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Eric de Place's Posts

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Kyoto is a bargain

Amusing column in the Washington Post today. (And I mean "amusing" in a bitterly ironic sort of way.) The U.S. has spent roughly $300 billion on the Iraq war, with the final figure estimated to be in the ballpark of $500 billion to $1 trillion. Implementing the Kyoto Protocol, on the other hand, is estimated to cost the U.S. somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 - $350 billion (though those figures are speculative and, some would argue, inflated). By the way, the Kyoto Protocol was rejected by U.S. lawmakers because it would harm the economy too much.

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What lessons can America learn from Brazil’s energy independence?

Alcohol can lead to all kinds of unintended consequences -- but who knew it could lead to energy independence? Apparently, the Brazilians did. Processing sugar cane into ethanol is expected to help Brazil meet its rising energy demands in a big way. According to an article in the New York Times, officials expect that within a year the country will become fully energy self-sufficient, thanks largely to putting sugar in gas tanks. Brazil's story is encouraging, but it's hard to know precisely what conclusions to draw for North Americans. We can't buy Brazil's success by importing cane-based ethanol, because our …

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Ivory-billed woodpecker may be gone after all

Remember that thing about the ivory-billed woodpecker -- alive in the swamps of Arkansas -- not extinct after all? Well, maybe not so much. In a new article in the journal Science, renowned bird expert David Allen Sibley says the evidence is insufficient and the famous video of the bird is actually the rather common pileated woodpecker. Sibley joins Kenn Kaufman and a number of other bird experts in his assessment. In the surprisingly fractious world of birders, I'm sure the debate is far from over, but I'm ready to conclude that the ivory-billed has gone the way of the …

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Wolf millennium

New wolf numbers released this afternoon from U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming now host an estimated 1,020 wolves, a stunning 21 percent increase in just a single year. Since reintroduction in the mid-1990s, gray wolf numbers have grown at an astonishing pace, faster even than the most optimistic prognostications. Idaho continues to shelter more wolves than any other state in the West, with about half the total. The rest are split almost evenly between Montana and Wyoming. In recent months, nearly every day seems to bring new rumors of federal de-listing, an action that would leave gray …

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Pine beetle outbreak devastates BC forests

From the Washington Post, an article worth reading on a subject that's depressingly well-known to Canadians, but probably unfamiliar to most Americans: the mountain pine beetle outbreak devastating forests in British Columbia. The damage has been colossal: Surveys show the beetle has infested 21 million acres and killed 411 million cubic feet of trees -- double the annual take by all the loggers in Canada. In seven years or sooner, the Forest Service predicts, that kill will nearly triple and 80 percent of the pines in the central British Columbia forest will be dead. Meanwhile, the beetle is moving eastward. …

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Incentives should reward fuel efficiency, not hybrids per se

Hybrid cars are good for us, right? So policymakers should provide incentives -- things like tax breaks, access to HOV lanes, and free parking for hybrid drivers. Well, not so fast, says a great article in today's Washington Post. There's growing reason to believe that those incentives for hybrids will make things worse -- actually generating more gasoline use, not less. That's because many of the incentives confuse the means for the end. Reducing fuel use (and attendant GHG emissions, air pollution, etc.) is the goal; getting drivers into hybrids is simply one instrument in pursuit of that goal. But …

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Sagebrush ecosystems are overlooked by conservationists cause they’re, um, not pretty

Oregon State University just won a $3.6 million grant for sagebrush-ecosystem restoration. That's good news -- sagelands conservation always seems to take a back seat to other landscapes. I wonder if the explanation for sagebrush's short shrift isn't surpisingly superficial (how's that for alliteration?). Looks matter, and sagebrush just doesn't sell like the prettier places do. If so, sagebrush ecology is paying the price for its lack of glam appeal. The American West is home to 100 million acres of sagebrush country, but it is a battered landscape. As the AP story today puts it: Because of the invasion of …

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Landscaping for water-runoff management

Not quite two months ago, my wife and I became homeowners. We love it. But in addition to the pride of ownership, there are also the worries: Can we really afford this house? Should we get earthquake insurance? Why does a small lake appear in the backyard when it rains? That last one has been on our minds a lot lately. After 26 consecutive days of rain (and counting) here in Seattle, there's a frighteningly large pool of water that has swamped the roses and turned the lawn into something resembling the Everglades. My dad jokingly suggested that we stock …

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The decline of hunters and anglers augers poorly for conservation

Over the weekend The Oregonian ran a good short series on the diminishing numbers of hunters and anglers in the state. While the state's population has doubled since 1950, the number of hunters and fishermen has declined. (Read the articles here, here, here, and here.) This is not just a Beaver State phenomenon -- it's true nationwide, and it may have some troubling implications for wildlife protection. The Oregonian seems mostly concerned that without hunting and fishing, fewer people will want to protect wildlife and natural areas. I think that's wrong. Northwesterners are still getting out into nature in vast, …

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Is buying up hunting rights a smart conservation move?

From the wilderness of British Columbia comes an innovative conservation tactic about which I am strongly ... ambivalent. Raincoast Conservation Foundation is acquiring the guide-outfitting hunting rights to five areas along the central BC coast, a remote area of vast wilderness home to the rare "spirit bear," among other species. The angle here is probably obvious: Raincoast bought the rights in order to put a stop to hunting. Raincoast and other conservation groups have a strong interest -- one I share -- in protecting biodiversity and relatively pristine wild places. So what's my beef? It's a two-parter. First, I'm not …

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