Blog

Will Joe Biden get tough on cleaning up our car fleet?

When Ford's CEO says his company will shift 90% of its sales to SUVs and trucks, you KNOW that our current fuel economy standards are failing us. Which presidential candidates will insist on revamping them? In an Opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer (online yesterday, in print Monday), I warn that falling back on Obama's CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) reforms will not solve the problem.

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Ignoring Nuclear's Downsides

In an editorial earlier this week, the Boston Globe utterly ignored the grave hazards of nuclear power and misrepresented the high costs of maintaining this hugely subsidized energy resource. Perhaps most galling, it blamed the Conservation Law Foundation and other watchdog groups for boosting New England's greenhouse gas emissions rather than crediting the region's environmental organizations with spearheading a sensible transition to safer and more sustainable energy resources.

Here is my response, in a letter the Globe published yesterday. 

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It's Time to Dethrone the SUV

Our climate crisis calls for a fundamental change in the policies that shape America's automobile fleet. In the "POV" (Point of View) section of Boston University's daily publication, BU Today, I have outlined some of the fundamental flaws in our current motor vehicle fuel economy standards, explaining how these distortions have led U.S. manufacturers and car-buyers to shift toward bigger, more energy-wasteful trucks and SUVs.

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Social Conservatism & Energy Enlightenment on the Kansas Prairie

Earlier this summer I revisited Cloud County, the staunchly conservative farming and ranching community in Kansas where, nine years ago, I began exploring windpower's American ascent for my book, Harvest the Wind. On my return visit in June, I was searching for a few strands of hope that might help us span the political chasm separating red and blue America today. Two articles emerged from this journey.

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Our Careless Rush toward Driverless Cars

Autonomous vehicles may be alluring, but we're not ready for them, and they're not ready for us.  In this New York Times letter to the editor, I argue that we should proceed with much greater caution in exploring driverless mobility in the wake of the killing of Elaine Herzberg on a quiet Sunday evening in Tempe, Arizona. I also suggest that investing in mass transit may be a better way to reduce traffic hazards on our most crowded roads and highways.

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Harvard's Hesitant Move to Cleaner Energy

In a letter of the Boston Herald today, I call on Harvard University to scrub fossil fuels from its endowment - a move that it has long resisted despite ardent calls by students, faculty, and alumni.  My letter was in response to a short AP article which lauds the university for committing to cease using fossil fuels to meet its operational needs by 2050.  See my full blog post for the text of this letter.

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Denmark's Renewable Energy Island Comes of Age

At a time when President Trump and his followers in Congress are hell-bent on dismantling the clean energy architecture of the Obama era, many Americans are looking beyond Washington, and even abroad, for solutions to our climate crisis. I recently witnessed one of these transformative gems on a visit to the Danish island of Samsø, which just passed the twenty-year mark in a campaign to supply all of its energy needs from local renewable resources. I wrote about this pioneering initiative for Beacon Broadside, the blog outlet of my publisher Beacon Press. Here's a link to the article.

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Keeping Our Cool as Population Booms

It's appropriate to advocate for the use of more efficient, less carbon-emitting chemicals for air conditioning, but the growing number of people needing air conditioning in a warming world deserves equal or greater focus. I make this argument in a New York Times Letter to the Editor, in response to an article that singles out the importance of finding a less damaging refrigerant than hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Apologies for the belated posting of this exchange!

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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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