Saturday, August 8, 2009

NYT: Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security 8/9

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Vacation — and a small change in blogging style

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 06:31 PM PDT'm going to Maine for two weeks starting Saturday.  That means I'll probably be blogging at most 2 hours a day on weekdays — yes, it wouldn't be a true vacation if I couldn't blog at all.

I will be giving a talking in Portland on Tuesday, August 18th at 7 pm.  This is a state with two swing Senators after all!  Details to come for all you New Englanders.

I aim to have a fair number of guest posts, though.  I'm also trying a small change in my blogging style, to accommodate this trip and the time I need to spend working on my book through mid-September.

Normally, about 2/3 of my posts take me some 60 to 90 minutes to write and about 1/3 take 90 to 180 minutes.  I've been trying to do more 30-minute posts in the last few days, in case you hadn't noticed, and I expect to continue that for another month.  If it proves successful, I'll keep doing it.

Comments and suggestions welcome!

Well-known climate analyst, author of 'The Honest Broker' urges people "Please Read Climate Progress"

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 01:05 PM PDT

Now that they* have shut down his original popular blog Prometheus, I don't read his new obscure blog, cleverly named "Roger Pielke Jr.'s Blog."  As an aside, I'm guessing Pielke's gonna follow up his book, The Honest Broker, with one titled Roger Pielke's book.  But I digress.

So it wasn't until googlealerts pinged me this morning that I learned about Pielke's July 31 plea to his readers to "Please Read Climate Progress."  Yes, I know what you're thinking, "he's got a dwindling number of readers, Joe, so what does it really matter if he asks them to Please Read Climate Progress?"  But I say it does matter when any blogger uses his or her precious real estate to reach out and selflessly urge people — plea with them, really — to read someone else's blog.

Yes, I still know what you're thinking, "RPJ, has a tiny little problem with falsehoods — he simply can't stop uttering them over and over and over again."

Now you're just trying to hurt my feelings.  I mean, he even ends his post:

I'm pleased for people to read what I write here and also to read Climate Progress (which I strongly encourage) and come to their own conclusions about the arguments that they encounter.

That's as sincere RPJ gets!

Yes, I still know what you're thinking, "RPJ is just trying to pretend that he's more reasonable than you are, so the media will continue to be suckered into believing his contrarian bullsh!t, believing he is an honest broker."

To which I reply, I don't think anybody's going to be fooled into thinking Roger is reasonable when he still seems to be his old vicious self, writing:

To give Joe a bit of a break, he has a role to play for CAP as a bulldog cheerleader for the Waxman-Markey bill. His salary depends upon playing this role….

Now anyone would say that accusing somebody of not blogging what they believe but merely what they are paid to say or suggesting that what they write is policed by their bosses under threat of firing is the most outrageous form of attack on one's professional integrity. And of course, an utter falsehood, as anyone who knows me or CAP.  And if I were like RPJ, I'd demand he offer any proof of that libelous statement.

But I'm just going to take that apparent smear to be good ole' Roger's obscurely wry sense of humor.   After all, if Pielke really believed half the crap he writes, if he really believed that sentence, for instance, he couldn't possibly "strongly encourage" people to read my blog.  It would be intellectually dishonest to recommend the blog of someone you really thought was blogging a certain way because "his salary depends" on it.  No honest broker could do that.  And of course my regular readers know that I'm no bulldog cheerleader for the B- Waxman-Markey bill as I've noted many times.

No, this is just Pielke having fun with everyone.  He's a real kidder.

Even funnier, Pielke claims that since I began writing about him, "Sales of The Honest Broker jump as well."  Who else but Roger would brag that my critiques have sent his book soaring all the way to #279,894 on Amazon.  He cracks me up!

Yeah, Pielke humorously asserts "he has falsely accused my university of violating my academic freedom by shutting down our blog, Prometheus." But anyone who reads the posts knows that I never did any such thing.  I wrote

Now that they've shut down his original blog…

True, I carelessly didn't explain who I meant by "they" — although I clearly did say in the comments section that I was trying to be snarky, to needle someone who had so viciously humorously misrepresented what I wrote, which I thought would be obvious to anyone with a sense of humor like Roger.  So let me explain what I meant, why I put an asterisk next to "they" in the second paragraph above.

By "they" I meant "all of Rogers different personalities."  You know, the personality that allows him to say on the one hand that he believes the IPCC science and that we must stabilize around 500 ppm and the other personality who only offers policies that would lead to 1000 ppm and who trashes anybody who suggests policies that would get close to 500 ppm or better.  Or the personality that told Nature "Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has shaped the disaster loss record" and later praised a study that finds there is a better than 50% chance that human-emissions are contributing to increased losses from hurricanes since 1971.  That personality is clearly a whole 'nother person than the one who harshly smears the professional reputation of any scientist who says anything remotely similar and even more harshly attacks the professional reputation of hundreds of scientists who merely sat quietly in an audience listening to someone say something similar.

So whenever I write, "now that they have shut down his original blog," you'll all get the joke that I mean "now that Roger's various personalities have agreed to shut down his original blog" — but of course it won't be funny anymore now that I've explained it.  Darn.

The bottom line is that other than his plea to his readers to read Climate Progress, you should just make it your working assumption that every single thing Roger Pielke Jr. writes is a joke.  That's why I have filed this under "Humor."

Energy and Global Warming News for August 7th: Amory Lovins "pushing the envelope of what's possible" with home efficiency innovations at his "Banana Farm"

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 11:03 AM PDT

[JR:  A nice story on a green building I had the pleasure of working in for two years in the early 1990s.  Click on figure for interactive floorplan.]

The Homely Costs of Energy Conservation

A quarter-century ago, in the wake of America's first energy crisis, a young scientist named Amory Lovins came to the Rocky Mountains and built himself a radical house based on a radical idea. The country could save both energy and money, he believed, by combining common sense and unconventional technology.

Mr. Lovins did achieve substantial energy savings, and many of his innovations, from better insulation to multiple-pane windows to more-efficient refrigerators, eventually became familiar fixtures in American homes….

[Amory Lovin]…Now, Mr. Lovins has completed a renovation that he hopes will demonstrate how much more energy-efficient houses can become. But the project also serves as a reminder of the still-enormous gulf between what is technologically possible and what society is able or willing to pay for….

Some of his proudest advances stem from mundane changes. He installed an electric stove made by a Swiss company that is 60% more efficient than other models he found. The savings stem partly from pots designed specifically for the stove. The pots eliminate warping that typically occurs with copper cookware, wasting heat.

He also has shaved energy use by insisting on an unconventional plumbing design. Typically, residential pipes that carry water would be ½-inch wide and turn at right angles. But that builds up friction, requiring electric pumps to work harder to propel the water. So Mr. Lovins had ¾-inch-wide pipes installed that run diagonally across ceilings and walls to minimize friction.

"If it looks pretty," he says, "it probably doesn't save energy."

Pacific populations being prepared for relocation

Some Pacific Island states are preparing their populations for relocation if climate change claims their homes, and New Zealand appears to be more willing than Australia to accept them.

The impact of climate change on the Pacific was a hot topic at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Cairns today.

'Swiss want to reverse prayers, ask God to stop glacier's shrinking

Villagers from deeply Roman Catholic south Switzerland have for centuries offered a sacred vow to God to protect them from the advancing ice mass of the Great Aletsch glacier.

Global warming is making them want to reverse their prayers, and the Alpine faithful are seeking the permission of the pope.

Since the vow was established in 1678, the deal was simple: the citizens of the isolated mountain hamlets of Fiesch and Fieschertal would pledge to lead virtuous lives. In exchange, God would spare their homes and livelihoods from being swallowed by Europe's largest glacier as it expanded toward the valley with heavy winter snows.

Burning issues

This month Jennifer Balch will head into the Amazon rainforest of Mato Grosso state, in Brazil. She intends to set fire to it and find out what happens. When Dr Balch, who is based at Woods Hole Research Centre, in Massachusetts, and her 30 helpers have finished their weeklong task, 50 hectares will have been torched. "It's pretty darn exciting, and a bit crazy", she says, "to see a bunch of researchers running around burning down a forest."

The questions that prompt all this destruction are important. The first is: will tropical forests survive the increasing occurrence of wildfires as the climate changes and people move in, or will the landscape shift from one ruled by trees to one dominated by grassland? The second is: how much carbon do such wildfires release into the atmosphere?

EPA denies GOP request to redo Waxman-Markey analysis

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson yesterday denied GOP requests to perform a new economic analysis of the House-passed climate and energy bill, saying the Energy Department has essentially answered any outstanding questions.

Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) asked EPA last month to revise its study of the House bill, because it "offers an incomplete account of the bill's major provisions, how they overlap, and how they impact consumers, households, and the economy."

In a letter to EPA, the top two Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee asked the agency to use a reference case including the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration's April 2009 Annual Energy Outlook; insert the economic projections from President Obama's fiscal 2010 budget proposal; and include analysis of a variety of situations in which low-carbon energy sources are constrained.

Clean energy loan picks up steam

A proposed revolving loan fund of $30 million for clean energy technology is gaining support from 150 clean energy manufacturers, marking a growing fault line in the struggling industry.

