Climate & Energy

'A massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an energy policy'

I think Friedman is upset with Bush

The Mustache kicks ass today. He says it’s “hard for [him] to find the words to express what a massive, fraudulent, pathetic excuse for an …

A hundred miles of mirrors

Solar thermal can save us, but it needs public clamor

[Editor's note: When this post was originally run, the phrase "100 miles by 100 miles" was changed to "100 square miles," which is very different. The article has now been corrected (or rather, unmiscorrected) and the appropriate intern flogged; our apologies to Ted and Alex.] This post was coauthored with Alex Carlin, organizer of Let's Go Solar and instigator of the recent Environment America study (PDF), "On the Rise: Solar Thermal Power and the Fight Against Global Warming." Every day more people are finally hearing about what Joe Romm calls "the solar power you don't hear about" -- solar thermal power, utility-scale arrays of mirrors that create heat (and then electricity) so efficiently that they can do everything a coal plant can do except melt the South Pole. Without any special promotion, solar thermal (concentrating solar power, or CSP) will eventually grow into a major supplier of our electric grid, simply because, according to the California Energy Commission, it is an increasingly economical technology with per kilowatt-hour costs estimated to be 27 percent lower than new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plants with carbon capture-and-storage -- 12.7 cents/kWh for CSP versus 17.3 cents/kwh for IGCC plus CCS. The technology is moving forward, with five plants already operational, eight under construction, and 20 more announced. Several of these plants include on-site thermal storage, an option that makes CSP a reliable source of baseload power. The problem is the timeline of global warming. If we take seriously what the science is telling us, we must conclude that CSP has arrived in the nick of time. James Hansen's latest team effort (PDF) tells us that earth has had many eras with ice-free North and South Poles. The report concludes: "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed ... CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." On the other hand, if we continue to burn coal for our electric power, those poles will melt, sending sea levels so high that cities like New York and Miami would have no chance to survive. You probably already knew that, but did you know this? Just 100 miles by 100 miles of CSP installations would supply 100 percent of the U.S. electric grid. That's being conservative: Ausra's chairman David Mills pegs the figure at 92 miles by 92 miles. Put similar installations in Morocco for Europe and the Gobi desert for China and we have our golden opportunity -- our last chance -- of keeping those poles under ice and our cities above water. How much land is 100 miles by 100 miles?

Dear swing state, I love you more!

Obama sweet-talks Florida, criticizes McCain’s shift on off-shore drilling

Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama responded to John McCain’s call to end the moratorium on off-shore drilling in a press appearance in Chicago on Friday …

A shrinking Chad

Lake Chad now one-tenth of its 1972 size

Satellite images show Lake Chad one-tenth the size it was in 1972, not even 40 years ago. Lake Chad used to be the world's sixth-largest lake, but its resources have been diverted for human use or affected by rainfall such that its been almost entirely depleted in a very short amount of time:

Green coal baron?

NYT Magazine’s fawning piece on Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers

There's no doubt about it: Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers is the most adept figure in corporate America at making himself look better than he is. He's proven it again in an extremely flattering profile in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. The piece refers to Rogers as "one of the electricity industry's most vocal environmentalists." Indeed, the piece reports that many "prominent environmentalists" are his "friends" and quotes in particular Eileen Claussen, head of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, saying, "It's fair to say that we wouldn't be where we are in Congress if it weren't for him," and that "he helped put carbon legislation on the map." That legislation, the Lieberman-Warner bill, sputtered apart when the Senate took it up. (Even though we're told Barbara Boxer staged a post-failure victory celebration. Never underestimate the power of self delusion in Washington.) And one reason for its demise was the active opposition of Rogers, who mobilized numerous businesses to complain about the costs.

I'd drive 245 billion miles (just not five billion more)

Americans drove less in April 2008

April 2008 saw another sharp drop in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) according to the Federal Highway Administration's monthly report on "Traffic Volume Trends" (PDF). This follows, "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history" in March (see here). I was compelled to blog on this because of the incredibly astute media coverage by AFP, "worldwide news agency," which wins the "Duh!" award for the month: Observers surmise a possible link between the declining number of miles driven and rising US gasoline prices.

Nuuk beachfront real estate

Greenland can warm 2-4°C in one year

A new article in Science Express (PDF)($ub. req'd), "High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years," examines, "The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period." The article explores the underlying causes of ... ... abrupt shifts of northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation resulting in 2-4°K changes in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next. The article concludes that ... polar atmospheric circulation can shift in 1-3 years resulting in decadal to centennial scale changes from cold stadials to warm interstadials/interglacials associated with astounding Greenland temperature changes of 10°K. Neither the magnitude of such shifts nor their abruptnesses are currently captured by state of the art climate models. The time to act is yesterday. This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Hill heap

A weekly roundup of greenish news from the Capitol

A few of this week’s environmental happenings that I’ve been meaning to point out: • Oilman-turned-clean-energy-evangelist T. Boone Pickens came to town to testify about …

Solar strides in New York

Solar proponents in the Empire State eagerly await new legislation

My colleague, Shaun Chapman, of our New York City office, offers this update on solar policy progress in the Empire State: