Climate & Energy

Advocates pushing LEDs into the spotlight

Compact fluorescents have had their time in the sun; it’s time to herald the era of LEDs, say advocates. Light-emitting diodes are bright, extremely long-lasting, …

Case study of EDF's cold shoulder toward environment

EDF’s support for self-cooling cans got deservedly chilly reception

Ken Ward posted an intelligent critique of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I want to anticipate a response. EDF always says something along the lines of "We are getting the absolute best deal available. Go with us, or you will end up settling for something worse, probably nothing." Let's set the wayback machine to 1997 and look at a case where the mainstream environmental community did not go along with EDF. Briefly: The Joseph Company wanted to market soda in a self-chilling can, cooling produced via HFC R-134a, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than CO2. The HFC in one of these cans would have produced a greenhouse forcing equivalent to driving a car 200 miles. EDF saw this as a perfect opportunity for emissions trading. This product is going to come to market regardless of what we do, they intoned solemnly. The Joseph Company is willing to offset their emissions -- a win-win situation. Over the objections of EDF, the rest of the environmental community, including grassroots EDF members, stepped up and stopped this stupid project. Eventually a new version that uses CO2 was developed instead; this improved product is as bad as for the environment as canned soda normally is, but at least is not several thousand times worse. If EDF had succeeded in helping to push it through, they would be offering it today as an example of practical politics to win environmental goals, rather than an absolutely unnecessary cave. Read the long version at Nonprofit Watch.

Driving cutback in U.S. bankrupting fund for infrastructure improvements

High gasoline prices in the United States have prompted a sustained cutback in driving, and the resulting dip in revenue from the federal gas tax …

The limitless resource

Energy efficiency is the core climate solution, part 2

Energy efficiency is by far the biggest low-carbon resource available. It is also, as we'll see, every bit as renewable as wind power, solar photovoltaic, and solar baseload. People who have little experience with what serious energy efficiency investments can do for a company or a state -- this means you, neoclassical economists who consistently overestimate the cost of climate mitigation! -- think it is a one-shot resource wherein you pick the low hanging fruit. In fact, fruit grow back. The efficiency resource never gets exhausted because technology keeps improving and knowledge spreads to more and more people. After leading the country in comprehensive efficiency efforts that have kept per capita electricity demand flat for three decades, California does not merely believe it can continue at this pace, they plan to accelerate their efforts and actually keep electricity demand itself flat. I have discussed California's efforts and plans in previous posts, and will discuss them further in part 3. The focus of this post is the best corporate example of the inexhaustible nature of the energy efficiency resource -- Dow Chemical's Louisiana division.

Wind power in China is ‘huge, huge, huge’

China, known for its environmental struggles, is looking to have a success story in wind power. “China’s wind energy market is unrecognizable from two years …

Adjustable rate mileage

Your fuel mileage is lower than you think. Granted, that assumes you do not fastidiously monitor your own fuel mileage -- that instead you take the EPA's fuel mileage estimates at their word. Turns out, the EPA calculates fuel economy with "straight" (100 percent) gasoline. However, in the consumer market a blend of 10 percent ethanol, E10, is nearly universal. Jonathan Welsh of The Wall Street Journal explains: Fuel economy decreases by about 2% for vehicles running on E10, so a car rated at 25 miles per gallon will actually travel about 24.5 miles. Okay, this decrease is peanuts if you're a lead-foot. And the EPA just started including air conditioning with this year's estimates. Nevertheless, even with perfect driving habits, the fuel economy of your brand new Prius will never match the sticker's claims.

More school districts consider four-day week

As energy costs rise, rural school districts across the country may follow the lead of the 100 or so schools in 16 states that offer …

Myth: All solutions to climate chaos raise prices

Busted: Majority of emissions cuts can come from public spending

A common rap by environmental economists is "any means of cutting emissions raises prices." Though it is used in defense of a valid point (in the long run we will have to institute either a carbon tax or a permit system), it is simply not true. The vast majority of emissions cuts can come via public spending that won't raise prices. We can subsidize efficiency improvements to buildings, fund a conversion of most long-haul trucking to rail, and in the long run electrify all transit and decarbonize electricity generation. But doesn't the money for these subsidies have to come from somewhere? Yup, but a lot these are areas where the private (as opposed to social) gains exceed the subsidy -- meaning even if the people receiving the subsidy end up paying for most of it from taxes, they come out ahead. However, there is no reason the people receiving the subsidies have to pay for most of them. Most of our military budget is devoted to aggression rather than protecting us. We have had enormous tax cuts for the rich from Jimmy Carter forward. We have wasteful existing subsidies for fossil fuel and various unsustainable practices. There is an old liberal-mocking slogan I'd like to turn around and adapt: "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax the fellow behind that tree."

Response to EDF's Tony Kreindler

Has EDF spun out of environmentalism?

Tony Kreindler reiterates EDF's position that the short-term targets in Lieberman/Warner are strong, that its essential framework is sound, and that we have 40 years to strengthen its weak areas ... but don't expect to do so anytime soon. In his recent Grist series, Kreindler wrote, "the political landscape in 2009 will be much like today's as far as climate change legislation goes." This is an astonishing admission about the state of U.S. environmentalism. The hard work of decades, over a billion in assets dedicated to climate action, the certain election of a pro-cap-and-trade policy president, a Northwest Passage ice free for the first time in human history, and methane bubbling so furiously in Siberian bogs that melt water does not freeze ... will have no significant impact on political conditions, in EDF's view. It's much worse than that, of course. Kreindler's appraisal was made months before gasoline broke $4.00 a gallon and our supposed majority support vanished as quickly as spilled gasoline hitting hot pavement.

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