Climate & Energy

McKibben on waste-heat recovery

A very promising climate change solution with an image problem

Bill McKibben's new column in Orion magazine reports on one of the most effective ways to cut carbon emissions that we've got, a mature technology which stands ready to recycle enormous amounts of waste heat into electricity. It boggles my mind that we're not doing this everywhere, instead of discussing new coal plants or nukes. Talk about low-hanging fruit! The article centers on the fine work of the Chicago company Recycled Energy Development, piloted by frequent Gristmill contributor Sean Casten, and discusses the technology's image problem: it's not as sexy as wind or solar. Here's an excerpt, but the article is so short, I encourage a quick visit to the link above:


But what can I say? I’m male. Scatological humor is in the DNA. (h/t: Grist reader LS)

High crop prices, more chemicals

All hail the biofuel boom

A UN official recently declared biofuels a "crime against humanity," because they leach agricultural resources from feeding people and direct them to feeding cars. But one man’s crime is another’s boon. Surging biofuel use encourages farmers to maximize yield over all other considerations — and they do so by lashing the earth with all manner of chemicals. That’s why shareholders in agrochemical companies are celebrating the explosive growth of biofuel use. Syngenta — the Swiss-based maker of herbicides, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds — has seen its shares more than double since the biofuel boom began. Here’s how one Wall …

Seattle meets Kyoto

Is there another side to Seattle’s good news?

This is excellent news: Seattle is one of the first major U.S. cities to claim it has cut greenhouse-gas emissions enough to meet the targets of the international Kyoto treaty aimed at combating global warming. The achievement, at a time when the city has enjoyed a boom in population and jobs, sets Seattle apart both from the nation as a whole and other cities that have seen greenhouse gases soar in recent years. Well, good on Seattle. But at risk of sounding like a stick in the mud, there's still a question mark in my mind about how much progress the city's really made.

Tracking Lieberman-Warner: What's next?

America’s Climate Security Act passes out of subcommittee

America's Climate Security Act -- aka the Lieberman-Warner bill -- passed through its first markup hearing today, but not without losing support from the Senate's most vigilant advocate for action against climate change, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) The hearing was, in a sense, a tête-à-tête between Sanders and the bill's primary author, deal-maker extraordinare Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.). It was a chance for Sanders to attempt to improve the bill in ways he must have known would be rejected, and a way for Lieberman to do the actual rejecting -- if only to keep his fragile coalition together. All but one of Sanders' proposed amendments failed badly, including bids to strengthen the auction of pollution allocations, lower the cap on emissions, earmark subsidies for renewable energies, demand accountability from the auto industry, and diminish industry's capacity to stall simply by buying carbon offsets. In most cases, the only man voting alongside Sanders to improve the bill was New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg.

'MidEast Oil Forever?': Part I

Drifting toward disaster

Eleven years ago, I wrote an article for the Atlantic Monthly with various predictions and warnings on oil and energy technology and climate. Since those subjects remain hot today -- concern over oil prices and peak oil is at a three-decade-high, and Shellenberger and Nordhaus have reignited the technology debate with a variety of historically inaccurate claims about the clean energy R&D message -- and since this is probably the best thing I wrote in the 1990s, I am going to reprint it here. It is a long piece so I will divide it up into several posts. "MidEast Oil Forever?" (subs. req'd), coauthored by then deputy energy secretary Charles Curtis, became the cover story for the April 1996 issue (click on picture to enlarge -- yes, that is a lightbulb, the sun, and a windmill about to go over the edge of a sea of oil). The backstory is that the Gingrich Congress had come in with its passionate hatred of all applied energy research, and the Clinton administration was desperately trying to save the entire clean energy budget from being zeroed out. I wrote most of the piece in the summer of 1995 and revised it in January 1996. The title was a warning that the U.S. would be stuck with its dependence on Middle Eastern oil if that happened. Hence the subhead for the article: Congressional budget-cutters threaten to end America's leadership in new energy technologies that could generate hundreds of thousands of high-wage jobs, reduce damage to the environment, and limit our costly, dangerous dependency on oil from the unstable Persian Gulf region.

Me, at the USCMCPS

Mayors gather in Seattle to discuss climate

Today I’m heading down to the [deep breath] United States Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Summit, taking place in my hometown of Seattle. Around 100 mayors from across the nation will be there, discussing how to green their cities. NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving the keynote today, Al Gore will make a special appearance by satellite this afternoon, and Bill Clinton’s speaking this evening. I’ll do what I can to bring you all the hot sexy action on the blog.

Lieberman-Warner markup

The vote

After Sens. Barrasso and Baucus (D-Mont.) spent a few minutes fawning over coal, they moved to the vote. Here's the roll call. Yea: Baucus Lautenberg Lieberman Warner (by proxy) No: Isakson Barrasso Sanders Indeed, Sanders rejected it. But, as they say, the ayes have it, and it will be reported favorably to the full committee.

Lieberman-Warner markup

Barrasso and the supposed good will in the GOP

Barrasso (R-Wy.) wants the bill to sunset after five years. This amendment will die, fortunately, but don't forget it. It's emblematic of the supposed goodwill the GOP has in this process. P.S. Lieberman is drowning Lautenberg in obsequiousness. It looks to me as if the chairman has simply accepted the likelihood that Bernie Sanders will oppose this thing and he's counting on the New Jersey senator to pull the bill over the top. The vote's coming up in moments.

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