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Articles by Nathan Wyeth

Nathan Wyeth is a junior at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He is active with the Sierra Student Coalition, the student-run arm of the Sierra Club.

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Amid analysis of the G8’s latest climate pronouncement, the announcement of India’s first national climate action plan received less attention than it otherwise might have. Even in the Indian media, the plan was also overshadowed by the release of a McKinsey & Co. report that projects massive power demand growth in the country — 100 gigawatts more demand in the next 10 years than previously estimated. Yet the very same day, the government’s Investment Commission called the “Ultra-Mega” coal plants that are central to India’s strategy to meet that demand a “main reason for persistent capacity shortfalls.”

As reported by India’s Financial Express, the climate change “National Action Plan” consists of a laundry list of programs to be initiated — or more likely, repackaged — on solar power, energy efficiency, agriculture, and a few others. Based on previous performance in the power sector, agriculture seems to be the most promising of those programs (especially considering the Indian government’s success in raising productivity during the Green Revolution). One can hope India will ... Read more

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  • An interview with The ‘Stache pre-pie-in-the-face

    Yes, Tom Friedman came to Brown University on Earth Day to unveil his new book and got hit by a pie.

    Thomas FriedmanBut he cleaned himself up, came back with a joke about surviving Beirut and Jerusalem but running into trouble in Providence, and went on to deliver a stem-winder of an address for an op-ed columnist essentially outlining his latest book.

    I found The World Is Flat to be a good window into business models in the 21st century. His new offering, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America, promises to be a cogent lassoing and explication of many of the biggest things that matter in the 21st century. Friedman chooses as the crucial drivers: energy supply and demand, climate, the spread of democracy versus petro-authoritarianism, biodiversity, and energy poverty.

    A few bits from Friedman's speech to look forward to in Hot, Flat, and Crowded and when he returns to columns this month:

    • The McCain gas tax holiday: A "dumb as we want to be" approach to energy policy.
    • On high oil prices and petro-dictatorship: With oil at $25 per barrel, Bush looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul. At $100 per barrel, look into Putin's eyes and you'll see "all the instruments of democracy he's swallowed."
    • Did Reagan bring down the USSR -- or was it the decline in oil prices from $80 per barrel to $14.50?
    • And finally, China as the Speed bus, except that it must switch from a diesel to a hybrid engine without going below 50 miles an hour. (That's the first thing since The Matrix that makes you aspire to be Keanu Reeves, isn't it?)

    Before his speech, I had the chance to catch up with Friedman and ask him a few questions. The short interview is below:

  • India’s 4,000 MW coal plant is a bad answer to electricity woes

    A few more thoughts on the 4,000 MW coal plant in India recently approved for international aid financing, which David and Joe have noted. I think this deserves attention because it's at the center of the biggest climate question out there: how to meet tens of thousands of megawatt hours of unmet and projected power demand in India and China without huge coal plants like this Tata Mundra "Ultra-Mega" plant. It's not simple. But following the logic for this project involves going down a "There Is No Alternative" rabbit hole.

    To people in India facing daily brown-outs or a lack of electricity altogether, it may seem like environmental organizations in the U.S. are opposing this power development from a different universe. They may be. But the financiers trying to justify this project in the public interest are themselves in their own universe of self-justifying arguments.

    The main justification for international aid for this project is that "super-critical" coal-generating technology will make this plant more efficient than others in India. However, the broader situation in India's power sector is such that nearly all of the efficiency gains at the plant are likely to be eaten up by the world-beating levels of transmission and distribution loss of the rickety Indian electricity grid. It's a good bet that the equivalent of the output of at least one of the plant's five 800 MW generating units will disappear before it gets to an actual electricity consumer [PDF].

  • Youth activists in China gear up for an environmental video contest

    Almost two years ago, I had the chance to meet students in China working hard to raise environmental and energy issues on local campuses. Since then, I've tried to stay in touch and keep up with the progress of student organizations there.

    Since my Mandarin is a little rusty, I've done this in part by keeping in touch with a number of young Americans who are there working on various endeavors after graduating from college -- my future bosses, I am sure, by virtue of the language skills they're developing. One particularly cool project that's getting started is a blog/vlog called China's Green Beat, started by a friend based in Beijing and a Chinese friend of his. You can check out videos shot in different parts of China exploring different energy and environmental issues here.

  • 700 college students and the Clinton Global Initiative in New Orleans for spring break

    Bill Clinton and Brad Pitt with students at CGIUCommitments to start social-change initiatives and spirited discussions of global issues -- these aren't typical results of 700 college students heading to New Orleans during spring break season. But last weekend, students from a diverse group of colleges, several dozen university presidents, and prominent social change agents -- not to mention Bill Clinton -- spent a day and a half on Tulane University's campus for Clinton Global Initiative University (with a cameo by Brad Pitt).

    Trying to live-blog an event while you're also trying to finish your senior thesis -- not a good idea. Nonetheless, a belated report from the Clinton Global Initiative's new youth event: