… The U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu was on hand to break down the specifics on one of the largest biomass plants in the nation….
Sen. Graham: “I want it to be said about SC when it comes to energy independence in the green economy that we led the nation. That the innovation was better because it existed in South Carolina.”
Chu made several stops in the Palmetto State yesterday
The United States is falling behind in the race for clean, renewable energy and risks losing its prominence in high-tech manufacturing, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Monday.
“America has the opportunity to lead the world in a new industrial revolution,” Chu told business leaders, political leaders and engineers at a Clemson University symposium.
But, he said, “The world is passing us by. We are falling behind in the clean energy race. … China is spending $9 billion a month on clean energy … China has now passed the United States and Europe in high-tech manufacturing. There is no reason the United States should cede high-tech manufacturing to anyone.”
Last week the U.S. Energy Department awarded a $45 million grant to Clemson’s Restoration Institute to test the drive trains for the next generation of large-scale wind turbines.
The grant, plus $53 million in matching funds from public and private sources, will be used to build and operate a large-scale wind turbine drive train testing facility at a former Navy base in Charleston, South Carolina.
The facility will perform highly-accelerated testing of advanced drive train systems for wind turbines in the 5 megawatt to 15 megawatt range, the latter of which could power 6,000 homes.
“This is going to be a very competitive business and we want to help the United States get a leadership position in wind generation technology,” Chu said.
“This is high-tech manufacturing. This means quality jobs for Americans, this means better exports and balance of trade, it means better consumption at home, it further drives down the price of wind, it betters our exports, it creates jobs in America. We see all good things.”
Chu said the nation must decrease its dependence on foreign oil and mitigate against global warming by decreasing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Europeans could help cut climate warming emissions to much safer levels for just 2 euros ($3) each per day, but they would also have to cut back on driving and meat eating, a report said Tuesday.
Other long-term changes would include using the train instead of flying for journeys of under 1,000 km, said the report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE).
The study targets a European cut in climate-warming emissions such as carbon dioxide to 40 percent below 1990 levels over the next decade.
“It’s not just about investment, it’s also about lifestyle changes,” said FOEE campaigner Sonja Meister. “This report shows one pathway that would see air travel in the EU cut by 10 percent by 2020 and travel in private cars by 4 percent.”
“Travel by rail would rise by 9 percent, and meat consumption would be reduced by about 60 percent,” she added.
The European Union has pledged to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for climate change, to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
It also says it will cut by nearly a third if other rich nations agree to follow suit when they meet for global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.
But many scientists say much deeper cuts are needed from rich nations to keep the climate temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.
Poorer countries preparing for Copenhagen say industrialized nations caused the climate problem in the first place and should cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels.
That could be achieved in Europe for a cost of 2 trillion euros, or around 2 percent of cumulative gross domestic product (GDP) over the next decade, said the report.
“Put another way, this cost would be the equivalent of temporarily holding GDP constant for about one year before resuming normal growth,” it added.
The cost equates to about 2 euros per European per day, but that does not take account of the positive impact of job creation and reduced spending on hydrocarbon imports.
True to FOEE’s politics, the assessment excludes the use of nuclear energy or carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology that would allow European power suppliers to keep on burning coal. It also rules out most carbon offsetting.
Instead, it assumes Europeans will accept higher taxes and make major lifestyle changes — something politicians have not yet dared demand.
As the two largest carbon polluters, China and the US have yet to agree on much before the international conference on global warming in Copenhagen next week.
But they are cooperating on at least one thing – rapid acceleration in the production of electric and hybrid vehicles.
During his trip to the climate-change conference, President Obama can point to his recent pact with Beijing to jointly share information on standards, research, and demonstration of such vehicles. That should help make up for his dashed hopes that Congress would have set targets for cutting carbon emissions by now.
Mr. Obama is banking heavily on electric and hybrid cars to reshape the world’s energy future. Earlier this year, he promised to “put one million plug-in hybrid vehicles on America’s roads by 2015.” But besides the new cooperation with China and the billions in subsidies to bolster this small industry, his main policy tool is to push automakers to produce fleets that run with an average 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
The industry, sensing the heat, is also counting on electrics and hybrids as part of their future. Last summer two automakers conducted a brief bragging battle over whose triple-digit mileage figure for its future electric car is higher. General Motors put its long-ballyhooed Volt at 230 miles per gallon. Nissan countered that its new Leaf would get 367 m.p.g. Both are expected in showrooms in 2010.
But all the m.p.g. talk at this stage is a little silly. No standard exists for measuring the “gas mileage” of plug-in vehicles that run on electricity. The Volt, for example, actually has two propulsion systems, an electric motor powered by rechargeable batteries and a gasoline engine. It begins using gasoline after about 40 miles of driving on batteries alone. How much gasoline a driver would use could vary widely, depending on how many trips over 40 miles in distance a driver took.