The companies represent a hodgepodge of small- and medium-sized businesses, largely specializing in clean energy sectors like solar and wind technology. They also stand to benefit the most from the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The Apollo Alliance, a left-leaning clean energy advocacy group, is rallying support for the act, which it says will help balance provisions in a climate change bill that is likely to create demand for new, clean manufacturing jobs.

U.S. sees progress with Brazil on climate talks

Brazil has the clout and credibility to assert itself as a leading voice in world climate talks to help ensure the success of any new treaty aimed at reducing global warming, the top U.S. environmental diplomat said on Thursday.

Already a pioneer in clean energy and the use of biofuels such as cane-based ethanol, Brazil could cement its pro-environment credentials if it succeeds in slowing the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern said after a three-day visit to the South American nation.

In Quest for Efficiency and Conservation, NASA Turns Technology Earthward

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has sent spacecraft to the farthest reaches of the solar system. Its latest mission is a bit closer to home: helping Los Angeles save water and energy while cutting the sprawling metropolis's greenhouse gas emissions.

As part of a partnership with the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the propulsion lab will repurpose technology developed to explore the cosmos and monitor Earth's environment.

"We have people trying to understand what challenges the Los Angeles basin is facing and how some of these technologies and missions being developed by NASA can be relevant," said Charles Elachi, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview Tuesday.

Climate Bill Success = Treaty Failure? New York Times

Montana revokes permit for new coal-fired power plant Los Angeles Times

Cash for Clunkers pays for itself in oil savings while generating ... Grist Magazine

Tiny baby feet, giant carbon footprint San Francisco Chronicle

Energy Fight Heats Up for White House Wall Street Journal

With Health Care in Spotlight, Climate Push Continues Backstage New York Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Breaking: GOP Sen. Martinez to resign

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 09:43 AM PDT

Florida 2107Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida said Friday he will resign from the Senate as soon as a replacement can be appointed, leaving the seat more than a year before his term ends.

Probably not positive news for the climate and clean energy bill.  Martinez was, according to's Nate Silver, only a 6.89% "Probability of a Yes Vote" (see "Epic Battle 3: Who are the swing Senators?") — but most political honchos I know put him at a straight "undecided."  That said, we have no idea who his replacement will be …

His decision puts Republican Gov. Charlie Crist — who is running to replace Martinez — in charge of filling the seat in the interim….

… his resignation will be "effective on a successor taking office to fill out the remainder of my term."

Officials predicted that Crist, who faces a Republican primary challenge and a large field of Democratic contenders, would select a "placeholder" for the temporary assignment.

… except that he or she will be a placeholder chosen by one of the more climate-friendly GOP governors (see "Florida, Part 1: A 50% GHG cut by 2025 will SAVE the state $28 billion").

So that person will be relatively free to vote their conscience on the single most important public decision that person will ever makes in their entire life, the one they'll be remembered by for generations and generations to come — whether to try to save Florida from utter destruction.

The top 5 ways the 'birthers' are like the deniers

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 08:27 AM PDT

The people who refuse to accept the reality that President Obama was born in the United States share much in common with those who refuse to accept the reality that humans are dramatically changing the climate.

5.  Both groups are impervious to the evidence. During the campaign, "Obama released a certification of live birth, which is the official document you get if you ask Hawaii for a copy of your birth certificate," as Salon explains.  Further, "state officials have repeatedly affirmed its authenticity and said they've checked it against the original record and that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii."  Politico labels this "seemingly incontrovertible evidence."  Similarly, the reality of human-caused warming has been overwhelmingly demonstrated and affirmed by the peer-reviewed literature, the hundreds of scientists who review and report on that literature periodically as part of the IPCC process and the more than 100 world governments (including the Bush Administration) who approved the 2007 IPCC summary reports word for word (see "Absolute MUST Read IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly" and "Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?"*).

4.  Both come from the same group of people. The NYT explained that the birther movement "first took root among some staunchly conservative elements."  As Politico notes, "A whopping 58 percent of Republicans either think Barack Obama wasn't born in the US (28 percent) or aren't sure (30 percent)."  And it is conservatives and Republicans who make up the overwhelming majority of those who question climate science (see "The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP").

3.  Both group get their disinformation from the same right-wing sources. The NYT wrote on June 24 that "Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the country's most popular talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, told his listeners on Tuesday that Mr. Obama "has yet to have to prove that he's a citizen." "  Similarly, Limbaugh tells his listeners things like, "Despite the hysterics of a few pseudo-scientists, there is no reason to believe in global warming."

2.  Both groups have an underlying motivation — their desire to obstruct progressive government action. The birthers, of course, are trying to delegitimize Obama, to block his entire reform agenda.  NYT science reporter Andy Revkin noted about one huge conference of global warming deniers, "The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases."  As I explain at length in my book, a central reason that conservatives and libertarians reject the scientific understanding of human-caused climate change is that they simply cannot stand the solution.

1.  Both groups believe in a mammoth conspiracy theory.  The birthers not only believe that Obama's birth documents are forged and that current Hawaii state officials are lying about them.  They have to believe in a conspiracy dating back five decades, as Salon explains:  two Hawaiian newspapers carried announcements of Obama's birth in August 1961. (Read the Honolulu Advertiser's item from Aug. 13, 1961, nine days after Obama's birth, here.)….  The truth, though, is that the notices are even stronger pieces of evidence than that. Obama's family didn't place them — Hawaii did, as it does for all births. The announcements were based on official records sent to the papers by the state's Department of Health."

Deniers like Senator James Inhofe (R-OIL) or Anthony Watts proudly assert or repeat statements like "global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American public" or "the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind" [see "Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)"].  That hoax would require complicity among thousands of climate scientists, all of the leading scientific journals, the National Academies of Science around the world (including ours) and every major U.S. scientific organization (see "Yet more scientists call for deep GHG cuts").  Such statements accuses every major government, including ours, of participating in that conspiracy, since they all sign off on every word in the Assessment Report summaries.

The differences between the birthers and the deniers, however, are bigger than the similarities.  The birthers are relatively harmless, the mainstream media has mostly debunked them and relegated them to a side show.  The deniers, however, still get regular play in the MSM and are far, far more dangerous.  If enough Americans, opinion makers, and policymakers continue to listen to the deniers message of delay, delay, delay, we will destroy a livable climate, ruining the health and well-being of the next 50 generations to walk the planet.

The birthers are stuck in the past.  The deniers want to destroy the future.

Unemployment rate drops for first time in 15 months

Posted: 07 Aug 2009 06:39 AM PDT

Employers throttled back on layoffs in July, cutting just 247,000 jobs, the fewest in a year, and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent, its first decline in 15 months. It was a better-than-expected showing that offered a strong signal that the recession is finally ending.

It may not be fair, but the likelihood of climate legislation passing the Senate in November (or later) depends critically on such seemingly unrelated matters as whether the Senate can pass health care reform and what the state of the economy is.  So the latest job report — along with other recent economic news like the better-than-expected GDP report from Monday — is a big deal:

The new snapshot, released by the Labor Department on Friday, also offered other encouraging news: workers' hours nudged up after sinking to a record low in June, and paychecks grew after having fallen or flat lined in some cases.

To be sure, the report still indicates that the jobs market is on shaky ground. But the new figures were better than many analysts were expecting and offered welcomed improvements to a part of the economy that has been clobbered by the recession.

We've till got a long way to go to dig ourselves out of the economic hole abyss Bush-Cheney put us in, but we appear to have bottomed — thanks in part to the stimulus — and I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to get 60 votes for ending the inevitable and immoral conservative filibuster the Senate will need to overcome to pass the climate and clean energy bill.

Is this the fastest rebuttal of a denier study in history?

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 06:40 PM PDT

The deniers have been trumpeting an atrocious study that made it into the July 23 edition of Journal of Geophysical Research, "Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature."  The top anti-scientific blog, WattsUpWithThat crowed, "Surge in global temperatures since 1977 can be attributed to a 1976 climate shift in the Pacific Ocean":

A new peer-reviewed climate study is presenting a head on challenge to man-made global warming claims.

But let's not waste time quoting that "atrocious paper," as RealClimate puts it, with a couple of debunking links here.  The occasional atrocious denier paper sometimes makes it through the peer-reviewed process.  What's truly remarkable here is that some of the top climate scientists in the country already have a response submitted for publication in JGR — see full article here.

Last year saw "A new Olympic record for retraction of a denier talking point," but this would seem to be some sort of a world record for scientific rebuttal.

