Climate & Energy

Battlefield earth

In a piece in Foreign Policy, Jamais Cascio goes straight at one of the things that scares me most about "geoengineering" — the potential, should such techniques be developed, that they will be used for less-than-benign ends. Nuclear war scares the hell out of us, right? Why would it not scare us to think that any country on earth could, relatively cheaply, alter the entire planet’s atmosphere? Or even that a concerted group of individuals could? It’s nuts. Anyway, read Jamais’ article: "Battlefield Earth." More notes on the piece here. The gist: geoengineering (or "terraforming") is inevitable, since no country …

Department of Energy backs away from funding Future

The U.S. Department of Energy has told lawmakers that it plans to pull funding for FutureGen, its ambitious and crazily expensive “clean coal” demonstration plant. The feds had planned to cover some three-quarters of the $1.8 billion price tag, and cited ballooning costs as its reason for backing out. The announcement pissed off lawmakers from Illinois, where the plant would have been sited and was expected to create 3,000 construction jobs. Sen. Dick Durbin (D) pledged that the state delegation “is going to make the case for FutureGen directly to the president,” while Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a statement saying …

Breaking: Dept. of Energy pulls support for FutureGen

Whoa! The Dept. of Energy just announced that it’s yanking its support for FutureGen, the much-ballyhooed and much-delayed “clean coal” demonstration plant that greens refer to, never more appropriately, as NeverGen. What’s behind the decision? “Ballooning costs.” But wait … I thought coal was cheap!? UPDATE: Note that Senator Dick Durbin expresses great outrage and promises to appeal directly to the president, but there is, conspicuously, no comment from his fellow Ill. Senator Barack Obama. Both of them fought like hell to get the plant sited in Ill., but Obama has taken lumps from greens for supporting clean coal. I’ll …

Answering the college

Focus the Nation events to heat up campuses across the U.S.

Focus the Nation, a series of climate-change-focused educational events on over 1,000 campuses across the United States, is basically the student-centered cousin of Step It Up. And if you were one of the thousands who attended SIU (or SIU 2), you know that raising climate consciousness doesn't have to be a drab affair. It can be a colorful, creative, youth-infused party of a time. Enter Focus the Nation. Hoping to pick up where SIU left off, Focus the Nation is gathering together thousands of students and teachers for climate festivities, billing it as the largest teach-in in U.S. history. It all goes down Jan. 31. (Or, you know, whatever the kids say these days.)

Conservation work will potentially be undone by climate change

Habitat preservation is a noble cause — so it’s really too bad that many conservation efforts may end up rendered moot by climate change. For example, restoration of Pacific Northwest salmon runs won’t do much good if warming makes streams unlivable; restoring fresh water flow in the Everglades will be somewhat pointless if sea-level rise swamps the wetlands. “We have over a 100-year investment nationally in a large suite of protected areas that may no longer protect the target ecosystems for which they were formed,” says Healy Hamilton of the California Academy of Sciences. So conservationists face multiple dilemmas: Should …

Republican primary in Florida

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a Republican primary in Florida today. It has largely come down to a Romney/McCain contest, the polls have been bouncing all over the place, it’s utterly impossible to predict what will happen, and it’s likely that whoever wins — particularly if it’s a sizeable win — will secure the Republican nomination. So it’s a big deal. Naturally I won’t/can’t endorse anyone, but just considering things from the generic green voter’s perspective, it seems like Romney would be the better outcome. He has obviously and openly retrograde positions on climate and energy and would provide …

Bittman on meat

In case you’d forgotten, industrial meat is a friggin’ nightmare

It’s a little weird that no one on Gristmill has yet pointed to Mark Bittman’s stellar NYT piece on the environmental ravages of industrial meat. Philpott, where you at? Anyway, it’s amazing. Go read it. Here’s a taste (ha ha): Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word "raising" when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that …

Why are American automakers special?

The Big Three attempt to persuade other states of the danger of fuel efficiency standards

Automakers are ramping up their PR effort to persuade states not to adopt California’s auto emission standards, which they fear will survive the Bush administration’s latest monkey wrench. But their arguments are as silly as ever: Dave McCurdy, chief executive of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers … said the California-inspired initiative would result in a "patchwork quilt of inconsistent and competing fuel economy programs" that would lead to "confusion, inefficiency, and uncertainty for automakers and consumers." Is this supposed to persuade any of those wavering states? For one thing, it’s not true, and for another, why should states care if …

Green group and Chinese dam owners will work together to address eco-impact

The company that owns China’s problem-stricken Three Gorges Dam is expected to sign a pact with The Nature Conservancy to conduct a feasibility study on flood risk and floodplain management within the Three Gorges Dam reservoir. The Three Gorges Dam Company and the green group have also agreed to cooperate on researching eco-minded management of four more dams that are planned to be built upstream on the Yangtze River. These four dams have the potential to increase output of ecologically sustainable hydropower and generate more money from electricity generation, which could then be put toward warning systems, flood insurance, and …

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