Climate & Energy

Who's the greenest of them all?

Vote for the most heroic eco-hero of 2007

Check out our nominations for the most ass-kicking hero of 2007, then vote at the bottom of this post. (And tell us who we missed.) Barbara Boxer. Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) has been pushing for tough climate and energy legislation as chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and going head-to-head with James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on global warming. She's also trying to make Capitol Hill more energy efficient. Leonardo DiCaprio. This green-leaning actor shined a spotlight on the world's top environmental leaders in his eco-documentary The 11th Hour, plotted a reality TV series about green building, and topped Grist's list of green celebs. John Edwards. Edwards pushed other Democratic presidential contenders to go greener by coming out first with an aggressive climate plan and environmental platform. Al Gore. This climate crusader won a Nobel Peace Prize, starred in an Oscar-winning film, and, uh, was named first runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year. James Hansen. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, has been outspoken and aggressive about the need to fight global warming. He's taken his share of hits, and punched right back. Van Jones. Jones has been everywhere this year fighting for environmental justice and promoting a green economy. Plus, he's a hottie. Angela Merkel. German Chancellor Merkel has made fighting climate change a top priority this year. She had hoped to advance her cause at the G8 summit this past summer; unfortunately, the U.S. got in the way. Nancy Pelosi. The House speaker doggedly pushed through an aggressive energy bill -- though the Senate neutered it before it got to Bush's desk. Pelosi has also kept up demands for action against climate change, called for green-collar jobs, and worked to green the Capitol -- even if she doesn't "carry a big stick." Kevin Rudd. Elected as Australia's prime minister in November 2007, Rudd followed through on his campaign promise to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on his first day in office, leaving the U.S. all by its lonesome. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Governator continues to be California's most pumped-up environmental defender and ambassador. Watch out, Bush, cause he's pissed about the EPA's auto-emissions decision.

Why “the end of cheap food” isn’t automatically a good thing

A decade ago, a barrel of oil fetched little more than $10. While the bargain-priced oil gushed, SUVs roared out of dealer lots and carbon emissions rose steadily. To a lot of people concerned about climate change, the time seemed ripe for a steep jump in oil prices. We’re in for some roughage. Photo: iStockphoto The end of cheap oil would usher in a new era in which people learned to value energy, understand the ecological costs of burning it, and conserve. Pricy oil would send a “market signal,” teaching us profligate Americans to consume less, and more thoughtfully. Or …

Tory leader David Cameron lauds “green coal”

British Conservative Party leader David Cameron said in a speech today that under a Tory government, Britain would be a world leader in “green coal” technology. Ahem: Coal. Is. Not. Green. That is all.

U.S. will be warmer than normal in early 2008, says weather service

The drought in the southeastern U.S. will keep on keepin’ on at least through March, according to a 90-day outlook from the National Weather Service. In fact, the agency predicts above-normal temperatures for most of the U.S. from January to March, thanks to La Niña and “recent trends.” Ooh, mysterious.

Disentangling the confusion of Bali

Tom Friedman is very confused about exactly what happened at Bali and why. So are M.I.T. science journalist fellows. So what are your chances of figuring it out? Well, they are a lot better if you read this excellent Bali debriefing by my friend Holmes Hummel (PDF), a Stanford Ph.D. and Congressional Science Fellow. One interesting point she makes: Some media coverage left the misimpression that the Bush team opposed language that would have committed Annex I (i.e., rich) countries to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. But that isn't correct. The language they vehemently rejected merely said this:

Person of the Year

Bush beats Gore, again!

Until last week, this long-beloved annual tradition seemed to be a lock for one person -- Nobel laureate, itinerant educator, and media superstar Al Gore. Sadly, he only makes first runner-up this year. Like Time magazine, our Person of the Year is awarded to the person or group who "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in the climate arena. By single-handedly stopping any international action on climate at Bali, by stopping California from regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, by forcing Congress to drop almost all non-oil-related provisions to cut GHGs from the energy bill -- all in one week! -- one man proved his unchallenged high-impact misleadership on the issue of the century: Dick Cheney George Bush.

If fuel prices keep rising, liposuction will pay for itself

Boat aims to set speed record … powered by human fat

Here's a nice PR gimmick (and by nice, I mean totally disgusting): power your monster "eco-boat" with biodiesel made from human fat: You can also make biodiesel from tallow (animal fats), fish oil, seaweed and algae. In fact, in an extraordinary show of dedication to the project, the skipper, Pete Bethune, underwent liposuction, and the fat (all 100ml) was used to make a small amount of Biodiesel for Earthrace! I think this mostly shows an extraordinary dedication to clever marketing. Unfortunately for the earth, Bethune isn't all that chubby, so he enlisted a few "big, fat people" (his words) to squeeze out four gallons of biodiesel. All in, this represents about 0.06 percent of the fuel Bethune will need to set the "Round the World Speed Record by a Powerboat."

Colleges around the country take green steps

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Yep: It’s time for a green college roundup! Maine’s College of the Atlantic has made good on its pledge to be a carbon-neutral campus, say school officials. “As far as we know, [COA is] the first in the world to make the commitment, and as far as we know, the first to do it,” says David Hales, president of the 300-student college, which offers one major: human ecology. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Portland State University plans to hire as many as 10 professors with expertise in sustainability to teach subjects from economics to biology to art. …

Don’t tell Canis!

This is one of those stories where you don't know whether to be hopeful or depressed after reading it. Like drug addicts who will try snorting every powder in the house, we seem to be willing to subject any substance on the planet to the real acid test of our age: Will it help us keep carburbia going?