Climate

The top 10 bogus statements (BS) in the climate debate

[This is Bill Becker’s BS list. Feel free to add your own suggestions.]

If there is any doubt that Washington D.C. is where hyperbole, distortions and silly arguments come home to roost, that doubt disappears as we listen to congressional debate on climate and energy policy. Even some of the statements coming from the Obama team lately inspire a loud “Huh?”

Jon Stewart would win a Nobel Prize for Truth, if one were awarded for diligence in revealing how some members of Congress, not to mention the conservative chattering classes, regularly insult the American people’s intelligence. Unfortunately, he’s only on the air 30 minutes each day.

Also unfortunately – and here’s an inconvenient truth — not all of the American people are informed enough about climate change to know their intelligence has been insulted.  It’s a complicated topic made even more complicated by bogus arguments [and by a status quo media more focused on celebrity funerals and celebrity comments (e.g. Sarah Palin) — JR].

So, in the spirit of improving the quality of the debate  and with unapologetic imitation of another political satirist on night-time TV, here are today’s Top 10 Bogus Statements (B.S.) in the climate debate, each followed by a reality check.

No. 10 BS: The United States can’t make a firm commitment to reduce greenhouse gases until China and India do.

Reality check: With this statement, international climate negotiations assume the stature of an Alphonse and Gaston routine. The modern version – “I’m not going to do the right thing until you do the right thing” – would be comical if it weren’t so childish and potentially tragic.

Why shouldn’t the United States make a hard commitment to cut carbon before China, India and other developing nations do? We’re responsible for most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today. We have been emitting them with abandon for generations.

On the other hand, many developing nations such as China and India are attempting to pull millions of their people from poverty.  I don’t believe they deny their obligation to help solve the climate problem. In fact, many of China’s clean energy goals are more aggressive than ours. But they want the leeway to help their people approach the standard of living we enjoy in the U.S.

What the hell: Let’s be big about this and agree to go first. If we’re worried about a trade disadvantage with countries that don’t have carbon regulation, then let’s institute a “border adjustment” – the price those countries should pay for not agreeing to hard targets.

No. 9 BS: Coal will be with us for a long time to come. In a recent interview with Grist, the chief White House environmental advisor, Nancy Sutley of the Council on Environmental Quality, said: “[C]learly coal is a part of our energy mix now and it’s likely to be so in the future… [E]ven if we were to stop using coal tomorrow, it’s used around the world and we have to deal with its environmental impacts.”

Reality check: Of course we must deal with coal’s environmental problems, but the best way to do that is to stop using it. Accepting that coal is part of our future is not the policy that motivates us to find substitutes. And whether we can deal with its environmental impacts is open to question. We don’t yet have and may never find a cost-effective and safe way to permanently sequester huge amounts of carbon dioxide from coal.  If the technology ever is perfected, it will significantly increase the price of electric power from coal, while the price of power from renewable resources is coming down.

Then there’s mountain top removal and all the other environmental damages and carbon emissions associated with extraction and production (See No. 7 below). Let’s shoot for an international climate agreement that sets specific near-term targets for phasing out coal power, along with an aggressive program to replace it worldwide first with natural gas, then with renewable low-carbon fuels.

No. 8 BS: The answer to energy security is to produce more oil, coal and gas here at home. We have ample supplies. The “drill baby drill” policy was a prominent plank at the Republican National Convention and it’s still being used, most recently by Wyoming Republican John Barrasso in a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Reality check: The real question today isn’t how much carbon we have left in the ground; it’s how much we can put into the sky.  The answer is: No more. As the former Arab oil minister said, “The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” It ended because we found a better way to do things. There is no mandate that we must extract all the fossil fuels we find and burn all the fossil fuels we can extract. However, there is definitely a limit on how much we can burn – and we have reached it.

