Climate & Energy

The fixed vs. the negotiable

Rising electricity demand is a choice, not an inevitability

Discussions of public policy frequently take place inside frames that are difficult to discern clearly without effort. Which goals are fixed and which are negotiable? Which changes are acceptable and which are not? Take, oh, homelessness. The brute fact is that we could solve homelessness in the U.S. tomorrow if we so chose. We could house and feed every homeless person for the rest of their life. It would be expensive, but not that expensive, relative to what we spend on, say, defense, or Medicare, or Social Security. We are, after all, an extraordinarily wealthy country. I’m not recommending that …

Cuteness saves the climate

I thought this was clever -- a Cliff Notes version of climate-friendly lifestyle choices. Click the image for the full-sized version.

Canadian federal court ruling could halt planned oil-sands project

A Canadian federal court has ruled in favor of environmental groups that sued in opposition to a massive planned oil-sands mine in Alberta. The 120-square-mile strip mine had recently been approved by a joint federal-provincial panel that found the project’s estimated annual greenhouse-gas emissions of 3.7 million tons to be insignificant. Yet no justification was given for the finding. “The panel dismissed as insignificant the greenhouse-gas emissions without any rationale,” the judge wrote, ruling that the panel must justify its conclusion. Environmentalists hoped the ruling would force stricter reviews of similar projects in the future. If it’s ultimately approved, the …

Here comes the sun -- again

Solar thermal plants make a comeback

Photo: nrel.gov As part of the Back to the Future alternative energy series, The New York Times has an article today about the rising demand for solar thermal power plants, which use solar panels to heat water and operate a steam turbine. Among the advantages cited: On sunny afternoons, those 10 plants would produce as much electricity as three nuclear reactors, but they can be built in as little as two years, compared with a decade or longer for a nuclear plant. Some of the new plants will feature systems that allow them to store heat and generate electricity for hours after sunset. In addition, solar thermal can provide energy more reliably than wind can, and it provides the most energy during mid-day, when energy usage peaks.

Small-scale, community-owned biodiesel goes global

An honest, interesting statement from Piedmont Biofuels of North Carolina

I’m a fierce critic of biofuels, but I’ve always had a soft spot for small, region-based biodiesel projects that create fuel from local resources, providing jobs in the bargain. (I proudly ran Emily Gertz’s feature on the topic in our 2006 biofuels series.) The income from such projects remains within communities, rippling around and building wealth. Rather than being just another conduit for transferring cash from communities into the pockets of global investors, fuel becomes an engine for real economic development. Insofar as they involve community members in making and distributing fuel — from the feedstock to the gas tank …

Four hundred skeptics? Try 19

The Heartland conference recycles the usual climate change skeptics in its speakers list

The New York Times carried this interesting write-up of the Heartland Institute's 2008 International Conference on Climate Change. For those not familiar with this conference, it's like a scientific meeting on climate change -- without the science. The NYT article concluded with this statement, which pretty much sums it up: The meeting was largely framed around science, but after the luncheon, when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so. I wonder where the other 95 percent of the Inhofe 400 was. Perhaps they were at their unicorn farm. Or relaxing with the snuffalufagous. This pretty much confirms what I've been saying for a while: While advocates against action on climate change claim that there are lots of legitimate climate scientist skeptics out there, it's simply not true. To further convince yourself of that, take a look at the speakers listed on the program. You'll see the same old tired skeptics have been recycled yet again: Michaels, Spencer, Singer, McKitrick, Balling, Carter, Gray, yada, yada, yada ... I guess I shouldn't complain. Here at Grist, we firmly encourage recycling. And no one recycles more effectively than the climate denial machine. The problem is that this is one type of recycling that's not good for the environment.

Media enable denier spin, part two

What if the MSM simply can’t cover humanity’s self-destruction?

If those who counsel inaction and delay succeed, billions of humans will suffer unimaginable misery and chaos while most other species will simply go extinct. Maybe the best one line description of our current situation I have read is: It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing. That's the final sentence in Elizabeth Kolbert's fine global warming book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, and as I'll show in this post, it is entirely accurate. How can the traditional media cover a story that is almost "impossible to imagine"? I don't think they can. I'll be using a bunch of quotes, mostly from the NYT's Revkin, not because he is a bad reporter -- to the contrary, he is one of the best climate reporters -- but because now that he has a blog, he writes far more than any other journalist on this subject and shares his thinking. A new Revkin post, "The Never-Ending Story," underscores the media's central problem with this story: I stayed up late examining the latest maneuver in the never-ending tussle between opponents of limits on greenhouse gases who are using holes in climate science as ammunition and those trying to raise public concern about a human influence on climate that an enormous body of research indicates, in the worst case, could greatly disrupt human affairs and ecosystems. This sentence is not factually accurate (the boldface is mine). It would be much closer to accurate if the word "worst case" were replaced by "best case" or, as we'll see, "best case if the opponents of limits on GHGs fail and fail quickly." The worst case is beyond imagination. The word "holes" is misleading. And this isn't a "tussle" -- it is much closer to being a "struggle for the future of life as we know it." And all of us -- including Andy -- better pray that it ain't "never-ending. " Before elaborating, let me quote some more :

Bush: Not a Gristmill reader

President hails cellulosic ethanol as a panacea

I’m offended: President Bush evidently hasn’t been following my string of posts about how cellulosic ethanol probably won’t ever be viable. Addressing a renewable-energy conference, the president fretted that the ethanol boom he set in motion is “beginning to affect the price of food.” He added: “So we got to do something about it.” And what we “got to do,” evidently, is throw more cash at cellulosic ethanol. Here’s how The New York Times summed up his statement: [Bush said] the solution was not to back away from ethanol, but to develop ways to make ethanol from agricultural wastes, wood …

Fixing environmental problems necessary and doable, says OECD

It is not only highly necessary but entirely affordable to tackle climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and other environmental problems, according to a report released Wednesday by some wacko environmentalists the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Summed up OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria: Solutions “are available, they are achievable, and they are affordable” — and they are “considerably less onerous for mankind and for the economy than the alternative of inaction.” sources:

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