Climate & Energy

A New England auction

Can the West match the Northeast?

Next week, the Western Climate Initiative will release a proposal outlining the program's cap-and-trade design.* In the proposal, we should expect to learn what share of carbon permits will be auctioned (and will therefore generate public revenue) and what share will be given away for free to emitters. Auctioning is important -- extremely important -- because, among other virtues, it is the best way to promote fairness for people with moderate incomes. We've had lots to say about auctioning in the past, and we'll have lots to say about it in the future. In the meantime, for comparison purposes, I thought it might be helpful to share the auctioning percentages [PDF] from the cap-and-trade program in the Northeast, called RGGI: Connecticut.................91 percent Maine........................100 percent Maryland.....................90 percent Massachusetts.............99 percent New Hampshire.........100 percent** New Jersey................100 percent** New York..................100 percent Rhode Island..............100 percent Vermont.....................100 percent RGGI sets a good standard, one that WCI should strive hard to match or exceed.

Nice gigawatt if you can get it

Low-carbon energy solutions in India may depend on Tata

Amid analysis of the G8's latest climate pronouncement, the announcement of India's first national climate action plan received less attention than it otherwise might have. Even in the Indian media, the plan was also overshadowed by the release of a McKinsey & Co. report that projects massive power demand growth in the country -- 100 gigawatts more demand in the next 10 years than previously estimated. Yet the very same day, the government's Investment Commission called the "Ultra-Mega" coal plants that are central to India's strategy to meet that demand a "main reason for persistent capacity shortfalls." As reported by India's Financial Express, the climate change "National Action Plan" consists of a laundry list of programs to be initiated -- or more likely, repackaged -- on solar power, energy efficiency, agriculture, and a few others. Based on previous performance in the power sector, agriculture seems to be the most promising of those programs (especially considering the Indian government's success in raising productivity during the Green Revolution). One can hope India will have the same success, and be able to utilize the same distribution mechanisms, in efforts to create seed varieties adaptable to drier climatic conditions. If McKinsey is right, India's demand will soar to 315-335 GW by 2017, from 120 GW installed capacity today. To supply that demand reliably would require over 415 GW of installed capacity -- that's triple what the creaky Indian power sector produces now. And about 10 times what even the dozen planned Ultra-Mega plants could hope to supply.

No relief in sight

The current oil shock

This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. ----- When will it end, this crushing rise in the price of gasoline, now averaging $4.10 a gallon at the pump? The question is uppermost in the minds of American motorists as they plan vacations or simply review their daily journeys. The short answer is simple as well: "Not soon." As yet there is no sign of a reversal in oil's upward price thrust, which has more than doubled in a year, cresting recently above $146 a barrel. The current oil shock, the fourth of its kind in the past three-and-a-half decades, and the deadliest so far, shows every sign of continuing for a long, long stretch. The previous oil shocks -- in 1973-74, 1980, and 1990-91 -- stemmed from specific interruptions of energy supplies from the Middle East due, respectively, to an Arab-Israeli war, the Iranian revolution, and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Once peace was restored, a post-revolutionary order established, or the invader expelled, vital Middle Eastern energy supplies returned to normal. The fourth oil shock, however, belongs in a different category altogether.

A prophetic approach to energy efficiency

Taking a three-day weekend for the planet

From the Beehive State, a gratifying way to reduce energy use (and carbon emissions): Taking Fridays off. And it's mandatory. In part to deal with rising gas prices, Utah's republican governor John Huntsman introduced the measure for state employees. The move, of course, instantly reduces commutes by 20 percent. The remaining four work days get longer -- state offices will now stay open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. -- so that the total number of hours worked remains the same. I'll bet there's a civic benefit too: The change may actually makes government offices more accessible by extending open hours beyond the tight 9-to-5 window that most citizens still work. From the USA Today article:

Ex-policymakers urge current politicians to get off their asses

In order to avert “a long-term energy crisis,” writes a bipartisan group of former political up-and-ups in a letter to U.S. politicians, we must “reexamine outdated and entrenched positions” on energy. The letter, sent to …

Biomass in Austria: An adventure in pictures

The human-scale, renewable, domestic power systems reviving rural Austrian economies

Listen Play “Lonely Goatherd,” from The Sound of Music On a sunny Saturday afternoon in Salzburg, we took a field trip to a few examples of biomass in rural Austria. The country is over 40 …

Umbra on sea-level rise

Dear Umbra, I’m a bit confused about the possible rise in sea level that may be caused by global warming. I know that in general water expands when warmed, and that is one cause of …

Coal for dummies

Study finds that prenatal exposure to coal-plant emissions impedes neurodevelopment

A major new study by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health finds: Closing coal-fired power plants can have a direct, positive impact on children's cognitive development and health ... [P]renatal exposure to coal-burning emissions was associated with significantly lower average developmental scores and reduced motor development at age two. In the second unexposed group, these adverse effects were no longer observed; and the frequency of delayed motor developmental was significantly reduced. The full study [PDF] in the July 14 Environmental Health Perspectives is available online: "Benefits of Reducing Prenatal Exposure to Coal Burning Pollutants to Children's Neurodevelopment in China." The study provides yet more evidence -- if any were needed -- that we need to ban traditional coal plants: "elimination of prenatal exposure to coal-burning emissions resulted in measurable benefits to children's development." This is a sophisticated study, which used molecular markers to directly track exposure to coal plant emissions:

Aviation industry is into greening, to an extent

The aviation industry talked up greenness Wednesday at the world’s biggest air show in Farnborough, England. At a sustainability summit, Giovanni Bisignani of the International Air Transport Association called climate change an “emergency situation” and …

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