The 9 (!) rebuttal authors span the globe from Japan to the UK to New Zealand to Colorado and New York, reading like a who's who of global climate science:  G. Foster, J. D. Annan, P. D. Jones, M. E. Mann, B. Mullan, J. Renwick, J. Salinger, G. A. Schmidt, and K. E. Trenberth.  Here's the abstract:

McLean et al. [2009] (henceforth MFC09) claim that the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), as represented by the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), accounts for as much as 72% of the global tropospheric temperature anomaly (GTTA) and an even higher 81% of this anomaly in the tropics. They conclude that the SOI is a "dominant and consistent influence on mean global temperatures," "and perhaps recent trends in global temperatures". However, their analysis is incorrect in a number of ways, and greatly overstates the influence of ENSO on the climate system. This comment first briefly reviews what is understood about the influence of ENSO on global temperatures, then goes on to show that the analysis of MFC09 severely overestimates the correlation between temperature anomalies and the SOI by inflating the power in the 2–6 year time window while filtering out variability on longer and shorter time scales. It is only because of this faulty analysis that they are able to claim such extremely high correlations. The suggestion in their conclusions that ENSO may be a major contributor to recent trends in global temperature is not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in that paper, especially as the analysis method itself eliminates the influence of trends on the purported correlations.

Ouch!  One wonders how MFC09 made it through peer review in the first place.  JGR really, really screwed up.  Here is the conclusion of Foster et al.:

It has been well known for many years that ENSO is associated with significant variability in global mean temperatures on interannual timescales. However, this relationship (which, contrary to the claim of MFC09, is simulated by global climate models, e.g. Santer et al. [2001]) cannot explain temperature trends on decadal and longer time scales. The analysis of MFC09 grossly overstates the influence of ENSO, primarily by filtering out any signal on decadal and longer time scales. Their method of analysis is a priori incapable of addressing the question of causes of long-term climate change. In fact, the general rise in temperatures over the 2nd half of the 20th century is very likely predominantly due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases [IPCC, 2007].

Doh.  Or is that Duh?

Either way, this won't silence the deniers — since they are not persuadable by evidence (see "Can you PROVE to me that global warming is being caused by mankind?"*).  But everyone else can rest assured that the scientific process works itself out, 99 peer-reviewed papers out of 100 make clear humans are already changing the climate, and, tragically, the threat to the health and well-being of the next 50 generations posed by human-generated emissions of GHGs remains unabated.

Very big hat tip to Andy Revkin (his twitter comments are here) for sending me the link to Foster et al.

China softens climate rhetoric, commits to emissions peak (again), shows flexibility on Western reductions

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 05:19 PM PDT

This guest post is by Julian L. Wong and Austin Davis at the Center for American Progress.

Multiple news outlets have been reporting that yesterday's news conference with China's top climate change ambassador, Yu Qingtai, marked a significant departure from China's established attitudes toward climate change. He also expressed a degree flexibility regarding China's previous demands that developed nations pledge to reduce their carbon emissions 40% by 2020 from 1990 levels at Copenhagen this December.

It's true: Wednesday's conference provided a more explicit explanation of China's position on climate change than had been offered previously. Yu reaffirmed China's commitment to eventually reducing its carbon emissions while giving more specific details as to China's position on the Copenhagen talks.

Great quotes like "there is no one in the world who is more keen than us to see China reach its emissions peak as early as possible" may have caused a stir among the western media, but this is not really news.

Influential Chinese scholars have been pushing for a peaking pathway for some time now. Hu Angang, a public policy professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a prominent policy adviser for the Chinese government, has advocated for China to aim for a peaking of carbon emissions in 2030, while He Jiankun, deputy head of the State Council's Expert Panel on Climate Change Policy has projected that China's emissions are more likely to peak at 2035.  Similarly, a report (executive summary in Chinese only) by one of the most influential Chinese government think tanks, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has called for peaking between 2030 and 2040.

And just last month, China officially committed itself to establish a pathway for peaking by signing off on the July 9th Declaration of the Leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which stated that "The peaking of global and national emissions should take place as soon as possible." While the relevant provision lacks a timetable and is laden with the caveat of the "overriding priorities in developing countries", the MEF declaration provides precedent for Yu's comments on emissions peaking.

So, what are the practical implications of China's new climate-engaged rhetoric? While they're opening two new coal plants per week, the Chinese are using the low energy demand caused by the recent recession as an opportunity to shut down their less efficient coal plants and replace them with some of the most efficient in the industry. Meanwhile, China has been making sincere investment and policy efforts to support clean energy technologies (see "China Begins Its Transition to a Clean-Energy Economy").

Yu stopped short of explicitly recanting China's previous demands for developed countries to cut 40% of their emissions by 2020:

Asked whether China had abandoned a demand for a 40 percent cut in rich nation emissions by 2020, Yu said that a target for developed countries should be agreed in the talks.

"As the developed countries have a historical responsibility for climate change, they should continue to implement large emissions cuts after 2012," Yu said.

"A concrete figure has to be decided by the negotiations; we will get a result in Copenhagen," he said, but added Beijing still considered the 40 percent sought by developing countries in previous talks a "fair and rational" target.

So while Yu maintained the developing world's rhetorical virulence against the historical climate injustices committed by the developed world, it seems clear that China's push for a real climate deal by the end of the year is to be taken seriously.

What is interesting about these new statements by Yu, which portray an increased willingness to engage in the international climate process, is how they coincide with recent actions of two fellow non-Annex I (or "developing") countries.  Earlier this week, South Korea surprised the world by pledging to set a 2020 carbon emissions target, while Mexico announced that it will offer a substantive plan to cut greenhouse gases for developing countries at Copenhagen. As the first non-Annex I countries endorsing a capping of emissions, South Korea and Mexico show that the developing world is paying attention to climate change even when many in America prefer not to (see "South Korea, a 'developing' country, embraces 2020 emissions cap, with important implications for a global deal in Copenhagen").

The media has missed a broader story — The shift in tenor of these major non-Annex I countries, as reflected in these announcements, should offer pause to the pessimists who think that the impasse between the developed and the developing world in reaching a global deal in Copenhagen is insurmountable.

Is a 4-day workweek inevitable? Utah cuts energy use 13%

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 04:07 PM PDT

Closing Utah state offices on Fridays has resulted in a 13 percent reduction in energy use according to an internal analysis of the nation's most expansive four-day workweek program.

Since last August, about 17,000 of the state's 24,000 executive branch employees have been working 10 hours a day, four days a week in an effort to reduce energy consumption and cut utility costs….

The state estimates that, collectively, employees will save between $5 million and $6 million annually by not commuting on Fridays and the initiative will cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons.

Even before we get desperate about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even before the global Ponzi scheme collapses, gasoline prices are going to blow past $4 a gallon (see World's top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us").  So it seems inevitable that much of the nation will adopt the 4-day work week sometime over the next two decades — especially if the results of Utah's program are replicated by others.

"I can't even name all the places that have called us," said John Harrington, state energy manager.

Aaron Newton in an Oil Drum post, estimates that a national 4-day work week would save 5% to 10% of the more than 8 million barrels a day he calculates that U.S. commuters use.  And he notes there would be other environmental and health benefits

A recent study by the California EPA says "50% of a person's daily exposure to ultra fine particles (the particles linked to cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses) can occur during a commute." A report by the Clean Air Task Force in 2007 found diesel particle levels were between 4 to 8 times higher in commute vehicles than in the surrounding air. It makes sense when you think about it. The pollution coming from the tailpipe of a vehicle is mostly likely to affect you while you're sitting directly behind it, especially if you're stuck in slow moving traffic where the concentrations of such particles can build up.

Scientific American quotes John Langmaid, who is organizing an upcoming symposium on the issue for the Connecticut Law Review:

"If employees are on the road 20 percent less, and office buildings are only powered four days a week," Langmaid says, "the energy savings and congestion savings would be enormous." Plus, the hour shift for the Monday through Thursday workers means fewer commuters during the traditional rush hours, speeding travel for all. It also means less time spent idling in traffic and therefore less spewing of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The 9-to-5 crowd also gets the benefit of extended hours at the DMV and other state agencies that adopt the four-day schedule.

And outgoing Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman explains "the cost savings will only grow if the four-day workweek is granted permanent status":

He says that's because the state could renegotiate its long-term leases, invest in equipment that would isolate cooling and heating to where its needed on nights and weekends and that utility costs will inevitably rise in future years, particularly if a proposed cap and trade system on carbon emissions is put in place.

And the folks in Utah seem to like it:

Employee surveys have also shown that most state workers like the new schedule — absenteeism and overtime are down and customer complaints have steadily dropped. Even wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles have decreased under extended hours Monday through Thursday….

Some employees like the four-day workweek so much that they're using a voluntary peer pressure network to help the program meets its cost-saving, energy-cutting goals to help ensure the program — and employees' three-day weekends — survive.

Seems inevitable, no?

And the lighter side, from

4-day work week

h/t TNR

Tony Blair, Climate Group, and CAP call for strong technology deployment policy driven by a carbon price, innovative financing, and serious technology standards

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 03:02 PM PDT

Tony Blair and the Climate Group have written an excellent report, "Breaking the Climate Deadlock: Technology for a Low Carbon Future (PDF)."

While they endorse strong investment in technology development — as the Center for American Progress (CAP) and virtually everyone else does — it is squarely focused on the crucial role that strong government regulations and standards play in achieving the rapid technology deployment needed to meet key 2020 greenhouse gas targets.  And it endorses a strong carbon price — as CAP and virtually all serious independent groups do (with a few strange exceptions) — as a necessary means of achieving emissions reductions sufficient to preserve a livable climate.

