HEAT

Dan  Kammen

kammen

He's a specialist in renewable research at the University of California, Berkeley, a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and environmental policy adviser to Barack Obama and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted on June 9, 2009.

“Until we build up a bigger research portfolio, we are leaving those [clean energy] areas ... understudied and leaving them for our competitors, Japan and Europe, to be the leaders and not us.”

Despite record profits in both the oil and coal industries, neither are devoting much investment into research or development of alternative energy. How do you understand that? ...

I think there are a couple of explanations. The energy sector has historically underinvested in R&D relative to other areas. Biotech invests 10 or more percent of all revenues back into R&D. The energy field has reinvested a tiny fraction of revenues, under 0.4 percent, back into R&D. ... And only now are companies beginning to figure out that investing a tiny fraction of their revenues back into research is bad business.

We're seeing European, Japanese companies with not only larger but also more coherent research policies. ... [There are] major U.S. companies that have basically called on the president to enact a climate policy because they will respond to it once it's law, but they're not going to respond before it's law. They're out there waiting for things to happen.

But the problem is that, until you get that policy, they can't know what direction really makes sense. And so everyone is waiting for clarity, and lack of clarity is worse than no policy, because it tells people that we just don't know. And I think that's the worst signal for industry that you can get.

You're talking about R&D mostly on the power-generation side with those historical examples. What about ExxonMobil making $40 billion in profit -- and who knows where they're going to be at the end of this year -- and less than 1/10 of 1 percent is going into renewable energy research? What sense does that make?

It makes no sense in terms of economic or strategic opportunities.

The U.S. economy needs to reinvent itself on a regular basis. The biotech revolution, the computer and information technology revolutions all generated new waves of jobs. They took U.S. industries that were struggling and made them not only competitive but, in some sense, dominating their Japanese or European counterparts. ...

Every single indicator now is that clean energy, energy efficiency, renewable power is that next opportunity to reinvent our economy, to jump-start innovation, to get companies to become competitive leaders again. And that's the area where I think a new administration, a new industry sector, is waiting to act. ...

Exxon or Chevron, or even Shell or BP ... is there a particular reason why many companies that happen to be making the biggest profits are putting so little into renewables?

I think there's no single reason, mainly because these companies are somewhat diverse in their perspective. Some are European-based, some are U.S.-based. But I do think that the lack of a market is critical.

Now, there are some regional markets. The U.S. West, led by California and Washington and Oregon, [is] leading in building a clean energy base. The Upper Midwest and the New England and Mid-Atlantic states are building their own regional markets. But until there is a consistent way to buy and sell greenhouse gas emissions, a so-called cap-and-trade market, there won't be a clear price on carbon, and companies respond most clearly to price. ... That's really the place where companies will then have what they most need to respond: a viable price for pollution in the market. ...

It makes sense that they would wait for strong economic signals, but there's also the concept of corporate responsibility. What is corporate responsibility in this case? Should we be outraged? Even the Rockefellers have come out criticizing Exxon's performance.

I think we should be outraged. I think there's a legitimate reason [to be outraged] since the science of global warming is long settled. ... We had the governor of California, [Arnold Schwarzenegger,] saying the science of climate change is set; it's time for action. We've had scientists, like myself, who are working in the international community on climate research, saying for a long time that this is not a debate anymore. This is a question of how quickly and how severe the climate will change. ...

We are waiting for the big companies to really play the role that they profess to on TV and advertisements. So I do think there's a real reason to be outraged at the lack of action so far.

Can we get there without these companies taking an active role?

I would say we can. And that's a complicated question, because many companies that will be very important five or 10 or 15 years from now don't exist yet. Ten years ago, Google was a very small thing, and yet now it is many people's main gateway to finding information on the Web. So we're always creating new companies.

But energy is an area that has a long history to it, and a long inertia. Big companies with lots of money and lots of training are critical in this area that's so fundamental to our economy. In fact, with energy being the biggest piece of the U.S. and global economy, the expertise and the money that the big energy companies have today is vital to really making the new energy technology -- the solar, the wind, the biofuel, the wave power industries -- to making them competitive. These companies have to lead, not always be the lagger waiting for policy. They've got to step out in front, and they haven't done that.

Is this just about making good on their current investments, sort of amortizing their current sum dollars?

In terms of making sure that a current or a recently passed investment in a coal plant or a natural gas facility makes money, there's no question that it does play a large role in companies not wanting to change.

