Climate & Energy

Disentangling the confusion of Bali

Tom Friedman is very confused about exactly what happened at Bali and why. So are M.I.T. science journalist fellows. So what are your chances of figuring it out? Well, they are a lot better if you read this excellent Bali debriefing by my friend Holmes Hummel (PDF), a Stanford Ph.D. and Congressional Science Fellow. One interesting point she makes: Some media coverage left the misimpression that the Bush team opposed language that would have committed Annex I (i.e., rich) countries to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. But that isn't correct. The language they vehemently rejected merely said this:

Person of the Year

Bush beats Gore, again!

Until last week, this long-beloved annual tradition seemed to be a lock for one person -- Nobel laureate, itinerant educator, and media superstar Al Gore. Sadly, he only makes first runner-up this year. Like Time magazine, our Person of the Year is awarded to the person or group who "for better or for worse ... has done the most to influence the events of the year" in the climate arena. By single-handedly stopping any international action on climate at Bali, by stopping California from regulating tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions, by forcing Congress to drop almost all non-oil-related provisions to cut GHGs from the energy bill -- all in one week! -- one man proved his unchallenged high-impact misleadership on the issue of the century: Dick Cheney George Bush.

If fuel prices keep rising, liposuction will pay for itself

Boat aims to set speed record … powered by human fat

Here's a nice PR gimmick (and by nice, I mean totally disgusting): power your monster "eco-boat" with biodiesel made from human fat: You can also make biodiesel from tallow (animal fats), fish oil, seaweed and algae. In fact, in an extraordinary show of dedication to the project, the skipper, Pete Bethune, underwent liposuction, and the fat (all 100ml) was used to make a small amount of Biodiesel for Earthrace! I think this mostly shows an extraordinary dedication to clever marketing. Unfortunately for the earth, Bethune isn't all that chubby, so he enlisted a few "big, fat people" (his words) to squeeze out four gallons of biodiesel. All in, this represents about 0.06 percent of the fuel Bethune will need to set the "Round the World Speed Record by a Powerboat."

Colleges around the country take green steps

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Yep: It’s time for a green college roundup! Maine’s College of the Atlantic has made good on its pledge to be a carbon-neutral campus, say school officials. “As far as we know, [COA is] the first in the world to make the commitment, and as far as we know, the first to do it,” says David Hales, president of the 300-student college, which offers one major: human ecology. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Portland State University plans to hire as many as 10 professors with expertise in sustainability to teach subjects from economics to biology to art. …

Don’t tell Canis!

This is one of those stories where you don't know whether to be hopeful or depressed after reading it. Like drug addicts who will try snorting every powder in the house, we seem to be willing to subject any substance on the planet to the real acid test of our age: Will it help us keep carburbia going?

Tax incentives for clean energy not yet renewed — but probably will be

A renewal of tax incentives for building and installing clean energy sources was stripped from the recently signed energy bill, putting wind and solar boosters just a wee bit on edge. Current federal tax credits for renewable energy will expire at the end of 2008; Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that U.S. solar installations, which jumped 80 percent in 2007, will “start to drop off in the second quarter of 2008 if [tax incentives] are not extended.” But all is not lost: Leaders in both chambers of Congress have promised to revisit the tax-credit issue in …

How SUVs can save the climate

When is a Tundra a better buy than a Prius?

This never fails to fascinate me: The chart shows how much fuel is consumed over 15,000 miles by cars of different fuel efficiencies. The curve matters a lot. It means that from the perspective of fuel conservation, it's not terribly important to trade in your Honda Civic to buy a Prius. But it's hugely important to trade in your Dodge Durango for a Toyota Tacoma. I'll use some rough numbers to illustrate. You trade in your Civic, which averages about 32 miles per gallon, and buy a Prius, which gets a whopping 47 mpg. You've bumped up by 15 mpg -- a big deal, right? Sort of. Over the next 15,000 miles of driving, you'll have reduced your fuel consumption by 150 gallons. That's fine. But consider what happens when you upgrade your SUV. That's where the real action is.

The %$@*! filibuster

Dems can’t overcome filibuster threats to get decent legislation — so what should they do?

I’ve talked to many, many people over the past few days who are struggling to figure out how to respond to the passage of the energy bill. There’s a lot of genuine anguish out there. One camp laments this as yet another defeat in a long string. Reid capitulated to Republicans and accepted a wan, emaciated bill. In the name of getting an incremental step forward, he’s allowing Republicans to campaign on having voted for fuel efficiency and Bush to claim credit. He let Big Oil defeat renewable energy. On issue after issue, Reid has let the threat of a …

The Bush administration's hypocrisy on federalism

Bushies laud state policies when excusing inaction, shut them down when they threaten contributors

Back in 2003, the Bush administration sent a negotiating team to Milan for international climate talks. The lead negotiator, then as now, was Harlan Watson. As he always does, Watson attempted to claim that the U.S. was, despite all appearances, taking a leadership role in the fight against global warming. What did he offer as evidence? Take it away, Harlan: Finally, I would like to highlight the efforts being made by State and local governments in the United States to address climate change. Geographically, the United States encompasses vast and diverse climatic zones representative of all major regions of the …

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