On July 24th, NDN and NPI will host an introductory conversation about the potential for a burgeoning energy community between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. You can register for this exciting event here.
As soon as August of 2013, new leadership in the Mexican government is expected to pass comprehensive energy reform to modernize its energy resources. The reforms could pave the way for Mexico to open its hydrocarbons sector to private investment, as well as to create significant growth opportunities in renewable energy.
Because Mexico is the U.S.’ third largest trading partner, America is in the unique position to avail itself of these opportunities and to broaden and deepen its relationship with Mexico for the benefit of the entire region. By establishing a North American Energy Community, we can create a cleaner energy economy for both nations, spur desperately needed economic stimulus in the border region, and build a viable platform for regional energy security.
A distinguished panel will offer insights into the opportunities and pitfalls of this important emerging economic development:
Governor Bill Richardson
Former Secretary of Energy, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, and Governor of New Mexico.
Richardson has enjoyed a very successful career in public service, academia, and the private sector. Few can match his wide-ranging experience and dedication to both energy issues and issues related to the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
Director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars
Wood brings two decades of academic and professional experience in Mexico to the conversation. At the pre-eminent Institute, he provides invaluable analysis on a broad range of issues pertinent to the United States and Mexico.
Rick Van Schoik
Energy Portfolio Director at the North American Research Partnership
Van Schoik is a leading expert in multidisciplinary, tri-national research and policy programs. He frequently travels to give talks and publishes articles in the scientific, lay, and professional press that inform several perspectives on transboundary security, transportation, water, energy, environmental, and related issues.
Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
12:00 Noon – 1:30PM
NDN Event Space
729 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
Please RSVP here today for this luncheon, as space will be very limited.
It is that time of year again for friends of NDN/NPI – the time we come to you and ask for your financial support of our path-breaking work.
Over the next few weeks on this site and through other means we will explaining what we’ve done these past few years with the money our supporters have generously given to us, and what we intend to do going forward. We are proud of what we have contributed to the national debate here in the US, and we are confident that, with your support, we can keep making a difference during a time of significant global transition and change.
We write now because this is the time of year we most need your support. Our generous supporters keep us well-nourished and in the black throughout the year. But to avoid that summer cash-flow lull – as many head out on vacation – it is important that we raise $100,000 before August 2nd.
I hope you will help us by contributing what amount you feel comfortable - $15, $25, $50, $100 or more.
You can make a secure, online donation here, or learn how to use other means of payment. We know that you have spent time with us recently, and we hope that experience will move you to contribute today. It will certainly set off some celebratory and seasonal fireworks here if you do!
Thanks again for your interest, and support, of our important work here.
The Supreme Court's blockbuster decisions on voting rights and same-sex marriage attracted most of the attention, but President Obama also moved decisively last week, on climate change. The facts that drove the President are scientifically undisputed. Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions in the earth's atmosphere continue to raise global temperatures; and without serious action, the long-term effects on sea levels and climate could be catastrophic. Yet, climate-change deniers on the far right have a tight hold on a majority of congressional Republicans, who now won't even acknowledge the threat. With no hope of reaching a reasonable accommodation, the President put forward new regulations that don't need their approval -- and ultimately will be less effective and more costly for average Americans than the alternatives which Congress won't consider.
For a while now, most climate experts and economists have broadly agreed that the most efficient and effective way to reduce these carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is the direct approach: Raise the price of fuels based on the GHG emissions they produce, and so raise the price of all goods and services based on the emissions created to produce them. In principle, this approach could attract bipartisan support. It rests on one of the bedrock tenets of conservatism, the power of prices in free markets, as well as the liberal disposition to create national programs to improve the general welfare. Yes, the most straight-forward way to achieve such climate friendly fuel prices is apply a dreaded tax to all forms of energy based on their carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHG emissions. But even that, in more placid political times, could be a basis for attracting broad support, since the revenues from a climate tax could be dedicated to cutting payroll, corporate and other, more economically-distorting taxes.
The truth is that every other serious approach to climate - from a cap-and-trade system to the President's new regulations - also would raise prices: Directly or indirectly, they make it more expensive to use fuels that emit more than their share of greenhouse gases, relative to other fuels that damage the climate less. Over time, those price differences should gradually move millions of businesses and tens of millions of households to favor the cheaper, more climate-friendly fuels and technologies, and the goods and services produced using them.
