Thursday, November 12, 2009

Climate Bill Update Update

Just another timely reminder of the link between the climate bill making its way through Congress and the potential for a meaningful agreement on climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies at Copenhagen next month:

It seems to me we have a chicken and egg dilemma here. The international community (especially developing countries) are weary of supporting a treaty at Copenhagen before the U.S. has proven its sincerity by passing a similar, but most importantly, legally binding, law at home. At the same time, the U.S. Congress doesn't want to be seen as bowing to international pressure by shaping our climate bill to match international requirements set at Copenhagen. What to do, what to do...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Climate Bill Update

It seems like just yesterday our intrepid energy bill passed the House 219-212 as Waxman-Markey, or H.R. 2454. Today, a similar bill recently skidded through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as S. 1733, without stopping for debate or even to greet the Republican members of the committee. While a strategic move by Chairwoman Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), this will no doubt leave a bad taste in the mouths of many Republicans when the bill finally screeches to a halt on the Senate floor for a full debate.

Now, ominously, Senator Lugar (R-IN) has emerged from a high profile meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) saying "I don't see any climate bill on the table right now that I can support," which is really bad news for Democrats, because Sen. Lugar is one of a handful of Republicans who the Democrats were hoping would support the bill, as well as an influential member of his own party.

I was curious to know why he might oppose the bill, and after reading a recent speech of his I have a theory. Out of concern for potential crop shortages in developing countries (and likely also his home constituency) as a result of climate change, he is a proponent of genetically modified (GM) crops for increased productivity, which does not play a part in S.1733. (As some areas become more arid due to climate change, one negative effect could be decreased crop productivity. GM crops are one adaptation option to keep food supply steady for a growing population.) So perhaps it's the lack of this potentially beneficial climate change adaptation technique in the bill that's keeping his support at bay. However, the Obama administration does not seem to be opposed to GM crops, keeping many former Bush policies on that matter in tact. So why would GM not find its way into S.1733 as a compromise?

One word: Copenhagen. Sen. Lugar even mentions it in his speech that the European Union is vehemently opposed to promoting GM crops, and the US wants to make a good impression when the UNFCCC convenes in December in Copenhagen to hash out a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.

Well, that's probably part of the story, and just my theory. Why do you think Sen. Lugar is withholding support of S.1733? And with Copenhagen literally weeks away, the US doesn't have a hope of having a climate bill passed by then. Is it best for Obama to enter the UNFCCC arena with what we have now or do we need something more?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Obama loves the Aptera: an update

Alleged Aptera final design pics, Autoblog Green (click to expand)

A few weeks ago, TPG posted about how the Aptera e2 is our favorite electric car. We feel that the Aptera's electric drive, funky look, high mileage (250 mpg-equivalent), and low cost make it a car that will pick up eco-minded chicks. However, we mentioned that because the Aptera has 3 wheels, not 4, it was ineligible for grants from the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program at DOE.

Well, no longer. Last week President Obama signed into law a bill expanding the ATVM program to cover "any manufacturer of enclosed two- or three-wheeled vehicles that carry at least two people and get 75 miles per gallon ". The bill was originally sponsored by Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who hail from Aptera's neck of the woods. A little lobbying goes a long way!

Although the loans won't help Aptera meet their goal of selling cars this year (the loan probably won't be approved for 6 months), it will help them quickly ramp up production and get Apteras to all TPG readers!