Nissan’s Leaf won’t use gasoline at all, so in terms of gasoline used, the mileage will be, well, infinite.
Both cars will recharge their batteries from the electric grid, introducing more complications. The cost of electricity varies by locale and sometimes by the time of day. It could be generated by a coal-fired power plant (bad for planet-heating carbon emissions) or renewable wind or solar energy.
The Environmental Protection Agency is far from ready to apply mileage figures to either vehicle. The EPA will need a new system for measuring fuel economy, perhaps using two figures, one estimate for gasoline used per mile and the other for electricity per mile. Or perhaps it will assign a single number based on the estimated total cost of fuel per mile driven.
Either new car is likely to be several times more efficient than the current m.p.g. king of the road, the Toyota Prius. It gets a mere 50 m.p.g. and can’t be plugged into the electric grid.
Will the Volt and Leaf even be affordable?
Speculation puts the Volt at $40,000 to $45,000 and the Leaf at $25,000 to $40,000, though a $7,500 government rebate could reduce those figures considerably. A 2010 Toyota Prius costs as little as $22,000.
While Toyota remains leery of all-electric cars, other Japanese automakers are committed to bringing them to market. Malls in Japan will be putting in charging stations. Meanwhile, China’s top automakers are conducting joint R&D to turn out state-of-the-art electric vehicles. India’s Reva carmaker wants in the game too. At the recent auto show, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said he expects electric cars to grab 10 percent of the worldwide market for all vehicles by 2020.
The electric car has been jolted back to life and could become the kind of technological solution to climate change that many nations can agree on. Even if Copenhagen fails to set global goals on overall carbon reduction, at least such a concrete step in reducing vehicle pollution is already being taken.
For anyone trying to understand why the United States is having such a hard time joining an international effort to combat global warming, a short drive west from Washington to one of the smaller states in the country might explain a lot.
Even though it has a population of only 1.8 million people in a country of 308 million, West Virginia is not to be ignored as Congress struggles over ways to reduce carbon emissions blamed for international climate change problems.
Coal is buried in nearly every nook of its 24,231 square miles (62,758 square km) and any legislation to reduce the role of dirty energy sources such as coal could hit the state hard.
The politics surrounding coal may be among the thorniest in the U.S. effort to craft climate change legislation, and the hurdles show why President Barack Obama will need to keep one eye on Charleston, the West Virginia capital, even as he travels to Copenhagen for international climate negotiations this month.
West Virginia’s two U.S. senators, like several of their fellow Democrats from other major coal states, say they want to do something to ease carbon pollution — with conditions.
“We have leverage and bargaining position for a good reason because our people essentially are going to pay this price,” Senator John Rockefeller recently told reporters.
And so a less ambitious timetable for reducing U.S. carbon emissions than currently being debated and more government concentration on developing “clean coal” technologies are essential for the support of Rockefeller and other senators.
“I know my coal miners,” Rockefeller said, adding that workers in West Virginia view “cap-and-trade to be a really bad word.”
As a result, Rockefeller wants Congress to allow more time to educate voters about how the complicated regime would work allowing companies to trade pollution permits with each other.
Throughout the Midwest and South of the United States, coal and coal-fired power plants are central to local energy production and to jobs.
Paul Sracic, chairman of the political science department at Youngstown State University in Ohio, a coal state that also has suffered significant manufacturing job losses in recent decades, said, “While legislation aimed at combating global — emphasize global — warming might garner support in theory, it quickly loses its popularity if it is thought to cost local — emphasize local — jobs.”
European leaders called on China to provide details on how it plans to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, saying Tuesday that Beijing’s status as the world’s largest polluter gives it a special responsibility to combat global warming.
India, meanwhile, is under growing pressure to offer up a plan of any kind with less than week to go before 192 nations gather in Copenhagen to try to craft an international agreement for controlling emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases believed responsible for global warming.
Scientists warn of potentially catastrophic climate change if average global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from preindustrial levels, leading to rising seas and climate shifts that would produce droughts, floods and other severe disruptions.
To prevent that, greenhouse gas emissions should peak within the next few years and then rapidly decline by mid-century, according to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Announcements from both China and the U.S. in the past week add significant weight toward achieving a global agreement — even though the Dec. 7-18 Copenhagen conference is unlikely to produce a binding deal as hoped.
China promised last week to nearly halve the ratio of pollution to GDP over the next decade — a major voluntary step that came a day after President Barack Obama promised the U.S. would lay out plans at this month’s global warming conference in Copenhagen to substantially cut its own greenhouse gas emissions.
China’s plan does not commit it to an overall reduction in emissions, which will continue to increase, though at a slower rate.
Following a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the Europeans wanted to analyze the figures and find out precisely what measures Beijing plans to put into place and ”how it will differ from their business as usual pathway in regards to emissions.”
Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, credited China with pursuing renewable energy and nuclear power as a substitute for coal-burning plants that spew carbon dioxide.
However, China’s status as a major source of increase in global emissions requires Beijing to do more, Reinfeldt said, citing a continuing rise in global temperatures.
Does this sound familiar? A head of state’s push for a climate change bill hits a big roadblock, preventing action before this month’s international climate change summit in Copenhagen.
That has been the case for President Obama. Democratic cap-and-trade legislation is moving slowly in the Senate and several committees have yet to act.
And today, Australia’s opposition Liberal Party elected climate change skeptic Tony Abbott, who quickly vowed to block Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading plan in that country’s Senate.
The Financial Times, reporting from Australia, said Abbott’s win “all but kills plans by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to have an emissions trading scheme passed into law ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Rudd government’s climate plan is probably stalled until February, and maybe longer.
Rudd, of the Labor Party, met with Obama at the White House yesterday and climate change was on the agenda.
He also met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“When it comes to climate change, the clock’s ticking for us all when it comes to Copenhagen. And we’re working closely with our American friends to secure the best possible outcome for an important deal for the planet, for our economies, for jobs, for the environment,” Rudd said before their meeting.
Power company Constellation Energy said Monday that it will buy and develop a $140 million wind project in Maryland from Clipper Windpower, one of several clean energy initiatives that Constellation is planning for the state.
The 70-megawatt Criterion wind project in Garrett County will generate enough electricity to power 23,000 households a year. Commercial operation at the plant is expected next fall.
The $140 million includes 28 of Clipper’s 2.5 megawatt Liberty wind turbines and project costs.
The project has a 20-year agreement with Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to sell power and renewable energy credits produced by the wind facility.
Old Dominion is a not-for-profit power provider serving public electric cooperatives in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
Nepal’s Cabinet will meet at the Mount Everest base camp this week to draw attention to the threat of climate change from melting glaciers and government efforts to protect the Himalayan environment.
The Everest meeting at Kalapatthar, 5,240 meters (17,192 feet) above sea level, follows one in October when the Maldives held an underwater Cabinet meeting to highlight the risk the low-lying island-nation faces of being submerged by rising seas.
Twenty-six ministers and aides will fly to Lukla in eastern Nepal on Dec. 3, then travel by helicopter to Kalapatthar for the meeting the next day, Nepalnews.com reported. Nepal, between China and India, is home to Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, and eight more of the world’s 14 highest peaks.
Global warming mainly caused by greenhouse-gas emissions is melting glaciers from Switzerland to the Himalayas, threatening water and food security for 1.6 billion people in South Asia, according to an Asian Development Bank study. Half of the Alps’ glacial terrain has vanished since the 1850s, according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich.
The Himalayas are the source of India’s Ganges River; the Yangtze, China’s longest; Nepal’s main river, the Karnali; and Pakistan’s longest, the Indus. India and China possess more than 40 percent of Earth’s population and rely on rivers for drinking water and irrigation.
Nepal and the Maldives have felt compelled to use their endangered geography ahead of United Nations-sponsored climate talks that begin Dec. 7 in Copenhagen to publicize the threat that heat-trapping pollution causes developing countries.
The White House on Monday made exceptionally clear that it wants nothing to do with the furor over documents that global warming skeptics say prove the phenomenon is not a threat.
Despite the incident, which rocked international headlines last week, climate science is sound, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs stressed this afternoon, and the White House nonetheless believes “climate change is happening.”
“I don’t think that’s anything that is, quite frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore,” he said during Monday’s press briefing.
Climate change skeptics have asserted over the past week that the publication of more than 1,000 private e-mails and documents once housed in the University of East Anglia’s computer system refutes most modern global warming evidence.
The documents, unearthed by a blogger who hacked into Climate Research Unit’s (CRU) private system, have since touched off an international debate over the veracity of those scientists’ works.
But the dispute is proving especially troublesome for the Obama administration as it prepares to head to Copenhagen next week for a climate change summit — a forum the president will attend.
Not only has the White House faced criticism from the left for offering too few concessions ahead of the meet, it is now fielding dissatisfaction from the right for participating in a summit sponsored in part by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — one of the research organs touched by the CRU spat.
“I think there’s no real scientific basis for the dispute of this,” responded Gibbs to questions about those scientists’ credibility.
Nevertheless, congressional Republicans this week hope to ramp up their criticism of both global warming policy and the science that informs it.
Most vocal seems to be Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe demanded on Friday a hearing into the IPCC’s research to determine whether it “cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.”
“[T]his thing is serious, you think about the literally millions of dollars that have been thrown away on some of this stuff that they came out with,” he told reporters, noting it was “interesting” the e-mails surfaced before the Copenhagen summit.