Climate & Energy

Skeptics and ressentiment

Most of what needs to be said about the substance of the just-concluded Heartland Institute Skepticpalooza Clown Show has been said (see, in particular, Miles and Joe). Just a couple of stray observations. The science of climate change has nothing to do with it. There are plenty of interesting questions in climate science, but the people at this conference have nothing to say about them. To me, the interesting aspects of the conference are sociological and political. On the sociological front, I was groping around for the right analogy when I remembered a club some kids formed in my high …

Deep thoughts

On the International Conference on Climate Change

If only Congress would have signed on to the Manhattan Declaration years ago, we could have spent valuable resources wisely summarizing nonexistent reports, thereby avoiding the subprime crisis.

This just in: Hydrogen fuel cell cars are still dead

Years after everyone else, GM and Toyota execs skeptical about hydrogen cars

That Saturday Night Live-esque headline was inspired by a story in The Wall Street Journal yesterday: Top executives from General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. Tuesday expressed doubts about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells for mass-market production in the near term and suggested their companies are now betting that electric cars will prove to be a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale. Really? Hydrogen cars of dubious viability? Who ever could have guessed that in a million years? And electric cars are "a better way to reduce fuel consumption and cut tailpipe emissions on a large scale"? I'm shocked, shocked that anyone could come to that conclusion.

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.

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