Green Project

Seizing The Smart Grid Opportunity

New York City -- The stock market's sigh of relief yesterday following GM's bankruptcy -- vastly improved at the last minute by a deal with bondholders to permit a pre-packaged filing -- provides yet another indication that the economy may finally be on the mend. Green shoots have been increasingly evident in the technology world with the successful IPO of in the last week which experienced a pop reminiscent of the dot com boom, a $200 million round of financing for Facebook from a Russian mogul and the decision of Daimler Benz to take a 10% stake in Tesla, maker of the sleek, all-electric Tesla sports car.

Within the technology world, clean technology is now the third largest category of investment after life sciences and software, and according to some of the most savvy investors in Silicon Valley, the hottest category. It is the newest large sector and therefore, presumptively, the one with the greatest promise. The Obama Administration heeded this wisdom in including about $40 billion of money to modernize the grid in the ARRA bill as I and others have advocated. Improving the grid is not only vital to the deployment of renewables but also promises to reinvent the electricity industry itself. Given all the money flooding into smart grid investments and the grid generally, an interesting question at this juncture, therefore, is with the economy looking better, just how are utilities and technology companies in the clean energy sector faring?  The answer is mixed.
According to, which recently surveyed the sub-sector, utility shares are actually down 9.4% this year (in contrast to the broader market which is roughly even). Small and mid-cap firms have done better. But, it turns out that most of the government money slated for grid investments is still awaiting deployment. The reasons are varied but should not surprise anyone familiar with the pace of government and the regulated nature of the energy sector. Tesla, as one example, has been waiting for years to tap Department of Energy loan guarantees included in the 2007 Energy Act to build a cheaper, sedan version of its electric car. The DOE has yet to release any loans under the program due to back and forth between it and the Office of Management and Budget over rules. DOE Secretary Chu has made accelerating the availability of this money a key priority but even he has to wait for the wheels of government to turn.
The impact of the other key piece of the stimulus package, tax incentives, has yet to be felt on a large scale because rules and regs are still being developed and companies do not yet fully know how incentives relate to older rules on depreciation of assets. Smart grid projects, in particular a grant program at DOE for smart grid technology deployment, are at the center of the Administration's clean infrastructure policy. However, before most utilities are comfortable making large investments in the smart grid, they first need clarification on standards. The reason? Investing in the wrong standard can make an investment instantly obsolete.
Standards normally evolve gradually over a long time even in the computer world. To solve the standards issue, Secretaries Chu and Locke have begun a full court press to accelerate agreement among utilities, equipment makers and builders of software. At NDN, we have been making the case that smart grid standards should be as open as possible. Only by opening up the playing field to as many players as possible can we secure the maximum level of innovation. And innovation is what is needed to solve America and the world's energy and climate challenges.
Clean energy technologies clearly have the potential to be a huge engine of economic growth in coming years and decades. However, for clean technology to make good on that promise and justify the President's faith and commitments, we need to move at the speed of technology.
Two things can help America make good on the clean energy opportunity. First, standards that open up the grid to many players and allow people -- including producers of renewables and ancillary services -- to enter the market easily without having to wade through government red tape or regulation will go a long way to
accelerate innovation and the ensuing economic activity. In other words, set the standard and then let the parties innovate and compete. Open standards are particularly important in an industry as regulated and traditionally sleepy as that of electric power if we are to turn it into a field of innovation.
Second, it is time to re-examine the extraordinarily complex structure of electricity regulation itself.  Regulation should be as streamlined and efficient as is consistent with safety and security. Markets should be employed where practical to place everyone on an equal footing. The work of electricity reform begun in the 1990s remains unfinished.
These may seem like immense challenges. But ultimately, if we are to capture this economic opportunity, we need to create rules and systems to allow innovation to flourish. I am confident that America will.

NDN Backgrounder: The GM Bankruptcy and the Future of the Auto Industry

With General Motors filing for bankruptcy this morning, and the federal government taking a 60 percent stake in the company, NDN offers some recent thinking on the American automobile industry.

  • Fuel Economy in Context by Michael Moynihan, 5/19/2009 - Moynihan welcomes the Administration's steps on fuel economy, but points out that CAFE standards are imprecise tools that must be viewed as part of a larger series of complex policies.
  • Here in the Real World They're Shutting Detroit Down by Morely Winograd and Mike Hais, 4/30/2009 - NDN Fellow Winograd and Hais pont out that GM's problems come at a time when the inherent tension between the investor class and the country's manufacturing sector have never been greater.
  • Should We Try to Save the Damaged Brands? by Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/2009 - Rosenberg asks if these mainstay, now troubled American brands - AIG, Chrysler, Citi, GM - can be saved by being propped up by the government or if their brands are permanently insolvent.
  • Carbonomics by Michael Moynihan, 4/2/2009 - Moynihan looks at the connection between pricing carbon and the future of the American automobile industry.
  • Sympathy for the Car Guys by Michael Moynihan, 12/5/2008 - Moynihan compares Capitol Hill's treatment of Wall Street CEOs to that of the automakers.

NDN Economic Backgrounder: The Worst Solution, Except for All the Others and A Bankrupt Republican Party

Even as GM files for bankruptcy, the economy has faded to the background, with the nomination of Judge Sotomayor taking up most of the oxygen in the political media this week. That said, it is crucial that we continue our focus on the economy and the struggle of everyday people. We have lately seen, with the automakers, climate and energy legislation, and a variety of other economic initiatives, policy coming to what might be considered a bad solution - except for all the alternatives. As was recently said about everyday in the Treasury Department: it seems like there are no good choices right now, only less-bad ones. On top of the lack of good ideas, the Republican party has chosen to make itself irrelevant, opting for its failed race-based playbook and no new ideas.

  • Fuel Economy in Context by Michael Moynihan, 5/19/2009 - Moynihan welcomes the Administration's steps on fuel economy, but points out that CAFE standards are imprecise tools that must be viewed as part of a larger series of complex policies.
  • Cap and Market This Year by Michael Moynihan, 5/14/2009 - Moynihan argues that those who care about enacting serious climate change legislation should embrace the compromise on permit allowances, as Waxman-Markey is the only bill with the chance of passing this year.
  • The Economic Conversation Enters a New Phase: Putting Consumers Front and Center Now by Simon Rosenberg, Huffington Post, 5/14/09 - Rosenberg writes that the Administration's turn in the national economic conversation from the plight of big institutions and the financial system to what is perhaps the most important part of the story of the Great Recession still is not adequately understood - the weakened state of the American consumer prior to the recent recession and financial collapse.
  • Should We Try to Save the Damaged Brands? by Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/2009 - Rosenberg asks if these mainstay, now troubled American brands - AIG, Chrysler, Citi, GM - can be saved by being propped up by the government or if their brands are permanently insolvent.
  • Spend? Save? The debate continues by Simon Rosenberg, 2/11/2009 - Building on a previous post, Rosenberg follows the growing debate about whether American families should be focusing on saving.
  • The Utter Bankruptcy of Today's Republican Party by Simon Rosenberg, 1/28/09 - Rosenberg argues that Republican opposition to the economic recovery package represents the ideological bankruptcy of the party.
  • A Stimulus for the Long Run by Simon Rosenberg and Dr. Robert Shapiro, 11/14/2008 – This important essay lays out the now widely agreed-upon argument that the upcoming economic stimulus package must include investments in the basic elements of growth for the next decade, including elements that create a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy.

Russian Affairs

As GM prepares to file for bankruptcy in the wake of rejection by bondholders of a tender offer for their $28 billion in outstanding debt, the strongest bidder to emerge for its large European assets is Magna, a Canadian firm, backed by the Russian bank Sberbank and GAZ, a Russian carmaker controlled by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

This news comes on the heels of a deal announced yesterday for a Russian firm to take a $200 million stake in Facebook.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg indicated he accepted the Russian money because it came with a higher valuation than money offered by potential investors closer to home.  Facebook has previously taken money from investors in China (besides a high profile deal with Microsoft) making its funding base more international than most Internet companies.

The sudden appearance of two high profile Russian deals could just be a coincidence.  Or it could signal that Russia is looking to diversify away from natural resources which Prime Minister Putin had made a centerpiece of his economic strategy.  It does, however, raise provocative questions about the interrelationship between strategic and economic goals in a global economy.  Will Facebook's Russian investors have access to the data of Facebooks' millions of participants?  What role will Gaz play in determining Opel's future?  Less than a decade ago, US companies were not allowed to export strong encryption technology to Russia and many other countries.  Ideally, these sorts of deals will draw Russia more into the global economy; however, the scenario more troubling to contemplate is that security may trump economics and these deals will give Russia political leverage on economic matters.

The GM deal is notable, not only because of the Russian connection but also because it demonstrates that at best, the GM that emerges from bankruptcy will be far smaller than the one today.  Although not immune to the global downturn GM's European operations have long been among the company's most successful.  In addition, Opel has handled most of the engineering for GM's mid-size and compact cars, precisely the cars that the government says GM should now make more of.  Without Opel, GM will have to move its design and engineering operations for small and mid-sized cars to Detroit or Korea, potentially good news for laid off engineers in Michigan but problematic for the company's bottom line.  Indeed, the loss of its small car engineering capability if Opel is sold separately underscores the difficulty of trying to divide up a company as vertically and horizontally integrated as GM into good an bad pieces.  GM, like all the major automakers, derived its economies of scale precisely from sourcing and sharing its engineering and other components globally.  A smaller GM will potentially have to allocate these engineering costs against fewer revenues,

I was an advocate of trying to avert bankruptcy, however, the die appears to be cast.  Let us hope that the GM bankrupcy moves rapidly enough, while equitably addressing the rights of all stakeholders, to emerge in reasonably good condition on the other end.  

Acting in Time on Climate Change

One of the things that has struck me more than anything else in directing the NDN Green Project over the last year and a half is how events have so often outstripped policy.  Last year when oil prices were spiking, contributing to the economic crisis that erupted in the fall and probably adding to uncertainty in the auto market that caused sales to collapse when the financial crisis struck, Congress debated a host of measures to check commodity index speculation, change drilling policy and accelerate the rollout of alternative fuels.  None came to fruition in anything close to a timely manner.  Indeed, with the exception of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that moved on a fast truck only because of the dire shape of the economy, Congress has rarely been able to act in time. 

Acting In Time happens to be the theme of a series of conferences, papers and thinking emerging from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.  Dean David Elwood who served in the Clinton Administration coined the term to describe the difficulty of acting in time given the rapid pace of change in the 21st Century and the all too 20th Century pace of government.  Acting in Time on Energy Policy is also the title of a new book published by Brookings Press released today that distills the work of Harvard scholars on energy policy and tries to answer the question of how can the pace of policy action be accelerated to match that of the 21st Century.

The book contains a variety of presicent articles by experts on their respective topics, all with deep practical knowledge and experience in developing policy that works.  Thus, William Hogan, a key architect of those approaches to deregulation that have worked, discusses electricity policy reform, Daniel Shrag discusses the critical issue of carbon capture and sequestration, John Holdren, the President's new science adivsor, together with Laura Anadon discusses how to accelerate innovation in the energy field where the US has fall far behind other countries, Henry Lee writes about oil security, Max Braverman about the question of acting in time in general and Kelly Gallagher, the editor of the volume, discusses the critical issues of how to Act in Time on climate change.

