Climate

Oil-funded Pat Michaels admits solving global warming is a problem of “political acceptability”

Fareed Zakaria: Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?

Pat Michaels: I don’t know. 40 percent? I don’t know.

In a telling exchange with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, long-time polluter apologist Pat Michaels conceded that the real challenge of solving manmade global warming is simply the “political acceptability” of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as climate catastrophes grow. Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has the story.

Michaels, aptly introduced as “a scientist who now works for the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that strongly opposes caps to carbon dioxide,” has promoted global warming denial for decades, funded by a network of oil and coal companies and their ideological allies. With calm questioning, Zakaria exposed Michaels’ position as political “stand-pattism” as the world burns:

ZAKARIA: You hear all this. Doesn’t it worry you? I mean, I understand your position, which is you know, we don’t have a substitute for fossil fuels right now. But surely that isn’t an argument for stand-pattism. Don’t you want to do something about this?

MICHAELS: What I worry about more is the concept of opportunity cost. We had legislation, again, that went through the House last summer, which would have cost a lot and been futile. And when you take that away or when the government favors certain technologies and politicizes technologies, you’re doing worse than nothing. You’re actually impairing your ability to respond in the long run. And that’s my major concern along this issue “”

ZAKARIA: But if you were to have a carbon tax, if you were to have a gas tax “”

MICHAELS: You can put in the carbon tax.

ZAKARIA: No, but you would reduce the consumption “” that which you tax you get less of. That which you subsidize you get more of. This is a pretty simple law of economics, right?

MICHAELS: Right.

ZAKARIA: So if you were were to put it in, you would get reduced CO2 emissions and the government would get some money which you may not think it would spend wisely but it has the potential of spending wisely. Why would you be opposed to that?

MICHAELS: The problem is one of magnitude and political acceptability thereof. When we had gasoline of $4 a gallon, we reduced our consumption a grand total of four percent. If you’re really serious about atmospheric carbon dioxide, you’ve got to reduce it about 80 percent. How high does that tax have to be to be 80%? How do you do that in a political republic? It’s very, very difficult. And I guarantee you that “”

ZAKARIA: But is the answer therefore to do nothing?

MICHAELS: No.

Watch it:

Zakaria also got Michaels to admit that about “40 percent” of his funding comes from the oil companies whose profits are based on free pollution.

Of course, there’s no secret about what kind of economic policy would be needed to end our dependence on fossil fuels over the coming decades. The rest of the industrialized world has policies that put a gradually increasing price on carbon pollution, redirecting investment in the free market to cleaner alternatives. Michaels’ claim that the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives last year “would have cost a lot and been futile” is, of course, false. The legislation would have improved the economic security of working families, reduced the deficit, and spurred billions of dollars of investment in clean American jobs instead of deadly oil and coal “” while making an international agreement to limit global warming pollution a reality.

Michaels was interviewed this morning with climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and economist Jeffrey Sachs, who plainly described the “catastrophic planet” we are creating by burning billions of tons of fossil fuels every year. Schmidt remained “a little optimistic that the forces of delay will eventually be put aside” and that we can “demonstrate that societies are smarter than just allowing business as usual to carry on.” “If we do this sensibly,” Sachs said, “we can do this at low cost, save the planet, and save the economy.”

Sachs agreed with Michaels that the challenge requires political will. He concluded that is “what we hired the President of the United States for,” but that “we’re still waiting to hear from the administration”:

If we end up with a different planet where people cannot grow food, where people cannot eat given where they’re living right now, we have a catastrophe. And the ironic point is the combination of the technologies we have already in hand and those that are close on the horizon, if we do this sensibly, we can do this at low cost, save the planet, and save the economy. But we need a strategy and a plan. That’s what we hired the President of the United States for also. That’s what we’re still waiting to hear from the administration. If we get it, I bet the American people will rally to it.

It remains to be seen whether President Barack Obama will live up to this civilizational challenge, or if he will continue to let the Pat Michaels of the world rule the political discourse.

Transcript: « Less

ZAKARIA: It has been a scorcher of a summer. Record high temperatures all over the United States. Huge chunks of glacier the size of four Manhattan islands breaking off in Greenland. One third of Pakistan is now under water. Fires burning out of control in Russia. Floods in Europe. So is this just another summer on planet earth, or is it the apocalypse? Or is it global warming? And whatever it is, how will it affect all of us and our economies? To help me answer these questions, Jeff Sachs, of course, from the Earth Institute of Columbia. Gavin Schmidt is a NASA scientist who studies climate change. and Pat Michaels is a scientist who now works for the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that strongly opposes caps to carbon dioxide. Welcome, gentlemen.

So you’re the scientist. Tell me what we should make of these high temperatures. There’s always a danger of taking one summer or one data point and extrapolating from it, but it does seem like a lot of stuff is going on.

SCHMIDT: That’s true. And some of the changes that we’ve been seeing, particularly in the heat waves in Russia, do seem to be very anomalous for a very long period of time. But you’re absolutely right. We have a very hard job to attribute any one single event or even a group of disparate events to something as kind of slow-acting but pervasive like global warming. So we know that the planet is warming. This decade is the warmest decade that we have in the instrumental record. It’s warmer than the ’90s. The ’90s were warmer than the ’80s. The ’80s were warmer than the ’70s. There are a lot more warm records breaking than there are cool records breaking. But there’s still the same amount of variability from one summer to the next summer or even from one winter to the next winter.

ZAKARIA: But all over time pointing upwards. That is, upward rise. The mean temperature is rising.

SCHMIDT: Right. So we think that’s because of the increases in greenhouse gases that industrial civilization and agriculture have put into the atmosphere. And what we anticipate is that because we’re continuing to add carbon dioxide to the system we’re going to continue to warm decade by decade by decade. The exact magnitude of where we’re going to go is going to depend a little bit on the system but also on the decisions that we make as a society to either reduce carbon emissions or just to carry on with business as usual.

ZAKARIA: So that strikes me as the scientific case for global warming. That is, that it is happening, it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and what we do about those greenhouse gas emissions will determine how hot the planet gets. Is there anything there you disagree with?

MICHAELS: It’s very clear the planet’s warmer than it was and that people have something to do with it. What you’re concerned about is the magnitude and the rate of the warming. And I think it’s quite demonstrable that the rate of observed warming is at the low end of the range of projections made by the United Nations. And furthermore, simply saying that one is going to reduce emissions could actually be the wrong thing to do at the moment if you don’t have the technology to really effectively do this and to do it globally. What you could wind up doing is spending large amounts of capital that would be dissipated when it could be invested in the future in technologies that frankly you and I don’t even know about. So “”

ZAKARIA: What do you mean we can’t do it effectively? We know how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We stop using fuels that emit it. It may not be economically pleasant. But that’s different from “” we know how to do it.

MICHAELS: We don’t have a replacement technology right now.

ZAKARIA: Well, we don’t “”

MICHAELS: We simply don’t have it.

ZAKARIA: I agree with that. But that’s different from saying we don’t know how to do it. Stop using fossil fuels and CO2 emissions will go down.

MICHAELS: Yeah. But unfortunately, talk’s cheap. Yes, you can say you need to do something, but then you have to have a mechanism to do it.

ZAKARIA: Jeff, talk about the point Pat Michaels was making, which is fine, the earth is warming, human industrial activity and agricultural activity is causing it, but we don’t really know how to get off the fuels that “” the whole way of life that produces these fuels and so we can mandate all these things, it doesn’t “” nothing’s going to happen.

SACHS: I think what Pat said is absolutely correct, that you need a plan. But we need to get started now because every time we build a power plant today it lasts for 50 years. So what kind of power plants are we going to build? Will we get back to nuclear? Will we capture and store carbon dioxide? How many electric vehicles can realistically be on the road in five or ten or fifteen years? These are policy judgments. My view is that the costs of inaction are so frightening for the world. They’re beyond our imagining because the world is not good at handling the kinds of shocks that are ahead. They could be devastating for hundreds of millions of people easily. They could lead to war. They could lead to famine. And that’s not hyperbole. That’s a very realistic, hardheaded assessment of what can happen.

ZAKARIA: You hear all this. Doesn’t it worry you? I mean, I understand your position, which is you know, we don’t have a substitute for fossil fuels right now. But surely that isn’t an argument for stand pattism. Don’t you want to do something about this?

