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Friday, February 8, 2013

WILL OBAMA TAKE ON GLOBAL WARMING?

President Barack Barack Obama always seems to have a full plate.  Gun control, immigration, national debt, defense cuts, reduction of entitlements, Israel versus Iran, North Korea, China...  Will he take on global warming, which could some day perhaps become an even larger legacy than Obamacare?

Tam Hunt of Noozhawk, had an excellent article in the latest issue of Renewable Energy World.  He complimented Obama during his difficult first term:

  • Succeeded in new fuel economy CAFE standards for cars and light trucks to attain 54 miles per gallon by 2025, which will reduce our domestic oil consumption by four billion barrels from 2017 to 2025.
  • Maintaining tax credits and loan guarantees for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Proposed new rules for the Environmental Protection Agency regulating greenhouse gases from new power plants.
So in Obama's second term, Hunt suggests:
  • Reconsider opposition to a national carbon tax
  • Phase in regulation of greenhouse gases from existing power plants
  • Enact a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)
  • Require states to implement existing law (PURPA) that allows private developers to sell renewable energy to utilities at cost-effective rates
  • Require all federal agencies to reach 50% electric vehicles in their fleet by 2020, if this can be done cost-effectively 

Tom Friedman had a particularly apt analogy, courtesy of John Holdren, that we were heading for an environmental cliff, this one through a fog of misinformation.  Worried about a national debt?  What about the carbon debt?  For those who forgot the facts, two centuries ago, Planet Earth enjoyed an atmosphere of 280 parts per million.  We are now upon 400  PPM, with 450 PPM the potential tipping point for OUT-OF-CONTROL ACCELERATION.  

Like me, he warns about methane, which, in case you forgot, is 25 times more deadly than carbon dioxide.  He limits his analysis to the tundra.  My imagination moves on to marine methane hydrates at the ocean bottom, where there is more, and maybe twice as much energy, than from all the known coal, oil and natural gas on land.  Read THE VENUS SYNDROME.

Friedman and I differ, though, on the seriousness of the national debt.  He is troubled that the debt to GDP ratio in six years has doubled from 36% to 73%.  But note:

  Japan          208%
  Italy            121%
  Singapore    118%
  UK               89%
  France          87%
  Canada         84%
  Germany      82%

But no matter, for he points out that while liberals indicate there is no urgency on this ratio because interest rates are low, similarly, conservatives say global warming is a non issue because the temperature rise has been small.  Friedman's solution:

A carbon tax would reinforce and make both strategies easier. According to a September 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, a small carbon tax of $20 per ton — escalating by 5.6 percent annually — could cut the projected 10-year deficit by roughly 50 percent (from $2.3 trillion down to $1.1 trillion).

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