Energy and Global Warming News for February 22: US aims for legally binding climate agreement; Saving Amazon may be most cost-effective way to cut GHGs

“If the U.S. were to come with domestic legislation in place, I think the Chinese and the Indians would be prepared to come forward and agree to something legally binding.”

U.S. Aims for Legally Binding Climate Change Agreement in 2010

The U.S. said it wants to reach a legally binding climate-change agreement at a summit in Mexico in December, a sign President Barack Obama hasn’t given up the fight for a global accord to limit greenhouse gases.

The pact should cover “all major economies,” and include elements from the non-binding Copenhagen Accord made in December, the State Department said in a letter released today by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC.

With China and India resisting mandatory curbs on their emissions and legislation in the U.S. outlining domestic commitments stalled in the Senate, Obama is attempting to keep the talks alive. A two-year push for a treaty ended in December with a voluntary deal that wasn’t accepted by all of the 193 nations present.

“Mexico is an ambitious time frame, but a year later it’s very possible,” Saleemul Huq, head of climate change at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development said today in a telephone interview….

“If the U.S. were to come with domestic legislation in place, I think the Chinese and the Indians would be prepared to come forward and agree to something legally binding,” Huq said. “They won’t be happy — they’ll negotiate — but I think they’ll eventually sign up.”

Saving the Amazon may be the most cost-effective way to cut greenhouse gas emissions

An hour outside Manaus, the Amazon’s biggest city, the blackened remains of a virgin forest smolder. Chain saws whine. And Jonas Mendes tosses logs, one after another, into his kiln.

“I know it’s wrong to cut down the trees,” said Mendes, 48, sweat streaming down his neck and torso. “But I have no other way to make a living.”

Under a lean-to, his teenage son hacks charcoal into pieces with a machete. His wife fills 110-pound plastic bags that sell for $4 each.

If the Obama administration succeeds in its pledge to curb climate change, billions could flow from the U.S. to help forest dwellers such as Mendes change their ways.

Governors of the Brazilian Amazon’s nine states are pushing the U.S. and other industrial nations to invest in projects under rules known as REDD — or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation — that are being designed through the auspices of the United Nations.

Under pending legislation to cap greenhouse gases, the U.S. government would auction emission allowances, funneling as much as $3 billion from the annual proceeds into rain forest protection. U.S. companies facing carbon controls could meet part of their obligations by investing as much as $13 billion a year by 2020 to preserve forests.

And several Amazon governors have signed agreements with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to measure the carbon in their forests with the goal of selling carbon credits in California’s cap-and-trade market, set to begin in 2012. The program would allow California businesses to use the credits to meet their emission caps, and thus funnel several hundred million dollars a year into tropical forest protection.

Interior Dept. and states launch offshore wind consortium

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is joining forces with East Coast states to shorten the years-long approval process for offshore wind projects. He expects the “Atlantic Wind Consortium” to be formalized within a month.

“We in the United States do not want to fall behind the U.K. and other countries that are moving forward with wind energy,” Salazar told reporters after meeting with most of the governors. “This is about jobs.”

Eastern states are moving to build the nation’s first offshore wind farms, but so far, Interior’s Mineral Management Service has not awarded any leases for turbine construction on the outer continental shelf.

Salazar expects to make a final decision on Cape Wind, a 130-turbine project planned in waters off of Massachusetts, in April. The facility was first proposed in 2001, and Salazar bluntly assessed that timeline as inadequate.

“Investors who will invest in projects are not likely to invest if they have to wait seven to nine years to get their permit,” he said. “One of the things that we will be doing is evaluating how we can expedite the offshore wind permitting processes.”

Eastern states have been promoting the idea of cooperation for months, believing that they might be able to share research related to the effects of turbines on marine habitat, fishing, navigation, birds and transmission. Those studies are expensive, and often duplicative, supporters say.

Massachusetts has been a leader. Officials there organized the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative last year in an attempt to provide the latest information on state and federal activity and turbine technology.

The move comes as Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Maine and Massachusetts are moving forward with offshore projects.

“The time is now,” said Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri, a Republican. “The nation is ready for this. Whether you come at it from an energy independence standpoint, a national security standpoint, or climate change. Whatever it is. We need to move ahead as a nation rapidly.”

Cooperation is an emphasis, but the states are simultaneously competing against each other to land the first offshore wind farm. That could bring manufacturing facilities, supply companies and service stations. That means jobs.

“This opportunity is much bigger than any one state. There are literally no offshore wind turbines in the United States today,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat. “This is an enormous opportunity … that will require all of us to work together.”

“This is a beginning conversation, and we’re hopeful that within 30 days we can formalize a working document on how we are going to move forward,” Salazar said.

The Paperless office is possible, says JP Morgan

It may have been mooted ever since the computer was invented, but according to a new report from JP Morgan the paperless office is now technically and economically feasible.

Released last week the report states that the banking giant has helped 25,000 of its clients eliminate more than 24 million paper documents from operations in just 18 months by promoting digital processes.

It added that the campaign, which urges firms to replace paper documents such as payslips, invoices and bills with digital alternatives, aims to further reduce the volume of paper used by clients by 77 million documents.

The move towards less paper-intensive processes can also save companies money,

according to the report. On average, filing and maintaining 500,000 pieces of paper costs firms an estimated $250,000 (£162,000) in workflow management, another $115,000 to research lost files, and about $150,000 in storage and disposal costs.

Trucks to see first GHG limits in June

Heavy-duty trucks and buses are next up on U.S. EPA’s list of greenhouse gas emissions sources to control, according to the agency’s new regulation tracking site.

EPA intends to propose the first greenhouse gas emissions standards for trucks in June, several months after finalizing regulations for passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks in March, the site says.

Truck manufacturers and environmental groups have been anticipating a proposal from EPA for the last several months. It comes as the Department of Transportation also prepares the first-ever fuel economy standards for trucks as mandated by a 2007 energy law. The fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards could be proposed jointly, as EPA and DOT did with the light-duty car rules last year, said Roland Hwang, a Natural Resources Defense Council transportation expert.

Manufacturers have been in discussions with staff from both agencies about how to fairly measure and set the new standards. The fuel efficiency of a truck, unlike that of a car, varies widely with the load it is carrying, said Truck Manufacturers Association spokesman Joe Suchecki.

Also in June, the agency plans to propose revisions to the fuel economy window stickers that inform car buyers’ purchasing decisions, the site says. New metrics are needed to effectively convey fuel economy information as plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles enter the consumer market, the agency says.

Transport for London unveils UK’s largest

Transport for London (TfL) hopes to cut its carbon emissions by 40 per cent and save £90,000 per annum on utility bills with a newly unveiled green power plant at its head office that includes the UK’s largest hydrogen fuel cell.

TfL and the London Development Agency (LDA), which is housed in the same building, also announced last week that they plan to sign up to the 10:10 energy efficiency campaign from this April.

As a result, they have committed to reduce carbon emissions by a further 10 per cent and cut energy bills by £400,000 over the next financial year

The £2.4m combined heat and power plant, which was unveiled late last week, is located at TfL’s Palestra building in Southwark and was implemented as part of a major green retrofit.

The plant is expected to supply all the facility’s power needs at off-peak times and 25 per cent of requirements during peak hours.

Waste heat will also be pumped into a unit on the roof to ensure the building keeps cool and supplement its six existing electric chillers.

The hydrogen fuel cell, which was funded out of TfL’s £25m Climate Change Fund, will likewise provide electricity, heat and cooling and provide the office’s hot water supply.

18 Feb 2010Senate weighs final push to move climate bill

A last-ditch attempt at passing a climate change bill begins in the Senate this week with senators mindful that time is running short and that approaches to the legislation still vary widely, according to sources.

“We will present senators with a number of options when they get back from recess,” said one Senate aide knowledgeable of the compromise legislation that is being developed. The goal is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists say threaten Earth.

The options will be presented to three senators — Democrat John Kerry, independent Joseph Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham — who are leading the fight for a bill to battle global warming domestically.

The aide said the Senate’s drive for a bill got a boost last week with President Barack Obama’s announcement of an $8.3 billion government loan guarantee to help start expanding the nuclear power industry, a top Republican priority. “The administration is really putting their money where their mouth is,” the aide said

Biotech, Nanotech and Synthetic Biology Roles in Future Food Supply Explored

Some say the world’s population will swell to 9 billion people by 2030 and that will present significant challenges for agriculture to provide enough food to meet demand, says University of Idaho animal scientist Rod Hill.

Hill and Larry Branen, a University of Idaho food scientist, organized a symposium during the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting February 17 to explore ways biotechnology could provide healthy and plentiful animal-based foods to meet future demands.

Synthetic biology, nanotechnology, genetic engineering and other applications of biotechnology — and the public’s role in determining their acceptable uses — were all addressed by panelists during the session.

The goal for the session, which was part of the nation’s largest general science meeting held annually, was to encourage a dialogue among scientists and the public, said Hill, a Moscow-based molecular physiologist who studies muscle growth in cattle.

Wis. weighs climate bill promising new jobs and sharp emission cuts

A major energy bill being debated in the Wisconsin Legislature could strengthen the state’s economy and create thousands of jobs, according to an analysis released Friday.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act offers a collection of climate-friendly provisions ranging from energy efficiency to renewable power that could expand the Wisconsin economy by $4.85 billion and produce 16,220 jobs over the next 15 years, says the macroeconomic analysis performed by the Center for Climate Strategies and the Center for Economic Analysis.

“The CEJA is expected to have immediate and positive net impacts on state employment,” the report says, suggesting that retrofits associated with energy efficiency plans would spark fast new jobs.

Economic benefits will come more slowly, it notes, pointing to increases in gross state product of $250 million in 2015, $710 million in 2020 and $1.41 billion in 2025. The report says the legislation will provide a net present value of $4.85 billion based on 2000 dollars.

The report comes as the Wisconsin Legislature, now in Democratic control, focuses on passing the sprawling energy bill that resulted from a slew of about 50 recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle aspires to sign the bill into law before he departs the executive mansion at the end of his term this year.

Supporters are emphasizing the impact of the bill on job growth, tuning in to concerns around high unemployment rates. Opponents contend provisions in the bill would hurt manufacturers, and jobs, by raising energy prices.

The bill does not include one of task force’s main recommendations: a program to cap carbon emissions with the help of a financial market, also called cap and trade.

The legislation calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2014, cutting them another 22 percent by 2020, and aiming at 75 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

It would do that through things like saving energy, requiring that 25 percent of the state’s

power be from renewable sources by 2025, reducing truck idling and making all new buildings derive their power entirely from on-site clean energy sources beginning in 2030.

The bill’s energy efficiency initiatives provide the biggest economic benefits, the analysis says. New building codes, construction retrofits and appliance standards could generate $3.30 for every $1 invested, it says.

“Households who spend less on energy have more spending power for other goods and services,” the report says. “Additionally, low energy costs afford greater competitiveness of Wisconsin’s businesses in the global economy, and cost savings provide resources for business expansion.”

14 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for February 22: US aims for legally binding climate agreement; Saving Amazon may be most cost-effective way to cut GHGs

  1. Chris says:

    I’m glad Obama is doing what he can, but it’ll be a lot harder for the anti-science crowd to undo his efforts if they actually get bill(s) through, instead of just executive orders, etc.

  2. mike roddy says:

    Restoring Pacific Northwest forests would be more cost effective than saving the Amazon. The coastal forests in their natural state sequester more carbon than anyplace on earth, and contain up to 1500 tons per acre of biomass, many times what is found in the Amazon. American coastal forests have been 95% destroyed, and are now seas of stumps and pygmy fir tree farms.

    Other benefits include the fact that if we save our own forests, we set an example, and the likelihood of corruption is less. We would also capture the economic returns, including restored salmon and steelhead runs, better water quality, and mitigation of soil erosion.

    All that’s standing in the way is the US timber industry. Unfortunately, they are big gorillas in Washington.

  3. Thanks for the update! One addition, today’s news from USGS: Ice Shelves Disappearing on Antarctic Peninsula:

  4. Carlin says:

    I need to know what you think of this Bloom Box phenomena:

    CEO claims it is scalable within a decade.


