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February 20, 2008

NYC takes the Lead on GHG reduction

We typically view New York City as a lumbering giant metropolis that has to continually address problems that occur within it's infrastructure. Mayor Bloomberg has been instrumental in transforming the perceptions as of late with his forward thinking PLANYC2030 and his recent comments regarding a tax on Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emitters. He is insistent on having New York take the lead against Global Warming. With tremendous political backlash, Mayor Bloomberg is taking a stand and calling for a national carbon tax on those companies/industries that are contributing to global warming and crediting those who don't. If we’re going to remain the world’s economic superpower, we have to create predictable incentives that will drive technological innovations and allow us to lead the world in developing clean, reliable and affordable energy and a national carbon tax can lead us in that direction. In 1993, President Clinton persuaded the House to adopt a B.T.U. tax (a tax on the heat content of fuels), but the effort died in the Republican controlled Senate. Many American politicians have considered endorsing a carbon tax political suicide but Bloomberg has the cache to take the lead on it. Maybe with O'bama as our nations leader old school politics may be a thing of the past and change may indeed come about. Cities and states (Denver, Colorado also being a leader with its Green Print initiative) are starting to take action, but the fact is, no matter how far we push the boundaries of the possible, there will be no substitute for federal leadership. Leadership is not waiting for others to act, or bowing to special interests, or making policy by polling or political calculus. And it’s not hoping that technology will rescue us down the road or forcing our children to foot the bill. Leadership is about facing facts, making hard decisions and having the independence and courage to do the right thing, even when it’s not easy or popular.

Green energy is going to be the oil gusher of the 21st century, and if we’re going to remain the world’s economic superpower, we’ve got to be the pioneers. How do we do it? I think we need a strategy that embraces four basic principles;

First, we need to increase investment in energy. Right now we're spending just one-third of what we were in the 1970s. If we really want to be able to manufacture competitively priced biofuel and solar power, if we really want to sequester the carbon dioxide released from coal, we have to be willing to make the commitments that will drive private capital to these projects. Second, we have to stop setting tariffs and subsidies based on pork barrel politics. For instance, Congress is currently subsidizing corn-based ethanol at 50 cents a gallon — and you can argue that’s good agricultural policy, but you can’t argue that it’s good for consumers or the environment. Because it isn’t. Consumers pay more for food, and producing corn-based ethanol results in much more carbon dioxide than producing sugar-based ethanol. But are we subsidizing sugar-based ethanol? No! We’re putting a 50-cent tariff on it. Ending that tariff makes all the sense in the world, but for the politics. Everyone knows that politically driven policies are costing taxpayers billions while providing only marginal carbon reductions — but we need leaders who will do something about it! Third, we have to get serious about energy efficiency — and the best place to start is with our cars and trucks. In 1975, Congress passed a law requiring fuel efficiency standards to double over 10 years, from 12 miles a gallon to 24, with incremental targets that auto manufacturers were required to meet. But since 1985, congress has been paralyzed by special interests. If the same incremental gains had been adopted for the last two decades, think of where we would be now! We’d all be saving money at the pump, we’d be producing less air pollution and greenhouse gas, would be in a stronger competitive position and the “Big Three” may not have lost so many more jobs. The current Senate energy bill would raise standards from 27.5 to 35 miles per hour by 2020. That’s nowhere near the leap we made from 1975 to 1985, and many foreign cars are already getting 35 miles to the gallon. Even so, automakers are trying to water down the Senate bill. Raising fuel efficiency standards is the best thing we could do for automakers — and it would’ve been done years ago, but for the politics.Fourth and finally, we have to stop ignoring the laws of economics. As long as greenhouse gas pollution is free, it will be abundant. If we want to reduce it, there has to be a cost for producing it. The voluntary targets suggested by President Bush are akin to voluntary speed limits — doomed to fail. If we’re serious about putting the brakes on global warming, the question is not whether we should put a value on greenhouse gas pollution, but how we should do it.

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack