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Is CAFE kaput?

Amanda Griscom Little, Grist magazine
What Else Is on the Menu?
With a CAFE boost looking out of reach, enviros check out other options
Since 1975, CAFE — or corporate average fuel economy — standards have stood as America’s defining energy-efficiency strategy. Yet, despite much wailing and gnashing of teeth by activists and a handful of politicians, the standards for passenger cars haven’t been raised since 1985 — they still call for automakers’ car fleets to get an average of just 27.5 miles per gallon. And light trucks get off even easier; for the 2007 model year, they need only get an average of 22.2 mpg.

The Bush administration this summer unveiled plans for a complicated new system to regulate auto fuel economy, but it’s been derided by enviros as laughably unambitious.

This fall, in response to Hurricane Katrina, CAFE got an unexpected bipartisan boost when 14 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the House, led by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), backed legislation that would up the standards to 33 mpg over the next 10 years. But the bill has little to no chance of passage under the current regime in Washington.
(1 December 2005)

Embrace the new energy economy

Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger, SF Chronicle
…the stalemate over addressing global warming speaks not to the failure of Blair or Bush but rather that of environmentalism and the politics of limits. Global warming did not have to be, a priori, an “environmental” issue. It was made so by environmentalists who understood global warming originally not so much as an impending global crisis that needed to be addressed by any means necessary but rather as a powerful new argument for restricting activities (e.g., driving cars and burning fossil fuels) that they already wanted to restrict. As such, the solutions to global warming were, from the very start, conceived of as limitations and restrictions — the approach that lies at the heart of the Kyoto protocol and virtually every other effort to address global warming.

There is a different way to think and act on global warming. Truly addressing the ecological crisis will, by all accounts, require a dramatic transformation of the global energy economy. In that transformation lies the possibility of enormous economic growth and the potential to lift living standards around the world. Economists have known for decades that investments in innovative new energy sources, from solar to biomass and biodiesel to wind, as well as energy efficiency, have a multiplier effect on the economy.

…Blair’s environmentalist critics are right that Bush’s Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate was cynically conceived to undermine Kyoto and Blair. But their myopic insistence that Kyoto — and the ethos of limits — must be at the center of the debate has been counterproductive.

…To be sure, Kyoto will remain an important framework for gradually ratcheting down emissions, but if we are to give countries a reason to care about and invest in the new energy economy, the old politics of limits must take a backseat to a new politics of possibility.

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are managing partners of American Environics ( and directors of the Breakthrough Institute ( Their book, “The Death of Environmentalism and the Birth of a New American Politics,” will be published by Houghton Mifflin in early 2007.
(30 November 2005)
The investment commitment advocated by Nordhaus and Shellenberger would be a limp gesture in the green-tech direction.-LJ

Also, David Roberts at Gristmill has a dim view of the proposal: Jeepers, Reapers. -BA

US, China should develop joint energy programs to avoid war: Sen. Lieberman

AFP via Yahoo!News
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States and China should have a joint energy research and development program, a senior US Senator said, warning that the two powers could go to war in their insatiable quest for depleting foreign energy supplies.

“We are heading towards two thirds by each country on dependence on foreign oil. Let’s recognize this problem before it becomes an intense competition which can actually lead to military conflict,” said Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic Senator from Connecticut.

“Let’s do it by each trying to diversify to clean fuels, alternative fuels, hybrids, electric plug ins,” he told reporters after speaking at a forum “China-US energy policies: A choice of cooperation or collision?.”
(30 November 2005)
Also see: How China can save the planet. (Also posted here.)

Vision of a changing China offers lessons for the world

Mike Berkowitz, SF Chronicle
…China trains 250,000 engineers a year, compared to 60,000 in the United States, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. China has been moving factories out of cities and tightening pollution controls, while the United States has been relaxing some standards. In the life sciences, China projects a 35 percent increase in scientists by 2008, while the United States is dropping 11 percent.

China is one of the few nations building both multibillion dollar electronics and heavy industrial plants. Because of this enormous growth, Goldman Sachs projects that by mid-century, China will overtake the United States to become the world’s largest economy.

There are still many problems, such as politics, pollution and public health. What will happen, for instance, if the country cannot sustain its economic growth? Still, there is much to be learned from China’s successes. As does China, we should be rebuilding our infrastructure, modernizing our cities and moving forward in technology and science with government aid rather than impediments. In the brief period since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, literacy in the under-40-year-old population has increased in China from 40 percent to 96 percent. This is the approach that must succeed the short-sightedness of both Rock Throwers and Romancers.
(30 November 2005)

Disposable chic: For retailers, fashion turnover gets ever faster, cheaper
Pia Sarkar, San Francisco Chronicle
For those out there who are having trouble keeping up with the latest fashion trends, it’s about to get a lot harder.

The current rage, “cheap chic,” has compressed the time it takes for fashion to travel from runway to store rack, with retailers turning around their merchandise faster than ever before.

…Lois Huff, senior vice president for Retail Forward, a market research firm in Columbus, Ohio, said that cheap chic represents the future of retail.

“Once you change consumer expectations, it’s hard to move back,” Huff said. “The idea of disposable as opposed to building a wardrobe is more popular now.”
(8 November 2005)