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Fossil Fuels


Me against the world: The trouble with travel and the climate

My personal carbon offset plan has bogged down with a serious case of the Couldas.

For those of you just joining us, I’ve been on a personal quest to nullify the carbon dioxide emissions from a trip to Texas last October. All 1,858 pounds of it. Rather than buying a dubious carbon offset for the trip, I wanted to slice enough emissions from my own lifestyle to atone for my sins against the climate.

How’s that been working out, you ask? Coulda been better.

I could have cut back to once-weekly showers, saving gallon upon gallon of water. After all, it takes gobs of energy to gather, treat, and deliver fresh water on demand. I could have gone vegan, lifting resource-intensive and methane-spewing meat products from my conscience. I could have given up my apartment and my job in favor of a life spent illegally squatting in the woods and eating raccoon gristle. All that power I’ve been sucking to keep my food cold and my computer humming? Off my balance sheet.

Perhaps it won’t shock you to learn I didn’t do any of those things. That’s why, to date, I’ve managed to offset just 789.5 pounds of that mighty 1,858-pound total. Well, that’s the official tally. I’m hoping you’ll give me some credit for a side project I’ve undertaken. More on that in a minute.


Animated guide to building a Keystone XL

Who knew the Keystone XL pipeline was this simple? Turns out it's just a long concrete tube buried three to four feet under ground, rambling on for mile after mile, narrated by a guy with an adenoid problem. All this fuss over whether or not it will be built, and it's barely more complicated than a sewage outflow.


The great carbon bubble: Why the fossil-fuel industry fights so hard

The 2012 version of NASA's iconic "Blue Marble" image. (Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video.)

This essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission.

If we could see the world with a particularly illuminating set of spectacles, one of its most prominent features at the moment would be a giant carbon bubble, whose bursting someday will make the housing bubble of 2007 look like a lark. As yet -- as we shall see -- it’s unfortunately largely invisible to us.

In compensation, though, we have some truly beautiful images made possible by new technology. Last month, for instance, NASA updated the most iconic photograph in our civilization’s gallery: “Blue Marble,” originally taken from Apollo 17 in 1972. The spectacular new high-def image (shown at right) shows a picture of the Americas on Jan. 4, a good day for snapping photos because there weren’t many clouds.

It was also a good day because of the striking way it could demonstrate to us just how much the planet has changed in 40 years.


Brad Pitt on why cars are stupid

Brad Pitt explained the premise of his film Moneyball to Jon Stewart by way of analogy to gas-guzzling cars. Most of the interview wasn't about green stuff at all (his Celebrity Cause is building houses in New Orleans, which is sort of related but not totally related), but Comedy Central did get a pretty good meme out of this:

Read more: Fossil Fuels


State Dept. official overstates Keystone jobs by a factor of 10

The State Department wants to set the record straight: When they said the Keystone XL pipeline would create 35,000 jobs, they were entirely correct, in some kind of number system where 100 equals 1,000. Otherwise, they may have exaggerated a little.

In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday,  Assistant Secretary of State Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones should have said the pipeline’s indirect job potential was 3,500 annual jobs but instead she said 35,000.


Obama makes strong call for clean energy — oh, and drilling and fracking too

(Photo by Alex Howard.)

Clean energy rocks. Nice, deserving people get jobs at wind-turbine plants. Solyndra-style investments are critical. Oil-industry subsidies suck. Energy efficiency is an economic engine. We need to drill, baby, drill. And we need to frack, baby, frack.

Those weren't the words, but those were the sentiments in the energy portion of President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night. He dedicated a significant chunk of the speech to energy issues, making an unexpectedly vigorous appeal for renewable power, cleantech investment, and efficiency -- as well as for natural-gas fracking and oil drilling.


In SOTU, Obama trying yet again to blunt polluter attacks with policy concessions

Kissing up to Big Oil hasn't worked for Obama before, and it won't work this time, either. (Photo by Patrick Gage Kelley.)

Apparently every pundit and journo on the planet is required to write a post about Obama's State of the Union speech tonight. I've done posts on every SOTU for years now, but honestly, I was planning on skipping it this year. The social and political science on these matters is fairly clear: Presidential rhetoric (especially any individual speech) doesn't have much of an effect on anything. It rarely changes public opinion or secures policy outcomes. And even if the rhetoric had some effect, the fact remains that in the American system of government the president has very little power over domestic policy. Even if he promised the moon, in the end we only get what our turd of a Congress accepts. The whole thing is show business, mainly serving as a stimulus package for the journalism industry.

But then I read this story in The Wall Street Journal. Blarg.

Apparently Obama's going to use tonight's speech to adopt a defensive posture in the wake of the Keystone XL decision. He's going to try to reassure Serious People that he really, really does support fossil fuels. He's expanding oil production. He's expanding natural gas production. He's expanding coal production. He's not anti-energy! He looooves fossil fuels!

Read more: Fossil Fuels, Oil, Politics


Shocking but true! The director of ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’ wants to chat with you!

Chris Paine, director of Revenge of the Electric Car.

Director Chris Paine chatted with Grist readers about his latest film, Revenge of the Electric Car, which comes out on DVD this week after a nationwide tour.

Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, told the tale of the EV-1, a prototype electric car created, then buried, by General Motors. Revenge of the Electric Car is the sequel, and follows the saga of four men, all racing to create a plug-in vehicle for the mass market, for the luxury set, or just for the pure awesomeness of it. (Read our review of the film here.)


GOP isn’t giving up easy on Keystone XL

President Obama was pretty clear that he rejected the Keystone XL pipeline's permit application because "the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline's impact." But congressional Republicans still haven't gotten the message that maybe rushed and arbitrary deadlines aren't working in their favor. Politico says House speaker John Boehner has indicated he's willing to play dirty in order to get the pipeline approved.

Read more: Fossil Fuels, Politics


Is the anti-Keystone campaign good or bad for greens?

Photo by Quinn Anya. President Obama's decision to deny a permit for Keystone XL was celebrated as a huge win by many climate activists. But is the anti-pipeline fight really where enviros should be putting their energies? Opinion is divided (even if you ignore the theatrically outraged Republicans). Here's a roundup of different views on Keystone from greens, progressives, energy analysts, bloggers, and one flack for a beer company. It was a big victory "It’s one of the rare days in the 20-year climate fight when scientists can smile and Big Oil has to frown," wrote Bill McKibben, a driving …