Q: Does a climate bill have to be bipartisan?

I’m updating my previous answer to this important and complicated question, but sticking with “no” for four reasons:

1. Against all evidence, conservative Republicans have simply refused to budge on the global warming issue (see “House GOP pledge to fight all action on climate. “Why do conservatives hate your children?”). They would rather destroy the climate than support any government-led strategies to promote clean energy (see “Hill conservatives reject all 3 climate strategies and embrace Rush Limbaugh — what does that radicalism mean for Obama, progressives, and humanity?“). Indeed, they actually think they have a winning issue in attacking any effort to raise the price of carbon pollution (i.e. fossil-fuel-based energy): “Several prominent party officials said they believe the GOP’s message is fundamentally sound when it comes to energy policy, pointing to that issue as one of the few political bright spots in recent years.” I previously I don’t see that changing for at least several years.

2. Moderate Republicans are a vanishing breed — and the 2008 election booted many of the remaining ones out of Congress.

3 The most important thing is to get as strong a climate bill as possible over the next year. The Dems are going to have to compromise just to satisfy their own moderates (see “Moderate Senate Dems build ‘Gang of 16″² to influence cap-and-trade bill“). Weakening the bill further to get more than a few token Republicans would gut the whole effort.

4. China either embraces serious action sometime relatively soon after we do or they don’t. If they do, then gutting the bill sometime after that would be far less likely. If they don’t, then it is inconceivable the political will to endure strong domestic climate action will last very far into the implementation phase (i.e. very far into the phase when carbon prices and/or regulations start to bite). Thus, we need to maximize the likelihood that China embraces serious action and that again means we need to make our bill as strong and credible as possible. See “Should Obama push a climate bill in 2009 or 2010? Part I, Does a serious bill need action from China?” and “What will make Obama a great president, Part 2: A climate deal with China.”

    But wait, you say. If the bill isn’t bipartisan, won’t the Republicans just gut it once they assume power? That is a common view — as E&E News (subs. req’d) reported in mid-March:

    “If climate change legislation is passed on an absolutely partisan party-line vote, and unfortunately, that will likely be the case, there is a real concern that it won’t be durable,” said Jason Grumet, chairman of the 2008 Obama campaign’s energy and environmental advisory board, during a Washington panel discussion hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

    That is typically a key political calculation: How much do you gut a bill now to avoid having it gutted in the future? But climate change isn’t like other legislation in part because other key countries either respond to us or they don’t (as noted) and because the climate keeps getting worse and worse.

    Undoing or weakening a climate bill couldn’t happen until and unless Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. If we are going to make super optimistic assumptions whereby Obama wins and gets reelected — and if we aren’t going to make super-optimistic assumptions then we aren’t going to avoid catastrophic global warming ’cause, like, the deck is heavily stacked against us and we’ll need runner runner to make a winning hand — then the earliest that could happen is 2017.

    While conservative deniers/inactivists may think nothing much is going to change over the next eight years, in fact, by 2017, it is highly likely that all hell will be breaking loose — literally. Indeed, recent studies in Nature and Science suggest we are probably going to get quite hot quite fast early in the 2010s, and the coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade in recorded history (see “Climate Forecast: Hot — and then Very Hot” and “Nature article on ‘cooling’ confuses media, deniers: Next decade may see rapid warming“).

    Thus, most likely, future presidents and future congresses will be strengthening any climate bill, much as the nations of the world progressively tightened the restrictions on ozone-depleting substances as more and more countries joined the effort and as the dire nature of the problem became clearer and clearer (see “Lest We Forget Montreal“).

    True, Obama ran as a different kind of politician, one who reaches across the aisle to solve major problems facing the nation. But the entire House GOP and virtually all conservatives in the Senate wouldn’t vote for a stimulus — and that was a progrowth nobrainer. The climate plan Obama embraces is one that affords very little chance of getting more Republican votes than the stimulus did (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 6: What the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate tells us.

    Grumet said:

    Cut a goddamn deal. The orthodoxy that we are bringing to this discussion is amazing to me.

    But there is no “deal” that preserves a livable climate and avoids catastrophic global warming impacts: Hell and High Water. Conservatives simply reject anything that would increase energy prices — and they don’t believe energy efficiency can keep bills low. And they will fight for industry giveaways that minimize the most important use of the revenues from carbon credits — returning the money back to the public.

    Progressives want market-based, pro-innovation solutions to a problem that science and morality demands we address and address boldly. It is only conservatives who bring orthodoxy — a refusal to accept climate science and an unwillingness to embrace any strategy to solve any of the nation’s problems unless it is tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts.

    Ultimately, the right question isn’t “Does the climate bill have to be bipartisan?” but “Does the climate bill have to be?”

    36 Responses to Q: Does a climate bill have to be bipartisan?

    1. Interesting, and scary, analysis.

      We have done some international public opinion research, and it does seem as though Republican supporters are a group particularly likely to reject the science behind climate change, and actions required to mitigate it.

      We mentioned the Republicans in a News Release yesterday about the G20 ..


      The G20 Communiqué focuses on investment, rather than carbon regulation or carbon taxes, to build the low-carbon economy
      Today’s G20 Communiqué focuses on a politically popular approach for tackling climate change
      Montreal, Apr 2nd 2009
      In late-September/early-October 2008 , Haddock Research conducted a wide-ranging public opinion survey about how the public think, feel and act towards climate change. The study was run amongst nationally representative samples of over 1,000 people per country in Canada, England and the USA.

      Key Findings
      Earlier today, the G20 asserted their commitment to “building a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery” by “the best possible use of investment” which “will make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low carbon technologies and infrastructure”.

      Findings from Haddock Research suggest that this will attract broad public support – at least in Canada, England and the USA. Haddock Research tested public approval of three main approaches to tackling climate change – using attitudinal statements to do with “investment in green transport infrastructure”, “carbon regulation” and “carbon taxes”. In each country, “investment” was broadly popular; “carbon regulation” had mixed support, and “carbon taxes” were broadly unpopular.

      Yet approval for “investment in green transport infrastructure” is not universal – 10% of both Canadians and English citizens disagree with it, as do 13% of Americans. Matching this attitude to political affiliation, most resistance to such investment comes from Republican supporters in the USA. In both Canada and England, Conservative party supporters tend to be a little more resistant to such investment than supporters of other parties.

    2. Gail says:

      I agree that very very soon – long before the Republicans can regroup and seriously challenge legislation – the link between climate change and its effects of drought, wildfires, extreme weather, and the acidifying oceans will become too obvious for the MSM, politicians, and the public to ignore.

      I would like to see Obama, who isn’t likely to get MORE popular than he is right now (unless the economy turns around completely which seems unlikely) make one of his brilliant speeches as he did about race, only focus on climate change. I think if he gave an instructional talk and linked curbing (halting) CO2 emissions with growing the world economy and particularly the USA with green jobs and clean energy, emphasizing how ordinary voters would ultimately save a huge amount of money, people would support him.

      I think if he handed out a press release with graphics (such as these: that will make the MSMs’ (I mean, the stenographers’) job easy and dazzle the little people, and links to blogs like cimateprogress, they would have to report it as news.

      This was the revelation I had in the middle of the night.

    3. DB says:

      Another possibility is that a cap & trade bill is passed that is mostly smoke and mirrors, not really accomplishing much but providing political cover.

    4. pedalingparson says:

      I must confess Joe you looked like really uptight guy ( most liberals are) in your debate with Marc Morano a couple of days ago. Your ad hominem style really discredits everything you say. If the science were really on your side you wouldn’t have to resort to such base logic. The earth is colling Joe, wake up and be honest enough to admit. Quit using the green issue to promote your scorched earth politics.

    5. paulm says:

      “investment in green transport infrastructure” is not universal – 10% of both Canadians and English citizens disagree with it, as do 13% of Americans.”

      I wounder what the % is for Australians or even Californians is? When directly affected by CC opinions change overnight….

      Small islands urge deep CO2 cuts, fear rising seas

      An alliance of 43 island states, backed by more than a dozen nations in Africa and Latin America, urged developed countries at U.N. climate talks in Bonn on Thursday to cut greenhouse emissions by “at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

    6. cougar_w says:

      No argument, global conditions will be falling apart by the time the GOP can get their act together.

      However I’m not sure I’m nearly as confident that existing GW legislation will be broadly supported at that time, and certainly not strengthened.

      Reason: The average voter/taxpayer will just be coming out of a prolonged recession, many suffering from long-term un- and under-employment. They are not going to be very interested in polar bears and ice extent. At that time measures to curb C emissions will be easy targets for an emerging corporatist state (which we are seeing birthed in the financial “crisis”) when all they have to do is claim that C regulations are sapping our national will and costing jobs.

