, generating revenue that can be used to protect vulnerable populations and spur clean technology innovations that ultimately lower the cost of compliance. Windfall profits in the electricity sector were another unintended consequence of free allocation within the EU ETS. In countries such as Germany, the power producers received permits at no cost but decided to charge consumers the full market price of these allowances.7 As a result, electricity prices rose, yielding large profits for utilities.8 If allowances had been auctioned, revenues could have been redirected to assisting low-income customers and other vulnerable populations, as well as to other beneficial purposes such as helping industries retool production and supporting the development of clean energy and carbon sequestration technologies"

Congressman Waxman argues that free distribution is designed to protect ratepayers, yet actual consumer advocacy groups like Public Citizen argue that the bill doesn't do enough to protect ratepayers. Public Citizen writes:

"Proponents of the legislation claim that the legislation shields electricity ratepayers from major rate increases by requiring them to only use the free emission credits for the benefit of ratepayers. But a careful reading of the legislative language suggests that the lack of any definition of what constitutes a "benefit" will be interpreted differently by the 50 state utility commissions that the legislation bestows wide latitude to design allocation of the allowances... it is clear that the decentralized, cumbersome nature of the LDC mitigation approach has been prioritized to preserve jurisdictional exclusivity for the Energy & Commerce Committee at the expense of superior mitigation mechanisms... that would leave competing congressional committees in charge of the disbursement of funds."

(3) As President Obama made clear in his statement, free allowance distribution doesn't produce the right incentives, not only because it is much more prone to gaming and windfall profits, but because it doesn't provide as strong of an incentive for polluters to reduce their emissions.

By Teryn Norris on 2009 06 30

Another big part of the acid rain story that generally doesn't get told was the deregulation of the railroads (starting with the 1976 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act), which made it much cheaper to ship low-sulfur coal from Western coal fields. That meant that by the time the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments established the SO2 emissions trading system to stop Acid Rain, fuel-switching to low-sulfur coal was economically feasible, even for coal plants in the East, and compliance with the regulations was easy. While Natural Gas may provide some low-cost fuel switching, there's simply no analogous way forward to the completely transformed, low-carbon global energy system necessary to stop global climate change.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 06 30

You've set up an apples vs. oranges comparison. The utilities that Waxman is talking about are highly regulated. They receive NONE of the "corporate welfare" that Obama and Orzag decry, because they are not allowed to charge ratepayers more. Their financial inputs and outputs remain the same (except for a declining emissions cap they have to stay under). The situation Obama and Orzag attack is where you give the companies the permits, and then they raise their prices _as if they had to pay for them_, and reap the profit. That's just not the case with the permits Waxman's talking about here.

By Asa on 2009 06 30

Do you think people would drive the same amount if we gave them permits to drive equal to their current commute and let them buy or sell them to others or if everybody had to all of a sudden pay for every mile they drove?

Sure, the incentive to bike or carpool or take public transit is technically the same, but you don't have that "Oh crap now I have to take money out my pocket every time I get in the car" experience if the permits are just given to you.

Energy companies aren't any different.

By Isaac Silverman on 2009 06 30

In this case, Waxman is right and Obama is wrong. Freely distributing the permits WILL produce "the same environmental result as full auctioning."

Paul Krugman explains why: "Now, these handouts wouldn

By Stephen Collins on 2009 06 29

Just $2.00 a month. I do not have extra money. Hell why don't you tree huggers just take all money. I know I am just being selfish. But it is my money and I earned it. I pay enough in taxes already. Keep your nasty hands out of my pocket.

By Jc on 2009 06 29

This is the weakness in ACES... will it survive a Senate vote? More than 40 democrats voting against it in the House does not bode well!

By Terrence Murray on 2009 06 29

Cap and Trade sounds a lot like the "Energy Deregulation" that allowed Enron to mess with California's energy supply back in 2001.

It sounds like a system where middlemen are set up to just add cost, not value.

It seems simple taxation (and penalization) would put more dollrs in the government's coffers and steer industry to respond more quickly. The more quickly the proper response is enacted, the sooner jobs will be created in new sectors. If jobs are created in "artificial" sectors only created in a madening arbitraty system, those jobs are at the greatest risk of disapearing once the artificial stimulants are removed.

We must understand that the US consists of less than 5% of the global population. We are often seen as the richest nation - especially in our own eyes. Our transportation system - getting to and from work - is based on hauling around at least a ton of car per commuter. Various forms of public transportation could transport more people more qickly in our growing sprawl cities - using half the energy, generating half the CO2.

This issue is near and dear. Growing up in and living near Los Angeles, I know how many man-hours are wasted on the freeway. I understand how tis slows eonomic activity. I see how our present system of transporation is a great tax on our people.

I understand how the tiny particles generated from engine wear, from tire wear, from breaks and stirred by passing cars - how thes particles embed themselves into our lungs and have plagued many in my family with asthema and increased susceptability to various alergies.

In the "libertarian" point of view, increased medical costs of our present policies have an impact that is hard to quantify economically - but the inpact is certainly heavier on the end-users and not on those in the supply chain that profit the most rom causing us commuters harm.

Under cap and trade - electric utilities are putting off investments in upgading their pollution control devices - perhaps amonia scrubbers, catalytic converters and other devices.

These allownaces extend the artificial impression that these older plants are more economical to operate.

Providing subsidies - perhaps paid for by the direct taxation of carbon emissions - to go directly into helping high electric cost areas replace their old powerplants with the latest more efficient and less poluting technolgies - that would certainy improve the jestation of US efforts to reduce carbon emissions and still grow electricity production.

When the electric grid loses about 50% of the energy pumped into it in transmission losses,the increase in efficiency at many power plants become far less valuable than increases in efficiency at the consumer end. (Overall in the USA, the "fuel to end-use" efficincy of our electric grid is below 25%.)

A natural gas fired microturbine "on-site" at a local facility can outproduce the "fuel efficiency" of our electric grid. When considering electricity production to carbon dioxide emissions, on site generation produces far less CO2. Any hydrocarbon fuel has an advantage over coal in that hydrogen oxidation (H2O exhaust) packs a lot more punch than burning carbon - aka coal - (Almost all CO2 exhaust), and electric utilities have become far too addicted to cheap coal.

Placing on-site generation in a distributed manner throughout a community provides the best coverage. If (or more likely when) stuff fails, people, consumers and producers will be better able to continue normal economic activity.

The more economic activity around an area that just underwent any disaster will recover more quickly if the surrounding areas are unaffected. That would be a great energy policy - to put applied research dollars into distributed on-site technolgies and est sites incorporating solar, powerhaps wind, natural gas fired microturbine-cogeneration and hybrid microturbine/fuel cell technolgies. These technolgies together have much promise in reducing our overall energy consumption.

Just reversing the provisions of the 2005 Federal Energy legislation that prevented small solar energy installations from getting paid back dollar for dollar on energy sold back to the grid - reversing tose provisions would "supersize" America's decrease in CO2 emmissions while lowering costs ver time. When the price the utilities pay back oversized solar energy installations is tied to the amount the utility charges other consumers for electricity, the utilities are afraid to raise rates because they would face paying out more to solar energy providers.

Eventually, the electric utilities would have so many solar energy installations feeding their grids, the electric utilities would lower electric rates to consumers faster to prevent paying out more to the many "producers" who overproduce solar electricity.

Releasing small solar energy providers to achieve must faster payback on their individua privaate investments will significantly cut into CO2 emmissions over time as the base-load of solar energy installations increases.

The present strategy to "cap & trade" put forward seems to reward Centralized energy providers - only.

Centralized energy producers would do best to invest in ways to "store" excess electricity from variable input renwable sources. Many alternatives are attractive including the reversible methanol fuel cell and running pumps to create algea based "gasoline" fuels - both which recycle carbon dixoide directly into fuels - closng the carbon cycle. (We need to stimulate our economy in this direction anyway, or risk falling farther behind others that do take the progressive path.) And electricity storage can also be acomplshed with reverse-hydro, flywheels, capacitors and other methods used today.

Batteries alone wont't work. I've heard of schemes where utilities get people to buy electric cars charged up during the day, and discharged at night. This scheme puts the cost of the maintenance of the rapidly cycled car battery on the owner of the car!

"Cap and Trade" is just another example that those who profit the most are the ones who can afford to hire lobbyists to write laws with our taxpayer's Congress.

By CZ on 2009 06 29

Could you please provide a link to the Union of Concerned Scientists report you cite? What appears to be a link is to a document on your own web page, and your Union of Concerned Scientists link is incorrect. Thank you

By jalanning on 2009 06 28

Coal Supporter

Coal fire power is truly the only real generator of electricity in this country. Everyone talks about cleaning up the environment, but those same people love to use the electricity produced from coal. If we stop coal fire power then the lights will go out and all the people that are fighting coal power will complain that when they went to turn on there light

By jamy on 2009 06 27

I think I found a claus in Waxman-Markey that will actually cause increases in CO2.

It looks to me, on page 245, that they have added a clause requiring companies using the Title XVII Loan Guarantee Program created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to pay the "prevailing wage" for the project. Won't this greatly increase the cost of the project using this program, since I understand the usual interpretation of "prevailing wage" is the union wage?

There are a lot of nuclear power projects in the queue over at the NRC that were going to use Title XVII program and I suspect "prevailing wage" is going to gut them.

By Joel Upchurch on 2009 06 25

Given that the EPA appears set to be stripped of a lot of its powers by this bill, it is hardly surprising that they will take a negative view of it. Personally I think clean coal is one of the greatest hoaxes we've yet seen, and it is a triumph of the mining sector.

By Roger on 2009 06 25

Mr. Morris I like your comments and your request. However, why don't you construct a survey on your website and have people to complete it there rather than ask them to send you their preferred price, email, and other contact information. In this age of Identity Theft, I believe the survey would provide a little more legitimacy. Hope for the future.

