Climate & Energy

Stock analysts v. venture capitalists

Tom Konrad on cellulosic electricity

The following is a guest essay by Tom Konrad, a financial analyst specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency companies, a freelance writer, and a contributor to AltEnergyStocks.com. ----- Romm v. Khosla In a persuasive series of articles entitled "Pragmatists vs. Environmentalists" (Parts I, II, and III), Vinod Khosla has provided the reasoning behind his "dissing" of plug-in hybrids, which drew the ire of Joseph Romm. Neither seems to think the argument is settled, and Romm returned fire here. To summarize, Khosla argues that cellulosic ethanol shows more promise for reducing carbon emissions than plug-in hybrids, because the barriers to plug-ins (the need to improve batteries and clean up the grid) are harder to surmount than the barriers to cellulosic ethanol (the improvement of conversion technology). In his words, I consider replacing coal-based electricity plants (50-year typical life) a much longer, tougher slog than replacing oil with biofuels (15-year car life). Romm blasts back, reiterating the multiple problems of corn ethanol in response to the first of Khosla's series, but has not yet responded to his point about cellulosic. I thought I'd tackle the point myself. There isn't enough biomass According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's From Biomass to Biofuels (PDF) study, given all the available biomass in the United States, we will only be able to displace a little less than 2 billion barrels of oil equivalent a year. But we currently use about 7 billion barrels of oil a year, so to displace all our oil usage, we would need nearly a 4x increase in fuel efficiency (not the 1.5x increase in internal combustion engines Khosla talks about).

Dr. Hansen to Dr. Merkel

Carbon is forever — so ban new traditional coal plants now

Another clear statement (PDF) from the nation's top climate scientist on the scientific need for a dramatic change in global coal policy -- this time addressed to the German chancellor, a fellow physicist. He points out that:

The liquid-coal military industrial complex

Air Force and liquid coal industry interbreed

A friend just sent me this remarkable story, "Former Air Force official joins leading coal-liquids developer," which appears in the little-known Aim Points, "A daily summary of news, messages and communication tactics to help AF people tell the AF story." It looks like the "tactic" AF people are being told about is the good-ol' revolving door:

Change we can believe in?

What does the 2005 energy bill vote say about Obama?

It’s conventional wisdom that Clinton and Obama are fairly close on policy, so the choice between them will come down to "character" and theories of change. While I think that’s broadly accurate, there are some differences in their voting records, and recently Elana Schorr took a close look at them to find where the candidates had made different decisions. One of the few matters of real consequence (other than the war) was the 2005 energy bill, a legendary porkfest — Clinton voted against it; Obama voted for it. I’ve had a few people write me and request details, asking, basically, …

Great Scott

Wal-Mart CEO lays out ambitious social and environmental goals for his company

Yesterday, Wal-Mart CEO gave a fairly amazing speech, assessing the company’s progress on its social and environmental goals and laying out some extremely ambitious plans for the future. A taste: He then laid out sweeping plans for the company on several health and environmental issues, and he hinted that even more ambitious goals might be on the horizon. Mr. Scott said, for instance, that Wal-Mart is talking to leaders of the automobile industry about selling electric or hybrid cars — and might even install windmills in its parking lots so customers could recharge their cars with renewable electricity. If Scott …

The solar distraction

Climate skeptics blame the sun for global warming

Global warming skeptics everywhere are jumping on the solar bandwagon: "It's not greenhouse gases, it's the sun! Let's burn some coal to celebrate!" There are, of course, many, many problems with the solar theory as an explanation for recent warming. To me, the most damning is that the correlation has failed in the last few decades. As highlighted in an interesting news item in this week's Science: [Courtillot] and his team acknowledge that "anomalous warming" in the past 2 decades apparently cannot be linked to solar or geomagnetic activity, although they decline to ascribe it to greenhouse gases. On the other hand, the mainstream theory that today's warming is caused by carbon dioxide (along with other anthropogenic effects and known natural variability) provides an explanation not just for the "anomalous warming," but for just about every climate variation over the last 100 million years.

The poor state of the nation's climate

Sign a petition to prompt Bush to address climate in his state of the union speech

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- President George W. Bush will deliver his final State of the Union address on Monday. We can be sure he will talk about Iraq and the economy, particularly the hot topic of the moment: recession. He probably will discuss Iran and the war on terrorism. He may talk about immigration and rising oil prices, two topics he raised last year and on which there has been no progress. But will he talk about global climate change? On the eve of the address, and in no uncertain terms, a group of the nation's leading scientists and policy experts is advising the president that he should. "We regret to report that the state of the nation's climate policy is poor, and the climate and the ecosystems that depend upon it are showing increasing signs of disruption," the group says in a statement being delivered to the White House today. We can no longer discuss the State of the Union without assessing the state of the nation's climate.

Al Gore tells World Economic Forum the climate situation is dire

In a speech spiced with signature phrases like “moral imagination” and “planetary emergency,” as well as plenty of references to future generations, Al Gore warned attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the climate situation is dire. “The climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly than those on the pessimistic side of the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] projections had warned us,” he said. “There has never been anything remotely like [this planetary emergency] in the entire history of human civilization. We are putting at risk all of human civilization.” Gore also emphasized the need …

Carry a tune

A plea for some pepper in the climate change message

On national security, Brian Katulis says progressives need a story to tell, and Matt Yglesias says they need some confidence. On climate change I’d make basically the same points: the progressive line is too much prose and too little poetry, and it’s delivered from a defensive posture. I liked Bill Richardson’s energy plan, but every time he launched into his list, christ … cap-and-trade of X percent, fuel economy of Y percent, appliance efficiency of Zzzz … To the extent one hears a tune through the notes, the mood is melancholy. Brothers and sisters, we must sacrifice. It’s time to …