Climate & Energy

Burning ice, ice, baby

Methane hydrates: What’s the worst — and best — that could happen?

Methane hydrates (or clathrates), "burning ice," are worth understanding because they could affect the climate for better or worse. You can get the basics here on ... ... a solid form of water that contains a large amount of methane within its crystal structure [that] occur both in deep sedimentary structures, and as outcrops on the ocean floor. The worst that could happen is a climate catastrophe if they were released suddenly, as some people believed happened during "the Permian-Triassic extinction event, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum." The best that could happen is if they could be recovered at a large scale safely -- then they would be an enormous new source of natural gas, the lowest-carbon and most efficient-burning fossil fuel. A recent workshop was held: "Vulnerability and Opportunity of Methane Hydrates," International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, March 13-14, 2008. You can find most of the presentations here. Science magazine recently ran a summary ($ub. req'd) of the meeting, which I will reprint below [unindented]:

The flaccid mind of Stephen Johnson

National Journal on the EPA tailspin

The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress. ----- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been failing spectacularly to do what the law requires, as determined by numerous federal judges (including the Supreme Court). For a more in-depth look, consider a pair of articles by Margaret Kriz in the National Journal. "Vanishing Act" looks at many of the failures of the EPA. "The President's Man" presents an interview with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and gives insight into his twisted thinking. For example, when asked about issuing ozone standards weaker than the unanimous recommendation of the EPA's independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, Johnson replies:

Notable quotable

“Emissions are growing much faster than we’d thought, the absorptive capacity of the planet is less than we’d thought, the risks of greenhouse gases are potentially bigger than more cautious estimates, and the speed of …

Nicholas Stern says climate change worse than he thought

Nicholas Stern, the British economist known for a major report in which he declared that combating climate change would cost less than ignoring it, has announced that he was wrong — about how bad the …

Don't celebrate this holiday

We need to be freed from gas, not the gas tax

John McCain’s proposal to institute a gas tax “holiday” during the summer driving season is as clear an example of a pander as one is likely to see during election season, but its inclusion in …

Bush’s unambitious climate speech bashed by other major economies

President George W. Bush took his unambitious views and goals on climate and stuck them into one mediocre speech Wednesday. Bush called for U.S. emissions to “slow over the next decade, stop by 2025, and …

Green journalists out of touch?

I’ve been thinking more about the SEJ event I wrote about here. It’s been bugging me. To be honest, while I was quite impressed with the presidential advisers, the environmental journalists were … disappointing. Right …

Blocking Ferrari-ready driveways

Maine becomes third state to pass tough coal law

Yesterday, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed LD 2126, "An Act To Minimize Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Coal-Powered Industrial and Electrical Generating Facilities in the State." The law, which was sponsored by Rep. W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Maine), requires the Board of Environmental Protection to develop greenhouse gas emission standards for coal facilities. It also puts a moratorium in place on building any new coal plants until the standards are developed. Three states (Calif., Wash., and Maine) as well as New Zealand now have laws effectively blocking new coal plants that don't meet a carbon dioxide emission standard roughly equivalent to that of a combined cycle gas plant (i.e., 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour). That standard could be met with even a moderate level of sequestration, but so far no utilities have stepped to the plate. As a result of Washington state's standard, Energy Northwest's proposed Pacific Mountain Energy Center in Kalama was rejected by regulators in November because its plans for carbon capture and sequestration were judged to be merely "a plan to make a plan." Laws such as Maine's LD 2126 are valuable in blocking plants that merely declare themselves "carbon capture ready." As NRDC's David Hawkins told Congress (PDF): "A 'carbon sequestration optimized' coal power plant is not defined and could mean almost anything, including a plant that simply leaves physical space for an unidentified black box. If that makes a power plant 'capture-ready' Mr. Chairman, then my driveway is 'Ferrari-ready.'"

V -- but not for victory

Who might like the president’s bogus climate principles

One person undoubtedly taking note of the president's "principles" on climate change is Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. He is reportedly working on his own weak, coal industry-friendly climate amendment to the Lieberman-Warner bill. Voinovich reportedly will try to couple such an amendment with related provisions to weaken the Clean Air Act. Sound familiar?

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