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A Grist special series on biofuels

These days, ethanol is praised as the whiz-bang cure-all for our energy ills. And maybe all the sweet talk will cause this "new" fuel to forget that America dumped her for oil in the early 20th century. Oil's just so ... ew all of a sudden. We may finally be ready to return to our first love, an energy source that's been by our side in some form or another since Neolithic times. Oil was too high-maintenance and demanding, anyway. And ethanol's a much better match ... right? Or maybe biodiesel is the one? Or vegetable oil? Hemp? Turkey guts? …

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Global warming: worry, don't panic

It’s a disaster, not a catastrophe

A Guardian story suggests that we may have as much as eight degrees of global warming already locked in, in the form of stored heat in the ocean. But a substantial stored-heat backlog in the ocean has been well-known for some time. That it is greater than expected is bad news -- but (as I've confirmed in correspondence with Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate) this does not mean that all or most of that stored heat is going to "come back" and fry the planet, provided we take action in time. I know James Lovelock, the brilliant inventor of the …

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'Cause baby we're not ... biofuel-fuel-fuel-fuelin'!

Get ready for a special series

Been hearing a lot about "biofuels"? Having more and more trouble concealing your ignorance about them? Wish someone would pull together a special series of articles, explaining the differences among various biofuels, analyzing who profits from them, listing the various political initiatives around them, interviewing experts, and answering once and for all the vexed questions about energy balance? Well aren't you in luck! On Monday morning, steer your browsers to grist.org. All your questions will be answered.

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Efficiency is the new new black

New report say so

I meant to write a few days ago about the new report (PDF) from the McKinsey Global Institute which says that ... are you sitting down? ... efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to cut global energy consumption. As Keanu would say: woah. Anyway, Joel Makower's got a nice post about it, so go read that.

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Do Not Giggle

Livestock sector spews a fifth of human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, says U.N. The U.N. has issued fresh content on a vital cause of global warming: cow farts. It seems that 18 percent of human-caused greenhouse gases stem from farm animals and the livestock industry, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Besides poots, agriculture-related deforestation and energy use contribute to the total. When all the carbon-equivalent math is said and done, livestock produce more of the world's human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions than cars, says the U.N.: about 9 percent of carbon dioxide, up to 40 percent of methane, and nearly two-thirds …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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More Poles to Worry About

Global warming makes skiing World Cup circuit hit the skids Global warming is wreaking mountains of havoc on skiing's World Cup circuit, with stops canceled due to weirdly warm temps at European resorts. Cross-country teams are all training in one place in Italy, unable to find snow elsewhere in central Europe; the only cross-country race held so far this year, in Finland, saw rain the entire time. In North America, meanwhile, trainings have been hobbled by too much snow. The International Ski Federation calls the situation "critical." U.S. Olympic downhiller Steve Nyman says pro skiers -- "living in hotel rooms, …

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Besieged by natural-gas exploration, a Wyoming town draws the line

On a summer weekend in the high country, I talked my grandmother into taking a drive into the Wyoming Range, where she'd worked with my grandfather as a hunting guide more than 20 years earlier. We wanted to have a look at a certain 44,600 acres of forest that had been leased by companies in search of natural gas. Can the Wyoming Range be protected from drilling? Photo: JessLeePhotos.com Heavily timbered with pine, fir, and aspen, the range lies to the west of Pinedale, my hometown. The leased land fell across the Beaver Creeks, where Grandma had grown up on …

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Coal is the enemy of the human race

It’s also the road to ‘energy security’

A few times now John has made a point I have made in the past and now shall make again (how's that for a self-referential intro?). To wit: "Energy security" is a lopsided way of framing our energy problem, and left un-balanced, will do more harm than good. Why? Because the shortest, cheapest route to energy security (or "independence," if you like) is through coal, and coal is ... wait for it ... the enemy of the human race. This is not just true for China and the U.S.; Germany, Britain, and even France are planning a slew of new …

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An interview with Travis Bradford, author of Solar Revolution

Solar power has been the Next Big Thing for decades now, yet it remains a niche player in the energy world. The problem of intermittency is unsolved, up-front capital costs remain high, and surging demand for polysilicon, a key component of solar panels, has recently outstripped supply, stifling production. Travis Bradford. So when someone claims that within decades solar photovoltaic technology will come to dominate the world's energy portfolio -- with or without subsidies, with or without rising fossil-fuel prices, with or without new environmental legislation -- one could be forgiven a degree of skepticism. But Travis Bradford is no …

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Letting the Cataclysm Out of the Bag

Supreme Court hears opening arguments in landmark climate-change case Climate change made its Supreme debut yesterday, as the high court began considering whether the U.S. EPA must regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Much of the opening session concerned whether the plaintiffs, including several green groups and a dozen states, had suffered enough harm to sue. Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey said coastlines were in grave danger and emissions rules would help; Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre countered that such rules would do economic harm and were unadvisable "in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding …