energy

Industry lobbyists torpedoed Copenhagen climate pact, eight-nation investigation by journalists shows

Following yesterday's news that there will be no global climate pact when international negotiators meet next month in Copenhagen, the Europeans today are saying it's all President Obama's fault.

But from where we sit -- and let's recall that Dateline Earth was a little grouchy at Obama early in his term about his less-than-laser focus on climate -- there's plenty of blame to go around.

Exhibit No. 1: The excellent report out today from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists outlining how industry lobbyists in eight pivotal countries torpedoed hopes for a climate treaty.

We heard about this from our friends at the Center for Public Integrity, which ran the effort to investigate the lobbying blitz.

Lester Brown's "Plan B 4.0" out this week -- do you have the guts to read it?

I tend to doubt that there's a write more eloquent than Lester R. Brown when it comes to saying, "We're screwed!"

plan-b-40-coverFortunately, the founder of the Worldwatch Institute and now the Earth Policy Institute also comes to the party armed with solutions as he romps through growing food scarcity, our energy conundrum and our interrelated population and climate problems.

This week Brown's new book "Plan B 4.0" is due in bookstores. It's an update of, as you might imagine, previous versions that we covered earlier. It's the Big Picture, environmentally, about how deep we are in this hole and what it's going to take to build the ladder to get out.

I mean, this is a guy who says we can cut greenhouse gases by 80 percent not by mid-century... but by 2020! You gotta love his title, too. Plan B. Hah!

Predictably -- as longtime Dateline Earth readers could guess -- Brown's  latest tome starts out talking about the growing food shortage crisis, traceable to a paucity of grains. Grain prices worldwide tripled between 2006 and 2008 -- along the lines of what Brown had previously projected. He shows how this is a structural problem, not an ephemeral grain-price hike like those related to weather in the past. The man is a grain-supply Nostradamus, really.

Bear with us here, but he ranges in just the first chapter -- the only one available online so far (PDF) -- through food shortages, the energy/climate dilemma and population growth, showing they are are all intimately related.

What whacko tree-huggers think about so-called global warming

OK, we realize you come to Dateline Earth for thoughtful analysis  of environmental news here and abroad. But, hey, it's Friday. It's the last week of August. So let's just settle for something funny, shall we?grist-logo1

Thanks to Twitter, we discovered something called elephantjournal.com. Before clicking on the link below, you should know that the about-to-be-mentioned Chip Giller is the brilliant guy behind grist.org, one of our favorite enviro-news sites. (Motto: "Gloom and doom with a sense of humor.")

Check it out: http://bit.ly/Lk00b

Small hydro dams show environmental tradeoffs in fighting climate change

[caption id="attachment_3240" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="We're talking about set-ups like this... although a lot smaller. That's the point. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy"]We're talking about set-ups like this... although a lot smaller. That's the point. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy[/caption]

Quick -- before it goes behind the pay wall -- check out this intriguing Wall Street Journal story on how plans to combat climate change could mean tearing up the wilderness.

The WSJ's Jim Carlton points out that across the country, and particularly in the West, are streams where power providers would like to install small hydroelectric dams. From a climate-change standpoint, this is great: Carbon-free power! Enough to serve millions of homes! And often, no threat of NIMBYs, says the piece, datelined in Sultan, Wash., just up the road from InvestigateWest World Headquarters:

A big public utility is on the  cusp of building a hydroelectric-power plant on a picture-perfect stream in the Pacific Northwest, but the plan has yet to draw the usual opposition.

That is in part because approved project, which involves building a dam on a tributary called Youngs Creek, is so small and remote that is has attracted little notice.

However, Carlton points out, the cumulative impact of actually building the thousands of these plants envisioned by power producers could have a substantial impact in the form of crisscrossing the backcountry with roads needed to build and maintain the dams.

The numbers cited by Carlton here in Washington state are instructive:

According to the U.S.

Obama administration approves pipeline for Alberta tar sands, skirts climate issue

I'm not finding a lot of coverage of a really important decision made by the Obama administration yesterday to allow construction of a pipeline to help move synthetic crude oil from the Alberta tar sands into the United States.

[caption id="attachment_2997" align="alignright" width="226" caption="Suncor Millenium Mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photo by David Dodge, The Pembina Institute"]Suncor Millenium Mine north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. Photo by David Dodge, The Pembina Institute[/caption]

Perhaps it's just that the decision by the U.S. State Department was expected. Or maybe it's that a deputy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actually made the decision Aug. 3 but waited until  these doggiest of the dog days to let the world know.

In any case, Steven Mufson of The Washington Post has the best story I've been able to find this side of the border, while Sheila McNulty's daily was a worthwhile follow to her earlier in-depth reporting on the tar sands for the Financial Times (registration required). And for more background, don't miss National Geographic's treatment.

Folks, this is one to watch carefully. We're talking about the largest proven petroleum reserve outside Saudi Arabia.

Faked letters to Congress on behalf of coal industry show twists of modern news media

The case of the coal industry's faked letters to members of Congress from  "constituents" is providing an interesting look at the modern news media as it changes.

Sure, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other behemoths had their own stories when news broke that a lobbying firm working for a group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity had hired a subcontractor that sent the bogus letters.

But nearly a week later, who's really following the scandal? It's getting legs in large part because so-called "new" media such as Talking Points Memo and Grist.org are bearing down on the story.

Kate Sheppard at Grist even found a new angle merely by looking in her news organization's past files (once known as a "morgue," which never made it sound enticing to dead-tree journos.) She offers today:

Grist contributor Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies reported in May 2008 that a representative for ACCCE, then known as Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), was caught misrepresenting the group in a phone call that aimed to drum up opposition to the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.

B.C. plans on using natural gas revenue to boost economy

British Columbia is creating its own “stimulus package” by cutting royalties on drilling new natural gas wells in an attempt to boost its economy and combat Alberta, reports David Ebner of the Globe and Mail. From September through next June, all wells drilled in B.C. will be charged only 2 percent royalties, compared to a plan developed by Alberta earlier in the year that charges 5 percent. Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom says the program he dubs a “stimulus package” will generate revenue that will go toward education and health.

– Emily Linroth

Gregoire extols jobs benefits of green energy

Joel Connelly of seattlepi.com has a lengthy and detailed post on Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire's testimony at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, with Gregoire in her traditional form as she extols the jobs benefits of green energy. Her prepared remarks for the testimomy today have Washington as the fifth largest state for wind power.