Climate & Energy

Songs about the enemy of the human race

Friday music blogging: Kathy Mattea

It is rare that my idiosyncratic and widely ignored Friday music blogging overlaps with the subject matter that occupies the rest of my time. But today we have a happy confluence. Kathy Mattea is a Grammy-winning country artist, born in West Virginia. She had a string of hits in the ’80s and ’90s, but her turn to the social activism that fueled the original Appalachian folk music tradition has put her out of sync with current commercial radio appetites. After the Sago mine disaster, Mattea felt moved to respond somehow. She began researching the music that’s grown up around coal …

Fly on the Wall Street

Finance, energy, and the environment: markets and opportunities

Last night, I went to a panel at the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street (no, really!) on what's financially hot or soon will be in non-coal, non-oil energy technologies. I love these kinds of events; typically, what comes of them is reality-based information, dealing with who has the money, where it's going (or ought to go), and what will get it there, in order to transform our energy system. I come away from these things more hopeful than from any number of political rallies, because these are people who are walking their talk instead of posing in their Rogan jeans and "Save the planet" t-shirts. The panel was co-sponsored by Sierra Club, so the articulate Carl Pope was one of the speakers, natch. The other speakers were Pete Cartwright, CEO of Advanced Power Projects, Inc.; Daniel Abbasi, head of regulatory and public policy research for MissionPoint Capital Partners ("Financing transition to carbon free economy"); Michael Molnar, VP at Goldman Sachs, responsible for alt. energy and coal sectors in the Energy & Materials Equity Research Business Unit; and moderator Myron Kandel, founding financial editor at CNN. You can read my liveblog-style notes for the whole evening at my own blog. A few juicy nuggets:

Architect R.K. Stewart on building the future of sustainable design

If you build it, they will come. But if you build it green, you just may be able to save the planet. R.K. Stewart. Or so says a recent report, which suggests that green building could help cut North America’s greenhouse-gas emissions more quickly and less expensively than any other measure. And word is getting out about the promise of this fast-growing field — some have even called 2008 the official “Year of Green Building.” It’s no wonder the field is building momentum — sustainable design is one of the top priorities for the American Institute of Architects, the leading …

Narwhals more at risk than polar bears, says study

Polar bears get all the press, but climate change may be even harder on the narwhal, says new research. Narwhals, the whales whose long spiral tusks kick-started the myth of unicorns, top a list of 11 at-risk Arctic marine mammals published in the journal Ecological Applications. Hooded seals, bowhead whales, and walrus rounded out the top five, while ringed seals and bearded seals, which are being considered for endangered-species protections, were at the bottom of the list. Narwhals are “not that cute,” says lead author Kristin Laidre, and thus don’t get the attention that polar bears do. And speaking of …

Details matter: Small sticks and no carrots

Lieberman-Warner criticism, Part 2

This is the second in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See part 1 here. With atmospheric GHG concentrations rising at a frightening rate, we need a full court press to change directions, using every possible tool at our disposal. From an economic perspective, this means that we not only need to impose financial penalties on polluters, but also provide financial incentives for those who act to lower GHG emissions. We need a market mechanism in place so that the costs of GHG emission -- or the revenue associated with GHG reduction -- factors into individual investment decisions immediately. In short, we need big sticks and big carrots. The Climate Stabilization Act (CSA), as the Lieberman-Warner Bill is known, is a small stick with no carrot. This post explains why.

Cold CAFE

Governors rally against dirty Bush car plan

Nothing brings together diverse groups like a common threat. And governors in environmentally progressive states are getting used to banding together against the Bush administration. Now they've done it again, to protest the "cynical" effort by the Bush Department of Transportation to take away the right of California to set tougher greenhouse gas standards for cars (and the right of other states to adopt the California standards). The latest assault on states' rights came in the fine print of a proposal this week by the DOT to put into place tougher CAFE standards required by last year's energy act. On page 387 of that proposal, DOT slipped in the killer language: "any state regulation regulating tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles is expressly pre-empted."

Third try at coal-plant bill heads to Kansas governor

With firm belief in the power of try, trying again, Kansas legislators have sent another coal-plant proposal to the desk of veto-happy Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The governor has twice shot down legislation to allow a new two-unit coal plant to be built in her state, but legislative leaders say the new plan is a compromise: it would reduce the size of the proposed plant and set accelerated timelines for Sunflower Electric to develop renewable energy sources, create consumer efficiency programs, and track greenhouse-gas emissions. Sebelius says she will analyze the bill and bring a decision mid-next week, though she notes …

Sticker shock!

What’s causing the sudden run-up in food prices?

A lot of people are wondering what the hell is going on with food prices. Rice, dollars per ton Source: Reuters The price of bulk rice on global markets has tripled since the start of the year, school children in some of the world’s poorest nations are losing access to school-lunch programs, and people in places like Haiti are literally scrounging through garbage dumps in search of something to eat. Here in the U.S., heightened prices are putting a hard pinch on low- and middle-income families, restaurant chains are seeing their profits plunge as food costs rise and consumers seek …

The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook of low-carbon living

When I got to college, the best book I bought was a 3-ring notebook-style Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Not adventurous food, but for someone who knew very little about anything concerning food, it was a great first book. It assumes that you are reading a cookbook because you want to know what to do, step-by-step -- instead of just hinting, it lays it out, with pictures and plain language. Great stuff. A couple times a year my wife and I still will ask one another, "What does Betty say to do with these?" I always think of Betty (and the old How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) as the epitome of good technical instruction books. They are all about practical information first, with a minimum of wasted words. Today I found a new one for that list.