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Tom Zeller Jr.
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Tom Zeller Jr. is a 2013-14 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. He has spent the last 15 years as a staff writer and contributor covering energy, technology and the environment for a variety of publications, including The New York Times, National Geographic Magazine and The Huffington Post.

Entries by Tom Zeller Jr.

Carbon Capture And Storage: Global Warming Panacea, Or Fossil Fuel Pipe Dream?

(2036) Comments | Posted August 19, 2013 | 7:30 AM

Inside the offices of MIT's Energy Initiative, a campus-wide program with the ambitious goal of helping to "transform the global energy system," Howard J. Herzog, a senior research engineer, pulled out a fresh yellow legal pad and began sketching a line graph. He was responding to a straightforward...

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Climate Change And Species Extinction: The New Normal Is Not The Old Normal

(225) Comments | Posted July 24, 2013 | 12:45 PM

What does it matter if a smallish, tuft-eared wild cat native to Spain disappears? Extinction is a natural process, after all.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers concluded that the Iberian lynx, an already critically endangered species that once flourished in...

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Obama Climate Agenda Suggests Fossil Fuel Power Plants Face Expensive Choices

(506) Comments | Posted June 25, 2013 | 8:00 PM

Speaking at Georgetown University on Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama outlined a highly anticipated collection of new and expanded initiatives aimed at curbing the nation's greenhouse gas emissions and addressing global warming -- from tougher fuel-economy rules for vehicles and expanded use of renewable energy, to improved efficiency requirements for...

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Of Energy Wars And Energy Revolutions: Michael A. Levi's 'The Power Surge'

(119) Comments | Posted June 24, 2013 | 10:40 AM

Describing the contentious and often contradictory battle over energy policy in the United States, Allen L. Hammond, writing for The New York Times, noted:

The contention is not just over specific elements of technology. The two sides differ over whether energy salvation lies in conservation or expanded production; in renewable...
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Global Climate Negotiations Break Down in Bonn. Go Figure.

(730) Comments | Posted June 12, 2013 | 1:25 PM

Virtually no one should be surprised to learn that climate talks currently underway in Bonn, Germany -- the latest venue for the decades-old and largely fruitless pursuit of international agreement on global warming action -- are descending into chaos. This time around, Russia, along with Ukraine...

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Keystone XL's Approval Is A Throw Of The Dice In Much Bigger Gamble

(131) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 1:23 PM

An unscientific survey of one of the globe's largest novelty betting operations this week suggests that a variety of unorthodox and environmentally themed wagers are flourishing. Gamblers with money to burn can currently play the odds on whether Arctic sea ice will hit record lows this...

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Climate Change Impacts Ripple Through Fishing Industry While Ocean Science Lags Behind

(716) Comments | Posted May 17, 2013 | 6:47 AM

With a limberness that defies his 69 years, Frank Mirarchi heaves himself over the edge of a concrete wharf and steps out onto a slack, downward sloping dock line bouncing 20 feet above the lapping waters near Scituate, Mass. He shimmies laterally along the pylons, steadying himself with a grip...

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Scientists Agree (Again): Climate Change Is Happening

(8548) Comments | Posted May 16, 2013 | 10:24 AM

Public opinion on the topic of climate change is notoriously fickle, changing -- quite literally sometimes -- with the weather. The latest bit of evidence on this: Yale's April 2013 climate change survey, which found, among other things, that Americans' conviction that global warming is happening had dropped...

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Obama's Closed Government: The Allure And Hazards Of Secrecy

(121) Comments | Posted April 19, 2013 | 8:00 AM

More than four years ago, a newly elected Barack Obama instructed the heads of departments and agencies under his watch to deal openly and honestly with the public, promising in a 2009 memorandum that his ascendant presidency would usher in "an unprecedented level of openness" in government.

...
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Keystone Pipeline Opponents Cite State Dept. Funny Business & Oozing Oil To Demand (Further) Review

(181) Comments | Posted April 8, 2013 | 5:54 PM

TransCanada, the Calgary-based energy conglomerate behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, has often stumbled in trying to win the hearts and minds of Americans.

