Greenpeace's body slam of the core "clean coal" technology known as carbon capture and storage (CCS) may take a while to sink in. Not so long ago, groups like NRDC were writing glowing accounts of the technology, and it's safe to say that much of the environmental movement is still sipping the Kool-Aid. So it was heartening to read that at least one person attending the Carbon Capture and Sequestration conference in Pittsburgh seems to have her head screwed on straight and her ear to the grassroots: Becky Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network. Becky writes:
In ’91, that is! Not in 2003. No sir.
The Sierra Club is planning lawsuits to halt construction of coal plants in seven states, arguing that the mercury-spewing plants violate the Clean Air Act. …
Via the Sunday Seattle Times: Danny Westneat has wrecked his car and needs a new ride. Now, I don't expect it to be easy being green. But this is ridiculous. What was hailed as our leading green alternative to petroleum [biodiesel] is now an affront to humanity? I wonder which print media gave him this false impression that biodiesel was our leading green alternative? But when we asked around about biodiesel, it didn't take long before the scolding started. Biodiesel pollutes more than oil, said one e-mailer on a community site where my wife asked for advice. Another questioned our morality, saying it's wrong to use food for fuel when people are starving. I find it ironic that a newspaper journalist had to learn all of this on an internet forum. Why didn't they just search the Times archives for articles instead? And what is wrong with stuffing 15 acres of vegetable oil annually into your gas tank? Hint: The price of cooking oil in Africa has gone up 60 percent.
On Saturday I received an email with a link to an article by Lisa Stiffler in Friday's Seattle Times. I'm going to use it to demonstrate how newspapers can muddy the water when it comes to complex issues. First, her article is a perfectly good one -- and a very typical one. You can't put a hyperlink on paper. You can't afford to waste space for footnotes. You are constrained by a word count. You also have to craft a story, keep it local, and do your best not to show whatever bias you may have (and we all have our biases). A quick check by an editor hardly qualifies as peer review. After all, it's a newspaper, not a research article. Finally, there is no commenter feedback to point out errors. Letters to the editor are, statistically speaking, a waste of time. Here is a quote from The New Yorker that I scrounged off one of Dave's link dumps: Journalism works well, Lippmann wrote, when "it can report the score of a game or a transatlantic flight, or the death of a monarch." But where the situation is more complicated ... journalism "causes no end of derangement, misunderstanding, and even misrepresentation."
Some of the world's poorest people seem to think carbon trading will destroy their way of life without actually contributing to solving global warming. The highly respected Institute for Policy Studies seems to think so, too [PDF]. Very odd of them to take such a position. Because, after all, there are no alternatives to carbon trading.
Kind of an important point: It turns out that Osaka-based steel-making giant Japan Steel Works Ltd ... is also the world's only maker of ultra-large forgings, a crucial component in the construction of most new nuclear reactors ...Japan Steel, for example, is currently equipped to supply only five reactor forging sets each year, with each set including an ultra-large forging. So, the nuclear industry that shills sources have assured us is ready to leap in to action with ridiculous modest subsidies to avert global warming can currently build a grand total of ... five reactors a year? That's a little short of one a month.
Anyone interested in the climate should watch this talk by Professor David Rutledge from Caltech. He makes the argument that there are a lot less recoverable fossil fuels than assumed by just about everyone, including the IPCC emissions scenarios. His conclusion is that even if we burn all the fossil fuels on the planet, atmospheric carbon dioxide will not exceed 500 ppm. Is he right? Perhaps, although his analysis considers only conventional fossil fuels and does not take into account unconventional oil sources like tar sands or shale. He also does not consider carbon cycle feedbacks that could also add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If true, it's undoubtedly good news for the climate but potentially bad news for our society, since it means that we will be seeing the price of energy inexorably rising in the future as competition for remaining energy resources becomes more fierce. My sense is that, while we can quibble about the numbers, it does seem likely that the IPCC emissions scenarios have overestimated recoverable coal reserves. This suggests that, at the very least, the highest emissions scenarios may be physically impossible to realize.
Cringe along with Terry McAuliffe, who explains why economists don’t know nothin':