Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dr. Hansen Warns Congress: Climate Chaos Ahead! Tax Carbon to Spur Clean Energy Revolution

Yesterday, I cycled over to the Longworth House Office building to meet my former EPA colleague, Julie Simpson, who's on a fellowship to Rep. Moran's office focusing on environmental issues. Together, we heard NASA's lead climate scientist Dr. James Hansen deliver fearsome news: our burning of fossil fuel is pushing Earth's climate into instablilty. As I reported at the Carbon Tax Center site, Dr. Hansen strongly advocated a gradually-increasing revenue-neutral carbon tax to spur a clean technology revolution. He recommends that all carbon tax revenue be directly distributed in equal "dividends" to individuals.

After the hearing, Julie and I headed downstairs for lunch, and were thrilled to find ourselves in line with Dr. Hansen and his sister. After asking, we joined them for lunch. Quite an honor to "break bread" with the world's leading climate scientist who's repeatedly stood up to those seeking to ignore or silence him. I asked Dr. Hansen's opinion of "clean coal," sharing my concerns about the vast additional coal energy needed to separate CO2 from hot flue gas and sequester it deep in the ground. Dr. Hansen is a quiet, calm professorial type, but his answer was forceful and unequivocal: "There is no such thing as clean coal, and there never will be."

Hansen will lead a peaceful protest this Monday at the U.S. Capitol power plant to call on Congress to phase out coal power, a leading cause of global warming. See Capitol Climate Action for his short video calling for action.

Staff on Capitol Hill are working long hours on a whole range of emergencies, including climate legislation. Many members of Congress are finally taking the climate threat seriously. But many still deny or minimize the crisis, and many others still seem to think "cap-and-trade" with its alluring name and hiding of the price, will magically do the trick.

Much more work ahead.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Climate for Change in Washington, DC (or "Elasticity of Thermal Underwear")

Grey, chilly February morning. Sparrows, crows at my feeder -- pushing, squawking, scolding for perches above the grain trough. Competition eclipses nutrition. Or is it just sport? I recognize the game.

Slept well: cool air, warm blankets. Heat's off in my DC row house-- buffeted by a foot of attic insulation, neighbors, thick walls. Thermal underwear tops my list of global warming reduction technologies. Pays for itself daily. Feeling bouyed, reflective after two days of meetings between carbon tax coalition and Capitol Hill staff.

Our coalition is growing, bonding: Carbon Tax Center, Climate Crisis Coalition, Friends of the Earth, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Get America Working, Climate Policy Center. Dedicated, passionate local activists from adjacent Maryland and Virginia districts.

"Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax" seems less quixotic now. Smart, urbane Hill staff ask incisive questions about pricing carbon emisssions, adjusting rates to meet scientific standards. We, carbon tax advocates are no longer the "lepers" of the environmental movement. Questions are about "how", not "why" to price CO2 emissions. About rates, revenue-recycling, payroll tax reductions, price elasticity, expectations, energy efficiency and technology substitution. We're way behind, the hour is very late, but the "denier in chief" has left town. Not a second too soon.

Debated "tax vs. cap" on Progressive Democrats of America's climate activists' conference call last evening. About 50 participants. Thoughtful questions. The word is getting out: Cap-and-trade is a hidden, volatile, regressive tax to fund favorite projects including the thermodynamically questionable "carbon capture and sequestration" a.k.a., "clean coal."

A carbon tax can be simple, quickly-implemented and fair. Most importantly, transparent prices are effective. Can't say who "won" the debate. My rival, NRDC's Dan Lashof is no lightweight. Listeners' questions made me think we're toe to toe with what was presumptive winner. Complex stuff. Someone asked how cap-and-trade can be internationalized. My answer: It's a nightmare. And India and China won't do it. Carbon tax is straightforward -- we tax other countries' goods on import. If they enact their own carbon taxes, they keep the revenue. India and China might do that.

Long list of follow-up items. Call my sweetie. Take clothes off the line. Pay the electric bill. Global warming, Congress, prices, clothespins. Advocate exponentially, act arithmetically?