Climate & Energy

Mayor may not

Climate treaty among mayors often honored in the breach

Seven cities in the San Diego region signed on to the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, but some didn’t do much more than sign it. I imagine it wouldn’t be difficult to find other MCPA participants for whom signing was little more than an empty gesture. That should come as no surprise: it’s a voluntary treaty with no mechanism for enforcement or even monitoring, asking politically difficult feats of more than 750 mayors. One should have realistic expectations. The promise of the MCPA has never been that all 750 mayors will muster the ingenuity and sheer cussedness to crank the city …


Leader of group fighting Cape Wind project makes $203,000 last year (WTF?), quits this year to go work in the wind industry (WTF?), and hands over leadership of the group to a former coal executive (WTF?).

Green groups sue over DOE’s plans for electric transmission corridors

Green groups are suing the Department of Energy over its plans for electric transmission corridors in the U.S. Southwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. The groups say the DOE violated environmental laws by failing to take into account the potential impacts of the high-voltage transmission lines on air quality, wildlife, and habitat; the corridors encompass dozens of state and national parks, refuges, and recreation areas. In addition, say the groups, boosting the electric-transmission network is a not-so-subtle OK for the U.S. to continue largely sourcing its power from Big Coal. Christopher Miller of the Piedmont Environmental Council suggests, “Reducing both peak and …

My Al Gore story

Gore’s impromptu humor at a recent small climate summit

I'm not normally given to shameless name-dropping, but what else are blogs really for (other than making bets with readers)? Over the last three days I attended a small climate solutions summit hosted by the former vice president and current Nobel laureate. It was off-the-record, so I can't report on presentations directly, but they have made me a lot smarter about the latest technologies and strategies for clean energy, which will inform my blogging this year on climate solutions. I will say now as an aside that I have become much more bullish on the potential for large-scale solar photovoltaics as a result of attending these meetings. The VP asked me to speak for seven minutes on hydrogen at dinner Wednesday. Before dinner, I gave him a copy of the brand-new paperback edition of -- warning, shameless product placement -- Hell and High Water. He looked it over for a few minutes and said, deadpan:

Maldives builds higher-altitude island, can’t attract residents

The tiny island nation of Maldives is at high risk of being swamped in years to come: it rises a mere three feet above sea level. So officials are building Hulhumalé, a human-made island with an altitude of more than six feet, capable of housing as many as 150,000 of the nation’s 369,000 inhabitants. There’s only one problem: Very few people want to move there. In the words of one Maldivian, who lives contentedly in the capital city of Malé with nine relatives in 730 square feet of space: “People are just being shifted from one island to another — …

Canada oil sands not good for the environment, says study

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Canada’s oil-sands operations have been given poor environmental marks in a study by green groups Pembina Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. Ten oil-sands ventures in the province of Alberta, including seven that have not yet started producing, were rated on their pollution of (or potential to pollute) the land, air, and water, as well as their greenhouse-gas emissions and overall environmental management. The top-ranked oil-sands project, Royal Dutch Shell’s Muskeg River mine, garnered a score of merely 56 percent; the average score was 33 percent. If each company adopted the best practices of its …

Mayoral climate-protecting agreement hasn’t necessarily translated into action

Mayors across the country have signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a nonbinding initiative encouraging city leaders to meet or beat the greenhouse-gas reductions outlined in the U.S.-shunned Kyoto Protocol. So about that nonbinding part: While some city officials have taken concrete steps to reduce emissions, others haven’t followed through at all. “I remember at the time I thought it was a good idea,” says Vista, Calif., Mayor Morris Vance, who asked city staff to “come back with some recommendations” that have not yet emerged. Jim Janney, mayor of nearby Imperial Beach, says “It’s not like we’ve ignored …

More scientist/activists

Here’s hoping newly politically active scientists don’t step on rakes

A few days ago I said of James Hansen’s increasing activism: Hansen has decided that it would be perverse to hoard the social capital that comes with being a prominent scientist in the U.S., standing by nervously guarding his credibility while the climate goes to shit. So he’s taking a big risk and spending some of that capital. I wish more people would make the same decision. Speaking of that, check out this Dot Earth post on Rich Somerville, one climate scientist that has come out of the ivory tower and started advocating for policy. (Somerville’s got a good column …

The elusive green-collar job

With all the upbeat talk about an environmental labor boom, is rhetoric running away from reality?

Someone help me puzzle this out: Proposition 1: A shift to renewable energy and energy efficiency will result in a boom in green-collar jobs -- good service-industry work that can't be outsourced. This proposition is attractive because it holds forth the promise of a grand alliance between greens and the labor movement. See, e.g., Tom Friedman and everyone who posts on Grist. Proposition 2: The optimism over green-collar jobs is a classic example of the make-work bias, a widespread economic fallacy that mistakes amount of work for wealth creation. The actual effect of greenhouse-gas reductions on labor markets is unclear, so environmentalists should stick to environmental policy. See, e.g., various environmental economists. I don't have a clever opinion here, although I will say that the case for a positive labor impact from energy efficiency measures seems decently solid. Efficiency is, after all, an unambiguously good thing for the economy as a whole. If it costs us less to get the same amount of stuff, we're all richer. Certainly this is a nice thing for consumers, and because energy industries tend not to be labor-intensive, we can expect that wealth creation at the expense of energy producers will be a net benefit for employment as well. I think. The impact of renewable energy, on the other hand, is more difficult to suss out. More to the point, it's not clear that anyone has sussed it out. Discuss.

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