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Heating water is a tankless job

On-demand water heaters rock

It's totally goofy, but I love my water heater. It's an "on demand" (also called tankless) unit, so it only turns on when I need to do the dishes or wash some clothes, or do both at the same time, even. I like that it doesn't heat a big tank of water 24/7 on the off chance that I'll need it at any moment. Thus it's small, and when it does turn on it's efficient. When not in use, it's completely off. Even though it runs on gas, it has no eternally burning pilot light, and I like that, too. …

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Coal is the enemy of the human race: <em>New Republic</em> edition

Editorial questions the sequestration promise

The New Republic has a fine, fine editorial about coal today. It calls into question whether spending up to $40 billion on the ten-years-hence promise of carbon sequestration in order to save the coal industry from obsolescence is the best investment we could make to fight global warming. The weak link in the argument is here: Nor is it clear that sequestration will be economical: One GAO analysis predicts that electricity from carbon- capturing plants will cost up to 78 percent more than electricity from conventional coal plants. By the time the technology becomes viable--if it ever becomes viable--solar and …

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Right message, wrong vehicle

Environmental Defense’s climate ads go negative, miss the mark

There's no shortage of messaging on climate change these days, but the latest ad I came across concerned me in the same way that Greenpeace's pissy kid ad did. I just heard the radio version of Environmental Defense's two TV ads (which this hard-rock station was repeating back-to-back, for extra negative impact), which tear a page from the same playbook: "The Gift" features kids reading off a list of lousy things that adults are giving them, like droughts, stronger hurricanes, etc. And then there's the one about time running out alongside a long list of bad things to come called …

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Greenspan vs. Naomi Klein and Amy Goodman

A remarkable bit of radio on Democracy Now

I agree with Joseph Romm that Alan Greenspan is way overrated. Sure, he declares in his new book that "I'm saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows -- the Iraq war is largely about oil." But he adds in his very next sentence, to paraphrase: And that's a good thing. Yes, he supported the war because he saw it as essential to maintaining a smooth flow of oil. Everything else, for him, was political window dressing. And yes, he became a hero to certain liberals because he worked well with Bill Clinton. But what did the …

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Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump moves structures to account for fault line

If falsified quality-assurance documents and vehement opposition from locals (among other things) aren't enough to put Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump on your list of Bad Places to Dump Nuclear Waste, may we offer you an inconveniently located underground fault line?

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Suffer the little children -- from carbon offsets?

A clean tech firm accuses a carbon credit nonprofit of forcing kids to do fieldwork

You might blame a leading carbon-offset provider of forcing poor kids to work, according to The Times of London. Or not. Carbon credit firm Climate Care pays families in India to use human-powered treadle pumps to get water out of the ground for drinking and farming. As a result, half a million foot pumps have replaced diesel ones, which pollute and cost a lot to fuel. Unfortunately, Climate Care doesn't ensure the diesel pumps are retired instead of finding new life with other owners. Nor does it stick around to make sure that kids aren't doing all the pumping. It …

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Do something already

Poll finds people ready for action on climate change

The BBC World Service just released the results of a poll they did of 22,000 people in 21 countries on attitudes toward global warming. Short story: large majorities believe that human beings are causing global warming, that urgent action needs to be taken to avert it, and that part of that action should be rich countries helping fund the efforts of poor countries. Says GlobeScan President Doug Miller, "The strength of these findings makes it difficult to imagine a more supportive public opinion environment for national leaders to commit to climate action." And yet, national leaders continue to dither and …

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Biofuel: Is it a greenhouse gas, gas, gas?

New study claims ethanol and biodiesel may actually boost GHG emissions

Update [2007-9-25 15:12:2 by Tom Philpott]:In the 24-hour lag time between finishing this piece and its posting, I had an email exchange with Keith Smith of the University of Edinburgh, one of the authors of the study discussed below. I've modified the post to add information I got from Smith. By all accounts, biofuels deliver startlingly modest reductions in greenhouse gases. In a relatively generous assessment of the environmental benefits of ethanol and biodiesel released last year, University of Minnesota researchers credited corn-based ethanol with 12 percent less net greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline, while finding that soy-based biodiesel emits 41 …

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From Campus: Get hip to social entrepreneurship

It’s a hot topic on campus these days

As an undergrad at Brown University and a veteran organizer with the Sierra Student Coalition, Nathan Wyeth has his ear to the ground on campus sustainability issues. In this occasional column for Grist, Wyeth will report on what's afoot at the campus grassroots level and how he and his fellow students are making their voices heard. ----- A debate has been swirling on Gristmill for the past few weeks over the role of voluntary actions versus government policy in solving climate change specifically, and environmental problems generally. I'd like to stir this pot further and add another ingredient -- what …

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Solar-powered homes a bright spot in California housing market

Take that, housing market: Solar-powered homes in California are outshining the competition.