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Scarce Fell On Alabama

Crops, neighborly relations suffer in Southeastern U.S. drought A severe drought is gripping most of the Southeastern U.S., threatening crops, inspiring prayer, and turning neighbors against each other. "It's one of the worst droughts in living memory in the Southeast at this point," said Doug LeComte, a drought specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This happens only about every 50 years or so." With a high-pressure system keeping rain away, some of the hardest-hit states -- including Alabama and Georgia -- are imposing restrictions on outdoor water use and often fining offenders. In one Georgia county, officials report …

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We Can’t Bear to Look

U.S. Senate squares off on ambitious energy bill All eyes are on the Senate this week as it debates a controversial Democrat-penned energy bill. (Hey! We said "all eyes"! Don't go away.) The legislation contains several provisions that make Big Oil, Big Auto, and Big Republicans squirm: it would shift nearly $15 billion in tax credits and subsidies from oil to renewable sources like wind and solar; require utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from renewables; give the feds more power to prosecute gasoline price-gouging; and mandate a fuel-efficiency standard for cars, SUVs, and small trucks of 35 …

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Worst music video ever

Oh. My. God. Question: is this better or worse than "Bush Was Right"? (via Hugg)

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The paper, like everybody else who doesn’t stand to benefit, doesn’t like it

The lead editorial in the Washington Post today beats liquid coal about the head and shoulders, using all the familiar arguments. Here's a challenge: somebody out there send me a thoughtful defense of liquid coal that doesn't issue from the coal industry, a paid shill of the coal industry, or a legislator from a state that would benefit from coal subsidies. In other words, find me a defense of liquid coal, on the merits, from a non-interested party. Anyone? Bueller?

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Discount rates: Boring but important

This post will address two questions. What exactly is the discount rate? Did Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist with the World Bank, use the wrong discount rate in his landmark 2006 report, the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change? These may seem like abstruse economic questions, but for analyzing the cost-benefit analysis of climate action -- whether we must act urgently or at leisure -- the discount rate is probably the single most important factor. The discount rate basically represents the so-called time value of money, how much more $100 is worth to us today than …

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Chalk up a win for Pelosi

Well hey, look at that! No sooner do I write a post on the horrible legislative proposal out of Dingell's Energy Committee than I find out that Pelosi has more or less beat it back. A memo Dingell sent to the committee today (PDF) says that he and Boucher are removing most of the controversial elements: the CTL subsidies, the weak fuel-economy standards, and perhaps most significantly, the preemption of state (read: California) tailpipe air quality standards. The memo says: Almost one month ago, we began circulating a series of staff discussion drafts of energy legislation that generated, as we …

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Wherein I chat with House types

Hi! I'm back. And -- if you'll indulge me in a little whining -- I'm sick as a dog, woefully behind on the news, buried under work, and just generally frazzled and bedraggled and haggard. And what's with time zones? They're stupid. Woe is me, I tell you. I wanted to do a quick post about my D.C. trip, though, which was a blast. Of course the party was great. Somebody (me?) will probably do a separate post about that later. But aside from that, I ran around town meeting all sorts of interesting people -- congressional staffers, members of …

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Always keep the bait dangling just out of reach

The July/August 2007 issue of World Watch magazine (produced by the Worldwatch Institute) includes a concise demolition of carbon geosequestration in the form of a letter to the editor by one Luc Gagnon, "a senior advisor on climate change for Hydro-Quebec." I'd quote the letter but the Worldwatch site doesn't have it online yet. So I went searching for more by Gagnon and found this short, powerful PDF making essentially the same point (in almost the same language). An interesting table indeed, of "energy payback ratio of electricity generation options based on life-cycle assessments": Short summary: No matter how much …

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Umbra on passive solar

Dear Umbra, Not to belabor the home heating series, I'm considering installing a masonry stove. I've read that they're quite efficient, though costly to build. What's your take in relation to the other options you've discussed? What about other alternative heating methods like passive solar heating and radiant floor heating? John Logan, Utah P.S. I'm glad you mentioned insulation and glazing. We've been remodeling and recently upgraded these items, and it's made a tremendous difference. Dearest John, Not to belabor solar energy ... but I do want to discuss passive solar, and yours is the only question I could unearth …

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Prospects May Have Shifted During Flight

Booming airline industry gives nod to climate change The world's biggest air show opens in France today, and the commercial airline industry is all hepped up on salted peanuts: after two years in the red, it's expected to reap $5 billion in profits this year. Both Boeing and Airbus announced billions of dollars of aircraft orders today, and the industry -- which spews about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions -- shows no signs of slowing down. It does, however, show signs of recognizing its impacts. Last week, Airbus exec Louis Gallois pledged a 25 percent increase in R&D …