By Vincent Marshall on 2009 06 25

Happened to catch the interview on NPR this morning, and I agree that a positive financial spin on global warming solves a multitude of problems the world is facing. In the realm of economics, developing clean energy creates jobs in basic R&D for engineers and scientists, there will also be manufacturing and installation jobs for the blue collar workers and a number of sales jobs for those former booth babes at car shows.

Another benefit off the radar screen of people not technically savvy about the petroleum industry, is IMHO developing the alternative energy sector is a good segway to try and solve the very real problem of reserve replenishment (AKA PeakOil). Right now the world has a steady or declining demand for liquid fuels which powers 98% or so of the transportation fleet (cars, ships and aircraft).

A society which has an economy 70% based on consumption and banking isn't sustainable! If it were then the global economy would be going up right now instead of going down or sideways. History is full of examples where innovative technology has the ability to drive the economy forward, witness the 1870's railroad which drove westward expansion. The aircraft industry of the 1950's ushered in the jet age. Silicon valley, commericialed the computer and a new form of "web" communication. The next tech breakthur that will drive the economy is clean energy because it solves many problems and those who "invest" in finding market solutions will make lots of $$$!

By ben on 2009 06 25

Great segment this am. Thought I'd share a video with you that I produced for the CA Innovation Corridor about how the collaboration between government, universities and business (or venture capitol) is what grew innovation in CA. It is the only way we are going to keep any kind of edge here in America. We have already lost manufacturing, if we don't invest to keep innovation going, we will lose that too.

Here is the link: http://www.innovatecalifornia.net/BTHvideo
You have to download it and then use QuickTime to view it. If you want a CD copy , just email me and I'll send it along.

kathy cummings

By Kathy Cummings on 2009 06 24

Thanks for this good post....

By Solar Products on 2009 06 24

The bill will be so watered down that it will be ineffective. It

By ken on 2009 06 24

Look, I've been saying this for some time now. Waxman & Markey are so hell bent on getting an agreement, any agreement, that the legislation will prove to be a disaster. I believe that to get agreement and passage in Congress, the emissions bill will actually produce a net increase in C02. And this EPA report backs up my claim. This bill is so bad now it must be stopped before it is actually enacted. We need a strong emissions reduction, not this watered down mush!

By Ken on 2009 06 22

Thanks for this informative post..........

By Solar Power Installation on 2009 06 22

"But it's wishful thinking to believe that raising the price by $20 to $40 a ton would make a big difference ..."

How much of a difference would $100 a ton make?

Suppose, for example, that a carbon fee is applied to electricity generation, with fee revenue used exclusively to subsidize new-source renewable energy. The fee formula is determined to create a price incentive for clean-energy commercialization equivalent to $100 per ton. But since there would initially be no "new sources", fees would be zero at the outset of the program. Fees would become significant only when new renewables gain significant market share, by which time market competition from an expanding, subsidized clean-energy sector would deter fossil-fuel energy producers from passing the cost of carbon fees on to ratepayers.

We need to change our thinking about carbon pricing. "Price" does not equate to "cost". A high price does not even preclude zero cost.

By Ken Johnson on 2009 06 19

Well, Romm has said a lot of things about Breakthrough that are not true. This "politics of personal destruction" is all to typical of his writing.

If you have specific questions for us, I'm happy to answer.

As far as Joe's accusations that we are deliberately lying about President Obama's position, please simply refer to WhiteHouse.gov where the Administration's position is unequivocally stated:

"Investing in the Next Generation of Energy Technologies. Invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development to transition to a clean energy economy."

(We cited this in our post clearly)

Or refer to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu's testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee in March where he states:

"The president's proposed budget allocates $150 billion for research and development of new green technologies. ... That is putting back the [carbon auction] money into developing better solutions."

Or look at Obama's Budget outline wherein $15 billion per year of cap and trade revenue is specifically dedicated (starting in 2012), in addition to other line-items for DOE's existing budget, to clean energy R&D (as per Chu's testimony).

Whatever Obama's position during the campaign, which was always a vague commitment to "$150 billion investment in clean energy technology" generally (hence my concerned post here), the Administration's current position has been stated in clear terms which we cite in our analysis.

As to Joe's assertion that Breakthrough has somehow flip-flopped and now supports only R&D, that assertion is blatantly groundless. We have always supported, and continue to support, dramatic scale-up in investment in both R&D and direct deployment incentives/investments. We support at least $15 billion for R&D and $30 billion for deployment. Overall, we believe a $30 billion investment in R&D and deployment is a bare minimum for effective climate and clean energy policy, and like the Apollo Alliance, call for at least $50 billion per year in RD&D ideally ($50-80 billion being the ideal range).

We simply happen to be capable of analyzing the R&D component of Waxman-Markey separately from the overall investment component, and we present our analysis of both provisions in our posts and in our presentation. For those curious about our policy recommendations, they are clearly stated here: http://www.thebreakthrough.org/ideas.shtml

As for Romm's assertion that emissions fall 8% according to CBO, he provides no supportive analysis or evidence so neither I nor anyone else has any way to evaluate his claim. That claim is inconsistent with the findings our our analysis (which you can examine here.)

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 06 18

Joe Romm bans comments he doesn't like, so any response would have to be here. I would say this .5% reduction is misleading since it doesn't include purchased offsets. However, the numbers are technically accurate as the 5000+ in offsets is about equal to the estimated reduction.

By MikeN on 2009 06 18

Hey all, this is penetrating stuff. One suggestion, could you do up a chart that combines the 2 insights? That is, take the over-supply of emissions credits in the pre-2030 period and apply them to total emissions/business as usual? (I guess you'd have to make some assumption on period, unless the permits lapse, but you could arbitrarily use same period as now-2030). That chart would have more impact than first one alone - which, graphically tends to cut against your argument, as the subliminal communication is of cuts - and, I think, have more impact then the bar chart because it tells story better. Best, Ken

By Ken Ward on 2009 06 18

I still think this bill is worth criticizing and I'm not convinced it is better than nothing. But Joe Romm over Climate Progress is lambasting you guys and it does look like he's caught you guys in some contradictions. And now I read that your funding is suspect.

I liked your book and recommend it to colleagues but I'm starting to wonder what motivates you guys.

You need to respond (constructively).

By Mark on 2009 06 18

Joe Romm at ClimateProgress is calling you a liar.
He says the CBO projects an 8% cut in emissions.

By MikeN on 2009 06 18

I am dismayed at the needless vituperation directed at Dr. Hansen and now at BTI by Joe Romm. I used to comment at his site Climate Progress, until I found that my comments critical of Waxman-Markey's dubious offsets had been deleted. What comes to mind are the heavy-handed purges of dissident views under Mao.

Friendly fire casualties in the heat of political battle could be avoided with a little less personal investment in the issue. Aren't we all sincerely trying to come up with solutions?

Joe Romm believes that the solar technology we already know about, and biomass co-firing, can provide all the baseload power the world needs now and in the future. Therefore no more breakthroughs are needed. I happen to disagree, along with Dr. Steven Chu. But I respect the sincerity of his view. And I do see his point that "we need more studies" has been a frequent battlecry of the opponents of pollution control.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 06 17

I don't understand why this bill isn't criticized more. The argument that this "is at least a start" and may be our "last chance" just don't hold water. It seems to me that if enacted, this bill will construct a facade of success that will make much of the public think we've done something. It will lead to complacence and very little actual improvement.


By Mark on 2009 06 17

Why wait for Congress?

Future cars will need no fuel and can become power plants when parked.

Breakthroughs include the MagGen. These magnetic generators will initially make it possible to cut the cord on a plug-in hybrid so it no longer needs to plug-in. Later, they can replace the batteries in an electric car. Then, the MagGen can run when the car is parked and sell power to the utility. Prototypes are under development.

Next is a Self Powered Internal Combustion Engine - SPICE, which can power a hybrid. It will need no fuel and is another path to ending the need to plug-in. The engine can run when parked. Both systems can wirelessly transmit and sell power to the local utility.

The SPICE will be powered by hydrinos - which let a barrel of water equal hundreds of barrels of oil.

Scientists and engineers will doubt these technologies are possible until they have been validated by Independent Laboratories. That is an important step on the agenda.

Until now, car ownership has been an expense. Payments to car owners driving a hybrid with a SPICE, or powered by MagGen, are likely to be substantial.

The cost of many vehicles might be paid for by utilities, as they purchase power.

Parked cars each become decentralized power plants - a rapid, cost-effective path to winding down fossil fuels - and a rebirth of both the automobile industry and the world economy.

By Mark Goldes on 2009 06 16

Cape Wind capital construction cost is widely expected to be around $2 bn. Suffolk University Beacon Hill Institute Cape Wind study estimates the value of public subsidies as 77% of project construction cost.

Wind energy "benefits", as reduction of greenhouse gasses, are alleged. If generous public subsidies were tied by index to reduction in harmful emissions by wind energy, it would be "game over".

Cape Wind is about multinational corporations' interest in tax sheltering-not public or environmental benefits.

By Barbara Durkin on 2009 06 16

No, CTF, the alternative is not a revenue-neutral carbon tax. That may sound good in an economic model, but in reality it would be subject to all the same market failures impeding progress and innovation and the same political challenges impeding the establishment of a price on CO2 high enough to drive real change in investment and consumer behavior.

The alternative is a proactive clean energy technology agenda that spurs clean energy innovation, accelerates deployment, and makes clean energy cheap. See our recommendations here.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 06 15

The alternative is a revenue-neutral carbon tax like the one scientists, economists and opinion leaders have been advocating from the beginning...

By CTF on 2009 06 15

So, what's the alternative... and why even have such a legislation on the books with at the outcome such modest results...?

By Terrence Murray on 2009 06 15

I just want to point out that AIP has launched a new journal in sustainable and renewable energy in the last few days, with research topics directly related to the concerns above in this article.


By John West on 2009 06 11

Emissions targets and clean tech are by no means in conflict. Both are worthy goals.