      All lies, of course, but they are Big Lies so people will probably accept them.

      We are already seeing this play out in the weakening of the new clean air rule here in California, a rule that was wrestled into place over many years via the tireless effort of activists and foundations running a gauntlet of special interests, and that when the health impacts of diesel are accepted medical fact. Then, stroke of the pen — it’s all gone. Why? The diesel rule might be holding back recovery somehow, don’t you know.

      Yeah, I’m a little bitter. So sue me. But as a result of that experience I don’t hold any hope at all for the lifespan of regulations aimed to curb AGW. It’s over before it’s even started. Put a fork in it, it’s finished.


    7. paulm says:

      That was a good resource Gail….

      ( 2008/ 2008-08-09%20SciFoo%20climate%20psych.pdf )

    8. Brendan says:

      The debate needs to be shifted. As a climate scientist/activists, you’re no more going to convince staunch conservatives that climate change is real than an atheist is going to convince them that Jesus was a guy in a story book. Their beliefs on the subject are a result of long-ingrained faith. The proverb about the frog in the slowly warming water fits perfectly here. You can tell them that the water is getting hotter, but they won’t accept it until they’re cooked. You need to appeal to conservative principles if you want to get results. All but the most thick headed will agree to the following:

      -Emissions lead to health problems. Everyone’s choked on exhaust. As long as we burn coal and gasoline we see higher cancer rates in children downwind and near freeways, higher rates of asthma, etc. How many conservatives have kids with asthma? The true conservative principal is that free market capitalism does not allow for businesses to practice in a way that costs other individuals and businesses without paying for it. Most conservatives would agree that a big factory shouldn’t be allowed to pollute the groundwater that feeds the wells of a rural community, so why should they be allowed to do it to the air. Remember, most conservatives are pro small business, but get them started about the factory down the road that stinks up their town, and suddenly they’re less likely to support business first, people second, even if their elected official will. Elected officials either bend to the whim of their constituents, or get voted out of office.

      -Pollution leads to higher insurance and medical costs. Insurance is becoming cost prohibitive for small mom-and-pop business. Big business is getting to pollute in a way that increases health care costs and hurts the ability for entrepreneurs to be successful.

      -Importation of oil lessens our security. Every major oil reserve in America is losing capacity. Even if we find the oil, we won’t be able to drill our way out of this problem for at least a decade because of the lead time it takes to bring on a large new reserve of oil. If we can reduce our oil usage in the meantime, and increase the price, giving incentives to oil companies to explore more, we can reevaluate this problem in several years. This one is a little more sly, because we of course know with relative certainty that no new oil will be found, but the point is to get support, and worry about keeping it later. You can argue that the only way the free market will look for more is if we raise the price. The oil companies couldn’t find new oil in America at $150/bbl, how are they going to at $50/bbl? The point here is just to buy some time, I think time will be on our side.

      I think this is all about the framing of the issue. While the conservatives at the capital may be steadfast in their support for all business, I think their constituents are far more willing to differentiate between good businesses and bad businesses. They love to point out how big government is wastefully bureaucratic, but when you point out that big business is the same way, they get strangely quiet. When you talk to the average conservative on the street, they might complain how the government is doing this and that to the poor small businessman, but then in the next breath complain on the big business in town is doing terrible things too. The general conservative principle is disdain for things they don’t understand, like climate change, the government and big business. I think that if you want policy to change, you need to use this trait to your advantage, rather than to your disadvantage by trying to force an idea down their throat that simply doesn’t align with their faith.

    9. oxnardprof says:

      I think you are right. I do not think the current Republican party will take serious action on climate change, and are convinced that the threat is not real. We need more action, no less, and effective action can only be achieved if both parties accept the evidence.

      On this issue, bipartisanship is not an option.

    10. Sasparilla says:

      >> Another possibility is that a cap & trade bill is passed that is mostly smoke and mirrors, not really accomplishing much but providing political cover.

    11. Dean says:

      Climate is much different than most environmental issues since nowhere else do positive feedbacks so clearly step in and overwhelm the triggering mechanism to this degree. That’s the tipping point. Once you push that snowball down a hill and it starts to grow, you can’t stop it.

      The Republicans are using a strategy that worked quite well for them in the 1990’s. Unity and a hard line won them small majorities in Congress, and the Presidency soon after.

      However the times are different and the average person doesn’t look at Katrina, the recession, or global warming, and think that individual action is the answer. These challenges call for government actions for most people. As such, the hope that some Republicans might come around would be if the 1990’s Republican strategy doesn’t yield the 1990’s result, and their unity crumbles. But that will take at least a mid-term election failure.

      Alternately, if the climate worsens as fast as Joe suggests in the 2010’s and the R’s hold fast, maybe there could even be a party restructuring? Our party structure is so rigid in the US, than I’m not sure anything could result in a new major party any more. In any case, that’s not likely to be before the tipping point.

      And I’m also not sure that the D’s will really see what we need to do either, but at least there is more hope there than with the R’s.

    12. Jim Bullis says:

      No, a climate bill does not have to be bipartisan; it has to be smart. And things are different now so that what we thought were good things to do before might no longer be the best choices.

      If it turns out to be dumb, it will ruin chances for anything better, and it may well bring down the administration.

      The same holds for bailout legislation intended to fix financial and industrial failures.

      If we are careful and think things through we could end up with a better system overall. The solutions to climate change and the economy should be tightly interwoven, and that might get the whole job done. I sense that the economy is going to drive every country in making decisions for some time to come. I imagine Pres. Obama knows that we have to come quickly to a functioning economy where industrial production is activated and the financial world is set right to support the industrial system. I include housing as part of our industrial system.

      The actions of our president in demanding restructure of the auto industry shows that he intends to do just that as far as that industry goes; perhaps by pretending to not know just how deep the financial crisis goes that community has avoide a similar fate. It was recently said that there is something like $200 trillion in obligations due to credit default swaps and derivatives. I do not know if this is true, but if it is, it must be dealt with by bankruptcy. No such obligations can be honored. This has to be brutally fixed; assuming this is done, we can get on to the question of how to restructure the automobile industry. Pres. Obama seems set to take that on and expectations are high.

      It is not clear how to do that. The glaring fact is that we are no where near as wealthy as we thought we were. We got used to the idea that we deserved to dream of houses and cars far bigger than we really needed, and the financial world was happy to oblige. So how do we reset expectations? A comment recently heard was that Pres. Obama is trying to convince us that everything will soon be allright. He must realize that it will not be the same as before, so he must be thinking of ways to ease us into reality.

      Though there are many exceptions, Europeans have tended to accept smaller cars and housing arrangements. That might be a way of thinking we could adapt to, though American conditions are quite different. Curiously, Europeans seem to choose suburban living when they are able to do so. We came to our suburban living system from an agricultural living system; and still retain our desire for independence and space. If we were to rely on my sense of how things will be, we conclude that the future will continue to be suburban. The American Dream might not be so gilded, but it will continue to provide for individualized housing and personal transportation to go with it. So downsizing intelligently could be technically possible and politically viable if it respects this concept.

      In the context of making things affordable, it seems we should think in terms of not only smaller, but also, far better insulated, energy efficient structures, and there is opportunity to configure these as energy systems that are far superior than the present unorganized assemblages of hardware. And personal transportation, still using cars, could be smaller to suit the way cars are actually used, and energy efficiency could be vastly improved by rethinking very basic concepts. Yes, I know of ways to do such things, but the task for the moment is to plan things such that we will get a lot of ideas going.

      Power generation now depends heavily on the cheapest fuel which is coal. Electric vehicles seem inappropriately popular since they inevitably will exacerbate the use of that cheap coal. While I can make that argument, I will leave it for elsewhere. I have to suggest however, that the only way electric cars can be a redeemable alternative is if they are concurrently designed to use a very small amount of energy. This is an important issue which seems to be getting quickly cast aside by promoters of electric systems. This is an example of solutions that might not be as they seem and need to be thoroughly considered.

      Hopefully influential people, (that’s you Joe) will start talking about taking a comprehensive look at things. I am particularly getting at this because it may be that pouring great funds into rebuilding the grid is a poor choice of actions. Sure it is simple and needs little thought, but there could be distributed power generating concepts that would depend on a grid built differently than that currently planned for the expansion.

      We should not take solar thermal, solar pv, or windmills as foregone conclusions. Also, trying to tax coal to the point that it is not the economic fuel choice seems like an impossible sell politically. They may be the most effective way to go but I am not sure and I think they should be compared to less expensive alternatives. I raise here the problem of cost, since it looks like we are going to have a lot less financial capacity than we did before. Past financial assumptions may be no longer valid. As I say it is critical that we get this right, and getting it right means looking at every innovative possibility. Of course I would limit this to fairly simple things that did not require advancements in science. In short, they would need to be in the realm of engineering, though we have to think well beyond standard handbook systems.

      Pres. Obama has shown himself to be an amazingly insightful leader, capable of getting us through a lot. We should try our best to make that work, and this includes trying our best to get the right answers.

    13. red says:

      Brendan’s comments are right on target. if you present me (a fiscal conservative who considers Bush and Obama to be wasteful spending Wonder Twins) with a carbon tax, I’ll assume you’re going to use my money for wasteful spending. In my industry (space applications) I read reports every day about the wasteful big government/big business programs like Shuttle and Ares, and small entrepreneurs having to fight an uphill battle not only in the marketplace but against these behemoths and their (Democrat and Republican) backers. I’d just assume the carbon taxes will feed bottomless pits akin to Shuttle and Ares throughout the Federal government.

      If you clarify it and say, for example, you’ll use 10% of the revenue to push renewables, and 90% for “returning the money back to the public”, I’m still not convinced. If I’m at the median, I’m still losing that 10%, plus overhead to run the program. Plus, what does “returning the money back to the public mean”? My first assumption is it’s mainly redistribution of wealth from the productive to the non-productive. A certain amount of that may be warrented, since productive and non-productive alike would be hit by the carbon tax in various ways, but my assumption would again be I’d lose out big time.

      To have real appeal to conservatives, the thing is going to need “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. Fortunately, there’s no reason it can’t have them. Forget using the carbon tax revenue for anything but sending it back to the taxpayers (mainly) and the rest of the public. Fund renewables and so on some other way. Now you’re at 100%, so I feel a bit better, but it’s not good enough (am I really at the median? How much will be for redistribution? etc…). You’ve got to go considerably higher than 100% (i.e. make the tax cuts greater than the government’s carbon tax revenues). Is this justified in terms of fiscal responsibility? This blog often points out many types of savings that can be expected from reduced carbon emissions. Brendan mentions emission-related health problems. Less emissions implies less government health care expenditures, less loss of employer and employee tax revenues due to sickness, etc. Brendan also mentions oil security. Less oil-related carbon implies less government expenditures on military oil security, oil spill cleanup, highway maintenance, and so on. Fewer climate disasters translates into less government expenditure on disaster relief. If the renewable industry really creates more jobs than traditional energy industry, more employee tax revenue can be expected. … You get the idea.

      Being conservative (in the non-political sense of the word), factor all of this kind of government revenue and expenditure benefit side effect into the tax cuts funded by the carbon tax, and you’ll have a package that’s quite appealing to liberals and conservatives alike.

    14. cougar_w says:

      red: “To have real appeal to conservatives, the thing is going to need “tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts”. ”

      Enjoy you tax savings everyone. Don’t spend it all at once though, you might need it later to purchase replacements for the critical natural services that will vanish when the biosphere rolls over at around 900ppm CO2. Oh and remember to thank the GOP on your way out because we are so very, very screwed.


    15. paulm says:

      This is excellent material…

      He mentions 40% increase in high winds…has anyone noticed all the recent aviation accidents that are likely related to this factor.

      The insurance industry must be shaking in its boots!

    16. The clip below is pasted from Bill Moyers’ blog. It summarizes my concern about whether we have the wherewithall to do the needed climate corrections without some serious thinking about ways to do it that do not depend on credit. Laying the kind of debt burden on future generations is indirectly like laying a climate disaster. After all, there may be solutions that they think up that will not be possible if debt is overwhelming at that time.

      Paste follows:

      February, TIME magazine included “American Consumers” in its list of “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis:”

      “In the third quarter of 2008, Americans began saving more and spending less. Hurrah! That only took 40 years to happen. We’ve been borrowing, borrowing, borrowing — living off and believing in the wealth effect, first in stocks, which ended badly, then in real estate, which has ended even worse. Now we’re out of bubbles. We have a lot less wealth — and a lot more effect. Household debt in the U.S. — the money we owe as individuals — zoomed to more than 130% of income in 2007, up from about 60% in 1982. We enjoyed living beyond our means — no wonder we wanted to believe it would never end.”

    17. David B. Benson says:

      pedalingparson — Boy, are you seriously msled. Try the Start Here link at the top of the page at the RealClimate blog.

    18. Dave Romm says:

      Obama ran on a “post partisan” platform which the Party of No immediately rebranded as a “bi partisan” administration. We can’t let them get away with Republican politics as usual. The far right has been completely wrong on this issue for so long, we should do the exact opposite of almost anything they say. Certainly, we shouldn’t kowtow to the sphincter conservative’s rigid ideology. We have adults in charge at long last, and we shouldn’t let the children help make policy. Joe: Keep swinging. If anything, you’re being too kind to people who would never do you the courtesy of being polite in opposition.

    19. Rick C says:

      In the end that’s what it all comes down to for Republicans isn’t it? Tax cuts. Economic downturn? Tax cuts. Ike devestates Galvaston? Tax cuts. Economy is booming? Tax cuts. We’ve had 8 years of tax cuts. Thanks for the wide screen TV (LCD NOT PLASMA!), the new Star Energy compliant refrigerator, diswasher, and clothes washer, btw. Still we’ed be better off if the last 8 years the money we spent on tax cuts went into renewables and a smart grid infrastructure. It would have been nice to have more green energy instead of relying on diminishing natural gas and coal reservers.

    20. Bob Wallace says:

      “Electric vehicles seem inappropriately popular since they inevitably will exacerbate the use of that cheap coal. While I can make that argument, I will leave it for elsewhere. I have to suggest however, that the only way electric cars can be a redeemable alternative is if they are concurrently designed to use a very small amount of energy. ”

      Jim, we’re installing wind turbines a lot faster than we’re building electric cars. And there’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue.

      We’ll install a lot of turbines because they will be very competitive during peak hours as they are going to be a lot cheaper than natural gas peaker energy.

      And, as we install for peak needs, we’ll create a lot of very cheap off-peak, nighttime power. That’s when we’ll charge the electric cars. Some people will even buy extra night time power and sell it back to the grid during peak hours for a bit of profit.

      (Just for reference – the Tesla and the Cal Car Prius PHEV conversion both burn about 0.26 kWh per mile. That’s pretty danged wallet-efficient when you calculate the cost per mile using $0.10 kWh power and compare it to a 30 mpg car burning $3 gas.)

    21. Joe says:

      Ecostew — Thanks for that link. I’ll see which presentations deserve wider viewing.

    22. David B. Benson says:

      What Dave Romm wrote.

    23. Anonymous says:

      I hope this doesn’t double post but I think the first got lost in the upgrade, how else to explain the terse admonition “You are posting too fast. Slow down” when other commenters had double posts already?? hmmmm???

      To Red and Brendan, perhaps if conservatives watch this

      they will ask themselves the really important question, “What is it going to cost me if we DON’T stop carbon emissions?

      Paulm, I think I saw that link in a comment here originally. It’s an excellent site but a little frustrating because he only has some of the chapters of his book posted, and the notes for charts are cryptic and geared towards his lectures. So today, I bought the book.

      Don’t worry Joe! I finally broke down and ordered yours from Amazon last week.

      Cougar W, I agree that polar bears and sea extant are not sufficient to galvanize broad action let alone conservatives. But what about food shortages?

      What sent me beyond the realm of recycling, buying organic and switchig bulbs was the realization that the trees in my back yard are dying from climate change. So are the shrubs and even the ivy. Why? It’s too dry, there’s no steady snow cover, and it’s too warm for the vegetation to go dormant. The two cold snaps we had this winter froze the sap and killed the leaves and needles of the evergreens, and burst the bark of the deciduous trees.

      So, the exotic species and distant glaciers didn’t mean all that much to me, until I could recognize the decline of the apple and peach orchards that surround my little village. Concentrates the mind…

    24. Gail says:

      So now I’ve turned from Gail into Anonymous? Geez, a sad fate for one who craves public adulation.

    25. Bob Wallace, danged right about wallet efficient, and that will be true as long as coal underpins the price of everything electric. Data: coal is $1 per million BTU (Powder River Basin Coal at present contracting prices of about $20 per ton); natural gas at about $4 per million BTU, sold in these units wholesale; and gasoline or diesel approximately $10 to $20 per million BTU. I reason that it will be very difficult to make coal not be the most economic choice for power generation, and when it comes to new loads, this will ultimately be the way that load is filled.

      Even for California, where we ban coal as much as possible, when natural gas is bought on the market in greater quantities than before, that would be an opportunity for natural gas suppliers to raise prices; except the market price is national. Things are kept steady because any move to increase natural gas prices can be countered by power producers in other states by shifting to use of more coal. I know it is a bit strung out, but it looks like this means that coal is the ultimate electricity source, even for California.

      We would like to think we can control where their electricity comes from; so if they live where the power is produced by greener means that means they will be causing less CO2 with an electric car. Not so. In most cases, the power systems are all connected on the grid and it all goes into one big pot. And any new incremental load will be responded to by the cheapest production method. Even if they are not connected by some actual or legal impediment, the economics of the whole thing is still driven by coal economics.

      When the last coal fired plant is salvaged, then new loads will no longer cause coal use to increase. Or, of course, if coal is made so costly that it is no longer the most economic of the available capacities to draw from, then coal will also cease to be the basis of a response. I argue that there is more progress to be had by cutting the magnitude of power drawn.

      Installing wind turbines is no doubt an act that can reduce use of coal, as the incremental load effect works both ways where the fuel for wind turbines is free. That is an action that is completely separable from an action to plug-in cars. Just build the turbines and skip plugging in the cars. Now we are ahead.

      I should be clear. The electric car probably does not hurt much per se. It just does not help much either, so it should not be advertised as a green thing. And it especially should not be used to justify energy guzzling cars and SUVs since these will mean a lot of coal is needed to power them; that really hurts things.

    26. Jay Fitz says:

      Certainly the conservatives are willfully clueless.

      While it’s good to work for preventative policy to warming, it’s also important that some of us get rocking building “arks of survival” in as many places as we can, because not only does the evidence support warming, it ALSO supports the idea that we’ve too much ignorance and self-interested inertia to ever get anything resolved in time to avert the worst.

      Food Forests. . .

    27. Gail says:

      Hey Joe, encouraged by the comments above, I too looked up your debate with Mark Moron. And I thought you looked pained. Which was unfortunate but I have to admit, had I been in your place, I would have been vomiting, so it’s okay.

      Hence, MORE congratulations to you, will they never end?? Should I just get some kind of prefab blingee kit to send you every time you wow us with your prescience, publications, and laudatory media plaudits, and spare myself images of your PAJAMAS??

    28. Bob Wallace says:


      Coal is likely to get more expensive. Perhaps not from fuel prices, but certainly because coal is going to be paying for the carbon it releases. And coal isn’t really that cheap when one includes capital costs to get a new plant up and running.

      Wind and solar are going to drop in price.

      New loads are not likely to cause the construction of new coal burning plants when there are less expensive options.

      (Think “less expensive” = more profit for investors. That’s the key concept to keep in mind.)

    29. MarkB says:

      [JR: This comment references a post that attacked my truthful comments using long-debunked disinformation, so I deleted it. But these references to what I said are useful.]

      “I heard you say the U.S. would be 10-15 degrees F hotter and sea levels would rise 5 feet by the end of the century, Joe. And you accuse Morano of making things up and misinformation?”

      10-15 F is based on a recent scientific study.

      Several recent studies indicate sea level rise by century’s end is likely to be much more than the conservative IPCC projected. For instance, with only a 3 degree rise:

      “Assuming that the climate in the coming century will be three degrees warmer, the new model predictions indicate that the ocean will rise between 0.9 and 1.3 meters. ”

      “For all you Romm, Holdren, Ehrlich fans on this blog, no serious scientists believe these figures, not even the political body trying to pass as a scientific one – UN’s IPCC – suggests such numbers. ”

      Many serious scientists believe them. The IPCC is reputable, but they inevitably err on the conservative side with many projections, not because none of their participants support higher projections but because they are generally watered-down to the lowest common demonimator. Here’s one reason why:

      Nonetheless, the IPCC does suggest such numbers. With a high emissions scenario (if we’re dumb enough to burn coal and oil shale at rapid rates), the high end of the range allows for 7 degrees C or more of warming (8 above pre-industrial). See the IPCC link below, SPM.8.

      “Actual, empirical evidence/data? The globe warmed .7 degrees C over the 20th century. It gave that much back – averaged across the globe – in just 2007. ”


      “Sea levels have risen approx. 1.5 inches in the last 100 years. ”

      Like Morano, you appear to be just making stuff up, or parroting made-up stuff from somewhere else, often multiple times in rapid succession.

      The rate is also increasing.

      “If all Kyoto Annex I and II nations were to ratify Kyoto, implement it, meet their targets (many aren’t even able to do that now), and extend those reductions into perpetuity, it makes a calculated difference of between .13 – .20 degrees C by the end of the century. This is an amount that cannot be distinguished from normal climate variability. At a cost of 1-4 % of global GDP….ANNUALLY. ”

      How alarming! It’s also verifiably false. For starters, see SPM.4 for the gross costs (studies don’t include the benefits of a cleaner environment, lowered risk of climate disaster, and economic benefits associated with reducing national security risks of fossil fuel usage).

      “These are all verifiable, peer reviewed figures. ”

      Marc Morano’s press blog is not independently peer-reviewed.

      You wrote:

      “That was a sad chapter for science, but one that does not surprise me coming from the gaiarrhea-spewing, humans-are-the-plague-upon-the-earth, computer-model-predications-as-science crowd to which you belong. ”

      “I don’t know how you eco-socialists sleep at night. The very impoverished you preach to help and the very environment that you purport to be saving will both suffer worse from all your policies.”

      and also wrote:

      “Ad hominem attacks shouldn’t be necessary if your facts/science are sound. You don’t successfully refute facts with ad hominem attacks, you just make yourself look intellectually weak with clear political undertones.”

      Note the comical irony.

    30. paulm says:

      Gail, William H. Calvin’s site is a bit confusing, but his must see talk can be found at this site as a realplayer stream….talking to 800+ crowd at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing….

      Direct media link.

      Someone better be listening to what he is saying. Basically, we are all thinking along the lines of a gradually increment of the change as portrayed in the IPCC reports, but this is not the case. He realize that a WWII effort is required – now!

      The changes are in steps and he demonstrates this for example with drought conditions around Perth, AUZ and the frequency of various extreme events.

      This is scary. If we sum all the changes shown in his slides, I think basically we are in the midst of a world state change.

      They all point to a similar acceleration and tipping action. It seems to be system wide. Storms, drought, ice extent and extreme events etc. are all accelerating at the same rate globally.

      This probably means things are beyond the pale.

      The whole thing looks like it could flip over the next decade. Methane emissions are probably the final straw in the near term.

    31. Gail says:

      Thank you paulm for finding that link! Also I am looking forward to “The Age of Stupid” in the sense that hopefully, many people will see it.

    32. Dean says:

      Regarding carbon taxes and redistribution, the redistribution is going to be from those who can’t or won’t adopt more efficient energy use to those who are willing and able to make such changes.

      If energy prices go up but you drive less (because you’re taking the bus or metro), use less energy to heat or power your home, you may not pay more. If you figure out how to REALLY cut back, you may be ahead financially.

      While some of the wealthy may pay more because the changes simply aren’t financially painful enough to change to a more efficient energy use, people who must drive gas guzzlers (plumbers, for example, cannot tele-commute) will pay more. Rural folks will also have a hard time, as replacing the old gas guzzler may be cost prohibive.

      Society may decide to give extra breaks to some who cannot cut energy use for valid reasons, and I would suggest that plumbers are an example of that. But the dogmatic anti-tax attitude implies that government funded efforts are either never needed or never deliver. I think that there are counter-examples, and I don’t think that a modern country can prosper if it’s government cannot manage to build critical infrastructure.

    33. Bob Wallace says:

      Jim – just found this while reading about Nissan’s electric car which is supposed to be on the market next year….

      “60 Percent:

      The car, even if it charged up completely on coal-generated electricity, would generate 60 percent less carbon dioxide than a gas-burning equivalent, said Perry.

      The comparison doesn’t include the carbon produced in mining coal. However, it doesn’t include the cost of parking armies and navies in the Middle East to secure oil shipping lanes either, he added. It just compares the carbon dioxide produced in generating and consuming electric power versus burning gas.

      One hundred percent coal is a worst case scenario so in most states, the car will run cleaner.”

      Sounds to me that we would be better off to go to coal powered electric cars even before one considers the political (and military) costs of keeping troops in the Mideast. A net decrease in CO2 is a net decrease….

    34. Bob,

      Look at for the EPRI report where a lot of this started. Reading this in detail will get you not much further than a summary which is below. However, it is informative.

      A summary is at, see ref (2)

      In reference to the summary, exactly what the “gas burning equivalent” is does not really get defined. I am hard on the trail of the needed definition, but it looks like there should be another bar for the hybrid version of the conventional car and still another bar for the plug-in version of that. You see, a Prius is very different from the conventional cars in many ways, including the special system it uses.

      But it is clear that the gas burning hybrid is made worse by making it a plug-in. When I get the analysis corrected, and I fully intend to do that, I believe the conclusion will be quite different for the plug-in conventional car.