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Rachel Cleetus

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About the author: Rachel Cleetus is an expert on the design and economic evaluation of climate and energy policies, as well as the costs of climate change. She holds a Ph.D. in economics. See Rachel's full bio.

How the EPA Can Set a Strong, Flexible Power Plant Carbon Standard

A draft of the EPA’s carbon standards for existing power plants is due on June 1, 2014. There’s been a general call for flexibility in the design of these standards, which the EPA has committed to. Great River Energy Cooperative, Minnesota’s second-largest electric power supplier, recently proposed a regional carbon cap accompanied by a fee as one possible way to meet the upcoming standards. It’s a positive step, showing leadership and highlighting the importance of diverse regional approaches for getting significant, cost-effective reductions in carbon emissions. Read More

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The Social Cost of Carbon: Counting the Costs of Climate Change and the Benefits of Cutting Carbon Pollution

Last November the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) solicited comments on the administration’s social cost of carbon (SCC) calculations. Today, as the extended comment period closes, the Union of Concerned Scientists filed joint comments with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Institute for Policy Integrity (Policy Integrity), and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the SCC. The current SCC value is an important start for measuring the benefits of cutting carbon pollution. At $37 per metric ton of CO2 in 2015 (2007 dollars, using a 3% discount rate), it is also almost certainly an underestimate of the costs of climate change and can be improved in the future. Read More

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Grimm-Cassidy Bill Seeks to Gut Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reforms

In an extraordinary turnabout, House members seem set to abandon bedrock principles of fiscal conservatism by voting on a bill to undermine the Biggert-Waters flood insurance reforms. Those reforms would have put the highly-indebted National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in a more solvent position, benefiting taxpayers who have been footing the growing bill for costs of flooding. They would have also helped shine a light on the growing risks and costs of development along parts of our coasts threatened by sea level rise, storm surge, and flooding. Read More

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The Biggert-Waters Act: Fix It, Don’t Abandon It

As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, the Senate is gearing up to vote on delaying the reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) mandated by the Biggert-Waters Act. With rising sea levels increasing the risk of coastal flooding and the NFIP’s debt mounting (over $24 billion currently), it’s time for senators to find a sensible middle ground that protects both local communities and taxpayers. Read More

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How to Fix Flood Insurance: Delaying the Biggert-Waters Act is Not the Answer

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which passed with broad bipartisan support in July 2012, requires the taxpayer-backed National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to set premiums that reflect true flood risk and will help put the program on a more financially secure footing. Now many of the same senators who voted to support these necessary and overdue reforms are set to gut them. Biggert-Waters is flawed but it can and should be fixed, not overturned or substantially delayed. Read More

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Environmental Justice Must be a Part of Obama’s Climate Action Plan

There’s a lot to like in President Obama’s climate action plan. It commits his administration to some important steps forward on addressing the challenge of climate change, both by lowering U.S. carbon emissions and by helping build resilience to climate impacts. But there’s one glaring omission that needs to be rectified as the plan goes into implementation: it needs to include environmental justice and equity concerns for low-income communities and communities of color. Read More

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Modest Carbon Price Will Significantly Lower Power Sector Emissions

Part three of a three-part blog series.

Last week some colleagues and I published an article in the Electricity Journal showing that almost 60 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generators could be candidates for closure based on their poor economic profile relative to competing cleaner options like natural gas and wind. We also found that a modest carbon price of $20/ton of CO2 would more than double that figure to nearly 138 GW, reducing CO2 emissions by up to 745.7 million tons. You can read more about our analysis here and in blog posts by my colleagues Jeff Deyette and Steve Clemmer. Read More

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Seven Takeaways for the Warsaw Climate Talks from the New IEA Report

There’s a distinct lack of optimism here at the Warsaw climate meeting. A recent report from UNEP shows that we are falling far short of the emissions reductions necessary to limit the global temperature increase to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The IPCC working group 1 report points out the grave implications of our rising carbon emissions. But, like the previous reports, IEA’s World Energy Outlook released today shows that, despite the grim emissions trends, we do still have choices: yes, we can cut our emissions sharply and, yes, that means making serious policy decisions now. Read More

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Lessons from Hurricane Sandy for Flood Risk and Flood Insurance

Hurricane Sandy caused record flooding along the coasts of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, much of it resulting from storm surge. Sea level rise means that these kinds of storm surges are now riding on elevated water levels so that their destructive power extends higher and farther inland. Coupled with growing population and development along our coasts, major storms are creating increased risk for coastal residents – and threatening the financial solvency of the taxpayer-backed National Flood Insurance Program. Read More

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The EPA Carbon Standards for New Power Plants: How They’ll Work and What’s Next

On September 20, the EPA released re-proposed draft power plant carbon standards for new power plants. These standards can serve as a backstop against future emissions. Together with standards for existing power plants, due next June, this is an opportunity to curtail global warming emissions from the largest single source of these emissions in the U.S. They are also a step forward in delivering on the President’s Climate Action Plan. Read More

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