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It’s Past Time to Confirm EPA Chief Nominee Gina McCarthy

Patience is wearing thin. For more than three months, Gina McCarthy, President Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency has been stuck in limbo due to procedural stalling tactics in the Senate. That's why the Sierra Club has released two ads that target specific senators, asking them to be a part of the solution and support Gina McCarthy. The ads, released in Arizona and Ohio, call on supporters of clean air and water to contact their senators and ask them to end the gridlock in Washington by moving forward with Gina McCarthy's confirmation. Watch our Arizona and Ohio ads. Lack …

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Coal industry flails around for a new PR strategy

Last week I looked at the coal industry’s failed PR efforts, which even Luke Popovich, the head of the National Mining Association, admits has not worked: “Anyway, ‘war on coal’ never resonated with much conviction among ordinary Americans. For them, the EPA keeps the air and water clean, their kids safe.” One of the problems, of course, is that coal is Americans’ “least favored” energy source, according to a recent Gallup poll. Despite the silly “war” rhetoric, most people understand that we need to move away from coal and the damage it does to our health, environment, and climate. So …

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Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 4. Food or Fuel?

At the time of the Arab oil export embargo in the 1970s, the importing countries were beginning to ask themselves if there were alternatives to oil. In a number of countries, particularly the United States, several in Europe, and Brazil, the idea of growing crops to produce fuel for cars was appealing. The modern biofuels industry was launched. This was the beginning of what would become one of the great tragedies of history. Brazil was able to create a thriving fuel ethanol program based on sugarcane, a tropical plant. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, however, in the United …

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Energy Lessons From the Middle East

Last week Arnold Schwarzenegger, chairman of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, signed an agreement in Algeria to address waste and sustainable energy challenges in the Mediterranean and North Africa. At the same time, a meeting of officials in Bahrain examined technologies and strategies to help that nation evolve into one of the most energy and water efficient economies in the world. Are there lessons in those examples for the U.S. now that President Obama has reignited the debate over climate change policy? The governments of Algeria and its Oran region have realized the potential of energy efficiency measures, development …

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Obama’s Lincoln Moment?

“Those of us in positions of responsibility will need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of our children.” Barack Obama, June 29 national radio address I’ll admit it—I was moved several times as I watched and listened to President Barack Obama’s major speech on the climate crisis on June 25th. As much as I have been angered so many times over the last 4 ½ years since he came into office by the weakness of many of his actions and his pretty-close-to public silence on climate, it …

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How hard is it to integrate renewables into the grid?

In January, EEI said [PDF] that the incentives paid to renewable energy are going to jeopardize grid reliability and electricity costs.  Many enviros have responded that this represents nothing more than the utility industry’s naked self interest.  Who’s right? I’d suggest neither.  The true problem with the EEI report, as I pointed out here, is that they are confusing (perhaps intentionally) a pricing structure problem with a technology problem. There are technical issues, but they result from the structure of clean-energy incentives, not the technologies or the total volume of the incentive. So there’s an easy solution: change the structure by …

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How Europe can help Obama achieve US climate targets

As the global leader of climate action, European governments want to know how President Obama’s major climate speech affects Europe – and particularly whether the actions he outlined can allow the United States to reach its commitment to reduce emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels (or even exceed that level). The big picture: Obama’s speech amounted to the first time that President Obama had given voice to the environmental movement’s core narrative at length. Suddenly, he wasn’t just talking about energy security and the economy and “all of the above” – he was talking about protecting the future of …

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The coal industry’s desperate PR efforts: old, lame, and ineffective

Among the highlights of President Obama’s climate change speech was an explicit recognition that polluting industries and the members of Congress who do their bidding will oppose climate action with the same talking points they have used for decades to try and block clean air standards. Now, what you will hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy and basically end free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you'll hear those things is because that's what they've said every time America sets clear rules and …

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Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 5. Eroding Soils Darkening Our Future

By Lester R. Brown In 1938 Walter Lowdermilk, a senior official in the Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, traveled abroad to look at lands that had been cultivated for thousands of years, seeking to learn how these older civilizations had coped with soil erosion. He found that some had managed their land well, maintaining its fertility over long stretches of history, and were thriving. Others had failed to do so and left only remnants of their illustrious pasts. In a section of his report entitled “The Hundred Dead Cities,” he describes a site in northern Syria, …

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President Unveils “Obama Climate Pollution Test” for Future Energy Projects

Today, in his speech at Georgetown University, President Obama challenged us to answer the essential question for every future energy policy decision we face - what will the net climate impact be if this project goes forward? It was a bold, monumental speech, the best by not only this president, but any president to date on the climate crisis. Greenpeace supporters have told Obama for years that the longer he waited to take sides, the worse climate change would get. Today's speech showed that the time has clearly gotten late enough for him to publicly side with the people, not …

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