Energy and Global Warming News for February 18: New $100 million clean-energy venture capital fund; Nike, Starbucks, and other big companies start race for clean energy jobs bill; Mitsui bets big on shale gas

This is a daily summary of stories on energy and climate.

ADB May Start $100 Million Clean-Energy Venture Capital Fund

The Asian Development Bank may raise at least $100 million more in venture capital to invest in developers of advanced clean-energy technologies in the region.

The lender has formed a taskforce to design the fund before seeking management approval, Jun Tian, an adviser at the Manila- based bank’s regional and sustainable development department, said in an interview in Tokyo today.

The lender had already raised $363 million for four funds focusing on renewable energy including wind and hydropower plants in order to thwart climate change, Tian said. Clean energy investment fell 6.5 percent to $145 billion worldwide last year from 2008, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, as the global recession sapped funding for the sector.

“ADB’s strategy is to encourage the use of renewable energy and to focus on smaller and poorer countries for using the funds,” said Tian, who worked for China’s National Development and Reform Commission for more than two decades before joining the ADB in 2006. “China already has very strong manufacturing infrastructure and domestic financial resources, but India still is weak at manufacturing, and the country has to heavily rely on imports of equipment for almost everything, such as advanced coal-fired power plants.”

Japanese firm Mitsui bets big on shale development

Japan-based Mitsui & Co. plans to invest about $1.4 billion in a share of a natural gas development project in the Marcellus Shale, the company announced yesterday.

A new joint venture controlled by Mitsui would acquire 32.5 percent of a Pennsylvania shale-gas project being developed by Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. Mitsui’s participation in the joint venture would lead the company to spend roughly $3 billion to $4 billion over the next decade.

The Marcellus Shale lies under Pennsylvania, New York and other states and is believed to contain substantial reserves of natural gas.

The purchase demonstrates confidence in U.S. shale gas, which is “expected to see high growth,” Mitsui said in a statement. Mitsui is a diversified trading company doing business in sectors such as food, chemicals and steel, but the company has recently earned the strongest profits from its energy division, which includes Mitsui’s liquefied natural-gas (LNG) business.

Energy analysts at Houston-based investment bank Simmons & Co. told clients the deal demonstrates the value of Anadarko’s activity in the Marcellus, “which has largely been overlooked and undervalued by the street”

Nike and Starbucks Among Large Companies Trying to Build Climate Bill Momentum

A group of companies and nonprofits that includes Nike, Starbucks and Ceres launched a virtual coast-to-coast race Tuesday in a bid to create momentum for passing U.S. climate change legislation.

The “Race for American Jobs and Clean Energy Leadership” kicked off at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., Tuesday, the first stop of a coast-to-coast virtual tour with stops over the next three weeks in Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.

The race is sponsored by “We Can Lead,” a campaign launched by the Clean Economy Network and Ceres’ Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), whose members include Nike, Levi Strauss & Co., Starbucks, Sun Microsystems, The Timberland Company, Aspen Skiing Company, Clif Bar & Company, eBay, Gap Inc., Jones Lang LaSalle, The North Face, Seventh Generation, Ben and Jerry’s, Eileen Fisher, Stonyfield Farm Inc., and Symantec.

Along the way, the campaign will collect the signatures of business leaders from across the county who support the resurrection of climate change legislation in Congress. The Waxman-Markey climate change bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives last summer, but another version introduced in the Senate in late 2009 is now stalled. A trio of Senators is also working on a separate bill it hopes can attract support from both sides of the aisle, but the economic recession and 2010 election cycle present major barriers to passage of any legislation.

At the same time, companies are complaining that federal inaction is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage in the international clean energy race, while also missing opportunities for creating domestic jobs.

“We believe that building sustainable business practices will help fuel the economy and the environment,” Sarah Severn, Nike’s director of stakeholder mobilization, said in a statement Tuesday. “The time to act is now. The U.S. needs legislation that gives clean energy entrepreneurs an even playing field to compete globally for innovation and job creation.”

