Climate & Energy

Larry Craig's 'wide stance' on coal and timber

The disgraced senator’s real crimes go unpunished

In John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, a lowly cop finds himself assigned to lurk in a public bathroom, on the lookout for “suspicious characters.” Sen. Larry Craig bumbled into just that sort of trap, his tapping foot and now-infamously “wide” toilet stance dooming him to political infamy. There’s no justice in entrapment, but there’s ripe poetic justice in a stalwart of the gay-bashing GOP perishing from the very anti-gay fervor his party habitually stokes. Good riddance. But let’s not forget that the good senator’s real crimes don’t involve sex acts among consenting, if closeted, adults. He used his …


Coal insider reveals the truth about carbon sequestration

Does the coal industry really believe that carbon sequestration can make coal-fired power plants climate friendly? It’s got legislators and even some green campaigners believing so. Given the coal industry’s troubled relationship with the truth, perhaps some skepticism is warranted. The inimitable Sir Oolius points me to this post from M.J. Murphy. Murphy, obviously a masochist, overheard some intriguing things recently in the Climate Change Skeptics news group. Recently, CEI emeritus Myron Ebel was complaining to the group about sequestration — he noted that it’s expensive and unworkable at scale. Along comes Richard S. Courtney, long-time climate change skeptic, former …

Teaching green

Lessons from Burning Man 2007

A man in a hardhat just dropped off his chicken for me to mind -- a Japanese Silkie who watched me with one surprisingly smart eye as I typed this post. I reassured her I was a vegetarian, and she seemed to relax. After a few minutes, the man in the hardhat returned, thanked me, and said he was off to find a blowdryer so he could give the little hen a bath. Playa dust has coated her feathers. If it had been Monday, I might have thought this strange. But it's Sunday, and along with nearly 48,000 other people at Burning Man I've weathered two battering whiteouts of several hours each, and ingested some things I probably shouldn't have, and it was only after he'd walked away that I reflected back on the incident as unusual. That's what's great about this place: The Playa cracks your mind wide open. The spectrum of reasonable behavior widens. You question old prejudices and drop useless restrictions. Your mind frees up to learn. So what better place to learn new tricks for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? For coming to understand -- in a visceral, tactile, immediate way -- what it means to produce and expend energy? This, I assume, is what the exhibits under the Man, in the Green Pavilion, were supposed to accomplish. There was a game you could play, in which you threw hacky-sacks at little boards painted with images of oil rigs and smoke stacks, hoping to knock them over. There was the "Single-Cell Solution," an exhibit by the Chlorophyll Collective, which takes up exhaust from biodiesel generators in fluid-filled tubes, feeds those nitrogen-rich emissions into a pond where it feeds algae. The algae can be used to make more biodiesel: A closed fuel cycle. A marvel. Why aren't we doing this on a large scale? What would it take?

The future of coal

‘Clean coal’ is an oxymoron

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. Should we, the nation's beleaguered taxpayers, be required to spend billions of dollars on an oxymoron? The oxymoron in question is "clean coal," and in my view, the answer is "no." If coal is to have a future, the coal industry and its partners in the rail and electric power industries should pay for it themselves. Here are the reasons. First, while climate science is complicated, climate policy is simple. We need far lower levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which means we must start decreasing emissions immediately. Our highest priority for taxpayer dollars should be the deployment of market-ready energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and the rapid development of those that are still in gestation. The "DOE and industry have not demonstrated the technological feasibility of the long-term storage of carbon dioxide captured by a large-scale, coal-based power plant," according to a December 2006 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (PDF). And the U.S. Department of Energy doesn't expect to have demonstrated the feasibility for at least a decade. Meantime, solving the climate problem gets more expensive and complicated every year. Second, the rationale for large public subsidization of clean coal is specious. The argument goes like this: We have one hundred or more years worth of coal supplies and the stuff is cheap -- it exists, therefore we must consume it. But if ample supplies and low prices are the criteria, we should be investing all of our money in solar. We have a 4.5 billion year supply of sunlight, and it's free.

Coal is not the enemy of mankind when properly offset

Because voluntary offsets are never, ever like indulgences

In a prime example of how voluntary offsets fail to resemble indulgences:

Hunting the white whale

Flawed new analysis purports to show that there’s no scientific consensus on climate change

If those opposed to action on climate change are like Ahab, the scientific consensus is their white whale. The reason is simple: as Frank Luntz's famous memo pointed out, if they can convince the general public that the science of climate change is uncertain, they can drag the debate over policy to a grinding halt. Thus, every so often, another argument emerges that purports to prove that scientific consensus on climate change does not exist. This week, it's a blast from the past: an analysis of the "Web of Science" that shows that no consensus exists and only a minority of scientists support the views of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). First, some background. For those who aren't familiar, the Web of Science (WoS) is a massive database that includes the title and abstract of essentially every scientific paper published since the early '90s. There's also a ton of ancillary information in the database, such as how many times a paper has been cited. It's an invaluable tool to the scientific community, one I use on an almost daily basis to find papers in the peer-reviewed literature. Naomi Oreskes, a Professor of History and Science Studies at UC-San Diego, searched WoS for papers that include the phrase "global climate change" in the title or abstract and found that basically none of these papers explicitly reject the consensus position (i.e., the earth is warming, humans are very likely responsible for most of the recent warming, etc.). See Coby Beck's writeup for more details. A medical researcher, Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, has revisited Oreskes' analysis. Oreskes looked at papers published between the mid-1990s and 2003, while Schulte looked at papers published after 2004. I have not actually seen a copy of this new paper, but I've reconstructed its salient points from a description of the analysis found here (PDF). The abstract of Dr. Schulte's paper: Fear of anthropogenic 'global warming' can adversely affect patients' well-being. Accordingly, the state of the scientific consensus about climate change was studied by a review of the 539 papers on "global climate change" found on the Web of Science database from January 2004 to mid-February 2007, updating research by Oreskes (2004), who had reported that between 1993 and 2003 none of 928 scientific papers on "global climate change" had rejected the consensus that more than half of the warming of the past 50 years was likely to have been anthropogenic. In the present review, 32 papers (6% of the sample) explicitly or implicitly reject the consensus. Though Oreskes said that 75% of the papers in her sample endorsed the consensus, fewer than half now endorse it. Only 7% do so explicitly. Only one paper refers to "catastrophic" climate change, but without offering evidence. There appears to be little evidence in the learned journals to justify the climate-change alarm that now harms patients. This analysis is rubbish. First, consider the following abstract, from a paper entitled, "An analysis of the regulation of tropical tropospheric water vapor":

Was this found on a stone tablet? Papyrus? Vellum? Handpress broadsheet?

W. Va. editorial says mining coal should be easier

This editorial is from 2007, not 1877: " First Things First: Let's Mine the Coal." Maybe there's something to the inbreeding jokes ... We can talk about windmills, solar panels and biomass, and they undoubtedly are in our future. But those energy sources cannot meet the nation's growing energy demands now or in the foreseeable future. Nuclear energy may take on an expanded role, but not everyone will welcome it. Our leaders must step up and tell the nation the truth: We need coal. It must remain a major source for electricity, and it certainly could and should be a source for motor fuels.

Smeg me

Pardon me a little gadget porn as I ogle these Smeg refrigerators, which have made it to the states at last. Despite the unfortunate name, it’s on my Christmas list: They’re extremely efficient, too: 305 kWh / year. I know, I know. If I was a real enviro I wouldn’t refrigerate food.

The Architect speaks

Karl Rove says history to view Bush as ‘far-sighted leader’

Here is how The Architect describes President Bush's environmental legacy: On energy, the environment, and climate change, [Bush] is developing a new paradigm. Emphasizing technology, increased energy-efficiency partnerships, and resource diversification, his policies are improving energy security and slowing the growth of greenhouse gases without economy-breaking mandates and regulation. The president who won criticism by rejecting the failed approach of Kyoto has implemented policies that enabled the United States to grow its economy by 3.1 percent and reduce the absolute amount of CO2 emissions (by 1.3 percent).

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×