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Myhrvold: 50 simple things won’t fix the climate — but a few complex things might

Nathan Myhrvold. (Photo by Red Maxwell.)

Yesterday, I wrote about a new peer-reviewed paper from inventor Nathan Myhrvold and climate scientist Ken Caldeira. It found that, if there is to be any hope of staying in the zone of climate safety (or at least semi-safety), the transition to carbon-free energy must begin immediately and cannot include any merely "low carbon" sources like natural gas.

I sent Myhrvold a few follow-up questions. Here are his responses, lightly edited.

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Peel-off solar panels could make solar competitive with coal

Ultra-thin solar cells that can be "peeled off" from larger pieces of silicon like delicious fruit roll-ups could be the key to making solar competitive with coal, say researchers at MIT.

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The best of the U.S. Army’s ‘Going Green’ Pinterest

For those of you who are out of touch with what the young people and Mormons are all about these days, Pinterest is this really big, Facebook-but-for-images type thing, and it's kind of wild that the Army is on it, because it's mostly pictures of cats, clothes, and cupcakes. They even have a collection of images for their "green" efforts, from which we plucked a few of our favorites.

Source: flickr.com via U.S. on Pinterest

MODOC, Ill. -- Visiting Patriot, an 11-pound female Bald Eagle and World Bird Sanctuary bird expert Sara Oliver. The meeting took place Feb. 4, 2012 at Eagle Trek 2012 at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kaskaskia Lock & Dam.

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Stearns accidentally exposes GOP energy agenda

Cliff StearnsCliff Stearns in the seamy spotlight.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) was a moderate back when GOP moderates were allowed in the House of Representatives. Those days are past, however, and Stearns has had to scramble to adapt to the new atmosphere of Tea Party fruitcakery. He was trounced in the race for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2010, largely because his colleagues viewed him as a squish. Earlier this month, he announced he's leaving his district to escape a Tea Party primary challenge, jumping to a newly drawn district nearby. Now he's desperately trying to bank enough money and credibility with conservatives to survive beyond 2012.

The process has not been kind to his dignity or his integrity. Instead, Stearns has wormed his way into one of the seamier niches in the Republican ecosystem: circus ringmaster for show-trial investigations designed to create headlines, the niche Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had hoped to dominate. The investigation into Planned Parenthood and the investigation into Solyndra are both Stearns' babies; both have dragged on forever and both have uncovered zero wrongdoing. That hasn't stopped Stearns from playing partisan warrior with a crude zeal that frequently crosses the line into cringe-worthy absurdity (like when he said Energy Secretary Steven Chu should be fired over Solyndra).

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In Germany, solar will be as cheap as conventional electricity by 2013

Solar probably won’t really take off until it makes more economic sense to slap some photovoltaics on your roof than to continue paying your utility company for their dirty, probably mostly coal-fired power. That day has arrived in parts of sunny California and Hawaii, and it's coming to (not-so-sunny) Germany by 2013, reports Michael Coren at Fast Company.

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Sales of residential solar in Japan explode like reactor #4

Sales of solar panels for Japanese homes are up 30.7 percent in 2011, despite -- or, let's be real, because of -- the economic hit the country took in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

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How distributed solar can reduce electricity prices

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

What if installing more solar could reduce electricity prices? It's already happening in Germany, world leader in solar power, and it's likely to happen in the U.S., too.

Right now the idea of solar reducing electricity prices seems silly.  After all, when subsidies aren't factored in, the cost of residential solar will be higher than residential retail electricity prices in all but three states until after 2016. But solar has two key factors in its favor:

Read more: Solar Power

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How 1.6 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day afford renewables

If you're not already connected to an electricity grid, renewable energy is a no-brainer, argues Michigan professor of history and "scholar of the Muslim world" Juan Cole. For the one-third of the world's population that lives on less than a dollar a day, fossil fuels aren’t just environmentally unsustainable -- they’re financially unsustainable too.

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Solar panels made out of grass clippings

An MIT scientist has developed a quick and dirty way to harness solar power using "anything green, even grass clippings." So basically, solar panels made out of yard waste.

This technology is way, way, way, way below the efficiency of commercial solar panels: It converts 0.1 percent of solar energy into power. Commercial solar panels clock in around 10 to 15 percent; the most advanced lab models are pushing even higher.

But the simplicity of the design makes up for that shortcoming.

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Even the Saudi oil minister says oil doesn’t create jobs

Ali Al-Naimi. (Photo by Paradoxicalengineer.)

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

Americans use the term “Saudi Arabia of" to describe an abundance of something -- usually energy. We are the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” the “Saudi Arabia of efficiency,” and so on and on and on.

I’ve come to jokingly use this term for anything really huge. (We are, after all, the Saudi Arabia of climate denial.) So in true American spirit, I am dubbing yesterday’s speech by Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi the Saudi Arabia of bold statements.

In a speech at the Middle East and North Africa energy conference in London on Monday, Al-Naimi -- who once called renewable energy a “nightmare” -- hailed energy efficiency and solar as important investments, called global warming “real” and “pressing,” and explained that drilling for oil “does not create many jobs.”