The Left vs. the Climate

Why Progressives Should Reject Naomi Klein's Pastoral Fantasy — and Embrace Our High-Energy Planet

Ever since Marx’s day, leftists have been straining to spy the terminal crisis of capitalism on the horizon. It’s been a frustrating vigil. Whatever the upheaval confronting it — world war, depression, communist revolution, the Carter administration — a seemingly cornered capitalism always wriggled free and came back more (and occasionally less) heedless, rapacious, crass, and domineering than before. 

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Real-World Barriers to Carbon Pricing

Economists’ ‘One-Page’ Climate Plans Won’t Work

Ask an economist how to combat climate change, and you’re likely to get a pretty simple answer: put a price on carbon. 

“If you let the economists write the [climate] legislation, it could be quite simple,” MIT business school economist Henry Jacoby told NPR last year, implying that the whole plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions could “fit on one page.” 

In short, tax fossil fuels in proportion to the amount of carbon they release. Make coal, oil and natural gas more expensive. “That’s it; that's the whole plan,” as NPR’s David Kestenbaum put it.

Jacoby and MIT Sloan School colleague John Reilly envision a carbon tax sufficient to increase the price of gasoline by 25 cents in the first year, rising to $1.00 per gallon. In rough terms, that’s a tax of $25-100 per ton of CO2. 

While many economists admit a slightly more nuanced view (acknowledging the need for “supplemental policies” to address other market failures hampering climate solutions, including innovation spillover risks and infrastructure lock-in) or prefer emissions trading programs instead of taxes, Jacoby and Reilly’s one-page climate plan isn’t far off from the typical economist’s prescription for climate change. 

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Saudi Arabia Fast-Tracks to Nuclear

Royal Family Plans for Nuclear to Provide 15 Percent of Power in 20 Years

Last Tuesday, energy officials in Saudi Arabia announced plans to become a major nuclear energy state, assuring the reactors would be used only for peaceful purposes (The Nuclear Wire). They intend to move fast, beginning construction by year’s end.

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Climate of Extremes: Part One

How Polarizing Global Warming Strategies Backfire

This is first of two articles on climate activism and political polarization, the second of which can be found here.

In August 2011, writer-turned-activist Bill McKibben along with a few dozen other environmentalists spent several nights in a Washington, DC jail. They were the first among thousands who would be arrested in front of the White House as part of a series of intensifying protests against the Keystone XL oil pipeline. In jail, McKibben’s “mind was running fast: things I needed to tweet or blog, messages I needed to get to the media,” he would later recall. The protests organized by his advocacy group 350.org, he believed, marked “a turning point, the moment when insider, establishment environmentalism found itself a little overtaken by grassroots power.”1

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On Becoming an Ecomodernist

A Positive Vision of Our Environmental Future

The last few years have seen the emergence of a new environmental movement — sometimes called ecomodernism, other times eco-pragmatism — that offers a positive vision of our environmental future, rejects Romantic ideas about nature as unscientific and reactionary, and embraces advanced technologies, including taboo ones, like nuclear power and genetically modified organisms, as necessary to reducing humankind’s ecological footprint.

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Forging an Ecomodernist Vision of the Future

From Water Consumption to Whales, Generation Fellows Conduct Cutting-Edge Research

Have the construction costs and duration of new nuclear builds always increased over time? How did humans move away from hunting whales for oil and lubricants? What will innovation look like in the 21st century given that it is increasingly complex? These are a few of the big questions Breakthrough Generation Fellows 2014 tackled this summer, laying the foundation for groundbreaking research in the areas of energy, environment, and innovation. 

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Is Coal Really “Peaking” in China?

Better Technologies Needed for Emissions to Start Falling

“While uncertainty over the changes in coal stockpiles still exists, we’re confident that the unbelievable may be at hand: peak coal consumption in China.” So concludes a recent blog post from the Sierra Club’s Justin Guay and Greenpeace International’s Lauri Myllyvirta, the latter of whom recently published an analysis suggesting that Chinese coal consumption dropped in the first half of 2014:

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Energy and Climate

Over the last decade, Breakthrough Institute has emerged as one of the world's leading voices for a more pragmatic, pro-technology, and pro-growth approach to climate and energy policy. Given how central energy is to human well being, we believe that making dirty energy expensive is untenable for the global poor. Instead, Breakthrough's energy and climate work is focused on making clean energy cheap through technology innovation to deal with both global warming and energy poverty.

PROGRAM AREAS

 
Energy & Climate   Energy Efficiency
       Policy
 
  Renewables         Natural Gas

     Nuclear

Publications

How to Make Nuclear Cheap: Safety, Readiness, Modularity, and Efficiency (July 2013)


 

Coal Killer: How Natural Gas Fuels the Clean Energy Revolution
(June 2013)


 

Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence
(April 2012)



More Publications

 

Analysis and Opinion

Carbon Taxes and Energy Subsidies

The History of the Shale Revolution

Nuclear Energy 

Historic Paths to Decarbonization

Climate Economics

Energy Efficiency and Rebound

Climate Legislation
 

Breakthrough In the News
 


Walter Russell Mead, "Fuzzy Math Can'd Hide Shale Boom's Green Credentials," August 21, 2014


Fred Pearce, "World's poor need grid power, not just solar panels," August 5, 2014


