Category Archives: Political

Supreme Court: States vs EPA “Do your job, clean up your act.”

Today the supreme court heard a case brought by the States against the central government’s Environmental Protection Agency. The case brought by the states asserts that the EPA was legally obliged to lower carbon emissions and that by not doing so was violating it’s own mandated duty. The Bush administration supports the EPA in this case.

From the questions submitted by the nine Justices the case seems to break down about fifty-fifty in that it seems that half the justices were somewhat impressed by the case, while the other half (the conservative half lead by Scalia and Roberts) seemed to indicate that the States had no legal footing on which to appeal the case. Originally the case was brought to a lower court in Massachusetts which ultimately struck down the States’ assertions. A final decision by the Supreme court should be forthcoming in a few months.

Either way, this suit will not bode well for Global Warming. Taking legal action in
this way can only incite those who oppose forceful change, and in the end the looming increases in the cost for energy production and consumption will put those parties opposing these changes in a commanding position(at least here in the United States where there are a good many conservatives opposed to government interference.)
The case for global warming though significant, is by no means a certainty. No one
can look at the data and say for certain that the phenomenon of global warming is not a
due to a naturally occurring process. After all, we are in an interglacial period which implies that global temperatures will rise normally. Admittedly they have risen significantly over the past one hundred fifty years, which happens to coincide with the industrial revolution, but once again this coincidence does not a proof make!

To take the EPA to court in this way will likely cause more resistance than the case is worth! There is a danger here of solidifying the opposition, and being that the weather is anything but predictable,and rather, it is oscillatory in nature, we run the riskof falling prey to a temporary moderation in temperatures or a temporary return to colder trends. In other words if for any reason we should see a temporary trend towards colder temperatures in the near future(which is quite possible and even to be expected) those who are opposed to forceful legislation in favor of curbing Greenhouse emissions will resound with a thunderous “I told you so” that may well tip the political balance back to dirty carbon Emissions (especially if it’s a lot cheaper.) It is also worth noting that other nations like India and China may also be watching, and may in time seek to compromise internal political weaknesses so as to delay their own compliance to lowering emissions. Given present economic trends that may well be a real possibility in the future.

In the end I really believe that a slow campaign of gentle persuasion and self realization is more likely to produce better results than force. This changeover to low carbon emissions will require sacrifice, and sacrifice is more likely to come of one’s own volition than by forced servitude. Convincing people slowly, of the need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions is much more likely to lead to a successful long term reduction than to force people , or to have the courts sue people over these matters. This is not a good, or sustainable approach.

A look at Europe’s efforts will show that in the end the population’s own understanding of the problem, and a genuine concern for the potential disaster that might ensue from sustained high levels of carbon emissions has resulted in a concerted effort that has been for the most part sustained and fruitful with little friction and infighting. Making enemies will not have good results for the environmentalists. Education on the other hand will prove to be the deciding factor in this struggle. Getting people to care and to want to take action on their own should be the real objective. Though this strategy will take a little longer, in the end it is more likely to lead to a successful campaign on a national level.

The Dems Are Here Again

The Democrats now rule the congress and the Senate. At least for now. The Dems rode a wave of discontent to a majority in the congress, and a very slight advantage in the Senate. Now the real bickering will start. Unfortunately the victory, be it satisfying for the Dems, after being the minority party for the last twelve years, nevertheless does not amount to a general referendum on the principles of the softer party. I think the democrats likely know this(at least the wise ones do) and are seemingly eager to communicate and cooperate with those who lean somewhat to the right of the average Dem politician. I believe bitter experience at the poles has certainly been a great teacher of humility for the Democratic party over the past twelve years. Or rather I would hope so.

So what does this do for Global Warming? Well the real big issue on the table is alternative fuel. Yes I know that some in the democratic party who are especially active in environmental issues will want desperately to start a bonnified green revolution as quickly as possible, but the truth is that such a revolution is not really in the cards. We cannot afford a significant transformation to wind and solar power just yet, and hydrogen fuel technology is still two decades away from an efficient implementation. So what does that leave? OOPS, the dirty N-Word of alternative energy: Nuclear Power.

Unfortunately, be it the case that Nuclear power is quite ready for use, and would have an immediate impact on greenhouse emissions, the political problems surrounding its use are festering even before any serious discussion can begin, and political situations like those in Iran and Korea cannot make things any easier. The Democrats are not likely to embrace this rather nasty yet quite efficient alternative fuel, but will rather opt for the altruistic ideology of wind and solar power instead, even though there is little evidence that these systems can contribute anything significant to the general cause of reducing Greenhouse emissions just yet due to the paucity of power output that is actually available in these systems. To be sure some headway should definitely be made using these “green” alternatives, but implementation will be slow and will take decades, if not a century. Nuclear power can take decades itself, but it can significantly reduce emissions very quickly. So what is the outlook? I personally do not believe that Nuclear power will be used to solve our problems in the next two years, and I don’t believe that any other source of energy is quite ready to be used to replace oil. Even if the Dems should wish to comply with the Kyoto agreement, the President is not likely to sign on. In the end it doesn’t really look too good for Greenhouse gasses, but we cant rule out some small gains here and there. Certainly there is political pressure to reduce dependency on foreign oil and though the Republicans will resist this effort, the dems may still try to score some points in that direction.

