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Archive for April, 2010

Published by the ABC, Australia’s national broadcaster. Cross posted at The Real Ewbank.

Australia needs a Plan B for climate policy. We need a nation-building project on the scale of the Snowy Mountains Scheme to invest in renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure. This is the fresh approach needed to drive Australia’s transition towards a clean economy and protect the nation from dangerous climate change.

The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday that the government will delay its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme until 2013 is a tacit admission that pricing carbon is not viable in the current political environment.

Labor and proponents of emissions trading have been living a fantasy for too long. They have ignored the realities of politics to pursue a policy that had no reasonable chance of being implemented at a time when climate change experts agree we must act. Now, Australia is set for yet more inaction.

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Cross posted at The Real Ewbank and Beyond Zero Emissions.

The Australian Greens have put high-speed rail (HSR) back on the national agenda. Greens leader Senator Bob Brown has called on the Rudd government to fund a study identifying the best route for connecting Australia’s two largest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, with HSR.

The ambitious project represents the type of nation building that should be at the heart of national climate policy. The project has the potential to reduce Australia’s ballooning carbon emissions, and kick-start the development of a larger HSR network that can one day connect all of Australia’s mainland capital cities.

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Cross-posted from Americans for Energy Leadership

China is building an ambitious “Solar Valley City” as a new national center for manufacturing, research and development, education, and tourism around solar energy technologies. as part of the Chinese government and industry’s efforts to promote clean energy technology and grow the nation’s global market share (see video below beginning at 10 seconds).

Solar Valley City is located in Dezhou, Shandong Province, where I visited last month as part of a delegation from Stanford University, and it is unlike any city you’ve seen before. The city houses over 100 solar enterprises including major firms like Himin Solar Energy Group Ltd, the world’s largest manufacturing base of solar thermal products, and Ecco Solar Group. According to reports, around 800,000 people in Dezhou are employed in the solar industry, or one in three people of working age.

“China’s solar thermal industry and Himin’s complete industrial chain are examples for the rest of the world. That sounds brash, but it’s true,” said Himin’s CEO Huan Ming in 2009, now one of China’s richest men. Himin specializes in solar thermal technology, producing over twice the annual sales of all solar thermal systems in the United States, and it is quickly expanding into solar photovoltaics and other technologies.

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By Alex Trembath, originally posted at Energetics


“The America COMPETES Act, originally passed in 2007 in response to major challenges to US economic competitiveness spelled out by the National Academies’ seminal report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, is up for re-authorization.”


The COMPETES Act is designed to strengthen R&D funding for “critical science and technology agencies,” and so represents a vital component of any US action on energy policy. The process of decarbonizing the economy and replacing our ubiquitous carbon-fueled energy infrastructure is certainly the most massive and urgent technological challenge of our time, and we will need not just carbon prices and conservation but unprecedented scientific and social breakthroughs to guide our path. The best way to locate and realize those breakthroughs is through public and private activity, research and experimentation.


This whole story reminded me of a quotation from The West Wing, which I labored to dig up for my loyal readers:

“Great achievement has no road map. But the X-ray’s pretty good. So is penicillin. And neither were discovered with any practical objective in mind. When the electron was discovered in 1897, it was useless; and now we have a whole world run on electronics. Hayden and Mozart never studied the classics – they couldn’t. They invented them. “

– Dr. Dalton Milgate, “Dead Irish Writers”

The energy quest requires great achievement, practical objectives and a complete redesign of global infrastructure and economies. Dr. Milbank’s invocation of the electron and his overall motivation in The West Wing is very appropriate for our discussion – his above soliloquy was intended to persuade a US Senator to invest $12 billion in particle physics for one simple purpose: discovery.


The fate of the COMPETES Act (along with RE-ENERGYSE, the climate/energy bills in Congress, and our nation’s long-term effort on energy technology policy) will determine if America is serious about discovery, about competitiveness. If we fail, we will take our place in the new world order as a second-rate nation – once the standard bearer of free enterprise and scientific ambition, but now too economically short-sighted and politically gridlocked to rise to the challenges of our times.

Alex is an environmental economics major at UC Berkeley, and founder of the Energetics Blog.

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Over at Dot Earth, Andrew Revkin discusses geoengineering and includes this hilarious “primer” — the epitome of education:

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: info@leadenergy.org
April 08, 2010 | Washington, DC

Calling Young Leaders: Apply for Policy Fellowship with Americans for Energy Leadership

Americans for Energy Leadership, a new project of Scientists & Engineers for America, is now accepting applications for the position of Policy Fellow, seeking the nation’s brightest young adults to perform high-level research, development, reporting, and advocacy on energy and innovation policy. Full-time and part-time positions are available in Washington, DC and across the country.

The position is paid and designed especially for college students, graduate students, recent graduates, and young professionals, including a full-time summer track and a non-resident, part-time track. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until May 2nd for the summer track, and May 23rd for the non-resident track. See http://www.leadenergy.org/our-team/positions for more information (also posted below), and for upcoming information on open positions.

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