Climate & Energy

California withdraws proposal to potentially override private thermostats

Strenuous public objection has forced the California Energy Commission to withdraw a proposal that new buildings in the state have radio-controlled thermostats that would allow utilities to override customers’ temperature settings in the case of a power emergency. Some saw the plan as way too Big Brother; energy commission member Arthur Rosenfeld described it as minor private sacrifice for the public good. “If you can control rotating outages by letting everyone in the state share the pain,” he explained, “there’s a lot less pain to go around.” The commission will not leave the programmable thermostats off the table completely, but …

The high costs of doing nothing, part III

Climate change disrupts ecosystems that provide valuable services

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- If you are one of those people who loves the quiet communion of hiking in the high-country forests of Colorado, you'd better get there fast. In three years, those forests may be gone. The Rocky Mountain News reported this week that every large, mature forest of lodgepole pines in Colorado and southern Wyoming will be dead in three to five years. Some 1.5 million acres of pine forest already have been destroyed since 1996. State and federal foresters call the loss "catastrophic." What's causing the massive die-off? The root cause appears to be global climate change. Winters are warmer. That allows pine bark beetles to survive. The lodgepoles are less able to defend themselves because they have been stressed by years of drought. As a result, a rice-sized bug is felling vast expanses of forests in Colorado. Similar die-offs are underway elsewhere in the western United States and in Canada. (Forest management practices -- mainly fire suppression in past years -- also are to blame. Dense vegetation allows the beetles to spread more quickly and older trees are more susceptible to the bug.)

Notable quotable

“Environmentalism isn’t a communist plot.” – Colorado resident Dave Peterson, on the polarization of opinion on new state rules for oil and gas production

A one-legged man in a butt kickin' contest

Gingrich’s further explications of green conservatism do not inspire confidence

The more I see of Newt Gingrich’s "conservative environmentalism," the less impressive it seems. The guy’s offering run of the mill, crony capitalist conservatism with a shabby green paint job. The two top-tier public policy approaches to fighting climate change are: supporting green industries, practices, technologies, and infrastructure via subsidies, tax breaks, or mandates, and restricting and reducing GHGs via regulation. The first is the carrot and the second is the stick. Most greens want to use some combination of the two, though they might quibble about the relative priority. Gingrich’s big innovation is to insist that we should use …

Assault and battery

Chinese workers pay for our cadmium-battery habit

In the last 20 years, the United States has essentially dismantled its industrial base, moving production of consumer goods south to Mexico and east to Asia. This has not only dramatically lowered the cost of goods, fueling a consumer boom; it has also helped make our economy less energy-intensive, and lowered our exposure to industrial waste. But net gains for the environment and worker health have been imaginary. We’ve merely shifted the burdens of industrial production onto other lands and other people — most recently, China. Don’t be a Cad. Photo: iStockphoto I think this is the most important political-ecological …

Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part III

Hybrids and biofuels: The road ahead

Many people make the mistake of comparing apples to oranges. One has to compare futures to futures and current status to current status. All technologies improve, but some improve more than others. The Prius gets 46 mpg, while a similar-sized Toyota Corolla gets 31 mpg. One of our investments (Transonic) is trying to make an engine that (if it works!) can be placed in a Prius to produce a vehicle that will have lower carbon emissions than the hybrid Prius at below $1,000 in marginal cost. Other efficient engine efforts abound. If battery technology efforts like Seeo (one of our investments), EEstor, silicon nanowire batteries (or similar efforts that others have funded and many we are evaluating) are successful, we will get the same effect (better petroleum mpg) with a plug-in -- if we can also clean up our grid at the same time! From my perspective, if I have to pick between a 5-10 times lower cost/performance battery and a cleaned-up electrical grid in the next 5-10 years (or even 20-25 years), or pick cellulosic fuels in 50 percent more efficient ICE engines, I consider the latter lower risk and significantly more probable. I am confident that cellulosic biofuels without significant land-use impact or biodiversity impact can achieve costs of $1.25/gallon in less than five years and below $1.00 per gallon in 10 years (more details on that, especially on land use / biodiversity and sources of biomass, in a upcoming paper). At this price point, the technology will be adopted broadly and rapidly worldwide, even if oil prices decline substantially.

Dem debate in Nevada

Well, the Dem debate in Nevada this evening was largely an excruciating affair, thanks to the world-historical vapidity, ignorance, and pettiness of moderators Tim Russert and Brian Williams. Before you do anything else, go read Matt Yglesias’ new piece, “The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert.” It could not be more right on. In what, as far as I can tell, was the only even mildly interesting, Grist-relevant moment in the debate, John Edwards unambiguously rejects nuclear power:

The 'Inhofe 400' Skeptic of the Day

Today: George Waldenberger

In previous editions of the "Inhofe 400," we found some skeptics who were completely unqualified and others who are qualified but not actually skeptical. Today's "skeptic" falls into the latter category. He is meteorologist George Waldenberger. In response to his inclusion on the list, George sent an email to Inhofe's staffers that began: Marc, Matthew: Take me off your list of 400 (Prominent) Scientists that dispute Man-Made Global warming claims. I've never made any claims that debunk the "Consensus". You quoted a newspaper article that's main focus was scoring the accuracy of local weathermen. Hardly Scientific ... yet I'm guessing some of your other sources pale in comparison in terms of credibility. You also didn't ask for my permission to use these statements. That's not a very respectable way of doing "research". Wow. He doesn't leave much to the imagination. A few thoughts.

Green in sheep's clothing?

Pro-warming Romney has sham slam on McCain

Think Progress has the whole story, but I'll repeat it here, since, tragically, it may represent the shape of things to come in climate politics for many years, making it hard for Republicans to do the moral thing on climate: Last weekend, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) slammed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for supporting "radical climate change legislation," and "pushing for a massive new energy tax." Romney is using an anti-environment front group, the American Environmental Coalition (AEC), to attack McCain. Last week, AEC co-chair George Landrith said: When it comes to climate change, John McCain and Al Gore are far too much alike for my comfort. John McCain has been sponsoring legislation for the past several years that would give Al Gore much of the regulatory control and power he sought when he and Bill Clinton tried to get America to sign on to the UN's Kyoto global warming treaty ... When listening to John McCain, it would seem that evangelicals should remember the biblical warning found in St. Matthew 7:15 to "beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Sad. And quoting the Bible, too! [Note to Romney/AEC -- You need a more plausible metaphor: McCain may be many things, but he's no sheep.]

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