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Unified Green Field Theory

David Roberts,
I’ve argued that 2007 promises to be a year of great ferment and opportunity for greens of all stripes. It’s more important than ever that they get their act together and start pushing, as one, in the direction of sustainability and justice.

The bias of U.S. capitalism-in hock to the Chinese, awash in consumer debt, tottering atop a rickety real estate boom-is toward ever-escalating energy production, material consumption and concentration of wealth.

Pushing back against this tide will require a greater degree of coordination than the green movement has typically shown. Of course it would impractical to expect too specific a common agenda. Picking winners is a dodgy business, and each bloc in the green coalition has its own idiosyncratic interests. But if they can work out a common overarching chorus, one with which everybody from security hawks to conservationists to evangelicals can sing along, greens may finally start reaching beyond the choir.

I hereby propose just such an overarching message, a mere five words long: Use renewably generated electricity, efficiently, or URGE² (watch for the bumper sticker!). As far as greens are concerned, everything that advances that goal should be supported. What doesn’t should be ignored or opposed. Let’s pick it apart a little.

Mine negawatts. The cheapest source of new energy, as greens are practically hoarse from repeating, is not using it. Boosting efficiency will allow us to slash the growth of energy demand and offset the (for now) higher prices of renewable energy ….

Electrify. … The simple fact all greens need to internalize is that it’s easier to find clean, renewable sources of electricity than it is to find clean, renewable liquid fuels. The logic is inexorable: We need to shift almost all power use to electricity…

Kill coal. Coal is the enemy of the human race. It is corrosive to the communities and ecosystems where it is mined. …

Upgrade the grid.

(11 Jan 2007)
First part of this two part series by Grist staffer Roberts: Harmonizing Shades Of Green. Feedback and discussion on Gristmill.

Big Coal’s Dirty Move

Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
As the world heats up, the coal industry is racing to build more than 150 new power plants before Congress decides to crack down on global warming
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a suicidal act is one that is “dangerous to oneself or to one’s interests; self-destructive or ruinous.” By this standard, the coal boom that is currently sweeping America is the atmospheric equivalent of a swan dive off a very tall building. At precisely the moment that scientists have reached a consensus that we need to drastically cut climate-warming pollution, the electric-power industry is racing to build more than 150 new coal plants across the United States. Coal is by far the dirtiest fossil fuel: If the new plants are built, they will dump hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year for decades to come — virtually guaranteeing that the U.S. will join China in leading civilization’s plunge into a superheated future.

Like most stories about energy, corruption and greed, this one is centered in Texas. TXU, an electric-power company based in Dallas, has announced plans to build eleven new coal plants in Texas by 2011 — a move that a trade publication calls “one of the most ambitious generation capacity expansions in recent power industry history.” Texas already dumps more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other state in the nation. TXU’s new fleet of coal plants would more than double the company’s current pollution, spewing 78 million tons of planet-heating pollution each year — the equivalent of 11 million SUVs.
(12 Jan 2007)

A New Energy Policy for Europe

Luís de Sousa, The Oil Drum: Europe
Wednesday the European Commission released a series of Communications proposing a new revolutionary Energy Policy attempting to address EU’s energy challenges for the XXI century. This is a set of first comments to such proposals.

For a first perspective on what’s at stake, here’s a small graph published by the BBC, that’s worth many thousand words:

This new Energy Policy can be considered revolutionary for two reasons, first it acknowledges (although shyly) problems in the future energy supply and secondly it integrates Energy and the Environment. In doing so the Commission clearly draws a direction towards energy efficiency/conservation that suits both concerns with energy sources and sinks.

But in spite of a new clearer direction being drawn, the ways to follow it are in some cases not at all clear and in others openly wrong. Following is a brief analysis of each of the Communications, taking in perspective the daunting challenges imposed by the internal peaks in Oil and Gas production.
(11 Jan 2007)

Revisiting the EU Energy Plan – and its coverage

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
Now that the dust has settled and that the topic is already out of the news (displaced by Iraq, Beckham going to LA or the fact that oil prices are at record lows), it’s time to revisit the EU energy proposals, by taking a look first at the original material (their press release and their attempt at responding to expected questions or objections on their sector enquiry and on climate change goals) and then at press commentary (Google selection, summary articles from Le Monde and the Financial Times, other coverage collected by Fran in the Salon thread).

Somewhat predictably, the EC dutifully, and valiantly, focused on climate change as the main priority, and that garnered most of the coverage from the superficial media (TV, press agency releases) which have understood that climate change “sells.” However, the real action (identified, possibly, by the fact that the core documents are only available in English) focuses on energy markets “reform” and in particular the need for unbundling and other trustbusting measures to ensure competition.

The more serious papers focus only on that aspect, ignoring the boring and expected climate change stuff – just like the stock market does not focus on the news of the day, but on how they were different from expectations. And the business world could not care less about climate change (except if it imposes financial costs on them) but does care about the juicy opportunities to be provided by unbundling, corporate resturcturing and the like.
(12 Jan 2007)
Also at The Oil Drum. See originals for links, complete texts and feedback.