Business & Technology

Yes, we Kahn

Carbon trading: Worthy of Feinstein’s ire?

“Deregulation shifts the major burden of consumer protection to the competitive market, and therefore, in important measure, to the enforcement of antitrust laws.” – Alfred E. Kahn, Lessons for Deregulation: Telecommunications and Airlines after the Crunch. I’ve always found the above to be one of the wiser quotes about deregulation. (Kahn, for those who don’t know him, was at the helm of the Civil Aviation Board when airlines were deregulated, and has since written some of the more insightful pieces on deregulatory processes in multiple industries.) What does this have to do with commodities and Senator Feinstein? Recently, she announced …

No continent left behind

Climate talks should not focus on China and India at Africa’s expense

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has already failed Africa, some observers believe, so why bother post-2012 when the existing CDM framework established under the Kyoto Protocol expires? But as the international community prepares to negotiate a new climate pact, we should care about extending the CDM, and care a great deal. After all, the CDM was created with the dual goals of promoting sustainable development in developing countries and reducing costs of compliance in regards to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in rich countries. In the early years of the CDM, the market rewarded the lowest hanging fruit — reductions in …

Why Don’t Gas and Coal Love (Some) Climate Solutions?

Coal-nundrum and Ex-gas-peration

Recently, I met with the CEO of a utility to discuss how to get at carbon reduction goals. He asked two insightful questions. The first was, “Why doesn’t the natural gas industry support climate legislation?” One of the key points turned up in the utility’s analysis of future supply is that we’re going to have to switch massively from coal to natural gas in the next fifty years to address climate change.  Because of that, the natural gas industry can’t lose: it’s a key transition fuel because its carbon intensity is half that of coal, and it’s a proven source …

Not all green jobs are created equal

The stimulus package and the climate bill recently passed by the US House and now being considered in the Senate will create jobs while delivering a boost to our economy. A “green” stimulus will create approximately three times as many jobs as the same amount of spending in traditional energy industries. But clean energy is too diverse to consider a single industry. What are the differential jobs creation effects of different types of clean energy and are the most effective sectors getting the most money? In my next Greener Money column for Smart Energy Living Magazine, I look into the …

A tale of two emissions factors

How much CO2 do our nation’s coal and gas plants actually produce?

It was the best of half-centuries, it was the worst of half-centuries … Broadly speaking, there are only three things we can do to lower CO2 emissions: switch fuels, use energy more efficiently, or use less energy (conserve). Our CO2 conversations too often focus on one of those three in isolation: Coal bad. Recycled waste heat good. Conservation isn’t an energy policy. Each assertion is both narrowly true and broadly incorrect, to the extent that each simplifies three prongs into one. To understand why, try to answer a simple question: if we shifted our power generation fleet to preferentially dispatch …

Breaching the dams

How fast can the U.S. electric sector reform?

Is the electric sector capable of rapid, large scale reform? Many policies implicitly assume the answer to that question is No, especially when it comes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission control. The result is a policy conversation that hinges on the assumption that it is hard to change. How much must we spend to accelerate new technology? How many decades should we allow for a phase-in of new regulations? As it turns out, the industry can change — and indeed, has changed — at a much faster pace than you might think. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it turns out to …


Replace the “Saudi Arabia of wind/solar/etc power” trope

How many times have you heard that Place X is the “Saudi Arabia of solar power” or “Saudi Arabia of wind power” or “Saudi Arabia of geothermal”?  Kate Galbraith of The New York Times‘ Green Inc. blog has heard it one too many times, so she’s launched a contest for a new phrase to describe renewable energy potential. The point of all these comparisons, of course, is to suggest that this place or that possesses giant reserves of a potential resource. But given that the planet’s oil supplies, including those in Saudi Arabia, are finite by their very nature, it …

Size does matter

Starbucks brews global green-building plan, renovates Seattle shop

Photo: Sarah van SchagenStroll into the newly renovated Starbucks coffeehouse in Seattle’s University Village and the décor may feel more familiar than you’d expect. The menu boards are made from the chalkboards you may have scribbled on at nearby Garfield High School; the shelving is from old bleachers you may have sat upon; the leather accents near the bar are from your old shoes and car seats; and the ash-wood community table that stretches the length of the store and patio (one-third of it is outside) is salvaged from a tree that fell in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. It’s part of …

You just can't teach an old petro-dog re-new-able tricks.

“Back to Petroleum”: BP shuts clean energy HQ, slashes renewables budget, dives into tar sands

The UK’s Guardian reports: BP has shut down its alternative energy headquarters in London, accepted the resignation of its clean energy boss and imposed budget cuts in moves likely to be seen by environmental critics as further signs of the oil group moving “back to petroleum”. Sad, but not terribly original or surprising (see “Shell shocker: Once ‘green’ oil company guts renewables effort“). But Tony Hayward, the group’s chief executive, said BP remained as committed as ever to exploring new energy sources and the non-oil division would benefit from the extra focus of being brought back in house…. “It saves …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.