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World in Serious Trouble on Food Front

In the early spring of 2012, U.S. farmers were on their way to planting some 96 million acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record. The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the U.S. grain harvest. Internationally, the U.S. corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production …

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Could Securitization Democratize Solar Power?

After Wall Street popularized the term “mortgage-backed securities” in their destruction of the economy in 2008, you could be forgiven for thinking “solar securities” are a pyramid scheme.  But in truth, they may hold the key to democratizing the financing and the ownership of distributed renewable energy. Right now, financing solar typically means looking for a “tax equity” partner who will provide some upfront cash to build a solar array in exchange for helping to use the federal tax incentives for solar.  These are business deals, and the tax equity folks may demand a 30% return on their equity (or …

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Why is the U.S. government so bullish on coal predictions?

U.S. energy policies prop up coal consumption in a variety of ways, some clear and some less so. For example, the Bureau of Land Management has lately come in for a drubbing for leasing public lands to coal mining companies at comically low rates, and to the detriment of taxpayers.

Official bullishness on coal extends to other government agencies too, such as the Department of Energy, which produces the nation’s energy forecasts. If you sift through the new coal projections in the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2012, you’ll find something rather curious: The U.S. government has a more favorable outlook for coal than virtually any other major forecasting institution.

Take a look at U.S. projections for coal exports, and you’ll see that they are more aggressive than any other major forecast*:

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Soot Hearings: Speaking Out For Public Health

On Tuesday, hundreds of Philadelphia residents rallied and spoke at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing on new safeguards to cut deadly soot pollution nationwide. Today, many more will rally at another soot hearing in Sacramento. I grew up in the Smoky Mountains, where - believe it or not - dangerous levels of air pollution sometimes made it dangerous to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Since becoming a mom two years ago, I know that I pay more attention to those "code red" and "code orange" days when the air pollution makes it dangerous for many kids to …

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Stop Fracking, Heal the Planet

Mark Ruffalo and Josh Fox have just released a short video about why it is so important for people to come to Washington, D.C. on July 28 to take part in the Stop the Frack Attack demonstration. They're right! It is! Join them! Mark and Josh talk about two major reasons to come to DC and why we need to move as rapidly as possible away from ALL fossil fuels. It is especially urgent to get off the extremist-produced, especially dangerous energy like fracked gas, oil from the tar sands, the Arctic and deepwater offshore drilling, and mountaintop-removed coal. Extreme energy will only …

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Could the U.S. Cut Household Electricity Use by Two-Thirds?

Your mind-blowing chart of the day, courtesy of Arne Jungjohann at the Heinrich Böll Foundation.  To be fair, there's little need for air conditioning in Germany compared to the United States, but air conditioning only accounts for about 20% of U.S. household electricity consumption.  Leaving it out make it 9,200 kWh vs. 3,100 kWh. Wow. Source for U.S. use; source for German use; used U.S. average household size of 2.6.

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The Exaggerated Promise of Renewable Energy

The continued existence and expansion of human civilization is wholly dependent on affordable sources of energy. The latest study just released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (an organization that exists to study and promote the viability of renewable energy) suggests that it may be possible to get 80% or so of our electric power from renewable sources by 2050. The study also (inadvertently) provides evidence that renewable energy will be a minority player in humanity's energy portfolio. The results may disappoint my fellow solar enthusiasts because it suggests that only 13% of our electric energy will come from solar. …

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Why we pay double for solar in America (but won’t forever)

I often get flak when I publish research on the cost trajectory for solar (my "Rooftop Revolution" report estimates 100 million Americans reaching grid parity by 2021). About half think I’m too conservative, and half think I’m too overconfident that solar will continue to drop in price by 7 percent per year indefinitely.

But I’m not alone in perceiving an enormous cost reduction opportunity for solar in the United States. An article in Forbes last week suggested that we can "Cut The Price Of Solar In Half By Cutting Red Tape."  It provides a chart (reproduced below) like one I published in March, that shows how a similarly sized residential solar array in Germany costs 60 percent less than one built in the U.S.

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Hundreds Rally Against New Chicago Coal Plant

On Tuesday hundreds of Chicagoans rallied against a coal gasification plant proposed for the city’s southeast side. These residents are against this planned facility because of the pollution it would bring – not to mention what a poor plan it is to build another dirty coal facility after the city just announced the closure of Chicago's two ancient Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Currently, legislation is sitting on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's desk that would force the state natural gas utilities into 30 year contracts to pay for the construction and output of the Leucadia's coal gasification plant. We are …

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Throwaway Economy Headed for Junk Heap of History

In their book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart conclude that waste and pollution are to be avoided entirely. “Pollution,” says McDonough, “is a symbol of design failure.” The challenge is to re-evaluate the materials we consume and the way we manufacture products so as to cut down on waste. Restructuring the transportation system has a huge potential for reducing materials use as light rail and buses replace cars. For example, 60 cars, weighing a total of 110 tons, can be replaced by one 12-ton bus, reducing material …

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