Climate & Energy

Feds set fuel-economy benchmarks for automakers

Federal regulators will propose benchmarks Tuesday for automakers to hit on their way to reaching a fuel-economy requirement of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Auto fleets will have to average 27.8 mpg by 2011 and 31.6 mpg by 2015 — a more aggressive timetable than was required by Congress. That’s 35.7 mpg for passenger cars in 2015 (new cars averaged 31.3 mpg last year) and 28.6 mpg for light trucks (new trucks averaged 23.1 mpg last year). The proposal manages to gain acceptance from both automakers and enviros. Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers spokesfolks said the numbers will “stretch the …

Please, sir, I want some GMOs

Worldwide resistance to GMOs dwindle as food bills rise

For a while now, I’ve been cautioning people that surging prices for industrial food don’t necessarily “level the playing field” for sustainably produced fare. In fact, the few giant companies that dominate the global food system are fattening themselves on higher prices, consolidating their grip over the world’s palate. Last week, new Gristmill blogger Anna Lappe showed that Cargill — a major producer of everything from fertilizer to biofuel to meat — recently reported an 86 percent jump in quarterly earnings. And Monday, Andrew Pollack of The New York Times reported that sky-high prices are breaking down global resistance to …

Fortune Brainstorm Green

Lomborg does his shtick

God knows why, but they invited Bjorn Lomborg for a short one-on-one interview. Somewhat embarrassingly for Fortune, they got about a third of the crowd that’s come to most other sessions. Apparently people are tired of his shtick. For some reason, Adam Lashinsky from Fortune is kissing Lomborg’s ass, asking him to “challenge our cozy consensus,” granting him his self-proclaimed status as “skeptical,” talking about how challenging he is, blah blah. Lashinsky: Do you know the deniers? Lomborg: Yes, and it makes me uncomfortable. I want the people who don’t like me to like me, and the people who like …

A REDtime story

Recycled Energy Development is in The Atlantic this month, as a part of a larger story by Lisa Margonelli about the potential for waste energy recycling at U.S. industrials.

Google: energy glutton?

New server farm projected to use 103 MW of power

Interesting feature in the March issue of Harper's if you missed it: Google's server farms use a heckuva lot of energy. A planned server farm in The Dalles, Ore. will probably use 103 megawatts of mega-hydro electrons, enough to power 82,000 homes, according to the author, Ginger Strand. Server farms used more power than TVs in the U.S. in 2006, and this may increase as other search firms gear up to battle Google. Of course, the proliferation of flat-screen energy hogs since then may level that playing field ... But the point here is that internet search isn't impact-free, and Google's good efforts to develop the renewable industry through grants and investments might be better viewed as more of an offset for its own impacts.

Our third annual list of the year’s goodies, oddities, and inanities

It’s Earth Day time once again, and we are delighted to present the Third-Ever List of Grist Superlatives — our take on the good, the bad, and the weird of the past year. Think we missed something? Add your cleverest contributions in comments below. (And check out our lists for 2007 and 2006.) Our sweet Kathleen. Photo: Year’s biggest loser: coal Staunchest anti-coal advocate who does something about it: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Hottest new energy technology you never hear about: solar thermal Try saying that three times fast. Photo: Most transparent attempt to derail momentum toward climate …

Fortune Brainstorm Green

Peter Barnes sprints through cap-and-dividend

Peter Barnes was given exactly five minutes (!) to explain cap-and-dividend to the audience. Everybody’s so tired and frazzled that I don’t think it sank in very much. However, I talked with Barnes for a good while outside, before the session, and I came out of it far more convinced of the wisdom of the idea that I was before. Much more on that later as well.

Fortune Brainstorm Green

An unusually interesting discussion of ‘clean coal’

Earlier today I attended a small roundtable discussion about clean coal. Most of the people there were basically pro-clean coal: people from NRG energy, railroad companies, venture capital firms, and David Hawkins from NRDC. Some other folks were uncommitted. In the anti column were me and Mike Brune from Rainforest Action Network. Also in attendance: Fred Krupp of EDF and eco-oldtimer Stewart Brand. There were pockets of agreement. To his credit, the guy from NRG lamented that the term "clean coal" had been used as a marketing trick — he said the only thing that should qualify is a coal …

Let them eat biofuel

Food vs. fuel debate, German edition

Defending her country’s biofuel mandates in a time of global food crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently denied that turning food crops into car fuel affects prices. Those looking for reasons behind the recent spike in food prices shouldn’t blame ethanol and biodiesel makers, she argued. Instead, look at how people are eating in the global south: If you travel to India these days, then a main part of the debate is about the "second meal." People are eating twice a day, and if a third of one billion people in India do that, it adds up to 300 million …

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