Climate & Energy

Virginia is for coal lovers

State illegally approves new coal-fired power plant

Update: The permit that was approved this week by the state Air Pollution Control Board does not contain the "out clause" for mercury emissions. Information from an SELC statement was incorrect, and they have apologized. Under heavy pressure from lobbyists for Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia announced yesterday that it will permit the construction of a new coal-fired power plant, even though doing so clearly violates the law. Just days after NASA's James Hansen testified that avoiding climate catastrophe will require immediately stopping construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world (and shutting down old ones), and just months after the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, Virginia decided that what the state and the world really need is another coal fired power plant with no controls on release of carbon dioxide -- and gave Dominion the go ahead to build their "Hybrid Energy Center" in Wise County in Appalachia (hybrid because it will burn two different types of dirty coal). That's in clear violation of the law, as Cale Jaffe, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center testified, since the Supreme Court's ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA, states are required to implement the best technology available to control carbon dioxide -- which were the grounds Kansas used when it rejected a similar power plant proposal. And even though Virginia's decision did tighten some sulfur dioxide and other pollution limits (Chesapeake Climate Action Network's Susanna Murley has more on why this is a partial victory), it still includes an "out clause" that would permit Dominion to emit unlimited quantities of mercury -- another clear violation of the Clean Air Act.

New coal plant approved in Virginia, may fuel mountaintop-removal mining

An embattled $1.8 billion coal plant slated for Wise County, Va., was granted pollution permits Wednesday by a state regulatory board, allowing construction to proceed. …

Speculating about speculators

Cornucopian thinking about oil

There seems to be a disturbing tendency in the progressive community to blame speculators for most, if not all, of the increase in oil prices. In its most extreme form, the implication seems to be that the supply of oil is virtually limitless, and that only financial manipulation is to blame. Ironically, this mirrors the views of many mainstream economists, who have what is sometimes called a cornucopian view of the world. Julian Simon was the ultimate spokesperson for the idea that technological innovation and unlimited resources would allow for virtually any level of population and consumption. For instance, writing in Counterpunch, Mike Whitney, who has been one of the best researchers explaining what is really going on in the financial meltdown, declares: There is no oil shortage, not yet at least. The reason oil has skyrocketed to nearly $140 per barrel is because of rampant speculation. The peak oil doom-sayers are simply confusing the issue. This is not about shortages or scarcity; it's about gaming the system to fatten the bottom line. (The progressive talk show host Randi Rhodes has been making similar arguments). Whitney quotes various ministers of oil who echo his argument; meanwhile, oil company spokespersons have been giving mixed messages, and Bush's Secretary of Energy blames supply and demand. Whom to listen to? None of them. Like a group of vultures circling the carcass of the global economy, they each have their own nefarious reasons for saying what they are saying. The next time you hear something about how the increase in the price of oil is caused by speculation, consider several counter-arguments:

<em>Wired</em> jumps the shark once too often and is eaten alive

Technophile mag spouts climate-tech nonsense

Wired magazine used to be the place to go for the latest in technology. But now it covers any sexy techy idea, no matter how impractical. Given that we all have limited time, Wired should be off every technophile's must-read list and replaced by Technology Review, which has revamped its stodgy old self and become what once Wired aspired to be. For me, this started with the absurd cover story by Peter Schwartz 5 years ago, "How Hydrogen Can Save America," which claimed "What we need is a massive, Apollo-scale effort [$100 billion over ten years] to unlock the potential of hydrogen, a virtually unlimited source of power." Uhh, no. Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source -- except for the sun, of course, and if we really want to harness its power we should be placing big bets on solar energy. Try instead my Technology Review piece "Some clarity on the Clarity." Recently Wired published their most misinformed piece, "Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green." RealClimate beat me to the punch debunking Wired's bizarre analyses in favor of using air-conditioning and against protecting old-growth forests or buying a Prius. They didn't debunk Wired's claim, "Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy," perhaps because it is so obviously absurd (see Nukes of hazard).

California announces specifics of greenhouse-gas reduction plans

On Thursday, California state regulators released specific plans to reduce California’s greenhouse-gas emissions 10 percent from today’s levels by 2020, the first phase of a …

Sorry, delayers and enablers, part two

Climate change means worse droughts for American Southwest, Australia

Part one presented the synopsis of the remarkable new U.S. Climate Change Science Program (a.k.a. the Bush Administration) report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. One central point in the synopsis is Droughts are becoming more severe in some regions, though there are no clear trends for North America as a whole ... Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Seems pretty clear, no? Dry areas will see more evaporation, hence less soil moisture (defined as precipitation minus evaporation), hence more drought. Further, many dry areas will see less precipitation under climate change (due to the expansion of the Hadley Cell and subtropics, see "Australia faces the 'permanent dry,' as do we").

Big Coal’s new video

A shill from everyone’s favorite Big Coal front group ABEC wanders the streets of D.C. asking totally unbiased questions: Next up: Do random passers-by prefer …

Waste line

McCain on nuclear waste problem

With John McCain in Nevada today promoting, among other things, his love of nuclear power, Sierra Club is circulating this video of McCain talking about …

What the next president should say

Here is what I would like the next president to tell the American people: The era of cheap energy is over. We will never again see cheap gas, and we can expect the price of electricity to rise inexorably. In order for the United States to survive, we need to rebuild our energy infrastructure. To reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we need to implement a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system. This is a national security issue. We need a Manhattan-style government-funded project to develop new forms of renewable energy. We should be spending several tens of billions of dollars every year on this research. Increased drilling or unconventional sources of fuel, like oil shale or tar sands, will provide so little fuel that they are simply not worth doing. The truth is that there is no way to avoid the pain of high energy prices. There are no easy solutions, and no way for us to continue living as we have in the past. Changes are on the way. Deal with it. This underscores a key point that I have not seen discussed. Given that we need to rebuild our energy infrastructure anyway, it makes sense and is possible to take care of climate change at the same time we take care of energy. In this way, I don't think we have to set the problems of energy and climate in opposition to each other.