Federal Climate Policy

American Soil

Soil is an important carbon sink. It’s literally going down the drain, eroding away.

Today is Earth Day. Let’s talk about something earthy: the dirt under our feet. When I was a kid growing up in central Illinois, the topsoil was black and went down about a foot.  When I was a little older and tried gardening, I was amazed at the fertility of the soil.  When I’ve gone …

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Straws in the Wind

Businesses have intensified public support for climate action. That could presage a major shift in climate politics.

In the past few weeks, there’s been a notable growth of business support for climate action. A letter from the CEOs of 300 hundred major companies called for a 50% cut from 2005 carbon emissions by 2030.  The companies ranged from the utilities to tobacco to investment management. Google, McDonalds,  Walmart, and Philip Morris were …

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Gates on Climate

A guide to updating the global operating system.

The original Microsoft operating system was called QDOS, for Quick and Dirty  Operating System. Bill Gates’s new book might well have been called “A Quick and Dirty Guide to Climate Policy.”   The book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, provides a concise overview of climate policy, detailing the threat of the climate crisis and a …

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Biden’s Infrastructure Plan: FAQs

Yes, it’s a big deal. And yes, it’s politically dicey.

Biden has announced a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, with a heavy focus on climate-related investments.  The plan is very complicated, and the news coverage hasn’t been all that helpful.  Here are the key questions we should be asking about the plan, along with my best attempts to answer. Q: What’s in the plan? A: It’s …

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The US National Academies on Solar Geoengineering Research and Governance

Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (2021) cover

Four Emmett Institute scholars react to an important new report

A few of us are part of the Emmett Institute’s Geoengineering Governance Project, where we study the legal and policy issues presented by solar geoengineering and carbon dioxide removal technologies. On the former set of technologies—that is, reflecting a little incoming sunlight to cool the Earth and temporarily counteract heating from greenhouse gases—the US National …

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Biden’s Dilemma: Limiting Carbon from Existing Power Plants

It’s not that the policy choices are that hard. It’s the 6-3 Supreme Court.

Coal- and gas-fired power plants are a major source of U.S. carbon emissions. The Obama Administration devised a perfectly sensible, moderate policy to cut those emissions.  The Trump Administration replaced it with a ridiculous token policy.  The D.C. Circuit appeals court tossed that out. Now what? It wouldn’t be hard to redo the Obama policy …

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Keeping It All In the Ground?

Exploring legal options for congressional and executive actions to terminate existing fossil fuel leases on federal lands.

The Biden Administration has set aggressive goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the United States.  And a necessary component for any long-term plan to address greenhouse gas emissions from the United States is reducing and ultimately eliminating the emissions from fossil fuels produced on federal lands. Why is this such a critical …

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Where “Old King Coal” Still Holds Court

Use of coal is dwindling across the country, but very unevenly.  We need to give it a good shove.

The NY Times ran a story last week about a coal area in Wyoming that is embracing renewable energy as its economic future.  Residents of Carbon County, WY,  aren’t necessarily happy about it but they recognize that the times are changing. As one county commissioner said,  “You can stand at the tracks when the train …

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Institutional Capacity Building for the Energy Transition

State agencies will need help to deal with a fast-changing energy system.

The COVID pandemic has provided a vivid picture of what happens when ill-prepared governments are suddenly hit with huge responsibilities.  Underfunded state and local public health agencies were overwhelmed, while governors and local officials found themselves struggling to obtain and distribute vital supplies, from respirators to vaccines. Efforts to accelerate the transition away from carbon, …

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Hydrogen — Fuel of the Future?

Using this tiny molecule for energy may be key to decarbonization.

As it has more than once in the past, hydrogen has become a hot topic in climate policy circles.  Although widespread use of hydrogen is probably a decade away, there’s a lot of excitement about the prospect. The fundamental appeal of hydrogen as an energy source is that it produces water rather than carbon dioxide …

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