Let's start with Blair's detailed strategy for achieving significant global emissions reductions in 2020 — which is the cornerstone of any real plan to avert catastrophic global warming.  Here is the first conclusion from the executive summary:

1.We know the technologies we need, where to deploy them and the investment required.

To put ourselves on a path to meet our emissions goals, we need to reduce global emissions by 19 Gigatonnes (Gt) in 2020 and energy-related emissions by 48 Gt by 2050. In addition to slowing and eventually halting deforestation, the global roadmap for technology development and deployment must focus on four key sectors:

Power: Approximately 38% of total savings to 2050. Renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), nuclear power and biomass will all be critical areas.

Transport: Approximately 26% of total savings to 2050. Key technologies include electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, improved efficiency and current and next generation biofuels.

Buildings: Approximately 17% of total savings to 2050. Key technologies include improved efficiency in building appliances.

Industry: Approximately 19% of total savings to 2050. Key technologies include CCS for industrial processes, and industrial motor systems.

The total required annual average investment to scale technology up to the required level is approximately $1 trillion between now and 2050. This is equivalent to 40% of global infrastructure investment or 1.4% of GDP . But much of this investment displaces business as usual spending on high-carbon alternatives and so the incremental cost of additional
investment is much smaller. Estimates suggest that a global incremental cost of additional investment of approximately $317bn annually in 2015, rising to $811bn in 2030, is required with an oil price of $60 per barrel. But if the oil price rises to $120 per barrel, this will reduce the cost by $700bn annually – making the incremental additional cost over the period very small or even zero.

The key point is that direct government funding can't possibly be the primary source of this enormous investment, as I've argued repeatedly (see "The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill").  And that's why Blair's second conclusion is one I've made many times:

2. The technologies required to meet our 2020 goals are already proven, available now and the policies needed to implement them known.

Over 70% of the reductions needed by 2020 can be achieved by investing in three areas: increasing energy efficiency, reducing deforestation and using lower-carbon energy sources, including nuclear and renewables. We also know that by implementing just seven proven policies these reductions can be delivered:

Renewable energy standards: Regulation to require or feed-in tariffs to stimulate an increased production of energy from renewable sources, in particular wind and solar, could deliver 2.1 Gt of savings.

Industry efficiency: Improved motors and other efficiency gains could deliver 2.4Gt of savings.

Building codes: Improving standards for new build and modernising existing building stock could save 1.3 Gt.

Vehicle efficiency standards: Driving up standards for vehicle efficiency could save 0.4 Gt.

Fuel carbon content standards: Reducing the carbon content of fuels could lead to 0.3 Gt of savings.

Appliance standards: Increasing the energy efficiency of white goods and other appliances could reduce emissions by 0.3 Gt.

Policies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD ): could deliver close to 9 Gt of reductions. All seven policies have already been successfully implemented in countries around the world but need scaling up.  While cap and trade systems or other means of creating a carbon price can help provide incentives for businesses to invest in low-carbon solutions, in the short term at least, it is these seven policy measures and direct action and investment by governments that will achieve the targets.

Of course, that is precisely why the climate and clean energy bill passed by the House contains virtually every one of these provisions — except the vehicle and fuel standards, which Obama and Congress have dealt with separately.  Yes, the RES is too weak and should be strengthened — as CAP, for one, is trying to do — but the efficiency codes and standards and the REDD funding in the bill are tremendous.  As, of course, are Obama's vehicle efficiency standards (see "Obama to raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2").

Bottom Line:  If you want the kind of fast climate action the climate crisis demands, you must combine aggressive government technology standards with a shrinking carbon cap that drives a rising carbon price.

In the long term, of course, you need steady technology advances plus a pretty high price for CO2.  As the Blair reports states:

The pathway for future technologies is clear. We need a global focus on four key sectors: power, transport, buildings and industry. We need to balance mid-term reduction with long-term investment. We need to create a global carbon price to leverage private sector action and provide public support to overcome market failures. The cost is realistic and affordable and will help drive future growth and job creation. The key to success will be finding the political will to make this happen.

How high a CO2 price?  The Blair report doesn't say explicitly, but if you read the report you'll see they rely heavily on the International Energy Agency's analysis:

The International Energy Agency's (IEA) BLUE Map Scenario suggests that 48 Gt of CO2 savings will be required by 2050.

The IEA is also the group that concluded "The total required annual average investment to scale technology up to the required level is approximately $1 trillion between now and 2050." Again that kind investment can only come from the private sector.

Also the marginal cost of CO2 — what the allowance price would have to rise to — is at least $200 a ton in the BLUE Map scenario, if the key technologies advance to the point where they are sufficiently cost-effective (otherwise the price could be much higher).  The IEA's good news is that:

… the average cost of the technologies needed for BLUE Map is much lower than the marginal, in the range of USD 38 to USD 117 per tonne of CO2 saved.

That's right, if the aggressive technology strategy turns out more successful than not, the average price of CO2 emissions reductions might be as low as $38/ton of CO2 in the 450 ppm case.  But there is no escape from a high marginal cost, a high permit price, certainly above $100 a ton, if you want to have a shot at avoiding catastrophic global warming.  You can read more about the IEA study here:

So I think the Blair report is another important contribution to climate policy — one that looks very consistent with everything the Center for American progress has argued.  You need a carbon price mechanism like cap-and-trade, one that ultimately leads to a serious carbon price post-2020.  But for near-term emissions reductions, you can combine a modest carbon price with strong government regulations and standards.

[And yes, I am aware that The Breakthrough Institute has utterly misrepresented the findings of this report and recent work by CAP.  What else is new?]

NSIDC: Arctic ice melts quickly through July

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 10:38 AM PDT


Arctic sea ice extent for the month of July was the third lowest for that month in the satellite record, after 2007 and 2006. The average rate of melt in July 2009 was nearly identical to that of July 2007. A strong high-pressure system, similar to the atmospheric pattern that dominated the summer of 2007, brought warm winds and clear skies to the western Arctic, promoting ice melt.

You can read more of the National Snow and Ice Data Center's update here.  Breaking the 2007 sea ice area record seems unlikely, as NSIDC explains in the update.  But breaking the 2008 sea ice volume record is still a serious possibility (see "Will we see record low Arctic ice VOLUME this year?").

Wind Power Industry Retreating From Wyo., Citing Sage Grouse Concerns New York Times

Climate Policies Must Overcome Psychological Barriers - Report Reuters

Wind Promises Blackouts as Obama Strains Grid With Renewables Bloomberg

Boxer, Baucus Headed for Turf War Over Cap-And-Trade Bill New York Times

Senators Issue Warning on Climate Bill New York Times

Swiss now pray that glacier will stop shrinking San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

NOAA: "El Niño is expected to strengthen and last through" winter — record temperatures are coming

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 10:03 AM PDT

NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center released its monthly El Niño/Southern oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion:

Synopsis: El Niño is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere Winter 2009-2010.

A weak El Niño was present during July 2009, as monthly sea surface temperatures (SST) departures ranged from +0.5°C to +1.5°C across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, with the largest anomalies in the eastern half of the basin. Consistent with this warmth, all of the Niño-region SST indices were between +0.6°C to +1.0°C throughout the month. Subsurface oceanic heat content (average temperatures in the upper 300m of the ocean) anomalies continued to reflect a deep layer of anomalous warmth between the ocean surface and thermocline.

A majority of the model forecasts for the Niño-3.4 SST index [Fig. 6, at the bottom] suggest El Niño will continue to strengthen. While there is disagreement on the eventual strength of El Niño, nearly all of the dynamical models predict a moderate-to-strong El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere Winter 2009-10.

This announcement is not surprising news — it mainly means the ENSO models are on track (see NOAA says "El Niño arrives; Expected to Persist through Winter 2009-10″ — and that means record temperatures are coming and this will be the hottest decade on record).

But this evolving story remains a big deal from the perspective of heating up global temperatures and cooling off denier talking points.  After all, the La Niña conditions over the past 18 months helped temporarily mute the strong human-caused warming signal, allowing the global warming deniers to push their nonsensical global cooling meme with the help of the status quo media (see "Media enable denier spin 1: A (sort of) cold January [2008] doesn't mean climate stopped warming").

Remember, back in January, NASA had predicted:  "Given our expectation of the next El Niño beginning in 2009 or 2010, it still seems likely that a new global temperature record will be set within the next 1-2 years, despite the moderate negative effect of the reduced solar irradiance."

So I will continue posting at least monthly updates.  Regular readers can skip the rest of this post (though it does have some new figues).

Nino 3

It is the warming in the Nino 3.4 region of the Pacific that is typically used to define an El Niño.  The region can be seen in this figure:

How are El Niño and La Niña defined?

El Niño and La Niña are officially defined as sustained sea surface temperature anomalies of magnitude greater than 0.5°C across the central tropical Pacific Ocean. When the condition is met for a period of less than five months, it is classified as El Niño or La Niña conditions; if the anomaly persists for five months or longer.

You can read the basics about ENSO here.  The following historical data are from NOAA's weekly ENSO update

As the planet warms decade by decade thanks to human emissions of greenhouse gases, global temperature records tend to be set in El Niño years, like 2005, 1998, and 2007, whereas sustained La Niñas tend to cause relatively cooler years.

Human-caused global warming is so strong, however, that as NASA explained, it took a serious La Niña, plus unusually sustained low levels of solar irradiance, to make 2008 as cool as it was.  Yet, notwithstanding the global warming deniers and the status quo media, 2008 wasn't actually cool.  Indeed, 2008 was almost 0.1°C warmer than the decade of the 1990s averaged as a whole. And not that there was any realistic chance global temperatures would collapse this year, but now it is quite safe to say that "this will be the hottest decade in recorded history by far."  The 2000s are on track to be nearly 0.2°C warmer than the 1990s.  And that temperature jump is especially worrisome since the 1990s were only 0.14°C warmer than the 1980s.

If we have a moderate to strong El Niño, then, as NASA says, record global temperatures are all but inevitable.  The NCDC already reported June was the second hottest on record with ocean temperatures the warmest on record — a full 0.11°F warmer than the 2005 record.  It typically takes several months for ENSO to impact global temps.

And this brings us back to NOAA's updated prediction.  Here were the model forecasts from June:

Figure 5. Forecasts of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies for the Niño 3.4 region (5°N-5°S, 120°W-170°W). Figure courtesy of the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society.  Figure updated 15 June 2009.

Now here is the update as of July 16 [don't ask me why these are always 3 weeks old, ask NOAA]:

ENSO forecast 8-09

Note that the June models that predicted a strengthening were correct.  Also, Nino 3.4 in July averaged more than +0.8°C, so again, we see the July models that had predicted strengthening seem to be more accurate.

A hot summer and fall — how timely that would be for debating a climate bill?

Energy and Global Warming News for August 6th: Arctic Ocean "could be a stagnant, polluted soup" by 2070 without sharp GHG cuts

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 09:03 AM PDT

Churning it up. The Transpolar Drift and Beaufort Gyre keep the Arctic sea moving (Image: LANL) Arctic Ocean may be polluted soup by 2070

Within 60 years the Arctic Ocean could be a stagnant, polluted soup. Without drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, the Transpolar Drift, one of the Arctic's most powerful currents and a key disperser of pollutants, is likely to disappear because of global warming.

The Transpolar Drift is a cold surface current that travels right across the Arctic Ocean from central Siberia to Greenland, and eventually out into the Atlantic. It was first discovered in 1893 by the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who tried unsuccessfully to use the current to sail to the North Pole. Together with the Beaufort Gyre, the Transpolar Drift keeps Arctic waters well mixed and ensures that pollution never lingers there for long.

To better understand the dispersal of pollution in the Arctic Ocean, Ola Johannessen, director of the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Bergen, Norway, and his colleagues studied the spread of radioactive substances such as strontium-90 and caesium-137 from nuclear testing, bomb factories and nuclear power-plant accidents. Measurements taken between 1948 and 1999 were plugged into a high-resolution ocean circulation model and combined with a climate model to predict Arctic Ocean circulation until 2080.

Polluters See Green in Carbon Market

Egypt's pollution problem is a potential goldmine of foreign revenue – if the country can tap into the lucrative international carbon trading market.

A 130-billion dollar market for so-called carbon credits has grown out of the idea that when it comes to global climate control, where carbon dioxide comes from is less important than the total amount produced.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a component of the UN's global programme to address climate change, permits governments and companies in industrialised nations to offset stringent greenhouse gas (GHG) emission quotas established under the Kyoto Protocol by investing in emission- reduction projects in developing countries.

The wisdom of crowds

Climate change is inherently a social problem — so why have sociologists been so slow to study it? Kerri Smith reports.

"Climate change is the ultimate collective-action problem," says Steven Brechin, a sociologist at Syracuse University in New York. "How do you get people to agree in the short term to solutions for a long-term problem?" The answer, like the problem, has to be wide-ranging and global, says Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who also studies how societies affect their environments. "Its only solution lies in a level of global cooperation that humanity has never seen before."

Limits on Speculative Trading Needed to Protect Energy Markets, U.S. Regulator Says

The chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Wednesday that the agency wanted to impose new restrictions on so-called speculative traders, not to reduce price volatility but to prevent the energy markets from being dominated by a few huge investment funds.

"I believe that at the core of promoting market integrity is ensuring markets do not become too concentrated," said Gary G. Gensler, the commission chairman. "I think we would all agree that if one party controls half the market, that party is more likely to lessen liquidity than enhance it."

The rationale is a distinct departure from the complaints of many Democratic lawmakers in Congress and from large fuel consumers like airlines and big trucking companies. Many of those critics have blamed big banks and investment funds, which have poured money into the energy futures markets, for worsening the roller-coaster ride taken by oil and natural gas prices in the last year.

Group pushes 'clean coal' in ad blitz

A coal and utility industry coalition has launched a major campaign pushing industrial and farm state Democratic senators to boost coal-friendly provisions in the Senate climate and energy bill.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a lobbying group reviled by environmentalists, plans to target Democrats at home over the August recess with online, radio, billboard and, likely, television advertising. The message: Coal power plants can be clean and are necessary to produce low-cost energy for consumers and business. One of its billboards shows an electric cord being plugged into a lump of coal with the slogan, "A climate bill needs to protect Ohio jobs."

Vestas sit-in six call on country to show support

Six workers who have been staging a sit-in at Britain's only major wind turbine factory for more than two weeks called today for a national day of action to support their attempt to save it from closure with the loss of more than 600 jobs. The men, who say they are determined to remain inside the Vestas Wind Systems plant on the Isle of Wight until bailiffs come to remove them, want people around the country to show support on Wednesday 12 August by downing tools for an hour, holding a rally or hanging up a banner.

Meanwhile many of the workers who left the occupation yesterday of their own accord returned to the site, on an industrial estate outside Newport, to support their colleagues from the outside.

Asked what the experience inside had been like, Chris Ash replied: "The Big Brother house." He explained: "You've got to ration all the tobacco, all the food, you've got to wash stuff in the sinks. It's really tough. Being away from your loved ones, not being able to do normal stuff.

Coal industry flack says mountaintop removal solves 'lack of flat space' in Appalachia

Posted: 06 Aug 2009 05:32 AM PDT

You can't make this stuff up — and you can't keep up with the staggering amount of fraud and falsehood coming out of industry.  Brad Johnson reports on one of the most outrageous coal-industry statements made in recent years.  ACCCE's Joe Lucas has just jumped to the front of the race for "Greenwasher of the Year."

The coal industry front group embroiled in an Astroturf scandal is now arguing that mountaintop removal coal mining helps communities "hampered because of a lack of flat space." Joe Lucas, vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), told the Guardian that dynamiting the tops off of mountains — far from being the "rape of Appalachia" — is actually a boon to rural communities:

I can take you to places in eastern Kentucky where community services were hampered because of a lack of flat space — to build factories, to build hospitals, even to build schools. In many places, mountain-top mining, if done responsibly, allows for land to be developed for community space.

The concept of "responsible" mountain-top mining is laughable, as Mountain Justice explains:

Traditional mining communities disappear as jobs diminish and residents are driven away by dust, blasting and increased flooding and dangers from overloaded coal trucks careening down small, windy mountain roads. Mining companies buy many of the homes and tear them down. Dynamite is cheaper than people, so mountaintop removal mining does not create many new jobs.

Mountaintop removal generates huge amounts of waste. While the solid waste becomes valley fills, liquid waste is stored in massive, dangerous coal slurry impoundments, often built in the headwaters of a watershed. The slurry is a witch's brew of water used to wash the coal for market, carcinogenic chemicals used in the washing process and coal fines (small particles) laden with all the compounds found in coal, including toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. Frequent blackwater spills from these impoundments choke the life out of streams.

ACCCE's Joe Lucas — who can't even admit that coal pollution contributes to global warming — is giving new meaning to the idea of the Flat Earth Society.

Related Posts:

How the Senate can fix cost containment in the climate bill with 'price collar plus'

Posted: 05 Aug 2009 05:20 PM PDT

The climate and clean energy bill that narrowly passed the House has three problems related to cost containment (CC) that the Senate should — and I expect will — address:

  1. Fence-sitting Senators (and industries) worry that its CC provisions aren't hard-nosed and specific enough to protect the public and businesses from carbon prices that get too high too fast, possibly driven by speculators.
  2. Progressives worry that its CC provisions are already too strong and that some proposals floating around to strengthen CC would environmentally weaken an already weak bill.
  3. The major CC provision in the bill — the strategic reserve — is so opaque that it is understood by a handful of people at most and none of them are U.S. Senators.

I'm going to try to take the best of all the current CC proposals and propose an alternative that I think might actually be appealing to all sides, what I'm calling "price collar plus."

Two weeks ago, the Brookings Institution — which I'd view as center-right on the energy and climate issue now that David Sandalow has left — proposed a traditional price collar in Politico, "Time for a price collar on carbon."  To their credit, they did suggest this was a way to "rein in offsets" but offered no specifics on how to achieve that important end.

The benefit of a price collar to Brookings:

By preventing the policy from being either unexpectedly lax or unexpectedly stringent, a price collar protects both investors in green technologies and households and preserves strong incentives to abate.

The House climate bill already has a price floor for the auction, which starts at $10 a ton in 2012 and rises 5% plus inflation every year thereafter.  I believe most everyone understands the need for a rising price floor — giving some certainty to businesses about investment decisions they make, say, in biomass cofiring or natural gas fuel switching.  The floor in Waxman-Markey is, by almost every independent analysis, on the low side in the sense that the CBO and EPA and especially the EIA project the price for a CO2 allowance in 2020 will be above the floor — in EIA's estimation, double the floor price.

The fossil fuel industry, of course, funds economic analyses that project incredibly high allowance prices to scare people into opposing the bill entirely.  If their analyses were anywhere near accurate, the floor in the House bill would be utterly irrelevant.  I'd love a higher floor, but since it has already passed the House, we're probably stuck with it.

A price collar, of course, requires a ceiling to go with the floor.  Brookings explains:

The price ceiling could work like the "safety valve" included in a 2007 bill introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), which would have allowed the government to sell additional emissions allowances if permit prices rose above a preset ceiling.

That kind of cap-busting safety valve is not good from an environmental perspective (see "Safety Valves Won't Make Us Safer").  That's why I have long opposed such safety valves (see "The history of the 'safety valve' debate"), especially when set at ridiculously low levels, such as $7 per metric ton of CO2-equivalent (and rising a tad above inflation annually), as the National Commission on Energy Policy proposed in 2004.

NCEP's new report, "Managing Economic Risk in a Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program," also endorses a safety-valve-type ceiling, but then wisely offers up this proposal:

An allowance reserve coupled with a price floor offers, in our view, many of the benefits of a simple price cap and has the not insignificant advantage of providing greater certainty about cumulative emissions reductions over the time horizon of the program.


You don't want the government to sell an unlimited number of allowances that represent no emissions reduction whatsoever at the ceiling price.  You want to borrow the best feature of the strategic reserve, which is that the allowances the government sells are, to start, skimmed off of the emissions caps from 2012 to 2050.

In Waxman-Markey, a pool of allowances is made available for strategic reserve auctions consisting of

  • 1% of the allowances established for each year from 2012 to 1019
  • 2% of the allowances established for each year from 2020 to 2029
  • 3% of the allowances established for each year from 2030 to 2050

That was I think a good compromise by environmentalists.  It acts a lot like a safety valve, but maintains environmental integrity (at least to start).  The enviros (and whoever else signed off on this deal), however, made two mistakes.

First, in the final House bill, they set an initial trigger price for the strategic reserve of $28 — which is the equivalent of the "ceiling" or "safety valve" price — but that price quickly shifts to 160% of the average auction price of allowances over the previous 36 months.

Zzzzzzzzzz.  Crickets chirp.  Glaciers melt.

That approach was dissatisfying to everybody — or rather it was confusing to everybody and dissatisfying to the few people who wasted time figuring out what it meant.  For progressives who think there are an overabundance of domestic clean energy solutions available, and hence that the permit price will stay close to the floor for at least a decade (see here), it meant the reserve auction trigger price — aka the effective ceiling price for allowances — might be maybe only $22 a ton in CO2, a ridiculously low ceiling.  And that meant if we turned out to be wrong about, say, the supply of moderate-cost natural gas, then even a tiny allowance price spike would trigger the reserve auction.

But for moderates and conservatives, who tend to believe that the allowance price in 2020 will be much higher, even higher than EIA's $36 a ton, then the ceiling in 2020 might be $60 a ton or higher, which for them is no protection at all from speculators or from the technology optimists being wrong or from offset prices being much higher than they thought.

The point is, the strategic reserve "ceiling" price in the House bill was designed in a manner to make everybody unhappy.  For instance, NCEP — which I'd characterize as center right today (see here) — was worried the ceiling/safety-valve price in 2015 might be as high as $49 a ton [though I think they did their math a little wrong].

Now NCEP does say:

We do not take issue with the initial allowance trigger price proposed in Waxman–Markey (at $28 per ton)—rather our concerns focus on the method used to calculate the trigger price in subsequent years.

Me, too.

A majority of House members voted for the reserve trigger price to rise 5 percent plus the rate of inflation for 2013 and 2014 until the complicated formula kicked in for 2015 on.

Sp I'm going to propose what I think is the simplest and most obvious fix:   The floor price for the regular allowance auction should start at $10 a ton in 2012, and the reserve trigger price (aka the effective allowance ceiling price) should start at $28 a ton in 2012 — and those collar prices should rise 5% plus inflation every year thereafter.

NCEP elaborates on the benefits of a price collar:

A "price collar" retains the economic efficiency benefits of a price ceiling alone, which has been shown to be nearly as efficient as a carbon tax.  Moreover, recent research — [RFF's"Alternative Approaches to Cost Containment in a Cap-and-Trade System"] — has demonstrated that a "price collar" approach has the additional benefit of reducing long-term emission abatement costs relative to expected long-term abatement costs with a price ceiling alone. This is because the policy provides more consistent financial incentives for sustained investment in low-carbon technologies that can reduce compliance costs in the long run: Rather than being subject to boom-bust cycles when allowance prices fall, new low-carbon technologies would be assured a certain level of market stability. This would allow them to develop in a more orderly and ultimately cost-effective way.

But NCEP also explains the value of the reserve:

… a robust, well-designed reserve auction mechanism could be extremely useful for increasing public confidence in the nascent greenhouse gas market. If true costs are much higher than projected, the reserve would provide a "cushion" while Congress considers whether further program adjustments are needed. On the other hand, if allowance prices are in line with, or modestly above expectations, the allowance reserve auction would never be triggered.

Price collar plus should be attractive to both sides

Fence-sitting Senators and industries can legitimately see it as achieving stronger cost-containment protection than their analysis suggests the House bill now provides, including protection against speculators running the permit price up, while progressives can legitimately see it as achieving better environmental outcomes than their analysis suggests the House bill now provides.  Win-win.


I would keep the W-M provision that "the annual limit on the number of emission allowances from the strategic reserve account that may be auctioned is an amount equal to 5 percent of the emission allowances established for that calendar year."  It is hard to see how one would need more than 5% in any given year, especially when there are so many domestic and international offsets available for emitters to purchase — and of course so many strategies emitters can use to reduce their emissions and hence their need to purchase permits.

BUT I would change how Waxman-Markey refills the reserve once the initial reserve is auctioned out.  W-M fills the reserve with "international offset credits from reduced deforestation."

Bad idea.  Reduced deforestation should be utterly separate and additional.  We have no hope whatsoever of averting catastrophic global warming if we don't sharply cut fossil fuel emissions here (and abroad) while simultaneously stopping deforestation [see "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution"].  And one of the best things in the House bill is that it already devotes substantial funds generated from the allowances to stopping deforestation — achieving some 720 million tons of emissions reductions in 2020, equal to 10% of total current US greenhouse gases — all of which are additional to the domestic GHG reductions.  The notion that deforestation tons should be separate and additional should be be an inviolate principle of U.S. action.

No, I would fill the reserve with domestic offsets.  I'm not really expecting the initial reserve to sell out until well past 2020.  And I know the businesses who signed onto this deal wanted a large pool to refill the reserve — but at the likely trigger or ceiling price post-2020 (more than $40 a ton of CO2e), there would in fact be a lot of domestic offsets.  And I have more confidence in our ability to ensure the quality of domestic offsets than I do of our ability to ensure the quality of international offsets (though I do expect the quality of the latter to get better).  Moreover, if CBO is right, then half of the domestic offsets are going to be genuine emissions reductions in uncapped sectors.  And the other half will be soil/forestry/agricultural sequestration, which should make certain politically powerful domestic groups happy.

So this strikes me as both better environmentally and more attractive politically to US Senators.

Finally, I'd like to re-offer my suggestion of how to "rein in offsets," as Brookings suggests.  I consider all of the following cost containment measures a major concession by those who want the strongest possible environmental integrity for the bill:

  • Price collar plus
  • Too weak of a 2020 target.
  • Up to 1 billion domestic offsets in place of emissions allowances.
  • Up to 1 billion international allowances (a number that can be potentially revised upward to 1.5 billion if the domestic number is revised down).
  • Allowances distributed to regulated utilities and other entities to directly mitigate cost impacts on the public and businesses.
  • Tremendous energy efficiency efforts that will also directly mitigate cost impacts on the public and businesses.

So my final recommended change is one I have been proposing for a while –sunset the offsets. My more politically palatable version is to apply the same reduction to the offsets that you are applying to emissions in the bill:

  • a 17 percent cut by 2020 (to 1.66 billion tons)
  • a 42 percent reduction by 2030 (to 1.16 billion)
  • an 83% cut in 2050 (to 0.34 billion)

I am aware that the domestic offsets are probably too popular to sunset — so the sunsetting could be applied simply to international offsets.  The other advantage of that, as one economist told me, is that it would provide extra motivation to developing countries to engage in the process early, since they'd know that the U.S. wasn't going to keep purchasing international offsets forever.

There it is — price collar plus.

