Building a world of
resilient communities.



I'm going to go and eat some worms

Excerpts only. For the complete text, see the original article at Global Public Media.

For the last month, the words “China” and “India” have floated over and through the House and Senate hearings on energy and climate change.

Why should the United States, members asked, take any action on climate change when China and India weren’t doing anything about their CO2 emissions? With China and India growing so fast, their increasing CO2 emissions would overwhelm whatever cuts the United States was able to make.

Why should we put our industries at an unfavorable disadvantage with their foreign competitors by making them pay more for reducing their CO2 emissions?

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality finally took the China/India issue straight on. (Note that nine times out of ten, subcommittee members only mention China; but India is also a major potential problem.) The hearing was unusually far-ranging, touching on the economy, jobs, international law, the history of Chinese negotiating on international treaties, forest fire policies, tearing down dams, and the unavoidable question of whether a country with very high per capita CO2 emmissions can “wear the white hat” in talks with China and India, where per capita CO2 emissions are so low. There was a blizzard of statistics (see below).

On the one side were the Republicans. In their view of the world, dealing with climate change will cause us to incur terrible expenses for the sake of what Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) referred to as “some amorphous benefit some time in the future.”

...The Democrats at today’s hearings expressed some of the same cautions about China and India that the Republicans were raising, but were open to discussing whether there might be merits in the U.S. taking leadership, regardless of what China and India were pledged to do.

Most of the panelists supported some form of cap-and-trade system for creating a market in carbon and setting a price on carbon emissions. And while the Republicans frequently referred to themselves as supporters of free markets, in their questions to the witnesses, they were remarkably wary, even fearful, of what would happen if the U.S. put a cap-and-trade system to work.

...Annie Petsonk, International Counsel for Environmental Defense, acknowledged the difficulty of designing legal frameworks that sovereign nations will want to obey. But she insisted that the Congress “has the tools to engage them [developing countries] or to level the playing field if they don’t engage. We do not have a tool that will make them do what we do. But I can guarantee you that if we don’t take the first step, they will not.”[Emphasis added]

...Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), chair of the subcommittee, said that one way to deal with whether China and India were going to cooperate would be to set up “something in the nature of an off-ramp.” The U.S. would announce its targets and begin reducing emissions. But at some point, “if we do not have buy-in from the developing countries, with mandatory programs, then our program would not take effect.”

The witnesses were horrified by Boucher’s suggestion, pointing out that the existence of an off-ramp would create even more uncertainty in the minds of business executives trying to make long-range energy investment decisions.

Petsonk compared the off-ramp to the childhood lament, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m going to go and eat some worms.” In her view, American industry would be doing some unnecessary worm-eating because of the “enormous uncertainty” in the marketplace. Morgan Stanley’s Holzschuh noted that the private sector needs to start committing trillions (not billions, trillions) of dollars now. The lack of rules, or the possibility that the rules might change midstream was bad: “the off-ramp is particularly troubling.

Editorial Notes: Richard Bell is Washington correspondent for Global Public Media. For more, see his blog and his stories at GPM. According to Bell, publications have permission to re-publish these GPM pieces provided that they credit Global Public Media and include the URL, . Reporters and editors may contact Bell at richardbell AT postcarbon PERIOD org . -BA

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Find out more about Community Resilience. See our COMMUNITIES page
Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.


This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.

We Are Seneca Lake: Josh Fox & Fracking Opponents Fight Natural Gas Storage Site in Upstate NY

With over 250 arrests and counting, We Are Seneca Lake is becoming one of …

Resilience Roundup - May 22

 Shell’s Arctic voyage marks beginning of peak oil era...

Albert Einstein, Soil, Honey Bees and Biodiversity

Among the manifold quotes that are attributed to Albert Einstein, are …

California State of Emergency: Up To 105,000 Gallons of Oil Spill in Santa Barbara from Plains All American Pipeline

Up to 105,000 gallons of oil obtained via offshore drilling have spilled …

Hijacking the Anthropocene

How the anti-green ‘Breakthrough Institute’ misrepresents …

Claim the Sky!

By asserting that all of us collectively own the sky, we can begin to use …

Seattle activists throw ‘unwelcome party’ for Arctic-bound Shell oil rig

With the Polar Pioneer’s 400 by 300-foot dimensions, the fight over …