Research by Topic

Climate & Energy

Where Are the Highly-Impacted Communities in Washington?

To invest carbon revenue in the communities that need it most, we need to know where they are.

Steam Plume by James Gaither, cc.

In Washington and across the United States, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to be exposed to air pollution and toxic chemicals. People of color and people with low incomes will also be disproportionately impacted by climate change. Exacerbating their vulnerability to pollution, low-income households and communities of color often have fewer resources available to respond to climate change and related health threats. A fair and equitable climate policy will ensure that Washington communities who have been and continue to be the most highly impacted by pollution have the opportunity to thrive. Other states have recognized the … Read more »

The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails

Westbound oil train, Essex, MT. Photo credit Roy Luck.

Executive Summary Since 2012, more than a dozen plans have emerged to ship crude oil by train to Northwest refineries and port terminals. Moving large quantities of oil by rail would be a major change for the Northwest’s energy economy, yet most media accounts present only a fragmented view of the developments, and government regulators evaluate the projects largely in isolation from one another. “The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails” presents the most comprehensive, region-wide review of all the oil-by-rail projects planned or currently operating in the Pacific Northwest. It finds that: In Oregon and Washington, 15 refineries and port terminals are planning, building, or … Read more »

The Facts about Kinder Morgan

Energy giant Kinder Morgan has big ambitions. Best known for its empire of oil and natural gas pipelines, the firm aspires to enlarge its role in coal transport too. Expanding its export terminals in Louisiana and Texas would increase Kinder Morgan’s coal export capacity in the Gulf Coast region from roughly 5 million tons annually in recent years to nearly 29 million tons. These coal terminal expansions could boost Kinder Morgan’s profits, but they also raise questions about what the projects might cost neighboring communities. The company’s existing coal export operations are well known for blighting neighborhoods and fouling rivers. … Read more »

Five Keystone XLs

Original Sightline Institute graphic by Don Baker Design, available under our free use policy.

Coal, oil, & gas shipments out of the Northwest would carry as much carbon annually as 5 Keystone XLs. View graphic »

Northwest Fossil Fuel Exports

Planned facilities would handle five times as much carbon as the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Original Sightline Institute graphic by Don Baker Design, available under our free use policy.

If all of the coal export terminals, oil-by-rail facilities, oil pipelines, and natural gas pipelines planned for the Pacific Northwest are completed and fully utilized, the region could export fossil fuels carrying five times as much climate-warming carbon as Keystone XL. Read more »

2014 Update: Grading Economics Textbooks on Climate Change

Good progress in economics textbooks' climate discussions

With a new school year approaching, this is a good time to update our review of the treatment of climate change in economics textbooks. As in our 2010 and 2012 reviews, some books hit the mark while others are wildly misleading, but we’re happy to say that there’s plenty of good news, especially at the top and the bottom of the grade distribution. The report card is below, with the full report available here: Care to comment? The report is also featured on our blog.  

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Unfair Market Value

By Ignoring Exports, BLM Underprices Federal Coal

Coal companies operating in the western United States purchase much of their coal through federal coal leasing programs operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which allow private coal companies to mine and sell coal owned by the American public. Although a growing share of federal coal is exported to overseas customers, the BLM has almost completely ignored the value of export sales when determining the minimum price it will accept for federally owned coal. The failure to assess the economics of coal exports has led the agency to systematically underprice coal owned by the American public, potentially leading to millions of dollars in foregone revenue each year. This report documents cases in which coal companies have purchased low-cost federal coal, and then resold it overseas at much higher prices. It also documents examples of coal companies that have clearly stated their intention to export even more federal coal in the future. Read more »

The Dirt on Tesoro

Tesoro is a bad neighbor to Northwest communities.

The oil company Tesoro, a fast-growing Fortune 100 company, has announced plans to build and operate a massive oil shipping facility on the Columbia River in Washington. The Vancouver Energy Distribution Terminal would handle up to 360,000 barrels of crude per day, transferring petroleum from mile-long trains onto oil tankers and other vessels that would ship the oil to refineries in the US and potentially overseas. Many residents of Vancouver, Washington, as well as communities along the rail lines, are unwilling to accept the risks of Tesoro’s proposed project, given a string of oil train derailments and fires across North America. A thorough review of Tesoro’s track record suggests that the community has every reason to be concerned. The company has a demonstrated track record of flouting safety rules, injuring workers, polluting local air, and meddling in politics. Read more »

The RGGI Cap Has Been Too High

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

RGGI overestimated the cost of cutting pollution and set the cap too high. That’s an understatement. “Too high” might mean the cap was just a bit lower than actual emissions, only requiring a little emissions trimming. Cleverly, RGGI built a 2012 program review into its design to catch and correct exactly this type of mistake. As a result of this review, RGGI updated its cap, and the new, tightened cap went into effect in 2014 (see steep drop in the red line).

Learn more about the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI—pronounced Reggie) in our blog article, Reggie Recommends, part of the Cashing in Our Carbon series. View graphic »

RGGI Used Most Auction Revenue for Energy Efficiency

Original Sightline Institute graphic, available under our free use policy.

The programs RGGI invested in during just its first 2.5 years will add $1.6 million in net benefits to RGGI state economies and create 16,000 jobs. If RGGI continues auctioning and investing, it could add over $8 billion in net benefit and add 57,000 job-years of employment by 2020.

Learn more about the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI—pronounced Reggie) in our blog article, Reggie Recommends, part of the Cashing in Our Carbon series. View graphic »