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Massive a Tax

New Zealand has unveiled a carbon tax to help it meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which the country expects to ratify by year's end. The tax, which would be implemented in 2007 assuming Kyoto has come into effect, would boost retail gas prices by up to 6 percent, diesel prices by up to 12 percent, and gas and electricity prices by as much as 9 percent, according to government documents. Coal users would be the hardest hit, with a 19 percent price hike. New Zealand emits between 70 and 90 million metric tons of carbon …

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Give a Hoot

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act -- and although the United States has made some strides in improving water quality, it has still got a long way to go. A whopping 81 percent of major wastewater treatment plants and chemical and industrial facilities in the U.S. contaminated waterways beyond what their permits allowed between 1999 and 2001, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. In more than 1,500 instances, the plants and facilities exceeded the limits set by their permits by 10 times; in more than 350 instances, they exceeded …

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The Slush of Kilimanjaro

The snow-capped peak of Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the most famous vistas on the African continent. Soon, though, you might not be able to see it in person: The mountain's 11,000-year-old snow cap shrank by 80 percent in the past century and could be gone within two decades if temperature trends continue, according to a report published today in the journal Science. The disappearance of the ice cap is bad news for water supplies in mountain villages and for the tourism industry in Tanzania, where Kilimanjaro brings in more foreign currency than any other single source. As for …

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The Sub-zero Continent

Sun-scorched India is fast becoming one of the world's hottest markets for air conditioners, as manufacturers rush to capitalize on an unsaturated market and a consumer base with rising disposable incomes. The average price for air conditioners in India has dropped by about 20 percent over the past two years, and sales have been booming; LG Electronics, the world's largest AC manufacturer, expects air-conditioner sales in India to increase by 20 percent per year for the next three years. "All these years we've thought of an AC as an expensive luxury product but that's no longer true," said Ravinder Zutshi, …

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Advice on converting to biodiesel

Umbra, I own a diesel VW Golf, which I bought thinking it was a better choice for the environment than a gasoline engine. Therefore, I was disappointed to read your message that diesel is probably a worse choice. However, you didn't talk at all about biodiesel. Can you give us a rundown on this fuel -- how to get it, how it may be beneficial, and what you might have to do to ensure your car can run on it safely? Thank you. Sputtering in VermontBurlington, Vt. Dearest Sputtering, Here at Grist Command Central, we received an overwhelming number of …

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Oh My Cod!

Cape Wind Associates has been given the green light on a project to build a data-collection tower that could lead to the largest renewable-energy plant in the United States -- 170 windmills off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. The collection tower, opposed by locals for its possible harm to tourism and the environment, will collect information on air and water turbulence, the direction and velocity of wind, wave heights, and currents; data from the testing pole will be used for engineering studies and an environmental impact statement for the proposed renewable-energy project. An attorney representing Ten Taxpayers, the citizens …

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Plugging developing nations into renewable energy

The groaning has largely subsided over last month's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, but one of the biggest disappointments of the event still deserves scrutiny: the failure to create a strategy to disseminate renewable energy throughout the developing world. "The Johannesburg summit's plan for renewable energy has two fundamental flaws -- there is no plan and nothing to implement," says Cowan Coventry, chief executive of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), a U.K.-based nonprofit. "The U.S. and the OPEC states scuppered the chance to switch on lights, refrigerators, water pumps, and other essential devices in the …

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Homeland Insecurity

Despite all the hype about guaranteeing "homeland security," the Bush administration has scrapped plans to impose strict regulations to protect chemical plants from possible terrorist attacks. The decision, which was confirmed yesterday by U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, came after months of administration infighting and heavy lobbying efforts against new rules by the chemical industry. Whitman and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge favored the idea of new regulations, whereas officials in other agencies argued that the EPA would be overstepping its authority by using the Clean Air Act to force chemical plants to identify and resolve serious security breaches in …

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What in the Sand Hill?

High on the list of Very Remote Places on Earth are the Great Sand Hills, a 730-square-mile stretch of sage brush and dunes in southwestern Saskatchewan, Canada. There is one road in the region, and precious little traffic on it. The main residents are mule deer, coyotes, burrowing owls, and the endangered Ferruginous hawk. But the Sand Hills are also home to bountiful, close-to-the-surface natural-gas resources -- a potential treasure trove for energy companies. Calgary-based Star Oil and Gas wants to increase its number of wells from 39 to 179, and Andarko Canada wants to drill about 100 new ones. …

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Running Knows

Climate change is caused by human activities -- and maybe by more of them than previously thought. That was the conclusion of a report released today by NASA, which found that land-use changes such as farming, irrigation, and urban sprawl contribute as much if not more to climate change than does the burning of fossil fuels. According to the report, changing land-uses in North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia are redistributing heat regionally and globally; for example, irrigated farmlands in Colorado have contributed to a cooler, wetter climate in the area by adding moisture to the atmosphere, and deforestation in …