Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The Clean Air Act and carbon hotspot deaths

February 20, 2011

This 2010 post from Brad Johnson is even more timely today given the efforts by conservatives to stop the EPA from fulfilling their mandate to regulate harmful emissions of carbon dioxide. I have comments from the study’s author at the end.

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards for plants, cars, and factories that emit greenhouse gas pollution. Because global warming is by definition a global problem, there is support for scrapping individual source standards for a national cap-and-trade system that limits the collective pollution, instead of local emissions. However, scientific research by Mark Z. Jacobson, finds that carbon dioxide pollution is a two-fold killer — causing not just global warming but also forming “domes” that trap other pollutants in urban areas:

Jacobson found that domes of increased carbon dioxide concentrations – discovered to form above cities more than a decade ago – cause local temperature increases that in turn increase the amounts of local air pollutants, raising concentrations of health-damaging ground-level ozone as well as particles in urban air.

Jacobson’s study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” published in Environmental Science & Technology, estimates that “reducing local CO2 may reduce 300-1000 premature air pollution mortalities/yr in the U.S. and 50-100/yr in California, even if CO2 in adjacent regions is not controlled.” The deaths represent a small fraction of the population who are suffering increased respiratory problems from carbon domes.

Right-wing polluters have launched a multi-pronged assault on Clean Air Act regulation of global warming pollution, including petitions by state legislatures, lawsuits from governors and industry trade groups, resolutions in Congress, and propaganda campaigns by Astroturf groups….

– Brad Johnson in a WonkRoom repost

JR: And now the House has “voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming.” Here are some comments from Jacobson in an email interview:

Global warming increases air pollution where the air pollution is already high but has less effect on air pollution where the air pollution is low.
(in more detail) Warming increases water vapor, and both water vapor and higher temperatures increase ozone where the ozone is already high but have less effect where the ozone is low.
Carbon dioxide domes over cities increase temperatures over the cities above and beyond the heat island effect, and these higher temperatures increase water vapor, and both higher water vapor and higher temperatures increase the rates of chemical air pollution production over cities relative to rural areas.
The results suggest a causal nature of increased air pollution mortality due to increased carbon dioxide where the air pollution is already high. Thus, controlling CO2 emissions at the local level will reduce air pollution and the resulting air pollution mortality.

12 Responses to “The Clean Air Act and carbon hotspot deaths”

12.Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

Good article.

Yes. Air pollution is a very serious health hazard.

Here is an authoritative analysis on the evil effects of global warming and subsequent heat waves during which Air pollution concentrations may rise((Source: Health Implications of Global Warming: Vector-borne and Water-borne Diseases, Physicians for Social Responsibility United States Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War).

Health Implications of Global Warming:

Heat’s Deadly Effects

Global warming is likely to increase the frequency of “extreme heat events” or heat waves.

• For the twenty-first century, the IPCC projects with “high confidence” that extreme heat events will intensify in magnitude and duration over portions of the U.S. where they already occur.

• We cannot attribute a specific heat wave to global warming; however, the effect of global warming on the probability of occurrence of a heat wave can be determined. In the case of the European heat wave of 2003, a group of scientists publishing in the journal Nature estimated with a greater than 90% confidence level that human influence on climate more than doubled the probability of its occurrence.

Heat-related illnesses are serious and can lead to death.

• The most common heat-related illness is heat exhaustion, whose symptoms include intense thirst, heavy sweating, anxiety, dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, and headache.

• Heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke, which is a severe illness. Its clinical definition includes a core body temperature of 105°F or more, accompanied by hot, dry skin and central nervous system abnormalities such as delirium, convulsions, or coma.

• Mortality from heat waves is often related to cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory causes, especially preexisting illnesses.

• Air pollution concentrations may rise during heat waves, especially as people turn on air conditioning, thus increasing their use of electricity (which if generated by burning coal is a major source of pollution). This pollution may exacerbate preexisting conditions such as angina and asthma and may lead to increased death rates.

Extreme heat events are already a significant public health problem in the U.S.

• In fact, extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

• The health impact of extreme heat events will likely be exacerbated by the synergistic effects of a warming climate, urbanization, and an aging population.

Heat waves are already increasing.

• A roughly 20% overall increase in the number of heat waves – a “significant” upward trend -- has been observed for the eastern and western U.S. for the period 1949 to 1995.

• In the European heat wave of 2003, an estimated 22,000 people died across Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. vii Other mortality estimates run as high as 35,000.

• In Paris, sustained extreme high temperatures (including high night-time minimum temperatures), unique in the recorded history of Paris, together with housing designed for cooler summers, caused a major public health crisis. Deaths increased by 140%.

The elderly are at particularly high risk.

• Advanced age represents one of the most significant risk factors for heat-related death in the U.S.

• Elderly people have diminished ability to regulate body temperature and to adapt physiologically to heat. In addition, they generally experience poor health. The elderly are also more likely to live alone and have reduced social contacts, which further increases their vulnerability.

• This vulnerable population will grow as the elderly become an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. population”

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Energy and global warming news for February 25th: Which nations are most vulnerable to climate change? Using solar power to extract oil?

February 25, 2011

Which Nations Are Most Vulnerable to Climate Change? The Daunting Politics of Choosing

Is it worse to be swallowed by the sea or racked by famine?

As climate change tightens its grip on the world, institutions charged with protecting the most vulnerable nations could be faced with just such a question. Because there is no international consensus for ranking the possibilities of future devastation — and because there are limited dollars lined up to help cope with climate change — some countries already are battling over who will be considered most vulnerable.

“This is a major, major topic of discussion and debate at the moment,” said Saleem Huq, head of the climate change group at the U.K.-based International Institute for Environment and Development.

Judging who is most threatened has real-world implications. Those at the top of the list — if ever such a list is developed and agreed upon internationally — could decide who is first in line to tap a multibillion-dollar Green Climate Fund.

The trail toward making such a determination, experts say, is strewn with scientific and political land mines. After all, many scientists consider China — susceptible to droughts, typhoons and sea level rise — to be the world’s most threatened nation. But with a gross domestic product of $4.99 trillion, should it be as eligible for aid as poverty-stricken Bangladesh?

Some small island nations like the Seychelles are middle-income countries, yet climate change threatens their very existence. And where in the mix to put a Colombia or Pakistan, which doesn’t fit neatly into any prescribed U.N. category yet suffers catastrophic flooding?

“There is simply no objective, scientific way of categorizing a ranking of 100-plus countries in order of who is more vulnerable than another,” Huq said. “The moment someone comes up with a list, there’s a problem.”

Lawmakers urge Obama to release emergency oil

Three U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged President Barack Obama to consider tapping America’s emergency oil supply to help lower crude prices that have spiked above $100 a barrel over disruptions in Libya.

The International Energy Agency, which coordinates policy among the world’s consumer nations, has said it would likely let OPEC move first to address any supply shortages. But the call by the Democratic Representatives suggests pressure is starting to build for Obama to get more involved.

The lawmakers wrote in a letter that releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would help prevent the kind of runaway increase in oil prices that occurred in the summer of 2008, when crude reached a record $147 a barrel and gasoline hit an all-time high of $4.11 a gallon.

“We therefore urge you to consider leveraging the SPR to respond to these supply disruptions and combat the rapid price escalations resulting from rampant speculation in the oil markets,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Obama.

The lawmakers did not recommend how much oil to release, but said pulling out even “a small fraction…could have a significant impact on speculation in the marketplace and on prices.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Ed Markey, a relatively influential lawmaker who ran the House’s erstwhile committee on climate change and energy independence, plus Rosa DeLauro and Peter Welch, all Democrats from Northeast states.

House Republicans raise specter of congressional action on EPA boiler rules

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) raised the specter late Wednesday of taking action in Congress to change the Environmental Protection Agency’s final air pollution regulations for industrial boilers, which the lawmaker said were issued hastily amid a looming court-ordered deadline.

“If congressional intervention is needed to provide EPA the time it needs to provide careful, defensible rules that will not invite additional judicial challenge, the Committee on Energy and Commerce is prepared to act,” Upton, who was joined by Energy subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), said in a statement.

It’s the latest example of a lawmaker expressing willingness to take congressional action to alter the rules, which industry groups and Republicans slammed Thursday as a job killer even as the EPA said the regulations would net 2,200 new jobs.

“At a time when we are enduring 21 consecutive months of 9 percent or higher unemployment, we cannot afford to rush sweeping regulations that have the potential to do more harm than good,” Upton said in a statement.

EPA released the final industrial boiler and incinerator regulations Wednesday. Though the agency asked for an extra 15 months to issue the rules, a federal judge gave EPA only 30 days.

The agency, as part of President Obama’s executive order requiring federal agencies to review their regulations, made its final rules more cost-effective. The agency said Wednesday the final regulations cost 50 percent less to implement than the proposed rules, which industry decried as unrealistic.

But Upton said he lacked confidence in the regulations because the agency was under such a tight deadline to issue them.

“How can anyone have confidence in rules that the EPA was admittedly unprepared to issue just weeks ago?” Upton said, adding later, “The EPA was operating under court order to meet this week’s deadline, but we continue to believe sound policymaking should trump arbitrary timelines.”

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, EPA air chief Gina McCarthy said the agency was pleased with the final boiler rules, and stressed that the deadline did not affect the quality of the regulations.

US climate cuts threaten isolation

The latest flirtations of the US political right with “climate denial” look set to marginalise the country even further within the global community of nations – at least when it comes to climate change.

The key to all this is the advance made by the Republican party – and by relatively right-wing Democrats – during the mid-term elections late last year.

With a majority in the House of Representatives, politicians unconvinced of the case for action on climate change have been able to attack the edifices of climate science and international negotiations in quite dramatic ways.

Budgetary measures passed by the House at the weekend would not only withdraw US funding from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – they would also end financing for the office occupied by Todd Stern, the experienced official who leads US diplomacy within the UN climate convention (UNFCCC) and other fora.

Before these measures could come into law they would have to make it through the labrynthine processes that precede a US budget agreement, including being approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and signed off by President Obama.

So, you might conclude they’ll never make it.

Equally, remembering that they’ll be relatively minor ingredients of a vast budgetary package whose negotiation will require extensive horse-trading, it’s easy to see how they might make it through these various hurdles if the Democrats judge they’re more expendable than other items.

House Dems call for climate science hearings amid GOP efforts to block EPA climate rules

Two key House Democrats called on Republicans Thursday to hold a hearing on the latest climate science amid efforts by the GOP to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate authority.

In a letter to the top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) pointed to two new studies that link climate change to extreme weather.

“[I]t is imperative that the Committee have an understanding of the science of climate change and the impact carbon pollution may be having on the weather in the United States and abroad. We cannot legislate wisely if we do not know what we are doing,” said the lawmakers in the letter.

Waxman and Rush said it would be “irresponsible” for Republicans to ignore the new research and move forward in their efforts to permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are writing to ask that the Energy and Commerce Committee hold a hearing to better understand these important scientific developments,” the lawmakers said. “We believe it would be irresponsible for the Committee to ignore the mounting scientific evidence linking strange and dangerous weather to rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.”

House Republicans approved a government-spending bill that would block funding for EPA’s climate rules through the end of September. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Energy and Power subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) are hoping to move legislation through the House that would permanently revoke the agency’s climate authority.

State Senate approves ambitious clean-energy mandate

The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure requiring California utilities to buy 33% of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by the year 2020, with supporters arguing it will help recharge the economy by creating jobs.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) said his legislation, which now goes to the Assembly, will help the state meet both environmental and economic goals.

“This is a measure that can help us right now with clean air, help us right now to address climate change… and right now we can begin to create the jobs that this state so desperately needs,” Simitian said during a floor debate on SB 2X .

The measure passed on a 26-11 vote, with opponents saying it will drive up energy costs, meaning higher electricity bills for homeowners and manufacturers. The additional cost of doing business will convince more companies to send their jobs out of California, said Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar).

“This is yet another nail in the coffin for our manufacturing sector in California,” Huff told his colleagues.

California previously required that 20% of electricity come from renewable sources by 2010, but some utilities did not meet that standard.

A similar Simitian bill was vetoed last session by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said it was loaded down with red tape, but lawmakers have made adjustments and are more hopeful the proposal will be supported by new Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

The 33% standard was a key plank in Brown’s campaign platform, but he has not made a final decision on the legislation, which can still be changed before it reaches him.

“The governor broadly supports codifying the requirement that 33% of the state’s electricity be derived from renewable sources and will closely consider any bill that reaches his desk,” said spokesman Evan Westrup.

Jerry Brown’s tough choice: green energy in hard economic times

Instability in the Middle East has put America’s dependence on foreign oil back on front pages. It’s also added another ball to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s juggling act over this state’s renewable energy sector in tough economic times.

Democrats are resurrecting an idea vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would require utilities to buy at least 33 percent of state electricity from renewable sources by 2020, hoping Mr. Brown will be more amenable. On Thursday, the bill passed in the state Senate.

“All indications by those commenting on this in committee is that this is an idea whose time has finally come,” says state Sen. Joe Simitian, the bill’s author. “This last month in the Arab world has been a stark reminder of what happens when Americans are driven by energy needs rather than our values and principles.”

Jerry Brown’s tough choice: green energy in hard economic times
With Jerry Brown now governor, California lawmakers are resurrecting an idea vetoed by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Make utilities buy at least 33 percent of electricity from renewable sources.

Democrats are resurrecting an idea vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that would require utilities to buy at least 33 percent of state electricity from renewable sources by 2020, hoping Mr. Brown will be more amenable. On Thursday, the bill passed in the state Senate.“All indications by those commenting on this in committee is that this is an idea whose time has finally come,” says state Sen. Joe Simitian, the bill’s author. “This last month in the Arab world has been a stark reminder of what happens when Americans are driven by energy needs rather than our values and principles.”

Leading environmental groups are applauding the action.

“Senator Simitian’s bill has remarkable bipartisan support and would boost confidence in clean energy investments, create jobs, and enable California to meet its pollution reduction goals,” says Peter Miller, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Voters made it clear last November that they want to move forward with a clean energy future. Now we must implement the wish of the voters.”

Brown campaigned strongly on environmental themes, but others are asking how green he can afford to be given the state’s current fiscal straits.

Lawmakers already are at loggerheads over how to close the $26.4 billion budget deficit. If Brown is serious about balancing the budget – which he stated vociferously in both his inaugural address and his first state-of-the-state speech – how pioneering and innovative can he afford to be if big, costly programs are impossible?

We can take practical measures to reduce oil imports

The turmoil in Libya and its impact on oil prices and financial markets should remind us that America must make our energy supply more secure and sustainable. In the last election, both presidential candidates vowed to reduce oil imports and support cleaner fuels. We cannot afford partisan gridlock preventing the progress we need. There are practical steps we could take to reduce oil imports and encourage domestic fuels, including cleaner fuels.

American vehicles consume the vast majority of imported oil, so we must start with more efficient use of fuel to begin curing what President George W. Bush called our “addiction to foreign oil.” Fortunately, we know what works. Fuel economy standards improved auto miles per gallon by 70 percent during the period from 1975 to 1985. Then progress halted. In 2007 Congress authorized new standards and last year the Obama administration set goals equivalent to 34 miles per gallon for new vehicles in 2016. New goals should be extended through 2020, raising fuel economy to greater than 40 mpg. Strong fuel economy standards also encourage use of alternative fuels, further reducing oil imports.

We can also reduce fuel use and costs with more efficient transportation of freight. We should learn from the success of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which set bold annual goals to achieve dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency in its trucking operations. We must also remove the bottlenecks from the freight rail system and encourage the use of inland waterways to transport freight at a fraction of the fuel use of trucking.

Coal supplies almost half of U.S. electricity, and many old coal plants emit large amounts of conventional pollution as well as greenhouse gases. Our nation has a great opportunity to phase in cleaner fuels, starting with soaring supplies of natural gas, which could replace a quarter of existing coal-fired power. Waste heat and wind and geothermal sources can double their contribution to electricity supply in less than a decade. The cost of solar power is falling. Regional grids should be charged with responsibility for developing plans giving cleaner fuels a defined priority when the grids dispatch power. Requiring grids to phase in cleaner power, using reasonable economic and emissions criteria, requires no new taxes or fuel-specific quotas.

Germany to cut solar subsidies by up to 15 pct

German lawmakers passed on Thursday a law cutting solar power subsidies by up to 15 percent from this summer, six months earlier than originally planned, dealing a blow to the world’s biggest photovoltaic market.

The lower parliamentary house voted to introduce the cuts for roof installations from July and for ground-based cell assemblies from September.

The vote, which went as expected, ratified a compromise deal agreed at the start of this month by the German cabinet that brought to an end a dispute between the economy and environment ministries.

The economy ministry had wanted cuts of up to 25 percent to slow booming growth in the sector in Germany.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen announced plans last month to bring forward the start of the subsidy cuts by six months to July 1.

Germany is the world’s biggest photovoltaic energy market and has helped drive down prices for photovoltaic systems, which turn sunlight into electricity.

The share prices of solar companies such as Solarworld (SWVG.DE), Q-Cells (QCEG.DE) and SMA Solar (S92G.DE) have been at the mercy of German government decisions.

The industry boomed after the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2000, which guarantees investors above-market fees for solar power for 20 years from the point of installation.

Using Solar Power to Extract Oil

A California company has begun using solar power to squeeze oil out of an old oil field, flooding the underground rock with steam that comes from the sun’s heat instead of from burning natural gas.

The technique was tried in the 1980s by the Atlantic Richfield Company, but GlassPoint Solar, of Fremont, Calif., which cut the ribbon on a pilot project Thursday, says its plant is the only one of its kind now operating. Other companies have discussed such projects.

The process is cheaper than using natural gas, even at today’s depressed prices for that fuel, and trims the carbon footprint of the gasoline, according to GlassPoint. The pilot plant, completed in January in Kern County, is very modest, occupying less than an acre and producing only about a million B.T.U.’s per hour. But the company says it could quickly be replicated on a larger scale and could eventually displace 80 percent of the natural gas used to produce a barrel of oil.

GlassPoint said that at a full-size plant, its technology could produce steam at a cost of $3 per million B.T.U., compared with a market price of gas today of around $4 per million B.T.U.

Whether GlassPoint can get that far remains unclear. The company has no track record in the oil industry and has had three different business strategies in less than two years. Formerly known as CleanBoard, GlassPoint changed its name in October 2009 when it abandoned plans to use a solar-powered factory to make gypsum-based wallboard and said it would work with other wallboard manufacturers. Last year, it refocused its business yet again on using solar power to extract oil.

Rod MacGregor, GlassPoint’s chairman, said that burning natural gas to make steam for oil recovery was the largest single use of natural gas in California. About 40 percent of California’s oil is produced through such “enhanced oil recovery,” and the steam can account for as much as two-thirds of the production cost of such oil, according to GlassPoint.

Denmark, Britain urge deeper CO2 EU emissions cut

Britain and Denmark on Thursday called on fellow European Union members to adopt a more ambitious target for cutting carbon emissions.

The British and Danish governments want to move to a 30 percent cut from 20 percent by 2020. Their call comes as EU states are considering whether to move faster than the one-fifth reduction from the 1990 level.

A draft paper showed earlier this month that the EU is overhauling its strategy in favour of a 25 percent cut. [ID:nLDE71A1VM] [ID:nLDE71E2EZ]

EU governments have agreed to deepen cuts to 30 percent but only if a strong global climate deal is reached which would also bind developing countries to a similar goal.

“Denmark and the UK are in agreement that our future prosperity depends on stimulating green growth and getting off the oil hook,” British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne and Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Lykke Friis said in a joint statement.

Groups sue EPA for documents on Texas power plants

Two environmental groups have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for access to 350,000 pages of documents about coal-fired power plants blamed for making Texas’ pollution problems worse.

The groups claim in their federal lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act that the documents will show that one or more of Luminant’s five coal-fired power plants violated the Clean Air Act. The Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project say they need the information so they can “protect the public health in and around these plants.”

“The Sierra Club only files suits when the state or federal government fails to act,” Jen Powis, a Sierra Club spokeswoman in Texas, said Thursday. “The EPA has been looking into these plants but has not been acting.”

The EPA had not been served with the suit as of Thursday and officials could not comment, said Dave Bary, a spokesman in the Dallas EPA office.

Allan Koenig, a spokesman for Dallas-based Luminant, said company officials had no comment because they had not read the suit.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco, where the Sierra Club is based, claims the EPA has violated public disclosure laws by not providing the information or a reason for the denial by required deadlines. Instead, the EPA has said for months that it is reviewing Luminant’s claims that the documents contain confidential business information, the suit states.

Air Pollution Triggers More Heart Attacks Than Cocaine: Study

Air pollution triggers more heart attacks than cocaine use, a recent study finds. While cocaine users certainly shouldn’t be celebrating, people living in cities with high pollution levels should be concerned.

Tim Nawrot of Hasselt University led the study, published in The Lancet journal, which examined the proportion of total heart attacks that were caused by specific triggers (population-attributable fraction). The highest risk fractions were traffic exposure, physical exertion, alcohol, coffee, and air pollution. Cocaine use, anger, and sex were listed after the other factors.

According to Reuters, this study demonstrates that while cocaine use may still be most likely to trigger an individual heart attack, it’s crucial to look at population-wide factors as well, such as air pollution. The researchers state in The Lancet, “In view of both the magnitude of the risk and the prevalence in the population, air pollution is an important trigger of myocardial infarction [heart attack], it is of similar magnitude (PAF 5–7%) as other well accepted triggers such as physical exertion, alcohol, and coffee.”

Meanwhile, Congressmen Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield are fighting to eliminate pollution standards by cutting Clean Air Act provisions in the U.S. The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution causes around 2 million premature deaths worldwide every year. The good news and the bad news is that human beings have control over changing these death statistics.

India green credit trade seen ramping up from 2012

India’s largest power exchange is hoping to ramp up volumes in the trade of renewable energy credits from April 2012, its chief said, seeking to tap a market estimated to be worth $8 billion by 2017. Jayant Deo, chief executive of Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) which this week launched the inaugural trading session for certificates aimed at rewarding producers of clean energy, said volumes would increase once the process to issue renewable credits to companies was streamlined. Trade bodies told Reuters only two projects had received the go-head to sell renewable credits. However, the website of the official agency administering the project showed no certificates had yet been issued. Deo told Reuters there was huge interest in the renewable energy certificates (RECs), which he said would encourage project developers to invest in solar, wind and biomass. “We have developed a platform of physical trade between buyer and seller, but it is not a futures platform where speculators can take positions.” Under the scheme, REC trading would occur for two hours during the last Wednesday of every month. Last year, India crafted rules for domestic REC trading, a move aimed to boost the share of electricity from green sources in the world’s third-worst greenhouse gas emitter. RECs can be bought by companies to meet statutory obligations to purchase a minimum level of renewable energy. One REC represents one megawatt-hour of energy generated from renewable sources and remains valid for a year. Renewable energy accounts for barely 8 percent of India’s total power generation capacity of about 150,000 megawatts but the government aims to double green power generation to 25,000 megawatts in three years. The rules stipulate clean energy producers either sell their electricity at a preferential tariff fixed by provincial power regulators or sell the electricity generation and environmental attributes associated with renewable power separately. A central agency administers the certificates trading among renewable power generators.

11 Responses to “Energy and global warming news for February 25th: Which nations are most vulnerable to climate change? Using solar power to extract oil?”

Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 26, 2011 at 10:21 am

Excellent article.

Here is interesting analysis on the subject:

November 28, 2007 - The poorest of the poor in South Asia are the most impacted by climate change, says a World Bank climate change expert.

Speaking ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali on December 3-14, 2007, Richard Damania, World Bank Senior Environmental Economist for the South Asia Region, said it is the poorest that are living in areas most vulnerable to climate change.

We are going to see the wet parts of South Asia become wetter causing flooding and affecting more people. We will also see the arid areas getting drier. This will hurt the poor the most,” Damania said.

Damania said South Asia is going to face vast problems with climate change and that this is related to poverty and the very varied climate and geography in the region. “
You have got some of the coldest parts of the world and you have got some of the hottest parts of the world.”

The impacts of higher temperatures, more extreme weather events such as floods, cyclone, severe drought, and sea level rise are already felt in South Asia and will continue to intensify, Damania said. “
These changes are already having a major impact on the economic performance of South Asian countries.”(Source: The World Bank)

On Using Solar Energy to Extract More Oil

Thursday, August 27, 2009 at 12:52:17 PM - by Nate Lew

In Coalinga, California, an odd marriage of green and brown technologies likely has environmentalists chewing their nails.

The technologies are concentrating solar power and oil extraction, and the 29-megawatt BrightSource solar steam plant – which covers 100 acres with 7,000 mirrors that will focus sunlight on a water-filled tank that sits 323 feet off the ground – is, in essence just another CSP. But this one uses steam not to run a turbine/generator setup to produce electricity, but to thin very thick petroleum deposits so that they flow more freely.

The technology is aimed at a Chevron oil field in Coalinga, and the CSP system is being put together by Oakland-based Bright Source Energy, a design-build solar engineering firm whose flagship solar test facility, the Solar Energy Development Center (SEDC, located in Israel’s Negev Desert) demonstrates its proprietary Luz Power Tower (LPT) Technology.

Fortunately, the use of steam to thin petroleum deposits is not the same as “fracking” technology, which uses immense pressure to open vents in subterranean rock to allow oil and gas to flow to the surface. In that respect, at least, Chevron will escape the eagle eye of environmentalists and regulators, who are beginning to tag fracking as the likely cause of ground water contamination (Source: Cooler Planet).

Indeed Solar Energy to extract oil paves the way for large scale CSP in Gulf as they can afford the technology besides there is abundant Solar Insolation there.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India.

A look at China’s high-speed rail investments

February 21, 2011

This is a 2010 piece that seems timely today given Obama’s efforts to jump-start high speed rail in America and the response by many conservative governors to block that effort (see “Passenger rail is not in Ohio’s future”: New GOP governors kill $1.2 Billion in high-speed rail jobs).

Guest bloggers Julian L. Wong and Nick Wellkamp walk us through China’s aggressive investments in high speed rail.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower put a down payment on the U.S. economy in 1956 by signing the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. This wise investment in a modern, transformative transportation infrastructure—in the form of 41,000 miles of interstate highways—enabled the rapid movement of people and goods across the nation and was vital to our astounding economic progress for the next 50 years.

Today, it is China that is leading the world in a key next-generation transportation technology: high-speed rail. China has already built 4,000 miles of rail featuring trains with average speeds of 120 miles per hour or greater, and the country plans to build an additional 10,000 miles of high-speed rail connecting all of China’s major cities by 2020.

CAP experts experienced the high-speed rail firsthand during our recent [2010] fact-finding mission to China. We took the train from Beijing to Tianjin, reaching a top speed of 205 mph and covering the 73-mile journey—roughly the distance between New York and Philadelphia—in less than 30 minutes. Stepping off the rail platform, it was hard not to get the feeling that China is racing ahead in investing in mass public transit infrastructure while the United States is lagging behind in the race to develop clean energy industries.

China’s $300 billion investment in high-speed rail

China already boasts a rail network that, including both standard and high-speed rail, is more than 53,000 miles long. And China plans for that network to reach 68,000 in 2012 and 75,000 by 2020. All of China’s provincial capitals have been connected by rail since the 1960s, and unlike the United States, rail is already a major mode of intercity passenger transportation.

The country began planning its nationwide network of high-speed rail in the early 1990s. And China began implementing a series of six “speed-up” campaigns in the late 1990s to modernize its existing rail infrastructure by increasing the speed and capacity of its lines. It also plans to build new passenger-dedicated high-speed rail lines. Indeed, the centerpiece of China’s Medium- to Long-Term Railway Network Plan is a new national high-speed rail grid overlaid onto the existing rail network. The new grid would consist of four north-to-south corridors, four east-to-west corridors, and two additional intercity lines, all totaling some 7,500 miles when completed in 2020.

China will spend an estimated $300 billion to meet its 2020 goal for high-speed rail. Nearly 40 percent of China’s $586 billion economic stimulus package announced in 2008 was allocated to infrastructure projects, and a large portion was dedicated to high-speed rail, pushing forward many projects that were otherwise further down the project pipeline. Planners are now beginning to look for new sources of capital. The Beijing-to-Shanghai route that will open next year, for example, is owned and managed by a consortium that includes the Ministry of Railways, China’s national social security fund council, and an investment arm of one of China’s largest privately owned insurance companies. And there is some speculation that this consortium will seek capital market investors through a multibillion-dollar initial public offering in the near future.

Why it makes sense for China to invest in high-speed rail

Some have questioned the economics of high-speed rail. A common criticism is that the construction of rail infrastructure is very expensive and its operations may never be profitable. The Beijing-Tianjin line, for instance, is reportedly losing some $102 million per year. Another criticism is that high-speed rail tends to benefit the wealthier population more than the lower-income class because tickets for high-speed rail are more expensive than those for conventional rail or bus transportation.

But there are at least three compelling reasons to justify this heavy investment:

1. Increasing demands for human mobility

China is experiencing the biggest wave of migration in human history, with an estimated 300 million people relocating from rural to urban areas over the next two decades as part of an urbanization-led economic growth strategy. The country is facing a long-term challenge of meeting a sustained and unparalleled demand for all modes of transportation services, and high-speed rail figures prominently as part of the solution.

China’s floating population—rural citizens who have migrated temporarily to urban centers in search of work or educational opportunities—already accounts for more than 10 percent of its population of 1.3 billion. And there is a mad crush among these migrants every spring festival to hop on existing bus and rail lines to return to their home villages to be with their families for the most important Chinese cultural festival of the year. Migrant workers may not be able to afford high-speed rail fares at present, but expanded passenger rail capacity will eventually lead to more affordable prices over time.

2. Promoting economic development

A major reason for the push to build passenger-dedicated lines is to free up existing lines for freight capacity, which is sorely needed and has been unable to keep pace with the logistical demands of China’s growing national economy since the early 1990s. Additional freight capacity will not only facilitate domestic commerce, but also yield additional revenue that can offset the high costs of high-speed rail construction.

Increased connectivity between provincial capitals will enhance commercial interactions and stimulate the economy. An 800-mile line from Beijing to Shanghai—roughly the distance between Chicago and New York—will open next year, cutting what used to be a 10-hour journey by conventional rail down to four hours. The high-speed rail network will also reach out to cities in less developed western parts of China, stimulating economic activity there and helping to spread the wealth of China’s economy.

High-speed rail infrastructure also increases demand for commodities and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction, steel, cement, engineering, and manufacturing sectors. Construction of the Beijing-Shanghai line alone created employment for 100,000 workers and engineers.

The benefits of high-speed rail are not limited to China’s domestic market. China is poised to reap the economic benefits from being an exporter of knowledge, technology, and capital for high-speed rail projects worldwide. Chinese companies are already building high-speed rail lines in Turkey and Venezuela, and are in discussions with Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Poland to build projects there. And the Chinese have most recently signed cooperation agreements with the state of California and General Electric to explore the feasibility of building, financing, and licensing technology to build high-speed rail lines in California.

3. Promoting energy security and sustainability

China’s thirst for oil is growing, in no small part due to its expanding auto and aviation sectors. Half of its oil comes from foreign sources. And use of electric trains offsets the use of oil-based transportation such as automobiles and planes. Fares for high-speed rail are more expensive than conventional rail or bus, but they are half the price of fares for flights and take only slightly longer to travel. The 314-mile Zhengzhou-Xi’An high-speed rail line is already forcing some airlines to suspend their flights, while the Beijing-Tianjin line that we took has led to an 18 percent decline in bus trips. The additional freight capacity that results from passenger rail expansion can also replace more carbon-intensive modes of heavy-duty trucking.

Electrification often requires coal in China, but electric locomotives are much more efficient than oil-based locomotives and also provide the opportunity to utilize cleaner (and growing) sources of power from wind, solar, and biomass. As a result, increased use of high-speed rail over automobiles and planes will reduce dependence on foreign oil, cut local air pollution and carbon emissions, and help China achieve its goal of a low-carbon economy.

The land use issues involved in rail compared to highways are also noticeably lower, achieved largely by building the high-speed rail lines on new viaducts, bridges, and tunnels.

Land-use issues in high-speed rail

Rail infrastructure that relies on large numbers of viaducts, tunnels, and bridges raises overall construction costs, but China has been able to manage its costs in other ways. “The costs of Chinese high-speed rail lines are the lowest in the world because such a massive build-out creates an economy of scale, labor and basic material costs are relatively low, and China generally finishes building lines on time, and therefore avoids costly delays,” observes Will Freeman, a research analyst at Dragonomics, a Beijing-based industry research and advisory firm.

Perhaps most significantly, state-owned banks’ ability to provide multibillion-dollar loans at low interest rates accounts for China’s ability to scale up its infrastructure investments in a way no other country can. According to Freeman’s estimates, the costs of building high-speed rail are up to three times higher than conventional rail in Europe or Japan, but they are only one and a half times higher than conventional rail in China.

Of course, building infrastructure projects quickly can create unintended consequences. Construction of the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan express line, for example, along with an overextraction of groundwater, caused nearby land to sink, damaging 1,000 residents’ properties. And the use of viaducts, tunnels, and bridges may mitigate local land-use changes, but it increases the system’s lifecycle carbon footprint due to the increased use of materials (particularly concrete and steel) and energy. The carbon footprint of high-speed rail compared to other transportation modes also depends highly on ridership, providing another important reason, besides profitability, for employing competent operational management.

China’s philosophy: Import, digest, reinvent

The bigger picture of innovation and competitiveness shows that high-speed rail is yet another technological sector that demonstrates the classic Chinese industrial innovation model of “import-digestion-reinnovation” at work. China’s train technology is state of the art, but originally derived from French, German, and Japanese technology, and tweaked to adapt to domestic geographic conditions—although some have complained of unfair copying of foreign technology by the Chinese. As a result, Chinese rail companies now reportedly have 940 registered patents. In just over a decade since its first “speed-up” campaign, China is now ready to move from being an importer of high-speed rail technology and operational know-how to being an exporter.

The commitment to create the largest market and export base for high-speed rail is also attracting world-class research and development capabilities. IBM announced last summer the opening of its Global Rail Innovation Center in Beijing, where it will work with industry and universities to develop software solutions for high-speed rail operations.

What does this mean for the United States?

The U.S. federal government for most of the past decade has underinvested in its national passenger rail network while continuing to generously fund the interstate highway system and aviation industry, perpetuating high-carbon modes of transportation. There is only one high-speed rail line in the United States—the Acela Express that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C., covering 456 miles in seven hours. The recently opened Wuhan-to-Guangzhou line in China, by contrast, covers 600 miles in three hours.

Differences in political-economic structures and labor and resource costs between China and the United States may make it impossible for the United States to replicate the pace and scale of China’s infrastructure investments, but it is important for the United States to pursue its own strategy to upgrade its transportation infrastructure.

Fortunately, the current administration has laid down a sweeping vision that identifies 10 high-speed rail corridors—each between 100 to 600 miles in length—across the United States. But actual federal funding for this vision is a little more than $10 billion so far—a fraction of what China is spending, and certainly insufficient to cover the costs of all 10 projects.

The federal funding is designed to serve as a catalyst for nonfederal sources of funding. But making that vision a reality will require state governments and the private sector to recognize the economic, social, and environmental benefits of high-speed rail and make greater financial commitments. If the vision is not heeded, we will miss the opportunity to lay an important piece of what will be the foundation for a more sustainable and competitive economy.

– Julian L. Wong (then of CAP, now at DOE) and Nick Wellkamp

JR: The other reason to invest in high-speed rail is that airlines are the first industry to be wiped out by peak oil.

4 Responses to “A look at China’s high-speed rail investments”

1.Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 21, 2011 at 9:04 am

China is leader in High Speed Trains. In this age of pollution from automobiles, trains are the best mode of travel both in cost and time. In a vast country like China, trains are a major mode of transport.

In India too there is growing interest to speed up the trains (Of course limited in speed for various reasons).

Here is the history of High speed Trains in China:

High-speed rail in China refers to any commercial train service in the People's Republic of China with an average speed of 200 km/h (120 mph) or higher. By that measure, China already has the world’s longest high-speed rail (HSR) network with about 8,358 km (5,193 mi) of routes in service as of January 2011 including 1,995 km (1,240 mi) of rail lines with top speeds of 350 km/h (220 mph).

China's high speed rail lines consists of upgraded conventional rail lines, newly-built high-speed passenger designated lines (PDLs), and the world’s first high-speed commercial magnetic levitation (maglev) line. The country is undergoing an HSR building boom. With generous funding from the Chinese government's economic stimulus program, 17,000 km (11,000 mi) of high-speed lines are now under construction. The entire HSR network will reach 13,073 km (8,123 mi) by the end of 2011and 25,000 km (16,000 mi) by the end of 2015.

China is the first and only country to have commercial train service on conventional rail lines that can reach 350 km/h (217 mph). Notable examples of HSR in China include:

  • The Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, a passenger-dedicated trunk line opened in 2009, that reduced the 968 km (601 mi) journey between the largest cities in central and southern China to 3 hours. Trains reach top speeds of 350 km/h (220 mph) and average 310 km/h (190 mph) for the entire trip.
  • The Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, an intercity express line opened in 2008, that shortened the 117 km (73 mi) commute between the two largest cities in North China to 30 minutes. Trains reach top speeds of 330 km/h (210 mph) and average 234 km/h (145 mph).
  • The Shanghai Maglev Train, an airport rail link service opened in 2004, that travels 30 km (18 mi.) in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, averaging 240 km (150 mph) and reaching top speed of 431 km/h (268 mph).

Policy justifications

Critics both in China and abroad have questioned the necessity of having an expensive high-speed rail system in a largely developing country, where most workers cannot afford to pay a premium for faster travel. The government has justified the expensive undertaking as promoting a number of policy objectives. HSR provides fast, reliable and comfortable means of transporting large numbers of travelers in a densely populated country over long distances, which:

  • Improves economic productivity and competitiveness over the long term by increasing the transport capacity of railways and linking labor markets. Moving passengers to high speed lines frees up older railways to carry more freight, which is more profitable for railways than passengers, whose fares are subsidized.
  • Stimulates the economy in the short term as HSR construction creates jobs and drives up demand for construction, steel and cement industries during the economic downturn. Work on the Beijing-Shanghai PDL mobilized 110,000 workers.[34][38][39]
  • Promotes the growth of urban centers and limits sprawl. High-speed rail links city centers, which are building subways. These measures alleviate traffic congestion.
  • Supports energy independence and environmental sustainability. Electric trains use less energy to transport people and goods on a per unit basis and can draw power from more diverse sources of energy including renewables than automobile and aircraft, which are more reliant on imported petroleum.”

The table belows lists the upgraded conventional railways that run 10 or more CRH high speed trains per day.




Trains per day (aggregation of both direction)

Trains in service


Guangshen line

147 km[




Hangning line

149 km




Jingguang line

277 km




Jingha line

703 km




Jinghu line

495 km




Chengyu line & Dacheng line

315 km




Jinghu line

1454 km




Wujiu line & Changjiu PDL

337 km




Jingguang line

412 km[



(Source: Wikipedia).

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India


Clean energy development done right

February 12, 2011

This is CAP CEO John Podesta’s Speech at the Department of Interior’s Onshore Renewable Energy Workshop.

Thank you, Steve, for that kind introduction, and for inviting me to speak here this morning. And thanks to all of you for your important work leading the United States into a clean energy future. This is a terrific gathering on an important topic. Yesterday you began by hearing from Secretaries Ken Salazar, Steven Chu, and Tom Vilsack; this morning you start with me. Going from “True Grit” to “Spider Man, the Musical.” Apologizes for the conference organizers. I hope I have something interesting to say. It’s impressive to see so many people here discussing strategies for actually deploying renewable energy, and for doing so in an environmentally and culturally sensitive way.

The work you’re doing on the ground today is more important than ever before. As a country, we are facing an energy challenge unprecedented in its urgency, its stakes, its scope, and its opportunity. For 200 years, we have relied almost exclusively on high-carbon fossil fuels like coal and oil to power economic growth, raise living standards, and increase mobility. Now, maintaining the status quo is no longer a possibility—and how we choose to produce and consume energy today will change our country for either good or ill for many generations to come.

At the Center for American Progress, we’ve long advocated for building a new economy based on clean energy, innovation, and diversification. We believe that this transformation presents us with profound opportunities for economic growth and environmental protection: With clean energy, we not only have an opportunity to avoid a worst-case climate scenario; we have an opportunity to create millions of new jobs, deploy new sources of energy that are clean and domestically produced, and free ourselves from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

However, the way we build our clean energy future also matters. We’re looking to clean energy today because we recognize that high-carbon fossil fuels threaten our economy, our security, our health, and our cultural and environmental heritage. This means that going forward, we must be careful to develop clean energy in a way that infers all the protections that fossil fuels do not.

This is especially true when it comes to our public lands and waters—which will be as central to our clean energy future as they were to our fossil fuel past. The Department of Interior manages tens of millions of acres that have significant solar, wind, or geothermal potential. As I know you heard yesterday, our offshore exclusive economic zone, extending 200 miles out from our shores, has wind resources capable of producing more than four times our nation’s current electricity generation capacity, according to data compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2010. As we begin to look to large-scale renewable generation, it is nearly impossible to imagine our clean energy future without tapping into the enormous clean energy potential of our public lands and public waters.

But I also think it’s important to remember that done right, clean energy development is central to protecting the lands themselves. Climate change poses an enormous threat to our public lands and resources. It threatens to upset our prairies, our deserts, our coasts, and our waters in ways that are hard to even imagine—and is already causing irreversible damage to some of these fragile ecosystems. Transitioning from carbon-intensive fuels to clean, pollution-free energy offers a way to soften the impact of climate change, and in so doing, presents a new stewardship strategy for protecting our lands and waters in the future.

So even as we look to expand clean energy production on public lands and in public waters, we must keep the day-to-day work of environmental protection in mind. Renewable energy projects can still disrupt the natural environment if put in the wrong places and if proper precautions are not taken—an outcome fundamentally at odds with the reasons we’re developing clean energy in the first place.

And because we’ve never built wind and solar projects of this size and scope before, we have to take special precautions to protect the lands on which they are built. With such large-scale developments, there’s the potential for huge payoff if everything goes right—and the potential for big problems if things goes wrong. It’s also important to recognize that some areas are just not appropriate for utility-scale renewable energy projects at all.

Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has known that there are great places in America that are worth preserving for future generations. Certainly, the president I worked for, Bill Clinton, understood that. He protected more land than any president since Teddy Roosevelt.

That’s why the administration and this department must take a strategic, coordinated, and balanced approach to clean energy development from the very start. These projects are new; and investors, conservationists, and community members all have important opinions on how they should be built. To get buy-in, to create greater certainty for stakeholders, and to start building these projects in earnest, we need to put in the work now to create a good development process that we can follow going forward.

The administration’s experiences with renewable siting so far have demonstrated why this is the case. For instance, this department took a first stab at moving clean energy forward through a “fast-track” permit approval system last year. To jumpstart renewable energy development on public lands, and to help projects qualify for Recovery Act funds before the program expired, Interior put 34 relatively “shovel ready” renewable energy projects on the fast-track for approval last year. Of these, nine solar and two wind projects were approved.

The fast-track process was perhaps driven by necessity; it was certainly a learning experience for everyone, and not necessarily a good experience for some. Several areas selected for development were very significant to the local communities, and to conservationists who were concerned about the projects’ impact on wildlife and water resources. Because groups like Defenders of Wildlife, National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society engaged the Bureau of Land Management to reshape and revise the projects, acceptable outcomes were reached in just about all of these cases. But certain stakeholders still felt shorted by the fast-track process. And while permits were issued for nine projects, when and whether several get built is yet to be determined. In the end, it’s steel in the ground, not permits, that matter.

To its credit, this department took the criticisms of the fast-track process to heart and is updating and improving the permitting process substantially. They still have, in my view, some work to do. The new solar energy plan Secretaries Salazar and Chu announced in December encourages projects to be built where they make the most sense—where environmental conflicts are few, access to transmission is best, and supporting infrastructure exists or can be created at lower costs. Yet the preferred alternative in this plan would permit development on 22 million acres despite the fact that many of these acres support critical and fragile habitats and should not be developed.

A better alternative would be to direct utility-scale renewable development to solar zones in the six Western states. Such solar zones, where environmental analysis is done in advance and access to transmission exists or is planned, offer the highest renewable energy potential at the lowest risk. Focusing solar development within these zones could speed up the approval process by directing limited agency resources to places where projects could be built more quickly and improve coordination and collaboration amongst stakeholders. This approach would also sidestep the conflicts and delays that bogged down the last set of BLM-approved solar projects—making the zone system the most efficient and effective way to operate. And the 600,000 acres included in the zones give BLM more than enough room to meet their renewable energy production goals over the next several years.

This department is also fleshing out these smart development plans to give developers and government managers additional strategies for building clean energy responsibly. The guidelines the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management issued on Tuesday demonstrate that this department has reached out to stakeholders and is trying to put the lessons learned to good use. Of course, today’s workshop is further evidence of the department’s interest in reaching out to stakeholders to learn from the past and improve the process going forward. These cooperative meetings are a good business practice, and I commend Secretary Salazar for continuing to take input and working with the stakeholders here today to get the process right.

The practical benefits of continuing to learn and work together to build a better strategy are tremendous. Selecting green light development areas will be a huge boon to developers and investors, who are looking for greater market certainty and a more straightforward regulatory process. Building a better permitting process will also provide much greater certainty to conservationists and community members who are rightly concerned about fragile ecosystems and water resources. And engaging all partners at the beginning can help make sure that utility-scale projects encounter far fewer challenges and obstacles throughout the permitting process.

I’ve talked some about what this department can do better, so I want to take a moment to applaud the Departments of Interior and Energy for something they’re doing right, right now. After years of especially onerous delays, the departments are finally pushing forward on offshore wind energy.

Last spring, Secretary Salazar gave the green light to what will become our nation’s first offshore wind energy facility: the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. Cape Wind’s permitting process stretched out for more than a decade, making the project a poster child for our nation’s inability to capitalize on the wealth of clean, renewable energy lying just off our shores. Now, the Departments of Interior and Energy are moving to make sure that the Cape Wind permitting quagmire never happens again. On Monday, Secretaries Salazar and Chu came together again to issue a National Offshore Wind Strategy to accelerate wind development in four strategic zones off the mid-Atlantic coast. These zones had previously been considered for oil and gas development—so looking to wind development in these waters is a clear step in the right direction.

But if Cape Wind taught us anything, it’s that a wide variety of stakeholders also need to be involved in the offshore planning process. The Cape Wind developers certainly failed to look for input from the community and from conservationists at the beginning, and suffered extraordinary delays as a result. I know that as the secretaries begin to update and streamline the offshore permitting process, they are applying the lessons and methodologies of the work they’re doing on land to be sure that when it comes to our oceans only the right projects are built in the right places as well.

