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Earth: The Operator's Manual
Hosted by award-winning geoscientist Richard Alley, funded by the NSF, and
shown on PBS, this video explains fossil fuels and their relationship to our
warming climate, then shifts its attention to our many options for sustainable
energy. The project's excellent website also offers two sequels, "Powering the
Planet," which explores new energy initiatives around the world, and "Energy
Quest USA," which does the same for the United States.
(54 minutes, 2011)
Burn: An Energy Journal
Alex Chadwick, American Public Media
These radio reportage podcasts consider post-Fukushima nuclear power, the
hunt for oil, experimental cars, batteries, political complications, and other
energy topics. The series homepage also offers an interesting collection of
responses to this question: If you had just one minute to talk about energy
with the president, what would you say?
(4 hours total, 2 of which can be downloaded in
shorter segments, 2012)
Solutions to the Climate/Energy Problem
Scott Denning, Department of Atmospheric Science,
Colorado State University
Climate scientist Denning begins by explaining why we're so sure we've got
a climate problem caused by our use of fossil fuels. Then he explores some
ways of thinking about what we can do about this problem-and how we might
make changes happen. A lively and positive talk.
(52 minutes, February 2009)
A Fast and Effective Rx for Climate Change‒Green Building and
Brian Dunbar, Executive Director, Institute for the Built
Environment, Colorado State University
How much waste and carbon emissions come from construction and remodeling?
Isn't it always more expensive to build green homes and buildings? Can our
buildings have positive impacts on the environment? What can we learn from
nature about how we create our living spaces? Green building expert Dunbar
answers these and many other questions. At slide 55, there's a video on
green building, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
rating system, and sustainable development.
(46 minutes, February 2009)
||articles & essays
Can We Learn from Europe's Approach to Laid-off Coal Miners?
Joshua Zaffos, High Country News, April 2016
Interesting piece about the contrasting fates of American and German coal
miners who lose their jobs. Germans, in short, have a much better safety net,
funded by higher taxes. Americans are largely left on their own, at least
until we figure something out that's much better than what we currently offer.
How Big a Deal Was Congress Extending the Renewable Energy Tax Credits?
A Very, Very Big Deal.
David Roberts, Vox, January 2016
What difference will it make to the future of wind and solar energy that
associated tax credits got extended at the end of 2015? Here is a clear
explanation, and it is good news.
Four Trends Driving Profitable Climate Protection
Amory B. Lovins, Forbes, September 2015
Amory Lovins, the chief scientist (and co-founder) of the Rocky Mountain
Institute, has long been an optimistic proponent of clean, renewable energy
and its potential for profitable businesses. This piece from Forbes is an
update on the world's progress on this front. Lovins has done numerous
interesting TED talks on this and related topics, too; they are easy to find
on the web.
Things Most of Us Don't Know about Fossil Fuels
The Guardian, 2015
As part of their extensive climate reporting, The Guardian has looked into
some of the biggest players in the fossil fuel world, and what they have found
is not pretty. Their website includes stories about
Schlumberger. Other related
stories cover topics such as the
taxpayer subsidies in the US and
Australia for coal production.
Exxon‒The Road Not Taken
Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News, September 2015
Ever wonder what Exxon really knew about fossil fuels and global climate
disruption‒and when they knew it? Turns out they knew a lot, a long time
ago, and from their own scientists, well before they turned their considerable
resources to deceiving the public. (For a response from ExxonMobil's Richard
click here.) This thorough, multi-part series, based on
eight months of investigation into primary sources, raises, for some, the
question whether the fossil fuel industry is guilty‒like the tobacco
as outlined here by reporter Dana Nuccitelli in The Guardian. For another
deeply-researched story, this one about Exxon's relations with its
shareholders on climate change resolutions, see Inside Climate News's
Climate Accountability Project.
Power to the People: Why the Rise of Green Energy Makes Utility Companies Nervous
Bill McKibben, The New Yorker, June 2015
From a forward-looking company in Vermont to a recalcitrant one in Arizona,
American utility companies don't yet know how to cope with the rapid
transition underway to distributed solar power. This informative, interesting,
and heartening article is a good reminder that McKibben was a journalist
before he became a climate activist.
Home Solar Panels: Pros, Cons, and Hidden Costs
Graham Shorr, Expertise, May 2015
A very helpful introduction to the choices we have for adding solar power to our homes, either by leasing or by buying.
Energy Efficiency: The Desirable, All-Natural (and Extremely Hard) Way to Light an Office
David Ferris, EnergyWire, March 2015
An interesting story about the challenges and rewards of lighting office
buildings with sunlight.
Your Brain on Energy
Chris Mooney, The Washington Post, January 2015
Look at efforts to stop wasting energy in the context of behavioral science,
and what do you see? This is the topic of Mooney's typically thorough,
engaging, and thought-provoking three-part series: first, "The next energy
revolution won't be in wind or solar. It will be in our brains"; second,
"Why 50 million smart meters still haven't fixed America's energy habits";
and three, "The best way to get conservatives to save energy is to stop the
Africa's Quiet Solar Revolution
Lorena Galliot, The Christian Science Monitor, January 2015
Encouraging story about new start-ups working to distribute transformative,
small-scale, "pay-as-you-go" solar electricity to Tanzania and elsewhere in
Africa, illustrating the possibility that such projects can leapfrog over
large-scale fossil-fuel energy systems just as cell phones did over land-based
Climate Mission Impossible: Scientists Say Fossil Fuels Must Go Untapped
Christina Nunez, National Geographic, January 2015
Clear summary and discussion of a study just published in Nature that looks at
the high proportion of known fossil fuel reserves we must leave untouched if
we are to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels‒and where
these fuels are. The study was done by scientists at University College
London's Institute for Sustainable Resources (UCL).
Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind
Justin Gillis, New York Times, September 2014
An excellent story about the alterations underway in electricity generation,
focused on the global effects of Germany's aggressive move to renewables.
Carbon Capture and Storage: Realistic? Or not?
It's easy to be confused about "clean coal," the idea that we might (on a
large scale) capture CO2 at coal plants and store (sequester) it underground.
Here are three very good overview articles about the potential and
complications of this possible technology:
Michelle Nijhuis, National Geographic (2014);
Tom Zeller, Huffington Post (2013); and
David Biello, Yale Environment 360 (2014).
The Emerging Power of Microgrids
Justin Gerdes, Ensia, July 2014
Very good piece on the trend towards community-scaled microgrids, with
attention to their benefits in stability, security, and ability to accommodate
more renewable energy sources.
World's Energy Systems Vulnerable to Climate Impacts, Report Warns
Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, June 2014
This is a quick introduction to
a report issued by the World Energy Council,
the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Cambridge
Judge Business School, and the European Climate Foundation, called Climate
Change‒Implications for the Energy Sector. The report's website includes
infographic that includes impacts, adaptations, emission
reduction options, and policy frameworks for a variety of energy sources.
Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America's Solar Energy Revolution
Environment California Research & Policy Center, April 2014
Encouraging report on the growth (and benefits) of solar energy in American
cities, including information about policies that have helped this
development. This website has a good summary, a link to the full PDF report,
and links to other energy and climate reports from this research center.
Unconventional Oil and Gas Will Fry Climate: ExxonMobil Report
Barry Saxifrage, Vancouver Observer, January 2014
Saxifrage connects some important dots in this post by combining the forecasts
in ExxonMobil's global energy report ("The Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040")
with the scenarios of the International Energy Agency. He concludes that
ExxonMobil expects (as does BP) that we'll burn enough fossil fuels to warm
the planet by 4°C‒a level that the World Bank calls "devastating."
Mark Ruffalo Wants You To Imagine a 100 Percent Clean Energy Future
Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas, Grist, January 2014
This short piece describes an hour-long Inquiring Minds podcast featuring
actor/writer/director/producer Ruffalo's project of imagining a totally
carbon-free energy system in the US, including state-specific transition
plans, beginning with New York. Links to the podcast and other resources
connected to this project.
18 Fun Renewable Energy Charts From NREL Director Dan Arvizu & Ren21's Renewables 2013 Global Status Report
Clean Technica, November 2013
For current information about the state of and potential for renewable energy,
see this blog entry, which presents interesting and encouraging charts. Good
Debunking the Renewables "Disinformation Campaign"
Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, July 2013
This excellent piece about the pervasive pattern of inaccurate and misleading
news coverage of the economic benefits (and other aspects) of renewable energy
should serve as a heads-up for news readers everywhere.
Beyond Fossil Fuels
New York Times
"Articles in this series examine innovative attempts to reduce the world's
dependence on coal, oil and other carbon-intensive fuels, and the challenges
faced." Interesting and thought-provoking pieces that range from a kitchen
table in Kansas to military convoys in Afghanistan.
The Economist, June 2013
This informative, concise piece addresses the benefits and consequences of
short-term government subsidies for wind energy, noting that as more turbines
go up, the problem of intermittent supply dwindles, since the wind always
The Power Grid May Determine Whether We Can Kick Our Carbon Habit
Jonathan Thompson, High Country News, May 2013
A comprehensive look at the way the electrical grid operates‒and
sometimes fails‒in the context of history and the future of renewables.
For a related story about the links between power failures and severe weather
(with a link to a Department of Energy report about the vulnerability of the
IMF: Want to fight climate change? Get rid of $1.9 trillion in energy subsidies
Brad Plumer, Washington Post, March 2013
A short summary of a January 2013 report by the IMF (International Monetary
Fund) on the subject of reforming subsidies to carbon-based energy sources.
itself is neither long nor hard to read (35 pages plus sources
Green Energy Solves Dual Crises of Poverty and Climate
Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service News Agency, February 2013
This quick outline of the U.N.'s Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) (a
program that seeks to bring "universal access to modern energy" and double the
rate of globally shared renewable energy by 2030) offers a global perspective
on the types of "dirty" energy that lead to premature death in both developing
and industrial nations.
For the Birds (and the Bats): 8 Ways Wind Power Companies Are Trying to Prevent Deadly Collisions
Roger Drouin, Grist, January 2013
"Hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed by wind turbines in the
U.S. each year, including some protected species such as the golden eagle and
the Indiana bat. That's only a small fraction of the hundreds of millions
killed by buildings, pesticides, fossil-fuel power plants, and other human
causes, but it's still worrying ‒ especially as wind power is
experiencing record growth." This story covers some ways of shrinking those
numbers and offers good links to more information on how birds are killed by
various aspects of modern life.
Clean Energy Ministerial: Accelerating the Global Clean Energy Transition
This website represents a multinational "forum to promote policies and share
best practices to accelerate the global transition to clean energy." The work
is wide-ranging-and encouraging to read about.
Eleven Maps that Explain Energy in America
Brad Plumer, Vox, July 2015
A fascinating look at the 2015 energy infrastructure in the U.S.: coal, oil,
gas, nuclear, solar, wind, transmission lines . . . with attention paid to
what has been changing recently and why. Culled from a
from the Energy Information Administration.
The Great Energy Challenge
This lively website includes a personal energy meter, a light bulb savings
calculator, global maps of energy use and fossil-fuel subsidies, quizzes,
blogs, energy stories, and an archive.
Clean Economy Wire
This subset of (the Pulitzer Prize winning) InsideClimate News collects
stories about clean energy economic development. A good one-stop shop for
this sort of information.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
This is the US government's main research location for energy efficiency and
renewable energy technologies, and it offers a rich website. One good place to
start on the link above (the Energy Analysis page) is at "News" (on the left)
and the archived newsletters, which offer many links. The links under "Science
& Technology" are also likely to be of wide interest and usefulness.
Clean Energy Innovation Analysis by google.org
Easy-to-use interactive site about the effects of clean energy innovations on
the economy, with links to more data.
Clean and Renewable Energy (for Homes & Businesses)
Colorado State University Extension
An excellent one-stop source offering a wealth of practical information about
clean energy technologies: high-quality links, factsheets, data, worksheets,
calculators, how-to instructions, information on rebates and incentives, and
more‒on conservation, biofuels, geothermal, small hydropower, solar,
both homes and businesses. Centered in, but in no way limited to, Colorado.
Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy
Union of Concerned Scientists, May 2009
This extensive, detailed, and readable analysis offers recommendations for
jumpstarting the transition to a low-carbon economy while saving money for
every region and household. Thoroughly researched and peer-reviewed; extensive
references; useful for both lay-persons and professionals.
Teaching Climate/Energy Law & Policy
Wil Burns, Johns Hopkins University
Run by the Associate Director of the Master in Energy Policy and Climate
program at Johns Hopkins, this site (a blog, with extensive links) supports
"those engaged in the teaching of law and policy courses focused on climate
change and energy (primarily at the university, graduate and law school
levels) by discussing pedagogy in this field, as well as sharing relevant
resources and analysis of key issues. The scope of discussion includes
scientific, political and legal issues pertinent to addressing climate change
and energy production."
CLEAN: The Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network
This extensive website is a key resource for anyone who teaches climate
science, climate change, or energy awareness to students from grade 6 through
college. It offers "Digital resources . . . reviewed by educators and
scientists, and annotated and aligned with standards and benchmarks"‒and
a lively online community of people working to increase public climate
Stabilization Wedges Game
For a good way to highlight the policies that would be needed to mobilize a
variety of low-carbon technologies and the political interests that would be
involved in any such discussions, try this "team-based exercise that teaches
players about the scale of the greenhouse gas problem, plus technologies that
already exist to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions and get us off the
path toward dramatic and damaging climate change." It's based on the work done
by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala (of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at