Climate & Energy

Obama will outline energy plan in New Hampshire

Barack Obama will outline his energy plan later today in a speech in Portsmouth, N.H. Expect him to laud cap-and-trade and energy efficiency, propose spending $150 billion over the next decade on clean energy R&D, and blame politicians for not being ballsy enough to make bold proposals for tackling global warming.

Sunday Linkfest

Brain food for your day of rest

Tabs, tabs, so many tabs open. Time for a whirlwind tour of my browser! Got a website? Here are 11 carbon-neutral hosting options. Environmental websites that effectively use graphics and imagery to convey the scope of a problem. I particularly like Gapminder. If Bill Clinton didn’t clear it up for you, the Christian Science Monitor has a nice little rundown on utility decoupling. The Energy Justice Network has a nice, compact fact sheet on the myth of clean coal. Pass copies out to your friends. Two cool blogs I’ve recently discovered: Greenline and Apartment Therapy Green. The biggest American banks …

Cause for humility

Paul Gipe opens one of his books with a story about a big celebration of a new wind project in So. California that was marred when, a few hours beforehand, the turbine oversped and destroyed itself. An executive with the company building the project said something like, "I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that the wind turbine destroyed itself. The good news is that we didn't have to evacuate Los Angeles." Popped into my head when I read this: "Huge nuclear-safe containment to be built over the Chernobyl sarcophagus: The 'New Safe Confinement' will be an arch-shaped structure 105 metres high, 150 metres long and with a span of 260 metres."

Debunking Shellenberger & Nordhaus: Part IV

Why bother criticizing S&N?

The question has been raised: Why spend time "debunking" S&N when they seem to be well-meaning folks struggling for a genuine solution to global warming, unlike, say, Bjorn Lomborg? Aside from the fact that they are adding great confusion and misinformation to a critical debate, the answer is simple -- they aren't well-meaning. S&N spend far more time attacking the environmental community (and Al Gore and even Rachel Carson) than they do proposing a viable solution. Worse, they don't even attack the real environmental community -- they spend their time creating a strawman that is mostly a right-wing stereotype of environmentalists. S&N's core argument is that environmentalists only preach doom and gloom and sacrifice, and that solving global warming ... ... will require a more optimistic narrative from the environmental community. Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, like Silent Spring, was considered powerful because it marshaled the facts into an effective (read: apocalyptic) story ... In promoting the inconvenient truth that humans must limit their consumption and sacrifice their way of life to prevent the world from ending, environmentalists are not only promoting a solution that won't work, they've discouraged Americans from seeing the big solutions at all. For Americans to be future-oriented, generous, and expansive in their thinking, they must feel secure, wealthy, and strong. Gore has never promoted such an inconvenient truth -- they should read his book or listen to his speeches -- and indeed I don't know any major environmentalist or environmental group that has promoted such a message. Just spend some time on the climate websites for NRDC, Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. They all support (most of) the same big solutions S&N do, they just don't think you get those solutions the way S&N do (i.e., a massive government spending program).

Never doubt that a small group ...

The threat from climate deniers

People forget that Margaret Mead's overused quote about small groups being able to change the world doesn't necessarily imply "in a good way." Here's an interesting interview to think about when you next read something from folks like the National Assn. of Manufacturers, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, or Bjorn Lomborg:

It's the efficiency, stupid

Water limits on power plants

From Greenwire today (sub req'd): water availability may limit new power plants. This is widely appreciated in the power sector, but doesn't get as much attention elsewhere. It's especially acute as our population growth moves south and west where we are especially water-limited. What's under-appreciated is that this is a story about efficiency. When two thirds of the fuel we burn in power plants is wasted as heat, and that heat is rejected in cooling towers (at least in coal and nuke facilities), any gain in energy efficiency is a reduction in water use. Given the huge gains available in efficiency, it ought to be central to this discussion. Also bear in mind that Clean Air Act compliance and carbon sequestration drive down the efficiency of coal plants, thereby increasing water use per MWh. Excerpts of the full article below the fold:

Bring in the noise

For every problem there’s a solution that’s simple, attractive, and wrong

Like the noise standard one jurisdiction in Michigan has adopted for wind turbines: "Based on their studies, noise was identified as a key problem. After lengthy research and discussion the regulation was made simple. "If it makes noise and we can measure it, you shut it down," Arndt said." Shall we apply that to coal burners and natural gas turbines (jet engines)??

An interview with Sam Brownback about his presidential platform on energy and the environment

This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Sam Brownback dropped out of the presidential race on Oct. 19, 2007. Sam Brownback. Photo: “America is on the verge of an energy crisis,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) warns on his presidential campaign website, blaming “years of neglect and shortsighted domestic policies.” His solution? Incentivize the marketplace to develop more nuclear power, more renewables, plug-in hybrids, better biofuels, and other homegrown energy sources and technologies. Brownback has been a big advocate of ethanol and other biofuels throughout the decade he’s spent …

The meaning of global warming, part one

Stabilizing the climate requires technology, public investment, and global economic development

The following is a guest essay by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, the latest in the ongoing conversation about their new book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. —– Thank you to everyone here who has participated in this discussion. We are grateful to Grist to making the space for this debate, and to everyone who has chimed in. Through agreement and disagreement alike, it is inspiring to find this many people joining a conversation about how to achieve a common goal. It is the argument of Break Through that we need to replace …