Kif Scheuer

Coal, coal, and more coal

Yesterday's critique of enviros' hopes for peak oil outcomes dovetails beautifully with this article from the NYT on what big coal is up to. The future for American energy users is playing out in coal-rich areas like northeastern Wyoming, where dump trucks and bulldozers swarm around 80-foot-thick seams at a Peabody Energy strip mine here, one of the largest in the world. Coal, the nation's favorite fuel in much of the 19th century and early 20th century, could become so again in the 21st. The United States has enough to last at least two centuries at current use rates -- reserves far greater than those of oil or natural gas. And for all the public interest in alternatives like wind and solar power, or ethanol from the heartland, coal will play a far bigger role. The article presents two approaches being pursued by two big coal players, Peabody Energy and American Electric power, both of which are about aggressive development, and both of which do little to address climate change.

Funny vision of a hopeful future

RenewUS has posted a newscast from 2055. It's funny in the vein of Gore's SOTU on SNL.

Contribute to Universal Climate Skeptic Response Project

Over at WorldChanging they're pushing the "debate is over" notion we've been talking about (here and here) to another level -- compiling a "Universal Climate Skeptic Response Post" to act as catchall answer to those who want to keep the conversation stuck in debate terms. They're asking for help (and have already gotten a lot). I'm sure folks here have lots of good ideas and resources to add in.

How to talk about global warming, by Bill C.

Reuters reports some talking points on global warming from former prez Clinton:

Update on Chinese eco-village project

In the April issue of Sustainable Industries, April Streeter gives an interesting update one the Huangbaiyu eco-village project green building guru William McDonough has been involved with. Sounds like things are tougher than expected. Instead of being a demonstration model for sustainable growth ready to be replicated throughout the country, Huangbaiyu appears to be a village in limbo.

New study: Nitrogen availability may constrain biomass accumulation in presence of increased CO2

An article in the April 13 issue of Nature, "Nitrogen limitations constrains sustainability of ecosystem response to CO2" (subscription required) reports on a six-year study of the role of nitrogen on biomass accumulation when CO2 concentrations increase. Our results indicate that variability in availability of soil N and deposition of atmospheric N are both likely to influence the response of plant biomass accumulation to elevated atmospheric CO2. Given that limitations to productivity resulting from the insufficient availability of N are widespread in both unmanaged and managed vegetation, soil N supply is probably an important constraint on global terrestrial responses to elevated CO2.

Corporations going green: The fifth horseman or the winning horse?

David pointed out that a common thread in the recent Wal-Mart discussion was anger over dilution of the organic label by corporate finagling. Underlying the labeling issue, and a part of so many environmental discussions, is environmentalists' ambivalence towards corporate involvement in any pro-environmental action. Today the NYT gave me the perfect segue to this topic by devoting a whole section to the "business of green." There's tons of great stuff in there, worth many discussions, but I'll just pull one quote from the article "Companies and Critics try collaboration." If politics makes for strange bedfellows, global warming, endangered forests, dwindling water supplies and scary new technologies have made for even stranger ones. Environmentalists and corporations are engaging in a new spirit of compromise. For some of us, that quote is the canary in the coal mine, singing out loud that the environment has been sold out. For others it is a signal that we've entered a new era of environmental progress.

Wal-mart’s organic bomb

Melanie Warner at the NYT reports today that Wal-Mart is about to dramatically increase its organic food offerings. In very understated fashion, she says, "Wal-Mart's interest is expected to change organic food production in substantial ways." Um, yeah, it sure will. Wal-Mart's plan is to sell organics ~10% over the price of non-organics -- a much closer premium than you can get elsewhere. It's also getting brands like Pepsi, Rice Krispies, and Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese in the game. There's good back and forth in the article about the pros and cons of further industrializing organics -- availability and expansion of the market in the pros, weakening standards and increased overseas production in the cons.

Move over HGTV, here comes GBTV

PBS is going to start airing a show called Building green in September. A green-building TV show sounds interesting, but also makes me nervous. Will it be more of the shallow consumerism that defines most home shows? Or will it actually seek to give average people the comfort and confidence to try green-building projects themselves.