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Building Natural Carbon: Five Policy Principles

Driven by the fossil-fueled industrialization of Asia, carbon dioxide levels hit 395 parts per million in 2012, the highest level in four or five million years.  That was an era when sea levels were around 80 feet higher and temperatures up to 10° Fahrenheit hotter.   If we sustain those CO2 levels, or go higher as we are doing, over time a completely different world will emerge. Disruptive climate change is pushing two great carbon-reduction imperatives.  The first is to dramatically reduce emissions of heat-trapping carbon pollution through a clean energy revolution, a rapid transition to non-fossil energy sources such as …

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Who Built Senator-Turned-Dirty Energy Lobbyist Trent Lott? You Did

Trent Lott trained in the ways of Washington on your dime. Now he uses that knowledge as a paid lobbyist for dirty energy companies. while also posing as a wise statesman. Far too often in Washington, policy decisions are influenced by big money -- wealthy corporations spend millions on lobbying, public relations, and campaign contributions to get their way. Big money helps explain why your cell phone and cable TV bills are so expensive, why small investors are still unprotected from Wall Street abuses, why taxpayers subsidize incomprehensible waste, like the $33 billion a year we spend on for-profit colleges …

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14 questions for Exxon from an oil spill expert

Exxon’s tar sands pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas is highlighting concerns about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and raising questions about the risks of existing pipelines transporting diluted tar sands crude. In a familiar pattern for the oil industry, Exxon is impeding access to the spill, controlling information about the impacts, and threatening reporters with arrest; as Little Rock, Arkansas based journalist Suzi Parker put it, “the company has instituted something like martial law.” The Arkansas Attorney General has promised an investigation, but with Exxon running the show, many questions about the spill remain unanswered for now. We asked Rick …

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How Obama can work around Congress to go forward on climate right now

Last month, President Obama proposed a plan that will, in his words, “pave the way toward a sustainable energy future” by using billions of dollars from offshore oil and gas leases to fund clean energy technology. While we share the vision of a sustainable energy future, the President’s proposal exemplifies two major reasons his “all of the above” energy strategy won’t get us there. First, the President’s proposal calls for more pollution today to generate money for a clean energy tomorrow.  This is absurd, especially when we can have clean energy today if the president uses the tools already at …

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Before Rubio, Before Luntz: Meet A Founding Father of Climate Change Denial

Republican consultant Frank Luntz, a master of words, made clear in a 2002 GOP strategy memo how conservatives would address the growing threat of climate change: They would simply deny it was happening. According to the memo: The scientific debate remains open. Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the …

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Protecting Northwest Communities from Coal Dust Pollution

This week, the Sierra Club, several Waterkeepers, and other allies in the Northwest filed legal action that put companies on notice for coal pollution coming off of trains and polluting the region. The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most spectacular, legendary waterways on the planet, such as the Columbia River Gorge and Puget Sound. Residents grow, eat, and export foods that are economic mainstays for the region and are prized around the world - from vegetables to wine to salmon. Yet the health and safety of the residents and this economy are threatened by proposed massive increases …

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New Aussie Report Predicts More Drought from an ‘Energetic Climate’

Record heatwaves, droughts, bushfires, rainfall, coastal erosion can all be expected in Australia in the near-term, reports the country's Climate Commission. According to this esteemed group of climate scientists, the increased extreme weather events are courtesy of man-made climate change. I must admit what really stood out to me after reading the Climate Commission's most comprehensive evaluation of climate change's effects on Australia was the report's use of the seemingly non-descript term energetic climate. It's not that the facts aren't important. People need to know the number of record heat days has doubled since 1960; heavy rainfall is increasing globally, …

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After Record 2012, World Wind Power Set to Top 300,000 Megawatts in 2013

By J. Matthew Roney Even amid policy uncertainty in major wind power markets, wind developers still managed to set a new record for installations in 2012, with 44,000 megawatts of new wind capacity worldwide. With total capacity exceeding 280,000 megawatts, wind farms generate carbon-free electricity in more than 80 countries, 24 of which have at least 1,000 megawatts. At the European level of consumption, the world’s operating wind turbines could satisfy the residential electricity needs of 450 million people. China installed some 13,000 megawatts of wind in 2012, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). This was a marked …

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Cloudy Days for a Washington-State Community Solar Effort

The Backbone Campaign's community solar project was motivated by a generous production incentive offered in Washington State for solar projects installed on public property.  Campaign organizer Bill Moyer and many residents of King County, WA, hoped to keep more energy dollars in the local economy by using this incentive to create a community solar project in partnership with the county government. But it wasn’t smooth sailing, as Bill explains in this January interview with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's John Farrell. In trying to bring the project to fruition, Bill ran into many limitations of the state incentive program and …

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Lessons from China’s Rooftops

Last week in Wuxi, I noticed a newspaper headline about the bankruptcy of Suntech, one of China’s largest solar panel manufacturers. Below the fold was a story about the success of several local car companies and the dramatic rise in their stock values. Was there something that these stories had in common - - and something from them that could help the U.S. economic recovery? Suntech defaulted on over half a billion dollars in government loans, a figure similar to the Solyndra losses for American taxpayers. There are numerous reasons for both of these failures, but chief among them was …

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