Climate & Energy

Lily Tomlin was right

Wags used to joke that Bush and Co. would put a coal-fired power plant in the Grand Canyon if you let them. As Lily Tomlin observed, "It's hard for cynics to keep up these days."

Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 2.5

What is the impact of peak oil and peak coal?

The goal of this post is to explore how peak oil and, yes, peak coal might affect the world's effort to stabilize CO2 concentrations. Here I present calculations I haven't seen anywhere else, and since different sources provide different numbers, please view these as a crude estimates. I welcome corrections. At recent growth rates for oil consumption, we are all but certain to peak in oil production within two decades -- and if we follow the recent trend-line for coal use (and for coal reserves), we could hit peak coal within three decades. It looks like it simply isn't possible for oil and coal use to sustain for decades the trends that led CO2 emissions to rise 3 percent per year since 2000, if the analysis below is roughly correct. That would be a very good piece of news. Oil: I have already written at length on oil (see "Peak Oil? Bring it on!"). In 2006, the world consumed about 85 million barrels a day (MMBD) of oil. Oil use had been rising about 2 percent per year, though the recent price jump may have slowed things a tad. And, for the first time, not just the "peakists" but the CEOs of major oil companies think we have a big problem.

Songs about the enemy of the human race

Friday music blogging: Kathy Mattea

It is rare that my idiosyncratic and widely ignored Friday music blogging overlaps with the subject matter that occupies the rest of my time. But today we have a happy confluence. Kathy Mattea is a …

Fly on the Wall Street

Finance, energy, and the environment: markets and opportunities

Last night, I went to a panel at the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street (no, really!) on what's financially hot or soon will be in non-coal, non-oil energy technologies. I love these kinds of events; typically, what comes of them is reality-based information, dealing with who has the money, where it's going (or ought to go), and what will get it there, in order to transform our energy system. I come away from these things more hopeful than from any number of political rallies, because these are people who are walking their talk instead of posing in their Rogan jeans and "Save the planet" t-shirts. The panel was co-sponsored by Sierra Club, so the articulate Carl Pope was one of the speakers, natch. The other speakers were Pete Cartwright, CEO of Advanced Power Projects, Inc.; Daniel Abbasi, head of regulatory and public policy research for MissionPoint Capital Partners ("Financing transition to carbon free economy"); Michael Molnar, VP at Goldman Sachs, responsible for alt. energy and coal sectors in the Energy & Materials Equity Research Business Unit; and moderator Myron Kandel, founding financial editor at CNN. You can read my liveblog-style notes for the whole evening at my own blog. A few juicy nuggets:

Architect R.K. Stewart on building the future of sustainable design

If you build it, they will come. But if you build it green, you just may be able to save the planet. R.K. Stewart. Or so says a recent report, which suggests that green building …

Narwhals more at risk than polar bears, says study

Polar bears get all the press, but climate change may be even harder on the narwhal, says new research. Narwhals, the whales whose long spiral tusks kick-started the myth of unicorns, top a list of …

Details matter: Small sticks and no carrots

Lieberman-Warner criticism, Part 2

This is the second in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See part 1 here. With atmospheric GHG concentrations rising at a frightening rate, we need a full court press to change directions, using every possible tool at our disposal. From an economic perspective, this means that we not only need to impose financial penalties on polluters, but also provide financial incentives for those who act to lower GHG emissions. We need a market mechanism in place so that the costs of GHG emission -- or the revenue associated with GHG reduction -- factors into individual investment decisions immediately. In short, we need big sticks and big carrots. The Climate Stabilization Act (CSA), as the Lieberman-Warner Bill is known, is a small stick with no carrot. This post explains why.

Cold CAFE

Governors rally against dirty Bush car plan

Nothing brings together diverse groups like a common threat. And governors in environmentally progressive states are getting used to banding together against the Bush administration. Now they've done it again, to protest the "cynical" effort by the Bush Department of Transportation to take away the right of California to set tougher greenhouse gas standards for cars (and the right of other states to adopt the California standards). The latest assault on states' rights came in the fine print of a proposal this week by the DOT to put into place tougher CAFE standards required by last year's energy act. On page 387 of that proposal, DOT slipped in the killer language: "any state regulation regulating tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles is expressly pre-empted."

Third try at coal-plant bill heads to Kansas governor

With firm belief in the power of try, trying again, Kansas legislators have sent another coal-plant proposal to the desk of veto-happy Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The governor has twice shot down legislation to allow a …

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