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Archive for January, 2009

By Teryn Norris & Jesse Jenkins

As the prospects for high carbon pricing and cap and trade continue to diminish in the midst of a severe economic recession, some climate advocates are beginning to wonder: is there any alternative?  In a recent op-ed we wrote for the Huffington Post, we argued:

Despite Obama’s appointments, climate advocates are thus left to worry: is Obama really prepared to expend his political capital championing a policy that will increase U.S. energy prices in the midst of a recession?

Not likely. Until recently Obama voiced support for carbon regulation, declaring at a governors’ climate conference in mid-November that his climate agenda “will start with a federal cap and trade system.” But since then, as the recession has deepened, he has said little to nothing about cap and trade…

A serious alternative to cap and trade would focus on making clean energy cheap, prioritizing major, sustained public investments to drive down the price of green technologies as quickly as possible. This would require federal investments on the scale of $500 billion over the next decade to support and accelerate each stage of the energy innovation pipeline: research, development, demonstration, and deployment.

Matthew Yglesias, an author and writer at the Center for American Progress, addressed this issue directly in a post yesterday titled “No Alternative,” where he argued there is no better alternative to carbon pricing:

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The Council on Foreign Relations ran a top story on their homepage today, “Climate Policy in the Age of Obama,” that mentioned a recent op-ed by Jesse Jenkins and me in the opening paragraph:

The global economic decline has tempered hopes of swift international action on climate change, yet many climate advocates do expect the Obama administration to help boost long-stalled international climate talks (PDF). The announcement of the president-elect’s energy and environment team (WSJ) last month reinforced this belief. Among the nominees is Energy Secretary-designate Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist and advocate for alternative energy. Chu underscored his concern about climate change and the need for energy efficiency in Senate testimony on January 13. Yet some advocates are worried. “All is well on the climate front, it seems. Except that it’s not,” write Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins of the Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank. They warn that President-elect Barack Obama could take the “politically expedient route of short-term green stimulus while ignoring serious climate policy.” During the campaign, Obama pledged to use green technologies and renewable energy as a jobs engine, but he also has pledged to mandate a cap-and-trade program.

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The Huffington Post has featured an op-ed by me and Jesse Jenkins, “The Danger of Green Stimulus,” which issues a cautionary note about losing sight of climate objectives amidst all the fervor about green jobs and green stimulus:

The Danger of Green Stimulus
By Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins
The Huffington Post
January 5th, 2009

Barack Obama’s final appointments in December indicate a strong commitment to action on climate change. Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, Carol Browner as Energy & Climate Czar, John Holdren as Assistant for Science and Technology — just to name a few recent selections — are all proponents of vigorous action to cut U.S. global warming pollution and take leadership on a new international climate treaty. And Hilda Solis, Obama’s new Labor Secretary, is a champion of “green jobs.”

All is well on the climate front, it seems. Except that it’s not.

Carbon cap and trade regulation remains the top federal policy priority for the majority of environmental groups. But in June, cap and trade legislation failed in the Senate, and sixteen Democratic Senators from coal and manufacturing-heavy states voiced their opposition to high carbon pricing. The policy faces even greater obstacles in today’s economic climate, since it would increase the energy bills of the American public.

Despite Obama’s appointments, climate advocates are thus left to worry: is Obama really prepared to expend his political capital championing a policy that will increase U.S. energy prices in the midst of a recession?

Not likely. Until recently Obama voiced support for carbon regulation, declaring at a governors’ climate conference in mid-November that his climate agenda “will start with a federal cap and trade system.” But since then, as the recession has deepened, he has said little to nothing about cap and trade. His apparent change of heart may reflect a larger global trend, with European nations increasingly voicing opposition to their Emissions Trading Scheme and Canadians rejecting the Liberal Party’s proposed carbon tax in their October election.

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Looking for a summer internship?  How about a paid summer fellowship at one of the country’s most cutting-edge think tanks?

The Breakthrough Institute is seeking up to ten of the country’s top young thought leaders for a paid Fellowship in Summer 2009 as part of its young leaders initiative, Breakthrough Generation. Fellowships are highly competitive — in 2008, 10 percent of applicants were accepted — and involve cutting-edge writing, research, and analysis on energy/climate, national security, the economy, health care, and other issues. Previous Breakthrough Fellows have published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, and Alternet.

In 2009, Fellows have a unique opportunity to be closely involved with the Breakthrough Institute. Over the next year, Breakthrough will work to seize today’s historic moment to establish a new era of progressive governance that prioritizes major, long-term government investments in clean energy technology innovation, as well as a new social contract. But major obstacles lie ahead, including severe economic recession and an unpredictable global landscape. To seize the moment, our leaders will need bold ideas backed by sharp thinking and clear analysis.

The Breakthrough Institute has a history of reinventing older political paradigms with big ideas. In 2002, Breakthrough co-founded the Apollo Alliance and the new Apollo project for clean energy, which President-elect Obama recently announced is his number one priority alongside stabilizing the economy. We succeed by tapping cutting-edge progressive thinking, sharp analysis, and superb communication to create and advance ideas capable of achieving the broad social and ecological transformations America and the world need.

Fellowships pay $300 per week and are awarded to individuals aged 18-25 who will be closely involved with Breakthrough’s high-level work. Activities and projects include writing short articles and op-eds, researching and writing policy white papers, and conducting interviews with the nation’s top political and policy experts. Fellows will work 40 hours per week for ten weeks during Summer 2009 from Breakthrough’s central office in Oakland, CA.

Breakthrough believes effective political movements emerge out of strong communities, and Fellows will be encouraged to join a special three-day camping retreat during the summer, as well as other social events. Selected Fellows are expected to attend a two-day introduction summit during a weekend in late April or early May, 2009, for which all travel expenses will be covered.

To apply, submit a cover letter, resume or CV, and three writing samples to fellowship@thebreakthrough.org. Writing samples should include at least one op-ed and one research paper. Personal recommendations are welcomed but not required. Applications are due by 5:00PM PST on March 15th, 2009. Please direct any questions to Teryn Norris.

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