Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich.

Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to clevercycles.com and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende,  1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth,  etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies.  But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.

So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen.  So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading

Dancing around the carbon tax in the United States Senate

Climate and climate policy are more than moderately complicated issues, as we all are well aware. But at the end of the day we know too there are a certain number of basic underlying truths that shape these issues and outcomes, which one either grasps or one does not. And in this regard, there can be little doubt that the most single powerful single lever available for slowing down climate damage is carbon-reduction — and by far the most powerful way to achieve this is through a well-fashioned carbon tax. You put a price on carbon emissions, a high price preferably, and you can be sure that they will come down. Economics 101. But say this to a hundred bright people, and 99 will immediately, without losing a beat, look you in the eye and start to list all the reasons why this cannot be done. Wrong! It can be done. Continue reading

Oil Spills, Environmentalism and lessons to be learned: Viewed from a Louisiana perspective

Outraged at BP are we? Disappointed that the United States government, the most powerful in the world, seems to be unable to handle the problems that are being created when one of some four thousand oil rigs currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico springs a leak? You’re an environmentalist, and it is only natural that you get mad. But before you start to chew the carpet in the full bloom of righteousness, what about a quick look in the mirror?
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World Streets 100% Answer to Oil Spills, Geopolitical Dysfunctionality, and the Running out of Oil Syndrome

Courage. Not all that terribly hard actually, and certainly not impossible. The leading international edge of policy and practice in our field have over the last two decades developed the tools, experience and technical competence needed to cut fossil fuel dependence by 50% in one year. And if we can do that – if we can come even within shouting distance of this great and obtainable goal – that is going to change everything. But to get the job done we are going to have to challenge our brainpower and collective ability to influence leadership, policy decisions and investments in our chosen field. Lazy folks, bought souls and fatalists kindly abstain.
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A Manifesto for Sustainable Transport

Sustainable Transportation, New Mobility, Access, Green Transport and the long list of good and great names go on, but upon inspection they have three important things in common. They are all extremely well-intentioned; each is trying to get at a largely shared agenda; and, by whatever name, they are thus far losing the battle against the established interests and old and often quite bad ways of doing things in our sector. However that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s just the beginning. The proponents of sustainable transport and sustainable cities are making real progress on the ground, and we are starting to network worldwide for success. We are ready to build on what we have thus far learned and achieved. So let’s have a look through the eyes of Sudhir Chella Rajan to get a better idea of our common challenge.
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Don’t count on "alternative fuels" to save the world? (Dark bet on a pessimistic, high tech future)

Here we have an unusually perceptive piece from a specialist in chaos theory who helps us make sense of the “alternative fuels” proposals and claims. It is good to have his hardheaded expert view on the potential of alternative fuels in our future transportation arrangements. But it is important too that we reflect on his dark bet on a pessimistic, high-technology future: in which he sees us as stumbling from crisis to crisis, in response to which we manage each time to come up with last-minute ad hoc “solutions” which leave us as still basically operational, but not all that much more. That I am afraid is the bleak face of the future, unless we are able to find the vision and leadership to do otherwise.

The Methadone Economy

– Tom Konrad, 27 April 2010.

Peak Oil Investments I’m Putting My Money On:
If the measure of success for alternative fuels is the ability to continue to live in suburbs and commute in multi-ton boxes of metal on congested freeways for hours each day, then alternative fuels will fail. No alternative fuel has the existing infrastructure, supply potential, energy density, and low environmental impact that we would need to replace oil without changing our unsustainable lifestyle.

Peak oil may mean the end of bigger and bigger cars driven farther and farther on more and more congested roads. Peak oil may mean the end of suburban life as we know it. Yet life as we don’t know it does need not be a vision out of Mad Max. Peak oil will mean changes, some for the better, some for the worse.

The surest change peak oil will bring is less driving, in fewer vehicles that are filled closer to capacity. Those vehicles will use less oil (or alternative fuels) per person-mile. We’ll also find ways to satisfy the desires and needs that we currently satisfy with travel without traveling.

Alternative Fuels

The first eight parts of this series looked into alternative fuels. I concluded that no alternative fuel listed could replace oil as we use it today fast enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Conventional biofuels cannot be produced in enough quantity, and making hydrogen is an inefficient use of electricity or natural gas. Electric vehicles are too expensive or have too little range. There is not enough natural gas and there is too little fueling infrastructure to make natural gas vehicles practical on a large scale. Gas-to-liquids makes sense for stranded natural gas, but there are too many other high value uses for natural gas to make a large dent in declining oil supplies. Coal to liquids does too much environmental harm, and algae needs too much more technological development to achieve its promise in time.

The biggest problem with alternative fueled vehicles, however, is not the alternative fuels, the problem is the vehicles and how we use them.

Oil was a one-time bonanza of a readily available, easily transportable, durable, energy-dense liquid. With oil, humanity won a natural resources lottery ticket. Like a lottery winner who blows cash that could have lasted a lifetime in a few months, we now need to realize that we’ve spent most of our winnings. It’s unreasonable to expect that we’re going to win another such jackpot before we have to start watching our fuel budget again. The main question is how soon and how deliberately we will make the necessary adjustment. Will we act like the lottery winner who uses his last hundred thousand to tide him over while he looks for a job? Will we keep partying to the bitter end, until one day we wake up, hung over in the gutter? Will it be something in between?

