GOP Congress = Ragnarok for Campaigners on Climate

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University

Ancient Norse mythology concludes with Ragnarok, a god-killing end of days that makes the Book of Revelation look like tea time; it’s also a pretty fair description of most environmentalists’ take on the fate of government action on climate change in the wake of a GOP takeover of the House and/or Senate come November. Picture a George Romero zombie flick in which the virus also destroys your ability to believe in the science of global warming.

Mike Castle of Delaware, the lone GOP senate candidate who voted for cap-and-trade, lost the primary to Christine O’Donnell – ironically, she represents one fewer seat for the GOP come November, given the long odds of her victory in the general election.

Even among those who advocate for action on climate change, not everyone agrees  the changes predicted to come out of this election season will be bad for climate and energy legislation. Other activists argue cap-and-trade was the wrong approach in the first place, and it hasn’t worked for Europe.

Here Comes the State-Level Battle over Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

Schemes for limiting greenhouse gas emissions in states including New Jersey and California are the next battleground. Four states are planning to sue California if a ballot proposition challenge to its greenhouse gas-limiting law fails. Governors for half the states in the Union signed a letter urging Congress to pass a Renewable Energy Standard.

The EPA’s Ability to Regulate CO2 Emissions Is Intact, for Now

The Senate Appropriations Committee did not vote on an amendment to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from acting on its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, but Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid did promise a vote on the subject during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress.

If it passes, the measure would freeze EPA action on emissions for two years. Energy trade groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are for it, while EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson blasted lobbyists for making “doomsday predictions” about the consequences of EPA action on greenhouse pollutants.

Country Stars Headline Dueling Coal Rallies

The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security sponsored a pro-coal rally in D.C. featuring Dolly Parton’s sister, arguing new clean water standards threaten their jobs. Across the lawn, Big of Big and Rich headlined an anti mountain-top removal rally.

Appalachia turns out to also be a great place to build wind turbines, putting the two energy sources (wind and coal) in direct conflict.

U.S. Unions vs. China’s Green Subsidies: FIGHT!

The United Steelworkers Union filed a trade case against China and its subsidies of green technology. China rejected the claims while arguing that were such a case to be pursued by the Obama administration, it would more than a little hypocritical. China is also unhappy about the state of forthcoming climate talks – the gist is that industrialized countries should go first on emissions cuts.

Obama: No Carter

The administration rejected activists’ attempt to convince the president to restore President Carter-era solar panels (actually, solar hot water heaters) to the roof of the White House. On the other hand, the Department of Energy is moving to enforce energy efficiency and water-conservation standards for the first time in 35 years.

World Bank: Conflicted

Last year The World Bank invested a record $3.4 billion in coal power, but it’s all good, because they also just hired renewable energy guru and UC Berkeley professor Daniel Kammen as their chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

It’s Not Too Late, If We Accomplish the Improbable

A new study reveals as long as we don’t build any more greenhouse gas emitting factories or power plants, we can let our existing fossil fuel-powered infrastructure live out its natural life without exceeding an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450 ppm.

Biofuel from Microbes Gets Serious

The Navy has ordered 150,000 gallons of algae-based biofuel, part of its effort to get half of its energy needs from non-fossil-fuel sources within 10 years. Joule Biotechnologies, which has been making wild claims about the economics of its super-secret fuel-spewing microbe, finally revealed it is in fact a cyanobacteria that sweats diesel and other useful hydrocarbons .

The Usual Domestic and International Explosion in Clean Energy

U.S. Utilities are trading natural gas for coal and ramping up their production of hydropower.

U.S. entrepreneurs are opening solar panel factories in China because of a friendly investment climate, and U.S. investors seem to agree: VantagePoint is setting up a $100 million yuan-denominated venture capital fund to invest in cleantech in Tianjin.

China’s top wind power company was founded just five years ago.

$249 million in Stimulus funds allowed A123 to open the  largest U.S. electric vehicle battery plant, in Michigan; 60 percent of the wind turbines used in the U.S. are built domestically, in part because it doesn’t make economic sense to manufacture them overseas.

A clean energy advocacy group argued the Senate’s inability to pass a climate and energy bill cost the U.S. 1.9 million jobs.

Geoengineering Can’t Turn Back the Clock

How much geoengineering is enough to return the planet to a cooler, pre-emissions state? It depends on where on planet earth you live, says a new study suggesting that even this last-ditch attempt to cool the planet will lead to winners and losers.

Adaptation – Or Retreat?

Economists are beginning to wonder whether or not oceanfront development threatened by sea level rise is worth saving.

Extinction at the Top of the World

An “unprecedented” mass migration of walruses onto dry land may have been caused by declining Arctic sea ice. Walruses are one of 17 Arctic-dwelling bird and mammal species threatened by climate change.

Is Understanding of Climate Change Gendered?

“Men still claim they have a better understanding of global warming than women, even though women’s beliefs align much more closely with the scientific consensus,” says Aaron M. McCright, an associate professor at Michigan State University.