Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Weather Extremes and Media Indifference

If you've found the news reports of extreme weather-related events unsettling, you're not alone. However, because of a mainstream-media machine tightly linked to many of the industries that contribute most heavily to global warming, the likely culprit behind these events is generally ignored. Few news stories on floods, hurricanes, droughts, or heat waves suggest any correlation with the steady rise in global temperatures. Most often, these correlations are restricted to the OpEd pages, as is this piece in the Boston Globe, Katrina's Real Name. The disaster unfolding in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast is one more link in a growing chain of anecdotal evidence that corroborates what most climate scientists are saying--the effects of global warming are being experienced already in increasingly deadly ways.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Solar Nanotechnology Arrives

After decades of fits and starts, solar energy gets a boost from some new technology emerging from the Silicon Valley. Offering the promise of mass-produced light-collecting plastics that could be embedded in building materials or spread across rooftops, the nanotechnology firms involved in this pursuit are confident that costs can easily be reduced to levels similar to non-renewable sources of energy. Freedom from the grid may be near at hand.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

California Farmers Embrace Solar Power

The abundance of California sunshine during large parts of the year have helped the region become one of the most important agricultural producers in the world. Now, many California farmers are using that same sunshine to produce electricity, lowering their needs for centralized power delivery, particularly during the long, hot summers. One second-generation farmer, Pat Ricchiuti, has cut his annual $1.5 million energy bill by 50 percent after installing 7,730 solar panels, which generate 1 megawatt of energy.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Nuclear Power is Wrong Answer

Among the many myths that bob around largely uncontested in the mainstream media, perhaps the most glaring is the assertion that nuclear power is the technology of choice to solve the global warming problem. As this Baltimore Sun article, Nuclear Power is Wrong Answer, points out, nuclear power is not clean, green, or sustainable.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Cost of Clean Energy

Amid the claims and counterclaims over which energy solutions make sense for the future, the Union of Concerned Scientists has compiled a clean energy analysis that pulls together hard numbers and provides a compelling argument for turning to renewable energy options now. The bottom line is that if the United States adopted a 20 percent national renewable energy standard, consumers will save money on energy costs and jobs will be created. You might be surprised by just how much will be saved and how much will be gained.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ocean Data Support Global Warming Projections

Mounting evidence continues to support the well-established scientific judgment that human activities are warming the planet. A new study confirms that the Earth is absorbing more energy from the Sun than is being reflected back into space, as this article from the Environment News Service, Ocean Data Support Global Warming Projections, details. The latest hard data matches computer models of this imbalance and the lead author calls the research "the smoking gun that should put to rest any lingering doubts about humanity's role in global warming."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The End of Oil Is Closer Than You Think

The title of this story from The Guardian UK, The End of Oil Is Closer Than You Think, says it all. The roller coaster is nearing that first big drop and the ride promises to be wild and wooly.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lining Their Pockets: The Global Warming Debunkers

Guess who is paying for many of the junk science studies and intemperate critiques of global warming scientists? Why, it's none another than ExxonMobil, the company that has pumped more than $8 million into trying to downplay the greatest threat the planet faces. As Chris Mooney points out in this Mother Jones article, Some Like It Hot, the goal is to undermine the scientific consensus that humans are causing the earth to overheat.

Revisiting Chernobyl

Those who swear by the safety of nuclear power should be airlifted to the Ukraine and left to stroll around the deserted streets of Pripiat to get a small sense of the impact of a large-scale radiation release. This Inter Press story offers some insight: ENVIRONMENT: Some Chernobyl Clouds Will Not Clear.

The latest novel from Martin Cruz Smith, Wolves Eat Dogs takes detective Arkady Renko to the Zone of Exclusion surrounding Chernobyl for a chilling, well-researched taste of the magnitude of the disaster and the effects on the remaining local residents.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wildly Popular Hybrids

Spiraling gasoline prices have led to booming popularity for hybrid vehicles. As the Toyota sales manager in Baltimore says in this Baltimore Sun story, A Winning Hybrid Shows the Way, "People love this car. We could sell as many as we can get."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Enabling Sustainable Development

Project results unveiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) this week provide strategically significant information for siting wind turbines and solar collectors, as described in this release from the Environment News Service, Mapping Reveals Earth's Best Sites for Wind, Solar Power. Focusing on 13 developing countries, UNEP hopes to make a difference in helping launch successful sustainable energy developments in regions with limited resources.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Where is the "Sound Science"?

As Derrick Z. Jackson reminds us in this Boston Globe article, President Bush has told us he needs to see the "sound science" on global warming before joining the rest of the world in combating it. A recent report, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, commissioned by the United Nations relied on 1,360 experts from 95 countries and devoted $24 million to compile a hard science perspective on the human impacts to our planetary ecosystem (including global warming). The Bush administration to date has been curiously silent on the sobering conclusions of this assessment.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Powerful Winds Aloft

Wind turbine energy systems are prone to the inconsistencies of wind forces near ground level, but at higher altitudes wind forces are persistent and strong. An Australian engineer, Bryan Roberts, has designed an approach to launch self-powered aircraft equipped with wind turbines skyward and working with a San Diego startup company, Sky WindPower, is seeking to commercialize the invention. This Wired article, Windmills in the Sky, provides the details.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Homeland Insecurity: Nuclear Plants Open to Attack

Nuclear power is safe and clean and our only future energy option as long as you don't take into account the mining and transport of uranium, the shutdown of reactors in heat wave conditions (as occurred in France during the record-breaking heat a couple of summers ago), the costs and risks of decommissioning reactors, the storage of wastes, and the possibility that terrorists might crash an aircraft into a reactor facility (as discussed in the Washington Post article, Homeland Insecurity: Nuclear Plants Open to Attack . In the age of terrorism, it would be difficult to find a worse choice than nuclear power to bank on for the future.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Missing the Big Picture

Bill McKibben is always an entertaining read and he's particularly sharp and well focused in this Orion article, On Not Quite Getting It.

Plug-in Hybrids Get Astounding Mileage

Suppose you could take that high-mileage Prius sitting in your garage and modify it so that it gets 180 m.p.g. rather than 45? This is the question that a couple of inveterate tinkerers asked as they set out to make their fuel-efficient car even more fuel efficient by plugging it into the garage wall outlet at night. Not surprisingly, Toyota and Honda frown about this kind of modification to their carefully engineered creations. Will such a vehicle be available commercially any time soon? [New York Times, requires registration]

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Hydrogen Fueling Station in Vermont

Thanks to a Department of Energy Grant secured by Vermont representative Bernie Sanders, Northern Power Systems and Proton Energy Systems will be constructing an advanced hydrogen fueling station near Burlington, VT. A partnership with EVermont helped bring about this project, which will begin as soon as local approvals have been completed.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Energy deregulation is good for you

Some of the very same companies that engaged in market manipulation to cheat consumers are now banding together to lobby for more energy deregulation. With an energy bill set to be unveiled in Congress in early April, these stealth lobbyists hope to sway opinion in their favor.

"It is disingenuous for this lobby group to push deregulation policies that they claim are good for consumers when history shows that their own companies used these very policies to profit from the biggest consumer rip-off in history," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Long Emergency

"People cannot stand too much reality," Carl Jung said, as James Howard Kunstler reminds us in this Rolling Stone article, The Long Emergency. The reality that Kunstler paints is truly grim, even for those of us who hope there is a way out of our pending energy crisis through alternative energy and efficiency improvements. The year of peak oil production (as has been projected by other analysts, as well) may be 2005. As we slide downhill, forced to give up the amenities that many take for granted, the behavior of the citizens of our oil-addicted society is likely to be less than civic-minded.

Hot air and global warming

Never underestimate the ability of the current administration to obfuscate in the face of facts and, if that fails, to declare the sun rises in the West, as this article from the Boston Globe, Hot air and global warming, points out.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Rise of Sea Level Inevitable

As discussed in this article from the journal Science, the most recent computer modeling shows that the global warming patterns in place at the moment will result in an evitable rise in sea levels worldwide. This presumes that no additional greenhouse gases are added to the atmosphere (which, of course, isn't the case at the moment). As the world's greatest producer of greenhouse gases, the United States, sleeps, the need for urgency grows. The Union of Concerned Scientists offers some suggestions for changes in this piece, Global warming is real and underway.

The official position of the U.S., as expressed by James L. Connaughton, senior environmental and natural resources advisor to President Bush, is that more study is needed, as expressed in this article published by The Royal Society.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ten Simple Ways to Save Energy

Amidst the earth-shaking news (the latest global warming warnings) and the deeply disturbing news (the opening of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling), sometimes it's good to just step back and consider the day-to-day things you can do to make a difference in this world. This E-Magazine article, Ten Simple Ways to Save Energy, offers tips on personal ways that everyone can cut energy use in their home. If enough people followed this advice, maybe we wouldn't have to sacrifice the few remaining areas where wildlife can thrive to the engines of industry.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Demand for Hybrids Exceeds Supply

The popularity of fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles is rising, as evidenced by long waiting lists for available models and steadily increasing production from manufacturers. The winner of a recent contest to create a slogan came up with the phrase "Green Cars Today, Blue Skies Tomorrow" and she is now driving the grand prize, a 2005 Toyota Prius.

Oil Production About to Peak

While forecasts for the point at which oil production worldwide begins to decline have been made by analysts for years, John S. Herold, Inc. breaks the analysis down company by company. Noteworthy for being the firm that first identified the pending collapse of Enron by bringing to light their dwindling profit margins, this latest analysis shows seven of the major oil companies reaching production peaks within 48 months. From there, it's all downhill.

As the executive vice president of Herold puts it, "If the dinosaurs are going extinct, we are trying to figure out which ones are going to go extinct the soonest."

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mount Kilimanjaro Stripped of Snow

For those global warming skeptics, recent photos of Mount Kilimanjaro without its snowcap for the first time in 11,000 years should be reason for pause. How many wake-up calls before the flat-earth crowd gets the message? Reuters tells the story at this link.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Worldwide Wind Power

A new organization, The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), promises to bring together leading forces in this swiftly growing industry, including more than 1,500 organizations distributed throughout 50 countries. As described in this news release, Wind Power Goes Global, from the Environment News Service, this newly formed group represents virtually all of the major wind turbine manufacturers, companies that have a collective wind power capacity of 47,317 megawatts.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Battles Over Wind Energy

It's not too surprising that with wind energy gaining popularity around the world, conventional energy producers are stepping up the attacks. As pointed out in this article, New Dispute Blows Through Wind Energy, the attacks are often deceptive and those with interests in fossil fuel and nuclear energy have a habit of twisting the facts to support bogus arguments.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Biofuel replacing oil in Asia

A number of Asian countries are turning to biofuels derived from local crops to counter the costs of importing foreign oil. Ethanol and biodiesel typically cost more than oil, but these fuels help support agricultural prices and add to the self sufficiency of countries, as described in this article, Asia Pushes Ahead on Biofuel.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Study predicts city flood threat due to warming

Part of my childhood was spent in the tiny town of Magnolia, located on Cape Ann, an energetic half-day bicycle ride from the city of Boston. The mental picture framed by this article in the Boston Globe, Study predicts city flood threat due to warming, gives me that unsettled end-of-the-world kind feeling that I remember from the Cuban missile crisis. We have no divine right to inhabit this planet, and the consequences of our indifference to global climate change may be making this and similar pictures all too real.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Billions Must Change Habits

News has been arriving from every direction lately on the global warming front, much of it bad. Credible scientists are no longer arguing about whether humans are causing global warming; they are discussing the potential impact and the timetables for when that impact will become evident.

Dr. Hermann Ott, the director of the Berline office of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, puts it in these terms: "What we face is an unprecedented challenge: Compared to what we're up against now, the nuclear threat was tiny. What we're faced with now is as destructive as a nuclear war, but unlike the Cold War. There is no individual here with his hand on a launch button. Billions of people have to take individual decisions about what they're going to do - and it's running up against vested interests. It has massive implications for the way we think about our economies and it runs up against the limits of a capitalist society. Our choices now are simple: hope for a technological miracle or try to steer the tanker a little bit from its current path and hope that that's sufficient. Mankind is, for the first time, in the position to actually do this, to consciously steer a different course. We've never had or even been able to do that before - but now we can and it's our biggest challenge. Nature does not forgive."

