Go Carbon Tax
May 25, 2009


I thought of an opinion on pending legislation that I would like to record in the public archive of the Internet. The specific legislation is the American Clean Energy and Security Act and its primary purpose is to introduce a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions in America. The opinion I have is that this is a poor excuse for a bill and that a carbon tax would be a vastly superior solution to the climate crisis.



Power, cont’d (and robots)
January 10, 2009

Good timing! I got the clean coal post up right before this nice Time magazine takedown of clean coal came out. It’s quite a good article; I recommend it. EDIT: Here’s another link describing just why that ash stuff is such a problem anyways. 

Also, in last week’s Economist, I was struck by this paragraph stuck innocuously in the middle of a generic article about Japan’s economy. While worrying about Japan’s lack of population growth and its effect on the economy (I wish people would at least consider a no-growth paradigm, but that’s for another post too), the author notes (emphasis mine)

Conservatives have few answers. They call for incentives to keep women at home to breed (though poor career prospects for mothers are a big factor behind a precipitous fall in the fertility rate). Robot workers offer more hope to some: two-fifths of all the world’s industrial robots are in Japan. They have the advantage of being neither foreign nor delinquent, words which in Japan trip together off the tongue. Yet robots can do only so much.

Others are not so blasé.

A Meditation on Power
January 9, 2009

Image Credit Fred Bruenjes (moonglow.net)

Image Credit Fred Bruenjes (moonglow.net)

Electrical power, that is. The “clean coal” companies want a few billion dollars of the Obama stimulus money to “invest” in more coal power plants for our country, which they claim will be “cleaner” than current coal plants and thus provide cheap power without hurting the environment. Nirmal had a great post a few weeks ago highlighting some of the deception behind the “clean” part of “clean coal”, which I recalled today when I read there was just another such ash spill in Alabama. Also, coal power is by far the biggest contributor to global warming – even more than those fearsome SUVs!

We shouldn’t build any more coal power plants at all. What should we do instead? Personally, I’m a big fan of solar power. Photovoltaic solar panels don’t emit any carbon or other pollution once they’re built (more on that some other time). Solar power is completely sustainable for as long as the sun keeps burning (about 5 billion more years). And, with current technology, it can easily provide all of the power America needs. I find that last statement surprises a lot of people, so I’ll walk through a simple calculation to back it up. This is one of my favorite arguments for solar power, and some of you may have heard it before, but for those who haven’t, it’s really worth following it through one time. And I guess I should warn that it contains some numbers and very basic math. Feel free to challenge assumptions in comments if you’d like.