Climate & Energy

Danny sings the blues

Seattle Times columnist needs a new ride

Via the Sunday Seattle Times: Danny Westneat has wrecked his car and needs a new ride. Now, I don't expect it to be easy being green. But this is ridiculous. What was hailed as our leading green alternative to petroleum [biodiesel] is now an affront to humanity? I wonder which print media gave him this false impression that biodiesel was our leading green alternative? But when we asked around about biodiesel, it didn't take long before the scolding started. Biodiesel pollutes more than oil, said one e-mailer on a community site where my wife asked for advice. Another questioned our morality, saying it's wrong to use food for fuel when people are starving. I find it ironic that a newspaper journalist had to learn all of this on an internet forum. Why didn't they just search the Times archives for articles instead? And what is wrong with stuffing 15 acres of vegetable oil annually into your gas tank? Hint: The price of cooking oil in Africa has gone up 60 percent.

Taking a pillow to a knife fight

Traditional print media and complex issues

On Saturday I received an email with a link to an article by Lisa Stiffler in Friday's Seattle Times. I'm going to use it to demonstrate how newspapers can muddy the water when it comes to complex issues. First, her article is a perfectly good one -- and a very typical one. You can't put a hyperlink on paper. You can't afford to waste space for footnotes. You are constrained by a word count. You also have to craft a story, keep it local, and do your best not to show whatever bias you may have (and we all have our biases). A quick check by an editor hardly qualifies as peer review. After all, it's a newspaper, not a research article. Finally, there is no commenter feedback to point out errors. Letters to the editor are, statistically speaking, a waste of time. Here is a quote from The New Yorker that I scrounged off one of Dave's link dumps: Journalism works well, Lippmann wrote, when "it can report the score of a game or a transatlantic flight, or the death of a monarch." But where the situation is more complicated ... journalism "causes no end of derangement, misunderstanding, and even misrepresentation."

Carbon trading blasted by indigenous groups

Spoilsports don’t appreciate all the World Bank has done for them

Some of the world's poorest people seem to think carbon trading will destroy their way of life without actually contributing to solving global warming. The highly respected  Institute for Policy Studies seems to think so, too [PDF]. Very odd of them to take such a position. Because, after all, there are no alternatives to carbon trading.

That nuclear renaissance: any day now

Industry bottlenecks will delay any reactors for years, maybe longer

Kind of an important point: It turns out that Osaka-based steel-making giant Japan Steel Works Ltd ... is also the world's only maker of ultra-large forgings, a crucial component in the construction of most new nuclear reactors ...Japan Steel, for example, is currently equipped to supply only five reactor forging sets each year, with each set including an ultra-large forging. So, the nuclear industry that shills sources have assured us is ready to leap in to action with ridiculous modest subsidies to avert global warming can currently build a grand total of ... five reactors a year? That's a little short of one a month.

In their humble overestimation ...

IPCC likely too optimistic about recoverable coal

Anyone interested in the climate should watch this talk by Professor David Rutledge from Caltech. He makes the argument that there are a lot less recoverable fossil fuels than assumed by just about everyone, including the IPCC emissions scenarios. His conclusion is that even if we burn all the fossil fuels on the planet, atmospheric carbon dioxide will not exceed 500 ppm. Is he right?  Perhaps, although his analysis considers only conventional fossil fuels and does not take into account unconventional oil sources like tar sands or shale. He also does not consider carbon cycle feedbacks that could also add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If true, it's undoubtedly good news for the climate but potentially bad news for our society, since it means that we will be seeing the price of energy inexorably rising in the future as competition for remaining energy resources becomes more fierce. My sense is that, while we can quibble about the numbers, it does seem likely that the IPCC emissions scenarios have overestimated recoverable coal reserves. This suggests that, at the very least, the highest emissions scenarios may be physically impossible to realize.

More anti-intellectualism from the Clinton camp

Cringe along with Terry McAuliffe, who explains why economists don’t know nothin':

Obama energy adviser Jason Grumet talks climate, coal, and green jobs

Jason Grumet. As executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group of 20 energy experts created in 2002, Jason Grumet has come in for some flack from environmentalists. NCEP’s influential 2004 energy report called for several measures anathema to greens, including a “safety valve” that would set an upper limit on the price of carbon and CO2 permit giveaways to coal utilities and other big polluters. But Grumet’s experience finessing the contentious differences between opposing camps in the energy world clearly attracted Mr. Unity himself, Barack Obama. Grumet has been advising the Obama campaign on climate …

These criminals are slippery — very slippery

The Christian Science Monitor notices a rash of slippery thieves making off with the newest hot commodity: grease.

Nukes for all

McCain calls for 700+ new nuclear plants costing $4 trillion

"A nuke in every garage" is the GOP nominee's energy and climate plan. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a stunning statement on the radio show of climate change denier Glenn Beck this week: ... the French are able to generate 80 percent of their electricity with nuclear power. There's no reason why America shouldn't. The Wonk Room, which has the audio, writes of the interview, "McCain Seemingly Agrees With Glenn Beck That Solutions To Climate Change Can Be Delayed." That is lame all by itself. But the statement quoted above is even more radical. McCain is repeating his little-noticed uber-Francophile statement from his big April 2007 speech on energy policy, "If France can produce 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power, why can't we?" Why can't we? Wrong question, Senator. The right question is, Why would we? Let's do the math.

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