Archive for May, 2009

Design issues in a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions registry for the United States

My latest paper1, going by the title above and written with Chris Weber and Scott Matthews, has been published online. It refers to the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule proposed by the EPA, which is out for public comment until June 9th.

The point of the rule is to collect greenhouse gas emissions data from facilities in order to support future regulations and climate policy development. It is an exciting first step toward controlling emissions from the majority of sources across the economy. Many of the issues that have to be hammered out about who is in or out of the system and what kinds of emissions are included are the same for the reporting rule as for a cap-and-trade system. In this way, the reporting rule may very well set the groundwork and the boundaries of a cap-and-trade system or other regulation. Cap-and-trade, however, will not be enough to solve the climate problem.

Our major point in the paper is that the reporting rule can be easily augmented to collect more data to support a wider array of future policies and regulations. We also discuss the choice of reporting thresholds (the proposed rule did not use any objective criteria to set the threshold of 25,000 tons CO2e/yr across the board) and basically recommend a lower threshold than what was chosen.

I encourage interested members of the pubic to (read our paper and) submit a comment on the rule.

1Joshuah K. Stolaroff, Christopher L. Weber, and H. Scott Matthews. “Design issues in a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions registry for the United States.” Energy Policy. In Press, Available online 15 May 2009.

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Update: Torture by any other name…

The Post has apparently declined to publish my letter. As the stories of U.S.-sponsored torture and the Obama Administration’s continuing support of it continue to unfold, I encourage everyone to pressure the mainstream media to present the situation accurately. I also encourage everyone to read Glenn Greenwald, who continues to give clear, honest, and comprehensive accounting of our government’s violation of laws and civil rights.

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Torture by any other name…

Waterboarding is torture. It’s a well known and accepted fact by everyone except a small number of extremists like Dick Cheney, and unfortunately, editors of major newspapers like the Washington Post. The torture memos recently released by the Justice Department describe waterboarding, among other forms of torture. However, as one example in a pattern of underplaying torture committed by the U.S. Government, today in a news article the Washington Post referred to the techniques described in those memos as “harsh tactics that critics liken to torture”. This is akin to describing carbon dioxide as “an industrial byproduct that critics liken to pollution” or referring to current economic conditions as “a slowing of the market that critics liken to a recession”.

Of course you can find many people, even people in prominent or powerful positions, who believe carbon dioxide is not a pollutant (e.g. Senator James Inhofe), or who don’t characterize current economic conditions as a recession. But that does not justify presenting a widely-held and generally-accepted fact as a fringe belief. Waterboarding is widely and generally accepted to be torture, not “likened” to torture and not only by “critics”, just as carbon dioxide is not merely “likened” to pollution and not only by “critics”.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Post about this; I’ll let you know what happens.


Everybody say “queso”

International tourists are common near my office. This afternoon I was passing a group Spanish-speaking tourists taking a group photo. The woman holding the camera intoned “Uno, dos, tres … queso!” Now, I always thought the tradition of saying “cheeeeeese” while one’s picture is being taken stems from the approximation of a smile one’s mouth forms when making the “ee” sound. But could it be that cheese is simply a cross-cultural symbol of happiness? Or was the woman making an ironic cultural reference? Or is saying “cheese” for a picture something spanish-speakers have adopted from English in contradiction with the original motivation? Any of those explanations is kind of hilarious.

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Fun with maps

This link comes via Vinney via someone in the EPA smart growth office: a fascinating picture of subway systems of the world, presented on the same scale. Check it out.

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