CARB, Not LAO, Is Authority on CO2 Reduction

Mar 13th, 2014 | Posted by

The Legislative Analyst’s Office is a good source for statistical analysis of the state budget. If you want to know the potential financial impact of a particular proposal, or how much revenue a new tax might bring in, or what the state’s long-term debt looks like, they’re likely to give you good, informative answers.

But they are not experts on climate issues, nor are they experts on carbon emissions. For those issues you would want to go to the state agency that has those experts on their staff and has been studying those issues for many years – the California Air Resources Board.

CARB has included high speed rail as part of its plan to achieve the long-term CO2 emissions reductions required by AB 32. They understand that tens of millions of tons of CO2 reduction that HSR will deliver are crucial to the state’s climate efforts. CARB’s Mary Nichols made that point in an LA Times op-ed recently:

High-speed rail has the same potential to change the way people travel in California. By 2040, it could reduce car miles traveled in the state by 3.6 billion miles a year, the equivalent of taking 317,000 cars off the road daily. And by 2020, the project is estimated to eliminate between 278,000 and 674,000 net metric tons of greenhouse gases from voluntary emissions reductions, electrification of local rail and other efforts. High-speed rail will be constructed with net-zero emissions and operate 100% from renewable energy.

This statewide rail system would also give rise to transit and pedestrian-friendly development, which, in turn, preserves Central Valley farmland. The city of Fresno, for example, has approved a land-use plan that directs growth to infill and denser development in the city core, while barring expansion into prime farmland on the city’s outskirts. A key element of this downtown development is the future high-speed rail station and its connection to transit.

California is on track to meet its 2020 emission reduction goals under AB 32, and we need investments in rail modernization to help achieve long-term reductions beyond that date. Reducing car travel, promoting infill and transit-oriented development, preserving farmland and open space, and avoiding massive highway and airport expansions are all part of the high-speed rail project and the vision for California transportation.

Yet the LAO is pushing back on this, despite their lack of expertise and knowledge of climate policy. Their recent analysis of transportation in the 2014-15 budget attacks HSR on the basis of carbon emissions:

It is unclear the extent to which using such revenues to support high–speed rail will maximize GHG emission reductions. First, the high–speed rail project would not contribute significant GHG reductions before 2020, which is the statutory target for reaching 1990 emissions levels as required by Chapter 488, Statutes of 2006 (AB 32, Núñez/Pavley). This is because, as mentioned above, plans for the high–speed rail system indicate that the first phase of the project will not be operational until 2022. Second, the construction of the project would actually generate GHG emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years. (The HSRA plans to offset these emissions with an urban forestry program that proposes to plant thousands of trees in the Central Valley.) We also note that HSRA’s GHG emission estimates for construction do not include emissions associated with the production of construction materials, which suggests that the amount of emission requiring mitigation could be much higher than currently planned.

So even though CARB, the agency tasked with implementing AB 32, says HSR is essential to meeting their goals, the LAO comes in and just says “sorry, no”? That doesn’t make any sense.

The LAO’s theory here is that it’s not worth huge long-term CO2 reductions if there’s a hint of small and easily offset CO2 increases that come from building new, sustainable infrastructure. But this is ridiculous if you apply it anywhere else. By the LAO’s logic, California state employees should immediately stop flying and driving. Caltrans should immediately halt all construction projects (especially since freeways generate long-term CO2 increases).

Of course, the LAO is making no such recommendations. It’s only HSR that is held to these standards. This is typical for the LAO, which is supposed to be an office that dispassionately analyzes policy but increasingly is trying to shape policy. That is the role of the elected Legislature, not of the bureaucrats at the LAO. Under Mac Taylor’s leadership, however, the LAO has been waging a highly inappropriate and misleading war against the HSR project.

The LAO should not be commenting on things they are unqualified to analyze. If they want to examine CO2 reductions as they relate to transportation, then they need to defer to the actual experts – in this case, CARB. Anything else is just speculation by people who do not know what they are talking about.

  1. morris brown
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 13:38

    The truth here is the CARB is being driven by political forces, namely the Governor. The LAO has independence and thus can render a non partisan report. Robert continues to flail away at the LAO, because in many instances he just plain doesn’t like their reports.

    Robert doesn’t care for the Sierra Club’s position on this either.

    As more and more California citizens have become aware and learned just what a “boondoggle” the HSR project is, the number of of those approving has sunk lower and lower. Previous strong proponents such as Judge Kopp, Lt. Governor Newsom, have now turned strongly against.

    A new extensive Briefing paper titled:

    If You Build it They will not come

    has just been released and can be read at:—2014-plan/1-03-2014-if-you-build-it-they-will-not-come


    For five years (2022-2026) the Initial Operating Segment (IOS) IS high-speed rail (HSR) in California. The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) offers nothing more. During this IOS-Only Phase, there is no travel time advantage for potential HSR riders to abandon the airlines or their automobiles to take combinations of rail and bus transport modes between the LA Basin and the SF Bay Area.

    Likewise, would-be HSR travelers during the two-year Bay to Basin Phase (2027-2028) will only benefit from a shorter-than-driving travel time between the downtowns of Los Angeles and San Jose. While more expensive, every itinerary using flights to ‘defeat the friction of distance’ have significantly lower travel times.

    CHSRA’s offerings don’t seem attractive enough to entice travelers to abandon their autos or the airlines. With nothing more to offer travelers, the chances of the CHSRA meeting their ridership or revenue figures and being profitable seem extremely thin, and the interest of private, at-risk capital seems even thinner.

    California’s high-speed rail project has truly become a ‘Field Of Dreams’ and it is doubtful whether ‘They Will Come’ during the seven years of the Authority’s IOS and B2B offerings.

    NoFortunateSon Reply:

    You can always weed out the rightwing talking points by the use of the word “boondoggle”.

    High Speed Rail works around the World. It will certainly work in California, one of the World’s largest economies.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    CARB is being driven by political forces, namely the Governor. The LAO has independence…
    (citation needed)

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Morris’s assertion was true when Liz Hill was the Legislative Analyst and had to deal with changes in partisan control at the Capitol. Mac Taylor was her chief deputy, but for some reason has shown more partiality to the partisan committees staff.

    Morris is right that CARB is even less independent, but it is hardly a unique situation these days outside high speed rail.

    Eric Reply:

    I would agree with this as well. The LAO actually seemed pretty neutral in the past, but seemed to take a right wing lean under the Schwarzanegger. I don’t know the ins and outs of staffing there during this time but maybe someone else does?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are controlled by the legislature, not the Govenor

    The office serves as the “eyes and ears” for the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    absolutely amazing that San Jose to Bakersfield won’t have the ridership of San Francisco to Los Angeles.

    Joe Reply:

    What does Chris Matthews say?

  2. John Nachtigall
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 15:14

    The president of the Sierra Club said the same thing as LAO. So she is what??

    1. Biased against the enviroment
    2. Biased against HSR
    3. A Tea Party conservative
    4. Unknowledgable about global warming and carbon reduction
    5. Correct, just like the LAO

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Not the President, just to start with…

    Joe Reply:

    Not knowledgeable either,

    These are the opinions of the executives who are unqualified to assess the GHG or form science based policy without reference. This is a political position.

    The problem with their focus on low hanging fruit is never Addressing fundamental problems.

    A Tesla in every garage might work for wealthy diners but not the majority stuck on the Amtrak Bus or starlight express.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    a tesla doesn’t work either. Not today’s Teslas. They have a 300 mile range and that’s only when the weather cooperates.

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Do you have a link to a Sierra Club position paper on the subject? I can’t find anything on their website. You also mention the executive committee. Have they taken an official position?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Robert commented on her position about 2 weeks ago on this blog

    joe Reply:

    There is no position paper or rationale.

    An executive made some critical the public statements to the press on cap and trade and another executive (so they claim) made some comments in this blog in her defence.

    They claim to be speaking in their official capacity.

    It’s one of the more chicken-shit things I’ve seen from their leadership.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    So you disagree, but when 2 executives say they speak for the organization then I would say until they are removed or restate it that is the official position.

    joe Reply:

    Like I wrote, it’s chicken-shit.
    The President also wrote also … the sierra clubs supports HSR, just not on the backs of the Sierra Club.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Executive director…close enough. The highest ranked executive in CA

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    no, just a director

    NoFortunateSon Reply:

    Just short-sighted.

    Of course, construction of CAHSR will generate GHG’s during construction. But it will generate far less GHG’s than other transportation alternatives.

    While the LAO is just being short-sighted, perhaps by mandate, the Sierra Club is just ruining what little reputation they had left.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    6. Funny when rightwingers use the Sierra Club to forward their arguments, I’m sure your a fully paid up member, right John?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The assertion was that the LAO is both unqualified and biased. Despite it being non-partisan by design and if anything biased to the Democrats because of the dominance of the democrats in CA.

    My point is that the head executive of the Sierra Club has the same opinion. So are they unqualified and biased also. I think it is a reasonable question. I don’t have to agree with the Sierra Clubs position to point that out.

    Personally, I think that they are just pointing out that a reasonable case can be made thatCAHSR does not meet the letter or intent of the cap and trade law. They don’t have to be biased or un knowledgable to make that point

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They have opinions on two different topics.

    joe Reply:

    Yes, anyone can hold an opinion. As for the letter and intent of the law, I’d defer to the AG and Legislature who wrote and passed the law. They back HSR.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Actually the LAO is intended to be the advisors to the legislature since they can’t be experts on all subjects (being politicians and all). This is their job to study these subjects

    joe Reply:

    The State’s Legal expert is the AG and the LAO is not issuing legal advice in this report. Tat is not their job
    Furthermore, the Legislature needs no advice as to what where their intentions.

    “The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has provided fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature for more than 70 years.”

    “It is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state budget. “

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It’s a policy paper…that is their job

    joe Reply:

    But you said they are interpreting the legal intent of the cap and trade law to make this judgement. That’s not policy. Should I not pay attention to your commentary if you don’t want to back it up?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Policy = law. What do you think the legislature passes…candy

    Every policy is enacted with law, there is no distinction, except in your mind

    And you reflexively disagree with everything I say joe, even when I agree with you you find a fine point to argue. But I doubt you will ignore me

    Ted Judah Reply:

    Your nuanced approach would make sense except Sacramento is now under one party control. In theory, everyone would be on the same page, but as people are finding out…unity is elusive.

    Moreover, the LAO is intended to be apolitical yes, but the supermajority and gerrymandering have eroded that.

    joe Reply:

    A dictionary reflexively disagrees with you.

    Travis D Reply:

    A little of 2) and 4) combined with a bit of wanting other pet projects to be given priority.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Director of the California Sierra Club, and given that the way that she frames her argument doesn’t hold together from the point of view of long term effective climate policy, seems likely to be playing near-sighted political games regarding which programs get Cap and Trade funding.

    Its always possible that she has a belief in electric cars as a silver bullet, though it would be disappointing to find someone who believes in silver bullet solutions as director of the California Sierra Club.

  3. Jerry
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 17:08

    “The HSRA plans to offset these emissions with an urban forestry program that proposes to plant thousands of trees in the Central Valley.”
    Would that urban forestry include bamboo??
    Don’t know how true it is, but bamboo is suppose to return more oxygen to the air than any other plant life.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The trees or the bamboo eventually die and return the carbon to the atmosphere. It’s only a carbon reduction if you cut them down while they are still alive and bury them. Even that eventually returns to the atmosphere.

    Joe Reply:

    Exactly or you build a peat soil that eventually is buried.

    Offsets are different. I see value in tree growth that offset the emissions from construction.
    Eventually that carbon will cycle but at a time when the system is operating and producing a benefit for decades past.

    jimsf Reply:

    Well they do turn bamboo into very good flooring. Ill assume that keeps the carbon trapped for a while.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    If you convert them into biochar and incorporate them into soils, the effect is rather the reverse, as healthy soils have more capacity to incorporate carbon than worn out soils with productivity propped up with artificial fertilizers.

    Reedman Reply:

    Speaking of trains and trees …

    Building the SMART system to FRA regulations in Sonoma County is going to take down the largest of only ten known albino redwood trees:

    synonymouse Reply:

    They changed their mind on that and are talking about moving the tree.

    But I still say going to 115lb. rail was a screw you move by SMART towards NCRA-NWP and stupid. If they smash up too many doodlebugs they might want to go back to loco hauled and the 136lb rail would be easier on maintenance for the heavy equipment. Penny wise and pound foolish.

    Joe Reply:

    Not true.
    Phytoplankton produce the most net o2.

    Alan Kandel Reply:

    Hopefully, Megaflora trees, which, according to what I understand, not only can they produce energy but absorb air pollutants too.

    More on this here:

  4. Joe
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 18:28

    Bean counters emphasize short term.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    That’s the best five word description for the LAO’s analysis that I have seen to date.

  5. Paul Dyson
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 19:06

    Trying to read the LAO quote and the Nichols quote, seems to me they are not contradictory. Nichols contains a lot of “should” and “could”. The LAO piece confirms that the project doesn’t do much either for transportation or GHG until Phase One is fully built out, and that is 15 years away. Likewise Morris’s quote, the use of “boondoggle” notwithstanding, points up the reality that the intermediate phases as called for in the Business Plan do not provide competitive transportation and will not throw off cash for investment in construction.
    Given the inability of the management (not always their fault) to deliver useful unsubsidized transportation for two decades from the passage of 1A one has to wonder whether it is prudent to proceed. It really doesn’t matter what the merits of HSR may be in other countries or in theory here. If it cannot be built in a timely and expeditious fashion, and at a reasonable cost, it cannot continue to be justified.

    BruceMcF Reply:

    Yes, but the LAO is treating that as if impacts 15 years that open up additional opportunities for ongoing GHG emissions reductions are to be ignored, when meeting the 2020 targets and nothing more is a choice between slower suicide and faster suicide. That’s in opposition to the actual language of the legislation, which calls for meeting the 2020 targets and then ongoing GHG emissions reductions.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Yes, but the LAO is treating that as if impacts 15 years that open up additional opportunities for ongoing GHG emissions reductions are to be ignored, when meeting the 2020 targets and nothing more is a choice between slower suicide and faster suicide. That’s in opposition to the actual language of the legislation, which calls for meeting the 2020 targets and then ongoing GHG emissions reductions.

    But spending a significant fraction of the cap and trade funds on something which will do nothing to lower emissions by 2020, have a very small impact on GHG beyond that point, and that impact will be minimized by other CARB measures (such as increasing automobile fuel efficiency) is quite contrary to the actual language of the legislation as well.

    Yes, there is a provision “and then ongoing GHG reductions.” But the first and foremost priority is the 2020 goal.

    Ted Judah Reply:

    But what change allows the State to meet the 2020 target? Electric card?!?! Electrified CalTrain? Rooftop solar?

    The immediate benefit of HSR is that you are adding a statewide spine of electrical transmission that can better ship electricity between regions of the state. But it also stimulates power generation from green sources like solar to help meet this need.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Does California need a new north-south electrical transmission line?

    jimsf Reply:


    jimsf Reply:

    What I remember from the gray Davis Rollin.g blackout days was that part of the problem was a lack of north south capacity

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I thought the blackouts were an Enron manipulation, to the point that people found incriminating evidence of Enron executives deliberately turning people’s power off.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes it was the evil texans for sure, but at the same time that revealed how vulnerable the system was because of the bottlenecks which I think are still not completely fixed.

    Three years after blackouts rippled across California, plunging the state’s politics and finances into chaos, transmission bottlenecks still plague the electrical grid. Power generated in one corner of the state can’t always reach other regions that need it

    jonathan Reply:

    “still not completely filled”? Quoting an article from 2004?

    jimsf Reply:

    Fixed not filled. Yes . It was being discussed. Has the problem been fixed yet. I haven’t heard anything about a project to increase capacity in the news.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    If we’re concerned about GHG we could stop buying products like steel from China where energy efficiency is lower. Much of the GHG problem stems from the exporting of our industry, which was relatively clean and far more regulated, to countries which have few restrictions and where you can no longer breath the air. GHG taxes here will likely drive away the remains of manufacturing to these polluting countries and on a global level make things worse. Unintended consequences?

    Paul Druce Reply:

    If it was relatively clean, why were you unable to breathe the air here way back when? Not to mention the thousands of Londoners who died in a pea soup fog back in the 1950s. And the US is still the number one source of GHG emissions as I recall.

    And of course we can always levy a tariff to account for carbon emissions from imports if too much risk to our industries.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    China overtook the US in overall emissions recently. Per capita of course the US is still far ahead of nearly any other major developed- or developing-world economy.

    jimsf Reply:

    It’s only been five years. I can’t think of any infrastructure project in California that got off the ground in five years.

  6. jimsf
    Mar 13th, 2014 at 20:08

    Ot but I was doing some research and was shocked to find this fact about my new neighborhood..
    “Notable & Unique: Car Ownership
    American households most often have a car, and regularly they have two or three. But households in the Starkes Grade Rd / Lynx Trl neighborhood buck this trend. Residents of this neighborhood must really love automobiles. NeighborhoodScout’s Analysis reveals that 41.8% of the households here have four, five, or more cars. That is more cars per household than in 97.4% of the neighborhoods in the nation</i?

    Thats a lot.

  7. Thomas
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 08:10

    UP says that they need to test the electrical systems of HSR and what affect they may have on adjacent railroad signaling systems. Wouldn’t this testing/research take several years?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Thomas: That’s a very tricky topic, isolating high voltage traction current from interfering with signalling systems, and old systems interfering with new. It has caused years of delay in Europe in putting new rolling stock into service as each has to have a “safety case” accepted by the railroad administrations.

    EJ Reply:

    They’ve got at least 15 years to get it done though if they start now; can’t see it being much of a problem.

    Thomas Reply:

    Would UP allow the authority to start construction on the ICS, considering the line will eventually be electrified?

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    going to start work on the track bed, not the rail line or wires

    Thomas Reply:

    This does not seem logical. A master agreement is needed with UP for the construction of the 29 mile segment from Fresno to Madera. The question is, would the agreement be based on just regular diesel San Joaquin service for the time being, or the eventual high speed system with catenary? If it is based on catenary, I don’t see how UP will agree to construction, considering its concerns regarding potential interference from the catenary system.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They haven’t studied whether or not the high speed trains will make the UP locomotives jealous or sad either. Or make their wheels go all wobbly with fright or the fuel to curdle in the tanks.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    The authority also will continue the appraisal process for certain parcels, and continue to issue offers and enter into negotiations to acquire property along the high-speed rail right of way. Also on the docket: executing an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad for engineering, construction, maintenance, and related indemnification and insurance requirements covering the Merced-to-Bakersfield portion of the route.

    Progressive Railroading, good enough Dr. Spock.

  8. datacruncher
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 13:06

    The State Water Resources Control Board issued 401 Certification for High Speed Rail construction.

  9. datacruncher
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 14:39

    The State Public Works Board approved at today’s meeting the Resolutions of Necessity authorizing using eminent domain to acquire 9 parcels in downtown Fresno for HSR construction. List of the properties is in the Board’s agenda as Action Item 2 near the end of the packet.

    Action item 1 was approving the acquisition of 4 other properties in Fresno but that was pulled, I don’t know the reason.

  10. Derek
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 16:02

    Why is it so expensive to build a bridge in America?
    By Ryan Cooper, The Week, 2014-03-10

    Spain, a developed market democracy, gets 10 to 20 times as much infrastructure for its money as America does, and it is of much higher quality to boot. Why is this?

    People who have looked into the question have collected a range of fairly convincing explanations — though they come up short in a fundamental way. Let’s quickly go through the major factors researchers have identified, in no particular order…

    The article mentions the California High-Speed Rail project.

  11. Keith Saggers
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 17:34
  12. Thomas
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 19:06

    Do the FY 2010 HSR funds have an expenditure expiration date? I know the ARRA funds have a September 2017 expiration date.

  13. jimsf
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 19:27

    I hope CA hsr trains are silver aluminum with black windows

    Donk Reply:

    I love lamp.

  14. John Burrows
    Mar 14th, 2014 at 23:11

    Construction of the first phase of high of high speed rail will generate greenhouse gas emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years—What can we compare that to? Here are two comparisons—

    1. A modern coal train might contain 120 cars with a capacity of 120 tons per car, for a total of 14,400 tons of coal—Enough coal to keep a large coal fired plant going for 1 day. Using 2.8 tons of CO2 per ton of coal burned we get just over 40,000 tons of CO2 for that one trainload of coal. Looking at it another way that large power plant will produce the same amount of CO2 in 18 hours of operation as construction of the first phase of CAHSR will produce in several years.

    2. California still has coal fired power plants. They are small, are gradually being replaced, and produce less than 1% of the electric power generated here. But in 2006, even though their power production hardly appears at all on a graph, these plants produced 3.9 million tons of CO2.

    If we are looking for things that will make a visibly larger dent in GHG emissions we might consider putting a plan to quickly retire our remaining coal fired power plants on the A list.

    John Burrows Reply:

    A slight correction: The LAO is using metric tons so that large power plant will produce the same amount of CO2 in 20 hours of operation, not 18.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Great point. Use the 50+ billon to eliminate coal fired power plants. So the short and long term carbon impact would huge orders of magnitude greater.

    What a great idea. Good job

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    Shutting down the US coal industry – all use and mining of coal, except possibly coking coal – seems to be an idea that Republicans now support. If coal is replaced by conservation, nuclear, or renewable energy, this will be a big achievement. How do you propose going about it? Does the government buy the stock of coal mines and power plants and shut them down, then pay the workers some severance allowance? How do you propose replacing the lost power, and revenue from export sales? With such strong Republican support, Obama should be able to accomplish this before he leaves office.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Republicans do not support it sadly. That said, carbon tax would do the job just fine.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    A carbon tax has winners and losers. Why not put together a plan with shared pain and gain?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    yes the people who use carbon lose and the people who don’t win. What’s wrong with that?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Because it is a democracy so you have to get it passed. And if the users of carbon outnumber the ones who dont (which is the case here) you can’t get it passed. Any carbon tax, even just on industry, gets passed through utility bills and such down to everyone.

    How do you plan on getting it passed, even if all the GOP dies?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Strictly speaking it’s not users vs. non-users of carbon (everyone’s a user), but above-average vs. below-average users.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I was speaking about CA but since you asked, the usual way, carrot and stick

    1. Identify all plants, it’s a finite number
    2. Pass law outlawing coal plants in 10 years or so, don’t allow extensions, there will always be some excuse. To avoid paying emanate domain perhaps just tax pollution to the point they can’t make money
    3. Owners of coal plants are offered 50%-75% replacement costs for a Nat gas plant (since they still pollute ). I would probably lean towards an interest free forgivable loan rather than a grant but that’s a detail for staff
    4. Replace with 100% non-pollution gets you 100% replacement costs. So solar, wind, nuke, hydro qualifies here

    5. Since they (utilities) have a fully paid for plant now at no cost to them, they are motivated to change over quickly. In exchange for taking the money they are required to pay into a fund that modernizes the electrical grid…I should say pay more into this fund since they are supposed to be paying in anyway, So some of the excess profits go to pay for the grid which helps reduce the number of plants needed since you can move power more easily.

    6. Perhaps pay a premium for “flexible” power. Like 120% of replacement costs??again a detail to be worked out.

    7. In the short term the mining industry can still export coal to other countries, but demand will take a short term hit until China builds more plants. Coal is a shrinking industry anyway, so it just speeds the consolidation. Combination of retraining for workers, unemployment, ect. Nothing for the companies, they still have a business, just not in US.

    I have no idea the overall cost, probably 200-500 billon. Money well spent over 10 years you modernize the grid, mitigate the possible risk of global warming, build a whole new set of modern efficient power plants. Much better efficiency than electric car subsidies. There are just a set number of coal plants, you could make a plan for each one. And it is a 1 time capital investment.

    Another possibility, build them under federal government control so they don’t have to meet state and local environmental impact regs to speed up process.

    Seems a pretty simple plan, everyone gets something

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I looked it up there are a little over 1000 coal plants in US. 350 or so are already cost inefficient compared to renewables so that helps

    This guy estimates 50% replacement with pure solar at 1.1 trillion. A couple of problems with his estimate.

    There will be economies of scale, so if you all build 8000 solar plants the last ones will be really cheap compared to the first one,a he assumes they all cost the same as the first one ever built.

    You would not replace 100% with solar! it’s an expensive option and we still need power at night

    But it gives you an idea of the costs. 500 billon might be doable if you had war power dictatorship footing which you would not so it probably goes to 1 trillion or so over the 10 year span. A good bargain to eliminate one of the top sources of carbon.

    joe Reply:

    Carbon tax would be far less complicated.

    If you own a home, try SOLAR CITY. It’s a dictator free way to deploy solar panels.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    but it does not get rid of coal plants. Isn’t the idea to get rid of coal plant? You are never going to get a carbon tax passed if you dont give something to the people it hurts. Which is why it never gets passed because the greens and the liberals cant stand the thought of the utilities getting a”free” plant at taxpayer expense.

    So we just keep emitting CO2 and nothing gets done.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The coal plants are disappearing all by themselves. Natural gas is so cheap it makes sense to convert them to natural gas. Electricity from natural gas emits less carbon per kilowatt than coal.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I have a dilemma. I’d have to cut a lot of trees down to have effective solar panels. Any advice?

    joe Reply:

    Bury the wood.

    Woody Reply:

    Donate solar panels to your church, local library, Girl Scout Clubhouse . . . You still get a tax break if you itemize. LOL.

    Hate to think of the trees going. Besides their natural beauty and the homes for wildlife they provide, trees shade your own house in the summer and cut your a/c use. As importantly, trees have considerable other potential value, moderating your yard’s, or even your neighborhood’s, microclimate. Trees slow the wind, cool the air near the ground surface with shade, attract precipitation in the form of dew, help to reduce runoff by holding some precipitation on the leaves and branches, aerate the soil thus holding rainfall and reducing use of fertilizer. And they create good input for volume composting — yeah, think positively while you rake those leaves LOL.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Thank you Woody, your nom de plume seems to qualify you to answer these questions, although perhaps with an arboreal bias. The trees on the southwest side in particular make a huge difference to the temperature of the house, and incidentally, a point you missed, also protect the paintwork from the sun. Unfortunately because of the dry climate the leaves are very dry and take forever to compost. And of course one of them is a quercus agrifolia and I’m not supposed to even prune it, let alone bury it. To trade that for a sporadic source of energy is not on the cards for me. Perhaps I could invest in a solar co-op somewhere like California City and benefit that way.

    joe Reply:

    First large trees shouldn’t be growing near a home. Our old sycamores line the street.

    Second, we personally have a line of fruit trees shading our home’s SW side (walls) from the front to the back but don’t let the branches grow over the top of the single story bungalow.

    Third, a solar panel installation shades the roof. They – looking at the ones installed on my street – sit on top of the roof structure.

    We call slow decomposing leaves mulch.

    Paul Dyson Reply:


    I shall move our old sycamore to the side of the street then.

    joe Reply:

    I’d have to take a look.

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, meet reality. Reality, meet Joe.

    joe Reply:
    Meet the cirrus trees –

    “A collection of trees once known as the “Tree Circus” was rescued from a forgotten plot in the Santa Cruz mountains and transported to their new home in Gilroy, CA where they are the centerpiece of our horticulturally based theme park.”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    good news…there is a section of the county without trees. The people on the coasts call it “flyover” country, but for the people like me born there we like to call it home.

    I direct you to areas of the country such as…

    South of Raton and north of Albuquerque along the I-25 corridor

    West of Grand Junction along the I-70 corridor as you head to Las Vegas. In fact, it is the only place i have ever heard of where 2 major federal interstates connect (i-70 and I-15) and there is nothing. A perfect 4 leaf clover intersection, but no development. No gas station, no town, nothing…just ribbons of highway. Go google map it…i will wait

    ..Neat huh..

    Wyoming, Colorado, California, Nevada, Arizona, all have similar areas with no trees, just desert. These are areas that are not even used for farming, so no worries about pushing up food prices. Also great for wind farming if you prefer that to solar.

    This is why you need to upgrade the electrical infrastructure as part of the package, to carry the electricity to the cities across the country. Good news, however, is that the electricity moves really fast, so you can still turn on your lights any time you like.

    No tree need die for the plan to work.

    But, lets say that some deforestation is necessary. If you believe that global warming will cause deforestation anyway, then wouldn’t you be willing to sacrifice some tress to reduce carbon emissions by a very significant amount??

    This is what annoys me about the green lobby. They talk a good game, but when you give them a chance to have a real impact (build 70 nuclear power stations to replace all 1100 coal fired power plants) they object.

    either believe what you say, that disaster is coming and we must avoid at all hazard and risk, or STFU.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    sorry, forgot to say

    Hence centralized plants are really the most efficient way to convert, not individual panels on every building.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    My biggest use of energy is for space heating. Even though we drive 40,000 miles a year. Give everybody in Quebec a ground sourced heat pump and Hydro Quebec has enough capacity to heat New England with ground sourced heat pumps. Before you do that you’d want to rip the siding off almost every house and upgrade the insulation so that there is enough electricity to heat New York with ground sourced heat pumps. It dramatically lowers peak summer demand. With ordinary care insulation is forever. It will be making houses that are still standing more efficient long after the heat pumps have been replaced and replaced again. Put a second loop in the ground source and I can store heat in the summer for use in the winter with relatively cheap solar thermal collectors. Though with a smart grid and off peak power rates I could probably store heat from the summer for use in the winter with an air sourced heat pump cheap. And get “free” air conditioning out out of it along with domestic hot water. PV and heat pumps might be cheaper than solar thermal – use the heat pumps and a variety of storage strategies to lower my cost. Ya got a $100,000 laying around I can have?

    joe Reply:

    The panels on my neighbours roof are probably as efficient as a solar panel in NV and the power isn’t transmitted a few hundred miles. Noadditional surface area impacted or trees cut down and we’re in a old neighbourhood with large sycamores lining the street.

    This is what annoys me about the green lobby. They talk a good game, but when you give them a chance to have a real impact (build 70 nuclear power stations to replace all 1100 coal fired power plants) they object.

    Okay, now that’s Homer territory.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    What makes you think a small residential installation with fixed panels is more efficient than a dedicated power station with moving panels and constant supervision?

    And I assume you realize that the power your neighbor generates does not go to his home, but the overall grid, so it has just as much chance of being transmitted as any other source.

    As for the nuclear plants, I am not the one that thinks it is a global cataclysmic event. But if you believed that, then it seems like you would be willing to do anything to avoid it including building no pollution power plants that are not your favorite form of generation

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The power the neighbor generates goes to the grid, yes, but it’s generated on pre-impacted land, and moreover, in hot areas like California, peak power generation corresponds very closely to peak electricity demand.

    joe Reply:

    Centralization is NOT always about efficiency – can be about central control. Utilities are based on the centralized generation of electricity. A coal or natural gas generation can benefit from having advance scrubbers and other technology at the point of generation.

