Climate & Energy

Coal is the enemy of the human race: Utah miners edition

How many more deaths will we tolerate?

About 4am yesterday, a mine in Utah collapsed, trapping six miners 1,500 feet underground, almost three and a half miles from the mine’s entrance. No one knows if they are alive; there’s been no contact since the collapse. Right now, rescuers are trying to drill through the mountainside to reach them. Progress has been slow, and it may well take up to three days. When the collapse first occurred, it was blamed on a small earthquake, but scientists now think the seismic activity was caused by the collapse itself. No cause has been conclusively identified. Crandall Canyon mine has a …

Step It Up 2 is coming this November — get ready to hit the streetsAsk politicians to join Step It

Bill McKibben is organizing Step It Up 2, a national day of climate action. A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, McKibben is the author of The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience on climate change, and, most recently, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He serves on Grist’s board of directors. Tuesday, 7 Aug 2007 MIDDLEBURY, Vt. Movements need to keep on moving; once the rock starts to budge you’ve got to push even harder on the pry bar. It’s time to Step It Up once more. Circle Nov. 3, 2007, on your …

Did climate change contribute to the Minneapolis bridge collapse?

The question must be asked

The thought didn't cross my mind until my Minneapolis-based brother suggested it. I had asked him for his thoughts on the collapse, and that is the question he posed. I was skeptical at first, but after doing a Google search -- and after NBC reported Sunday that National Transportation Safety Board investigators are "looking at everything" including "the weather" -- I think it is a legitimate question to ask. First, though, why is it an important question to ask? NASA's James Hansen says we are on the verge of turning the earth into "a different planet," thanks to uncontrolled greenhouse-gas emissions. We've seen the Brits and Chinese link recent flooding tragedies driven by extreme weather to climate change. We are all facing far more extreme heat waves, floods, wildfires, rainstorms, droughts and hurricanes -- yet our infrastructure apparently can't handle the weather we have today, as Hurricane Katrina revealed. If we don't adopt aggressive actions to prevent catastrophic climate change, we need to seriously climate-proof our electric grid, our levees, and our water and sewage systems. The question remains, do we need to climate-proof our bridges? Does a connection exist between climate change and the collapse of the I-35W bridge? Consider what a meteorologist who worked in the city for years blogged:

Burning too much energy at the gym?

New York Sports Club kicks in to conserve

The other day at the gym I was engaging in classic attention-deficient media trawling -- attempting to read my magazine, watch the morning newscast, and work up a sweat all at the same time. So it didn't bother me too much when the TV kept shutting off. The equipment at these high-traffic fitness clubs is renowned for breaking down, so I chalked it up to an electrical glitch. Today I learned that in late July, the New York Sports Clubs reprogrammed their televisions to automatically turn off when not in use (this doesn't account, I guess, for those who want to watch without listening, but you can always plug in your headphones without putting them on). When one person makes an effort to conserve energy, it's a good thing; when a facility with as much daily energy consumption as the NYSC network tries to conserve, it's great. Hat tip to the sports clubs for a simple and effective step in the right direction.

Repetto argues for upstream cap-and-trade

More on carbon trading

August is a time to catch up on reading. A good place to start is "National Climate Policy: Choosing the Right Architecture" [PDF], by Yale's Robert Repetto, one of the country's leading experts on environmental and resource economics. He argues for an upstream cap-and-trade system, and against a safety valve. Other views can be found here, here, and here. This is Repetto's conclusion:

Mon Dieu, Il Fait Chaud

European heat-wave length has doubled since 1880, study says The average length of Europe’s sultry heat waves has doubled since 1880, researchers say, from an average of 1.5 days to an average of three days. By analyzing historical records from 54 stations across the continent — then correcting for an upward bias in earlier decades due to thermometers not being shielded from direct sunlight and indirect radiation — the team found that extreme temperatures are getting extremer; they wrote up their findings in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. “These results add more evidence to the belief among climate scientists that …

With Safety Like This, Who Needs Danger?

Rescue effort continues in collapsed Utah mine called “safe” by owner The search for survivors continues at a coal mine in central Utah that collapsed early Monday. Four miners escaped the implosion — which was so strong it registered magnitude 3.9 at a nearby seismic station — but six others were trapped about three miles from the Crandall Canyon Mine entrance, some 1,500 feet underground. While rescue teams worked through the night, the facility’s owner defended his operation, which has received upwards of 300 safety citations from federal officials since January 2004. “I believe we run a very safe coal …

Do 'green' appliances live up to their promises?

The WSJ asks and answers

As home-appliance technology continues to move toward the energy-efficient (and brightly colored), more and more consumers are looking to replace their old appliances. But is it really an upgrade? No, says Jeanine Van Voorhees, who spent $1,000 on a new energy-saving washer only to find that it coughs up dingy, cat-hair-covered clothes. "I curse that machine every time," she says, and she often washes her loads twice. (I’m no expert, but that doesn’t sound energy efficient to me.) According to this Wall Street Journal article, Van Voorhees isn’t alone, either. Many conscientious consumers are reporting that their energy-efficient appliances aren’t …

The best clean-tech book

If you only read one book, pick this one

For years I've been looking for one book to recommend to people who want to get up to speed on what's happening in clean technology. I have finally found it: The Clean Tech Revolution: The Next Big Growth and Investment Opportunity, by Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder. It is the only book I've seen that covers the whole gamut of the latest in clean energy -- including such cutting-edge areas as concentrating solar power and microalgae -- and isn't swept up in fads like hydrogen cars. I was a bit worried when the index didn't have an entry for either "hybrids" or "plug-in hybrids," but that is only because the index is quite lame. In fact, the book "gets" plug-in hybrids, which I consider the acid test of any clean-energy book today.

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