Blog

No to Population Growth

Today, in a New York Times Letter to the Editor, I challenge investment strategist Ruchir Sharma's assertion that slow population growth is to blame for a lagging U.S. and global economy. Sharma's shortsighted perspective fails to look at the disastrous impacts of ongoing population growth on our already overstressed global environment.

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The View from Standing Rock

The months-long protest encampment at Standing Rock yielded a temporary victory earlier this month, when the Army Corps of Engineers halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline's final stage, crossing Lake Oahe just a mile upriver from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The environmental impact assessment called for by the Corps will hopefully provide fuller protection of this tribe's primary water source from a possible oil spill. 

Beyond that gain, a new alliance has been forged between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples who are committed to pursuing a post-fossil-fuel future. I discuss the first signs of a shift toward Native American clean energy in an op-ed that ran in today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Curbing Population, Cooling the Planet

Consumption patterns and fuel choice matter, but so does population growth -- the multiplier that we've managed to forget as we careen toward climate chaos. In today's Cognoscenti, Boston Public Radio WBUR's online thought forum, I argue that fostering well-informed reproductive choice is too important to ignore as an environmental priority. Here's a link to the article, "7.4 Billion and Counting: Could Curbing World Population Help Cool the Planet?"

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Our Headlong Rush toward Driverless Mobility

As we hurtle toward a future of driverless mobility, auto manufacturers, high-tech companies, and car services are racing to see who can be first to deploy autonomous vehicles on our city streets and inter-urban highways. In an article that ran last week in Cognoscenti, Boston Public Radio WBUR's online forum, I reflect on some of the more troubling aspects of our rush to embrace this utterly transformative technology.

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Floating Solar: Win-Win for Drought-Stricken US Lakes

Worried about our languishing Southwestern dams and reservoirs? Floating solar arrays, or "floatovoltaics," can help in two ways, generating major new increments of clean power while reducing surface evaporation on shrinking water bodies like Lake Mead and Lake Powell, on the Colorado River. I just wrote about this for Yale Environment 360.

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Climate Denial Lives on at Exxon

On the eve of Exxon Mobil's annual meeting in Dallas next Wednesday, it's worth taking a close look at a number of sensible shareholder resolutions addressing climate change that the oil giant consistently advises its shareholders to vote down. In a Boston Globe op-ed, I provide an overview of these resolutions and the company's arguments against them. I also report on my own belated divestment of Exxon and other fossil fuel stock.

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More Cars Than Ever, But What About Transit?

With 560,000 vehicles per day passing through its tunnels, Boston's Big Dig has boosted private car travel precisely when we should be broadening our reliance on low-carbon mobility. Major new investments in public transit were a precondition for proceeding with the Big Dig, yet one state administration after another has allowed most of these projects to languish. Yesterday's decision to revive the long-delayed Green Line extension to Somerville and surrounding communities is a necessary step toward getting Boston's transit commitments back on track. I welcomed this move today, in a Boston Globe Letter to the Editor.

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Net Zero Travelogue

In February, my wife Tamar and I set out on a West Coast tour of super-green buildings and communities. Here is some of what we found.

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Solar Santa Barbara

I went to UC Santa Barbara to shed a little light on solar power's promise and came away enlightened by what's happening on campus and in the labs of scientists trained by the university.  Within a year or two, a half-dozen solar arrays will generate roughly half of UCSB's minimum electric demand, reducing the campus's carbon footprint by about 6 percent. And a new PV window application could revolutionize solar use in the building sector.

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A Campus on Clean Wheels

Before visiting UC Santa Barbara last week, I knew the campus was committed to implementing a Climate Action Plan geared toward achieving full carbon neutrality by 2050.  Being there to witness the steps already being taken was an inspiration, and it wasn't just the solar arrays - planned and in place - that impressed me.

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Carrying Coals to Newcastle?

It's a little like carrying coals to Newcastle, but I'm very happy to be speaking about solar at UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 4pm, in the Corwin Pavilion. California is leading the country in its deployment of solar technology, with the sun generating 6.7% of the utility-scale power managed by the state's Independent System Operator (CAISO) during 2015.  And that doesn't even count the "distributed" solar electricity produced by hundreds of thousands of California households and businesses.

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Favorable review in CleanTechnica

I've never been called a "wind harvester" before. That's what Sandy Dechert dubs me in her very favorable review of Harness the Sun, appearing yesterday in CleanTechnica. I appreciate the moniker, though I was an admiring observer, not an actual harvester of wind in my first renewable energy book.  The sun, on the other hand, is a resource we've tapped on our home just outside Boston - the starting point in the solar journey that I trace in Harness the Sun. Dechert deftly encapsulates that journey.

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Back to the Future

Remember that day in October 1985 when Marty McFly blasted off into the future in his garbage-fed flying DeLorean? That future was, well, our recent past: October 21, 2015. John Rogers, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, has recorded a few of the technology milestones that have actually occurred in this 30-year period. See his blog, "The Equation."

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Harness the Sun review by Amory Lovins (Science mag.)

Harness the Sun was reviewed in this week's issue of Science by none other than Amory Lovins, who has been a leader in challenging conventional approaches to energy production and use for more than four decades.  I'm honored that this enduring force for energy sanity took a close and favorable look at my own exploration of solar power's role in building a more sustainable energy future.

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In Clash of Greens, a Case for Large-Scale U.S. Solar Projects

If we want to make solar power a mainstream source of U.S. electricity, can we afford to rely only on rooftops and parking lots, or do we need to extend our reach beyond the built environment?  In today's Yale Environment 360, I answer this question and examine some of the challenges we face in building large-scale solar power plants on America's farmland and open spaces.

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Hillary's Plan to Save the Planet

My take on "Hillary's Plan to Save the Planet" in today's Daily Beast makes it clear why her goal of "enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within ten years" stands apart from Herbert Hoover's 1928 promise of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage."

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