Saturday, February 14, 2009

If Marc Morano were dead he'd be whirling in his grave

A recent appearance by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Asia Society is an important marker for US energy and environmental policy. Significantly the push is coming not just from the Department of Energy, but also State, which shows that this is an important issue for the Obama Administration. In her prepared remarks, Clinton pointed out that

. . our nation has been the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases, and we acknowledge that we must lead efforts to cut harmful emissions and build a lower-carbon economy. But each of the countries that I’m visiting also have a role to play in this effort. I will press the case for clean energy in both Japan and South Korea, and look for ways to work with Indonesia as well. Orville Schell’s commentary in Time magazine this week reminds us that collaboration on clean energy and greater efficiency offers a real opportunity to deepen the overall U.S.-Chinese relationship. So we will work hard with the Chinese to create partnerships that promote cleaner energy sources, greater energy efficiency, technology transfers that can benefit both countries, and other strategies that simultaneously protect the environment and promote economic growth.
but it is her answer to questions which would really start Marc twirling. In answer to a question from Michele Ehlers
How can we upgrade our American dream to a global vision that the earth can sustain and that is supportable for every human being? If we Americans wish to be known for our leadership in the world and be recognized as true partners in global development, we need to take on a new model of life that’s sustainable and possible for every human being. How can you best advocate that?
Clinton went on at length (cheap post time-Eli =:)
That’s a great question, and it was a question that maybe five years ago would have been, you know, thought of as kind of touchy-feely, to be honest about it – (laughter) – and would not have been entertained seriously in a lot of the boardrooms and the decision-makers’ meetings and halls of legislatures.

But I think it is an issue that we have to be smart about addressing. You see, the threat of global climate change, the intimidation created as we’ve seen in Europe by control over energy supplies, the fear that globalization has not spread its benefits broadly and deeply enough, those are all opportunities for Americans, primarily in the private sector and also in our government, to start kind of solving these problems, and to do so with the same level of energy and ingenuity that we have brought to problems in the past.

We have such an opportunity here, and I’m hoping that, you know, some of the provisions that made their way through the difficult negotiations over the stimulus package will have the result of helping to jumpstart and support research. We’ve got to get back to supporting basic science in America. It’s one of our greatest advantages. And we have not been keeping up with our potential for leading the way in science, technology, and research. So I would hope that the answer to the question asked doesn’t, in any Americans’ minds, sort of create the image that somehow, we would have to give up our way of life. I mean, that seems to always end up being the debate, that, you know, this will be economically ruinous for us, this will cause us to fall behind, we’ll lose out in what the American dream should be, in a material sense.

And I just don’t buy that. I don’t believe that is the way forward. Now, do we have to change some of how we live? Yes. But, you know, changing to compact fluorescent bulbs is not the kind of sacrifice that is going to undermine the quality of our life. (Laughter.) You know, it --

MS. DESAI: You know, in Australia, now they already have made that as a law.
MS. DESAI: You know, so --

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right. And so I think there’s – you know, you can go from the small steps that each of us can take, which, in the aggregate, would add up to significant changes, to the kind of governmental driven decisions that you’ll see more of in the Obama Administration. Our new Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is absolutely focused on how he can make the case that changes in our uses of energy, and in how we both create it and deliver it, would go a long way toward enabling us to live a better, more sustainable life. You know, even though the legislative changes that have been made in California over the last 35 years have resulted in a lower per capita usage of electricity than in the rest of the country – and I don’t think people in California feel like they’re deprived.

So part of what we have to do is have the leadership in both the public and the private sectors look to academia – you know, ask for good ideas – and then begin implementing them, and do so with courage and a pioneering spirit. You know, we are supposed to be the problem solvers. You know, that’s who we’re supposed to be. And it’s time, when we face these global challenges, we demonstrate that that’s who we continue to be. And I’m excited by it. I think, you know, our children and our children’s children will live very well if we make the right decisions now. And if we don’t, I don’t think we can look them in the eyes and make that claim, and I don’t want to live like that as an American. I think it’s far preferable that we step up to our responsibilities, and I know that’s what the President is trying to encourage us to do.

MS. DESAI: Well, it’s sort of – you talk about smart power in international relations. This is about smart energy use --
MS. DESAI: -- domestically and --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, smart grids.
MS. DESAI: Exactly.
MS. DESAI: Right.

SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, I mean, it’s not going to happen overnight. But the idea that we just continue putting off the future when we’re supposed to be the country of the future is so contrary to our nature. And it is, I think, causing some puzzlement around the world. But also, people are going to say, “Well, we’ll take advantage of those opportunities.”

You know, whether or not we have a modern battery industry is up to us. Whether or not we have a smart electric grid that will save energy and be able to decentralize energy production and usage is up to us. Whether or not we sort our way through our automobile crisis and end up with cars that are energy savers as – insofar as transportation permits is up to us. And you can go down the list. These are not somebody else’s responsibility, and I think we have to have a very significant government commitment, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the Obama Administration.

It’s still difficult to make the case. I mean, a lot of what was in the stimulus originally, which would have set the path for us, you know, was not left in because it was thought to be, you know, economically challenging, should be left to – completely to the private sector. Well, we forget we electrified the country because the government stepped in. You know, we have so many examples from our past where we went as far as we could with the private sector, but frankly, it wasn’t profitable to bring electricity to the northern reaches of New York and the Adirondacks or northern Arkansas. The interstate highway system – we built highways to places that were barely populated, which are now booming. I mean, we made decisions that drove our growth and they were government and business decisions, and I think we’ve got to get back to thinking about that and feeling like we’re all on the American team for the next decade so that we can reassert our position economically here at home and around the world.

MS. DESAI: On that note, we must bring this to an end. I just want to say that with our foreign policy in your hands, our heart is at ease.


Hank Roberts said...

"... Dot Earth notes that two new reports will be released Thursday “bulging” with recommendations on US-China climate change negotiations. One for the Brookings Institution, authored by David Sandalow and Kenneth Lieberthal, and one from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Asia Society."

Anonymous said...

He probably would spin in his grave if one considers how much he does right now.
I vote we fasten a pulley to his feet in the event of his unfortunate demise.
That way a drive belt could turn a generator and he could finally do something useful.


David B. Benson said...

HRC talks too much.

Anonymous said...

leaning on chu like that, like a prop, gives me the creepiest feeling about how long he will be in office.

Anonymous said...

no. maybe what i'm reacting to is really a hidden "ethnicity" olive branch.

Hank Roberts said...

Here's one for the numerate, perhaps information suitable for calculations of tradeoffs for different fuels and uses, for those of you drawing up stimulus and foreign aid budgets:

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Springer Berlin / Heidelberg
ISSN 0948-3349 (Print)
1614-7502 (Online)
Issue Volume 11, Number 4
DOI 10.1065/lca2006.02.244
July 21, 2006

Environmental Assessment of Freight Transportation in the U.S.

Goal, Scope and Background

This study provides a life cycle inventory of air emissions (CO2, NOx, PM10, and CO) associated with the transportation of goods by road, rail, and air in the U.S. It includes the manufacturing, use, maintenance, and end-of-life of vehicles, the construction, operation, maintenance, and end-of-life of transportation infrastructure, as well as oil exploration, fuel refining, and fuel distribution.


The comparison is performed using hybrid life cycle assessment (LCA), a combination of process-based LCA and economic input-output analysis-based LCA (EIO-LCA). All these components are added by means of a common functional unit of grams of air pollutant per ton-mile of freight activity.

Results and Discussion

Results show that the vehicle use phase is responsible for approximately 70% of total emissions of CO2 for all three modes. This confirms that tailpipe emissions underestimate total emissions of freight transportation as infrastructure, pre-combustion, as well as vehicle manufacturing and end-of-life account for a sizeable share of total emissions.

Differences between tailpipe emissions and total system wide emissions can range from only 4% for road transportation's CO emissions to an almost ten-fold difference for air transportation's PM10 emissions.


Rail freight has the lowest associated air emissions, followed by road and air transportation. Depending on the pollutant, rail is 50-94% less polluting than road. Air transportation is rated the least efficient in terms of air emissions, partly due to the fact that it carries low weight cargo. It emits 35 times more CO2 than rail and 18 times more than road transportation on a ton-mile basis. It is important to consider infrastructure, vehicle manufacturing, and pre-combustion processes, whose life-cycle share is likely to increase as new tailpipe emission standards are enforced....