Climate and Development

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the strangest things. I should be like Dagwood and go down to the kitchen to make myself a sandwich, but instead I fire up my computer and start Googling. It’s less fattening, I guess.

I awoke last night wondering whether, in the wake of the Federal Government takeover of GM and Chrysler, the Feds were favoring their new subsidiaries when it came to buying government cars. Instead of returning to my vivid dream of being stranded on a desert island with a bevy of Singapore Airlines stewardesses, I decided to look it up. I couldn’t find any conclusive evidence one way or another, but I did learn a few interesting things.

One provision of last year’s Recovery Act (aka the “stimulus package”) was the Energy-Efficient Federal Motor Vehicle Fleet Procurement program, mandating the purchase of thousands of fuel-efficient cars from American car companies. I know, I missed it too the first time I read through the 1,400 page law. According to Edward Niedermeyer, writing on a blog called “The Truth About Cars,” a Freedom of Information Act inquiry to the General Services Administration revealed that as of June 2009 a total of 17,205 cars were purchased under the plan, of which 7,924 came from Ford, 6,348 from GM, and 2,933 from Chrysler. So there’s no indication the Feds bought more from government-owned GM and Chrysler than their relative market shares and/or production volumes would suggest. [click to continue…]

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The Economist has just launched a new online debate on the proposition that “creating green jobs is a sensible aspiration for governments.” Van Jones, President Obama’s former special adviser on green jobs, argues in favor; Andrew P. Morriss, a Professor of Law and Business at the University of Illinois law school, presents the counter-argument. The real debate over green jobs programs is whether they really create new jobs or simply divert jobs from existing industries to new ones, and whether the social and economic benefits of creating these jobs outweigh the cost. Here is my contribution to the debate: [click to continue…]

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My friend Lumumba Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping made a splash at the recent Copenhagen Climate Conference, likening its final communiqué, which committed signatories (non-bindingly) to a 2.0-degree Celsius maximum rise in average global temperatures over preindustrial levels, to the Holocaust.   Lumumba, Sudan’s Ambassador to the United Nations and the spokesman for the G-77 group of developing countries, said that a two-degree rise in average global temperatures would mean a three-degree-plus rise for Africa and that nothing short of a maximum increase of 1.5 degrees and a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 could be accepted. He also called the U.S. commitment to try to increase spending on climate change mitigation to $100 billion annually by 2020 a “negotiating ploy” and said that $400 billion to $500 billion a year, starting now, was a more appropriate figure. [click to continue…]

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The science fiction canon is full of stories about a dystopian future in which computers and robots, motivated by their prime directive not to harm or allow to be harmed any person and disconcerted by humans’ propensity to drink , smoke, drive too fast, build nuclear weapons, fight wars, and eat trans fats, take over the world. These things never turn out well, and often the only solution is to send Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time to sort things out.

Yesterday’s announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acting under direction from President Obama, announced that it had classified carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases as hazardous substances, which gives it the power to regulate them without the need for enabling legislation. By most estimates 70% of our economy involves emission of CO2, although if you count breathing by human beings and other animals, the ruling could, theoretically, cover something close to 100% of all human activity. You need not be a global warming denier or believe that President Obama is a crypto-communist to find this troubling. [click to continue…]

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President Obama, hosting the G20 meetings that kick off today in Pittsburgh, has asked Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to deliver a presentation on his country’s elimination of fuel price subsidies, replacing them with needs-based grants to poor consumers. The U.S. estimates that if developing countries were to follow Indonesia’s example they could reduce fossil fuel emissions by 12%. The question is whether President Obama is willing to follow his own advice. [click to continue…]

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