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World Energy Modernization Plan
Alex Steffen, 15 Aug 04

Al Gore reviews Boiling Point, Ross Gelbspan's second book, for the NYT Book Review:

"Part of what makes this book important is its indictment of the American news media's coverage of global warming for the past two decades. Indeed, when the author investigates why the United States is virtually the only advanced nation in the world that fails to recognize the severity of this growing crisis, he concludes that the news coverage is ''a large reason for that failure.''

"At a time when prominent journalists are writing mea culpas for allowing themselves to be too easily misled in their coverage of the case for war in Iraq, Gelbspan presents a devastating analysis of how the media have been duped and intimidated by an aggressive and persistent campaign organized and financed by coal and oil companies. He recounts, for example, a conversation with a top television network editor who was reluctant to run stories about global warming because a previous story had ''triggered a barrage of complaints from the Global Climate Coalition'' -- a fossil fuel industry lobbying group -- ''to our top executives at the network.''

"He also describes the structural changes in the news media, like increased conglomerate ownership, that have made editors and reporters more vulnerable to this kind of intimidation -- and much less aggressive in pursuing inconvenient truths.

"Gelbspan's first book, The Heat is On(1997), remains the best, and virtually only, study of how the coal and oil industry has provided financing to a small group of contrarian scientists who began to make themselves available for mass media interviews as so-called skeptics on the subject of global warming. In fact, these scientists played a key role in Gelbspan's personal journey on this issue. When he got letters disputing the facts in his very first article, he was at first chastened -- until he realized the letters were merely citing the industry-funded scientists. ...

"When Gelbspan addresses the subject of solutions, he first gives a detailed analysis of all the significant plans that have been offered, and then endorses a maximalist approach called the World Energy Modernization Plan, developed six years ago by an ad hoc group that met at the Harvard Medical School. His basic argument is that it is far too late in the game to waste time on strategies that might be more politically feasible but don't actually do enough to begin to solve the problem."

Here's more about Gelbspan's World Energy Modernization Plan. It's good stuff, calling for the shifting of subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables, international efficiency and renewable content standards (as an add-on to the so-called "cap-'n-trade" system), the lowering of trade barriers, and the creation of an international fund to finance the transfer of climate-friendly and efficient energy technologies to the developing world (funded by a "Tobin tax" on international currency transactions). Whether these or other proposals can fly politically is an entirely different question.

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Check out Futurepundit's story about thin film fuel cells. If this technology works out you might see alternative energies being given a real boost by the government, especially the military. Imagine clean energy as a military spinoff?

Posted by: Conrad on 16 Aug 04

Just so you know, we covered thin film fuel cells a couple of weeks ago.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 16 Aug 04

Gore feels a tad uneasy at the spectre of unelected experts making policy, and advocates enforcement of Kyoto, followed by a toughening of the protocol once folks have gotten used to being regulated, a la the Montreal Protocol on protecting the ozone layer.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 16 Aug 04

Nice find, Conrad. Here's another site that provides more background and interesting coverage:
An interesting perspective.

Also read the dozens of comments at Over 4 dozen good comments and counting!

Posted by: RB on 16 Aug 04

The comments on the story on thin film fuel cells is almost to 70 comments.
Some of the readers here might want to check them out.

Posted by: RB on 17 Aug 04

I'm glad that you found my comments on SOFCs to be helpful.
On the above proposals, I desperately hope that a Tobin Tax is never implemented. It is the very antithesis of another desire, that of the lowering of trade barriers. You can logically call for one or the other but not both.
I also feel it is unnecessary. At some point, non fossil will be cheaper than fossil. At that point, no subsidy will be necessary for technology transfer: everyone will adopt it anyway. From my isnside the industry viewpoint we're about 20 years away form that being true. Global Warming may be a large problem (although I'm not 100% sold on that idea) but it is not a sufficiently urgent one that we cannot wait to apply the correct technology.
If you wish to bring that "correct technology" date forward, well, I know some people looking for capital to build a factory for SOFC components:-)

Posted by: Tim Worstall on 20 Aug 04



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