Archives for November, 2011

Diplomats from 194 nations converged on Durban, South Africa, this week, kicking off two weeks of climate negotiations in the United Nations’ 17th annual Conference of the Parties, or COP17. The discussions seek to advance the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, to fight global warming by requiring nations to lower…

Google is renowned (and sometimes ridiculed) for its willingness to allow a vast herd of esoteric projects to roam its offices, but inevitably there is a culling. Among several victims announced today: Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal (RE<C), a project largely focused on advancing a type of concentrating solar power technology known as power tower.…

President Obama made a smart move this month by putting the Keystone XL pipeline project into the deep freeze. It had been poor politics for him — and it would have been even worse policy for the country, especially when you consider the aggressive retooling of our world energy sources demanded by the International Energy…

With political gridlock preventing politicians in Washington, D.C. from reaching agreements on, well, anything, it’s easy to imagine the entire country is suffering from a similar political lockdown. However, municipalities across the country are coming together and moving ahead in America’s clean energy discussion. One way they’re doing it: building a new generation of green…

If you don’t see the map, click here Every year, 2 million people die from a killer in the kitchen: their cookstoves. A new report from the UN Foundation says the toxic smoke from these crude devices cookstoves can lead to child pneumonia, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease, as well as…

Whether you view the six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as a license for gluttony or as a treacherous onslaught of health-jeopardizing temptations, you’ll find no shortage of media advice on how to make the most (or the least) of the season. That advice, particularly in America, typically revolves around food. But as…

PV Solar Report is out with an analysis [PDF] — done with solar installer SunRun — that says home solar installations are more a middle-income pursuit than something for the wealthy. The industry-watcher says “nearly two thirds of California home solar installations in 2009, 2010 and 2011 year-to-date have been in zip codes with median…

High electricity costs have troubled Puerto Ricans for years, but the proposed solution from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has raised concerns among citizens and environmental groups. The $450 million Via Verde project calls for a 92-mile natural gas pipeline carrying natural gas from the island’s main plant in the south to other…

Welcome to the world we’re building by default. Or, to be more precise, welcome to the world that other countries are building while we stand by squabbling and splitting hairs. One of the first things students in business schools and public policy institutes learn is that refusing to make a decision is, in fact, a…

Three scientists walk into a hearing room … Seriously. This week I was on Capitol Hill talking about global warming with Richard Muller of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project and Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. The Congressional briefing was organized by Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), who…

Despite a yawning deficit in energy supply that has plunged Tanzania into a serious electricity crisis, the country has failed to tap the massive potential of recently discovered natural gas stores. Although the government is boasting of major gas discoveries in the country’s offshore fields, very little investment is already under way to supply gas…

The Obama administration delayed deciding whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which has been proposed to carry tar sands from Canada to Texas’s Gulf Coast. The administration said it should consider alternate routes and wait until early 2013 to decide. Industry officials in Canada thought the delay may derail the pipeline, and threaten…

Five Ways to Make Recycling Pay

America Recycles Day (ARD) is today, November 15; it is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling. Although this is a step in the right direction, we need ARD to be every day. The average American throws away 1,600 pounds of trash each year. That’s 4.4 pounds daily! Recycling is actually…

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries may become a good example of how to deal politically with deadlocking issues. At their summit in Honolulu last week, they agreed to reduce import tariffs to boost trade in products that cut fossil fuel use and reduce pollution.  With dismal expectations for the COP17 climate change talks, which…

Dominion Virginia Power has restarted the first of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va., for the first time since a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the area on August 23. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the company permission to restart the reactors on Friday. The quake’s epicenter was just…

Last week, Danica May Camacho of the Philippines became the world’s symbolic seven billionth person. The occasion drew mixed feelings in the policy world — what does a booming global population mean for climate risks? To cite one issue, leaders are worried about the declining supply of water in regions vital to economic growth. This…

As a superstorm of historic proportions slams Alaska’s West Coast, one of the low-lying villages at grave risk is Kivalina, the tiny community already so battered by climate change, it three years ago launched a lawsuit against two dozen oil and other fossil fuel companies seeking relocation costs.  That case was dismissed but a ruling…

“The truth is that our energy policy is improvised; it simply isn’t serious.” If you’re thinking that sounds like an apt criticism of U.S. energy policy over the last few decades, you may be surprised to learn that it’s actually a quote from a Spanish policymaker bemoaning his own country’s lack of a long-term, well-thought…

Biofuel saw another first on Monday as United Airlines made the first passenger jet flight in the United States using a blend of petroleum and fuel made from algal oil. But how does the airline industry feel about getting a government push to go green? Amid plenty of celebration over biofuel demonstrations – which have…

The world population reached seven billion people around October 31, according to United Nations estimates. The actual date is a bit fuzzy, but the milestone has nonetheless had great symbolic power, triggering a stream of articles on population issues. Nicholas Kristof, in the New York Times, argued family planning is the solution to many of…

Facebook is teaming up with Cogenra Solar to put a solar cogeneration system in at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. According Cogenra, one of the company’s dual energy-production systems – which use photovoltaics to produce electricity and solar heat to make hot water – will go on the roof of Facebook’s renovated fitness center.…

Boeing and Air China have conducted China’s first sustainable biofuel flight. Lifting off from Beijing Capital International Airport, the Oct. 28 test flight lasted two hours and used a sustainable aviation biofuel sourced in China, Boeing said. (Related: As Jet Fuel Prices Soar, a Green Option Nears the Runway) PetroChina, a partner in the collaboration,…

Woody biomass is gaining increased attention as a potential source of renewable, carbon-neutral energy, but a new study is casting doubt on just how eco-friendly this fuel source really is. In areas with dense forests, such as the western United States, producing energy from combustible forest materials has been touted as a way to reduce…

Don’t give up on energy storage technology just because one company failed; that was the message from energy experts, the power industry and the U.S. government in the wake of the bankruptcy of U.S.-backed Beacon Power. The failure of the Tyngsboro, Massachusetts-based company is making headlines because it is the second firm to collapse after…

Recently I’ve argued that in some cases, as in discerning the long-term global temperature trend, a little common sense will suffice. But sometimes the climate system can surprise you — what seems like common sense may prove to be not so commonsensical. The climate impact of white roofs may provide a case in point.