Energy

American Agriculture’s Cornucopia of Opportunity and Responsibility

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A complex agriculture, along with urban culture, is one of the fundamental pillars of human civilization, and one of the fundamental bulkwarks of American prosperity. For families and communities involved in farming and ranching it’s also a way of life that is cherished, oftentimes passed on through generations, taking on reverential if not religious overtones.

At the same time in today’s overwhelmingly urban culture, cooking has become prime time entertainment, dining a social event, and what a person eats is increasingly associated with a healthy body and mind – sometimes a sort of spiritual well being. This elevates agriculture to an important issue even among those who have never spent a day on a farm.  read more »

On Cities, GHG Emissions, Apples & Oranges

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Every day or so a new greenhouse gas emission report crosses my desk. Often these reports are very useful, other times they add little of value to the subject. The problem is separating the “wheat” from the “chaff.”

This dilemma is well illustrated by a paper called “Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Cities,” authored by 10 academics. I had received notification of the paper from Science Daily, a useful website that provides notification of new research on a wide range of scientific subjects.  read more »

Germany's Role in the Green Energy Economy

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Germany likes to brag about its green credentials. It is a source of pride and it is justified to a certain extent. The country, which is located on the same latitude as Canada, had the largest number of installed solar panels as of 2007.  read more »

Play It Cool at the G-20, Mr. President

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Barack Obama goes to this week's Pittsburgh G-20 with what seems the weakest hand of any American president since Gerald Ford. In reality, he has a far stronger set of cards to play — he just needs to recognize it.

Our adversaries may like our new president, but they don't fear him. And, on the surface, why should they? The national debt is rising faster than the vig for a compulsive, debt-ridden gambler. And our primary rivals, the Chinese, continue to put the squeeze on American producers by devaluing their currency, subsidizing exports and penalizing imports.  read more »

Vertical Urban Farming? Pull Your Head from the Clouds

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Dickson D. Desposmmier, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, argues that the world, faced with increasing billions of mouths to feed, will soon run out of land. According to Mr. Despommier, “the traditional soil-based farming model developed over the last 12,000 years will no longer be a sustainable option.”

Despommier’s answer to this ‘problem’: “move most farming into cities, and grow crops in tall, specially constructed buildings.” Such vertical farms, argues Despommier, would “revolutionize and improve urban life,” while also addressing issues such as agricultural runoff, air pollution, and carbon emissions.

To sophisticated urbanites with little or no exposure to agriculture, vertical farming may seem to present a sort of utopian panacea. But first one must look at the underlying problem Mr. Despommier claims to address: land shortages.  read more »

The Costs of Climate Change Strategies, Who Will Tell People?

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Not for the first time, reality and politics may be on a collision course. This time it’s in respect to the costs of strategies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” bill still awaits consideration by the US Senate, interest groups – mainly rapid transit, green groups and urban land owners – epitomized by the “Moving Cooler” coalition but they are already “low-balling” the costs of implementation.  read more »

Alaska To Stimulus Funds: Yup, We'll Take 'Em

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Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.

The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics.  read more »

Do Home Energy Credits Need A Remodel?

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With the home building industry in peril, you would think that legislators would come up with immediate solutions to help foster new home construction. And there are now two well known Federal programs regarding housing: one is the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers, and the other is the 30% energy tax credit for a select few components of home remodeling.  read more »

Vetting the Volt: Toward Meaningful Electric Car Fuel Consumption Ratings

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The 230 Miles per Gallon Claim: The General Motors (GM) announcement last week that the Chevrolet Volt would achieve 230 miles per gallon in city driving and a rating of more than 100 miles per gallon with combined city and highway driving sadly contains more hype than reality. The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid vehicle that GM intends to begin marketing in 2010. GM has indicated that the car will be able without gasoline for 40 miles, on its rechargeable battery. After the battery is depleted, the car would begin to use gasoline. The 230 mile per gallon figure, according to GM, was calculated using a proposed but yet not revealed Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy testing procedure. Similarly, the details of the GM calculation were not revealed.  read more »

One Step for Short-term Economic Stimulus, and One Giant Leap (backward) for U.S. Energy Sustainability

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The “cash for clunkers” (or CARS) program that was widely predicted to be extended by the Congress has been, if nothing else, a clear public relations win for the Obama Administration. It may also be, at least for the short-term, a shot in the arm for the beleaguered American auto industry (including domestic dealerships of foreign car companies, like Honda and Toyota). But the program’s extension may also be bad news for anyone who was hoping that candidate Obama’s campaign promises to fix our domestic energy policy would translate into something resembling a robust make-over.  read more »