MICHAELS: What I worry about more is the concept of opportunity cost. We had legislation, again, that went through the House last summer, which would have cost a lot and been futile. And when you take that away or when the government favors certain technologies and politicizes technologies, you’re doing worse than nothing. You’re actually impairing your ability to respond in the long run. And that’s my major concern along this issue “”

ZAKARIA: But if you were to have a carbon tax, if you were to have a gas tax “”

MICHAELS: You can put in the carbon tax.

ZAKARIA: No, but you would reduce the consumption “” that which you tax you get less of. That which you subsidize you get more of. This is a pretty simple law of economics, right?

MICHAELS: Right.

ZAKARIA: So if you were were to put it in, you would get reduced CO2 emissions and the government would get some money which you may not think it would spend wisely but it has the potential of spending wisely. Why would you be opposed to that?

MICHAELS: The problem is one of magnitude and political acceptability thereof. When we had gasoline of $4 a gallon, we reduced our consumption a grand total of four percent. If you’re really serious about atmospheric carbon dioxide, you’ve got to reduce it about 80 percent. How high does that tax have to be to be 80%? How do you do that in a political republic? It’s very, very difficult. And I guarantee you that “”

ZAKARIA: But is the answer therefore to do nothing?

MICHAELS: No.

ZAKARIA: Then let me ask you what people wonder about, advocates like you. They say “”

MICHAELS: I’m advocating for efficiency.

ZAKARIA: Right. But people say that you’re advocating also for the current petroleum-based industry to stand pat, to stay as it is, and that a lot of your research is funded by these industries.

MICHAELS: Oh, no, no. First of all, what I’m saying is “”

ZAKARIA: Well, is your research funded by these industries?

MICHAELS: Not largely. The fact of the matter is “”

ZAKARIA: Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?

MICHAELS: I don’t know. 40 percent? I don’t know.

ZAKARIA: Okay.

MICHAELS: The fact of the matter is the technology changes dramatically in 100 years. And we will very likely not be a fossil fuel-based economy in 100 years. And the way to get there is to not take capital out of the system but allow people to do investment. I have not a problem “”

ZAKARIA: But you have “”

MICHAELS: What’s that?

ZAKARIA: You’re confident we’ll be around in 100 years?

MICHAELS: Oh, yeah.

SACHS: Right now it’s free to put carbon dioxide up into the air. There’s no incentive not to. The cheapest thing in the world is to burn coal.

MICHAELS: that’s true.

SACHS: Okay. That can’t be “”

MICHAELS: That can’t be forever.

SACHS: But that can’t be your answer also.

MICHAELS: Of course not.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, if all this is true, and it doesn’t seem there’s an agreement on how to reduce CO2 emissions, it suggests a fairly bleak future because we’re not going to be reducing CO2 emissions in the short term.

SCHMIDT: Well, I remain a little optimistic that the forces of delay will eventually be put aside. And so I don’t see it as being “” as a terribly bleak future because you know, I like to think that we’re smarter than that. And I’d like to demonstrate that societies are smarter than just allowing business as usual to carry on. If we do, we will end up, in the phrase of my boss, Jim Hansen, with a different planet. We will end up with a planet that won’t be recognizable in terms of where crops can be grown, that won’t be recognizable in terms of where rain is falling, that won’t be recognizable in terms of where glaciers are and where ice sheets are and “”

SACHS: And to put that in human terms “”

SCHMIDT: “” and what the sea level is “”

SACHS: That’s a catastrophic planet, not just a different planet. If we end up with a different planet where people cannot grow food, where people cannot eat given where they’re living right now, we have a catastrophe. And the ironic point is the combination of the technologies we have already in hand and those that are close on the horizon, if we do this sensibly, we can do this at low cost, save the planet, and save the economy. But we need a strategy and a plan. That’s what we hired the President of the United States for also. That’s what we’re still waiting to hear from the administration. If we get it, I bet the American people will rally to it.

MICHAELS: And every time we threaten an apocalypse and it doesn’t happen we cheapen the issue. Thank you.

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30 Responses to Oil-funded Pat Michaels admits solving global warming is a problem of “political acceptability”

  1. John McCormick says:

    ZAKARIA: You’re confident we’ll be around in 100 years?

    MICHAELS: Oh, yeah.

    Michaels is betting on his future. Not his children’s; nor theirs.