No. 7 BS: We are powerless to stop mountain top removal. This was EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s comment in an interview with Grist. Asked about the environmental terrorism being inflicted on the people of Appalachia as coal companies blow up mountains, Jackson responded: “[T]he current state of the law and regs (regulations) doesn’t allow us to just change the law and the regs to say that this process will no longer be allowable. There’s no way to do that under current law.”

Reality check: As those who have been in government know, there’s more than one way to save a mountain. A creative administration can always find a way to lead when it wants to.

Consider the two Roosevelts. According to an analysis of executive authority commissioned by the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), President Teddy Roosevelt believed that “as a steward of the people he had the power to do whatever was necessary to promote the public interest so long as it had not been forbidden by the Constitution or Congress.”  In other words, when it came to doing the right thing, he was willing to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

President Franklin Roosevelt had an even more expansive philosophy of executive authority when the public interest was at stake: “In the event that Congress should fail to act, and act adequately, I shall accept the responsibility, and I will act.” In other words, if there is a leadership void he was willing to fill it.

As of a year ago, there were 96 statutory provisions in the U.S. Code that explicitly address climate change, global warming or greenhouse gases. They spanned 11 titles of the U.S. Code including agriculture, commerce, labor, public health, conservation and transportation. In addition, executive authority to protect the environment can be found in wide range of legislation, including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

With all of those laws in place, surely the Administration can find a way to ban mountain top removal. If it can’t, it should ask Congress for explicit authority.  If the Administration is reluctant to anger the coal industry while trying to get a climate bill through Congress, then some harder bargaining is in order. The federal government already gives huge handouts to the coal industry, including large public subsidies to develop carbon capture and sequestration technology. That assistance should come at a price: an immediate ban on mountaintop removal.

No. 6 BS: Putting a price on carbon is a “national energy tax.” Conservatives make this argument ad nauseam.

Reality check: As much as some conservatives enjoy applying the t-word to every idea they don’t like, carbon pricing is not a tax. It is a policy that brings the price of fossil fuels closer to their true costs to society. That’s called “correcting market signals”. It makes energy markets work better. It puts the magic back into the “magic of the marketplace”. When was it that conservatives became enemies of an efficient market?

If fiscal conservatives would like to make the marketplace even more efficient, they should repeal all subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy (subsidizing mature industries is corporate welfare) and give the money back to consumers to help them adjust to carbon pricing.

No. 5 BS:  By increasing energy prices, cap and trade will hurt consumers in the depths of a recession.

Reality check: The cap-and-trade regime in Waxman-Markey would not take effect until 2012. If we are still in the depths of a recession three years from now, our problems are much bigger than a few-cent increase in the cost of oil and coal. Besides, the bill contains ample protection for consumers, including those least able to afford higher energy prices.

No. 4 BS: Consumers will pay thousands of dollars more for energy every year. This reprises an argument that worked beautifully for the oil industry a few years ago in California, where it used the false threat of higher gasoline prices to turn public opinion against a proposed surcharge on oil companies (the referendum specifically prohibited oil companies from passing the surcharge on to consumers).

Reality check: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office have concluded that the average increase in energy prices would be no more than 48 cents a day per household.

Even that estimate probably is too high.  With or without carbon pricing, the real cost of fossil fuels will increase in the years ahead as easy supplies disappear, global competition increases, health problems increase and environmental regulations are properly enforced.

A good climate bill will help consumers avoid these costs by shifting to greater energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. We haven’t yet begun to tap the potential of energy efficiency in our homes, factories, vehicles and power systems. We haven’t begun to take advantage of the renewable energy technologies and designs that already are cost-effective, ranging from ground-source heat pumps to passive solar buildings. And the more we develop and use solar power, wind power and other emerging renewable energy technologies around the world, the cheaper they will become.

No. 3 BS: All of this spending on a “new energy economy” is placing a terrible debt on our children.

Reality check: The far more serious burden we leaving to our children is carbon debt. We can repay public debt, particularly if we have a national economy that isn’t made bankrupt by natural disasters, drought, disease and the other predicted consequences of climate change.  We cannot repay the carbon debt. The negative impact of carbon debt goes far beyond money, to the core of our security and quality of life. Our children will suffer from its burdens for hundreds, even thousands, of years.

