Climate & Energy

The problem with tar sands

Could Canadian oil be the most destructive on earth?

Check out this new report from Environmental Defence Canada. The title sort of says it all: "Canada's Toxic Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project On Earth" (PDF). I found the title a bit overheated at first, but take a look before you decide. The claim may be debatable, but it's also not mere hyperbole: the tar sands oil extraction very well could be the most destructive project on earth. In fact, it's already yielding catastrophic results for human health, not to mention for a vast swath of North America's ecology. (In any case, I've had the privilege of working on climate policy a bit with one of the authors, Matt Price, and I can attest that he's a smart guy, not prone to exaggeration.) I won't summarize the study here, but just point out that among the many problems with tar sands oil, is that it can only be extracted and processed with very large energy inputs (which means huge carbon emissions):

Disputing the 'consensus' on global warming

Climate science doesn’t rely on a consensus of opinion

Salon liked my post "How do we really know humans are causing global warming?" but wanted something more in-depth and ... serious. The result is "The cold truth about climate change: Deniers say there's no consensus about global warming. Well, there's not. There's well-tested science and real-world observations [that are much more worrisome]." James Hansen read the first draft and wrote me back, "Very important for the public to understand this -- why has nobody articulated this already?" I don't know the answer. All I can say is that while I was writing the article, the central point dawned on me:

Why economic analysis of Lieberman-Warner will be flawed

Global warming solution studies overestimate costs, underestimate benefits

Dan Weiss, the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress, has written an excellent piece on why we can expect a series of flawed economic analyses of the Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191) in the coming months: Many of these studies will likely predict that the reductions of greenhouse gases required by the cap-and-trade system will lead to huge hikes in electric rates, reductions in jobs, and all sorts of other economic havoc. But these studies also have one other common element: They will eventually be proven wrong once the program is underway. These studies base their cost assumptions on existing technologies and practices, which means that they do not account for the vast potential for innovation once binding reductions and deadlines are set. The Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act anticipates the need for innovation and creates economic incentives to spur engineers and managers to devise technologies and methods to meet the greenhouse gas reduction requirements more cheaply. This isn't the first time that pollution control studies have produced inaccurate predictions about the future. Remember what analysts predicted about acid rain controls from 1989 to 1990? And the article continues on to review that history and then look at the important reports of McKinsey & Co and Nicholas Stern, which makes clear the cost of action is far, far lower than the cost of inaction. If you're interested in the IPCC's take on this -- they explain why the literature is clear that action is not costly -- this post summarizes what they report.

Renewable-energy bill passes House, likely to be short-lived

By a vote of 236-182, the House of Representatives has approved legislation that would boost renewable-energy tax incentives by repealing $18 billion in tax breaks …

Thom Yorke's big ask

Radiohead frontman leads climate campaign

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is once again leading Friends of the Earth’s Big Ask Campaign. (Hey, he likes Big Ask and he cannot lie.) The …

Canadian dispatch

New Canadian budget supports dirty energy industries, disses renewables

More than a year ago, I wrote about Stephane Dion's election as Liberal leader, and was guardedly optimistic about what it meant for Canadian environmentalists. Let's just say that the last year has been pretty disappointing. The latest came yesterday, after the Conservative government announced a budget that shovelled hundreds of millions of dollars toward fossil fuels and nuclear power. Dion has said his party will support the budget and not trigger an election. How bad is this budget? Well, probably the best indication is normally mild-mannered Tyler Hamilton's reaction: New subsidies for the coal, oil and nuclear industries and new handouts to major automakers. No mention of climate change. No extension of incentives for renewables. The cancelling of incentives for buying energy efficient vehicles. Dismissal, once again, of a carbon tax. I think I'm going to throw up. We're screwed.

House tax package

The House just passed the tax package that was voted down late last year as part of the energy bill. It contains tax incentives for …

Daylight-saving time leads to higher energy use, says study

Daylight-saving time was enacted as an energy-saving measure, but when time springs forward on March 9, people may actually use more energy, says a new …

Laundered coal by any other name kills the climate just the same

Is ‘ethanol’ short for ‘laundered coal’?

Wow! Now that the caucuses are safely behind us, an Iowa paper notices that "ethanol" is how corporations and troglodyte utilities pronounce "laundered coal," AKA, The Enemy of the Human Race. Specifically, 300 tons a day, per plant. Here's an Orwell-Award winning statement for you: Officials with Alliant Energy, which has proposed a new coal-fired plant in Marshalltown, told the Iowa Utilities Board recently that if Iowans want renewable energy, they will need more electricity from coal plants. Apparently if you don't want coal you need to use more of it. QED.