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Is the world’s ‘cleanest coal-fueled power plant’ a climate bait-and-switch?

llnlphotos
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory demonstrated coal gasification near Hanna, Wyo.

A few years back, Robert Redford narrated a documentary, Fighting Goliath, that told the epic Texas tale of how a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists, and others banded together in the mid-2000s against a giant power company’s plans to build 11 coal plants that would have belched pollution across the state. The film includes scenes of billowing smoke, militant big-city Texas mayors, and protesters carrying signs crying, “No more coal.” One farmer tells an interviewer, “'Til this thing came about, I always looked the other way when I saw an environmentalist.”

When the dust settled, only three plants were approved, and the rest were killed in a buyout of the power company, despite an effort by Gov. Rick Perry (R) to fast-track the scheme.

Today in West Texas, the simple heroism of that tale has been replaced by a far more complex story of trade-offs, pragmatism, and scientific uncertainties about a project slated for what Odessa city officials call “the clean energy capital of the world.” At the heart of it all is one of the very first full-scale tests of that still hazy concept, “clean coal.”

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Climate change for sale: How climate activists can wake up the American public

Over the last few years, three Columbia University professors learned how important language is when it comes to combating climate change. They queried 275 randomly selected U.S. citizens for their opinions on raising money to fund alternative energy projects and the like by adding fees to earth-warming activities such as driving cars and flying in airplanes. They got very different responses depending on how they asked the question. During online surveys, researchers switched up their language, referring to the fees as "taxes" for some, and "carbon offsets" for others. Broken down along party lines, the results showed that Democrats were …

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The frog and the polar bear: The real reasons Americans aren’t buying climate change

As international leaders trek home from Durban, South Africa, after a week of plotting the world's response to global warming, the debate rages here at home -- over whether Americans even care. The New York Times ran a story in October headlined, "Where did global warming go?" that cited polls suggesting that Americans had lost interest in climate change, or just didn't believe in it. Climate activists have blamed the declines in some surveys on flawed questions. But polls by Gallup and PEW have shown similar recent declines. And one of the leading thinkers on the matter, Anthony Leiserowitz, director …

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Underwater cities: Climate change begins to reshape the urban landscape

Flooding in Miami.Photo: kthreadDan Kipness, a retired fishing boat captain and a 60-year Miami Beach resident, has a video that offers a glimpse of where this coastal city is headed. In it, cars and trucks kick floodwater into the air as they drive down Miami Beach's streets. This isn't rainwater -- the skies are at least partially sunny and blue. Instead, the waters seeped into the streets from underground storm sewers during high tide. Kipness says he never saw such flooding until a decade ago, but now sees it up to twice a day during the fall, when tides are …