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Umbra on solar hot-water systems

Dear Umbra, I would like to change to solar heating for providing some of our electricity requirements, particularly for hot water. Can you advise me how to go about it? Leela Pienaar Grahamstown, South Africa Dearest Leela, I notice you're in South Africa. I can talk about solar equipment as found in the U.S., and perhaps these general thoughts will be useful to you. Since the web is worldwide, I was able to see at least the signs of government support for a solar water-heater campaign in South Africa. Certainly we have all reason to believe that it is sunny …

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What's the worst that could happen?

Some guy and a camera

A homecooked argument for aggressive response to global heating.

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How Much CO2 Does a Kegger Emit?

College and university presidents sign on to climate pledge Aiming to give greenhouse-gas reduction the old college try, 280 institutions have signed on to the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. Modeled after a pact signed by mayors across the country, the agreement commits schools to promoting research on global warming, keeping track of emissions, and aiming for carbon neutrality. The effort is being led by President Michael Crow of Arizona State University, which plans to turn down the AC, increase solar power, and provide free bus passes to students, faculty, and staff. Some non-signers are lukewarm to the …

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Ready to Barack

Obama qualifies his support for coal-to-liquid fuel Illinois senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama (D) has qualified his support for coal -- which is, you may recall, the enemy of the human race. In January, Obama cosponsored legislation to provide incentives for production of coal-to-liquid fuel. He was lambasted by enviros; influential advocacy group MoveOn.org waged a petition opposing the bill. And the public pressure seems to have worked: Yesterday, Obama sent an email to green groups that stated, "Senator Obama supports ... investing in technology that could make coal a clean-burning source of energy. However, unless and until this …

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We Propose They Give Everyone a Pony

Senate begins to debate energy bill The U.S. Senate began debate on a honkin' new energy bill yesterday. In its current form, the bill would increase vehicle fuel-economy standards by up to 40 percent by 2020, significantly boost ethanol production (both corn and non-corn), promote green-collar job training, and mandate a reduction in imported-oil use by 10 million barrels a day by 2031. Let the amending begin! Coal-state Democrats want billions of dollars in loans and other incentives for the bane of greens' existence, coal-to-liquid fuel. Republicans want incentives for domestic fossil-fuel production. One proposal in the works would weaken …

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Obama, CTL, and opportunity costs

Better, but still not great

This statement from Obama is a welcome clarification of his position on liquid coal: he says he won't support it unless it demonstrates "at least 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels." The key term, of course, is "life-cycle." Unless he's weaseling, that means the whole shebang, from mining to refining to burning. This is a clear line in the sand, and Obama's to be commended for it. But. It still dodges the crux of the issue: opportunity costs. The technology exists to get CTL down to a 20% emissions reduction from gasoline, but if all of it is implemented, …

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The power of the coal lobby

It makes Senate Dems act like wussies

Remarkable: The bill is being circulated by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and the energy bill's lead author. Until this week, Mr. Bingaman had opposed big subsidies for coal-based fuels, saying that each new production plant would cost billions of dollars and that the economic uncertainties posed risks for taxpayers. But in what could be an effort to fend off demands from coal-state lawmakers for bigger subsidies, Mr. Bingaman's draft proposal would offer up to $10 billion in direct government loans for coal-to-liquid plants. Unfuckingbelievable. They want to give one of the …

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Lobbyists belly up to the energy trough

New energy legislation in Congress debates various terrible solutions

This piece in the NYT is pretty depressing. It's about the main battles around the upcoming energy legislation. Here are the points of contention: Ethanol subsidies Coal and nuclear subsidies CAFE standards On pretty much all these issues, it's Big Money lobby vs. Big Money lobby, and every one of them is a distraction -- no help at best, a hindrance at worst. Where's the Big Efficiency lobby when you need it?

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I just called to say I love you

It’s hard out here for a glacier

Feeling down? Probably not as down as the Arctic's melting glaciers. And now you can listen to their sob story by giving the Icelandic glacier Vatnajokull a call, thanks to an art project that helps folks "connect emotionally" with Europe's largest glacier. With the help of Virgin Mobile and DolphinEAR, Peterson dropped a hydrophone into the glacier, allowing folks from around the world to call in and listen to the creaks, groans, and drips of a dying chunk of ice. Only one person can call in at a time, allowing everyone to have a "one-to-one beautiful and intimate moment" with …

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Tuvalu, we hardly knew you

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu is threatened by global warming.

Possibly one of the most tragic outcomes that may result from climate change is the extinction of an entire nation's culture and homeland. As the United Nations discussed the threat that global warming poses to the security of nations, Afelee Pita, an ambassador from the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, was there to represent his country. Tuvalu may be one of the first nations whose way of life could disappear as a result of the actions (or in this case, the lack of action) of other countries. NPR is covering this story as part of their year-long Climate Connections …

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