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Philpott talks ethanol

My face may be made for radio, but I don't especially like the way my voice sounds. Even so, I accepted an invitation to talk ethanol on today's Sunday Salon show on Berkeley's KPFA radio station. I'm glad I did. The host, Sandra Lupien, was very well-prepared and asked great questions. The other guests were Isabella Kenfield, who has done great work about Brazil's ethanol program as a freelance journalist there; and Jake Caldwell, who is an energy researcher for the Center for American Progress. Jake doesn't buy my harsh critique of corn ethanol or Isabella's of Brazil's program, but …

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Oil diplomat or man of the people?

On the defensive after George Bush and Lula da Silva of Brazil started getting friendly over ethanol, Hugo Chavez has now backed away from plans for building a massive array of 29 ethanol plants. His rationale tears a page from the nascent biofuel backlash movement, saying that land should be used to feed people, not to fill "rich people's cars." As with most things Chavez, this is probably largely about politics and somewhat about people: he doesn't want to be outflanked by Bush's new foothold in the region. But it's a stand that will win him points in many quarters, …

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Act nowor forever hold your pleas

The battle over the TXU coal plants has been well chronicled on these pages. As an elegant companion to the efforts to shut down coal, there's a proposal in the Texas Legislature -- sitting in committee right now -- that would develop a world-class solar energy program for Texas. The TexSUN solar program (House Bill 2226 and Senate Bill 1357) would remove some of the regulatory barriers standing in the way of a robust solar market, and provide incentives to home and business owners to install solar systems across Texas. The environmental and economic impacts are tremendous. Solar provides the …

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Highlighting security risks of climate change

On April 17, the UK will use the prerogative of the chair of the UN Security Council to devote a day to the security implications of climate change. UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is scheduled to deliver a major address meant to put climate-security links squarely on the high table of security policy. John Ashton, the UK special envoy for climate change and an adviser to Beckett, has been making the case for treating climate as a security issue since he took up the post last fall. Writing for the BBC Online's Green Room, Ashton said: Conflict always has multiple …

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Why Ask Why? Try Everything Dry

American Southwest soon will face permanent drought, says study Tired of depressing climatic news? Too bad, here's more! A new study in Science predicts that as early as 2021, global warming could create Dust Bowl-like conditions in the American Southwest. Much of the region has been severely dry since 2000, and researchers say 18 of the 19 computer models studied predict a permanent drought setting in before mid-century. "There are going to be some tough decisions on how to allocate water. Is it going to be the cities, or is it going to be agriculture?" says lead author Richard Seager, …

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Brakes on a Plane

Flight ads should carry health warnings, says U.K. group Advertisements for flights should include a health warning, tobacco-style, to remind people of their contribution to climate change, a U.K. think tank said this week. (So creative, those Brits!) "The evidence that aviation damages the atmosphere is just as clear as the evidence that smoking kills," says Simon Retallack of the Institute for Public Policy Research. Airlines' contribution to climate change is predicted to double or triple in coming years as the industry takes off (har har). Alongside "flying causes climate change," IPPR suggests that ads calculate emissions per passenger and, …

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We Hear Mars Is Nice This Time of Year

Top scientists say global warming is triggering ecosystem changes around the globe The natural world is already getting knocked around by climate change, the world's top climate experts said today. In the second of four reports being released this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group looked at the impacts of global warming, both present and projected, and said we can expect more big floods, droughts, wildfires, species extinctions, and mass migrations. Most vulnerable are the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, small islands, and Asian river deltas, but the report also predicts flash floods for Europe and heat waves …

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As expected, the news is mostly bad, and then worse, and then worse still

Climate change is already having big impacts on the natural world and notable effects on human societies, according to the latest climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, being released on Friday. In short, climate change isn't in the future; it's in the right now. The previous installment from the IPCC, released in early February, concluded with at least 90 percent certainty that humans are causing global warming. This latest report says with 80 percent certainty that human-driven global warming is already triggering ecosystem changes around the globe. Not all of the news in the report is bad …

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155 mph on batteries

KillaCycle sets a world record for EVs. Video below the fold.

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When people ask silly questions

"If fossil fuels are the problem, wouldn't running out of them be good?" There's an old joke about economists and other Panglossians that bears on this question: A man leaps off the top of a skyscraper and, as he passes by each floor, true to his optimistic tendencies, he says, "Well, so far, so good." Running out of fossil fuels is like this man running out of floors. The critical thing is not to jump ... i.e., not to commit all that carbon to the atmosphere in the first place. The spreading realization that "peak coal" might be a lot …

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