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Australia’s great drought

The Economist has a great article on Australia's crippling drought. If this is what global warming is likely to bring Australia, we should pay attention and hopefully learn something about how best to cope.

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The latest on smart grids, microgrids, and nerd grids

Three good bits from the smart grid front. First up, there's a new report out from the California Energy Commission called Distributed Generation and Cogeneration Policy Roadmap for California (PDF). Hot reading! The New Rules Project has a nice write-up on it. See also the NRP's section on barriers to distributed generation. Next up, five big companies have teamed up to create GridNet NOW, an alliance that "offers a comprehensive, cost effective suite of services helping utilities plan, develop, implement and manage a successful path to electric transmission and distribution grid modernization." The announcement was made at the hippest, happeningest …

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CO2 rise lags temperature rise, redux

One of the most persistent climate skeptic talking points has to do with how temperature rise seems to lag behind CO2 rise in the historical record, raising questions about the direction of causality. Maybe temperature rise causes CO2 rise rather than the other way around! Our own Mr. Beck addressed the point here, but today RealClimate takes yet another go at it. Of course, skeptic talking points are like zombies -- they never stay dead -- so I'm sure we'll revisit this again in a few months.

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Biofuel environmental rating

People are slowly beginning to realize that not all biofuels are created equal. A group of UC-Berkeley researchers are proposing a five star fuel rating system: The debate over whether biofuels like ethanol are better for the environment than fossil fuels has left many consumers confused and unsure where to fill their gas tanks. Tell me about it. My guess is that these researchers use biodiesel and are hoping to put a few Stars on Thars, right next to the biodiesel sticker they already have. But what are the odds that after studying this topic in great detail they find …

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Build your stockpile of gas now!

Gasoline supplies right now are plumbing historic lows, just as May and the "summer driving season" are about to roll around. This fact has the industry types at the WSJ's Energy Roundup abuzz with predictions of $4/gallon gasoline, should the inevitable disruption (refinery fire, hurricane, Iran war) occur. As in years past, areas with higher cost gasoline, mostly the blue states along the oceans and Great Lakes, will see the highest prices. Some hope that record margins (known as "crack spread," heh heh) will lead refineries to crank up gas production, but in any case, there's dangerously little slack in …

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Why we should ban compressed chemical dusters

I have an untidy habit of eating while I'm working on my computer. Heck, I'm eating a doughnut while I write this post. Unfortunately, my habit inevitably results in little crumbs of sandwich or potato chips or whatever making their way onto my computer keyboard. Every once in a while I look down at my crumb-ridden keyboard, get disgusted, and embark on a cleaning frenzy. And as many office workers may know, one of the easiest ways to clean a keyboard is with those compressed chemical canister thingies (pictured above). So the other day, while I was merrily blasting away …

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Wax on, wax offsets

Gristmill's sizable contingent of carbon offset hataz will find the latest from Joel Makower music to their hatin' ears.

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Bad news from down south

Scientific and observational data from Antarctica are driving home the message that we have entered a period of consequences. Most recently, scientists have discovered ice streams hiding bigger reservoirs of water in West Antarctica. The evidence has "major implications for glacial melt rates and associated sea-level rises" and the rate of warming. Equally frightening is that the ice streams feed into the Ross Ice Shelf, a major southern ice shelf whose melting would indicate "the end of the road" according to one scientist. In 1999, scientists began to observe pools of water on top of the Larsen Ice Shelf (green …

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Poll results!

The NYT has a bucketload of important poll results. Here's the full poll; here's the summary: Americans in large bipartisan numbers say the heating of the earth's atmosphere is having serious effects on the environment now or will soon and think that it is necessary to take immediate steps to reduce its effects, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds. Beyond that is a whole series of juicy tidbits. I hardly know where to dip in. Some quotes: Ninety percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 60 percent of Republicans said immediate action was required to curb the …

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And their PM is still in denial

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is in a sticky, yet dry, situation. Even though a drought has caused Australia's agricultural production to fall 25 percent in the last year, Howard may have to ban irrigation so that urban centers can have drinking water. The targeted river basin, the Murray-Darling, is known as Australia's "food bowl" because it houses 72 percent of Australia's farm and pasture land. If insufficient rain continues through the next few weeks, this year's harvest will be devastated and cities will need to implement water usage restrictions. Prime Minister Howard doesn't accept the connection to global warming, …

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