Climate & Energy

Bjorn again

His argument is still bogus

The Washington Post embarrasses itself today by publishing the usual delayer drivel in an op-ed by Bjorn Lomborg. The fundamental problem with Lomborg's argument (which he also makes in his recent book Cool It!) is that it is based on the assumption that the worst-case, climate-change scenario cannot happen. The IPCC's predictions for climate change over the next hundred years range from about 2°C to 5°C. If you assume that the warming will be closer to 2° than 5°, which Lomborg does, then it certainly does reduce the pressure to act immediately on climate change. No doubt about that. However, there is no scientific basis for that assumption. Future warming certainly could be closer to 2°, but it could equally likely be close to 5°. We just don't know. Why does he make this assumption? Because there is a conclusion he wants to reach: We should not be taking action on climate change. The only way you can reach that conclusion is by assuming that future climate change will be mild. This argument is bogus. Don't believe it.

Must read CIBC report: $7 per gallon gas by 2010

Ten million cars off the road, 1970s style GDP growth

CIBC World Markets has just released a stunning yet detailed economic analysis of near-term oil prices and impacts. The PDF has some excellent figures I will convert to JPEGs. The two key pieces are "Getting off the Road -- Adjusting to $7 per Gallon Gas in America" (PDF) and "Oil and Growth -- That 70s show Re-Run" (PDF). Main points: "That additional 200,000 barrels per day pledged from Saudi Arabia is a pittance compared to the four million barrels per day this year that depletion will hive off world production. What little increase in production Saudi is capable of will probably all be gobbled up by that country's own voracious appetite for energy." China's recent oil subsidy drop? Another yawner: "Most North Americans would gladly line up at the pumps for China's now $3.25 a gallon gas." "The only supply response to date has been yet another round of cost overruns and lengthy project delays running the gamut from Canadian oil sands to deepwater Gulf of Mexico wells." "With the basic laws of supply and demand no longer operative in crude oil markets," CIBC is "compelled to once again raise our target prices for oil" to "an average price of $200 per barrel by 2010." That "should translate into a near -- $7 per gallon pump price within two years, a 70 percent increase from today's already record levels." "Higher oil prices spell stagflation for the US economy next year" and beyond. The report has a good analysis of why "The US economy has managed to avoid feeling the full brunt of oil prices over the last few years, but 2009 will be the year that its luck runs out." The analysis seems very solid and suggests the only thing that can "save" us from near -- $7 gas by 2010 is a major global recession, but even that would only be a temporary respite. The implications for Detroit are staggering:

Climate change ideas for On Day One

Day four of the UN Dispatch-Grist collaboration

The UN Dispatch-Grist collaboration rolls on today with a discussion prompt submitted by On Day One user teiki: A key to the massive use of fossil fuels in the U.S. is gross overconsumption. We use way more than necessary, through a combined dependence on the automobile and an infatuation with big, gas-hungry cars, trucks and SUVs., through wasted energy consumption in our homes and offices in everything from their construction to "phantom loads" and light bulbs, and through the amount of green house gas emitted by livestock supplying an overconsumption of food. We must learn to use less. David Roberts, Tony Kreindler, media director of the National Climate Campaign at the Environmental Defense Fund, and Timothy B. Hurst respond below the fold.

Virginia is for coal lovers

State illegally approves new coal-fired power plant

Update: The permit that was approved this week by the state Air Pollution Control Board does not contain the "out clause" for mercury emissions. Information from an SELC statement was incorrect, and they have apologized. Under heavy pressure from lobbyists for Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia announced yesterday that it will permit the construction of a new coal-fired power plant, even though doing so clearly violates the law. Just days after NASA's James Hansen testified that avoiding climate catastrophe will require immediately stopping construction of new coal-fired power plants around the world (and shutting down old ones), and just months after the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, Virginia decided that what the state and the world really need is another coal fired power plant with no controls on release of carbon dioxide -- and gave Dominion the go ahead to build their "Hybrid Energy Center" in Wise County in Appalachia (hybrid because it will burn two different types of dirty coal). That's in clear violation of the law, as Cale Jaffe, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center testified, since the Supreme Court's ruling in Massachusetts vs. EPA, states are required to implement the best technology available to control carbon dioxide -- which were the grounds Kansas used when it rejected a similar power plant proposal. And even though Virginia's decision did tighten some sulfur dioxide and other pollution limits (Chesapeake Climate Action Network's Susanna Murley has more on why this is a partial victory), it still includes an "out clause" that would permit Dominion to emit unlimited quantities of mercury -- another clear violation of the Clean Air Act.