  5. Doug Bostrom says:

    The Guardian scrutinizes “skeptics”:

    “The distinction between scepticism and non-belief is a crucial one. While scepticism is healthy, non-belief in the face of overwhelming evidence is the antipathy of scepticism. Recent climate scepticism has been characterised by a visceral mistrust of science, scientific institutions and scientific governance. Never mind that the case for climate change has been painstakingly pieced together over decades – climate change sceptics are busy writing it off on the basis of a few inconsistencies.

    But embarrassingly for climate change sceptics, the people who have thought longest and hardest about what it means to be a truly sceptical thinker seem in a hurry to distance themselves from their fellow sceptics. Michael Marshall, from the Merseyside Skeptics group that organised the homeopathy overdose is clear about the legitimacy of climate change sceptics: “In our view, climate change sceptics are not sceptics. A sceptic looks at the available evidence and makes a decision, and for homeopathy the evidence is that it doesn’t work. But the sceptical position on climate change is that it is happening.”


    I prefer “Rejectionist.”

  6. Patrick says: has a link to last night’s “60 Minutes” story on the Bloombox:

    This seems way too good to be true…

  7. fj2 says:

    re: “Saving Amazon may be most cost-effective way to cut GHGS”

    Absolutely! And, a small fraction what is cost to slow the financial meltdown, saving big auto, and cash for clunkers.

    Using good economic sense would save many times more.

    re: ” . . . investing as much as $13 billion a year by 2020 to preserve forests”

    Road accidents in New York State cost $19 billion per year.

    Congestion costs New York City $13 per year.

  8. SecularAnimist says:

    Doug Bostrom wrote: “I prefer ‘Rejectionist.'”

    I prefer “gullible dupe”.
    Or “deliberate liar”.
    Or “delusional crank”.

    Those are the three basic varieties of global warming deniers, none of whom are “skeptics”.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    SecularAnimist (8) — Add willfully ignorant.

  10. prokaryote says:

    Security Via Decentralized Energy
    Energy Security, Climate Change and Decentralized Energy

    Wind Power – to Combat Climate Change–1Pf-7zk

    Project Better Place: An introduction film

    “Israel is detaching itself from oil,” said Shai Agassi (photo), the 41-year-old, Israeli-born founder of the company. The government “really wants this to happen,” he said. “It is a national project.”
    Deals have been announced in other densely packed “transportation islands,” as Agassi calls them, in Denmark, Australia, San Francisco, Hawaii, the west coast of Canada, along with a small taxi scheme in Japan.

    Israel Defense Forces Eyes “Better Place” Electric Car Grid for Military Bases

  11. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Manaus is not quite the largest city on the Amazon.
    From Wikipedia:

    Belém, near the mouth of the river:
    Its metropolitan area has approximately 2.09 million inhabitants.
    According to the IBGE of 2008, there were 2,139,000 people residing in the Metropolitan Region of Belém.

    It is the second largest metropolitan area in the Northern Brazil and the twelfth in all of Brazil, with 2,006,870 inhabitants (IBGE/2008). The population at 2008 was of 1.71 million people and it is the eighth most populous city of Brazil according to data from Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, the IBGE.

    Iquitos, Peru, much farther upriver but still in the Amazon area:
    Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rainforest, with a population of 370,962. It is the capital of Loreto Region and Maynas Province. It is generally considered the most populous city in the world that cannot be reached by road.

  12. prokaryote says:

    Local vegetation can point to the consequences of climate change

    Full solar-cell performance with only one percent of material used

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    SecularAnimist says: February 22, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I’ve been striving to find a word that spans all categories and may be used in any company.

  14. C. Vink says:

    Despite Climategate, IPPC Mostly Underestimates Climate Change
    Scientific American, February 22 – Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, James McCarthy of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment noted that the IPCC usually errs on the conservative side.

    Acidified landscape around ocean vents foretells grim future for coral reefs
    The Observer, February 21 -Underwater vents allow scientists to assess the acidic effect of carbon dioxide on ocean life. Researcher Hall-Spencer: “There is a complete ecological flip. The seabed loses all its richness and variety. And that is what is likely to happen in the next few decades across the world’s oceans.”