Climate & Energy

Notable quotable

What is a conservative?

From Restructuring Today ($ub req'd), reporting on Markey's hearings on allocation vs. auction as a cap & trade methodology: Even conservative Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw believes a free allocation amounts to corporate welfare. Even conservative?

The good and the ugly

Anti-coal activism news

First, the good: here's a feature story in the new Orion magazine about the tactics and successes of the anti-coal activists who've helped halt, count 'em, 59 new plants, according to author Ted Nace. Ted also gives a huge rundown of links and resources for anti-coal activists. And the ugly: thanks to Maria Gunnoe's success organizing against mountaintop removal mining as a staff member of grassroots group Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and now her lead role in stopping a "valley fill" in her home town in West Virginia that cost some local jobs, her family has been the target of harassment and threats of violence, to the level that she's had to hire guards for her home and install security cameras. This doesn't come cheaply, and they're accepting donations to help keep her in that house, in that community, and stopping MTR's utter destruction of Appalachia. More here, plus an address to send donations to. The woman is a hero and deserves better.

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 ----- 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).

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.