Obama announces $2.4B in stimulus funds for U.S. batteries and EVs: "I don't want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations."

Posted: 05 Aug 2009 01:14 PM PDT

President Obama announced 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects that will receive $2.4 billion in stimulus funds.  You can read details here.  The awards cover:

  • $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce batteries and their components and to expand battery recycling capacity;
  • $500 million in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce electric drive components for vehicles, including electric motors, power electronics, and other drive train components; and
  • $400 million in grants to purchase thousands of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles for test demonstrations in several dozen locations; to deploy them and evaluate their performance; to install electric charging infrastructure; and to provide education and workforce training to support the transition to advanced electric transportation systems.

For a full list of award winners, click HERE.  For a map of their locations, click HERE.

Obama is always at the leading edge of progressive messaging, so I'll excerpt the energy portion of his remarks in Wakarusa, Indiana today below:

The battle for America's future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit, Goshen and Pittsburgh, South Bend, Youngstown –- in cities and towns across Indiana and across the Midwest and across the country that have been the backbone of America.  It will be won by making places like Elkhart what they once were and can be again –- and that's centers of innovation and entrepreneurship and ingenuity and opportunity; the bustling, whirring, humming engines of American prosperity.

For as the world grows more competitive, we can't afford to run the race at half-strength or half-speed.  If we hope to lead this century like we did the last century, we have to create the conditions and the opportunities for places like Elkhart to succeed.  We have to harness the potential –- the innovative and creative spirit –- that's waiting to be awakened all across America.  That's how we'll rebuild this economy stronger than before:  strong enough to compete in the global economy; strong enough to avoid the cycles of boom and bust that have wreaked so much havoc on our economy; strong enough to support the jobs of the 21st century; and strong enough to unleash prosperity for everybody, not just some.

But before we can rebuild our economy for tomorrow, we have to rescue it today.  Now, that's why we passed a Recovery Act less than one month after I took office –- and we did so without any of the earmarks or pork-barrel spending that's so common in Washington, D.C.  And let me just talk about the so-called stimulus package, or the Recovery Act, because there's been a lot of misinformation out there about the Recovery Act.  Let me tell you what it is and what it's not….

First half, tax relief.  Second half, support for individuals, small businesses, and states that had fallen on hard times.

The last third of the Recovery Act — and that's what we're going to talk about here today — is for investments that are not only putting people back to work in the short term, but laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity in the long run.  These are the jobs of building the future of America:  upgrading our roads and our bridges; renovating schools and hospitals.  The Elkhart area has seen the benefits:  Dozens were employed to resurface the runway at Elkhart Airport; a four-mile stretch of highway is being upgraded on US-33; the Heart City Health Center has received recovery dollars to expand services and hire additional staff.

And as part of the recovery plan, we're making a historic commitment to innovation.  The Recovery Act creates jobs doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy; building a new smart grid that carry electricity from coast to coast; laying down broadband lines and high-speed rail lines; and providing the largest boost in basic research in history –- to ensure that America leads in the breakthrough discoveries of the new century, just as we led in the last.  Because that's what we do best in America — we turn ideas into inventions, and inventions into industries.

Now, history should be our guide.  The United States led the world's economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation.  Today, the competition is keener; the challenge is tougher; and that's why innovation is more important than ever.  That's the key to good, new jobs in the 21st century.  That's how we will ensure a high quality of life for this generation and future generations.  With these investments, we're planting the seeds of progress for our country, and good-paying, private-sector jobs for the American people.

So that's why I'm here today — to announce $2.4 billion in highly competitive grants to develop the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks powered by the next generation of battery technologies all made right here in the U.S. of A.  (Applause.)  Right here in America.  (Applause.)  Made in America.  (Applause.)

For too long, we failed to invest in this kind of innovative work, even as countries like China and Japan were racing ahead.  That's why this announcement is so important:  This represents the largest investment in this kind of technology in American history.

See, I'm committed to a strategy that ensures America leads in the design and the deployment of the next generation of clean-energy vehicles.  This is not just an investment to produce vehicles today; this is an investment in our capacity to develop new technologies tomorrow.  This is about creating the infrastructure of innovation.

Indiana is the second largest recipient of grant funding, and it's a perfect example of what this will mean.  You've got Purdue University, Notre Dame, Indiana University, and Ivy Tech, and they're all going to be receiving grant funding to develop degree and training programs for electric vehicles.  That's number one.  (Applause.)  We've got EnerDel, a small business in Indianapolis that will develop batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.  You've got Allison Transmission in Indianapolis, Delphi in Kokomo, Remy in Pendleton, and Magna located in Muncie, all who will help develop electric-drive components for commercial and passenger vehicles.

And right here in Elkhart County, Navistar –- which has taken over two Monaco Coach manufacturing facilities -– will receive a $39 million grant to build 400 advanced battery electric trucks — (applause) — with a range of a hundred miles, like the trucks here today.  (Applause.)  Just a few months ago, folks thought that these factories might be closed for good.  But now they're coming back to life.


THE PRESIDENT:  You're welcome.  (Laughter.)  Thank the American people.  (Applause.)

The company estimates that this investment will help create or save hundreds of jobs in the area.  And already, folks like Herman are being rehired.  So, overall, the companies believe these investments in battery technology will save or create thousands of Hoosier jobs.  And I want to point out these thousands of jobs wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the leaders in Congress who supported the Recovery Act — leaders like Evan Bayh and Joe Donnelly, who's here today.  (Applause.)   And Andre Carson and Brad Ellsworth and Peter Visclosky.  (Applause.)  And these grants will create tens of thousands of jobs all across America.

In fact, today, Vice President Biden is announcing grant winners in Michigan.  Members of my Cabinet are fanning out across the country announcing recipients elsewhere.  We're providing the incentives to those businesses –- large and small –- that stand ready to help us lead a new clean-energy economy by developing new technologies for new kinds of vehicles.

See, I don't want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations.  I don't want to have to import a hybrid car — I want to be able to build a hybrid car here.  (Applause.)  I don't want to have to import a hybrid truck — I want to build a hybrid truck here.  (Applause.)  I don't want to have to import a windmill from someplace else — I want to build a windmill right here in Indiana.  (Applause.)  I want the cars of the future and the technologies that power them to be developed and deployed right here, in America.

And that's just the beginning.  In no area will innovation be more important than in the development of new ways to produce, use, and save energy.  So we're not only doubling our capacity to generate renewable energy and building a stronger and smarter electric grid.  We've helped reach an agreement to raise fuel economy standards.  And for the first time in history, we passed a bill to create a system of clean energy incentives which will help make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America -– while helping to end our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.

The bill passed the House; we're now working to pass legislation through the Senate.  Because we know that real innovation depends not on government, but on the generative potential of the American people.  If the American people get a clear set of rules, if they know what's needed, what challenges we've got to meet, they'll figure out how to do it.

Unscientific America 2: Buy the book — and read it.

Posted: 05 Aug 2009 12:10 PM PDT

Book CoverThe fate of the next 50 generations may well be determined in the next several months and the next several years.  Will Congress agree to a shrinking GHG cap and the clean energy transformation?  If not, you can scratch a global climate deal.  But even if the bill passes and a global deal is achieved — both will need to be continuously strengthened in coming years, as the increasingly worrisome science continues to inform the policy, just as in the case of the Montréal Protocol on the ozone-depleting substances.

In short, the fate of perhaps the next 100 billion people to walk the Earth rests in the hands of scientists (and those who understand the science) trying to communicate the dire nature of the climate problem (and the myriad solutions available now) as well as the ability of the media, the public, opinion makers, and political leaders to understand and deal with that science.

And so what could be more timely — and disquieting — than a book titled Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future?  The book is by Chris Mooney, whose science blog was a major inspiration for me to pursue blogging, and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum.

While it notably and presciently disses former TV meteorologist Watts for his unscientific obsession with pushing weather data in the climate debate (see "Unscientific America, Part 1: From the moon-landing deniers to WattsUpWithThat"), climate-saturated CP readers will be happy to know that very little of the book actually focuses on global warming.

Rather, this short, highly readable book is a survey of the sorry state of scientific understanding and communication in this country, ending with some proposals for improving the situation.  Here are some of the interesting/depressing factoids from the book:

  • For every five hours of cable news, one minute is devoted to science;
  • 46% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old;
  • The number of newspapers with science sections has shrunken by two-thirds in the last 20 years
  • Just 18% of Americans know a scientist personally
  • The overwhelming majority of Americans polled in late 2007 either couldn't name a scientific role model or named "people who are either not scientists or not alive

On the flip side, the book describes at length a problem I discuss here — Why scientists aren't more persuasive, Part 1.

Scientists who are also great public communicators, like Carl Sagan or Richard Feynman, have grown scarcer as science has become increasingly specialized. Moreover, the media likes the glib and the dramatic, which is the style most scientists deliberately avoid. As Jared Diamond (author of Collapse) wrote in a must-read 1997 article on scientific messaging (or the lack thereof), "Scientists who do communicate effectively with the public often find their colleagues responding with scorn, and even punishing them in ways that affect their careers." After Carl Sagan became famous, he was rejected for membership in the National Academy of Sciences in a special vote. This became widely known, and, Diamond writes, "Every scientist is capable of recognizing the obvious implications for his or her self-interest.

