Paul Birkeland

Paul Birkeland

Posts by This Writer

9 years 5 months ago

I’ve written before about the obstacles to getting a carbon emission cap passed by the US Senate. Here’s the other side of the story – something you can do on your own - a way to up the ante on carbon emissions without having to cajole myopic Senators from coal-producing states (who are, after all, a minority in this country).

The EPA is soliciting comment on rules governing carbon emissions, i.e. waste products created by burning coal. The courts have given the EPA jurisdiction over greenhouse gasses directly. But even before that, the EPA had...


9 years 5 months ago

People of a certain age will remember putting a “tiger in your tank” at the Esso gasoline station. I remember being really happy when they gave us a furry little tiger tail to stick out of the gas tank hatch. Well the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is going us one better. They want to help you put a wind turbine in your water tank.

The BPA is a US Federal agency that transports and sells power, primarily from the Government-owned dams on the Columbia River here in the Pacific Northwest. But while the BPA answers to Federal...


9 years 5 months ago

The Laws of Thermodynamics are harsh. They mandate that each time you transform energy from one form to another, you are going to lose at least a third of it. And that’s if your systems are perfectly efficient, which none of them are. Think about making biofuels using solar panels for the energy input.

The Laws mean that only two-thirds of the light energy hitting the panel is actually converted into electrical energy. (In reality it’s more like one-fifth, a pretty dismal capture rate.) Then that electrical energy gets converted to a...


9 years 5 months ago

What if I told you that we already have the tools we need to reduce our nation’s electric and natural gas energy consumption in hand, and that those tools reside, not with the Federal Government, but with each State. Wouldn’t that be something? And in many places it doesn’t even require legislation.

Well, here I am, and that is exactly what I want to tell you.

I was speaking with a fellow with the Environmental Integrity Project in Indiana the other day. The EIP, by the way, is doing...


9 years 5 months ago

One airline is advertising that its fleet emits less carbon emissions than a Prius per passenger mile. Obviously there’s more to being “green” than low carbon emissions. But let’s follow this story.

EasyJet, a low cost carrier (LCC) in Europe, advertises that its fleet produces lower carbon emissions, i.e. CO2, per passenger mile than “the best selling hybrid car.” If so, this would be good news after all the bad news we’ve heard regarding airline carbon emissions. I mean, the Union of Concerned Scientists advises people to take vacations by bus or train to reduce the...


9 years 5 months ago

Just when you thought cap-and-trade was dead, the seven Western states and three Canadian provinces comprising the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) unveiled their plans Tuesday for a regional program to create a carbon emissions market to fight climate change. It’s a promising development at a time when national leadership is enthralled by <a href = http://www.justmeans.com/Why-Energy-Emissions-Legislation-Will-Make-Duck... minority rule</a...


9 years 5 months ago

You really have to see this.

I’m not so much a fan of NASCAR. Or, to be honest, of any auto racing event or league. The picture of fossil-fueled cars driving around in circles as fast as they can, getting nowhere, is too painfully symbolic and apt for me. But, face it, clean energy and environmental awareness need a broader base of support than they’ve currently got. Still, I would not think that the NASCAR demographic is the place to find it.

But one fellow, either visionary or quixotic, it’s...


9 years 5 months ago

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times reported this from The China Daily the other day:

"BEIJING - The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission ... Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said.”

...

9 years 6 months ago

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the carbon emissions legislation, aka cap-and-trade bill, that he had hoped to move through the Senate this summer was being withdrawn. This is profoundly disappointing, and represents another example of <a href="http://www.justmeans.com/Why-Energy-Emissions-Legislation-Will-Make-Duck..."> Minority Rule </a>  in the US Senate. But if the carbon emissions cloud itself lacks a silver lining, the demise of the carbon emissions...


9 years 6 months ago

Otto von Bismarck once said that “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see either of them being made.” You’re on your own with the sausage, but we need to pay attention to the energy and emissions legislation being worked right now in the Senate. There, in another incidence of minority rule, Senators are mulling over energy and emissions legislation that will cover only power plants.

Now, power plants account for about 33% of our total emissions, and are by far the largest single source. But leaving out oil refineries, concrete plants and other...


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