Various studies in recent years point to the promise of green jobs that could be created in the wake of strong clean energy legislation. The American Solar Energy Society, for example, estimates the nine million renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs in the U.S. in 2007 could balloon into 37 million jobs by 2030 under the right blend of federal and state policies.

At the virtual race’s last stop in Washington, D.C., the signatures will be handed over to Congress by participating business leaders, who will also hold policy meetings with the Obama Administration and various members of Congress.

Race for American Jobs

Climate change legislation will boost job growth in our country. Business owners, nonprofit organizations, union leaders, youth groups and Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer were at Nike headquarters yesterday to launch the Race for American Jobs & Clean Energy Leadership event. Since this is a climate change-focused event, the race will be held in the virtual arena instead of being a physical nationwide race.

The event is sponsored by the We Can Lead campaign and is designed to generate endorsements from business leaders across the country who support climate change legislation. This climate change legislation will create new green jobs in our country, a win-win situation for our environmental and economic crises.

“We believe that building sustainable business practices will help fuel the economy and the environment,” said Sarah Severn, director of Stakeholder Mobilization for Nike, Inc. “The time to act is now. The U.S. needs legislation that gives clean energy entrepreneurs an even playing field to compete globally for innovation and job creation.”

Proposed climate change legislation could lead to an additional 26,000 green jobs in the next decade in Oregon, alone. In addition to creating thousands of new jobs, these green jobs come with a higher salary and will help grow the state’s economy by about $1.4 billion. If these figures were nationalized, up to 1.7 million new green jobs could be created by climate change legislation. These jobs could increase our nation’s GDP by $39 up to $111 billion.

RI Gets $22M in Stimulus Money to Upgrade Port

The port at Quonset Point will receive more than $22 million to improve its dock and buy cranes so it can accommodate a wind turbine developer, serve container cargo ships and create jobs in a state with nearly 13 percent unemployment, officials said Wednesday.

The federal stimulus money is meant to support Deepwater Wind LLC, which hopes to build a massive wind farm off the coast, and increase the cargo freight business, said Steven King, managing director of Quonset Development Corp.

Although the U.S. Department of Transportation said it approved the money for renewable energy and shipping projects at the port, it has not made clear exactly which funding requests were accepted, King said. The port originally requested about $45 million in assistance.

One major project is buying a large, mobile crane that can lift up to 200 tons, King said. The pier will have to reinforced to accommodate the heavy loads.

That crane is especially important to wind energy developer Deepwater Wind LLC, which signed an agreement with Gov. Don Carcieri’s administration to build a wind farm miles off the Rhode Island coast. As part of the deal, Deepwater agreed to create a manufacturing hub at Quonset that officials hope will eventually employ as many as 800 workers.

Building the wind turbines will require a crane, said Paul Rich, Deepwater’s chief development officer.

Rich said he considered the funding a vote of confidence since no one in the U.S. has built an offshore wind farm. The most advanced proposal is a project to build 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod in neighboring Massachusetts.

”This award today is, I think, an instrumental step in saying, ‘We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is and help launch this industry,”’ he said.

The same crane could be used to load and offload containers from cargo ships.

Other funding will be used to improve railroad access to the pier and build roads leading to the site leased by Deepwater Wind.

Political leaders across Rhode Island are hoping the port and industrial park at Quonset Point will prove one of the state’s best chances for economic growth during a deep recession. The state’s entire Congressional delegation lobbied for the money.

”This funding will help our state harness the potential of the new clean energy economy and put hundreds of Rhode Islanders to work in cutting-edge industries,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, in a written statement.

Rudd Rules Out Introducing Nuclear Power in Australia

Australia, which holds the world’s biggest known uranium resources, has ruled out introducing nuclear power to the country and instead will pursue other low- carbon energy options, including ‘clean’ coal.

“Australia has multiple other energy sources and we will not be heading in the direction of civil nuclear power,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Canberra today. Coal’s importance will remain “huge” until 2050 and carbon capture and storage can make it a cleaner power source, he said.

Rudd made the remarks after U.S. President Barack Obama announced federal aid to help license the nation’s first nuclear plant in three decades as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on fossil fuels. Australia, the world’s biggest coal exporter, will explore technologies including CCS, in which the nation leads the world, Rudd said.

CCS, which seeks to capture harmful emissions from coal- fired power plants and store them underground, may create a “time bomb” for future generations, said John Hepburn, an energy campaigner at Greenpeace Australia.

“There are concerns over whether it will actually stay underground, basically forever,” he said. “You may have to transport the carbon dioxide a long way to a suitable storage site, and there are risks associated with that.”

Australia has proposed cutting emissions by 5 percent by 2020. That target may rise to as much as 25 percent if a global climate protection agreement can be reached. Talks in Copenhagen last year failed to produce a legally binding treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

EPA chief promises ‘clear road map’ for utilities

U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson today vowed to give electric utilities and their state overseers regulatory certainty with a host of forthcoming environmental rules.

Speaking at a conference of state utility regulators today, Jackson outlined a series of pending regulations that will significantly affect utilities, including rules aimed at curbing soot, smog and mercury.

“I believe that we can do it smartly, that we will do it in partnership and that we will do it in a way that gives a clear road map for investors and for regulators and for ratepayers,” Jackson said.

EPA will propose a replacement for the Clean Air Interstate Rule in April, Jackson said, to address pollution that crosses state lines.

President George W. Bush’s cap-and-trade program was designed to cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the eastern United States. But CAIR was thrown out by a federal appeals court in 2008. The court temporarily reinstated the rule in December 2008 to give EPA time to craft a replacement. Members of the Senate, meanwhile, are pushing a legislative fix for the CAIR rule (E&ENews PM, Feb. 4).

“Later this year, we’ll propose a new utility MACT standard,” Jackson added. EPA is facing a court deadline to require plant-specific maximum achievable control technology for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants at power plants by November 2011 (Greenwire, Oct. 23, 2009).

“Working together, we’ll set a strong foundation for achieving the reductions that a new MACT and new CAIR rules will require,” Jackson said.

Jackson said that although challenges and disagreements will arise during the development of new standards, “the benefits of us getting this right are absolutely unprecedented.”

Spanish developer to open U.S. headquarters

A Spanish solar developer announced plans yesterday to open a U.S. headquarters in San Francisco.

GA-Solar, which has operations in 22 countries, said it will initially employ seven people here.

A subsidiary of Spanish industrial firm Gestamp Corp., the company is also planning to build a New Mexico power plant, a 300-megawatt photovoltaic array that is scheduled to come online in 2014. GA Solar currently has about 300 megawatts of solar projects, most of them in Spain.

Company officials said yesterday they planned to build more large-scale solar plants in California’s Central Valley at prices that would compete with conventional energy sources. “We will achieve grid parity very quickly,” said Pablo Otin, manager of U.S. operations. “The price differential is going to disappear very soon.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said more solar companies would announce plans in the Bay Area in the coming months. SunTech America, Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd., UpSolar and Fotowatio Renewable Ventures have all recently opened offices there.

“You’ll hear more from us in the next weeks and months,” Newsom said.

3 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for February 18: New $100 million clean-energy venture capital fund; Nike, Starbucks, and other big companies start race for clean energy jobs bill; Mitsui bets big on shale gas

  1. prokaryote says:

    Still, same procedure than every year.

    World’s top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates

  2. prokaryote says:

    [b]Warmer planet temperatures could cause longer-lasting weather patterns[/b]

    Whether it’s never-ending heat waves or winter storms, atmospheric blocking can have a significant impact on local agriculture, business and the environment. Although these stagnant weather patterns are often difficult to predict, University of Missouri researchers are now studying whether increasing planet temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could lead to atmospheric blocking and when this blocking might occur, leading to more accurate forecasts.

  3. prokaryote says:

    Photosynthesis: A New Source of Electrical Energy? Biofuel Cell Works in Cactus
    Scientists in France have transformed the chemical energy generated by photosynthesis into electrical energy by developing a novel biofuel cell.