Climate & Energy

How biofuels are like drugs

Not all biofuels are the same; we can do biofuel well or poorly

To my surprise, recently I found myself the subject of an editorial by the Wall Street Journal which characterized me as a strong advocate of subsidies for food-based ethanol, and as a recipient of "federal dole" who ought to "take a vow of embarrassed silence." I have not advocated subsidies for food-based ethanol. In fact, I strongly believe any nascent technology that cannot exist without subsidies beyond an introductory period will not gain market penetration, and is not worth supporting. I do look forward to the WSJ's complaints about oil's subsidy bonanza, from tax breaks for drilling, loopholes that allow royalty-free or below-market offshore oil leases, manufacturing tax breaks, as well as roughly $7 billion in subsidies in the wake of the Katrina disaster. At a recent WSJ Conference, 75 percent of the erudite audience "voted" (rightly) that oil was more highly subsidized than ethanol. Were these not such serious matters, the WSJ editorial would be laughable. But there are serious issues at stake. Should we not look past our noses to the larger issues of dependence on oil? The alternative of biofuels raises serious questions deserving more depth than the entrenched, one sided views of the Wall Street Journal.

Mildly different

Are McCain’s environmental views really so far from Bush’s?

The New York Times‘ Elisabeth Bumiller says, "On the environment … Mr. McCain has strikingly different views from Mr. Bush." Is that true? Bush wants …

It's not about the fuel

The case for fuel-agnostic efficiency

Those of us who care about energy and environmental policy have a bad habit: the lazy but rhetorically convenient tendency to refer to energy issues as if they were fuel issues. From solar to coal to uranium, we have developed a shorthand that uses these words to describe a whole fuel-chain, from raw fuel extraction/recovery to end-use consumption. But the language is dangerous. What matters is efficiency -- true, fuel-agnostic efficiency, applied equally to every possible fuel-chain we know. Not because efficiency is an alternative to any given fuel, but because any other energy policy is ultimately unsustainable, in every sense of the word.

Oil industry turns to PR offensive to diffuse anger over record prices

Faced with angry consumers incensed at high oil and gasoline prices, oil companies in the U.S. and Europe have turned to well-funded PR campaigns in …

More on the hockey stick

Previous warm periods don’t mean we’re not responsible for this one

For those interested in temperature reconstructions of past climates, in particular the kerfuffle over the hockey stick, I recently found a pretty good website. It contains a load of useful information, some of which I did not know. For example, consider this famous plot from the IPCC's First Assessment Report: Skeptics have used this plot to argue that today's warmth cannot be caused by humans because it was warmer one thousand years ago. The website does a good job of laying out the history behind the plot. For example, I learned that:

Moral obligation, patriotic duty

State poll shows Oregonians ready and willing to do what it takes to halt climate change

The National research firm Public Opinion Strategies recently conducted a survey of 500 likely Oregon voters to assess views on the issue of climate change and to gauge support for the basic principles of policy measures like the proposed cap-and-trade system in the Lieberman-Warner Act (a.k.a. the Climate Security Act -- legislation that was recently defeated last week in the U.S. Senate, but marked a step forward on national climate policy.) The survey, which presents arguments for and against cap-and-trade, clearly indicates that Oregon voters support this kind of climate legislation (72 percent). Beyond that, 73 percent deem it our "moral obligation" and "duty as Americans" to reduce global warming pollution. The poll, commissioned by the Nature Conservancy, found that global warming is the most frequently named environmental concern of Oregon voters, and more than four in five say it is a serious problem. Perhaps more importantly, 83 percent of Oregon voters say they're ready to make some changes (including personal sacrifices) to fight climate change. And 81 percent say they would be willing to pay higher energy prices every month to reduce global warming pollution produced by power plants (the single greatest proportion -- 21 percent -- choose the top of the price range: $45 per month).

After the deluge

As Midwest floods recede, what’s being washed into the groundwater?

Flooded road in eastern Iowa. Photo: Dan Patterson Things are grim in Iowa, arguably the epicenter of global industrial food production. If Iowa were a …

Two out of three ain't bad

McCain campaign clarifies (some of) McCain’s climate malapropisms

Earlier today, Kate reported on some confused remarks from John McCain on his plan for a carbon cap. Via Politico, the McCain campaign has now …

Icky disease afflicting Alaskan salmon

Alaska’s prized wild salmon are suffering from a disease that scientists suspect of being boosted by — you guessed it — global warming. The emergence …