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Climate & Energy

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Collision course

The coal industry’s rush to build new plants is bumping up against reality

One thing the coal industry seems to get, but that isn't yet common public knowledge, is how fragile it is. It's a filthy relic of the 19th century and a rational society with a free and open energy market would have ditched it already. It has survived almost purely based on inertia -- its stranglehold on the political process and the persistence of various myths (like, say, the myth that it can be cheap and clean, or the myth that we can't meet our needs with renewables). As those myths meet reality and the U.S. starts taking global warming seriously, …

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Costs soar for new nuclear power plants

Strict safety guidelines cause construction delays at nuclear plants in Finland and Taiwan

Bloomberg has a very long article on the troubles plaguing Finland's Olkiluoto-3, "the first nuclear plant ordered in Western Europe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster." The plant has been delayed two years thanks to "flawed welds for the reactor's steel liner, unusable water-coolant pipes and suspect concrete in the foundation." It is also more than 25 percent over its 3 billion euro ($4 billion) budget. The article notes: If Finland's experience is any guide, the "nuclear renaissance" touted by the global atomic power industry as an economically viable alternative to coal and natural gas may not offer much progress from …

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Can't vs. shouldn't

It’s time to stop accepting the claim that we ‘can’t’ switch to renewable energy

This started as a response to Michael Tobis in this thread, but seemed worthy of moving to its own post. Photo: pcesarperez Michael said: "I started by defending sequestration on the grounds of the conventional wisdom that renewables do not seem adequate for the whole energy picture ..." This is a common refrain. You frequently hear people say that we "have to" continue using fossil fuels for the foreseeable future because we "can't" meet our energy needs with renewables. Naturally, if that's true, the debate is over. Can't is can't; impossible is impossible. Or is it? What's known as our …

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The coming carbon-sequestration era

Reporting from a coal hearing of the House Select Cmte. on Global Warming

If you dream of a near future in which coal mines are abandoned, coal workers are employed in emerging green energy fields, coal executives are feeding at the trough of welfare assistance (and not corporate welfare), and China and India are all too happy to buy our clean technologies at a healthy price ... well, then it's good you didn't attend this morning's hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change. I'll be posting a few entries here detailing the most significant ground Markey's hearing covered. But the nickel version is that, though everybody from the …

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Ted Stevens, climatologist

Alaskan senator invents new theory of global warming

Ted Stevens, the Republican senator whose vacation home was recently raided by the FBI, and who made over $800,000 from a shady real estate deal last year, has come up with a brand-new theory of global warming. He told a NBC reporter in Alaska: We're at the end of a long, long term of warming, 700 to 900 years of increased temperature, a very slow increase. We think we're close to the end of that. If we're close to the end of that, that means that we'll start getting cooler gradually, not very rapidly, but cooler once again and stability …

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CTL hearing report

My testimony to Congress on liquid coal

Here's the inside skinny on yesterday's liquid coal hearing before the House Science & Technology Committee. It was four on two (NRDC's David Hawkins and me vs. the other witnesses). You can read my testimony here and all the witness statements here -- not that I would recommend doing so unless you are a serious liquid-coal junkie like me. About 10 members of Congress were there at any given time -- about evenly split on how they view liquid coal. The ranking Republican on the full committee, Ralph Hall from the great state of Texas, interrogated me at length -- …

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Four cents a kilowatt-hour

The high price of electricity deregulation

In David Cay Johnston's NYT article "A New Push to Regulate Power Costs," he writes about the fact that many states are rolling back their deregulatory initiatives. The main reason, he says, is price. Ahh, price. That magic number at the nexus of supply and demand. The problem with price in electricity markets is that it is not determined by supply and demand, as in a free, deregulated market -- even in those states where there was, supposedly, deregulation. In fact, we've long argued that deregulatory initiatives, as they were designed and implemented, had nothing to do with what most …

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A setback for Yucca Mountain nuke dump as judge denies water to project

A federal judge poured cold water on the U.S. government's plans to build a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada this week -- or, more accurately, he left the feds high and dry. The Department of Energy has been seeking 8 million gallons of state-controlled water to drill test holes at Yucca Mountain; the state of Nevada, which wants to be rid of the dump, has said no way. In a sharp slap to the DOE, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt ruled that the federal government had "failed to demonstrate the necessity of its voracious water demands," and …

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Penguin populations in trouble, climate cited as one cause

Photo: iStockphoto First, the good news: there's an International Penguin Conference! Who knew? Now, the bad news: at said conference, taking place this week in Tasmania, a team of researchers has reported that the world's penguins are in trouble. The 17 species "face serious population decreases throughout their range," the team wrote, adding that officials, scientists, and the public need to take action if there's any hope of reversing the trend. OK, ready for the really bad news? "Penguins are the bellwether of climate change," says seabird ecologist Eric Woehler. "As birds they're pretty much at the top of the …

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Take this box and check it

Japan offers Micky D’s as reward for climate change promises

Today, in Japan: A Japanese government website crashed Wednesday as people raced to take up an offer of a half-price McDonald's hamburger in exchange for pledging to fight global warming. ... People were asked to check up to 39 boxes on a form they could download from the environment ministry's website, each listing a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming. ... The 39 measures range from cutting air conditioning use to reducing shower time by one minute to simply wiping water off the bottom of a kettle to save energy when heating it on a stove. …

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