The Skywriter

Climate blogs this week: high gas grices, oil sands, and wasting water -- 8/22

22
Aug

Climate blogs this week: high gas grices, oil sands, and wasting water -- 8/22

Here are a few of the week's biggest climate blog stories that didn't make it into the mainstream media.

It’s a little worrisome when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (2 out of the 3 richest men in the world) tour the oil sands of Alberta and express their interest in investing in one of the world’s dirtiest sources of petroleum. Jake Brewer on It’s Getting Hot In Here reports:

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates - the first and third richest men in the world - quietly toured Canadian Natural Resources Ltd’s Horizon oil sands project near Fort McMurray, Alberta, this week … Gates and Buffett were said to be “expressing curiosity” in the tar sands and perhaps considering investment. Let’s be honest, though. If two men who make >$4000 per minute simply on the interest of their holdings decide to take a field trip to one of the most potentially profitable regions on earth and meet with companies considered to be blue-chip long-term investments then they are thinking of investment … The ongoing development of tar sands - an energy source as dirty as coal - will greatly hinder our ability to secure a clean, just energy future.

Looking for a little upside in high gas prices? These days prospective home buyers are increasingly wary of the high costs of a commute from golf course suburbia to a job in the city. Kaid Benfield at NRDC Switchboard outlines how increased gas prices are starting to cut back on suburban sprawl:

“Remember when golf courses surrounded by McMansions were sprouting up on the outskirts of many American suburbs? Today, with large-lot suburbia largely overbuilt, gas prices dragging down home values in developments far from their residents’ jobs, mortgage availability tightening, and more buyers looking for close-in convenience, this development model is struggling for financial survival.”

Tropical Storm Fay provides yet another example of the destructive power of storms strengthened by global warming. The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report on our increasing vulnerability to hurricanes. They found that increased temperatures will mean stronger hurricanes, heavier rainfall, and rising sea level. Check out this video from NWF outlining the main points of the report:


In a speech at the National Clean Energy Summit earlier this month President Bill Clinton touted a new idea, calling for new “energy independent communities." Daniel J. Weiss from the Center for American Progress reports at Climate Progress:

President Clinton’s speech included a new and important idea: create energy independent areas. These places would rely on renewables, efficiency, and home grown energy. These places would then prove to the rest of the world that energy independence built on clean energy can occur, and would lead to economic growth. He touted the strong economic potential of renewable energy, citing an example from nearby California “Recently the state of California commissioned a study…which showed that building a 100 megawatt solar thermal plant would provide ten times the economic benefit of a comparable coal-fired power plant. It would create 4000 person-years of employment, and a net, NET, $628 million of economic benefit.”

As Luis mentioned in the news roundup, the State of California continues to lead the way on environmental legislation. A new bill being debated in the state legislature would curb sprawl and help to develop more sustainable communities. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation. Grist reports:

Hopes are high that a bill aimed at curbing California sprawl will pass the state legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The bill, SB 375, would channel transportation funding toward projects that encourage smart growth. Each of California's 17 metropolitan regions would create a "sustainable community strategy" to encourage compact development; projects included in the strategy would get first dibs on transportation funds. In order to meet California's goal to cut greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020, "our communities must change the way they grow," says bill sponsor Darrell Steinberg (D). He adds, "You can't meet our goal just with alternative fuels. You have to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled. If people are going to drive -- and they are going to drive -- we need to plan in ways to get them out of their cars faster."

This one isn't directly climate related, but it looks like Lance Armstrong isn't just a champion cyclist. He's also the champion water user of Austin, Texas. Last month he used an incredible 330,000 gallons of water. Dave Loos of EnviroWonk reports:

Given the recent scarcity of rainfall and mandatory water restrictions imposed by the city, Austin officials would prefer that their most famous resident practice a little conservation. "We are definitely short on rain," Lisa Rhodes, a spokeswoman for the city water authority, said with a sigh, according to the New York Times. Armstrong, to his credit, sounded embarrassed by last week's story, which according to water records, is hardly an aberration. Armstrong used more than 222,000 gallons in June. "I'm a little shocked," he said when informed that his estate had become Waterworld. "There's no justification for using that much water ... I have no interest in being the top water user in Austin, Texas."

What did we miss? Share it with us in the comments!

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