Saturday, October 10, 2009

Climate change feared to blame as dead zones suffocate Pacific Ocean life Times Online

China says rich countries undercut climate talks Washington Post

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

GM agrees to sell Hummer to Tengzhong, but will Chinese regulators kill the deal? Meanwhile, Saturn dies.

Posted: 10 Oct 2009 07:55 AM PDT we last left GM, they were pursuing buyers for Hummer and Saturn (see "GM in talks to seel Hummer to China — the second mistake by those clueless new owners?").  So of course, the smaller-car brand dies, but the 7,000-pound gas guzzlers live.  WashPost reports:

General Motors has reached an agreement to sell its Hummer brand to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery…..

It recently announced that it would wind down the Saturn brand.

The price for Hummer was not disclosed, but according to sources familiar with the negotiations, it was $150 million, far less than the $500 million price once envisioned.

Seriously, $150 million?  As I wrote back in June:

Less than $500 million?  That's a rounding error in the cash giveaways to the auto industry these days.  Why couldn't we just swallow that cost to forever remove from the planet this unsustainable blight?  Who are these clueless new owners of GM anyway?  Oh.  Never mind!

But WashPost buried the lede:

Tengzhong's quest to acquire Hummer has been seen by many as a test of China's commitment to reining in emissions of greenhouse gases. Some observers expect China's regulators to bar the acquisition.

The Hummer sale story isn't really news — but if Chinese regulators actually stopped the acquisition, that would be quite a story, though perhaps not an utter shocker (see "China begins transition to a clean-energy economy").

I wrote back in June:

The big execs at GM always viewed Saturn as a skunk works, as an effort to show that the "GM way" doesn't work, so they did everything possible to kill it….  When I wanted to buy an American car in the mid-1990s, I settled on a Saturn, which was a terrific car for me for 10 years.  Had GM not abandoned at the start of the Bush administration the hybrid vehicle development program the Clinton administration started with them in the early 1990s, Saturn might well have had a good hybrid by the time I was looking for a new car.  But they didn't.  And so I bought a Toyota Prius….

As for Hummer, I suppose you could argue that if China plans to build obscenely big gas guzzlers, they could do so on their own with or without Hummer.  And you can certainly argue that once peak oil kicks in big-time over the next 5 to 10 years, and oil prices shoot over $5 a gallon, nobody is going to be terribly interested in Hummers, which suggests GM/Obama/you-and-I are smart [not dumb?] to get some money for it.

Perhaps, but as one of the owners of GM, I'd very much like to know what this "less than $500 million" price was.  If it was a lot less, then this sale is unjustifiable on any grounds.

I think the whole brand should have been shuttered.  And if the Chinese wanted to spend many billions of dollars building their own production capacity for gas guzzlers, let them.  But that's no reason for us to act as Dr. Kevorkian in this unsustainably suicidal behavior.  My buyer's remorse grows!

What do you think?

This sale is unjustifiable at $150 million.  Let's hope the Chinese government is smarter than ours.

Related Posts:

Natural Fusion at Work in the Solar Decathalon

Posted: 10 Oct 2009 05:28 AM PDT

Part 1 was an intro to the Solar Decathalon, a contest for innovative, high-tech, high-efficiency, solar-powered homes, which is open to the public in DC from October 9-13 and 15-18.  In this reposting, guest blogger A. Siegel focuses on one finalist.  For in-depth discussion of all the others, go to his website Get Energy Smart!  NOW!!!

No, we're not speaking about Cold Fusion, but Penn State's entry into the DOE Solar Decathlon, which opens Friday on the Mall in Washington, DC. Let's take a look at some of Natural Fusion's features from its website, which is dynamic, enabling rapid connection of concepts and approaches with the home's physical layout.

Landscaping This a good spot to pick up the dynamic nature of the website and the value of that 'mapping' of features. Penn State has a rather vibrant-looking landscaping, well-described and considered. They describe it as follows:

The Natural Fusion landscape integrates the natural environment into the inhabitants' built environment. The site provides structure but also a natural setting that manages rain-water run-off, supplies food to the residents, and contributes an aesthetically pleasing setting. The landscape allows extension of interior living space to the exterior while maintaining a level of privacy for the inhabitants.

The landscaping has these separate components:

  • Sense garden
  • Green roof
  • Xeriscape meadow (although, let's be honest, a bit small of a space for a "meadow")
  • Wildlife Attractant Gardens
  • Bio-Intensive Vegetable Garden

It is an impressive line-up in what might be thought of as very limited space, not even counting the herb garden on the wall in the kitchen, but let's call attention to two:

  • The Green Roof has an Energy COOL item as it actually is linked to its solar power system, with Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaics (GRIPVs), which I'd never heard of before. (Okay, didn't feel guilty since a web search of GRIPV green roof integrated showed seven hits, including the Natural Fusion site and two links to the Inhabitat story on the house.) "Roof trays of plants sit below an array of photovoltaic panels consisting of a series of cylindrial tubes. The shape and spacing of the tubes in the panels allow plants to receive the sunlight they need, while functioning cohesively as the solar-power system for the home." They used a solar panel that allows for 360 degrees of solar collection, allowing the necessary light to support plant life below. The plants aid the PV system in providing evaporative cooling and reflection of light up towards the underside of the panels.
  • Sense Garden: Read the description and decide whether they are transporting you to another place.

Located on the southeastern corner of the home, the sense garden enables the inhabitants to be transported to a different place through enhanced senses. Tall grasses gently rustle in the breeze, while beautiful flowering plants, and fragrant herbs create a tranquil setting just beyond the private bedroom space.

Andropogon gerardii – "Big Bluestem"
Asarum canadense – "Wild Ginger"
Sorghastrum nutans – "Indian Grass"
Asclepias tuberosa – "Butterfly Weed"
Aster ericoides – "Heath Aster"
Symphyotrichum Oblongifolium – "American Aster"
Adiantum pedatum – "Maidenhair Fern"
Origanum vulgare – "Oregano"
Mentha spicata – "Spearmint"
Ocimum basilicum crispum – "Basil"

Sadly, it will be difficult to get the full feeling of calm provided by the planting amid thousands visiting the house, but Natural Fusion's landscaping seems to be a top notch contender based on web descriptions. (By the way, re web, this is a good example of the difficulties of the site's design: moving the mouse just a little leads to lost / changed descriptions and, while it might exist, a combined (full) listing of all the landscapting wasn't apparent to this reader.)

Some Energy COOL Technologies / Approaches

Every one of the Solar Decathlon entrants incorporates some mix Energy COOL technologies and approaches. Let's take a look at a few of Penn State's.

  • They having chosen to use water for thermal storage which, among other things, has an interesting life-cycle benefit of not having to be transported to the Mall, but possible to acquire there. Another interesting thermal storage path, phase change materials will also be present in the walls of the home for further thermal energy storage and will aid in reducing energy demands associated with temperature control. The organic PCM responds to a temperature gradient, transforming from a solid to a liquid as it absorbs heat from the surrounding air. This provides a cooling system which, in essences, reverses for heating. Within the context of October DC weather, this will enable cooling in the day and heating in the night passively.
  • The Solar Thermal system is one that I'm familiar with, as the Sunnovation system is on my roof in a beta test (second installation). The great direct advantage of the Sunnovation system is that it is heat pressure based, so there is no requirement for electrical pumps. It is also a drainback system, so there is no freeze (or overheating) risk.. And, it doesn't require copper piping, which can lead to lower installation costs (both in material and labor). Now, to a certain extent, the Natural Fusion team description sells the system short as it has a rather unusual (unique) element that could, if played with, make a bit of a 'splash'. The "pump" action actually creates an enclosed fountain, which provides a very visible external signal that the system is at work generating hot water. My family jokes that we wished we could have colored fluid, to make more of an artistic statement with our roof-top fountain. It will be interesting to see if Penn State has taken advantage of this 'decorative' element.

Now, what will this one-of-a-kind (first of a kind?) Natural Fusion home going to cost you? Well, the budget without a penny for labor (or inspections or …) was $190,460 for a small living space … But, hold it, that isn't the estimated price for production models. This provides a "build your own" option. Going top-of-the-line, across the board, turned the base-line $41,000, 675 square foot house, into a $166,750 leading edge renewable energy home. Hmmm …

If interested, Natural Fusion is running a live monitoring system. At the time that I looked, 4:09 pm, Tuesday, 6 Oct, it was generating .1 kw …
Some other discussions of the 2009 Solar Decathlon:

PG&E CEO: We left Chamber Of Commerce because they lied to us about climate policy; Chu says "it's wonderful" companies are fleeing the Chamber

Posted: 09 Oct 2009 01:15 PM PDT

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday applauded companies that have quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because they disagree with the business group's climate change policy. "I think it's wonderful," Chu told reporters at a solar energy event on the National Mall. He said companies that left the Chamber object "to foot dragging, to denials" and realize that efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses are "part of our economic future in the United States."

… "I would encourage the Chamber of Commerce to realize the economic opportunity that the United States can lead in a new industrial revolution," said Chu, a supporter of alternative fuels and strong regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

You just can't keep up with all the news about the nano-Chamber of Commerce.  But here are the key points:

Tom Donohue, the embattled president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, today defiantly defended the attacks on clean energy legislation and climate science that have caused a mass exodus of companies from his organization. Donohue told reporters, "We're not changing where we are," saying of critics, "Bring 'em on." One of the chamber's sharpest critics is Peter Darbee, chairman, president, and CEO of electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric, which was the first company to quit the chamber after they called for "monkey trials" on climate science. In a recent interview with E&E News, Darbee explained that his company quit the chamber after they repeatedly lied about their approach to climate policy:

"The reason for our departure from the chamber is that we had repeated discussions with the chamber about how the direction they were on was not consistent with our position, in fact, very much at odds. And their response was, "We'll take care of it. Really, our position and yours, PG&E, are much closer than you believe them to be, and don't be concerned about that." And we went down a road over several years, and there was fact after fact, development after development that caused us to believe that fundamentally we had entirely different positions."

Watch the video at E&E News..

The Chamber claims that federal regulation to limit global warming pollution would "strangle the economy." and has even called for a "Scopes monkey trial" on the science of global warming. Darbee, not surprisingly, called that "extreme language, certainly not language that we at PG&E were comfortable with."

