Climate & Energy

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be efficiently lit

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is up; once it’s lit on Nov. 28, we can no longer deny that The Holiday Season is in full swing. We can, however, ogle the tree guilt-free, as the towering evergreen will be lit by energy-efficient LED bulbs and powered in part by solar energy.

Dream of hydrogen car goes down in flames

Full-cell company bought by Daimler and Ford

Ballard -- the Canadian fuel-cell company that once hoped to be the "Intel Inside of the hydrogen car revolution -- has sold off its automotive fuel-cell business to Daimler and Ford. You can listen to a good CBC radio story on it, which includes an interview of me (click on "Listen to the Current," Part 2). You can read Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton on the story here. A Financial Post post piece headlines the story bluntly: "Hydrogen highway hits dead end: Ballard's talks with potential buyers is admission that dream of hydrogen fuel car is dead: analyst." The story has a keen interpretation of the sale's meaning from Research Capital analyst Jon Hykawy:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown makes ambitious climate speech

In his first major speech on the environment, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has suggested that Britain could aim to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. To accomplish said goal, Brown promised that all new dwellings in Britain will be zero-carbon by 2016, and that free insulation, low-energy light bulbs, and efficient appliances will be distributed widely to homes over the next few years. He wants to eliminate plastic bags and source 40 percent of British energy from renewables by 2020. He also said that the climate crisis will spur a “technological revolution” and announced a summit to …

What he said

Tobis on the multidimensionality of the climate discussion

Readers know that I was mightily bothered by Andy Revkin’s attempt to classify certain thinkers as part of the "middle" of the climate debate. Some folks have attacked Revkin because they think one "side" — the "alarmist" side — is correct. That wasn’t quite my point. What I was trying to get at I just found summarized in a comment by Michael Tobis over on John Fleck’s site. Tobis makes the point with many fewer words: Opinion space is multidimensional, not linear. That is my problem with Revkin’s approach. Journalism’s common error isn’t just about concentrating on extremes, it’s about …

Delay of the land

Drastic delays proposed for Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup

The following is a guest post from Gina Barteletti, publications and volunteer coordinator at Heart of America Northwest. —– The U.S. Department of Energy is proposing to add more deadly, toxic waste to Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation before existing waste is cleaned up. At the same time, DOE is proposing changes to the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA), also known as the Hanford Cleanup Agreement, which could add decades to cleanup. DOE has proposed to empty only 20 of the 149 leaky single-shell nuclear waste tanks by September 2019 — only one tank retrieved each year. Additionally, DOE proposed a 22-year …

The states of high gas prices

How oil-intense is your state’s economy?

Last time I checked, oil prices were hovering just below $100 per barrel. This reminds me of something I used to obsess about: high oil prices hit some places harder than others. All else being equal, oil-efficient economies are more insulated from oil price shocks than are economies that require large oil inputs to function. I'm not talking about the amount of oil consumption, but about the "oil-intensity" of an economy. New York state consumes a lot of oil, and it also produces a lot of wealth. Other states, such as Louisiana, consume a lot of oil, but don't produce anywhere near as much wealth per unit of energy. (In fact, New York produces five times as much wealth per barrel of oil as Louisiana.) Just so, when oil prices skyrocket, Rhode Island suffers less pain than Texas. And Massachusetts feels less of a pinch than Wyoming. So at the risk of oversimplification, I'll propose a little schema for the future: If the future is likely to bring high oil prices, and we'd like to remain prosperous, then we should probably start weaning our economies from petroleum. Brilliant, I know. I guess one potential lesson here is that our big capital investments shouldn't expose us to decades of oil price shocks. (Yeah, I'm talking to you, highway.) They should insulate us from high oil prices. (Oh, hi there, compact walkable neighborhood.) So, how do all 50 states stack up? Find out below the jump ...

Indiana regulators approve coal plant

Apparently not having received the memo that denying coal plants is the hip thing to do, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approved an application from Duke Energy to build a coal-gasification plant in the city of Edwardsport. The bright side (if you can call it that): Duke will have to submit a plan on how to capture carbon-dioxide emissions from the plant. But still.

Environmentalism and the future of coal, part one

Jeremy Carl argues that coal will be with us for a long while

This is part one of a guest essay from Jeremy Carl, a Research Fellow at the Stanford University’s Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. A few weeks ago, I wrote a rather heated post keyed off an interview with Carl in Wired. He asked for an opportunity to respond; naturally I said yes. —– As I understand it, David’s primary problem with the article is that he believed we were just "assuming" coal’s future prominent role in our energy system. And in some sense he is right — as someone who is researching the global coal system every day, I …

The so-so Voluntary Carbon Standard

New standard for carbon offsets is unimpressive

As E&E News (subs. req'd)reports today: An industry group released standards yesterday for carbon dioxide offsets in the hopes of attracting existing and still-forming emission-trading markets. The Voluntary Carbon Standards (VCS) are aimed at evaluating clean-energy projects in developing countries that are used to offset industrialized nations' emissions of greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. You can read all about the new standard on their website. I am not terribly impressed with this new standard. Among other things, it allows tree projects (no, and no!). They also didn't consult with a lot of environmental groups, and as I pointed out to E&E News and WWF, their website has this bizarre and I think inappropriate listing under board members: James Leape, WWF International (invited) Seriously. How do you list an invited -- but not accepted -- board member on your website? Especially from an organization that seriously criticized the previous draft of your offset standard. The rest of the E&E article, with quotes from me and WWF, is below:

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