The Climate Post: Pre-Election Maneuvering Marked by Fits of Climate Skepticism

Author: Travis Leipzig

After a busy month, I will again return to re-posting The Climate Post. Read this weeks post to learn about how climate change and energy policy beliefs are making and breaking some candidates chances at election; new developments in the electric automotive industry; and how biofules may be unsustainable and could lead to further emissions.

As a reminder, The Climate Post is a weekly publication put together by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, summarizing recent climate related news trends and events.

Enjoy this weeks Climate Post!

“Recent comments from top White House and congressional contenders suggest an awkward mix of outright hostility or, at best, ambivalence toward the widespread scientific consensus that humans are responsible for the warming planet,” reports Politico.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) blames his loss in the GOP primary to his public assertions that climate change is real. Only two Republican gubernatorial candidates running for election this November believe in action on climate change; both are running in states where their Democratic opponents feel the same.

In one race for the House in Virginia, a Democratic incumbent may lose his seat in part because of his vote for the House cap-and-trade bill.

Colorado’s tight race for U.S. Senate is turning into a referendum on the power of views on climate change to sway voters, at least in that state: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is attacking his opponent, Tea Party favorite and Republican Ken Buck, for saying climate change is a “hoax.” It’s a stance that earned a sharp rebuke from Colorado’s climate scientists (the state hosts one of the country’s premier centers for the study of climate change, the National Center for Atmospheric Research).

Despite support from some of his potential constituents — “Climate change doubt is Tea Party article of faith,” says the New York Times — Buck appears to be responding to the criticism by shifting his focus to the economy.

Green groups say they are pouring more money into this electoral season’s races than ever, especially in the fight to rescue incumbent Virginia Democratic freshman Tom Perriello, but their spending can’t match funds coming from fossil-fuel-related industries. Mother Jones says Alaska write-in candidate (and incumbent) Lisa Murkowski, in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee Joe Miller, is a beneficiary of those funds.

On Tuesday, Jimmy Carter opined the Tea Party is backed by anti-green “hard-right oligarchs who want to prevent the oil companies and major corporations from having to pay their share of taxes or to comply with environmental laws.”

Which Will Characterize the Next Two Years on the Hill: Compromise or Gridlock?

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) told students at Utah State University to expect “two years of good old-fashioned gridlock” if the GOP wins the House in November, including, possibly, a shutdown of the federal government. Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) declared there will be “no compromise” with President Barack Obama on major issues.

It’s possible energy will be spared the fate of, say, the health care bill, says Darren Samuelsohn of Politico, suggesting incentives for nuclear, clean coal and even renewables might be prime candidates for bipartisan legislation. Lindsey Graham, who once participated in the creation of the senate cap-and-trade bill, says the GOP should work with Obama on energy, perhaps in the incremental approach currently favored by the Obama administration.

The oil and gas industry is already depositing checks into the coffers of candidates likely to head influential House committees after November; the industry remains focused on emissions rules and what it contends are unrealistic expectations about the ascension of renewables.

A “technology-first” approach to tackling carbon emissions is gaining favor among think tanks.

Are We Getting Cap, but No Trade?

Stephen Spruiell at National Review argues emissions regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will make emissions for certain industries expensive without letting them trade for those emissions, as they would have under cap-and-trade. He also argues it may be nearly impossible to prevent the EPA from regulating emissions in this way.

Outlets on the left agree with Spruiell and argue, more or less, “see, we told you this would happen.”

The regulations at issue include the EPA’s first-ever fuel efficiency standards for trucks and buses, which the trucking industry supports. Canada is issuing its own rules in harmony with U.S. regulations.

Emissions Regulations Will Knock Out up to 7 Percent of U.S. Generating Capacity, says Study

A huge debate has erupted over a North American Electric Reliability report arguing in a worst-case scenario, the shutdown of coal-fired power plants will, as a result of emissions regulations, significantly impact U.S. generating capacity.

In Texas, farms, cities and environmentalists say the state has insufficient water for more coal-fired plants.

And Now Some Good News …

A four-seater electric Audi with ample trunk space managed to travel 375 miles on a single charge. The non-partisan (even though so far all of its members seem to be partisan) Climate Hawk movement gained momentum.

GM just released its first ad for the Chevy Volt: “This is American, man.

Spending money on greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in developing countries could make up the shortfall in domestic commitments to existing Copenhagen pledges, says a new paper.

Nissan just fired up production for the all-electric LEAF, Tesla is about to open a factory to produce its all-electric sedan and Mazda is releasing a gasoline-powered car in Japan that gets 70 mpg.

OxFam’s new ads aim to bring immediacy to the impacts of climate change.

The U.S. government just approved the world’s largest solar thermal project — big enough to double U.S. capacity for solar thermal all by itself. We’re $100 billion away from increasing the proportion of U.S. electricity from solar to 4.3 percent by 2020.

The U.S. may have the world’s second-largest emissions of greenhouse gases, but on a map of per capita emissions it’s easy to lose the U.S. among all the countries with higher emissions, and Amazon wants to shrink their carbon footprint even further by offering greener shipping options.

… But New Challenges to a Livable Climate Continue to Arise

China’s chronic dependence on coal is still a monumental problem, reports Scientific American, and Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants cost neighboring communities $127 million in health-related expenses.

Cellulosic ethanol may be the cold fusion of biofuels, and fundamentally unsustainable, to boot, argues Grist’s Tom Philpott. Your next bottle of bioplastic might be made from plants, but in a world where cheap ethanol comes from cleared Brazilian forests, the move away from oil may not be all good.

Economists think energy efficiency might lead to more emissions, not fewer.Trees are prevented from soaking up extra atmospheric carbon by limited supplies of nitrogen, and just 1,000 spaceflights a year would warm the planet as much as the entire airline industry currently does.

Andrew Revkin, the New York Times’s lead climate commentator, reports climate change is “boring.” Perhaps that’s why the lead researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory believes “climate change journalism has gotten worse [in recent years].”

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