This is how the Chamber of Commerce showed its "support" for "strong federal legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change" last year:

Energy and Global Warming News for October 9: Granhom brings 160,000 clean energy jobs to hard-hit Michigan

Posted: 09 Oct 2009 11:36 AM PDT

"We have great bones as a state," says Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "We know how to build stuff. We will build on that strength and diversify this economy. We will lead the nation in creating jobs in renewable energy."The WashPost of course didn't use my headline, since for them, every silver lining has a cloud.  Obviously Michigan has had massive job losses in the auto industry, but how exactly does that translate into a "yellow light" for green jobs, except as a too-cute play on words at the expense of the real story:  Granholm has done her best to embrace the fastest growing source of new jobs in the nation and the world — clean energy jobs.  It's hard to hold her responsible for the incompetence and shortsightedness of the US auto industry, whose collapse has been decades in the making, but she clearly deserves a lot of the credit for making Michigan hospitable to clean energy industries.

In Michigan, A Yellow Light For Green Jobs

If the future of American manufacturing lies in green industries, the Michigan governor's pursuit of jobs offers a cautionary tale..

Four years ago, Jennifer M. Granholm set out to remake her state, which took an exceptional walloping with the decline of the auto industry, as a pioneer in creating environmentally friendly jobs. Today, however, jobs are still disappearing much faster than she can create them, raising questions about how long it will take Michigan and other hard-hit states to find new industries to employ their workers.

Since taking office in 2003, Granholm has created 163,300 positions, her office says. She expects that a recent infusion of more than $1 billion from the Obama administration aimed at nurturing car battery and electric-vehicle projects will generate 40,000 more positions by 2020….

In her effort to attract employers, the governor has taken up the latest arms in the economic arsenal — tax credits, loans, Super Bowl tickets and a willingness to travel as far as Japan for a weekend to try to persuade an auto parts company to bring more jobs to Michigan. She has won solar and wind energy, electric car batteries, and movie production jobs. About 10,800 of the new positions came from overseas companies, according to her office, the fruits of visits to seven countries.

Religious Groups Lobby for Climate Bill

Religious groups are stepping up their lobbying efforts in support of climate change legislation, focusing on a goal all of their flock can agree on: helping the poor and vulnerable impacted by global warming.

A number of Jewish and Christian groups are choosing to bypass climate issues that are contentious within the faith community, such as whether global warming is man-made, and are instead zeroing in on proposals in Congress to provide international aid for people impacted by the negative effects of climate change.

The push for "international adaptation aid" is also part of a broader awareness effort launching today called "Day Six," which aims to make the public and members of Congress more conscious of the moral imperative to pass legislation regulating carbon emissions.

"On the sixth day God created us, and he made us stewards of his creation," Katie Paris, the communications director for the group Faith in Public Life, said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. She also explained why religious groups are focused on international adaptation aid: "Those who are hurt most and worst should not be helped the least and last," she said.

Groups involved in the "Day Six" campaign are directly reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people in the faith community today with tools to build grassroots support for climate change legislation.

The campaign features a Web site with a 60-second video pressing the issue, social networking tools and an online petition to Senators, urging support for climate legislation with adequate funding for international adaptation programs.

Web Site Tracks Europe's Clean Energy Growth

The European Commission this week introduced an open-access online tool to monitor the development of about a dozen low-carbon technologies in the trade bloc.

The commission said its Strategic Energy Technology Plan Information System, offered ways for citizens, researchers, investors and policy makers to map funding for projects in areas including hydropower, wind, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, wave, geothermal, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, smart grids, nuclear fission and fusion, hydrogen and fuel cells.

A so-called bubble graph maps the current status and the potential of energy technologies between 2010 and 2050, if funding is forthcoming.

Another tool, an energy cost calculator, allows users to choose different energy and cost situations to compare the performance of various technologies.

The initiative was begun as part of efforts by the commission to raise 50 billion euros of additional investment in crucial low-carbon technologies over the next 10 years.

The initiative also is part of efforts by Janez Potocnik, the union's commissioner for science and research, to overcome the tendency of European governments to finance domestic projects rather than pool their resources and to ensure the bloc remains competitive with Japan, China and the United States in the development of low-carbon technologies.

Kingsnorth: A Blow Against Coal, or A Move For Clean Coal?

German utility E.On's decision to temporarily shelve plans for a big coal-fired power plant in the U.K. is clearly big news. The fun part is trying to figure out just why it matters so much.

For starters, the proposed Kingsnorth project is more than just another power plant. The 1,600 megawatt station would have been the U.K.'s first new coal plant since Margaret Thatcher was in office, and became a huge lightning rod for environmental opposition. Greenpeace centered anti-coal protests on Kingsnorth. Climate researcher James Hansen targeted Kingsnorth when he equated coal power with "death trains.." That's why environmental groups are cheering E.On's retreat—many see the decision as a green victory over coal, akin to the Sierra Club's relentless campaign against coal in the U.S..

Officially, E.On says the decision to delay Kingsnorth for at least 2-3 years is due to the recession, which has kneecapped the demand for electricity. "This is based on the global recession, which has pushed back the need for new plant in the UK to around 2016 because of the reduction in demand for electricity," the power company said.

While the slowdown has led to an "unprecedented" decline in U.K. electricity demand, it seems somewhat of a stretch to expect another seven years of famine just as the global economy is turning the corner. Especially when the U.K. government itself expects energy demand to grow relentlessly, and whose biggest worry is how to keep the lights on over the next decade.

More likely, E.On's decision to park the yet-to-built power plant is about a yet-to-be-developed technology: clean coal. The U.K. desperately wants to make clean coal technically and economically viable; its other energy alternatives are basically imported natural gas or nuclear plants that have yet to be built either. E.On wants clean coal to work, too—it's one of a handful of European utilities jockeying for British government funds for clean-coal development.

UN talks to end without deal on crucial issues

U.N. climate talks in Bangkok will end Friday without progress on the pressing issues of emission targets for rich countries and financing for poor nations, who insist they will not sign a global warming deal unless those matters are resolved.

For months, negotiations have been deadlocked and delegates have begun raising doubts whether a new climate pact to rein in greenhouse gases can be reached by the time world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December. The pact would replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

Rather than addressing the tough issues, U.N. climate chief Yvo de Boer said late Thursday that the failure by rich countries to agree on ambitious emission cuts and billions of dollars in financing to help poor countries adapt to climate change has increased the distrust between the two sides.

"People in this negotiating process mainly developing countries say we have been engaging constructively over the past two weeks to put meat on the bones of an agreed outcome in Copenhagen," de Boer said.

"But we are not seeing an advance on the key political issues," he said. "The stark reality out there is that unless we see an advance on the key political issues, it is very difficult for negotiators in this process to continue their work in good faith."

Even before the talks ended Friday afternoon, environmentalists including the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace were already criticizing governments for leaving the fundamental issues to future meetings in Barcelona next month.

States not meeting renewable energy goals

Across the USA, states are falling short of their goals to increase the use of renewable energy as Congress weighs a national renewable-energy standard.

Thirty-five states have set goals to use more electricity from solar panels, windmills and other renewable forms of energy, according to a database funded by the Energy Department. There is no central clearinghouse of states' compliance records, but USA TODAY research and interviews with state and power company officials found nine states that have failed or expect to fail to meet their energy goals.

The states offer a lesson for the federal government, says Charles Benjamin of Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group. The House of Representatives passed a bill in June that called for 15% of the nation's electricity to come from alternative sources in 2020 — up from 9% last year. A Senate bill with a similar goal is likely to be combined with a climate-change bill introduced last month. "Just because you want renewable energy doesn't mean it will happen."

In their quest to draw more renewable power, states have come up against obstacles such as the recession, red tape and an outdated transmission system that makes it difficult to move solar or wind power from where it's made to where it's needed.

Indian minister urges pared down climate deal Reuters

Capturing a Nation's Thirst for Energy New York Times

Organic Farming Could Stop Global Climate Change Treehugger

BP sees possibility of 100 more years of natural gas Houston Chronicle

Natural Gas: The Russians Are Coming! Forbes

Gas Extraction Method Could Greatly Increase Global Supplies New York Times

Friday, October 9, 2009

Enviros Waging 'Orchestrated Pressure Campaign' on Climate Bill -- US Chamber CEO New York Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize in part because "the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting." Looks like he'll be going to Copenhagen after all!

Posted: 09 Oct 2009 06:06 AM PDT

In a stunning announcement (full text below), "The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize  for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

Obama won, in part, for reversing the immoral efforts of the Cheney-Bush administration to block and subvert international climate negotiations:

Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting.

We already knew that "Obama was willing to attend Copenhagen climate talks," if he were invited.  In an exclusive interview, Andrew Light, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and an expert on international climate talks, explained to CP that now, effectively, he has been:

Barack Obama is now the third sitting president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is an enormous honor. The timing on this for those following the future of a new international climate treaty could not be more critical.  The Peace Prize is presented in Oslo on December 10th.  The UN climate talks, where the agenda will feature decisions on replacing the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, start in Copenhagen on December 7th.  The expectation that President Obama will now go for at least part of  the UN climate talks is enormous as he'll already be in Scandinavia.

Light coordinates CAP's participation in the Global Climate Network, focusing on international climate change policy and the future of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is also director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University.  He adds some historical perspective:

Remember that Al Gore went immediately to the UN climate meeting in Bali after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.  Gore's speech at the Bali meeting, and closed door sessions with climate negotiators for two days following, is credited by some as having saved  those talks from failure.  Before Gore arrived the EU was about to walk out over protests that the US was holding up progress on the "Bali Action Plan," the document that set the parameters for what success at Copenhagen is supposed to look like this December.  It's hard to imagine a more directed appeal for President Obama to come to Copenhagen and achieve a similar success.

While some may argue that this award is premature, I disagree.  This is a clear statement by the Nobel Committee not merely of the importance of US multilateralism to genuine progress toward global peace, but also of their understanding that climate change has become a critical international issue.

Unrestricted emissions of GHGs represent perhaps the gravest, preventable threat to future world peace — a growing source of future strife, refugees, conflict, and wars (see "Memorial Day, 2029").  Al Gore and the IPCC won in 2007 "for their work to alert the world to the threat of global warming."  Alerting the world was and is vital.  Taking action is even more crucial.

Obama and his international negotiating team led by Secretary of State Clinton have helped create the first genuine chance that the entire world will come together and agree to sharply diverge from the catastrophic business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions path.  This award simultaneously acknowledges what they have achieved and pushes them and the world toward delivering on Obama's promise.  It is well deserved.

Here is the Nobel committee's full statement:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future.. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Kudos to President Obama for inspiring the world and for starting to deliver on his unprecedented agenda of change.  Kudos to the American public for rejecting the narrow, unilateralist, climate-destroying policies of his predecessor.

Solar Decathalon 2009 Innovations, Part 1: Integrated Site Design

Posted: 09 Oct 2009 05:12 AM PDT

This guest post on the Solar Decathalon is excerpted from The Dirt, the blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).  The Solar Decathalon homes are open to the public from October 9-13 and 15-18.  Future posts will feature other finalists.

solardecaSolar Decathalon 2009 kicked off on the National Mall Wednesday. After receiving more than 40 student-generated proposals from universities in the U.S. and worldwide, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) narrowed the field down to 20 finalists that offered the most innovative, high-tech, high-efficiency, solar-powered homes. More than 800 students are competing this year. This is the fourth time the DOE has sponsored the biennial competition.

Each of the 20 student teams received $100,000 from the DOE but still had to raise some $400,000-500,000 to pay for the 800-square feet homes. The DOE spokesman said that by teaming up with a range of companies, the students were learning "real world experience" that will make them the "energy leaders of tomorrow." Now in its fourth-generation, the Solar Decathalon is "pushing innovation and systems engineering." Some homes include microgrids that can be run through an iPhone.

The homes will be judged by a team of architects, engineers, systems engineers, lighting specialists, and communications specialists on the overall architecture, engineering, comfort, marketability, appliances, lighting, and other aspects. The DOE said that not only must the homes be aesthetically appealing, but "they must also work." Using only solar power, the homes must heat 15 gallons of water to 150 degrees twice a day; run all appliances; heat and cool the homes; and maintain temperatures of 72-76 degrees with 40-60 percent relative humidity. The judges have also added a home entertainment component. TVs, powered by solar energy, must be able to run for six hours per day.. Additionally, six team members must live, eat, work within the homes from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM every day during the competition.

The homes are being wired by local D.C. energy provider, Pepco, which has connected the homes to the central energy grid. Zero net homes will get 100 points at the end of 10 days but will receive an extra 50 bonus points if they return surplus to the grid, creating an additional incentive for energy-efficiency. The DOE says, "Solar is here to stay, and these homes prove that it works." What the contest will prove is what technologies work best.

A number of student homes included integrated systems with landscape elements at their core:

Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus


Ben Johnson, ASLA, professor of Landscape Architecture, Virgina Tech, said Lumenhaus' site and landscape features were designed to contribute to the home enterprise and assist the solar-powered functions. Lumenhaus is "low-energy and high green," said Johnson. Instead of a green roof on top of the home (which Johnson said the team decided not to use because of height restrictions), there are two types of green roofs that form terraces around the site. The green roof terraces are used for water treatment and lowering the home's carbon footprint.

Johnson said recent research his department is conducting points to a fascinating number: 400-square feet of dense groundcover with a density of 32 leaves per square inch can sequester the C02 output of one person. Using these calculations, the Lumenhaus team determined the amount of plants needed for the site. For one terrace, the landscape architecture students involved in the project used sedum, which "sequesters carbon and doesn't give it up, unlike other seasonal plants that dump their carbon during their lifecycle." Additionally, the green roof terraces assist in solar absorption.

To assist with greywater mitigation, water output from the home's sinks, dishwasher, washing machine, and other appliances, are infiltrated through the terraces and ponds in an integrated manner. Grey water is also used to water the green-roof terraces.  "Theoretically, you can drink it," Johnson added. Unfortunately, Johnson noted, it's not allowed. The hydroponics help create the site dynamic but also solve the greywater problems.

Virginia Tech started on this project more than two years ago. "Landscape architecture students were involved from the early concept phase." Virginia Tech won the competition in 2005 so wanted to "up the ante." To do this, Johnson said, they needed an interdisciplinary design team that included electrical, computer, and structural engineers, architects, and landscape architects. Johnson noted that the landscape architect was the "lead on site," while the architect was the lead during development. Johnson added that the site development / landscape component of the Solar Decathalon had improved dramatically from four years ago. The team thought siting the home in a landscape would also help them win marketability points.

The total project budget was around $600,000. SemperGreen UK and LiveRoof provided elements of the green roof terraces, along with Oscar Warmerdam.

Cornell University's Silo House

silohouseCornell University's team wanted to create an agricultural and industrial aesthetic with Silo House. The home is coated in steel that oxidizes on the outer most layer. Landscape architecture students worked with Assistant Professor of Horticulture Neil Mattson to develop a "nutrient film technique" for the landscape that filters greywater. The students tested a range of plants all summer and found that horsetails, irises, and ferns, organized into zones, worked best at removing greywater particles. Using three zones, the greywater takes 24 hours to cycle through. At the end, it is "nearly potable water," said Bobby Harvey, a landscape architecture student at Cornell. Harvey mentioned that they had a "create your own greywater day," which yielded a mixture of water, shampoo, and dog food that was used to test the plants' filtering functions. Silo House's landscape also features a drip irrigation system that feeds captured rainwater and cleansed greywater to the plants. One-thousand gallon sisterns buried within the 1,000 plants store the water.

Additionally, Cornell's team was interested in the C02 sequestration capacity of the plants, as well as their ability to frame the site. "It's important to immerse the landscape so it doesn't stand alone. Without the plants, the building would be naked." Cornell students grew more than 1,000 plants to surround their home themselves.

The Solar Decathalon homes are open to the public from October 9-13 and 15-18. The awards ceremony will be held Friday, October 16.

More photos are available at Solar Decathalon multimedia resources.

Image credit: National Mall photo by Annie Coghill/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Lumenhaus, Silo House photos by Krista Sharp. Natural Fusion landscape by Penn State University.

Is it just too damn late? Part 1, the Science

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 02:28 PM PDT


It's not too late to avert the worst impacts of human-caused global warming.  In fact, it's not too late to stabilize total warming from preindustrial levels at 1.5°C — or possibly less.  But the U.S. must pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill, leading to a major global deal, to give us a plausible chance of getting on the necessary emissions pathway.

From a scientific perspective, a major new study (subs. req'd, discussed below) is cause for some genuine non-pessimism, concluding "Near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates."

The media and others want to move quickly from denial to despair, because both perspectives justify inaction, justify maintaining our grotesquely unsustainable behavior, justify sticking with the global Ponzi scheme in the immoral delusion we can maintain our own personal wealth and well-being for a few more decades before the day of reckoning.

I have, however, received a number of queries from progressives about the meaning of this somewhat misleading Washington Post article, "New Analysis Brings Dire Forecast Of 6.3-Degree Temperature Increase," which begins:

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program….

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative and reviewed the UNEP report's scientific findings, said the significant global temperature rise is likely to occur even if industrialized and developed countries enact every climate policy they have proposed at this point. The increase is nearly double what scientists and world policymakers have identified as the upper limit of warming the world can afford in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

 I don't think the basic story should be a surprise to regular readers of this blog.  We're in big, big trouble, and we're not yet politically prepared to do what is necessary to avert catastrophe — as I've said many times.  But that is quite different from concluding it's too late and we're doomed.

The WashPost story is about the Climate Rapid Overview and Decision-support Simulator — the C-ROADS model.  It "translates complex climate modeling into readily digestible predictions" and "is being adopted by negotiators to assess their national greenhouse-gas commitments ahead of December's climate summit in Copenhagen," as explained in a recent Nature article (subs. req'd, excerpted here).

As one of the leading C-ROADS modelers — my friend Drew Jones — explained in his blog, the Post headline could have easily been:

"New Analysis Shows Growing Commitment to a Global Deal Will Help Stabilize Climate."

The first thing to remember is that the major developed countries, including China or India, haven't agreed to cap their emissions, let alone to ultimately reduce them.  Until that happens, no model of global commitments is going to keep us anywhere near 2°C (3.6F).

Second, people forget that the 1987 MontrĂ©al protocol would not have stopped the atmospheric concentration of ozone-destroying chemicals from rising forever.  And yet we appear to have acted in time to save the ozone layer.

Third, people also seem to forget that the United States government led by President Bush's father, and including the entire Senate, agreed that we would tackle global warming the same way — with the rich countries going first.

I have no doubt that China will ultimately agree to a cap (see "Peaking Duck: Beijing's Growing Appetite for Climate Action").  Indeed, if a shrinking economy-wide cap on GHGs similar to the House bill or draft Senate bill ends up on Obama's desk in the next few months, then the international community will almost certainly agree on a global deal, which will include China sharply reducing its business-as-usual growth path.  Then in the next deal in a few years, China will, I expect, agree to a cap no later than 2025.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  This is an important issue that I will treat in a multipart series.  People seem to view this question of "Is it too late?" as if it were primarily a scientific issue, but that is because they have internalized their preconceptions about what is politically possible in terms of clean energy deployment in this country and around the world.

There is no evidence scientifically that it is too late to stabilize at 350 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, at 1.5°C total planetary warming from preindustrial levels.  Nor is there any scientific evidence that we can't afford to overshoot 350 ppm — as we already have — for a period of many decades.

True, I don't view it as likely that we will stabilize at 1.5°C warming.  But that overlays my view of the science with my view of the solutions and the politics.  I do think it is entirely possible that we will stabilize under 450 ppm, near 2°C.  That's a key reason why I blog.  It would, however, probably require a heroic WWII-style and WWII-scale effort by the nation and the world starting sometime in the next decade.

This post will briefly touch on the science.  Future posts will consider climate solutions and the needed domestic and international action to employ them at the necessary scale and speed.

The catastrophe we are trying to avert is multimeter sea level rise, the loss of the inland glaciers that provide water to a billion people, rapid expansion of the subtropical deserts (i.e. Dust-Bowlification of one third the habited land mass), killing off more than half of all species and turning the oceans into hot, acidic dead zones  — each of which is all-but inevitable on our current path of unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions (see "An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water").

No one knows for certain what level of emissions is needed to avert that series of catastrophes.  Indeed, some of these catastrophes occur at much lower levels of emissions than others.  And some may play out over very long periods of time, but still become all but unstoppable at much lower levels of emissions.

The literature makes clear that as you go above 450 ppm and 2°C, these impacts become more likely, more intense, and more imminent.  In fact, no one knows for certain whether one can, in fact, stabilize at, say 550 ppm and roughly 3°C warming — in any meaningful definition of the word "stabilize" (which does not include desperately devoting all of humanity's resources to sucking every last drop of CO2 and CH4 from the energy system and atmosphere).

Whatever the threshold is, staying above it for any length of time risks a rapid acceleration of emissions that will make it all but impossible to get back below that point of no return.  Hansen and his leading scientific coauthors have made a case we must ultimately return atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million to avoid catastrophic climate impacts (see "Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al"). But they don't know — and on one knows — how long we can safely stay above 350.

If I have read Hansen et al. correctly, then I think they may be mostly right for a different reason than he thinks, which is to say, I think the carbon-cycle feedbacks act as the equivalent of the amplifiers that he models: "Additional warming, due to slow climate feedbacks including loss of ice and spread of flora over the vast high-latitude land area in the Northern Hemisphere, approximately doubles equilibrium climate sensitivity."

It is increasingly clear that the virtually all of the major carbon cycle feedbacks are positive — see Science stunner: "Clouds Appear to Be Big, Bad Player in Global Warming" — an amplifying feedback (sorry Lindzen and fellow deniers) and Study: Water-vapor feedback is "strong and positive," so we face "warming of several degrees Celsius").  These include

In short, if you get near 450 ppm and stay there for any length of time, you will shoot up to 800 to 1000 ppm, which certainly gets you an ice-free planet and other unimaginably catastrophic impacts.

But we aren't there yet, and we can stay below 450 and get back to 350 (or lower) this century if we choose to.

The best piece of scientific news I have read in a while comes from a NOAA-led study, "Observational constraints on recent increases in the atmospheric CH4 burden" (subs. req'd, NOAA online news story here), which found:

Measurements of atmospheric CH4 from air samples collected weekly at 46 remote surface sites show that, after a decade of near-zero growth, globally averaged atmospheric methane increased during 2007 and 2008. During 2007, CH4 increased by 8.3 ± 0.6 ppb. CH4 mole fractions averaged over polar northern latitudes and the Southern Hemisphere increased more than other zonally averaged regions. In 2008, globally averaged CH4 increased by 4.4 ± 0.6 ppb; the largest increase was in the tropics, while polar northern latitudes did not increase. Satellite and in situ CO observations suggest only a minor contribution to increased CH4 from biomass burning. The most likely drivers of the CH4 anomalies observed during 2007 and 2008 are anomalously high temperatures in the Arctic and greater than average precipitation in the tropics. Near-zero CH4 growth in the Arctic during 2008 suggests we have not yet activated strong climate feedbacks from permafrost and CH4 hydrates.


Yes, early this year I reported that NOAA found "Methane levels rose in 2008 for the second consecutive year after a 10-year lull," but so far that most dangerous of all feedbacks — Arctic and tundra methane releases — does not appear to have been fatally triggered.

Now it should be said that even if it did start, it doesn't mean we couldn't drop total emissions faster than the feedbacks overwhelmed them — it just means it would be much, much, much harder to do so.

Those who suggest it is too late are combining a scientific judgment that I believe is not yet possible to make with judgments about climate solutions and our political will to employ them fast enough that may prove true, but which are subjective judgments nonetheless — and that's quite different from saying "it's too late."

In Part 2, I'll look at the scale of the energy challenge, which simultaneously makes clear how difficult the political challenge is and how very far we can go using existing and near-term strategies (including behavior change, which is at one level much harder, and at another level, potentially the fastest change of all).

Twitter petition to thank Apple for quitting Chamber over climate change

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 01:21 PM PDT

UPDATE: Link is fixed!

The petition is here.

Please tweet it out!

The Invention of Lying about Climate Change

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 12:37 PM PDT

I don't review many books because:

  1. It's too time-consuming,
  2. I'm not sure how many of my readers (or anyone else) really devote time to reading non-fiction books on climate.
  3. There haven't been many good books out there to review, books with useful, well-written information you can't really get on the web.

But I have a dozen books on my table right now — and another dozen will be coming in the next couple of months.  Some are very good, including Gore's new book on solutions due early November.  Right now, I am happy to unhesitatingly recommend Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by James Hoggan editor of  with Richard Littlemore, key figures behind the terrific

I think everyone who follows the climate issue needs to understand the whole gory history of the most immoral and, so far, most successful, disinformation campaign in US history — the effort, largely funded by conservatives and fossil fuel companies, to deny climate science and delay the urgent action needed to preserve the health and well-being of countless future generations:

Starting in the early 1990s, three large American industry groups set to work on strategies to cast doubt on the science of climate change. Even though the oil industry's own scientists had declared, as early as 1995, that human-induced climate change was undeniable, the American Petroleum Institute, the Western Fuels Association (a coal-fired electrical industry consortium) and a Philip Morris-sponsored anti-science group called TASSC all drafted and promoted campaigns of climate change disinformation.

The success of those plans is self-evident. A Yale/George Mason University poll taken late in 2008 showed that — 20 years after President George H.W. Bush promised to beat the greenhouse effect with the "White House effect" — a clear majority of Americans still say they either doubt the science of climate change or they just don't know. Climate Cover-Up explains why they don't know. Tracking the global warming denial movement from its inception, public relations advisor James Hoggan (working with journalist Richard Littlemore), reveals the details of those early plans and then tracks their execution, naming names and exposing tactics in what has become a full-blown attack on the integrity of the public conversation.

Leveraging four years of original research conducted through Hoggan's website,, Hoggan and Littlemore documented the participation of lapsed scientists and ExxonMobil-funded think tanks. Then they analyzed and explained how mainstream media stood by — or in some cases colluded — while deniers turned a clear issue of science (and an issue for public safety) into a partisan argument that no one could win.

This book will open your eyes, it will raise your ire and, most especially, it will inspire you to take back the truth — to end the Climate Cover-up.

While I follow the issue very closely, I still learned a lot from this book, especially the fascinating Chapter 11 on "using courts and cash to silence critics of climate confusion."  I didn't know the whole story of how uber-denier Fred Singer managed to get Roger Revelle (one of Al Gore's teachers, who famously alerted Gore to the climate threat) to co-author a piece of nonsense.  I didn't know the story of the lawsuit that resulted when Revelle's graduate student tried to speak up about "what he saw as Singer's blatant manipulation — his outright bullying of — of Revelle" who "was in his eighty-second and it would turn out last year," who "had already suffered a serious heart attack and was in failing health — unable according to his students and staff to pay attention for more than 15 or 20 minutes."  And if you want some more details on that, you can go here and here.  But while some of the details are on the web, sometimes you just need to curl up with the whole well-told story.

This is a must-read book.

Wall Street Journal puzzled by a climate, clean energy and security bill that achieves multiple benefits

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 10:49 AM PDT

Someone directed me to this odd post from the normally reliable and politically savvy WSJ "Environmental Capital" blog:

Shadow Boxing: What's The Climate Bill's Real Goal?

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, it seems like the biggest problem with the Senate energy and climate bill is that nobody knows exactly what it's for.

Clean-tech executives that descended on Washington this week see it fundamentally as a jobs bill, meant to kickstart the U.S. clean-energy industry. That's a view shared by Energy Secretary Steven Chu: "The cost of not doing something is we will lose the chance to lead in this next Industrial Revolution," Dr. Chu said Wednesday.

Couldn't agree more, said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown—jobs are indeed the key to passing any legislation. Not clean-energy jobs, though—existing manufacturing jobs in the heartland.

"This bill is written to deal with climate change and it's written as a jobs bill," he said, explaining why protectionism is the key to curbing greenhouse-gas emissions. Which happens to be almost exactly the opposite approach of some big companies, such as General Electric.

Yes, it's a jobs bill, says Sen. John Kerry; the bill's title reflects that. But for the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and President Obama, it's about a lot more. "The message [Obama] wanted to get over is he's committed to moving forward," Sen. Kerry said. "He views it as a critical.. It's a job creator. A national security priority."

What does that mean? Does that refer to the possible national-security implications of climate change? Or does that mean national security as in energy security?

[Answer to WSJ:  Both!]

Is there really so little to blog about in the vast energy and environmental arena that the WSJ has to spin up this non-story?  Senator Kerry (and many others, including CP) have written and spoken at great length for a long time about the fact that any bill would have multiple benefits.

Unlike the WSJ, however, most of us think that's actually a good thing.  I think it kind of silly to attack the bill because, say, avoiding catastrophic global warming and reducing oil consumption, is good for both national security and energy security or because solving those problems will generate millions of new jobs (and, yes, even preserve existing manufacturing jobs) or because more than one technology or strategy will be needed to achieve those goals:

Republicans certainly like the energy-security idea. That gives more room for natural gas, nuclear power, and offshore oil and gas drilling in the bill. That trifecta is shaping up as one way to actually broaden political support for the bill.

Unless it erodes political support for the bill. "You're trying to solve a climate crisis and you are going to drill for more oil?" asked Jim Riccio of Greenpeace. "How does that make any sense whatsoever?" (To be fair, Greenpeace lambasted Congressional efforts even without extra support for oil, gas, or nuclear power.)

Yes, to be fair, WSJ, your example doesn't actually support your argument!

And, to be fair, natural gas and nuclear power are in fact global warming solutions — more so than they are energy security solutions, since neither of those directly substitute for oil very much these days.

Granted, the whole point of wrapping the energy bill and the climate bill together is to sweeten the environmental pill and give the bill at least a fighting chance of passage.

But the Senate bill, which isn't even written yet, is turning into a Rorschach blot. Everybody's projecting their hopes, fears and phantoms. That may be good politics. It's not clear that's good policy.

I'm sure the WSJ blog is savvy enough to understand that every major bill that passes Congress represents a compromise among different groups and thus includes provisions of that any individual supporter might not adopt if they were king or queen.  But, as I've said, the oil is a drop in the figurative bucket, maybe 0.1% of global production.

I'm also sure the WSJ realize is that we face two major environmental/energy problems — global warming plus our absurd and growing dependence on one fossil fuel in particular that appears to be peaking in supply.  Solving both of those problems at the same time is in fact good policy.  And there is a lot of evidence it's also good politics (see Lindsay Graham (R-SC): "If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system.").

Shell gets $865-million for carbon capture project Financial Post

Just How Sensitive Is Earth's Climate to Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide?

White House gloats at chamber of commerce exodus over climate bill

States Have the Wind at Their Backs in the Offshore Debate New York Times

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Environmentalists Behind Resignations, Donohue Says Bloomberg

Obama juggles 12 to our 1 or 2: AP Interview: White House expands climate campaign The Associated Press

Report: Rural Indiana Could Be 'Center of a New Energy Economy for America ... Reuters

Fossils Suggest an Ancient CO2-Climate Link TIME

92% of Americans support solar power development, study says Los Angeles Times

Embattled Mining Pick Given 'Benefit of the Doubt' by Senate Panel New York Times

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for October 8: Over 90% of Americans support solar power development

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 09:17 AM PDT

92% of Americans support solar power development, study says

The vast majority — 92% — of Americans think it's important for the country to develop and use solar power, according to a study released today, making the alternative energy option potentially one of the most popular things since puppies or ice cream.

The sentiment was echoed almost evenly across political parties, with 89% of Republicans, 94% of Democrats and 93% of Independents agreeing that solar energy is an important aim.

The 2009 Schott Solar Barometer, conducted by independent polling firm Kelton Research, found that 77% of respondents also believe the federal government should make solar power development a national priority. Nearly half are considering solar power options for their home or business, while 70% of those hope to make the switch in the next five years. Only 3% already use the sun for energy.

If, as president of the U.S., they had to choose one energy source to fund, 43% of respondents would chose solar, followed by the 17% who picked wind, the 12% who settled on natural gas and the 10% who selected nuclear.

And yet only 12% of those polled could say that they were extremely informed about solar power while 74% said they wished they knew more about solar power options.

The study, conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8, was commissioned by German photovoltaic company Schott Solar.

A Strong Climate Treaty Could Mean More Jobs Than If We Continue Using Coal

The world stands to gain 6.9 million jobs by 2030 in the clean energy sector if a strong deal is reached in Copenhagen, according to a report released recently by Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).

A switch from coal to renewable electricity generation will not just avoid 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions, but will create 2.7 million more jobs by 2030 than if we continue business as usual. Conversely, the global coal industry – which currently supports about 4.7 million employees worldwide – is likely to contract by more than 1.4 million jobs by 2030, due to rationalization measures in existing coal mines.

"Global leaders can tackle the twin crises of global economic recession and climate change head on by investing in renewable energy," said Damon Moglen, Greenpeace USA global arming campaign director. "For each job lost in the coal industry our green energy scenario, known as the Energy [R]evolution, creates three new jobs in the renewable power industry. We can choose green jobs and growth or unemployment, ecological and social collapse."

Greenpeace's latest research provides a model for cutting emissions while achieving economic growth, illustrates how the transition to clean energy will provide more jobs by 2030 in the power sector than would be available if it stays on the current carbon-intensive path. However, leaders and governments must act on this information as soon as possible to provide necessary jobs and retraining.

Midwest govs. see clean energy cooperation need

Governors from across the Midwest are working together to promote clean energy industry and infrastructure in the region despite heated competition between their states for new investment and jobs.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday that recent agreements by members of the 11-state Midwestern Governors Association aim to help make the region a center for clean energy.

"You have a lot of these little battles … that go back and forth," Doyle said. "But I think one of the things we've worked hard on as Midwest governors is to understand that our bigger picture is that we're competing as a region."

The association's two-day Jobs and Energy Forum in Detroit that started Tuesday was focused on efforts to leverage the Midwest's natural resources, manufacturing expertise and skilled work force for an economy based on clean energy, such as wind, solar and other renewable resources.

Agreements include the Midwestern Energy Infrastructure Accord, which focuses on coordinating the development of improved electricity transmission across the region, a pipeline for biofuel, and technology capturing the emission of carbon dioxide from burning coal for underground storage.

A jobs platform lays the groundwork for training workers to handle jobs a clean-energy economy would create. But the cooperation only goes so far, especially among industrial Great Lakes states that have massive amounts of manufacturing capacity in the wake of decades of plant closings.

Climate a Bigger Challenge Than Recession, China Says

China, the world's biggest polluter, said climate change is a challenge that it shares with the world and is a more formidable one than the global recession.

The world's third-largest economy is committed to helping fight climate change and has taken "responsible" steps, Vice Minister of Science and Technology Liu Yanhua said at a conference in Hong Kong today, reiterating the stance of President Hu Jintao.

Industrialized economies such as the U.S. and developing countries led by China are deadlocked on how much rich nations should help poor ones deal with climate change and how much wealthy countries should cut emissions. President Hu said last month China will cut emissions in proportion to economic growth, without giving specific targets or goals.

"High-ranking members of the government are now publicly saying before the Copenhagen climate-change summit what China is doing to tackle the problem and that it's prepared to do more," Yang Ailun, a spokeswoman at environmental group Greenpeace, said by phone from Beijing. "The aim is also to put pressure on countries like the U.S. to make greater commitments to reduce emissions and to counter arguments China's not doing enough."

California green push to staunch job losses -study

California's plan to slow climate change will boost the state economy and save hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk from rising energy costs, a study by a University of California economist said on Wednesday.

The most populous U.S. state leads the nation with its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with measures from encouraging energy efficiency to getting a third of state electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. But the plan is under attack from businesses and some academics who say the costs of going green will bankrupt many enterprises.

The state's decisions are also likely to affect the country at large, since federal policy often follows California's lead on environmental issues, from vehicle standards to plans passed in the state and being debated in the U.S. Congress to cap emissions and let companies trade credits to pollute.

Rising fossil fuel prices would cut state economic output by $84 billion and slash 626,000 jobs from state payrolls in 2020, if U.S. Department of Energy fuel forecasts are used instead of the outlook by the state energy commission, according to the study by economist David Roland-Holst of the University of California, Berkeley.

But the move to get a third of state electricity from renewables and become more efficient would reverse the decline, the study added. Instead, 2020 economic output would rise $20 billion from current projections and 112,000 jobs would be created.

Executives urge lawmakers to pass climate bill

Executives from about 150 companies, many involved in renewable energy technologies, heard a pep talk at the White House and then combed the halls of Congress on Wednesday to argue for passage of a climate bill that is facing an uphill fight in the Senate..

The executives in scores of meetings with senators and their staffs sought to counter opponents' arguments that the climate bill, which will force a shift away from fossil fuels, also will lead to much higher energy prices and cost American jobs.

The business executives from more than 30 states argued that climate legislation and a shift of energy priorities away from fossil fuels could lead to a new industrial revolution and create 1.7 million jobs related to clean energy technologies — from developing new batteries to building windmills and the next generation of solar panels.

The climate legislation is needed to create markets and jobs, said John Doerr, a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, a leading venture capital firm on Wall Street. Otherwise, he cautioned, these technologies will be developed and commercially produced elsewhere and "we will be working for the Chinese."

The executives said they wanted to bring a message to senators: that the successes of their companies shows the viability of the clean energy development and that limits on greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, will lead to the creation of new companies and industries.

But, they argued, without action in Congress, these same technologies will be produced elsewhere, likely in China.

"That's the issue, jobs. What's at question is who's going to build the batteries and who's going to get the jobs," said David Vieau, president of A123Systems Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that makes high-power lithium ion batteries for hybrid cars and other uses.

"If we don't act (on climate legislation) it's absolutely certain we're going to get a minimal piece of that pie."

The same theme was heard earlier in the day as the executives gathered at the White House to hear from Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

Econ 350: Can we still afford to save the climate?

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 07:29 AM PDT

This is a guest post from economist Eban Goodstein, Director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.  It is partially excerpted from this Grist piece.  He and his colleagues at the E3 Network have just released a detailed study on The Economics of 350.  The figure compares cumulative emissions for a 350 ppm CO2 trajectory.

cumulative emissions graph

Recently, many climate scientists have doubled down on the "safe" level for atmospheric CO2.  To avoid global warming catastrophe-collapse of the continental ice-sheets and sea level rise of dozens of feet — prominent voices led by NASA's James Hansen are now telling us we have to get down to 350 ppm, and quickly.

Game over?

No. Instead, time to adjust our thinking about what is possible.

Several co-authors and I recently completed a report for Economics for Equity and the Environment Network (E3), surveying the economic studies informed by recent science. The report  found that quicker action aimed at 350 makes good economic sense.. With likely investments of about 1-3% of global GDP, we could rewire the planet with clean energy, rebuild global forests to trap billions of tons of carbon, create jobs, and stabilize the climate. And depending on the price of oil, these investments might actually save us money.

Is 350 Possible?

Hansen et al. (here, see Figure 1) described a detailed scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of reaching 350 ppm CO2 by 2100. It included phasing out coal completely (or achieving 100% carbon capture) by 2030, along with a combination of large-scale reforestation, avoided deforestation and carbon capture and storage to withdraw huge quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere. To reach the 350 target by 2100, the world would have to quickly go beyond reductions to achieve net negative emissions-removing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than are emitted each year.

Our report contrasts Hansen's scenario with a less demanding but still quite ambitious trajectory which does not require the world to achieve negative net emissions. In this scenario, the world reaches 350 ppm CO2 by 2200. Emissions are reduced to 54 percent of 1990 emissions by 2020 and 3 percent by 2050, and then zero out, but do not go negative.

The bottom-line on the technical side: Decarbonizing by 2050 is possible with, roughly, the suite of technologies now available or on the near-term horizon. Very aggressive policy, however, will still be required very soon to drive down the costs of renewables, to redesign cities, reimagine transport and agricultural systems, and insure that all efficiencies are captured. Doing all this gets the world to 350 by 2200. Taking the additional steps to achieve negative emissions (and 350 by 2100) would require the development of large-scale, cost-effective sequestration technologies that go well beyond reforestation.

Economics, 350 and Politics

At least four research groups have modeled global scenarios that lead to 350 ppm CO2. One finds that in a world with unemployed labor and other resources, the stimulus from new climate investments might accelerate economic growth. The other three groups find net annual costs that are generally between 1 percent and 3 percent of world output.. These studies are consistent with the Stern Review, the reports by McKinsey, and others, suggesting that achieving 450 ppm would cost around 1% or less of global GDP.

Both of these targets, 350 or 450, become a lot cheaper if oil prices return soon to $150 a barrel. If peak oil drives prices that high in the coming decade, then decarbonizing at a pace to hit 350 could lead to economic gains.

Dropping the global climate target from 450 ppm to 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2 may appear to present an impossible task. In fact, it leaves us with qualitatively the same challenge. Achieving 350 simply requires accelerating a global technology revolution that will yield many benefits- in terms of climate stability, energy security, and economic payback. And estimates of the scale of the investment needed to complete that revolution-and complete it on time-are affordable.