But at the same time, the energy economy of tomorrow is evolving rapidly, meaning that the global demand for energy is rising very quickly. And many of our big companies are not only out there exploring for oil and gas, but they're also in the business of helping to contract to install power plants in India, in China, in Africa, elsewhere. Every decision that's made to install another plant that's spewing carbon into the air, as opposed to one that's going to be a clean winner, is in my view not only bad for the planet, but it's [a] bad economic decision. ...

We've seen a lot of coal plants in the United States have their permits denied.

That's right. And we've seen them for a mix of reasons. In Idaho, there's been a state-level edict saying, "We don't want new coal plants," not because of global warming, but because of the mercury and the other pollutants that affect children.

California imports their electricity from many Western states, some as far away as Montana, so California is the "not in our backyard" poster child in that it imports their energy but lets the emissions essentially blow east away from California. ...

Are you familiar with the situation in Kansas? What's happening there? ...

Some European companies, like Scottish Power, whenever they do a new project, they always look at what is the carbon cost-benefit of this project relative to others. They don't always pick the carbon winner, but they do the analysis.

And we're now seeing a number of state legislatures, including Kansas', starting to look at the carbon risk-benefit, the cost-benefit of a project. And so I'd actually like to think that as this ... sort of analysis becomes more the norm, that decisions in a place like Kansas, that could do more coal but also could build more wind, will begin to tip toward the low-carbon choices because, in the long term, they look like better investments.

Because they're going to have to pay for that carbon in the future?

That's right. The companies that hold those contracts will hopefully start to see that for an equal or even smaller investment, you can get a risk-free, a carbon-free source of energy. You might even find, 10 years down the road, an extra new revenue stream, being the sales of those credits for the carbon you're not emitting. ...

The utility executives that I've spoken to tell me that they don't like solar and they don't like wind because they're intermittent.

This is always funny to me, because what that means is they don't want to have to do good planning, in the sense that we've learned from examples in parts of the United States and in Europe where wind has now become much more pervasive.

West Texas is building huge amounts of wind power right now. We're seeing wind power being built in Oklahoma, in Minnesota. What we're finding is that if you put all of your wind turbines very close together, then it is vulnerable to this intermittency when the wind is blowing or not blowing.

But the more you diversify where the wind farms are, the more you spread them out in an area geographically, or even link wind farms that are in different areas, you can actually account for that just by the geographic benefit.

And then we have a second level of support: We already use the grid in this country as a form of battery. We shuttle power around, often in longer paths than you would need to get from point A to point B, to store it effectively in the grid. We could do much more of that as a way to provide some buffering, an ability to overcome if the wind is more variable than you think, or if there's a lull period. ...

A whole wave of research is needed on storage technologies. Some states are able to pump water uphill and then bring it back down as a way to do a hydro battery. Other places are good candidates to store energy in the batteries of our cars, plug-in hybrids that you charge up at night, for example, when the wind is often blowing more readily than during the day. ...

And then there are advanced batteries, ultracapacitors, flywheels, lots of technologies that we've underresearched for decades, that are primed to become ways to overcome that intermittency by storing power. But we've got to invest in the research. And until we build up a bigger research portfolio in this country, we are leaving those areas not only on the table and understudied, but we're leaving them for our competitors, Japan and Europe, to be the leaders and not us.

You're talking about government research; you're not talking about corporation research. ...

[Actually], the ideal mix [involves the] federal government investing at a much higher level than today, the private sector [investing] much, much more aggressively. In other words, the worst energy research portfolio would be one where essentially all the money or the bulk of it comes from the government, and industry then partners and tags along.

Is that because the government has a bad record on picking winners?

No one has a good record of picking winners, government or otherwise. The problem is that people in the Department of Energy have a less well-rounded view of the opportunities than people spread around the universities and the companies all across the country. You always do better by having more smart minds in the room. And the way to get that is to have the industry playing a large role. ...

Competition tends to spur companies and research labs to do more things. The energy community is evolving so rapidly in terms of technologies and policies that sitting inside the D.C. beltway is often a very poor vantage point on what's taking place, not only in the U.S. but all over the world, on energy research. And we don't tap into that very well if our energy research portfolio is largely managed by people in a few Washington, D.C., offices. It's much healthier to spread it out.

You say we're underresearched. Just give me a picture of how we compare.

So the story of U.S. research right now in energy is really dismal. We invest at the federal level something between $3 billion and $4 billion a year, and the private sector is investing about the same amount. That means that the federal energy research portfolio is smaller than that of just a few biotechnology firms alone in their area.

Or one of my favorite examples is that the U.S. energy research portfolio is smaller than that of the U.S. pet food industry in their own research. So by many measures, we're just not investing enough. ...

What is Assembly Bill 32? And what is California trying to do?

California's Assembly Bill 32, the [Assembly Speaker Emeritus] Fabian Nuñez bill, sets an interim goal on climate change. ... It says that by 2020 we need to be back to our 1990 emission levels. That's about a 25 percent cut in emissions, with now just over a decade to get there, so it's a very stringent target. And what's interesting about the target is that it has some very, very gutsy pieces built into it.

One of [these pieces] says that California can only import electricity that is as clean or cleaner than a natural gas plant. And since we import a little over 20 percent of our energy from out of state, often from coal plants, it is sending a very strong message to the whole not only U.S. West, but also to Canadian exporters, to the United States and to Mexican companies who are selling power into the California market. It has sent a set of signals that we're going to become green, that we're going to extend the domain of this to people who sell power to us. And it has mobilized people up and down the state infrastructure.

I meet people now in the Fish and Game Department, in transportation, in all sorts of diverse areas, who now have this greenhouse gas law [as] part of the metrics they use to make decisions. It's had a very profound effect on the types of analysis that state regulators and managers are doing well outside of the energy area.

The bill is also going after the automobile and oil industries?

It is, although we've had real trouble with that, because to make California's vehicle standards more aggressive than the federal ones, we need a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And California has applied for, and received, 53 straight waivers until just a few months ago, when the administrator said no to the waiver that would have allowed us to move ahead.

After consulting with the White House?

Apparently so.

So AB 32 would require the auto companies to come up with a car they could put into the California market, and the car companies said: "You can't do this. Every state can't come up with a different kind of regulation." It seems like a legitimate complaint on their part.

I'm not so sure. California is the biggest car market in the United States. California innovations on the policy side have led to a number of advances. The details are sort of in question, but how rapidly hybrid cars got on the market was arguably driven to some extent by California's insistence on a low-emissions fleet. So California has pushed the auto industry to be more of an innovator than it might otherwise be, and greenhouse gas regulations now are really just part of that same process.

But if every air district in every state gets into the act, it would create an impossible sort of game that would make it very difficult for industry, would you agree? ...

Sixteen states have signed on with California, so it's not like we're going to have thousands of little air districts setting the rules. The California plan has been adopted by Massachusetts, Virginia and a whole number of states. And they are waiting for the California suit to be resolved until they act. But as soon as it is resolved, 16 states and California will go along in a group, and that's a big chunk of the country.

I think what you see is that this process spurs innovation as opposed to spurring chaos of lots of little individual regulators acting on their own. That's not been how this process has been used, and it's also not how the states have responded, as if this is a signal to go crazy and have lots of different standards. They've really said, "The federal government doesn't have to set the new standard, but it needs to listen as states en masse select things to rally behind." And the California vehicle standard has been that new rallying cry. ...

But the companies say: "This is the purview of the federal government. We need one set of rules. We need a level playing field across the country. The states and the air districts, the counties, should get out of this business."

I disagree with that. If there are local impacts that are clearly identified as a regional problem, then it is a reasonable thing for air-quality districts to say, "This needs to be addressed." We've seen that for acid rain, where local areas said, "We are particularly vulnerable." When acid rain was being deposited in the pine forest in the Northeast, they said, "This is a problem; we need to address it."

Across Europe, to deal with acid rain, they did the same thing. They said that Scandinavian lakes are particularly sensitive to acid falling on them, whereas Spanish lichens and moss forests were very sensitive, so we're going to set regional standards and then require the emissions to go down.

In fact, looking back on these types of standards, they have tended to generate innovation and generate new opportunities far more rapidly than simply waiting for a federal standard. So I want to see federal standards on greenhouse gas emissions, but you need to learn, and regional markets are often a great way to do that. ...

Do you expect that California can override the EPA or can somehow get the waiver that they've been denied?

