"Energy and Global Warming News for December 18"
NASA and Google team up to track GHG emissions by satellite; Is ocean acidification the ‘evil twin’ of human-caused climate change; Flat-earther Inhofe gets blown off by Denmark delegates
The question is a potential deal-killer: If nations ever agree to slash greenhouse gas emissions, how will the world know if they live up to their pledges?
The answer is in space, experts say “” both outer space and cyberspace.
NASA, the wonder agency of the 1960s, and Google, the go-to company of the early 21st century, are trying to give the world the ability to monitor both the carbon dioxide pollution and the levels of forest destruction that contribute to global warming.
For NASA, this is both an opportunity and an embarrassment. NASA had a science satellite, Orbiting Carbon Observatory, that as a side benefit would be able to see where carbon dioxide was being spewed. But a February launch of the $280 million satellite failed, sending the satellite into the cold Antarctic waters.
Far from Copenhagen’s turbulent climate talks, the sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters reposing along the shoreline and kelp forests of this protected marine area stand to gain from any global deal to cut greenhouse gases.
These foragers of the sanctuary’s frigid waters, flipping in and out of sight of California’s coastal kayakers, may not seem like obvious beneficiaries of a climate treaty crafted in the Danish capital. But reducing carbon emissions worldwide also would help mend a lesser-known environmental problem: ocean acidification.
“We’re having a change in water chemistry, so 20 years from now the system we’re looking at could be affected dramatically but we’re not really sure how. So we see a train wreck coming,” said Andrew DeVogelaere, the sanctuary’s research director, while out kayaking this fall with a reporter in the cold waters.
Nothing in the treaty negotiations specifically addresses the effects of carbon absorption in the oceans on marine life, which studies show is damaging key creatures’ hard shells or skeletons.
A collision between the Air Force and a solar power company has been averted.
The Air Force has dropped its objections to a $750 million solar power project near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada after the company agreed to move the project about a mile and a half from its proposed location.
Nellis commanders had asserted earlier that a concentrated solar power project — featuring a vast field of mirrors that would direct sunlight to a 600-foot “power tower” and store the heat in a molten-salt facility — might interfere with training and radar. The company, SolarReserve, which had already moved the location once, pressed for permission to build on two square miles near the base in the Nevada desert, where the sun shines brightly virtually all year.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells Copenhagen that Iran, a fossil fuel giant, wants to dive into renewable energy and stitch cooperative links with other developing nations to develop non-fossil fuel energy.
He wants solar, wind and other renewable energy to become part of the energy fabric in the Persian nation.
A Greenpeace bystander listening to his speech sniffed that it was nothing more than “greenwashing,” the disparaging idea “” usually aimed at U.S. and European energy companies “” of one basically peddling environmentally friendly technology simply for good PR.
Senate bill would extend Treasury grant program (sub’s required)
Two Senate Democrats introduced legislation yesterday that would extend a program allowing qualified renewable energy projects to exchange tax credits for Treasury Department grants.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Jeff Merkley of Oregon are proposing the extension of grants of up to 30 percent of project costs for wind, solar, biomass and some other types of projects until 2012 and a program expansion to include public electric utilities. The recession rendered traditional tax credits useless because large banks and other investors had no profits and thus no need for tax credits.
The grant program has been hailed by the wind and solar industry for reigniting project construction (Greenwire, Oct. 14).
Mich. lawmakers approve $220M for makers of next-gen vehicles
The Michigan Legislature has approved $220 million in tax credits for businesses developing battery packs, aimed at helping companies such as Ford, General Motors and Dow Chemical to create components used in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Republican state Sen. Jason Allen said the credits would create more than 2,000 jobs in Michigan while positioning the state to gain from the expected rise in demand for energy-efficient vehicles.
“The next generation of battery vehicles will be assembled in Michigan,” he said.
In exchange for the tax breaks, Ford agreed to move production of battery packs to southeastern Michigan from a plant in Mexico (Karen Bouffard, Detroit News, Dec. 18). — GN
Sen. Jim Inhofe flew across the Atlantic and “” on little sleep “” braved the snow, the cold and the dark to deliver his skeptical message at the international climate conference.
What he found when he got here: a few aides and a single reporter.
“I think he’s going to be a little disappointed,” one of his aides remarked.
Inhofe was at least impatient.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hoped to spread two messages in Copenhagen: Global warming is a hoax, and there’s no way the Senate is going to pass a cap-and-trade bill.
But it was early morning when he arrived at the Bella Center, and the halls were still half-deserted. He walked quickly, brushing off an aide who suggested that he slow down and take a breath.
“I don’t want to breathe “” I want to get something done,” he said.
NATIONAL LABS: Sandia portfolio grows with water power projects (sub’s required)
Sandia National Laboratories will expand its renewable energy research capabilities in the next three years as part of a collaborative effort on water power.
Sandia — best known for its work on nuclear weapons — is the lead research group for studies of marine and hydrokinetic energy and for environmental assessments and mitigation methods for those technologies.
The lab said today that the water research awards will help create the Wind and Water Power Technologies Group.
“Water power technologies contribute to the diversification of our nation’s energy mix” by generating energy close to population centers, said Jose Zayas, the wind and water group’s manager. “Water power technologies could leverage an indigenous resource in parts of the country where other technologies may not be viable.”
Shortly after winning the November 2008 election, he reiterated that promise and cheered the world with signs the United States would negotiate seriously on an international pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So what has Obama achieved since taking office in January? A law to cut U.S. emissions has not passed, but other initiatives to tackle climate change are in place.
Here is a list of some of the things the Obama administration has and hasn’t achieved:
STILL TO DO
Not achieved: a law. Obama’s wish to push climate legislation through Congress by the end of this year and in time for the Copenhagen climate talks was stymied by the long debate over healthcare reform. Lawmakers are now focusing on 2010 for the climate and energy legislation, which has passed the House of Representatives but must still clear the Senate.
The White House has highlighted the following accomplishments since Obama’s inauguration.
– $80 billion of investment in “clean” energy through the $787 billion stimulus package
– new fuel economy standards for cars and trucks
– more stringent energy efficiency standards for appliances such as microwaves and light bulbs
– an emissions inventory rule in which the United States will catalog greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources
– relaunching the Major Economies Forum, or MEF, to facilitate discussion on climate change between developing and developed nations and promote clean energy
– securing an agreement for all G20 countries to phase out their fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term
– bilateral partnerships on energy and climate with China, India, Mexico and Canada
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Peter Cooney)