Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Environmentalist David Orr says the easy part of helping the United States live within its ecological limits may be passing laws, such as one that puts a price on carbon. The hard part, he maintains in an interview with Yale Environment 360, is changing a culture of consumption that causes extensive environmental damage — and unhappiness.
Long before buzzwords like “carbon footprint” entered the general lexicon, David W. Orr was working on ways to help humanity lighten its impact on the natural world. A professor of environmental studies at Oberlin College and the author of six books, including Ecological Literacy, Orr has focused on how to best educate students about using the Earth’s resources prudently. He also has been a leading proponent of sustainable design on the country’s college campuses, and was the driving force behind building Oberlin’s $7 million Environmental Studies Center, considered a model of green architecture in the U.S. (more…)
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
So, in case you missed it, there is evidently some kind of climate change conference underway this week. And, its not going well. Still, even if we imagine for a moment that a binding international treaty with hard carbon caps could be salvaged from the wreckage in Copenhagen, there is more news from home in the NYT showing that the US is not up to the climate change challenge at home.
We are developing the technology, but Matthew Wald’s story about a “false start” for smart grids in California and elsewhere provides yet another lens to focus on the policy deficit that is crippling every effort at meaningful energy reform. And, with public will degraded by global recession and climate change skepticism calcifying thanks to Climategate, policymakers cannot afford many more (or, anymore?) false starts.
Friday, November 13th, 2009
As debate heats up around the proposals for clean energy legislation in Congress, one of the main points of contention is the amount of money it will cost. More specifically, everyone wants to know how the average American household will be impacted by the respective energy bills in the House (Waxman-Markey’s American Clean Energy and Security Act) and the Senate (Kerry-Boxer’s Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act). This article will investigate the change in energy prices one can expect from legislation that could be passed within the coming months, and try to sift through the wide discrepancy in figures that are being tossed around. Then some recommendations will be presented as to how energy usage can be reduced, to preempt any anticipated rises in cost.
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
First, take a deep breath. It is difficult to do when it is your life and career day-in and day-out, but every once in a while, all of us moving in the clean tech space should stop and reflect on the breakneck pace at which everything around us is moving: technology, regulation, public awareness. Sure, maybe climate change legislation will not be through the Senate in time for Copenhagen (or at all this year, or even this Session), but that was an ambitious (and partly arbitrary) timeline. On the brighter side, today’s public discourse and political will on renewable energy and climate change would have been inconceivable among anyone but the green elite even five years ago.
Still, I cannot help but notice that one not-so-novel technology is getting a lot of renewed attention these days: nuclear power. Sure, in the industry we’ve all bought into the CW that “nukes are back,” but it always been accompanied by a “sort of” at the end. Microreactor technology has been a consistent “yeah, but” in that developing conversation. Then in their NYT Op-ed, Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham blew the lid off of things with a commitment to good old-fashioned conventional nukes (alongside a commitment to drilling and clean coal that threatens to turn the Senate bill into little more than a symbolic accopmplishment).
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 18th, 2009
Earlier this year, everyone in the environmental punditocracy had an opinion on what domestic policy moves the leading economies and emerging nations might make to position themselves in advance of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.
The US? President Obama would arrive wearing a badge of victory: the world’s first-ever all-auction cap-and-trade system. China and India? The world’s fastest growing economies would put domestic Potemkin policies in place to demonstrate good faith. Western Europe? With a carbon cap in place and a bona fide legacy of environmental leadership, the Old West would continue to carry the mantle by pushing for significant advancement beyond Kyoto standards.
The global economic meltdown has rendered impossible any determination of how accurate those predictions might have been. Although things are looking up economically, there is no telling what history will be written in Denmark this winter. The signs are not promising.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
“No Drama” Obama somehow managed to step in it again last week, plunging himself into the Skip Gates arrest and racial politics when he was meant to be drumming up support for health care reform.
If the measure of how badly the White House narrative veered off course is to observe that many of the Sunday shows spent more time on ObamaGates (I might have to trademark that one) than they did on health care, it is worth noting that Waxman-Markey is barely in the rear view mirror anymore. It does not appear to be on the Senate’s radar either.
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009
HR 2454 or the Waxman-Markey bill, named after its two major supporters Henry A. Waxman and Edward J. Markey of the Energy and Commerce Committee, was passed in the US House of Representatives on June 27. Its major mandate is a cap and trade system though it does have other green practices scattered throughout. There has been a lot of talk recently, because of this bill, of the viability of a cap and trade system in the US. To evaluate the government’s ability to implement this new system we have to first understand it.
The basics of a cap and trade are fairly simple. It is a way to limit emissions through a credit system. Every business acquires a certain amount of credits; depending on the type of system these credits are either auctioned off or given away by the government. These credits represent the amount of carbon that businesses can emit. If the business cannot adhere to the limit of emissions their credits allow, they must buy credits from companies who are below their cap. Thus the companies who are responsible and limit their emissions are rewarded and those who are not as environmentally friendly are punished.
Friday, July 24th, 2009
I don’t have a TV, and while I’m generally pretty happy with the state of affairs, I definitely miss the Daily Show… thanks to Hulu, I now don’t have to.
If you missed Jon Stewart’s take on the progress of Waxman-Markey here is a recommended Friday afternoon break. Stick through and you’ll get to catch up with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who doesn’t do a bad job spinning a joke for Nobel Laureate.
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Most environmental business blogs seem to have glossed right over coverage of Greenpeace’s rather untraditional message to President Obama on Mount Rushmore two weeks ago, though a quarter-page photo in the front section of the New York Times certainly did not. Citing discontent with Obama’s acquiescence to compromises on environmental policy, a group of eleven activists draped a massive banner next to Abraham Lincoln’s face bearing the message “America honors leaders, not politicians: Stop Global Warming.” The action came as the President met with world leaders to discuss climate change at the G8 summit, and brings to light divides among the environmental community that are becoming even more apparent thanks to the debate over the Waxman-Markey bill.