Of course, for offshore wind or for desert solar, having a good permitting and development process in place is crucially important, but only a piece of what it will take to build a clean energy future. As investors, community members, government managers, and environmental groups work together to build clean energy projects from the ground up, government needs to step in from the other side to give needed support to innovation and deployment through a variety of policy measures.

Even without comprehensive climate and energy legislation, there is still an enormous amount Congress and the administration can do to support your efforts. They can provide low-cost financing to get your projects up and moving, and to push down the cost of large-scale developments. They can make sure the tax code favors clean renewable energy rather than energy from polluting resources that threaten our public health. They can meet the president’s challenge in the State of the Union of producing 80 percent of our electricity by 2035 from clean resources, and do it the right way by following the lead of states and emphasizing renewable energy in that mix. They can right size regulation, keeping important environmental protections in place while streamlining the regulatory process for projects located in the right areas. They can invest in infrastructure—most importantly, the transmission infrastructure that will link renewable projects to the grid to provide clean, renewable power to homes and businesses across the country. That will take commitment across the government and across the country.

Despite the highly partisan environment in Congress, I believe that the president will make it a priority to move forward with these initiatives over the next two years. But as we look for support to come from the top, we have to continue to work together to put the right processes in place from below. Then, as we take up the 21st century energy transformation in earnest, we will be sure do so in a way that protects our 20th century achievements.

That’s why I’m so glad to be here with you at this workshop today. Again, Interior brought us together to sit at one table and discuss our regulatory, siting, and conservation concerns. This collaborative, cooperative approach is the best way to develop an effective renewable energy strategy going forward, and I look forward to seeing the outcome from these conversations. Together, I am confident that we can make substantial progress in the right direction.

Thank you.

– John Podesta is President and CEO of American Progress.


1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Excellent presentation on CLEAN ENERGY. I liked it.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India


Charles Krauthammer: Global warming is a “religion”

Washington Post columnist catches Gore Derangement Syndrome

February 10, 2011

Look, if Godzilla appeared on the Mall this afternoon, Al Gore would say it’s global warming, because the spores in the South Atlantic Ocean, you know, were. Look, everything is, it’s a religion. In a religion, everything is explicable. In science, you can actually deny or falsify a proposition with evidence. You find me a single piece of evidence that Al Gore would ever admit would contradict global warming and I’ll be surprised.

That would be Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who like his colleague George Will, is a climate science denier. Of course, it is Krauthammer and Will whose denial can never be falsified because it isn’t actually based on science, but rather ideology (see Krauthammer: The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science and below).

The scientific literature is clear that indeed global warming will cause more snow — especially in warm years (see “An amazing, though clearly little-known, scientific fact: We get more snow storms in warm years!“). Indeed, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) U.S. Climate Impacts Report from 2009 reviewed that literature and concluded:

Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.

But because Krauthammer doesn’t have the most basic understanding of climate science — more warming means more water vapor in the atmosphere available for more intense storms — he not only labels all of climate science a religion, he falls victim to the full Gore Derangement Syndrome that has infected conservatives like they’re in some sort of zombie apocalypse (see Stop the madness: Mark Kirk, a U.S. Senator, blames his climate flip-flop on … Al Gore’s personal life).

UPDATE: Some commenters seem to think January saw record-breaking cold for the entire nation or glob. Globally, NASA reports that January was tied for 10th warmest January on record (see here). January 2011 was more than 0.1 C warmer than the average January temperature in the 1990s.

And it wasn’t even the coldest U.S. January in 20 years — January 1994 was colder, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Since record highs and record lows are set pretty much every day, regular readers know I prefer the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one daily record temperature in one city on global warming.

As CapitalClimate reported last week “preliminary data for January from the National Climatic Data Center indicate that, for the U.S. as a whole, record high temperatures actually exceeded record low temperatures.” The long-term statistical trend is unmistakeable (see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“):

As NCAR explained, “Spurred by a warming climate, daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, new research shows. The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase dramatically in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb.

CapitalClimate notes, “This is now the 10th month out of the last 13 since last January that heat records have exceeded cold ones. The ratio of high temperature records to low temperature records over that period is 2.18 to 1, and the cumulative excess of heat records is almost 7000.”

Back to Krauthammer. Here’s the video:

Again, Gore’s statement comes directly from Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who explained to Gore what he explained to me:

  • “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change.”
  • “We’ve seen other examples out in Seattle last year, and also of course the flooding in New England and the exceptionally heavy snow storms in Washington DC this year…. The same mechanism actually applies to the heavy snow, all you have to do is have the right weather conditions and for it to be cold enough and this precipitation just turns into snow. The very heavy snowfall amounts are actually related to the fact that the moisture that’s coming into that region is coming off of the tropical or sub tropical Atlantic where there’s abundant moisture and more moisture than there used to be: demonstrably more moisture than there used to be 30 years ago.”

Trenberth has pointed out that “Maximum amounts of snow occur close to freezing: any warmer it is rain and any cooler then the water holding capacity goes down (4% per deg F). Colder conditions mean less snow. In general in continental mid-lat climates one should expect more mid winter snow with warming, but a shorter season and less snow pack by about April.”

Again, let’s look at the results of an actual, detailed study of “the relationships of the storm frequencies to seasonal temperature and precipitation conditions” for the years “1901–2000 using data from 1222 stations across the United States.” The 2006 study, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States“ (Changnon, Changnon, and Karl [of National Climatic Data Center], 2006) found we are seeing more northern snow storms and that we get more snow storms in warmer years:

The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901–2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901–2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity…..

Results for the November–December period showed that most of the United States had experienced 61%– 80% of the storms in warmer-than-normal years. Assessment of the January–February temperature conditions again showed that most of the United States had 71%–80% of their snowstorms in warmer-than-normal years. In the March–April season 61%–80% of all snowstorms in the central and southern United States had occurred in warmer-than-normal years…. Thus, these comparative results reveal that a future with wetter and warmer winters, which is one outcome expected (National Assessment Synthesis Team 2001), will bring more snowstorms than in 1901–2000. Agee (1991) found that long-term warming trends in the United States were associated with increasing cyclonic activity in North America, further indicating that a warmer future climate will generate more winter storms.

Since conservatives can’t attack the science or the scientists on this, they know it is safer to attack Gore than to .

None of this is terribly surprising. We learned from a 2008 column that Krauthammer doesn’t know the first thing about science or scientists (see Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown”). As someone who studied physics for 9 years, my favorite denier talking point is his strange version of the old claim that “scientists are flip floppers, constantly changing their theories.” He writes:

If Newton’s laws of motion could, after 200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation, be overthrown, it requires religious fervor to believe that global warming — infinitely more untested, complex and speculative — is a closed issue.

Now that was a strange, but illuminating, claim. Newton’s Laws of Motion are still taught in every high school, in every introductory physics class in college, and even in graduate physics classes. Indeed, they are widely used everywhere to explain and estimate wide varieties of motion. Heck, even NASA still uses them: “The motion of an aircraft through the air can be explained and described by physical principals discovered over 300 years ago by Sir Isaac Newton.”

But Professor Krauthammer said they were overthrown and that 200 years of experiments and observations were wrong. What gives? Why aren’t all our planes falling out of the sky?

Newton’s laws are “excellent approximations at the scales and speeds of everyday life” that, along with his law of gravitation and calculus techniques, “provided for the first time a unified quantitative explanation for a wide range of physical phenomena.”

They fail in very special cases — speeds close to the speed of light (where you need Einstein’s special theory of relativity), near large gravitational fields (where you need to Einstein’s general theory of relativity) or at a very, very small scales (where you need quantum mechanics). Interestingly, many of the laws of those three theories are written in the same form as Newton’s and they revert to Newton’s equations for everyday life (see an example in my original post).

So Krauthammer’s statement was absurdly misleading, since he was implying that “200 years of unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation” were “overthrown” — when they weren’t. So his implication that all the unfailing experimental and experiential confirmation of climate science would be overthrown was equally absurd. Indeed, anybody seeking to replace climate science will have to come up with a more comprehensive theory that still explains everything we know from existing climate science and observations.

It is Krauthammer whose beliefs can never be falsified because they aren’t actually scientific in nature, but rather ideological. The 2008 column, “Carbon Chastity: The First Commandment of the Church of the Environment,” makes that clear:

Yet on the basis of this speculation, environmental activists, attended by compliant scientists and opportunistic politicians, are advocating radical economic and social regulation. “The largest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity,” warns Czech President Vaclav Klaus, “is no longer socialism. It is, instead, the ambitious, arrogant, unscrupulous ideology of environmentalism.”

Do you know any serious scientists? “Compliant” is the last word one would ever use to describe them. Indeed, the best way to get famous in science is to be a skeptic, to disprove a widely held belief.

This paragraph restates the heart of why conservatives hate climate science. It requires action by government, which, for conservatives, is the same as socialism (again, except when it comes to government action on behalf of the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, which is good ‘ol capitalism). Krauthammer continues:

Environmentalists are Gaia’s priests, instructing us in her proper service and casting out those who refuse to genuflect…. And having proclaimed the ultimate commandment — carbon chastity — they are preparing the supporting canonical legislation that will tell you how much you can travel, what kind of light you will read by, and at what temperature you may set your bedroom thermostat….

There’s no greater social power than the power to ration. And, other than rationing food, there is no greater instrument of social control than rationing energy, the currency of just about everything one does and uses in an advanced society.

Here is where the conservatives have it backwards. The solution to global warming — the strategy needed to avoid 450 ppm — does not require rationing food or energy. It primarily requires a government-led strategy to aggressively deploy clean energy technologies (see The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm). That strategy preserves the energy abundance that has made modern civilization possible.

But if we hold off today on government action that focuses for several decades on preventing catastrophe, we will almost guarantee the need for extreme and intrusive government action in the post-2030 era, perhaps lasting centuries. Only Big Government–which conservatives say they don’t want–can relocate millions of citizens, build massive levees, ration crucial resources like water and arable land, mandate harsh and rapid reductions in certain kinds of energy–all of which will be inevitable if we don’t act now (see “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).

Ironically, Krauthammer is afraid of climate strategies that are “economically ruinous and socially destructive,” and says the greatest form of rationing is food rationing.

If we continue to follow the talk-much do-little climate strategy of conservatives, then we are all but certain to end up at 800 to 1000 ppm by century’s end, and that would be economically ruinous and socially destructive (see “Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!” and “A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice“). And long before then, with peak oil prices that we haven’t prepared for, hundreds of millions more people to feed and increasing desertification, drought, and loss of inland glaciers, we will be rationing food. And water. Heck many parts of the world are getting close to food rationing already!

The scarcity and deprivation of 1000 ppm could last for generation upon generation (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

Conservatives can’t stop 1000 ppm by their anti-science anti-government rhetoric. But they can prevent progressives and moderates from stopping 1000 ppm by continuing to block aggressive action to reduce CO2 emissions. How ironic — and tragic — it would be if conservates’ short-term quest to avoid a bigger government led to a permamently huge government. Talk about an inconvenient truth.


1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction”

-Blaise Pascal

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India


Zipcar, sharing, and swapping

February 12, 2011

There’s an alternative model of consumption that greatly reduces waste and excess. It’s called “collaborative consumption,” and it takes advantage of sharing, swapping, and bartering to provide people with the items they need—without all the clutter of items people buy and then use only a few times

Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers thoroughly developed the concept in their book, “What’s Mine Is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live.” The book documents the increasing popularity of the collaborative consumption model and the ways its growth will fundamentally change the workings of our economy.

Collaborative consumption offers consumers the opportunity to borrow items at a lower cost than purchasing them. This helps prevent the accumulation of unwanted and unnecessary items in the home. But best of all, collaborative consumption is green. Purchasing sustainably produced goods is certainly important, but collaborative consumption provides a model that circumvents the excess production of items.

Borrowing and lending items allow consumers to obtain products for the length of time they need them without necessitating the resource-robbing hyperproduction of goods that has been responsible for environmental degradation around the world. Instead, producers can focus on creating a fewer number of higher-quality, sustainably constructed goods. A decrease in production may lead to an increase in cost, but the price paid by end-users would still be less because they no longer have to foot the entire bill for the product being borrowed.

