Climate & Energy

Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part III

Hybrids and biofuels: The road ahead

Many people make the mistake of comparing apples to oranges. One has to compare futures to futures and current status to current status. All technologies improve, but some improve more than others. The Prius gets 46 mpg, while a similar-sized Toyota Corolla gets 31 mpg. One of our investments (Transonic) is trying to make an engine that (if it works!) can be placed in a Prius to produce a vehicle that will have lower carbon emissions than the hybrid Prius at below $1,000 in marginal cost. Other efficient engine efforts abound. If battery technology efforts like Seeo (one of our investments), EEstor, silicon nanowire batteries (or similar efforts that others have funded and many we are evaluating) are successful, we will get the same effect (better petroleum mpg) with a plug-in -- if we can also clean up our grid at the same time! From my perspective, if I have to pick between a 5-10 times lower cost/performance battery and a cleaned-up electrical grid in the next 5-10 years (or even 20-25 years), or pick cellulosic fuels in 50 percent more efficient ICE engines, I consider the latter lower risk and significantly more probable. I am confident that cellulosic biofuels without significant land-use impact or biodiversity impact can achieve costs of $1.25/gallon in less than five years and below $1.00 per gallon in 10 years (more details on that, especially on land use / biodiversity and sources of biomass, in a upcoming paper). At this price point, the technology will be adopted broadly and rapidly worldwide, even if oil prices decline substantially.

Dem debate in Nevada

Well, the Dem debate in Nevada this evening was largely an excruciating affair, thanks to the world-historical vapidity, ignorance, and pettiness of moderators Tim Russert and Brian Williams. Before you do anything else, go read …

The 'Inhofe 400' Skeptic of the Day

Today: George Waldenberger

In previous editions of the "Inhofe 400," we found some skeptics who were completely unqualified and others who are qualified but not actually skeptical. Today's "skeptic" falls into the latter category. He is meteorologist George Waldenberger. In response to his inclusion on the list, George sent an email to Inhofe's staffers that began: Marc, Matthew: Take me off your list of 400 (Prominent) Scientists that dispute Man-Made Global warming claims. I've never made any claims that debunk the "Consensus". You quoted a newspaper article that's main focus was scoring the accuracy of local weathermen. Hardly Scientific ... yet I'm guessing some of your other sources pale in comparison in terms of credibility. You also didn't ask for my permission to use these statements. That's not a very respectable way of doing "research". Wow. He doesn't leave much to the imagination. A few thoughts.

Green in sheep's clothing?

Pro-warming Romney has sham slam on McCain

Think Progress has the whole story, but I'll repeat it here, since, tragically, it may represent the shape of things to come in climate politics for many years, making it hard for Republicans to do the moral thing on climate: Last weekend, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) slammed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for supporting "radical climate change legislation," and "pushing for a massive new energy tax." Romney is using an anti-environment front group, the American Environmental Coalition (AEC), to attack McCain. Last week, AEC co-chair George Landrith said: When it comes to climate change, John McCain and Al Gore are far too much alike for my comfort. John McCain has been sponsoring legislation for the past several years that would give Al Gore much of the regulatory control and power he sought when he and Bill Clinton tried to get America to sign on to the UN's Kyoto global warming treaty ... When listening to John McCain, it would seem that evangelicals should remember the biblical warning found in St. Matthew 7:15 to "beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Sad. And quoting the Bible, too! [Note to Romney/AEC -- You need a more plausible metaphor: McCain may be many things, but he's no sheep.]

Court justice frolicked with coal exec while fraud case was pending

When found guilty of fraud and penalized $50 million by a West Virginia jury, coal company Massey Energy appealed to the state Supreme Court — and won in a 3-to-2 decision. Now a motion has …

The Antarctic ice sheet hits the fan

Antarctic shrinking much faster than expected

The global warming deniers (and the rest of us) just can't catch a break: Vast areas of the Antarctic ice sheet -- which has 10 times as much ice as Greenland -- is losing mass much faster than anyone expected. And the rate of ice loss has quickened in the last decade. In fact, 2007's ice loss was 75 percent higher than 2006's. Jeez, it's almost like ... I don't know ... the whole friggin' planet is melting, and we are to blame! If only we had a group of scientists who would, like, report regularly on the impending catastrophe and explain to us how to avoid it ... As the Washington Post reports:

Waxman vs. EPA

What will the House Oversight Committee chairman turn up next?

Henry Waxman is trying to get to the bottom of the EPA's refusal to allow California to regulate greenhouse gases more strictly than the federal government does. Ryan Grim at Politico has the details: In the letter, Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee gives a hint that the investigation will likely soon escalate to subpoenas. "In prior investigations, the Committee has allowed counsel representing the agency to be present during transcribed interviews. In this case, since your own conduct is being examined, this accommodation would not be appropriate, although counsel employed by the agency may participate if they certify that their presence is as counsel for the witness," he wrote. I'm sure the explanation for all of this is not corrupt or disgraceful. No sir. The full text of the letter is below the fold.

A smarter, thriftier grid

Field test documents big consumer savings

A Northwest field test of smart-grid technologies has documented tremendous potential to run a grid that delivers power far more economically by controlling peak demand. The Pacific Northwest GridWise Demonstration Project has just announced the results of their year-long test, which included two pieces: On the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, 112 homes, three onsite generation units and municipal water pumps were equipped with automated systems that allowed them to adjust grid power demand in response to price signals. Appliances embedded with microchips capable of automatically responding to grid power fluctuations were placed at 150 homes in Washington and Oregon. The aim of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-managed project was to document the ability of automated control systems to cut usage of the most costly power. Reducing demand can eliminate the need for peak power plants and delivery systems used only a relatively few hours of the year. Among the study's findings: Average power bill savings among customers who participated in the Olympic test were 10 percent, and peak load reductions 15 percent. Power use reductions plus distributed generation reduced peak power distribution loads 50 percent for days at a time. These technologies have potential to lower peak power prices plus save $70 billion over 20 years by avoiding the need to build peaking plants and wires. If all appropriate appliances were equipped with the intelligence to respond to grid conditions, 20 percent of U.S. power demand could be adjusted, tremendously reducing the level of blackouts and brownouts.

President Bush asks OPEC to boost oil production

President Bush, on a trip to Saudi Arabia, has urged the key member of OPEC to boost oil production. “Oil prices are very high, which is tough on our economy,” said Bush. “I would hope, …

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