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Keeping Up With the Bushes

Conservative Canadian politico vows to back out of Kyoto agreement As Canada's federal election looms -- yes, Canada is having an election -- Conservative leader Stephen Harper is campaigning on virtually abandoning the Kyoto accord on climate change. Harper, who proclaimed in 2004 that the treaty would never become international law (oops), says victorious Conservatives would jettison mandatory targets and timelines for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in favor of voluntary ones. The Canadian Climate Coalition accuses Harper of putting Canada "into the same camp as U.S. President George W. Bush." Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin is using the issue to hit …

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Iran and oil

So, let's return to a familiar subject: The use of oil as a political tool in international relations. Iran's heading toward nukes. The U.S. wants to prevent it. So the U.S. is threatening economic sanctions -- specifically, threatening to restrict Iran's major export, oil. But, ahem, don't we need that oil? Points out Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "You need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation." Kevin Drum asks, and Stuart Staniford answers, the obvious question: Could cutting off, or even slowing down, Iranian oil exports really do that much damage to us, …

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Plop, Plop, Biz, Biz

Dairy farmer earns bucks from herd's manure Alert readers will note that we never pass up a chance to talk about cow poop. But cow poop that generates power? Pinch us! Minnesota dairy farmer Dennis Haubenschild uses an anaerobic digester to convert the methane-generating dookie of his 900-cow herd into electricity for a local utility, earning thousands of dollars a year while cutting his operation's greenhouse-gas emissions. (Heh, we said "emissions.") A carbon broker measures and verifies the reduction of almost 100 tons of carbon equivalent a week and sells it as greenhouse-gas credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange, North …

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The Joy PUC Club

California regulators approve landmark solar-power plan With one eco-tastic vote, California is set to become a global clean-energy leader: Yesterday, the state's energy regulators approved about $3 billion in subsidies to promote solar power. Rebates will be paid to residential and business utility customers to encourage installation of enough rooftop solar-power systems by 2017 to generate 3,000 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power about 2.2 million homes, and the equivalent of six new power plants. The 3-1 vote by the California Public Utilities Commission is a major victory for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who took the issue to the …

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RFK Jr. and other prominent enviros face off over Cape Cod wind farm

A long-simmering disagreement within the environmental community over a plan to build a massive wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., is now boiling over into a highly public quarrel. The future of Nantucket Sound? Photo: NREL. The four-year-old battle started heating up last summer when Greenpeace USA staged a demonstration against well-known eco-activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's been an outspoken opponent of the proposal for a 130-turbine wind-power project in Horseshoe Shoal, a shallow portion of Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod. Kennedy -- a senior attorney at Natural Resources Defense Council and a pioneer in …

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Climate change is pushing this easygoing enviro over the edge

The one and only time I ever saw my mother become aggressive in public went like this. We were out as a family for a weekend leaf-peeping drive, an impulse apparently shared by most of the rest of New England, because the traffic along New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway was endless 90-degree gridlock. Every once in a while, however, somebody would zoom happily by in the breakdown lane. We watched them with a kind of mounting zealous anger. It would never have occurred to my parents to emulate them -- that would have been wrong. But eventually my mother, sitting in …

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It’s a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping!

Algae being harnessed to combat climate change and other eco-woes Consider the algae. Three years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology rocket scientist Isaac Berzin had an idea: use the slimy plants to clean up emissions from power plants. Today, at a power plant next to MIT, tubes of healthy algae slurp up 40 percent of carbon dioxide and 86 percent of nitrous oxide before power-plant emissions are released into the atmosphere. Not only that, but harvested algae will squeeze out a combustible biofuel. The right type of algae can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre, compared to soybeans' measly …

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Croak and Dagger

Mass frog die-offs linked to global warming The mass disappearance of colorful harlequin frog species in Central and South America has long puzzled biologists, but research published in the latest issue of Nature fingers a culprit: global warming. (When in doubt ...) The deadly chytrid fungus that's killing off the tiny amphibians is flourishing in places where it's gotten warmer at night and cooler during the day -- conditions the study's authors say have most likely been created by increased cloud formation due to large-scale, human-caused global warming. The fungus is implicated in amphibian die-offs around the world. "Disease is …

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Damn You, Bush!

Plants are major methane producers, new research says Methane: it's not just from cow farts anymore. Apparently, ordinary plants emit significant amounts of the potent greenhouse gas. Clearly, all cows and plants must be killed. For the health of the planet! Ahem. Writing in Nature, German researchers suggest that the never-before-noted phenomenon -- which they stumbled on almost accidentally -- could account for 10 to 30 percent of the world's methane emissions. That might confound the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, which allow countries and companies to offset greenhouse-gas emissions by funding new forest planting and reforestation. There may already …

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Doin’ What Comes Dastardly

Not-Kyoto climate pact meeting ends with much hot air The U.S. and Australia today marked the end of the Asia-Pacific climate summit in Sydney by pledging $127 million to support technology projects that would lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Climate activists derided the commitment from the two big polluters as laughably small; the Kyoto Protocol, which both the U.S. and Australia have spurned, is expected to result in up to $12 billion being spent on clean-technology projects in developing countries by 2012. Enviros also say much of the newly announced funding will go to propping up dirty energy industries rather than promoting …

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