This model has actually been around for quite some time. Libraries and movie rental stores practice collaborative consumption. But the advent of the internet—and more specifically, social networking sites—has created new and exciting opportunities for people around the world to lend, borrow, trade, or rent a huge variety of items including clothes, media, tools, appliances, and transportation.

Chances are you’ve heard of a number of companies and networks that deal with collaborative consumption. Zipcar and Smartbike offer urban dwellers around the country the mobility of cars and bikes, respectively, for less than the cost of ownership. Websites like Couchsurfing provide a network for travelers to find people willing to host them at a highly reduced cost or even for free. Internet giants Craigslist and Ebay serve as portals for people to redistribute the unwanted products they may have lying around their house. And if you’re looking for something that you can’t find with any of those companies, Botsman and Rogers have compiled a great list of collaborative consumption organizations on their website.

The opportunities are plentiful and new ventures are constantly being created. So the next time you think you need to buy something, consider borrowing first. You’ll save money, you’ll save space, and perhaps best of all, you’ll help save the planet. And who knows? You may make some new friends in the process.


1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

The greatest joy in life is “SHARING”.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

House Energy chair Fred Upton (R-MI) on global warming: “I do not accept that it is man-made”

Bizarrely asserts 2010 was "the warmest year in the last decade"

February 8, 2011

What do you think is scarier? Is it that the powerful chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee flip-flopped to become a denier of basic climate science, like most Congressional conservatives?

Or is that he’s so ill-informed he actually told the National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein, “there was a report a couple of weeks ago that in fact you look at this last year, it was the warmest year in the last decade, I think was the numbers that came out”? In fact, the report from both NASA and NOAA was that 2010 was the warmest year (tied with 2005) in more than a century of temperature records.

Brad Johnson reports (with video) and you decide!

At a public forum today, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the new head of the House energy committee, denied that climate change is manmade. Upton, who received $20,000 from Koch Industries in his most recent campaign, had called for a reduction in greenhouse emissions as recently as June 2009. Upton has now introduced legislation with Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to overturn the scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that greenhouse pollution threatens public health. This morning, Upton was pressed by National Journal‘s Ron Brownstein as to why the Upton-Inhofe bill describes climate change as “possible.” After repeated attempts to avoid the question, Upton finally explained his wide-straddling stance: he accepts that the planet is warming, but not that the billions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity are a cause:

“I have said many times, and there was a report a couple of weeks ago that in fact you look at this last year, it was the warmest year in the last decade, I think was the numbers that came out. I don’t — I accept that. I do not say that it is man-made.”

Upton then repeated the falsehood that “even if cap-and-trade had been enacted, it would not have changed the temperature by a tenth of a degree anywhere in the world.”

In reality, the Environmental Protection Agency has found that U.S. cap-and-trade would avoid several degrees of catastrophic warming. And 2010 was not just the hottest year this decade, but the hottest year in recorded history. This is why the National Academies of Science found last year that “climate change is occurring and is caused in large part by human activities” and that the United States should “act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Instead, tomorrow Upton will hold a hearing with several witnesses funded by Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries to praise the Upton-Inhofe pollution act.

– Brad Johnson

Perhaps when Upton said “it was the warmest year in the last decade,” what he really meant to say was last year was “part of the warmest decade on record.”


  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

February 9, 2011 at 5:23 am

Very Good story. The effect of Global warming is already felt. It is everybody’s concern to contribute to avert it.

Here is a caution by “ Time for Change”:

“By the year 2050, the average CO2 emissions needed to be reduced to 2 tonnes per capita (current world-wide average is 4.5 tonnes, American average is 20 tonnes and European average is 10 tonnes per year, current CO2 emissions by country ). In the medium and long term, there is no justification for the industrialised world to pollute the Earth more than others. So we should reduce our carbon footprint to 2 tons per capita per year until 2050.

t still seems to be possible to avoid the most devastating effects on our environment. However we must start acting immediately. The longer we keep on talking instead of acting, the more drastic measures are needed. However, from past experience we know that the more drastic a measure is, the less likely is its implementation!

Global warming is not about the others, global warming is about us and our personal behaviour . Everyone must bring down his or her personal contribution .

For whom enough is too little – nothing is ever enough”.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India


Energy and climate news for January 28, 2011: World energy use could be cut 73% by efficiency alone; US Marines use solar to cut forward base fuel use by 90%

January 28, 2011

World energy use could be slashed over 70% by efficiency alone

Simple changes like installing better building insulation could cut the world’s energy demands by three-quarters, according to a new study.

Discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions usually concentrate on cleaner ways of generating energy: that’s because they promise that we can lower emissions without having to change our energy-hungry ways. But whereas new generation techniques take years to come on stream, efficiency can be improved today, with existing technologies and know-how.

To calculate how much energy could be saved through such improvements, Julian Allwood and colleagues at the University of Cambridge analysed the buildings, vehicles and industry around us and applied “best practice” efficiency changes to them.

Changes to homes and buildings included triple-glazing windows and installing 300-millimetre-thick cavity wall insulation, using saucepan lids when cooking on the stove top, eliminating hot-water tanks and reducing the set temperature of washing machines and dishwashers. In transportation, the weight of cars was limited to 300 kilograms.

They found that 73 per cent of global energy use could be saved by introducing such changes.

US Marines Use Solar Power to Cut Forward Operating Base Fuel Use By 90%

While the RAND Corporation says the US military won’t directly benefit from switching to renewable fuels–that is, it’s own operations won’t benefit, even if the nation will–another just released study says otherwise. The Office of Naval Research, in partnership with the Marine Corps, says it has solid evidence of the benefits of switching to renewable energy at forward operating bases.

The argument in favor of using more renewable energy is one that has been made several times before, in the words of Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, chief of naval research,

By doing so there is the potential for the Marine Corps to cut back the number of resupply convoys to these remote locations and save lives by keeping Marines clear of IED attacks. (Science Daily)

Examples from Afghanistan include using solar panels to charge batteries (in the military’s alphabet soup, SPACES or Solar Portable Alternative Energy Systems) the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines have been able to conduct extended patrols without the need for resupply. Using GREENS (Ground Renewable Energy Networks, a photovoltaic battery system) fuel for generators at Marine Corps forward operating bases testing the system was reduced by 90%.

Siemens Plans Record R&D Spending in 2011 to Harness Clean-Energy Demand

Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineering company, plans to raise spending on research and development to 4.5 billion euros ($6.2 billion) in 2011 as it pours more money into its range of energy-saving equipment.

This year’s budget represents a record when adjusted for disposals, and is a 17 percent increase over last year’s 3.85 billion euros, spokesman Ulrich Eberl said in a Jan. 26 phone interview. The budget for wind-energy products has tripled in the past two years, Rene Umlauft, head of Siemens’s renewable energy division, said in an interview.

Siemens has invested “hundreds of millions” of euros in wind energy since entering the industry with an acquisition in 2004, Umlauft said. The division plans to add at least 2,000 employees to its current 7,000-strong force to help work through a 10 billion-euro backlog.

“We are going to spend a lot of money,” Umlauft said.

The German company, based in Munich, is going head to head with General Electric Co. in the market for turbines, products for the renewable energy industry, and scanners and equipment used in healthcare.

GE, Conoco, NRG Commit $300 Million to Venture to Support Clean Energy

General Electric Co., ConocoPhilips and NRG Energy Inc. have committed $300 million in capital to a joint venture that will invest in emerging energy technology companies.

The investment company, Energy Technology Ventures, will back about 30 startups over the next four years, they said in a joint statement today.

Collaborating with other major energy companies “enables us to pool our financial resources and technological expertise – - along with our extensive relationships — to provide more than money to emerging energy technology companies,” Kevin Skillern, managing director and leader of venture capital at GE Energy Financial Services, said in the statement.

The joint venture will focus on companies that are developing technology for renewable energy, smart grid, energy efficiency, oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, emission controls, water and biofuels.

Energy Technology Ventures’ first investments are in Santa Clara, California-based solar photovoltaic cell maker Alta Devices; Centennial, Colorado-based coal-to-methane technology company Ciris Energy Inc. and CoolPlanetBiofuels, a Camarillo, California-based non-food biofuels developer, according to the statement. It did not say how much money it has provided to them.

Extra U.N. climate talks set for April in Bangkok

Climate negotiators from almost 200 nations will hold an extra session in Bangkok in April to try to unblock work on a successor to the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for slowing global warming, officials said on Friday.

They said that 2011 is likely to mark a slowdown in the overall number of U.N. meetings about climate change after a rush of talks since 2007 failed to come up with a treaty.

“The session…will be held in Bangkok from April 3 to 8,” according to an official who took part in a video conference meeting this week. The Bangkok talks will gather senior government negotiators.

The meeting adds to an existing schedule of a June session in Bonn, Germany and annual talks among environment ministers in Durban, South Africa, at the end of 2011. Another session is likely to be added between Bonn and Durban.

In Mexico last month, ministers agreed steps including a deal to set up a new fund to channel aid to developing nations as well as a goal of limiting any rise in temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times.

Officials say talks in 2011 will try to fill in the details of many of those plans, including greenhouse gas cuts meant to help avert ever more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels predicted by the U.N. panel of climate experts.

Calderon and Zuma urge US to step up on climate change

Presidents Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, hosts of global climate change summits, on Thursday urged the United States to take stronger action on the issue.

In a debate before business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the leaders regretted that their US counterpart Barack Obama had not once mentioned climate change in his State of the Union address this week.

“The world needs action from the United States,” said Calderon, who last month hosted a climate change summit in Cancun at which countries agreed to deep cuts in carbon emissions in order to slow climate change.

Zuma, who has been working with Calderon and will host the next UN-backed climate summit in Durban before the end of the year, agreed, saying: “We need action in the context of what the world has agreed to do.”

Both men agreed Obama faces domestic political opposition to his taking the lead on the emissions cutting agenda, and said they thought him serious about the issue. But both called for faster action from Washington.

UN climate talks in focus at Davos forum

U.S. businesses must do more to pressure Congress to act on climate change and realize that China is “winning the green race,” world leaders and climate change experts said Thursday at the World Economic Forum.

In a panel discussion at Davos, where some 2,500 business leaders and politicans are gathered, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said China “is going to leave us all in the dust” in the transition toward a more energy-efficient global economy.

The Chinese, she said, “are not doing it just because they want to save the planet. They are doing it because it’s good for the economy.”

European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said it’s time that American businesses realize that “it’s bad business to not be among the front-runners” in that race.

There is serious concern about how to keep the global economy moving forward while, at the same time, ensuring that people in the developing world are not denied a chance to better their lives without contributing to factors that have caused global warming.

Sen. Barrasso to introduce legislation to block Environmental Protection Agency

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming plans to introduce legislation Monday to preempt the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to regulate carbon emissions, The Daily Caller has learned. It is the latest move by congressional Republicans who view the agency’s rules as a backdoor attempt to implement a cap and trade system.

“Barrasso’s bill stops this backdoor attempt to enact Obama’s cap-and-trade agenda through EPA and the rest of the federal bureaucracy,” said Barrasso spokesperson Emily Lawrimore. “The Barrasso bill restates and reaffirms the will of Congress as the sole authority over federal climate change policy.”

The bill, however, will go beyond just blocking the EPA. It will stop all federal agencies from implementing new energy taxes that could have a negative effect on employment and energy costs.

Barrasso’s bill builds off an amendment introduced last spring by then-Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich that would have blocked the EPA and individual U.S. states from regulating greenhouse gases.

While Voinovich’s amendment and the climate bill it was attached to never passed, Barrasso has used the Voinovich amendment as a template for his standalone bill. According to Lawrimore, the specifics of the bill are still being worked out.

New Mexico Supreme Court Overrules Tea Party Governor Fighting Climate Law

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that new Tea Party Governor Susana Martinez violated the state constitution when she prevented New Mexico’s democratically-approved rule reducing carbon pollution from being published as codified state law.

Essentially their supreme court said “no one is above the law.”

The lawsuit was filed by the environmental nonprofit New Energy Economy, and reflects growing claims that Gov. Martinez tried to suppress the rule in an attempt to appease major carbon polluters who contributed heavily to her gubernatorial campaign, and that her suppression was arbitrary and illegal. Preventing its publication was not discretionary, the court ruled. According to eyewitnesses, it seemed as if this New Mexico Supreme Court ruling took just 30 minutes to decide.

Since Governor Martinez is actually a former assistant state attorney, the illegality of her action brought up a question in my mind. I asked Mariel Nanasi, the Executive Director of NEE, wouldn’t she know that was illegal? Nanasi laughed as if this was obvious, saying; “pretty much any attorney in that position would know that this suppression was illegal.”

Senator Who Shot Cap-and-Trade Bill in Ad Named to Energy Panel

The Senate committee with primary jurisdiction for U.S. energy policy added Joe Manchin, the former West Virginia governor who won office after using climate-change legislation for target practice in a 2010 ad.

Manchin will join the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to an e-mail yesterday from Bill Wicker, a committee spokesman. The panel, led by Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, plans to draft legislation that sets guidelines for how much electricity comes from sources such as coal, natural gas, wind and sun.

West Virginia is the second-biggest coal-producing state after Wyoming, according to Energy Department data. In his commercial, Manchin loads a rifle and fires a single bullet into a copy of the cap-and-trade bill backed by President Barack Obama that would penalize utilities for using coal.

“Manchin getting a seat on the energy committee is just an indication of the role that coal will play in the energy debate in the coming months,” said Tyson Slocum, energy director of the Washington-based advocacy group Public Citizen. “Coal is going to have its say in all of this.”

Freshmen set to mix up Senate Energy debate

The new makeup of the Senate Energy Committee – including a diverse handful of Tea Party and potentially centrist Republicans – raises major questions about whether it’s possible to reach common ground on a key “clean energy” production mandate and other energy initiatives President Barack Obama has called for.

Five freshmen GOP senators have joined the panel, led by members of the Tea Party movement: Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Utah’s Mike Lee. A Democratic freshman, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, is another new member and potential wild card on a panel that in the previous Congress proved more effective than most committees in hammering out deals across party lines.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) – who worked closely with Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) in 2009 to include a renewable power mandate in a broader energy package passed by the committee – left the Senate to become governor. Also gone from the panel is Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) – one of four Republicans that gave backing to the energy measure.

It is unclear whether Paul and Lee will veer farther to the right than the men they succeeded both on the panel and in the full Senate – Sens. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and Robert Bennett (R-Utah).

Coal-country lawmakers ramp up push against EPA permit veto

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is launching fresh attacks against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its recent decision to block a large mountaintop-removal mining project in West Virginia.

Lawmakers from West Virginia and Ohio introduced a measure Wednesday that would prevent EPA from vetoing Clean Water Act permits that have already been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) sponsored the bill, and co-sponsors include Reps. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.); and Ohio Republicans Bill Johnson and Bob Gibbs.

Coal-industry allies are furious with EPA over its decision this month to veto the Clean Water Act permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia after the large project won approval from the Corps in 2007. The new bill would apply retroactively to the beginning of this year, thus blocking EPA’s veto of the mine, McKinley’s office said.

“For years, the EPA has been bullying coal companies and the workers they employ,” the freshman Republican said in a statement. He alleges that if EPA is able to overturn Corps’s permits, “dozens of heavily regulated industries and hundreds of thousands of American jobs hang in the balance.”

House Bill Would Curb EPA Veto Power, Restore Revoked Mountaintop Mining Permit

A West Virginia Republican filed a bipartisan House bill yesterday that would prevent U.S. EPA from retroactively vetoing water permits as it did earlier this month, blocking the largest-ever proposed mountaintop coal mine in Appalachia.

Rep. David McKinley’s legislation (H.R. 457 (pdf)) also aims to reverse EPA’s permit veto by setting an effective date of Jan. 1.

At issue is EPA’s Jan. 13 veto of a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to the proposed 2,200-acre Spruce No. 1 mountaintop mine, citing damage the project would do to the environment and nearby West Virginia communities (Greenwire, Jan. 13).

West Virginia’s congressional delegation bristled in the aftermath of EPA’s veto. The coal-mining industry directly employs 31,000 in Appalachian states and produces about 11 percent of the nation’s coal.

Trade Groups Target EPA, Labor Rules

Business groups have targeted the Environmental Protection Agency along with workplace-safety laws in response to requests from congressional Republicans to describe regulations they believe are curbing growth.

The new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), wrote to dozens of trade associations and businesses last month asking them to identify “regulations that negatively impact the economy and jobs.”

Since then, President Barack Obama announced a review of all regulations, and said in the State of the Union address that “when we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.”

Responding to Mr. Issa’s call, groups representing the petroleum, manufacturing, construction, paper, chemical and farming industries, as well as small and minority businesses, all criticized the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases.

Republicans have said that they will make all of the responses public by mid-February, along with their assessment of regulations that should be jettison or changed.

Soot Crackdown Lags as EPA Wrestles Other Deadlines

U.S. EPA’s air division has made headlines under President Obama for its push to limit greenhouse gases and toxic pollution, but the busy office is running late with new limits on asthma-inducing soot, close observers of the rulemaking process say.

The Obama administration is nearing a decision point on particulate matter (PM), a pollution cocktail that includes run-of-the-mill dust and the chemical-laden soot that is released when fossil fuels are burned. When the current limits were put in place under President Clinton, the changes prompted an intense backlash from lobbyists and Republicans on Capitol Hill — a debate that will likely be reprised should the Obama administration decide to act.

EPA has said it will decide by next month whether health concerns justify any changes to the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulates.

The soot standards apply from coast to coast, setting a cap on the acceptable amount of dust and soot in the air that Americans breathe. State and local agencies are required to take action when the air in their neck of the woods isn’t clean enough.

U.S. refiner settles Clean Air Act issue

The second-largest petroleum refinery in the United States agreed to pay millions of dollars in damages for Clean Air Act violations, U.S. regulators said.

Hovensa LLC, which owns the second-largest petroleum refinery in the United States, agreed to pay $5.3 million in civil penalties and invest more than $700 million in pollution control equipment to settle Clean Air Act violations at its facility in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Justice Department announced.

“This is another major step in our efforts, alongside EPA, to bring the petroleum refining sector into compliance with our nation’s environmental laws,” Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement.

The federal complaint accused Hovensa of making modifications to its refinery that led to increased emissions without getting the approval from the government as required by the Clean Air Act.

The investments made by Hovensa under the deal will result in the removal of more than 8,000 tons of harmful chemicals that lead to acid rain and smog.

The settlement is the 105th for the EPA, which the regulatory agency said indicates that more than 90 percent of the refining capacity in the United States is under agreements with the government to reduce their emissions.

The St. Croix facility is one of the largest in the world, refining more than 525,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

JPMorgan Says OPEC Acts to Slow Oil, May Raise Later

OPEC will have to raise oil prices in coming years to maximize revenue even as it acts to quell crude’s rally toward $100 a barrel in the short term, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Indications that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are raising output unilaterally are the first signs of a response to rising prices, said analysts at the second-largest U.S. bank by assets. Crude fell to a five-week low Jan. 24 after Ali al-Naimi, the oil minister of OPEC’s biggest member, Saudi Arabia, said the 12-member group will boost supply this year.

“The producer group does not want oil prices to rise too high, too quickly,” JPMorgan analysts, led by New York-based Lawrence Eagles, said in a monthly report dated yesterday. “But we believe the group has little option but to incrementally raise prices over the coming years to maximize the revenue from each barrel of oil produced.”

Exxon: Global Gasoline Demand To Fall Over 20 Yrs

There will be 400 million more cars on the world’s roads 20 years from now, yet gasoline consumption will decline, according to a projection from Exxon Mobil Corp. in its long-term energy outlook released Thursday.

The world’s biggest investor-owned oil and gas company expects energy use overall will grow 35 percent by 2030, But that growth would be three times higher if people used as much energy per capita as they do now.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in projections of gasoline demand. People in developing countries, especially China, will drive millions of more cars and gas demand will grow, but the cars will be more efficient than those of the past.

Meanwhile, improvements in fuel efficiency in the U.S. and Europe will create a drop in demand that more than matches Asia’s growth. Demand for fuel for passenger vehicles will decline by 20 percent in the U.S. and by one third in Europe by 2030.

Meanwhile, improvements in fuel efficiency in the U.S. and Europe will create a drop in demand that more than matches Asia’s growth. Demand for fuel for passenger vehicles will decline by 20 percent in the U.S. and by one third in Europe by 2030.

Exxon’s long-term energy analysis, updated and released to the public every year, paints a picture of what Bill Colton, vice president, Corporate Strategic Planning called a “tale of two worlds.”

In developed countries like the U.S., Japan, and the nations of Europe, demand for energy will stay flat even as economic activity increases by 60 percent. In developing countries like China, India and Brazil, demand for energy will rise more than 70 percent as more and more people gain access to electricity and transportation

China to import more fuels despite clean energy drive

* Net coal imports to continue growing after record purchases

* Power use to grow at a slower pace of 9 pct this yr

* Starts building 20 GW hydropower this yr, 10 pct of total

* Adding one-third of wind power capacity in 2011

BEIJING, Jan 28 (Reuters) – China will ramp up conventional fuel imports and production to power its economy in 2011 despite accelerating efforts to develop clean, renewable and alternative energy.

The National Energy Administration (NEA) estimated on Friday that energy demand in the world’s second largest economy will increase steadily but the growth could moderate from last year.

It did not provide an estimate of overall energy demand this year or energy used last year.

“China’s net coal imports hit 146 million tonnes in 2010. It could keep increasing in 2011,” Wang Siqiang, deputy head of general affairs department under the NEA, said in a quarterly press conference.

“Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Columbia and Russia will continue increasing their percentages of exports to China along with their rising coal output in 2011.”

Burning ambitions: What is good news for miners is bad news for the environment

IN RICH countries, where people worry about air quality and debate ways of pricing carbon emissions, coal is deeply unfashionable. Elsewhere demand for the dirty rocks has never been stronger. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reckons world consumption will increase by a fifth over the next 25 years, assuming governments stick to their current climate-change policies. A new age of coal is upon us.

The IEA estimates that China, which generates more than 70% of its electricity with coal, will build 600 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired power capacity in the next quarter-century—as much as is currently generated with coal in America, Japan and the European Union put together. Nomura, a Japanese bank, thinks that may be an underestimate. It reckons China will add some 500GW of coal-fired power by as early as 2015, and will more than double its current generating capacity by 2020. It expects Indian coal-fired power generation to grow too—though more slowly.

Even developing countries with vast quantities of coal under home soil will find themselves unable to dig it out quickly enough to meet demand. China, the world’s biggest coal producer by some distance, has turned to foreign suppliers over the past couple of years and is likely to rely on them even more in future. Its voracious appetite for energy and steel means it will need at least 5-7% more coal each year. Citigroup reckons China will import 233m tonnes in 2011. As Daniel Brebner of Deutsche Bank points out, that is considerably more than the annual capacity of Richards Bay in South Africa or Newcastle in Australia, the world’s biggest coal ports.

Energy proposal interests producers

President Barack Obama’s proposed clean energy mandate has more appeal to Iowa industries and electric utilities than do caps on greenhouse gases, but they’ll still be wary of any new policy that could increase power costs.

Obama is calling for the nation to get 80 percent of its power from clean sources by 2035, about double the current level, according to the White House. Nuclear energy and natural gas would count toward the target, as well as wind, solar and clean-coal technology.

