Solar Power: The Case for Tempered Optimism

How the EIA and IEA underestimated industry’s growth, and why we must still be cautious

The rapid growth of solar power in the 2010s, both in the United States and worldwide, is one of the big success stories in recent energy history. However, as many analysts have pointed out, this success is one government agencies failed to foresee. Why have forecasts consistently underestimated the growth of solar and how can forecasts be improved in the future? This is an important question, since as we think about the options for decarbonizing the world’s energy system, we need to know what different technologies can do.

Read more

Don’t Count Out Vertical Farms

Indoor Ag Might Use More Energy to Use Less Land, Fertilizer, and Pesticide

Many environmental writers and experts, such as Stan Cox, Lloyd Alter, and Michael Hamm, dismiss vertical and other fully indoor farms as being overly energy intensive. These farms rely on artificial lighting, heating and cooling systems, and vertical stacking of crops to dramatically raise crop productivity. Their critics are right in one respect: high energy use is an unavoidable downside of vertical farms.

Read more

Reforesting the Amazon

Why Agricultural Intensification Is Key to Restoring the World's Tropical Forests

Conservation International recently launched the world’s biggest tropical reforestation project in the Amazon. The scale of it is huge: 73 million trees covering 70,000 hectares of degraded land. Only China and Africa’s Great Green Wall projects are more ambitious.

The scheme is clearly good news. But even as we celebrate restorative efforts like this one, we need to remain focused on the root causes of deforestation. Protecting primary forests requires concrete steps to address the greatest threat of all: agriculture.

Read more

Where Does Decarbonization Come From?

Nuclear, Hydro, and Economic Growth

We know the world is not decarbonizing fast enough to reach global climate targets. But it turns out that no single country, anywhere, ever, has even achieved emissions progress of the scale needed.

Read more

The Problems with a Large-Scale Shift to Organic Farming

Questionable Assumptions in the Case for Organic

A new study, led by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, gives the impression that a large-scale shift to organic farming would largely bring environmental benefits. And indeed, that’s how the paper has been covered. But if we look under the hood, the findings are dependent on several pretty questionable assumptions about diets and production systems that, together, make the paper’s conclusions hard to take too seriously.

Read more

Might Feedlots Be the Sustainable Option?

The Limited Carbon Sequestration Potential of Cattle Grazing

A new report provides further evidence that cattle grazing, even when purportedly low-impact practices are used, might not be carbon-neutral or reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking: experts have long known that cattle have disproportionately large environmental impacts, especially when they spend their entire lives on pasture. This report adds to our understanding by calculating that at a global scale, grazing systems cannot sequester more carbon than is produced over the life of the cattle. What it doesn’t do, however, is consider how the environmental impacts of different production systems square up.

Read more

Potential Energy

Hopes for Hydropower in Africa

By Ted Nordhaus and Emma Brush

The extraordinarily ambitious Grand Inga project on the Congo River provides a potent symbol of the potential that hydropower holds in Africa. On a continent where vast numbers of people lack access to electricity and rely on biomass as their primary energy source—the ramifications of which range from local pollution to grave health outcomes to gender inequity, not to mention the severe limitations on energy consumption that any use of biofuels entails—the development and generation of clean, abundant, and affordable energy would be revolutionary. And indeed, this is not an idle possibility; while the towering aspirations of Grand Inga, slated to cost around $80 billion as the world’s largest hydroelectric project, may raise more questions than answers, it is nevertheless the case that hydropower stands as the lone clean energy source to rival coal and gas in cost on the continent.

Read more

 1 2 3 >  Last ›

Voice of the Founder