The Methadone Economy

Switching to a drug analogy, most alternative fuels are the methadone to treat our petroleum / heroin addiction. Methadone is given to heroin addicts in treatment because it mitigates withdrawal symptoms and can block the euphoric effects of heroin, morphine, and similar drugs, reducing the urge to use.

Alternative fuels can be sufficient to allow our society to function, but we’re not going to feel the highs we felt when the oil was flowing freely. Alternative fuels cannot take us back to a “normal” pre-peak oil state because our use of petroleum over the last few decades as been far from “normal:” it has been one long, fossil-fueled high. We will eventually kick the petroleum habit with the help of alternative fuels not because alternative fuels are better than petroleum and can bring us something that petroleum cannot, but because our supplier will be getting smaller shipments over time, while the number of fellow junkies knocking on his door will keep going up with big increases in petroleum demand from emerging economies.

There are several competing visions of a future powered by alternative fuels, ranging from wildly optimistic to gloom-and-doom, with variations depending on how effectively the prognosticator thinks we can replace fossil fuels with alternatives.

A high-technology optimistic vision includes smoothly running efficient pods in mass transit systems powered by renewable energy. High speed bullet trains network the land, making overland air travel unnecessary. The low-technology optimistic vision involves a peaceful return to local economies where food is grown locally, and increasing local interdependence fosters strong local community ties, and people grow happier as they become more connected to the land and each other. The low-technology pessimistic vision is a free-for-all scramble for dwindling resources like the vision out of Mad Max referenced above.

I’m long on optimism about technology, but short on optimism about our will to make the necessary sacrifices to implement that technology quickly or efficiently. I’m betting on a pessimistic, high-technology future. In this future, we manage to cobble together a hodge-podge of last-minute, jerry-rigged solutions to keep the economy functioning at a basic level, but not at all smoothly or evenly. In it, we lurch from a crisis caused by financial melt-down, to a crisis caused by peak-oil to one caused by climate change. We’ll tackle each crisis with incredible ingenuity, staving off total chaos, but at the cost of mis-allocated resources and a deteriorating standard of living. We hold out in the belief that after just this one more fix, the world will be back to normal and we can stop worrying. But that day will never come.

Forward thinking planners in some municipalities and communities will work on implementing true, long-term solutions. But they will not have enough money or resources to do more than ameliorate the next crisis. The large-scale, system wide solutions of better mass transit, algae biofuels, and continent-wide electricity transmission of the high-technology optimistic vision will be implemented too slowly, on too small a scale to achieve the economic stability the techno-optimists hope for. But these half-built systems will still bring considerable benefit, and keep the succession of crises from being the complete disaster that would come with a complete lack of planning.

This is the Methadone Economy. Alternative-fuel oil replacement therapy is necessary because oil supply will not keep pace with demand; we must replace oil or do without. But alternative fuels are not oil, and will require more effort devoted to energy production to produce the same effect. The Methadone economy will function, but it won’t give us the highs we got from the cheap, concentrated, easily accessible energy of oil.

A future characterized by thoughtful, long-range planning seems unlikely to arise from the same political class and voting public that has not meaningfully prepared for anything but good times in decades. The first IPCC report was released in 1990, and it made clear that human activities were substantially increasing levels of greenhouse gasses which would warm the planet. Two decades later, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. We had the first warnings about peak oil in the 1970s oil crises, but only now are we starting to put serious political and economic capital into searching for solutions. When the pre-2008 global debt bubble was on, NINJA (No Income No Job no Assets) loans were welcomed by politicians praising financial innovation and its ability to bring home ownership to people who could not previously afford it.

The Methadone Economy may sound gloomy, but I see it as the most optimistic vision possible given the political reality we see around us. More pessimistic visions abound, but if you expect them, you’re probably better off investing in guns and physical gold than you are investing in the stock market.

Conclusion

I see three major investment themes in the Methadone Economy.

First, there is the knowledge that long-term solutions will be implemented, although not completely and at insufficient scale. Investors in contractors who specialize in mass transit and high-speed rail should do well, as should the longer-term alternative fuel solutions discussed in earlier articles of this series. Vehicle efficiency improvements will find rapidly growing markets as fuel becomes more expensive.

Second, band-aid solutions will thrive. Bike lanes, electric scooters, buses, and any other transportation solution which can be implemented with only small changes to existing infrastructure. Road pricing schemes and the software technology to help people coordinate ride sharing. The clever use of a few resources will always win over grand schemes when there are few resources to spare.

Finally, the Methadone Economy is an economy where we cannot expect long term growth. More likely, we will see periods of anemic (and occasionally robust) growth punctuated by periodic crisis-driven declines. This will be mirrored in the stock market, and so investors in the above two solutions should do well to hedge their overall exposure to the market.

