Environment and Energy
Earlier this week, energy consultant Michael Lynch wrote a New York Times op-ed that aimed to debunk "peak oil" fears.
A local FOX affiliate in Cleveland strikes exactly no fear into anybody's heart with this hilarious, campy reenactment of a black bear sighting. This is local news at its finest.
Let's start with the good news: Regardless of what you've heard from grumbling senators here in the United States, the Chinese government is taking global warming seriously. China Daily reports that the country may soon put in place binding rules to regulate its greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a still-circulating draft resolution. Various stage agencies, meanwhile, have been gaming out scenarios in which the country's emissions peak in the next decade or two and then decline.
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.
Greenhouse gases get all the fame and attention nowadays, but there are actually a few other pollutants out there that are warming the planet as well, and many of them might even be cheaper and easier to clean up in the very short term. An essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, by climatologist Veerabhadran Ramanathan and economist Jessica Wallack, looks at black carbon soot and ground-level ozone in particular—what they call the "low-hanging fruit" of the climate problem. Black carbon is starting to get the broader scrutiny it deserves.
Does rooftop wind power have a future? Preston Koerner reports today that four new wind turbines are going up atop a 22-story building in downtown Portland. At first glance, it doesn't sound like a great deal: The turbines cost $40,000 in all and will satisfy just 1 percent of the building's electricity needs. But the developers at the helm of the project say they're mostly just interested in testing out the concept at this stage. In theory, rooftop wind has a ton to recommend it.
On paper, at least, "enhanced" geothermal is an incredibly alluring concept. The idea is to bore down, really deep down into the Earth's crust—say, 12,000 feet below the surface—and then pump water through the cracks in the hot bedrock, creating steam to generate electricity.
The basic logic behind a cap-and-trade system or carbon tax is to put a price on one of the major hidden costs, or externalities, created by fossil-fuel use: namely, the greenhouse-gas emissions that are causing climate change. But global warming isn't the only hidden cost of our fossil-fuel economy. There are also the health impacts from air pollution. The devastation caused by mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia. Arguably, the military costs involved with maintaining a presence in the Middle East.
One of the quirks of global warming is that average temperatures in the polar regions are rising a lot faster than they are in the rest of the world. (See here for an explanation.) That's not exactly reassuring, since a lot of the climate impacts we care about, especially the melting of Greenland and Antarctic glaciers and the potential release of methane gas from the tundra, will occur in exactly those areas.
China, it's rapidly becoming clear, has a trash problem. As the country has gotten wealthier, it's become the world's largest producer of household garbage. Packaging, old electronics, newspaper, bottles, plain old junk—all of it's piling up and there's increasingly no place to dump it. As Keith Bradsher reported in The New York Times yesterday, "Beijing officials warned in June that all of the city’s landfills would run out of space within five years." One remedy is to incinerate the trash, which China has been doing.