Climate & Energy

Obama expecting ‘serious conversation’ about ‘drastic steps’ on climate change

There was — see if this sounds familiar — almost nothing about climate or energy in the recent Democratic primary debate hosted by NPR. There was one intriguing tidbit at the end, however, triggered off this question from a listener: Mr. JAMES IRWIN: What do you think the toughest choice you have left to make is? Is it gay marriage, immigration, the war in Iraq? What haven’t you made up your mind on yet? And why haven’t you? Clinton, Gravel, Dodd, Edwards, and Kucinich gave fairly boring, wishy-washy answers. But Obama’s jumped out at me: SEN. OBAMA: The issue of …

Senate Environment Committee approves Lieberman-Warner climate bill

A climate bill with a mandatory cap on U.S. CO2 emissions cleared a significant hurdle yesterday. America’s Climate Security Act, cosponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), was voted through by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee after an endurance-testing nine and a half hour hearing. It will now go to the floor of the Senate for what is likely to be a contentious debate and vote. The bill was neither considerably strengthened nor weakened during the nigh-endless hearing. Republicans — mainly Jolly Jim Inhofe (Okla.) and Gay Olde Larry Craig (Idaho) — introduced some 150 …

The Syllogism of Doom [dum dum duuum]

Why clean coal is so darn appealing

Andy Revkin has a great op-ed over on NYT, laying out our collective coal dilemma and the difficulty in communicating effectively about it. I’ve been pondering why clean coal — a climate solution that does not yet so much as, um, exist — has taken on such talismanic quality in energy discussions, like a crucifix that gets waved around to ward off ghouls. The root of the problem is what I shall take to calling the Syllogism of Doom (try to imagine ominous music, heavy on timpani). It goes: 1. If we (that is, humanity) increase our use of coal, …

Severe precipitation in U.S. significantly increased over past half-century, says report

The number of severe rainfalls and snowstorms across the U.S. has increased by around 24 percent in the last 50 years, says a new report from green group Environment America. In five states — Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — instances of heavy precipitation have jumped by more than 50 percent. Let’s put it this way: “What was once the storm of the decade will now seem like an everyday downpour,” says Moira Bieg of the green group’s Pennsylvania affiliate. Oregon was the only state with a statistically significant drop in incidence of heavy rainfall since 1948; …

Tracking Lieberman-Warner

A roundup of today’s action in the Senate Environment Committee

It took nine and a half hours of chipping away at a seemingly infinite stream of amendments -- some positive, some poison-pills -- but the Senate Environment and Public Works committee favorably reported Joe Lieberman and John Warner's greenhouse gas bill, America's Climate Security Act, today. The process wasn't easy. Republicans came armed with about 150 amendments, some of which were so toxic and clearly non-passable that it appeared they were simply trying to obstruct or derail the proceedings altogether. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, aware that the amendment avalanche would take hours to overcome, called the Senate floor to order at noon, two and a half hours later than usual, to help the bill along. It was a procedural move, designed to buy the committee time lest Republicans take advantage of a rule that would have allowed them to derail the entire proceeding. Perhaps thanks to Reid's maneuvering, that never came to pass. Unfortunately, neither did a handful of extremely important amendments -- introduced by Senators Clinton and Sanders -- that would have strengthened ACSA enough to please dark greens, a constituency that has thus far been unimpressed with the bill's wide array of compromise measures. At the end of a very long day, though, there were only a couple of surprises. That the bill passed was expected; that the bill was only modestly improved was expected; that Hillary Clinton didn't show up was expected. What wasn't expected -- at least at the outset -- was that the whole process would go so smoothly. Yes, it took an extremely long time, but in the end, the minority withdrew or didn't introduce most of their amendments, and they never overtly attempted to derail the proceedings, allowing the process to be completed within one day. Then there was the other big surprise: Sen. Bernie Sanders voted to report the legislation favorably out of the committee.

Ethanol and <em>E. coli</em>, part II

Use of distiller grains in livestock rations has exploded

Yesterday, I posted about how feeding cattle distillers grains — the leftover from the corn-based ethanol process — seems to raise the incidence of E. coli 0157. I was a bit vague on precisely how much of the stuff was making it into the livestock-feed supply. Thanks to the indefatigable Ray Wallace, I now know. The answer is: a boatload, and growing. Ray pointed me to an account of a letter sent by the National Corn Growers Association to the USDA. In it, NCGA Chairman Ken McCauley argues that the USDA should continue its practice of barely regulating the distillers …

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