New coal plant approved in Virginia, may fuel mountaintop-removal mining

An embattled $1.8 billion coal plant slated for Wise County, Va., was granted pollution permits Wednesday by a state regulatory board, allowing construction to proceed. …

Speculating about speculators

Cornucopian thinking about oil

There seems to be a disturbing tendency in the progressive community to blame speculators for most, if not all, of the increase in oil prices. In its most extreme form, the implication seems to be that the supply of oil is virtually limitless, and that only financial manipulation is to blame. Ironically, this mirrors the views of many mainstream economists, who have what is sometimes called a cornucopian view of the world. Julian Simon was the ultimate spokesperson for the idea that technological innovation and unlimited resources would allow for virtually any level of population and consumption. For instance, writing in Counterpunch, Mike Whitney, who has been one of the best researchers explaining what is really going on in the financial meltdown, declares: There is no oil shortage, not yet at least. The reason oil has skyrocketed to nearly $140 per barrel is because of rampant speculation. The peak oil doom-sayers are simply confusing the issue. This is not about shortages or scarcity; it's about gaming the system to fatten the bottom line. (The progressive talk show host Randi Rhodes has been making similar arguments). Whitney quotes various ministers of oil who echo his argument; meanwhile, oil company spokespersons have been giving mixed messages, and Bush's Secretary of Energy blames supply and demand. Whom to listen to? None of them. Like a group of vultures circling the carcass of the global economy, they each have their own nefarious reasons for saying what they are saying. The next time you hear something about how the increase in the price of oil is caused by speculation, consider several counter-arguments:

<em>Wired</em> jumps the shark once too often and is eaten alive

Technophile mag spouts climate-tech nonsense

Wired magazine used to be the place to go for the latest in technology. But now it covers any sexy techy idea, no matter how impractical. Given that we all have limited time, Wired should be off every technophile's must-read list and replaced by Technology Review, which has revamped its stodgy old self and become what once Wired aspired to be. For me, this started with the absurd cover story by Peter Schwartz 5 years ago, "How Hydrogen Can Save America," which claimed "What we need is a massive, Apollo-scale effort [$100 billion over ten years] to unlock the potential of hydrogen, a virtually unlimited source of power." Uhh, no. Hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a source -- except for the sun, of course, and if we really want to harness its power we should be placing big bets on solar energy. Try instead my Technology Review piece "Some clarity on the Clarity." Recently Wired published their most misinformed piece, "Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green." RealClimate beat me to the punch debunking Wired's bizarre analyses in favor of using air-conditioning and against protecting old-growth forests or buying a Prius. They didn't debunk Wired's claim, "Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy," perhaps because it is so obviously absurd (see Nukes of hazard).

California announces specifics of greenhouse-gas reduction plans

On Thursday, California state regulators released specific plans to reduce California’s greenhouse-gas emissions 10 percent from today’s levels by 2020, the first phase of a …

Sorry, delayers and enablers, part two

Climate change means worse droughts for American Southwest, Australia

Part one presented the synopsis of the remarkable new U.S. Climate Change Science Program (a.k.a. the Bush Administration) report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. One central point in the synopsis is Droughts are becoming more severe in some regions, though there are no clear trends for North America as a whole ... Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Seems pretty clear, no? Dry areas will see more evaporation, hence less soil moisture (defined as precipitation minus evaporation), hence more drought. Further, many dry areas will see less precipitation under climate change (due to the expansion of the Hadley Cell and subtropics, see "Australia faces the 'permanent dry,' as do we").