Climate & Energy

Dim bulb?

How much power do Americans guzzle for lighting?

Can anyone out there help me out? Doing some fact-checking for a book, I ran across a question I didn't know the answer to: How much power is consumed by lighting in the U.S.? I spent a bit of time Googling for an answer, but at risk of looking like a dim bulb, I have to confess -- I just couldn't figure it out!

The Harkin Steak Fry candidate chart

Candidates reveal their priorities

The difficulty with assessing candidates by how they address climate change is that policy statements and tailored speeches give little insight into the relative importance each candidate places on global warming as compared to other issues. It is particularly difficult to distinguish between Democratic candidates, who employ an almost identical language of urgency when addressing environmentalists. Tom Harkin, senior Senator from Iowa, hosts an annual barbecue. The September 16 event drew six major Democratic candidates -- Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson -- who spoke between 8-15 minutes each to an attentive crowd of 12,000. Each candidate's speech is displayed in the accompanying chart (below the fold) in the form of a bar, with red indicators of when and for how long climate change was addressed (CNN feed available at YouTube). It should be noted that when the issue was raised, the Harkin Steak Fry crowd responded enthusiastically, so there is little reason to think that candidates trimmed their climate sails for this particular venue.

SustainUS in Action in Bali

Confronting the belligerent U.S. delegation at the 2007 climate talks

A friend of mine is in Bali with the youth activist group SustainUS, and sent this video update: (Thanks, Lauren.) Check out the body language on the guy who I presume is the U.S. delegate to the talks, as the SustainUS group asks him to take a leading role in the talks to ensure a better future for the planet. Unfortunately, he pretty well embodies the word "obstructionist."

Sweden best at addressing climate change, U.S. and Saudi Arabia worst, says report

You might want to sit down for this: A new report from a German environmental group says that Sweden does the most to address climate change, while the U.S. and Saudi Arabia do the least. Shocking, we know. The U.S. dropped two places from its fourth-worst position last year, while Sweden stayed up top for the second year in a row.

Thumbs up for Pelosi, Dingell, Nissan

Thumbs down for Toyota, GM, Ford, Washington Post

The Washington Post had an article yesterday on the House fuel economy deal that is quite good in doling out cheers and jeers -- good except for two sentences. Let's start with the cheers. The article quotes NRDC rightly praising Pelosi for being steadfast with the Senate's 35 mpg target and Dingell, too, for: ... telling the automakers a year ago that they were going to have to accept a mileage improvement. He bargained hard for trying to make it less, but he deserves credit for coming around and agreeing. The article also has fascinating back story on how Japanese car manufacturer Nissan "struck out on its own to lobby Capitol Hill for fuel standards that were in some ways stricter than what other automakers wanted." A Nissan Sr. VP "said the company decided early to advocate tough fuel-economy standards as part of a company-wide effort to become more eco-friendly." Ungreen GM and Ford worked hard to kill a 35-mpg deal, and so did supposedly green Toyota. Google "Toyota greenwash" to see how people feel about this. [Note to Toyota: Why not have lobbying consistent with your eco-branding?] So what are the two sentences that get the Post a thumbs down?

Simple answers

Noel Sheppard: Capitalist democracies around the world should be very concerned about the level of socialism being discussed at the United Nations’ climate change meeting in Bali. Not only are international hands being extended to collect funds from countries like the United States in order to help poorer nations deal with a problem that might actually be disappearing since global temperatures peaked in 1998, but climate change is also being used as a means of stripping intellectual property rights from companies that have created new more eco-friendly energy technologies. If such a power-grab for the so-called benefit of the downtrodden …

Coal's fired

More backlash against new coal power plants

The headline says it all: "PacifiCorp labels coal a no-go for new plants." PacifiCorp has backed away from plans to build any new coal plants within the next 10 years, conceding that coal no longer can overcome tightening regulations and environmental opposition. This seems like a big deal, since -- in my opinion at least -- the gravest long-term climate threat from our part of the world is coal-fired power. Nationwide, coal power plants represent America's largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions; and there's still an awful lot of coal in the ground in the American West. Until recently, coal's abundance, coupled with rising demand for electricity, has made a rapid proliferation of coal power seem more or less inevitable. But this announcement throws that into a cocked hat. Perhaps the lesson here is that the politics of climate change are changing so quickly that what seemed inevitable as recently a few years ago is starting to look unthinkable.

The dinosaur lobby weighs in on the energy bill

Fossil-friendly biz groups send letter to Senate requesting reversal of Supreme Court decision

Today, an extraordinary letter about the energy bill was sent to the U.S. Senate by a coalition of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oil, gas, forestry, and mining lobbying groups. With what can only be described as brass balls, they are asking the Senate to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. They say "the energy legislation must contain explicit language clarifying that nothing in this bill can be construed as triggering the regulation of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act" and for good measure, " the legislation must address …

Climate change and flooded freeways

Climate disruption comes home to the Northwest

In the late 1990s, after pineapple express storms caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides across the Northwest, National Climatic Data Center Chief Scientist Thomas Karl said the storms were "an example of the type of weather patterns that would be expected to become more frequent and yield an increase in precipitation extremes as the climate continues to warm." Welcome to the future. The Northwest was fire-hosed again in recent days, flooding communities and leaving them in the dark throughout western Washington state, while cutting I-5 from Portland to Seattle, and rail service to boot. As of today, a lengthy detour to the east or an air flight remain the options for travel between the two major U.S. Northwest cities. Costs are placed at $4 million per day, and that is before expensive repairs to the I-5 roadbed are taken into account. The connection of global warming to increased storms and rainfall is as easy to make as the connection of steam rising from a pot of water to the stove flame beneath -- Heat causes evaporation. Global warming is heating the oceans, and the steamy, moist air rising from ocean surfaces is rocket fuel for storms. A warmer atmosphere also holds moisture better. The line of clouds pointing from the tropical Pacific to the Northwest that show up on the weather report satellite photos are the physical illustration of these phenomena. Of course, the scientific caveat is that no one weather event conclusively demonstrates global warming. The point here is that global warming loads the dice for more frequent and intense storms such as the Northwest has seen in recent days. When rainfall in the rain city of Seattle hits the second greatest one-day level in recorded history, and the record was set only in 2003, it provides a very suggestive indicator.