By libhomo on 2009 06 10

A massive expansion of public transportation would help too.

By libhomo on 2009 06 10

So right: "Targets mean nothing if we can't get there." So how do we reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power, cement, and steel plants? These point sources are the big contributors to the problem.

First, it is necessary to dispose of the distractions that so frequently add noise to the discussion:

A. Demand reduction (conservation, biking to work, etc.) is of course good, but it is inadequate to make more than a small difference. In the US, and especially in China and India, demand for electricity, cement, and steel will certainly increase, way more than the effect of personal demand reduction practiced by the eco-elite.

B. Alternative fuels are also good, but also inadequate, and more expensive than coal. Coal will be the fuel that civilization will run on for the next 20 years, which is all we have to solve the climate change problem.

C. Solar and wind presently account for a very tiny fraction of electricity. There is no feasible utility-scale storage, and these sources are intermittent, therefore unreliable for baseload power to keep the lights on. At percentages in excess of 20%, wind and solar in the grid make the grid unreliable.

D. IGCC and other gasification technologies are great for the coal plants to be built in the future, but what we need now is something for the existing fleet of pulverized coal plants throughout the world. We need something to capture or otherwise separate the CO2 out of the smokestack, and then do something with it so it does not go into the atmosphere. Post-combustion CCS, in more technical terms.

So, given the foregoing realities, intelligent discussion should focus on the science and engineering necessary for post-combustion CCS, and on how government policy can provide a climate for research and development to bear fruit.

Forget about the "free market" for fostering breakthroughs in pollution control. The last thing that the giant polluters want to see is a technology that solves the problem they create -- that may become Best Available Control Technology (BACT) which they will have to spend money on. Better for them if government money goes into dry hole projects like chemical capture and underground storage, which they can then point to and use to prove that the emissions reduction goal is impossible to achieve.

Waxman-Markey gives the giant polluters two ways to fade the heat: (1) it strips the EPA of jurisdiction to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act; and (2) it allows tree offsets to substitute for actual emissions reduction, for those few tons not covered by the free allowances the bill grants. This bill is without doubt a technology killer because it removes any incentive to develop something for post-combustion CCS. And what is provided in the bill for technology development will be pursuit of chemical capture and underground storage -- to proving the excuse that it is impossible to reduce emissions.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 06 09

Sachs seems to bring up a good point reg. the cost of clean energy technology. Right now it's quite high. Just an example algae-based biofuels, one of the "hot" feedstock that's making a lot of noise right now, costs 10 - to - 30 times more to make than conventional biofuels. So the issue really is how do we bring that cost down and more importantly are people aware that "going green will take more time and money than most realise?

By Terrence Murray on 2009 06 08

"Let them eat cake," said Marie Antoinette in response to the hungry mobs in Paris. That's the attitude of the suits at the Wall Street Journal to American innovation.

The exhortations to believe in the "free market" to build prosperity and foster innovation to solve climate change are just cocktail chatter of the rich. Starting a new business for pollution control in America is hard because there is no VC money unless you are already shipping product. Forget about new technology that would address the problems that polluters insist are impossible to solve.

They want to pretend, with a fantasy scheme like cap-and-trade, that they are friends of the environment, when in reality they just want to continue pollution as usual by buying $20/ton indulgences, in the form of imaginary green offsets in forests somewhere, and get the EPA off their case. That's what makes Waxman-Markey so attractive to the polluters. They don't want to see solutions that might cost them some real money, so they want to make sure that no government money is available for clean tech.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 06 08

Geoengineering is chemical trespass on the lives of all beings. Permission has not been sought from the victims. Instead, it's "trust me, I believe in my science education, and I know what I'm doing."

Beg to differ. Since the geoengineering experiment has been running in our skies for ten years now, it's valid to conjecture that geoengineering is a great part of the CAUSE of climate change and the extreme anomalies that are now occurring daily--of drought, inundation, heat and frost. Walt Disney warned us: Mickey hauling the sorcerer's water bucket, sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind, one techno-bandaid applied over another as the planet's harmonic weather system is disrupted time and again.
It is irresponsible and immoral to tinker with everyone's weather on the strong-headed notion that "I don't need permission" to do this. I find that no other one issue so disturbs people than the idea that our weather is no longer natural, authentic, God-given; no other issue so generates fear, I find, than informing people that the white streaks of cloud now appearing daily above us are manmade and not water vapor but chemical in nature.
The best thing that could now happen would be a complete cessation of airplane-induced weather modification, together with a "Marshall Plan" approach to reducing the combustion of ancient-sunlight fuels.

By forest shomer on 2009 06 05

Efficiency is certainly an important part of the equation, but most of the studies show you start getting diminishing returns after a ~30% reduction in energy use. Also, if you are talking about boosting exports, there are many developing countries that need advanced energy generation technologies even if efficiency is taken into account.

By club penguin on 2009 06 05

It is a revolutionary new car design that will cost only about $2,500 and will bring car ownership within reach of millions of new people in the developing world. The environmentalists' hypocrisy is breathtaking." This statement seems implausable as a reason for "hypocritical" environmentalists to put the Tata Nano down.