Scientists who have been outspoken about global warming have been repeatedly attacked as having a "political agenda." As one 2006 article explained, "For a scientist whose reputation is largely invested in peer-reviewed publications and the citations thereof, there is little professional payoff for getting involved in debates that mix science and politics."

Mooney also lays out the "tribulations of the science pipeline" by quoting "a painfully eloquent recent blog commenter" on Science Progress:

I'm a recent PhD graduate (Aug' 2008). I'm unemployed. I am valued at negative $75,000 as a result of my school loans. For an increasing number of PhD graduates, there is NO job at the end of the PhD tunnel, unless you opt for the path of the underpaid, undervalued limbo lifestyle of a postdoc. After seeing what my predecessors have suffered on that path (~10 years of postdocing, and STILL no tenure-track job?), I chose NOT to follow in their weary footsteps. I have found that I'm not only overqualified for many positions that I would be happy to hold, but I am also considered by recruiters to be very narrowly-qualified (despite my multidisciplinary interests and skills) for anything at all except being a lab monkey and working for $30,000 a year. Had I to do it over again, I would not choose a PhD, at least not a general science degree. I would have gone to medical or law school, or perhaps a PhD in public health (a very rapidly growing field). At least after training in these programs, your skill set is clearly defined, and you can be confident that you will have a job post-graduation.

If a projection Mooney quotes is right — "the chance of a PhD recipient under age 35 winning a tenure-track job has tumbled to only 7%" — then he offers a crucial suggestion:

Why not change the paradigm and arm graduate-level science students with the skills to communicate the value of what science does and to get better in touch with our culture — while pointing out in passing that having more diverse skills can only help them navigate today's job market, and may even be the real key to preserving US competitiveness?

Meanwhile let's encourage public policy makers, leaders of the scientific community, and philanthropist who care about the role of science in our society to create a new range of nonprofit, public-interest fellowships and job positions whose express purpose is to connect science with other sectors of society.

The book ends with a quote from C. P. Snow's famous "two cultures" lecture, in which he "express the nature of change we need fixing fleet, yet powerfully":

We require a common culture in which science is an essential component. Otherwise we shall never see the possibilities, either for evil or good.

Of course, that lecture was 50 years ago — and the divide seems as big as ever, so that isn't a cause for much optimism.

I do think that every scientist-in-training today should be required to take a course in communication, a course in energy, and a course in climate science.  The smart ones will specialize in some discipline related to sustainability because when the nation and the world get desperate about global warming in the next decade or two, the entire focus of society, of scientists and engineers, and of academia will be directed toward a WWII-scale effort to mitigate what we can and adapting to the myriad miseries that our mypopic dawdling has made inevitable.

My one small problem with the book's analysis is that it portrays US popular culture, especially Hollywood, as anti-scientist, but that was really true before the rise of IT, the internet, and rich nerds.  TV in particular is much more favorably disposed toward scientist characters than movies were, say, two or three decades ago.  If I have time, I'll blog on that.

Normally I half-jokingly tell people they only need to buy my books, not read them.  I mean who reads non-fiction books cover to cover anymore?  But this is one to buy and read in its entirety (which is only 132 pages of text).

Kudos to Mooney and Kirshenbaum.

You can read RealClimate's review here.

Energy and Global Warming News for August 5th: Mexico working on plan to cut CO2 growth; Clean energy rises at old manufacturing sites

Posted: 05 Aug 2009 10:39 AM PDT

Mexico Aims To Bring CO2 Cut Plan To Climate Talks

Mexico aims to put a detailed offer to cut the growth of its own greenhouse gas emissions on the negotiating table at global climate change talks in Copenhagen this year, a senior environmental policymaker said.

"If Mexico can bring a plan for cuts through 2020 to the table with a detailed description of what will be mitigated it would set a positive precedent for the other big emerging economies," said Adrian Fernandez, the president of the National Ecology Institute, in an interview on Monday.

The plan will likely offer significant cuts in expected emissions growth from Mexico, which currently accounts for 1.5 percent of global emissions, by proposing projects like improving efficiency of power plants or reducing deforestation.

At Old Manufacturing Sites, Renewables Rise

As the clean energy manufacturing base in this country grows, it often builds upon the facilities and expertise of struggling traditional industries.

Last week my colleague Kirk Johnson wrote about how the old steel town of Pueblo, Colo., is adapting to the times with a new wind turbine plant. Similarly, in the town of San Angelo, Tex, a steel company took a 50 percent joint venture stake in a wind tower plant in June.

There are many more examples of the co-mingling of old and new industries. A few mills, suffering amid the pulp and paper industry's retreat, are reorienting to process biofuels. These include a once-shuttered Maine pulp mill being refitted to make biobutanol, as well as two Wisconsin mills (see here and here) that will produce biodiesel from wood waste….

SolarWorld, a German company, opened a manufacturing plant in Oregon last year that makes use of an abandoned semiconductor factory (and recruits many workers from the semiconductor industry). And Stirling Energy Systems, which makes solar electric machines called SunCatchers that will eventually be deployed in California, plans to use automotive suppliers in the United States to make several components (though Stirling will not yet specify its automotive partners).

"SunCatchers use steel, glass and engines," a company representative said in an e-mail message, "so the natural supply chain is automotive."

Improved Air Quality During Beijing Olympics Could Inform Pollution-curbing Policies

The air in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics was cleaner than the previous year's, due to aggressive efforts by the Chinese government to curtail traffic, increase emissions standards and halt construction in preparation for the games, according to a Cornell study.

Led by Max Zhang, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the study indicates that such measures as regulating traffic density and encouraging public transportation can have a significant impact on local air quality.

Government unveils high-speed rail plan to ground short flights

The government has made the demise of domestic air travel an explicit policy target for the first time by aiming to replace short-haul flights with a new 250 mph high-speed rail network.

The transport secretary, Lord Adonis, said switching 46 million domestic air passengers a year to a multibillion-pound north-south rail line was "manifestly in the public interest". Marking a government shift against aviation, Adonis added that rail journeys should be preferred to plane trips.

A Different Take on the U.S.-India Climate Change "Spat"

…Simply put, the U.S. wants India and others to agree to CO2 emissions caps if the process is to move forward. India is the stand-out developing country for refusing to accept caps, saying they may endanger development and the West is responsible for all that pollution anyway.

Jairam Ramesh, India's minister of state for environment and forests, publicly keeps unleashing the battle cry. After meeting in Gurgaon with a U.S. delegation during Secretary of State Clinton's recent visit, he distributed a prepared statement that read in part: "There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have among the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions. And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours."

… Yet there just might be an alternate narrative unfolding here that will play out in the next four months. It could alter the predictable developed-versus-developing-nation script. By several accounts, the talks in Gurgaon before Mr. Ramesh's turn in front of the cameras were much more cordial and constructive than his public statements have implied and the media's reaction would suggest.

'We Do Not Want to See The Blame Game'

Developing economies are vulnerable to climate change and need funds to implement much needed adaptation and mitigation measures. This is one of the key points that needs to be addressed during the next round of U.N.-led negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen, according to Mohamed Aslam, Maldives Minister of Housing, Transport and Environment.

Government negotiators – meeting in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18 – are expected to argue over emissions targets. Industrialised countries like the U.S. are insisting that the fast rising Chinese and Indian economies should also commit to cap their emissions, while the latter argue that developed economies are the culprits behind global warming.

Study: LEDs Most Efficient Over Lifetime

While there's no question that LED lamps use a fraction of the energy to produce the same amount of light compared with a standard incandescent bulb, several Bits readers have pointed out that that's only half the story.

If the energy used to create and dispose of the LED lamp is more than that for a comparable standard bulb, then all of the proclaimed energy savings to produce light are for naught.

Until recently, no one knew if that was the case. In March, a preliminary study reported by Carnegie Mellon indicated that LED lamps were more energy efficient throughout their life, but the researchers pointed out that not every aspect of the production process was taken into account.

A new study released on Tuesday by Osram, the German lighting giant, claims to confirm those findings.

Officials: CA could face devastating fire season

Federal and state fire officials are warning that a third year of drought means California could face one of its worst wildfire seasons in years. Scientists say the danger could be heightened by global warming.

Peak fire season begins July 1, but Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said a severe, early spring fire in Santa Barbara has fire officials concerned about the intensity of this year's wildfire season.

"Experts believe that climate change may be influencing drought and therefore wildfire occurrences, but that's an ongoing study," she said.

Habitat for Humanity Gets Greener

Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit home building organization headquartered in Americus, Ga., announced plans on Tuesday to build 5,000 "green" homes around the country for low-income families.

The homes, built over five years, will meet EnergyStar guidelines or other green building standards, like LEED. The project expands on a pilot program and is being done in conjunction with the Home Depot Foundation.

"This is unquestionably the largest scale accelerated initiative we've taken on to drive green building," said Jonathan Reckford, the chief executive of Habitat for Humanity International. The $30 million initiative, he added, would bring rapid payback for families in terms of lower energy bills.