Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dr. Webber’s line of work set to grow like kudzu; China finds magic wand inside of dragon

The New York Times, this morning, critiques the world’s climate-change-tackling form, citing accusations of merely grabbing the opponent’s jersey and maintaining far too high a center of gravity. The report suggests a recent shift in practice is underway in the minds of a growing number of energy policy economists and scientists. Until recently, the perfect climate change form tackle has been a policy-driven carbon capping system that has been backed by the IPCC and all three U.S. presidential candidates. Just this week, though, articles appeared in Scientific American and Nature claiming that the current system of thought simply won’t be effective enough to bring the down Big Back, and that low-carbon technology – not energy efficiency – is the path to victory.

Jeffrey Sachs, head of Columbia’s Earth Institute says “If we try to restrain emissions without a fundamentally new set of technologies, we will end up stifling economic growth, including the development prospects for billions of people.” He demands a “major overhaul of energy technology.” The Nature article states “Here we address the magnitude of the technological changes required to meet that challenge [stabilizing atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations]. We argue that the size of this technology challenge has been seriously underestimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), diverting attention from policies that could directly stimulate technological innovation.” There you have it: energy Technology & Policy in the same sentence. Hot damn, did we sign up for the right class or what? Can you dig it?

One of the IPCC policy-section authors, Adil Najam of Boston University, doesn’t wholly disagree, but still backs a capping system for now: “You can do a tremendous lot with available technology. It is true that this will not be enough to lick the problem, but it will be a very significant and probably necessary difference."

Another report appeared in Nature recently, claiming China’s National Development and Reform Commission is unveiling massive alternative-energy plans. The country’s latest five-year plan forecasts that 10% of its energy will come from renewable sources by the year 2010. In particular, biofuels, wind, solar, hydropower and natural gas (renewable eh?) are targeted. This is related, in part, to the country’s target of reducing “major pollutant discharge” by 10% from 2005 levels by 2010. China is currently behind its target pace. It’s tough to tell what, if any, renewable energy contributions exist in the mix at the moment. Depending on whether hydroelectric is considered, the number may currently hover somewhere around zero. [DOE] Some news reporters then go out on a limb to call these target timelines “ambitious.”

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