One of the biggest climate stories of 2007 never made it to the business pages. It's about how Warren Buffett, with no fanfare, quietly walked away from coal, cancelling six proposed plants. Warren Buffet. Buffett used to love coal. His involvement with it began when Berkshire Hathaway bought MidAmerican Energy Holdings in 1999. MidAmerican was a big operator of coal plants, and with natural gas prices edging toward a huge leap upwards -- bringing coal back into favor -- it appeared to be a typically savvy Buffett move. In 2006, Buffett picked up another utility, PacifiCorp, which includes Rocky Mountain Power and operates in Calif., Idaho, Ore., Utah, Wash., and Wyo. Again, it seemed like a smart play, bringing MidAmerican's expertise with building and running coal plants to a region of the country with lots of coal. Sure enough, in the fall of 2006, PacifiCorp presented regulators with plans [PDF] for six (or, in some scenarios, seven) coal plants in Utah and Wyo. over the next 12-year time period, representing approximately 3,000 megawatts of new capacity.
The following is a open letter to Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons from noted climate scientist James Hansen. ----- Dear Governor Gibbons, I am honored to be the recipient of the Desert Research Institute's annual Nevada Medal this year and to attend the awards ceremonies hosted by you and the First Lady. I hope that I may communicate with you as a fellow parent and grandparent about a matter that will have great effects upon the lives of our loved ones. I refer to climate change, specifically global warming in response to human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants. This topic has long remained in the background, but it is now poised to become a dominant national and international issue in years ahead. Global warming presents challenges to political leaders, but also great opportunities, especially for your state. Nevada has the potential to be a national leader in protecting the environment and implementing technologies that can mitigate the crisis posed by global warming. First, however, I want to make you aware of rapid progress in understanding of global warming. Warming so far, averaging 2 degrees Fahrenheit over land areas, is smaller than weather fluctuations. Yet it already has noticeable effects and more is "in the pipeline," even without further increases of CO2, because of climate system inertia that delays the full climate response. Effects of global warming are already seen in Nevada. One result is increased wildfires. Longer summers mean more dried out fuels, allowing fires to ignite easier and spread faster. The wildfire season in the West is now 78 days longer than it was 30 years ago. And the average duration of fires covering more than 2,500 acres has risen five-fold. As the planet continues to warm, these and other impacts will grow worse for Nevada and the American West. The world's leading climate researchers conclude that, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the region faces:
A top NASA scientist just emailed me the breaking news: "The ice age expired!" Even more shocking: the rate of warming this year has been just about unprecedented in the historical record -- even faster than I had predicted just last month based on the NASA data from February. Just look at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies dataset. While January's land-ocean global temperature was a mere +0.12 degrees C above the the 1951-1980 average and the February anomaly was +0.26 degrees C -- the March anomaly was a staggering +0.67 degrees C. (Warning: the following chart is not suitable for children or those who believe in global cooling. Please cover their eyes since the 2008 data, plotted in red below, might give them nightmares.)
As David mentioned, The Washington Times reported today that "President Bush is poised to change course and announce as early as this week that he wants Congress to pass a bill to combat global warming, and will lay out principles for what that should include." However, "it is not clear exactly what Mr. Bush will propose." Although this announcement comes as we head into the Earth Day weekend, Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino claimed it's just a coincidence. Stephen Dinan writes that Bush and conservatives are now focusing on the possibility that "runaway" global warming legislation will cause a "disaster" and a "nightmare." Asked about The Washington Times story, Dana Perino warned today of a "regulatory train wreck with many different laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act." Perino all but admitted this leaked announcement is a "trial balloon" to try out new conservative talking points. When she was asked when the Bush plan would be released: It could be never. Watch it:
This WSJ piece on the battle over coal in rural (and important electoral swing) states is frustrating. On one hand, you have enviros, characterized as …
Climate change may not in fact make hurricanes more frequent and intense, says new research published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. While …
Via Deathridesahorse, here’s a video of Ausra (“utility-scale solar power”) CEO David Mills explaining Ausra’s solar thermal technology:
Your sports roundup for the week: Golf: Golf’s reputation is far from green — but tee-ers are trying their darnedest to move in a green …
A new energy ecosystem is emerging that connects smart, green buildings with a smart, green grid to optimize energy flows. Since commercial and industrial buildings represent around 40 percent of U.S. energy use, and homes another 30 percent, this represents the most significant opportunity for energy efficiency and mass-scale renewable generation. But creating this new green energy ecosystem means linking what are today heavily "stovepiped" separate systems within buildings and between buildings and the grid. It also means expanding the definition of green buildings to include the digital smarts that connect diverse systems. The Green Intelligent Buildings Conference in Baltimore on April 2-3 focused on ways to cut through "stovepipes" and build those new linkages. "We need to find ways to make the grid smarter, to make buildings smarter, and to have these smarts communicate with each other," keynoter Jeffrey Harris of the Alliance to Save Energy told attendees. This will require new technologies and partnerships that cross traditional boundaries, said the ASE vice president for programs. "We need not just utilities but private industry to be involved." One key area where new partnerships are needed is within the building industry itself, between green builders and building intelligence providers.
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