Rep. Inslee attacks anti-innovation GOP: Move to clean energy “or China is going to eat our lunch”

November 27, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.

China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.

That’s Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) on Fox News Thursday.  ThinkProgress has the story and video in this cross-post:

In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovation meme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”

But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:

Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will have little impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:

“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.

“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.

China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.

“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $ 2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”

Ben Armbruster, ThinkProgress

Related Posts:

Climate Progress

Rep. Inslee Attacks Anti-Innovation GOP: Move To Clean Energy ‘Or China Is Going To Eat Our Lunch’

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovation meme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”

But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:

INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.

China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.

Watch it:

Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will have little impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:

“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.

“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.

China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.

“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $ 2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”

ThinkProgress

Energy and Global Warming News for November 24th: World Bank boosts clean energy lending 300%, fossil fuels 430%; UK wants central role for business in Cancun; World’s first hybrid tugboat

November 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

World Bank Giving More to Clean Energy, but Also to Fossil Fuels

The World Bank has been talking more and more about focusing its support on clean energy projects, and apparently it has been putting much more into clean energy lately. “The World Bank’s lending for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects increased by 300 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2010, to a record $ 3.4 billion,” Timothy Hurst of ecopolitology reports.

However, while that alone might look really good, it’s also important to note that lending for fossil fuels increased 430 percent in the same time period. Lending for coal plants reached a record $ 4.4 billion and lending for fossil-fuel projects, in total, reached a record $ 6.3 billion.

This is despite the World Bank admitting a couple years ago that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the development of poor countries.

“In its actions, the World Bank has deviated from its rhetoric,” says Janet Redman, co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. “It has not done clean energy when it could. It has not prioritized clean energy sources over traditional fossil-fuel sources. And it is constantly stalling on one very important policy: calculating the greenhouse-gas emissions produced by its own projects.”

One of the biggest disappointments of late was in April when the World Bank approved the world’s fourth-largest coal power plant in South Africa, a 4,800-MW plant. (The U.S., Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy showed their disapproval for this project by abstaining from the vote,.. a typical, but, in my opinion, not very brave way of showing disapproval.)

Another clear failure was giving support to a 4,000-MW coal plant in India. The World Bank is supporting the emission of 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year with these two projects alone, about equal to Ireland’s total emissions.

While the World Bank recently appointed Daniel M. Kammen as its ”clean tech czar,” I am still hesitant to believe it is planning to live up to its responsibility to address and limit the devastating effects of climate change.

UK wants central role for business in Cancun

The UK’s negotiating team for next week’s Cancun climate change summit has signaled that it wants to see the global business community play a central role in the crucial talks, insisting that support from the private sector is vital if progress towards an international deal is to be delivered.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, climate change minister Greg Barker said he would act as a liaison between business leaders and the negotiators as part of an effort to improve upon previous UN summits where the “voice of the private sector has not been sufficiently heard”.
He acknowledged that while there has been “scepticism and in some cases outright hostility” amongst some developing countries to the role of the private sector in tackling climate change, the UK would make the case that private finance will be critical to the development of a global low carbon economy and would not be used to replace government funding.

Barker said vocal support from the business sector could help revive the negotiations following the deadlock at the end of the Copenhagen Summit.

“What we need to get out of this round of talks is a sense of momentum,” he said. “The central question is whether the drive to a low carbon economy is compatible with prosperity and economic growth – we think it can be done and can actually help drive economic growth.”

The negotiating text will not be directly changed to give business leaders a more central role, but Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said he was hopeful the summit would deliver progress in a number of areas that will throw up new business opportunities.

Most notably, he expressed optimism the talks could see agreement on the final outline of a deal on forestry protection mechanisms and the formation of a new international green fund to distribute climate financing that could combine public and private sector funding.

He also said the UK would be looking for a number of multilateral agreements with “progressive developing countries” that would demonstrate how a mixture of public and private finance can effectively drive low carbon and climate adaptation projects.

Huhne reiterated the UK “is not expecting a final agreement in Cancun”, but he insisted the groundwork done by the Mexican hosts suggested agreements could be reached on forestry and financing that could then be finalised when other issues are addressed at next year’s talks.

He also said the UK was hoping to see some progress on a number of the more contentious issues in the negotiating text.

In particular, he said the EU would push for the targets contained in the Copenhagen deal to be formally recognised in the UN negotiating process. He also said he remained hopeful that countries such as China that are opposed to MRV measures on the grounds that they represent an infringement of their sovereignty may be willing to shift their position, given they are already signed up to other international treaties that are more invasive.

He concluded that the UK negotiating team would not be armed with “a lot of difficult red lines” and would regard the talks as a success as long as they deliver clear progress towards a deal that can be finalised next year.

“The last thing we want is a confrontational shambles that ends in a lot of name calling,” he said.

The news comes on that same day as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative announced that it will host a major new business summit alongside the main Cancun talks dubbed the World Climate Summit.

The conference – which UNEP describes as “the beginning of a new, open and collaborative global 10-year framework dedicated to helping governments, businesses and financiers accelerate solutions to climate change” – will take place on December 4-5 in Cancun and will be attended by representatives from over 300 of the world’s largest firms, including Richard Branson and Ted Turner.

“As world leaders drive towards a global agreement on climate change, investors in the world’s capital markets cannot afford to simply sit and wait,” said Paul Clements-Hunt, Head of the UNEP Finance Initiative. “Investors and other financial institutions are determined to work with policy-makers to catalyse new low carbon markets worth USD trillions. The World Climate Summit will bring finance, business and negotiators together to help make those future low carbon markets a reality.”

World’s First Hybrid Tugboat Reduces Emissions at California Ports

Carbon emissions at sea have received more attention over the last decade. Ports, especially, can have a negative impact on air quality in the populated areas that surround them. The many emissions sources at ports include ships, trucks, trains, and cargo-handling equipment. Harbor-crafts also contribute a significant portion of total port emissions. These include tugboats, ferries, fishing boats, and dredge vessels. Recently, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have started using a hybrid electric tugboat. A new study by the University of California (UC) Riverside has shown that this has been effective at reducing emissions.

Tugboats are typically powered by marine compression ignition engines. The engines are built to be extremely powerful relative to the size of the vessel. Larger tugboats used in deeper waters have power ratings up to 27,000 horse power. They can have a power:tonnage ratio of up to 4.5, similar to engines used in locomotives. These engines typically drive the propellers mechanically rather than converting the output through electric motors, as is done on trains.
The massive engines can consume large amounts of fuel and produce harmful emissions full of diesel particulates. This has made the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the largest contributors of air pollution in the South Coast Basin according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Pollution from the diesel-powered tugboats and other port emission sources has caused negative health effects on the surrounding population, including cancer and respiratory illnesses.
Now the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest container ports in the nation, are home to the first and only hybrid electric tugboat in the world. Named the Carolyn Dorothy, it runs on four diesel engines and 126 batteries. It was financed by the two ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District to the tune of $ 1.35 million. The vessel was built by Foss Maritime, based in Seattle, and began operational duty in January of 2009.

Researchers from UC Riverside’s College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology conducted a study to see how much emissions the new hybrid tugboat saved. They found it decreased emissions of soot by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides (smog forming compounds) by 51 percent, and CO2 (greenhouse gas) by 27 percent. Their report was completed in October of 2010 and presented to CARB.

The widespread adoption of hybrid marine engines would go a long way in reducing emissions at sea and in port. However, it comes with a very expensive price tag, and technical issues resulting in inefficiencies still remain. The UC Riverside researchers are hopeful that there will be further improvements once plug-in hybrid tugboats become available.

A Sustainable Farming System Designed for Practically Everyone

Algosolar LLC, a farming research and design group, has announced the launch of Bioponica™ — an organic gardening system geared for homeowners, schools, restaurants and commercial growers. On November 20th, from 6pm until 12am, the company will begin a public displaying event for this innovative growing system. The 10′x4′ table, complete with 120 gallon fish tank, is designed to convert waste such as grass clippings, table scraps and other carbon and nitrogen-rich waste sources into fertilizer. “It is unfortunate that we have relied on our municipalities to dispose of waste, whether that be urine, food or yard trimmings,” says co-creator, Dr. Epstein, a holistic osteopathic physician. “It is not practical or sustainable. When nutrients that come from the environment or from the food we eat are buried in landfills or else incinerated then we lose that valuable resource and it becomes a greenhouse gas that negatively impacts our climate and environment. The alternative is to recycle nutrients with the least amount of effort and cost.” The Bioponica™ system works by taking waste and converting it into worm castings and worm teas which are then used to fertilize hydroponic plant beds.

The system also accomodates the growth of algae and duckweed, as well as microbes and aquatic animals that feed on the algae. The table is intended for ample food production, and will grow a variety of medicinal and edible plants — from micro-greens to wheatgrass. “When growing high value crops such as these, the return on investment is less than one year. And without having to purchase fish food or fertilizer the cost is limited to a small electric bill for water pumps and labor,” says Epstein.

The Bioponica™ gardening system will grow indoors or outdoors and also come complete with a UV filtered polycarbonate roofing option to help keep the temperature, CO2 and nutrient load stable. Fellow creator and professional engineer, Kenneth Lovell, says, “By converting carbon and nitrogen rich waste into fish and plant food we are effectively sequestering carbon turning it into a food before it escapes as a CO2 gas. The tables capture heat and warm the water within the fish tanks. On cool nights, the heated thermal mass of water returns to the beds, warming the plant area to extend the growing season into colder months.”

Optimizing Large Wind Farms

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2010) — Wind farms around the world are large and getting larger. Arranging thousands of wind turbines across many miles of land requires new tools that can balance cost and efficiency to provide the most energy for the buck

Charles Meneveau, who studies fluid dynamics at Johns Hopkins University, and his collaborator Johan Meyers from Leuven University in Belgium, have developed a model to calculate the optimal spacing of turbines for the very large wind farms of the future. Theyl presented their work November 23 at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

“The optimal spacing between individual wind turbines is actually a little farther apart than what people use these days,” said Meneveau.

The blades of a turbine distort wind, creating eddies of turbulence that can affect other wind turbines farther downwind. Most previous studies have used computer models to calculate the wake effect of one individual turbine on another.

Starting with large-scale computer simulations and small-scale experiments in a wind tunnel, Meneveau’s model considers the cumulative effects of hundreds or thousands of turbines interacting with the atmosphere.

“There’s relatively little knowledge about what happens when you put lots of these together,” said Meneveau.

The energy a large wind farm can produce, he and his coworkers discovered, depends less on horizontal winds and more on entraining strong winds from higher in the atmosphere. A 100-meter turbine in a large wind farm must harness energy drawn from the atmospheric boundary layer thousands of feet up.

In the right configuration, lots of turbines essentially change the roughness of the land — much in the same way that trees do — and create turbulence. Turbulence, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. It mixes the air and helps to pull down kinetic energy from above.
Using as example 5 megawatt-rated machines and some reasonable economic figures, Meneveau calculates that the optimal spacing between turbines should be about 15 rotor diameters instead of the currently prevalent figure of 7 rotor diameters.

China hits efficiency and pollution targets

China will have achieved its goal of a 20 per cent reduction of energy intensity and a 10 per cent cut in major pollutant emission against 2005 levels by the end of 2010, according to official figures reported yesterday.

Success in meeting the goals is largely thanks to hefty government investment coupled with draconian threats for non-compliance towards the end of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2005-2010).

The China Daily cited a study by the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) showing that government funding of more than 200bn yuan ($ 301 bn) for energy conservation, emissions reduction, and environmental protection measures unlocked over 2 trillion yuan ($ 30bn) in green investment from the private sector.

The commission study also says that more than 70 per cent of coal-fired power stations have installed Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) systems, while 998 energy-consuming enterprises achieved energy-saving goals laid out by the government.

Earlier this year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao warned he would use an “iron fist” to ensure the targets were met, promising to close some of the country’s most inefficient factories and heavy manufacturing plants if they remained non-compliant with the targets.

It was also reported in the People’s Daily that some regions have carried out enforced power blackouts over the last few days to ensure the targets were met.

However China still remains the world’s second-largest energy user, consuming 2.146 billion tonnes of oil equivalent last year, versus 2.382 billion tonnes used by the US.

The NDRC report said “arduous efforts” would be needed to realize the country’s ambition of moving toward more environmentally-friendly economic growth by 2020, including decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 50 per cent per unit of GDP from 2005 levels, increasing non-fossil fuel energy share to 15 per cent in primary energy, and adding 40 million hectares of forest land.

A series of new policies are to be launched over the next few months for the forthcoming 12th Five-Year Plan which will run from 2011 to 2015. The plan is expected to include new national targets for energy and carbon intensity, as well as regional targets for provinces to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, plans to roll out carbon trading schemes, and measures to accelerate the roll out of electric vehicles and renewable energy capacity.

Ontario feed-in tariffs creating solar jobs at the cost of a donut per month

Using a measure of cost that all Canadians understand, a provocative new report says the impact of Ontario’s feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaics (PV), which will create 70,000 jobs, is no more than one Tim Hortons donut per month.

Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee-shop chain found in even the smallest village.

The confidential report comes at a time of heated political debate in the provincial capital of Toronto about the cost of the current government’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Ontario’s feed-in tariff program is the most visible — and the most controversial — aspect of the policy.

The report by ClearSky Advisors was prepared for private, and so far unnamed, clients. However, a summary has been released to the media. ClearSky says that by 2015, Ontario’s solar PV industry will have created 72,000 person-years of jobs.

Ontario plans to close all its coal-fired power plants by 2014. Generation by renewable sources, including solar PV, will be used to offset the coal-fired generation lost.

Program cost minimal

Critics of the program say that feed-in tariffs are the cause of what they claim are increasing electricity costs.
Not so, says ClearSky’s summary. Cost of electricity in the province will increase slightly to a maximum of about one percent of a typical household’s bill, then decline steadily as the initial contracts work their way through the system.

Solar PV is the most expensive of the new renewable energy technologies. Though costs are rapidly declining, generation from solar PV is still several times more costly than that from wind, hydro, or biogas. Thus, feed-in tariffs for solar PV are a lightning rod for critics of renewable energy.

In a previous report, ClearSky estimated that Ontario will install 3,000 megawatts of solar PV in the next five years. During the period studied in this report, ClearSky says Ontario will install a total of 6,000 megawatts of solar PV by 2021. For comparison, California is expected to have a total installed capacity of 800 megawatts and the U.S. 1,700 megawatts of solar PV by the end of 2010.

If ClearSky’s estimates become reality, Ontario will soon become the largest center of solar PV development in North America by a wide margin, and rival European countries, which are currently the leaders in solar generation.

More jobs from solar PV than coal or nuclear

The Green Energy Act was in part justified by the job-creation potential in Ontario’s industrial sector, which was hard hit by the collapse of North America’s auto manufacturers.
Implementation of the province’s feed-in tariff program by the Ontario Power Authority includes a controversial domestic content provision. In effect, a substantial portion of any solar system installed in Ontario must be manufactured in the province.
ClearSky’s summary suggests that this policy may in fact work as intended at creating new jobs. The report says solar PV creates 12 times more jobs than nuclear per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and 15 times more than coal.
More jobs per dollar invested

ClearSky calculates that while investment in solar PV results in 30 percent to 40 percent as much electricity as investment in conventional sources, the investment in solar PV pays dividends in job creation. According to ClearSky’s summary, investment in solar PV creates 2.4 to 6.4 times more jobs than a similar investment in conventional sources.

Ontario solar PV billion dollar market

At the current pace of development and with the limitations of a weak, antiquated grid in mind, ClearSky projects that between 2010 and 2015, Ontario’s burgeoning solar industry will attract nearly $ 7.8 billion (USD) in private capital.

Clean generation saves ratepayers 20 percent

On Oct. 17, 2010 the Ontario government announced a rebate of 10 percent on ratepayers’ electricity bills to compensate for what it calls the “Clean Energy Benefit” of the Green Energy Act. The rebate will be paid for from tax revenue.

In a posting on their website, “Why Ontario’s Clean Energy Benefit Makes Sense — Sort Of,” ClearSky argues that the rapid development of clean sources of generation to replace the existing coal-fired plants saves taxpayers money by eliminating coal’s social and environmental costs.

The posting has revised interest in a long-forgotten report on the cost of coal-fired generation. The 2005 report, Cost Benefit Analysis: Replacing Ontario’s Coal-Fired Electricity Generation [PDF], tallied the then social cost of electricity from the province’s nuclear-powered and fossil-fired fleet of generators. The report says Ontario’s coal-fired power plants cost Ontario nearly $ 0.127 (USD) per kilowatt hour in environmental and social impacts.

According to ClearSky, new renewable generation under the Green Energy Act’s feed-in tariffs saves ratepayers the equivalent of 20 percent on their electricity bills. Thus, they reluctantly say, the province’s Clean Energy Benefit does appear justified and could be even higher.

While ClearSky’s market analysis won’t settle the debate on the future of Ontario’s electricity system, it clearly shows that the province is headed toward becoming a leader in renewable energy development, and especially in the creation of a solar PV industry.

Climate Progress

Conservative leaders attack Browner, Administration and Upton on climate science and clean energy

November 23, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Senior Fellow Daniel J. Weiss is CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy.

The incoming House Republican majority includes many climate science deniers.  They have already begun their attacks on promoters of policies to reduce energy use, save families money, and cut global warming pollution.  This includes an attack on Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a leading candidate to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He is under fire for his efforts to require more energy efficient light bulbs.  But he has also joined the global warming witch hunt by hurling misleading charges about Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Carol Browner in an attempt to discredit her long record of basing energy policies on sound science.  This attack is the beginning of efforts to undo the Obama Administration’s successes at creating clean energy jobs, saving families money, and reducing oil use and pollution.

The attack on Upton sprung from the effort by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to become Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C).  House Republican term limit rules restrict their members to three Congresses (six years) as chair and/or ranking minority member of a committee.   Barton seeks a waiver to allow him to become Chair of E&C in 2011 even though he already served as chair for two years and ranking member for four years.  Without a waiver, the next most senior Republican – Upton – should become chair.

Despite Upton’s life time American Conservative Union record of 72 percent, many on the far right believe he is not conservative enoughto oversee federal energy, communications, and health care policy.  Politico reported on this anti-Upton campaign.

They’re pointing to Upton’s support for phasing out some incandescent light bulbs in favor of greener alternatives.

Right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh cited Upton’s promotion of eco-friendly light bulbs evidence that he shouldn’t take the Energy and Commerce gavel.

“This would be a tone-deaf disaster if the Republican leadership lets Fred Upton ascend to the chairmanship of the House energy committee,” Limbaugh said this week. “This is exactly the kind of nannyism, statism, what have you, that was voted against and was defeated last week. No Republican complicit in nannyism, statism, can be rewarded this way.”

Upton (R-Mich.) teamed up with California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman on 2007 legislation aimed at phasing out the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs. That language eventually became law as part of a larger energy bill.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy notes that incandescent bulbs that use only 10 percent of their energy for light – the rest is waste heat.  More efficient compact fluorescent bulbs

use less energy and last longer, [so consumers] will save up to several times their purchase price each year through reduced electricity bills and fewer replacement bulbs.

Upton’s light bulb efficiency provision was part of the Energy Independence and Security Act that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2007.

The bill sets lamp efficiency standards for common light bulbs, requiring them to use about 20-30% less energy than present incandescent bulbs by 2012-2014 (phasing in over several years) and requiring a DOE rulemaking to set standards that will reduce energy use to no more than about 65% of current lamp use by 2020.

The attack on Upton’s leadership to require light bulbs to waste less energy and save more money is an example of the right’s broad attack on science and clean energy technology.

After the assault he promptly dimmed his support for energy efficiency and consumer savings.  Politico reports

Hoping to counter attacks from his right, Rep. Fred Upton is promising to reexamine a controversial ban on incandescent light bulbs if he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

After the right’s attack on Upton, he followed in their footsteps by launching a similar misplaced attack on Carol Browner.  On November 15, he sent a letter questioning her actions on the Department of Interior moratorium on deep water drilling in the wake of the nation’s worst oil disaster.  It focuses on the disproved charge that her office modified the DOI report so that it appeared that the moratorium decision was peer reviewed by scientists when it was not.

This question was fully examined by the Inspector General at the Department of Interior, and it found no wrong doing.

While the 30-Day Report’s Executive Summary could have been more clearly worded, the Department has not definitively violated the IQA [Information Quality Act, which guides the federal government’s use of information]. For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations. The Department also appears to have adequately remedied the IQA concerns by communicating directly with the experts, offering a formal apology, and publicly clarifying the nature of the peer review.

Upton’s letter is like issuing a speeding ticket to a car traveling at 25.1 miles per hour in a 25 MPH zone, even after the radar gun demonstrated there was no violation.

Interestingly, we could find no record of Upton raising similar concerns about the Bush administration’s frequent editing of documents to remove descriptions of climate science.  The New York Times revealed that

A White House official who once led the oil industry’s fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

Upton’s misleading attack on Browner is his attempt to demonstrate his right wing, anti-science bona fides during the mud wrestling to win the coveted E&C chair.  However, this false attack is not an isolated incident, but instead part of the incoming House majority’s effort to attack climate science and scientists, as well as the administration’s successful clean energy policies.

As chair, Upton plans to conduct hearings designed to undermine EPA rules to protect public health and the environment from toxic coal ash, smog, mercury and other toxic chemicals, and global warming pollution.  All of these safeguards will be based upon the best medical and scientific evidence available in order to protect children, seniors, and others from these harmful, controllable contaminants.

Upton’s attacks are the rule, rather than the exception, among the new majority.  His colleagues plan a host of similar efforts to conduct witch hunts in the name of oversight.  This could include efforts to overturn or delay the implementation of President Obama’s new fuel economy standards that would reduce oil use by 1.8 billion barrels, save consumers $ 3000 or more over the life of their car, and cut nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas pollution.  Bloomberg reports,

Tea Party-backed candidates who won seats in the House by campaigning against federal regulation and spending, including the GM and Chrysler bailouts, may lead opposition to increasing fuel-economy standards, said Russ Harding, senior environmental policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality from 1995 to 2002 [under Republican Governor John Engler, now head of the National Association of Manufacturers].

Incoming Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) plans to interrogate the administration over some of its other successes.

With their new majority in the House, Republicans are expected to waste no time in flexing their oversight authority. The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government reform panel confirmed that the GOP-led committee will investigate polices like the stimulus, the health care bill, and the bank bailout.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. the “stimulus”) has had a real success creating clean energy jobs, investing in renewable technologies, and reducing families’ energy bills via efficiency.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the likely chair of the House Science Committee, has already announced his future assault on climate science.

The likely next chairman of the House Science Committee says “reasonable people have serious questions” about the science connecting manmade greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) on Wednesday vowed to investigate the Obama administration’s climate policies if he becomes chairman.

Fred Upton is on the receiving end of the kind of assault that he has levied on Carol Browner.  Many more similar attacks are likely after his colleagues take control of the House of Representatives on January 5, 2011.  The objective of these attacks is to defeat or delay health and science based policies that protect and benefit society as whole even if they reduce profits for big oil, dirty coal or other special interests.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), defeated by a Tea Party candidate in his primary, alerted his Republican colleagues that their assault on science and clean energy policies would harm Americans.  At a House Science Committee hearing on global warming science he warned,

I would also suggest to my Free Enterprise colleagues — especially conservatives here — whether you think it’s all a bunch of hooey, what we’ve talked about in this committee, the Chinese don’t. And they plan on eating our lunch in this next century. They plan on innovating around these problems, and selling to us, and the rest of the world, the technology that’ll lead the 21st century. So we may just press the pause button here for several years, but China is pressing the fast-forward button.

What we’ll find is we’re way behind those Chinese folks…They plan on leading the future. So whether you — if you’re a free enterprise conservative here — just think: it’s a bunch of hooey, this science is a bunch of hooey. But if you miss the commercial opportunity, you’ve really missed something.

Former House Science Committee Chair Sherry Boehlert (R-NY) also counseled his compatriots against this attack on science.

The new Congress should have a policy debate to address facts rather than a debate featuring unsubstantiated attacks on science. We shouldn’t stand by while the reputations of scientists are dragged through the mud in order to win a political argument. And no member of any party should look the other way when the basic operating parameters of scientific inquiry — the need to question, express doubt, replicate research and encourage curiosity — are exploited for the sake of political expediency. My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy. And that in the long run, it’s also bad politics.

Inglis and Boehlert are urging Republican leaders to reject the unfair, anti-science attacks aimed at Fred Upton and his common sense light bulb efficiency legislation.  Hopefully, he and his colleagues will refrain from hurling such false, destructive charges at Carol Browner, scientists or other administration officials.  If not, they will demonstrate the same ignorance, selfishness, and economic obliviousness shown by Upton’s attackers.

Daniel J. Weiss is Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Climate Progress

The final act for clean energy in the 111th Congress

November 20, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This is a cross-post from CAP’s Daniel J. Weiss.

The Senate has one last chance to pass clean energy measures before the 111th Congress adjourns for the year. Many other clean energy and climate measures were blocked in this Congress, but there’s hope for a better ending to this clean energy legislative tragedy: The pending bill currently is composed of proposals with bipartisan authors.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) canceled a cloture vote that would have allowed passage of his Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act, S. 3815. Instead, he is reportedly conducting talks with one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), to see if a bipartisan agreement over the bill’s passage is possible. It is a modest proposal that would increase incentives for natural gas trucks, create a pilot program for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, and raise the oil spill liability fee from 8 cents to 21 cents per barrel.

Sen. Reid’s bill is based on several bipartisan proposals. Its natural gas vehicles provisions are drawn from the NAT GAS Act, S. 1408. It would provide money for rebates to purchase natural gas cars and trucks. CAP estimates that the conversion of trucks to natural gas could save 1.2 million barrels of oil per day by 2035. The Senate Democratic Policy Committee notes that, “The natural gas industry … estimated that this program will create more than 100,000 direct manufacturing and labor jobs and more than 450,000 indirect jobs.” Its cosponsors include conservative Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), George LeMieux (R-FL), and Hatch.

The electric vehicle provisions in S. 3815 are based on The Electric Vehicle Deployment Act, S. 3442. It would speed the transition to electric vehicles by creating a pilot program to help some communities create electric vehicle recharging infrastructure for plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. Its cosponsors include Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Susan Collins (R-ME), and LeMieux.

