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Senate Majority Leader vows opposition to Nevada coal plants

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has occasionally been viewed with suspicion by enviros, thanks to his friendliness with the mining industry. This should help patch things up: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada sent a letter this week to four companies telling them not to build planned coal-burning power plants in his state. ... "Because I believe that developing renewable energy in Nevada is far preferable to coal for the sake of our economy, public health and the environment, I will use every means at my disposal to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants in …

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A look at Barack Obama’s environmental platform and record

Updated 22 Aug 2008 In the early months of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, enviros were skeptical of his (now heavily qualified) support for coal-to-liquids technology and unvarnished enthusiasm for ethanol, but he earned their respect with his aggressive climate and energy plan. The plan centers on a cap-and-trade system that aims for 80 percent emission reductions from 1990 levels by 2050 and calls for auctioning 100 percent of the pollution permits. It also includes a $150 billion investment to boost clean energy and create green jobs, along with fine-grained proposals to boost efficiency, build a smart electricity grid, and encourage …

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Republicans get catty with each other

Wow, two Republicans representing two very different groups have been going after each other on the blogosphere with words and phrases like, "It is my intention to destroy your career as a liar" and "nasty-gram" -- OK, nasty-gram isn't a word, but what do you expect from CEI? It's Michael Eckhart, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) versus Marlo Lewis a senior fellow in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). You can read Lewis's side at Planet Gore (where else?) and Eckhart's side at ACORE's blog. I know Eckhart and he's a solid guy -- …

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New company says it can make better, cheaper biofuels

Picture a liquid fuel that is derived from the same feedstocks as cellulosic ethanol (switchgrass, sugar cane, corn stover) but contains 50% more energetic content and is made via a process that uses 65% less energy. Unlike cellulosic ethanol, this fuel can be distributed via existing oil pipelines rather than gas-hogging trucks and trains, dispensed through existing gas stations rather than specialized pumps, and used in existing engines rather than modified "flex-fuel" engines. In short, it is a biofuel that can be substituted directly and immediately for gas or diesel, on a gallon-for-gallon basis. Sounds pretty good, eh? Too good …

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Put a whole society on a tightrope without a net and wait

The venerable Tom's Dispatch has a powerful essay from Chip Ward called "How Efficiency Maximizes Catastrophe." It uses honeybee climate collapse disorder to illustrate a hugely important point: where nature overprotects, and uses redundancy with abandon, mankind attempts to engineer everything to the last decimal place, with all redundancy removed in the quest for maximum profit. A suicidal cultural pattern, probably. Excerpt below the fold. Resilience. You may not have heard much about it, but brace yourself. You're going to hear that word a lot in the future. It is what we have too little of as our world slips …

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Sure looks that way

Back in May, I was seduced by GM's seeming sincerity in developing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt. We must always remember, however, that GM is a master greenwasher. An article in Edmunds, "Chevrolet Volt Goes to Washington To Underline GM's Anti-CAFE-Increase Argument," suggests GM is using the Volt the same way it used fuel cell cars to kill the electric car in California (as the movie explains): General Motors' North American operations chief, Troy Clarke, is meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill today, and he's bringing along the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid prototype. GM hopes the Volt …

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Game over

In an editorial in this week's Science Magazine, Donald Kennedy writes: With respect to climate change, we have abruptly passed the tipping point in what until recently has been a tense political controversy. Why? Industry leaders, nongovernmental organizations, Al Gore, and public attention have all played a role. At the core, however, it's about the relentless progress of science. As data accumulate, denialists retreat to the safety of the Wall Street Journal op-ed page or seek social relaxation with old pals from the tobacco lobby from whom they first learned to "teach the controversy." Meanwhile, political judgments are in, and …

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Smacking down a bad idea

I know you've all been eagerly waiting for this (don't worry, I don't have many more rules). I got sidetracked by last week's offset hearing. Offset projects should deliver climate benefits with high confidence -- that's a key reason trees make lousy offsets, especially non-urban, non-tropical trees. An even more dubious source of offsets is geo-engineering, which is "the intentional large scale manipulation of the global environment" (PDF) to counteract the effects of global warming. As John Holdren, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, noted in 2006 (PDF), "The 'geo-engineering' approaches considered so far appear to …

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Double counting does not legally qualify as fraud

The ENDS Report -- July 2007, issue 390 ($ub. rqd): ENDS has learned that chemical corporation Rhodia is using carbon credits from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to meet voluntary corporate targets -- only to sell them at a profit to be counted again elsewhere. Cement company Lafarge has not ruled out the same practice. Companies like Rhodia can use CDM credits to comply with mandatory targets under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. But they can also use them to meet voluntary carbon reduction commitments or to make "carbon neutral" claims, or sell them on the market. Rhodia and other …