Climate & Energy

What is it good for?

Militarization and progressive change are not compatible

The U.S. military push for coal-based synthetic fuels reminds us that in the long run, solving climate chaos is incompatible with an aggressive military policy. Solutions will ultimately have to draw on traditional American virtues of thrift and cleverness, not the domination and power expressed in the new U.S. Air Force motto: Air Force Above All, which probably sounded more impressive in the original German. Militarization has a long history of pushing us down less sustainable paths in the U.S. Part of that is direct meeting of Pentagon needs. For example, one reason we have today's super-highway system is that Eisenhower was impressed by the military advantages of the German autobahn network -- both for the Germans and for the allies when their turn came to use it. The "National Defense Highway System," as it was called when first inaugurated, was built wide enough to allow tanks and military convoys to travel freely across the U.S. without depending on rail. The financial structure was similar to the autobahn's as well. The national highways trust is based largely on fuel taxes paid by both rail and trucks, but which rail gets almost no benefit from -- that helped ensure the gradual shift of freight from trains to trucks.

The farm bill ups the cellulosic ethanol ante

Lost amid the crop-subsidy battle, a new biofuel regime

Amid all the thunder and lightening about subsidies in the new farm bill — which officially became law Thursday — Congress made a major policy shift with regard to the goodies lavished on ethanol makers. …

The power of wind

Wind energy ad wins Cannes award

I think I’ve posted this before, but a quick search didn’t turn it up. Anyway, this video, an ad for Epuron energy company created by the Nordpol+Hamburg agency, won the “Golden Lion” in Cannes. Check …

Hot rocks rockin'

Geothermal power: a core climate solution

While wind and solar get the media attention of a sexy starlet, good old geothermal power is treated like an aging character actor. But geothermal energy is, in fact, sizzling hot these days. Big-time investors from Warren Buffet to Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley to Google have begun investing: In 2007, private equity firms invested more than $400 million in geothermal energy, which is derived from hot water under the Earth's surface and can be used for space heating or generating electricity. Why the interest in a form of energy that President Bush repeatedly tried to zero out of the Department of Energy Budget? One reason is the soaring cost of conventional power like coal and nuclear. Another is the growing awareness of just how much is zero-carbon electricity will need in coming decades.

ACCCE's lobbying campaign against Lieberman Warner

Coal industry launches full-scale attack against climate legislation

Originally posted at the Wonk Room. The coal-industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has launched a major lobbying campaign against the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. ACCCE claims it is opposed to Lieberman-Warner because it "does not adequately embrace" their "principles" and raises "just too many unanswered questions." Principles: ACCCE's 12 principles [PDF] for federal legislation boil down to demands that they be allowed to construct new, uncontrolled coal-fired power plants until taxpayers pony up unlimited amounts of money for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. That's not a statement of principles -- it's a ransom note. Lieberman-Warner, named for its two co-sponsors Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), would allow the United States to join the rest of the world in combatting climate change by setting a firm limit on carbon emissions while providing support to low-income families. However, the bill also makes significant concessions to polluters, particularly the coal industry: The bill calls for reductions in greenhouse emissions that are insufficient to avoid climate catastrophe. The bill gives a windfall of emissions permits to polluters, instead of auctioning all permits [PDF]. The bill promises over $300 billion directly to coal polluters. Strangely, that isn't enough for ACCCE.

Jason Mraz sings the praises of a simpler life

Jason Mraz is strumming up support for sustainability. Jason Mraz may still be the geek in the pink, but these days, the pop-rock-rhymer is hoping to distance himself from his cigarette-puffin’, girl-chasin’ past and move …

Slip of the tundra

CO2 released from disappearing permafrost must be factored into climate projections

What is the point of no return for the climate -- the level of CO2 concentrations beyond which catastrophic outcomes are virtually unstoppable? No one knows for sure, but my vote goes for the point at which we start to lose a substantial fraction of the tundra's carbon to the atmosphere -- substantial being 0.1 percent per year! As we saw in my last post, frozen away in the permafrost is more carbon than the atmosphere currently contains (and much of that is in the form of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). What is the point of no return for the tundra? A major 2005 study ($ub. req'd) led by NCAR climate researcher David Lawrence found that virtually the entire top 11 feet of permafrost around the globe could disappear by the end of this century.

Stop the presses!

A report put together by the National Coal Council finds that coal is essential and it’s not going anywhere and reducing coal use would mean the widespread death of puppies and cute children but the …

The best offense is a good Defense

House passes Defense authorization bill, includes various climate-related elements

The House passed ($ub. req’d) the defense authorization bill for 2009 last night, and there were several climate and energy-related components included. One amendment modifies part of last year’s energy bill that forbids federal agencies …

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