The cost of these programs would be offset by a fairly small increase in the oil spill liability fee from 8 cents to 21 cents per barrel. This would lead to an increase in gasoline prices of no more than one-thirteenth of a cent per gallon. In other words, it would boost the price of seven and a half gallons of gasoline by a single penny. To put this in perspective, gasoline prices rose 7 cents per gallon over the past month.

Big Oil companies oppose this because it would reduce oil use and increase their oil spill liability fee by a pittance. Nonetheless, Big Oil’s opposition to this tiny fee hike could be enough to convince senators to vote against this very modest bill. The negotiations over the legislation are focusing on whether to levy this small fee increase or use some other mechanism to offset its cost.

Republican senators face pressure from their leaders to oppose the bill to deny President Barack Obama even a small victory in addition to demands from Big Oil. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that politics trumps progress when he said that, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” It is easy to imagine GOP Senate leaders following this dictum by strong-arming their caucus to vote against ending debate and passing this bill.

Republican senators who supported the NAT Gas Act and Electric Vehicle Development Act should also support S. 3815 if there is an agreement between Sens. Reid and Hatch. The bill would then pass. If past is prologue, though, enough of these senators could follow Big Oil and their Senate leadership to kill this common sense, low-cost legislation that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It would join comprehensive global warming and clean energy legislation along with other essential clean energy jobs proposals on the scrap heap of bills Big Oil and Senate Republican leaders opposed.

Let’s hope such a sad fate for clean energy can be avoided in this Congress.

– Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress.

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for November 19th: GM makes clean energy investment; Scientists isolate gene that boosts plant root growth

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

On heels of IPO, GM makes clean energy investment

Against a backdrop of what could be the largest IPO in US history, Chevrolet yesterday announced plans to invest $ 40m in carbon offset projects across the country over the next three to five years.

The projects, ranging from generating solar energy at schools to capturing methane gas at landfills, are expected to reduce eight million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – roughly the annual emissions produced by the 1.9 million Chevrolet vehicles to be sold over the next year.

“GM has made great progress in reducing our environmental impact, but we know we can do more,” General Motors chief executive Dan Akerson said in a statement. “Chevrolet’s investment is an extension of the environmental initiatives we’ve been undertaking for years because the solution to global environmental challenges goes beyond just vehicles.”

Parent company General Motors timed the announcement to the day it made a triumphant return to the stock market. GM said on Wednesday it would increase the size of its initial public offering because of high demand, marking what many are calling a significant milestone for a company that has seen its share of bailouts and bankruptcy.

“It is a way for us to communicate that we are not the same company,” Joel Ewanick, GM’s vice president of marketing, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday.

In another bright spot, Chevrolet just won two major industry accolades when its highly-anticipated gasoline-electric hybrid Volt was named both Car of the Year by Motor Trend, and Automobile of the Year by Automobile magazine. Today, the Volt was named Green Car of the Year at the L.A. Auto Show.

The company said its $ 40m offset investment would be made through third-party organisations including the nonprofit Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

GM is also turning to a team of all-star advisors to help the company shape the program’s portfolio, including Bob Sheppard, vice president of corporate programs at Clean Air-Cool Planet; Derik Broekhoff, vice president of policy at Climate Action Reserve; Mark Kenber, deputy CEO of The Climate Group; Snehall Desai, a sustainability strategist; Janet Peace, vice president at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change; and Eban Goodstein, director for the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College.

Ewanick said in the conference call the company would look at projects that had a multiplier effect and called on communities across the country to advance local projects in which Chevrolet could invest.

Inaugural Campus Conservation Nationals Saves 550,000 kWh

Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard Network is primed for social media savvy folks to dial down their energy usage. So it is no surprise that Lucid has provided its product to various universities. To take it to the next step, Lucid just hosted the first Campus Conservation Nationals, a competition involving 40 universities across the country to cut back on water and energy use in dorms.

If there’s one thing college kids love more than rivalries, it’s Facebook.

Enter Lucid with its social media-enabled platform complete with widgets to engage nearly 120,000 students. The results were impressive for a first time competition. Interest in the program was greater than Lucid had anticipated, and some schools had to be turned away. Many of the universities had run these programs before, yet there were more savings to be had. About half saw a 5 to 35 percent reduction in energy use with more than 550,000 kilowatt hours saved in total. The diversity of groups that got involved and the strategies used to encourage participation offer roadmaps for large organizations to tackle their own energy reduction goals.

The competition only tracked dorms because that is where students have the most influence on energy use, compared to a cafeteria, for example. But it wasn’t just students who were on board, according to Andrew deCoriolis, Manager of Public Programs for Lucid Design. Facility staff, residential life staff and others were also involved. Whether it was a building manager or a student group who first decided to join, ultimately the different constituents had to come together to make it work.

While students encouraged each other to shut off lights and laptops, facility managers adjusted temperature setting when asked and shut down partial hallway lighting. There was also everything from 5K fun runs and bingo to trivia nights and energy savings being part of freshman orientation.

Early surveys have found that for the schools that saved, the behavior changes will stick with the participants beyond the three-week competition. And for the schools that didn’t save, it wasn’t always because they weren’t trying. In some cases, one building threw off the average of savings from other dorms, and deCoriolis admitted there was a lot of noise in the data, and in some cases, there might be only so much that students could do to affect energy savings.

Even so, saving abounded. DePauw University was the winner with a nearly 24 percent reduction from nine buildings. Appalachian State University was second with just over 20 percent across 19 buildings and University of British Columbia was third with nearly 17 percent savings in six dorms.

Moving forward, deCoriolis said that the competition might be more tailored, allowing schools to just compete against other certain schools (Bowdoin is looking to take on Bates and Colby, while St. John University was mostly concerned with beating NYU in this year’s competition – and it did by catching the No. 6 ranking while NYU was 12).

But this type of rivalry is not just for the sophomore set. Lucid Design is already in the planning stages to pit different business units at Yahoo take each other on. Google is also considering running a competition. DPR Construction is also considering having its San Diego headquarters go toe-to-toe against some other regional offices.
The three weeks of smack talk and turning off lights is fun in nearly any setting, but it is the conversation that can happen around these programs that are truly valuable. “It turns people from occupants to active managers,” said deCoriolis.

Rooting Out CO2: Scientists Isolate a Gene That Boosts Plant Root Growth

Changes to a single gene in a model organism in plant biology, Arabidopsis thaliana, have been found to promote faster-growing and larger root systems—an application that could help researchers engineer bigger, better crops capable of sequestering more atmospheric carbon. The gene and its operations are described in the November 11 issue of the journal Cell.

Bigger root systems mean more climate-warming carbon could essentially be buried, because plants build their roots using atmospheric carbon. From the roots, carbon can be transferred into soil where it can remain for millennia.

Plants engineered to have bigger root systems could also help address food shortages and aid in efforts to grow crops in a warmer, drier climate. Evidence suggests that plants with larger root systems are more drought-resistant.

There could also be benefits to the biofuel industry. Faster-growing root systems could allow new plants to take hold more quickly, including perennial grasses like switchgrass and Miscanthus, which are considered viable feedstocks for next-generation biofuel.

“With switchgrass, for example, frequently you cannot harvest the first year’s crop because it takes a long time for the root system to establish,” says study author Philip Benfey, a professor of biology at Duke University and director of Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. If plant genetic engineering could reduce that waiting time, “that would be a huge boon for farmers,” he adds.

Tissue growth in plants is a complicated process involving many genetic factors. But when Benfey’s group set out to discern which factors most influenced root development, they had a good idea where to start looking. In Arabidopsis, as in most plants, there is a specific zone near the tip of the root where stem cells transition from a stage of proliferation to one where they differentiate into specific tissue types. In this zone cells change from a state of rapid division into one in which they drastically increase their volume by elongating—the first stage of differentiation. “We knew the location existed, but what we didn’t know was how the process was controlled,” Benfey says.

Based on previous work, the researchers had reason to think it was controlled by transcription factors—proteins that control the expression of certain genes by binding to DNA at specific locations to induce (or block) the transcription of information from DNA to RNA. Also from previous work, they knew the genes whose expression within the transition zone was higher than elsewhere in the cell (indicating that they were being “turned on” for this specific purpose). “We focused on genes that turned on right at that transition,” Benfey says, “and among those genes, we focused on transcription factors.”

By studying Arabidopsis plants for which the genes for these transcription factors had been selectively knocked out, the group identified a single transcription factor that when inactive resulted in longer roots. They dubbed the gene that codes for it UPBEAT1 (UPB1). Further study revealed that UPB1 regulates the expression of three genes, called peroxidases, which themselves control the distribution of two chemicals, hydrogen peroxide and superoxide, in the root. The precise balance between the two compounds controls the transition from cell proliferation to differentiation. “It appears that UPB1 is a pretty key regulator of this process,” Benfey says.

Benfey notes that these bigger, faster-growing plants are not the result of the insertion of a novel gene, but rather a decrease in UPB1’s normal activity. “We’re not talking about transgenic plants here,” he says. In practice this means they wouldn’t be subject to the extensive regulations governing the use of transgenic plants, and would thus be much cheaper to put into the field.

