Business & Technology

From my roof to your fridge

Steve Howard on our energy-efficient future

Steve Howard, CEO of the non-partisan nonprofit organization The Climate Group, took some time away from his Copenhagen climate duties to share a tantalizing glimpse into our energy future: Q. How will our day-to-day lives change if we really do adopt more sustainable energy practices and products? A. You’ll walk out of a building and you’ll get into your electric vehicle. Your electric vehicle will have been charged, but it won’t have been charged from a coal plant power station. It will be sun from the southwest of the U.S., or it will be wind from the North Sea of …

The other aquacalypse

California’s water woes worsen

NASA just released a disturbing report on California’s shrinking water supplies: New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California’s primary agricultural region — the Central Valley — and its major mountain water source — the Sierra Nevadas — have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir. The findings, based on data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace), reflect California’s extended drought and increased rates of groundwater being pumped for human uses, such as irrigation. Combined, California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin drainage basins have shed more than …

waiting in the wings

George W. Bush’s man in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN — To understand how global climate negotiations reached such a troubled state before the U.N. talks began here last week, one could do worse than to look to James L. Connaughton. James L. Connaughton headed George W. Bush’s Council for Environmental QualityFile photo / Wikimedia CommonsFor eight years, Connaughton was the top White House environmental adviser to President George W. Bush. So when I saw him at a business summit in Copenhagen last Friday, I asked him about the Bush administration’s responsibility for the climate quagmire—the fact that negotiators haven’t gotten past disagreements that were evident a decade ago. …

Bottle that optimism!

Gregoire: ‘America is back in its rightful position’

Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) is in Copenhagen for the last few days of the climate conference. I sat down with her for a brief interview. An edited transcript follows: Q. The spirit of optimism is higher in my conversations with governors than with any other officials at this conference. What drives your optimism and how do you see that playing out in your state? Gov. Chris Gregoire is talking up America’s climate leadership this week in Copenhagen.File photo / WSDOT via Flickr A. Let me take you back to about 2006. President Hu Jintao [of China] visited the U.S. …

...Paved with good intentions

Big business’ climate conundrum: lead, follow or obstruct

Is that government out front, or big business?iStock PhotoCOPENHAGEN — The most popular American CEO here these two weeks, at least among other business leaders, has been Duke Energy chief Jim Rogers. Which doesn’t make much sense, as Duke generates most of its electricity from coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Consider Rogers’ own confession: “Of all the companies in the U.S., we [Duke Energy] have the third-largest carbon footprint,” he said at a press briefing last Thursday. “Of all the companies in the world, we’re number 12. If we were one of the 192 countries of the United Nations, …

How to cut U.S. CO2 emissions by 20 percent ... tomorrow

Natural gas as a near-term CO2 mitigation strategy

Discussions of CO2 reduction tend to start from a presumption of near-term economic disruption coupled to long-term investment in green technology. The presumption isn’t right. The U.S. could reduce its total CO2 footprint by 14-20 percent tomorrow with no disruption in our access to energy services, without investing in any new infrastructure. The Waxman-Markey proposal to reduce CO2 emissions by 17 percent over 10 years is constrained only by its ambition. This near-term opportunity would be realized by ramping up our nation’s generation of electricity from gas and ramping down our generation from coal, taking advantage only of existing assets. …

The Governors are Coming

What do a thousand jailed demonstrators, President Obama, a dozen Fortune 100 CEOs, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and a melting ice sculpture of a polar bear have in common? Two things. First, they are all part of the climate talks in Copenhagen that finally start in earnest this week after ten days of street theatre and roller coaster expectations. Second, they are all the wrong people to watch if you want to understand where the most innovative and successful carbon policies and technologies are coming from. In fact, the most practical (and profitable) initiatives won’t be found in proposals …

your liver, hfcs, and you

New research: Fructose increases risk of diabetes, heart disease [UPDATED]

You should lay off the sauce–it’s not good for your liver. [Author's Note:] This post, reacting to the findings of a University of California, Davis, study on fructose, quoted and relied heavily on an error-laden Times of London story. That said, the post generated a lot of valuable discussion in the comments section below, including a critique of the Times piece by Dr. Kimber Stanhope, one of the authors of the Davis study. In response to another comment, Dr. Stanhope agreed that the question remains how much fructose is safe to consume and she indicated that a current project of …

Five-year plan

Cellulosic ethanol: time to ‘party like it’s 2014’?

Cellulosic ethanol, after 30 years of R&D (much of it on the public dime), is ready to deliver on its promises. No longer perpetually five years away from commercial viability, the technology has come into its own. Unlike pretender energy sources like wind and solar, cellulosic is the “‘shovel-ready,’ ‘fire when ready’ technology for short-term reductions in fossil fuel intensity,” declares Biofuels Digest in a breathless post. According to BD, “commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol is just now upon us.” Forget the “five years away” mantra; “it’s time to party like it’s 2014,” the publication enthuses. Hay: probably not about to displace …

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