In Europe, the US and China, the politics of 450 ppm are beginning, just beginning, to come into view. Our new study sets the stage for a longer-term discussion.  The obstacles to achieving 350 are not technical nor are they economic.

JR:  For the science behind 350 ppm, see "Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al." Since the science is preliminary and it is not not yet politically possible to get to 450 ppm, let alone 350, my basic view, as expressed in that post, is Let's start working now toward stabilizing below 450 ppm, while climate scientists figure out if in fact we need to ultimately get below 350.  Either way, this is what needs to be done technology-wise:  "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution."  The difference between the two targets is that for 450 ppm, you need to do the 12-14 wedges in four decades.  For 350 ppm, you (roughly) need 8 wedges in about two decades plus another 10 wedges over the next three decades (and then have the world go carbon negative as soon as possible after that), which requires a global WWII-style and WWII-scale strategy as discussed here.  I would like to get back to 350 ppm by 2100, but I tend to think that 2150 is "more likely."  Either way, the cost of doing so is certainly far cheaper than the cost of failing to do so (see "Intro to climate economics: Why even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar").

Comparing cumulative emissions for a 350 ppm CO2 trajectory

Lindsay Graham (R-SC): "If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system."

Posted: 08 Oct 2009 06:38 AM PDT

"I think the planet is heating up," Graham said. "I think CO2 emissions are damaging the environment and this dependence on foreign oil is a natural disaster in the making. Let's do something about it. I'd like to solve a problem, and if it's on President Obama's watch, it doesn't bother me one bit if it makes the country better off."

The good news is the chances of passing a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill are rising, as these quotes from a key swing GOP vote make clear.  The other good news is that most of the annoying things that progressives may have to swallow to get that bill smell worse than they taste.  E&E News reports:

Key Senate Democrats signaled yesterday they are willing to negotiate with Republicans on nuclear power and expanded domestic oil and gas development if it helps in nailing down the 60 votes necessary for floor passage on a comprehensive global warming and energy bill.

"Every idea is on the table," said Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of Senate climate legislation. "We're going to work in a bona fide way with everybody to see how to bridge a gap here. We've got to get a 60-vote margin. That means you've got to legislate, which means you have to compromise."

Several moderate Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they are in talks with Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on the nuclear language, as well as other key issues.

"A guy like Senator Kerry is looking for coalitions," Graham said.

The notion of a nuclear title is not news — that was always going to happen.  While I wouldn't be thrilled with all conceivable provisions such a title might have, the overwhelming majority are unlikely to have a significant impact or even cost the taxpayers much money, as long as nuclear power plants remain so damn expensive (see "Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost — $10,800 per kilowatt! — killed Ontario nuclear bid").

If the nuclear industry could ever get its act together and come up with one or two standardized, modular, affordable designs, they might become a major climate solution.  And that wouldn't be a terrible thing, given just how much clean energy we are going to need to stabilize near 2°C warming.  But I'm not expecting any major design improvements or big cost drops for a decade or more in this country.

What exactly do the pro-nuke folk want?

Graham said he is pushing for language in the Senate bill that puts nuclear power on par with wind and solar power in terms of tax credits and inclusion in a nationwide renewable electricity standard.

"Also to deal with the waste stream," Graham added. "You've got to have a disposition plan to deal with the waste."

McCain said he brings four major demands to the negotiation table: a commitment to construction of new nuclear power plants, loan guarantees, and solutions for both nuclear waste storage and recycling.

And I'd like to be a judge on American Idol.  Seriously, though, my guess is a deal can be had — and will.

The final deal is not going to call nuclear power "renewable" and stick it in the existing too-weak renewable standard, I think, but rather may tack on a low carbon electricity standard that includes nuclear, carbon capture and storage, and maybe combined cycle natural gas.

As for McCain, I just don't know what he means by "a commitment to construction."  You can't force people to build nukes — especially at current staggering prices:

So we'll throw money at nukes, just like the bill does for CCS, and a few plants will be built and the overwhelming majority of the emissions reductions will be achieved through the low-cost solutions — efficiency and conservation, natural gas fuel switching, and wind, solar thermal, and biomass.

What about drilling?

Graham suggested Kerry look to the tentative agreement reached last year among roughly 20 Senate moderates — Democrat and Republican — that would open up large swaths of new federal acreage to oil and gas development in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.

Well, this will need to be crafted in a way that does not lose votes, such as Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, but fundamentally, most of the potential drilling provisions bother me less than the nuclear ones for two fundamental reasons:

  1. When oil prices soar in the coming years, Democrats are not going to be able to resist the demand for opening more area to drilling anyway — so they might as well get a climate deal in return now.  Oil is likely to blow past $100 a barrel in Obama's first term — and could well blow past $150 a barrel in what will hopefully be his second term (see "Deutsche Bank: Oil to hit $175 a barrel by 2016)."  Opening more federal acreage is inevitable.
  2. Opening more federal acreage probably won't lead to any significant extra drilling for at least another decade.  I had a long analysis of this last year — "The cruel offshore-drilling hoax."  The oil companies already have access to some 34 billion barrels of offshore oil they haven't even developed yet, but ending the federal moratorium on offshore drilling would probably add only another several billion barrels, generating under 100,000 barrels a day in new supply — maybe 0.1% of world production — sometime after 2020.  A leading EIA analyst told me in 2008 that ending the entire federal moratorium is "certainly not going to make a difference in the next 10 years."  My 2008 analysis discusses why.  If this deal ripens, I'll do another post.

We need to keep our eye on the prize — a shrinking economy-wide cap, coupled with major provisions to boost energy efficiency and and other clean technologies.  This is what we need to complete the transformation to a clean energy economy begun in the stimulus, generating $100 billion a year in new U.S. investment in clean energy, sufficient to compete with the Europeans and Asians who want to eat our lunch in this most rapidly growing industry of the century.  And, of course, it is what we need to achieve an international deal that gives us a fighting chance to stabilize anywhere near 2°C total warming and avert catastrophic impacts.

Publicize or perish: The scientific community is failing miserably in communicating the potential catastrophe of climate change.

Posted: 07 Oct 2009 07:20 PM PDT

Physics World asked me to write for a special issue on Energy, Sustainability and Climate Change.  The article, "Publicize or perish," is online and reposted below with links.

Scientists must get better at messaging about climate change before it is too late. (Credit: Photolibrary)

The fate of the next 50 generations may well be determined in the next few months and years. Will the US Congress agree to a shrinking cap on greenhouse-gas emissions and legislation to achieve the transformation to clean energy? If not, you can forget about 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 Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances.

The International Scientific Congress on climate change held in Copenhagen in March, which was attended by 2000 scientists, concluded that "Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized." That would mean that by 2100 there would be atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of more than 1000 ppm, total planetary warming of 5 °C and sea-level rises probably on the high end of recent projections of 1–2 m followed by a rise of as much as 2 cm per year or more for centuries. We would also see one-third of inhabited land reaching dust bowl levels of aridity, half or more of all species becoming extinct, and the oceans increasingly becoming hot, acidic, dead zones. And if we do not change course quickly, the latest science predicts that these impacts may be irreversible for 1000 years.  [See "Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.]

In short, the fate of perhaps the next 100 billion people to walk the Earth rests with 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.

Disinformation and scientific illiteracy

So far, we are failing miserably. Neither the US nor the world as a whole has taken any consequential action to reverse emissions trends. And if the scientific community does not help lead the way in reversing emissions, then we will justifiably bear serious blame from future generations, who will no doubt become increasingly bitter about the havoc our ignorance and myopia has brought them. Nobody will be writing books calling us "the greatest generation."

As one example of how bad scientific messaging has been, let me go through Gallup polling over the past decade as discussed in a 2008 article in Environment magazine entitled "A widening gap: Republican and Democratic views on climate change".

The article reported that in 1997 some 52% of Democrats said that the effects of global warming had already begun and 52% said most scientists believe global warming is occurring. In 2008 some 76% said warming had begun and 75% said most scientists believe warming is occurring. It would appear that Democrats believe most scientists.

Few leading climate scientists or major scientific bodies would disagree that the scientific case that the planet is warming – and that humans are the dominant cause of recent temperature rises – has become stronger in the past 10 years. That is clearly seen in the scientific literature – as summarized in the IPCC reports.

And yet for Republicans, in 1997 some 48% said warming had begun and 42% said most scientists believe warming is occurring – a modest six-point differential. By 2008, the percentage of Republicans saying the effects of global warming had already begun had dropped to a mere 42% (an amazing statistic in its own right given the painfully obvious evidence to the contrary). But the percentage saying most scientists believe global warming is occurring had risen to 54% – a stunning 12-point differential.

In short, a significant and growing number of Republicans – one in eight as of 2008 – simply do not believe what they know most scientists believe. That is quite alarming news, given that it is inconceivable that the US will take the very strong action needed to avert catastrophe unless it comes to believe what most scientists believe, namely that we are in big, big trouble and can delay no further.

Here is the lesson for scientists: in the last decade, we have apparently become less convincing to Republicans than the deniers have been. They have apparently become better at messaging, while we have perhaps become worse.

[For more poll details, see "The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP".]

In part, this has occurred because there is an organized disinformation campaign promoted by conservative think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute and well funded by fossil-fuel companies like ExxonMobil, with key messages repeated by conservative pundits and politicians like George Will, Rush Limbaugh and Republican Senator James Inhofe. At the same time, the media have treated this more as a political issue than a scientific one, thereby necessitating in their view a "balanced" presentation of both sides, notwithstanding the fact that the overwhelming majority of scientists understand humans are warming the planet and dangerously so. Also, increasingly profit-driven media have been abdicating their role in science education. Science writer Chris Mooney and scientist Sheril Kirshenbaum offer these grim statistics in their recent book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future (2009, Basic Books):

  • For every five hours of cable news, one minute is devoted to science;
  • Some 46% of Americans believe that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old;
  • The number of US newspapers with science sections has shrunk 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 could not name a scientific role model or named "people who are either not scientists or not alive".

The lack of scientific messaging

Yet just when the media are abandoning science coverage, many scientists are increasingly reluctant to address politicized issues like global warming.

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 like the glib and the dramatic, which is a style that most scientists deliberately avoid. Scientists like to focus on the things that they do not know, since that is the cutting edge of scientific research. So they do not keep repeating the things that they do know, which is one reason that the public and the media often do not hear from scientists about the strong areas of consensus on global warming. And as the physicist Mark Bowen writes in Thin Ice (2006, Holt), his book about glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, "Scientists have an annoying habit of backing off when they're asked to make a plain statement, and climatologists tend to be worse than most."

