Paul Birkeland

Paul Birkeland

Posts by This Writer

9 years 2 months ago

Many people already realize that cows are a climate change catalyst. When it comes to carbon emissions, cows worldwide generate 37 percent of anthropogenic methane. (Their methane is ours since their numbers are due to our dairy and meat production.) And methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. So this is quite a bit. In fact, some researchers have estimated that if we stopped eating beef, we would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking all our cars off the road! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

LiveScience.com recently reported that...


9 years 2 months ago

The main problem with the failed cap-and-trade legislation is that we will be generating runaway carbon emissions for the foreseeable future. But the other problem is that the temptation arises to give away all the bargaining chips. That’s what’s happening in Congress now where energy policy legislation is still being churned in the back rooms.

The Governor’s Wind Energy Coalition published a press release last week encouraging Congress to pass a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES), basically mandating that...


9 years 2 months ago

Imagine if some corporation discovered coal under your house, and you were powerless to stop them from extracting it. (This is actually the case for a lot of landowners in Wyoming who don’t own the mineral rights under their property, and are now subject to disturbance by oil companies using new technologies to extract oil and gas. But that’s actually another story.) Indian tribes have been in this position for over a hundred years, with little recourse to the courts. But things may be changing.

Indian Country Today reported that Montana’s Crow Tribe took a big step in...


9 years 2 months ago

The DOE awarded $57 million to support clean energy technology commercialization projects for 33 small businesses across the country. These projects were funded as part of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Small Business Phase III Xlerator program.

Part of the fascination with such a list is that, since money is attached to each project, it gives you clear evidence of what’s been deemed viable in the clean energy world. (And, by omission, what has not.) It’s like reading really expensive tea leaves. It may be a little biased. This was a small business program and shows what...


9 years 3 months ago

I read an article recently that advocated abandoning the “yes, but” paradigm for a “yes, and” paradigm. “Yes, but” drives us to become fixated on obstacles and difficulties. “Yes, but we tried that before.” “Yes, but we don’t have the technology.” “Yes, but people won’t change.”

“Yes, and” on the other hand drives us to see the relationships that make things possible. “Yes, and we can also alleviate the waste disposal problem.” “Yes, and we can also use it for communications.” “Yes, and this is something that community groups can lead.”

I found a good example of “yes, and” this weekend...


9 years 3 months ago

In a pond where the lily pad population doubles every week, the philosopher/environmentalist David Suzuki once told us, the week before the lily pads smother the whole pond, half the water is still open, so choking from overcrowding still seems a long way off.

I thought of this when no less an institution than the insurance underwriter Lloyd’s of London released a report titled “Sustainable Energy Security: Strategic Risks and Opportunities for Business.” It made me wonder how close we were getting to choking in the energy world.

I had already started to...


9 years 3 months ago

What’s become clear is that the fossil fuel industry, the most profitable enterprise known to man, defeated the Senate’s watered-down climate change legislation this summer without even breaking a sweat. And given how hot the summer was in many parts of the world, that’s saying quite a bit. Are we angry enough yet?

On October 10, 2010 (10/10/10), the international organization <a href=http://www.350.org>350.org...


9 years 3 months ago

What would Captain Kirk do? Say what you will, his ability to compartmentalize everything in a crisis and just keep moving forward was the implicit core of a vast majority of Star Trek episodes.

For us facing a climate crisis, on the other hand, maybe compartmentalization is not such a good idea.

There's an argument going on in the forestry community about the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide. Here's the problem: Older trees store more carbon, but...


9 years 3 months ago

There’s a persistent dream that if we just brew enough biofuels we can continue living the way we do – commuting 50 miles to work each day, flying strawberries in from Argentina in January, and driving a warehouse on wheels to lower prices. The dream is getting harder to sustain, especially in regard to the biofuels portion of it.

I’ve argued before that biofuels should be viewed as an energy transport...


9 years 3 months ago

Quick, which will save more energy, changing your washer setting to ‘medium’ from ‘high,’ or line drying your clothes? Is it better to ride your bike, or buy a hybrid car?

The answers may surprise you. But it probably won’t surprise you that there’s a good deal of confusion in the US on energy saving strategies. A recent study by researchers at Columbia University, Ohio State University, and Carnegie Mellon University concluded that people’s perceptions of the energy savings of various actions don’t reflect reality very well. Consequently, their actions, while virtuous and well-...


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