I think it's almost a certainty. In fact, I predict that one of the actions that the next president does on literally day one -- not just the first 100 days, but day one -- will be to request the new EPA administrator to reconsider this decision, not only to support California's waiver but to offer up freely technical advice to states that want to mimic what's going on in California and the bloc of other states. ... I think there's a very strong sense that the green-car effort is where we need to go, and I think we're going to see the EPA actually becoming a force to put these new policies in place, as opposed to right now [being] the biggest impediment in doing so.

The car companies say that they haven't been able to move faster [on improving emissions] because the technology has not been there. ...

At least for the near term, the technologies now are in place. Hybrid vehicles came along as quite a surprise to many people in Washington, D.C., and Detroit. But hybrid cars are now selling tremendously well. In fact, there's a massive glut of SUVs on the secondhand market, and waiting lists have now returned to buying hybrid cars.

It's quite clear what is the next innovation: It's a plug-in hybrid car that can run primarily off of electricity and then revert to either a gasoline tank or a green biofuel supply in the tank as its backup. And a plug-in hybrid vehicle can get you well over 100 miles to the gallon for an additional cost of about $5,000 or $6,000 per vehicle. That sounded like too much of an added price tag just a few years ago, but that price tag is one that pays off well with gasoline at $4 or $5 a gallon. The world we're in now is one [in which] a plug-in hybrid vehicle looks like a very attractive option. So I think that the near-term agenda is already there, and the technology exists to get the next cleaner vehicle on the road today.

Are you a believer in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles?

I'm a believer in them in the sense that it's one of the things we need to look at. In my view right now, the problem with hydrogen is ... [that] a fuel cell vehicle is only as clean as the hydrogen is green. If the hydrogen comes from reforming natural gas, which it largely does today, that's not a big winner in terms of getting a cleaner car.

We need to work not just on the fuel cell, but also on generating the hydrogen from renewable energy or from biofuels and various sources to get a clean flavor of hydrogen. ...

But hybrid vehicles are still going to have a carbon footprint.

That's right. Essentially every car has a carbon footprint, because, even if you could get an entirely green source of fuel, which would be very challenging, making a vehicle comes with a carbon footprint. We're going to have a lot of issues if we want to beat down emissions just by making greener and greener luxury cars.

In fact, part of this equation over time is simply going to have to be less miles traveled in individual personal vehicles with one person in the driver seat. We're going to have to be emphasizing mass transit more. We're going to have to be emphasizing ideas like CarShare and these systems where you have vehicles available to you if you come into urban or suburban areas on mass transit. We're going to need to bring in the land-use part of the equation so that we don't build communities that guarantee you need vehicles, and that Americans think it's OK to drive from one end of the mall to the other. ...

That's bad news for automakers. They can't make as much money if they can't sell as many cars.

It is bad news if you think that your core business is making as many relatively inefficient vehicles as possible. ...

But the profit for automobile makers is to make big cars with lots of extras and a big profit margin attached.

The U.S. model for making money is one that's built around cheap energy and energy inefficiency. And the model for the future has got to be one that emphasizes service and low-carbon, high-quality transportation.

Whether the U.S. auto manufacturers, through public policies or their own interests, can get that lesson across internally to their boards, their teams, is a question. It would be a very bad thing for the U.S. economy if the only vehicles that made sense were made overseas. But right now, with the slow rate of innovation and evolution within Detroit, that's the signal that we are seeing in terms of a sustainable economy. The Europeans and Japanese are taking these lessons to heart, and Detroit has been dragging its feet for a whole range of reasons. ...

What is your view on corn-based ethanol?

We know, very clearly, that corn ethanol is simply a bad biofuel several times over. We, in this country, have optimized corn, ironically, to be as greenhouse gas-intensive as possible. We reward farmers for high yields, and we reward them for using more fertilizer, more irrigation, because those things have been cheap historically. So we have lots of greenhouse gases and carbon embedded in what it takes to grow an ear of corn. We need to flip that equation if corn is going to play any role. And the analysis that my lab and many others have done says very clearly that corn is simply not a good feedstock for biofuels. ...

And what about the impact that biofuels have on world food prices? How real is that? ...

The best estimates are that the increase of food prices -- that have been on the order of hundreds of a percent -- in terms of the ramp-up of costs, 1 or 2 percent of this increase is due to biofuels. But that doesn't mean that's going to be the case in the future. So biofuels are not the culprit yet. ...

[Have they] displaced petroleum? ... [Are they], on a carbon basis, a winner, as well as being on a water basis, as well as being good for small communities in poor areas? That broader method of thinking about sustainability has to be brought into the equation. And when that happens, it doesn't look so promising that many of today's current biofuels are likely to be winners. ...

What about nuclear power?

Nuclear power is a complicated situation. It has some clear advantages in that it is a low-carbon source of energy, and it's one that is dispatchable. ... It's baseload power.

The downsides are twofold. One is that, in this country, we have consistently decided not to use what we know about the waste cycle to make good decisions about waste. And we've had a very highly politicized process to select a waste repository. Yucca Mountain in Nevada [is an example]. ... [Second], we have not worked out good procedures to cost-effectively and safely transport our waste to that facility. We aren't managing the back end of the cycle well. And even if nuclear is seen as a carbon [winner], and maybe an economic winner, the issue is that we need to initiate a program of a low-carbon economy now, not 20 or 30 years from now -- this current decade. And nuclear is not going play a significant added role in this short term.

Because it takes so long to build a new plant.

They've become fabulously expensive -- $5 to $10 billion per nuclear power plant. And even if we solve all those problems, we have a current fleet in the United States of about 100 nuclear power plants, all of which will have to be retired over the next three decades. Just to rebuild that current fleet is a larger undertaking than we have not only the money to do, but also the expertise. ...

If the French can do it, why can't we do it?

The French have done a couple of things differently than we do, one of which is that they've standardized the designs.

But we've done that now.

We'll, we've done it now. But our process to permit and to evaluate how a plant will work, and to do the financing, is all over the map. It's a hodgepodge based on where you are, who the financing team is and how you work with utility [companies]. Much of our expertise in getting this process done has really shrunk in the several decades since we built the last nuclear power plant. ...

[In addition, the] engineering talent is simply not there, and to rebuild it will require not just announcing [that] tomorrow we want a new generation of engineers. We have to then get them trained through university programs that, in large measure, have shrunk over the past decades. So we are at a technological disadvantage even if we want to restart nuclear, which is a debate that's still going on in this country. ...

But if you could solve this engineering gap, and you could solve the bureaucracy of it, nuclear is a good bet?

Nuclear has always been a good bet in theory, and what you're talking about is in theory: if we could solve the financing problem; if we could solve the risk problem; if we could solve the problem of community receptivity and understanding and awareness. If, if, if. If we could do all of those things, nuclear has a logical and an important role to play. The problem is, we've been very bad at solving those things. And when you stack up a whole bunch of "if-then, if-then, if-thens," you've got to be able to do it. And we have yet to, so far, demonstrate that ability to make it work.

Let's talk about some of the alternatives: the coal business, for example, as clean coal technology will give us expanding amounts of electricity for the foreseeable future.

This is the claim. We have lots of coal to burn, and so our resource is there. The issue is that we have to safely dispose of the greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal if we want to expand a carbon sequestration industry. And the problem is that, as we've done more and more research on carbon sequestration over the last few years, the price tag to sequester safely and reliably that carbon has been increasing, not decreasing. ...

Per ton of carbon, the price is looking like it's about twice as high now as it was a couple of years ago to dispose of it. And we aren't quite clear on how we're going to do it at scale and how we're going [to] transport the CO2, not only aboveground to the places where we'd bury it, but to then bury it geologically safely and monitor it. There are a whole range of barriers in place.

When I look at the technological and the financial hurdles facing the clean coal process and those facing nuclear, nuclear at least is an industry that exists today at large scale. It's a big chunk of our electricity generation. Hoping that a technology in a sector that doesn't exist today, clean coal, will solve all these problems and be able to be a big player less than a decade out ... is a real concern. ...

It seems like we're nowhere close to addressing the carbon issue.

I'm not so sure. I actually think we've got a reasonable portfolio to build from. ... If you want to clean the economy, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

We need to get there by 2050. And "there" means about an 80 percent or so reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. If we emphasize energy efficiency first, as the least costly way to clean up not only our energy use at home but also at businesses and industry, that's a natural winner that saves money on day one. Those savings can get put back into what we need to work on. And in fact, the wind industry in the United States, which is very small, could follow the models in Europe, where there have been fabulous successes. Germany and Spain and Denmark are all on a path to get 20 percent or more of their energy from wind power.

And their electricity is a lot more expensive.

It is. But in this country, some of the states with the highest rates for electricity are paying monthly bills that aren't so different from the rest of the country. New York, California and Hawaii have very high costs per kilowatt hour, but don't have utility bills that are that much different, because they've also invested in efficiency and savings to balance it out. ... If you invest in efficiency, if you're a leader, you can go pretty far. ...

All these things we are talking about cost money. How much difference would it make if the major oil companies, those companies in the energy sector who are making large profits, plowed some of their money [into R&D], significant amounts of their money, and would it be a good deal for them?

I think it would make all the difference in the world. One out of five jobs in the United States is related to energy, the car industry and our overall infrastructure around energy issues. And that's a conservative estimate by drawing some narrow boundaries. There's no question that if these big companies, with lots of expertise, and right now with lots of money, were investing in this area, it wouldn't just green their portfolio, which would allow them to compete with the Europeans and to really get into the game on the new low-carbon economy. It would also send a message across the rest of the country that the big American companies see the world of 2050 that we're evolving toward as one where clean and efficient is going to get you jobs, get you earnings.

That would change things in a transformative way, and not just for the United States. It would also send a very strong message to India and China that their fledgling efforts to be leaders here are likely to be rewarded in the new green energy economy, and that the United States is going to stop blocking international efforts to get cooperation and collaboration. And that, I believe, would not only transform the U.S. economy, it would have a huge effect around the world. Getting the U.S.' big energy companies involved in a serious and not a public relations-based way on this issue would absolutely tip the global balance. ...

These companies are not stepping up to the plate. What responsibility do they have, beyond that to their shareholders, to do anything differently than they have been?

I think that one of the features of the story is that companies shouldn't be expected to or asked to make policy. They should respond to policy, and they should respond genuinely, and they should recognize their social roles. But the government's job is to set policy, and we have not done so. ...

Both the Clinton and the Bush administrations?

I think that's right. There have been people in both administrations who would have liked to have done so, Democrat and Republican alike. But we have not gotten serious about a climate policy that allowed agencies to cross not only the federal government but state agencies and the people in companies whose job is to respond to federal and state policies.

Why haven't we done better as a country?

I wish I had a good answer to that one. We haven't responded well even though the science has become increasingly clear, and we've had a number of pockets of elected officials at the state and federal level who have really done a great job of holding up the clean energy, sustainable economy mantra.

We haven't seen it percolate through, I think partially because we invest so little in our energy programs in this country. Energy is the largest part of the economy and the least well-funded, and it's one where we, in this country, by having artificially low energy prices for many years, avoided learning the lessons that Europe has learned until very recently, when our petroleum prices started to come in line with Europe.

What do you mean by "artificially low energy prices"?

We have taxed our fossil fuel use [at a] very low level compared to Europeans, and we have, therefore, kept prices low.

But that's been good for the economy. It's made more cars for sale, more oil for sale.

Well, I would say what it's done is it has encouraged us not to think seriously about the energy choices we make. We have made [choices] that were easy. And in fact, the way we've structured it, we have made many of our policy choices around making energy as cheap as possible to the big consumers. ...

Companies say, if the price of electricity and the price of oil go too high, they're just going to go overseas.

I don't believe that for a second, and the reason is that the biggest market for new goods on the planet is the United States. We are huge consumers.

But they can manufacture stuff in China, where the electricity might be cheaper, and therefore it's a better deal for them.

Well, yes and no. There are some manufactured goods that you absolutely can do cheaper where labor is cheaper. But we're seeing prices for labor rise. ...

Importing energy long distance is difficult. We would likely do manufactured goods overseas, as we do for many things. A lot of what we buy now comes from overseas. But where we need to go on the policy perspective is actually to impose a cost on imported dirty energy that we don't just charge others ourselves, but we charge to goods and services we import.

The so-called carbon footprint analysis [is something] that New York state and California and the European Union are now taking very seriously. When you do that, the benefit of cheap energy overseas, if that energy comes from dirty sources, goes away. And so we can actually manage that to effectively raise the price not of energy but of pollution around the world.

A global cap-and-trade.

A cap and trade, or even an assessment on the carbon associated with goods and services we buy from overseas. That actually works very well with our current trade mechanisms to allow us to evaluate and then put a price on imported dirty energy, on goods and services we buy here. And that's actually another way, without being protectionist, to reward cleaner energy generation.

posted october 21, 2008

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