Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is ready to put his star power to work for President Barack Obama on the environment when his own term ends next year, the former movie actor said on Thursday.
Republican Schwarzenegger is arguably the biggest environmentalist in his party and razzed Washington, which is struggling to pass climate change legislation and prepare for international talks, for wrangling with other countries over global warming goals rather than setting an example.
“Did we say China, you go first with human rights, and we will follow you? No. We led,” he said in an address at the Commonwealth Club lauding his state’s climate change plan, which is the most aggressive in the nation.
Term limits will force Schwarzenegger out of office in late 2010, and his main accomplishment may be his environmental record — sweeping efforts to change the state’s system of government and to permanently balance the budget have largely failed.
Asked if he would be willing to serve in the Obama administration, be a global ‘green’ ambassador, or even star in a TV series as governor of California after he steps down, Schwarzenegger said, “Yes to all those things.”
When Arizona economic development officials look across their state, they envision the Saudi Arabia of solar. The state has sun, land, workers and proximity to California, the biggest solar market in the U.S.
Yet for years, Arizona has failed to attract the big solar manufacturers that build the mirrors, panels and other components for solar equipment. In the past three years, about 50 renewable-energy companies considered Arizona but opted to put plants “” and jobs “” in other states, says Barry Broome, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
“We’ve lost every one of the projects to incentives offered by other states,” Broome says. Arizona hopes to improve its odds in what’s become a pitched battle among states to nab renewable-energy companies, including those in the solar, wind and biomass sectors. Come January, Arizona will have $350 million in new incentives at its disposal to woo renewable-energy firms.
Renewable energy has emerged as the new frontier in economic development in the U.S. And states, such as Arizona, are rolling out tax breaks, job training and cash to try to capture a piece of the action and the job growth it promises. “This is definitely the industry of the year from an economic-development standpoint,” says William Becker, CEO of Incentives Advisors, which helps firms access and manage state incentives. “I’ve never seen such a rapid increase in the number of state programs for one industry.”
The fervor is driven by expectations of increasing demand for renewable energy. States, especially California, are extending big incentives to consumers and businesses to go green. Two dozen states require electricity providers to supply more power from renewables, and a handful of other states have set renewable goals. Meanwhile, billions of dollars in venture capital is going to so-called clean-tech start-ups in everything from alternative fuels to energy storage and generation. The federal government has also dedicated more than $100 billion to the clean-tech industry via grants, loan guarantees and other incentives, says consulting firm Ernst & Young.
For centuries, as monsoon rains, typhoons and wars have swept over them and disappeared into the sunshine, the farmers and fishermen of the Mekong Delta have drawn life from the water and fertile fields where the great river ends its 2,700-mile journey to the sea.
The rhythms of life continue from season to season though, like much of the country, the delta is moving quickly into the future, and industry has begun to pollute the air and water.
But everything here, both the timeless and the new, is at risk now from a threat that could bring deeper and longer-lasting disruptions than the generations of warfare that ended more than 30 years ago.
In a worse-case projection, a Vietnamese government report released last month says that more than one-third of the delta, where 17 million people live and nearly half the country’s rice is grown, could be submerged if sea levels rise by three feet in the decades to come.
In a more modest projection, it calculates that one-fifth of the delta would be flooded, said Tran Thuc, who leads Vietnam’s National Institute for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Sciences and is the chief author of the report.
The United States will add 6,000 megawatts in wind power this year, down nearly 30 percent from last year as the credit crisis slowed expansion of the renewable energy source, an industry group said on Thursday.
Wind power has been one of the fastest growing sources of power generation, and the 2009 additions are equivalent to about six coal-fired power plants.
“The lion’s share of that was commissioned on or before the economy went south,” Denise Bode, head of the American Wind Energy Association told a news conference.
Globally, the wind power industry will grow about 12 percent this year, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general at the Global Wind Energy Council.
The U.S. wind power additions in 2008 pushed the country ahead of Germany as the world’s leading wind power generator. Still, at 25,000 MW, wind power is only about 1 percent of the U.S. total power supply.
China will overtake the United States as the No. 1 wind power market in 2009, said Sawyer, with an estimated 10,000 MW of turbines expected to come on line there this year.
South Korea and China lead the world’s 20 largest economies in the percentage of economic stimulus money they invest in environmental projects, the United Nations Environment Program reported Thursday.
Other members of the Group of 20 trail well behind in their percentages of such investment from stimulus money, the U.N. agency found.
A year after the global financial crisis began, the agency found that about 15 percent of the estimated $3.1 trillion in global stimulus funds were green in nature.
But only 3 percent of stimulus funds committed to environmental projects were actually disbursed by the middle of this year, the agency said. What’s more, it said, the total in committed funds is still below 1 percent of global gross domestic product “” the amount economists recommend to reduce dependence on carbon-based fuels and accelerate the transition to a greener world economy.
The level of financing for renewable energy is not enough to cut carbon emissions and limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the increase above which some of the most severe effects of climate change are predicted.
Droughts from Australia to the U.S. Southwest, acidic ocean water and melting glaciers are signs that the pace of climate change is surpassing the worst-case scenarios scientists predicted in 2007, a U.N. report said on Thursday.
Mountain glaciers in Asia are melting at a rate that could eventually threaten water supplies, irrigation or hydropower for 20 percent to 25 percent of the world’s population, the U.N. Environment Program report said.
“We are headed to very serious changes in our planet and we need to appreciate how serious it is in order to lend support to the transformational policy measures that need to be taken,” Achim Steiner, UNEP’s executive director, told reporters.
The Climate Change Science Compendium 2009 report analyzed 400 scientific reports released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its last report in 2007.
Global leaders including Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at a one-day climate change conference at the United Nations this week to try to break a global deadlock on how rich and developing countries will share the burdens of slowing global warming.
Some 190 countries will try to reach an agreement on how to slow global warming at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.
Houston has long been the country’s oil and gas capital, but some business executives say it is only a matter of time before it becomes a center for renewable energy as well. That aspiration may be about to come one step closer.
The lead story in The Houston Chronicle on Thursday reports that NRG Energy, the big wholesale power generation company, may be delivering a considerable amount of solar energy to Houston as soon as next year.
Under a proposal due to be announced in the next several hours, the city would purchase power for its buildings from a new NRG solar energy plant to be completed in July. Its 10-megawatt capacity would be the largest in Texas, and would provide as much as 1.5 percent of the city government’s power needs. The plant would employ thin-film photovoltaic solar panels.
Issa Dadoush, the director of the city’s General Services Department, was quoted by The Chronicle as saying, “Houston always talks about being the energy capital of the world, but we’d like to see it transformed into the energy conservation and renewable capital.”
The contract still needs to be approved by the City Council. Council members will need to consider the costs of solar energy, which are normally higher than other forms of energy.
A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers touched off a global crisis, concern that wild financial speculation and trading abuses would undermine a U.S. greenhouse gas emissions market has put the “trade” part of the proposed national cap-and-trade program on trial.
Distrust of commodity traders and suspicion about the motives behind Wall Street’s brassy support for a sprawling global market are fueling skepticism on both the political left and right that trading emissions allowances can curb the economic cost of addressing climate change.
In testimony before the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission sought to allay concern on Capitol Hill that policymakers have been too slow to push unregulated financial trading onto commodity exchanges and under federal oversight.
“The law must cover the entire marketplace, without exception,” Gary Gensler assured lawmakers. Agriculture committees in the House and Senate are poring over the Obama administration’s plan for regulating over-the-counter (OTC) derivative contracts, such as commodity “swaps” traded by financial brokers.
The freewheeling financial dealing eluded regulators and was blamed for runaway energy prices and unscrupulous trading practices in recent years. From the perspective of the Senate’s toughest critics of using a cap-and-trade program to combat global warming, the size and scope of a potential carbon market look too much like those of the market that created mortgage securities and credit default swaps that collapsed the housing bubble.
“Cap and tax is going to be a recipe for green-collar crime, for greed and for abuse,” declared Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) last week. “I’m very concerned that any ‘cap and tax’ scheme is simply going to benefit the same Wall Street elite who got us in this financial mess we’re in today.”