    .05 degree C temperature increase annually over 100 years is 5 degree C or about 9 degree F.

    One hell of a bet Pat. But you won’t be here to see the chaos you and your social misfits helped create.

    John McCormick

  2. Lou Grinzo says:

    A few things:

    If an independent audit were performed on Michaels’ funding, does anyone here think there’s any chance whatsoever that it would find less than 40% originates from oil companies? Anyone care to guess what the real number would be? I’d say 80%.

    Michaels’ comment about $4 gasoline resulting in a 4% decline in the demand for gasoline is utter BS. The number is probably accurate (I honestly don’t know, but it sounds about right), but the implication is that that’s all we’d get from such a “high” price of gasoline. Not even close. If consumers and car companies and everyone else knew that (1) $4 gasoline was the new norm and not a short-lived spike, and (2) it was headed higher in the near future, meaning within the time most people own a new car, then we would see substantially more than a 4% reduction in gasoline demand. The car market would respond with more efficient models sooner, there would be more people using mass transit or bicycles and demanding such services from local municipalities, and people would generally take much greater steps to minimize the impact of the “high” cost of gasoline. The $4/4% point by Michaels is a classic example of a denier using a factoid to misrepresent a situation.

    Can we get some love for Sachs, an ECONOMIST who obviously is on the right side of this absurd non-argument?

  3. Dan Olner says:

    ZAKARIA: Well, is your research funded by these industries?

    MICHAELS: Not largely. The fact of the matter is —

    ZAKARIA: Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?

    MICHAELS: I don’t know. 40 percent?

    Not largely? 40 percent??? Hmm. And that’s what he’ll admit to.

  4. PSU Grad says:

    “Can I ask you what percentage of your work is funded by the petroleum industry?”

    Note the all-encompassing term “petroleum industry”. I have a better question…how much of that funding originates outside the United States? How much money do the Saudis, Qataris, and other Middle Eastern petroleum states (and possibly those outside the Middle East) send to organizations like Cato?

    It’s a somewhat rhetorical question, because you’ll never find out. It’s relatively easy to launder money through accounts in Switzerland or the Caymans. The real “hero” of this story might someday be an accountant who decides he/she has had enough.

  5. Lore says:

    Rather curious that Mr. Michaels doesn’t know how much he gets paid and by whom for sure. I thought most people working for a living knew that, even the dishonest ones.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Cynthia Tucker in the Atlanta paper –

    While the U.S. remains embroiled in a mind-boggling feud over whether climate change is real, Russia has warmed up to the scientific evidence. “Everyone is talking about climate change now,” President Dmitri A. Medvedev told the Russian Security Council this month. “Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history faced such weather conditions in the past.”

    Russia’s leaders have usually played the role of obstructionists in global talks about climate change because they thought that combatting it would harm their economic growth (where have we heard that before?) and because they believed that they would benefit from a warming planet. The vast stretch of frozen-over Siberia, they believed, would turn into a pleasant region of moderate temperature, ripe for agriculture and development.
    But this summer changed their minds. The costs of climate change have been horrendous. Russia has suffered a devastating drought, and they’re still struggling to put out wildfires

    http://blogs.ajc.com/cynthia-tucker/2010/08/16/russian-government-sees-harsh-evidence-of-global-warming/?cxntfid=blogs_cynthia_tucker

  7. I notice that the question was specifically about the percent of Michaels’ funding is from the petrolium industry.

    This means that if we include the coal industry, the total number for Cato funding from the fossil fuel industry could be higher: perhaps 80% (40% + 40%), perhaps 100% (40% + 60%). Plus, Michaels’ project funding within Cato could be distinct from the overall funding of the organization. His next year’s funding could be completely dependant on the fossil fuel industry and he would have answered honestly.

    Oil use will decrease as we move to more efficient cars like EV, PHEV, hybrids, and even NG vehicles. Peak cheap oil is happening as we watch. The real problem fuel globally is coal. China is using more coal than the U.S. The global price of coal is no longer controlled by U.S. demand. As stated during the interview, every coal plant built will operate for up to 50 years. Each one added is a terrible legacy. Every gasoline car is intended to use gasoline for about 10 years. My family has two vehicles with 182,000 and 172,000 miles that I am hanging on to, until I can get a vehicle that is EV or PHEV. Coal use for electricity in the U.S. was down to 46% in 2009, down from 49% in 2008. This is the biggest battle with Cato.