Practical application is still several steps away, however. One of the first orders of business is to see if this finding can be applied to other crops besides Arabidopsis.

Benfey is confident. His company, GrassRoots Biotechnology, has acquired the patent for UPB1 , and plans to use it to further explore root development, with the goal of producing even more advanced biofuel crops. He thinks UPB1 is the first of “probably several” genes that have similar functions. “When we understand them well and can control them, we should be able to regulate root activity,” just like modern agriculture has successfully altered activity aboveground, he says.

It’s Heating Up: Global Investors Join Forces Calling for International Policies and Action on Climate Change

With just over one week before governments meet in Cancun, Mexico to discuss a new international climate change treaty the message from the world’s biggest investors is loud and clear: take action now or suffer economic disaster.

In a signed statement [pdf], 250 investors from the United States, Asia, Australia, Brazil and South Africa, representing collective assets of US$ 15 trillion, have called for governments to take a look at the numbers detailing why the devastating impacts of climate change could result in global GDP cuts of 20 percent per year.

The statement also explains that current investment levels in the low-carbon economy fall short of the estimated amount needed to prevent greenhouse gas emissions from moving past the scientific tipping point.
With private funds waiting in the wings to see whether this low-carbon economic boom is a fad or a reality, the statement stressed the need for governments to back climate change through policy.

This, the investors claim, will create confidence and spur continued growth which, in turn, will unleash the giant potential of low-carbon markets.

Particular attention was directed toward the United States which has yet to pass a federal climate change bill, slowing the investment potential and placing the country way behind other nation’s clean energy investments. This year, in the third-quarter, the US invested US$ 4.4 billion in clean energy which is just over half of Europe’s US$ 8.4 billion and less than one-third of the US$ 13.5 billion that China invested.

To avoid economic disaster and ignite investment growth to affect real climate change the statement has called for both developed and developing governments to create the following policies:
• Short-, mid- and long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets.
• Energy and transportation policies to vastly accelerate deployment of energy efficiency, renewable energy, green buildings, clean vehicles and clean fuels.
• Strong and sustained price signals on carbon emissions and well-designed carbon markets.
• Phase out fossil-fuel subsidies, as agreed to by G20 leaders in 2009.
• Adaptation measures to reduce unavoidable climate change impacts.
• Corporate disclosure of material climate-related risks.
“Investors need greater policy certainty from governments. Deferring climate change agreement adds to investor concerns that climate change risks and costs are not taken seriously. The Cancún talks provide an opportunity for all concerned governments to take leadership on this important issue and start framing an agreement needed to create a sustainable investment environment,” said Donald MacDonald, trustee, BT Pension Scheme, and chair, Principles for Responsible Investment.

Fred Olsen dumps 450MW offshore wind farm

One of Scotland’s leading wind energy developers has pulled out of the Crown Estate’s Scottish offshore wind programme to concentrate its efforts on land, in a move that will raise questions about the industry’s ability to meet its ambitious targets.

Fred Olsen Renewables (FOR) confirmed today that it has ceased working as the preferred developer for the 450MW Forth Array wind farm off the east coast of Scotland, following a strategic review of its wind farm portfolio.

Forth Array is part of the Crown Estate’s Scottish Territorial Round, and would have included up to 90 turbines, as well as cabling and a new sub-station. Construction had been planned to start in 2013 and completed in 2018, with first energy being produced in 2016.
In a statement, FOR’s UK managing director Nick Emery said the review had determined onshore wind would provide a more efficient use of its time.

“As an independent power producer we have concluded that the most efficient use of our development resource is in our onshore portfolios, where historically we have had considerable success,” he said. “Crystal Rig Wind Farms I and II, for example, provide almost 10 per cent of Scotland’s operational wind capacity.”

However he added that the wider Fred Olsen Group will continue to support the offshore market through its supply chain companies, and FOR will continue to progress with the Codling offshore farm in Irish Waters.

A FOR spokesman additionally told BusinessGreen the company wanted to focus on viable medium term projects and the construction of Forth Array was considered too long term. FOR now wants to invest in new onshore projects and extend existing wind farms in Scotland.

He failed to disclose how much money FOR had invested in the project to date, but insisted it was not a significant sum because development was still in early stages. He added that there will be no redundancies, as employees who had been working on Forth Array would be redeployed elsewhere in the firm.

The fate of the Forth Array site now hangs in the balance. A Crown Estate spokeswoman said it was too early to determine if the site could be retendered, and the Crown Estate is now reviewing its position.

“One of the difficulties with the Scottish sites is that they are developer chosen sites, unlike Round 3, so there’s less flexibility,” she said.

The news is likely to reignite questions about the ability of renewable energy developers to meet ambitious targets to produce 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 in the UK.

The Scottish Government has even more ambitious targets for 2020, for 80 per cent of its electricity demand to come from renewable sources.
The news could also spark fears that Fred Olsen’s decision is the start of a trend offshore wind developers abandoning their projects.
However, a spokesman for the Scottish government denied the decision would severely impact its goals.

His comments were echoed by trade association Scottish Renewables. Jenny Hogan director of policy said: “This is essentially a business decision, with Fred Olsen choosing to concentrate on installation and support services to other developers as well as its massive onshore wind portfolio across Scotland, rest of UK and Europe. “Let’s not forget that there are still over 10GW of offshore wind projects planned for Scottish waters.”

FOR were one of nine successful developers within the Scottish Territorial tendering process, in which 10 Exclusivity Agreements were awarded in February 2009.

The Crown Estate hopes to award leases to the remaining developers, allowing commencement of formal consenting processes, when the Scottish Government completes its Strategic Environmental Assessment of offshore wind.

Forestry loophole could sink global emissions deal

The move towards a global deal at Cancun rests on closing a little-known loophole that has seen developed countries discount emissions from logging plantation forests, according to the EU’s chief negotiator.

After the failure to agree a binding deal on global emissions at Copenhagen last year, developed countries are coming under pressure from the UN to ensure progress is not further stalled at the upcoming two-week talks, which start in 10 days’ time.

An agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, is unlikely to be agreed before the Cape Town summit in 2011, after recent talks at Tianjin, China, followed the same trajectory as Copenhagen.

However, Artur Runge-Metzger, EU representative for Cancun, told Reuters that a Kyoto replacement would be impossible without solving the problem of how to incorporate emissions from tree felling, which are unaccounted for under the present Protocol.

Countries that have signed up to the Kyoto Protocol can exclude emissions from trees felled that are then used as paper, timber and in the rapidly growing biomass market. However, countries are allowed to count carbon stored by growing trees as credits.

“It is a big issue, particularly when it comes to determining your emissions reduction targets, and particularly for some countries which have a lot of forests,” said Runge-Metzger. “It was a kind of loophole and a weakness of the Kyoto architecture and there’s a need to address that.”

Bringing forestry under any emissions deal could also have repercussions for protecting the rainforests, with more projects expected whereby landowners in developing countries are paid to safeguard existing forest or restore degraded land.

“All the issues we are discussing here, you will have similar issues when it comes to tropical forests, and the issue of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,” he added.
He said a possible deal could result in a scheme entailing mandatory reporting with some cap on credits and a target for logging.

Analysts champion US carbon markets despite exchange closure

Analysts have insisted the American carbon market is alive and kicking, despite plans to scrap the pioneering Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX).

CCX’s parent firm, Intercontinental Exchange, last month confirmed it will close the doors on the Chicago-based pilot project at the end of this year, blaming a lack of government legislation and the failure of Congress to pass an energy and climate change bill that would have allowed the formation of a national emissions trading scheme.
Media reports in the US have suggested CCX’s closure is the final nail in the coffin for President Obama’s plans for an emissions cap-and-trade scheme.

“Economy-wide cap and trade died of what amounts to natural causes in Washington,” Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, which supported the proposals, told Fox News.

But in Europe, analysts have insisted the US carbon market can continue to develop, arguing that the closure of the CCX will have little impact on either US or European markets.

“[There are] no implications for the EU and UK,” Emilie Mazzacurati, head of carbon research for North America at Point Carbon, told BusinessGreen in an email.

“The parent company of CCX, Climate Plc, recently acquired in full by ICE, still owns the very successful ECX [European Climate Exchange] and the ECX is operating normally,” she said.

She added that the closure of CCX is “by no means” the end of carbon trading in the US, pointing out that regional programmes in the US would continue operating, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the north-east US, and another initiative spearheaded in California and incorporating large Canadian provinces, which is slated to start in 2012.

“This is not even the end of trading for Climate Plc in the US,” she added. “Their regular exchange, the Chicago Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE), continues to operate normally.”

Mazzacurati also observed that CCX credits had recently traded for “pennies” and that the exchange was coming to its natural end, as it had only ever been set up as a pilot project. The main benefit of the programme had been to teach early adopters about carbon trading, she said.

“The effects on carbon markets globally are null, except for the fact that the CCX shutting down highlights the failure of the US Senate to pass a cap-and-trade bill,” she concluded.

Mazzacurati’s comments were echoed by Allesandro Vitelli, director of strategy at IdeaCarbon, who similarly predicted the closure of CCX would not impact any other market because it was a voluntary programme, detached from other schemes.

“CCX is a voluntary scheme and not interlinked with any other markets, so the targets are not very demanding,” he told BusinessGreen, adding that a lot of the offsets on the exchange “do not represent the most environmentally strong reductions”, such as credits issued against no-till farming projects where farmers leave soil undisturbed.

A Call to Action on Ocean Acidity

States bordering water bodies that are becoming more acidic from the absorption of carbon dioxide should list them as impaired under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency declared in a memo this week.

Carbon dioxide emissions are considered a threat not only because of their heat-trapping properties in the atmosphere but also because of their ability to change ocean chemistry. The world’s oceans act as a sponge for carbon dioxide, and as the gas dissolves in seawater, it changes into carbonic acid.

More acidic seawater harms shellfish by inhibiting shell formation, a problem already observed at oyster farms along the Washington State coast. Ocean acidification is also seen as a major threat to the world’s coral reefs.

The E.P.A.’s declaration, which also urges states to gather data on ocean acidification in their coastal waters, is a result of a successful lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group. Under the Clean Water Act, states that list bodies of water as impaired must take action to curb the pollution responsible for the impact.

In the case of ocean acidification, such declarations could conceivably compel states or the federal government to act to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

“It gives the green light to states to go ahead and assess whether their waters are being impacted by ocean acidification and designate them if they are,” said Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Step two would be some kind of approach to controlling the pollution that’s causing the problem, which in this case would be carbon dioxide.”

Several precedents exist for using provisions of the Clean Water Act to curb air pollution, like controls placed on mercury emissions from power plants, which have been linked to mercury contamination in fish.
In its memo, the E.P.A. acknowledged that ocean chemistry was observably changing because of human activity and that ocean acidification was “likely to negatively affect important marine ecosystems and species including coral reefs, shellfish and fisheries.”
Many coastal states have little or no information on the impact of carbon emissions on ocean water quality, however, the agency stated. Information on the precise threat that growing ocean acidity poses to marine life is also lacking, the memo said.

Climate Progress

Cutting the cost of clean energy 2.0

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

For decades, progressives have worked to cut the cost of clean energy through R&D and deployment programs that pro-pollution, anti-science conservatives have bitterly fought.  This year, conservatives defeated the most promising effort to generate the funds needed to make massive clean energy investments — a federal climate and clean energy jobs bill.

Is there any hope in this new political environment for enacting a clean energy deployment plan that would promote jobs, security, and broad-based economic growth in 2011Bracken Hendricks, Lisbeth Kaufman, Ken Berlin, Monty Humble, Reed Hundt, Alex Kragie, and Gerry Waldron offer one up in this CAP cross-post.

Members of the incoming 112th Congress will face very different political and eco- nomic circumstances when they take their seats in January. Any energy legislation the new Congress considers will require a fresh approach to match these new realities. Energy legislation proposed in the 111th Congress was tailored to an economic climate informed by the following facts that are now superseded by new considerations:

  • Natural gas was $ 10 per thousand cubic feet. Natural gas is now at $ 4 per thousand cubic feet
  • Gasoline at the pump was $ 4 per gallon.
  • Now gas costs 33 percent less
  • Demand for electricity was growing on an average of 2 percent to 2.2 percent, compounded annually. Now electricity demand is lower because of the state of the economy
  • The unemployment rate was 5 percent. Unemployment now stands at 9.6 percent
  • China and the United States were both primed to be major industry competitors in a worldwide clean energy economy. Now, China holds the commanding heights because its government ensures stable demand for clean energy and facilitates invest- ments in the sector through the deployment of low-cost finance

The political landscape has shifted as well. In the most recent congressional midterm elections, states where unemployment rates were oppressively high demanded immediate action on job creation. Across the American heartland, these states sent fresh faces to Congress and statehouses in droves, charging them with a simple mission: Solve the unemployment crisis.

It is time to respond to these new realities, not revisit the battles of the past. Domestic American clean energy businesses, from solar to wind to nuclear to energy efficiency and everything in between, are currently plagued by:

  • Unpredictable demand in their respective markets
  • A lack of certainty in both the tax code and policy incentives
  • Unavailable long-term, low-cost capital

Businesses need the new Congress to respond early next year to the challenges in all three of these areas. This paper provides a framework for further discussions to address these issues, putting several new policy proposals into play in the debate.

Our paper is organized around three key pillars for a private sector-led investment policy in clean energy:

  • Financing and other policy incentives to lower the cost of clean energy. This can be done by expanding access to low-cost financing to increase investment and reduce the cost of deployment, and through measures such as establish- ing a new Energy Independence Trust. The trust would be able to borrow from the U.S. Treasury Department—at no risk to taxpayers—to enable the private sector to help solve the capital-related issues that weigh down American clean energy businesses today relative to their Chinese counterparts.
  • Regulatory reform to create jobs and markets. This should be done to spark increased demand for clean energy and energy efficiency, and provide greater certainty to investors and project developers through measures such as renewable energy targets and regulatory restructuring.
  • New competitive regional infrastructure to ensure sustained economic development. This can be done by accelerating the deployment of strategic clean energy development and transmission infrastructure through improved policy and planning coordination across federal and state government and the private sector, and through tools such as accelerated depreciation for investments that build this strategic infrastructure.

Together, these three pillars of a new clean energy investment strategy for 2011 will prioritize the rapid deployment of existing advanced clean energy technologies, which will help our construction sector rebound from the ravages of the housing crisis and the Great Recession. By encouraging private investment and reforming the energy marketplace, Congress can immediately take action to drive down the cost of clean energy innovation for consumers, while improving American manufacturing competitiveness and technology leadership.

Further, this strategy does not depend on implementing a cap on carbon-based pollution, and places minimal additional strain on the federal budget through new direct appropriations. In short, such a deployment-based clean energy plan can help build a dramatically more prosperous, productive, dynamic, and efficient economy at a time when fiscal constraints are likely to limit public spending, and private investment will be paramount to sustain economic growth.

While a long-term research-and-development investment plan must be sustained as a foundation for innovation. This paper begins a national discussion to lay out a near- term deployment plan designed to bring this new clean energy technology to scale across our country. More detailed long-term proposals will be published in a separate report and in subsequent reports by the Coalition for Green Capital, with the expert assistance of its three pro-bono law firms: Skadden Arps, Covington & Burling, and Latham & Watkins.

Consequently, our proposals in this paper should all be designed to sunset after 10 years, along with other subsidies for mature energy industries. By that time, American ingenuity, backed by strong private-sector investment, will have brought new energy technologies to commercial scale, enabling America to move to the next level of clean and domestic-led energy generation.

In a decade, commodity prices will have shifted yet again, and the political landscape will have moved on to grapple with new concerns. Today, however, timely and efficient energy policies to promote rapid deployment of new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies can drive job creation and economic growth. In short, they are essential to enabling American businesses to successfully navigate this transition to a new energy future.

Our strategy and recommendations

In the main section of this report, we present a detailed framework for deploying clean energy across our country by transforming the energy marketplace. Here, though, we briefly sketch out our reasons for doing so and our broad recommendations.

Congress must move immediately to reduce the cost of clean energy and remove infrastructure and regulatory barriers to its deployment so that the private sector can invest with confidence in this critical sector of our economy. Faster, better, cheaper is a familiar rallying cry for entrepreneurial activity. We can’t make electricity travel faster, but we can expedite the creation of new business models by lowering the cost of capital for the production and distribution of clean energy coupled with sound tax policy and the use of federal power to rationalize and simplify regulation across regional energy markets. These steps would encourage businesses to provide clean energy for electricity generation and transportation.

Over the past several years, debate on energy innovation focused principally on increasing the costs of pollution through a carbon tax or carbon cap-and-trade system. The aim was to account for the costs of fossil fuels to our environment and energy security. At the same time, new federal investments were mobilized to boost early stage R&D and to subsidize the costs of clean energy projects. The incoming 112th Congress, however, is unlikely to embrace any legislation that makes current energy production more costly, due to fears about the strength of the nascent eco- nomic recovery. What’s more, efforts to begin tackling the federal budget deficit mean that there will likely be little or no new federal dollars spent on clean energy, except perhaps for limited infrastructure repair.

Yet members of the incoming Congress will have an opportunity in 2011 to pass legislation that addresses deeply held industry concerns over the current state of energy policy in the United States while protecting consumers and taxpayers alike. The energy sector is seeking new venues for investment and expansion right now, but realizing the staggering growth opportunity of serving the potential domestic and global markets for clean energy depends on providing the U.S. energy market with strong and consistent financing, greater predictability in energy regulation, and improved certainty for investors in clean energy projects.

Making clean energy markets more predictable can be highly effective in increasing private-sector investment in new technologies to drive down costs and speed deployment. Limited policy innovations that do not draw heavily on the federal budget may also prove acceptable to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. For these reasons, our principal proposal for a new “Energy Independence Trust,” which could borrow from the federal treasury to provide low-cost financing to private-sector investments in clean energy, are more likely to meet with bipartisan support.

