Climate & Energy

Climate update from NOAA

Second-warmest U.S. August ever

Let's look at some of the records for the month:, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a division of NOAA: For the contiguous U.S., the average temperature for August was 75.4°F (24.1°C), which was 2.7°F (1.5°C) above the 20th century mean and the second warmest August on record. More than 30 all-time high temperature records were tied or broken, and more than 2000 new daily high temperature records were established. Raleigh-Durham, N.C., equaled its all-time high of 105°F on August 21, and Columbia, S.C., had 14 days in August with temperatures over 100°F, which broke the 1900 record of 12 days. Cincinnati, OH, reached 100°F five days during August, a new record for the city. The warmest August in the 113-year record occurred in eight eastern states (West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida) along with Utah. Texas had its wettest summer on record. This was the driest summer since records began in 1895 for North Carolina, and the second driest for Tennessee. At the end of August, drought affected approximately 83 percent of the Southeast and 46 percent of the contiguous U.S. Coincidence? I think not! This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Discover Brilliant: The policy and investment landscape

Next up, H. Jeffrey Leonard, president of the Global Environment Fund. He wants America to "get real." 1. Aggregate global use of fossil fuels will not fall in the next two decades. 2. American "energy independence" is an unrealistic pipe dream driving bad policy. 3. The Biofuels Initiative won’t achieve anything environmentally speaking, and is a grotesque example of pork barrel politics. 4. Consumer and lifestyle steps being taken by Americans are all but irrelevant. Chipper! One interesting point: China has no domestic access to natural gas. No nation has ever cleaned up its pollution or dealt with its environmental …

Tackling climate: Beltway tone-deafness edition

On subsidizing ‘green’ energy R&D

In its "green" issue this week, The New Republic features an excerpt from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger's new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. Their basic point is that the emphasis of the political debate is all wrong. I'm not sure they really understand how things are shaping up, but they're saying that politicians should spend less "time" talking about regulatory approaches, and more time reiterating the importance of innovation. This gives pretty short shrift to the fact that a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade program that auctions credits) is basically an in-kind subsidy to clean energy. But still, regulation and direct subsidies aren't mutually exclusive, and I think the reason you don't hear a lot of hand-wringing about subsidies for green R&D is that securing real (as opposed to de facto) subsidies -- in any future climate change bill -- to well-positioned clean energy companies will be the easy part.* * Keep in mind that part of the reason this will be easy is that the biggest subsidy winner will almost certainly be King Coal, who will almost without a doubt receive billions and billions of dollars to refine and implement carbon capture and sequestration technology across the country and, perhaps, the entire world.

Alaska joins regional climate initiative

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has created a climate-change committee and joined her state with the cool kids at the Western Climate Initiative.

The siren song of denial

Climate change skeptics try to seduce us to inaction

Every once in awhile, I'm struck by something that makes me realize how the ancient storytellers were terrifically acute observers of the human condition, and used metaphor brilliantly to convey their observations. Perhaps the most salient example these days is the song of the sirens, the beauties whose songs would lure sailors toward them until they grounded their ships on the rocks and drowned. The modern-day sirens, Avery and Singer, are taking up the cause by trying to lure the world away from any action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Their song is that this is all just a natural cycle, and the skyrocketing CO2 concentrations can just be ignored.

Discover Brilliant: Renewables and buildings

Now it’s "Moving the Technology Frontier," about technologies that are going to create "tectonic shifts" in the cleantech space, with Stan Bull, head of R&D at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Steve Selkowtiz, Building Technologies Program Leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Bull is first up. Says NREL’s budget is $200-$250 million. That seems tiny to me. Makes the point that available solar energy dwarfs what is available from any other energy source, technology and money aside. Need to move to renewable electric generation, plug-in hybrid vehicles, zero-energy buildings, and sustainable communities. Possible breakthroughs: nanoscience, biotech, hybrid biological-physical systems, …

Discover Brilliant: Energy security

A strange and old-fashioned way to start a hip, cutting edge conference

I’m in a session about “Energy, Climate Change & Resource Nationalism” with General Bruce Wright, commander of U.S. Air Force in Japan, and Dr. Liam Fox, Shadow Secretary of State of Defence and Member of Parliament in the UK. These are old-school guys, fairly conservative, and they’re painting a grim picture. China is ravenous, buying up energy resources in a geostrategic way, growing its military capability. Russia is practically owned and operated by Gazprom and very much wants to restore the prestige of the USSR. The oil problem will be closely followed by a natural gas problem. Europe will soon …

Ecomagination and coal

As long as GE funds coal, its net impact is far from green

Let me pull a few excerpts from a recent WSJ story on the progress of GE’s much-touted "ecomagination" campaign: “I don’t want to change the economic flow of the company,” [CEO Jeffrey] Immelt says. So GE continues to sell coal-fired steam turbines and is delving deeper into oil-and-gas production. Meanwhile, its finance unit seeks out coal-related investments including power plants, which are a leading cause of carbon-dioxide emissions in the U.S. … Counting the emissions was a big challenge for a company with more than 3,000 facilities in 73 countries. One nettlesome question: How should GE count emissions from power …

Cuomo arigato!

New York attorney general subpoenas energy companies over disclosure of coal-plant risks

A new weapon has been brought to bear in the war on coal, and it’s aimed right at the corpulent industry’s soft underbelly: risk. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just sent out a round of subpoenas to energy companies. He wants to see internal documents demonstrating that the companies — AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy — fully disclosed the financial risks of planned coal-fired power plants to investors. (This is Cuomo’s twist on a once-obscure statute — the Martin Act, a 1921 state securities law — that his predecessor Eliot Spitzer revived and used to …

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