Climate & Energy

Bali conference keeps on keepin’ on

The news from Bali: Teeny-tiny island nations pleaded with delegates for protection and compensation for the impacts of rising seas and other climatic consequences. United Nations climate chief Yvo de Boer expressed hope that delegates would make operational the Adaptation Fund, a woefully underfunded um, fund for helping developing countries adapt to climate change. Delegates set up a working group to establish a calendar for negotiations and to study ways to transfer clean technologies to developing nations. German newspaper Der Spiegel is reporting that the U.S. is discreetly in talks with China and India to derail any binding agreement for …

Some 150 million people will be at risk from flooding by 2070, says report

Some 150 million people in the world’s biggest cities could be at risk of flooding by 2070, and at-risk coastal property could have a value of $35 trillion, says a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. About 40 million people and $3 trillion worth of property are now at risk, but population growth and urban development will make those numbers skyrocket by 2070, the report said. In a list of the 136 port cities most likely to be at risk from catastrophic flooding in 2070, India took the top two, with Calcutta and Mumbai. The rest of …

The <em>NYT</em>'s Tom Friedman is wrong

We are not yet the ‘people we have been waiting for’ to solve ‘global weirding’

In general, I am a big fan of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, one of the few national columnists who writes regularly and intelligently on energy and climate matters. But his recent column, "The People We Have Been Waiting For," goes off track -- twice. First, he writes: ... sweet-sounding "global warming" doesn't really capture what's likely to happen. I prefer the term "global weirding," coined by Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, because the rise in average global temperature is going to lead to all sorts of crazy things -- from hotter heat spells and droughts in some places, to colder cold spells and more violent storms, more intense flooding, forest fires and species loss in other places. Well, he deserves half credit. Yes, "global warming" is inadequate to describe the coming nightmare -- but "global weirding" simply isn't a serious-enough term -- it could just as easily be used to describe the world's growing fascination with reality TV (or videos of piano-playing cats and skateboarding dogs). Also, the word "weird" strongly implies something either supernatural or bizarrely unexpected. What's happening to the planet is pure science and has been predicted for decades -- nothing weird about that except maybe it's happening faster than most scientists projected. Readers know I prefer the term "Hell and High Water" -- since at least it accurately describes what is coming. [Note to self: It didn't catch on. Let it go.] My guess is we're stuck with "global warming."

Texas mayors want CFL to be state light bulb

The state bird of Texas is the mockingbird. The state song is “Texas, Our Texas.” The Texas state footwear is the cowboy boot, its tie the bolo tie, and its pepper the jalapeño. Now, five Texas mayors have called for the Lone Star State to have an official state light bulb: the compact fluorescent. Which, while laudable, sheds no light on why Texas is the only state with an official state cooking implement: the Dutch oven.

Maybe not such a great idea after all?

Feeding ethanol waste to cows

Perhaps the most persistent debate around corn ethanol involves its “net energy balance” — that is, whether it consumes more energy in production than it delivers as a fuel. Even the studies that credit the fuel with a robust energy balance, like this one from the USDA, acknowledge that it’s pretty much a wash unless you account for the "co-product" of the ethanol-making process. The ethanol process consumes only the starch component of corn, leaving behind nearly a third of the input corn as a high-protein, high-fat substance called "distillers grains." According to ethanol boosters, this stuff makes a high-quality …

If it is to be war ...

Senate Republicans vow to filibuster energy bill

The E&E headline sums it up: "Senate GOP plots ‘war’ over House energy plan" (sub rqd). It sounds like Pelosi has done her job, restoring to the bill most of the provisions greens have been stumping for, including the RES and removal of some tax breaks from the oil industry: House Democratic leaders today said the bill will include a roughly $21 billion tax package aimed at expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives. Of that, roughly $13.5 billion in new taxes would be directed at oil companies to help offset the costs, a House Democratic aide said. That’s not …

Solar project in African desert could supply clean energy to Europe

A string of gigantic solar generators in the northern African desert could cleanly supply one-sixth of Europe’s electricity needs, say backers of a project called Desertec. The project relies on concentrated solar power, in which giant mirrors focus the sun’s rays on pillars filled with water, creating steam, which drives turbines, which generate electricity. In the Desertec scheme, about one-third of the power would be transmitted by cables underneath the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, while two-thirds would be used locally. In addition, the stations could be used as desalination plants to provide fresh water to desert countries. The prince of …

Lieberman-Warner action already underway

Clinton and Sanders introduce amendments to strengthen the bill

The Lieberman-Warner markup in the Senate Environment Committee starts tomorrow, but already the action is hot and heavy. Word has it that Sen. James Inhofe is going to pull all manner of procedural shenanigans, which will probably slow things up enough to extend the markup into two days. If that doesn’t do it, there are also dozens and dozens of amendments to consider. Larry Craig (R-Gayville) and James Inhofe (R-Mongo) have introduced 46 and 52 amendments respectively — they plan on making this a clown show, obstructing and distracting as much as humanly possible. Of more interest are the amendments …

300 ideas in 100 days

Presidential Climate Action Project releases new plan for the next president

How ambitious should the next president be in tackling global warming? A document issued today by a team at the University of Colorado indicates that No. 44 can be, and should be, far more aggressive than any of the candidates has promised so far. The Presidential Climate Action Project -- a two-year effort headquartered at the university -- has released a presidential action agenda that contains more than 300 specific changes in federal policies, programs and statutes, and proposes that the chief executive act on all of them within the first 100 days of inauguration, under executive authority or by championing them in the administration's first legislative and budget packages to Congress. The plan is being billed as not only the most comprehensive, but in many ways the boldest, climate action agenda yet put before the American public and the presidential candidates. It calls for the U.S. to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent below 2010 levels by 2020 and 90 percent by 2050, in part through an "upstream" cap-and-auction program that regulates the approximately 1,500 "first providers" of fossil energy -- wellheads, mine mouths, etc. That regime is simpler to administer than mid-stream and downstream regulation, and would cover 100 percent of the economy. Other key proposals include: