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Natural Gas: A Runaway Train or a Helping Hand?

The United States stands at an energy crossroads. Coal-fired power plants generated about half of our electricity as recently as 2007, but are now being retired at a record rate due to age, cost, and the need to cut carbon pollution. Aging nuclear power plants, which generate about twenty percent of our electricity, are also heading towards retirement, and few new plants are being built.

What will replace them? There are two paths forward. Read More

Categories: Energy, Fossil Fuels, Global Warming  

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Making Room for Renewables: Grid Integration Solutions for California’s Clean Energy Future

I’ve blogged many times about the clean energy policies California has in place that have made it a leader. The state is well on its way to supplying 33 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and now, in a visionary step to dramatically reduce global warming emissions, is considering ways to increase that amount to 50 percent by 2030. Read More

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Oil is Changing: Five Facts About Oil You Should Probably Know from the Carnegie Oil Climate Index

Most drivers think of “fuel” as gasoline or diesel—an erratically priced liquid that powers our cars and gets us places. But gasoline isn’t the only fuel that we use—electricity and biofuels are major players with growing potential—and even oil itself isn’t homogenous. In fact, oil is changing, and though the gasoline or diesel you buy may not have changed, the sources and impacts of producing it are shifting in imperceptible but important ways. This week a distinguished group of experts from across North America released an Oil Climate Index that provides insight, data and models into the changing nature of oil, and what it means for the climate. Read More

Categories: Fossil Fuels, Vehicles  

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Risking Our Clean Energy Future by Gambling with an Overreliance on Natural Gas

Many U.S. electric utilities are doubling down on natural gas to generate power as they retire aging and polluting coal plants. While this unprecedented shift does provides some near-term benefits, dramatically expanding our use of natural gas to generate electricity is an ill-advised gamble that poses complex economic, public health, and climate risks. Read More

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Will the Clean Power Plan Enable a Risky Over-dependence on Natural Gas?

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a significant opportunity to accelerate a transition to a cleaner, more climate-friendly power system. But the final rule, due out this summer, must include improvements and safeguards that constrain the role of natural gas. The Natural Gas Gamble, a new UCS report released today, points out that deploying more renewable energy and energy efficiency can help limit the economic and climate risks of an over-dependence on natural gas. Read More

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Willie Soon, Academic Freedom, and How We Can Deal With Undisclosed Conflicts of Interest

In the last week, the Internet has blown up. There were llamas, dresses, and bird-riding weasels. But what also blew up was an important discussion about conflict of interest disclosure and what information academic scientists should be expected to make public. Above all else, the debate has made clear that conflict of interest disclosure rules are lacking and that we need clarity from Congress, scientific societies, and academic institutions on how these issues should be addressed. Read More

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China’s Not So Silent Spring: Can One Video Save China’s Environment?

Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival (春节), is a time each year when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home to reunite with family and friends. Observers routinely note it is the largest human migration event on the planet.

This year, on the Sunday before returning to work from Spring Festival, an equally impressive number of Chinese downloaded an explosive on-line exposé on Chinese air pollution produced by former CCTV reporter Chai Jing. The film, called “Under the Dome,” is not the first Chinese effort to document the country’s growing environmental problems, but it is the first to generate this much interest. Read More

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Rep. Grijalva’s Requests and the Real Problem with Conflict of Interest Disclosure

On Tuesday, Arizona’s U.S. representative Raul Grijalva asked seven academics for their sources of funding and earlier drafts of testimony they have delivered before congressional committees. Since then, many have debated whether the requests cross the line into harassment or witch hunts or McCarthyism. Lost in the discussion around whether the requests are too broad is a bigger question to address: Why don’t we already know who funds the work of those who testify before Congress? Read More

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5 Reasons Why Colorado Should Increase—Not Roll Back—Its Renewable Energy Standard

UPDATE: (March 3, 11 a.m.): Good news! Yesterday, the Colorado House of Representative’s State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee voted against the proposed rollback of the state’s renewable energy standard, effectively killing SB 44 for the 2015 legislative session. This is yet another defeat for fossil fuel interests who do not want to compete with renewables on a more level playing field.

On February 5th, state Senate Republicans passed a bill to roll back Colorado’s renewable energy standard (RES), which has helped make the state a national leader in clean energy. Rolling back the RES is precisely the wrong direction for Colorado to go at this time. In addition to providing important benefits to Colorado’s economy, increasing renewable energy use is one of the most cost-effective strategies for complying with the EPA’s proposed power plant carbon standards. Read More

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Stormy Seas, Rising Risks: New Analysis Shows Undisclosed Climate Change Impacts at Oil Refineries

Ten miles outside New Orleans stands a two-million barrels per day oil refinery, surrounded by the Meraux, Louisiana community. On low-lying ground along the Gulf coast, an elaborate network of pipes and smoke stacks looms beyond double-wide trailers, rows of single-family homes, and a playground. By 2050, the refinery and surrounding areas could be underwater, given intermediate sea level rise estimates. But this won’t be the first time the refinery has seen high water levels. Read More

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