The latter question is especially vital and time sensitive.  Scientists indicate that there is a large direct cost in terms of emissions and higher temperatures to delaying action even one or two years.  However, the political cost may be even higher.  As I have written, conditions have never been more auspicious for action on climate change than they are this year with a new Democratic president in office who has made energy policy a priority, strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and Copenhagen looming as a deadline.  If Congress fails to act this year, the prospect for action will dim.  As Holdren, Gallagher and others argue, trying to create the perfect legislative fix must not stand in the way of acting in a timely manner.

This week The House Energy and Commerce Committee also began markup of climate change legislation introduced by Chairman Henry Waxman, Chairman Ed Markey and others.  The back and forth at the hearings has been forceful, indicating the seriousness of what is at stake and also indicating that there is a better than even chance that the House will do its part to move this historic legislation. 

As Congress and stakeholders debate the issue, they will do well to remember what Ellwood has identified as the importance of Acting in Time on an issue that effects the health of the planet.

There are far too many examples of failing to act.   On the other hand, every now and then Congress gets together and does something historic.  Right now, the stars could not be more in alignment.

Fuel Economy in Context

The decision of the Obama Administration to embrace stronger fuel economy standards by 2016 is drawing praise from environmentalists but fire from auto analysts who say it will add to Detroit's woes.  The decision to accelerate fuel economy comes on top of a variety of policy proposals to address climate change, the auto industry and transportation including the cap and market bill that was the subject of House hearings yesterday, the deliberations of the Auto Task Force over GM's fate, replenishing the Highway Trust Fund and a proposal to offer clash for clunkers also in legislation working its way through Congress.  Here are my thoughts how higher fuel economy standards fit into the bigger picture.

First, fuel economy standards are among the least precise tools for addressing climate change.  The reason?  Fuel economy is the mathematical equivalent of lower gas prices insofar as its allow consumers to drive more for less.  While it is therefore good for motorists' pocket books, its impact on emissions is ambiguous.  If you believe that people drive a certain amount each day and never vary that amount--then higher fuel economy translates directly to lower emissions.  However, if you believe that people drive more when gas costs less in other words that gas usage is price elastic--then higher fuel economy leaves more money in your pocket but does little to reduce emissions.  Last year's falloff in driving when oil prices spiked (as well as numerous studies) suggests that gas use is price elastic. As a result, the primary impact of higher fuel economy is likely to be what economists call an improvement in consumer welfare but not a large reduction in gas emissions. 

Second, higher fuel economy--by lowering the cost of driving a mile--also runs counter to the idea of making carbon more expensive--the idea behind carbon tax proposals and the cap and market legislation debated yesterday.

Third, fuel economy standards like gas prices are likely to impact the quantity of gasoline consumed.  In fact that is the goal.  To the degree they lead to less gas consumption, they lead to fewer gas taxes collected.  Since the Highway Trust Fund which finances not only roads but a large share of mass transit in America relies on gas taxes, higher fuel economy standards may reduce money available for transportation.  Later this year, Congress will try to fix the finances of the Highway Trust Fund.  But we should be mindful that improving fuel economy cuts in the opposite direction of two other policy ideas: making carbon more expensive and replenishing infrastructure funds.

Finally, there is the cost to the auto industry of making cars more fuel efficient.  The Auto Task Force has adopted fuel economy as an unofficial goal and suggested Chrysler and GM need to improve fuel economy as a condition of survival.  However, there is no link between fuel efficiency and profitability and, if anything, the correlation is negative.  Large cars remain a requirement for families and Americans simply like them.  Indeed, a Chevy Suburban with five in it is far more fuel efficient than a Prius with one person in it.  Cash constrained Americans--the lower three fifths of our beleaguered consumers--also prefer to pay less up front even if they have to pay more for fuel later on.  This is a question of their internal discount rate and cost of capital--which in the case of the poor is very high.  Even the New York Times discussing the looming GM bankruptcy yesterday got its logic mixed up on this yesterday when it described the fact that 11 of 20 of GM's best selling cards are gas guzzlers as a problem.  The company's problem is not its money making cars but its money losers.

