How Not to Save Nuclear

Emergency Bailouts Aren’t Climate Policy

Nuclear closures are dramatic affairs. The past week has been a tragedy for FirstEnergy. It announced the planned retirement of three of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy for its subsidiaries, and requested an unlikely emergency subsidy — putting the fate of its nuclear plants in the hands of the federal government. The maelstrom of uncertainty surrounding FirstEnergy illustrates the challenges facing American nuclear as a whole. Nuclear is politically unpopular and economically undercut by natural gas; at least a dozen nuclear plants across the country are scheduled for retirement in the next ten years.

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Decoupling or Degrowth?

Why "Peak Stuff" May Not Be As Dire As You’ve Heard

Does humanity’s growing use of materials mean that decoupling is impossible? In a word, no, and attempts to reduce all resource and environmental problems to our material footprint won’t help us solve problems of resource scarcity or environmental impacts.

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On Supporting CCS

Carbon Capture Needs Strong Technology Policy, Just Like Solar Did

This month’s federal budget deal includes a tax credit for each ton of carbon dioxide pulled out of the atmosphere, which has reignited the debate over carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. The change to Section 45Q provides a tax credit of $50 per ton of captured CO2 to be sequestered and $35 per ton of CO2 to be reused. Carbon capture has long divided industry, activists, and analysts. Some solar advocates have been critical of CCS, pointing to its high costs, unproven results, and messianic expectations. It is undoubtedly an early-stage, high-risk technology. But solar was too, until very recently. It is because of this risk — not in spite of it — that carbon capture deserves patient government support.

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On Climate Hawks’ Revealed Preferences

What our actions tell us about how we think about climate change

I have long been a believer that the best way to ascertain people’s intentions is to pay attention to what they do, not what they say. This concept is known in the parlance of economists and political scientists as “revealed preference.” People’s priorities as revealed by their observed behaviors often diverge quite substantially from what they say those priorities are.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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