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Terry Tamminen's Posts

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Paterson’s Bold Carbon Gamble

California’s state budget gap was about $40 billion this year. New York’s some $50 billion. Every state in the Union is struggling with drastically lower revenues and higher costs for services of every kind, washing state capitals with red ink. At the polls next year, governors who are facing elections - - including Governor David Paterson of New York - - may find themselves politically drowned by such gargantuan deficits. So, faced with closing schools, hospitals, fire stations, and kicking struggling families off of welfare roles, governors are turning instead, like the famous bank robber Willy Sutton, to wherever the …

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Performance anxiety

It’s not just the ads showing a baby-boomer couple sitting in matching bathtubs on a beach at sunset where you can find performance anxiety these days. Try looking in the hardware aisle and at the gas station. Rather than ban inefficient incandescent light bulbs, for example, California lawmakers set an efficiency performance standard -- which was adopted by the feds -- so in 2012, you won’t be able to buy energy-wasting bulbs. That spurred Phillips to develop and market their “Halogena Energy Saver” incandescent bulb that is 30 percent more efficient than conventional versions. The performance standard approach -- instead …

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You can only manage what you measure

A few weeks ago, USEPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that 10,000 facilities would soon have to measure and register their carbon emissions. Last week, she told a packed house at the Governors’ Global Climate Summit2 in Los Angeles that her agency will introduce rules requiring significant new sources of carbon emissions, like a new or remodeled fossil-fueled power plant, to pay for the right to pollute. Clearly, these are salvos in the Obama administration’s campaign to use the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gases, rather than wait for Congress to figure out how to do it (last year, when …

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Carbon poker

I had a dream about watching one of those high stakes poker games that you see on TV these days. There were bit players who you knew, from the few colored chips in front of them, would soon fold -- but the two “whales” at the table were Barack Obama and Hu Jintao. They each had so many chips on the table that you could barely see their cowboy shirts, but the purpose in their deadly stares could not be obscured, even by the dark black Ray Bans that shaded their eyes. Obama wasted no time putting his ante smack …

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What’s Happening On The Fifth Floor?

Millions of people come and go from New York’s iconic Empire State Building every year. The 102 floors bristle with keyboard-clicking, ballpoint-wielding, paper-shredding cubicle dwellers, none of which would appear out of place in an episode of “The Office”. But something very different is happening on the fifth floor - - a magical workplace that may soon transform the entire skyline of a big city near you. At the recent Clinton Global Initiative conference (CGI) in New York, I caught up with Marc Porat of Serious Materials (www.seriousmaterials.com). He’s part of a team working on the Empire State Building, doing …

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Water proves good fodder for two new books, fact and fiction

My rubber boots are ankle deep in mud. An overhang of moss supported by a wedge of ice taller than I am -- ice that has likely never before been exposed -- is dripping water onto my hat. It is August 2004, and I am standing on the North Slope of Alaska, at a spot where warming temperatures and water flow have caused the permafrost to buckle. Gleaning the cube. I went there to see the changing landscape up close, and to spend time with scientists documenting those changes. Until I tromped across the tundra, I had no concrete sense …

Read more: Uncategorized

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews The Whale and the Supercomputer by Charles Wohlforth

In for the long haul. Photo: Charles Wohlforth. Out on the ice that forms the shores of the Arctic Ocean, the Iñupiaq whalers of Barrow, Alaska, hauled in their catch, a bowhead whale that weighed more than 100,000 pounds. The entire village turned out to pull the enormous mammal ashore and butcher it. Sleds and snowmobiles were piled with maktak (energy-laden slabs of whale blubber and skin) and fresh bloody meat. The hunt had been difficult. The temperature rose above freezing, the ice cracked, and the seas grew rough, forcing the whaling crews to retreat inland more than once. When …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews The Empty Ocean by Richard Ellis

"It's a fire alarm," says Richard Ellis about his new book, The Empty Ocean, which joins a chorus of recent publications documenting the precipitous decline of world fisheries and the dire state of the marine environment. That alarm should make you think long and hard about your lunchtime tuna sandwich or the sashimi you order at your favorite Japanese restaurant. The Empty Ocean By Richard Ellis Island Press, 367 pages, 2003 Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the author of more than a dozen books about marine life. From 1980 to …

Read more: Food

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher

You see them poised astride rocky crevasses, fording forest streams, or rising huge and solitary in the shadow of a mountain peak. No, we're not talking about grizzly bears; we're talking about sport utility vehicles. Spoiling the view. "Jawbone Chatters. Spine Shivers. Engine Roars. Everest at -11 degrees," proclaims one ad for the Toyota 4Runner. "If you really want to put your life on the line, the new V8-powered GX is more than capable of taking you to the kinds of places where danger lurks at every corner," promises an ad for a new Lexus SUV. SUVs are sold on …

Read more: Cities, Living

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Elizabeth Grossman reviews The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin A review of The Hydrogen

In his new book, The Hydrogen Economy, Jeremy Rifkin argues that throughout history, the use of energy has determined the rise and fall of civilizations. In this analysis, a civilization is successful until it begins spending more of its energy supply to maintain its infrastructure than to enhance the lives of its citizens. For example, ancient Rome began to falter when it expanded its domain at the expense of the health and welfare of its people, exploiting slaves, practicing unsustainable agriculture, and exhaustively felling forests for firewood. The Hydrogen Economy By Jeremy Rifkin Tarcher/Putnam, 336 pages, 2002 Later, the burning …

Read more: Climate & Energy