Climate & Energy

The wheel turns against gasoline

Americans reduce gas consumption as prices continue to rise

Shocked by high gas prices? You're not alone: according to the lead story in today's Los Angeles Times, prices are at a record high. The gravity-defying price of oil shot through another barrier Monday by briefly touching $103.95 a barrel in New York trading, the highest cost ever for black gold even after adjusting for inflation. But the experts say it's not so much a rise in demand that is pushing up the cost, but a fall in the value of the dollar. "I don't think it's a coincidence that the price of oil hits an all-time high around the time that the dollar hits an all-time low against the euro," said Ken Medlock, an energy studies fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute. "The amount of dollars you have to give up for a barrel of oil is going to increase because the dollar is purchasing less and less." In response, according to an excellent story in Monday's Wall Street Journal, Americans have at last began to turn against gasoline.

California waiver update

Earlier this year I wrote about a new (EPA-sponsored) study showing that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is directly correlated with increased ozone, particulates, and carcinogens in the air. Since California suffers disproportionately from those traditional air pollutants, it follows that California does have "extraordinary and compelling conditions" in the face of climate change, and the EPA’s decision to deny Cali’s waiver was bogus. Now the author of that study, Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, has an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle arguing more or less the same thing. In other EPA waiver news, there’s an unsigned editorial in the NYT …

USDA head suggests harvesting switchgrass on conservation land

Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said Tuesday that it would be a “great idea” to allow farmers to grow and harvest biofuel-bound switchgrass on land currently set aside as wildlife habitat. More than 34 million acres in the U.S. are in the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to convert cropland to native grasses and keep it largely untouched. Environmentalists found the idea not so great; growing switchgrass on CRP land would “completely undermine the purposes of the program,” says Julie Sibbing of the National Wildlife Federation. More than 2 million acres of land were removed from CRP designation …

Internal combustion news

Volkswagen’s new entry to the clean diesel fleet

Enough election talk, it's time to put some honest-to-goodness car news in the Gristmill (so this one's for you, JMG!). Volkswagen is about to unveil a new Golf hybrid, said to feature an all-electric mode at low speed and regenerative braking to compete with the Prius and its ilk. The difference is that this is a diesel-electric hybrid, which VW says will get 69 mpg and exceed Europe's (and California's) tough emissions standards. The point is somewhat moot, as this internal-combusion-perpetuating monster will not be for sale in the U.S. But is this just another indicator that clean diesel cars are greener than hybrids? Perhaps. But filling one of these new Golfs with locally produced, organic, fair-trade biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil by a worker-owned biorefinery will certainly help.

Oh, goody! A book!

The Business & Media Institute’s new but not particularly special report

I'm sure there's at least a chapter devoted to the two decades of TV broadcasts in which, no matter how irrelevant the context, the words "global" or "climate" or "change" or "warm" were inextricably linked to the words "scientists disagree." No? Instead, they offer us John Coleman's Medienkritik: Coleman told an audience at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change on March 3 in New York that he is highly critical of global warming alarmism. "The Weather Channel had great promise, and that's all gone now because they've made every mistake in the book on what they've done and how they've done it and it's very sad," Coleman said. "It's now for sale and there's a new owner of The Weather Channel will be announced -- several billion dollars having changed hands in the near future. Let's hope the new owners can recapture the vision and stop reporting the traffic, telling us what to think and start giving us useful weather information." John Coleman, providing useful information in a place where the weather can change from a comfortable day at the beach to a comfortable day at the beach in an instant:

Arctic expert predicts I will win $1000 this year

OK, he didn't say that directly: The polar cap in the Arctic may well disappear this summer due to the global warming, Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, said on Friday. I originally wasn't going to post on this, but a number of people, including Earthbeat's Mike Tidwell (on whose show I will be appearing today) have sent it to me. I am skeptical the Arctic will be ice-free this year, but I'm open to any other takers for my bet that it'll happen by the end of 2020. Should be a no-brainer for you global coolers out there.

Company creates global map of wind patterns

Any way the wind blows, weather-consulting service 3Tier wants to map it. The company has created a global map of weather patterns that’s available free on the internet, allowing anyone to check whether there’s strong enough air movement — and transmission capacity — to power property in a certain area. 3Tier plans to do a similar project to show the potential of solar energy, to keep the renewable-energy industry from stickin’ panels where the sun don’t shine.

Gas up

The next generation of infrastructure should help more Americans go carless

It appears that oil has reached a new all-time high in real terms. Given that gas prices normally peak during the summer season, the stage could be set for some ugly pump prices this year, although expensive oil may not be the most painful part of the current commodity price boom for consumers (an honor which may go to the exploding cost of grain). With oil so expensive, commuters may wish they had better transportation options. Some of them may even begin to wonder whether we might want to improve our investments in mass transit. This is important, as momentum …

The plot to destroy America

Suppose you knew about a plot whose inevitable outcome would be to undermine the health and well-being of your children, their children, and the next 50 generations. Yes, hundreds of educated people -- mostly Americans -- are assembling in New York right now for just two purposes: Sharing the techniques needed to block vital action that could save billions of people from suffering and misery. Spreading long-debunked disinformation while masquerading as experts who believe in the scientific method. Well, of course, if you were Fox News, you'd be celebrating the event. What can the rest of us do about this dangerous plot? Three things: Get the facts from real climate scientists at RealClimate. Keep a watchful eye on the conspirators with the help of DeSmogBlog. Give your children an extra hug tonight. Remember, it's all about the children! If you don't stand up for them, who will? This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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