Climate & Energy

Scenarios for a low carbon, no-nuke future

Renewables and efficiency would provide more GDP than fossil fuels

The attached Excel spreadsheet takes specific technologies, the known cost of implementing them, and various scenarios for responses to such implementation and technical improvements (including no technical improvement!) and calculates costs and benefits. This is intended to be an open source model. The comment section will be used to revise the spreadsheet with links to the old versions added to the bottom of this post as revisions are made (for the sake of transparency.) There is also a Word document with a narration of assumptions. The conclusion in this 1.0 version: Unsurprisingly, the key to eliminating emissions profitably is large efficiency increases. With maximum efficiency improvements even a scenario with (completely unrealistic) zero technical progress in efficiency or renewables would make our economy as a whole richer than if we stuck to fossil fuels. If we combine aggressive efficiency improvements with aggressive (but reasonable) improvements in technology we would end up richer by more than a trillion dollars a year. Aggressive efficiency spending which yields small reductions, unsurprisingly has poor financial payback. Warning: There is an easy misinterpretation the data does not support -- that we can do nothing. The fact that eliminating most fossil fuel use is more profitable than continuing to use fossil fuels to society as a whole does not mean that elimination will happen without policy changes. Nor does it mean that is currently profitable to those who could make the technical changes. For example, transforming commercial office space into a green building raises worker productivity by a minimum of 4 percent. If a landlord makes that transformation, and somehow gets hold of the confidential data needed to document that productivity gain, how much can she increase rents based on those productivity improvements? If you guessed zero, you are right and win the no-prize. Incidentally, even if the building is 100 percent owner occupied, what do you think the odds are they will invest in improved lighting and ventilation for the sake of productivity improvements?

Greenpeacers climb Eiffel Tower in anti-nuclear protest

About 15 Greenpeace activists scaled the Eiffel Tower Sunday and unveiled a banner to protest France’s nuclear-energy policies. France uses more nuclear power than any …

Czar Schwarzenegger?

California governor says he’d be willing to serve in Obama’s cabinet

On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a McCain supporter, suggested that he’d be willing to serve as “energy czar” for Democratic …

Hill heap

A weekly roundup of greenish news from the capitol

• According to a new EPA analysis, the “value of a statistical life” is now worth $6.9 million, which is nearly $1 million less than …

Barack in the Buckeye State

Dem presidential candidate talks up energy plan in Ohio

Barack Obama gave a speech on energy policy in Dayton, Ohio on Friday, and used the opportunity to rip on rival John McCain. He knocked …

Salzburg: day two

Smart Power tips on how to market clean energy

Listen Play "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," from The Sound of Music Yesterday’s sessions transitioned rather seamlessly into post-session drinking networking, which went on until 4:30 …

Yes, Americans are a bunch of whiners …

As a big Obama supporter I am delighted that McCain's national co-chair and economic adviser Phil Gramm was stupid enough to talk about America being in a "mental recession" and the country being a "bunch of whiners"; it's going to be the gift that keeps on giving (Obama had a great line about how the country doesn't need a new Dr. Phil). Gramm was 100 percent wrong about the "mental recession" part -- we are teetering on a real recession if not already in one -- but he actually was right about America being a bunch of whiners, although not for the reasons he thinks.

The new film <em>Wall-E</em> gets it right

The link between obesity and the environment

Slate's Dan Engber has attempted to take down Wall-E in classic Green Room style with a piece slamming the film's connection between obesity and environmental destruction. Engber's critique is flawed in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin ... For instance, he doesn't seem to believe that obesity really has much to do with being too sedentary or eating too much. To support this, he cites research saying that 80 percent of the variation in body weight can be explained by DNA. But what the research actually shows (and what his own colleague, William Saletan, has recently gotten right) is that 80 percent of the variation can be explained by DNA among individuals living in the same environment. If fatness is determined so strongly by genes, as Engber would have us believe, how in the world, then, is it possible to explain skyrocketing obesity rates in the past several decades? In sum, Engber thinks the Nalgene-toting eco-liberals are ridiculous (and disingenuous) in their linking of the expanding waistlines and climate change. It's a too-easy analogy, he says. Granted, I (most likely, we) are among those people Engber loves to loathe and could scarcely be dissuaded from doing so, but just in case -- in case there's been a fundamental oversight, a gap in education -- I feel like sending him a copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food or Paul Robert's The End of Food. It's impossibly hard to argue, after reading either one, that agriculture, ecological degradation, and obesity aren't closely intertwined.

Helter smelter

Björk, Sigur Rós protest Icelandic aluminum plant in concert

Grist video producer Jennifer Prediger visited Iceland recently, attending an environmental protest concert featuring Björk and Sigur Rós. Here's her report, in words and video. In Iceland, the battle between power companies and conservationists is heating up. As the aluminum industry's plans to build dams and smelters move full steam ahead, Icelanders could well become the number one emitters of carbon dioxide per capita in the world. This possibility, in a land whose geothermal resources should make it a renewable energy haven, is the ultimate slap in the face to activists trying to keep it green. Bjork. Photo: Warren du Preez & Nick Thornton Which is why the country's stars aligned recently for a free benefit concert to protest the smelting plans. "It is great that we have not managed to totally fuck up this country yet, and we are standing at a crossroad right now," said headliner Björk. "What we need more than anything is information. And that is my goal with this concert." Together with the group Sigur Rós and author Andri Snær Magnason, Björk pulled off a concert attended by 10 percent of the country's population (that's 25,000 out of 250,000 people). The concert was timed to the release of the English translation of Magnason's Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation. "We came together and said something very big has to be done," Magnason told me. "There are 60 million people [in the world] that live on geothermal areas they could use both for heating and energy. That's like 10 percent of mankind. We need to go there with the knowledge, not make Iceland a colony of Alcoa. It's not a good idea." Below the fold, video of the concert and of the country.