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Aggregating Energy Since 2006

Climate Change

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We have a lot of local climate change events in the immediate future, so I wanted to note them. First of all, many people have been talking about Bush using the term "global climate change" in his State of the Union address this week. Unsurprisingly, Bush's energy proposals are imaginative only in the sense that they are deceitful.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America's energy supply -- and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power -- by even greater use of clean coal technology ... solar and wind energy ... and clean, safe nuclear power.

Let's parse this. In the first sentence, he says we must "diversify America's energy supply." One might expect this to mean that we should get our energy from more sources or organize those sources so that rely upon each in a roughly proportional amount. Next sentence. We need to use more coal. We rely upon coal for electricity to a major degree. Some 50% of electricity in the U.S. is generated from coal. If we were to diversify our energy supply, we would focus on things like wind and solar and perhaps even nuclear, although if we are to achieve a balance, we need to focus on wind and solar.

This is where the logic of "energy independence" clashes with that of mitigating global climate change. If we are to focus on energy security, we should focus on coal because we have lots of it domestically. However, coal is the worst fossil fuels in terms of increasingly greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, if we are to cut greenhouse gases, we must use less coal (unless carbon sequestration technology and policy clears its hurdles and can compete in the market like wind power).

I attended a lecture by the University of Minnesota's Dr. Tilman on biofuels and energy issues. His research is promising, but requires more research and years of experiments. This irritated the gentleman sitting in front of me who whispered that we need solutions now. While he is right in that we need to start implementing smart policies now (which many states are now doing, Minnesota included), I wondered if he actually understands the inertia in the system.

Inertia is not complicated. It is the tendency of objects in motion to stay in motion and for those at rest to stay at rest. The climate has massive inertia. We have spent hundreds of years putting too many greenhouse gases into the environment. As a result, we are committed to significant warning regardless of what we do today. The question is how we can limit it.

Those who think we still have time to prevent it are wrong. If we do not make this clear, we will face considerable pain in 5 years when the average person in the U.S. wonders why lifestyle changes are necessary if the climate is continuing to warm. While we need to start acting now, continuing to research makes a lot of sense and should be funded heavily by the government as well as private enterprises.

Many of these issues are covered in a good energy roundtable discussion led by WAMU's Diane Rehm. You can download the podcast here but it appears to cut off near the end.

At any rate, there are a number of events over the next couple of days that deal with climate change.

Friday, all day. Risk and Response Conference at the Humphrey Institute

Friday night, Minnesota Public Radio is doing some sort of a public forum on climate change. Tickets are sold out, but you can listen online - they will be streaming it from starting at 7:00. It will also be replayed on Tuesday's Midmorning show at 9:00AM.

Tuesday, 4:00PM - Several committees from the Minnesota Legislature are having a joint session on climate change. They will meet in the House Chamber. Committees involved will be: Environment & Natural Resources, Environment & Natural Resources Finance, Energy Finance & Policy and Transportation Finance.

On the agenda is Will Steger, Dr. David Tilman, Dr. Lee Frelich, Dr. Lucinda Johnson, Archbishop Harry Flynn and Bishop Craig Johnson.

The public will be able to view the event in rooms 217 and 316 of the State Capitol, where it will be projected on the walls, and on TVs in 123 State Capitol, the Capitol Cafeteria and 5 State Office Building.