Climate & Energy

Third try at coal-plant bill heads to Kansas governor

With firm belief in the power of try, trying again, Kansas legislators have sent another coal-plant proposal to the desk of veto-happy Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The governor has twice shot down legislation to allow a new two-unit coal plant to be built in her state, but legislative leaders say the new plan is a compromise: it would reduce the size of the proposed plant and set accelerated timelines for Sunflower Electric to develop renewable energy sources, create consumer efficiency programs, and track greenhouse-gas emissions. Sebelius says she will analyze the bill and bring a decision mid-next week, though she notes …

Sticker shock!

What’s causing the sudden run-up in food prices?

A lot of people are wondering what the hell is going on with food prices. Rice, dollars per ton Source: Reuters The price of bulk rice on global markets has tripled since the start of the year, school children in some of the world’s poorest nations are losing access to school-lunch programs, and people in places like Haiti are literally scrounging through garbage dumps in search of something to eat. Here in the U.S., heightened prices are putting a hard pinch on low- and middle-income families, restaurant chains are seeing their profits plunge as food costs rise and consumers seek …

The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook of low-carbon living

When I got to college, the best book I bought was a 3-ring notebook-style Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Not adventurous food, but for someone who knew very little about anything concerning food, it was a great first book. It assumes that you are reading a cookbook because you want to know what to do, step-by-step -- instead of just hinting, it lays it out, with pictures and plain language. Great stuff. A couple times a year my wife and I still will ask one another, "What does Betty say to do with these?" I always think of Betty (and the old How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) as the epitome of good technical instruction books. They are all about practical information first, with a minimum of wasted words. Today I found a new one for that list.

Jay Leno Earth Day videos

Because I’m a video hu-a and will basically embed anything anybody sends me, I give you this from NBC:

Are fixing the climate and the ozone layer mutually exclusive?

A geoengineering scheme to solve climate change could hurt the Antarctic ozone layer, while recovery of the ozone hole could increase Antarctic warming, new research suggests. A study published Thursday in Science decries suggestions to solve climate change by spewing sulfur into the atmosphere, saying that such a scheme would wipe out the Arctic ozone layer and delay the healing of the ozone hole over Antarctica for up to seven decades. But hey, maybe that’s not all bad: A paper to be published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that a full recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole could amplify warming …

New bulb on the block

Spendy mercury-free LED bulb supposedly lasts 50,000 hours

Somewhere, in school or on the job, every engineer learns about tradeoffs -- that there is no free lunch, and that, once a design is at all reasonable, gains in one dimension come at the cost of compromises in others. The shorthand statement of this is the pithy evergreen in design classes: "Good, fast, and cheap. Pick two!" There's a new bulb out: a 13-watt LED array bulb with an integral diffuser, so you don't see the annoying space-craft look of little tiny rows of LEDs like the first-generation LED lamps offer. It has no mercury, a boon, and lasts about five times longer than its 13-watt compact-florescent competitors, while being much faster-acting and producing a warmer light. It costs a boatload, at least now ($90). But I still have my first compact florescent bulbs from 1989: huge, heavy ballasts, barely "compact" at all. I'll buy one of these whenever I need a new bulb and gradually switch over all the hard-to-reach spots. An interesting video comparison with 100-watt incandescent bulbs and 13-watt compact florescent bulbs is available at the link.

NOAA news isn't good news

Atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane rise sharply in 2007

The news from NOAA is that all our dawdling on climate action this decade is having real impact on the atmosphere: Concentrations of CO2 jumped 2.4 ppm in 2007, taking us to 385 ppm (preindustrial levels hovered around 280 through 1850). That is an increase of 0.6 percent (or 19 billion tons). If we stay at that growth rate, we'll be at 465 ppm by 2050 -- and that assumes (improbably) that the various carbon sinks don't keep saturating (see here and here). Levels of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) rose last year for the first time since 1998, perhaps an early indication of thawing permafrost.

Buckeyes on solar

Renewable energy standard passed in Ohio

Ohio gets 87 percent of its electricity from coal (and the rest is mostly nukes), putting it in the upper echelon of coal-using states in the nation (No. 2 behind Texas, to be precise). And that, friends, is about to change, because yesterday the Ohio Legislature passed a renewable energy standard requiring utilities to provide 12.5 percent of Ohio's electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2025. This bill has a solar-specific requirement that will result in about 594 MW of solar in the Buckeye State. Not too shabby! Kudos to Environment Ohio and the thousands of other activists that worked hard to make it happen. Next, the bill lands on Gov. Strickland's desk. If you like, take a moment to email the governor to thank him for making clean energy a top priority and encourage him to take the final step of signing this bill into law.

What is the Vectrix?

Electric bike zips up Berkeley hills with ease

An ex-girlfriend of mine placed great diagnostic weight on the following question: Would you rather have one cookie now or two cookies later? I am generally a two-cookies-later person, and she ... well, now that I think of it, she was more of a two-cookies-now kind of person, which explains ... Photo: Sonietta46 I digress. The point is that if you have been reading all the recent news about the Tesla and the Volt, and now Think is coming to America, and apparently Project Better Place is going hook up everyone in Denmark and Israel -- and you are perhaps pissed at the oil companies, and food riots are scaring the shit out of you, and the rocketing price of gas makes you wonder if the peak oil kids are right -- well, who can blame you for wanting an electric car right now? Unfortunately, you are kind of screwed. I mean, the Zenn is kind of cute, but 35 mph? Tesla takes reservations, but a reservation doesn't really get you to the grocery store, does it?

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