Archives for June, 2011

By now it is clear that climate change is an immediate threat as well as a problem that will affect our children in the distant future.  At a meeting of the Clean Investment Funds Partnership Forum in Cape Town there was a telling comment in a session I chaired on climate change science when a…

One of the problems with the fuel alternative ethanol is it doesn’t pack as much energy density as gasoline—meaning fewer miles per gallon. But students from Virginia Tech University have proven that with the right technology—and that includes an electric motor—it’s possible to engineer a vehicle that will get the equivalent of 81.9 miles per…

A jump-start to the weak economy, rather than an easing of any energy crisis is behind the decision by the United States and European nations to release 60 million barrels of oil from their strategic petroleum stocks, says an oil analyst seen as one of the fathers of the idea of emergency oil reserves. “Now…

The International Energy Agency’s announcement Thursday that it would be releasing 60 million barrels of oil over the next 30 days in response to the conflict in Libya was met with many questions—questions so obvious that the agency anticipated them in the FAQ that it published alongside the news release on its website. (Related: Oil…

The international talks that take place each year on climate change—stalled as they are—always get a lot of attention. There’s been less focus on an important United Nations event underway this week—Vienna Energy Forum 2011. Energy ministers and vice ministers from 40 nations are gathered in Austria to address the challenge of bringing electricity and…

I spoke this week on a panel at REFF Wall Street about the U.S. utility solar market. REFF is one of my favorite conferences in the renewable industry. It’s well attended and presents a mid-year opportunity to catch up on the year’s progress and compare notes on the challenges ahead. This year my message was…

Former three-term Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez has some sage advice for other mayors: “Providing water may not get you elected, but not providing water will get you fired.” It seems New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg could use his advice. In a recent interview with Planet Forward, Chavez told us that New York City is losing…

An important series of meetings on the Climate Investment Funds, hosted by the African Development Bank, began June 20 in Cape Town, South Africa. At one of the first events, discussion focused on how individual households, communities, cities, companies, and nations find and use tools to develop low-carbon, pro-growth, gender-sensitive, pro-access energy solutions. A key factor…

For a thrilling week every summer, explorers arrive by the dozen at NG headquarters for the Explorers Symposium, to meet and inspire each other, to share ideas, and to plan how we can help tell their stories over the coming year. Today was the first day of meetings and it was full of fascinating ideas…

In many parts of the world, a picture of a woman sitting in front of a smoky cookstove preparing a family meal remains an iconic picture of life today. For many families, the three- stone fire or a traditional stove as a cooking device has not changed over centuries. This need not be the case,…

Amid a surge of solar energy industry moves aimed at making installations faster, easier, and more affordable, one of the highest-profile rooftop projects is taking longer than hoped. The Obama administration missed its planned spring 2011 date for putting solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and a heating system atop the White House—an effort meant to boost…

Is it time for a sidestep on the energy debate? The current argument over climate change seems to be going nowhere fast. Republicans, at least some of the presidential contenders, seem less and less likely to take it as a serious issue. Democrats and environmentalists are still unable to push big ideas, like a cap-and-trade…

Perhaps there wasn’t the same fanfare that greeted the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, but a corporate jet today completed a trans-Atlantic flight that is an important first in the effort to reduce aviation’s dependence on petroleum. A Honeywell-operated Gulfstream G450 that took off Friday night from an airfield in Morristown, New Jersey and…

Just as the traditional news media began its current freefall of layoffs, staff cuts, closures, and substitution of ideology for journalism, The New York Times, thank goodness, decided to double down on good (albeit not perfect) journalism. That’s why it’s baffling to see a dirty energy front group operative, Robert Bryce, getting a seat last…

I love this time of year. With another school year coming to an end, the new crop of interns has again arrived at the Pace Global. It is instructive to watch as they adapt their living habits and work behavior from the academic world to that of a bustling business office. For me, they provide…

While we debate about building new nukes, waste builds — and builds up — at the ones we already have. The tsunami-induced nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex has sparked renewed debate about nuclear power’s future. Countries such as Germany and Switzerland have decided the risk ain’t worth the juice and have announced…

Twenty years ago, when Bill Clinton was first running for president, his political adviser James Carville used to respond to questions about the issues in the campaign by saying, “it’s the economy, stupid.” The “stupid” was a little gratuitous. But the point – that the economy is everything in American politics – still holds true,…

The final day of the Aspen Environment Forum opened with a session entitled “Rio + 20 and the Making of a Global Green Economy,” (see video) which looked ahead to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development set for June of next year in Brazil. Panelists discussed the prospects for that conference and what needs…

For the past two months, solar industry analysts have been glued to an Italian soap opera as the government repeatedly flip-flopped on its Feed-In Tariff (FiT) policy, a controversial tool that European governments have used to promote the rapid adoption of renewable energy through direct incentives. Conflicting reports made it very difficult to determine what…

Folks have lots of questions to ask about the environmental impact of natural gas fracking, but the more important questions to ask may have to do with the economics. Ultimately, the two lines of questioning are intertwined. (Related: “The Great Shale Gas Rush”) I reached out on Twitter for questions yesterday before I moderated a…

If you are looking for a good synthesis of the IPCC appraisal of recent climate science findings, don’t expect to see it on the upcoming Summary for Policy Makers. You’ll be disappointed. It will likely be just a watered down political piece, rather than a set of substantive scientific recommendations to policy makers. For substance…

Last month, I blogged about the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for which I was a coordinating lead author. In that report we found that by 2050, roughly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by tapping renewable sources. The IPCC’s…

Day Two at the Aspen Environment Forum was filled with thought-provoking discussion, incisive questions, and thankfully, warm sunshine. The clear sky and 70-degree temperatures were welcome after the jarring snow flurries and chill that greeted conference-goers upon arrival at the Aspen Institute Monday. Ironically, I spent the period following the “Great Energy Challenge” plenary searching…

Is there a positive side to consumption? One of our Great Energy Challenge advisers, Dan Kammen, of the World Bank and UC Berkeley, raised that question in a brainstorming session on questions to ask the panelists here at Aspen Environmental Forum 2011. The sessions are focused on the strain on the planet as population nears…