Our proposed Energy Independence Trust would hold sufficient reserves to protect the Treasury from loan losses, and would be able to offer a variety of debt- and equity-based financial instruments, loan guarantees, and tax incentives to draw a wave of private capital into the clean energy sector. Linking a low-cost financing vehicle with efforts to rationalize and simplify federal and state energy regulations and increase demand through bold clean energy standards could help to organize the broader energy market to increase demand and drive down costs for businesses and consumers.

Moreover, an investment-led strategy for upgrading America’s energy infrastructure can align interests across industries and party lines so our nation can get on with the business of rebuilding our economy on a foundation of efficient, clean, and innovative technology.

The policy proposals outlined in this paper represent key elements of a strategy to begin immediately rebuilding the U.S. economy on a foundation of clean and efficient energy. This framework is not a replacement for comprehensive climate legislation, which we believe is still necessary for Congress to pass to meet our international obligations and protect the global environment. Instead, our proposal is designed to jump-start the growth of a new industry, fueled by private-sector investment in clean energy, to move our economy onto a new, more innovative and efficient footing.

The politics and economics of 2011 are aligned to pass an energy bill

There will no doubt be skeptics in Washington and around the country who will argue that any kind of energy legislation is unlikely to emerge from the 112th Congress. Yet as we demonstrate in this report, there is a precedent for this kind of bipartisan legislation moving through Congress to the desk of the president even amid bitter partisan rancor—the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which became law two years after the Republican Party swept to power in Congress during the Clinton administration.

We begin our analysis with a look at how telecommunications reform in the 1990s can offer a model that Congress that can emulate today for clean energy reform—a model built on the three pillars of private sector-led investment presented above, and one than can address a broader range of strategic concerns for legislation. We then offer a template for how such a legislative proposal can be assembled today through broader bipartisan negotiation in Congress to craft a national clean energy innovation act.

Our goal is not to provide final answers on policy details, but rather launch a national discussion on swift clean energy deployment. This is our framework proposal.

This approach to energy market reform offers an efficient and effective way to attract significant private capital into expanding this key new sector of our economy, putting America back to work meeting our pressing energy and economic challenges. It is what Congress needs to do in 2011.

Download the full report (pdf)

Download the executive summary (pdf)

– Bracken Hendricks is a Senior Fellow and Lisbeth Kaufman is Special Assistant at the Center for American Progress. Ken Berlin is general counsel of the Coalition for Green Capital, Monty Humble is counsel to Alston & Bird, Reed Hundt is chief executive of Coalition for Green Capital, Alex Kragie is a vice president of the Coalition for Green Capital, and Gerry Waldron is a partner at Covington & Burling.

Climate Progress

Time to Clean Up the Medicare Doctor Payment Mess

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that the United States Senate is going to enact a one-month reprieve for Medicare physicians, saving them once again from a draconian reduction in Medicare payment.

This entire system is a mess. Under the existing Medicare payment formula (the Sustainable Growth Rate, or SGR) for doctors that the Senate and their House colleagues enacted in 1997, physician reimbursement is tied to the performance of the general economy. If in any given year Medicare physician payment outpaces the growth in the general economy, there is an automatic proportional reduction the following year.

Routinely, Congress has blocked the annual payment reductions, but then, under the congressional formula, the payment reductions accumulate. Yet another flaw of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it did not fix the physician payment problem. The result: This December, Medicare doctors will face a 23 percent cut in pay. A one-month extension of the reprieve would guarantee that the cuts next month would be even greater, requiring another congressional intervention. id=”more-46910″>

No one on Capitol Hill, Republican or Democrat, wants the congressional formula to be operational. If Congress allowed a 23 percent cut to go into effect now, or a 30 percent payment cut to take effect later, it would certainly trigger a big—and bad—shakeup in the Medicare program, as more physicians would refuse to take Medicare patients, cut back on Medicare practice, or decide to take no more Medicare patients than they already have. It is not hard to imagine even more overcrowded hospital emergency rooms where senior and disabled citizens are desperately jostling with the uninsured and Medicaid patients to get medical treatments, even for non-urgent care. What a mess!

Congress should fix the Medicare payment system—but not add one dime to the deficit in doing it. It could do this by sequestering a portion of the projected $ 575 billion in Medicare savings they just enacted in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to offset the additional costs—well over $ 200 billion in 10 years. Congress should also extend the fix for longer than one month and require that Congress enact a permanent fix to this problem during this temporary fix.

href=”http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/05/ending-the-physician-payment-crisis-another-reason-for-major-medicare-reform”>To permanently fix the problem, Congress should provide for a predictable and stable payment increase (perhaps based on inflation as measured by the consumer price index) but allow doctors to charge extra over and above the Medicare reimbursement levels. This would return physician payment practice to the standard that existed in Medicare prior to 1989.

Congress should also allow doctors and patients to go outside of the Medicare program and contract privately for Medicare services without statutory or regulatory obstacles. There was no statutory restriction on this practice until 1997, when the Balanced Budget Act provided for a bizarre statutory restriction on Medicare private contracting (Section 4507 of the Balanced Budget Act), plus the flawed Medicare physician payment update, which no Member of Congress wants to enforce.

Congress should admit that its Medicare administrative payment process is outdated. Through the Medicare bureaucracy, Congress sets the prices of over 7,000 medical procedures, slaps on a price control regime, and then threatens the imposition of a formula that has little to do with the real market conditions of supply and demand. Routinely, they overpay or underpay doctors and hospitals because of their system of central planning and price regulation. Liberal and conservative analysts alike agree that they can’t get the medical prices exactly right.

The right answer is to reform the Medicare program itself. A good place to start is the model suggested recently by the href=”http://bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20DRTF%20EXECUTIVE%20SUMMARY_0.pdf”>Bipartisan Task Force. Or, better yet, the more refined href=”http://www.house.gov/budget_republicans/rivlinryan.pdf”>Medicare proposal recently presented by former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin and Representative Paul Ryan: Replace the existing Medicare financing system with a premium support system broadly similar to that which exists in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). In the FEHBP, Congress doesn’t have to worry about anything like the Medicare RBRVS, DRGs, or the dreadful SGR. Physician payment is handled very nicely in the market. Better still, Congress doesn’t have to perpetually embarrass itself with its periodic Chinese fire drill to stave off Medicare payment crises.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

What a clean tax code would look like

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In the New York Times today, Glenn Hubbard admits to vandalizing federal property:

When I left my job as the deputy assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy in 1993, I left a message on my office blackboard for my successor. I wrote, “Broaden the base, lower the rates” repeatedly until I filled the entire space. I then had it covered with wax so it could not be erased. (Yes, the government charged me for my bit of vandalism. But it was worth it.)

He goes on to praise the Simpson-Bowles report’s tax section. That’s actually the section I’ve found most disappointing, as it’s simultaneously uncreative (it doesn’t mention a carbon tax even as an option, for instance) and overly ambitious (it tries to cap tax revenues at 21 percent of GDP, which is not a decision that reduces the deficit). But I do really like one part of it: The effort to clarify how much money we spend on deductions, exemptions and assorted other loopholes. This table tells the tale (click for a larger version):

sbtaxtable.jpg

If we cleaned out the code entirely, we could raise the same amount of money by using much lower rates. The same holds true even if we preserve the refundable tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the child tax credit, as we should. Most of these loopholes and deductions are regressive and distortive — the mortgage-interest deduction pushes people into bigger homes, for instance, and the exclusion for employer-based health care drives up the cost of health insurance.

The process they advocate — zeroing out the code and then putting things back in one by one after we’ve considered them — makes a lot of sense, and would make even more sense if we did it every 10 years or so. Unlike discretionary spending, the tax code doesn’t get reviewed every time we pass a budget, and so it’s a much safer home for inefficiencies and interest-group politics.







Ezra Klein

Energy and Global Warming News for November 16th: Troposphere warming, as climate science predicted; Clean energy jobs still on the rise

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Troposphere is warming too, decades of data show

(Reuters) – Not only is Earth’s surface warming, but the troposphere — the lowest level of the atmosphere, where weather occurs — is heating up too, U.S. and British meteorologists reported on Monday.

In a review of four decades of data on troposphere temperatures, the scientists found that warming in this key atmospheric layer was occurring, just as many researchers expected it would as more greenhouse gases built up and trapped heat close to the Earth.

This study aims to put to rest a controversy that began 20 years ago, when a 1990 scientific report based on satellite observations raised questions about whether the troposphere was warming, even as Earth’s surface temperatures climbed.

The original discrepancy between what the climate models predicted and what satellites and weather balloons measured had to do with how the observations were made, according to Dian Seidel, research meteorologist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It was relatively easy to track surface temperatures, since most weather stations sat on or close to the ground, Seidel said by telephone from NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, outside Washington….

When the 1990 study was published, showing a lack of warming in the troposphere especially in the tropics, it prompted some to question the reality of surface warming and whether climate models could be relied upon, NOAA said in a statement.

This latest paper reviewed 195 cited papers, climate model results and atmospheric data sets, and found no fundamental discrepancy between what was predicted and what is happening in the troposphere. It is warming, the study found.

In short, Spencer and Christy are still as wrong as ever (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?”)

2011 Outlook for clean energy jobs in the U.S. – Beating the trend

New Hampshire, United States – The reports are so grim, it is hard to believe at times. America is staring down a 10% unemployment figure and the number doesn’t seem to budge as the months tick by.

Analysts report that if you take into account the number of Americans that have stopped looking for employment as well as the number who have found only part-time work but seek full-time employment, the figure is more like 18%. In California, it’s 22%, an unemployment percentage that hasn’t been seen since the depression. In total, as many as 30 million people are looking for work right now.For years, the clean energy industry has claimed that it is the one bright spot in the U.S. economy. While other industries shrink and lose jobs, clean energy grows.

In looking at the data, it is clear that in all renewable energy technologies but one, in 2011 there will be significantly more jobs than there are now. The simple fact is that clean energy is indeed growing and creating jobs, but with U.S. unemployment figures so large, it’s just been hard to notice.

The solar power industry doubled the number of people that worked in the industry from 2009 to 2010, from approximately 50,000 in 2009 to 100,000 in 2010, according to the latest reports. In 2011, it is expected to grow the number of jobs in the industry by 26%. “You’d be hard pressed to find another industry with a 26 percent job growth rate for 2011,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The Solar Foundation released its National Solar Jobs Census 2010 at Solar Power International in October, showing that the solar industry is creating jobs at a much faster rate than the overall U.S. economy, which is expected to grow at around 2%. The report documents, through 2500 interviews with employers throughout the country, that over the next 12 months, more than half of U.S. solar firms expect to add jobs, while only 2% expect to cut workers. Firms are adding employees in all 50 states and the fastest growing jobs are installers and electricians….

It appears very likely that when accounting for both solar electric and solar thermal installations, the industry will surpass the 1 GW mark for annual installations in 2010.  While 1 GW is a big number, Resch announced at SPI that the industry’s goal is to be installing ten times that number annually in 5 years.  Resch said that installing 10 GW annually by 2015 would create as many as 220,000 jobs….

Clean Energy Creates Millions of Jobs

Admittedly, it’s difficult to tally these numbers in any comprehensive way to draw a clear picture of the total growth of the renewable energy job market for next year, in five years and in 15 years.  Some industry estimates are projecting jobs in 2011, others look out as far as 2025.  Just a rough summation of the above numbers shows that more than 2.5 million people, at least, will be either directly or indirectly employed in renewables by 2025.  That would put about 8% of the 30,000,000 people looking for jobs right now back to work.

U.S.-Produced subsidized ethanol exports are at a record , the FT reports

U.S.-produced ethanol, subsidized by the federal government as an alternative to foreign oil, is being exported in record quantities, the Financial Times reported.

A U.S. tax credit to companies that blend ethanol with petrol expires at the end of the year, the newspaper said.

Government figures last week showed that 251 million gallons of fuel ethanol, mostly refined from corn, were exported in the first nine months of the year, more than double the total in 2009; actual exports may have been higher, since ethanol mixed with gasoline before shipment isn’t counted, the FT said.

Robert Vierhout, of ePure, a European ethanol trade group, said the tax credit for blenders wasn’t intended to subsidize exports and spoke of legal action to stop such shipments, the newspaper reported.

BP ready for controversial Libyan drilling

LONDON, Nov. 15 (UPI) — A controversial deal in the desert is set to come to fruition in December when oil drilling starts in the Libyan desert, BP expects.

Embattled energy company BP said it aims to start drilling for oil in the Ghadames Basin by December, London’s Independent newspaper reports.

BP plans to invest roughly $ 1 billion during the next seven years to development Libyan oil reserves, including offshore developments, the newspaper adds.

U.S. lawmakers, outraged over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, are investigating a Scottish decision in 2009 to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi on compassionate terms.

Allegations were raised that the decision was somehow tied to the BP deal to drill for oil off the Libyan coast. The British and Scottish governments, along with BP, deny the claims.

Four ways to harvest solar energy from roads

Knowing what we know now about climate change, it’s clear that the tangled web of black asphalt roads that outlines our country is working against us.  Asphalt can absorbs tons of heat, often reaching temperatures of up to 140 degrees in the summer and the process by which it’s made isn’t environmentally friendly either, but there may be a way to turn that pavement into an energy resource.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have come up with four ways to harness the solar energy absorbed by pavement and put it to good use and they’re working on ways to implement them now.

The first, and the simplest, is is to wrap flexible solar PV cells around the top of Jersey barriers that divide highways. Those cells would power streetlights and illuminate road signs. Cells could also be embedded in the pavement between the barriers and rumble strip.

The second is to embed water-filled pipes under the asphalt and the heat from the sun would warm the water. That water could be piped to bridges to melt ice and reduce the need for road salt and ice-clearing trucks. It could also be piped to nearby buildings for hot water and heating needs or converted to steam to turn a turbine.

Because asphalt retains heat really well, the pipes would stay warm even after sunset. Tests have shown the water can even get hotter than the asphalt.

Modern insecticides’ devastating effects

Like DDT before it, a new class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids is believed to be causing drastic population declines in bird species. It is so effective at killing insects, that it has deprived birds of their basic food. Some scientists also believe they are behind the decline in bee populations in Europe and the United States known as honey-bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Neonicotinoids, which are part of the nicotine family, are essentially glued to plant seeds, and infiltrate the entire plant. Any bug that eats the plant is immediately infected. The toxin attacks the central nervous system and causes a quick death. It is much less toxic to other animals because the chemical blocks a specific neural pathway found more commonly in insects.

Henk Tennekes, researcher at the Experimental Toxicology Services in Zutphen, the Netherlands, has linked the use of neonicotinoids to declines in bird populations in his recent book, The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making. Tennekes said, “The evidence shows that the bird species suffering massive declines since the 1990s rely on insects for their diet.” It is also accused of causing the alarming decline in bee populations. Researchers have found that the chemical negatively affects the bee’s navigational ability which in turn, causes the bees to neglect feeding and caring for eggs and larvae.

However, the true cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is not fully understood. Other possible factors include Varroa mites, insect diseases, malnutrition, genetically modified crops, and even cell phone radiation. Nevertheless, countries like Germany and France have strictly limited the use of neonicotinoids. In Germany, it is believe that the glue did not sufficiently hold the chemical to the seeds of agricultural crops. The chemical could then drift into the environment where it affected bees.

Feed-in tariff installations top 11,000 in six months

Ofgem has revealed that more than 11,000 generators registered for feed-in tariffs during the first six months of the incentive scheme, confirming that the policy has led to a surge in renewable energy installations.

About 44MW of renewable capacity was added after the tariffs came into force in April this year, as 11,352 systems were installed – enough to power about 35,000 homes.

The vast majority of these systems were solar PV panels, which tallies with the government data published so far and backs up reports that the tariffs have proved a much greater success than originally predicted.

The figures were released today as part of Ofgem’s annual round-up of its sustainable development work, Sustainable Development Focus, which was published alongside a set of five green indicators that will be updated throughout the year with new data.

Unilever pledges to halve environmental impact by 2020

Consumer goods giant Unilever has today launched a wide-ranging sustainability strategy that commits the multinational to halving the environmental footprint of its products by the end of the decade.

In what is being hailed in some quarters as one of the most ambitious set of corporate sustainability targets to be publically announced, the company also vowed to decouple business growth from its environmental impact, help one billion people improve their health and wellbeing, and ensure that 100 per cent of its agricultural raw materials are sourced sustainably.

Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan, which was announced simultaneously in London, Rotterdam, New Delhi and New York, chief executive Paul Polman said that all the decisions the company takes will be informed by their potential environmental impact.

“We have ambitious plans to grow the company. But growth at any price is not viable,” he said. “We have to develop new ways of doing business which will ensure that our growth does not come at the expense of the world’s diminishing natural resources.”

Major pipeline in northern Canada years away, despite approval

OTTAWA — A proposed $ 16 billion pipeline project in northern Canada could still be years away from beginning construction, despite getting a green light from the federal and Northwest Territories governments Monday, says a spokesman from the leading stakeholder, Imperial Oil.

“The project would literally need thousands of individual permits for specific pieces of work,” said Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser. “As we said in our (public submissions), the stars would really need to align in order for construction of the project to commence in 2014.”

The two governments delivered a 127-page report on Monday that is rejecting many of the recommendations proposed by an environmental review panel, and referring others to the National Energy Board which is expected to release its own conditions for the project in the coming weeks.

Rolheiser said the project proponents are also hoping to continue negotiations on financial aspects of the program such as taxes and royalties.

Environment Minister John Baird acknowledged that talks had taken place, without making any commitments.

Climate Progress

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