Climate & Energy

Liquid coal op-ed

Come and read it

I’ve got an op-ed on the Guardian‘s opinion site about — what else? — liquid coal. Here’s how it starts: They say the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging. But if there’s one thing the coal industry loves, it’s digging. Generating electricity by burning coal has ravaged the climate, but it’s made coal barons in the US rich. They worried for a while that global warming would mean the end of the gravy train – they’re the ones who started the massive climate-change disinformation campaign back in the 1980s – …

Another great benefit of global warming

Especially for dermatologists

Those who argue that increasing carbon dioxide is good because it's "plant food" should consider this article from the WSJ about poison ivy. It says: Poison ivy, the scourge of summer campers, hikers and gardeners, is getting worse. New research shows the rash-inducing plant appears to be growing faster and producing more potent oil compared with earlier decades. The reason? Rising ambient carbon-dioxide levels create ideal conditions for the plant, producing bigger leaves, faster growth, hardier plants and oil that's even more irritating. Although the data on poison ivy come from controlled studies, they suggest the vexing plant is more ubiquitous than ever. And the more-potent oil produced by the plants may result in itchier rashes. "If it's producing a more virulent form of the oil, then even a small or more casual contact will result in a rash," says Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville, Md.

Solar sale

Better than the redhead

So you want to get in on the solar boom, but don't have the cash to buy a manufacturing plant. What to do, what to do ... I know! Why not try the same place that got you a date with the redhead on the bus, your last apartment, and your '79 Mercedes that you'd run on biodiesel if you could ever get the damn thing to turn over? Yes, Craigslist. They are having a sale on triple junction thin-film amorphous PV manufacturing plants. Give it a shot. Maybe it will work out better than the redhead.

Is this the right time to attack Dingell?

He’s pro-carbon tax, anti-CAFE — which matters more?

Last week, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee, dropped this bomb (sub. rqd.): My own judgment is that we are going to have to adopt a cap-and-trade system and some form of carbon emission fee to achieve the reductions we need. Lest you missed it, “carbon emission fee” is clever poli-speak for carbon tax. Meanwhile, the liberal grassroots group MoveOn has launched a full frontal assault on Dingell, with radio ads calling him a "Dingellsaurus." They’re joined by several other groups, including Greenpeace, which has called for Dingell’s ouster as chair of the E&C Committee. …

A Ruckus in Caracas

ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips leave Venezuela over oil dispute Say what you will about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the guy knows how to keep things interesting. Tired of multinational oil companies having all the fun in his resource-rich country, he has pushed for state control of the Orinoco Belt, the largest energy reserve in the Western Hemisphere; the area holds an estimated 260 billion barrels of extractable crude. Four companies, including Chevron and BP, agreed to minority stakes in their own operations, but two big guys — ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips — backed out. The departure leaves Exxon with no Venezuelan ventures, although …

Because Encouraging Efficiency Is Too Hard

Department of Energy creates cellulosic ethanol research centers Cellulosic ethanol continues inching toward its time in the sun: the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans yesterday for three bioenergy research centers to open by the fall of 2009. Hoping to market new technologies within five years, the centers will focus on identifying microbes that can easily access cellulose in plants; current production of cellulosic fuel involves heat and acids, and the expense has stymied widespread use. The centers will also research genetic modifications that will encourage crops to give themselves up more freely to becoming fuel. The centers — located …

Science: Eh, who cares?

Hansen says scientists need lovin’, too

NASA climate scientist James Hansen has a new paper out, titled “How Can We Avert Dangerous Climate Change,” which is actually a slightly-edited version of his testimony before Congress in April. The paper is available online here (PDF), and it’s worth checking out, of course. But also interesting is the preamble Hansen included in his email announcing the new paper: President Eisenhower was arguably the last United States President to seek and value advice of scientists. As discussed by John Rigdon in June 2007 Physics Today, scientists played important roles in the World Wars, but they did not have substantial …

Global warming and direct action

To act not to act

I regularly receive a letter from Ted Glick, the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council, who recently was arrested for hanging a banner on the NOAA building to protest their mishandling of climate information. He has joined with others in calling for a fast on September 4th: We are calling on thousands of Americans to voluntarily give up food for one day on September 4th, 2007. Other participants will fast even longer beginning on that date, some for weeks. Our appeal to you is to consider joining us in this climate initiative called, "So Others Might Eat: The Climate Emergency Fast." ... What will we be calling for? Three things: no new coal or coal-to-liquid plants; freeze greenhouse gas emissions and move quickly to reduce them; and a down payment of $25 billion for energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy. Ken Ward has recently posted here about the efficacy of protest. The problem as I see it is that in the past, direct action and protest have had very clear achievable goals, whereas in the case of global warming, we know we want drastically reduced carbon emission, but the devil is in the details.

What average folk want from climate policy

Namely, for someone else to pay for it

Somebody on Gristmill recently mentioned this study, I think. (Who are you, mysterious misremembered person? ['Twas JMG!]) Anyway, it was a survey done with 1,200 or so adults. They were presented with three climate policy options: 1) “Standards” or “mandates”: The government tells companies exactly how they must generate electricity or manufacture vehicle fuel to achieve a cut in emissions. 2) Emissions Tax: The government taxes companies for their greenhouse gas emissions. 3) Cap-and-Trade: The government imposes a cap on companies’ greenhouse gas emissions, but allows companies to trade permits – which represent the right to emit a certain amount …

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