The sobering news is, we don't have much time. Scientists warn that however broadly we might adopt the current generation of cleaner fuels and technologies, the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and other GHG will soon reach levels that will produce serious climate changes. However, the economics of setting a clear and hefty price on carbon and other GHG would also create new incentives that could extend the frontiers of climate technology. If energy companies, scientists and entrepreneurs can be certain about the price of carbon and other greenhouse gases, looking forward - if they know how much more it will cost people to use climate-damaging fuels, compared to climate-friendly ones - that would create strong incentives to develop and adopt the next generation of climate-friendly fuels and technologies.
The question is, how efficient and effective are each of these approaches, and which is most likely to spur new advances? The question highlights the costs of the extreme right's current hold on congressional Republicans, which drives the political stalemate on climate policy and has left President Obama with few options apart from executive regulation. His new regulatory agenda has three parts. It includes, first, higher energy-efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, aimed at reducing energy use whether clean or otherwise. There also are new loan guarantees for projects to reduce or isolate the greenhouse gases emitted by fossil fuels, and additional grants to develop more efficient biofuels. These guarantees and grants are designed to promote greater use of more climate-friendly technologies and fuels by reducing the cost of capital to develop them. While these measures provide a sense of the administration moving on many fronts, their combined impact on the climate crisis will be modest.
There is one measure that could matter a great deal more: The President has directed the EPA to develop new CO2 and other GHG emission standards for existing power plants. This follows EPA regulations proposed last year that set similar standards for new power plants. The logic is straight-forward: Set standards that will force utilities to rapidly shift from coal to natural gas and renewable fuels. This makes sense, since the use of cheap coal to generate electricity accounts for about half of worldwide carbon and other GHG. Shifting to natural gas worldwide would cut life-cycle GHG emissions by 20 percent, and shifting to renewable fuels would reduce those emissions by as much as 40 percent.
There is no doubt that sufficient regulation could move the United States to a path under which our GHG emissions would decline in a sustained way. But using regulation in this way will cost Americans a great deal more than a carbon tax with the same result. Under the new regulation, existing power plants will have to develop and adopt new investments that meet a new, uniform standard by reducing their emissions from fossil fuels or converting their plants to use cleaner fuels. To begin, monitoring and enforcing such regulation will cost a lot more than collecting a tax. More important, the program suffers from the inefficiencies of most regulation, because some utilities will be able to meet the regulation much more cheaply than others, based on the state of their current plants. For example, plant A could reduce its emissions by a required unit by investing $1,000,000, while plant B could reduce its emissions by the same unit for $250,000, and by two units for $500,000. So, reducing emissions by two units under the regulation will cost $1,250,000, while plant B could achieve the same result for the climate under a tax or a cap-and-trade system for $500,000. Under all of these alternatives, most of the costs are passed along to the ratepayers and consumers. But a tax with offsetting tax reductions could return much of those costs to everyone. Based on a simulation from several years ago, those costs could average some $1,500 per-household, year after year.
Finally, while the new regulations should spur technological innovations to enable utilities to meet the standard more efficiently, the incentive to innovate will dissipate once the standard is met. By contrast, the economic incentives to develop and adopt cleaner fuels and technologies never go away under an emissions tax, since every incremental advance would reduce the tax and, with it, the price of energy.
This past weekend, President Obama also devoted his weekly address to his new climate program. He deserves credit for refusing to be cowed by his opponents' intransigence. He could truly elevate his presidency, however, by taking the case for a carbon/GHG tax with offsetting tax cuts to the country, and beating his opponents on one of the most fateful challenges we face today.
This post was originally published in Dr. Shapiro's blog
Today, we join in celebrating the passage of the Senate immigration reform bill. As we’ve written before, we believe the bill at its core is ambitious, bold and super smart. It improves the legal immigration system, strengthens border security and interior enforcement, puts unauthorized immigrants on a path to citizenship and makes prudent investments in our ports of entry with Mexico which will create jobs on both sides of our border.
As the CBO noted last week, the bill will also accelerate economic growth in the US, create jobs and reduce the deficit by as much $1 trillion over the next two decades. Politically, it has gained votes as it moved through the Senate legislative process and passed today with a veto-proof super majority. Given what little good has come from Washington in recent years, both the integrity of the bill and its broad political support are truly remarkable accomplishments for the original Gang of Eight.
This is not to suggest the legislation as it comes out of the Senate is perfect. In the months ahead we will be advocating that there is a much better way to throw money at the border than the one imagined by the Corker-Hoeven amendment. Adding more fencing and doubling the border patrol is bad policy. It is incredibly expensive while promising little return on investment, damaging to border states and communities, and is sure to antagonize our Mexican neighbors and other allies throughout Latin America. As a matter of policy, having far more troops on our friendly border with Mexico than we do on the North Korean border is a global embarrassment for the US. Given the huge security gains along the US-Mexico border in recent years, and the ambitious border provisions already in the Senate bill, this massive “surge” simply isn’t needed (see my recent op-ed for more on this).
