Category Archives: Energy

Donald Trump commits the U.S. to his anti-science climate change denial (Updated)

Last week the New York Times reported, Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level:

After a season that saw temperatures soar at the North Pole, the Arctic has less sea ice at winter’s end than ever before in nearly four decades of satellite measurements.

The extent of ice cover — a record low for the third straight year — is another indicator of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, a region that is among the hardest hit by climate change, scientists said.

“This is just another exclamation point on the overall loss of Arctic sea ice coverage that we’ve been seeing,” said Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a government-backed research agency in Boulder, Colo. “We’re heading for summers with no sea ice coverage at all.”

Dr. Serreze said that such a situation, which would leave nothing but open ocean in summer until fall freeze-up begins, could occur by 2030, although many scientists say it may not happen for a decade or two after that.

Less ice coverage also means that there is more dark ocean to absorb more of the sun’s energy, which leads to more warming and melting in a feedback loop called Arctic amplification.

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A few interesting economic and other titbits

The ramifications of the wealth inequality problem so troubling to Western economists and policy makers is also affecting China. A new research paper by five authors, including Piketty and Saez, reveals that in 1978 the highest earning Chinese 10% took home about 25% of national income before taxes. By 2015, the take of the top 10% had risen to two-fifths of total income. The richest 10% now control about 70% of private wealth in China, up from 40% in 1995. The inequality issue was somewhat mitigated by China’s rapid economic growth. Between 1978 and 2015, the income level of the poorer half of the Chinese population quintupled. During the same time period in the United States, the income level of the bottom half of the population declined by 1%.

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The parade of horrors of Trump cabinet picks continues

President-elect Donald Trump made it official this morning. Rex Tillerson, Exxon C.E.O., Chosen as Secretary of State:

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-10-00-13-amIn [nominating] Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns that the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.

A statement from Mr. Trump’s transition office early Tuesday brought to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most outspoken critics, might be forgiven.

Instead, Mr. Trump has decided to risk what looks to be a bruising confirmation fight in the Senate.

In the past several days, Republican and Democratic lawmakers had warned that Mr. Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with Russia, which awarded him its Order of Friendship in 2013, and with Mr. Putin.

The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.

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Saudi Arabia’s big gamble

In the early 1970s, Saudi Arabia had a population of 5.6 million and the nation’s literacy rate was 15%. The situation changed over time as the governmentSA 3 invested hundreds of billions of dollars in modernizing and improving infrastructure, health care, educational systems and nearly every other physical aspect of Saudi life. Today, Saudi Arabia, which is one-fifth the size of the U.S. and mostly sandy desert, has a population of over 27 million and is 95% literate. Riyadh, the capital, has grown into a city of over 6 million. The country is oil rich, it contains around 16% of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and Saudi Arabia is the planet’s largest exporter of petroleum.

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SCOTUS leaves EPA’s MATS rule in place

The Supreme Court on Monday left intact a key Obama administration environmental regulation, refusing to take up an appeal from 20 states to block rules that limit the emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants that are byproducts of burning coal. Supreme Court rejects case challenging key White House air pollution regulation:

carbon-emissionsThe high court’s decision leaves in place a lower-court ruling that found that the regulations, put in place several years ago by the Environmental Protection Agency, could remain in effect while the agency revised the way it had calculated the potential industry compliance costs. The EPA finalized its updated cost analysis in April.

In a statement Monday, the EPA praised the court’s decision not to review the case, saying the mercury standards are an important part of a broader effort to ensure clean air for Americans.

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This can’t be good . . .

Chris Mooney, the environment and energy reporter for the Washington Post reports, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this’: Arctic sea ice hit a stunning new low in May:

The 2016 race downward in Arctic sea ice continued in May with a dramatic new record.

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The average area of sea ice atop the Arctic Ocean last month was just 12 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). That beats the prior May record (from 2004) by more than half a million square kilometers, and is well over a million square kilometers, or 500,000 square miles, below the average for the month.

Another way to put it is this: The Arctic Ocean this May had more than three Californias less sea ice cover than it did during an average May between 1981 and 2010. And it broke the prior record low for May by a region larger than California, although not quite as large as Texas.

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