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About the author:
Tom Konrad, PhD., CFA is a regulatory consultant and financial analyst specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In his consulting role, he testifies on behalf of clients before public utilities commissions and state legislatures to promote clean energy. In addition to AltEnergyStocks.com, he writes about clean energy and economics as a freelancer. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Purdue University, where he wrote his thesis on Complex Dynamics, a branch of chaos theory. His study of chaos theory led to his conviction that knowing the limits of our ability to predict is much more important than predictions themselves.

This article originally appeared http://seekingalpha.com/ on 27 April 2010 and can be seen here. Kind thanks for the author for permission to reprint in these pages.

Hundreds of Cars, No Garage: Recipe for a low carbon future – Australian perspectives on sustainable transportation

We are trying to get a better look at how sustainable transportation is coming along in Australia, as an example of one of the several handfuls of heavily motorized countries which have for decades concentrated on building (and in the process unknowingly locking themselves into) what is basically an all-car infrastructure. This is the second in what we intend to be a series of articles on this topic. Published with the permission of the author, a professor in the media department of a leading Australian university, it takes an outside-looking-in perspective of our topic. Continue reading

Honk? Green power for electric cars Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time.

Here we go again. Green power? A nice little electric car is a great way to get around in a city. I should know since I drove one in Paris for the better part of a decade (eyes right). Whether or not it is a good idea to multiply the kinds of cars that the main players have in mind (definitely not the one you see here) by say one billion or even some notable fraction of that is another matter. Have a look at this good attempt from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment to make some sense out of this one, where often enthusiasm and self-interest way outpace solid information. And then let’s talk about it.

Green power for electric cars
Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

– A study by CE Delft
– Commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment

Introduction

Transport is the sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Since 1990 its emissions have increased by 38%. (Including emissions from international shipping and aviation. Source: Statistical Pocketbook Energy and Transport 2009.)

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recognised this problem in September 2009 in his ‘political guidelines for the next Commission’. He said: “the next Commission needs to maintain the momentum towards decarbonising the transport sector as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”

A number of European countries have launched national programmes and promotion strategies for electric cars ranging from support for research and development to purchase incentives. But current EU policies offer no guarantee that more electric vehicles on Europe’s roads will lead to savings in carbon emissions over coming years.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment have commissioned a study that:

• Analyses the impact of electric vehicles on the European power sector and on CO2 emissions.

• Assesses how policies should be changed in order to maximise greenhouse gas emission savings from the introduction of electric vehicles.

The report is released as the EU begins to develop its electric vehicle initiative and action plan (announced for May 2010).

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. They compare favourably to (even advanced) internal combustion engine cars in that:

– They are substantially more efficient than conventional vehicles.

– They can be fuelled with electricity generated from a large range of energy sources, including renewable sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions.

– They have no direct emissions.

– They can charge up with energy generated by renewables when there is a surplus of supply.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in:

– An increase in oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector, compared to a situation without electric vehicles.- An increase in coal- and nuclear-based electricity production, instead of an increase in energy production from renewable sources.


Below are the main findings of the report and its recommendations to ensure that electric vehicles become an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

1. Ensuring that electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions from the car sector

Existing EU legislation on car emissions allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car they sell, without affecting the overall CO2 target for their fleet. The report shows that this has the effect of actually increasing oil consumption and associated CO2 emissions, compared to a situation without electric vehicles. It finds that increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of total car sales could lead to a 20% increase in both the oil consumption and CO2 emissions of the overall fleet (conventional and electric vehicles).

The so-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles also reduce the contribution of electric vehicles to reaching the transport target of the EU’s renewable energy directive. The directive requires that 10% of the energy supply for the transport sector in 2020 come from renewable sources (biofuels and renewable electricity). Biofuels and renewable electricity for vehicles are in direct competition to achieve this target. As long as biofuels remain largely unsustainable, renewable electricity is the greenest option.

Policy recommendations:
a) Abolish so-called super credits for electric vehicles granted under EU legislation on CO2 emissions from cars and under forthcoming legislation on CO2 emissions from vans.

b) Ensure binding and ambitious 2020 targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans that will increase overall efficiency for both combustion and electric vehicles.

2. Ensuring that the additional electricity demand resulting from the uptake in electric vehicles is met by additional renewable electricity

Carbon emissions from electric vehicles depend on the type of electricity they consume. When charged on renewable electricity, electric vehicles have a greenhouse gas impact of nearly zero. Charging them on electricity produced with coal results in equal or higher emissions than for comparable conventional vehicles.

The additional power demand for electric vehicles is expected to be relatively low. Assuming an uptake of up to 30 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on EU roads, the increase would be less than 3% compared to current EU demand. But without demand management, any increase in energy consumption could simply increase fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. (Increasing electricity demand from transport is therefore likely to have an upward effect on the CO2 price in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This effect has not been fully studied in this report, but is expected to remain small in the coming decade, as the additional electricity demand will be limited.)

In order to avoid these market distortions, EU member states should boost the supply of renewable electricity. They should also monitor and report estimates of the share of renewable electricity used in cars for the purpose of reaching their 10% renewable energy transport target. This would stimulate the deployment of smart charging technologies that favour renewables and create an attractive market for electric vehicles.

Policy recommendations:
c) Encourage member states to raise their renewable electricity targets in line with the additional demand for electric vehicles.

d) Encourage member states to report the estimated share of renewable electricity actually used in electric cars, and not simply the share of renewables in national electricity production.

3. Enabling the use of renewable electricity in electric vehicles
To enable a greater share of renewable electricity in the power mix and in electric vehicles, the electricity system should be made more flexible to allow for the integration of energy from variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in this development, as they combine long periods of connection to the grid with large storage capacity in their batteries. But they will only do so if they are equipped with on¬board metering systems. These would help them manage electricity input and primarily be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid. Unless charging is properly managed, electric vehicles will not play a role in enabling the future renewable energy system.

To guarantee that car manufacturers apply the necessary technology for smart metering, the technology needs to be standardised and enforced through EU legislation. The standardisation and compatibility of such hardware and the ability of cars and electricity grids to exchange information would guarantee that drivers of electric vehicles could charge up anywhere.

Policy recommendations:
e) Develop smart cars and smart grids that are able to exchange data and that favour the use of renewable electricity.

f) Standardise charging technology to ensure that every driver can charge up anywhere in Europe.

# # #

Press release:
www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/green-electric-cars-08-02-10 Report: www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/green-power-for-electric-cars-08-02-10

Contacts:
Greenpeace – Franziska Achterberg: Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor, +32 (0)498 362403 (mobile), franziska.achterberg@greenpeace.org.

Transport & Environment – Jos Dings: Director, Transport & Environment, +32 (0)498 51 53 19 (mobile), jos.dings@transportenvironment.org.

CE Delft – Bettina Kampman: Senior researcher/consultant,
+31 (0)15-2150171, +31 (0)6 21520939 (mobile), kampman@ce.nl.

After COP15: Climate Instruments in the Transport Sector SLoCaT Partnership team looks beyond Copenhagen

You will see in these pages some definitely contradictory views about the desirably of bringing matters of sustainable transport reforms onto center stage in Copenhagen. Here is a first report issued today in draft form for comment by one group who are actively pursuing the transport/climate link. The authors invite your comments.

Copenhagen, 11 December 2009

Source: Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport. – http://www.sutp.org

The post 2012 Climate Instruments in the transport sector (CITS) project implemented by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is a first step to help ensure that the transport sector can benefit from the revised/new climate change mitigation instruments under a post-2012 Climate Change Agreement. The CITS project is a contribution to the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport. A draft report has been published for comments.

For a copy of the 11 December draft report, click here – http://www.sutp.org/slocat/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/CITS-Interim-Report-draft-11-December.pdf

Draft Report Introduction

The post-2012 Climate Agreement is expected to open a new window for more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction actions. It is increasingly important for the transport sector in developing countries to contribute to such mitigation efforts. Businesses as usual scenarios indicate a growth of over 100% in vehicles for the period 2012 – 2018 in most of the developing countries. Globally, governments and experts are discussing instruments that support mitigation efforts by developing countries.

The proposals fall under two general categories:

1. Generate Emission Reductions which count against mitigation targets for developed countries. This includes continuing the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM beyond 2012, but with certain modifications to enhance scale of emission reductions, lower barriers and reduce transaction costs.

2. Generate Emission Reductions which can be reported directly by developing countries to UNFCCC. The instrument being discussed for this purpose is Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs).

The post 2012 Climate Instruments in the transport sector (CITS) project implemented by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in cooperation with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is a first step to help ensure that the transport sector can benefit from the revised/new climate change mitigation instruments under a post-2012 Climate Change Agreement. The CITS project is a contribution to the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport.

The CITS project is implemented over the period September 2009 – April 2010 and has the following outputs:

a) Synthesis of information on the GHG reduction and co-benefit potential of transport interventions and existing and planned climate change mitigation instruments;

b) Four case studies from the Asian and Latin American regions, illustrating suitable NAMAs and CDM projects in the transport sector, documented in a synthesis report;

c) Development of an informal network, spanning both developed and developing countries, of transport organizations to help guide the discussion on detailed guidelines for post 2012 climate instruments.

Although the implementation of the project is still ongoing and the case studies have not been completed it was decided to produce an interim synthesis report to inform the discussions on post 2012 climate instruments at COP 15 in Copenhagen. The interim report can also serve to obtain inputs and feedback for the final report of the CITS project which is expected to be available by May 2010.

The format of the interim report is as follows:

• Chapter 2 gives an overview of the abatement potential of various types of interventions in the transport sector.

• Chapter 3 reviews the existing climate instruments and related climate change programs for their effectiveness and relevance to the transport sector.

• Chapter 4. presents an overview of the discussions on post 2012 climate instruments and their significance for the transport sector

• Chapter 5 – A synopsis of the four case studies carried out under the CITS project .

• Chapter 6; – Initial conclusions and recommendations are presented in this chapter ,also outlines the next steps to be taken in the CITS project prior to its completion in May 2010.

