Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The New Budget Deal: Two Steps Forward...

A report from Think Progress about the climate implications of the budget deal between Paul Ryan and President Obama. Solar and wind tax credits are renewed (hurray!) but the oil export embargo is lifted making it more profitable to pump oil and sell it (boo). But if we've learned nothing else from the Republicans over the past twenty years, it should be the art of accepting a compromise that gives us something important and then going to work to renege on the part of the deal we don't like. Onward!

The story is here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

More Pressure to Investigate Exxon Disinformation Campaign

This time Kamala Harris, the attorney general of California, is being requested to start an investigation. Great idea, and one that would probably help with her campaign for the US Senate.

You can find the story here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Renewable Energy is Popular; also, Fighting Climate Change

Some good news about the popularity of fighting climate change, at least with everyone except conservative Republicans.

So all we have to do is translate popularity into votes, then elect Hillary and a bunch of Congressional Democrats, and we'll be all set.

The story is at Vox.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Do Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert

The utopian view of our renewable energy future is all rooftop solar and backyard windmills. There's nothing wrong with rooftop solar, of course, I have my own solar panels and you should too. But moving the U.S. to the zero-carbon economy is going to take more than that. There are going to have to be big, ugly, industrial renewable energy facilities as well.

That brings us to the emerging clashes between environmentalists and renewable energy advocates. My friends have trouble understanding when I tell them that the fight against global warming is not really part of the environmental movement. I want wind farms off the coast of California; many environmentalists are as opposed to wind farms off the coast as they would be to oil derricks.

My friends have trouble understanding when I tell them that the fight against global warming is not really part of the environmental movement. But it's true, and as California now moves to achieve the goal of generating half our electricity from renewable energy, the difference between them is going to be more and more obvious.

Environmentalists, or at least one powerful faction of environmentalists, are concerned to protect nature and wilderness from development. To these kinds of environmentalists, wind turbines off the California coast are just as bad as oil derricks because both of them are an industrial intrusion into a pristine natural setting. We're seeing this fight heating up right now over the proposed Morro Bay wind farm.

We've seen the same kind of fights erupt over solar/wind developments in the Mojave Desert, but now the Obama administration has done something so mind-boggingly full of common sense that you have to just stand and gape in admiration.

Traditionally, if someone wants to build some energy project on Federal land, they have to go through the complicated and expensive process of applying for a permit before the Interior Department even begins to consider whether or not they think you should be allowed to build on the site that you want. Interior's consideration includes allowing environmentalists to weight in, of course.

But Obama told the Interior Department to just go ahead, without waiting for applications, and figure out which parts of the Mojave are most and least suitable for renewable energy developments. Interior has now completed their assessment and potential developers now know, ahead of time, which areas will meet with little or no resistance to development. Hurray for common sense!

And hurray for all of us because, even though the environmental movement and climate hawk movements are not the same thing, the fact is that most environmentalists are extremely concerned about global warming and most climate hawks also care about the environment. I'll sacrifice the California coastline and Mojave Desert both if that's what's required to stop global warming. But I don't want to do it if I don't have to. So kudos to the Obama administration for getting proactive about figuring out how to achieve both of those goals.

Here's the link to Climate Desk's article about the Department of Interior study.

How Inside Climate News Busted Exxon

Here's a fun account of how Inside Climate News came upon the story of Exxon Mobiles early climate research, the research they abandoned once they decided to hide the truth about global warming from the public. This is the investigative work that has now led to the New York State investigation of Exxon's disinformation campaign.

You'll find the story here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Another Look at the Exxon Lie Campaign

Here's a review from of the charges that Exxon-Mobile was informed of the climate consequences of carbon pollution way back in 1977 by its own research scientists.

Here's my favorite line:
"...if Schneiderman could make the case against specific executives, there is at least the theoretical possibility of sending them to prison".
The story can be found here.

Good News About Coal

Great report from Sierra Club on how the reduction of coal plants in the US is reducing our carbon emissions. For me the take-away is that our emissions for 2015 will be even lower than they would have been if the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill had passed back in 2010.

Sierra Club gives credit for all this to two sources. First is President Obama's Clean Energy Plan, which relies on regulation of carbon as a pollutant by the EPA. Secondly, Sierra Club gives itself a pat on the back for pursuing the reduction of coal-powered electricity on the state and local level. Sierra Club also credits the Bloomberg Philanthropies for their financial backing of the Club's efforts.

Kudos to everyone. Now let's keep going.

Link to the Sierra Club report.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Two Pieces of Really Good News

Two pieces of really good new recently.

