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April 25, 2011 | Like this article? Join our email list: Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Can polluters be sued for the damaging effects of global warming? That's the question before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when it hears oral arguments in American Electric Power Company Inc. v. Connecticut . The case got its start in 2004, at a time when the Bush administration had made it clear it had no intention of addressing the threat of climate change. Frustrated by the administration's inaction, Connecticut and a group of other states, as well as the city of New York and handful of land trusts, filed suit against the nation's five biggest polluters: American Electric Power, Southern Company, Cinergy (which has since merged with Duke Energy), Xcel Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Using a common-law public-nuisance argument, the plaintiffs claimed the companies were causing harm to the environment and the health of residents.
For many years, greentech leaders have been saying renewables are never going to make a major contribution to our energy needs until we have a better method for storing off-peak clean energy. For even longer, environmentalists and national security analysts have been seeking an alternative to fossil oil for our transportation needs. WindFuels, a small company in South Carolina, believes both of these needs can be met simultaneously with a new concept to store excess intermittent clean energy in standard hydrocarbon fuels (gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel) for transportation.
Climate Progress recently reported on a study that found both economic and environmental benefits if homes in the northeastern United States upgraded older heating systems by moving from heating oil to switchgrass. However, one point to emphasize was the findings were specific to those circumstances — the region, the homes, and that particular use. Switchgrass was not nearly as good an idea for electricity generation or transportation fuel. Further confirming the need for a diversity of renewable solutions to our energy needs, a recent study determined that electricity generated by solar beats out biofuels for powering cars under myriad scenarios. The report, put together by a team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and published in Enviornmental Science and Technology , compared five different approaches to see what was the most efficient way to power a compact passenger vehicle for every 100 kilometers driven: