The Bridge to Nowhere

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. have a super-lame climate op-ed in the Washington Post today, “Bridging the Gap on Climate Change.” The article begins:

Despite the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, there remain sharp political disagreements both here in the United States and around the world about how policymakers should respond. Nowhere is this gap more profound than between developed and developing countries.

As our vigorous domestic debate shows, there is disagreement within America about whether we should take strong steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions if fast-growing emitters in the developing world do not make similar commitments.

Well, yes, the conservatives who don’t want to take any action throw up a variety of obstacles — including the nonsensical claim that the richest country in the world that has contributed by far the most to the cumulative emissions in the atmosphere can’t take any action unless the poorest countries take action at the same time. This is especially nonsensical since Bush’s father together with the Senate unanimously in 1992 agreed that the rich countries should go first.

The rest of the piece is just blah, blah, blah about an international Clean Technology Fund “proposed by President Bush last September” — yes those six words are reason enough to stop reading any article on climate policy. The article ends:

It is one of the most significant efforts proposed in years to address the challenges of climate change.

Uhh, no. Not close. This is the kind of disingenuous disinformation that newspaper editors really need to clamp down on if the public is ever going to become informed about what is really going to take to avoid climate catastrophe.

6 Responses to The Bridge to Nowhere

  1. Dennis says:

    The revelation here is that this is the first time I’ve seen in print that someone in the Bush administration says there’s a scientific consensus on climate change.

  2. Joe says:

    Well Paulson came in with much fanfare on this issue, but it fizzled.

  3. Earl Killian says:

    If the White House were serious about the developing world greenhouse pollution issue, it would be directing the World Bank to stop financing coal there. (The US pretty much runs the World Bank.) But it is not, it is doing the opposite, as the following story makes clear. This pretty much indicates that the developing world issue is just a smokescreen to hide behind. Also note that the World Bank is currently assigned responsibility for the Clean Technology Fund.

    World Bank Backs 1,000-Megawatt Thar Project Tapping into Pakistan’s Major Coal Resource

    BANGALORE, INDIA–June 20, 2008–Researched by Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)–The World Bank has assured both technical and financial support to Pakistan for the proposed 1,000-megawatt (MW) Thar coal-power-generation project in the province of Sindh. The World Bank, which is focusing on power generation through cost-effective feeds other than oil and hydro, will aid Pakistan in procuring investments from the International Finance Corporation for the project. The Mines and Minerals Department of Sindh invited expressions of interest from domestic and international players for setting up a joint venture on a 75:25 equity basis. The government of Sindh will provide 50% of the equity. Players from Indonesia, China and a few Gulf countries have expressed interest in the joint venture with technical assistance from Germany and Australia. A committee is in the process of scrutinizing the offers and will submit its recommendation to the government shortly.

    The Pakistani province of Sindh has an estimated 175 billion metric tons of coal reserves in the Thar region. The quality of coal ranges from lignite-B to sub-bituminous A-C. It is estimated that these coal deposits can be utilized to generate more than 100,000 MW of electricity that will address the country’s power requirements for up to several decades. Last year, the project suffered a setback when Shenhua Corporation (Beijing) withdrew its plans of setting up a $1 billion, 1,000-MW power plant at Thar, citing low tariff rates, security issues, unavailability of a reliable water supply and domestic workload as major concerns. Pakistan’s government had turned down Shenhua’s demand for a tariff of 5.7 cents per unit. Private players in Pakistan were also unwilling to participate in the project at tariffs lower than 10.5 cents per unit.

    Late last year, the Mines and Minerals Department approved a proposal, submitted in 2003 by Cougar Energy Limited (ASX:CXY) (Melbourne, Australia), for setting up 400-MW units based on Thar coal, using underground gasification technology. Cougar will commence work at Block III of the Thar coalfield after signing a memorandum of understanding with Pakistan’s government and will initially generate 400 MW of power. The capacity of the units will be subsequently enhanced to generate 1,000 MW of power.

    Investments of $500 million have already been made by the government in the exploration of three blocks of coal in Sonda and six blocks of coal in Thar. Requisite infrastructure including roads, water supply, communications and electricity has already been set up in the regions leading to the coalfields in Thar and the granite deposits in Nagarparker. Designs are being drawn up for the construction of an airstrip in the region. Thar Lodge is being constructed to provide accommodation with modern amenities to visiting engineers and investors.

    Pakistan has drawn up plans to generate 5,000 MW of electricity under the Thar project and further enhance the project’s capacity to generate 20,000 MW. Pakistan is currently grappling with a severe power crisis. The power shortage in the country is presently as high as 3,000 MW and is likely to go up to 4,000 MW within a year. The government plans to install power generation units of 2,200 MW in the current year. Load management campaigns are being organized to save nearly 500 MW without resorting to unplanned load shedding. The government has also directed the Pakistan Electric Power Company to supply consumers with 10 million energy-saving bulbs at subsidized rates.

    Under the Public Sector Development Program for 2008-09, Pakistan’s government has allocated $12.8 million for 19 development projects being implemented by the Petroleum and Natural Resources Division. From this, a sum of $7.5 million has been set aside for the Thar project. An additional allocation of $523,000 has been made for undertaking gasification feasibility studies for this project. The government has also allocated $339,000 for the development of Pakistan’s National Coal Policy. A sum of $150,000 has been allocated for the exploration and assessment of coal reserves at Bahlol, Chamalang Dhaka, and parts of the Ghazi coal basin in Baluchistan. The estimated total cost of this project is $450,000. The government will also spend $60,000 to explore coal reserves in Kotli, Azad Kashmir. This project is expected to cost $298,000.

    Presently, coal accounts for only 0.1% of the total power generated in Pakistan, while the world average is 40%. The country aims to increase the amount of coal in its energy mix to 19% by 2030 and to 50% by 2050.

  4. Joel says:

    Providing developing countries with clean technology to pursue low-carbon development is critical to curbing global greenhouse gas emissions. While only a drop in the bucket compared to total energy infrastructure investment needs, a $10 billion CTF could be transformational in leveraging private sector investment. But the U.S. should not be participating in the CTF as currently designed. According to the World Bank’s proposal document, virtually any technology that is marginally more efficient could receive CTF funds. That means, in addition to wind and CCS, CTF funds could also be used to finance coal plants without carbon capture and storage, provided such plants use supercritical technology over dirtier, cheaper subcritical technology. The current framework for the CTF reflects a lack of vision. These scarce financial resources should be focused on the task of rapidly drive down the costs of zero carbon energy alternatives by strategic investments in currently available technologies, such as solar thermal. David Wheeler at the Center for Global Development testified before a House Financial Services Subcommittee hearing last month regarding the CTF, arguing that the rapid increase in global greenhouse gas emissions demands that the international community use clean technology funds not merely to improve efficiency but to catalyze a transformation in energy costs. He further estimated that a strategic investment program could close the cost gap between solar thermal and coal-fired power in 5-10 years for a cost of under $10 billion. The CTF is a tremendous opportunity to make real progress in addressing our warming planet, but reforms to the current design are needed to turn this opportunity into a reality.

    For more on David Wheeler’s testimony:

    Full disclosure: I work at the Center for Global Development

  5. John Mashey says:

    Regarding bush administration agreeing there is a scientific consensus:

    I’d call this a head-fake, and maybe it’s worth generating two lists:

    1) Cases in which the Bush administration says “We support X”
    – and then failed to enforce laws for X
    – or after making lots of noise, failed to actually fund X
    – or purposefully got in the road of X

    The problem is that “we support X” gets the headlines, the lack of action takes a while to come out.

    2) Cases in which any actual *action* went against what you’d want if you were in the fossil fuels business.

    I suspect one of these lists would be long, and the other short.

  6. jcwinnie says:

    “This is the kind of disingenuous disinformation that newspaper editors really need to clamp down on if the public is ever going to become informed about what is really going to take to avoid climate catastrophe.”

    Ha-ha-ha-ha-hah! You should label this post humor, too.