    Utility-scale solar plants have come under fire for their costs–Ivanpah costs about four times as much as a conventional natural gas-fired plant but will produce far less electricity—and also for the amount of land they require. ….
    The plant was more expensive to build than a similar-size conventional solar-power plant would be today, particularly as prices for solar panels, a rival technology, have fallen over the past few years. Many of the solar power facilities currently being developed are smaller than the Ivanpah plant, such as rooftop solar panel installations and solar farms built near cities and towns where there is less space available.

    I’m not willing to do anything – not nuclear.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    so it has just as much chance of being transmitted as any other source.

    It never leaves the neighborhood.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    It never leaves the neighborhood.

    Do you think the elections generated are tagged? Are they given a map and told to line up and wait for someone to turn on a light but only on that block? Once they are in the grid they can go anywhere.

    And in cold area (i.e. Half the country or more) solar peaks don’t match peak use. What about the poor smucks in MN?

    I am not against residential installation, but if you are going to get rid of carbon generation due to electricity, which by the way is even higher than or even with cars, then you need to replace the coal plants, and preferably not with Nat gas since that generates carbon also.

    But I guess since you are not willing to do anything it’s can’t be that urgent yet

    jonathan Reply:

    “elections”? You need a better spell-checker.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Should have been electrons

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The electrons throbbing and pulsing at Hoover Dam never leave the neighborhood. Shove one in at the dam and different one pops out in Los Angeles. The only way electricity from my puny little PV system would leave the neighborhood would be if everyone in the neighborhood had their electric service disconnected. Three refrigerators somewhere someplace in the neighborhood would be running.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Right you are, the electrons don’t leave, they go into the cloud of electrons around some copper atom. The electricity you generate however, pops out as you say in LA. How do you think that power plants in TX supply the east coast. They don’t produce all power used within a 10 mile radius. When you surf the internet or end an email how do you think the data travels, by magic?

    jonathan Reply:

    The electrons do leave, in HVDC transmission applications. Which have the upside of not having to phase-snychronizethe grid at each end. It’s also somewhat advantageous for submarine cables,where you don’t have to charge the capacitance of the cable every cycle.

    is the entire US grid phase-locked?

    jonathan Reply:

    .. I’m fairly sure the answer is “no’, and that the links required to shift substantial amounts of wind-power between different regions — so that wind-power on the Pacific Coast/Northeast can firm wind-power in the northern Midwest — would have to be long-distance HVDC.

    When you surf the internet or end an email how do you think the data travels, by magic?

    Fibre optic backbone.

    JB in PA Reply:

    When two electrons ‘interact’ you cannot tell which one ‘bounced’ and which one ‘passed through’. They are identical beyond any ability to measure. Every electron in the universe are all identical. Same for the other fundamental particles. It is all just a probability pattern. An information pattern of energy. The electron has a probability of being found in some pattern around an atom but the probability function does not have a boundary limit. So there is a non-zero probability that all electrons in existence can appear in any given cubic centimeter of space. A virtual particle may simple be an result of some distant particle randomly choosing to jump to that point at that time.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The electrons bouncing around on my LAN barely make it out of my house. They get converted to photons bouncing around inside a fiber optic cable out on the telephone pole. they get converted back and forth from electrons to photons a few times between here and the’s server lurking somewhere. If I was even more remote and depended on satellite it’d get converted to photons in the dish in my backyard.

    Every other house in my neighborhood covers it roof with high efficiency PV cells we just suck less electricity from the grid. Especially when one of us flips on the electric clothes dryer or decides to cook lunch with the electric stove or the electric water heater kicks on. Leaving more for Hydro Quebec to sell to New York City. Cover every other rooftop in New York State with PV and Hydro Quebec has more to sell to New York City. The stuff they generate in Ravenswood Queens never leaves the city. It’s a good thing they generate electricity in Ravenswood because the waste steam then goes across the East River to heat water and run air conditioning in Manhattan. Supplying demand in New York City with Hydro Quebec’s excess summer supply and waste heat from Ravenswood means the power plants in Pennsylvania have more capacity to run the air conditioning on the DC metro. Which leaves more electricity from the power plants in Virginia to run microwave ovens in Richmond. The electrons from Quebec never make it to Philadelphia they all get sucked up within New York City. Or Boston with the excess summer supply Hydro Quebec gleefully sells to New England at high rates. They only try to make it to Detroit when someone screws up in Ohio causing the delicate grid across the Northeast to collapse.

    It’s fairly lousy with smaller hydro plants on the Hudson near here. I can tell when it’s hot in New York City because the river is up. If I had PV on my roof it would be running my refrigerator leaving more electricity for air conditioners in Westchester. If my refrigerator wasn’t running it would be running the neighbor’s refrigerator. Or three houses in the neighborhood would be running their electric dryer. I know where my electricity comes from because there’s a pole four blocks away that has a habit of jumping in front of drunk drivers. Lots and lots of sunshine beating down on the PV cells in the neighborhood just means that there is less electricity flowing past the pole that likes to make drunk drivers stop.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The electrons do leave, in HVDC transmission applications.

    They flow back to the converter station on the other end. Takes them forever to do that. Push one in, in Quebec and a different one pops out in Massachusetts. HVDC because it’s more efficient at those distances and Quebec isn’t synchronized to the rest of North America. The electrons bouncing around my refrigerator motor, on my small chuck of the grid, never get past the transformer I can see from my porch. The ones on the high voltage side of that never get past the substation. ( in normal use, YMMV if there is a fault ).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    John, we are not actually presented with a plan; we’re presented with one power plant. The power could very easily have been built elsewhere, i.e. on rooftops.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Bleh, responded in the wrong subthread. It should be in the subthread about Ivanpah, of course.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    That’s an environmentally sensitive area with endemic desert species.

    joe Reply:

    We need to find a way to generate solar from some fraction of the surface area that is already in use.
    “U.S. constructed area approaches the size of Ohio”

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    The whole southwest? The whole area is not protected, and even with it is, given the supposed urgency, better to lose some desert to save the planet. Don’t you think it is an urgent problem?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Not the whole Southwest, but the area of the Ivanpah power station is the habitat of endangered turtles.

    Eric Reply:

    Those turtles are the NIMBYs of environmentalism. When it comes to rail we accept that it’s OK to take from a handful of individuals to allow for the needs of society as a whole. When it comes to global warming that’s not the case?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Alon and joe

    You both love to lecture me on the urgency of the coming global cataclysm that is global warming. Alon has asked me several times if I am going to let the Bangladesh people come live with me when water levels rise and reclaim their country.

    Now, presented with a plan that would eliminate carbon generation in electrical generation, you both balk. Decide what you believe. If you really believed that a global catastrophe was coming then are you really willing to let it happen because you dont like the idea of nuclear plant or want to save turtles and other desert species.

    We need a land area the size of Ohio? You know what that is, a GREAT deal. We have more than enough unused land 10X over to do that. The US is rich is land that gets lots of sun and wind.

    Will it negatively impact some natural habitat, you bet, but if I am to believe you, Alon, every habitat will be negatively impacted by global warming.

    Shit or get off the pot. Either you believe it is a disaster to be avoided, or you are just saying that to push your singular agenda which is “humans are bad” and the only acceptable way of reducing carbon is to magically cut electricity use by 50% and everyone stops driving cars.

    jonathan Reply:

    Now, presented with a plan that would eliminate carbon generation in electrical generation, you both balk.

    Huh? All i saw was a plan to eliminate coal-fired electricity generation in the US.

    Joe Reply:

    First this is another one of your false dichotomy’s. You make a strawman and and we either agree with that one sometimes goofy choice or pick the status quo.

    Maybe you read the article and didn’t understand implications.

    We’ve already covered enough surface area to equal the area of Ohio. Rather than continuing to cover surface area, we can start repurposing existing surface area to capture solar energy and produce electricity.

    Not all efforts have to be corporate, centralized and metered for the benefit of existing utility corporations.

    jimsf Reply:

    In california, replace coal plants with nuclear plants.
    mandate rooftop solar on new homes ( in areas that can use it, most everywhere except heavily forested mountain and north coast areas)
    Offer strong incentives for adding solar to to existing homes and businesses
    In urban areas create green roofs to reduce heat island and reduce runoff
    In suburban area mandate native drought tolerant landscaping
    Continue to increase energy efficiency in homes
    Mandate drip irrigation for farming
    build desalination plants on the southern and central coast.
    upgrade the grid to state of the art.
    Created integrated management of all transportation road rail air.
    Mandate or create incenctives for empoyers to offer flex time schedules so people don’t have to be on the road at the same time everyday.

    do all that and we can sustain healthy growth, clean the air, and reduce water consumption, and reduce congestion

    Derek Reply:

    Or instead of taking away freedoms, fix the market failures that prevent people from choosing to make these otherwise sensible improvements.

    jimsf Reply:

    whether you “take away freedoms” using laws or “take away freedoms” using economics you are still “taking away freedoms”

    jimsf Reply:

    the only difference is that when you “take away freedoms” using laws, everyone must play by the rules, but when you “take away freedoms” using economics, wealthier people can still do what they want and ignore the consequences and avoid contributing to the solution, whereas middle and lower income people take the full brunt of the change.

    joe Reply:

    And economists just made a model validating jimsf’s comment.

    In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”

    Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:

    “While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

    Derek Reply:

    You’re saying that charging the full cost of a person’s lifestyle choices takes away that person’s freedom. I suppose in a way that’s true. But the benefit of doing so is that it provides a revenue source to pay for the freedoms that person took away from another person. For example, dirty air costs us an average of up to $1,600 per person annually in medical costs, lost work, and so on. If we were to add that cost into the price of gasoline, the revenue could (and should) be used to pay for those medical costs and lost sick days, restoring the freedoms of the people who were injured or inconvenienced.

    And since the poor have less money to pay for those medical costs and lost work days, they would be the ones who would benefit the most from internalizing this negative externality. The rich, of course, would pay the most, which they obviously wouldn’t want to do, which leads me to suspect that people opposed to correcting market failures tend to be wealthy.

    joe Reply:

    Most people object to monetizing freedom.

    “Premature deaths among those age 30 and older: 3,812 ”

    How much does it cost me to buy a premature death? One elderly neighbour is driving me nuts.

    Derek Reply:

    Wealthy people object to paying their fair share for things. That’s why we use regressive sales taxes to help fund freeways and why we force stores to overbuild their parking lots so that even walk-in customers have to help pay for parking they don’t use.

    joe Reply:

    “Wealthy people object to paying their fair share for things.”

    So fix the problem so the system reverts back to the way it was when most of the stuff was built. progressive taxes.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Taxes bad. Or so Saint Ronnie said. According to the Holy Laffer Curve the way to increase revenue is to cut taxes. I suppose we could cut them to nothing on everybody and the government would be swimming in revenue.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Put it on your rooftop. If you need to cut an actual forest or habitat for endangered species, you’re doing it wrong.

  15. Peter Baldo
    Mar 15th, 2014 at 08:58

    Thanks. Something like this will have to be done, and it’s good to see what might be acceptable to conservatives. Offshoring the pollution to China won’t do, however. There has to be a similar process for mines. Most carbon will have to remain in the ground, even though it now shows up as an asset in someone’s ledger book.
    Since in a few decades, we have to be beyond oil and natural gas as well, alternatives to oil and natural gas should be favored as coal substitutes.
    A half $ Trillion seems cheap compared to the escalating adjustments we will need to make in response to climate change.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    you can’t control what other countries do, sovereignty applies.

    The best we can do is reduce emissions in this country, you cant force others to follow. So continuing to ship coal to China, Germany, and Japan (who are going backwards and replacing nukes with coal) is inevitable.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    you can’t control what other countries do, sovereignty applies.

    Apply a carbon tax import fee to imported goods that are carbon tax free or under-taxed at place of manufacture.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    are you willing to sink under-developed countries economies? Like Thailand, Haiti, Vietnam, Africa, even China would get smacked.

    Its easy to say, tax countries that pollute, but they are 50-100 years behind the US in technology, money, and knowledge. Can you really expect them to run at 1st world efficiency rates. We are talking about places that still use wood for fuel, dont have reliable electrical system even using coal plant, etc. I dont think forcing billions of people to live in abject poverty without the education and technology that comes along with a modern economy is the best way to get everyone to pull together.

    I say we work on the US first, show it as an example, and when we reach excellent levels of carbon footprint we can talk about influencing other countries.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It has the exact same effect as a VAT that includes border adjustments, and as a result the WTO says that it doesn’t count as protectionism. Put another way, if the US levies a domestic carbon tax but doesn’t have border adjustment, then it’s effectively giving other countries foreign aid that may be used exclusively for CO2 emissions. If the US is that concerned about the effect of the tax on developing countries, it should levy the tax and then distribute all revenue from imports to the world’s poorest countries by formula.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Then ban the mining and export of coal, except as needed for American coal plants, subject to a rapid decommissioning timeline.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Why are you going to impose your will on other countries? Usually you criticize the GOP for trying to impose Americas will on other countries, why is it ok with coal, but invading to keep oil running is evil?

