Climate & Energy

Algal update

Texas forum on what’s new, April 10

For the interest of those who haven't given up entirely on biofuels, I humbly present the National Algae Association forum in Texas on April 10. This meeting will serve as an update on what's new in this promising branch of the nascent sustainable biofuel movement: biodiesel from cultured algae (outside of biodiesel from waste oil, that is). This week's Renewable Energy World podcast had an interesting interview with the principal of one algae-fuel company, Solix Biofuels. Like all the companies, they have a whole array of challenges to figure out, from competitor algae to stress regimes that are optimal for producing oil. It's actually tough to grow algae -- who knew?

Joe Barton: Pork lover

Joe Barton (R-Texas) spoke to the U.S. Energy Association yesterday and made it clear ($ub req'd) that he's going to do everything he can to block cap-and-trade legislation from coming out of Congress: As the Democrats move to pass climate change legislation this year, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, will be there to fight them, he told the U.S. Energy Assn's annual membership meeting yesterday. As a senior member of the House Energy Committee, that's not a threat to be taken lightly. So why is he opposed? As justification, he cites both his passion for economic stewardship and his scientific judgment:

EPA sued over its procrastination

Seventeen states and 11 green groups have sued the U.S. EPA for not yet having made a decision about whether it will regulate greenhouse gases. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, exactly one year after the Supreme Court ruled that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson should make that decision.

Just Green Beat it

Youth activists in China gear up for an environmental video contest

Almost two years ago, I had the chance to meet students in China working hard to raise environmental and energy issues on local campuses. Since then, I've tried to stay in touch and keep up with the progress of student organizations there. Since my Mandarin is a little rusty, I've done this in part by keeping in touch with a number of young Americans who are there working on various endeavors after graduating from college -- my future bosses, I am sure, by virtue of the language skills they're developing. One particularly cool project that's getting started is a blog/vlog called China's Green Beat, started by a friend based in Beijing and a Chinese friend of his. You can check out videos shot in different parts of China exploring different energy and environmental issues here.

More from the delayer-1000 du jour

Why did Nature run Pielke’s pointless, misleading, embarrassing nonsense?

The usually thoughtful journal Nature has just published a pointless and misleading -- if not outright dangerous -- commentary by delayer-1000 du jour, Roger Pielke, Jr., along with Christopher Green, who, as we've seen, is another aspiring delayer. It will be no surprise to learn the central point of their essay, ironically titled "Dangerous Assumptions" (available here [PDF] or here, with a subscription), is: "Enormous advances in energy technology will be needed to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at acceptable levels." This is otherwise known as the technology trap or the standard "Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah" delayer message developed by Frank Luntz and perfected by Bush/Lomborg/Gingrich. The Pielke et al. analysis is certainly confusing, which is not surprising given that the subject matter is arcane: the appropriate baseline for emissions scenarios in climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What is surprising is that Nature would run a piece that comes to a conclusion not only at odds with its own analysis, but a complete reversal from the conclusion of standard delayer analyses just a few years ago: Five years ago the American Enterprise Institute "proved" that the lowest IPCC emissions projection is too high, and they backed up their conclusion with actual 1990s data, whereas Pielke, Wigley, and Green have "proven" that the highest IPCC emissions projection is too low, and they backed up their conclusion with actual data from this decade. Hard to believe, but true. And they say you can't make this stuff up. Well, maybe you can't. But the delayers can. This piece is an embarrassment to Nature's reputation as a leader on climate issues, and it suggest that the editors (and reviewers) didn't actually understand what they were reading. In this post I will endeavor to explain what's so incredibly pointless about the piece, flawed about the analysis, embarrassing and misguided about the conclusion. Regular readers of this blog know why the technology trap is dangerous (it leads to delay, which is fatal to the planet's livability). This can't be done briefly. You should probably read my recent posts "Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible?" and, possibly, "The adaptation trap 2: The not-so-honest-broker" first. Oh, and you should actually read the article. Come on, you know you are hot for this baseline analysis stuff. Trust me, you won't believe what these guys try to get away with.

FOE to Bush: Pull Johnson out

Friend of the Earth is calling for the resignation of EPA chief Stephen Johnson.

U-boat sightings

European biodiesel industry being bankrupted by loophole

They call them U-boats because they pull into a port just long enough to do a U-turn and head off to Europe. They stop just long enough to blend a touch of fuel into the tank so they can claim the government subsidy. Let's say you have a million gallons on board from, say, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, or a soybean operation in South America. An hour or two after your arrival, your pockets are bulging with just short of a million U.S. taxpayer dollars. From the Guardian: ... the European Biodiesel Board, has uncovered the trade as part of its investigation into why British, German, and Spanish producers are in financial trouble at a time when biodiesel prices remain high. The board will call for retaliatory action against the U.S. over subsidies for its leading biofuel. ... "[P]eople are bringing boats of soy or palm-based biodiesel from Europe and then mixing it with a bit of local biodiesel -- or even fossil-fuel diesel -- and then shipping it back," [biofuel consultant Ian Waller] said. This is perfectly legal and has been going on for years now. Our politicians are apparently cool with it because it lines the pockets of their campaign fund supporters (primarily the ag lobby). Some U.S. biofuel company is getting a big return on investment every time it happens. The American public is cool with it because we are unwitting idiots.

Umbra on long, hot showers

Dear Umbra, The biggest waster of energy in our house right now is our 15-year-old daughter, whose never-ending daily showers must surely be responsible for warming the planet another half-degree. No matter how loudly we bang on the bathroom door and scream for her to stop, she showers on — 20, 30 minutes at a time. And yes, we have a low-flow showerhead and our water heater is set to 120 degrees. Is there any kind of device — one that isn’t too dear and doesn’t require a plumber — that can curb the wasteful shower habits of a teenage …

California’s ‘hydrogen highway’ runs into roadblocks

Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order four years ago that “hundreds of hydrogen fueling stations” be built in the state, nary a station has been built under the program. Depending on whom you ask, the blame for the sputtering “hydrogen highway” lies with: energy companies and utilities, for not stepping forward to take state matching money to build stations; automakers, for not making enough hydrogen fuel cell cars; Democratic lawmakers, for mandating that the hydrogen be produced in a way that reduces greenhouse gases overall; Schwarzenegger, for under-researching and over-promising; and plain old complex bureaucracy. Mary Nichols, chair of …

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