Climate & Energy

Midwest refineries source more crude from tar sands; emissions will rise

Emissions from Midwest oil refineries are expected to jump by up to 40 percent in the next 10 years, thanks in large part to an industry-wide trend of sourcing crude oil from Canada’s tar sands. The sands produce petroleum of such poor quality that it requires more energy — and thus more pollution — to process it into usable fuel. The trend flies in the face of national and regional efforts to curb greenhouse gases, not to mention oil companies’ lip service to renewable energy and climate-change mitigation. “We take climate change very, very seriously,” says Bill Gerwing of oil …

London mayor triples fee for most-polluting cars entering city center

London Mayor Ken Livingstone tripled the fee drivers of the most-polluting vehicles will have to pay to enter the city center beginning in October, from about $16 to $49. The so-called congestion charge was introduced in 2003 in an effort to decrease traffic and greenhouse-gas emissions, encouraging Londoners and visitors to use public transportation instead of cars. Today’s changes to the congestion-fee program include exempting drivers of the most-efficient vehicles, including the Toyota Prius, from the charge. Another change would erase the exemption that had been in place for residents who live within the congestion zone, subjecting drivers of the …

Obama says will move immediately on international climate pact

Prior to his weekend wins in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Barack Obama promised to begin developing the U.S. position on an international pact to halt global warming now, instead of waiting until 2009. “I’ve been in conversations with former Vice President [Al] Gore repeatedly, and his recommendation, which I think is sound, is that you can’t wait until you are sworn into office to get started,” Obama proclaimed. “I think we need to start reaching out to other countries ahead of time, not because I’m presumptuous, but because there’s such a sense of urgency about this.” …

Welcoming our new efficiency overlords

Have you been naughty with your light bulbs? You need some good old command and control.

The so-called incandescent light bulb ban (not actually a ban) included as part of the recent energy bill has prompted a low-level but consistent set of complaints that deserve further consideration, because they betray a fair amount of confusion about which policy tools to break out for which issues. On the right, the reaction to the new lighting efficiency standard has ranged from hysterical whining to hysterical snark. But even on the left, it's fairly common to run across the high-minded opinion that finicky legislation like the lighting efficiency standard only wastes time and stirs up needless recrimination. Instead we should set a price on carbon, and let the market sort out the rest. It's an excellent theory, one that I subscribe to under most circumstances, but sometimes command and control really is just the thing. The math on light bulbs is pretty easy to run. Follow along if you're interested, or just skip the next two paragraphs.

G7 countries call for clean-technology fund for developing nations

The Group of Seven richest nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.S. — have called for investment in a multibillion-dollar fund to provide climate-change-fightin’ clean technology to developing countries.

A climate for old men

Spearheading transit for livable cities at 93

I recently ended 100 days without Grist. And wouldn't you know, the title of the first post I saw, "No climate for old men," spoke directly to the reason I was away. No, I wasn't with the McCain campaign. Rather, I was immersed in a project, spearheaded by a really old man, that could become a terrific tool for beating back the climate crisis. That man is 93-year-old Ted Kheel, legendary New York labor-lawyer-turned-environmentalist. His project is a study of the feasibility of financing free mass transit in New York City through congestion pricing and other charges on driving. I directed the study (PDF), which has just been released, and I think its implications could be huge, not just for New York but for every city in the U.S. and around the world.

Monday link dump

A little of this, a little of that

This week I am, officially anyway, on vacation, spending a week in a condo at the bottom of Mt. Hood, snowboarding by day, soaking in the hot tub by night. Yes: sweet. I will nonetheless be posting occasionally, because, well, I just don’t know how to quit you. Before I go I want to clear out all the stuff that’s been building up in my browser for, oh, months now. So a link dump it is, and away we go! This post on Dot Earth about sustainable cities reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Steffen’s long and …

Maxed out

We’ve borrowed more than we can afford to borrow, sprawled more than we can afford to sprawl

There are a lot of moving parts involved in the current, sputtering condition of the economy, which can’t yet be declared a recession but may well become one. I’ll summarize as best I can. Very cheap credit led to a housing upturn, which became a boom, which became, in many parts of the country, a speculative bubble. The cheap credit was the result of a number of factors, including lax monetary police at the Federal Reserve, but of high importance were the huge foreign exchange reserves accumulated by a number of commodity-exporting nations, which led to a global savings glut. …

U.N. General Assembly holds climate gathering in New York

The United Nations General Assembly convened a two-day climate conference, starting today, at U.N. headquarters in New York City that it hopes will keep up and/or spur momentum in the lead up to a meaningful post-Kyoto climate agreement by 2009. The event is being billed as a “thematic debate” and has attracted celebrities including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire biofuels proponent Richard Branson, and green-leaning actress Daryl Hannah. Representatives from nearly 100 nations have signed up to speak, but since nothing is going to be negotiated, it’s unclear what the United States’ role at the conference will be. …

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