Business & Technology

Mountaintop removal blow-back

Coal mining industry fights back with deceptions about jobs and the economy

If you’re a reader of Grist then you are almost certainly aware that the Obama Administration signaled a major shift yesterday in how mountaintop removal coal mining will be regulated. In brief, Obama’s head of the EPA, announced a decision to delay and review permits for two mountaintop removal mining operations, an action that calls into question more than 100 additional valley fill permits now pending that threaten to bury hundreds more miles of headwater streams and destroy dozens more Appalachian Mountains.   In making this decision, President Obama also took another step in fulfilling his campaign promise to bring …

Trailer Thrash

Reinventing the trailer park

Trailer parks get a bad rap, especially in the post-Katrina days when we’ve come to see them as North American refugee camps slowly poisoning their displaced inhabitants with formaldehyde fumes. But the trailer park, done right, actually holds great potential as a development model. MiniHome: a big idea. Sustain Even in its current form, with communities of not-particularly-mobile homes plopped atop concrete blocks, the trailer park is a kind of low-rent template, a version of new urbanism without the bells, whistles, and marketing budgets. In Canada particularly, trailer parks are vacation spots, more campground than affordable housing, with density, communal …

A Prudent aqcuisition

VRB Power accquired by Chinese Prudent Energy

Back in early January, I mentioned it was bad news that VRB, the makers of large-scale, long-lasting vanadium flow batteries for storing electricity, was going out of business. Well their assets have been acquired by Prudent Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese JD Holdings Inc. This is good news in the sense the Prudent Energy is already involved in developing vanadium based flow batteries. They have no incentive to sit on the patents. So the technology will continue to get its shot in the market.

Gold that's put to use begets more gold

How cap-and-rebate brings about carbon reductions

David Roberts asks: Who, in this scenario [carbon revenue rebated to consumers], has any new incentive to shift to low-carbon electricity or efficiency? Short answer: everyone. Let’s say I’m your utility, and I raise your energy prices so that, at present rate of consumption, your bill will rise to $50,000 per year. Pretend that energy here means everything: heating oil, electricity, natural gas, everything encompassed in a carbon cap. Then I hand you an annual rebate check for $50,000. You can do two things. Give the money right back to me to pay for energy. Money is shuffled. Nothing changes. …

U.S. left in the solar dust

Solar PV market doubled to 6 Gigawatts in 2008

After growing 19 percent in 2006 and 62 percent in 2007, world solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations exploded by 110 percent last year to a staggering 5.95 GW, according to Solarbuzz’s Annual Report, Marketbuzz 2009: Europe accounted for 82% of world demand in 2008. Spain’s 285% growth pushed Germany into second place in the market ranking, while the US advanced to [a very distant] number three. Rapid growth in Korea allowed it to become the fourth largest market, closely followed by Italy and Japan. And who is the leading producer of PV cells? China and Taiwan continued to increase their …

Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme? Part 4

Former GE Chief Jack Welch says obsession with short-term profits was ‘Dumb Idea’

File this one under “now they tell us” or maybe “the former drug kingpin says crack is not healthy for you.” The Financial Times reports the shocking not-quite-deathbed conversion: Jack Welch, who is regarded as father of the “shareholder value” movement, has said the obsession with short-term profits and share price gains that has dominated the corporate world for over 20 years was “a dumb idea” … “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world,” he said. “Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy … your main constituencies are your employees, your customers …

Big Coal on the ropes

Knock out calls for anti-mountaintop removal bills

Ain’t no mountain high enough: King Coal is on the ropes. Across the nation, anti-mountaintop removal bills are quickly being moved across Capitol Hill and numerous legislatures this week to stop one of the most egregious human rights and environmental violations in modern times. Here’s the real “Down from the Mountain” tour: Hundreds of citizen lobbyists from the Appalachian coalfields, and around the nation, are clamoring in the halls of Congress today, calling on their U.S. Representatives to co-sign and expedite the passing of the Clean Water Protection Act to ensure every American citizen the right to a glass of …

Tab dump

Product service systems, Microsoft, blackouts, Kentucky’s Clean Energy Corps, and cool maps

Grist has comments turned off as we transition to a new website. If you have feedback on this post or anything else, let me know: droberts at grist dot org. • One of my favorite bright green ideas: objects as a service, sometimes called “product service systems,” a fascinating and potentially revolutionary idea desperately in search of a better name. • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s semi-secret memo on the company’s environmental efforts. Meh. • The Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center has an interesting report on “Large Blackouts in North America: Historical trends and policy implications.” No, really, it’s interesting! • …

Tab dump three

Economics malpractice, climate and poverty, oil sands nightmares, and more WSJ dipshittery

• Max Schulz demonstrates how economics is typically used in the energy debate: "There's an unavoidable problem with renewable-energy technologies: From an economic standpoint, they're big losers." As though the "economic standpoint" is some static, univocal thing. Douchebag. • A nice report from Brookings on a woefully under discussed topic: Double Jeopardy: What the Climate Crisis Means for the Poor. • National Geographic has an in-depth examination of the horror that is Alberta's oil sands program. Excellent journalism, albeit the stuff of nightmares. • Shockingly, the oil and gas industry opposes the Obama administration plan to eliminate some taxpayers subsidies for the oil and gas industry. • A while back, Holman Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal columnist and member of the editorial board, characterized Obama's concern over climate change as a "soppy indulgence," and said of climate science: "We don't really have the slightest idea how an increase in the atmosphere's component of CO2 is impacting our climate, though the most plausible indication is that the impact is too small to untangle from natural variability." Stuart Gaffin, an actual climate scientist at Columbia University, responded in a blog post, pointing to actual science. In turn, Jenkins retrenched in a blog post of his own, with a bunch of absurd harumphing and misdirection. Gaffin responded again, decimating the smoldering remains of Jenkins argument with a torrent of scientific citations. This is typical of many other exchanges between ideologues and scientists about climate. The galling thing, with this one as with most of them, is that the scientists are correct, by any reasonable assessment, and yet the ideologues can just go on saying whatever they want, in widely read editorials. There simply is no winning here. It's really hard to see what the scientists should do.