The Weekly Carboholic: Gore launches massive global heating media campaign

Posted on April 2, 2008

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carboholic

We logoThe Washington Post reports that Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection are launching one of the most expensive advocacy programs ever. The We campaign will run over the next three years and cost $300 million, of which about half has already been raised. The goal of the campaign is to change ingrained habits and behaviors directly if possible, but primarily through legislation.

“This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public’s sense of urgency in addressing this crisis,” Gore said. “I’ve tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it.”

League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski, whose group is supporting the effort, said he’s optimistic the “We” campaign will succeed in a way that traditional environmental groups have not. “It heightens both the urgency and the sense we can get the job done with the broad middle that will make the difference,” Karpinski said, “while having the resources to communicate in a sophisticated way, in a more expansive fashion than the community has done before.”

According to the press release:

The We campaign’s first television ad, titled “Anthem,” highlights the historic nature of the challenge and the need for a society-wide commitment to finding comprehensive solutions. The ad draws a dramatic parallel between the collective spirit of American leadership that helped us win the Second World War, overcome segregation and put a man on the moon to the spirit needed today to solve the climate crisis. The ad will run nationally on network and cable channels, including placements on shows such as American Idol, House and Law & Order.

Naturally, however, there are a number of organizations that are already spending money to blunt the impact of this campaign, ranging from the coal-industry astroturf non-profit Americans for Balanced Energy Choices to the conservative/libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Myron Ebell, who directs energy and global warming policy for CEI, said the fact that Gore feels compelled to run such an elaborate ad campaign highlights the extent to which his conservation message has failed to resonate with the American public. “He’s spending a hundred million dollars to convince the American people to make sacrifices that he and his elite friends are not willing to make,”

Ad hominim attacks on Al Gore. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, you know you’re arguments are weak when….

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The state of California has an economy that, if it were a nation, would be in the top ten largest economies in the world. So what happens in California tends to impact what happens in the rest of the U.S. This is why, when California applied for an EPA waiver that it needed to limit carbon emissions from motor vehicles, car manufacturers fought it tooth and claw (and that’s why the Congressional investigation and lawsuits now facing the EPA over the waiver denial are going to be hard fought). Because of California’s national influence, when the state requires it’s electricity providers and motor vehicles to become greener, it changes things nationwide. And there have been a number of stories recently about how California is doing exactly that.

First, the Contra-Costa Times reports that there is renewed interest in building more nuclear power plants in the state as a means to reducing the state’s carbon emissions, but that there are a number of impediments to doing so. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to change the state laws that prevent the construction of new reactors, and while the story quotes Emily Christensen, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), as saying “We aren’t even looking at the possibility of building any more nuclear power plants. We have no plans to do so,” there are other interests in California outside the incumbent utilities who are interested in going nuclear – such as the Fresno Energy Group, a group devoted to building a nuclear power plant for the city of Fresno and then selling the surplus to PG&E or other cities nearby.

Southern California Edison (SCE) is required by California law to produce 20% of its electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 2010. According to The New York Times, SCE is going to be installing 250 megawatts on large industrial and commercial rooftops over the next five years and hopes to have enough capacity installed by August of this year to take some of the strain off existing power plants during the summer usage peak. The Times reports that SCE will own the solar cells and lease the rooftops from the building’s owners. Leasing arrangements have been proposed as a way to improve the economics of solar power, since they don’t require the building’s owner to front the high costs of solar. Given that commercial and industrial rooftops alone would provide tens of thousands of megawatts of power while still limiting the expense of new transmission line construction, this is excellent news both for California and for the solar power industry.

There was some mixed news on the subject of zero-emissions and low-emissions vehicles last week. The LA Times reported that the state Air Resources Board voted to reduce the number of zero-emissions vehicles required from automakers over the next few years. The state had previously required sales of 25,000 zero-emission vehicles from 2012 to 2014, and that was dropped to 7,500. However, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports, the Board also voted to require sales of 58,000 low-emissions vehicles over the same period. It’s not clear to me that the hybrid vehicle requirement will actually mean anything, though, given that there was over 67,000 hybrids sold in California alone in 2006.

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Popular Mechanics reports that Global Research Technologies has developed a material that absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2)as air passes through it. It is capable of passively pulling CO2 out of the air directly, but once material is saturate, the CO2 has to be removed from the material, a process that requires energy. It’s this energy requirement that makes this invention more of a curiosity than a practical atmospheric CO2 scrubbing method, but with wide scale solar power or a catalytic method to extract the CO2, it could become more economically and environmentally feasible – especially if, as the article suggests, conversion of CO2 into easily buried solid carbonate minerals becomes a viable sequestration method.

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In an interesting turn of events, a story at Canada.com reports that carbon tariffs on goods from nations that don’t have carbon emission limits could reverse offshoring, the process by which manufacturing is sent overseas. Essentially, if the U.S. applies a carbon tariff to goods from China and developing nations, that tariff will increase inflation and slow the economic growth of developing nations, but much of the inflationary hit could be reduced by pulling manufacturing back home, or at least in to countries that have similar carbon taxes or cap & trade systems.

“Throw $40-$50 US per tonne carbon costs into an environment of triple-digit oil prices and you suddenly redefine the meaning of competitiveness,” [Jeff Rubin, chief economist at CIBC World Markets] wrote. “In a whole swath of manufacturing industries, ranging from chemicals to primary metals, energy costs and their carbon trail, not labour costs, will soon become key.”

Ultimately, a carbon tariff could reverse current trade and offshoring patterns, Rubin said.

For people concerned about the economic and manufacturing health of the U.S., this report (available here) supports the proposition that reducing carbon emissions can also be good for jobs and the economy if done properly. The main concern, however, is to ensure that it doesn’t automatically relegate developing nations to being “developing” perpetually.

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