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Climate & Energy


Now This Is Corn-fusing

Study says ethanol fuel could cause more health problems than gasoline Time to trot out Alanis, cuz this is what the kids call "ironic": a study from Stanford University says widespread use of ethanol in vehicles could have serious health effects. Atmospheric scientist Mark Jacobson ran computer models comparing air quality in 2020 based on use of both gasoline and E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline currently seeing a big old political and industrial push. He found that the ethanol blend would produce more ground-level ozone than gasoline, estimating that it could lead to a …

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A couple

Here are two lists, for those of you into that kind of thing: First, Sustainlane -- which seems to produce a list every few weeks, no? -- has a list of the Top Ten Cities for Renewable Energy. That's the cities that provide citizens with the most green power. They are: 1. Oakland, CA 2. Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA (tie) 3. Portland, OR 4. Boston, MA 5. San Diego, CA 6. Austin, TX 7. Los Angeles, CA 8. Minneapolis, MN 9. Seattle, WA 10. Chicago, IL Oakland, huh? Maybe Van's doing something right. Read the whole thing for details. Second, from …


Have Some Class: MIT wins mtvU's eco-challenge

Angels and Airwaves to perform on campus this Sunday

In the interest of keeping you informed, I offer the final chapter in the mtvU GE Ecomagination Challenge. As you may (or may not) recall, students were asked to propose projects that would green their respective campuses. Out of more than 100 entries, 10 finalists were chosen, and then you voted to help pick the winner (you did vote, didn't you?). Well, the results are in, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Biodiesel@MIT project has won a $25,000 grant and an Earth Day concert (this weekend) by Angels and Airwaves. Congrats, y'all! The eight-person Biodiesel@MIT team proposed the construction and management …


Bad climate change policy is worse than business as usual

Just wanted to put that out there

This is rarely said openly, but needs to be. Yes, climate change is a serious problem; yes, we should address it; but beware of easy solutions and feel-good measures like carbon neutrality that are more than likely scams than serious measures, since they more often than not pay people to do things they would already have done. Also, beware of solutions that say that climate change policy is win-win-win, good for jobs, business, and the environment. This may very well be true in the long-run, but not in the short-run. There will be pain and major transitional costs, and many …


Smart grid baby steps: smart meters (metres?) in the U.K.

Helping homeowners monitor electricity use

One piece of the smart-grid puzzle is home electricity monitoring -- allowing homeowners (and eventually business and factory owners) to track their electricity use in real time. As the old saw goes, what gets measured gets done. Simply making people aware of energy flows is the first step to helping them modulate those flows efficiently. On that note, it's fantastic to see this: soon, every household in the U.K. will be able to request a smart meter and have it installed for free. The next step, of course, is giving homeowners more automated control. One part of that is smart, …


On efficiency

There’s more room than you think

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) As almost everyone who studies the subject concludes, one key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is efficiency. Renewable sources generally provide energy at a slightly higher market price than fossil fuels. Oh, there are exceptions: passive solar heating, wind electricity, biofuel from waste. But overall, if we get all our energy from low-emitting sources, we will spend more overall per BTU. If we can use those BTUs efficiently, our overall energy bill can be the same or lower. Suppose a well-insulated home uses only 40 percent as much climate-control energy as a poorly insulated …


IPCC Working Group III goes after transportation pollution

If you won’t go after them, we will

The IPCC reports are some of the most highly anticipated of 2007. An obvious sign? Within two weeks of one report's release, papers are already covering a leak from the next. IPCC Working Group III's focus is on mitigation, meaning a fair number of policy implications can be derived from its conclusions. So here's a hint for America's auto industry: the report calls for urgent action on road pollution. In the United States, there are 483 passenger cars per 1,000 people (EarthTrends). The world average is about 100, and few countries outnumber our car count (Australia, for example, had 492 …


A convenient truth

In nearby Bothell

The Seattle Times is reporting on a Bothell family -- the Fraleys -- who are attempting to cut their family's greenhouse-gas emissions by 15 percent in May. Bully for them, and best of luck! Still, there's something about the Times account of their experiment that rankles, just a bit. It leaves a casual reader with the impression that reducing carbon emissions is a total pain in the behind. To wit: [The Fraleys] will try to reduce the household's greenhouse-gas emissions by using some common-sense ideas that nonetheless may be inconvenient. [Emphasis added.] And ... "I realized this wasn't going to …


Jim Sims and the clean coal PR push

Learn how to recognize the shills

Yesterday I wrote about an energy conference in Utah at which Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer enthusiastically shilled for coal and demanded more federal money for it. Looking more closely at the conference, I see I shouldn't have been surprised. The Salt Lake Tribune story from yesterday is all but a press release for Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who hosted the shindig. Toward the end, though, it drops this tidbit: Some of the West's biggest names in energy, including $10,000-apiece Platinum sponsors Arch Coal, Rocky Mountain Power, Questar, Chevron and Bill Barrett Corp., are paying for the summit. Hmm. It …


Cellulosic ethanol: the fuel of the future -- always

Where is it written that there’s an easy out to replace oil?

Another day, another story about cellulosic ethanol pointing out that, like the Star Wars missile system, it's a technology capable of sucking up endless tax dollars without ever producing anything that delivers in the real world.

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