Insider Secrets

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The Environment

  • Latest Pipeline Spill Here Could Galvanize Environmentalist Opposition

    A pipeline in California broke and spilled oil into the Pacific Ocean on May 19. Oil washed up on the shores in Santa Barbara County with the slick extending an estimated 4 miles. While data is preliminary, the pipeline may have spilled 21,000 gallons, or 500 barrels, perhaps even more. For now, it is unclear what caused the pipeline to rupture. Related: Some Good News From This War-Torn Nation’s Oil Industry The pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, was constructed in 1991 and has a daily throughput of about 150,000 barrels. “Plains deeply regrets this release has occurred and is…

  • California’s Climate Goals: Realistic Or Just Wishful Thinking?

     California is not participating in the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) – at least not independently – but that won’t stop the state from setting an example. On April 29, California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order to establish a statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Governor Brown hasn’t exactly upped the ante, but he’s attempted to provide regulatory clarity and urgency as the state moves toward its 80 percent reduction target by 2050. The medium-term objective matches a similar goal set by the European Union last October, but…

  • How Much Would Zero Emissions Cost?

    In 2014 global carbon emissions totaled 32 gigatonnes (Gt). If you’re counting, that’s roughly 32 Gt too many. Yes, zero, near-zero, or net-zero is what we want, and soon is when we need it. Failure to achieve such goals by the end of the century will irreparably damage our planet and leave us dangerously susceptible to new and harsher climate conditions, at least according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The United Nations agrees, though several countries openly reject the target. Paris 2015 should produce some positive momentum, but anything legally binding is unlikely to materialize.In an effort…

  • Top 5 Unanswered Questions About The BP Oil Spill

    In this Wednesday, April 21, 2010 aerial file photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, an oil slick is seen as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERALD HERBERT, FILE It’s officially been five years since BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster, a well blowout and subsequent oil spill that caused the deaths of 11 men. A lot has happened since — a massive cleanup effort, scientific research on impacts, civil and criminal court cases galore. But the answers to many basic questions about the historic tragedy remain either unknown…

  • The Fatal Flaw In The Climate Change Debate

    Everyone loves a courtroom drama--especially one that pits a feisty, but a determined criminal defense attorney against the awesome power of a prosecutor who has the resources of the state behind him or her. We see such David and Goliath stories every week on television. We cheer as the defense attorney pokes one hole after another in the case of the prosecutor, raising what the audience now perceives as reasonable doubt. But will the jury see it that way? We'll return after these messages.... This is just the sort of metaphorical setting into which the climate change denial lobby is…

  • Is The Paris Climate Conference Doomed To Fail?

    The United Nations Climate Change Conference – or Paris 2015 – is just around the corner, seven months to be exact. The goal is ambitious: to develop a viable, and comprehensive, successor to Kyoto, applicable to all countries, and with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees centigrade. Expectations are tempered, but hopes remain high as the particulars begin to take shape and individual nations confer their climate goals. Conspicuously absent thus far however, is any meaningful carbon dialogue from the world’s second largest emitter, the United States. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs are beginning to…

  • Who Will Control The World’s Water: Governments Or Corporations?

    Water is perhaps the world’s most important resource, and one of the most common resources. For decades water was regarded as a common good, and it was plentiful enough that in most parts of the world there was little money to be made off of it. Now as the world’s population continues to grow, all of that is changing. Late in March, Tetra Tech was awarded a $1B five year contract to help support the US Agency of International Development (USAID) and its water development strategies. Tetra Tech will help USAID by collecting data related to water use, develop water…

  • California: A Microcosm For Impending Global Water Crisis

    The move by California to require mandatory cuts in water use for the first time in its history has highlighted the world’s looming water crisis and increased the focus on the links between sustainable water and sustainable energy. “We need a new paradigm,” says Steven Solomon, author of Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization. “The days when we could just go further into the mountains and find new sources of water are past. We need to make better use of the water we have.” The good news is that this offers opportunities for investors in everything from…

  • The Uncomfortable Truth Behind Flat Carbon Emissions

    Last week we learned that maybe, just maybe, global carbon emissions were flat in 2014 even though the global economy supposedly grew by 3 percent. As Brad Plumer of Vox (whose work I greatly respect) points out, carbon emissions have moved up almost in lockstep with economic growth for the entire industrial age except during recessions and one year of growth 40 years ago. This is why I use "supposedly" when referring to the global economic growth number. It's because there is another obvious and plausible explanation for the flat carbon emissions, namely, that the global economy did not grow…

  • Is China Exporting Its Pollution?

    China is in the midst of a historic transformation, and the surprising progress the country has made at energy efficiency has raised hopes that the world may get a grip on global greenhouse gas emissions much sooner than expected. As a result of the progress China is making in cleaning up its industrial sector, global greenhouse gas emissions hit the pause button in 2014, the first time that has happened in four decades (absent a major economic contraction). The International Energy Agency said on March 13 that global greenhouse gas emissions hit 32.3 billion tons in 2014, the same level…