'Smart' Stimulus
October 28, 2009

Over the last year, Japan’s long economic doldrums have been used as a cautionary lesson for stimulus spending in Washington policy circles. While there is little doubt that Japan has overspent on public works projects, it is also clear that Japan invested mainly in the same old projects: dams, roads, and airports.

Quick Hits: Baby Steps, Refineries, And Hidden Costs
October 27, 2009

Over the past few days, the Internet burped up three noteworthy energy-related studies that I kept meaning to blog, but never found the time. Thankfully, that's why some visionary on the Internet invented link dumps: 1) One talking point that never seems to get enough airtime is just how much can be done right now to reduce our carbon emissions, without the need to wait for fancy new technology.

Financial Innovation We Can Believe In?
October 22, 2009

It's fairly well-established that people could save money over the long run by making their homes more energy-efficient—better insulation, say—or even, in some cases, putting solar panels on their roofs to generate their own electricity. But many of these upgrades never happen, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the incentives are misaligned, if, say, the landlord owns the building but the tenant pays electricity and heating costs.

And The Solar Decathlon Winner Is...
October 16, 2009

Score another one for German engineering. Out on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this week, the Energy Department has been hosting its fourth-ever Solar Decathlon—a competition among 20 designs for solar-powered houses from around the world. The houses compete across ten categories (hence "decathlon"), ranging from the amount of electricity they can feed back to the grid to the quality of parties they can host.

Drunk with Power
October 02, 2009

In 2001, an entrepreneur named Tom Casten traveled down to southern Louisiana, near the small town of Franklin, with a clever idea. For decades, the area had sustained a pair of chemical plants that produced carbon black, a grimy powder used in printer ink and tire rubber. But the owner of one of the plants, Cabot Corporation, was struggling to compete against cheap tire imports from abroad, and desperately seeking ways to cut costs. That’s where Casten came in. He pointed out that the gas left over from the carbon-black process was just getting wasted--burned off and flared up into the sky.

The "Lifestyle" Taboo
September 28, 2009

It's not considered the height of political savvy here in the United States to point out that European lifestyles are greener than our own. Don't expect that line in an Obama speech anytime soon.

Smart grid? No, smart cities
September 23, 2009

Earlier this month, the Economist discussed the subject of electric cars, making the point that policy has to change if they are to become a successful avenue toward cleaner cars. Beyond regulating vehicle emissions, government also has to develop the electricity grid to accommodate the new vehicles. The United States still does not have a clear policy towards the modernization of the electricity grid, despite all the hoopla around the “smart grid” since the passage of the stimulus package.

Is Modern Finance Like Junk Food?
September 01, 2009

Is modern finance more like electricity or junk food? This is, of course, the big question of the day. If most of finance as currently organized is a form of electricity, then we obviously cannot run our globalized economy without it. We may worry about adverse consequences and potential network disruptions from operating this technology, but this is the cost of living in the modern world. On the other hand, there is growing evidence that the vast majority of what happens in and around modern financial markets is much more like junk food--little nutritional value, bad for your health, and a h

Fake Letter Scandal Keeps Getting Weirder and Weirder
August 28, 2009

Back in June, during the House debate over climate legislation, three Democratic swing votes—Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper, Chris Carney, and Tom Perriello—all received letters that appeared to be from local organizations opposing the bill. Perriello got multiple letters from the local NAACP in Virginia, urging him to vote no. Dahlkemper and Carney both got letters from local senior citizens’ centers in Pennsylvania, all of which professed deep concerns about the bill’s effect on their electricity bills.

Can The Sahara Desert Power Europe?
August 25, 2009

What with all that hot sun beating down on the Sahara Desert day after day, it's no surprise that energy planners have suggested lining the sands of North Africa with mirrors and building vast concentrated solar plants to deliver lots and lots of carbon-free power to Europe.