Climate & Energy

Things smart people assume

In Sunday’s WaPo, Joel Achebach says, “Rigorous science is the best weapon for persuading the public that [climate change] is a real problem that requires …

The (renewable) electron economy, part 1

The shape of the oil crisis

This is the first in a series on how we can build an energy future based on our best science and no longer critically dependent upon exhaustible and polluting fossil fuels. Lines formed at gas stations during the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. Too often, discussions of our future energy system simply reflect the current array of political forces in Washington or the novelty-hungry attention of the media and not the long-term viability of technologies and proposed solutions. As the price of oil is the most pressing issue from a short-term perspective, I am starting this series of policy briefs with how the energy used in transport on land can be transferred from liquid fossil fuels to cleanly generated electricity; in the second part I will address how we can create the conditions for powering the grid in the post-fossil fuel era. Oil supply: speculation and long-term trends We can all now agree that it has been the ultimate in shortsightedness to continue building a society founded upon burning ever increasing amounts of easily exhaustible resources. Not only is it highly visible, petroleum at the pump, but, behind the scenes, the vital energy for agriculture and freight transport that now depend upon the output of oil wells, mostly located abroad. In the U.S. in particular, we have had a 25 year hiatus in facing this reality through political, cultural, and corporate resistance to change, which means that Americans are starting the race far behind the starting line. In addition, as it turns out, the burning of these fossil resources alters the global climate and creates local pollution and health problems. There are other ills and challenges in our world but currently fossil fuel addiction is one of the most pressing but also, fortunately, soluble problems.

Drill he or won't he?

Enviros unhappy with Obama’s offshore-drilling shift, but pleased with his energy plan

Many in the environmental community are annoyed by Barack Obama’s change of position on offshore drilling, even while they applaud his comprehensive energy plan. The …

A harbinger of denial

The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach doesn’t understand basic climate science

Repeat after me, Joel: "Global warming makes the weather more extreme." If even the Bush administration accepts that basic fact of climate science, shouldn't you? I used to like Achenbach's cutesy science pieces, but his knowledge of climate science is about one or two decades old, as evidenced by his major story in The Washington Post, "Global Warming Did It! Well, Maybe Not." It is a typically uninformed journalistic "backlash" piece whereby a reporter creates a straw man and then sets it on fire. Achenbach is trying to seem reasonable by complaining that the next time we get a big hurricane, "some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming." Uhh, I hate to break this to you Joel, but global warming doesn't need a "harbinger." It has been here for decades. In that sense, your article is not a harbinger of global warming denial, since deniers have been pushing back against the "global warming causes extreme weather" story for years, browbeating the media into downplaying the connection. You really should read your fellow journalist Ross Gelbspan's long discussion of this in his great 2004 book, Boiling Point. Achenbach writes:

You say you want a revolution ...

‘Major discovery’ from MIT unpractical, and ignores present advances in solar baseload

I have gotten bombarded by too many people asking me if the story headlined above is true. It isn't. Not even close. Science magazine, which published the supposedly "major discovery" by MIT's Daniel Nocera, headlined their story, "New Catalyst Marks Major Step in the March Toward Hydrogen Fuel" ($ub. req'd). Doh! But who needs a major step towards hydrogen? And Science seems to be having problems with the laws of physics, as we'll see. I thought I had explained this to Scientific American, but given their puff piece -- the findings "help pave the way for a future hydrogen economy" -- I obviously failed. Let me try again. MIT had the sexier headline on unleashing the solar revolution. Too bad that headline isn't accurate for two mains reasons: The solar revolution already has been unleashed, and if it hadn't been, this technology wouldn't do the trick even if were near commercial, which it isn't. MIT reports:

Follow your money

The breakdown of Big Oil’s record-breaking profits

Record Big Oil profits from record oil prices and taxpayer subsidies -- where does all your money go? With ExxonMobil's report of a $11.68 billion haul in the second quarter of 2008, the world's top five oil companies are now on track for more than $160 billion in profits this year ... I know what you are thinking: Surely, Big Oil will take those staggeringly immense and almost immoral profits from the suspiciously fast rise in oil prices -- along with the $33 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies you're going to give those politically powerful and remarkably greedy companies over the next five years (see here) -- and invest in both new drilling and new energy technology. No it won't, no it won't, and stop calling me Shirley. In fact, the AP reports:

Stardom?

NYT Magazine swoons for Pickens

From the most recent New York Times Magazine: As a Texas oilman and major contributor to the Republican Party, you've just launched yourself, at 80, into green stardom by devising an energy plan that relies mainly on wind power. Green stardom. All you have to do is mention wind turbines to make the eyes of dirty hippies glaze over in delight.

Going rates

How much does it take to buy a protest on the floor of the House?

Here’s another interesting chart (via Josh Nelson via Open Secrets) showing the amount of oil and gas contributions to the House Republicans now engaging in …

<em>Now</em> they're ready

The history of House Republicans on energy in the 110th Congress

As you contemplate the House Republican spectacle today, wherein they protest the "Democrat five-week vacation" in the face of high gas prices, keep a few …