    Is all that talk about sovereignty just talk and you really are happy to impose your will will as long as it is your message and not the GOPs?

    If US coal is embargoed, there is not enough to keep coal plants running in other countries. You are dooming them to either high costs of emergency conversion (I.e. The US can convert for a trillion) or sit in the dark.

    It’s just not right. We need to pay attention to our stuff not impose our will on others

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Export bans are common demands, although the cases I’m familiar with are more about ensuring cheap access to goods for the local market. India banned rice exports in the world food crisis in 2008, in order to keep rice prices low for Indian farmers, which raised prices in developed countries (and also in a few developing rice importers, like the Philippines). In Israel, leftists who have given up on levying revenue-maximizing royalties on offshore natural gas instead call for an export moratorium, to guarantee Israeli energy independence for the next few decades.

    Now, I’d have a problem with an American export ban if I saw that the US gets away with it whereas when other countries do it the US whacks them. But so far, this isn’t really the case. See India again. In Israel, I’m plenty pissed that the state is undertaxing natural gas and that the US lobbies to keep it that way, but a) the anti-export coalition is clearly in the minority no matter what, b) the anti-export coalition’s rhetoric frankly disinterests me (since it’s all about the cheap gas for local consumers). In Canada, there are voices calling for mining and export restrictions on oil and gas, but so far the main obstacle is Harper, and secondarily pro-mining premiers like Christy Clark. It’s completely fine for a natural resource exporter to say “not in our name”; the key point here is that the exporter isn’t taking something from someone else, but instead is giving up something, namely the export revenues.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    so if I ban exports of coal to Germany and China, that is acceptable because the cause is just (reduce global warming)

    But if I impose sanctions including export bans on a country because I dislike their government and want it to change (Iraq, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Cuba, etc.) then the US is a bully that is imposing its politics on innocent weaker nations.

    Your argument is logically inconsistent. Any reason for a ban is going to just to some (human rights, eliminate global warming, destabilizing an evil regime) but a bully to others (imposing foreign value system, etc.).

    I think it is fine for America to impose its will on other countries if we have a US interest. But that is not what you have said you believed in the past. So how do you explain the inconsistency?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The expression “sanctions including export bans” is a weasel, because the primary element of sanctions is an import ban, e.g. Iranian engineering firms can’t bid on construction projects in the US and in countries that respect the US sanctions. The ban on exports of technology and knowledge is an annoyance.

    But let’s zoom in on different kinds of export bans. Bans on exports of goods are economic regulations; bans on exports of technology are speech restrictions. When Phil Zimmerman posted the PGP source code on UseNet, it was a violation of the US cryptography export ban; the people who find this ban stupid would not object to a ban on the export of physical weapons.

    And on top of that, there’s the question of what the export ban is for. If it’s coupled with a ban or restrictions on domestic usage, or if there’s so much stuff in the ground that it couldn’t possibly be used domestically (e.g. Canadian tar sands), then an export ban involves personal sacrifice. In contrast, if it’s not, and the goal is to keep prices down for local consumers, then it’s beggar-thy-neighbor policy and is a violation of free trade principles and possibly WTO laws; I can accept it if a very poor country does it to prevent its citizens from going hungry, but not when a rich country does it to guarantee its citizens cheaper electricity.

    EJ Reply:

    Sorry man, I was under the impression that China and the developing world are on the same planet, with the same climate, as the United States.

    Is that one of those things that changed since I was in school, like Pluto not being a planet or there being more than 2 taxonomic kingdoms?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    They are, and they are also sovereign nations so no matter how all powerful the GOP is, we cant set policy in those nations.

    How do you propose we force them to stop using coal? You think it is as easy as not selling it to them any more. You want to watch China start invading coal producing countries to keep their economy from collapsing. Australia has lots of coal, you want to see a world war start?

    This is exactly how wars start, over resources. I would like them to stop using coal also, but I know that we cant force that choice on them, they have to choose

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The US of course has no authority on Chinese use of Chinese coal for domestic Chinese demand, but it can set policy regarding a) use of coal for American demand, and b) use of American coal. It’s similar to income taxes for people who have income from international sources: most developed countries tax both the global income of tax residents and the local income of foreign residents, and then to avoid double taxation there are international treaties.

    EJ Reply:

    Boy, you sure beat the crap out of that straw man.

    EJ Reply:

    I was of course referring to John’s comment.

    It’s not a binary choice between cutting off China’s coal supply and selling it all the coal it can afford.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    China has domestic sources of coal. One of the points here is that an export ban on coal lets the importers choose to switch to other suppliers; the US actually sacrifices something by choosing to restrict coal exports.

  16. joe
    Mar 15th, 2014 at 10:38

    Thea Selby, a San Francisco businesswoman and Democratic Party activist, has been named to the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors by the speaker of the state Assembly.

    Friday’s appointment of Selby, a self-described “mom, small business owner and neighborhood activist” who is principal of a San Francisco marketing firm, came with no fanfare from Speaker John Pérez and as something of a surprise to some observers.

    Will Shuck, a spokesman for the Speaker’s office, confirmed that Selby will replace Thomas Umberg, a Southern California attorney and former state Assembly member who was appointed to the rail board in 2008.

    Selby is a board member of the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, and is also active in Californians for High-Speed Rail, a group that has organized events across the state to provide information and generate support for the rail project. In 2012, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the San Francisco city and county Board of Supervisors.

  17. joe
    Mar 15th, 2014 at 10:39

    State agencies OK water permits, land condemnation for high-speed rail
    pair of state agencies announced actions Friday to advance the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s efforts to begin construction of its bullet-train line in the central San Joaquin Valley.

    The state Water Resources Control Board approved one of several environmental permits needed by the rail authority before dirt can fly between Madera and Fresno — the first 24-mile stretch of the proposed statewide rail system.

    Also in Sacramento on Friday, the state Public Works Board adopted resolutions declaring a public need to condemn nine pieces of property in downtown Fresno that the rail authority needs for right of way for its controversial rail project.

  18. Keith Saggers
    Mar 16th, 2014 at 15:22
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