Paul Burman

Paul Burman

Thursday, 28 January 2010 19:00

Obama on Clean Energy and Jobs

Last night's State of the Union address by President Obama covered a lot of ground over the course of the 71 minute speech. One of the main pillars that helped to get President Obama elected in the first place, a commitment to clean energy and reducing US greenhouse gas emissions, was a focal point for the President in the address. The President stressed the need for Congress to take action on climate change to reduce emissions and also remain competitive in the international marketplace and help create jobs here in the US.
[T]o create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives... And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.
President Obama tried to reframe the climate legislation awaiting action in Congress in terms of clean energy and jobs, particularly as some observers have deemed the legislation stalled for the time being. It's true that investing in clean energy will create new jobs in construction, manufacturing, installation, as well as research and development. With our nation still in economic recovery, climate legislation can help re-invigorate and re-energize our economy and should be a focus for Congress and the White House.
turbine mt stormOver Labor Day weekend I, like many, decided to flee the city to enjoy my peace in the woods. A short drive from Washington, DC to Mountain Storm, West Virginia, I found a cabin at a lovely little campsite at Abram’s Creek (the site is personally recommended: sustainable, eco-friendly and amazing staff). I went hiking, built fires, whittled sticks, went swimming, enjoyed the sounds of nature, watched the night sky and generally speaking charged my battery with the beauty and bounty of nature. But the story that I bring home with me has to do with power – renewable vs. conventional and old vs. new. Mountain Storm, West Virginia is home to Dominion Power’s largest coal fired power plant. The first units of this 1,600 megawatt power plant were built in 1965 and are currently responsible for about 12.5 million tons of CO2; 3,139 tons of smog forming sulfur dioxides; 22,464 tons of nitrous oxides; and over 340 lbs of mercury every year. This power plant is a behemoth both in size and in emissions that looms large over this area of West Virginia. The dual billowing smokestacks of the plant represent a few jobs for local workers, but is a living sign of environmental destruction as well. Directly adjacent to the coal fired power plant is a sight to behold for clean energy advocates such as myself – wind turbines as far as the eye can see. The NedPower Mountain Storm wind energy project has erected 132 two megawatt wind turbines that generate 264 megawatts of clean energy. I have never seen this many turbines before in my life, and watching them spin and breathe new life into our energy grid gave me so much hope for a clean energy future. These turbines make sense in a place like Mountain Storm. There is land available on the cheap (sometimes ‘reclaimed land’ which has been used for surface, or mountain top removal mining), workers that are experienced in industrial construction, ideal conditions for generating wind power, and existing transmissions lines from the coal power plant to get the energy to the power hungry cities of the east coast. Located at the nexus of where the coal plant and the turbines meet is the Mountain Storm Lake – a dammed river that Dominion Power uses to cool the coal generators. This Lake is a center for recreation and is constantly at bath temperature due to the coal plant.

mt storm coal

Sitting by this unnaturally warm Lake (which is apparently fine to swim in - I wonder about regular exposure to things like mercury that may be falling from the smoke stacks or leeching from the GIANT piles of coal that were less than 1,000 feet away) one cannot help but think of the past and the future. Coal and renewable energy. Poverty and jobs. Destruction and health. What relics of our past do we want to embrace and which ones do we want to see slowly fade away?

The balance exists now, and places like Mountain Storm are living examples of how one location can embody nearly every facet of energy debates that are being had in Washington now. Personally, I want to see more turbines, and less coal. There are more jobs to be had in wind these days than in coal, and that is news that I think we can all embrace.
Friday, 17 July 2009 20:58

Molecule Eats Carbon Dioxide

A new and interesting development in the field of potential global warming solutions has arisen: a molecule that eats carbon dioxide has been found. A University of Maryland scientist doing research unrelated to global warming made the discovery as he noted that a newly created bowl-shaped molecule was collecting carbon dioxide that was present in the room. The implications of this discovery are potentially huge. This carbon 'scrubbing' molecule may be used in industrial processes to remove CO2 from smoke stacks, or it could potentially be used to simply remove CO2 from the atmosphere. One interesting implication of this discovery is that it demonstrates the power of science and innovation. A big reason that is a big supporter of global warming solutions is because that encourages innovation. Global warming is potentially the greatest crisis that has ever faced mankind, but with great crisis comes great opportunity. Who knows what will happen when we raise fuel standards -- maybe we will accidentally discover a way to make cars go significantly farther on a gallon of gas or discover an algae based biofuel that is cheap and clean. Or maybe there will be a break through in solar technology that enables us to turn every roof into a power generating machine. In short, who knows? If a scientist in Maryland can accidently discover a molecule that eats CO2, anything can happen. Although it's too early to determine the future outcomes of this. Let's continue to provide the motivation and impetus to act and innovate.
Thursday, 18 February 2010 08:38

Mobile Carbon Calculator Launched has partnered with OpenPath Products to develop and launch a mobile version of our carbon calculators. Initially,'s mobile carbon calculators work on the Symbian platform - the operating system for many new Nokia phones. The calculators will soon be available for public download on the phones. The calculators will allow users to reduce or offset their carbon footprint on the go by supporting third-party validated carbon reduction projects. The mobile carbon calculator was developed by OpenPath for the Symbian Foundation in response to a comment posted on the Symbian Ideas website - an interactive forum that enables users to ask questions and suggest ideas for the Symbian Platform. The mobile carbon calculator has been a featured demo app for the Symbian Foundation at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This mobile carbon calculator is helping to further's mission of carbon reductions, education and outreach. has also worked previously with developers on the Ecorio mobile carbon footprint application for the T-Mobile G1 phone.
Temperatures are hot here in Washington, DC. So hot that some people are asking whether the heat wave that is currently gripping the East Coast is a sign of climate change. New York, for example, experienced 92 degree heat yesterday, breaking an 81-year record. Since the 1850s, the hottest decades on record have come within the last 20 years. The 2000's were the hottest on record, with the 1990's nipping at their heels for the heat record. The start of the new decade also produced record highs, with January registering as the warmest it has ever been in 32 years of satellite recording. And since Jan. 1 of this year- over 2,100 daily US heat records have been broken! It is disturbing trends like this that have climate scientists and average citizens concerned about climate change, and ready to take action. So while the heat wave this week may not, on its own, be the result of global warming, it is part of a trend that our climate is changing. And if the continued loss of glaciers at Glacier National Park in Montana is any indication, you should visit your favorite climate threatened locations ASAP.
Wednesday, 07 October 2009 16:33

Maldives Making Policy Under Water

The Maldives government ministers have scheduled a Cabinet meeting at the bottom of the ocean. In an attempt to raise awareness of the acute threat to the low lying country that global warming induced sea level rise poses, the Cabinet meeting will be held 20 feet underwater.
The ministers will wear scuba gear for the gathering off the island of Girifushi — about 20 minutes journey by speed boat from the capital, Male, she said. The ministers will communicate using hand gestures and are now receiving diving lessons... At the meeting, the Cabinet plans to sign a document calling on all countries to cut down their carbon emissions ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December...
The Maldives emitted about 869,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2006 - representing less than 0.1% of total global emissions. But as the lowest lying country in the world at an average height of 7 ft. above sea level, the affects of sea level rise will no doubt impact the small island nation. Though the impacts on the Maldives are clear and dramatic, a story of similar tragedy can be told for many small or poor nations. A warmer world will raise sea levels, increase heat waves, change growing regions, reduce access to clean water, and increase food scarcity. The worlds poor who have contributed the least to the cause of the problem are going to be the most severely impacted by these changes. Fight global warming now by supporting communities across the world. Click here to learn how to help today.
Thursday, 03 December 2009 10:22

How to Live Within a (Carbon) Budget

A new report states that at our current rate of emissions, we are on pace to blow through our carbon budget 16 years early. Global accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) said in a recent report that in order to keep the consequences of global warming to a minimum, the global carbon ‘budget’ must remain below 1,300 billion tonnes of CO2 between the years 2000 and 2050. Currently, virtually all major nations are emitting at a pace that is unsustainably high and will blow our budget by 2034. Though the news reported by PWC is not great, there is room for improvement and mitigation. All nations must use energy more efficiently in order to keep our emissions under the sustainable threshold. Globally, this means improving our ‘carbon intensity’ – or the amount of carbon needed to generate a dollar of economic output. While carbon intensity tends to improve organically through upgrades in appliances and processes, this evolution is typically slow. To stay within our carbon budget, global carbon intensity must improve by 3 percent a year. From 2000-08, the carbon intensity of China, the U.S. and the E.U. improved only 0.7, 2.2, and 1.8 percent respectively. A good model for global leaders to follow can be based on the model of Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t. Three percent a year doesn’t sound like much, but will require coordinated efforts and long term planning. By focusing on efficiency improvements that improve carbon intensity, we can see real emissions reductions and cost savings today – and a cleaner future tomorrow. Can you reduce your carbon intensity 3% a year? Tell us how you are reducing your emission today!
Friday, 22 January 2010 16:12

Lessons from Haiti

Natural disasters impact those that are the least prepared the hardest. The earthquake that recently struck Haiti may end up killing 200,000 people - an astonishing and devastating figure. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The country has had high rates of TB, AIDS, malaria and other preventable diseases. The country's systems are less than adequate on a good day - meaning that access to essential government services like emergency services and building code enforcement is lacking. These and many other factors left Haiti especially vulnerable to a natural disaster. The poorly constructed buildings crumbled easily. Without extensive foreign aid, Haiti would have tremendous difficulty trying to rebuild. There is a lesson for the potential impacts of global warming, in the fact that global warming is expected to have many negative effects such as more heat waves, rising sea levels and other potential natural disasters that should raise concern for the world. While some countries are more prepared to handle these impacts than others, these effects most adversely affect developing countries and those who may be in poverty. You can learn more about the linkage between global warming and poverty or economic development by visiting this site, Live Climate, which is a nonprofit program of The world needs to respond as quickly as possible to the needs of Haiti, while ensuring that it learns lessons from the disaster and be more prepared for the future, including the expected effects of global warming.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 11:49

The Lean Green Fighting Machine

Dear Mr. Holyfield, Thank you for changing your nickname from the "Real Deal" to the "Mean Green Fighting Machine". It is heartening to hear that you are going to fight global warming with the same passion that your fought Tyson, Bowe and Foreman. It is even better to hear that you are installing a 40 acre solar farm and an organic garden on your estate in Atlanta. So why are you, the nearly 47 year old four time heavyweight champion of the world, fighting global warming now?
"I'm pretty much going to do all I can to fight against global warming. I'll see what I can do to help and try to help other people who want to do the same thing... A mission as big as this needs someone who is recognized through the whole world," Holyfield said. "We as a people have to come together to save this planet."
You have to hand it to the man. He is right. As the G-20 discuss emissions reductions and with Copenhagen rapidly approaching, the world is about to engage in what we hope to be the defining battle to save our climate. Lean green fighting machines on one side, big polluters on the other - who is going to come out victorious? As you prepare for another comeback to the boxing ring, please consider this - if you really want to fight global warming, go to Copenhagen! We could use you there, looming large over the environmentalist and bureaucrats. Your presence alone will get results. And I would take my chances against anyone in Copenhagen over whomever your next opponent is. Do you want to fight global warming now? Click here give your carbon emissions an uppercut to the jaw!
Monday, 19 July 2010 10:25

June Sizzle Makes Record Books

June 2010 was the hottest June on record around the world, besting the 20th century average by 1.22°F. This according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Nat'l Climatic Data Center. What's more, 2010 is poised to possibly be the hottest year on record. NOAA has regularly collected detailed land and ocean surface temperatures. Heat waves are an environmental and public health concern. In addition to causing deaths among elderly and other individuals, heat waves threaten food supplies from crop failures and other impacts. They also cause massive amounts of energy use to keep homes and buildings cool. Read how heat waves in the East Coast could become common in the US.
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