Climate & Energy

Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 6

What the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate tells us

No, 450 is not politically possible today. Okay, that was clear before. But the debate over the Climate Security Act made it clear that it won't be politically possible anytime soon, for two reasons: The vast majority of conservatives have not budged an inch on climate science even in the face of now overwhelming direct scientific observation and a much deeper and broader scientific understanding of the dangerous impact of unrestricted human greenhouse gas emissions on the climate. Equally important, conservatives now have a very potent political issue to beat back advocates of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system -- high gasoline prices. And gasoline prices are probably going to be much higher over the next few years (see "Must read CIBC report: $7 per gallon gas by 2010"). That is one reason I would leave transportation out of an economy-wide cap-and-trade, but that will be the subject of another post. I live-blogged the debate at the time. Here are the highlights -- or, rather, lowlights -- from the GOP side that make clear just how far conservatives are from understanding climate reality:

White House tries to keep EPA from showing how greenhouse gases could be regulated

The White House is trying to block the U.S. EPA from releasing a document that shows how the Clean Air Act could be used to …

Climate skeptics say the darndest things

Did I say darndest? I meant stupidest

From Deltoid, Tim Lambert provides this exchange between Tim Flannery (climate realist) and Adam Shand (climate skeptic) from an Australian TV show: Tim Flannery: No one can predict the weather three months ahead, that's absolutely true. But if I asked you if January next year was likely to be warmer than June this year, what would you say? Adam Shand: I'd have no idea! TF: You'd say yes because that's what we always see. Summers are warmer than winter. And in terms of predicting general global trends, that exactly the sort of science that we're doing. It's not like predicting the weather on a certain day three months out, it's like predicting whether January is likely to be warmer than June. AS: But that's just an assumption, we sort of assume that summer is hotter than winter.

An interview with author James Howard Kunstler

Author and social critic James Howard Kunstler, known for predicting our post-peak-oil future in nonfiction works such as The Long Emergency, has also brought his …

Umbra on carbon trading

Dear Umbra, I don’t understand carbon credits and how people can buy/sell/trade them. How is this good for our environment? Elizabeth Columbus, Ohio Dearest Elizabeth, …

Power from rooftops could replace coal

More than half of today’s electricity, more than 16 percent of today’s energy

Enough sunlight strikes unshaded U.S. rooftops to replace all the coal and some of the natural gas we use to make electricity. Backup via ground source heat pumps, and smart grid technology would allow this variable energy source to displace base-load coal with today's technology. Whether this is the most cost effective way to displace coal is another question. Also rooftop solar is a silver BB rather than a silver bullet: Even after massive efficiency improvements we will need to get many times the power from non-rooftop sources than from rooftops. According to a 2003 study by the Energy Foundation (PDF), solar PV that converts 15 percent of sunlight to electricity could produce 710,000 Megawatts on rooftops that will be available in 2050. Doug Wood thinks that with concentrating PV using advanced aerospace quality cells we could convert solar at 30 percent rather than 15 percent efficiency. Scaling back to rooftops available today (using 2003 numbers from the same study and extrapolating forward) we could produce around 1.05 billion megawatts today. We normally assume 22 percent capacity factor (PDF) for PV. So that would give us about 2.3 billion megawatt hours, or around 56 percent of today's electrical production -- more than coal provides. Further, waste heat from this process could provide much of our heating and cooling needs as well. The EF study I cited suggests that about 65 percent of commercial roof space is unshaded compared to about 22 percent of residential roof space. Since some commercial scale chillers run on low to medium temp heat today, with enough storage solar CHP could provide close to 100 percent of commercial heating and cooling. But that much storage takes a lot of capital for a small incremental gain. So more realistically, we would put 16 to 24 hours of low temp Phase Change Material storage and use ground source heat pumps to provide the other 15 percent of low temp needs. As a side effect, the overnight storage would let us run those heat pumps when the electricity was cheapest -- which will prove more important than it might appear at first glance.

Don't take it for Granite

N.H.’s Shaheen puts energy issues at center of her campaign for Senate

In New Hampshire, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) is challenging incumbent John Sununu (R) for his U.S. Senate seat, and she’s making energy concerns a …

The sequestration pony

Nice critique of carbon sequestration at Low Tech Magazine.

Per Hirsh incentives

Newsweek political journalist transcribes McCain campaign spin on energy

Last October, Barack Obama laid out a detailed, ambitious, and comprehensive energy plan, and he’s been talking about it ever since. A couple weeks ago, …