Chime in on Politico’s ‘Arena’ debate on the climate bill

[You can offer your thoughts on the debate between the Chamber of Commerce and Ceres here. Yes, you would have to give them a lot of personal information — one more benefit of CP!]

While other media outlets give short shrift to the transformational climate and energy bill, the same can’t be said of the Politico. They have a whole special section today on “Energy Test: Cap and Trade” as well as a debate on Waxman-Markey in their Arena section.

Now I don’t agree with all of the Politico’s analysis. The story “The energy bill’s ticking timebomb” fails to mention the real ticking timebomb of doing nothing — catastrophic climate impacts aka “ Hell and High Water.” Also, this assertion is somewhere between misleading and false:

The acid rain program worked, in part, because the solutions were obvious: Use coal with less sulfur or install scrubbers in plants. After the law passed, a flurry of new scrubbing technology soon hit the market.

In fact, just like today, the utility industry back then said there were no obvious solutions and that the cost of addressing pollution would be exorbitant. Like today, the industry underestimated the possibility of fuel switching — back then, from high-sulfur coal to low-sulfur coal, today from coal to natural gas and biomass (see “Game changer, Part 2: Why unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet”). And who can doubt that if Waxman-Markey passes, a flurry of new technology will hit the market (and a flurry of underutilized existing technology will accelerate into the market)?

Bottom line: Just like with the acid rain program, the solutions today are obvious: In this case, energy efficiency, conservation, natural gas fuel switching, wind, solar PV, solar thermal, cogen, biomass, geothermal…. (see “Intro to the core climate solutions”)

The Politico has a fascinating piece by the Senate’s top global warming denier, James Inhofe (R-OIL): “Nuclear energy must be part of the equation.” Since Inhofe doesn’t believe in global warming and his state is not a leading producer of nuclear power plants, presumably he is advancing this idea because he thinks it will be a poison pill for the bill, which he wants to kill at any cost, even though it means his state will turn into a permanent Dust Bowl. I’ll blog later on whether in fact the inevitable nuclear title in the Senate bill will be a poison pill.

The Politico has a section called “The Arena” where pundits bloviate on the topic of the day — and recently they added me. You can read the debate today between Mindy S. Lubber, President of Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmental leaders working to improve corporate environmental, social and governance practices, along with BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy) an William L. Kovacs, senior vice president for the Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs Division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It’s not hard to figure out where Kovacs stands (see “U.S. Chamber of Commerce “” or Echo Chamber of Horrors?” and “here”). My bloviation is below:

Kovacs is as schizophrenic as the Chamber of Commerce.

The vast majority of the major businesses on the Chamber’s board who have a publicly stated their position on climate legislation support strong action. As a result, Kovacs, SVP for the Chamber, has to pretend “the U.S. Chamber supports strong climate and energy legislation,” as he writes, but his comments demonstrate how empty those words are.

Kovacs actually has the chutzpah to begin by quoting EDF’s Fred Krupp saying “It’s the best we can do,” as evidence the bill could be better. Anyone who knows EDF and Krupp, however, understands that they would like a much stronger bill, whereas Kovacs idea of a “better” bill is one that has no substance to it.

He says we must have “effective and reliable alternative energy sources” to replace fossil fuels. And even though we clearly do — the Bush administration itself said that we could generate 20% of all US electricity by 2030 with windpower alone with no new technology for pennies a day — Kovacs opposes even the modest renewable energy standard in the bill.

And he wants nuclear power to be defined as renewable, even though it clearly isn’t. Indeed, the United States imports the vast majority of the non-renewable uranium fuel we use already.

He repeats the tired refrain of the climate science deniers that the consequences of increased greenhouse gases are “still the subject of a vigorous debate.” Yes, if you talk to leading climate scientists, which I doubt Kovacs has, the vigorous debate is whether failing to restrict greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a variety of catastrophic impacts, including rapid sea level rise and widespread desertification, or whether it will lead to devastation so great civilization as we know it collapses. Doing nothing is the one way to eliminate the scientific debate about future impacts.

Kovacs quotes the Washington Post, “it is far too soon to settle for something that falls so far short of ideal.” But the Post wants a tougher target for 2020 and fewer allowances given to industry — the exact opposite of what Kovacs proposes.

Then he quotes Ceres-BICEP as asserting this is a “bad” bill but deserves to be passed anyway. Again, Ceres-BICEP wants a far stronger bill, not a weaker one like Kovacs.

Shouldn’t there be a rule on Arena against out of context quotes from people who in fact utterly disagree with you?