Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
The U.S. biofuels story is a mix of interrelated elements: energy security (lessening dependence on Middle Eastern oil), ethanol, a clean energy economy…and China.
Traditionally, the geopolitical reality plays out like this: the United States relies on politically sensitive Middle Eastern petroleum, which makes the U.S. particularly sensitive to oil price volatility, which in turn, compels the U.S. to invest money and human capital in guaranteeing supply.
But as a major corn producer, the United States commits corn resources to biofuels in the name of moving towards energy independence, price security, and a clean energy economy. Meanwhile, China is industrializing, making a lot of money in the process, and beginning to suck up a rapidly growing percentage of the global supply of crude oil.
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010
The Obama administration is creating an office to coordinate and report the latest climate change data, a unit analogous to the National Weather Service that officials hope will help planners, businesses, and the public better understand and prepare for the effects of global warming.
The office, which will be part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will assemble about 550 scientists already working on climate issues under one roof. All data will be accessible on a website, www.climate.gov. (more…)
Friday, February 5th, 2010
Friday, December 18th, 2009 was one of the saddest days of my career. The Copenhagen Climate Conference had ended with a non-binding Copenhagen Accord. And no one knew what it meant. When I returned to the negotiating center, it was as empty as the Copenhagen Accord. The NGO and government leaders had abandoned the center. And the accord’s emission reduction commitments were blank.
On January 31st, we got to see what the pledges are. The small island nation of the Maldives has committed to 100% mitigation by 2020. The Maldives foreign minister announced, “The Maldives’ submission of its mitigation action is voluntary and unconditional…The Maldives looks forward to its mitigation action being registered and publicly available.” That’s leadership.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a strategy to boost biofuels production on Wednesday, seeking to nudge the country toward energy independence while balancing the environmental costs of grain-based motor fuels.
The move is part of the administration’s effort to gain more votes for a climate bill stalled in the Senate that will seek to boost production of clean, low-carbon energy and help the country reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels.
The climate bill faces further hurdles after the election last month in Massachusetts that gave Republicans a Senate seat long held by Democrats, depriving the president’s party of 60 votes that could overcome procedural hurdles.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Fifty-five major industrial powers that produce nearly 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have submitted voluntary CO2 reduction targets, but a top UN climate official says they still fall short of what’s needed to limit future temperature increases to 2 C (3.6 F).
Meeting a Jan. 31 deadline established at the December climate summit in Copenhagen, the European Union set a goal of reducing emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; Japan pledged to slash CO2 emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020; the U.S. set a more modest target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; and China vowed to cut the so-called “carbon intensity” of its economy — the amount of CO2 produced per unit of gross domestic product — by 40 to 45 percent by 2020.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
Tom Friedman spent most of 2009 beating the China-is-winning-the-green-race-drum, and he has started 2010 with the same focus.
In Sunday’s New York Times, the news side of the house joined their editorial page colleague, writing in a front page story that Chinese “efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China.”
To his credit, Friedman’s push has been all about policy. He wants the United States to go all-in in a space-race-like push to match Chinese innovation in energy technology (“E.T.,” as he has glossed it). But, what has eluded his attention – and is absent again in Sunday’s news piece – is the recognition that in order to match Chinese innovation, the policy changes that would be required in the U.S. electricity markets would necessarily have to go far beyond decoupling, one of Friedman’s personal causes.
Thursday, January 28th, 2010
President Obama called on Congress to pass climate and energy legislation that would include the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants, more offshore oil drilling along the U.S. coast, and increased funding for developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.
But the president made no mention in his State of the Union speech of controversial legislation to impose a price and a cap on carbon emissions. By backing away from cap-and-trade legislation that already has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, Obama signaled his willingness to work with Republicans to pass a scaled-back version of climate and energy legislation this year.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new ozone standards to protect health and environmental values. These standards will apply to the lower atmosphere, to the air we breathe. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is good.
The “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica has worried scientists for years since ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
According to research at the University of Leeds, the hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing. This is a concern, since its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, the scientists at Leeds conclude.
Monday, January 25th, 2010
The US EPA continues its New Source Review initiative. The agency has announced that emissions from container glass and Portland cement plants will be reduced under the settlement of a New Source Review case. The settlement requires the affected facilities to install new pollution control equipment Selective Catalytic Reduction, and to continuously monitor their emissions.
The settlements cover 15 U.S. plants owned by Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., the nation’s second largest container glass manufacturer, and all 13 U.S. plants owned by the Lafarge Company and two subsidiaries, the nation’s second largest manufacturer of Portland cement. These settlements are the first system-wide settlements for these sectors under the Clean Air Act and require pollution control upgrades, acceptance of enforceable emission limits and payment of civil penalties.
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Felix Kramer of Calcars thinks 2010 will be the year of the plug-in car. He’s got a good case: After years of advocacy and technology development, 2010 is the year that major manufacturers will finally make plug-ins broadly available, and rapidly decreasing battery costs are helping the conversion industry reach new customers and help retrofit the existing fleet at scale. After years of work and promise, 2010 is the payoff year.
I see a similar trend in solar in California, where years of policy and business development are all coming together to make 2010 an extraordinary year for solar development.
There are four major market drivers: