Climate & Energy

What Phoenix, the poster child for environmental ills, is doing right

Can Phoenix remake its desert-gobbling ways?In order for Phoenix to truly be a green city, it would have to be brown. Or not brown, exactly, but the sandy shade of the mountains that surround it: the jagged peaks and parched hills that enclose the Valley of the Sun. These days, though, Phoenix is a less-natural shade of brown; a ring of smoggy pollution known locally as the Brown Cloud shadows the city. And that’s not the only affront to the environs here. Anyone flying in can see the patches of fierce green lawns that paint the landscape, along with the …

U.S. could get 20 percent of energy from wind by 2030, says DOE

Wind power could meet 20 percent of U.S. energy demand by 2030, according to Energy Department calculations, even though currents currently provide a mere 1 percent of U.S. electricity. Making the leap would be “ambitious” but “feasible,” says the report: it wouldn’t require technological breakthroughs, but would necessitate the construction of 75,000 new and improved turbines and a major expansion of the electricity grid. If wind did hit that 20 percent marker, it could eliminate 25 percent of the greenhouse gases currently spewed by natural-gas and coal power, as well as reducing water consumption by 4 trillion gallons. The cost, …

McCain's offsets

What would the use of carbon offsets mean for McCain’s climate policy?

To me the most striking element of McCain’s just-released carbon cap-and-trade plan is that it would, at least at the outset, allow regulated entities to achieve 100 percent of their emission reductions through the purchase of domestic or international offsets. By way of comparison, the Lieberman-Warner climate bill headed for the floor of the Senate caps the contribution of offsets at 15 percent, and requires that all the offsets be from domestic projects. This is a genuinely radical feature of McCain’s plan, and it isn’t getting nearly enough press. The offsets provision does give McCain some cover with conservatives and …

BRIC douse

McCain waters down language on climate dealings with China & India

The original text of John McCain’s Monday climate speech raised the specter of economic penalties for developing countries if they don’t join international climate efforts, but the candidate dropped that reference when actually delivering the address. As the Associated Press puts it: The GOP presidential contender … prodded China and India — two major emitters of the greenhouse gases blamed for the planet’s warming — to join the effort, although he muted planned talk of tariffs against them in favor of “effective diplomacy” to encourage their compliance. An aide later said the Arizona senator didn’t want to be interpreted as …

The world at 350

A last chance for civilization

This essay was originally published at TomDispatch, and is reprinted here with Tom’s kind permission. —– Even for Americans, constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start — even for us, the world looks a little Terminal right now. It’s not just the economy. We’ve gone through swoons before. It’s that gas at $4 a gallon means we’re running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It’s that when we try …

More Kentucky coal pandering

Obama airs new coal-themed TV ad; Clinton talks up coal too

The Obama campaign is running TV ads in Kentucky touting the candidate’s commitment to the coal industry, along the same lines as a flyer the campaign is sending out in the state: “He came to southern Illinois and seen the devastation and the loss of the jobs in this coal industry,” says miner Randy Henry in the ads, which are appearing in the Lexington and Bowling Green television markets. “Washington, D.C., is not listening to us. Barack understands it.” The commercial goes on to highlight Obama’s role in pushing through a budget provision in 2007 that directed $200 million toward …

The transit surge is working

Despite increased ridership, we need more funding as well as support for our trains

Paul Krugman ponders the reason that conservatives are so enamored of the idea that speculators are driving up the price of oil: The odds are that we're looking at a future in which energy conservation becomes increasingly important, in which many people may even -- gasp -- take public transit to work. I don't find that vision particularly abhorrent, but a lot of people, especially on the right, do. And indeed -- gasp -- according to an article in The New York Times, "Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit":

Blustery irony

Anti-wind McCain delivers climate remarks at foreign wind company

Conservative presidential candidate Sen. John McCain chose a clever but ultimately hypocritical location for his big climate speech. I hope the media aren't fooled by his ironic choice of wind turbine company Vestas as the backdrop, but I have little doubt they will run enticing photos and videos of wind turbines. McCain, however, does not deserve to be linked to such images. I would title the speech "Not the man for the job" (see "No climate for old men"). Let's be clear: Conservatives like John McCain, or more accurately, conservatives including John McCain, are the main reason McCain has to go to a Danish wind turbine manufacturer to give a climate speech. With the major government investments in wind in the 1970s, the United States was poised to be a dominant player in what was clearly going to be one of the biggest job-creating industries of the next hundred years. But conservatives repeatedly gutted the wind budget, then opposed efforts by progressives to increase it, and repeatedly blocked efforts to extend the wind power tax credit. The sad result can be seen here:

Fuzzy math

How much will it really cost to address climate change?

One of the consistent claims made by those opposed to policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is that the cost will be prohibitive. I have always been somewhat suspicious of this claim, however. When I started graduate school in 1988, the Montreal Protocol had just been signed. It required industrialized countries to significantly reduce the production of chlorofluorocarbons within a decade or so (the exact schedule of production reduction depended on the particular molecule). At the time, there were all sorts of apocalyptic claims being made about the costs and impacts of the Montreal Protocol: It will bankrupt us, it will force us to give up our refrigerators, millions of people in Africa will starve because of lack of access to refrigeration, etc. In the end, none of this was true. The cost of compliance was so low, in fact, that I'll bet most of you didn't even realize it when our society switched over from chlorofluorocarbons to the replacement molecule, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, in the mid-'90s. A few days ago, I came across a nice article from 2002 in The American Prospect by Eban Goodstein on this question of cost estimates:

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