Climate & Energy

When 'picking energy winners,' don't ignore past investment

Marketplace commentary gives a misleading picture of government’s role in energy use

In a commentary on Thursday's Marketplace, the Cato Institute's Will Wilkinson critiqued T. Boone Pickens' new energy plan. In doing so, he painted a misleading picture of the government's role in our energy usage. Pickens wants wind energy to replace natural gas in electricity generation, and use the freed-up natural gas to fuel vehicles so we can use less foreign oil. There are problems with this energy plan, but Wilkerson is most concerned that the government might be "picking a winner" if it helps Pickens realize his scheme. (Wilkerson doesn't specify exactly what Pickens wants the government to do, but Reuters reports that under the Pickens plan, the government would need to create power transmission corridors.) Wilkerson doesn't seem to think the government should get involved; his criticism of the Pickens Plan is that it's "not about offering you, the consumer, a choice." This is where he overlooks one crucial factor in the energy puzzle. He says:

Harvey and me

Five Gore steps to carbon-free electricity and electrified transportation

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to comment about Al Gore's next step on Earthbeat Radio, a syndicated, weekly, hour-long environmental program, and speaking with me was long-time anti-nuclear, environmental, and political activist Harvey Wasserman, author of "Solartopia! Our Green Powered Earth." The show is co-hosted by Daphne Wysham, global environmental activist from the Institute for Policy Studies. Our segment [mp3] is a little more than halfway through. Our conversation got me to thinking about what a set of five "Gore" steps might look like. Gore has put forth the first and second steps, so now we can pitch in and propose a few more. Here are mine:

With research breakthrough, solar power could work when the sun don’t shine

Wind and solar energy face a distinct hurdle: sometimes the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine. But new research from the Massachusetts Institute …

Notable quotable

Appalachian Mountains: old and in the way

“A lot of people look at mountain top removal [mining] as a negative, but I see it as a positive. We need to stop apologizing …

China’s renewables sector booming, study says

China’s renewable-energy sector is growing substantially despite the simultaneous growth of its famous dirty-energy sector, according to a study by nonprofit The Climate Group. While …

DOE and EPA say Obama's right, Limbaugh's wrong

More oil can be found in your car than offshore

How much oil can be found in Americans' cars -- through more efficient driving and better vehicle maintenance? Using current numbers from the Bush DOE and EPA, the answer appears to be some 2.5 to 3 million barrels a day -- 20 times what could be found if we ended the congressional moratorium on offshore drilling (see "The cruel offshore-drilling hoax") and three times the oil we are likely to find in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (see "Opening ANWR cuts gas prices two cents in 2025"). These savings would quickly lower Americans' annual fuel bills perhaps $700 a year, whereas drilling might save them about $12 a year in 20 years. But let me begin at the beginning. Obama, as everyone knows, has presented detailed national strategies to reduce oil consumption as part of his climate plan months ago. Now the right wing is all agog at some remarks Obama made yesterday about what individuals can do: We could save all the oil that they're talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires and getting regular tune-ups. You could save just as much. Limbaugh said: This is unbelievable! My friends, this is laughable of course, but it's stupid! It is stupid! … Avoid jackrabbit starts, keep your tires properly inflated, there's a list of about ten or twelve these things. I said if I follow each one of these things I'll have to stop the car every five miles, siphon some fuel out, for all the fuel I'm going to be saving. This is ridiculous…. Who has filled his head with this stuff? Actually, it is probably the Bush administration's own Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency that has filled him with that stuff. Let's do the math.

The nukes of hazard

French independent nuclear commission reports four malfunctions in four plants in 15 days

Just when you thought it was safe to build 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 as John McCain wants, comes this word from France's Independent Commission on Research and Information on Radiocactivity (CRIIRAD): "In less than 15 days, the CRIIRAD has been informed of four malfunctions in four nuclear plants, leading to the accidental contamination of 126 workers," CRIIRAD head Corinne Castanier told Reuters in an interview ... But the conservative francophile said last year, If France can produce 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power, why can't we? McCain seems to forget we are a much, much larger country than France. Heck, we already have more nuclear reactors than they do. To achieve McCain's goal, we'd need 500 to 700+ new nuclear reactors plus five to seven Yucca mountains, at a cost of some $4 trillion. Not to mention the soaring electricity bills Americans would have to suffer through, with electricity from new nukes projected at some $0.15 a kilowatt hour -- some 50 percent higher than current national rates -- not even counting transmission (or reprocessing). The only thing scarier than the radioactivity hazard of nuclear power is the economic hazard.

A profit without honor

ExxonMobil rakes in record cash, spends only 1 percent on alternative energy

ExxonMobil broke its own record for the highest quarterly earnings in U.S. history, reporting $11.7 billion in profits for the second quarter. And as ABC …

Oil companies’ continued record profits tick off Democrats, consumers

Major oil companies reported ginormous second-quarter profits this week, irking consumers and fueling harsh rhetoric from congressional Democrats. ExxonMobil reported a record-breaking profit of $11.68 …