The worst thing the Dems can do is to begin taxing the average person in some sort of gas tax maneuver. This will hurt them in the 2008 elections, and may well reverse the balance of power in two years again. The Democrats’ best bet is to go after the energy companies that can afford some cajoling in the right direction. Giving the oil companies some breaks on taxes may seem to be the stupidest thing ever suggested, but in fact it may have some positive effects. Too too often the democrats have failed to see the value of the stick, and the carrot. There are some efforts that may require some extra taxing. For the democrats, however, the tendency is to tax the wrong people, or the wrong institutions which all too often has resulted in direct popular backlashes, or adverse effects on the national and local economies. However giving corporations even rich corporations like the oil companies an alternative to taxing in the form of incentives to avoid the heaviest levies may induce these companies to apply some of their capital to moving away from oil. It is quite certain that the oil companies understand that oil is not going to last forever, and getting into the alternative market which itself may be extremely lucrative can be in the best interest of the big oil corporations after all. However, confronting all these corporations with nothing but taxes that will ultimately stagnate the economy may lead to unwanted results for the Democrats. Avoiding such pitfalls may well be the real objective of democratic leaders for the next two years. If they can avoid being the fall guy in the next two years, and if they manage some small gains in the right direction there is a good chance that the dems might well continue to advance in the year 2008, and this may lead to some significant results in the battle against global warming from 2009 onwards.

Swarzenegger Signs New Bill to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Arnold Swarzenegger signed a new bill in California which requires all power companies supplying energy to California to begin using cleaner sources. By cleaner sources we mean advanced coal burning fascilities that emit less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than do present generation power generators. He has also signed a deal with New York and a few other states which will allow for power companies to swap credits with one another, and so allow for a more tolerable financial transition to the cleaner energy power plants. The exact nature of this “swap” is not clear, but it seems to say that if one company should reach a certain level of accomplishment in this direction, then it will be able to sell off that “credit”, obtained from the participating state, to another company that did not reach it’s goals.

The ideas proposed by the Governor are not bad, nor should they be condemned as mere election day publicity stunts. The Governor seems interested in curbing carbon dioxide emissions and is serious about it. The new bill would call for some very significant reductions in Carbon Dioxide emissions in California by the year 2050, but there are certain loopholes designed to allow for the possibility of failure, or for the potential impracticality of such objectives. This too is necessary since there may arise situations which might make it difficult to meet the targets, as sometimes happens, and so there is no point in jumping off a cliff when one can simply take the winding road down to the beach. All in all the new bill is a beginning that could prove to be valuable.

Certainly it is important for the states to consider how they might be able to reduce emissions while possibly making a profit from it. There is no doubt that California’s technology sector has a hand in all of this, and why not. Business is part of the solution. The inovative new technologies will have to come from the private sector. The financial element of this equation should never be ignored. There is in fact very big money to be made from the transition to new fuels, and new technology for the old fuels. California, New York, and a few others have already realized this, and are on the offensive as well they should be. In the end it may prove to be a good move for the states that have moved in this direction.

The question of efficacy in combating global warming however, cannot be put forth in these attempts by the governors of New York and California. In reality these moves are far less than what is really required. A movement by the central government is absolute in determining the ultimate success or failure of such initiatives as far as the overall reduction of greenhouse emissions in the United States. In the final analysis without a massive effort by the central government little can really be done than to introduce the possibility of real changes to the American public bit by bit. Governor Swarzenegger has put greenhouse reduction on the political action map, but getting there is really far beyond his abilities. This capability can only belong to the president of the United States who has the wherewithal to actually move the nation towards that lofty goal. The ultimate reduction of such emissions will depend on how fast we find alternative fuels, and this is a humongous task that only the central government can fully address. But these beginnings by California and New York are a good first step, and there may be a lot to learn from them.

The real issue for California, and New York is how this will affect the various sectors of their population. Given the experimental nature of this legislation it gives those who would assume power in a few years the vista required to make practical decisions based on these opening moves by the two states. In other words this is a good time for people like Hillary Clinton and others thinking about the presidency in 2008 to look and learn. How California enacts this edict in practice could well be worth a world of speculation and good wishes. The little guy cannot and must not be hurt in all of this. Having the little guy in California pick up the tab for the new technology is not going to get the Governor re-elected. There are serious pitfalls here. The worst possible pitfall is to see the fuel bills of small businesses, and average citizens skyrocket to unsustanable levels. This would immidiately spell absolute disaster for any initiatives towards cleaner fuel burning technologies. A word to the wise, dont burden the electorate with financial woes they really dont need in the comming decades. I know that this can all be good for those companies involved in innovation of such fuel technologies, but it can be devastating to average people who might have to foot the bill. This financial burden must be considered and managed before we can seriously talk about greenhouse reductions. Do not lose sight of the fact that some are still not convinced that the apparent warming we see now is actually due to fuel emissions. There is still some room for doubt. Making the little guy pay twenty percent more in fuel bills will not do anything at all to make the eventual transition to lower greenhouse emissions a smooth one. California only recently was faced with devastating crises concerning the viability of her power industry. Hopefully this new bill will not bring these power companies back to the brink again. It is good that the Governor of California has some tie to Tony Blair of England. We would do well to study and learn from the English to see how they managed to reduce emissions and still maintain a steady growth rate for their economy. Certainly the English have proven that they can do it, and that is important. How succesful their program really was however, should be judged more carefully upon closer examination. It is important for us to understand that England used much less fuel than we do for decades now. So I assume it would be easier for her anyway.

In the end what Governor Swarzenegger began is a good idea, taking practical steps to reduce fossil fuel emissions in California is a welcomed first step; but we must proceed with caution. This new political movement can have good effects, thereby helping to point the way to ultimate reductions of greenhouse gasses in the United States, but it can also have very unpleasant consequences, if in reducing emissions the bill also burdens the average citizen of California with unmanageable fuel bills. A possiblity that might make it much harder to ever bring greenhouse emissions down to accepatable levels in the event that popular political resistance to these practical solutions should begin to increase due to adverse economic effects.