Tuesday, September 1st, 2009
NPR’s Morning Edition recently aired this story, a variation on a theme that I have written about in the past on CleanTechies and in scholarly work: green backlash against renewable power. The Morning Edition piece focused on the land use implications of renewables, noting that it takes a lot more land to generate a terawatt of solar, wind or biofueled electricity than of coal or natural gas power.
True enough. But, for me, it all comes down to the threshold question: do you believe the worst-case climate scenarios? If your answer is yes, and you have the courage of those convictions, then you realize — as I have — that we have no choice, and no time to dawdle. People who answer that question affirmatively know that the paradigm shifts in energy production and consumption that are necessary if we are to have any chance of righting our climatological ship will face knee-jerk opposition and demagoguery from opponents (s, e.g., the spring time bloodbath over the Waxman-Markey bill). A movement that remains — however gallingly — on such tenuous footing cannot afford to endure the additional obstacle of in-fighting over policy nuances. To twist a familiar and over-used metaphor:
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
Anyone watching the health care debate spread from Capitol Hill conference rooms to town halls nationwide knows that everyone agrees we need health care reform. The disagreement comes in determining what kind. Comprehensive tort reform fits under the heading and so would the implementation of a single-payer system, but the two solutions could not be much farther apart on the political spectrum. An apt analogy – as the summer vacation season comes to a close – may be the good old fashioned American road trip: the whole family knows the destination, but getting there is the tough part.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
Update: This article has been modified since its initial publication. Please note that the report mentioned in this article is not a United Nations publication. More information about the authors and the report can be found here.
A major report issued by the United Nations Millennium Project has just been released. It finds that half the world appears vulnerable to social instability and violence due to increasing and potentially prolonged unemployment from the recession as well as several longer-term issues: decreasing water, food, and energy supplies per person; the cumulative effects of climate change; and increasing migrations due to political, environmental, and economic conditions. It also finds some good in the global financial crisis, which may be helping humanity to move from its often selfish, self-centered adolescence to a more globally responsible adulthood.
After 13 years of the Millennium Project’s global futures research, it is increasingly clear that the world has the resources to address its challenges. Coherence and direction has been lacking. But recent meetings of the U.S. and China, as well as of NATO and Russia, and the birth of the G-20 plus the continued work of the G-8 promise to improve global strategic collaboration. It remains to be seen if this spirit of cooperation can continue and if decisions will be made on the scale necessary to really address the global challenges discussed in this report.
Tuesday, July 7th, 2009
Transitioning away from coal-production towards cleaner forms of energy is a major concern shared by environment-conscious governments and citizens all over the world. Communities across the globe are suffering from coal-based pollution, and clean energy sources need to be developed – and implemented – to provide for a sustainable future. What are the obstacles in building a clean energy future, and how do we transition away from sources of energy that are harmful to nature and health? The United Nations COP15 Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen this year will address climate change issues like these.
While only government representatives can participate in the Climate Change Conference, you might have the opportunity to be part of this event. Focus the Nation, a US non-profit organization, is offering young climate leaders with fellowships that allow them to present their ideas to the international communities participating in the Climate Treaty negotiations. If you are between 18-29 years old and live in a coal-producing or coal-consuming community, you can participate in “Coal and the Road to Copenhagen: The Focus Roots Fellowships.” What you need to do is come up with an innovative, creative idea to accelerate your community past coal.
Monday, July 6th, 2009
Texas is a major battlefield in the fight between high speed rail advocates and opponents. The lone star state is the home base for many of the forces that are against the development of passenger rail in the United States. The “big three” opponents of high speed rail are all located in Texas and have been successful in preventing better passenger train construction for decades. This group consists of:
1. Texas is firmly a “red state” that is home to many members of the Republican Party political elite. This includes the family of Bush 43 (now retired into a private residence in a Dallas suburb), Rick Perry (state governor who made headlines promoting the idea of succession from the Union) and two Republican senators – John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Republicans have proven themselves, by their legislative record and public statements, to be against passenger rail investment.
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
In a sign of the growing importance of renewable sources of energy, global investment in wind power, solar power, and other alternative forms of energy last year exceeded investments in coal, oil, and carbon-based energy for the first time.
Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
While coal-fueled power plants are directly responsible for roughly one-third of our CO2 emissions, the DOE indicates that coal is expected to dominate our domestic power generation at least for the next 25 years. Globally, the increased demand for coal-fueled electricity will translate into a 57% rise in related CO2 emissions by 2030 according to the IEA.
One technology that attempts to solve the CO2 emissions crisis is carbon capture and storage, or CCS. Generally speaking, CCS captures the CO2 emissions from coal power plants and other industrial sites and injects the CO2 into underground porous rock formations in hopes of permanent sequestration.
Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Just when you thought the future was in carbon capture and sequestration (and that’s true), comes more information from the “new EPA” under Administrator Lisa Jackson and President Barack Obama.
The agency, which has already begun the process of regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, is now going after runoff.
It seems the same scrubber technology that’s helping clean up power plant emissions creates toxic residue that’s stored in ponds or flushed to waterways. The target of concern is selenium, which can accumulate in fish tissue like mercury.
Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Last week the EPA proposed that carbon dioxide be considered one of six greenhouse gases which endanger the public health and welfare of US citizens. Well, it’s about time! The EPA is now seeking public comment on the proposed ruling, which consists of two parts: that the six greenhouse gases contribute to a litany of climate-related problems, and that motor vehicle emissions send four of those gases into the atmosphere. What could this mean for CO2-intensive energy sources, and what are some implications for clean energy?
Friday, March 6th, 2009
“Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind”
You probably know the Ray Charles song. The Solar Energy Industries Association is singing it now. The trade group says Georgia sun is a major, untapped resource. Some of the best rays in the country, even the world, shine down on the state.
Georgia has another distinction, as a primary user and generator of coal-fired electricity in the United States, in part due to the energy-intensive wood and paper products industries centered there, the Energy Information Administration says.
But, done right, rooftop solar alone could generate more than a quarter of the power needs for Georgia, or more than nuclear does today, according to SEIA, the U.S. trade association for solar energy and related businesses.
The expansion of more than two dozen existing solar companies in Georgia could create hundreds of new jobs, too, says Association CEO Rhone Resch.
Georgia has its own Solar Energy Association, with more than 140 members.