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Jon Rynn's Posts

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Every job can be green, part two

This is part two of my chapter, "Green jobs in a sustainable economy", published recently in the book "Mandate for Change".  You can also read part one, in which I discuss the first three ways in which to create an environmentally sustainable economy. Fourth, in the United States today, about two-thirds of our electricity and one-third of our natural gas is used within residential and commercial buildings. Heating and cooling accounts for almost all of the natural gas use in commercial and residential buildings, and accounts for 30 percent of all electrical use in the country. And those natural gas …

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Thank you, Van Jones, for being busy

Every job can be green, part one

Fortunately for your humble correspondent, Van Jones was so busy when the editors of the new book, Mandate for Change: Policies and leadership for 2009 and beyond, were looking for an author for their chapter about green jobs, that they turned to me instead.  This is part one of three posts that will serialize my chapter.  There are over 40 great contributors besides me, your humble ... well, anyway, buy the book! We face several simultaneous crises—global warming, high oil prices, a brittle agricultural system and a major economic slowdown—all of which can be addressed at the same time by …

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The 'Big Fix' is in

The economy needs to be green to be 'fixed'

As is often the case, The New York Times serves as a good example of the mistaken assumptions underlying conventional wisdom. In his Sunday Magazine cover story, "The Big Fix," Times economic columnist David Leonhardt combines many of the misconceptions surrounding the idea of "green jobs." As I fretted in a previous post, some writers, including Leonhardt, seem to be setting up some sort of cosmic battle between green jobs, cap-and-trade, and economic growth: Of the $700 billion we spend each year on energy, more than half stays inside this country. It goes to coal companies or utilities here, not …

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Preventing green vs. blue

Government investment in the Midwest will grease the skids for cap-and-trade

The New York Times, in an article entitled, "Geography is dividing Democrats over energy," makes much of an alleged split between policymakers on the coasts, vs. those in the Midwest and Plains states. Somehow coal and manufacturing are grouped together, challenging a concern for global warming: "There's a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts," said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. "It's up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is. If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt …

Read more: Politics

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Convenient facts about an inconvenient truth, part 2

A detailed look at building, industry, transportation, and land-use greenhouse-gas emissions

Greenhouse gases come in two basic flavors: carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, and emissions from land use -- agriculture, forests, peat bogs, and waste management. Fossil fuels are primarily used for energy in three sectors: buildings, industry, and transportation. Transportation is almost entirely oil-based -- according to the International Energy Association, about 0.1 percent of transportation energy currently comes from electricity. Just to make things complicated, people use fossil fuels to make electricity to use in buildings and industry. Well, actually, we use fossil fuels to make electricity -- and -- we use fossil fuels to make heat to use …

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Convenient facts about an inconvenient truth, part 1

Slicing and dicing global greenhouse gas data

Say you said to yourself, "Gee, I wish we could prevent global warming." Your next thought might be, "Gosh, where do greenhouse emissions come from?" Well, I asked myself just that question a while back. So I decided to jump into the IPCC Working Group III Assessment Report, and I've posted a Google workbook, called "GreenhouseGasEmissions," which should let you know just about everything you always wanted to know about the global sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The biggest surprise to me was the sheer number of major sources. I don't know whether it would be easier …

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The de-greening of America and China

How the U.S. and China can help, not harm, each other

So this is how it worked: Instead of greening our manufacturing base, amping up our recycling system, and competing on the basis of better production technology, we shipped our production to China, which is busy polluting itself and spewing carbon dioxide. In return, the Chinese took the hundreds of billions from sales to the U.S. and reinvested the money here, helping to make our sprawl even spawlier and our military even more wasteful. According to an article from The New York Times, "Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble": In the 19th century, the United States built its railroads with capital …

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Time for a green industrial policy?

The economy is an ecosystem, and industrial policy will help that ecosystem

Back in the 1980s, writers such as Robert Reich were advocating what was called an "industrial policy" -- that is, the government should intervene in the economy and explicitly help a particular industry or set of industries in order to make them more competitive. Yes, I know this sounds like "picking winners," except that governments have been doing this successfully for hundreds of years. Consider it as the equivalent of the Park Service being stewards of a national park, intervening when necessary to keep the ecosystem healthy. Now, think of the economy as an ecosystem, and think of industrial policy …

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Notable quotable

Michael Moore on the Big Three and transit

"Transporting Americans is and should be one of the most important functions our government must address. And because we are facing a massive economic, energy and environmental crisis, the new president and Congress must do what Franklin Roosevelt did when he was faced with a crisis (and ordered the auto industry to stop building cars and instead build tanks and planes): The Big 3 are, from this point forward, to build only cars that are not primarily dependent on oil and, more importantly to build trains, buses, subways and light rail (a corresponding public works project across the country will …

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One little piggy went to the electricity market

Biogas out of … can’t say

Here's an example from the New York Times of turning doo-doo into gold: At the electricity-from-manure project here in Sterksel [Netherlands], the refuse from thousands of pigs is combined with local waste materials (outdated carrot juice and crumbs from a cookie factory), and pumped into warmed tanks called digesters. There, resident bacteria release the natural gas within, which is burned to generate heat and electricity. The farm uses 25 percent of the electricity, and the rest is sold to a local power provider. The leftover mineral slurry is an ideal fertilizer that reduces the use of chemical fertilizers, whose production …

Read more: Climate & Energy