It has, for example, infuriated property-rights advocates from Montana to Texas by aggressively invoking eminent domain when landowners in the...

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Nuclear Power Flood Risk: NRC Insiders Say Agency Continues To Look The Other Way

(652) Comments | Posted March 29, 2013 | 1:14 PM

According to findings made public earlier this month, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently uncovered potentially significant flooding vulnerabilities at two Tennessee nuclear power plants and, after a thorough investigation, the agency aggressively sanctioned the errant operator for several safety violations -- although...

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Earth Hour Is A Big Waste Of Time! Or, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Bjorn Lomborg?

(421) Comments | Posted March 22, 2013 | 8:28 AM

Again comes Earth Hour, a well-meaning if somewhat amorphous gimmick born in Australia six years ago, when the Sydney contingent of the environmental group WWF sought the help of the Leo Burnett advertising agency in focusing the popular mind on climate change. The result: a campaign...

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Nuclear Power: Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't?

(862) Comments | Posted March 18, 2013 | 8:00 AM

To some critics, there is no riskier source of electricity than nuclear power. For others, nuclear power's minimal greenhouse gas footprint makes it a vital alternative to carbon-belching coal and natural gas in the pitched battle to curb climate change -- and a far more reliable energy source, at least...

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Clean Power Collateral Damage: Of Birds, Tortoises And The Transition From Fossil Fuels

(1181) Comments | Posted March 11, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Is kickstarting a clean-energy industry and accelerating a movement away from fossil fuels worth the expense of, say, a few desert tortoises or a collection of piping plovers? If so, how many of these threatened species would you be willing to sacrifice to build a commercial wind farm, or a...

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Tipping Points: Can Humanity Break The Planet?

(1496) Comments | Posted March 2, 2013 | 9:00 AM

If you're the sort of person who woke up Friday morning worrying not just about the potential for sudden economic chaos following the sequester, but also the potential for human population growth and industrial activity to spur sudden ecosystem collapse on a planetary scale, take heart (and perhaps...

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Cape Wind: Regulation, Litigation And The Struggle To Develop Offshore Wind Power In The U.S.

(3409) Comments | Posted February 23, 2013 | 9:41 AM

In 2001, Jim Gordon, a well-heeled developer of natural gas plants in New England, took up a long-discussed but never-pursued idea that advocates said would usher in a new era of clean energy in America: an ocean-based wind farm off the shores of Cape Cod.

The advantages of the site...

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'Nemo' And Climate Change Connection: Scientists Weigh-In

(422) Comments | Posted February 8, 2013 | 11:16 AM

The Union of Concerned Scientists has posted an informative breakdown on the connections between the winter storm bearing down on the Northeast and the planet's changing climate.

"It’s Cold and My Car is Buried in Snow. Is Global Warming Really Happening?," notes that storms like this one...

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Energy Secretary Steven Chu Resigns, Chastises Climate Deniers And Clean-Energy Critics

(7984) Comments | Posted February 1, 2013 | 5:51 PM

In a wide-ranging and sometimes defiant letter to staff announcing his resignation on Friday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, while highlighting his agency's achievements over the last four years, blasted critics of the administration's investments in the renewable energy market, suggesting that opponents were living in the "Stone Age."...

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The Keystone XL Pipeline: The President's Political Puzzle

(175) Comments | Posted January 25, 2013 | 12:09 PM

When he delayed a decision on permitting the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline in November of 2011, President Barack Obama effectively sidestepped a divisive issue that had no political upside as he entered his 2012 reelection race.

Approving the project -- which aims to transport a diluted...

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Obama's Inaugural Words On Climate Stir Cautious Optimism

(250) Comments | Posted January 22, 2013 | 10:55 AM

If rhetorical flourishes are an indication of future action -- and that is a substantial "if" -- then President Barack Obama's comments on climate change suggest that the next four years may provide much of what climate activists have been hankering for.

But just how much the president might...

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