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Adam Stein's Posts

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Some ideas for green resolutions that are achievable, meaningful, and maybe even novel

New Year's resolutions, as we all know, are almost entirely pointless -- made in one breath, forgotten in the next. So in that spirit of general futility, I offer a few ideas for green resolutions that, either through novelty or just ease of use, may inspire more than a passing commitment. Please leave your own ideas below. Idea #1: help make "livable streets" a reality in your community All politics is local, said Tip O'Neill, but most of us still don't pay much attention to local politics. Issues at a community level are often driven by the triumvirate of homeowners, …

Read more: Cities

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Where will we find infrastructure funding under cap-and-dividend?

I'm not sure I qualify as a cap-and-dividend advocate -- I'm mostly an advocate of not feeling the need to rank every flavor of carbon policy, whose heavily negotiated fate rests in the hands of our brave, capable legislators -- but I at least qualify as a fan. If I were king, my carbon edict would either be cap-and-dividend or some similar revenue-neutral carbon tax. So here are some thoughts in response to David's question. Things that are worth funding are worth funding, regardless of funding source. The question is: should we build a smart grid given a cost of …

Read more: Uncategorized

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City announces plan to develop next-generation electricity grid

The city of Austin, Texas recently announced a smart grid project. Smart grids, you may recall, are one of the core elements of the Grand Climate Plan. Although the Austin project isn't the first such effort in the country, officials hope that the city will be able to move faster than others, because Austin actually owns the local power provider. Right now you may be wondering: What's a smart grid? Glad you asked. The term refers to a set of complementary technologies that share the aim of moving power from producer to consumer in a more intelligent manner than our …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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More misleading salvos in the great carbon tax debate

Professional lost-cause Ralph Nader has found another arena in which to unhelpfully intrude: carbon policy. On the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, no less, he argues for a carbon tax. I personally have no dog in the carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade fight. It seems pretty clear that either policy can effectively put a price on carbon, and that a lot hinges on the particulars of any proposed system. It also seems clear that cap-and-trade is what we'll end up with, so the sooner we get started, the better. But I suspect that most readers of the Wall Street Journal op-ed …

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Electronics, biomimicry, and design advances improve a mature technology

Solar energy sucks up a lot of research attention, partly because solar energy systems still have so much room for improvement. Wind turbines, on the other hand, have been around for over 1,000 years, and although the modern versions are vastly larger and more efficient than their ancient counterparts, the basic concept hasn't changed much. But the standard blades-on-a-horizontal-axle version of wind energy systems (as opposed to more exotic flavors like kites or blimps) may yet be poised for some big leaps forward, several of which were profiled in a recent Clean Break column. I've already covered Catch the Wind's …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Low-carbon roadmap comes into focus — with some notable gaps

In a post-election editorial, Al Gore laid out a policy roadmap for addressing climate change. Gore's plan looks like a bunch of other plans that have recently landed on the president-elect's doorstep. I will now do you the favor of summarizing reams of policy expertise in five bullet points, henceforth referred to as the Grand Climate Plan: Carbon pricing Efficiency standards Carbon-free electricity Smart electrical grid Electric cars transportation Some heavy caveats are in order: the Grand Climate Plan isn't meant to be comprehensive or even sufficient to address climate change. Plenty of important stuff falls outside the scope of …

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A useful rule of thumb: Lower emissions are better for the environment

In the unlikely circumstance that reporters ever grow weary of chasing twitches in the oil markets or interpreting the wanderings of the Dow, they have a new toy to play with: the price of carbon. Which is fine, so far as it goes, except that they keep getting the story so badly wrong: The global financial crisis and looming recession might actually make it cheaper to comply with Europe's increasingly stringent caps on greenhouse gas emissions by pushing down the price of carbon-emissions permits (along with everything else traded on a market). The environmental downside? The economic slowdown and cheaper …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Sometimes the issue with a particular technology is the technology itself

In arguing for efficiency mandates, Joe Romm notes the failings of carbon pricing as a solution to climate change: That means a price of $400 a metric ton of carbon (whether achieved through a tax or a cap & trade system) would increase the price of gasoline a mere $1 a gallon. How much efficiency would that drive? Not bloody much! Joe Romm more recently comments on the future of the electric car: If hybrids drop in price and gasoline resumes its peak-oil driven upward trend, then by, say 2015, it would simply not make sense to bother producing a …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Credit crunch slows clean energy development

A few weeks ago, I made some guesses about how the big picture trends in the economy would affect the development of clean energy. And though it's still early days for the financial crisis, so far my guesses look pretty good. The Times talks to a few industry insiders, who confirm that the credit crunch is slowing down clean energy projects. Abyd Karmali, the global head of carbon emissions at Merrill Lynch, is optimistic in the long-term (as, I suppose, I am too), but acknowledges that funding for energy development is becoming more difficult to find. Meanwhile, Earth2Tech notes that …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Pulitzers await the enterprising journalist who digs into the RGGI efficiency story

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first legally binding cap-and-trade system in the hemisphere, kicked off yesterday with the world's largest carbon credit auction. The program immediately failed. I don't know anything about the results of the auction, which won't be made public until Monday, but I do know that whatever happened, RGGI is a great big failure. I know this because journalists prepared its obituary weeks ago. The New York Times recently explained that RGGI is a failure because the carbon price is too low, "undermining a concept that is being watched carefully by the rest of the country." …

Read more: Climate & Energy