    China is moving aggresively into wind and solar power, but consuming coal at prodigious and increasing rates in the mean time. The good part is that an economy dependent on electricity can convert its generating source to renewable energy easier than a transportation economy based on liquid fuel. The bad part is that coal plants are a multi-decade investment.

    The hope of an international carbon cap and trade system is that we can give incentives globally through an opportunity cost for the generation of carbon emissions. We cannot impose a global tax on carbon, even if that is more direct domestically. Global cooperation with developing countries and BRIICS (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, South Africa) is simpler using cap and trade. However, we must do something now to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, through a combination of taxes, caps, and subsidies for Renewable Energy to offset the subsidies received by the fossil fuel industry.

  8. First sentence should end, “that is from the petroleum industry.” Sumtyms eye dount spel gud.

  9. Peter Mizla says:

    Any hoped for pluses that result from climate change is a big myth.
    That was found out in Russia this summer.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    Patrick Michaels stated, “I’m advocating for efficiency.” It would be interesting to examine his record to see exactly how he’s been doing that. Ditto for the Cato Institute.

    His bit about the price of gasoline shows how numbers can be used to mislead. He states that $4 gasoline reduced consumption by 4 percent, which is probably close to correct. Then he implies that getting to 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions would mean boosting the price of gasoline by 20 times. This is nothing but misdirection, completely analogous to the stage magician’s sleight of hand.

  11. Richard Miller says:

    I saw this interview and I did not think Jeffrey Sachs clearly laid out the potential of renewable energy. For someone who does not follow this issue, I think they would walk away thinking that we have to exploit fossil fuels now and maybe in the future we will have new technologies that allow us to harness renewable energies. This, however, is nonsense and Sachs failed to call it out and lay out the potential of renewables.

    If we put up a national smart grid we could power the entire US with solar thermal energy by covering a 92 by 92 mile area of the state of nevada with solar thermal arrays. We have enough wind energy in three states to meet all US electricity needs. Geothermal energy is equally plentiful.

    I saw Sachs on Zakaria’s program 6 months ago and his interlocutor was the fraud Bjorn Lomborg. In this instance, Sachs was also not a persuasive and forceful representative of the saving humanity position.

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    About the funding question, a few searches on the Media Matters Conservative Transparency database might help.

    Funding for CATO has traditionally been dominated by the Koch family, owners of Koch Industries. Koch Industries’ fortune was based on petroleum, but the corporation has diversified.

    So Michael’s calculation could have been based on what percentage of Koch Industries still is in the petroleum business, excluding those parts of the corporation have since diversified. Since it’s all controlled by the Koch family, such fine distinctions are moot, however, of course.

    The Conservative Transparency database does not include all funding, I think. Gifts from private individuals are not included, so far as I know.

    Google media matters conservative transparency, and do a search on CATO, for more information. Keep in mind that the Claude R. Lambe foundation is also controlled by the Koch family.

  13. Barry says:

    Sachs does a terrific job pointing out that is free and unregulated in the USA to dump fossil fuel pollution in any quantity. This was the one place Michaels just had no slick talking point for.

    I think this line of questioning should be expanded for delayers along the lines of:

    “Fossil fuel pollution is causing dramatic changes to planetary systems including a 30% increase in ocean acidity, a 40% die-off in plant plankton, billions of trees dying, disappearance of worldwide glaciers, more land being burned by wildfires, increased heatwaves, crop failures, millions of refugees. Currently it is free and unregulated to dump this fossil fuel pollution in any quantity you want in the USA. The economics actually encourage people and companies to do it. At what point do you think there should be any restriction or disincentive to how much of this pollution you can dump? What level of harm is required before we limit it somehow? What does any limit you can support look like?”

    I think closely tying the harm to the unregulated pollution causing it would make it very hard to push delay as an answer.

  14. Patrick Reeves says:

    Joe, how much of your funding comes from Center for American Progress? 100%?

    [JR: As the website clearly states in its top banner, CP is a A Project of Center for American Progress Action Fund.]

  15. Barry says:

    Did Michaels’ really argue the best way to achieve a huge 80% cut in fossil fuel polltuion is to keep the dumping of this pollution free and unregulated as long as possible?

