The Climate Post: Primaries Move GOP to the Right (On Climate)

The Climate Post provides a weekly summary of climate-related news, trends and events from Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
Author: Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel

Thursday has past and another edition of The Climate Post is available. Have you ever heard of the Kochtopus? Keep reading below to learn, among many other things, about how the oil and gas industry out-spent environmental groups by a factor of 8:1 in the run-up to the defeat of the climate bill in the U.S. Senate, and why upholding AB32 – California’s Kyoto-style emissions standards that is coming under attack by the usual suspects – is a critical step toward addressing climate change at the national level.

Just to remind everyone, The Climate Post is a weekly blog post by Eric Roston summarizing climate related news, trends and events, which Mr. Roston has so kindly allowed River Network to repost each week (Note: it appears that another author, Christopher Mims has been putting up the Climate Post for the last couple of weeks). Eric Roston is a Senior Associate for The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. He is the author of The Carbon Age and is one of the most highly regarded science writers in Washington.


One hundred percent of New Hampshire GOP senate candidates agree that man-made climate change has yet to be proved. Sen. Murkowski of Alaska appears to have lost the GOP primary to further right candidate Joe Miller, whoisn’t convinced climate change is happening at all.

In another upset, Rick Scott won the GOP primary for governor in Florida. Unlike the current governor of that state, Scott does not believe in climate change.

Also in Florida, with help from tea party activists and others, Mark Rubio became the GOP candidate for Senate. It’s a post he has a good chance of winning in the general election versus democrat Kendrick Meek and independent (and former governor) Charlie Crist. Rubio does not believe in anthropogenic global warming. Even his centrist opponent Crist appears to be cooling on the subject.

Climate Bill Autopsy

A study by the Center for Responsive Politics asserts the oil and gas industry out-spent environmental groups by a factor of 8:1 in the run-up to the defeat of the climate bill in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnelldeclared cap-and-trade “dead,” but the United Auto Workers and the BlueGreen Alliance don’t seem to have received that memo. The White House has apparently removed references to cap and trade from its energy and environment website.


The New Yorker’s lengthy exploration of the political contributions of Koch Industries includes the Koch brothers’ funding of various bodies hostile to action on climate, and was helpfully summarized in a number of different places.

Fun fact: Koch Industries’ sinister nickname, “Kochtopus,” was invented, not by left-wing pundits, but by other libertarians whom it pushed out of leadership positions at the CATO Institute.

Is the Stimulus Bill Paying Green Dividends?

The White House issued a report, echoed by Vice President Joe Biden, arguing the energy stimulus is already working, but even champions of green tech are skeptical the incompletely distributed funds could be having an effect so quickly.

New Battlegrounds: National RES, Cali’s Prop 23, EPA Ozone Standards

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) points out two-thirds of the states already have a renewable energy standard; he wants a national Renewable Energy Standard.

The battle over California’s anti-Kyoto-style emissions standards ballot initiative Prop 23 is getting more expensive – adding in the out-of-state donors, the total bill could come to $100 million split between the Texas oil companies in favor of the proposition and the broad coalition of environmentalists and clean tech companies / investors who are against it. One anti-prop 23 executive predicted:

“If AB32 survives and Jerry Brown gets elected governor I think you’ll have cap and trade nationally by 2013.”

The EPA’s new rules aimed at reducing acceptable levels of smog, which are likely to accelerate the shuttering of aging coal-fired power plants, have been delayed, possibly because of a letter from seven senators who argued that the new rules would be damaging economically.

Energy Everywhere: An Explosion of New Sources

Iraq has so much oil it might hurt the development of the electric car, if the country doesn’t implode first. The first hints of oil – but not oil itself – have been found off the coast of Greenland.

A geothermal industry group estimates that Nevada has enough geothermal energy projects in development – 86 in total – to power all the homes in the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

The United States’ booming shale gas production has made natural gas competitive with coal in many parts of the world, says the U.S. Department of State. Israel, long devoid of any fossil fuel resources, is also experiencing an unexpected gas boom of sufficient scale that the country may become an energy exporter.

Australia, France and many countries in the Middle East all announced major (some say “massive”) investments in renewable and/or nuclear energy.

Europe is making a rapid transition to renewable energy, with 18.4 percent of its power coming from renewables. The world’s largest tidal power turbine, the AK-1000, which looks like it was designed by Michael Bay (director of Transformers, etc.), will be a part of that mix.

…But is The Energy Transition Happening Fast Enough?

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory says Americans used 40 percent more wind energy in 2009 compared to 2008, as well as significantly less coal, though the drop in coal was due mostly to an overall drop in economic activity and a shift to natural gas. Looking forward, The Department of Energy predicts CO2 emissions will rise 3.4 percent in 2010 compared to 2009.

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute finds the growth of wind power heartening, and compares future adoption of renewable power to the exponential adoption curve that came with the PC revolution – a comparison that one of the fathers of that revolution, Bill Gates, has warned is a false and dangerous analogy. In a wide-ranging interview, Gates argued the low-hanging fruit for emissions reductions “are not scalable.” Says Gates:

“…if X or Y or Z gets you a 20 percent reduction, then you’ve just got the planet, what, another three years? Congratulations! I mean, is that what we have in mind: to delay Armageddon for three years?”

It turns out that huge traffic jam in China is a result of that country’s need to move massive amounts of coal by truck. A proposal for the U.S. and China to collaborate on carbon capture and storage was floated.

Geoengineering: No Silver Bullet for Sea Level Rise

Even large-scale efforts at geoengineering have little power to stop the coming sea level rise, argues a new analysis echoed in a recent political cartoon.

Assigning the Blame for Losses Due to Natural Disasters

Climate change isn’t affecting property loss due to natural disasters as much as the rapid expansion of at-risk property, statistically speaking.

Meanwhile, more landslides are in store for China, Pakistan braces for even more flooding, and the former head of the UK meteorological office declares that global warming means Pakistan will face this kind of tragedy again.

Saying Nyet to Putin

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin does not appear to share President Medvedev’s concern about climate change; voicing his opinion netted him a curt correction by a German climate researcher.

Mark Your Calendars for These Upcoming Climate Change Impacts

A warmer planet means predators, as well as herbivores, tend to shrink. Increased drought is limiting plants’ ability to soak up excess CO2; lack of water and warmer temperatures are also hurting already marginal forests in Alaska.

Dilbert on Green Building

On the off chance you missed it, the travails of Dilbert creator Scott Adams in his quest to build the greenest house on the block are a handy reminder that balky builders, opaque power metering and unfriendly local regulations are just some of the reasons that energy efficient homebuilding in the U.S. trail similar efforts in, for example, Germany.

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