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Climate change big picture

A great piece in the WaPo

In Sunday's Washington Post, Steven Mufson has an excellent big-picture look at the effort to fight global warming via legislation. It offers a sense of the scope of the problem: The potential economic impact of meaningful climate legislation -- enough to reduce U.S. emissions by at least 60 percent -- is vast. Automobiles would have to get double their current miles to the gallon. Building codes would have to be tougher, requiring use of more energy-efficient materials. To stimulate and pay for new technologies, U.S. electricity bills could rise by 25 to 33 percent, some experts estimate; others say the …

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<del>The</del> My final word on carbon offsets

In which I clear everything up

Over the past couple of weeks, there's been a strangely heated debate on this site about carbon offsets. In this post, I'll speculate about why the concept is so charged, and argue that it doesn't warrant all the heat. And then I will leave the subject behind, at least for now. Start here: why is an offset called an "offset"? We find a clue on Merriam-Webster: "something that serves to counterbalance or to compensate for something else." The idea is, you put CO2 into the air, and you buy offsets to "counterbalance or compensate for" it. In other words, offsets …

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Study: Raising mileage standards creates jobs

Contrary to what you might have heard

A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds: Increasing the average fuel economy of America’s new autos to 35 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2018 would save consumers $61 billion at the gas pump and increase U.S. employment by 241,000 jobs in the year 2020, including 23,900 in the auto industry ... The study is available here. According to the analysis, nearly $24 billion of the gasoline savings would become new revenue for automakers in 2020–paying for the improved technologies plus some profit ... [P]utting fuel economy technology to work would also cut our oil addiction by 1.6 …

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No Rush Hour

New York hems and haws over Manhattan congestion fees Today is a make-or-break, do-or-die, fish-or-cut-bait, poo-or-get-off-the-pot, we-wish-we-could-think-of-more-hyphenated-clichés day for New York, as state legislators, Governor Eliot Spitzer, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrestle over Bloomberg's proposal to enact traffic congestion fees. Following the lead of cities like London and Singapore, the Big Apple would charge a fee for vehicles entering or exiting Manhattan below 86th Street at peak hours. Supporters say the plan will reduce air pollution and associated health problems while boosting public transportation; opponents fear it will increase parking and pollution in the outer boroughs. While …

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Second to Naan

A worried India takes steps toward national climate plan India -- home to more than a billion people and a fast-expanding economy -- is taking its first steps toward a climate-change plan. On Friday, at the kick-off meeting of the National Council on Climate Change, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a preview of a "Green India" strategy that will call for planting trees on 15 million acres of denuded land. He emphasized the importance of planning for energy efficiency and sustainable development and of helping the country's citizens cope with the effects of global warming, including melting Himalayan glaciers. He …

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Helpful energy legislation guides

Three handy guides to the flurry of climate and energy legislation in Congress right now: First, there's a breakdown of the July 4 "Energy Independence Day Initiative" out of the House, which details all the elements by bill and by committee. Handy. Then there's this graphic in the WaPo, which focuses on five bills that have been introduced in the Senate. Then there's this piece in the Economist, detailing what has and hasn't passed, and what likely will and won't. It finishes with this dispiriting 'graph: One measure that definitely will not be included in any bill is a cap …

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Umbra on mercury in CFLs

Dearest Umbra, For the past 10 years or so I have been patiently and methodically replacing the incandescent light bulbs in my house with the more efficient compact fluorescent ones. Even though they cost more than incandescents, I have been confident that their lower energy requirements and longer life span more than made up for the increased cost. Thus I was greatly dismayed the other day when I went to our local transfer station and was told that I must dispose of burned out compact fluorescent bulbs as hazardous waste. I was told that this is due to their containing …

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PowerPoint to the planet's rescue

Showing off sustainability slide shows from around the world

Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation (which was actually done in Keynote on a Mac) may be the most famous global-warming slide show, but it's one of probably millions. Scores of save-the-planet slide shows have been shown off in boardrooms and classrooms around the world. Here are some cooked up by people from around the globe. Alas, the cute factor is conspicuously missing. So the next time you're dallying in digital presentations, don't forget the pleading penguins and polar bears. More pictures of fire and brimstone would probably help too. You can find these and other slide shows on nearly any subject …

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Meta: not inspirational

Edwardsian rhetoric

In this interview, John Edwards uses a line I've heard him use three or four times now, so it must be a stock part of his speeches: Our generation must be the one that says, "We must halt global warming." Um, no. Our generation must be the one that says, "Our generation must be the one that says, 'our generation must be the one that says that it's not cool to talk about oneself in weirdly recursive terms.'"

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Sushi powered

Japan experiments with seaweed as biofuel

As birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan is one of the pioneering countries in climate change policy and research. In 1990, Japan pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 6 percent by 2012. One of their proposed stratagems for meeting this goal is to replace the 132 million gallons of gasoline that Japan car drivers use with a biofuel option. Domestic biofuel production has always been difficult in land-lacking Japan, which in the past had to consider importing biofuel from countries like Brazil as its primary means of obtaining ethanol. However, Japanese researchers at Mitsubishi and The University of Tokyo are …

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