That’s the question at the heart of a letter sent today to the CEO of Kiewit and the President of its mining subsidiary as this major construction company considers whether to bid on the Hay Creek II coal lease next week. The Bureau of Land Management has scheduled the lease of 167 million tons of publicly-owned coal for September 18th, in response to a Kiewit subsidiary’s application to expand its Buckskin coal mine in Wyoming. But the demand for coal has weakened dramatically since the company requested the expansion in 2006, as this dirtiest of fossil fuels is replaced by …
Meteorologists base a lot of their long-term weather projections on temperatures in the globally influential Pacific Ocean. But for more than a year the world's most expansive ocean has been devoid of its famed El Niño and La Niña patterns -- anomalously higher-than-average or lower-than-average bands of sea-surface water that help govern major weather events.
For now, the Pacific is stuck in a stubborn La Nada state: near-normal surface height and temperatures. Scientists say it could last into the spring, but that's not so unusual: La Nada rules the Pacific about half the time. But it makes life difficult for weather forecasters, and it threatens to ignite unpredictably extreme weather. From NASA:
Guest column by Heather Moyer, Sierra Club This week's column focuses on some big coal-related news items out of the Bluegrass State, where some inspiring Beyond Coal activists are making waves. First, some good news: In a victory for clean water and public health, late yesterday a Kentucky circuit court overruled a lax permit that allowed Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) to dump large amounts of mercury, arsenic and other pollutants into the Ohio River from its Trimble County Generating Station coal-fired plant. That good decision news comes along with a bad one: A Kentucky judge just ruled that a …
By J. Matthew Roney Nuclear power generation in the United States is falling. After increasing rapidly since the 1970s, electricity generation at U.S. nuclear plants began to grow more slowly in the early 2000s. It then plateaued between 2007 and 2010—before falling more than 4 percent over the last two years. Projections for 2013 show a further 1 percent drop. With reactors retiring early and proposed projects being abandoned, U.S. nuclear power’s days are numbered. The nuclear industry's troubles began well before the 1979 accident at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant sowed public mistrust of atomic power. In 1957, …
Well they’ve done it. The U.S. government has signed off on a deal to sell the biggest player in the domestic pork industry to a Chinese firm, merging the two biggest pig producers in the world. The feds had held up the merger since May to determine if it might be a threat to national security. And now they’ve decided that no, foreign control of the bacon supply will not imperil our country’s integrity. You may feel differently.
And actually there are people who have real concerns. Here’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), for example, writing at Politico:
Progressive journalist and activist Naomi Klein made waves a couple of years ago with an article in The Nation arguing that climate activism and current-day capitalism are incompatible. An appropriate response to the massive threat of climate change "is going to require shredding the free-market ideology that has dominated the global economy for more than three decades," she argued.
I think there is a very deep denialism in the environmental movement among the Big Green groups. And to be very honest with you, I think it’s been more damaging than the right-wing denialism in terms of how much ground we’ve lost. Because it has steered us in directions that have yielded very poor results. I think if we look at the track record of Kyoto, of the UN Clean Development Mechanism, the European Union’s emissions trading scheme -- we now have close to a decade that we can measure these schemes against, and it’s disastrous. Not only are emissions up, but you have no end of scams to point to, which gives fodder to the right. The right took on cap-and-trade by saying it’s going to bankrupt us, it’s handouts to corporations, and, by the way, it’s not going to work. And they were right ... Not in the bankrupting part, but they were right that this was a massive corporate giveaway, and they were right that it wasn’t going to bring us anywhere near what scientists were saying we needed to do [to] lower emissions. So I think it’s a really important question why the green groups have been so unwilling to follow science to its logical conclusions. ...
Two new studies that came out in Europe during the last couple of days show that biofuel mandates are causing consumers far more pocketbook pain – and contributing more to deforestation and climate pollution – than even previous studies suggested. The European Union’s own Joint Research Center found that Europe’s biofuels mandates are dramatically driving up food prices. Here’s the summary from Euractiv: If biofuels received no EU policy support, the price of food stuffs such as vegetable oil would be 50% lower in Europe by 2020 than at present – and 15% lower elsewhere in the world – according …
Community renewable energy has significant political and economic benefits, but is often hindered by five major barriers. Read on for a summary of the five barriers, watch them in a 17-minute presentation, or check out the vividly illustrated slideshow. Barrier one is tradition. Utilities are simply used to operating a grid in a 20th century model, where large-scale power plants are connected in a top-down, one-way grid to power consumers. Policies that have allowed for on-site solar and wind generation, for consumers to be instead producers, have nibbled at the margins of this tradition. It's only in the past year …
In the national election held on Saturday, Australian voters faced a big choice on climate policy -- a choice between fairly good and downright evil, as we explained earlier this summer.
The Aussies opted for evil.
Tony Abbott, the climate-denying politician who had pledged to kill a carbon tax and other climate initiatives introduced by the Labor Party government, will soon be the country's prime minister. The Abbott-led conservative coalition of the Liberal and National parties (note the capital "L" in "Liberal" -- that's because it's the name of a party, not a description of its platform) easily won an election that had been dominated by debate over climate policies.
The carbon tax has been credited with contributing to a recent drop in carbon dioxide emissions in Australia, which is one of the world's worst per-capita CO2 polluters. But the tax is fiercely resented by the country's powerful resources-based corporations.
Abbott's first order of business? Repaying the mining and fossil-fuel industries that helped elect him by immediately moving to scrap that tax -- just like he promised.
In 1980, the biologist Paul Ehrlich and the economist Julian Simon made a famous decade-long bet. Ehrlich had written a bestseller titled The Population Bomb and become a celebrated advocate of population control to prevent global famine and disaster. Simon, an up-and-coming market-oriented business professor, believed that we don't need to fear the depletion of global resources, since human ingenuity will keep finding new ways to find, fabricate, or redefine them.
After the two began butting heads in public, Simon challenged Ehrlich to a $1,000 wager: Ehrlich could pick any mix of raw materials; if the inflation-adjusted price rose in 10 years, Ehrlich would win; if it fell, Simon would win.
Ehrlich bit. He consulted some friends and assembled a portfolio of chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten that was supposed to represent some key finite resources whose prices might reflect the impact of population pressures.
Ten years later, he sent Simon a check -- no doubt gritting his teeth as he sealed the envelope.
The Simon-Ehrlich wager tapped into an intellectual debate about growth and limits that stretches as far back as the 18th-century thinker Thomas Malthus and that continues, despite the conclusion of the bet itself, to this day. In his new book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth's Future, Yale historian Paul Sabin retells this story in the context of the rise of environmentalism in the U.S., the changing fortunes of green ideas in an age dominated by free market thinking, and the urgent alarms sounded by climate scientists. It's a deft and thorough account of a debate that continues to split the American public and its leaders.
We talked with Sabin recently by phone.
Q. How'd you come to write this book?
A. I was interested in the rise of the environmental movement in the 1970s. I was trying to understand its relationship to some of the broader political conflicts in the nation. And I figured that enough time had passed that we could look back and assess the major successes and some of the limitations of the earlier environmental politics. I was also looking for a topic that would challenge me and had some strong and engaging characters -- a good story.
Spoiler alert, but I think everyone knows that the economist Julian Simon won their bet. That raises interesting questions: Why did he win? What does it mean? How should we think about the clash of issues between these men?