By club penguin on 2009 06 05

As you say: "It would also be inaccurate to say that the legislation "would mandate emissions reductions" since firms would be able to increase emissions if they purchased off-sets. And it would be inaccurate to say that the legislation "would reduce emissions" since the reduction of the emissions is by no means guaranteed or even mandated."

So what's the point of this bill? Two come to mind:
(1) a Wall Street bailout, creating a junk market where emitters will be forced to deal in dubious tree offsets to continue or increase their emissions; and
(2) an emitter bailout, stripping the EPA of jurisdiction over CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act, which recently was upheld by the Supreme Court.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 06 04

Where I see things headed is a more sustainable civilization that can meet the needs of future generations. Our ability to control emissions and clean up the environment is based on having greater access to lower polluting energy sources rather than some idyllic lifestyle. Advanced energy sources such as nuclear fusion (even the controversial nuclear fission) would allow greater opportunities to clean up the environment while meeting human needs across the globe.

By R Margolis on 2009 06 04

Looks like vestes in the UK laid off more than half it's workforce building wind turbines. This of course is a product that is reliant on government mandates and subsidies.

By seven on 2009 06 03

Call me stupid but isn't the debate on the cap and trade isue way,way off-base...Shouldn't we be discussing a new system of light-rail? Shouldn't we be discussing population control? Shouldn't we be discussing further exploration of nuclear fusion and other alternave energy sources? Shouldn't we have a NASA-like program that would put an end to global warming by the end of the next decade.

As I said, I'm a stupid fat hick in the midlands(who can't spel)...I'm not fighting for ethanol or petro...I'm fighting for a scientific(rather than)economic debate on this most important issue. I"m fighting for a nationl(international) war on global warming, which paralels Johnson's war of poverty..

By Ted Shlechter on 2009 06 02

By my quick math, this is actually a pretty sizable investment considering the relative size of Australia's economy, compared to the U.S.

Since I don't know how long the $465 million investment in R&D is sustained over, I'll assume here it's sustained for 9 years, as with the CCS money (a conservative estimate I'd wager).

Assuming that, the sum total of these investments (USD 3.6 billion total and USD 574.7 million annually) is the equivalent of USD 10.3 billion annually as an equivalent portion of the nation's GDP (US GDP is 17.9x larger than Australian GDP, according to Google). That's not too shabby, and a good start from our friends Down Undah.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 06 02

Thanks for clarifying Leigh.

By Jesse Jenkins on 2009 06 02


You are pointing to an interesting ethical problem. Humans are blessed and cursed with a limited-but-functional ability to see and comprehend the potential for endgame, be it climate change, overpopulation, other environmental mess, etc... and this capacity to see large-scale endgame increases as the time devoted to daily survival decreases.

It's obviously a good idea to care about the Endgame... but how do humans ethically limit other humans' energy consumption? It's one thing when it's intercultural... but how do you tell some other culture that what your culture has been doing for a long time is wrong?

Do you have the right to tell someone living a developing world existence that their way of life is "saner" than yours? Does that romantic idea remain somehow relevant even when disease, shorter life span and all the other grinding realities of poverty are accounted for?

How much control do we have over this larger Endgame Problem, and what do we have to give up (like the idea that all humans are basically equal, for instance) to have the kind of control you want to have?

Is there a way to think about this Endgame without prescribing permanent poverty for a huge chunk of the world?

By Deborah Fisher on 2009 05 31

Don't you ever worry where it's all heading? If we really did have access to limitless clean energy we would inevitably use that energy to ramp up population and completely trash the environment. About the only think keeping us in check is the fact that energy IS limited. Implicit in your last post is the suggestion that "much of the world" should adopt the high-consumption lifestyle of the rich West.

In my view we should be trying to gently back away from the obsessive growth mentality and return to a saner way of life. So would this be a good thing if it works?


By Robert on 2009 05 29

David Mathews -- Saving the polluters from regulation is what Waxman-Markey does, and BTI is a leading voice critical of this legislative end run around regulation under the Clean Air Act, which the Supreme Court upheld for the EPA. Reducing CO2 emissions will not be done by cap-and-trade, as we know from its record in Europe. If you want less CO2 emissions, and effective regulation, BTI is not your enemy.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 05 28

Another motive behind Waxman-Markey may have been to strip the EPA of jurisdiction to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act, so big emitters like coal-fired power plants can continue business as usual without being hassled by the EPA. Even for the paltry fraction of CO2 emissions not covered by free indulgences, tree offsets are allowed to substitute for actual emission cuts.

The US Supreme Court recently upheld the jurisdiction of the EPA over CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act. Rulemaking is underway. This major victory for climate protection will be surrendered by Waxman-Markey, which is a legislative end run around regulation. Depending on this new law, instead of the Clean Air Act, means another round of time-consuming challenges by the polluters, resulting in more time with no curtailment of emissions as the appeals drag on.

Given what we saw in the recent Wall Street crash, where risk packages spun out of fantasy enriched a few and bankrupted America, the green offset market will be another orgy of greed and fraud. I agree with Bill Hansen�s opinion that the guys in alligator shoes wrote this bill. Does anyone seriously believe, given our experience with regulation of Wall Street, that green offsets will be understood and effectively controlled? Round Two of the decline and fall, coming up.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 05 28

This climate change is the biggest fraud perpetuated on mankind, and it is going to cost the average consumer a lot of money not to mention a reduction in GDP, a loss of American competiveness, an increase in unemployment. When are the American people going to rise up against this madness?


By Mark Dias on 2009 05 28

Here is a quote from Patrick McCully published in the San Francisco Chronicle op-ed page A13 from Tuesday May 26, 2009:

"The bill's offset component ... is modeled after the world's largest carbon credit system, the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. The Kyoto mechanism has allowed polluters in Europe and Japan to avoid cutting off their own emissions by buying offsets from project developers elsewhere, mainly in China and India. Many of the Waxman-Markey credits are likely to come from this or whatever global offsetting scheme replaces it after Kyoto expires in 2012. After a decade of closely monitoring the mechanism, I have found it to be ineffective in combatting climate change, and at worst, to have aided increased carbon emissions."

It is general knowledge that cap-and-trade has failed to reduce emissions. So I don't think it is unfair to speculate on the real motives behind Waxman-Markey.

Maybe it's another Wall Street bailout, creating a market in a junk commodity: tree offsets. Power companies will be forced to speculate in forestry futures or the like, since there will be little support for making a transition to clean power. The coal states and utility customers will take a hit so the subprime swindlers can get back in business with an imaginary commodity.

Of course, to fool the credulous Democrats, the pitch is dressed in pious posturing about saving the environment and funding clean tech development, but these pretexts are not well-grounded in fact, as your careful examination of W-M proves. The size of the bill now (1000 pages and counting) means few who will vote on it will read it, so your summary and questions about the "trade" part are more important than ever. Good work.

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 05 28

For much of the world that has no electricity, conservation is not an option (i.e., cannot conserve when already at zero). Even in the developed world, energy sources such as wood simply will not provide enough energy to replace fossil fuels. Solar and wind require cheap energy storage technologies to avoid the double trap of paying for a part-time energy source and and part-time storage unit. We need energy sources that are cleaner, yet still abundant and reliable.

By R Margolis on 2009 05 28

Without wishing to sound like some sort of born-again Stalinist, I would say the failure to make progress of any sort whatsoever is a failure of democratic capitalism. How can politicians make any sort of effective climate policy stick when they know they will get voted out in an instant by a population that cares far more about the price of the next tank of gas that what the climate will be doing in 100 years?

Whether you obsess over targets or technology is currently making no difference - neither has been able to boast any discernable effect on CO2, so at the moment it is all theory.

Personally I will vote for any party that promises drastic action in either, or both, directions. I fear I'm in the minority.

By Robert on 2009 05 27

R Margolis - It's a question of where you start. If the market can be rigged through caps, tax or whatever to favour clean energy sources then the technology will optimise over time though the normal workings of the market. Also, there is an enormous amount that can be achieved through conservation. We have halved our domestic energy bills in the last 3 years without any impact on standard of living (and it keeps me fit collecting wood for the log burner!).

At the moment it is a mug's game trying to harvest clean energy when there is all that nearly free dirty energy just waiting to be dug up. The externalised costs need to be internalised.

By Robert on 2009 05 27

Even if you could accomplish the political miracle of getting acceptance of high carbon prices, there is no easy, off the shelf, renewable energy technology that can replace coal and natural gas. Energy storage technologies of this scale to balance renewables simply do not exist. You need to at least have a path to the technology before you can transition the economy.

As for the steady state economy/population, it will still require a good deal of energy to maintain standard of living. Even if population is frozen at the current number, increases in energy will be required to alleviate poverty and provide basic health and economic services.

By R Margolis on 2009 05 27

Flue gas scrubbing was only part of the acid rain solution. The cap on SOx pushed manufacturing offshore, and low-sulfur sub-bituminous coal, like Powder River Basin, substituted for bituminous coal from the heartland. So the Rust Belt and the heartland took a hit for the environment, whether they volunteered or not. Let's remember that as the CO2 debate goes forward.

Otherwise, acid rain and global climate change are as different as an ant and an elephant. The problem is that people can't comprehend the scale of the CO2 emissions. Each metric ton of CO2 is as big as a house, and a 500 MW (typical) coal-fired power plant emits 3 million tons of CO2 each year. That's about 2 cubic kilometers each year from each plant in the fleet.

Also, the chemical scrubbing that worked for SO2 or for natural gas sweetening and IGCC won't work for the CO2 in flue gas. SO2 is only a trace constituent in flue gas, unlike CO2, which is on the order of 15%, so the amount of sorbent required for CO2 chemical capture is enormous compared to SO2. And for post-combustion capture out of flue gas, where there is also a 75% nitrogen ballast hiding the CO2 targets, even more sorbent is necessary than in IGCC, natural gas sweetening, and other easy applications.

