Climate & Energy

Nuclear deterrence, part two

Lovins and Sheikh defend definition and record of micropower

This is a guest essay from Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh of the Rocky Mountain Institute. It is part two of a series; see part one here. ----- Part two of David Bradish's critical look at "The Nuclear Illusion" (PDF) raises two additional issues to which we respond here. As in his first critique, it appears that, unable to rebut and hence unwilling to address our paper's data and logic, Mr. Bradish must content himself with trying to manufacture an illusion of confusion. Does RMI's data fit their definition [of micropower]? Yes, precisely; it just doesn't fit various other definitions that Mr. Bradish has invented on his own. We clearly defines micropower (an Economist magazine term) thus at pp. 11-12: 1. onsite generation of electricity (at the customer, not at a remote utility plant) -- usually cogeneration of electricity plus recovered waste heat (outside the U.S. this is usually called CHP -- combined-heat-and-power): this is about half gas-fired, and saves at least half the carbon and much of the cost of the separate power plants and boilers it displaces; [and] 2. distributed renewables -- all renewable power sources except big hydro plants, which are defined here as dams larger than 10 megawatts (MW). Mr. Bradish arbitrarily and wrongly assumes "that the size of 'micropower' plants is 10 MW or less," then claims this is our definition and contradicts our data. It's not and it doesn't. Our 10 MW limit applies only to small hydro, distinguishing it from big hydro using the most conservative criterion. Any power source except small hydro can be larger than 10 MW but still meet our micropower definition: WADE's onsite-fueled-generator definition, which we've adopted, includes onsite units up to somewhat over 180 MWe for gas turbines (though few actual units are over 120 MWe) and up to 60 MWe for engines, as well as onsite (nearly always cogenerating) steam turbines of any size if they're in China and India; however, WADE's database excludes steam turbines elsewhere, and all units below 1 MWe.

The mpg illusion

Gallons per mile: A better way to express fuel efficiency

Let's say a pollster walks up to you and asks you the following question: "A town maintains a fleet of vehicles for town employee use. It has two types of vehicles. Type A gets 15 miles per gallon. Type B gets 34 miles per gallon. The town has 100 Type A vehicles and 100 Type B vehicles. Each car in the fleet is driven 10,000 miles per year." The town wants to replace these vehicles with corresponding hybrid models in order to to reduce gas consumption of the fleet and thereby reduce harmful environmental consequences. Should they (1) replace the 100 vehicles that get 15 mpg with vehicles that get 19 mpg , or (2) replace the 100 vehicles that get 34 mpg with vehicles that get 44 mpg? If you are like the people who were actually surveyed by Richard Larrick and Jack Soll of Duke University, you chose option two. After all, an increase of 10 mpg clearly sounds better than a measly 4 mpg. And yet, some simple number crunching reveals that the town fuel efficiency is improved more in option one (by 14,035 gallons) than in option two (by 6,684 gallons).

Conservation good. Drilling stupid

Op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman. Reads like a Grist post. Go figure.

Big bad boom

Radioactive deja vu in the American West

This is a guest essay from Chip Ward, author and board member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. It was originally published on TomDispatch and …

NOAA: Global warming has damaged our weather

Worse heat waves, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and storms to come

Originally posted at the Wonk Room. The traditional media rarely discusses extreme weather events in the context of global warming. However, as the Wonk Room Global Boiling series has documented, scientists have been warning us for years that climate change will increase catastrophic weather events like the California wildfires, the East Coast heatwave, and the Midwest floods that have been taking lives and causing billions in damage in recent days. Yesterday, the federal government released a report that assembles this knowledge in stark and unequivocal terms. "Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate," by the multi-agency U.S. Climate Change Science Program with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the lead, warns that changes in extreme weather are "among the most serious challenges to society" (PDF) in dealing with global warming. After reporting that heat waves, severe rainfall, and intense hurricanes have been on the rise -- all linked to man-made global warming -- the authors deliver this warning about the future:

D.C.'s newest baseball team: The Washington Exxons

Protestors object to a green baseball stadium sponsored by the world’s dirtiest corporation

Imagine a Major League Baseball stadium constructed to actually fight lung disease. Imagine engineers eschewing asbestos in every form, using only materials approved by the American Lung Association. Imagine emergency inhalers at every seat, with team officials aggressively marketing the "healthy-lung" park to conscientious fans. Then imagine your surprise, in visiting the park, to see a huge Marlboro cigarettes ad plastered across the left field fence. Imagine another Marlboro ad behind home plate so TV viewers can't look away. Imagine, finally, being asked to stand and sing Take Me Out To the Ball Game during the "Marlboro Cigarettes 7th Inning Stretch." Sounds absurd, right? Well, welcome to Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., for an inconceivable variation on this theme. With public alarm over global warming at an all-time high, team owners of the Nationals baseball team spent millions for a "healthy Earth" park, with environmental features like low-flow plumbing and energy-efficient lighting. The new park has been officially declared a "green facility" by the National Green Building Council, the first of its kind in American sports. But visiting fans know the rest: Strike Marlboro cigarettes and substitute "ExxonMobil" and you have the astonishing reality at Nationals Park. Oil giant ExxonMobil, the biggest contributor to global warming of any company in the world, has its name splashed across the left field fence and, intermittently, behind home plate. ExxonMobil, which invests almost nothing in clean energy while gasoline goes to $4 per gallon, is the feel-good sponsor of the 7th-inning stretch, so your child can happily sing about peanuts and Cracker Jacks while the company logo sparkles on the biggest scoreboard in baseball. No wonder a coalition of concerned groups -- ranging from faith leaders to college students to environmentalists -- announced Friday it would protest outside all Nationals home games until Exxon stops its ads.

Some clarity on the Clarity

Honda fuel-cell vehicle: Not marketable, practical, or environmental

Technology Review asked me to comment about the hype over the new Honda fuel-cell car, which the company optimistically calls "the world's first hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle intended for mass production." The key word here is "intended." Here it is: ----- Would you buy a car that costs 10 times as much as a hybrid gasoline-electric, like the Prius? What if I told you it had half the range of the hybrid? What if I told you most cities didn't have a single hydrogen fueling station? Not interested yet? This should be the deal closer: what if I told you it wouldn't have lower greenhouse-gas emissions than the hybrid? Other than the traditional media, which is as distracted by shiny new objects as my 16-month-old daughter, nobody should get terribly excited when a car company rolls out its wildly impractical next-generation hydrogen car. Too many miracles are required for it to be a marketplace winner.

U.S. federal report details climate change’s impact on weather extremes

North America will continue to experience more heat waves, intense rains, increased drought, and stronger hurricanes due to the worsening effects of climate change, says …

A climate hero: An outspoken truth

A look back at James Hansen’s seminal testimony on climate, part three

Worldwatch Institute is partnering with Grist to bring you this three-part series commemorating the 20-year anniversary of NASA scientist James Hansen's groundbreaking testimony on global climate change next week. Part three of three follows. Part one is here; part two is here. ----- In May 1989, a few months after NASA scientist James Hansen declared that global warming had arrived, he would provide another testimony to clarify the risks of future climate change. But before Hansen could make his presentation to Sen. Al Gore's subcommittee, the White House's Office of Management and Budget intercepted the testimony and rewrote its conclusion. According to the revised copy, the cause of climate change was still unknown. NASA headquarters said Hansen could accept the changes or not testify, he later recalled. It was not the first OMB revision of a Hansen testimony. This time, he decided, would be different. Hansen notified Gore that his testimony did not reflect his actual opinion, which led Gore to frame the hearing's questions to reveal the OMB edits. It was the lead story on all major television networks that night.