New Republican-Only Conservative Climate Caucus Light On Science, Heavily Pro-Fossil Fuels
Recently, Republicans received some favorable climate-related coverage. Utah’s 3rd District Congressman John Curtis announced the formation of a Conservative Climate Caucus. It came with a roster of roughly 60 Congresspeople, none of them particularly well known names. While they are light on content, they have sufficient info on their site to make a few early assessments. It’s possible that their actual actions will pleasantly surprise me, but the start is inauspicious.
First, though, it’s worth looking at some prior art in conservative climate actions.
There have been a few Republicans at the climate change table in the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus for years, and they include big names like Romney, Murkowski, Graham, Rubio, and Gaetz, all of whom are missing from the new Caucus (although it’s easy to understand why Gaetz wasn’t invited). And until the 2018 midterms, they were actually fully bi-partisan as their policy, with newcomers required to join in matched pairs.
Their solution is a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend, along with reduced regulation. It’s a good policy, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough and it would have needed to start in 1990. We need governments to make tough choices, we need carrots to draw first-movers, and we need sticks to beat recalcitrant industries with. A carbon fee that’s low and capped at a too-low rate is exactly one policy lever. The carbon fee and dividend is bog-standard conservative economic policy, outside of Libertarian ideologues. Place a price on negative externalities and let the market take care of the rest.
The Climate Leadership Council is another legacy group focused on climate action. It was founded by senior Republican luminaries including former Secretaries of State James A. Baker and George P. Shultz, and Rob Walton, former Chairman of Walmart. Its focus is a revenue-neutral climate fee and dividend as well, along with a side helping of deregulation. Since its very conservative founding, it’s branched out to be a bi-partisan effort as well, and gained approval of Nobel Laureates in economics and corporate sponsorship. That corporate involvement is telling, by the way. There are 8 big fossil fuel-oriented emitters in the set, all of which have been doing quite well at greenwashing and notably less well at actually eliminating fossil fuels. When BHP, ExxonMobil, and BP are bellying up to the bar, the reasonable question of greenwashing arises. But the policies include a border carbon adjustment as well, and there are worse policy sets. They would start their fee at $40 per ton per the report and increase it above inflation until it hit $80, which is too low, but still better than nothing.
So many conservative policy strategists and economists favor carbon taxes. But watch what happens when sensible administrations implement this conservative Pigovian tax:
- In Australia, center-left Labor brought a carbon tax in. The right-wing Liberals — with the support of the Oz version of the Heritage Foundation and coal baron money — derided it utterly, fought an election on it, and when they won, canceled it.
- In Canada, the centrist Liberals brought in a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend to tax payers. The increasingly right-wing Conservatives derided it, fought two elections against it, thankfully losing both, and in a recent policy convention, refused to include climate change and action in their policies.
It’s like the Affordable Care Act, a Republican-created and tested policy that the conservative Obama Administration brought in. The Republicans immediately derided it as ObamaCare and fought tooth and nail against it for years. Consistency and so-called conservative parties like the Republicans don’t go hand in hand anymore.
So the new Republican-only Conservative Climate Caucus exists in a context. It doesn’t have big names associated with it. It’s inherently partisan. It’s entered a place where two pre-existing, well structured, well thought-through actually conservative caucuses and political action groups with senior Republican engagement already exist. And it doesn’t have a coherent policy it stands behind.
But it does have a set of ‘beliefs’, and they’ve already tipped their hand about what they are really all about. Let’s look at what they believe, point by point.
“The climate is changing, and decades of a global industrial era that has brought prosperity to the world has also contributed to that change.”
“Contributed to.” Right. The science is clear that we would be experiencing very slow cooling in a stable climate, but instead are seeing radically rapid heating, over 100 times faster than the heating which melted the continental glaciers 20-25 thousand years ago.
So yes, this is a belief. It’s not the reality. But that’s also not a policy indicator, so we can somewhat ignore it.
“Private sector innovation, American resources, and R&D investment have resulted in lower emissions and affordable energy, placing the United States as the global leader in reducing emissions.”
“Global leader.” Right. Germany is off 40% in GHG emissions since 1990. US emissions are about the same as they were in 1990, after having risen through 2010 or so. You have to cherrypick your timeframes to pretend the US is a global leader in emissions reduction when its per capita emissions are still among the highest in the world and its historical emissions are a full 25% of the global historical total.
This is a point of faith on the right. They really seem to believe this is true. So yes, more unsupported belief, not reality. And also not policy, although it’s a pointer to policy.
“Climate change is a global issue and China is the greatest immediate obstacle to reducing world emissions. Solutions should reduce global emissions and not just be “feel good” policies.”
China is not the greatest immediate obstacle in the real world. It is on track to hitting its (admittedly weak) Paris Agreement targets nine years early. It built as much wind and solar in 2020 as the rest of the world combined, 72 GW of wind and 48 GW of solar. It has 38,000 km of high-speed electrified passenger rail in operation, enough to circle the equator. It has well over 400,000 electric buses on the roads of its cities when no other country has 1,000 in operation. It buys 50% of all electric vehicles. It builds virtually all of the solar panels used globally. Chinese firms are two of the top five global wind turbine manufacturers.
China remained signatory to the Paris Agreement and acted when Republicans took the US out of the Agreement and regressed. For the past four years, the largest single obstacle to climate action was the United States. This is Sinophobic posturing, and indicative of policy that will not be useful. It sells well, and Biden does it too, but it remains harmful, finger-pointing nonsense.
And yet again, not policy, just a pointer to where policy might go.
“Practical and exportable answers can be found in innovation embraced by the free market. Americans and the rest of the world want access to cheaper, reliable, and cleaner energy.”
“Innovation” is a right-wing mantra as well. What it translates to is research funding, funding for the fossil fuel industries for failed carbon capture technologies, and yet more billions for nuclear energy. Innovation has already been embraced by the free market. It’s called wind and solar power. And it’s delivering cheaper, reliable, and actually clean — not ‘cleaner’ — energy globally today.
Germany and Denmark are running well over 40% on renewable electricity and their grid reliability metrics are vastly better than the US’. The average German and Dane see less than 15 minutes of power interruptions annually.
No one in the US sees anything approaching that level of reliability.
But this suggests policies. They extrapolate to:
These are no climate-friendly policies. These are fossil fuel industry friendly policies.
“With innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution.”
No, they won’t. This is #hopium from the fossil fuel industry, the Republican’s primary sponsors. The fossil fuel industry has to dwindle to a petrochemicals industry providing industrial feedstocks, perhaps 20% of a barrel, probably less.
This is indicative of energy and climate policies which are not about the greatest good for the greatest number, but the greatest good for the smallest number, specifically fossil fuel oligarchs like the Kochs.
“Reducing emissions is the goal, not reducing energy choices.”
Eliminating emissions is the goal, and some energy choices do not make that at all possible. Physics makes that very clear. More meat for the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the climate here.
So what this all means is that if — big if — Republicans actually come up with a climate policy at the federal level based on the new Caucus, it will be pretty much what Trump did.
- Point fingers at other countries
- Give lots of money and love to the fossil fuel industry
- Pretend that the US is a leader, as opposed to a laggard
There is no intersection visible between the sane, empirically based policies of the Democratic Party, which is actually focused on the greatest good for the greatest number, and the policies of the Republican Party at this point.
Organize now to keep them out of power in 2022 and 2024.
Tesla Model 3 prototype spotted ahead of rumored design refresh
A new Tesla Model 3 prototype with camouflage has been spotted in California ahead of a rumored refresh coming next year.
Over the last week, there have been rumors that Tesla is working on a Model 3 refresh that would come during the second half of 2023.
The project is reportedly codenamed ‘Highland’.
For a few years now, Tesla has been integrating its large casting technology into Model Y with single large casting parts replacing dozens of parts in the electric SUV.
This new technology has enabled Tesla to greatly improve manufacturing efficiency with Model Y compared to Model 3. CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla will bring the same technology to Model 3 eventually, but he couldn’t exactly say when.
The problem is that such an update to the Model 3 would temporarily slow down production and Tesla couldn’t afford that while it was still ramping up Model Y production.
However, Model Y production is now starting to exceed Model 3 production and it could be good timing for Tesla to update the Model 3 and use a design refresh to introduce the large from and rear casting.
Now a new Model 3 prototype has been spotted in Santa Cruz, California by Twitter user omg_Tesla/Rivian:
The Model 3 is equipped with manufacturer plates, which would indicate that it is owned by Tesla, and combined with the heavy camouflage in the front and back of the vehicle, it likely points to the automaker testing an updated version of the electric sedan.
However, not much can be discerned from the pictures thanks to the camouflage, which even covers large parts of the headlights.
Nonetheless, some commenters on Twitter did notice what could potentially be a camera embedded in the corner of the front right headlight:
It’s barely visible and therefore unconfirmed, but it would make sense to place a camera around that spot since Tesla’s current self-driving sensor suite has a blind spot around the bumper and it could also help with the creeping forward to see traffic before taking a turn in Full Self-Driving – something FSD Beta has issues with right now.
Tesla has always said that it would keep improving its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving hardware, but current owners who bought vehicles with the promise that self-driving will be enabled through software updates are concerned that Tesla might find that it would need a new sensor suite to achieve the promise.
What do you think about this Tesla Model 3 prototype? Is the camouflage hiding a Model 3 design refresh? A new Autopilot sensor suite? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
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OPEC+ agrees to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production ahead of Russia sanctions
Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November.
Vladimir Simicek | Afp | Getty Images
An influential alliance of oil producers on Sunday agreed to stay the course on output policy ahead of a pending ban from the European Union on Russian crude.
OPEC and non-OPEC producers, a group of 23 oil-producing nations known as OPEC+, decided to stick to its existing policy of reducing oil production by 2 million barrels per day, or about 2% of world demand, from November until the end of 2023.
Energy analysts had expected OPEC+ to consider fresh price-supporting production cuts ahead of a possible double blow to Russia’s oil revenues.
The European Union is poised to ban all imports of Russian seaborne crude from Monday, while the U.S. and other members of the G-7 will impose a price cap on the oil Russia sells to countries around the world.
The Kremlin has previously warned that any attempt to impose a price cap on Russian oil will cause more harm than good.
Oil prices have fallen to below $90 a barrel from more than $120 in early June ahead of potentially disruptive sanctions on Russian oil, weakening crude demand in China and mounting fears of a recession.
Led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, OPEC+ agreed in early October to reduce production by 2 million barrels per day from November. It came despite calls from the U.S. for the group to pump more to lower fuel prices and help the global economy.
What’s the status of California’s upcoming $10M electric bike rebate program?
California allocated $10 million for a rebate program to help make electric bikes more affordable. But hang on there; it’s not active quite yet.
The move is part of a years-long effort to help reduce the price of expensive electric bicycles for state residents. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for commuters to switch from car transportation to e-bike transportation.
It makes sense when you consider the long list of benefits. From cleaner air to reduced traffic and improved health/fitness, electric bikes solve many of the problems plaguing California (and the rest of the country).
But the path towards a statewide incentive program to reduce e-bike prices hasn’t been quick or easy.
California has earmarked over $1 billion this year as incentives for electric cars and charging infrastructure, according to Streetsblog. That’s in addition to the billions already put into electric car incentives.
Back in 2019 electric bikes finally got the attention they deserved from lawmakers when California’s S.B. 400 was passed, which included a section that permitted electric bikes to be included in future clean air vehicle incentive programs.
That paved the way for the possibility of statewide e-bike rebate programs, but it didn’t actually create any.
Last year California got one step closer to that goal when it included a $10M allocation in the state budget for an e-bike rebate program. As Assemblymember Boerner Horvath said at the time:
“Making e-bikes more affordable is one of the most effective ways to get Californians out of their cars and reduce emissions. I’m thrilled that the full funding I requested for purchase incentives, education, and training is included in the budget we approved. This program represents a priority shift in the right direction and, once implemented, will help folks from all backgrounds choose a healthier, happier way to get around.”
That was another huge step in the right direction, but it hasn’t yet resulted in an active program.
That’s expected to begin in early 2023, with a number of key guidelines for California’s first statewide e-bike voucher program already laid out.
According to the California Bicycle Association, the program will create a $750 voucher for a standard electric bicycle and a $1,500 voucher for a cargo electric bicycle. There will be additional incentives for anyone whose income is under 225% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or who lives in disadvantaged communities.
But in order to qualify for the voucher, participants’ household income must be below 400% of the FPL, which amounts to $51,000 for a single person and $106,000 for a family of four at current figures.
The program will include Class 1 electric bikes (pedal assist up to 20 mph or 32 km/h) and Class 2 electric bikes (pedal assist and/or throttle up to 20 mph or 32 km/h), but will NOT include Class 3 e-bikes (pedal assist up to 28 mph).
Qualifying bikes must also either be purchased at a local bike shop in California, or online from a company that has “a business location in California”.
The move could see California align with other states that have created or already implemented electric bicycle incentives. Vermont became the first state in the US to offer a statewide e-bike rebate program. Oregon is also working on creating an e-bike incentive program that could soon become law, as New York attempts to do the same.
Many cities such as Denver, Colorado have also implemented their own local programs, though the funding is usually much smaller than statewide programs.
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