Climate & Energy

Scientists write to Bush and Pelosi asking for biofuel-policy reform

In light of recent studies showing that biofuel production ain’t good for the environment, 10 prominent ecologists and biologists have written to President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking that the U.S. reform its biofuel-boosting policies. Seeing as the Bush administration has a track record of being very responsive to scientists’ entreaties, we have no doubt that the massive subsidies to biofuels will cease immediately.

Twisters

Yes, global warming can boost the most severe tornadoes

I am not saying the "unusually ferocious winter tornado system" that hit five southern states Wed. was caused by global warming. I am saying -- or rather NASA is saying -- we're probably going to have to get used to it: NASA scientists have developed a new climate model that indicates that the most violent severe storms and tornadoes may become more common as Earth's climate warms. So did John Kerry go too far on MSNBC when he said: [I] don't want to sort of leap into the larger meaning of, you know, inappropriately, but on the other hand, the weather service has told us we are going to have more and more intense storms," Kerry said. "And insurance companies are beginning to look at this issue and understand this is related to the intensity of storms that is related to the warming of the earth. And so it goes to global warming and larger issues that we're not paying attention to. The fact is the hurricanes are more intensive, the storms are more intensive and the rainfall is more intense at certain places at certain times and the weather patterns have changed. That sounds about right to me, though it wasn't the "weather service" really, it was NASA. The conservative Business & Media Institute said Kerry was using the tragedy, which killed over 50 people, "to advance global warming alarmism." But BMI embarrasingly undercuts its credibility by quoting one meteorologist from last year who obviously isn't very good at forecasting:

No climate for old men

Why John McCain isn’t the candidate to stop global warming

McCain's astonishing doubletalk on climate in the Florida GOP debate -- denying that a cap and trade system is a mandate -- made me start rethinking what a McCain presidency would mean for the fight to prevent catastrophic global warming. The more I researched McCain's views, the more I talked to others, the more I felt forced to change my previous view. Salon has just published my long analysis, which concludes that while he would be vastly superior to Bush on climate ... ... a President McCain would not be the climate leader that America and the world requires. He is a conservative who happens to be on the only intellectually defensible side of the climate change debate. But he is still a conservative, and the vast majority of the solutions to global warming are progressive in nature -- they require strong government action, including major federal efforts to spur clean technology. Of course, as I argue in my book, it is precisely because they know that the solutions to global warming are mostly progressive in nature that most conservatives are so close-minded on the subject. My basic argument is:

Slit wrist avoidance

Even surly grouches need a bit of cheer now and then

The ever-faster flood (ha!) of bad climate news lately is taking its toll on my spirits. I suppose a normal American male would have watched the Super Bowl and felt better; geek that I am, I find more comfort in this:

Cities run into roadblocks in attempts to reduce CO2

Announcing an ambitious plan to reduce a city’s greenhouse gases is the easy part; when it comes to putting goals into action, local officials tend to run up against significant roadblocks. To take just a few examples: The subprime mortgage crisis has left taxpayers across the country unable to fund efficiency-minded proposals. Across the country, homeowners’ associations have vetoed plans for home solar panels on aesthetic grounds. In one city, police pushed back against plans for less-polluting cop cars, saying it would restrict needed speed. And everywhere, individuals are resistant to changing their habits. “They’ve seen the Al Gore movie, …

Biofuels bombshell

Researchers find corn ethanol, switchgrass could worsen global warming

Some very respected researchers today have lobbed a real bombshell into the energy public policy world: they have concluded that ethanol produced both by corn and switchgrass could worsen global warming. In other words, Congress really blew it last year when it mandated a massive increase in biofuels (an action coated with green language but really an effort by both political parties to cater to farm states). This is also a slap at President Bush's effort to paint himself as something other than an oil man. The new findings, led by separate teams from Princeton University and the University of Minnesota conclude that the land use-based greenhouse gas emissions would overwhelm possible emission reductions.

Cap-and-trade and fairness for working families

A second opportunity to make climate pricing fair

Climate policy offers an enormous opportunity not only to undo our fossil-fuel addiction and build a stable energy future, but also to reverse the natural unfairness of climate change itself. I've said it before: energy prices are going up no matter what, with or without climate policy. But smart policy can turn rising costs into broadly shared benefits. It can shield working families, fund a shift to a clean future of new technologies, compact communities, and a trained, green-collar workforce. Building economic fairness into climate policy is a no-brainer: there are several viable ways to make it happen. In my last post, I described a means to it called "Cap-and-Dividend," in which most public proceeds from auctioning carbon emissions permits finance a program of payments to each citizen. Another approach that shields working families from high energy prices (PDF) comes from Robert Greenstein, founder and chief of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. CBPP is the Washington, DC-based think tank that bird-dogs the federal budget on behalf of poor families. Greenstein wrote the plan with colleagues Sharon Parrott and Arloc Sherman. In short, in this plan climate dividends go only to families with very low incomes, to buffer them from cost increases. It's Cap and Dividend, but only families who need it most get a dividend. Call it "Cap and Buffer." Greenstein suggests compensating the poorest fifth of families for energy price increases and also providing some assistance to those in the second fifth of the income ladder. These families, according to Greenstein, stand to pay between $750 and $950 extra each year for fuel and other goods, once climate policy boosts energy prices enough to reduce emissions by an initial 15 percent. (Without climate policy in place, the only dividends from rising prices are going to energy companies.)

Clean, safe nuclear power

The hunt for fuel: With minimal public notice and no formal environmental review, the Forest Service has approved a permit allowing a British mining company to explore for uranium just outside Grand Canyon National Park, less than three miles from a popular lookout over the canyon’s southern rim. If the exploration finds rich uranium deposits, it could lead to the first mines near the canyon since the price of uranium ore plummeted nearly two decades ago. A sharp increase in uranium prices over the past three years has led individuals to stake thousands of mining claims in the Southwest, including …

An interview with Google’s green energy czar, Bill Weihl

The phrase “to Google” has become synonymous with “to search.” But soon it may connote something altogether different: “to green.” That is, if the internet titan can successfully pull off its latest world-changing endeavor. Bill Weihl. In late 2007, the dot-com giant announced its intention to make renewable energy cheaper than coal. The RE<C program aims to produce one gigawatt of electricity generating capacity — enough to power the city of San Francisco — from clean, green sources “within years, not decades.” The man responsible for making it happen, and for making the company carbon neutral, is Bill Weihl, Google’s …

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