No 2 BS:  Climate action is a “growth-killing millstone.” A Republican used this phrase  in the House debate over Waxman-Markey.

Reality check: Let’s take a close look at what’s really killing growth. Consider General Motors. It refused to plan for the future. It sought short-term profits by pushing inefficient vehicles that contribute to air pollution, climate change, oil addiction and, ultimately, higher oil prices.

There is a lesson here. The real “growth-killing millstone” is greed and short-sightedness. Our economy faces the same fate as GM if we don’t respond to the new realities of the new century.

The modern engine of business and jobs is a green engine. Clean energy technologies will soon offer the largest market the world has ever seen. The longer we deny that reality, the more we will fall behind in the international competition for industries and jobs.

And the No. 1 bogus statement in the climate debate today: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a choice between “liberty or tyranny.” This came from another House Republican during floor debate.

Reality check: The Constitution of the United States does not guarantee freedom to pollute or to endanger public health and safety or to threatened humankind with greater disease, disaster and dislocation due to global warming. The Declaration of Independence does not tell us that our unalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of Hummers. Clean energy is no more a threat to our freedom than clean air or clean water.

If we want to end tyranny, then let’s liberate ourselves from extortion by oil producing nations, the prospect of losing our children in more resource wars, and the fate that awaits us if we continue sacrificing our security and long-term well-being to prolong an obsolete carbon economy. The tyranny that threatens our freedom is the effort by Big Oil and King Coal , and all those who carry water for them, or delay our inevitable transition to a clean energy economy.

President Obama showed empathy in a recent New York Times interview for those Democrats in the House who voted against Waxman-Markey to protect their reelection prospects. But in the same interview, he also said:

If you want to avoid potential political liabilities then you just do nothing around here in Washington. That seems to be the working theory. That’s what’s happened over the last several decades when it comes to energy. And my approach has been to say that rather than stand pat with a status quo that we know isn’t working, that we need to reach out and shape our future.

Reality check: Right on, Mr. President. Now you’re onto it. As David Hawkins said at the conclusion of his Senate testimony on Waxman-Markey:

There is a story about the advice a Chinese gardener gave to his employer. When the landowner asked, “what is the best time to plant an oak tree,” the gardener replied, “100 years ago but the second best time is today.” For climate protection perhaps the best time to enact a comprehensive program to fight global warming was thirty years ago but the second best time is this year.

— Bill Becker

30 Responses to The top 10 bogus statements (BS) in the climate debate

  1. LAC says:

    Re #9, I believe Sutley’s main point is that coal will be used in China for a long time regardless of what we do here in the US. I strongly suspect this site is correct when it predicts that sequestration won’t be a cost-effective technology here in the US. But I’d like to see you address the argument, which I’ve heard the Obama team make several times without a rejoinder, that we need to make some investments now in sequestration technology to hasten the day when something can be done to limit emissions from the massive amount of coal China plans to burn through the rest of the century. Also, don’t you think that announcing continuation of sequestration projects now has some political advantages? It could provide Democratic coal-state Senators with the argument that their cloture vote on ACES isn’t certain to cripple the home-state coal industry, but it is certain to help home-state clean energy and efficiency industries.

  2. Leif says:

    All good points. Now how do we get them out to the population at large. There should be a constant bombardment by the media such as Fox, EXXON an all, the GOP, etc hit us with in their denial talking points.
    I have “educated” Republican friends who will constantly echo one or more of the above points, even going so far as CO2 is not a greenhouse gas that is effective enough to over ride established sources.
    However, to echo a quote from I not who: “The only battle that is worth fighting is the one you lose and lose and lose and finally win.” I sure hope we have time to win this one. More importantly, I hope winning means something if we do…

  3. It never ceases to amaze me that our politicians choose to distort the facts, often to the point of blatant lies, to further their own political ideology. Thankfully there are independent, third-party, sources of information that can inform the general population as to what is really happening. This is an important article to share with everyone.

  4. JeandeBegles says:

    From France, I agree with the majority of your list and specially for the N10 (our responsability as rich countries to cut our CO2 emissions towards tha average quota for every human being).
    Intuitively, I disagree on no6 and 4, because an energy tax doesn’t scare me. I don’t think we will find alternative energy to fossil fuel as cheap (I mean if you forget the CO2 cost that we are beginning to introduce: the big cost os CCS, probably more than 150$ per CO2 ton, a norvegian firm annouced weeks ago a 150-200€ range for an experimental CCS; obviously it is cheaper to screw our atmosphere than build CCS). This kind of evidence is the base of my intuition. We need an energy tax (a carbon tax) to drive our purchases (as company and as individuals) towards products and services with low carbon and low energy.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Few Additional Thoughts

    Great list. And yes, we need to show the deep problems with these BS arguments. And that needs to be done broadly, including in the mainstream media – somehow.

    That said, many of the counter-arguments can be much stronger, and go deeper, and “touch” and bring to life human sensibilities much better, than some of those presented above. Although I won’t do that right here, right now (I haven’t even had coffee yet), for now I’ll just add a few quick thoughts to the list as presented.

    Regarding No. 10 BS – A big part of the argument here should be related to the very real and (for the most part) unavoidable linkages between action and credibility. We will be much much less successful at convincing China to do something substantial to address the problem unless WE are doing something substantial to address it. Period. Action and example generate credibility: Simply preaching and pushing and complaining don’t. So, it’s in our own best interests to act promptly. If we want a healthy climate for future generations, action is Job One. Our actions will help us convince others to act.

    Also, it’s also in our best interests to act proactively, for another reason. If we start to address the problem promptly, through cleaner and renewable energy sources, better energy technologies, and so forth, we can provide (in some cases) and sell (in some cases) that technology and know-how to China and to many other places. The VERY LAST thing we want to do is get ourselves in a position where we are followers, not leaders, when it comes to many of the new technologies and approaches. That would not only be bad for the climate, but it would be bad for our energy independence, and it would be bad for our economy. Thus, the win-win-win approach is to act promptly on the problem: It’s not going away.

    Regarding No. 6 BS – The response to this point can be made more strongly. This is not a mere matter of economic terminology and theory and so forth. It can be put in very honest and human terms.

    People (often in suits and looking like professors) who insist that a completely free marketplace can solve the problem AND, at the same time, also insist that we shouldn’t have a cap on carbon, “price” on carbon, or carbon tax, are either trying to lie to you and fool you, or they don’t know what they are talking about. It’s either dishonesty and arrogance, or ignorance. Now THOSE are terms, and ideas, that most people can understand. And then the matter can be explained, in simple terms. If it’s “free”, in monetary terms, to put CO2 into the atmosphere, even the most efficient and “sensitive” of free markets will not care about doing so, one bit. There IS a very real COST of putting CO2 into the atmosphere: It’s just that we have ignored it and haven’t quantified it. Indeed, if we calculated how much it would cost to fix the damage brought by climate change and to clean CO2 out of the atmosphere, and then if we charged those costs to those companies and folks who want to keep putting CO2 into the atmosphere, that would cause them to take note (and to switch to cleaner energy sources) pretty darn fast.

    Regarding No. 3 BS – Anyone who seriously wonders whether we owe it to our children and to future human generations to leave them with a healthy climate and healthy planet should have his/her head, and humanity, examined. It’s really as simple as that. I could quote many sources, but one shouldn’t need to quote sources on such a central matter.

    Another BS Argument – Another BS argument I’ve heard recently is this: “I’m just doing what the people from the heartland want.” Call it “the politician’s ‘heartland’ argument”.

    Wow! Where to even begin with that? First, in the minds of those politicians who use this “argument”, what IS the actual argument? In other words, do heartland people disagree with basic science? Do heartland people think that God would have us mess up the climate and leave an environmental and climate mess to future generations? (That argument can be debunked quite easily.) Which of the BS arguments listed above does this “heartland” argument consist of?

    OR, does the heartland argument boil down to this: Since we have some oil in the heartland, we’re gonna sell our souls for it, and prevent progress worldwide, because we have oil and we want the oil money? So there!!

    Is THAT the heartland argument, according to these politicians? Let’s please get clear on what exactly the “heartland argument” is.

    Addressing BS – A big problem is, how to address all this BS in places that have big audiences, i.e., in the mainstream media? How do we clarify these matters for a broad public?

    On this point, the problem is the media itself. And that’s troubling. We NEED the media to become much more responsible, much more fact-based, much more intelligent, much more diligent, and much more clear. It’s as simple as that. How do we do that? That’s what we should talk about, concretely and energetically, soon. I know it has been talked about before, but we need more effective ways to bring that about.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  6. Joe M says:

    Debate? What debate? I thought the debate was over. Where’s Al Gore?

  7. Kate says:

    At least the US is finally doing something. I can’t say the same for Canada. Our PM was easily the most difficult at the G8 energy summit, claiming that 80% reductions were “unrealistic”. He’s created three or four (I’ve sort of lost count) energy plans in the last few years and scrapped them all.

    Can we have Obama too?

  8. Chris Winter says:

    This is a good list. It deserves wide dissemination.

    It might be worthwhile to combine nos. 4, 5, and 6 as they say similar things. Personally, I would add something about the value of conservation. One way to word it: “BS: Conservation is a purely personal virtue that has no place in a national energy policy.” You can fill in the rebuttal.

    Another one I hear fairly often is that renewables cannot make much impact on traditional energy supplies. This takes various forms: Too unreliable, too expensive, too land-hungry, etc.

  9. Matt says:

    Well, I agree with most of this, but the tax discussion is a little shady. Pricing carbon is correcting a negative externality, which is fine and well and necessary in order to create properly functioning markets. But since it is a negative externality, it is something that does not have a price in the market naturally. The way that you correct for this is by using a Pigouvian Tax, where the externality is priced.

    So you fix the externality by taxation. While I don’t think the Republicans are being honest with the nation when they make this claim, it is a tax (they don’t argue that it is necessary to incorporate the full cost of carbon to create a functional market; obviously, they’re trying to score political points) that is levied to fix the problem.

  10. Robert says:

    —- PROVE THEY LIE AND WE WIN! —-
    Thanks to Bill Becker and JR, I now have 10 … “count ‘em’ … TEN new missile for my missile silos. Seldom ‘am I motivated to comment on the great words of JR or BB but now I will add my 2 cents worth in appreciation for their works. I have only to make the delivery to those who casually repeat these bogus lies. Nothing is more powerful than proving a politician to be a liar, such as Sarah Palin’s claim to have sold a government plane on eBay. Now to work up a note to my local paper based on BB and JR’s lead. Thank you!

    rlb

  11. Buddy says:

    No. 10 BS: The United States can’t make a firm commitment to reduce greenhouse gases until China and India do.

    – the US should want to lead on this because they should want to be technological and commercial leaders in the inevitable new industrial direction the world is going… waiting for China and India means letting those countries take over in that new industrial era

    No. 9 BS: Coal will be with us for a long time to come.

    – Not according to the US Geological Survey: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124414770220386457.html

    No. 8 BS: The answer to energy security is to produce more oil, coal and gas here at home. We have ample supplies.

    – America consumes roughly 25% of world oil and has roughly 2-4% of world oil reserves. The only way “ample supply” makes sense is if some in the US consider other countries’ oil as their own. The last 8 years provide ample evidence as to why that’s not an economically or militarily healthy view to take.

    No. 7 BS: We are powerless to stop mountain top removal.

    – Didn’t a recent Senator running for office say something like “Yes we can”? Sorry if I’m wrong on the exact wording of that lengthy phrase…

    No. 6 BS: Putting a price on carbon is a “national energy tax.”