Jim Manzi, "Energy in the Executive," June 4, 2014


Justin Gillis and Henry Fountain, "Trying to Reclaim Leadership on Climate Change," June 1, 2014


Robert Bryce, "A Nuclear Option for Energy," May 9, 2014


Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Global Warming Scare Tactics," April 8, 2014


David Rose, "The Real Cost of Climate McCarthyism," April 5, 2014



Jim Manzi, "The New American System," April 2014


Jennifer Dhouly, "Some Say Keystone Fight Distracts From Broader Climate Aims," February 16, 2014


Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, "Environmentalists Made a Big Mistake By Focusing All Their Attention on Keystone," February 6, 2014


Ben Geman, "Greens Still See Red On Nuclear," February 2, 2014


Max Luke and Jenna Mukuno, "Boldly Going Where No Greens Have Gone Before," January 8, 2014


Ben Geman, "Environmentalists Face a Day of Reckoning on Keystone Pipeline," December 30, 2013


CNN Crossfire, "Is Nuclear Power Safe?" Debate Between Ralph Nader and Michael Shellenberger, November 7, 2013

Steve Fuller, "Nintey-degree revolution," October 24, 2013


Simon Greer, "A Healthy Challenge to Fracking Groupthink?" October 15, 2013


Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath, "A Climate Policy That Would Actually Work," October 11, 2013


Staff, "The Striking Challenge of Fracking: Who Does It Benefit and Who Gets Hurt," October 2, 2013


Steven Hayward, "Ronald Binz's German Dream," September 30, 2013


Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Can Climate Skeptics Save the Planet?" September 27, 2013


Christopher Colford, "Innovator-in-Chief: The Public Sector," September 3, 2013


Editorial Board, "Don't Give Up on Nuclear Energy Yet," September 5, 2013


Ashutosh Jogalekar, "Nuclear vs. Renewables: A Tale of Disparaties," August 22, 2013



Bob Dreyfuss, "The IPCC Report and Nuclear Energy," August 21, 2013


Eduardo Porter, "Coming Full Circle in Energy, to Nuclear," August 20, 2013


Arden Dier, "iPhone Uses More Power Than Fridge," August 15, 2013


Bryan Walsh, "The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy," August 14, 2013


Carmel Lobello, "Your iPhone Uses More Energy Than A Refrigerator," August 14, 2013


Bryan Walsh, "New Nuclear Reactor Designs Could Address Safety and Cost Concerns," August 5, 2013


Martin Wolf, "A Much-maligned Engine of Innovation," August 5, 2013


Fareed Zakaria, "What We're Reading," August 1, 2013


Clyde Prestowitz, "Thank Washington for Shale Gas and Oil," August 1, 2013


Andrew Revkin, "The Silent Partner Behind the Shale Energy Boom -- Taxpayers," July 31, 2013


Max Luke and Alex Trembath, "The Bridge to Zero Carbon," July 25, 2013


Margaret Wente, "Staying Cool? Thank Nuclear Power," July 18, 2013


Mark Halper, "Newfangled reactors will slash costs of nuclear power," July 16, 2013
 


Fred Pearce, "New Green Vision: Technology As Our Planet's Last Best Hope," July 15, 2013


Eliza Strickland, "Can Nuclear Reactors Be Cheap?" July 12, 2013


Bryan Walsh, "Nuclear Energy is Largely Safe. But Can It Be Cheap?" July 8, 2013


James Conca, "What's Wrong With Obama's Energy Policy? July 8, 2013


Walter Russell Mead, "Shale Gas is Fracking Green," July 6, 2013


Kevin Begos, "Obama Fracking Support In Climate Speech Worries Environmental Groups," June 27, 2013

Kevin Begos, "Industry Giant GE Aims to Improve Fracking," May 27, 2013


Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, "Going Green? Then Go Nuclear," May 22, 2013


Andrew Sullivan, "Another Look at Nuclear," May 17, 2013


Ken Silverstein, "Does Shale Gas Production Alter Equation for Climate Change?" May 5, 2013


Russell Gold, "Rise in U.S. Gas Production Fuels Unexpected Plunge in Emissions," April 18, 2013


Kevin Begos, "EPA Methane Report Further Divides Fracking Camps," April 28, 2013


Alex Trembath and Matthew Stepp, "Fight Coal, Not Keystone," April 8, 2013


Doug Allen, "The Fracking Divide," April 4, 2013


Brad Plumer, "Natural gas isn’t the only reason U.S. carbon emissions are falling," February 15, 2013
 


David Leonhardt, "It's Not Easy Being Green," February 10, 2013


Ed Crooks, "Balance of Power," December 6, 2012

 

 





Kevin Begos, "Fracking Developed With Decades Of Government Investment," September 26, 2012


 

David Leonhardt, "There's Still Hope for the Planet," July 21, 2012
 

 


Editorial, "The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?" May 5, 2012
 

 




Keith Johnson, "Subsidies for Clean Energy Get Fresh Look," April 17, 2012
 

People

Alex TrembathAlex Trembath, Policy Analyst

 

 

Jessica Lovering

 

 

Jessica Lovering, Policy Analyst

Max Luke

 

 

Max Luke, Policy Associate

Burton Richter

 

 

 

 

Burton Richter, Senior Fellow

 

 

Jane Long

 

Jane Long, Senior Fellow

 

 

 

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