Climate & Energy

The thing you really never hear

This column from Newsweek editor Evan Thomas is largely a witless recitation of conventional wisdom, but it does raise one point I want to make. It seems to me that every mainstream media figure in the world is out there saying a) tackling global warming is going to be horrendously expensive, involving great sacrifice and hardship on the part of ordinary families, and b) no one else has the courage to say A. But obviously everybody has the courage to say it. It’s conventional wisdom. Like the “courageous” but equally false notion that Social Security is in crisis, it’s one …

Big Oil: 'Together, We Can' ignore global warming

American Petroleum Institute ad promotes climate catastrophe

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room. The American Petroleum Institute, the trade organization for the oil and natural gas industry, has just begun running a feel-good commercial that argues "America's future" lies in drilling out domestic reserves of oil and natural gas. Here's what the ad says: Oil and natural gas powered the past. But the future? Fact is, a growing world will require more. 45 percent more by 2030, along with greatly expanding alternatives. We have substantial oil and natural gas resources right here. Enough to power 60 million cars and heat 160 million households for 60 years. With advanced technology and smart policies, together we can secure America's future. Log on to learn more. [Text: / The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Industry] Watch it: The "facts" in Big Oil's ad are based on a 36-page API document [PDF] entitled "The Truth About Oil and Gasoline." This "primer" was published last week, with numerous figures and charts on oil company profits and gas prices, but nary a single mention of climate change or greenhouse gas emissions. Here are the facts Big Oil left out:

Lily Tomlin was right

Wags used to joke that Bush and Co. would put a coal-fired power plant in the Grand Canyon if you let them. As Lily Tomlin observed, "It's hard for cynics to keep up these days."

Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 2.5

What is the impact of peak oil and peak coal?

The goal of this post is to explore how peak oil and, yes, peak coal might affect the world's effort to stabilize CO2 concentrations. Here I present calculations I haven't seen anywhere else, and since different sources provide different numbers, please view these as a crude estimates. I welcome corrections. At recent growth rates for oil consumption, we are all but certain to peak in oil production within two decades -- and if we follow the recent trend-line for coal use (and for coal reserves), we could hit peak coal within three decades. It looks like it simply isn't possible for oil and coal use to sustain for decades the trends that led CO2 emissions to rise 3 percent per year since 2000, if the analysis below is roughly correct. That would be a very good piece of news. Oil: I have already written at length on oil (see "Peak Oil? Bring it on!"). In 2006, the world consumed about 85 million barrels a day (MMBD) of oil. Oil use had been rising about 2 percent per year, though the recent price jump may have slowed things a tad. And, for the first time, not just the "peakists" but the CEOs of major oil companies think we have a big problem.

Songs about the enemy of the human race

Friday music blogging: Kathy Mattea

It is rare that my idiosyncratic and widely ignored Friday music blogging overlaps with the subject matter that occupies the rest of my time. But today we have a happy confluence. Kathy Mattea is a Grammy-winning country artist, born in West Virginia. She had a string of hits in the ’80s and ’90s, but her turn to the social activism that fueled the original Appalachian folk music tradition has put her out of sync with current commercial radio appetites. After the Sago mine disaster, Mattea felt moved to respond somehow. She began researching the music that’s grown up around coal …

Fly on the Wall Street

Finance, energy, and the environment: markets and opportunities

Last night, I went to a panel at the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street (no, really!) on what's financially hot or soon will be in non-coal, non-oil energy technologies. I love these kinds of events; typically, what comes of them is reality-based information, dealing with who has the money, where it's going (or ought to go), and what will get it there, in order to transform our energy system. I come away from these things more hopeful than from any number of political rallies, because these are people who are walking their talk instead of posing in their Rogan jeans and "Save the planet" t-shirts. The panel was co-sponsored by Sierra Club, so the articulate Carl Pope was one of the speakers, natch. The other speakers were Pete Cartwright, CEO of Advanced Power Projects, Inc.; Daniel Abbasi, head of regulatory and public policy research for MissionPoint Capital Partners ("Financing transition to carbon free economy"); Michael Molnar, VP at Goldman Sachs, responsible for alt. energy and coal sectors in the Energy & Materials Equity Research Business Unit; and moderator Myron Kandel, founding financial editor at CNN. You can read my liveblog-style notes for the whole evening at my own blog. A few juicy nuggets:

Architect R.K. Stewart on building the future of sustainable design

If you build it, they will come. But if you build it green, you just may be able to save the planet. R.K. Stewart. Or so says a recent report, which suggests that green building could help cut North America’s greenhouse-gas emissions more quickly and less expensively than any other measure. And word is getting out about the promise of this fast-growing field — some have even called 2008 the official “Year of Green Building.” It’s no wonder the field is building momentum — sustainable design is one of the top priorities for the American Institute of Architects, the leading …

Narwhals more at risk than polar bears, says study

Polar bears get all the press, but climate change may be even harder on the narwhal, says new research. Narwhals, the whales whose long spiral tusks kick-started the myth of unicorns, top a list of 11 at-risk Arctic marine mammals published in the journal Ecological Applications. Hooded seals, bowhead whales, and walrus rounded out the top five, while ringed seals and bearded seals, which are being considered for endangered-species protections, were at the bottom of the list. Narwhals are “not that cute,” says lead author Kristin Laidre, and thus don’t get the attention that polar bears do. And speaking of …

Details matter: Small sticks and no carrots

Lieberman-Warner criticism, Part 2

This is the second in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See part 1 here. With atmospheric GHG concentrations rising at a frightening rate, we need a full court press to change directions, using every possible tool at our disposal. From an economic perspective, this means that we not only need to impose financial penalties on polluters, but also provide financial incentives for those who act to lower GHG emissions. We need a market mechanism in place so that the costs of GHG emission -- or the revenue associated with GHG reduction -- factors into individual investment decisions immediately. In short, we need big sticks and big carrots. The Climate Stabilization Act (CSA), as the Lieberman-Warner Bill is known, is a small stick with no carrot. This post explains why.

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