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Climate & Energy


Big Al succumbs to ethanomania

Predicts rabbit out of hat in three years, too

Here's a film clip of Al Gore making a firm prediction that "next generation ethanol" not dependent on corn or food crops will move out of the lab in "three years." He discusses the energy balance question, fails to question the use of coal for process heat, and suggests that there is some sort of "distribution network" that's going to be built. Sad.

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Mongabay highlights for June '07

Some good news and some bad news

First up is an interview with Jack Ewing, owner of an eco-lodge in Costa Rica. I must admit that writing checks to conservation organizations is about as pleasurable as a trip to the dentist. Spending a week in a place like Hacienda Barú also supports conservation and is a hell of a lot more fun. I managed to photograph about half of the wildlife I saw while staying less than a week in Costa Rica. Best vacation I've ever had. I might put the video (much more interesting than photos) on YouTube one of these days. After reading that upbeat …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food


Romm's rules of carbon offsets

Taking ‘em to the mat

The first rule of Carbon Offsets is, you do not talk about Carbon Offsets. Just kidding. This isn't Fight Club, but I do aim to pick a fight with those overhyping offsets. If a smart company like Google can seriously think it can go green by burning coal and then buying offsets and if a smart company like PG&E is bragging about a new program that allows customers to offset their electricity emissions by planting trees (a dopey program I'll blog about later), then something is very wrong about the general understanding of offsets. For those who want a basic …


Big oil, stopped clocks, energy efficiency

An oil exec gets the diagnosis right

One hesitates to agree with the CEO of a major oil company, but ... I can't really figure where Jeroen van der Veer, head of Royal Dutch Shell, is wrong in all this. He says: Energy demand is growing, and is likely to double by 2050. Oil and gas are going to become more difficult to reach. Coal will kill us. Even optimistic estimates for renewables -- say, growing from 1% to 30% in the world energy balance -- still leaves a hell of a lot of fossil fuels being used. His conclusion? There's no substitute for energy efficiency. Maybe …

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Turned Offset

Leading banks suggest regulation of carbon-offset market Not long ago, the phrase "carbon offset" was a kind of magic. Investing in far-off green projects, the thinking went, made up for emissions at the source. Poof! But complications arose, and now a group of more than 10 major banks wants to move toward regulating the market -- at least the voluntary offsets that aren't government-regulated. The standards floated by the cabal -- including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank -- would cover such basics as making sure emissions cuts are "measurable, verifiable, and permanent" and keeping credits from being sold more …


Citgo Boom

Jury finds Citgo guilty of criminal Clean Air Act charges In a legal first, oil refiner Citgo has been found guilty of criminal charges under the Clean Air Act. The case -- involving two open-air storage tanks in Corpus Christi, Texas, that released the carcinogen benzene into the air -- marks the first time criminal violations of the act have gone to trial; previous cases against refiners have been settled out of court. While the jury cleared Citgo of two charges that it knowingly released illegal levels of benzene, the refiner was nailed on two charges that it did not …


House Party

U.S. House works on energy bill, passes Interior appropriations bill The House of Representatives is gettin' jiggy with eco-legislation this week. On Wednesday, it passed a bill declaring that -- gasp! -- global warming is a "reality," and mandated funding for climate research. The House hopes to pass comprehensive energy legislation by July 4; proposals on the table include tough efficiency standards for lighting and appliances, smart-grid incentives, expansion of biofuels research, and funding for carbon capture and storage (shockingly, and wonderfully, not applying to coal-to-liquid technology). However, the various proposals exclude any mention of fuel-economy standards or biofuel production …


The promise and perils of public investment in energy

Voters like it, but how to do it well?

There's a big problem facing climate and energy advocates, one they seem to be more or less shutting their eyes to at the moment, hoping it will go away: regulations capping carbon and mandating emissions cuts are likely to raise energy prices for consumers in the short term. This is a problem because polls and surveys show fairly consistently that consumers are extremely sensitive to these prices. I think it's going to be frighteningly easy for right-wing demagogues to pull on climate legislation the same thing they did on healthcare legislation back in the early '90s: tell consumers that Democrats …


Pre-vacation link dump

So much good stuff, so little time to blather about it

Dear readers, as of tomorrow, I'm on vacation, visiting my ancestral homeland (the American South), not to return until July 9. My plan is to test physiological limits: just how much sleeping can one person do in nine days? There were about a gazillion things I wanted to write about before leaving, but obviously coal ate up all my time (damn you coal!) and I won't be able to get to them. So here are some quick hits: Robert Bryce has a great article in Slate pointing out what all of us already know: corn ethanol's a stupid scam, and …

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Everything's on the table, even nukes

A guest column from K.C. Golden

This is a guest column from KC Golden, Policy Director for Climate Solutions, a Northwest-based nonprofit focused on tackling global warming (though not yet tackling its own website's frames-based layout, which was awful in 1998 and still is ... but I digress). It originally ran in Methow Valley News. ----- These are the early days of an economic revolution: our weaning from fossil fuels. Most of what we know and expect about how we make and use energy is up for grabs. Myths, taboos, sacred cows -- all will be skewered. Here are some soon-to-be unsafe assumptions about energy: "Cheap" …

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