If Congress is so interested in throwing money at the border there is a better way – investing in modernizing our 47 ports of entry with Mexico and adding more customs agents at all our air, land and sea ports of entry. Given the enormous amount of trade and tourism now flowing through these ports due to rising standards of living around the world, modernizing our ports of entry has become one of the most important infrastructure investment priorities for the nation.
Take trade with Mexico, for example. In 2009 total trade with Mexico was $300 billion. In 2012, it had grown to $536 billion and is on track to hit close to $600 billion this year. Mexico is now our third largest trading partner in the world, and our second largest export market. We trade more today with Mexico than we do with the UK, Germany and Japan combined, and Mexico now buys twice as much from the US as China does. In recent years the trade relationship between our two countries has evolved into one of the most important binational trade relationship between any two countries in the world. Estimates are that fully 6 million American jobs now depended on this trade, a number which is going to increase as the trade flows grow in the years ahead.
The infrastructure which facilitates this exploding trade relationship, however, was designed for an era of trade much less robust than what we are seeing today. Wait times on the Mexican side of far too many ports are unacceptable today, let alone what they may be in 5 to 10 years as Mexico continues to grow and modernize.
The US needs a more aggressive plan to ensure that the economic opportunity these trade flows offers our businesses and workers can be realized. Doing so is going to require investment. Investment in ports will provide significant return by creating millions of jobs on both sides of the US-Mexico border, something that new border strategy of the Senate bill threatens rather than supports.
There are at least three things Congress can do with the $40-$50 billion of new spending on the border that would be far more beneficial to the US than the current Senate plan:
First, Congress can increase the number of customs agents from the proposed 3,500 to an additional 10,000. These agents will help facilitate the increased levels of trade and tourism while providing more security at all our ports. Second, Congress can provide $10 billion over 10 years to the port of entry infrastructure grant program in the current Senate bill. Third, Congress can adopt Senator John Cornyn’s thoughtful proposal to open up ports to public-private partnerships, deploying private capital to help grow and maintain this vital national infrastructure.
The original Gang of Eight Senate border and immigration bill was one of the most impressive legislative accomplishments of the Obama and Bush eras. It is a good bill, bipartisan to the core, ambitious while also creating jobs and reducing the deficit. Whether the rest of Congress can keep the integrity of this bill as it moves forward in the coming months remains to be seen. We remain hopeful, but have no illusions how about much work needs to be to ensure that President Obama signs not just an immigration bill later this year, but a good one.
Crime and Banishment “Mexico wants the U.S. government to pass an immigration reform that would set on the path to legality the six million or so undocumented Mexicans now living in the United States. But the cost might be too great for some Mexican communities along that very border Americans are trying so hard to make secure — for themselves.”
Selling Their Souls to the Devil As cited in yesterday’s LA Times article, on Sunday, June 23, 2013, reporter Jorge Ramos Ávalos shared the Mexico viewpoint of the proposed ‘border surge’ amendment to the Senate’s border/immigration bill. The article was originally published in the Mexico City-based paper La Reforma, and a copy is available here. Here is a quick translation of the piece.
In Mexico, U.S. Border 'Surge' Proposal Stirs Outcry After much silence from the other side of the border, some criticism is emerging from Mexico of the proposed increase of border patrol troops and fencing along the US-Mexico border. Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade stated that fences "are not the solution to the phenomenon of migration, and aren't consistent with a modern and secure border. They don't contribute to the development of the competitive region that both countries seek to promote."
As cited in yesterday’s LA Timesarticle, on Sunday, June 23, 2013, reporter Jorge Ramos Ávalos shared the Mexico viewpoint of the proposed ‘border surge’ amendment to the Senate’s border/immigration bill. The article was originally published in the Mexico City-based paper La Reforma, and a copy is available here.
The following is a quick translation of the piece:
“We were about to record a special television program on immigration reform and we could not begin because Senator Chuck Schumer of New York would not hang up his cell phone. But none of the other three senators accompanying him- Bob Menendez, Dick Durbin and Michael Bennet- dared to interrupt him. Me either. Schumer was counting by telephone the number of senators who would support a new amendment to “militarize” the border of the United States with Mexico and the issue was too important to ask him to hang up. When at last he did, we found out about the negotiation that had occurred behind closed doors.
In exchange for securing enough Republican votes to legalize the majority of the 11 million undocumented, the Democrats would have to sell their souls to the devil, as the Mexican saying goes. The agreement includes increasing the number of border patrol agents on the border from 21,000 to 41,000, completing construction of 700 miles of wall between the two countries, putting into practice at a national level the employment verification program known as e-verify, and using the latest technology (like drones) to monitor the border.
‘Militarization’ is not exactly the right term because the agreement doesn’t send US soldiers to patrol border with Mexico. But it includes some harsh tactics that are only used between enemy nations. In fact, various private contractors that worked for the American military in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now pursuing new contracts on the Mexican border. That is where the money is.
This is undoubtedly the most drastic series of measures in history for physically separating two countries. That is why the absolute silence of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in this debate is so surprising. The passivity and negligence of his government is incomprehensible; it is as if this had nothing to do with him, as if it were not going to seriously affect millions of Mexicans.
This is not done between neighbors. Mexico is not being treated like one of the principal trading partners of the US. With this agreement, it appears as if the two nations are fighting. It’s terrible to return to the epoch of building walls.
The Peña Nieto government lacks imagination to propose migration agreements like that of the European Union, or at the very least, the audacity and temerity of Vicente Fox to ask for a new migration treaty with the United States. What Mexico needs are more visas for its workers in the north, not more US agents that arrest the poorest of Mexicans in the deserts and mountains.
The US senators that devised this border agreement, clearly, did not want narcoviolence from Mexico to cross into their country, nor did they want to run the risk of a terrorist sneaking through the border. After a complicated, long, and difficult negotiation on immigration reform, they also did not want their country to again fill with undocumented immigrants in a few years.
I understand why these US senators did this. The message they received from the Latino community en the past presidential elections is that they had to move forward with immigration reform and a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people, no matter the cost. And this is exactly what they did. Now we cannot hold it against them. The Democrats are sacrificing almost everything so that Republicans in the Senate approve an immigration reform bill and so the project passes in the House of Representatives.
The senators Schumer, Menendez, Bennet, Durbin and the Republican from Arizona, Jeff Flake, were very candid with me. No, this was not the agreement that they would have wanted. But immigration reform is a negotiation, not the directive of a single party. Lesson: one does not win what one deserves but only what one negotiates.
Of course, all these deals can change, or even be rejected up to the moment of voting. But the intention is already clear and the message is written on the wall: on the border it’s a heavy hand, not cooperation.
Finally, the principal loser in all this is Mexico. The US is shutting the door in its face and it isn’t reacting. Its ministers and diplomats appear not to understand how things work in the US. Here you knock on doors, lobby Congress, look for influence, use propaganda, appear in the media, and make noise. The Peña Nieto government has not done any of this and there are the consequences: more miles of fence and thousands of more agents to arrest Mexicans.
And the winners, I think, are the undocumented immigrants. It is unimaginable how many people are fighting for them! The reform advances and these immigrants are closer than ever to legalization. It is at an extremely high cost and with binational consequences that will last decades, but their voice is being heard.”
Part of the joy of running an organization is seeing people grow, learn and then move on to new challenges and opportunities. This week we send off two really good members of our team to exciting new positions. Chris Bowman, who has been a terrific assistant to me, moves into the Congressional office of Mike Doyle, a home state Congressman for him. Kristian Ramos, who has been a high-impact and vital member of our team for three years now, takes on an important new assignment as the Communications Director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Kristian also joins an important club, alums of NDN's pathbreaking Hispanic work, a wonderful club which includes Joe Garcia, Sergio Bendixen, Maria Cardona, Jimmy Learned, Alicia Menendez, Fernand Amandi, Andres Ramirez and Gil Meneses. Over the 11 years of our project few have done more to advance a greater understanding of the changing demography of the US and advance immigration reform than this intrepid and wonderful group. I am proud of what we have done together, and for what they continue to do every day to make our politics more modern and responsive to the challenges our country faces today.
Stepping up to become Policy Director of our 21st Century Border Initiative is Emma Buckhout who has already been a welcome and talented addition to the project. Emma comes to us from the Latin America Working Group, where she worked on their Mexico and Border program. Prior to moving to DC, she spent two years on the other side of the border working on community development with Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico City. She graduated Summa cum Laude in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania.
So please join me in saying thank you and good luck to Kristian and Chris, and welcome to Emma.
Cost of Border Deal Questioned Read this article for an excellent analysis of the implications of the Corker-Hoeven proposed additional spending to the Senate border/immigration bill. Border experts agree that the spending for additional border patrol agents and fencing is more than needed and probably more than is possible to effectively implement.
Arizona Sheds Anti-Immigrant Policies; House Should Take Note Kristian gives his thoughts on the implications of shifting immigration politics in Arizona: "A combination of real improvements along the border, a series of high-profile legal and political defeats, and a rallying of business and community leaders against the social and economic costs of anti-immigrant politics is ushering in a new, post-SB1070 era in Arizona. As House Republicans in recent days have committed to SB1070 style anti-immigrant politics, it would be wise for them to pay attention to what has happened in Arizona in recent years."
On The Border, DHS Has Earned Congress’s Trust Simon recently published this op-ed analyzing why Republican criticism of DHS is misplaced and how real success achieved at the border should be guiding Congress’s debate over immigration reform.
One of the more interesting developments in the national immigration debate is the retreat of anti-immigrant politics in Arizona, a state which helped bring it to the nation. A combination of real improvements along the border, a series of high-profile legal and political defeats, and a rallying of business and community leaders against the social and economic costs of anti-immigrant politics is ushering in a new, post-SB1070 era in Arizona. As House Republicans in recent days have committed to SB1070 style anti-immigrant politics, it would be wise for them to pay attention to what has happened in Arizona in recent years:
Supreme Court Once Again Strikes Down Arizona Law: In 2010, Arizona passed SB1070, creating copy cat laws all over the country. The Obama Administration sued Arizona and took the case to the Supreme Court. The Court struck down most of SB1070, curtailing the rise of state passed immigration laws. This week a conservative Supreme Court struck down another Arizona law which came from the same style of SB1070 politics. For the second consecutive year a conservative Supreme Court has handed Arizona’s anti-immigrant leaders a significant legal defeat.
The Legislative Architect of SB1070 was Recalled, and is Now Out of Politics: In 2010 Russell Pearce, the then-majority leader of the state Senate pushed SB1070 through the state legislature. In 2011, a coalition which included Republican business leaders became alarmed by the damage to the state’s reputation. It backed a moderate GOP candidate, who defeated the sitting majority leader in a recallelection. A year later, Pearce ran in a newly-redrawn district and was handily defeated in a primary by a moderate Republican candidate. Embracing virulent anti-immigrant politics ended the political career of Russell Pearce.
Arizona Senators are Now Leaders on Immigration Reform: The weakening of the SB1070 forces has given Arizona’s Senators McCain and Flake the ability to be among immigration reforms most important champions. Senator McCain now defends progress made on the southwest border, recently taking to the Senate floor to note: “I have been on the border in Arizona for the last 30 years, to somehow say there have not been significant advancements in border security defies the facts.” These kinds of statements were hard to imagine in the build “the dang fence” frenzy of 2010.
Democrats are Making Significant Political Gains: Despite the reputation of the state as a conservative bastion, the Congressional boundaries have produced a Congressional delegation that is 5-4 Democratic, and is likely to stay so for years. In 2011, Tucson and Phoenix both elected Democratic mayors, the first time these cities have had Democrats in some time. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has become an important opponent to local Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and is among the most spirited advocates for comprehensive immigration reform in the country.
Arizona State legislature rejects Anti-Immigration Laws: After years of legislative sessions dominated by anti-immigrant/SB1070 style politics, this year’s session has seen very little of this type of legislation, and none have passed. One of SB1070’s most important leaders, and one of President Obama’s most virulent critics, Governor Jan Brewer, recently accepted the new health care law’s Medicaid provisions, something rejected by most other Republican governors in the country and put her on the receiving end of scorn from the state’s Republican Party. These new provisions will disproportionately help low income Hispanic residents of the state. Brewer’s actions would have been unthinkable at the height of the anti-immigrant political movement. Today they are further signs of the weakening hold that this movement has on Republican lawmakers in Arizona.
Arizona’s Republican Party, once the nation’s greatest champion of anti-immigrant politics, has largely moved on to other matters, not wanting to absorb the costs and losses they were suffering. The state’s two most important Republican politicians have become important leaders of a new wave of comprehensive immigration reform advocacy. Democrats have made significant gains in the state in recent years, bringing Arizona much closer to being a purple state than ever before.
As someone who grew up in Arizona, I have watched the weakening of SB1070 style politics among the Arizona Republicans with both amazement and joy. House Republicans ignore their journey at their own peril.
This was originally posted in NBC Latino and can also be read here.
President Obama has announced an additional $300 million in direct aid following the apparently confirmed reports that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons sporadically throughout the conflict in Syria. It is less clear, however, exactly what will be provide, who precisely will receive it, and when the aid will arrive. This decision occurs while the momentum that the rebels seemed to have been building earlier this year appears to be slipping away as the Assad regime retakes territory and becomes resurgent.
To explore this evolving situation, NDN’s MENA Initiative hosted an interactive webcast with leading experts:
Yisser Bittar from the Syrian American Council.
Christy Delafield from the Washington office of the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Institution and Research Director of the Brookings Doha Center.
"Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox."