Climate & Energy

Generate energy locally; recycle whenever possible

A Pollan-esque energy objective in six words … and then some

Perhaps the single most important thing we can do to drive up our energy efficiency, lower energy costs, and bolster the overall reliability of our energy infrastructure is to overhaul our electric sector's regulatory model to move generation away from big, remote plants and toward local generation. From solar to CHP, we have a panoply of technologies, fuels, and companies who would participate in such a shift. Less understood is that our regulatory model creates obstacles to all of these options, unwittingly causing us to burn too much fossil fuel and pay too much for energy. Back in January, David challenged us all to follow Michael Pollan's lead and summarize our objectives in seven words or less. Here's mine: Generate energy locally. Recycle whenever possible. Like Pollan, it takes a book to explain the detail underlying that summary. This particular explanation is limited to a blog post below the fold.

F*ck the Earth Day

Warning: video below contains naughty words. Cover your ears.

Monopoly game gets hip to renewable energy

Photo: goat_girl via Flickr Refuse to play Monopoly because you fear Electric Company sources its power from coal? Fear not! Game-maker Hasbro is updating everyone’s favorite interminable game, and in the Here and Now: World …

Unexcused absences

Arizona Republic calls out senator for not supporting solar

With absolutely world-class solar installation, rapidly growing in-state demand, and prime location next to one of the largest renewable energy markets in the world (that would be California), building a solar industry in Arizona would seem like a no-brainer. I certainly think so. But, more importantly, 87 percent of Arizonans do, too. The remaining 13 percent appears to include Sen. McCain, who has failed to show up for any of the votes to extend the critical 30 percent investment tax credit -- an issue that's literally make-or-break for large-scale solar in Arizona and elsewhere. Abengoa has signed a deal for a 280 MW concentrated solar power plant with Arizona Public Service, a deal that would bring about $1 billion of investment and 1,500 jobs to Arizona -- and parties on both sides have made it clear that the project's consummation is critically dependent on a long-term extension of the investment tax credit. This Earth Day, The Arizona Republic published an excellent editorial calling the good senator out.

E.U. plows ahead with coal

Even as it makes plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, the European Union is gearing up to put some 50 coal plants on line in the next five years. Europeans’ distaste for nuclear energy and the …

More Pollan blogging: morals vs. values

Everyday choices depend more on culture, infrastructure, economics, and values

I see Maywa beat me to the "I really like Michael Pollan, but ... " post. I too was disappointed with Pollan's answer to the question of "Why Bother?" As in, why bother taking personal steps to reduce one's contribution to climate change? I will say this, though: the article did sharpen my thinking about why I think we should bother. One of the things I've always admired about Pollan's writing is his knack for delivering sly polemic that hangs equally on scientific arguments and common sense. It's a neat trick that makes simple acts like reading an ingredients label seem slightly radical and even fun. I read his stuff and think, "Of course I want to get on board with this. Why wouldn't I?" Like Maywa, I was dismayed by Pollan's disparagement of "grand schemes" to address climate change. But beyond that, I was struck by the fact that the essay seemed to teeter on the edge of the sort of petty moralism that infects a lot of thinking on this topic. Where was the sense of fun?

Think thin

For Nanosolar, the future is municipal solar power plants

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- Traditional photovoltaic (PV) is typically installed on rooftops and competes with retail electricity. Over 40 percent of the cost of a system can be in the installation, which must be customized to every rooftop. So technologies that dramatically lower PV cost end up having a less dramatic impact on total residential system cost. So it is natural that the next generation technologies, such as thin films of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) printed as ink on conductive substrates, need to look at non-rooftop applications, where the installation of a large solar farm is fairly turnkey. Nanosolar, a thin-film PV startup, has just announced their vision in their blog and newsletter. They see the best fit for solar being municipal solar plants of 2-10 MW in size and suggest such plants can be done in 12 months, providing a significant advantage over coal or nuclear. Martin Roscheisen, Nanosolar's CEO, writes:

Pollan envy

For people involved in the TV business, I imagine watching The Wire — David Simon’s novelistic depiction of big-city dysfunction on HBO — generates mixed feelings. On one hand: Damn that’s good. On the other: …

The Pennsyltucky perspective

No difference between McCain and Dems on climate

I got home yesterday from canvassing for Barack Obama in the outskirts of Harrisburg, Penn. and found last week's edition of The Patriot-News (whose politics reporter, Brett Lieberman, describes the state as "Pennsyltucky" for its unique mix of urban, industrial, and backwoods), including a "Find Your Match" voter guide with a chart that's supposed to help people figure out which candidate is closer to them on key policies. Here's what the chart said about Obama, Clinton, and McCain on global warming: Clinton: $150 billion, 10-year energy package for new fuel sources; backed stringent caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. Obama: $150 billion, 10-year program for "climate friendly" energy supplies, favors stringent caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. McCain: Led Senate effort to cap greenhouse-gas emissions; favors tougher fuel efficiency.