Climate & Energy

What is a smart grid?

Interview with smart grid expert Steve Pullins, part one

For nearly 30 years, Steve Pullins has worked in and around the utility industry, in capacities ranging from systems engineering to project development to high-level consulting. He currently works at SAIC, where he heads the Modern Grid Initiative for the National Energy Technology Laboratory. I spoke with him at the Discover Brilliant conference in Sep. 2007. He stressed that he was speaking to me as a concerned private citizen, not as a representative of the MGI. —– DR: What is the Modern Grid Initiative? SP: It’s a team, first sponsored by Senator Byrd of West Virginia, now institutionalized within the …

Carbon sequestration and the precautionary principle

A guest essay from Peter Montague raises questions about the rush to sequestration

The following is a guest essay from Peter Montague, executive director of the Environmental Research Foundation. —– In response to a relentless stream of bad news about global warming, a cluster of major industries has formed a loose partnership with big environmental groups, prestigious universities, philanthropic foundations, and the U.S. federal government — all promoting a technical quick-fix for global warming called "carbon sequestration." "Carbon sequestration" is a plan to capture and bury as much as 10 trillion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide deep in the ground, hoping it will stay there forever. (A ton is 2,000 pounds; a metric …

IPCC to hammer out summary of climate science for policymakers

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is meeting this week in Valencia, Spain, to distill the panel’s three massive scientific climate-change reports released earlier this year into a concise 25-page summary for the world’s governments. Expect environmentalists and others concerned about climate-change’s effects to lobby for strong language clearly spelling out the expected perils of doing little or nothing. Some governments, meanwhile — likely including the United States, China, and others — will negotiate to play down many of the threats posed by climate change, emphasize uncertainties, and extol the efficacy of voluntary actions. Ahead of the meeting, the head …

A green wave lifts all boats

Van Jones looks to sustainability for pathways out of poverty

Will the burgeoning "green" economy have a place in it for everyone? To a packed auditorium in Seattle last Wednesday, Van Jones said: It can. And to be successful, it has to. In the chorus of voices against climate change, his message rings true and clear: "We have a chance to connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done." Van Jones is a civil-rights lawyer and founder and executive director of an innovative nonprofit working to ensure that low-income, working poor, and minority youth have access to the coming wave of "green-collar" jobs. Jones -- brought to Seattle by Climate Solutions, King County, El Centro de la Raza, Puget Sound Sage, and Earth Ministry -- made a compelling case that social justice is the moral anchor required to fuse the climate movement into a powerful and cohesive force. He sees that the solutions to global warming are the solutions to the biggest social and economic problems in urban and rural America. His point is this: You can pass all the climate legislation you want, but you have to provide the local workforce to make it happen on the ground. "We have to retrofit a nation," he says. "No magical green fairies are going to come down and put up all those solar panels." This is going to take skilled labor. "We can make a green pathway out of poverty." And it gets better, he says. These jobs can't be outsourced. "You can't put a building on a barge to Asia and weatherize it on the cheap." This is about kitchen table issues: jobs, industry, manufacturing, health, education.

Kansas newspaper parodies coal industry attack ad

Remember the xenophobic attack ads the coal industry ran against Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius? The ones funded by energy giants Sunflower and Peabody? The ones they subsequently refused to apologize for? The Kansas newspaper Wichita Eagle, rather than indulging in the outraged harumphing featured on sites like, uh, this one, decided to go the parody route. They’ve not only got a funny editorial up, but created a funny parody video, which you can see by clicking the image below: (via Dot Earth, which has really kicked ass since starting up a little while ago — kudos to Andy)

Larry Craig's climate views belong in the toilet

Sen. Craig believes a cap-and-trade system is pointless

OK, maybe it's a good thing that the morally-challenged senator is on the other side of the debate. He recently said: My position is perfectly clear: a cap and trade system is obsolete in its approach to green house gas reductions, it has not worked, and I do not see it working. Yes a very good position for a delayer, since a carbon tax is a political nonstarter (and dubious for other reasons), while a technology-only strategy can't do the job.

Beijing Dispatch: China's carbon harbingers

Plans for reducing emissions in China

David linked to the Reuters report about China's refusal to accept binding emissions caps in any international agreement. On the topic of China and climate change, last week I got some face time with the head of the World Bank's energy unit in Beijing, Dr. Zhao. Too much for one blog post, but here are some highlights: According to his research, the World Bank's go-to guy on these matters believes: "It will be difficult or even impossible for China to reduce CO2 emissions in absolute terms." Depressing conclusion. As he saw it, "The question now is, what can be down to reduce China's growth rate [of CO2 emissions]?" While refusing to sign international agreements on carbon caps, Beijing has issued some fairly ambitious goals of its own. One is to have 15 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Of course, whether this target is based in reality is another question. As Dr. Zhao told me, "In most other countries, you do the analysis first, then set goals. In China, you set the goal first, then you do the research and set the policy to try to achieve it." Translation: the temptation to fudge numbers to reach preordained conclusions is dangerously high.

Did you know the word 'gullible' isn't in the dictionary?

Climate change skeptics fall for hoax paper

UPDATE: I have to put this up top, because it’s so deliciously delightful. Turns out Rush Limbaugh fell for this scam, hook, line, and sinker. He bought it because he misunderstood a warning from notorious skeptic crank Roy Spencer — he thought Spencer was calling climate change, not the paper, a hoax. Spencer subsequently apologized for, um, Limbaugh’s stupidity and gullibility. Wow. I hardly know what to do with all this schadenfreude. The world hardly needs any more proof that the remaining climate change "skeptics" (who among other things have ruined the perfectly respectable term "skeptic" for the rest of …

Progress in renewable energy infrastructure

Wind power installations set to soar 63 percent this year

Some good energy news: US wind power installations are projected to jump 63 percent this year amid concern about global warming and rising fuel prices, an industry group said on Wednesday. The US wind industry is on track to complete a total of 4,000 megawatts worth of installations in 2007, or about enough to power 1 million average homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association [AWEA]. Tip o' the hat to state renewable energy standards and the federal production tax credit. You can get more details from the AWEA website, including the third-quarter market report. Here are some state highlights: Texas again added the largest amount of new wind power generation (600 MW). Colorado installed 264 MW and now ranks as the state with the sixth-largest amount of wind power generation. Washington, with 140 MW of new wind capacity, pulls ahead of Minnesota into fourth place. So yes, climate progress does occur, when the government works at it. This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.