In a weekend column in the New York Times, Frank debunks six myths (lies, as noted in at least one online comment) that have slowed down global action on climate change. “Effective countermeasures now could actually ward off many of these threats at relatively modest cost,” Frank writes. “Why aren’t we demanding more forceful action? One reason may be the frequent incantation of a motley collection of myths, each one rooted in bad economics.” His list includes: claims of uncertainty around climate science, fears that slowing climate change would be too tough or too expensive, claims that a carbon tax would destroy jobs (reinvestment in clean energy would actually create many more jobs), hesitancy for the United States to go it alone on greenhouse gas reductions, and concerns that curbing carbon pollution would also curb personal freedoms.
New York Times
Despite their staunch opposition to the clean power rule released June 2 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Texas and Oklahoma both stand to gain from the effort to shift electricity production from coal to natural gas. A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Rhodium Group found that added natural gas demand would “drive job creation, corporate revenue and government royalties in states that produce it, which, in addition to Oklahoma and Texas, include Arkansas and Louisiana,” Davenport reports. “The irony is that some of the states that have been the loudest in opposing EPA climate regulations have the most to gain in terms of actual economic interest,” said Rhodium Group’s Trevor Houser.
China will emit an additional 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year if it carries through with plans to build 50 new coal gasification plants, according to a report last week by Greenpeace East Asia. The plan would shift coal pollution from major cities to other regions of the country, primarily in the northwest. And it “risks a boom in a destructive, expensive, and outdated technology, which could undermine its efforts on climate change and further damage its environment,” said Greenpeace climate analyst Li Shuo. Last October, publishing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Duke University researchers Chi-Jen Yang and Robert B. Jackson urged China to delay its coal-to-gas investments “to avoid a potentially costly and environmentally damaging outcome. An even better decision would be to cancel the program entirely.”
A July 4 report in the New York Times traced the role of physicist and White House Science Advisor John Holdren in shaping the Obama Administration’s climate change policies. This is very good news to anyone who’s followed Holdren’s career as an academic and policy-maker. Holdren, who reportedly played a pivotal role in the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment, has devoted much of his four-decade career to energy and climate, and doesn’t hesitate to confront climate denial when the need arises. Holdren “has this president’s ear, perhaps more than any White House science adviser in recent memory,” Fountain writes.
Unless they reduce consumption, Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona could face water shortages as early as 2019, thanks to crippling drought and competing uses of the dwindling Colorado River. “The warning comes as the federal Bureau of Reclamation forecasts that Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir that is the network’s sole water source, will fall next month to a level not seen since the lake was first filled in 1938,” the Times reports. “The possibility of cutbacks of water deliveries to municipalities is higher than we’ve ever thought it was going to be,” said Sharon Megdal, a board member with the Central Arizona Project.
If climate change deniers had been in the public eye at the dawn of the space age, they would have told U.S. President John F. Kennedy that the moon “was made of cheese,” President Obama told University of California-Irvine graduates at a commencement ceremony last week. He criticized legislators who avoid any commitment on climate change to avoid being “run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.”
In the looming conflict over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon regulation, there may be lessons to be learned from an earlier battle against tobacco. “The so-called War on Coal is reminiscent of the War on Tobacco during the 1990s. Then, federal and state officials keyed in on a widely reviled product pulled from the earth in some of the nation’s poorest regions, intent on regulating it to minimize its health effects and societal damage,” Weisman writes. “There is absolutely a way to do it again,” said Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who helped lead the fight against tobacco as a state attorney general. “In the long run, those regions would be much healthier financially and economically to be less dependent on one product, especially a product of finite quantity in the ground, than to continue to eat, live, and breathe coal.”
Pundits expected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon regulation to be a political liability for Democrats in tight Senate races this fall. But in Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan, the Democratic candidates are embracing the need for action on climate change. “Denying the existence of climate change is proving to be a problem for many Republicans right now, and certainly a long-term albatross for the party,” Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told The Times. “Republican efforts to squeeze political gain out of this have fallen short.”
You wouldn’t know it from the political reaction that greeted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new carbon pollution rule last week. But the Times reports that the state with the highest carbon emissions per unit of electricity produced, Kentucky, is already “taking hardheaded steps toward a post-coal economy.” A senior state climate official “is cautiously optimistic that the carbon limits will not raise electric prices sharply enough to drive out manufacturers, who set up in the state for rates that are among the lowest in the country.” And according to Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Louisville), “anybody who’s actually looked at the subject understands coal is going to play a dramatically reduced role in our nation’s energy portfolio.” The EPA rule honoured Kentucky’s request that states be given flexibility to meet reduced emission targets in the way that made most sense for them.
Although the new power plant rules published Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) position natural gas as a transition fuel, the drive for greenhouse gas reductions is more complicated than just substituting gas plants for coal. Wald traces several factors that complicate the picture, including methane releases from natural gas fracking, as well as gas flaring at fracking wells that would drive emissions up by 16.5 million tons, about 15% of the carbon pollution the U.S. would save by replacing coal plants with natural gas. (h/t to Politico Morning Energy for spotting this story)
Coal supplies the majority of electricity in a half-dozen U.S. states with tight Senate races this fall, including Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, and West Virginia. Republicans are trying to turn the EPA regulation in their favour, and coal-state Democrats are expected to declare their opposition to the measure. Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes of Kentucky promised to “fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry, because protecting our jobs will be my No. 1 priority.”