Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Climate Change Proposal: Changing the Rules

We have spent a great deal of time in the past few months convincing ourselves that climate change is real. Now the hard part begins. What do we do about it? How do we reduce our carbon emissions without doing serious harm to our economy.

The Center for American Progress has a very good paper by John Podesta (former Clinton white House Chief of Staff), former Senator Tim Wirth, and Vinod Khosla (the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems) who begin to offer thoughts on solutions:
The future of energy is not terribly complicated to envision:

  • Clean energy: We'll use new, renewable sources of energy: more biofuels and less oil, more wind and solar, and less coal and natural gas.

  • Energy efficiency: Our homes, office buildings, cars, and appliances will require less energy, and we'll have better ways to manage that use.

  • Carbon capture: Emissions from coal-fired power plants will be captured and pumped underground.

  • A "smarter" grid: Digital technology will finally come to the electric power grid, making it more efficient, more reliable, and better able to draw on renewable resources. It should become a national grid, like our highway system, so any renewable or non-renewable electricity generated in any part of the country can be transmitted to market.

President Bush addressed the first two goals in his State of the Union address in January. His "20 in 10" initiative called for U.S. vehicles to use 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2017, and he also suggested that fuel economy standards could be increased by 4 percent a year over the next decade. On May 14, he directed four federal agencies to take action toward this goal. These are steps in the right direction, but we have a long way to go.

Here are five more rule changes that would reduce emissions, give consumers new choices, launch new businesses, and accelerate the profitable transition to new energy technologies:

Put a price on carbon.

Putting a price on carbon dioxide -- through a cap-and-trade system similar to the one that reduced acid-rain pollution at low cost -- would end the use of the atmosphere as a free garbage dump and create a market for any technology that reduced global-warming emissions.

. . .

Set "carbon efficiency" standards for vehicles.

The debate over fuel efficiency standards has bogged down in finger-pointing between Washington and Detroit. To break the impasse, Congress should pass tough standards for "carbon efficiency." If companies had to reduce the average carbon emissions of their fleet, it would encourage them not only to build lighter, more efficient vehicles, but also to build cars that can run on biofuels and on electricity -- rather than simply updating the internal combustion engine. California has recently taken the first step in this direction. This is the technology of the future, and it is where Detroit should be making its investments.

. . .

Make energy efficiency the business of utilities.

Today, in almost every state, utilities make more money as their customers use more energy. We should flip those incentives. Utility companies in California are compensated for helping their customers reduce their energy use. They make money by helping customers install better insulation and use more energy-efficient products. When a utility can make more money helping people save energy rather than use energy, that's a smart set of rules.

We should go one step further and allow utilities to profit by investing in energy efficiency directly. Today, new windows have three times the insulation value as old ones, and new air conditioners use 30 percent to 40 percent less energy than models that are just 10 years old -- but they are rarely installed in new homes, because home builders don't have to pay the utility bills. Even the new homebuyer may only plan to live there for a few years and may not want to invest in energy efficiency.

For utilities, however, a new building is a 50-year energy obligation, and permanently reducing its energy use should be treated as a 50-year asset. Utilities should be able to earn a return on structural investments in energy efficiency just as they do in a new power plant. Indeed, because home-based renewable-energy systems have the effect of reducing demand, utilities should be compensated for buying solar panels and geothermal heat pumps, which will cut a building's energy consumption for decades.

Modernize the electric power grid to be more efficient and better deliver clean energy.

Nearly every sector of the economy has been made more efficient with the introduction of information technology -- but not the electric power grid, which still operates on 50-year-old technology. A modernized, digitally connected national electricity grid will be more secure, reliable, and resilient, allowing quicker restoration of power after outages and the ability to avert large-scale blackouts. Renewable electric power should be given priority access to such a grid.

. . .

Increase government support for clean energy.

No industry of any consequence to the country has grown and thrived without government support. According to the Government Accountability Office, the oil industry alone received more than $140 billion in subsidies and tax breaks between 1968 and 2000. In the 21st century, the U.S. government has just as much interest, if not more, in the success of clean energy.That's why the government should boost incentives and dramatically increase R&D spending for clean energy -- in line with its importance to the national interest. Last year, the federal government spent less than $2 billion on energy R&D -- just one-third what it spent 25 years ago, adjusted for inflation. During the same 25-year period, government medical research is up nearly 300 percent to $28 billion, and government military research is up 250 percent to $75 billion.

