Energy and Global Warming News for July 1st: Ontario puts $20B nuclear upgrade plan on ice; ‘Green jobs’ pitch swayed Ohio lawmakers

High cost and delays are standard operating procedure for new nukes around the globe (see “Turkey’s only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour” and “What do you get when you buy a nuke? You get a lot of delays and rate increases”¦“).  The same is true in the nuke-friendly land up north:

Ontario Puts Nuclear Upgrade Plans on Ice

Two years into a $20-billion nuclear upgrade project meant to replace aging reactors with next-generation technology, the Ontario government put the entire process on hold Monday, citing excessive cost and uncertainties involving the ownership status of the sole Canadian bidder.

“Emission-free nuclear power remains a crucial aspect of Ontario’s supply mix,” Ontario’s minister of energy and infrastructure, George Smitherman, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the competitive bidding process has not provided Ontario with a suitable option at this time.”

As he told reporters, “We’ll know the right price when we see it and we ain’t seen it yet.”

… To date, Areva is the only nuclear company to have sold a third-generation reactor, to the Finnish electric utility.

And that hasn’t gone so well (see GOP wants 100 new nukes by 2030 while “Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns”).

‘Green jobs’ pitch swayed just enough coal-state lawmakers

In the end, the promise of green jobs trumped worries about the future of coal. It trumped fears about higher energy prices. It trumped everything for Democrats from Ohio who voted overwhelmingly for the House climate bill, helping secure its passage by the narrowest of margins.

Eight of 10 Democrats from the Buckeye State backed the bill, pleasing environmentalists, companies pursuing renewable power and those wanting a green economy. The votes Friday surprised many who had expected to see more division from a delegation that also answers to coal-powered utilities and manufacturers that consume large quantities of power.

“This is a job issue,” said Steve Fought, spokesman for Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who voted for the bill. “This is a jobs recession. If the climate change legislation holds out the potential for thousands of jobs, people are willing to try it because almost everything else hasn’t worked here.”

See also “Ohio Democrats wriggle on the fence as House vote approaches.”

Forecaster links increased droughts, flooding with economic problems

An increase in severe weather in China will threaten the country’s crops and economic growth, according to the country’s top weather forecaster.

He Lifu, the chief forecaster at the National Meteorological Centre, told the English-language paper, China Daily, that extreme weather trends worsened since the 1990s and will probably continue to do so.

“Extreme weather will be more frequent in the future due to the instability of the atmosphere, and global warming might be the indirect cause,” he told the newspaper.

Energizing the Senate cap-and-trade bill

As the fight over climate and energy legislation moves to the Senate, the political climate is heating up for New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

The serious and soft-spoken chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has already emerged as a key player in negotiations over how the Senate will handle its version of the controversial legislation.

Politico:  Is there enough support to pass a cap-and-trade system?

Bingaman: First of all, designing a cap-and-trade system is very complex, and I think we’ve seen some of that complexity in evidence in the deliberations in the House already. So I think we now need to have all of that debate and discussion here in the Senate. People need to understand that we can enact a system which will not unduly burden anyone, but will put us on a track to reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next seven decades. Clearly, there’s always some that are never going to be persuaded, and there’s some that don’t even think global warming is a problem. But most people here in the Senate believe the issue is real. They believe action is appropriate to put a price on carbon.

Politico: Do you think 60 people believe that?

Bingaman: I think so.

Global food supply far from secure: farming expert

Africa’s farmers need help to access loans, fertilizer and export markets to avoid future food supply crises caused by climate change and commodities speculation, a top agricultural expert said on Tuesday.

Wheat, rice and maize prices have fallen sharply from their 2008 highs, when protests broke out across the developing world over unaffordable staple foods and countries imposed export bans to ensure their people had enough to eat.

Akinwumi Adesina of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an aid group headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said commodity markets dampened by recession were serving to mask “the next storm.”

“The global food supply remains far from secure,” Adesina told the U.N. Conference and Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

“We have not yet tamed the forces of speculation, climate change will yet trample our farm fields, crop diversity remains under increasing threat,” he said in a speech. “Global grain reserves may be replenished for the time being, but global food security remains a goal, not a reality.”

Sweden pushes EU climate action

Sweden has called on the European Union to take the lead in fighting climate change despite facing the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the EU should reach a common position ahead of a major international climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

Climate change is “coming quicker and earlier than we thought” and our way of living is “not sustainable”, he said.

Sweden has taken over the revolving presidency of the EU.

Canada to match U.S. climate change rules

Canada will adopt climate-change regulations comparable to those of the United States — including new rules for oil sands producers and refiners — to avoid punitive “green” tariffs, Environment Minister Jim Prentice says.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Prentice said it is too early to predict whether the bill that narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday will be adopted in its current form by the Senate, where it faces a rougher ride.

But he said Canada will bring in regulations to match new U.S. laws governing greenhouse-gas emissions – and vowed to be as tough on Canadian industry as the U.S. government is on its big emitters.

India will reject greenhouse gas emission targets

India will not sign up to targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions but will instead focus on fighting poverty and boosting economic growth, the environment minister said Tuesday.

India ‘working with Pakistan for common stance on climate change’

India said on Tuesday it was working with Pakistan to evolve a common stance on the issue of climate change at international level.

Expressing concern at the US move to impose trade penalties on countries not accepting limits related to global warming, Indian Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said his country had political differences with Pakistan, but the two countries and other SAARC nations share the same concerns.

The minister said he was also not averse to including Pakistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan in his endeavour to save Himalayan glaciers from receding.

Scientists try to create ‘artificial leaf’ in bid to improve solar power

Scientists are trying to imitate nature’s own light-harvesting machines in hopes of producing solar power more quickly and efficiently.

Their goal is to create an “artificial leaf” by mimicking the sunlight-harvesting work done by chlorosomes of green bacteria.

As bacteria’s light-harvesting antennae, chlorosomes capture light in less-than-optimal conditions — in the deep sea, for example — and convert it to usable energy. Chlorosomes are elongated pockets that can hold up to 250,000 molecules of chlorophyll, the pigment that absorbs light and is critical in photosynthesis.

Study Advises Chinese Government To Change Fuel In Millions Of Households

Scientists in China are recommending that the Chinese government consider phasing out the direct burning of traditional chunks of coal in millions of households. It suggests that the government substitute coal briquettes and improved stoves for cooking and heating to help reduce the country’s high air pollution levels.

The recommendation stems from one of the first scientific studies showing that this approach is effective in improving air quality, including a 98 percent reduction in air pollution from tiny, inhalable particles of coal soot.

New Crops Needed For New Climate

Global food security in a changing climate depends on the nutritional value and yield of staple food crops. Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia have found an increase in toxic compounds, a decrease in protein content and a decreased yield in plants grown under high CO2 and drought conditions.

The research, to be presented by Dr Ros Gleadow on 29 June 2009 at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Glasgow, has shown that the concentration of cyanogenic glycosides, which break down to release toxic hydrogen cyanide, increased in plants in elevated CO2. This was compounded by the fact that protein content decreased, making the plants overall more toxic as the ability of herbivores to break down cyanide depends largely on the ingestion of sufficient quantities of protein.

Wind ‘can revolutionise UK power’

Wind has the power to revolutionise the UK’s electricity industry, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Research from analysts Poyry says that the UK can massively expand wind power by 2030 without suffering power cuts or a melt-down of the National Grid.

The cost of electricity would then be determined not by consumer demand, but by how hard the wind is blowing.

When it is windy power will be so cheap that other forms of generation will be unable to compete, the report says.

Rising Acidity Levels Could Trigger Shellfish Revenue Declines, Job Losses

Changes in ocean chemistry “” a consequence of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from human industrial activity “” could cause U.S. shellfish revenues to drop significantly in the next 50 years, according to a new study by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

Intensive burning of fossil fuels and deforestation over the last two centuries have increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere by almost 40 percent. The oceans have absorbed about one-third of all human-generated carbon emissions, but the buildup of CO2 in the ocean is pushing surface waters toward more acidic conditions….

In a case study of U.S. commercial fishery revenues published in the June issue of Environmental Research Letters, WHOI scientists Sarah Cooley and Scott Doney calculated the possible economic effects of ocean acidification over the next 50 years using atmospheric CO2 trajectories from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and laboratory studies of acidification’s effects on shell-forming marine organisms, focusing especially on mollusks.

