Climate & Energy

The lash is back

Stratfor analysis of the backlash against ethanol

Stratfor’s Bart Mongoven on why the growing negative buzz around ethanol is having limited political effect: … the backlash against biofuels is in full swing. The critics, however, are running head on into the powerful agricultural lobbies in the United States and Europe that so successfully championed the issue in the first place. These advocates say that ethanol, biodiesel and other nonpetroleum-based transportation fuels reduce pollution, help fight climate change and improve national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil. Though many policymakers find these arguments compelling, the biofuels issue would not have achieved the political momentum it has without …

The USDA goes all lukewarm on cellulosic ethanol

In related news, the ’07 corn harvest will break records

For decades now, the USDA has been dumping cash into cellulosic ethanol research (most recently through a joint venture with the DOE). So the USDA’s analysts should know something about the prospects for mass production of cellulosic ethanol, hailed by its boosters as a panacea that can wean us not only from oil, but also from corn as an ethanol feedstock. So what’s the latest from USDA analysts on this miracle fuel? From a report released last week: Although cellulosic-based production of renewable fuels holds some longer-term promise, much research is needed to make it commercially economical and expand beyond …

U.S. climate-change research found inadequate in many ways

The good news: the National Research Council finds that the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, started in 2002, has gathered some useful climate data. The bad news: well, where do we start. Less than 2 percent of the money spent by the program has gone to studying how climate change will affect humans. The NRC finds that the 13 federal agencies involved in climate research have been “inadequate” at combining results, assimilating priorities, supporting decision-making, managing risks, and disseminating information. Only two of 21 planned reports have been published. Many climate research opportunities, particularly those designed to gather long-term data, …

Earning it

Another day, another Whitman editorial boosting nukes. At least this one has a slightly better disclaimer: Christine Todd Whitman is the former governor of New Jersey and EPA administrator. She is the CASEnergy Coalition co-chair. The CASEnergy Coalition is an advocacy group that believes greater use of nuclear energy is critical to a U.S. energy policy. I guess if my organization was created at the behest of the nuclear industry, with money from the nuclear industry, in order to advocate for the nuclear industry, I would "believe" that too.

Which way to screw the consumer

WSJ on the carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade debate

People keep emailing me this Wall Street Journal piece on the debate between carbon tax and cap-and-trade, but as far as I can tell there’s nothing new in it. This is well-trod ground on sites like Grist. The one interesting thing about it is this graphic: For reasons Sean has well-described, I don’t believe these kinds of figures. They are undergirded by tons of arguable assumptions. More to the point: as long as every story about fighting climate change is about the high cost to the average voter, we are politically f*cked.


Hopes for energy bill this session fading

According to John Broder, things are not looking good for comprehensive energy legislation this session: The prospect of a comprehensive energy package’s emerging from Congress this fall is rapidly receding, held up by technical hurdles and policy disputes between the House and the Senate and within the parties. FWIW

A slippery (upward) slope

Demand for oil remains strong despite price increases

I was wrong. Back in the summer of '05, when oil prices were flirting with $60 per barrel, I predicted that oil would surpass $70 before it fell below $50. That is, I thought that oil prices would continue to rise in the short term. I got that part right. Oil prices on the futures market briefly touched the $70-mark that fall, and reached the mid-$70s by the following spring. But I also predicted that oil would fall to $40 per barrel before it reached $80 -- on the theory that, over the course of several years, rising oil prices would put a crimp in demand, while goosing production a bit. That part I got dead wrong.

The desertification-global warming feedback loop

Desertification amplifies climate change, and vice versa

Here is yet another carbon-cycle amplifying feedback not in most climate models. On the one hand, the United Nations' top climate official, Yvo de Boer, announced that: Climate change has become the prime cause of an accelerating spread of deserts which threatens the world's drylands. On the other hand, he pointed out that desertification would, in turn, accelerate climate change: You'll see a sort of feedback mechanism ... quite a lot of carbon is captured in soil, so with more desertification (exposing the soil), you also get more CO2 emissions. They are two halves of the same coin. Well, two sides of the same coin, anyway. But we get his point. He was interviewed at a U.N. desertification conference in Madrid. What's coming?

Lomborg: The clever person's climate change skeptic

Debating Bjorn Lomborg on global warming

I taped a debate with Lomborg today on a Denver radio station. I'll post a link when it will be broadcast on the Internet. I'll be interested to hear your reactions. I have long thought it is pretty much impossible to win a one-on-one debate on climate change with anybody who knows what they're doing -- who knows the literature and is willing to make statements that are not really true but can't be quickly disproved. After all, the audience is not in a position to adjudicate scientific and technological issues, so it just comes down to who sounds more persuasive. And Lomborg is quite good at sounding reasonable -- he doesn't deny the reality of climate change, only its seriousness. Lomborg is more of what I term a delayer -- the clever person's denier. Lomborg is especially persuasive because he is so clearly concerned about reducing suffering and death in the Third World.