Climate & Energy

Sticker shock!

What’s causing the sudden run-up in food prices?

A lot of people are wondering what the hell is going on with food prices. Rice, dollars per ton Source: Reuters The price of bulk rice on global markets has tripled since the start of …

The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook of low-carbon living

When I got to college, the best book I bought was a 3-ring notebook-style Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Not adventurous food, but for someone who knew very little about anything concerning food, it was a great first book. It assumes that you are reading a cookbook because you want to know what to do, step-by-step -- instead of just hinting, it lays it out, with pictures and plain language. Great stuff. A couple times a year my wife and I still will ask one another, "What does Betty say to do with these?" I always think of Betty (and the old How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) as the epitome of good technical instruction books. They are all about practical information first, with a minimum of wasted words. Today I found a new one for that list.

Jay Leno Earth Day videos

Because I’m a video hu-a and will basically embed anything anybody sends me, I give you this from NBC:

Are fixing the climate and the ozone layer mutually exclusive?

A geoengineering scheme to solve climate change could hurt the Antarctic ozone layer, while recovery of the ozone hole could increase Antarctic warming, new research suggests. A study published Thursday in Science decries suggestions to …

New bulb on the block

Spendy mercury-free LED bulb supposedly lasts 50,000 hours

Somewhere, in school or on the job, every engineer learns about tradeoffs -- that there is no free lunch, and that, once a design is at all reasonable, gains in one dimension come at the cost of compromises in others. The shorthand statement of this is the pithy evergreen in design classes: "Good, fast, and cheap. Pick two!" There's a new bulb out: a 13-watt LED array bulb with an integral diffuser, so you don't see the annoying space-craft look of little tiny rows of LEDs like the first-generation LED lamps offer. It has no mercury, a boon, and lasts about five times longer than its 13-watt compact-florescent competitors, while being much faster-acting and producing a warmer light. It costs a boatload, at least now ($90). But I still have my first compact florescent bulbs from 1989: huge, heavy ballasts, barely "compact" at all. I'll buy one of these whenever I need a new bulb and gradually switch over all the hard-to-reach spots. An interesting video comparison with 100-watt incandescent bulbs and 13-watt compact florescent bulbs is available at the link.

NOAA news isn't good news

Atmospheric carbon dioxide, methane rise sharply in 2007

The news from NOAA is that all our dawdling on climate action this decade is having real impact on the atmosphere: Concentrations of CO2 jumped 2.4 ppm in 2007, taking us to 385 ppm (preindustrial levels hovered around 280 through 1850). That is an increase of 0.6 percent (or 19 billion tons). If we stay at that growth rate, we'll be at 465 ppm by 2050 -- and that assumes (improbably) that the various carbon sinks don't keep saturating (see here and here). Levels of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) rose last year for the first time since 1998, perhaps an early indication of thawing permafrost.

Buckeyes on solar

Renewable energy standard passed in Ohio

Ohio gets 87 percent of its electricity from coal (and the rest is mostly nukes), putting it in the upper echelon of coal-using states in the nation (No. 2 behind Texas, to be precise). And that, friends, is about to change, because yesterday the Ohio Legislature passed a renewable energy standard requiring utilities to provide 12.5 percent of Ohio's electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2025. This bill has a solar-specific requirement that will result in about 594 MW of solar in the Buckeye State. Not too shabby! Kudos to Environment Ohio and the thousands of other activists that worked hard to make it happen. Next, the bill lands on Gov. Strickland's desk. If you like, take a moment to email the governor to thank him for making clean energy a top priority and encourage him to take the final step of signing this bill into law.

What is the Vectrix?

Electric bike zips up Berkeley hills with ease

An ex-girlfriend of mine placed great diagnostic weight on the following question: Would you rather have one cookie now or two cookies later? I am generally a two-cookies-later person, and she ... well, now that I think of it, she was more of a two-cookies-now kind of person, which explains ... Photo: Sonietta46 I digress. The point is that if you have been reading all the recent news about the Tesla and the Volt, and now Think is coming to America, and apparently Project Better Place is going hook up everyone in Denmark and Israel -- and you are perhaps pissed at the oil companies, and food riots are scaring the shit out of you, and the rocketing price of gas makes you wonder if the peak oil kids are right -- well, who can blame you for wanting an electric car right now? Unfortunately, you are kind of screwed. I mean, the Zenn is kind of cute, but 35 mph? Tesla takes reservations, but a reservation doesn't really get you to the grocery store, does it?

Details matter

Lieberman-Warner criticism, Part 1

Lieberman-Warner is deeply flawed. And like most things political, it's most passionate defenders and opponents are insufferable. It is sad but true that there is no such thing as perfect legislation, for the simple reason that the democratic process demands compromise. Therefore, to the extent that Lieberman-Warner is only imperfect to the degree that is demanded by our political process (e.g., if it's the best we can do, all considering), so be it. It's not that good. And lest there be any confusion, I come to bury, not to praise. But that doesn't mean that we ought not have a more responsible discussion of the details of Lieberman-Warner and how they can be better framed. Because like it or not, this is the train upon which our national greenhouse gas policy will be framed. It may or may not leave the station prior to 2009 (I for one think it won't), but it's going to be the framework from which any future bill starts. And rather than expend our effort trying to derail that train, this is the time to be reviewing the cars. Keep the good ones, replace the bad ones (probably overhauling the engine in the process), but don't delude ourselves into thinking that we can throw the whole thing out, start fresh, and end up with perfection. Here, then, is my attempt to try to dive into those details so that we can have a more enlightened debate.

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.