Climate & Energy

‘They take pride in being ignorant’

Obama smacks back against GOP “tire gauge” mockery:

A real energy plan for America

Efficiency now, 10 percent renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015

Senator Barack Obama has fulfilled the promise of his earlier climate plan with a detailed and comprehensive "New Energy for America" [PDF] plan. Yesterday, he gave a major speech on this plan in Lansing, Michigan. This is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party: Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per each year while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers ... Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles and Put 1 Million Plugin Electric Vehicles on the Road by 2015: As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama has led efforts to jumpstart federal investment in advanced vehicles, including combined plug‐in hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, which can get over 150 miles per gallon of gas ... [more details below] Partner with Domestic Automakers: Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel‐efficient cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas. Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles Develop the Next Generation of Sustainable Biofuels and Infrastructure Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: ... The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years. This is the only way to jumpstart an end to our addiction to oil in a climate friendly way. Indeed, an accelerated transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars -- a core climate solution -- must be the cornerstone of any serious effort to dramatically reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. That is the crucial litmus test for any presidential candidate's energy independence or clean transportation policy. As for the test of a candidate's grasp of electricity policy, energy efficiency is obviously the only cheap power left and a limitless resource and the core climate solution. Obama understands energy efficiency in a way few other major politicians do, as his plan makes clear:

Estimated cost of Nevada nuke-waste dump soars

The total cost of dumping nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain repository will hit $96.2 billion, the Department of Energy estimated Tuesday. The estimate has …

Auto industry to McCain:

Congress should inflate their tires, not their rhetoric

This post originally ran on the Wonk Room. For most of this year rising gas prices have been on everyone's mind. Believe me, the auto industry understands very well just how much of an impact $4/gallon gas has had on American consumers. As you may have seen, it's having an impact on us, as well. Last week, the Auto Alliance and the National Auto Dealers Association sponsored tire pressure checks for members of Congress and their staff who park in the Rayburn Office Building. Surprisingly, we found that most drivers had tires between 5 and 7 pounds under inflated -- some had tires under-inflated by as much as 20 pounds. This significantly reduced their vehicle's fuel economy. We all share a goal of increasing fuel economy, as well as enhancing energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the fuel economy increases passed last year by Congress (and supported by the Auto Alliance) will help. But consumers want ways to fight back against high gas prices right now. By properly inflating tires, we can have an immediate impact on the more than 245 million vehicles currently on our nation's roads and highways. Earlier this year, we cosponsored the Alliance to Save Energy's Drive Smarter Challenge. As part of this campaign we advocated maintaining proper tire pressure as one simple step consumers could take to increase fuel economy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It's more important than you may think. For instance, did you know… • The Department of Energy estimates that 1.2 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in 2005 as a result of driving on under-inflated tires. • Fuel efficiency is reduced by 1% for every 3 PSI that tires are under-inflated. • Proper tire inflation can save the equivalent of about 1 tank of gas per year. • Proper tire inflation also reduces CO2 emissions. • Experts estimate that 25% of automobiles are running on tires with lower than recommended pressure, because people don't know how to check their tires or don't realize that tires naturally lose air over time. Maintaining proper tire pressure may not solve our dependence on foreign oil, but it will help. Consumers can get a few more miles to gallon, and when combined other driving and maintenance tips, those small steps can help to make a serious improvement in vehicle fuel economy.

How to stop horselaughs from crushing good ideas?

In a recent post about buy back programs to get polluting junkers off the road, I think David's key point was this: "This is one of those silver bb's enviros need to learn how to market better. All small-bore solutions sound faintly silly in isolation ..." In fact any solution that is drastically new sounds faintly silly in isolation, or can be made to sound so if an empty-headed media does a one-sentence rephrase (omitting key facts or outright lying if necessary) followed by extended fits of giggles and horselaughs. For example, Obama made a quite reasonable case that keeping tires inflated properly would save more oil than all offshore drilling combined. The response from the Republican Party and media combined is Tire gauges? Haw, haw, haw! It would be interesting to hear from some market types on how to counteract this garbage. Because otherwise we can watch idiots giggle our future away: "What, you want to stuff my attic with some sort of fabric? Chortle ... You want to produce electricity by sticking blades on a tower in a windy spot? Heh, heh, heh ... You want to put up paths so people can ride bicycles like little kids? Ha, ha,ha." You tell me: Are we doomed to forever be South Park Nation, headed by President Beavis and Vice President Butthead? Or is there a way to be heard over the whinnying and braying?

Things smart people assume

In Sunday’s WaPo, Joel Achebach says, “Rigorous science is the best weapon for persuading the public that [climate change] is a real problem that requires …

The (renewable) electron economy, part 1

The shape of the oil crisis

This is the first in a series on how we can build an energy future based on our best science and no longer critically dependent upon exhaustible and polluting fossil fuels. Lines formed at gas stations during the 1973 OPEC oil embargo. Too often, discussions of our future energy system simply reflect the current array of political forces in Washington or the novelty-hungry attention of the media and not the long-term viability of technologies and proposed solutions. As the price of oil is the most pressing issue from a short-term perspective, I am starting this series of policy briefs with how the energy used in transport on land can be transferred from liquid fossil fuels to cleanly generated electricity; in the second part I will address how we can create the conditions for powering the grid in the post-fossil fuel era. Oil supply: speculation and long-term trends We can all now agree that it has been the ultimate in shortsightedness to continue building a society founded upon burning ever increasing amounts of easily exhaustible resources. Not only is it highly visible, petroleum at the pump, but, behind the scenes, the vital energy for agriculture and freight transport that now depend upon the output of oil wells, mostly located abroad. In the U.S. in particular, we have had a 25 year hiatus in facing this reality through political, cultural, and corporate resistance to change, which means that Americans are starting the race far behind the starting line. In addition, as it turns out, the burning of these fossil resources alters the global climate and creates local pollution and health problems. There are other ills and challenges in our world but currently fossil fuel addiction is one of the most pressing but also, fortunately, soluble problems.

Drill he or won't he?

Enviros unhappy with Obama’s offshore-drilling shift, but pleased with his energy plan

Many in the environmental community are annoyed by Barack Obama’s change of position on offshore drilling, even while they applaud his comprehensive energy plan. The …

A harbinger of denial

The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach doesn’t understand basic climate science

Repeat after me, Joel: "Global warming makes the weather more extreme." If even the Bush administration accepts that basic fact of climate science, shouldn't you? I used to like Achenbach's cutesy science pieces, but his knowledge of climate science is about one or two decades old, as evidenced by his major story in The Washington Post, "Global Warming Did It! Well, Maybe Not." It is a typically uninformed journalistic "backlash" piece whereby a reporter creates a straw man and then sets it on fire. Achenbach is trying to seem reasonable by complaining that the next time we get a big hurricane, "some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming." Uhh, I hate to break this to you Joel, but global warming doesn't need a "harbinger." It has been here for decades. In that sense, your article is not a harbinger of global warming denial, since deniers have been pushing back against the "global warming causes extreme weather" story for years, browbeating the media into downplaying the connection. You really should read your fellow journalist Ross Gelbspan's long discussion of this in his great 2004 book, Boiling Point. Achenbach writes: