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Skip it

You can skip George Monbiot's book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Slightly longer book review: Because there are far too many climate books to read, I confess I apply a litmus test. I look up "hydrogen" in the index. If the writer thinks it's a climate solution, the book can be skipped. I thought I would like this book, since I like many of the columns by the British author, including an early excerpt on the connection of the global warming deniers to big tobacco. But on page 162, he writes, "hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to …

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(Or take the bus)

From Wired: How much are you paying for gas? Depends on where in the world you're parked. In oil-producing nations like Venezuela and Iran, you can fill up for as little as 17 cents a gallon. But in tax-happy Germany and South Korea, you'll pay more than six bucks. So even when prices hit near-record levels in the US, American drivers get off cheap compared with European motorists. This summer's bargain road trip: a tour of the Zagros Mountains, from Tehran to Abadan! Wow, 17 cents a gallon, huh? Of course, as some of the commenters have pointed out, this …

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California takes the lead

California is once again taking the lead: California Attorney General Jerry Brown has sued San Bernardino County, the largest in area in the contiguous USA and one of the fastest growing, for failing to account for greenhouse gases when updating its 25-year blueprint for growth. "It's groundbreaking. California is just leading the way for other states and jurisdictions that will ultimately follow," says Richard Frank of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. ... If the suit is successful, California cities and counties could be forced to take steps to limit sprawl, promote compact …

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Unfortunate

NASA administrator Michael Griffin offered a lame apology for his denier remarks on climate change. The Associated Press reports that Griffin "regrets airing his personal views about global warming during a recent radio interview." That is, he apologized for speaking his mind. Sad. In a related story, the media revealed a recent report on how NASA and the Bush administration are gutting earth observation work crucial to tracking climate change: The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the …

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Great idea or load of crap?

In Minnesota, a state that produces more turkeys than any other (some 44.5 million birds per year), a new power plant that burns turkey litter just began operations. According to the article in today's NYT, operators of the plant, which is the first in the country to run on animal waste, is environmentally friendly. But critics say the manure is more valuable "just as it is, useful as a rich, organic fertilizer at a time when demand is growing for all things organic." They also say the electricity is expensive -- that it requires a lot of energy for a …

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A man ahead of his times

I've always thought that Edison's notion of using DC instead of AC would've resulted in a better energy situation -- more locally produced power through cogeneration and other sources, and better storage capability. But this New York Times piece on how he worked to build an electric car, and his dream of powering every house with its own wind generator, puts him squarely ahead of his time.

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Umbra on thin-film solar panels

Dear Umbra, I read that thin-film solar panels are now being produced on a wider scale. I always hear that they can be sandwiched into window glass, but are there any companies that are actually using the technology in architectural products? How does thin film compare to the traditional PV panel? Jen Oakland, Calif. Dearest Jen, Thin films compare well to the traditional photovoltaic panel, and are commercially available in such form as roofing tiles, which I count as architectural products. That's the short answer. The long, exhaustive answer you'll have to read somewhere else -- but I can give …

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Ultimatum to the rest of the world

In response to intense pressure from indigenous and environmental organizations opposed to drilling for oil in an Amazon rainforest, this May Ecuador asked the world for financial help, according to the Environmental News Service. The oil fields under Yasuni National Park are estimated to contain 900 million to 1 billion barrels of oil, about one-quarter of Ecuador's total reserves. In about a year, international oil companies will be allowed to bid for the right to drill. To avoid this fate, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is asking the international community for about $350 million a year. Correa said: Ecuador doesn't ask …

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Glade Runners

Florida utilities commission rejects Everglades-area coal plant The Florida utilities commission voted unanimously yesterday to reject a proposal for building the nation's largest coal-burning power plant there. The $5.7 billion project, put forth by Florida Power & Light Co., was booted primarily on economic grounds. But since it would have been located near the Everglades, and was all coaly, opponents rejoiced. "The Public Service Commission today made the right decision for the environment, the right decision for the Everglades, and the right decision for Florida," said Gov. Charlie Crist (R). Stephen Smith, head of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, …

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Agrifuels creating insecurity of demand for their oil

According to an article by Javier Blas and Ed Crooks in the Financial Times (London), the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Abdalla El-Badri, warned Western countries yesterday that their efforts to develop biofuels as an alternative energy source risked driving the price of oil "through the roof". Oh, the irony of it all. One of the main arguments used by proponents of the U.S. Government's heavily subsidized drive to develop biofuels is that increasing the supply of these fuels would pour oil on the troubled waters of the world petroleum market, as it were -- …

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