Most recent, the Obama administration's rejection of the Keytstone XL pipeline. As many people have noted, dumping the Keystone project will reduce carbon emissions very little. They therefore conclude that the rejection is mostly of symbolic value, but that's very misleading. If I realize that I have to lose weight, and then face the choice of whether or not to buy a candy bar, I could tell myself that rejecting this one candy bar will have almost no effect on the overall amount of calories that I need to lose. But the point is that when you commit to losing weight, you have to start somewhere, and so long as you continue buying candy bars then you haven't actually started. So long as we continue building carbon infrastructure then we haven't started our carbon diet. It's as simple as that and that is why the Keystone XL rejection is more than simply a "symbolic" victory.

Here's a link to the Washington Post story on the rejction. They have a nice video history of the pipeline at the bottom of the story.

The other piece of good news is the New York Sate investigation into Exxon Mobil's disinformation campaign about climate change. That is good and even exciting news. We are engaged in a war here, and you win a war by defeating your enemies. The carbon industries and their political lackies are the enemy, and a criminal investigation of their activities holds at least the potential of a way to hurt them badly as well as reveal their lies to the American people and neutralize their ability to lie effectively going forward. This is great.

Here's a link to Teagan Goddard's Wonk Wire report on the investigation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

SB 350 and SB 32: One step forward...

The California Assembly had a chance to push California strongly forward towards the solar conversion, but declined to do so.

Senate Bills 350 and 32 would have done four things to help the progress of the conversion:

1) 350 would have required California electrical utilities to get 50% of their juice from renewable sources by 2030.

2) 350 would have required a 50% increase in the energy efficiency of our existing buildings by 2030.

3) 350 would have reduced the amount of gasoline burned in California by half by 2030.

4) 32 would have required California to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% below 1990 levels, reaching that goal by 2030.

Of those four things, the Assembly went along with the first two. So that's a win. But the goal of reducing gasoline reduction was just dropped entirely from the bill and SB 32 was defeated.

It's disappointing, but I can't feel too bad. If we have a compromise like this every year, then we'll be doing fine. The glass is half-full, and we can just get ready to try for that other half next year.

Here is Grist's summary of what happened.

The Political Clout of the Renewable Energy Industry

Grist is reporting on a new article in Science, "Winning Coalitions for Climate Policy." Unfortunately, Science requires paid access so I won't be able to read it until I get down to the library, but Grist's writeup makes it sound interesting.

The main point is that measures which build up the renewable energy industry, such as subsidies for rooftop solar and requiring utilities to get a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, build up a constituency for renewable energy which will then provide the political muscle for measures such as carbon pricing. In other words, if you offer the carrot first, you are much more likely to get to the stick later.

This has certainly been the case in Germany, where generous prices paid for renewable energy has built an enormous body of support for anti-carbon policies.

You can find the Grist article here.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fight for SB 350

Speaking very loosely, California Senate Bill 350 will reduce California's carbon pollution by 50% by the time we reach 2030.

These are exactly the kinds of measures we need to be taking now. Governor Brown and the California Democratic leadership have pushed the bill through the Senate, but there is trouble in the Assembly. The culprits are the usual assortment of conservative Republican nutjobs and Democratic crooks trying to hold the bill for ransom in order to extract perks and goodies for their own constitutents.

We need to push to get this bill passed. Below is a link to information about SB 350, and below that is a link to a Sierra Club page that will let you contact your Assembly representative in support of the bill.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Carly Fiorina and the "Moderate" Republican Position on Climate Change

Another home run from Dave Roberts, reviewing Carly Fiorina's recent comments on the futility of trying to fight climate change. Roberts looks at the ten points that Fiorina tried to make recently, and in so doing he provides a nice little summary of how the transition to renewable energy is going.

I particularly liked point number 2, where Fiorina claims that California's push for renewable energy is hurting the California economy. Roberts points out that home electricity prices have fallen during the push, and that California's economy is growing and that California leads the nation in job creation.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Renewable Energy Moves Ahead of Natural Gas

This is good.

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Battery the Size of Norway

This is great thinking. In order to get off of carbon we need power storage on this level. I hope someone gets this done.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Urban Solar for California

Grist has a report about a new Stanford University study on the potential for putting "utility-scale solar development" into already-developed areas, even urban areas, rather than in open countryside. The advantage, environmentally, is that we wouldn't be sacrificing our wild areas in order to develop our solar capacity.

I can't access the study itself, published in Nature Climate Change. But Grist's summary contains one great number: according to the study, the solar capacity that we could potentially install in our developed areas would produce 20,000 terawatt-hours of power, which is more than three times California's electrical demand. How cool is that?

That extra capacity is particularly exciting for people, like me, who still dream of bringing manufacturing back to California.

Photo: Gabriel Millos, Creative Commons 2.0 BY-SA