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Archive for October, 2008

China’s greenhouse gas emissions could more than double by 2020, according to a new report released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Beijing has been reluctant to release official data on greenhouse gas from the nation’s fast-growing use of coal, oil and gas. This new study from the state-run institute breaks that reticence and sends another clear reminder that China is where our quest for climate stability will be won or lost.

“To a significant degree, our planet’s energy and environmental future is now being written in China,” says the study’s authors. And the only way that story has a happy ending is if China has access to clean and cheap energy sources to power its sustainable development.
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Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

On October 4th, when Congress passed the bailout, they also passed the clean energy production tax credit and investment tax credit (known collectively as the PTC/ITC) as a sweetener to secure the necessary votes for the bailout. This was a boon for the clean energy industry and its advocates, as the credits had been left for dead just weeks previously.

Keith, a Breakthrough Generation intern, wrote about the importance of these tax credits when the bailout passed:

The PTC, by the estimates of a 2005 Energy Information Report, will alone hextuple the growth of American renewable energy production in the next ten years, barring any other changes in energy policy. Yeah, and I mean hextuple. A study from Navigant Consulting, commissioned by the AWEA and the SEIA earlier this year, claimed that 116,000 energy jobs would be lost in 2009 by a failure to pass the credits.

So the PTC/ITC means good things for clean energy in America. Yet, as Friedman said today in his column, the financial crisis and frozen credit is affecting clean tech start-ups:

“But with little credit available today for new energy start-ups, and lower oil prices making it harder for existing renewables like wind and solar to scale…what will become of our budding clean-tech revolution?”

This is an urgent question. With a lurching American economy and a serious credit crunch, it is hard to imagine the clean energy industry, already struggling, expanding to control a sizable market share of the energy sector. (more…)

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Where We Stand.jpgCross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

The Breakthrough Institutes’ position on carbon pricing and cap and trade is frequently mischaracterized. As sometimes vocal critics of cap and trade and regulation-centric approaches to climate solutions, we’re all too often thrown together with real opponents of serious action that misuse similar arguments to sow confusion and inaction.

In stark contrast, the Breakthrough Institutes’ criticism and concerns about cap and trade are motivated by the desire to see advocates and policymakers adopt successful strategies and policies that can truly put our nation and our planet on a path to climate stability and sustained prosperity. With the climate crisis increasingly urgent, our economy heading south, and a new president and congress soon to be elected, climate and clean energy advocates face a critical moment to re-evaluate our strategies and policies and ensure that we can successfully advance climate solutions in the coming year. In that context in particular, we remain steadfast in the position that our efforts are ill-served by continuing forward with a blinding focus on cap and trade that frequently obscures the critical technology innovation challenge at the true heart of our quest for climate stability (and continued and expanded global prosperity).

In a recent discussion with Eric Pooley, I tried to set the record straight and articulate as clearly as possible where the Breakthrough Institute stands on emissions caps and carbon prices and why. Since that piece was long and covered several subjects, I’ve reposted and reprised the section on cap and trade and carbon pricing here. So, let the record stand… (more…)

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Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

It has taken astoundingly little time for elite consensus to build around the federal deficit. Those who don’t actively advocate deficit spending like Robert Reich have at least agreed that now is not the time to try and shrink the deficit. With the financial sector close to collapse, unemployment rising and credit frozen, it has become increasingly important for the government to continue to spend, not only to extend unemployment insurance, but also for things like the bailout and a second round of economic stimulus.

In fact, some organizations whose core principle is to advocate for a balanced federal budget have even ceded the point:

“Right now would not be the time to balance the budget,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan Washington group that normally pushes the opposite message.

In some ways this has been a dream for liberal elites. The public is ready to embrace a bigger government because of the economic downturn, and a Keynsian renaissance seems inevitable to those who are already Keynsians. Couple this with the fact polls are showing that America is about to elect a Democratic President and control both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994, and they might be right.

But a larger Democratic caucus also means a larger centrist presence in Congress. Liberals and other leftists might be ready to spend, but what about those moderate Democrats who so often make a name for themselves as deficit hawks?
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Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Blog

I know it’s hard to remember, given the events of the past weeks, but back before Wall Street was burning, Main Street was already feeling the heat from another very real economic crisis: the soaring price of oil.

The credit crisis and our slowing economy have driven oil prices down from historic highs. As stocks plummeted in the past two weeks, so to did the price of crude, falling by more than half, down from it’s July record of over $140 to under $70 this week. That’s the lowest price in fourteen months, but it’s still three times higher than it was just six years ago, and prices are still over $3.00 a gallon across the nation.

Still, as prices at the pump have receded and the focus on the banking bailout bumped “Drill Baby, Drill!” out of the presidential election spotlight, the energy crisis is now out of most of our minds. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the threat – to our economy and our quality of life – is gone. Oil prices will rise again – they are already inching up again amidst news of a likely OPEC cutback in production – and when they do, they’ll continue to drag down our struggling economy. If we ever hope to see real economic recovery, we would be wise not to forget the other crisis that contributed to today’s ailing economy.

I’ll delve into this more, but for now, enjoy this article from the New York Times Magazine (online here) by Roger Lowenstein, entitled “What’s Really Wrong With the Price of Oil,” which takes a close look at the temporarily forgotten but very real threat oil prices pose to our economic wellbeing. Excerpts below the fold…
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Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

Something to Consider as We Ponder Paths to Economic Recovery

From the Sightline Institute. There’s another one below the fold…
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The Ideology of Economics

By Adam Solomon Zemel. Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute

The financial crisis has caused many economists to reconsider their ideas regarding financial markets and the economy. Megan McArdle at the Atlantic puts it best:

“Economists all over the ideological spectrum are rethinking the lessons we thought we had learned from the Great Depression and the Japanese experience. As it unfolds, we will no doubt be seriously rethinking our model of the relationship between the financial markets and the real economy.”

One of these economists is Alan Greenspan, the self-proclaimed libertarian who was the chairman of the Federal Reserve for 18 years starting in 1987. He testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday. In response to a question about whether his ideology pushed him to make decisions he wished he had not made, he said:

“Yes. I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

I’m surprised he only found one. Perhaps the most distressing flaw I have read about in regards to Greenspan’s decision making was his insistence that derivative markets did not need to be regulated. In 2003 he said: (more…)

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