Category Archives: Climate change

Pace of innovation accelerating in Clean Tech

Aug 9, 2011 2:08 PM

I came across these two articles demonstrating the rapid pace of technical improvement in clean energy. In spite of all the bad news from the debt deal (funding cuts for clean energy research), at least we’ll see returns from previous investments.

A lot of the breakthroughs below come from innovation in academic settings. More and more, it seems like public investment in applied academic research yields high returns.

5 breakthroughs will make solar power cheaper than coal

1. Nano-templated molecules that store energy
MIT associate professor Jeffrey Grossman and others successfully created a new molecule called azobenzene using carbon nanotubes to structure the molecules so that they “lock in” stored solar thermal energy indefinitely.
2. Print solar cells on anything
An MIT team led by professor Karen Gleason has discovered a way to print a solar cell on just about anything, using low temperatures and vapor as opposed to liquid solutions that are expensive, require high temperatures and degrade the substrate materials.
3. Solar thermal power in a flat panel
Professor Gang Chen was been working on a revolutionary new way to make solar power — micro solar thermal — which could theoretically produce electricity at 8 times the efficiency of the word’s best solar panel. Solar thermal usually requires huge arrays of mirrors that heat up an element to run a steam turbine.
4. A virus to improve nano-solar cell efficiency
MIT graduate students recently engineered a virus called M13 (which normally attacks bacteria) that works to precisely space apart carbon nanotubes so they can be used to effectively convert solar energy.
5. Transparent solar cell could turn windows into power plants
The world’s cities are packed with miles and miles of glass. What if all that glass could be used to harness the sun’s rays while maintaining their transparency?

Wind Power Gains as Gear Improves

Challenges remain, but the technology has come a long way in recent years, and wind farm operators have learned plenty of tricks, too, like the importance of shutting down the machines in high winds and the best places to put them to begin with.

The turbines have grown larger, and more effective. One model made today by Vestas, a Danish turbine manufacturer, can produce 300 times as much power as a turbine sold 15 years ago, according to Finn Strom Madsen, the president of technology research and development for Vestas.

But experts say that vast improvements in wind technology still lie ahead — which makes sense for an industry that is about 100 years behind, say, that of the automobile.

Read more at NYTimes.

Romney talks sense on climate

Jun 4, 2011 11:46 AM

Mitt Romney surprised a lot of folks this weekend by jumping off the climate-denial bandwagon. This probably makes him more appealing to independents, but might give candidates like Newt Gingrich (climate change is “the newest excuse to take control of lives” by “left-wing intellectuals”) more room with right-leaning primary voters.

On a similar note, voters on the left are getting upset with Obama’s continual giveaways to the coal and oil industries. Creating a huge coal export market to China and domestic offshore drilling presence will only make it harder to go cold turkey when we need to.


“The world is getting warmer”: Romney

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy on Friday by saying he believes that humans are responsible, at least to some extent, for climate change.

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

The former Massachusetts governor fielded questions on topics ranging from the debt ceiling to abortion on his first full day of campaigning for 2012 Republican primary nomination.

Romney leads opinion polls in New Hampshire by a wide margin, and is among the top contenders nationally to win the Republican primary.

But the candidate lost the publicity battle on Thursday when his campaign launch in New Hampshire was overshadowed by Republican star Sarah Palin, who swooped in as part of her East Coast bus tour to dominate local media coverage.

In addressing climate change and energy policy, Romney called on the United States to break its dependence on foreign oil, and expand alternative energies including solar, wind, nuclear and clean coal.

Read more at Reuters.

CAPper Kate Gordon gets big love from Nat Geo

May 26, 2011 1:47 PM

Kate Gordon got a huge shout out from National Geographic’s The Great Energy Challenge today. Mike Casey essentially casts her debate as the definitive blueprint for the defense and advocacy of clean energy.

My time at CAP ends tomorrow and being here for the inception of this coherent platform has been a tremendous privilege. The world is on the verge of something big in clean energy and CAP is going to be at the forefront of articulating its potential.

The video of Kate’s debate at Cato:

Here’s an excerpt from Casey’s post:

Clean Energy Advocate Gives a “How to” Clinic on Rebutting Fossil Energy Disinformation

Over the past few months, I’ve made the case that dirty energy lobby plays a full contact game against clean energy, using lobbying and disinformation as business weapons to drive the idea that clean energy is “expensive, unreliable and not ready.” Cleantech, I’ve said, needs to step up its advocacy game dramatically, including driving an honest debate about who is really “expensive.”

At the WINDPOWER International trade show this week, I spoke on a panel that fielded a number of questions about how to do that. It’s hard to find a better place to start by highlighting the clinic put on by Kate Gordon of the Center for American Progress at a recent “debate” at the fossil-funded front group, the Cato Institute.

Gordon faced off against a rising star in the dirty energy experts-for-rent stable, Andrew Morris, whose disinformation platform is the Koch-funded (and Koch-founded) “Mercatus Center.”

Gordon faced Morris on his home turf, a forum completely stacked against her and the clean energy side. Cato named the debate, “The false promise of green energy,” (I’m not making this up) and “moderated by anti-cleantech Cato Institute “Senior Fellow”Jerry Taylor (typical quote: “if wind energy were a sensible economic investment, it would not need the lavish federal and state subsidies already in place”). There’s got to be an operations manual for fossil fuel front groups to do this sort of thing: functions like a propaganda machine, but sport a neutral, benign and thoughtful name. Position yourself as good guys who just happen to come down on the side of the dirty energy interests that fund them. Invite clean energy advocate who can be counted on to bring a bunch of numbers, armload of facts and a strong belief in intellectual honesty and a reasonableness. Frame the conversation against clean energy advocate, put in well-trained mouthpiece, and route clean energy advocate. Claim victory and intellectual triumph.

Except, it was Gordon put on a clinic of not just how to stand up to dirty energy “experts,” but that you have to stand up to them in the first place.

Read the rest at National Geographic’s The Great Energy Challenge.

Wind and Solar among top ten thriving industries – WSJ

May 17, 2011 3:54 PM

According to the Wall Street Journal, Wind and Solar are among the top ten thriving industries in America.

The wind industry grew at 17% in the last decade and Solar grew at 2.7%, but they’re forecasted to grow at 11.2% and 7.9% respectively in the next six years.

Sector Revenue 2010 (in millions) Growth 2000-2010 Forecast Growth 2010-2016
Voice Over Internet Protocol Providers (VoIP) $12,498 194% 17.4%
Wind Power $3,388 16.9% 11.2%
E-Commerce & Online Auctions $95,005 12.2% 9.4%
Environmental Consulting $18,153 7.7% 9.4%
Biotechnology $86,971 11% 9.6%
Video Games $38,622 6.2% 8.3%
Solar Power $69 2.7% 7.9%
Third-Party Administrators & Insurance Claims Adjusters $57,530 6.9% 7.7%
Correctional Facilities $34,373 9.1% 7.5%
Internet Publishing & Broadcasting $32,573 25.2% 6.8%

It doesn’t take a genius to see which way the wind blows.


USA Today blasts climate deniers

May 17, 2011 11:28 AM

USA Today isn’t known for being a hugely political paper. It usually reports the news right down the middle and doesn’t get called out on Fox News for being part of the “Mainstream Liberal Media” cabal.

Which is one of the reasons it was the number one newspaper by circulation until last year (since eclipsed by the Wall Street Journal – this country is going to hell in a hand basket). They report the news and stay out of the big fights.

So it’s a pleasant surprise to see them come out with a strong editorial blasting climate deniers. It’s an indicator of just how far out of touch the GOP is and how the sensible majority views science denial.

Our view: America, pick your climate choices

One way to deal with a problem is to pretend it doesn’t exist. This approach has the virtue of relieving you from having to come up with a solution, spend money or make tough choices. The downside, of course, is that leaky faucets and other problems rarely solve themselves and, in fact, usually get worse if ignored.

Such is the case with climate change, a threat that too many members of Congress, most of them Republicans, have decided to manage by denying the science. That head-in-the-sand approach avoids messy discussions of higher energy prices, but it just got harder to justify.

Late last week, the nation’s pre-eminent scientific advisory group, the National Research Councilarm of the National Academy of Sciences, issued a report called “America’s Climate Choices.” As scientific reports go, its key findings were straightforward and unequivocal: “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.” Among those risks in the USA: more intense and frequent heat waves, threats to coastal communities from rising sea levels, and greater drying of the arid Southwest.

Read the rest at

Huntsman on climate science

May 17, 2011 10:32 AM

Finally, a GOPer with a rational view on climate change and the science behind it. From an interview with TIME:

This is an issue that ought to be answered by the scientific community; I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them. I respect science and the professionals behind the science so I tend to think it’s better left to the science community – though we can debate what that means for the energy and transportation sectors.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Huntsman won praises from Jimmy Carter. On CNN, Carter said that Huntsman is “very attractive to me personally.” It’s weird seeing the President considered the most liberal of the past century professing stirrings for a center-right politician.

But I suppose it’s a sign of the times. It’s and indicator of how extreme the GOP has become when a candidate decides to have a debate about policy rather than science. Frankly, we’re all pleasantly surprised.

Oil CEOs testify before Senate Finance Committee

May 12, 2011 1:34 PM

Some sharp words exchanged here. Apparently Conoco put out a statement saying the removal of oil subsidies is “un-American.”

Schumer and Menendez asked the CEO to apologize but he refused to do so.

Lots of CAP research cited by Dems and serious spin by R’s. I almost feel bad for the CEOs – all of their Republican defenders are leaving for a deficit reduction meeting at the White House. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Rockefeller said that the CEOs are out of touch because they can’t identify with the average person at the pump (Said the pot!). Besides Schumer’s well-rehearsed populist outrage, I think the discussion is getting too wonky and the CEOs are winning by throwing out confusing numbers.

Resurgence of climate denial

Apr 28, 2011 4:59 PM

This is a saddening indicator of how far the climate debate has fallen –

McCain on Climate:


Gingrich on Climate:


Contrast it with this –

Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty:


Chairman of the House Energy and Environment Committee Fred Upton:


Sad. Progressives are on firm, factual ground with climate but need to reintroduce it to the public debate in a forceful way. The entire case for clean energy simply isn’t the same without it!