    Hey, let’s solve the childhood obesity and diabetes crisis by first and foremost ensuring that hyper-sweeted junk food is the cheapest and most subsidized option.

    Delayer economics: It is essential that the most harmful option be the cheapest to ensure we we stop using it.

  16. High praise and kudos to CNN and Zakaria ! Thanks for some excellent journalism. Lets expect more from news media.

    Now in the middle of Seattle heatwave our local news media is stuck babbling happy talk “Cooler weather arriving soon!” But carefully avoiding any insight into the real news that in a heat wave it’s not just the heat, it’s also the ozone.

    Without mentioning the word ozone, we receive a quick warning about health risks…ie not exercising in this heat… stay indoors… then on to happy talk.

    Typical carbon combustion combined with high temps, sunshine and low air motion, and you quickly have an atmospheric cooking action that makes ozone… Like most chemical processes, the hotter it is, the faster the process. I can feel it in my lungs and eyes. I know it is affecting others greatly. An enthusiastic journalist need only call a few hospitals for some statistics reports on increased effects of heat waves.

    Thanks go to CNN for starting to discuss the issue.

  17. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Patrick Reeves… It looks more to me like Joe’s funding comes from google ads and his books.

    [JR: Ads don’t generate much income. Books even less, sadly.]

  18. Rob Honeycutt says:

    I don’t want to defend Michael’s at all but there is a tiny element of truth to what he’s saying, he (and the right wingers) are taking it to an illogical extreme. Yes, he is right that if you throw too much money at undeveloped technologies that money will most likely be wasted. Anyone who operates a company with heavy R&D knows this.

    The problem with that thinking is it entirely ignores how far we’ve come, what we can accomplish in a very short time with a concerted effort, and, most importantly, what the consequences are of NOT doing this soon.

    What 40% of Michael’s funders know is that their lock on world energy markets is going to end. Sooner than later.

  19. Doug Bostrom says:

    Michaels:
    And furthermore, simply saying that one is going to reduce emissions could actually be the wrong thing to do at the moment if you don’t have the technology to really effectively do this and to do it globally. What you could wind up doing is spending large amounts of capital that would be dissipated when it could be invested in the future in technologies that frankly you and I don’t even know about.

    The Tol argument, in a nutshell?

    What about dissipating capital on things like desperately balancing the stability of Pakistan, the country in large part helping to determine whether the past decade in Afghanistan was a waste, the country that is infested with ambitious religious fundamentalists separated by just a few shreds of a shaky government from controlling a wee nuclear arsenal? Is this part of the “delay” equation, and how is it quantified?

  20. fj2 says:

    Regarding “MICHAELS: We don’t have a replacement technology right now.”

    Just like global warming denial this myth is totally untrue and the existing transportation monopoly depends on it along with unsafe roads and streets to suppress competitor transportation methods. Before companies make major investments in ventures they create plans to look at all the things that can undermine the effort and come up with strategies to prevent this from happening.

    It is very difficult to believe that some time in the past the auto and even the oil industry did not know that there was a very simple way to undermine their revenue streams simply by basing transportation on small vehicles which essentially creates an open system not unlike the Linux operating system and the internet.

    The environmental footprint of transportation systems based on cars can very simply be reduced to 1% by reducing the size of vehicles to scales compatible with human power:

    Any vehicle that can be easily human-powered sets the upper limit of the scale (size and weight) of vehicles on and off public transit.

    Electric power and modularity gives vehicles the broadest range and accessibility and functionality both on and off systems.

  21. fj2 says:

    #20 fj2 (continued)

    The first statement sets the scale and gives an idea of the maximum practical size and weight of vehicles. Of course, they can be much smaller and lighter and practicality is assumed.

    To repeat the first statement:

    “Any vehicle that can be easily human-powered sets the upper limit of the scale (size and weight) of vehicles used on and off public transit.”

    If a vehicle is easily human-powered then, in many instances that may be the most practical way to power it. There are many instances where being limited solely to human power is not practical and where the second statement applies:

    “Electric power and modularity gives vehicles the broadest range of accessibility and functionality both on and off systems.”

    The elderly, disabled, and women with young children may not be able to easily move — or move at all — with human power alone. Going up steep hills is another issue and electric assists improve on the practicality of these vehicles. And, electric powering can extend the speed and range to that of any land-based vehicle.

    Modularity makes it easier to adapt these vehicles to various requirements as-needed including electric powering, traveling on systems, increasing the ability to carry additional loads, and traveling with people just to name four.

  22. Watching it from Germany America sometimes looks unreal. How is it possible that it doesn’t strike American economists and politicians that in parts of Europe standards of living are the same as in America, but energy consumption per capita is just half of it or, like in Switzerland and Sweden, almost but a third. Michaels is telling you, it would be difficult to cut CO2-emissions and energy-consumption by a few percent. You would have to wait for better technology before you can do anything. Well, how about using the very “advanced” technology of Germany or Sweden, and to cut American energy consumption by 50% in short time? Is German technology something that is outside the grasp of the USA?

    Economists in America keep telling that higher taxes are a bad thing. Why doesn’t it amaze them that the country with high taxes is successfully selling Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes and Audi to the world, while the country with low taxes had to socialize General Motors which couldn’t survive in a free market? Currently 1 liter of gasoline in Germany is 1.38 Euro, that is about 6.5$ a galone. Germans are used to this prize. This is the very reason, why Germans need half the amount of energy and of CO2 for approximately the same standard of living compared to the USA. This is the “advanced” technology Pat Michaels is waiting for.

    And I even wouldn’t consider Germany to be resourceful. Switzerland and Sweden are better and even they still see potential for saving energy and cutting CO2-emissions. Cutting American CO2-Emissions by 70% wouldn’t depend on anything that is not already available.

  23. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Jörg… What the Cato Institute’s economists are telling the oil industry execs is that they are the ones who are going to lose if everyone else in the nation (and world) wins.

  24. Leland Palmer says:

    Actually, we do have a replacement technology for petroleum- electric and plug in hybrid vehicles. If lithium ion battery technology is not quite ready, use Stanford Ovshinki’s nickel metal hydride batteries, as was done in the GM Impulse electric car. Unfortunately, nickel metal hydride large format batteries suitable for electric vehicles are now controlled by Chevron Texaco, in the U.S., until roughly 2015 I think.

    If run on carbon negative electricity generated by converted coal plants, converted to BECCS (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) power plants, these cars could even be carbon negative.

    The petroleum industry has always had such arguments, and has trotted them out as necessary to stifle innovation or Congressional action. Solar cells had “net energy issues” according to the fossil fuel propagandists. Those issues have since been mostly resolved, but this was a favorite line of theirs for a while.

    Paid fossil fuel shills will say anything necessary to keep us using as much petroleum as possible for as long as possible. It’s their job.

    Cato Institute funding:

    Copying and pasting the Media Matters Conservative Transparency search for “CATO” into Excel, and deleting extra lines giving dates and details of funding:

    Funder : Purpose Amount
    Armstrong Foundation 65000.00
    Barbara and Barre Seid Foundation 427618.00
    CIGNA Foundation 10000.00
    Carthage Foundation 245000.00
    Castle Rock Foundation 300000.00
    Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation 24400.00
    Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation 9300000.00
    David H. Koch Charitable Foundation 4043240.00
    Exxon Mobil Corporation 110000.00
    F.M. Kirby Foundation 207500.00
    Gilder Foundation 375000.00
    Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation 400000.00
    Jaquelin Hume Foundation 150000.00
    John M. Olin Foundation 832500.00
    John Templeton Foundation 240020.00
    Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation 1057500.00
    Rodney Fund 678815.00
    Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation 13000.00
    Sarah Scaife Foundation 1947500.00
    Smith Richardson Foundation 50000.00
    William H. Donner Foundation 135000.00

    Total foundation funding 20612093.00
    Total Koch funding 13477640.00
    ExxonMobil plus Scaife and Bradley 3250000.00
    Koch % of total: 65.39%
    ExxonMobil plus Scaife and Bradley % of total 15.77%

    The Scaife foundations used to be capitalized by a big block of Texaco stock, I think. The Bradley foundation is capitalized by Rockwell International stock, a big defense contractor. The Koch money was built around oil, but they have since diversified.

    Source: Media Matters Conservative Transparency database.

    Since most of the funding (65%) on this incomplete database comes from the Koch family, Michaels must have been excluding the non-petroleum portion of Koch industries from his estimate.

    The ExxonMobil funding by itself is pretty small, but the Scaife and Bradley foundations fund so often right along side ExxonMobil that it makes me wonder if they have some sort of funding agreement, so that Scaife and Bradley act almost as money laundering organizations to fund those causes that ExxonMobil deems worthy.

  25. Many “economists” have a financial stake in telling the lies that major corporations want to hear. These are the same “economists” who, for the most part, have the ears of both policy makers and the media. (One might add that, for the most part, they are also the same “economists” who couldn’t spot an $8,000,000,000,000.00 housing bubble or a $10,000,000,000,000.00 stock bubble when they were occurring.)

    Not every economist in the US is like that: Krugman, Stiglitz, Baker, Sen (who is here often enough that I’ll include him) are notable exceptions, with 3 of the 4 being Nobel Laureates. But with the exception of Krugman, they don’t have major media pulpits to work from.

  26. toby says:

    Zakaria’s attitude to Michaels showed a new agression from the media towards deniers. He clearly was not impressed or convinced by Michaels; all Gavin Schmidt had to do was sit there and smile. Michaels was really pressured over his industry connections, and he was clearly short of solutions. In fact, his only solution was “Do anything, except tax the guys who pay me”.

  27. Chad says:

    It was nice to see a 2v1 debate, instead of the usual 1v1 you see on cable news. Now if they would just switch it to 30v1, as the actual numbers of scientists split, and perhaps finally the audience will start getting it.

    Even 2v1, Michaels was able to do a lot of Gish Galloping. Unfortunately, the rate at which you can refute lies is much less than half of the rate at which your opponent can spew them.

  28. Michael Tucker says:

    CNN does have a couple of usually interesting Sunday shows: GPS with Fareed Zakaria and State of the Union with Candy Crowley. This Sunday both shows had discussions about global warming and both were less than impressive in explaining why we must begin to limit greenhouse gasses NOW! Crowley spoke with Tom Wagner of NASA and she wanted to know if we would see environmentally or economically dangerous changes in her lifetime. Wagner had just said that we could see a 1 meter rise in sea level by the end of the century but Crowley wanted to know what we might see in her lifetime. Since Wagner brought up sea level, Crowley wanted to know if we might see something larger than the 3mm yearly rise currently observed. When pressed for an answer Wagner said 2 feet. That was how the interview ended. Wagner was clear that the changes over the next 90 to 100 years will be bad but he was less than convincing on what changes we could actually expect in the next 20 years and he did not get enough time to explain how he came up with a 2 foot rise in Crowley’s lifetime.

    The messaging from NASA needs to be better. I understand that Dr Schmidt does not want to become embroiled in policy matters but the expected results of business as usual must be clearly described over 10 year intervals. If we do nothing for the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years what might we expect? It must be made clear to everyone that once we do begin to limit greenhouse gasses we will NOT see a beneficial result for decades into the future. We need communicators who can effectively argue that WE CAN make a change in greenhouse gasses without destroying the economy and we must begin NOW!

  29. mattlant says:

    The other totally misleading thing about the $4/4% issue was the fact that the rise in prices due to rise in oil went mainly into the pockets of corporations and foreign governments, and as a result of that, the extra money could not be reinvested, whereas a ‘tax’, for example, would go back into the country and could be reinvested into renewables or to help subsidize, etc. And of course that being only 1 part of a plan.

    So if the tax does 4%, and the reinvesting of that tax did another 4% and that was only 1 part in a 10 part plan (just making up some numbers here ;) ) well hell, thats 80% :)

    I really dont like people like Micheals who twist the fact, or just completely lie.

  30. Leslie says:

    Oh wait! Is this the same Pat Michaels who said “global warming is not real”, and later said, “ok, it’s real, but it’;s not cause by man”.

    Now he’s saying “ok, it’s caused by man, but it isn’t warming up as much as the UN projected, plus we don’t have the technology to solve it.”

    To which, all I can say is, “Really?”

    Hey team, we’re making progress. Keep up the good work. Someone should contact Fareed and let him know Pat Michaels is a notorious climate criminal and an old timer on the disinformation campaign. Read James Hoggan, Climate Cover-up.