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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Bail, Baby, Bail: What General Motors can Teach us about Policy Distortions

This is a joint posting with David Wheeler and Robin Kraft

When countries in Latin America or Africa descend into crisis, economists in Washington take a harsh view. Governments are forced to reduce spending in return for IMF rescue packages and in some instances, countries are even put on a cash-only budget. In the United States, we have a very different approach designed to minimize hardship of any kind -- the bailout.

Smart Obamanomics for the President-Elect's Top Priority: Energy and Climate Change

This is a joint post with Kevin Ummel, Robin Kraft, Joel Meister and Dan Hammer
During the second presidential debate on October 7, an exchange took place that tells us a lot about what to expect from an Obama administration:

Tom Brokaw: Senator Obama, if you would give us your list of priorities, there are some real questions about whether everything can be done at once.
Barack Obama: We're going to have to prioritize, just like a family has to prioritize … Energy we have to deal with today … So that would be priority number one.

Slouching Towards Copenhagen?

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold
-W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
Could two U.S. delegations end up at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen next year? I’m beginning to think so. There have been some suggestive developments in recent weeks, although you could be forgiven for missing them in the furor over the financial crisis and rescue plan.

Behind-the-Scenes Debate on Clean Tech Fund Reveals Deep Divisions, Shifting Attitudes

As the World Bank moves closer to launching the Clean Technology Fund (CTF), serious questions remain over how the money will be spent. The political headwinds in Washington have shifted since June, when the Congress began to consider contributing to the fund. While the result is still uncertain, it appears increasingly likely that the CTF will ultimately focus on truly clean technology while generally avoiding investments in coal and other high-carbon fossil fuels.

Battling Our Brains: Psychology, Happiness, and Global Warming

Why are some societies rich and others poor? On this subject, Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas wrote, "The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else." The topic is a fascinating one, no doubt, and legions of social scientists have devoted careers to it. But it is quite secondary to a far more fundamental question: Why are some people happy and others not?

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright: The World Bank Undermines Own Conservation Efforts With Fossil Fuel Projects

This is a joint posting with Vijaya Ramachandran
The World Bank Group's board appears to be operating under a severe case of cognitive dissonance, supporting efforts to save tigers - threatened in India and Bangladesh by habitat loss due to climate change - while helping build coal-fired power plants that will only speed up this process.
Back in June the Bank launched a campaign to help governments develop and better manage forests inhabited by endangered tigers, including in the Sunderbans. This massive mangrove forest spans the India-Bangladesh border and is home to the Bengal tiger. While the Bank has a less-than-stellar conservation track record in Sunderbans, more important is the fact that this impoverished World Heritage site would be one of the hardest hit by climate change, whether from rising sea levels or the disappearance of the glacier that feeds the Ganges river.
But the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction and biodiversity stands in stark contrast to its bread-and-butter financing choices. As the Bank planned its save-the-tiger campaign, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector arm, was putting together a deal to finance $450 million of the misguided $4+ billion Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal-fired plant in India. Financing 10% of the cost of a plant being built by India's largest company will help propel India's power sector emissions to third highest in the world within a few years, behind China and the U.S. Is this a smart use of scarce international public resources?

President Bush Should Order the EPA to Waive the Ethanol Mandate Next Week

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, representing a major livestock-producing state hammered by rising feed costs, has petitioned the Environmental Policy Agency to suspend half of the mandated level for blending ethanol in gasoline. The EPA has the authority under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to suspend all or part of the mandate for up to a year if there is a "significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance" and the administrator is supposed to respond to Governor Perry's petition by July 24.

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