Mollusk sales by fishermen currently generate about $750 million per year “” nearly 20 percent of total U.S. fisheries revenue. The study assumed that mollusks harvests in the U.S. would drop 10 to 25 percent in 50 years’ time as a result of increasing acidity levels, which would decrease these mollusk sales by $75 to $187 million dollars annually.

“Losses in primary revenue from commercial mollusk harvests””or the money that fisherman receive for their catch””could add up to as much as $1.4 billion by 2060,” said Cooley.

Mangrove-dependent Animals Globally Threatened

Substantial numbers of terrestrial vertebrates are restricted to mangrove forests. Many of these specialized species are listed as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Prospects for mangrove-restricted animals are bleak, because more than two percent of mangrove forests are lost each year.

More than 40 percent of a sample of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds that are restricted to mangrove ecosystems are globally threatened with extinction, according to an assessment published in the July/August issue of BioScience. The study, by David A. Luther of the University of Maryland and Russell Greenberg of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, was based on an extensive literature search and expert consultations.

The conclusions emphasize the vulnerability of animals that are dependent on a habitat rapidly being lost or degraded through coastal development, overexploitation, pollution, and changes in sea level and salinity.

EPA says Desert Rock developers’ charge ‘utterly without merit’

U.S. EPA is refuting developers’ claims that the agency acted illegally when it asked to reconsider air permits for a controversial coal-fired power plant slated for Navajo Nation land in New Mexico.

Attorneys for the proposed 1,500-megawatt Desert Rock Energy facility — a joint venture of Sithe Global Power LLC and the Navajo Nation — argued earlier this month that the agency made an illegal and unprecedented request when it asked EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to send the plant’s air permits back to the agency for reconsideration (Greenwire, June 12).

EPA told the board in April that it wanted to reconsider the possible effects the plant would have on soot emissions, endangered species and other issues (Greenwire, April 28).

NASA images show huge drop in Amazon fires in 2008

New NASA research shows a sharp decline in the amount of smoke over the Amazon during the 2008 burning season, coinciding with a drop in deforestation reported last week by Carlos Minc, Brazil’s Environment Minister.

E.P.A. Allows California Emissions Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency has granted California’s long-sought request to tighten tailpipe emission regulations, a key step in the Obama administration’s plan to make cars across the nation more fuel-efficient.

Tuesday’s announcement did not come as a surprise, since the president announced last month that he would craft tough new rules for automobile emissions, and would do so by adopting the strict standards that California has wanted.

“This decision puts the law and science first,” Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, said in a statement.

Since 2005, California has been seeking a waiver from the E.P.A. to impose stricter tailpipe emissions standards than those in effect nationally. The Bush administration denied the waiver request in December 2007.

A Green Way to Dump Low-Tech Electronics

Since 2004, 18 states and New York City have approved laws that make manufacturers responsible for recycling electronics, and similar statutes were introduced in 13 other states this year. The laws are intended to prevent a torrent of toxic and outdated electronic equipment “” television sets, computers, monitors, printers, fax machines “” from ending up in landfills where they can leach chemicals into groundwater and potentially pose a danger to public health.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 99.1 million televisions sit unused in closets and basements across the country. Consumer response to recycling has been enormous in states where the laws have taken effect. Collection points in Washington State, for example, have been swamped by people like Babs Smith, 55, who recently drove to RE-PC, a designated electronics collection and repurposing center on the southern edge of Seattle.

10 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 1st: Ontario puts $20B nuclear upgrade plan on ice; ‘Green jobs’ pitch swayed Ohio lawmakers

  1. Andy says:

    Exelon Energy has also dropped their plans to build a new unit at the existing South Texas Nuclear plant in Victoria.

    “Power generator Exelon Corp. said Tuesday it has called off plans for now to build a new nuclear plant in Texas because of worries over the economy and the limited availability of federal loan guarantees.”

    They are also suspending work on a reactor in Missouri.

  2. Dean says:

    The Accuweather global warming blog has some good articles, one recent one being this interview:

    You just have to ignore the denialist domination of their comments.

  3. ClaudeB says:

    Joe: Canada is not obsessed by nukes, Ontario is. Smitherman (Ontario’s Liberal minister of Energy)’s recent announcement has little to do with rejecting the nuclear option and everything to do Harper’s Conservatives plan to privatize Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, which would decimate Canada’s Ontario’s nuclear industry and cost thousands more jobs in Canada’s Ohio (job-starved Ontario will determine if Harper keeps his job a few months from now).

    Without the Ontario contract, Ottawa won’t be able to sell AECL. On the other hand, who would buy a company who hasn’t build a plant in a decade and would be liable for huge cost overruns with the contract?

    So, what is most likely is this: Ontario will get its reactors, the Canadian taxpayers will cover the cost overruns, and the hydro-obsessed provinces (Quebec, BC, Manitoba and Newfoundland) will be pissed since they don’t get a penny from Ottawa to build their electricity infrastructure.

    [JR: 1) Yes, sorry. 2) Yes, this looks to be playing hard to get rather than outright rejection.]

  4. Heaven forbid that Canada actually show leadership.

  5. Randy says:

    George H.W. Bush, a 97,000-ton aircraft carrier named for the 41st president, officially joined the fleet of the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, Virginia, today.

    The $6.2 billion ship, built by Northrop Grumman Corp., was the first aircraft carrier to be commissioned since the USS Ronald Reagan in July 2003, and is the 10th and last Nimitz-class nuclear
    Year 2009. clean safe and modern. America has sucessful commitment to nuclear powered electricity.

  6. crf says:

    Canada has less opportunity to use renewables like wind or solar than the US. It needs to use nuclear.

  7. paulm says:

    Nuclear is a dead end. We are waking up to sustainable energy now.

  8. crf says:

    Nuclear isn’t a dead end. Nuclear is just expensive and daunting. It has the potential to reduce it’s costs with proper planning and good long term management of all its aspects: US leadership (political, financial, scientific and corporate) is needed here. In the near term increasing the fraction of nuclear in the power mix in the US would be a good plan. Building wind (especially) in a big way is part of a good near term plan. Increasing solar thermal would be part of a good near and long term plan for parts of the US. MASSIVELY increasing the fraction of US electricity provided by nuclear, in the short term, can only charitably be called “a plan”: it isn’t too realistic, and it isn’t needed. 40 years from now, though, MASSIVELY increasing the fraction of electricity provided by nuclear may be needed, in the US, and worldwide: so it makes some sense to not close off that future pathway: indeed, keep it as clear of obstacles as possible.

    For northern countries, like Canada, that don’t have handy deserts on which to build solar thermal, it seems pretty necessary to reasonably plan on nuclear becoming a larger proportion of their power mix, on a time-frame quicker than the United States need follow.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Nuclear could be part of the mix, IMO. If you look on the CARMA database of powerplants, linked into Google Earth, most of the big producing power plants are coal.

    Of those that have a green icon, the ones that produce the most power are nuclear and hydropower.

    I think we should make a nuclear deal with the GOP in the Senate. This would split the nuke crowd off from the fossil fools, and split the opposition.

    Also, the cost of nuclear might well depend on both infrastructure and standardization. Infrastructure would include a permanent disposal site, and availability of loans. Standardization might include standardizing on a standard design, such as the French gas cooled pebble bed design, or a consensus American design.

    Let’s make a deal, and get a bill through the Senate.

  10. Phillip Huggan says:

    Canada considers nuclear because we have a history with the technology that goes back to the 1940s. We don’t have much of a wind industry because we’ve partially elected Neocons last two elections, and the turn of the century Liberal government errored in subsidizing hydrogen fuel cells. Our offshore wind resources surely exceed the USA’s despite 1/10th electricity demand. Maybe the only country on Earth with the ability to easily add hydro capacity (a line from Manitoba to nuclear Ontario is possible though not a political priority). EU made energy efficiency advances in 1970s oil shock. Pretty much the whole world is following in their stimulus bills except Canada. Our home retrofit portion of our stimulus bill is the most utilized by Canadians portion of the Bill to date (a massive version of this was attacked by our GOP during last election), but is GWB-era paltry. Pretty much all of Obama’s good green ideas were attempted as platforms by our opposition Parties and were successfully attacked by our media and rich-deserve-to-be-homeless Canadians as a threat to our economy, ala your GOP.