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California’s Lesson for A Low-Carbon Future

Mindy Lubber, World Changing
Residents of California, land of freeways and belching tailpipes, drive fewer miles per capita than the rest of the country. How’s that for turning a stereotype on its head?

It’s true – and underscores a poignant lesson as the world drags its feet in addressing man-made global warming: While tackling climate change is good for the environment, it may be even better for the economy.

The statistic is one of dozens of jaw-dropping nuggets in the inaugural “California Green Innovation Index,” an initiative by the non-profit, non-partisan Next 10 group that is designed to track key indicators as California moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.

Consider this: Despite the state’s reputation for high electricity costs, Californians, per capita, pay lower utility bills – less than half of residents in Texas, for example. Tougher building and appliance standards saved the state $56 billion by 2003 and are expected to save another $23 billion in the next five years. Energy efficiency allowed the state to avoid building 24 power plants in the last 30 years.

With all the green talk today, the report gives something scientists and policy makers clamor for: Long term data. The Golden State began its energy efficient and green innovation efforts in the 1970s, far earlier than anywhere else in the country. That has allowed a rare glimpse into a reduced carbon future, and is sealing California’s reputation as a leader in innovation.
(19 November 2007)

Energize America – starting work on a new version

Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
This diary is meant as a brief announcement, and a call for volunteers.

We’d like to work on a new, improved version of Energize America, to reflect the changes in recent months: higher oil prices, increased awareness of climate change as a fundamental issue and increased political momentum to do something about both carbon emission and energy dependence. A new version could take into account that changing background via a thorough discussion of the objectives it must set, and this would be an opportunity to hopefully close some gaps and remedy some of the weaknesses of the plan as it stands.

We are also highly likely to have serious announcements to make in the very near future regarding the existence of Energize America as an organization able to work in the public sphere, and in coming weeks regarding those acts that have been in the works in Congress.

The goal is to keep using the same model as in the previous iterations, ie public discussion on dKos threads, followed by editorial work by a smaller team, validated again by presentation to the wider community. This would apply to general principles, to specific issues and/or to presentational issues and political strategy in respect of the plan. …

If you are not familiar with Energize America, the netroots-created energy policy plan, please go read Energize America – two years on for some background.
(17 November 2007)
Energy policy from a liberal Democratic point of view. Others from across the political spectrum are welcome to borrow ideas.

The latest from Jerome: Energize America vetted by New Progressive Coalition -BA

OPEC Considers Move Off U.S. Dollar Peg, Will Russia Be First?

Andrew K. Burger, Resource Investor
Though no mention was made of it in its final communiqué, OPEC member finance ministers will be considering the possibility of moving the organization’s crude oil trade, which accounts for around 40% of global supply, off the U.S. dollar peg following a proposal put forth by the Iranian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorian delegates at the OPEC 3 Summit in Riyadh to base it on a stronger currency.

The financial merits of such a move are clear with the dollar continuing its descent: the declining dollar makes oil prices rise faster than they would if this were not the case. Moreover, OPEC’s dollar-based revenues and accumulated surplus income is declining along with the value of the U.S. currency.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal noted at the OPEC 3 Summit that non-OPEC oil exporters would have to participate in the establishment of any oil trade currency basket as they account for the majority of world crude oil supply.

He also voiced concern over the potential that word leaking out that OPEC would consider such a move would further exacerbate the US dollar’s decline.
(19 November 2007)

US Excess Vs. Nature’s Limits

Cynthia TuckerOR, The Baltimore Sun
… When President Jimmy Carter was faced with an embargo by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, he responded by ordering conservation. Americans complied, but only grudgingly. And we despised him for insisting that we make do with less.

That’s why no president has dared suggest since then that Americans make sacrifices, that we learn to live with limits. We want to drive Hummers to work and plant rice in the desert. Somehow, the American Dream has become identified with excess: bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger bathrooms.

Meanwhile, fast-developing countries, especially India and China, admire our consumption patterns and copy our habits. They, too, want automobiles, air-conditioning, golf courses and shopping malls. Americans are hardly in a position to lecture them about conservation when we’ve set such a poor example.

So when the oil-rich sheikhs of the desert kingdom of Dubai build the world’s biggest indoor ski resort, who are we to criticize? The sorry truth is that Americans are actually paying for that ski resort, and all the other fabulous excesses of Dubai, through our addiction to oil.

If there is any good news, it is this: We’re becoming aware of the cost of our petroleum profligacy.
(19 November 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

The Road to Energy Conservation

Allen E. Smith, Boston Globe
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change documented that we are changing our climate and life on Earth as we know it. In arresting climate change and solving related energy issues, we should follow the physicians’ oath – first, do no harm – and avoid alternatives with equal or greater impacts than our present energy supply.

Consider the example of ethanol. Production requires large amounts of petroleum, farmland, corn, and water, yet it has questionable alternative energy value, has its own emissions and siting problems, directly competes with food supply, and its transport requires special vehicles instead of pipelines. Market-driven production capacity has raced ahead of available delivery infrastructure. This has caused the price of ethanol to crash from overproduction, while at the same time increased demand for corn to produce ethanol has raised corn prices and reduced the availability of corn for food, raising food prices.Our preoccupation with letting the free market determine our national energy policy is wasteful folly and not in the public interest. Our margin of error to make catastrophic energy policy mistakes with impunity is shrinking as fast as the window to tackle climate change is closing. Reliance on markets alone cannot solve this and doing so will bankrupt our future. We need sustainable national energy policy legislated now. Energy conservation should be first.

The most abundant low-hanging fruit of energy conservation is rotting on the vine because we are mired in political gridlock over improving fuel efficiency in vehicles.

…The goal of Congress to pass meaningful energy legislation by Christmas is paralyzed by lawmakers’ inability to reconcile different House and Senate bills, even as President Bush threatens to veto any bill including a repeal of oil industry tax incentives – a perfect storm of failure. This gridlock must be replaced with political leadership that will enact sustainable energy policies putting conservation first while longer-term solutions such as renewable alternatives, solar, wind, carbon sequestration, and other efficiencies are realized. The technology exists to double national fuel efficiency. Congress should do that now as a first step and enact policies that encourage making environmentally sustainable long-term energy supplies profitably available. Then let markets deliver the results. Right now, we have it backward.

We can passively wait like deer frozen in the headlights until we get hit with $200 per barrel oil prices, or we can act. Every congressional and presidential candidate should be held accountable to break the deadlock. If we fail to act, future generations will inherit an impoverished Earth and rightfully never forgive us.

The clock is ticking. It’s time to drill Detroit.

Allen E. Smith is a freelance environmental writer and previously served as Alaska regional director of The Wilderness Society.
(19 November 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.