Climate & Energy

Huge chunk breaks off Arctic ice shelf; 2008 Arctic melt not likely to break record

A 1.5-mile ice chunk broke off the Arctic’s largest remaining ice shelf last week. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in northern Canada has been thinning …

What can we do about oil?

Short, medium, and long-term solutions to phase out oil

As opposed to emission or energy, what can we do about oil? As I've said in the past: not a lot. But "not a lot" is not equal to zero. Here are some pretty immediate things we can do: There have been some real drops in oil use in response to increased prices. I think Charles Komanoff once suggested that various types of conservation and efficiency measures could reduce oil use 10 percent more or less overnight [PDF]. Many of his suggestions are not exactly pain-free, but neither are the reductions we are making anyway in response $100 plus per barrel oil. Alan Blinder's proposal to buy oil guzzling clunkers back from owner at a premium -- old, fairly cheap cars only. These tend not to be the cars driven the most miles. Still, there would be real savings. Increased telecommuting. We are not going to switch everyone with an office job to 100 percent work-from-home mode. But putting in place some modest incentives, along with public education that help rebut some of the most common myths about telecommuting could get some modest immediate increases. Increased subsidies to existing rapid transit. Existing buses and trains should not have to cut services right when more people want to use them. Increased support for car pooling and van pooling. More incentives for companies to set up such pools, plus funding for services (such as the ones we already see) will make it easy for people interested in pooling private vehicles across companies to do so. Below the fold you will find some things we can do that are not immediate, but can be done pretty quickly.

Chomping at the drill bit

The offshore drilling hoax, part 2

In part 1 we saw that lifting the moratorium on coastal drilling can't possibly reduce gasoline prices. After all, two years ago, we opened most of the Gulf of Mexico -- with its estimated 41 billion barrels of oil -- and oil prices then doubled. The remaining prohibited coastal areas have only 18 billion barrels, of which 10 billion is off of California and likely to be blocked by the state. Another four of the 18 billion is in the Eastern Gulf off of Florida, which most Republican bills do not fully open for drilling since that would piss of Sen. Martinez. Tom Cole, chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent out an email (reprinted below) titled "Democrats Want You To Pay High Gas Prices." The email quotes a conservative publication claiming, "Given that lower gasoline prices would defeat the purpose of their entire environmental program, Democrats are in a very awkward position on the energy issue." That is among the most laughable things I've read. It is conservatives who want high gas prices because energy companies are among their biggest donors, and high prices mean bigger profits. That's why Republicans have consistently opposed serious efforts on energy efficiency, fuel economy standards, conservation, and alternative for over a quarter of a century. That's why former maverick and now card-carrying hard-core conservative John McCain flip-flopped on this position. Deep Throat said, "Follow the money." Duh!

Fred Krupp's response

EDF prez says we can’t afford to wait for the ideal first step

  Fred Krupp The following is a response to this post. ----- Ken Ward tracks the evolution of EDF's position on climate legislation in search of evidence that we've relented on tough global warming pollution limits since making climate change a top priority more than ten years ago. He sees our support of the Climate Security Act as a retreat from bold action, as surrender to what's merely possible in Congress. Far from it. What shapes our advocacy and our support for that bill is not, as Ken suggests, the limits of politics-as-usual in Washington. It's shaped by the urgent need to begin reducing global warming pollution -- and the fact that as a nation we have failed to take action despite two decades of evidence that we are in deep trouble.

A revolt against ethanol?

NYT: Consumers are complaining about ethanol-spiked gasoline

As ethanol continues to insinuate itself into the fuel supply — propelled by a slew of government goodies — ordinary folks are getting fed up, …

Efficiency first! Part two

The urgency to begin CO2 reduction via efficiency

If what you want to do is solve global warming, the core strategy is energy efficiency. Efficiency may have displaced more than half of all the new growth in electric consumption last year alone. It is already adding more capacity to the U.S. electric resource than all fossil and renewable fuels combined. It has done so for almost forty years, at least. So raising it enough to eliminate the new growth and some of the existing growth is not only fairly practical, it is cheaper than keeping the old coal plants operating.

Solar baseload update

Solar thermal expected to double every 16 months for the next five years

Solar baseload, concentrated solar thermal electric (with a few hours of storage), is a core climate solution. Earth Policy Institute has a useful update with lots of data,"Solar Thermal Power Coming to a Boil" (reprinted below). Key factoid: With concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) capacity expected to double every 16 months over the next five years, worldwide installed CSP capacity will reach 6,400 megawatts in 2012-14 times the current capacity. You can find the existing large solar baseload plants and the 50 or so currently proposed solar baseload plants here. EPI has an astonishing goal of "cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020," with a goal of 200,000 MW of solar baseload worldwide. I think the solar baseload goal is doable, but the carbon goal makes me a techno-pessimist -- heck, it makes Al Gore a techno-pessimist. Here is the update by Jonathan G. Dorn: Note: The rest of this post is the EPI article.

Deadlock, stock, and oil barrel

Congress hopes to break energy deadlock before August recess — but don’t hold your breath

Members of Congress are desperate to pass anything something on energy this week before August recess begins on Friday and they head home to face …

Houston, we have a solution?

Four encouraging signs from Big Oil’s backyard

After Nerdi Gras (Netroots Nation), I took a couple days off to dry-out and trotted over to Houston to visit my parents. It came as no surprise that Houston is booming due to the skyrocketing price of oil. But I also learned a few surprising things that gave me hope that brighter days are ahead for the rest of us well. Because if Houston can get it right, who can't?