As scientist and writer Jared Diamond wrote in a 1997 article in Discover magazine 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 Sagan became famous, he was rejected for membership of the National Academy of Sciences in a special vote. This became widely known, and, as 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 a 2006 article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society explained (87 1025), "For a scientist whose reputation is largely invested in peer-reviewed publications and the citations thereof, there is little professional pay-off for getting involved in debates that mix science and politics."

The scientific community must figure out how to effectively engage the public on this crucial issue. The physics community in particular must help lead the way. After all, it was effective at warning the public and policymakers about the dangers of that other existential threat to the human race – nuclear weapons. We appear to have walked back from the precipice of global nuclear war only to face an equally grave threat from our unbridled consumption of fossil fuels.

I believe that the major scientific bodies and leading scientists in the US must come together immediately to develop and quickly implement a serious communication strategy. We are again at the precipice. Indeed, it is, as the current Presidential Science Advisor and physicist John Holdren has said many times, too late to avoid dangerous anthropogenic warming of the planet. Now the only question is whether we can avoid unmitigated catastrophe.

One final point. If the scientific community is unable to help persuade the public, opinion-makers and political leaders to take the necessary action now, then the entire relationship of science to the broader world will change forever. When the US and the world do get desperate about global warming in the next decade or two, then the entire focus of society, of scientists and engineers, and of academia will be directed toward a Second-World-War-scale effort to mitigate what we can and adapting to the myriad miseries that our myopic dawdling has made inevitable. I do not think that the scientific community has even begun to think about that.

Related Post:

Deutsche Bank: Oil to hit $175 a barrel by 2016, which "will drive a final stake into long-term oil demand," spurred by a "disruptive technology" — "the hybrid and electric car, that will very likely have a far greater positive impact on oil efficiency than the market currently expects"

Posted: 07 Oct 2009 03:30 PM PDT


Deutsche Bank's important new report, The Peak Oil Market: Price dynamics at the end of the oil age begins with a quote that is one of my pet peeves:

"The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil."  Sheikh Yamani, Saudi Oil Minister, 1962-1986.

Great quote in a peak oil report except for one tiny point — we still use a lot of stones.  In fact, given that we have 6.7 billion people on the planet, I'm quite certain that we use a lot more stones than we did in the Stone Age.  I'm almost as certain that, as the DB report says, we will be using a lot less total oil in a few decades.  So the quote doesn't work, and the report, while dead on in many parts, is still a tad off.

SUPPLY:  We expect increasingly chronic under-investment in new oil supply capacity. We believe that concentration of remaining oil reserves into OPEC government hands will lead to under-investment in new supply and higher volatility in regulatory and fiscal regimes, and more volatile pricing. Consumer governments are adding to uncertainty with total lack of clarity on environmental legislation/regulation outcomes. That deep uncertainty in supply and demand will likely disincentivise private sector oil supply investment, exacerbating overall oil under-investment, and leading to peak oil supply within the next six years. We see market maximum capacity at 90mb/d in 2016 – just 5% above 2009….

After a final price peak implied at $175/bbl in 2016….

Hmm.  The price spike sounds right.  But I don't think the ultimate reason will be inherently chronic underinvestment — there's simply too much money to be made at projected oil prices for producers.  And I don't think the reason will be uncertainty surrounding regulation — again, there's simply too much money to be made of projected oil prices and, over at least the next decade, climate regulations will focus more on coal than oil.

The reason for the price jump is that we're running out of the easy supply.  That's certainly the view of all the peakers I know.  And it's the view of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and its chief economist, Dr. Fatih Birol (see World's top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery, urges immediate action: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us"):

Dr. Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.

The IEA's work makes clear that for oil to stay significantly below $200 a barrel (and U.S. gasoline to be significantly below $5 a gallon) by 2020 would take a miracle — or rather 6 miracles see "Science/IEA: World oil crunch looming? Not if we can find six Saudi Arabias!"  See also "Merrill: Non-OPEC production has likely peaked, oil output could fall by 30 million bpd by 2015," which noted,

Steep falls in oil production means the world now needed to replace an amount of oil output equivalent to Saudi Arabia's production every two years, Merrill Lynch said in a research report.

I agree with DB report that hybrids and battery-powered cars are the big game changer (see "Climate and hydrogen car advocate gets almost everything wrong about plug-in cars"):

DEMAND:  We now have a "disruptive technology" in the shape of the hybrid and electric car, that will very likely have a far greater positive impact on oil efficiency than the market currently expects. There are two major issues that lead us to believe that oil demand peaks with lack of available supply within six years:

1. With reasonable assumptions, we find that by 2020 the global average MPG of newly purchased light vehicles will have increased by a bit more than 50% compared to 2009, from roughly 29 mpg to about 44 mpg. The impact will be concentrated in US gasoline, the largest single element of global oil demand (12%), and will be dramatic enough in its own right to cause the peak of global oil demand around 2016. We forecast US gasoline demand to fall to 4.9mb/d – about 46% from its 2009 level – by 2030.

2. Also undermining oil demand is a switch to $30/boe natural gas. Unlike oil, natgas is abundant, accessible, and cheap to develop; huge current price discounts caused by OPEC and under-investment will cause major switching away from oil.

That seems plausible.  Certainly, I have been arguing that natural gas supply appears to be much larger than people realized, and quite separate from petroleum supplies (see "Game Changer Part 1:  There appears to be a lot more natural gas than previously thought").

But natural gas doesn't substitute straightforwardly for oil in most applications, whereas it does substitute directly for coal, so I expect most demand growth to go into the electric sector.  Even DB writes (their headline, not mine):

Why no natgas vehicles? A dinosaur invents a meteorite?

Quite simply, our auto team, reflecting auto industry trends, see little significant penetration of natgas vehicles over the forecast period. The infrastructure required is excessively costly and time consuming to construct, the cost of that construction falls to energy supply companies who cannot develop the cars to use it, and the benefits in terms of efficiency are too little to attract consumers. Natgas vehicles are a red herring, in our opinion.

Similarly, electricity doesn't substitute straightforwardly for oil in most applications.  It can substitute for oil in one or two relatively specific, albeit large, applications — short and perhaps medium-distance transportation.

So these DB conclusions are a bit puzzling:

PRICE DYNAMICS: as oil supply peaks, so oil demand will peak. But the fundamental mismatch in elasticities of supply & demand, time cycles of supply & demand and price mechanics of supply & demand will likely require a final upward price spiral that will serve to break US oil consumption short term, and shift it long term toward greater efficiency. US demand is the key. It is the last market-priced, oil inefficient, major oil consumer. We believe Obama's environmental agenda, the bankruptcy of the US auto industry, the war in Iraq, and global oil supply challenges have dovetailed to spell the end
of the oil era.

After a final price peak implied at $175/bbl in 2016, we forecast oil prices will be under fundamental long-term downward pressure. This pressure will be potentially exacerbated by a reversal in OPEC strategy, away from supply limits, towards market share gains. We suggest $70/bbl oil in 2030 in a market that has shrunk to around 79mb/d – 8% lower than its current level, and 40% below consensus (IEA/ExxonMobil/NPC) forecasts.

While I think this scenario is possible, it just doesn't strike me as likely.  The notion "as oil supply peaks, so oil demand will peak" is clever, but I think mostly a tautology.  There simply are far too many uses for oil and far too much growth in the developing world for latent demand to crash as fast as supply — in the absence of a steadily rising price.  I do expect peaks and valleys, with higher highs and higher lows, and the lows could certainly reach current levels again if we had another major economic crash in a decade.  But this forecast seems downright perverse:

DB price

I'd be happy to bet with anybody at DB the price trajectory after 2017 doesn't look anything like that.

I agree with DB that technology will change the price point at which efficiency and alternative technologies make sense:

Right now hybrids make sense economically when oil is at about $100/bbl, or gasoline at about $2.75.  By 2020, those numbers will fall to $85/bbl, $2.30/gal

And I agree that the elasticity for demand will change as a result of technology in repeated price shocks:

In the future, lower oil prices will not encourage demand

A key conclusion from our estimated elasticities is that the line of demand growth becomes increasingly steep over time, essentially implying that there is increasingly little price elasticity of demand at low prices. This is a fundamental concept related to "disruptive technology," whereby a move to a superior (more efficient) product is not reversed by the collapse in price of the former product. We believe that hybrid cars will be superior to combustion-only vehicles and consumers will be reluctant to switch back because of price volatility – i.e., they will fear, even if prices are low, that prices will rise again in the future….

The point here is that when the oil market breaks, the downward pressure on prices from a realisation that the market is contracting regardless of price, and abundant undeveloped oil preserves in major oil dependent producer economies, will exert further downward pressure on oil prices as the market contracts.

But hybrids and plug ins still use oil — as do jet planes and lots of other parts of the economy.  I'd love to believe, as DB projects, that new light duty vehicle MPG hits 95 (!) in this country, 106 in China, and 88 globally in 2030.  But that'll only happen if the whole planet gets very serious about global warming  — which DB tends to dismiss, writing "We believe that CO2 limitations will be too economically challenging to fully progress globally" — not because oil peaks just once more in price and then spends the entire 2020s declining back to current levels.

Let me end, where I began, with our tremendous use of stones even though the stone age is long gone.  DB offers this flawed analogy early on its report:

DB Whale

The problem with this analogy is that kerosene was a terrific, versatile, abundant and direct substitute for whale oil in pretty much every major application.  Neither electricity nor natural gas have that kind of substitutability for oil

Perhaps oil prices won't hit, say, $300 a barrel (in 2008 dollars), for a long, long time.  But they are far more likely to spend the 2020s well above $100 a barrel than below it.

Climate Progress is the second* ranked science blog

Posted: 07 Oct 2009 11:47 AM PDT

*third if you count anti-scientific websites like WattsUpWithThat, as Wikio does.

But should I put their little widget near the top of CP as Watts does?  It would, of course, say '3′ on it (for now).

I had not heard of these Wikio rankings, but I periodically check WattsUpWithThat for the latest in denier talking points — yes, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and it shouldn't have to be you!  What do I see but yet another website recognizing WattsUp as a science blog, when it is the exact opposite, as evidenced by his reprinting and endorsing a broad-based attack on the integrity of the entire scientific community and by his generally pushing disinformation [see "Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS)" and links below].

Still, notwithstanding Wikio's refusal to draw a distinction between science and antiscience, the ranking is a relatively objective, as described here:

The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles.