Read it all.


healtheland said...

The sun is getting hotter. The temperature on Mars is rising as well. Those are both facts that must be thoughtfully considered in the climate change debate. I think that I should point out that being someone who lifetime suffered from asthma before being miraculously healed by God in a single day, I have no sympathy for polluters. Here are a couple of links that verify that the sun is getting hotter and that Mars is warming too:
Those were the first two returns that I received in a Google search, I am certain that anyone who invests any real time in this endeavor would do far better. I myself have chosen instead to direct my time towards investigating Revelation for any verses that could be construed as a prophecy regarding global warming. I have found one though - Revelation 16:8 - 9 says that the sun will get hotter.

Chuck Blanchard said...

Welcome back healtheland!

Actually, the reports about the sun getting hotter (and the temperature rising on Mars) have been widely debunked by the scientific community. One website to check would be this one

Steinn SigurĂ°sson of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University has this comment :

Thus inferring global warming from a 3 Martian year regional trend is unwarranted. The observed regional changes in south polar ice cover are almost certainly due to a regional climate transition, not a global phenomenon, and are demonstrably unrelated to external forcing. There is a slight irony in people rushing to claim that the glacier changes on Mars are a sure sign of global warming, while not being swayed by the much more persuasive analogous phenomena here on Earth.

As to the book of Revelations, we will have to agree to disagree on its relevance to this debate.

healtheland said...

chuck: That link that you showed me A) did not deny that the sun was getting hotter and B) did not deny that it might be a cause of global warming. And as for Dr. Sigurosson: pot calling the kettle black. See, what is going on is that people who have a pre - existing political viewpoint or agenda are going to claim that global warming is real and is caused by manmade industrial activity, and people who have the opposing viewpoints and agendas are going to do the opposite. Making it no different from - gasp! - the abortion debate (or anything else). The key is to view the issue apart from any agenda or viewpoint. Or at least any agenda or viewpoint other than Bible - based Christianity, as I try to do. For instance, if global warming IS caused by our corporate activity, well I am fine with that, because that is man's lust for greed and power, which the Bible calls sin, and therefore I have no interest in promoting or defending but quite the opposite. (Would I feel the same way had I not grown up with asthma? Almost certainly not. So in that sense, my condition was a blessing just as my being healed from it was.) So just like everything else, if one is seeking to transform and renew his mind from the ways and thinking of the world, the Bible is not only relevant on the issue of global warming, but authoritative.

Chuck Blanchard said...

Let me assure you that virtually nobody in the scientific community believes that climate change is caused by the sun getting hotter.

Here are some other sources:

From NASA:
"Many scientists have argued that the radiation change in a solar cycle — an increase of two to three tenths of a percent over the 20th century — are not strong enough to account for the observed surface temperature increases. The GISS model agrees that the solar increases do not have the ability to cause large global temperature increases, leading Shindell to conclude that greenhouse gasses are indeed playing the dominant role."

From the Stanford Solar Lab :
"Solar irradiance changes have been measured reliably by satellites for only 30 years. These precise observations show changes of a few tenths of a percent that depend on the level of activity in the 11-year solar cycle. Changes over longer periods must be inferred from other sources. Estimates of earlier variations are important for calibrating the climate models. While a component of recent global warming may have been caused by the increased solar activity of the last solar cycle, that component was very small compared to the effects of additional greenhouse gases. According to a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) press release, "...the solar increases do not have the ability to cause large global temperature increases...greenhouse gases are indeed playing the dominant role..." The Sun is once again less bright as we approach solar minimum, yet global warming continues."

Finally, if you are really a glutton for punishment, look at the recent IPCC reports that give a broad scientific consensus on the issue. Heck, even Exom Mobil now admits that climate change is real. You should too.

I take the bibical command that we be stewards of the earth very seriously and think that command should lead us to deal with climate change. I just don't believe that Revalations should be read as a prediction of future climate patterns. We will have to agree to disageee on that one.