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The futility of an international climate treaty

Ethan Elkind, director, Climate Program at Berkeley Law | March 27, 2015

Call it Kyoto Syndrome, but each year for the past few decades we hear hopeful things about the upcoming negotiations for the “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” These discussions usually take place in some far-flung world capital, but they seem to always result in a nothing sandwich. In 2009, President Obama embarrassed himself … Continue reading »

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Feeding our billions without plowing the entire planet

Dan Farber, professor of law | March 18, 2015

Who’s coming for dinner? The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “two billion more people.”  That’s the population increase predicted for 2050.  How are we going to feed those people? One method is to cut down a lot of the world’s remaining forests and plow the world’s remaining grasslands. That’s a bad approach environmentally: it will … Continue reading »

How To Build A Microgrid

Santiago Miret, Ph.D. student, materials science & engineering | February 25, 2015

While developed countries have enjoyed access to reliable electricity for nearly a century, energy access across the world remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. Globally, over 1 billion people still live without access to electricity today, putting them at a major developmental disadvantage. It has been shown that access to energy stimulates … Continue reading »

One university’s attempt to reduce energy waste at work

Meredith Fowlie, Associate Professor and Class of 1935 Distinguished Chair in Energy | February 23, 2015

If you work outside your home, chances are you don’t pay (directly) for the energy you use at work. At my place of work, the UC Berkeley campus, most employees never see – let alone pay – their energy bills. Of course, there are plenty of pro-social reasons to be conscientious about my energy consumption … Continue reading »

‘Moving Dollars’ puts California’s transportation spending in focus

Ethan Elkind, director, Climate Program at Berkeley Law | February 19, 2015

California spends approximately $28 billion on transportation infrastructure each year.  But are we spending that money as cost-effectively as possible?  And given the major impact that transportation investments have on our land use patterns and the amount of driving we need to do, are we spending this money in ways that align with California’s environmental … Continue reading »

The Promise of Energy Storage

Santiago Miret, Ph.D. student, materials science & engineering | February 10, 2015

In spite of its critical importance to modern technologies and infrastructures, electricity has remained a transient resource that has virtually no shelf-life. Once electricity is generated from an energy reservoir, which can supplied by any type of energy sources, the electric current has to be used instantaneously by an electricity consuming device, or be lost otherwise. … Continue reading »

Keystone Pipeline and the Carbon Tax: A shotgun marriage that can work

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | January 26, 2015

We recently learned that Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suggested amending a bill that approves the building of the Keystone pipeline and abolishes the corn ethanol mandate. This is a very unwise proposal. If Congress needs a face-saving way to approve the Keystone pipeline, it should be done in a way that … Continue reading »

Don’t know much ’bout climatology

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 22, 2015

Why should we believe the scientists about climate change?  Nobody — not even any individual scientist — understand all the details of the 1552-page “summary” of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). So why buy into the idea that tiny amounts of gases from beneficial energy production can cause devastating global harm? Part of … Continue reading »

To erode confidence in public-utility decisions, meet behind closed doors

Steven Weissman, associate director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment | January 21, 2015

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has an unusual way of doing business. Most state and federal regulatory agencies prohibit private, closed-door discussions with interested parties about contested matters (ex parte communications). Even though it makes decisions affecting the welfare of Californians and the disposition of billions of dollars, the CPUC does not discourage ex … Continue reading »

Public opinion and energy politics

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 13, 2015

The Pew Research Center published some intriguing polling results on energy issues just before Christmas. Americans have clearly noticed falling prices at the gas pump, but only half realize that U.S. oil and gas production has soared. So far, the changes haven’t affected policy views: a large majority favors expanding use of alternative energy, but … Continue reading »

California breaks ground on high-speed rail, at last

Ethan Elkind, director, Climate Program at Berkeley Law | January 7, 2015

It’s been over six years since California voters approved a bond measure to fund a two-hour-and-forty-minute Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail system. Today [Jan. 6], groundbreaking finally takes place in Fresno. In the intervening six years, lawsuits and political compromises have delayed the system and likely made the timetables promised to voters impossible to achieve. … Continue reading »

Is 2015 the year for a carbon tax?

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | January 5, 2015

Last year, during the holiday season the price of gasoline was at $3.57/gallon, which restricted the financial choices of everyday Americans. Actually from 2005 we consumers gradually adjusted to higher prices of oil. The adjustment wasn’t easy. Many lower-income individuals who purchased new homes far from work realized that they could not pay their mortgages, … Continue reading »

The (mostly happy) effects of falling oil prices

Dan Farber, professor of law |

The rapid fall in oil prices seems to have taken everyone by surprise. I’ve noted before that it puts the viability of the Keystone XL project in doubt.  But its other effects are worth considering. Overall, the fall in prices should have a beneficial effect on the U.S. economy. Since gasoline is cheaper, people can … Continue reading »

Happy endings and promising starts on the environment

Dan Farber, professor of law | January 2, 2015

In most ways, 2014 was a good year for environmental protection, with progress on several fronts. True, there are warning signs for 2015 — primarily the Republican sweep of the mid-terms and the Supreme Court’s puzzling decision to review toxics regulations for coal-fired power plants. And of course, there were losses as well as victories, … Continue reading »

Good energy reading for the beach?

Catherine Wolfram, faculty co-director, Energy Institute at Haas | December 22, 2014

I used to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve with my in-laws in Portland, Ore. A couple years ago, it snowed for two days straight, and the city shut down. My brother-in-law has taken it upon himself to find a warm-weather holiday destination for the family ever since. As I head for the … Continue reading »

Why the phrase ‘energy leapfrogging’ is misleading

Catherine Wolfram, faculty co-director, Energy Institute at Haas | November 24, 2014

I have seen a number of blog posts, panel discussions and news articles that extol the idea of energy leapfrogging. A recent Business Week column on India described, “leapfrogging the nation’s ailing power-distribution infrastructure with solar-powered local networks — the same way mobile-phones have enabled people in poor, remote places to bypass landlines.” The dramatic … Continue reading »

This challenge to the Endangered Species Act is a case to watch

Eric Biber, professor of law | November 21, 2014

The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) is widely known for being the primary law in the United States that focuses on protecting biodiversity, and also for being a “pit bull” of environmental laws that has few exceptions and broad sweep. (For instance, the ESA was a major component of the litigation strategy by environmental groups … Continue reading »

Reaching across the aisle?

Dan Farber, professor of law | November 18, 2014

The safest prediction is that our Democratic President and Republican Congress will not in fact be able to work together.  Their present gestures toward cooperation may mean nothing more than a willingness to accept the other side’s surrender. But hope springs eternal.  Are there areas where common ground exists?  That seems nearly impossible on some … Continue reading »