Key Conclusions:

Key messages of the draft report are:

1. NAMAs may provide better opportunities for the transport sector than current mechanisms

2. Existing modeling studies and marginal abatement cost curves often do not capture the full costs and benefits of transport interventions, notable those related to “avoid” and “shift”.

3. Support for NAMAs in the transport sector may need to focus on â”barrier removal cost” rather than incremental cost which is done conventionally. Capacity building and policy support may be important components.

4. Including co-benefits for local air quality, reduced congestion and energy security in the appraisal of climate related transport interventions often reduces the GHG abatement cost significantly, however quantification remains challenging.

5. NAMA financing and other international sources of funding may be targeted at similar (elements of) interventions in the transport sector, and therefore their relation needs further exploration.

6. MRV of transport measures is likely to be challenging, and there is a need for better activity level data and development of methodologies. A certain degree of uncertainty however may need to be accepted, as baselines are hard to establish.

Comments:
Please send your comments and feedback to Cornie Huizenga (chuizenga@slocatpartnership.org) and Stefan Bakker (bakker@ecn.nl)


A few handy acronyms:

CDM – Clean Development Mechanism (

CITS – Climate Instruments in the transport sector

COP15 – 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen

MRV – Monitoring, Reporting and Verification requirements for NAMAs.

NAMA – Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions

SLoCaT – Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport.

UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

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COP15: Equal time on World Streets Cataloguing the Errors in "The Story of Cap and Trade"

World Streets thought it would make sense at this important juncture on the world climate stage to provide some rebuttal space for reactions to yesterday’s white hot piece “The Story of Cap and Trade”‘ So here you have ‘Cataloguing the Errors in “The Story of Cap and Trade”‘ as more food for thought. Bon appétit

Cataloguing the Errors in “The Story of Cap and Trade”

Posted by Eric de Place. Source: http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2009/12/02/cataloguing-the-errors-in-the-story-of-cap-and-trade

Exactly what’s wrong with the web video sensation.

There’s a viral Web video making the rounds. I don’t like it. (For context, read my first post on this subject: “A Story of Ignorance About Cap and Trade.”) Today, I’m going to catalogue its errors.

You can find the transcript here (pdf), though just reading the transcript doesn’t give you the full picture of the snark conveyed by the animated cartoons that accompany Annie Leonard’s delivery in the video. Here’s the video:

Now, let’s take an inventory of all the errors. Get comfy, it’s gonna take a while.

“Okay, meet the guys at the heart of this so-called solution. They include the guys from Enron who designed energy trading, and the Wall Street financiers like Goldman Sachs who gave us the subprime mortgage crisis.”

False. For decades environmental activists, progressives, and scientists have labored against overwhelming odds to enact a cap and trade program. In no sense are “these guys” from Enron and Wall Street at the heart of the solution. They are not now and they never have been.

But I’ve got to hand it to her: this insult really stung. All these years that tens of thousands of folks like me have worked long hours at low pay (or no pay) to hash out a workable and effective climate policy and it turns out that our purported allies like Leonard would rather paint us as duplicitous bankers in pin-striped suits. (That’s not an exaggeration, by the way: that’s how the animated cartoon depicts cap and trade proponents throughout the video.)

“Their job is to develop brand new markets. They stake their claims and then when everyone and their grandmother wants in, they make off with huge amounts of money as the market becomes a giant bubble and then bursts.”

Odd. Uh, what? This doesn’t really have to do with cap and trade so I should probably leave it alone, but it’s perplexing that this is what she thinks markets do. But I want clarification from the bien-pensants to my left: are progressives now anti-market in all circumstances? Do the recent bubbles mean that we’re now supposed to be, in principle, opposed to stocks, commodities, etc? Are we supposed to hate the acid rain cap-and-trade programs too?

“…they’ve got a new idea for a market – trading carbon pollution.”

False on two counts. It’s not a new idea. Brokers have participated in cap and trade markets since the 1990s and in carbon markets for about a decade. There have been no instances of gaming or market manipulation.

What they trade is not carbon pollution — sounds nasty, right? — but a limited right (an “allowance” or “permit”) to emit carbon pollution.

You get the idea. For the rest turn to http://daily.sightline.org/daily_score/archive/2009/12/02/cataloguing-the-errors-in-the-story-of-cap-and-trade

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And for the record and from their website at http://daily.sightline.org:

About Sightline Daily: Sightline Daily offers a daily snapshot of the most important environmental, economic, and social news affecting the Northwest, combined with expert insight that helps connect the dots on issues and point to solutions. Sightline Daily is a project of Sightline Institute, the Northwest’s sustainability think tank.

# # #

It’s no contest. World Streets and the New Mobility Agenda have for more than a decade supported direct phased carbon taxes as the most efficient system for reducing carbon production in the atmosphere. We understand the problems involved with implementation, but this should not keep them from being the most favored policy to be examined. Everything else is a much watered down compromise.

But if you feel more favorably about Cap and Trade, have a look at Paul Krugman’s generally positive piece on this under the heading “An affordable truth” that appears in today’s New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1&em

Excellent Paul, but I am sure that you too prefer carbon tax as the best way to get the job done.

