Climate & Energy

Clinton bashes Obama on energy

Clinton is attacking Obama over his energy bill vote in Penn. again. (More on the vote; more on the attacks.) You’ve got to know McCain is chuckling right now. He’s having the easiest campaign ever!

Burning ice, ice, baby

Methane hydrates: What’s the worst — and best — that could happen?

Methane hydrates (or clathrates), "burning ice," are worth understanding because they could affect the climate for better or worse. You can get the basics here on ... ... a solid form of water that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure [that] occur both in deep sedimentary structures, and as outcrops on the ocean floor. The worst that could happen is a climate catastrophe if they were released suddenly, as some people believed happened during "the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum." The best that could happen is if they could be recovered at a large scale safely -- then they would be an enormous new source of natural gas, the lowest-carbon and most efficient-burning fossil fuel. A recent workshop was held: "Vulnerability and Opportunity of Methane Hydrates," International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, March 13-14, 2008. You can find most of the presentations here. Science magazine recently ran a summary ($ub. req'd) of the meeting, which I will reprint below [unindented]:

The flaccid mind of Stephen Johnson

National Journal on the EPA tailspin

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been failing spectacularly to do what the law requires, as determined by numerous federal judges (including the Supreme Court). For a more in-depth look, consider a pair of articles by Margaret Kriz in the National Journal. "Vanishing Act" looks at many of the failures of the EPA. "The President's Man" presents an interview with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and gives insight into his twisted thinking. For example, when asked about issuing ozone standards weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA's independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Johnson replies:

Notable quotable

“Emissions are growing much faster than we’d thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we’d thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of climate change seems to be faster.” – Nicholas Stern, author of the seminal Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, on why he thinks his report underestimated the danger of global warming

Nicholas Stern says climate change worse than he thought

Nicholas Stern, the British economist known for a major report in which he declared that combating climate change would cost less than ignoring it, has announced that he was wrong — about how bad the problem is. “We badly underestimated the degree of damages and the risks of climate change” in the Oct. 2006 report, he said in a speech Wednesday. “All of the links in the chain are on average worse than we thought a couple of years ago.” Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, oceans are acidifying faster than expected, and carbon sinks are becoming less effective, said Stern. …

Don't celebrate this holiday

We need to be freed from gas, not the gas tax

John McCain’s proposal to institute a gas tax “holiday” during the summer driving season is as clear an example of a pander as one is likely to see during election season, but its inclusion in a major economic policy speech suggests that this is no easily ignorable one-off. As Joseph Romm notes, any hope progressives might have had that the maverick, straight-talking conservative could bring some principle to the table on climate and energy issues has now gone out the window. How badly does the tax holiday plan fail? Let us count the ways. First, it will offer consumers little …

Bush’s unambitious climate speech bashed by other major economies

President George W. Bush took his unambitious views and goals on climate and stuck them into one mediocre speech Wednesday. Bush called for U.S. emissions to “slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and begin to reverse thereafter,” an aim far short of what other developed countries are suggesting and what experts think is needed. He relied, as ever, on “accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies.” He gave a bear hug to nuclear power and coal. He decried raising taxes. He expressed concern about a patchwork of regulation, without initiating any overarching regulation. If Bush had hopes …

Green journalists out of touch?

I’ve been thinking more about the SEJ event I wrote about here. It’s been bugging me. To be honest, while I was quite impressed with the presidential advisers, the environmental journalists were … disappointing. Right now there is so much interesting stuff happening around climate and energy — policy details being hashed out, legislation being debated, important new aspects of the discussion getting attention, state efforts blossoming, international action moving ahead, etc. There is an embarrassment of riches in this area, right there in the thick of current events. So what do environmental journalists ask the presidential advisers? Will you …

Blocking Ferrari-ready driveways

Maine becomes third state to pass tough coal law

Yesterday, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed LD 2126, "An Act To Minimize Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Coal-Powered Industrial and Electrical Generating Facilities in the State." The law, which was sponsored by Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Maine), requires the Board of Environmental Protection to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for coal facilities. It also puts a moratorium in place on building any new coal plants until the standards are developed. Three states (Calif., Wash., and Maine) as well as New Zealand now have laws effectively blocking new coal plants that don't meet a carbon dioxide emission standard roughly equivalent to that of a combined cycle gas plant (i.e., 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour). That standard could be met with even a moderate level of sequestration, but so far no utilities have stepped to the plate. As a result of Washington state's standard, Energy Northwest's proposed Pacific Mountain Energy Center in Kalama was rejected by regulators in November because its plans for carbon capture and sequestration were judged to be merely "a plan to make a plan." Laws such as Maine's LD 2126 are valuable in blocking plants that merely declare themselves "carbon capture ready." As NRDC's David Hawkins told Congress (PDF): "A 'carbon sequestration optimized' coal power plant is not defined and could mean almost anything, including a plant that simply leaves physical space for an unidentified black box. If that makes a power plant 'capture-ready' Mr. Chairman, then my driveway is 'Ferrari-ready.'"

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