Climate & Energy

Prius smackdown, round two

High gas prices make hybrids look even better

A couple of years ago, I ran some numbers trying to figure out which was the better buy for the planet -- a biodiesel Jetta or a hybrid Prius. And I came to the tentative, but perhaps counterintuitive, conclusion that the best buy was ... wait for it ... a Toyota Corolla. The Corolla, you see, was thousands of dollars cheaper than the Prius (the runner-up), even after I accounted for all the savings on gas from driving a fuel-miser. And if you were a green-minded consumer -- someone whose top priority was reducing climate-warming emissions, say -- you could probably put those thousands to better use somewhere else. Depending on the circumstances, I figured that lots of other investments -- power-sipping appliances, say, or a furnace upgrade, or home insulation, or even donations to a worthy cause -- might all count as "better buys" than a brand-new Prius. But with recent gas-price spikes, I wondered if my earlier calculations were still holding true. And I've got to admit it: if you're in the market for a new car, a Prius is looking better and better all the time.

Cloture vote fails in Senate

Reid will have to decide whether to trim back the bill to get it through

As expected, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held a cloture vote this morning, trying to force a vote on the energy bill. It failed 53-42. There isn’t much time left this session. Reid has two choices: one, he could follow Pelosi’s bold lead, keep the entire package together, and force Republicans to actually filibuster it — find out if corn-state legislators want to vote against an RFS. Find out if the Republican Party wants to go on record opposing the first boost in CAFE in over 30 years. Alternatively, Reid could wheel and deal in the smoky back rooms: strip …

Cap-and-trade through musical chairs

A quick, easy-to-follow introduction to the basics of cap-and-trade legislation

Holmes Hummel, a Stanford PhD and Congressional Science Fellow for Rep. Jay Inslee, has put together two PowerPoint presentations, one brief, one longer. She says: "These overview pieces are for The Curious & Concerned, a growing number of people who understand the importance of a federal climate policy but are confused by the framework of the current proposals." The slideshows explain cap-and-trade legislation through an analogy with musical chairs, which turns out to work bizarrely well. It’s worth spreading around. I’ve taken the liberty of using a service called SlideShare to convert the presentations into Flash and embed them here. …

Interesting Kiwi story about anti-windfarm sentiment

Apparently being in the antipodes doesn't change how people see wind farms:

How will we feed ourselves?

What a fossil-fuel free agriculture might look like

At some point in the future, humanity will have to produce its food without the help of fossil fuels and without destroying the soil. In a well-researched and succinct new essay, "What will we eat as the oil runs out?", Richard Heinberg analyzes the main problems with the global agricultural system, and proposes a solution: a global organic food system. Heinberg lays out four major dilemmas of the current system: The direct impacts on agriculture of higher oil prices: increased costs for tractor fuel, agricultural chemicals, and the transport of farm inputs and outputs ... the increased demand for biofuels ... the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events caused by fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions...[and] the degradation or loss of basic natural resources (principally, topsoil and fresh water supplies) as a result of high rates, and unsustainable methods, of production stimulated by decades of cheap energy. He then goes into more detail concerning these four horsemen of the agricultural apocalypse, and shows how, even now, these crises are leading to a decrease in global food production. Later in this post I will propose a thought experiment solution, based on Heinberg's solution of a fossil fuel-free agriculture:

The youth are back and badder than ever

The real story at Bali

In 2005, at the U.N.'s Montreal Climate Negotiations, a ragtag but sizable delegation showed up at the conference, desperate to make sure that the world heard their call for climate action. The event proved to be a formative time for people involved in the youth climate movement, and many date its launch to that time. In a conference notable for acronyms and obscure policy jargon, the youth activism was like a breath of fresh air. While delegates bemoaned the lack of action in the United States, there was an outpouring of activism and creative organizing -- like the launch of It's Getting Hot in Here -- that made many of them think if the young people care so much in the U.S., maybe there is still hope to get them engaged. Well, the youth are back and badder than ever.

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