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.
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: ks.gov 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: state.gov Most transparent attempt to derail momentum toward climate …
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.
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 …
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 …
I like Michael Pollan -- really, I do -- which is why it was frustrating to see his wilted-salad-green entreaty to act on climate change in yesterday's paper: The climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a crisis of lifestyle -- of character, even. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences. For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we're living our lives suggests we're not really serious about changing -- something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking -- passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists -- that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It's hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it. Pollan's grand solution? Plant a vegetable garden!
Know why they call Missouri the "Show Me" state? Me neither. What I do know is that our friends at Renew Missouri are trying to show the state some renewable energy. They've written language for a 15 percent renewable portfolio standard, but in order to get it on the ballot in November, they need to collect 150,000 signatures by May 4. It's an important battle in the heartland, so if you can, donate your time or money here.
With NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof's seeming endorsement of Roger Pielke Jr.'s ideas about mitigating global warming, it seems that we have two main arguments developing: the "breakthrough" argument, which says we must have technology breakthroughs in order to solve the problem, and, as articulated (for instance) by Joseph Romm, the "just do it" argument that we have the technologies now to minimize global warming. Most of my posts have been an attempt to show how current technologies can move us toward a "zero emissions" society. The "breakthrough" people do raise an interesting question, but then they veer off into the wrong answer. They ask, effectively, Is there something the government can do to solve global warming, besides carbon pricing? Their answer: Spend $30 billion a year on energy R&D, hoping for a breakthrough. I will argue in this post that the answer to their question is, Yes, the government can do something beyond carbon pricing -- governments at all levels can, first, provide some of the finance capital to the private sector to build renewable energy systems, and second, governments can build the necessary transportation systems and in some cases the energy systems. And by doing so, support for and the effectiveness of carbon pricing policies will be improved. In order to make this argument, let's back up a little and ask, "What kind of society are the authors of the various plans for global warming mitigation envisioning?" I think that, at their core, most global warming initiatives embed a conception of what is practical, considering both political and cultural constraints.
Stewart Brand just stood up and used Grist (and Treehugger, and Worldchanging) as an example of how young environmentalists are coming around to support nuclear power. Huh?
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