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United States & Canada - June 2

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Copenhagen: Slipping Past A Tipping Point

Bill Henderson, Counter Currents
The opportunity to build a global treaty at Copenhagen in December to mitigate climate change is slipping away as the US once again refuses to recognize the seriousness of this humanity threatening problem and refuses to lead in taking necessary mitigation steps in reducing their own emissions.

... The Obama Admin unlike the previous Admin is in favour of climate change mitigation but comes to office pre-occupied with the economic meltdown and with a heavy legislative agenda after eight years of government not in the interest of the average American. The Obama Admin supports Waxman-Markey as part of needed action on climate change but their messaging signals that climate change mitigation is not life and death but secondary to the economy and even healthcare and other social legislation.

The Democrats control Congress but legacy industry lobbys still control Congressman, and even Democrat support of Waxman-Markey had to be won by watering down both the cap target to around 17% by 2020 (which in effect won't be achieved by 2036) and by allocating a large percentage of permits free and allowing questionable offsets.

The present ( now distinctly B- bill) still faces a long, easily subverted process before it could reach the White House and be signed into a functioning law and even then it will take years to apply, a process that even in good, stable, economic times is ripe for subversion.

Informed publics in China, Europe, everywhere are watching. Is the US serious about climate change? No, not really.

... Examples of needed action showing leadership would be:

- a Draconian schedule for an end to all coal production and use (without working carbon capture and sequestering).

-the Obama Admin could use the present economic malaise in the auto industry to lead in renouncing the car culture as god and economic engine; a plan to reorganize GM and Ford as factories for an electrified mass transit system replacing highways and cars and trucks - hybrid, electric, hydrogen as well as gas - which could point the world to a future different from just moving the industry from Detroit to China and India, to a future that wasn't the mirage of suburbs and malls sprawling across Asia and the rest of the developing world.

-the Obama Admin could signal that climate change (and the end of cheap energy and ecosystem degradation on a finite planet) requires a global Green New Deal where co-operation and innovation is needed immediately to establish '100 mile' economic zones where relocalization and cradle to cradle production could much better use and recycle now preciously scarce raw materials and where trade and competitive advantage exists only when all costs now not presently quantified are included. Not protectionism per se but the necessary secure floor of sustainable economic activity that would allow for a secure global economy for the 21st century.
(1 June 2009)
Bill Henderson is a long-time contributor to Energy Bulletin.



Free carbon emissions permits could create added costs

Anne C. Mulkern, Greenwire via New York Times
Those free passes that the House climate bill gives to major greenhouse gas-emitting industries might not be so free for consumers.

Lawmakers crafting the House Energy and Commerce Committee's climate legislation added the passes, or free emissions permits, as a means of easing the transition to a greener energy economy. Utility companies and other polluting sectors receive the permits and avoid buying allowances for some carbon dioxide emissions, protecting customers from sharp price increases.

But that does not mean other energy prices won't rise. While the allowances likely will cushion increases in electricity bills, economists said, the allowances, combined with a carbon cap, could drive energy cost increases elsewhere, possibly in the gasoline, diesel and heating oil sector.

... In the legislative version that passed the energy committee, lawmakers give away 85 percent of the emissions permits in the early years of the cap-and-trade program. The remaining 15 percent of permits will be auctioned.

The largest share of the free permits, 35 percent, goes to the electric utility industry in 2012 and 2013. More specifically, 30 percent is given to local companies that distribute power to residences and businesses. The sector's free permit portion shrinks every few years after. The allowances phase out completely between 2026 and 2030.

The next biggest share of free permits, 15 percent, goes to energy-intensive industries with international competition, including steel, paper and cement makers. Those free allowances start in 2014 and drop by about 2 percent per year, ending in 2025.

... Many economists criticize the allowance structure, saying the free permits block the price signal needed to make people use less energy.
(29 May 2009)
Reading this, I get a sick feeling about how cap-and-trade is going to work out, when administered by a government that receives generous campaign contributions from industry. Republican, Democrat, it doesn't seem to matter. -BA



Canada: petro-state or rich nation?

David Suzuki and Faisal Moola, The Citizen
Imagine a Canada with an abundance of nature and wildlife, clean air and water, healthy citizens, and a prosperous economy. Sounds close to what we have, doesn't it? But it may not be for long if we keep heading down the road we're on.

Author Andrew Nikiforuk has argued that Canada is becoming a petro-state. "Without long-term planning and policies, Canada and Alberta will fail to secure reliable energy supplies for Canadians, to develop alternative energy sources for the country, or to create valuable resource funds for the future," he writes in his best-selling book Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent. Because of the response of Alberta to Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Plan, Canada doesn't even have a national energy plan.

The reality is that our government is putting all its eggs in one basket, relying on the tar sands to fuel the economy. And although the government has at least come around to acknowledging that global warming is a problem, it hasn't acted as if it's a problem worthy of much attention. Its energy and environmental policies show that it is willing to let the economics of the fossil fuel industry trump concern for our common future.
(26 May 2009)



Oil Economy Driving Growth of Controversial Tar Sands

Chris Arsenault, Inter Press Service
VANCOUVER, Canada - A report from one of the world's top energy consultancies says oil production in Canada's tar sands could see a five-fold increase by 2035.
"The oil sands have moved from the fringe to the center of energy supply," notes the report "Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding a New Balance" released by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) on May 18.

Environmentalists and some aboriginal groups want the oil sands to stay on the fringes because extracting heavy oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions than convention crude.

... "Smart regulation can place a fair and reasonable price on the oil sands' greenhouse gas emissions, providing the right incentive to reduce them," said Michael Levi, an author of the CFR report.

Levi told IPS that lifecycle green house gas emmissions from the tar sands are 17 percent worse than conventional U.S. oil imports. Environmentalists dispute this claim, stating oil production from the tar sands is at least three times worse than conventional oil.
(1 June 2009)

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