Climate & Energy

Coal lobbyists step up their game

A group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices is waging a $35 million campaign urging Americans to make one choice in particular: coal. As U.S. activists step up their protests against coal plants — and find increasing success — the industry-backed ABEC is running ads chirping that the black rock “powers our way of life” and “will help us with vital energy security.” Radio, print, and TV ads are targeting primary voters and caucusers in Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada; an ad that targets the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill can be watched at baggage carousels at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles airport. …

Act two

Second ‘major economies meeting’ this month in Hawaii

You know, there’s something I don’t get about these kabuki “major economies meetings” Bush is holding. Obviously, in reality it’s about creating the illusion that Bush is doing something on climate. But usually when something is done purely for looks, there’s some sort of plausible cover story, a purported rationale that can be put out to the media. But the Bush administration has always said that all countries should determine their own strategies for addressing climate change, and that carbon targets should be aspirational, not mandatory. In fact, that’s exactly what the “major economies” concluded after their first meeting. So …

Can the environmental economy dodge a recession?

As economic indicators trend downward, the clean-tech sector is still looking up

As one key economic engine after another -- housing, finance, autos, retail -- sputters and stalls out, the fledgling eco-economy is purring right along, fueled in no small part by venture capital firms hungry for new opportunities in industries that promise outsized returns on their investments. In the first three quarters of 2007, VCs poured $2.6 billion into alternative energy and clean-tech firms, more money than they invested for the whole of 2006. The new year promises to be another record breaker. And it's not only the Silicon Valley sharpies that are on the prowl: GE is promising to plow $6 billion into renewable energies by 2010, double what they were projecting only last year; Germany's Schott Solar is plunking down $100 million to build a plant in New Mexico, and predicts its investment will grow to $500 million when the facility is completed; and as 2007 drew to a close, Morgan Stanley made a $190 million investment in a clean-tech venture. Morgan, by the way, estimates the global renewable energy industry has a market cap in the neighborhood of $170 billion. Certainly not all is rosy in the clean-tech patch. Tesla Motors and Imperium Renewables, once considered high fliers, have been dealt setbacks -- and as a result, have trimmed employee rolls. And alternative energy stocks are starting to look positively bubble-ish to some on Wall Street (the subject of a future post). Recessions don't play favorites, for the most part. When U.S. consumers snap their pocketbooks shut, it creates a drag on the overall economy and everyone -- including governments that depend on tax receipts -- feels the pinch. The eco-economy probably won't be immune. But with the hundreds of millions of dollars streaming through the doors almost weekly, it's not a bad place -- and better than most -- to ride out the storm.

Plowing up the Amazon

Scientist says biofuel boom endangers world’s largest rainforest

A fifth of the Amazon rainforest — the world’s biggest carbon sponge — has disappeared since the 1970s. The Brazilian government has succeeded in recent years in slowing the deforestation rate, but its efforts have recently been faltering. Bungle in the jungle. Photo: iStockphoto In the last four months, 2300 square miles of rainforest got leveled, Reuters reports. In the year before that, the forest surrendered 3700 square miles. If the current rate holds over a full year, that would mean a 9200-square-mile loss — an alarming acceleration and the first rise in four years. What’s driving the trend? Traditional …

Coal is the enemy of the human race: Goliath, meet David edition

Google invests in solar thermal company eSolar

Today, Google announced it’s investing $10 million in eSolar, a solar thermal company, as part of its RE<C project. (Speaking of the latter, we’ve got an excellent interview on it coming up soon.) Here’s what esolar has to say about itself (PDF): To serve the renewable electricity needs of utility-scale energy providers, eSolar has developed a market disrupting solar thermal power plant technology. Generation can be scaled from 25 MW to over 500 MW at energy prices competitive with traditional fossil fuels. David Sassoon has more.

Coal company penalized for Clean Water Act violations

Massey Energy Co., the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer, has agreed to a $30 million settlement with the U.S. EPA over allegations of Clean Water Act violations. Massey was accused of polluting streams and waterways in West Virginia and Kentucky with the detritus of mountaintop-removal mining on at least 4,500 occasions between 2000 and 2006. The company must pay $20 million in civil penalties and invest $10 million in pollution control at its 44 coal mines and processing facilities. “This is a landmark settlement for the environment, and raises the bar for the mining industry,” says Granta Nakayama of the EPA. …

Hillary Clinton brings an environmental issue to the fore in Nevada

Hillary Clinton is taking pains to make sure all Nevadans know her views on — gasp! — an environmental issue: She would stop plans to store nuclear waste at the state’s Yucca Mountain repository. “This is not just, ‘We’re in Nevada, so we’ll talk about an issue Nevadans care about,'” Clinton assured voters. “This is an American issue.” Yucca Mountain was discussed in Nevada’s recent Democratic debate; Clinton is running a radio ad in the state telling listeners that Barack Obama, who has also pledged to close Yucca Mountain, is less committed to closing the site than she is. In …

Sebelius as VP?

Can the Kansas governor show toughness under assault from Big Coal?

A certain faction of young progressive bloggers is fond of the notion of Barack Obama picking Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his running mate. She is a successful, popular, progressive governor in a red state, and has shown a real talent for bringing people together to produce practical results. That would compliment Obama’s core message. (Then again, she’s a woman, and if this race has demonstrated anything, it’s that misogyny is alive and well in America.) What fascinates me about Sebelius is that, unlike almost any other U.S. politician, she is taking the coal industry on directly by blocking coal …

Put a grid on it

Sweet. Xcel Energy is going to spend $100 million creating a grid city, which will serve as a test bed for smart grid techniques and technologies. It will likely be in Colorado, have a population of around 100,000, and be filled with dirty hippies. If that sounds like your town, maybe you should contact Xcel and lobby on your behalf.

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