Climate & Energy

Notable quotable

"I really think the more I look at this whole cellulosic issue, there is a lot bigger problem to overcome here than people realize in terms of the feedstocks. We have a lot of work to do in that regard. I’m not sure cellulosic ethanol will ever get off the ground." – Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

Soliciting the House of Saud

Bush and big U.S. banks beg for help from the oil barons

Bush has been doing some fast talking in the court of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, imploring His Majesty to boost oil production to so that gas prices for U.S. consumers can come down in time for the fall election. As part of his charm offensive, Bush has promised to bolster the dictatorship’s arsenal with “900 sophisticated satellite-guided missiles.” He also rattled his tattered saber against Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archenemy. While Bush and the King talk bombs, oil, and war amid the bling of the royal family’s “lush horse farm,” bankers over on Wall Street are squirming to get their paws …

White House talks up its Hawaii climate-change meeting

The White House has released a statement regarding its very own climate-change meeting for the world’s biggest economies, to be held Jan. 30-31 in Hawaii. “The two-day meeting will further the shared objectives of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, increasing energy security and efficiency, and sustaining economic growth, and will help to advance the negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change,” the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced, fooling no one. Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United Nations are invited to send …

Umbra on nuclear vs. coal

Dear Umbra, I work for a certain large environmental organization, and I have often had to deal with the issue of nuclear and coal-fired power plants. If ever asked which is better, we are officially supposed to say “neither.” But I think a response like that doesn’t always work for the real world, so I’d like to ask you, oh answerer of environmental questions, which type of power plant do you think is best (or, least worst) for the environment, nuclear or coal? And your answer can’t be neither! MF San Francisco, Calif. Dearest MF, You are evil. I publish …

Me on the radio

I was on RFK Jr.’s Air America radio show “Ring of Fire” the other day, talking about the lay of the land in the presidential race, climate-wise. Should you be so inclined, you can hear it here.

California withdraws proposal to potentially override private thermostats

Strenuous public objection has forced the California Energy Commission to withdraw a proposal that new buildings in the state have radio-controlled thermostats that would allow utilities to override customers’ temperature settings in the case of a power emergency. Some saw the plan as way too Big Brother; energy commission member Arthur Rosenfeld described it as minor private sacrifice for the public good. “If you can control rotating outages by letting everyone in the state share the pain,” he explained, “there’s a lot less pain to go around.” The commission will not leave the programmable thermostats off the table completely, but …

The high costs of doing nothing, part III

Climate change disrupts ecosystems that provide valuable services

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- If you are one of those people who loves the quiet communion of hiking in the high-country forests of Colorado, you'd better get there fast. In three years, those forests may be gone. The Rocky Mountain News reported this week that every large, mature forest of lodgepole pines in Colorado and southern Wyoming will be dead in three to five years. Some 1.5 million acres of pine forest already have been destroyed since 1996. State and federal foresters call the loss "catastrophic." What's causing the massive die-off? The root cause appears to be global climate change. Winters are warmer. That allows pine bark beetles to survive. The lodgepoles are less able to defend themselves because they have been stressed by years of drought. As a result, a rice-sized bug is felling vast expanses of forests in Colorado. Similar die-offs are underway elsewhere in the western United States and in Canada. (Forest management practices -- mainly fire suppression in past years -- also are to blame. Dense vegetation allows the beetles to spread more quickly and older trees are more susceptible to the bug.)

Notable quotable

“Environmentalism isn’t a communist plot.” – Colorado resident Dave Peterson, on the polarization of opinion on new state rules for oil and gas production

A one-legged man in a butt kickin' contest

Gingrich’s further explications of green conservatism do not inspire confidence

The more I see of Newt Gingrich’s "conservative environmentalism," the less impressive it seems. The guy’s offering run of the mill, crony capitalist conservatism with a shabby green paint job. The two top-tier public policy approaches to fighting climate change are: supporting green industries, practices, technologies, and infrastructure via subsidies, tax breaks, or mandates, and restricting and reducing GHGs via regulation. The first is the carrot and the second is the stick. Most greens want to use some combination of the two, though they might quibble about the relative priority. Gingrich’s big innovation is to insist that we should use …