Climate & Energy

I'd drive 245 billion miles (just not five billion more)

Americans drove less in April 2008

April 2008 saw another sharp drop in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) according to the Federal Highway Administration's monthly report on "Traffic Volume Trends" (PDF). This follows, "the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history" in March (see here). I was compelled to blog on this because of the incredibly astute media coverage by AFP, "worldwide news agency," which wins the "Duh!" award for the month: Observers surmise a possible link between the declining number of miles driven and rising US gasoline prices.

Nuuk beachfront real estate

Greenland can warm 2-4°C in one year

A new article in Science Express (PDF)($ub. req'd), "High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years," examines, "The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period." The article explores the underlying causes of ... ... abrupt shifts of northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation resulting in 2-4°K changes in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next. The article concludes that ... polar atmospheric circulation can shift in 1-3 years resulting in decadal to centennial scale changes from cold stadials to warm interstadials/interglacials associated with astounding Greenland temperature changes of 10°K. Neither the magnitude of such shifts nor their abruptnesses are currently captured by state of the art climate models. The time to act is yesterday. This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Hill heap

A weekly roundup of greenish news from the Capitol

A few of this week’s environmental happenings that I’ve been meaning to point out: • Oilman-turned-clean-energy-evangelist T. Boone Pickens came to town to testify about …

Solar strides in New York

Solar proponents in the Empire State eagerly await new legislation

My colleague, Shaun Chapman, of our New York City office, offers this update on solar policy progress in the Empire State:

Dig it Krupp

On Charlie Rose, EDF leader Fred Krupp endorses domestic drilling for new oil

EDF chief Fred Krupp appeared on the Charlie Rose show yesterday. For the most part, it was the usual stumping for cap-and-trade. However, Rose pushed …

Cuckoo for kudzu

Kudzu as the next biofuel source?

Some biofuel experts seem to think that the next big biofuel source should be kudzu in the U.S. I hope biodiversity experts and readers from the South will comment on this idea. Take the poll beneath the fold:

A huge tax increase?

The GOP disinformation machine settles on an angle

It seems that another way that the GOP will try to win on this issue is by painting carbon pricing as a massive tax increase. …

Nuclear deterrence, part two

Lovins and Sheikh defend definition and record of micropower

This is a guest essay from Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh of the Rocky Mountain Institute. It is part two of a series; see part one here. ----- Part two of David Bradish's critical look at "The Nuclear Illusion" (PDF) raises two additional issues to which we respond here. As in his first critique, it appears that, unable to rebut and hence unwilling to address our paper's data and logic, Mr. Bradish must content himself with trying to manufacture an illusion of confusion. Does RMI's data fit their definition [of micropower]? Yes, precisely; it just doesn't fit various other definitions that Mr. Bradish has invented on his own. We clearly defines micropower (an Economist magazine term) thus at pp. 11-12: 1. onsite generation of electricity (at the customer, not at a remote utility plant) -- usually cogeneration of electricity plus recovered waste heat (outside the U.S. this is usually called CHP -- combined-heat-and-power): this is about half gas-fired, and saves at least half the carbon and much of the cost of the separate power plants and boilers it displaces; [and] 2. distributed renewables -- all renewable power sources except big hydro plants, which are defined here as dams larger than 10 megawatts (MW). Mr. Bradish arbitrarily and wrongly assumes "that the size of 'micropower' plants is 10 MW or less," then claims this is our definition and contradicts our data. It's not and it doesn't. Our 10 MW limit applies only to small hydro, distinguishing it from big hydro using the most conservative criterion. Any power source except small hydro can be larger than 10 MW but still meet our micropower definition: WADE's onsite-fueled-generator definition, which we've adopted, includes onsite units up to somewhat over 180 MWe for gas turbines (though few actual units are over 120 MWe) and up to 60 MWe for engines, as well as onsite (nearly always cogenerating) steam turbines of any size if they're in China and India; however, WADE's database excludes steam turbines elsewhere, and all units below 1 MWe.

The mpg illusion

Gallons per mile: A better way to express fuel efficiency

Let's say a pollster walks up to you and asks you the following question: "A town maintains a fleet of vehicles for town employee use. It has two types of vehicles. Type A gets 15 miles per gallon. Type B gets 34 miles per gallon. The town has 100 Type A vehicles and 100 Type B vehicles. Each car in the fleet is driven 10,000 miles per year." The town wants to replace these vehicles with corresponding hybrid models in order to to reduce gas consumption of the fleet and thereby reduce harmful environmental consequences. Should they (1) replace the 100 vehicles that get 15 mpg with vehicles that get 19 mpg , or (2) replace the 100 vehicles that get 34 mpg with vehicles that get 44 mpg? If you are like the people who were actually surveyed by Richard Larrick and Jack Soll of Duke University, you chose option two. After all, an increase of 10 mpg clearly sounds better than a measly 4 mpg. And yet, some simple number crunching reveals that the town fuel efficiency is improved more in option one (by 14,035 gallons) than in option two (by 6,684 gallons).