    – This line works best on those who never hear what the speakers of the line are proposing as an alternative:
    a) Let the market take care of it and therefore let oil price volatility and price uncertainty wreck business planning and destabilise the economy
    b) Let the market take care of it so that when the oil prices go back up we can ship our money overseas or to big companies and not take any of that money for ourselves through our government in order to invest in projects to get ourselves off this addiction
    c) Let’s build nuclear plants instead on the public dollar which will raise the price of electricity by much more than the carbon price and by virtue of being so expensive that they’ll either lower government services … or raise taxes
    … AND d) let’s do nothing so that nature can put the biggest economic ‘tax’ we’ve ever seen on our economy: unbridled climate chaos.

    No. 5 BS: By increasing energy prices, cap and trade will hurt consumers in the depths of a recession.
    – As in number 6, this one makes more sense to those who don’t know of the plans of those same speakers to raise your energy prices through public nuclear procurement.
    – Given that the Act kicks in 3 years from now, if you say this you are either knowingly lying or you haven’t read the Act…so are you a liar or ignorant?

    No. 4 BS: Consumers will pay thousands of dollars more for energy every year. –

    – a lie

    No. 3 BS: All of this spending on a “new energy economy” is placing a terrible debt on our children.
    – You wanna talk debt for our children?! How about the 5 trillion or so Republicans just put on us under Bush (for the war and the tax cuts for the rich mostly)?
    – Or how about the eco-debt of a chronically destabilised climate wrecking weather patterns, food production, migratory diseases, livestock reproduction, infrastructure stability and so much more?!

    No 2 BS: Climate action is a “growth-killing millstone.”

    – I quote the Chief United Kingdom Economist Lord Stern of Brentford on this one:
    “Tackling climate change is the ***pro-growth*** strategy for the longer term”. (Asterisks added)
    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/CLOSED_SHORT_executive_summary.pdf

    If we don’t work at this, the long-term prospects for economic growth are very, very bad indeed.

    And the No. 1 bogus statement in the climate debate today: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a choice between “liberty or tyranny.”

    – I’m so sorry that you feel ‘repressed’ by the ‘tyranny’ of your fellow American as they seek to get off oil, have a better shot at non-outsourceable green jobs, breathe better air and not have to fight wars over non-renewable resources.

    I’m really, really feeling so sorry for your oppression.

  12. Andy Revkin says:

    Not sure I’d be so quick to deify Mr. Stewart and the Daily Show. Just check out this softball promotional interview with Chris Horner:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-february-13-2007/christopher-horner

  13. At this point, “progressives” are also throwing around BS, and I would add these two claims:

    – Waxman-Markey guts the Clean Air Act.

    – The EPA can control global warming if Waxman-Markey doesn’t pass.

    [Hear! Hear!]

  14. One Unspoken Myth holds that global warming is a complex science filled with dynamic data that only advanced scientists can understand.

    This is the pre-myth for tobacco chant “some scientists disagree”.

    Any person can understand the fundamentals of progressive global climate change. Anyone with an eye and a mind can perceive changes and the underlying mechanics. Anyone, not just scientists, can observe our increasingly unstable weather – after a while we call all that climate.

    Scientifically: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts like a super warm insulating blanket that keeps heat in. Other gases in the atmosphere do not trap heat like CO2… So the more CO2 – the warmer the blanket. Pile on the blankets and expect the heat to increase. Humans are making all the excessive CO2 – that is making the excessive warming. And wearing shorts and turning up the air conditioner are not gonna fix it.

    Everyone should know this.

  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    Andy and Mr. Stewart, and What Are We Doing Here Anyway, Really?

    Regarding Andy Revkin’s comment #12 (if one can trust the use of names online?), and with all due respect to Andy (I enjoy Dot Earth often, and I know it’s probably not easy), but nevertheless . . .

    Why are people at The New York Times taking time to critique J. Stewart, when The New York Times has a long ways to go to get its own act together when it comes to providing sufficient, responsible, clear, accurate, and well-placed coverage of the global warming and energy problems?

    In any case . . .

    If we have the attention of The New York Times here, I’ll take the opportunity to ask just one of many necessary questions: New York Times, where is the accurate, investigative-journalism coverage of ExxonMobil and that whole related problem? You have been carrying their confusion for years, often in huge ads, often on the front page itself. OK. BUT THEN, it’s your job (isn’t it?) to provide the straightforward, accurate, clear, responsible, UN-confusing real story on those matters and, indeed, on ExxonMobil itself. So, where is that? Where?

    Please, we’re waiting for a response.

    J. Stewart is perhaps the person I trust most when it comes to actually getting to the root of some of our biggest problems . . . and telling it like it is. The only problem is that he does it far too infrequently. This world could use a J. Stewart-type honest expose on about one key subject per week, for the next 50 weeks. One of the first should be on the media itself, including (sorry) The New York Times.

    Sigh.

    Jeff Huggins

  16. Jeremiah says:

    The “but we have so much coal, we’ll have to use it” excuse sounds kind of like a junkie pleading, “but there’s all this heroin around, who’s gonna use it if I don’t?”

  17. Anonymous says:

    You fool! Reason No. 3 (It will cost only 48 cents per day per household, according the the CBO) is not true.

    [snip]

    [JR: No anonymous comments.]

  18. Susan says:

    Great to see these straightforward ethical responses to the usual nonsense. I particularly like the appropriate use of the constitution. Well done!

    Jon Stewart does lots of good along with the bad, but isn’t he rather a byway here? It’s sad that we are so eager exploit the “Nobel” word and I see Andy’s point, as well as Jeff’s. But on advertising, need we blame the victims of a broken system? Print media are struggling, and in no position to take the lead in this sad situation:

    “The real ‘growth-killing millstone’ is greed and short-sightedness. Our economy faces the same fate as GM if we don’t respond to the new realities of the new century.”

  19. Mike D says:

    Jeff: “This world could use a J. Stewart-type honest expose on about one key subject per week, for the next 50 weeks. One of the first should be on the media itself, including (sorry) The New York Times.”

    Well he does that one every show, that’s 80% of his material.

  20. Jeff Huggins says:

    Re #19, Mike D:

    Mike, thanks for the comment. I agree that, to a degree, Stewart does the media problem every show. But, comedy and its effectiveness beyond comedy all are matters of degree. At one level, comedy allows us to laugh at certain things, and at ourselves, even as we then continue those things. At the same time, it allows us to laugh at them and permits them, because we can all chuckle at them. At that level, nothing really changes. At that level, comedy (while still fun) is really more of a lubricating mechanism for the status quo than it is any real force of serious critique and reform. So, the “normal” level, while fun, doesn’t really change things. Stewart only goes “to the mats”, hard enough to punch some sense into things, and into us, infrequently. When he does, he’s great . . . and watch out.

    In my view, Stewart should go “to the mats” on this energy stuff — perhaps let’s focus on ExxonMobil, as a big example and more-than-deserving target — and also on the media’s coverage of the matter.

    Anyhow, TGIF.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  21. Brett Jason says:

    But, Anonymous, if the CBO had come out and said what you want to believe, that Waxman-Markey would raise the average electric bill by thousands of dollars per year, that you would be hailing the CBO as a paragon of honest research and reporting, wouldn’t you?

    The GOP constantly quoted CBO reports as gospel over the past 8 years. I love how deniers condemn a research agency one day and then quote that same agency a month later when it says something they can twist to suit their purposes. When a research agency says something they like, that agency is golden. When it says something they don’t like, it is a false prophet spouting propaganda

  22. Jeremiah says:

    Having lived in Beijing, I believe the Chinese will follow our lead on this. The Chinese government knows that it must take evasive action, unless it expects its people to begin breathing something other than oxygen.