SO2 scrubbing uses as a sorbent lime or limestone, which are cheap and which make gypsum and are therefore not regenerated. The sorbent for CO2 scrubbing is expensive amine or, alternatively, chilled ammonia. The amine sorbent must be regenerated by heating to release the CO2, and the heat exchange surfaces scale with heat-stable salts (from residual SOx making sulfuric acid and combining with the amine sorbent) and are gummed up with fly ash sludge. Each ton of coal burned to produce the energy to do the scrubbing adds another 3 tons of CO2 to the scrubbing task, and if you need to burn a ton of coal to scrub 3 tons of CO2 you are just running in place and not producing any power.

Post-combustion carbon capture, from the emissions of coal-fired power plants, is what the world needs urgently, and post-combustion chemical carbon capture is a dry hole. Here is an alternative solution for carbon capture: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20090013867.pdf

By Wilmot McCutchen on 2009 05 27

The leaders of the family of humanity can do better and I trust all of us, leaders and followers alike, will choose necessary behavioral change rather than the profane maintenance of a morally disengaged and patently unsustainable socioeconomic status quo. Socioeconomic reasoning is feeble, fundamentally flawed reasoning, and suggests its inconsequentiality, because such

By Steven Earl Salmony on 2009 05 27

Cap and trade is crazy. Effectively, we Americans will be adding an additional tax to our energy bills. Why are we about to do this? Because the United Nations shouts 'climate crisis'. The problem with the scenario is that the United Nations is a political organization riddled with intrigue and power grabbing. Why the heck are we relying on them for scientific judgment? Why aren't we listening to our own climate science commission? We don't have one, that's why. As I said, it's crazy.

The underlying premise of cap and trade--that CO2 drives global warming--is based on United Nations' climate reports that are tainted by politics and agenda. Plus, there's been a lot of new climate science discoveries since Kyoto that's omitted from the reports. You don't have to be a scientist to realize they don't pass the smell test. See www.energyplanusa.com . America needs our own objective scientific assessment of global warming. I am a Democrat who for the past 20 years believed global warming was caused by CO2. Now after reading the UN reports I realize the fix was in and we were all mislead. The UN reports are politics not science, yet our government treats them as fact.

By Rmoen on 2009 05 27

You are forgetting a few important points:
1. Regardless of the number of offsets, there would be a CO2 price ... emissions will be lower than the business as usual case. Offsets will NOT cause emissions growth to be faster than it would have been absent a CO2 price.
2. Increasing the number of offsets merely lowers the CO2 price. Political opposition to any CO2 policy is driven by economic fears.
3. Offsets provide environmental insurance. If technologies cannot deploy as fast as we hope, then offsets provide a way to make real emissions reductions from sources outside of the cap.
4. There is no way that the market will provide enough offsets to hit the limit for many years. The involvement of the NGOs has ensured that offsets that might be allowed will be of higher quality -- these are limited.
5. The Avoided Deforestation Partners (ADP) have developed a robust set of principles -- they have significantly addressed many of the underlying problems of one of the largest potential sources of offsets.
6. The CO2 price in the market on any given day drives operating decisions for that day. It is the long term CO2 price projection that drives long term investment decisions. Most models show CO2 prices in the mid to longer term going more than high enough to incentivize the investment in non-emitting technologies.
7. Climate policy will not be set once then forgotten. Like all environmental laws, it will very likely tighten be improved later -- getting the overall framework developed is the hardest part. Once that is enacted and people see the economy hasn't been destroyed (well, more than today) improvements will be easier.
Don't despair!

By Kevin Leahy on 2009 05 27

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus do not want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, do they? Someone must save the precious economy from environmental regulation! The polluting industries of this world really want to make money and Breakthrough Insitute will protect them.

By David Mathews on 2009 05 27

Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus do not impress me. Anyone who preaches perpetual economic growth is seriously out of touch with reality.

The economy will stop growing. The human population will also stop growing.

These must occur by necessity and no amount of conservatives trashing the planet for the economy;s sake will prevent it from occurring.

There is a natural life cycle for civilizations. You may have noticed that the Roman Empire, British Empire and Soviet Union no longer exist. Nothing lasts forver.

If anyone imagines that Global Technological Civilization will last forever that person is delusional and has probably swallowed the lies of the economists.

Our civilization is already dying. The death of technological civilization has already become evident in a thousand different ways.

Yet these two fools claim that the economy must keep growing forever and that humans should care more about the economy than anything else.

Humans should keep in mind that Homo sapiens can go extinct. The economy won't mean much when humankind is extinct.

Instead of worrying about the economy, humankind really should worry about survival.

By David Mathews on 2009 05 27

Tom, we're trying to expand the discussion and illuminate the bill's weaknesses so that climate legislation can be strengthened. That's why we've made all our analysis open and transparent and highlighted the most critical areas for improvement.

By Teryn Norris on 2009 05 26

I think it may be a little disingenuous to claim Romm is "trying to shut down debate" on Waxman-Markey - any more than BI is.

By Tom Schueneman on 2009 05 26