Climate & Energy

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.

Ship pilot charged in San Francisco oil spill

The pilot of the ship that spilled more than 50,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay in November has been charged with criminal negligence, harming federally protected birds, and violating the Clean Water Act. If found guilty, Capt. John Cota could face up to 18 months in jail and more than $100,000 in fines.

Sail-powered cargo ship returns home, wave-powered vessel sets off

A cargo ship partially powered by a gigantic kite-like sail has completed a 12,000-mile roundtrip voyage across the Atlantic. Captain Lutz Heldt, who says the ship used around 20 percent less fuel thanks to kite power, says, “We can once again actually ‘sail’ with cargo ships, thus opening a new chapter in the history of commercial shipping.” Not to be outdone, a Japanese sailor has embarked on his own bon voyage: a 4,400-mile trip in a recycled-aluminum, wave-powered boat.

Climate change will make Ireland less green, says well-timed report

It’s St. Patty’s day — so you just knew someone would do a study on the impact of climate change on Ireland, didn’t you? Sure enough, the Irish American Climate Project has issued a report entitled “Changing Shades of Green,” warning that decreased rainfall could necessitate a nickname change for the Emerald Isle, and summer droughts could bring about Potato Famine II. “You tell people in Dublin that the climate might be like the Mediterranean coast and their initial reaction is, ‘So what? That’ll be nice in the summer,'” says project leader Kevin Sweeney. “Then in about five minutes, it …

G20 climate meeting ends, accomplishing nothing

In case you’ve been wondering what happened at this weekend’s gathering of the G20 biggest-polluting countries, the answer is: pretty much nothing. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair formally announced his goal to eke out a meaningful climate agreement, and declared, “We have reached the critical moment of decision on climate change. There are few, if any, genuine doubters left.” There is, however, plenty of disagreement over just how climate change should be tackled, and no breakthroughs were made this weekend.

China, with emissions rising, urges developed countries to carbon diet

China’s greenhouse-gas emissions are rising far faster than expected, according to a new analysis to be published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. Researchers estimate that by 2010, China may spew 600 million more metric tons of greenhouse gases than it did in 2000; to put that in perspective, the total emissions reductions pledged by signatories to the Kyoto Protocol is 116 million metric tons. But per capita, says Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, China’s emissions are still much lower than developed countries. “It’s like there is one person who eats three slices of bread for breakfast, and …

Peruvian Amazon under threat from oil exploration, illegal logging

There’s no better way to start off a Monday than with depressing news from the Peruvian Amazon, which is under threat from both fossil-fuel development and illegal logging. Despite protests from environmental and human rights groups, Peru’s government plans to auction off dozens of parcels of remote rainforest for oil and gas companies to explore. And in even more somber news, Peruvian community leader Julio García Agapito was recently shot to death after trying to report illegal logging in the Amazon, a murder sadly reminiscent of the past deaths of anti-logging activists Chico Mendes and Dorothy Stang. sources:

Play with fire and you're gonna get ... offsets?

N.J. firefighters puttin’ out the flames of the planet

“We’d all be heroes if we quit using petroleum,” says the fictional firefighter played by Marky Mark in I Heart Huckabees, who memorably opted to ride his bike to fires rather than take the truck with the rest of the fire department. If he’d only known about a group of New Jersey firefighters who claim to be the first public safety entity to offset their emissions. The Robbinsville Professional Firefighters Local 3786 recently bought offsets for their two emergency vehicles through TerraPass. They’re aware it’s not a long-term solution but hope to “spark” awareness (heh heh!): “The goal is that …

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