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Today, Hillary Clinton addressed the Apollo Alliance to introduce some new legislation that would call for a Strategic Energy Fund. Here's where the fund would get its money: The legislation eliminates oil company tax breaks and ensures that they pay their fair share of royalties for drilling on public lands. The legislation also places a temporary fee on major oil company profits that exceed a 2000-2004 profit baseline. The fee would be in place for two years, and companies could offset their fee by investing in alternative energy technologies such as ethanol and wind power. The Strategic Energy Fund would …

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Hey, One Thing At a Time

NASCAR deals with switch to unleaded fuel, considers adding ethanol As the NASCAR season gears up, fans are all atwitter. No, not about the Daytona 500 scandal -- that's so last week. It's the switch to that dang unleaded! This weekend saw the first-ever NASCAR race fueled by the gas the rest of the country's been using for health and environmental reasons since the 1980s, and it wasn't pretty. Engine failures felled three of the top seven qualifiers and left drivers scratching their heads. "This unleaded fuel has sprung a little bit of a surprise on us -- a little …

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If At First You Don’t Secede

Five western states form regional climate-change partnership Citing a federal leadership void, the governors of five western U.S. states have formed a regional partnership to cut greenhouse gases and fight climate change. The Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which includes Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, will create a regional target for cuts over the next six months and a market-based plan for meeting the goal within 18 months. Like the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the partnership "shows the power of states to lead our nation addressing climate change," says California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), whom we just …

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Sealed With a Miss

Federal inspectors find hundreds of coal-mine safety violations Coal miners across the country are working in unsafe conditions, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. As if spending the day in methane-filled caverns wasn't dangerous enough, inspectors have found hundreds of unsafe seals, the walls built to block off mined-out areas. Two major accidents last year -- the Sago, W.V., explosion that killed 12 miners in January and the Kentucky Darby Mine explosion in May that killed five -- resulted from problems with seals. Eager to avoid a repeat of those high-profile fatalities, MSHA is lobbying to strengthen …

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Martin Who?

An Inconvenient Truth wins Oscars, Al Gore wins affection Rock star. Superhero. Visionary. That pre-Oscar hype paled next to last night's event, which saw Al Gore -- looking blissfully bloated in a Ralph Lauren tux -- take home an award for Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Song. OK, technically the Goracle himself didn't win either of the statuettes for An Inconvenient Truth, but you wouldn't know it from the on-stage spectacle. "All of us who made this film ... did so because we were moved to act by this man," said Truth director Davis Guggenheim, before handing his Oscar …

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Texas Fold ‘Em

TXU Corp. board accepts biggest buyout offer in U.S. history The white-hot controversy over 11 proposed coal plants in Texas has taken on a new hue. The board of TXU Corp., which has kicked up an anti-coal firestorm among businesses, politicians, and citizens, voted yesterday to accept the largest leveraged buyout offer in U.S. history -- and the $45 billion deal looks oddly green. The buyout group, led by Goldman Sachs and private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, negotiated with TXU critics Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council to settle pending lawsuits over the …

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It’s not the view: it’s the vision

The most likely candidate for becoming the U.S.'s first offshore wind farm reached another permitting milestone by filing its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on February 15 with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office. It's now available, and it's meaty. It makes two important points to the Marine Mineral Service, which now oversees the process. If the permit is denied, it will a) result in higher costs to Massachusetts citizens, since the state likely wouldn't meet its requirements for producing more power renewably; but more importantly, b.) it would have a chilling effect on the U.S.'s nascent offshore wind …

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Now That’s a Bald Spot

Demand for air conditioning in developing countries hurts ozone Remember when Britney had just broken up with K-Fed, and she seemed happy and healthy and getting her life back on track, and then things ... took a turn for the worse? Let us draw a slightly strained analogy to the ozone layer. As ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons were banned in Europe and began to be phased out in the U.S., the yawning ozone hole seemed to be closing -- but now demand for air conditioning in India and southern China is slowing the healing process. The main offending gas is refrigerant HCFC-22, …

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A message from Kenya and Biopact

Over on the Biopact website -- probably the best website for up-to-date international news on bio-energy science and markets -- they have posted an interesting commentary, based on a BBC interview, on how small Kenyan farmers, Mr. Peter Ndivo and Mr. Samuel Mauthike, are affected by the confusion engendered by concepts such as "carbon footprints," "fair trade," and "food miles." Biopact's message? Buy your vegetables and fruits locally, if you must, but please allow developing countries to supply your biofuels. Here is the crux of their argument: If the consumer in Europe and America really wants to start buying local …

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British-built server up for big award

We here at Grist love computers, even if sometimes they don't love us back. Every once in a while, a piece of technology comes out that you can't help but get excited about (and I'm not talking about the iPhone). The internet has physical houses in which information, services, and sites like this one are stored. These computers, known as servers, are the "always on" engines that power the constant activity. Due to the mission-critical nature of such machines, performance and reliability are of primary importance. Terms like "energy efficiency" and "ecological footprint" rarely find the ears of system administrators. …

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