Climate & Energy

Notable quotable

“I really would like to vote for this bill because we desperately need an energy bill. The world and particularly the United States faces a real challenge on energy in the future. But I cannot vote for this bill primarily because of the corn ethanol mandate. A recent article in The Economist noted that our use of corn for ethanol doubled the price of corn about a year ago. Farmers then moved lands from soybeans and what would have been in soybeans and wheat to corn. We now have further increased the cost of corn and we’ve increased the cost …

Casten on FutureGen: 'Maddeningly stupid'

Grist contributor bashes ‘clean coal’

If you’d like to see our very own Sean Casten call the FutureGen clean coal project “maddeningly stupid” — about the only part of this segment that isn’t creepy and upsetting — you can do so here.

Pity our poor customers

Coal utilities weigh in on the carbon policy

Something old, something new, something borrowed ... For years, utilities have blurred the line between their interests and those of their customers (which are, under the rules of cost-plus rate-making, precisely opposed). Typically, this argument is used to frame rate cases in the form of, "if we can't raise rates on customer X, we'll be forced to raise rates on customer Y. Let us tell you how tragic that would be from customer Y's perspective, to cloud the fact that we're asking to increase rates on customer X." I'm oversimplifying, but only just. Ameren is now applying this old idea to carbon policy, saying that the problem isn't what carbon policy will do to their shareholders (perish the thought!), but what it will do to their customers. Article from Restructuring Today ($ub req'd) below the fold:

Coal's bad year

Thirteen stories of coal getting stiffed

The other day I was thinking I should gather together in one place all the stories from this year about coal getting rejected. And I was feeling lazy, and wishing someone else would do it for me. And look, someone else did! Check it out below the fold: Following are some of the coal plant proposals that have been scrapped since September 2006: 1. Sunflower Electric Power Corporation (Kansas) – proposed 1,400 megawatt (MW) coal plant denied air permit by Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) due to concerns about global warming. The Director of KDHE stated that it …

Sen. Domenici tries again to boost loan guarantees for nuclear power plants

The multifaceted appropriations bill making its way through the Senate contains language that would raise the limits on loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants. The language was added thanks to tireless nuclear booster Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who has tried (and so far failed) to raise loan guarantees for nuclear plants by inserting provisions into the energy bill, the energy and water appropriations bill, and the farm bill.

The answer depends on whom you ask

How much global warming results from air travel?

Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to pull together some data on how airplane travel affects global warming, as part of a broader project on transportation and climate change. My stunningly obvious conclusion: it’s complicated. Worse, different calculation methods yield wildly different results. Take, for instance, this brilliant chart (below) from the Stockholm Environment Institute, comparing many of the major online emissions calculators. Emissions are represented by the light blue lines. As you can see, the online calculators find that a Boston-D.C. round trip has the impact of somewhere between 0.19 tons and 0.48 tons of CO2 emissions, …

FutureGen “clean coal” demonstration plant slated for Illinois

FutureGen, the U.S. Department of Energy’s massive “clean coal” demonstration plant, will be sited in Mattoon, Ill., officials announced this morning. Three other potential locations for the plant each lobbied heavily for the roughly $1.8 billion project to be built on their turf — one other site in Illinois and two others in Texas. The FutureGen project, which also aims to eventually produce some hydrogen from coal, is generally regarded by greens as an expensive bad idea that diverts funds from efficiency improvements and genuinely clean, renewable forms of energy. But the project, a government/industry partnership, has been exciting coal …

Belated Bali blogging

An incomplete roundup of reactions and commentary to the Bali climate meetings

I feel somewhat guilty for not following the goings-on in Bali more closely. A few of you have written to ask why. It’s just that every single international meeting on climate since I started covering this stuff has gone down the exact … same … way. It’s like clockwork: everyone arrives full of hope, because now, finally, there’s real momentum, people really get the problem; midway through, everyone’s getting more and more pissed at the U.S. for its intransigence; the U.S. works diligently to water down every possible declaration or statement; and finally, the event culminates with everyone making the …

'Economic prediction' is an oxymoron

Economists cannot predict the future

For those of you who have not seen this presentation given at the American Association for the Advancement of Science humor session earlier this year, I highly recommend it. Of all the posts I've seen on the Gristmill on the subject of economics, this one by Sean Casten most closely reflects my views. In this post, Jerry Taylor from the CATO Institute tells us about the worst case scenario from a study done by Dr. Martin Parry, the lead author of the most recent IPCC Working Group on climate change impacts. According to results of this "computer run" eighty years from today, average incomes will have increased somewhere between five and 50-fold, and the land needed for agriculture will be reduced by half (along with deaths from hunger, malaria, and coastal flooding). Are we talking about the same Dr. Parry who said the following in September? "Mitigation has got all the attention but we cannot mitigate out of this problem. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world." I tend to agree with many of Jerry Taylor's stances. Here he reflects my opinions on corn ethanol, and here he reflects my opinion of Republicans, except he appears to think highly of Reagan.