Climate & Energy

Pragmatists v. environmentalists, part I

Prius: Green or greenwash?

I have been accused of dissing hybrids. I was mostly discussing Prius-type parallel hybrids and all the support they get, when one can get the same carbon reduction by buying a cheaper, similar-sized and -featured car and buying $10 worth of carbon credits. I was objecting to greenwashing (powered by a large marketing machine) that suggests hybrids can solve our problems. Corn ethanol, which has been heavily maligned in the mainstream media, reduces carbon emissions (on a per-mile-driven basis) by almost the same amount as today's typical hybrid. Despite the similar environmental profiles, one is a media darling and the other is demonized, despite its more competitive economics. My main complaint has been the lack of critical analysis in this space. Corn ethanol (which I don't believe is a long term solution) has been framed by the oil companies' marketing machine, farm policy critics, and impractical environmentalists (though the NRDC and Sierra Club support corn ethanol's transition role as I do, subject to certain constraints). The Prius and hybrids have been positioned by Toyota's marketing machine. The public is gullible. I am open and hopeful, especially longer term, on serial plug-in hybrids (a point I'll address in Part III). Price still remains a major issue. Even for serial hybrids, the ability to keep cost, or at least monthly payments, close to that of a regular ICE (internal combustion engine) car is unclear. Maybe another blogger with knowledge of practical automotive costs can detail the likely trajectory of serial hybrid costs (say, with a typical 40-mile "battery range"), as this remains the critical question. The Prius is the corn ethanol of hybrid cars, and we should recognize that. It has increased investment in battery development, but beyond that it is no different than Gucci bags, a branding luxury for a few who want the "cool eco" branding (70%+ of Prius buyers make more than $100k per year). In this series, I will try to lay out my views on hybrids as a whole -- what I believe hybrids are good for and what they are not. (My paper on Biofuels Pathways (PDF) delves into the details.)

Coal is not cheap, part XVXIV

Clean coal plants are dying on the drawing board. Why? Because … stop me if you’ve heard this one … coal can be cheap or …

Watch the 'Face It' webcast

There is a silver-bullet solution to global warming

The dialogue between this country's youth and key decision-makers during the important Focus the Nation (FTN) event on January 31st has the potential to become diluted and confused. If it does, another opportunity to move a segment of the country towards seriously addressing climate change will have been wasted. Shotgun Approach Falls Short Although every personal effort at reducing energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions is laudable and helps change the way we think about global warming, taking the shotgun approach to emissions reductions is simply not enough. Time is extremely short, and we must act immediately and boldly if we are to avert a climate crisis. The Silver Bullet Contrary to what many are saying, there is a "silver bullet" solution to global warming, and it is time we, as a nation, faced up to it.

McCain on climate and coal in Michigan

Rubber, meet road

So, McCain made a big deal out of climate change before the New Hampshire primary, sucking up to the state’s independents. Now the Republicans are …

Modestly right, not interestingly wrong

The right way to interpret Shellenberger & Nordhaus

Matt Yglesias has a review of Shellenberger & Nordhaus’ book in the NYT Sunday Book Review. It contains a good insight and a fairly crucial …

Mayor may not

Climate treaty among mayors often honored in the breach

Seven cities in the San Diego region signed on to the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, but some didn’t do much more than sign it. I …

WTFx3

Leader of group fighting Cape Wind project makes $203,000 last year (WTF?), quits this year to go work in the wind industry (WTF?), and hands …

Green groups sue over DOE’s plans for electric transmission corridors

Green groups are suing the Department of Energy over its plans for electric transmission corridors in the U.S. Southwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. The groups say …

My Al Gore story

Gore’s impromptu humor at a recent small climate summit

I'm not normally given to shameless name-dropping, but what else are blogs really for (other than making bets with readers)? Over the last three days I attended a small climate solutions summit hosted by the former vice president and current Nobel laureate. It was off-the-record, so I can't report on presentations directly, but they have made me a lot smarter about the latest technologies and strategies for clean energy, which will inform my blogging this year on climate solutions. I will say now as an aside that I have become much more bullish on the potential for large-scale solar photovoltaics as a result of attending these meetings. The VP asked me to speak for seven minutes on hydrogen at dinner Wednesday. Before dinner, I gave him a copy of the brand-new paperback edition of -- warning, shameless product placement -- Hell and High Water. He looked it over for a few minutes and said, deadpan: