Climate & Energy

Rise in U.S. power plant emissions outpaced electricity demand in 2007

Carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants rose 2.9 percent from 2006 to 2007, according to data analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project. That’s the largest annual increase in nine years and outpaced demand for electricity, according to the report. And the impact will last well beyond a year, warns EIP Director Eric Schaeffer: “Because CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of between 50 and 200 years, today’s emissions could cause global warming for up to two centuries to come.” If that’s not depressing enough, try this on for size: Nine scientists, including ubiquitous NASA climate guru James Hansen, have written …

Letting <em>what</em> market figure out the best way?

A cap-and-trade system will not by itself eliminate dirty energy’s unfair advantages

On p. 57 of Fred Krupp’s (generally excellent) new book Earth: The Sequel, it says this: In essence, renewable standards, subsidies, and other mandates assume that the government has all the answers, rather than letting the market figure out the best way to produce clean energy at the lowest cost. I’m never satisfied with how people talk about this stuff. On one side you have this sort hankie-waving fear of besmirching the virtue of the virgin market. On the other side you hear about how Society worships Capitalism even though the Market wants to Kill Us All. What both sides …

Japan will shorten pro baseball games to cut emissions

Japan’s professional baseball league is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by using only renewable energy recycling everything aiming to shorten games by 12 minutes. Under new rules, no more than 2 minutes and 15 seconds may lapse between innings, and pitchers must throw the ball within 15 seconds of receiving it if no runners are on base. Baseball commissioners estimate that by shortening games — which, by crazy coincidence, they’d been thinking of doing anyway — the league will eliminate 230 tons of carbon emissions throughout the 864-game season. And hey, a new study says that Japan can spew 160 …

An interview with Ralph Nader about his presidential platform on energy and the environment

He brought you the seat belt. He launched a consumer advocacy empire. He got over 2 million votes in the 2000. We interview with Ralph Nader about his presidential platform.

Going, going ...

Record global glacial melt

"Record Glacier Thinning Means No Time to Waste on Agreeing New International Climate Regime," said the U.N. Environment Programme on Sunday. That statement is based on the data of the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which "has been tracking the fate of glaciers for over a century. Continuous data series of annual mass balance, expressed as thickness change, are available for 30 reference glaciers since 1980." Here's the mean annual specific net balance:

Smart grid to rock Boulder

City selected for largest U.S. smart grid project

When Xcel Energy announced a few days ago that it had selected Boulder, Colo. as "the nation's first fully integrated Smart Grid City," it represented a vitally important step toward creating a low-carbon energy network. Photo: Aidan M. Grey Xcel previously announced its intention to stage the largest and most comprehensive deployment of smart grid technologies in the U.S. ever, and now it says it has targeted Boulder for a several-year effort that will cost up to $100 million. The aim at a comprehensive system is precisely what makes this a breakthrough. Smart grid technologies exhibit the classic network effect. Deployed individually, some can still have valuable benefits, as the personal computer did before the internet. To maximize benefits, however, they must be put together. Because this requires an overall systems transformation, and because such changes generally pose all sorts of chicken-and-egg challenges, the smart grid has been slow to catch on in the U.S. (France and Italy, who have more centrally managed electrical systems, have managed to advance farther.)

Electric cars could impact water supplies, says analysis

Converting most U.S. vehicles to run on electricity could have an impact on water supplies, according to an analysis to be published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Generating the needed electricity would require more water than producing gasoline, the report found — that is, if the nation’s electricity grid continues to be powered by coal and other fuels that require a lot of H2O for processing and cooling. “If we use only wind or solar energy, water use would be essentially zero,” says coauthor Carey King. The report emphasized that we definitely shouldn’t abandon a quest for largely …

Why a climate bill in 2008? Part III

The world is waiting for us to lead the way

This is the third in a series on why we should push for climate legislation this year. See also Part I and Part II. Why push for a climate bill in 2008? I've already offered some reasons in my previous posts: the politics will be much the same in 2009 (Okay, David offered that one), we don't want to squander the current momentum, and in any case, we simply can't afford to wait. But if those aren't reason enough, here's another: The world is waiting for us to act. To solve the global warming problem, China and other developing countries also must cap their emissions, and they won't do this until our own cap is in place. From a New York Times report: "China is not going to act in any sort of mandatory-control way until the United States does first," said Joseph Kruger, policy director for the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group in Washington. Along with India and other large developing countries, China has long maintained that the established industrial powers need to act first because they built their wealth largely by burning fossil fuels and adding to the atmosphere's blanket of greenhouse gases. If the U.S. -- the wealthiest country on Earth -- won't establish a cap, how can we expect developing countries to do it?

Misplaced priorities

Thoughts from a cellulosic ethanol agnostic

Photo: rsgranne and danipt via Flickr. "If America can win a race to the moon, we can win a race for a battery," Bill Clinton said last night on TV, stumping for Hillary. He also pointed out that if our cars got 100 mpg, the rise in fuel prices -- which is inevitable -- will have a much smaller economic impact. In short, he thinks America needs to get its shit together and start leading the world again with innovation. Easier said than done, in my opinion. We seem to be going backwards at present. All three of the remaining presidential hopefuls claim to be big supporters of corn ethanol. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as commercially produced cellulosic ethanol, so the following is based on an assumption that may never come to fruition. Imagine for a moment that the picture to the right, a power plant being fed a continuous supply of coal, is instead a cellulose ethanol refinery, and instead of coal in those cars, you have cellulose. Now, instead, assume it is a power plant again, but keep the cellulose in the train cars.

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