As I have written before the crisis of the auto industry is due to one thing and one only, the virtual halving of sales volume due to the financial crisis that makes it impossible for anyone, Toyota, Honda, GM or Chrysler, to make money in the United States.  Fuel economy is a largely separate issue.

All this is a long way of saying that the higher fuel economy standards are no magic bullet to the problem of emissions and the real requirement of all the policy suggestions currently floating around is that they work together in alignment.

Here are proposals that are aligned.

The cash for clunkers idea now before Congress that Jack Hidary and others have advocated makes sense because it replaces old, smoky cars with new clean ones and also will generate demand for cars at a time when sales are down.

Pricing carbon through cap and market makes sense because it will attach the costs of emissions directly to their source, carbon. 

Good old gas taxes which are a form of carbon tax make sense as well, since they connect the tax to the carbon.  In contrast, the Vehicle Mileage Tax that some have proposed, even apart from its Orwellian implications for our freedom, would remove any incentive to buy an electric car or plug-in hybrid or, indeed, own a fuel efficient vehicle.

Incentives for electric cars and plug-in hybrids make sense because they move us off gasoline entirely.  Indeed, higher gas mileage is only likely to lead to major reductions in emissions if it hastens a switch to electric vehicles.

All these goals require a healthy auto industry.  If the Auto Task Force can keep GM out of bankruptcy, this would be a good thing, as a drawn out GM bankruptcy could hobble America's clean energy future.

In short, when dealing with issues this complex, it is vital that we get them right and that different policy proposals work together.  While higher fuel economy standards are, on balance, good, they need to be viewed as part of an overall plan to create a clean, healthy and robust American transportation sector.

Cap and Market This Year

New York City -- Later today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to release the Chairman's Mark of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the energy and cap and trade bill, for markup next week. The new text will reflect a deal made Tuesday on the key issue of giving out versus auctioning of allowances for greenhouse gas emissions. With those agreements -- which give out 35% of the credits to local utilities and 15% to trade-intensive industries -- the bill clears a major hurdle and is now more likely to pass the House than not. The question is what does the compromise on auctioning credits mean? In my view, it is secondary to the greater goal of moving a bill forward. Accordingly, the deal reached by Chairman Henry Waxman and Congressman Ed Markey with other Members should be hailed as a victory by everyone who cares about the climate.

The auctioning issue is not unimportant. When permits are given out, polluting is free and there are no immediate financial incentives to reduce emissions. On the other hand, forcing polluters to buy permits at auction places an immediate price on carbon, similar to a carbon tax, that creates an incentive to reduce emissions from the get go.

Like a carbon tax, auctioning permits also raises immediate revenue that can be used to invest in new technologies or offset the otherwise negative impact on the economy of higher carbon prices by reducing taxes elsewhere.

The downside of auctioning permits, however, is the immediate economic impact on industry and consumers of higher prices. For this reason, most cap and trade proposals have included, at a minimum, a transition period when permits are given out. The EU scheme allowed only 5% of credits to be auctioned in its rollout phase.

When permits are handed out free, no immediate incentive is created to reduce emissions. However, as emissions approach the cap, depending on the penalties for exceeding it, the cost of the permits will begin to impact the marginal cost of energy and energy or emissions-intensive products, creating an incentive to reduce emissions. Thus as the cap is approached, the system will begin to affect behavior. In the EU, while countries have begun to auction off more credits, the system still largely works on grandfathered credits and hinges on the cost of buying credits once the cap is reached.

The key point here is that auctioning is not an absolute requirement.

Far more important in the scheme of things is that failure to pass climate legislation this year would postpone action on climate change, perhaps indefinitely. There could be no more propitious time than now in this unique year in modern political history with a new Democratic president in his first year in the White House -- who has made clean energy a key priority -- and large Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House. Add to that the timetable created by Copenhagen. Next year things could be quite different, meaning the time to act is now.

Throughout American history, Congress has generally only passed major legislation either when conditions were especially propitious as they are now or in the midst of a major crisis. Since climate change is so gradual, we may not see a crisis that can be directly attributed to greenhouse gas emissions until it is too late to act.

Finally, some make the argument that no plan is better than a weak or flawed plan on the theory that Congress will only take this up once.

I disagree. In general, Congress is more likely to adjust something that exists than create something new and experience shows that regulations, once established tend to tighten, not the reverse.

Accordingly, today's bill is an important step forward in addressing the challenge of climate change.

Preventing a GM Trainwreck

New York City - Just when fear seemed to be receding in the economy, and the appearance of green shoots seemed to presage recovery by the end of the year, yesterday, senior GM officials indicated they expect GM to enter bankruptcy come June. June 1 is the deadline set by the government's Auto Task Torce for GM's various creditors, principally the government itself, unions and bondholders to strike a deal that will keep GM in business. However, it now appears a deal will not be forthcoming and GM may shortly follow Chrysler into federal bankruptcy court in New York only without a pre-existing deal structure to expedite the bankruptcy proceeding.

There is still a way to prevent a trainwreck, but only if the parties act quickly.

First consider what bankruptcy would mean.

As I have written before, in contrast to Chrysler whose bankruptcy has proceeded fairly smoothly so far, a GM bankruptcy would be more disruptive to the general economy as well as the people directly involved. Why? GM has 55,000 workers and hundreds of thousands of retirees who still depend on the company for benefits. It also has a far larger network of suppliers than Chrysler. In sales alone, it has historically been more than twice as large as Chrysler.

The greater problem, however, is that GM has a different capital structure than Chrysler's. Whereas a handful of banks and hedge funds owned all of Chrysler's debt and a private company its equity making a deal comparatively easy to structure, GM because of its size and iconic status is owned by a wide universe of people. Its publicly traded stock is, of course, widely held. And it's unsecured bonds--once thought to be rock solid--are held by everyone from pension funds to community banks to individuals.

For this reason working out a settlement with GM bondholders was always likely to be more difficult than with Chrysler, and the consequences of failure greater. Sure enough, the government was able to get most of Chrysler's small group of bondholders to agree to the deal at the center of the pre-packaged bankruptcy now underway. However, so far the government and GM's diverse group of bondholders are barely even talking.

Were GM to enter bankruptcy without a prepackaged deal, the proceedings would be extraordinarily complex. America's bankruptcy procedures--designed to protect investors in private enterprise--are a key asset of our capitalist system that substantially reduce the cost of credit and draw the world's capital to our shores. They pre-date the current financial turmoil and do, in fact, reduce uncertainty by creating an orderly route to unwind business. There is no certainty that a bankruptcy judge, bound to protect the many stakeholders of GM would do what the government requests. While it is tempting to imagine wiping out speculators, in reality, established precedent and law are the best way to insure equity of competing claims.

In turn, every week that a bankruptcy proceeding continues would lessen sales and erode the value of GM's assets, making it more likely that the company would have to liquidate, destroying an important engine of the economy and harming America's prospects for participating in the clean tech revolution just when electric cars are taking off.

Fortunately there may still be a way to cut a deal but time is running out. The latest government proposal calls for unions to trade in health care claims for for 39% of the equity of a reorganized company. And it calls for bondholders to swap $27 billion for about 10% of equity with a requirement that at least 90% of bondholders make the swap to insure remaining debt does not exceed about $2.7 billion.

The unions support the deal: though painful, they judge it better than the
alternative of bankruptcy. But the bondholders--who view their claims as equal to the unions--don't find it better than what they might receive from a judge. Without their buy-in, the outcome may leave workers, bondholders and the country poorer.

Game theorists may recognize the classic collective action problem of the Prisoner's Dilemna where, absent cooperation, everyone ends up worse off.

Recently, however, a proposal has been floated of taking a page from the 1979 Chrysler rescue and offering bond holders who make the swap, not only 10% of equity, but also the $2.7 billion in debt the government has suggested the company could carry--if it has Treasury backed insurance. In lieu of an actual cash redemption by the company, the Treasury guaranty would be far smaller than others recently extended. This proposal could be the basis for a pre-packaged bankruptcy come June.

As the clock ticks down on what may be the largest and most disruptive bankruptcy in global history, this simple idea deserves serious consideration by the parties concerned.


NDN Backgrounder: What Future for the American Auto Industry?

As Sam told us in his morning round-up, Chrysler is to undergo a "surgical bankruptcy" process that will leave the United Auto Workers with a controlling stake in the company, with Fiat and the US Government as junior partners. In addition, as Dr. Rob Shapiro discussed Tuesday on Fox News, the federal government and the Auto Workers now own 89 percent of GM and on his 100th day in office, President Obama said that he wanted the federal government out of the auto business as quickly as possible. NDN has been following the automakers and their search for a profitable future for quite a while, so enjoy this backgrounder on the American auto industry.

  • Here in the Real World They're Shutting Detroit Down by Morely Winograd and Mike Hais, 4/30/2009 - NDN Fellow Winograd and Hais pont out that GM's problems come at a time when the inherent tension between the investor class and the country's manufacturing sector have never been greater.
  • Should We Try to Save the Damaged Brands? by Simon Rosenberg, 4/30/2009 - Rosenberg asks if these mainstay, now troubled American brands - AIG, Chrysler, Citi, GM - can be saved by being propped up by the government or if their brands are permanently insolvent.
  • Carbonomics by Michael Moynihan, 4/2/2009 - Moynihan looks at the connection between pricing carbon and the future of the American automobile industry.
  • Sympathy for the Car Guys by Michael Moynihan, 12/5/2008 - Moynihan compares Capitol Hill's treatment of Wall Street CEOs to that the auto makers received.
  • With recent news that Congress and the Obama Adminsitration are interested in a "Cash for Clunkers" proposal, enjoy this video from a Green Project event on August 1, 2008 during which Jack Hidary speaks about this idea.

Climate Change Alarmism

Anyone following the debate over cap and market legislation has probably noticed the growing alarmism voiced by opponents. Leaving aside the substance of attacks, their tenor has grown increasingly biting. During recent hearings held by Chairman Markey, opponents unleashed a fusillade of arrows ranging from dire warnings to shrill personal attacks on Vice President Gore who testified in support of cap and market legislation. What is most remarkable about the alarmism, as Paul Krugman point out in his column today, however, is that it is coming from the same people who ordinarily have an unbounded faith in markets to cope with any obstacle. Newt Gingrich, for example, who has at times been an evangelist for markets and the future, testified at the same hearing that putting a price on carbon would be devastating for the US economy. In fact, as Krugman writes today, the impact of a carbon regime is likely to be mild and gradual. Yet junk economics, he argues, is becoming as widespread in the climate change debate as junk science. While a cap and market regime is likely to increase prices of emissions-intensive commodities such as electricity, cement and steel over time, the increases will phase in slowly. According to data from MIT's Emmissions Prediction and Policy Group, cited by Krugman, even stringent limits would lead to a reduction of only 2% in consumer demand by 2050. The short term impact on GDP--from higher prices--would be almost negligible. Yet there is more to the story. While any negative effects would not show up for years, Krugman points out that a carbon regime might well stimulate growth in the near term. Were congress to mandate caps to begin phasing in three years from now, the impact on prices would be negligible in the short term, but the prospect of caps would stimulate capital investment today, driving up the investment component of GDP and exerting a multiplier effect on consumption--exactly what the economy needs during a slowdown. In short cap and market legislation won't hurt the economy much, will at most trim demand in the future and might actually help the economy now. If you throw in the fact that developing new technologies is something the US has to do if it does not want to compete with countries such as china and India solely on cost, the economic case for putting a price on carbon is there. Oh, and there is also the benefit preventing the very real costs of higher temperatures, rising sea levels and climate instability.

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