    Unlike in the US, passing a law in China isn’t so complicated. There are no coalitions, no blue-dog democrats, no obstructionists, etc, etc. They decide to pass a bill and it’s done. Voila!

  23. David Stern says:

    #6 Of course a price on carbon is a tax. It seems silly to me to say otherwise. Are taxes on tobacco not taxes? The point is that it is better to tax bads like pollution than goods like income. Taxing bads makes the market more efficient, taxing goods makes the market less efficient.

  24. Brooks Bridges says:

    #6: Putting a price on carbon is a “national energy tax.” Conservatives make this argument ad nauseam.

    Why aren’t they immediately challenged (ad nauseam) to explain why the subsidies for fossil and nuclear energy aren’t a “national energy tax”?

  25. Rick says:

    Oh the paradise that is communist China with their beautiful unscrubbed coal plants and their lovely lead based childrens toys and their instant military justice against believers of strange religions and their glorious freedom from the evil influence of blue dog democrats … or something

  26. John Davidson says:

    The real benefit from CO2 sequestration will not come from the power industry but for other industries for which there is no greener alternative such as wind etc. For example, think about cement and steel manufacture. There is acope to make some gains from tech selection and choice of fuel. However, the only practical way to make really big gains is CO2 sequestration.

  27. JWilli says:

    I really appreciate the response to #10! Why do we have to wait until other countries make the first moves? If everybody thought thought that way and waited for someone else to make the first move, what’s going to happen? Absolutely NOTHING! We would be stuck in the same position. I agree that the U.S. she be the big boss and lead by example, especially since it is said that we are one of the heavy contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

  28. Bill Becker says:

    I’m heartened that so many BS detectors are in good working order out there.

    Jeff Higgins, amen to your first set of observations.

    Andy Revkin, in response to your comment about deifiying Jon Stewart: Once you get below the Big Anchor Person in the Sky, deification is a relative thing. Relative to much of the other information and commentary flowing our way, Stewart qualifies — in my cosmology at least.

    Susan, I was only kidding about the Nobel Prize.

  29. Aaron says:

    So we stop using coal today. Then 83% of the nation’s lights go out. No Internet, this website is gone, and no air conditioning, electric cars…

    Currently, renewable energy makes up only 17% of our nation’s power supply. So where does the rest come from? Our energy needs are GROWING. So where does the future energy come from?

    They’re right when they say that coal will be with us for a long time. Dream all you want, but we can’t shut coal plants down tomorrow, next week, next year, or even next decade.

    Wind energy experts are clear that wind cannot be more than 20-25% of our total energy supply or we’ll have periods of blackouts. Currently, wind is only about 35% efficient in terms of production. Coal is at 41%, so they aren’t too far apart. The difference being that coal doesn’t decide when to and when not to produce.

    Even geothermal is decades away from being able to supply even just Nevada with all of their power needs.

    You can ask Washington to throw all the money we have at the problem and it won’t get fixed within the next two or three decades.

    Meanwhile, if you look closely as Cap and Trade, there are some very clear benefactors to it. Al Gore and friends stand to not just make millions or billions, but to own a HUGE percentage of the total market starting on day 1. Every Congress-critter who voted for the Waxman bill received at least twice the “campaign donations” from renewable marketeers compared to their counterparts who voted against.

    In fact, the Waxman-Marky bill is so riddled with it’s own b.s. that you could double your list here with it. It’s not a solution, it’s a new problem.

    I’m with you that we need real alternatives and renewable energy sources, but let’s be realistic here. Can we have it done by 2020? Not likely. 2050? Definitely.

  30. @Aaron,
    So we stop using coal today. And we replace it immediately with all that natural gas we have. And we cut the greenhouse gas emitted from producing that energy by 50% immediately. And then we replace that natural gas bit by bit with renewables until its all renewables.

    Sorry if this simple reality puts a crimp in your own ration of BS offered, but that’s the realism you should get with when doing your predicting about energy sources and when they’ll be ready.