For more of the interview with Dr. Ott, visit: It's Too Late to Stop Climate Change.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tilting at Windmills

Is it an either/or situation? Either we stop putting barriers up against the construction of wind energy installations in remote places or we can kiss all of the pristine wilderness goodbye... Bill McKibben answers the question in this New York Times story, Tilting at Windmills.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Power from the Waves

Marine power doesn't get much attention, but the source of this power--the ocean--offers abundant possibilities, as detailed in this article, U.S. Cities Eye Ocean Waves for Power Supplies.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Thousands of Jobs from the Climate Stewardship Act

The Climate Stewardship Act, a bi-partisan effort to spur technological innovation in renewable energy and create jobs, tackles two problems at once. As explained in this article, Global Warming Bill Means Thousands of New Jobs, this legislation could generate 800,000 new jobs by 2025.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Windmills and the Dutch

New innovations in wind energy are coming out of the Netherlands as the Dutch turn a traditional energy source into a modern technology being embraced across Europe. For details, visit: Wind Energy Gains Momentum in Europe.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Apocalypse Now

How Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth is the subtitle of
this article, published in The Independent. As another slant on an increasingly inescapable message--we're rapidly making the planet uninhabitable--this piece summarizes the concerns from the Met Office in Exeter, where 200 of the world's leading climate scientists hashed out the issues in what ought to be (but, sadly, isn't) the primary concern of every citizen and every government on the planet. With people collectively hitting the snooze button on the latest round of wake-up alarms, the prospects look very grim.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Actions to Halt Global Warming

A group of UK economists, scientists, and politicians gathered last week in Exeter to discuss possible actions for averting global warming. Their conclusion, as detailed in this Nature.com article, UK climate meeting calls for action, was that major investments are needed immediately to reverse global warming trends and help people adapt to climate change dangers. The consensus was that we don't need more research; we need to take action now to avert the dangerous risks.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Flower Power

Green Week in Berlin showcased a variety of potential energy sources based on agricultural waste. German manufacturers generated some 1.1-million pounds of farm-based fuel, known as "flower power" locally, which includes biodiesel sold in about 1,800 petrol stations. For details, visit: German Farmers Championing 'Flower Power' for Cleaner Energy.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Convincing the Complacent Ones

It's not just in the U.S., but British scientists have noted how curiously complacent the UK public is to the threats of global warming. On the one side, you have evidence and studies from thousands of climatologists around the world; some of the most comprehensive, extensive computer modeling that has ever been performed to map climate change events; and the consensus of vast majority of the world's leading scientific organizations. On the other side, you have a handful of skeptics who have been thoroughly debunked by credible scientists; hack writers like Michael Crichton who use flimsy rhetorical arguments to bolster weak, improbable plot lines (State of Fear); and a laughably incompetent news media that pretends there is still a great debate over whether human activities cause climate change.

This article from The Guardian, How we put the heat on nature, examines the reasons behind public complacency and the rising fears of those scientists who are confronting climate change issues.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Stop Hogging Resources

In an curiously emblematic gesture, the owner of a double-parked Hummer in the Boston Back Bay region hurled scalding Starbucks coffee in a meter maid's face as she was writing him a ticket. In this article by Derrick Jackson, he skewers the sense of entitlement shown by the world's premiere energy users toward the rest of the planet. A single sentence from the article strikes at the heart of the issue: "An angry man in one of America's largest gas-guzzling cars in one of the most chronically congested parts of the city throws some of the nation's most expensive coffee at a working-class woman."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Point of No Return

One of the world's leading climate experts, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, fears that we've already reached the point where a reversal of global warming will be impossible unless immediate, drastic actiions are taken. Ironically, he was appointed to his post as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by the Bush administration after Exxon, a staunch opponent of action to combat global warming, complained that his predecessor was too "aggressive" in demanding action. In this article in The Independent, Dr. Pachauri concludes, "We are risking the ability of the human race to survive."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Solar Strides

A Canadian research team has devised a way to capture light energy outside the visible spectrum, using nanoparticles small enough to be dispersed in typical solvents, such as paint. The process described in this article, Solar Photovoltaic Breakthrough Taps Infrared Light, opens up possibilities for some very exciting applications.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

China Goes Nuclear

Just about the time that most of the world has recognized that nuclear power is expensive, impractical, and dangerous, China is embarking on a major drive to build a series of nuclear reactors to meet projected power needs. As described in this article, China Promotes Another Boom: Nuclear Power, China's aggressive plans for reactor construction include building more than one a year until 2020. Public discussions on the risks and implications of increased reliance on nuclear power have been minimal; the government censors news coverage of this sort.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Homegrown is Best

When it comes to biofuels, such as ethanol, countries are best served by producing their own fuel from local sources, a senior scientist at a Greenpeace research lab in England stated. As reported by Reuters in this article, clean-burning ethanol can generate pollution during production if fertilizers and pesticides are used to grow the corn, sugar, or other crops on which the fuel is based. Fossil fuels burned during manufacturing processes and shipment also contribute to pollution. Just as the hydrogen for fuel cells can be produced in clean processes (using renewable energy sources) or dirty processes (using nuclear power or fossil fuels), biofuels are only truly clean when they are produced cleanly.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Do You Want Clean Car Options?

It's Monday--a good day to let your voice be heard. In response to recent California regulations intended to fight global warming through cleaner automobile technologies, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (with a membership that includes Ford, Toyota, GM, and Daimler-Chrysler) is suing to block the implementation. Their claim: consumers don't want clean car options. The Union of Concerned Scientists is coordinating a letter-writing campaign to convince their president, Fredrick Webber, otherwise. Take action by following this link.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Fuel-Cell Vehicles Gain Momentum

The major automakers have been experimenting with fuel-cell vehicles for years with mixed results. This year, however, those experiments are beginning to fruit, suggesting we are advancing toward a new generation of automotive machines that compare admirably with the performance of conventional gas-burning autos. This article, Automakers Put Hydrogen Power on Fast Track, tells the tale. Is it time to start planning a network of hydrogen filling stations?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Willie Nelson Bets on Biodiesel

As a long-time supporter of American farmers and the driving force behind Farm Aid, Willie Nelson makes an ideal proponent for biodiesel fuel. He makes an even more interesting energy company executive, as described in this story, Willie Nelson Bets on Biodiesel. Combining forces with three business partners, Willie recently launched Willie Nelson's Biodiesel and has begun marketing the vegetable-based fuel to truck stops throughout the midwest. As Willie explains it, "There is really no need going around starting wars over oil. We have it here at home. We have the necessary product, the farmers can grow it." If anyone can give a boost to this industry, Willie can.

Friday, January 14, 2005

As the Blades Turn: A Mighty Wind

Despite the hammerlock of a domestic energy policy that seems determined to anchor our future to a sinking ship (fossil fuels), the promise of wind power grows mightily. As discussed in this piece from emagazine.com, [E] - A Mighty Wind (by Doug Moss), wind power is a reality and the graceful spinning blades of wind turbines are finding many new homes around the world.

Monday, January 10, 2005

2004: The Year Global Warming Got Respect

Reporting for the National Geographic News, John Roach declares 2004: The Year Global Warming Got Respect. Despite the obfuscating of the oil industry apologists and the foot-dragging of the business-as-usual power brokers and the tin hat theories of the scientifically challenged miscreants, global warming is being taken seriously around the world. Now, if only the U.S. will take a cue from the rest of the world and begin to address the threat in a rational way, perhaps that respect can be turned into useful action.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Foreshadowing Things to Come

As images of the tsunami aftermath stun the senses, this earthquake-generated event offers a glimpse of the potential consequences from extreme weather events linked to global warming. In this post, Informed Comment, Juan Cole focuses on the important points: global warming is a real phenomena in the collective judgment of the vast majority of the scientific community and the potential impact is deadly.