Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Climate & Energy

Comments

Umbra on peak oil

Dear Umbra, I have recently been alerted to what many people term "peak oil." I don't know how to characterize my feelings regarding this subject. Obsession might be a good term. I feel that I need to prepare. What do you think? Is "peak oil" another Y2K? MichaelPittsburgh, Pa. Dearest Michael, Who cares if it's another Y2K? Prepare away, my friend. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Eternal sunshine of the oil-less mind. Photo: iStockphoto Peak oil is a concept originally developed by a geophysicist, Dr. M. King Hubbert, which is why it is sometimes called Hubbert's …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

A lighthearted look at biofuels through time

The way most people talk about biofuels, you'd think they were a brand-new invention. But using natural products for fuel is an idea as old as the hills, as this highly selective timeline demonstrates. Mid-1800s: Soap-makers begin to transesterify vegetable oils -- you know, exchanging the alkoxy group of an ester compound by using another alcohol, often catalyzed by the addition of an acid or base. Ahem. Or, for you non organic chemists, breaking down one molecule and building a shiny new one. Transesterification (not to be confused with transvestite Transylvanians) produces methyl and ethyl esters, of which biodiesel will …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

The drum beat is bringing the public around

When discussing the recent Supreme Court case, those opposed to action on climate change often use the argument that the court should rule against Mass. et al. because these kinds of legal challenges are end runs around the legislative process. Rather, they argue, it is the president and Congress that should be taking up this issue. Duh. We all agree on this. However, Congress and the president have done nothing on this issue. Into this vacuum of leadership, a climate insurgency has arisen. The insurgents are individuals, cities, even states like California, and their weapons are individual activism, city ordinance, …

Comments

How the world got addicted to oil, and where biofuels will take us

If oil is over, what's on the horizon? Photo: house.gov They may be hyped as the way of the future, but biofuels already count as a juggernaut. Supported by the government and embraced by the Big Three automakers, ethanol is surging in the United States. Biodiesel, meanwhile, is roaring ahead in Europe as the continent strives to meet its carbon-emission obligations under the Kyoto treaty. But as we plunge headfirst into a sea of biofuel -- both in the energy-hungry world and in this Grist special series -- it's worth looking back at previous energy transitions to gain insight into …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

A Grist special series on biofuels

These days, ethanol is praised as the whiz-bang cure-all for our energy ills. And maybe all the sweet talk will cause this "new" fuel to forget that America dumped her for oil in the early 20th century. Oil's just so ... ew all of a sudden. We may finally be ready to return to our first love, an energy source that's been by our side in some form or another since Neolithic times. Oil was too high-maintenance and demanding, anyway. And ethanol's a much better match ... right? Or maybe biodiesel is the one? Or vegetable oil? Hemp? Turkey guts? …

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy

Comments

It’s a disaster, not a catastrophe

A Guardian story suggests that we may have as much as eight degrees of global warming already locked in, in the form of stored heat in the ocean. But a substantial stored-heat backlog in the ocean has been well-known for some time. That it is greater than expected is bad news -- but (as I've confirmed in correspondence with Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate) this does not mean that all or most of that stored heat is going to "come back" and fry the planet, provided we take action in time. I know James Lovelock, the brilliant inventor of the …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Get ready for a special series

Been hearing a lot about "biofuels"? Having more and more trouble concealing your ignorance about them? Wish someone would pull together a special series of articles, explaining the differences among various biofuels, analyzing who profits from them, listing the various political initiatives around them, interviewing experts, and answering once and for all the vexed questions about energy balance? Well aren't you in luck! On Monday morning, steer your browsers to grist.org. All your questions will be answered.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

New report say so

I meant to write a few days ago about the new report (PDF) from the McKinsey Global Institute which says that ... are you sitting down? ... efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to cut global energy consumption. As Keanu would say: woah. Anyway, Joel Makower's got a nice post about it, so go read that.

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Do Not Giggle

Livestock sector spews a fifth of human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, says U.N. The U.N. has issued fresh content on a vital cause of global warming: cow farts. It seems that 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases stem from farm animals and the livestock industry, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Besides poots, agriculture-related deforestation and energy use contribute to the total. When all the carbon-equivalent math is said and done, livestock produce more of the world's human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions than cars, says the U.N.: about 9 percent of carbon dioxide, up to 40 percent of methane, and nearly two-thirds …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

Comments

More Poles to Worry About

Global warming makes skiing World Cup circuit hit the skids Global warming is wreaking mountains of havoc on skiing's World Cup circuit, with stops canceled due to weirdly warm temps at European resorts. Cross-country teams are all training in one place in Italy, unable to find snow elsewhere in central Europe; the only cross-country race held so far this year, in Finland, saw rain the entire time. In North America, meanwhile, trainings have been hobbled by too much snow. The International Ski Federation calls the situation "critical." U.S. Olympic downhiller Steve Nyman says pro skiers -- "living in hotel rooms, …

Read more: Climate & Energy