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The elephant in the environmental room

How do you solve a problem like Maria China?

It occurs to me that my response to Shellenberger & Nordhaus failed to address what they call the "elephant in the environmental room": China. They say that environmentalists ignore the subject and corporatists obsess over it for the same reason -- it illustrates the futility of domestic carbon regulations (in isolation). China, they say, is not going to impose regulatory restrictions that will slow its economic growth. It will not shift from coal to clean energy until the latter cost less than the former, with or without a price on carbon. Ergo, the only thing we can do to help …

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The growth of renewable energy markets

In which I come to the defense of Shellenberger and Nordhaus — sort of, anyway

I was planning on sitting out the Nordhaus/Shellenberger debate. But then I thought: Adam, you are not the top-rated Gristmill blogger (see list at left) for nothing. People want to hear from you. So, here's my take: The first place Nordhaus and Shellenberger go wrong is their predilection for publicity photos that resemble '80s album covers. After that, they get it mostly right. Carbon legislation is good and helpful, sure, but it's about 30 percent thought-through, enormously complicated, and anything that has a hope of actually getting signed is unlikely in the extreme to be sufficient to the task. Look …

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Congress to move ahead on climate legislation, Dems to send delegation to U.N. climate talks

Congressional leaders in the U.S. House and Senate have said they plan to push ahead in their attempts to pass cap-and-trade-type climate legislation, despite the Bush administration's renewed call to reduce emissions through voluntary technology partnerships instead. On Wednesday, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) released a white paper about a possible cap-and-trade system, suggesting the U.S. should reduce emissions by between 60 percent and 80 percent by 2050. "The United States needs an economy-wide, mandatory greenhouse [gas] reduction program," the paper said. In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee …

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Debunking Shellenberger & Nordhaus: Part II

Breaking the technology breakthrough myth

Do we need "disruptive clean-energy technologies that achieve non-incremental breakthroughs" to solve the global warming problem, as S&N (and Lomborg, and Bush, and his advisors) argue? Let's hope not -- for the sake of the next 50 generations. Why? Two reasons: Such breakthroughs hardly ever happen. Even when they do happen, they rarely have a transformative impact on energy markets, even over a span of decades. Consider that solar photovoltaic cells -- a major breakthrough -- were invented over 50 years ago, and still comprise only about 0.1 percent of U.S. electricity (and that amount is thanks to major subsidies). …

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Why sustainable development is so damn hard: Philippines edition

Subsidized power leads to energy waste

Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spoke at the opening plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative. Unintentionally, her remarks illustrated the challenge of sustainable development. First the good news -- green power: We are endowed with geothermal power and it fits very well with our Green Philippines program. We want to use clean energy, we want to have energy independence, and geothermal power gives us clean energy and energy independence. Just before coming here yesterday, I was in an island in Santro Philippines, in a geothermal field. In fact the biggest wet field of geothermal power in the world. And what we …

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Techno-obsession

Renewables still represent only a tiny fraction of our electricity generation. Everyone seems to assume, without much argument, that the reason for this is technological. Why?

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China joins campaign to phase out incandescent bulbs

China makes 70 percent of the world's light bulbs, and has just agreed to participate in a campaign to globally phase out inefficient bulbs over the next decade. But you didn't hear it from us: China's participation in the incandescent-hatin' campaign, which is being spearheaded by green funder Global Environment Facility, will be formally announced at the United Nations climate meeting in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

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The 'Exxon of corn' licks its chops

Archer Daniels Midland sees glut as opportunity to consolidate the ethanol market

Over the past year, ethanol production has exploded -- surpassing even the dramatically higher "alternative fuel requirement" in last year's energy bill. And now we have a glut of ethanol on the market, which has pushed prices down dramatically and caused many ethanol plants -- particularly independent farmer-owned ones -- to struggle. But Archer Daniels Midland, hailed on Wall Street as the Exxon of corn, is seeing the downturn in ethanol prices as an opportunity to consolidate the ethanol market. It already produces a quarter of U.S. ethanol. Now it wants more. From Dow Jones newswire: Archer Daniels Midland Co. …

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Weird junior high debate cards republished

The Heartland Institute accidently steals seventh grader’s paper

I got a weird mailing yesterday from The Heartland Institute: a little pamphlet titled "Scientific Consensus on Global Warming: Results of an international survey of climate scientists." Amazingly, there is a price list on the inside cover; this little gem could be yours for only $5.95. I looked all over the Institute's website but couldn't find the darn thing, until finally I thought to look under "Books," and lo and behold -- the 5" x 8", 23-page pamphlet was listed there. I'd say one for everyone in your family ... and you could probably spring for one for everyone at …

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U.K. judge rules Inconvenient Truth partisan but still OK to show in schools

A judge has ruled on a British citizen's accusation that the United Kingdom's distribution of An Inconvenient Truth to secondary schools amounts to political indoctrination. And the strange, strange verdict is: Yes, the documentary can be shown in schools -- as long as teachers follow guidelines to not promote Al Gore's "partisan political views" to impressionable schoolchildren. Because remember in the movie when Al Gore said "Kids, climate change is bad so you should always vote Democrat?" Yeah. Us neither.