The proposal is an alternative to the plan Obama pushed unsuccessfully in the last Congress to cap greenhouse gases and require emitters to buy pollution permits, a provision that Iowa utilities said would force large rate increases. But any kind of power mandate still faces stiff Republican resistance in Congress.

It probably won’t help sell the proposal that it’s coming on top of new environmental regulations that affect utilities.

Europe’s Cap-and-Trade Suspended

The first generation of any innovation—be it a new mobile phone or computer system—always comes with glitches and flaws. But still it’s tough not to feel frustrated this week by news that Europe’s carbon trading market–the first of its kind, and designed as a model for cap-and-trade schemes around the world–has been closed following a digital heist that saw an estimated $38 million of carbon credits stolen.

Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was set up in 2005 to help modernize the continent’s greenhouse-gas emitting industries, and therefore reduce Europe’s carbon footprint. From the outset, companies were either allocated free carbon credits or bought them—if they exceeded their emissions quotas they were forced to buy certificates from companies that managed to reduce their carbon output through efficiency measures. On paper, the scheme has been a success: ETS now covers some 12,000 installations in a $100 billion-a-year market.


  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

January 31, 2011 at 10:09 am


Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India


Live from Masdar: Flower in the Desert

January 19, 2011

Guest blogger William Becker is reporting live from Masdar blogging exclusively for CP. Becker is executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project.

ABU DHABI — It has been two years since the government of oil-rich Abu Dhabi began constructing what aspires to be the world’s first carbon neutral city.

The city is called Masdar. Since construction began in 2008, Masdar has been an exciting prospect for many of us who are attached to the ideal of sustainable development. Other, equally dedicated advocates of sustainability, however, have criticized Masdar.

For example, reviewing Masdar and other model cities being developed around the world, Sarah Goodyear asked this on Grist last year: If you want a sustainable city, why not fix the one you’ve got? It’s a reasonable question.

Other criticisms are that Masdar will be more of an elite gated community than an organic city; that it’s a greenfield project (although there must be a better term for undeveloped desert); and that is an expensive example of green washing by one of the world’s leading oil-exporting nations.

I toured Masdar yesterday and came away with some of my own opinions. But first, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll point out that I am part of a group of journalists from around the world who were brought to Abu Dhabi by the sponsors of the Masdar project, all expenses paid, to see the community and attend the World Future Energy Conference here this week.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Masdar, here is some background. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the desert monarchy on the Persian Gulf that sits atop some of the world’s largest oil reserves.

Masdar is a project of the Mubadala Company, an investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi government. “Masdar” refers not only to the model city under construction on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, but also to four other ventures including a graduate-level education institute, a $500 million capital fund that invests in renewable energy projects around the world, and a research program to capture and sequester carbon from natural gas.

If things go as planned and British architect Normal Foster’s design continues to materialize, 7,000 people will live in Masdar City within five years and another 12,000 people will work there.

At the moment, the project is still mostly an empty expanse of desert near Abu Dhabi’s airport. The exception is the Masdar Institute, a complex of six buildings that house research laboratories, classrooms and 167 graduate students in 102 residential apartments. The Institute’s faculty has been trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The complex is cooled by the wind, by positioning the six buildings to shade one another and by various design features that keep sunlight from entering the interior. A sheltered courtyard at the core of the complex is cooled by an experimental 44-meter tower covered with operable louvers that channel breezes downward through a mist of water.

Electricity comes from an 88,000 panel, $50 million, grid-connected photovoltaic farm nearby – the largest of its kind in the United Arab Emirates — along with PV panels on the roofs of the buildings. More solar is planned.

The original concept was to exclude all passenger cars within the city. With the maturation of electric vehicles, however, the developers are willing to allow electric automobiles and buses. One of the city’s transit systems already is operating – several electric-powered “Personal Rapid Transit” pods that look like oversized cold capsules. Each of the automated, electric-powered PRT’s carries four people and travels briskly through the complex on magnetic tracks. People can walk from point to point, too, but with summer temperatures reaching 120 degrees, even dedicated pedestrians probably won’t want to.

Inside the Institute’s labs, researchers are exploring how to make electricity from industrial and municipal wastewater, among other things. Elsewhere on the Masdar property are experimental renewable energy technologies in various stages of testing, including a solar trough system to cool buildings and an array of mirrors that will be used to explore different methods of generating power from concentrated sunlight. Geothermal cooling also is in the city’s plans.

There is a human experiment underway, too. It’s testing the willingness of the students who reside in Masdar City to change their attitudes and lifestyles to fulfill the city’s aspiration for carbon neutrality. Running up the slide of the courtyard cooling tower is a strip of LED lights that change colors to alert everyone when energy is being wasted somewhere. Water and energy meters tattle on exactly where, and perhaps who, is being wasteful. Some would call this Orwellian. Others would call it the Prius effect at city scale – instant feedback designed to modify behavior.

Now, about those criticisms. My impression is that Masdar City is more of a living laboratory than an organic community gussied up with fancy hardware. It’s something of a Biosphere without the dome, a real-time experiment in low-carbon living. As the change of mind about cars illustrates, the developers and technicians working on the city are actively monitoring and planning to incorporate the latest in energy and water technologies, keeping the city on the cutting edge of green.

Is there a place for this kind of development? Absolutely. Sarah and others are correct that we need massive investments in the world’s more organic cities, where more people are moving than ever before, often into slums without sanitation or drinkable water.

But the expensive and even exotic technologies being tested by the residents of Masdar City might one day mature into practical and affordable applications that purify and conserve water and provide billions of the world’s poorest people – as well as we Westerners – with carbon-free energy.

As for green washing, I came away from the tour persuaded that something very different is behind Abu Dhabi’s willingness to invest billions of dollars in an experimental city and in renewable energy projects elsewhere. Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates are ruled by the sons of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who founded the UAE and who is regarded here as a visionary environmentalist. Abu Dhabi’s forward-looking commitment to clean energy appears to be a sincere act of reverence for Sheikh Zayed by his heirs and a commitment to carry on his work.

The UAE has a long way to go. It has one of the world’s highest rates of per capital energy consumption. Consumers enjoy heavily subsidized energy costs. Masdar City is a laboratory for the UAE as well as the rest of us.

There’s a business case for energy innovation, too. Abu Dhabi is the fifth largest exporter of oil in the world; it wants to diversity its economy. Because oil supplies are finite and increasingly expensive to extract and because we are entering a carbon constrained world, the Sheiks along the Gulf want to be leading exporters of renewable energy technologies as well as oil and gas, and they want to find ways to decarbonizes their fossil fuels.

It might be that oil-producing countries are more anxious than the rest of us to adapt to what’s coming. It was a Saudi oil minister worried about the coming age of renewable energy who uttered the quote that appears in the PowerPoints of so many green evangelists today: The stone age didn’t end because it ran out of stones and the oil age won’t end because we ran out of oil. It will end because we find something better.

Back at the energy conference after the Masdar tour, I met the pioneer of another type. Bunker Roy is a 65-year-old Indian national who saw famine close-up in his youth. Highly intelligent and articulate, he could have been a lawyer or a diplomat. Instead, he dedicated his career to improving life in Indian’s villages. Roy’s has set up a “Barefoot College” that trains grandmothers in the developing world to build and maintain solar energy systems in rural villages.

While the researchers and graduate students at the Masdar Institute work in their clean labs, Roy provides 6 months of training to women who are 40-50 years old – the age of many grandmothers in rural India. They learn to fabricate solar lanterns and the components of solar electric systems. Solar energy is transformative, Roy says. Kids can study at night. Women who used to walk 10 kilometers to charge cell phones now can do it at home. Some people who left their villages in search of better lives come back.

With support from the Indian government, Roy has gone international. He says he has trained 150 grandmothers from 30 countries so far.

Which of these is the more worthy model of sustainable development: the Barefoot College or Masdar City? The world needs both. As a famous Chinese leader once said, “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.”

William Becker

12 Responses to “Live from Masdar: Flower in the Desert”

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

January 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The initiative is laudable.

Let us examine what ‘Carbon Neutral’ City is likely.

‘ Defining a ‘Carbon Neutral’ City WorldChanging Team, 22 Feb 10( WORLD CHANGING CHANGE YOUR THINKING by Justus Stewart and Pete Erickson).

“Last November, Alex Steffen gave a two-night talk at Seattle’s Town Hall. In those talks, he issued a challenge to the government and the residents of Seattle: to be bigger and bolder with our goals; to stake our claim as the environmental and civic leaders of the bright green future. He challenged us to conceive of Seattle as the first carbon neutral city in North America, and to get there by 2030.
Since then, the idea has spread, and been debated, among Seattle’s civic leaders and innovative thinkers. One question that moved immediately to the fore is this: What does carbon neutral even mean? A critical first step in pursuing ‘carbon neutrality’ is defining it.
Of the many considerations that go into defining carbon neutrality for a city the size of Seattle, a few stand out for their significance.
1. How does carbon neutrality relate to the global limits that scientists warn us we must not exceed – 350 ppm CO2 (or 2 degrees C over pre-industrial levels)?
2. Would a city have to actually quit emitting greenhouse gases, or could it use offsets (purchase carbon credits) to reach its goal?
3. Are we trying to account for only emissions that occur within city limits, or all emissions for which Seattleites are responsible?
This is wonky stuff; catnip for the carbon emissions accounting crowd (yes, they exist, and yes, there are technically enough of them to constitute a crowd…). Let’s take them one at a time.
How does Seattle’s goal relate to the global limits that scientists warn us we must not exceed – for example, 350 ppm (or 2 degrees C)?
Well over 1,000 cities in the US have adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. Many of those cities, including Seattle, express their goals in alignment with a science-based goal of an 80% reduction (from 1990 levels) by 2050. This “80 by 50″ target is reflected in some national policies as well. However, we often lose sight of the fact that this is a global goal, not a local one. Meeting an aggressive global goal (whether 350 ppm, 450 ppm, or whatever is required to limit warming to 2 degrees C) will require the rich countries of the world to reduce their emissions at least 80% by 2050 — and in addition, to help finance emission reductions in poor nations. If we only hit 80% of our own emissions by mid-century — and don’t help poor nations invest in clean energy and other emission-reducing projects — then we overshoot our global emissions target, with potentially devastating consequences.
What does this mean? It means we may want to define carbon neutrality in a way that accounts for both our actual emissions and our fair share of global emissions. This does not have to be guesswork: frameworks exist to apportion emissions according to measures of historical responsibility and capacity to act. These frameworks – often called burden sharing or carbon budgeting — suggest that to contribute equitably to a 2 degree goal, the U.S. may need to take responsibility for emission reductions greater than its total emissions. One calculation found that the U.S. would need to go well below zero (substantially “carbon negative”) by 2030.
The reasoning behind a burden-sharing approach is simple: because wealthy nations (and their wealthy cities) are responsible for the lion’s share of historical emissions, which helped fuel our prosperity and now threaten the whole planet, we must take greater action to reduce those emissions than poor countries with less responsibility and less capacity to act. After all, we cannot ethically (or even legally) restrict emissions from developing nations if it means they remain in poverty. If they are to reduce their emissions, we must help fund their cleaner path to prosperity. That’s point two.
Does the City have to actual quit emitting greenhouse gases, or can it use offsets (purchase carbon credits) to reach its goal?
While carbon emissions in Seattle can be reduced significantly from their current levels, it is unrealistic to actually stop local emissions completely. Doing so would be prohibitively expensive. In terms of achieving global targets, then, it is at some point more cost effective to reduce emissions in other places than here in Seattle. Furthermore, as described above, we may want to accept a greater share of global responsibility for emission reductions, perhaps going beyond zero, and financing emission reductions (likely as offset credits) in poor nations. But how do we determine where the threshold should be between our own reductions and those we fund elsewhere as offsets? How deep of a reduction should Seattle make in its own emissions? Considerations include whether to honor Seattle’s existing 80% by 2050 goal, cost-effectiveness, global responsibility, the value of branding Seattle as a global leader in green innovation, and other in-city benefits promoted by advocates of carbon neutrality.”

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

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