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Coal gasification: “clean coal” or subsidy-hungry boondoggle?

Governing magazine has an excellent, compact overview of current developments in coal. If you're hazy on gasification this, coal-to-liquid that, and Fischer-Tropsch the other, I recommend it. With oil and natural-gas prices rising and coal in plentiful supply, it's more or less inevitable that coal's going to get used, so it makes sense that (some) enviro organizations are biting the bullet and joining the push for the cleanest possible applications. There is reason for cautious optimism. Coal mining is destructive as hell, but in places like northeastern Pennsylvania -- where the article focuses, and where the first U.S. coal-to-liquid plant …

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Pistil Whipped

Plants don't absorb as much CO2 as expected, study finds Those who tout tree-planting as the answer to all the earth's problems may have to go back to the drawing board (the planting board?): A new study in Nature finds that carbon dioxide-absorbing plants can't hoover up quite as much of the greenhouse gas as had been hoped, at least not without some artificial juicing of the plants' nitrogen intake. Sorry, dreamers ... oh, there are no dreamers left? Sigh. Computer models have counted on vegetation to absorb much of the CO2 humans spew into the atmosphere. But the six-year …

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Umbra on climate-change patterns

While I am in no doubt about the effect of human activity on climate change, I have a friend who is convinced that even if we weren't destroying the earth, the earth's own weather patterns would be in global-warming stage anyway. How do we know the current climate change isn't just an inevitable part of millennia-long weather patterns? Will changing our behavior mean anything if we are all going to burn to a crisp anyway? Adeline Teoh Sydney, Australia Dearest Adeline, Sorry, no room today to be funny, or to answer the second question. I'll do both later. For now, …

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An interview with Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott

Last week, Wal-Mart joined leading energy executives in their startling call for mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions. The heart of this monolithic retail Grinch grew three sizes that day -- or so it seemed to many environmental Who's. Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. For many enviros, the name "Wal-Mart" has always triggered a shudder. The world's biggest retailer has been charged with exacerbating suburban sprawl, burning massive quantities of oil via its 10,000-mile supply chain, producing mountains of packaging waste, polluting waterways with runoff from its construction sites, and encouraging gratuitous consumption. (And those are just the environmental complaints.) But it's …

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Governor, May I Take One Baby Step?

Schwarzenegger calls for slow and steady climate action In line with his recent climate-action plan to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) called yesterday for power plants, refineries, and factories to begin ... reporting their emissions. Ah, well: baby steps. In a speech, Schwarzenegger advocated a "sensible and deliberate" approach to greenhouse-gas reduction, stopping short of endorsing immediate carbon caps. "We don't want to go after business and make business leave the state," he said. "We want to give them time." The California EPA is currently conducting a study of cap-and-trade systems, …

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Oh No He Didn’t

Chrysler official takes public potshot at oil companies What's more fun than a quiet, simmering feud between Big Auto and Big Oil? A public catfight! Chief Chrysler spokesflack Jason Vines minced no words on a company blog Monday: "Despite a documented history of ... hoarding their bounty by avoiding technologies, policies, and legislation that would protect the population and environment and lower fuel costs, Big Oil insists on transferring all of that responsibility on the auto companies." The tirade was in part a reaction to a recent ExxonMobil print ad that called attention to the auto industry's conspicuous failure to …

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Catfight!

Big Oil and Big Auto get into a war of words

Writing on a private company blog directed at journalists and analysts, Chrysler's head spokesflack Jason Vines aimed the big guns at Big Oil: Despite a documented history of blowing their exorbitant profits on outlandish executive salaries and stock buybacks, and hoarding their bounty by avoiding technologies, policies and legislation that would protect the population and environment and lower fuel costs, Big Oil insists on transferring all of that responsibility on the auto companies. Yes, even though the automakers have spent billions developing cleaner, more efficient technologies such as high-feature engines, hybrid powertrains, multi-displacement systems, flexible fuel vehicles, and fuel cells, …

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Europe should push U.S. to more fully fund the Global Environment Facility

Recently, in Moscow, at the meeting of G8 Finance Ministers, the Europeans gave us a repeat performance of an all-too-familiar pattern: they appeased George Bush at the expense of the global environment. Show us the money. Photo: iStockphoto. At last year's Gleneagles summit of the G8 industrialized nations, the G8 leaders, led by the Europeans, invested considerable political capital to find common ground on climate change. While they failed to persuade George Bush to agree on what arrangements should take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012, they persuaded Bush to join in calling climate change …

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A Swiftly Heating Planet

Spacecraft heads to Venus to get clues about global warming Venus coulda been a contenda. It's just a little closer to the sun than Earth, just a little smaller, and once had plentiful water. But instead of evolving life in a tropical paradise, the oceans started heating up and evaporating, trapping the planet in an unending cycle of warming that's resulted in a burning hellscape of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide. Thank goodness we don't have to worry about that! Ahem. But just to hedge bets, spacecraft Venus Express, sent by the European Space Agency, is orbiting the second rock …

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If At First You Don’t Succeed, Quit

Canada won't make Kyoto emissions targets; blames targets Canada is nearly 30 percent above its greenhouse-gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol, so it's redoubling efforts to ... abandon the targets. New Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, of the less-than-ambitious Conservative Party that took power in February, concludes "it is impossible, impossible for Canada to reach its Kyoto target." Instead, she says, Canadians need to discuss "action and solutions ... that are out by 50, 100 years, not two years, five years." Bold leadership there. Ambrose is presiding over the next round of Kyoto talks in Bonn, Germany, next month and …

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