Climate & Energy

Polar bears threatened, but drilling in their habitat still OK, says Interior

Polar bears are a threatened species, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Wednesday — but that doesn’t mean we can’t drill in their habitat! The “threatened” …

How three Southeast cities are changing

For more on Southeast cities, see our full feature on sustainability initiatives underway in Atlanta. With rapid population growth and increased climate vulnerability, the Southeastern …

Electric shock

Big increases coming in electric costs

From the "Things Grist readers already knew" file comes this report from ClimateWire ($ub. req'd) that price shocks are looming for power plant operators, even before the costs of carbon are factored in. A few excerpts below the fold:

Loaded for bear?

Polar bear decision expected today from Bush administration

This just in from Associated Press: The Interior Department has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to announce a decision on whether to list the polar bear as threatened and in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed such protection 15 months ago because of the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, which is a primary habitat for the bear. Last September, scientists said up to two-thirds of the polar bears could disappear by mid-century because of sea ice loss due to global warming.However, it's not certain the bear will be listed as threatened. Recently the United States and Canada agreed to conduct additional research into the future survival of the bear. That memorandum did not mention global warming. You can read that memorandum of understanding signed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne here [PDF]. It was signed back on May 8 but I haven't seen it reported anywhere. Weird. The science couldn't be more clear -- the polar bear is threatened by climate change and could be gone from U.S. soil (and ice) by mid-century. It's hard to imagine a decision not to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, even from the Bush administration. That would completely contradict evidence presented by the administration's own biologists and show that obstruction on climate action is more of a priority than protecting the polar bear.

Melting Arctic ice poses security threat, says Pentagon

Waterways made navigable by melting Arctic ice pose a security threat to the northern U.S. border, says the Pentagon. The shrinking ice cap has led …

Unscrambling eggs

Thinking beyond technology to mitigate climate change

If we quit adding carbon to the atmosphere, it won't stop global warming any time soon. That's why people are hoping there are ways to get the extra carbon out of the atmosphere, and that we can put billions of tons of it somewhere safe. Breaking apart carbon dioxide -- or extracting carbon dioxide from the air -- takes work. Work means energy. It's the reverse of combustion. There's a triple problem here: the technology itself, the disposal, and the energy to do the work. It's a common saying that you can't unscramble an egg. Once scrambled, the egg proteins won't go back to their raw configuration when they cool, and even if they did, it's impossible to wield a fork in such a way as to separate the yolk from the white. Roomfuls of the latest and greatest laboratory equipment, the best Google algorithms, or even all the king's horses and all the king's men would not unscramble our egg. The mixing and cooking are irreversible processes. It's a familiar impasse. Can we change the way we see the problem?

Crooked talk

McCain’s gas-tax holiday plan is at odds with his new climate strategy

Sen. John McCain made a climate speech Monday in which he argued that doing something about climate change is a "test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next." His timing is curious. "Ignore that man behind the curtain," his speech seemed to be saying. "You know, the man who is beating up on Sen. Barack Obama for refusing to support his gas-tax holiday proposal; the one who will be making it easier for Americans to consume greater amounts of carbon-rich fossil fuel." Of course, it is hard to ignore the man behind the curtain.

Like oil and vinegar

Dems and GOP agree to stop filling Strategic Petroleum Reserve

The Senate today approved legislation to temporarily suspend deliveries to the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, by a vote of 97-1. The measure was inserted as …

Gasoline demand explained

Why it took us so long to internalize the rise in gas prices

With gas at $3.50 a gallon in April, the U.S. mainstream media is replete with stories of drivers abandoning SUVs, hopping on mass transit, and otherwise cutting back on gasoline. Yet a year or two ago, when pump prices were approaching and even passing the $3.00 "barrier," the media mantra was that demand for gasoline was so inelastic that high prices were barely making a dent in usage. Which story is correct? I lean toward the more "elastic" view, and here I'd like to share some of the data that inform my belief. I've been tracking official monthly data on U.S. gasoline consumption for the past five years and compiling the numbers in this spreadsheet. You'll find that it parses the data in several different ways: year-on-year monthly comparisons (e.g., March 2008 vs. March 2007), three-month moving averages that smooth out most of the random variations in reporting, and full-year comparisons that allow a bird's-eye view. Here's what I see in the data: