Redrawing the energy-climate map

I had the privilege of providing input to the new International Energy Agency (IEA) report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map.  I am grateful that the IEA produced this special report, which endeavors to keep open the option of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by keeping the concentration of greenhouse gases below 450 parts per million (CO2-equivalent).

To many, the traditional 450 scenario published each year in IEA’s World Energy Outlook (WEO) appeared aspirational rather than practical, leaving influencers and policymakers with few realistic options. The modified 450 scenario, “4-for-2 ?C,” addresses this concern by recommending specific, actionable policies.

The return of reality-based governing?

In the past few weeks, both Maryland and Virginia raised revenue to fix aging transportation infrastructure. And they ensured that future revenues would increase with inflation.

The revenue packages are quite different, reflecting each state’s uniquely messy political realities. But for the first time in a long time, they make genuine progress in solving the region’s transportation problems.

The future of cars and light trucks

Can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions from running our cars and light trucks by 80 percent by 2050? According to a new report by the National Academy of Sciences, the answer is yes, but it will be difficult, and it can only happen with a set of strong, sustained, and adaptive public policies.  

For the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of serving on the NAS Committee that produced this new report. We concluded that four fuel and vehicle pathways can help us meet our goals: (1) continuous improvements in the efficiency of conventional gasoline-powered cars, (2) biofuels, (3) hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, and (4) plug-in electric vehicles. Each of these could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time, but each also faces enormous challenges.

On our own?

Spring not only brings us daffodils and cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., but also occasionally powerful thunderstorms that can knock out power to thousands of homes and businesses.

I live in one of those northern and western suburbs of DC that tend to lose power fairly frequently.

It used to be that one of the few nice things about losing power was the sound of silence. But those days are gone. Now losing power has a new sound: the whirring of the startup of my neighbors’ backup generators.

We need power not only to keep our food from spoiling and protect us from uncomfortable and even dangerous heat, but also to stay connected. As a nation, we are becoming ever more dependent on electronic devices. We cannot survive without our cell phones and computers, let alone our refrigerators and air conditioners. At the same time, climate change threatens the reliability of the grid through more intense heat waves and potentially more powerful storms.

While it’s easy to say we should work to prevent disruption in electricity, how much should we invest to bolster the resilience of the grid? And who should pay?

RGGI changes help both the environment and business

The nine states in the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative took an important step this month that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase funding for energy efficiency and clean energy without unduly burdening businesses or consumers. That step was to adjust their cap-and-trade program by tightening the emissions cap and increasing compliance flexibility for businesses.