Only links found in the RSS feed are included. Blogrolls are not taken into account, and the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. We thus hope to provide a classification that is more representative of the current influence levels of the blogs therein.

Moreover, the weight of a link depends on the linking blog's position in the Wikio ranking. With our algorithm, the weight of a link from a blog that is more highly ranked is greater than that of a link from a blog that is less well ranked.

Our rankings are updated on a monthly basis and also include Top Blogs for several categories: Technology, Politics, etc. New categories will be added on a regular basis.

The rankings seem a tad strange.  Not sure how I do so much better than Grist, since I'm sure they get two or three times as many readers each day.  RealClimate would do a LOT better if they posted MORE — hint, hint, RC folks!

Anyway, I am interested in your thoughts as to whether this is worth sticking on CP's front page near the top.  One thing is certain — it doesn't take up much space.

Related Posts:

Energy and Global Warming News for October 7: IEA says "China will be able to slow the growth of its emissions much faster than commonly assumed"; EIA's forecasted CO2 drop "justifies tough carbon caps"

Posted: 07 Oct 2009 10:37 AM PDT

The IEA report is here.  Photo is of wind turbines in Xinjiang, China.

International Energy Agency Sees Gains in China

Little good can be said about the worst economic slump since the 1930s, but it has produced at least one piece of positive news: the downturn will make it a bit easier to slow the rise in emissions responsible for climate change.

The International Energy Agency made that prediction in a report Tuesday on global greenhouse gas emissions. Because of slower economic growth, the agency slashed, by 5 percent, its estimate of how much greenhouse gas emissions will be produced in 2020.

But the energy agency also cautioned against complacency, stressing that reaching a deal in climate talks to be held in Copenhagen at the end of the year is crucial to limiting the rise in global temperatures.

Another reason for cautious optimism, the report said, is that China will be able to slow the growth of its emissions much faster than commonly assumed because of its rising investment in wind and nuclear energy and its newfound emphasis on energy efficiency.

But avoiding some of the worst consequences of climate change will still require significant and rapid investments in clean technology, and more meaningful cuts in carbon emissions, the report said.

"This gives us a chance to make real progress toward a clean-energy future, but only if the right policies are put in place promptly," said the agency's executive director, Nobuo Tanaka.

As a result of the economic slump, global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are expected to decline by 3 percent this year, the steepest drop in the 45 years according to figures compiled by the agency. That compares with an average growth of 3 percent a year over the last decade.

The report outlines how governments can achieve additional cuts through energy efficiency and investments in clean technologies. The goal is to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Meeting that target will require reducing emissions by 23 percent in 2030 compared with what they would otherwise be, the agency said.

"The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today's energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe," Mr. Tanaka said.

And while it may not be news to CP readers — see EIA stunner: By year's end, we'll be 8.5% below 2005 levels of CO2 — halfway to climate bill's 2020 target – I'm glad to see Bloomberg pick up this story:

Drop in CO2 Justifies Tough Carbon Caps

A drop in carbon dioxide levels due to the recession and use of cleaner fuels to produce electricity means Democrats should stand firm on a 20 percent cut in U.S. emissions proposed last week, environmental groups said.

The Energy Information Administration today forecast a 5.9 percent drop in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions this year, less than a week after Senate Democrats John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barbara Boxer of California unveiled "cap- and-trade" legislation to cut U.S. emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The EIA projects carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil and natural gas use at 5.45 billion metric tons, which would be 8.8 percent below the 2005 level of 5.97 billion tons.

"It reinforces our view that the 20 percent target that's in the Kerry-Boxer bill is certainly achievable," Dan Lashof, director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a telephone interview. "The level of effort required to achieve a 20 percent reduction is much more modest than had been anticipated."

With emissions already below the 2005 levels used as a baseline for the House, Senate and White House cap-and-trade proposals, Kerry and Boxer shouldn't negotiate away their 20 percent reduction target, Courtney Abrams, a global warming associate for Environment America, said in a telephone interview.

Business Coalitions Form to Back Climate Change Bill

A delegation of more than 150 businesses supporting the bill, which is sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., arrived in Washington yesterday and will flood senators' offices today to urge movement on the legislation. They range from companies that would directly benefit — such as solar panel makers — to ones that just want consistent federal guidance on carbon emissions.

Some of them, including computer giant Apple, have left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the organization's opposition to the House of Representatives climate bill, which passed in June.

"The fact that [Apple is] saying, 'We have to do this' is something that other industries and people who stand in opposition to this bill in the Senate and the House really need to start paying attention to," Mr. McNeil said.

Representatives from the diverse group of businesses attended a reception last night with Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and will hold a news conference today. They are part of a group called We Can Lead, sponsored by business coalitions Ceres and Clean Economy Network.

Commerce Secretary: Clean Energy Key to Midwest

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told representatives of Midwest states on Tuesday that the growth of clean energy industries is key to the region's economic recovery and future.

Locke said new federal efforts such as a one-stop office in the Detroit area to make his department's services more accessible to businesses are part of a broader push to jumpstart job creation.

"Our fight to build a new, clean energy economy is just getting started and it is a fight that we simply must win," Locke said. His remarks kicked off a two-day Midwestern Governors Association's Jobs and Energy Forum in Detroit.

Locke said the CommerceConnect pilot program, if it's successful, could be expanded to other areas around the country. A ribbon cutting was held Tuesday at the office in Plymouth, about 20 miles west of Detroit. Staff will act as case workers for individual businesses that seek assistance.

The governors association estimates that the Midwest has lost more than 1.2 million manufacturing jobs alone since 2000. Michigan's unemployment rate in August was more than 15 percent, the highest in the nation, while Ohio's was nearly 11 percent and Indiana and Illinois both had rates of about 10 percent.

Green Group says Climate Bill Won't Hurt Farms

Global warming poses more of a threat to U.S. farm incomes than does the climate change bill passed by the U.S. House, which will have a "negligible" impact on American agriculture's bottom line, an environmental group said on Wednesday.

"A more careful examination of the facts shows that climate change itself, not climate legislation, is the real threat to American agriculture, and that climate-induced crop losses will cost US taxpayers and farmers far more than could ever be caused by the (House) bill," the Environmental Working Group (EWG) said in its report.

Legislation introduced last week in the Senate aims for a 20 percent reduction in smokestack emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels. A bill that narrowly passed the House in June calls for a 17 percent cut by 2020 in pollution from utilities, manufacturers and oil refineries — industries blamed for global warming.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has warned that the House and Senate bills will drive up sharply the cost of farm fuel, fertilizer and pesticides.

But the EWG report said cost increases — such as higher expenses to produce crops — resulting from the climate change bill passed "are so small they would be lost in the background noise" of changes to farm income caused by routine fluctuations in yield, crop prices and input costs.

Furthermore, EWG said farmers stand to lose more from weather patterns, such as flooding, drought or higher temperatures, caused by global warming.

Report Highlights Deforestation

A new bipartisan coalition of business, government and environmental leaders is asking the Senate to make deforestation a centerpiece of the climate bill by allocating billions to fund tropical forest preservation programs in developing nations.

In a new report released to POLITICO, the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests argues that paying developing tropical countries to preserve their forests would provide economic incentives to stop deforestation, a major driver of global warming.

Tropical deforestation accounts for roughly 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a rate that makes Brazil one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases, along with far richer nations like the United States and China.

"It is truly time for America to launch a comprehensive response to this manageable threat," writes former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee. "Protecting the planet's climate forests and fighting climate change can be the defining bipartisan issue of our time, but so far that bipartisanship has been largely absent."

But deforestation has long been a thorny issue for domestic and international climate policy.

Previous efforts to curb deforestation have largely failed because of difficulties in verifying and monitoring the programs and reporting on them. Environmental groups have also criticized some of the programs as open to abuse by corrupt politicians in poorer countries and by illegal logging companies.

Now the commission is saying the time is finally right to ink some serious forestry provisions — and action must start at home.

"This will be a big topic of discussion in Copenhagen, and clearly Copenhagen can be more successful to the degree the U.S. has a good program," said Nature Conservancy President and CEO Mark Tercek, referring to the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Denmark this December.

E.U. Plan to Curb CO2 to Favor Solar Power

The European Commission is expected to introduce a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that directs the largest slices of €50 billion available for research and development to solar power and capturing and burying emissions from coal plants.

The plan, to be released on Wednesday, is partly intended to show that the European Union is taking the additional steps needed to meet ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gases before a summitmeeting in Copenhagen in December on reaching a new global agreement to curb climate change.

But the plan also signals the need for a reordering of the bloc's industrial priorities by requiring governments to spend significantly greater sums of money on clean energy even as the world emerges from a deep financial crisis.

"Markets and energy companies acting on their own are unlikely to be able to deliver the needed technological breakthroughs within a sufficiently short time span to meet the E.U.'s energy and climate policy goals," the commission said in a draft of the plan obtained by the International Herald Tribune.

Introducing low-carbon technologies also "represents a major challenge in the context of the financial crisis, where risk-aversion is higher and investment in new, riskier technologies is not high in investors' priorities," the draft said.

European Union commissioners are expected to seek agreement on the final sums to be allocated to low-carbon power industries at a meeting on Wednesday. The recommendation is from the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm.

Another winner under the draft plan would be a "Smart Cities" initiative focused on enhancing urban efficiency. The draft foresees €11 billion to develop a new generation of buildings and transport systems. The draft plan also would allocate €9 billion for bioenergy industries that produce electricity or fuels from plants or organic waste materials.

The commission said directing €7 billion to developing nuclear fission would aim to improve reactors' safety, produce less radioactive waste, minimize proliferation and extend the range of what nuclear plants do.

Activists Sue Texas to Restrict Greenhouse Gases

Environmental activists sued the Texas environmental agency Tuesday in an effort to force the state to regulate greenhouse gases, asking that coal-fired power plant projects be halted until that happens.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issues air pollution permits that set limits on toxic releases, but the agency says there is no need to regulate carbon dioxide. Texas emits more greenhouse gases, made up mostly of CO2 emissions, than any other state.

The lawsuit by Public Citizen – which describes itself as a consumer advocacy organization – calls for greenhouse gas limits to be imposed as part of the permitting process, based on a 2007 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that classified carbon dioxide as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

"The time has come for the TCEQ to take its head out of the sand and begin the process to regulate CO2 emission from Texas sources," Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office, said in a statement announcing the suit.