Eric Britton
Editor, World Streets

Saudis terrified we might actually reduce oil dependence (World Streets launches campaign for compassionate aid)

Thanks to environmental writer and columnist Jay Bookman for this heads-up, and right behind him the New York Times, World Streets now has a new thing that keeps us up at night. Any reduction on our part of oil consumption, say through some of the projects and measures being pushed by World Streets and others, is (do we have this right?) a form of theft. Fair is fair we would say, so let’s get together and work this one out. Get out your checkbooks. Compassionate capitalism.

From the New York Times of 14 October:

Saudis Seek Payments for Any Drop in Oil Revenues

– by Jad Mouawad and Andrew C. Revkin

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

The oil-rich kingdom has pushed this position for years in earlier climate-treaty negotiations. While it has not succeeded, its efforts have sometimes delayed or disrupted discussions. The kingdom is once again gearing up to take a hard line on the issue at international negotiations scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.

“Assisting us as oil-exporting countries in achieving economic diversification is very crucial for us through foreign direct investments, technology transfer, insurance and funding,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message.

This Saudi position has emerged periodically as a source of dispute since the earliest global climate talks, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is surfacing again as Saudi Arabia tries to build a coalition of producers to extract concessions in Copenhagen.

Petroleum exporters have long used delaying tactics during climate talks. They view any attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by developed countries as a menace to their economies.

The original treaty meant to combat global warming, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, contains provisions that in Saudi Arabia’s view require such compensation.

Mr. Sabban outlined his stance at climate talks in Bangkok this month.
Environmental advocates denounced the idea, saying the Saudi stance hampered progress to assist poor nations that are already suffering from the effect of climate change, and that genuinely need financial assistance.

“It is like the tobacco industry asking for compensation for lost revenues as a part of a settlement to address the health risks of smoking,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The worst of this racket is that they have held up progress on supporting adaptation funding for the most vulnerable for years because of this demand.”

Saudi Arabia is highly dependent on oil exports, which account for most of the government’s budget. Last year, when prices peaked, the kingdom’s oil revenue swelled by 37 percent, to $281 billion, according to Jadwa Investment, a Saudi bank. That was more than four times the 2002 level. At one point in 2008, the average gasoline price in the United States surpassed $4 a gallon.

Saudi exports are expected to drop to $115 billion this year, after oil prices fell. American gasoline prices are hovering around $2.50 a gallon.

The one-year swing in the kingdom’s revenues shows that oil prices are likely to be a bigger factor in Saudi Arabia’s future that any restrictions on greenhouse gases, said David G. Victor, an energy expert at the University of California, San Diego.

Mr. Victor dismissed the Saudi stance as a stunt, saying that the real threat for petroleum exporters came from improvements in fuel economy and rising mandates for alternative fuels in the transportation sector, both of which would reduce the need for petroleum products. “Oil exporters have always, in my view, far overblown the near-term effects of carbon limits on demand for their products,” Mr. Victor said. “For the Saudis this may be a deal-breaker, but the Saudis are not essential players. In some sense, one sign that a climate agreement is effective is that big hydrocarbon exporters hate it.”

A recent study by the International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized nations, found that the cumulative revenue of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would drop by 16 percent from 2008 to 2030 if the world agreed to slash emissions, as opposed to the projection if there were no treaty.

But with oil projected to average $100 a barrel, the energy agency estimated that OPEC members would still earn $23 trillion over that period.

Mr. Sabban, however, cited an older study by Charles River, a consulting firm, which found that the losses in revenue for Saudi Arabia alone would be $19 billion a year starting in 2012.

The Copenhagen talks were a major point on the agenda of the last OPEC conference.

But not every oil-exporting country is falling in line with the Saudi position. Some have been trying a different approach that has earned the backing of environmental groups. For example, Ecuador, OPEC’s newest member, said last year that it was willing to freeze oil exploration in the Amazon forest if it got some financial rewards for doing so.

The Saudi negotiator said that the compensation mechanism was an integral part of the global climate regime that has been in place since the 1990s and that was not up for renegotiation.

“It is a very serious trend that we need to follow and influence if we want to minimize its adverse impacts on our economies and our people,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message to other OPEC officials. “That does not mean we would like to obstruct any progress or that we do not want to join any international agreement. We will do that if the deal is fair and equitable and does not transfer the burden to us.”

# # #

Thanks to Jay Bookman for his good heads-up on this important news. He maintains a very interesting blog specializing in foreign relations and environmental and technology-related issues. which you can check out at http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog\

And here you have our editor, overcome with emotion as he tries to figure out how World Streets is ever going to find the wherewithall to compensate for our actions leading to all those big number reductions in oil imports. (He really should have thought of that first.)

"A gasoline tax is win, win, win, win, win — with no uncertainty at all."

These are the words of Thomas Friedman, and while we do not need to follow him exactly down his favorite (inevitable) “high tech will save us all” energy trail, they are sufficiently pithy, timely and to the point that they are worth a scan in our context here. (Appears here especially for our non-US readers to give them a taste of the present level of the debate in the US, which as the illustration shows is something really worth weeping about.)

Real Men Tax Gas

By Thomas L. Friedman

Source: International Herald Tribune, Monday Sept. 21st, 2009

Do we owe the French and other Europeans a second look when it comes to their willingness to exercise power in today’s world? Was it really fair for some to call the French and other Europeans “cheese-eating surrender monkeys?” Is it time to restore the French in “French fries” at the Congressional dining room, and stop calling them “Freedom Fries?” Why do I ask these profound questions?

Because we are once again having one of those big troop debates: Do we send more forces to Afghanistan, and are we ready to do what it takes to “win” there? This argument will be framed in many ways, but you can set your watch on these chest-thumpers: “toughness,” “grit,” “fortitude,” “willingness to do whatever it takes to realize big stakes” — all the qualities we tend to see in ourselves, with some justification, but not in Europeans.

But are we really that tough? If the metric is a willingness to send troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and consider the use of force against Iran, the answer is yes. And we should be eternally grateful to the Americans willing to go off and fight those fights. But in another way — when it comes to doing things that would actually weaken the people we are sending our boys and girls to fight — we are total wimps. We are, in fact, the wimps of the world. We are, in fact, so wimpy our politicians are afraid to even talk about how wimpy we are.

How so? France today generates nearly 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants, and it has managed to deal with all the radioactive waste issues without any problems or panics.

And us? We get about 20 percent and have not been able or willing to build one new nuclear plant since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, even though that accident led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or neighbors. We’re too afraid to store nuclear waste deep in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — totally safe — at a time when French mayors clamor to have reactors in their towns to create jobs. In short, the French stayed the course on clean nuclear power, despite Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we ran for cover.

How about Denmark? Little Denmark, sweet, never-hurt-a-fly Denmark, was hit hard by the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 1973, Denmark got all its oil from the Middle East. Today? Zero. Why? Because Denmark got tough. It imposed on itself a carbon tax, a roughly $5-a-gallon gasoline tax, made massive investments in energy efficiency and in systems to generate energy from waste, along with a discovery of North Sea oil (about 40 percent of its needs).

And us? When it comes to raising gasoline taxes or carbon taxes — at a perfect time like this when prices are already low — our politicians tell us it is simply “off the table.” So I repeat, who is the real tough guy here?

“The first rule of warfare is: ‘Take the high ground.’ Even the simplest Taliban fighter knows that,” said David Rothkopf, energy consultant and author of “Superclass.” “The strategic high ground in the world — whether it is in the Middle East or vis-à-vis difficult countries like Russia and Venezuela — is to be less dependent on oil. And yet, we simply refuse to seize it.”

According to the energy economist Phil Verleger, a $1 tax on gasoline and diesel fuel would raise about $140 billion a year. If I had that money, I’d devote 45 cents of each dollar to pay down the deficit and satisfy the debt hawks, 45 cents to pay for new health care and 10 cents to cushion the burden of such a tax on the poor and on those who need to drive long distances.

Such a tax would make our economy healthier by reducing the deficit, by stimulating the renewable energy industry, by strengthening the dollar through shrinking oil imports and by helping to shift the burden of health care away from business to government so our companies can compete better globally. Such a tax would make our population healthier by expanding health care and reducing emissions. Such a tax would make our national-security healthier by shrinking our dependence on oil from countries that have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs and by increasing our leverage over petro-dictators, like those in Iran, Russia and Venezuela, through shrinking their oil incomes.

In sum, we would be physically healthier, economically healthier and strategically healthier. And yet, amazingly, even talking about such a tax is “off the table” in Washington. You can’t mention it. But sending your neighbor’s son or daughter to risk their lives in Afghanistan? No problem. Talk away. Pound your chest.

I am not sure what the right troop number is for Afghanistan; I need to hear more. But I sure know this: There is something wrong when our country is willing to consider spending more lives and treasure in Afghanistan, where winning is highly uncertain, but can’t even talk about a gasoline tax, which is win, win, win, win, win — with no uncertainty at all.

So, I ask yet again: Who are the real cheese-eating surrender monkeys in this picture?

# # #

Source: International Herald Tribune, Monday Sept. 21st, – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/opinion/20friedman.html?_r=1&em=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1253535041-GVxAVm6lZeMeSwbQxtojmw

* Image thanks to: You of course recognized the slightly modified painting of great sorrow of the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, coming in this version from http://www.freakingnews.com/Gas-Pump-Pictures-37336.asp. Remarkably farsighted those French.

EVs: First clarification on impact in cities

It is hard to sort out if electric cars are or are not going to be a force in the move to sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. The media gives a lot of space to them, there is something admittedly attractive about them, but what is the real bottom line? We decided to ask the people closest to these issues to share their views here.

– Michael Glotz-Richter reporting from Bremen Germany


Thanks for asking Eric. We’ve studied the issue here in Bremen over some years and the following two images summarise our main findings. I’m pleased to share them with the readers of World Streets and invite comments and challenges.

Here is what one street looks like today, without any electric cars that I know of:

And in the second photograph, you see what the same street would look like with a 100% conversion to electric cars. Very edifying we think:

The point is, of course, that technology alone isn’t the answer. And in fact, there is a danger that with electric vehicles, we may even end up with more cars on our streets. That’s why it’s crucial that any new “clean” technology – electric or otherwise – be integrated with measures to preserve our precious urban space – like cycling, public transport, and especially Car-Sharing.

I’m not sure if that’s answered your question or just opened up yet other ones . . .

# # #

From the editor: We welcome similar before/after EV photos of your city. And of course your comment.

– Michael Glotz-Richter, michael.glotz-richter@umwelt.bremen.de, is Senior Advisor Sustainable Mobility, Senate Department for Environment, Construction, Transport and European Affairs, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany

French government proposes purchase of 100,000 EVs

The following heads-up in this morning from Nicolas le Douarec of Mobizen fame. (Incidentally, the quality of the English machine translation from Google is, while of course not perfect, to my mind nothing less than remarkable. Seems we are making progress on all this too.)

This just might, just might turn into an important program, bearing in mind that at this point it is just a plan for a plan. But let’s stay on top of this one. You never know. Discussions and additional information on this project invited in the New Mobility Café. Post address: NewMobilityCafe@yahoogroups.com

Eric Britton

Google machine translation:

Purchase Agreement On A Group Of 100 000 Electric Vehicles

February 18

On 17 February the Secretary of State for Industry and Luc Chatel, Secretary of State for Ecology Chantal Jouanno announced a letter of intent had been signed by the State and several public and private ( La Poste, EDF, Vinci, Veolia, France Telecom, GDF Suez) for a purchase of 100 000 electric vehicles over five years. Precise specifications defining the needs of business must be prepared to launch the first calls for tender in the fall. “We will be able to put our findings in June, with a common specification sent to those who want to embark on industrialization,” said La Poste chairman Jean-Claude Bailly, whose company has already announced she was ready to acquire 10 000 electric vehicles by 2012.

The second part of the government’s plan focuses on how consumers can recharge their cars and do maintenance. Mr. and Ms. Chatel Jouanno announced the establishment of a working group to develop a national strategy of developing the infrastructure needed to recharge the development of electric vehicles and hybrid rechargeable. This group brings together a wide range of stakeholders, consisting of manufacturers of automobiles, utilities, local authorities, building professionals and managers of public spaces. Its mission is to find ways to democratize these vehicles with a new kind. The main lines are already known through the “decarbonation vehicles”, which is primarily to help local communities provide the infrastructure needed to recharge the vehicle, and to stimulate demand in order to provide opportunities commercial manufacturers. They must quickly get aid quickly to launch sufficient production.

The third component of the plan focuses on research and development. “The goal is to use the industrial development of clean vehicles,” said Chatel. “We hope in particular that there is a French production of batteries for electric vehicles,” he added. A budget of 90 million euros will be devoted to funding the work of these “platforms”. In parallel, 50% of the 400 million euro Predit (research program in land transport) will be dedicated to research on solutions “low carbon,” said Jouanno. Finally, to support future developments, the fund demonstrator Ademe, with 80 million, will contribute to the financing of experiments and prototypes of vehicles decarbonation (8 projects have already been selected).

To encourage the purchase of electric vehicles for individuals, the government is counting on the bonus of 5 000 euros granted to purchasers of a light vehicle emitting less than 60 grams of CO2 per km. This could be “reviewed” when the threshold of 100 000 electric vehicles has been achieved.

Society for electric vehicles (EVS), the signal given by the state is important. The Company shall enter into effect in the pre-industrialization of the energy system (based on lithium-ion batteries and computers). Fruit of a partnership between Dassault and Heuliez, several generations of Cleanova – 40 vehicles developed on the basis of Renault – have been tested in fleets of EDF, La Poste and Veolia. The EVS is now ready to provide any manufacturer who would respond to the call for orders. The company is also in discussions with partners to launch the industrialization of its energy systems for electric vehicles.

Manufacturers are also at market. The Bolloré Group will present March 4 at the Geneva Motor Show a car developed and manufactured in partnership with Pininfarina. The BlueCar is to be marketed late 2009 or early 2010. It has been two years since Bolloré model to test the four-seater, with a battery lithium metal polymer. In this regard, the Bolivian President Evo Morales led a Vaucresson BlueCar yesterday as part of his visit to France. Bolloré is negotiating for several months a cooperation agreement with Bolivia to operate, with the mining group Eramet, the reserves of lithium which abounds the salar of Uyuni (see press releases of 26 / 8 and 8 / 10 / 08). The French group wants to secure term supplies lithium, but Bolivia has one-third of the world’s proven lithium (8 million tons). An offer was made last December, but President Morales is an exemplary partnership, making the beautiful respect for the environment, local job creation, as well as cooperation with companies that exploit resources and natural communities. Bolloré will refine the draft to submit a new offer in March. (ECHOS, TRIBUNE, FIGARO, parisien, AUTOACTU.COM 18/2/09)