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Energy and Global Warming News for July 23rd, 2010: Vets vs. Big Oil on Prop 23 in California; MD, DE governors ask feds to join wind energy pact; U.S. funds efforts to turn CO2 emissions into products

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Vets vs. Big Oil: Prop 23 in California

Over the past year, VoteVets.org has worked hard to represent the overwhelming majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who not only see our dependence on oil as a security threat, but believe that we need to pass clean energy legislation — even going so far as to say they are in favor of “cap and trade” (and yes, they were polled using that term).

While Washington haggles and delays, California has taken the lead. California being on the cutting edge of environmental technology and tough regulation is nothing new. Very often the state has led the way for the rest of the nation. From being the first in the nation to regulate tailpipe emissions from cars, to introducing the widespread use two-way catalytic converters before the rest of the nation, to leading the way in fuel efficiency standards, very often California sets the pace for the rest of the United States.

It’s no shock, then, that big oil has pushed a ballot proposition this year – Prop 23 – that would delay (with the purpose of killing) The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. That state law would unilaterally bring California into near compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, mandating that emissions of greenhouse gasses in the state return to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

The threat big oil and energy companies feel is clear – implementation of a law that would require much greater efficiency and development of new technologies would mean less dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. That, they fear, would hurt their bottom line. So, rather than think long-term about how they could capitalize on an energy revolution and increase their bottom line in the long-run, they have dumped millions into killing the law.

Valero Energy – $500,000. Occidental Petroleum – $300,000. Tesoro Companies (oil refiners) – $300,000. And hundreds of thousands from other oil and energy interests have been poured into backing Prop. 23.

On the other side is an interesting mix. It’s not just environmentalists who are opposing Prop. 23. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently joined by Republican and Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Schultz. Schultz, in announcing his opposition, said, “As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence.”

Add veterans to that opposition, and on the side of Secretary Schultz. Our dependence on oil means our petro-dollars make their way to the very same extremists we’re fighting. Worldwide demand for oil, driven by U.S. consumption, means that Iran makes $100 million more every single day. And, even the Pentagon has sounded the siren on security implications of global climate change.

Md., Del. govs ask feds to join wind energy pact

The governors of Delaware and Maryland asked the federal government Wednesday to join their states in buying offshore wind energy as part of an effort to establish a wind energy manufacturing industry in the mid-Atlantic region.

Govs. Jack Markell and Martin O’Malley sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he direct federal agencies to join Delaware and Maryland in offering to purchase one gigawatt, or 1 billion watts, of energy from offshore wind turbines.

“By combining our market power with that of the federal government, we can drive demand for over one GW of offshore wind energy in the mid-Atlantic,” the governors wrote. “This would create the economies of scale necessary to significantly reduce the cost of offshore wind development, attract manufacturers of offshore wind equipment and installation vessels, and develop high paying green jobs for our workers.”

U.S. funds efforts to turn CO2 emissions into products

Can industrial CO2 emissions come in handy? The Department of Energy is betting these carbon dioxide emissions, a culprit of climate change, can be turned into useful products such as fuel, plastics, cement and fertilizers.

DOE announced Thursday $106 million in Recovery Act funding for six corporate projects that will research the potential to use CO2 as an inexpensive raw material. “These innovative projects convert carbon pollution from a climate threat to an economic resource,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement, citing President Obama’s broader plan to build a clean energy economy.

The projects were selected for initial funding in October as part of a $1.4 billion effort to capture CO2 from industrial sources for storage or beneficial use. They’ve since done experiments and designed research plans and will now enter a second phase in which they’ll evaluate the economic feasibility of their innovations.

Risk of Water Scarcity Increasing for 1,100 U.S. Counties

One out of three U.S. counties is facing a greater risk of water shortages by mid-century due to global warming, finds a new report by Tetra Tech for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

For 412 of these counties the risk of water shortages will be “extremely high,” according to the report, a 14-fold increase from previous estimates. In the Great Plains and Southwest United States, water sustainability is at extreme risk finds the report, which is based on publicly available water use data from across the United States.

“This analysis shows climate change will take a serious toll on water supplies throughout the country in the coming decades, with over one out of three U.S. counties facing greater risks of water shortages,” said Dan Lashof, director of the Climate Center at NRDC. “Water shortages can strangle economic development and agricultural production and affected communities.”

Commercial Airlines May Get 1% of Fuel From Biofuels By 2015, Boeing Says

Commercial airlines may derive 1 percent of their fuel by 2015 from biofuels made of plants including algae, Boeing Co.’s environment chief said.

Carriers including British Airways Plc and Continental Airlines Inc. are testing the carbon-cutting alternative fuels as the global air industry accelerates efforts to slash greenhouse-gases blamed for global warming.

Boeing has worked with airlines from the U.S. to Japan to test jet fuels made from plants such as jatropha and camelina. That’s because moving more toward cleaner fuels is in the industry’s best interest, said Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy at Boeing’s commercial airplanes unit.

“We need to get to 1 percent to get that foundation and then the trajectory will be significantly steeper,” Glover said in a telephone interview in London. “We’re aiming for a 1 percent penetration around the middle of this decade, and we think that’s quite achievable.”

Indoor Living and the Global Greenhouse

The Garrison Institute, just down the hill from my home in the Hudson River valley, has organized an exploration of the role of the human mind, with all of its strengths and  weaknesses, in both creating the climate challenge and potentially overcoming it. The next effort is a session for a variety of specialists in studies of buildings and behavior.

Given that humans are spending ever more time indoors, with all the heating, cooling and lighting potentially attending such a lifestyle, finding  big cuts in energy use in structures can make a big dent in greenhouse-gas emissions and energy appetites. (I took the photo above while touring Toronto’s vast underground city beneath the city.) The challenge and opportunity in fast-growing developing countries is particularly acute. According to some analysts, more square footage of structures will be built in the next few decades than has been built by human societies in all previous history. As I wrote recently, one steamy Asian city, Mumbai, is estimated to have  potential demand for air conditioning equalling a fourth of all the air conditioning used in the United States today.

Filling the Global Energy Research Gap

Earlier this week, the International Energy Agency released a batch of new findings and reports as its contribution to the Obama administration’s “Clean Energy Ministerial” meeting in Washington. One report concluded that  China’s total energy use now tops that of the United States, just a couple of years behind its rise to the top position on lists of emitters of carbon dioxide. (China  almost immediately disputed the agency’s conclusion.)

In any case, a more important analysis was the agency’s fresh look at trends in government support for research, development and demonstration of low-carbon energy technologies and ways for countries to collaborate to accelerate energy innovation.

According to the report, “Global Gaps in Clean Energy RD&D,” the recent burst of spending on research as part of various countries’ efforts to stimulate their fragile economies has helped provide a substantial boost after decades of diminishing investment on the frontiers of energy inquiry.

Does a Manipulated Market Advance Clean Power?

The Justice Department says that a wholesale electricity supplier in New York City manipulated the market for several years to keep prices high. At first glance, this might seem to have an environmental advantage. More expensive electricity encourages efficient use, and high wholesale prices may encourage companies to build new power plants “” possibly wind or solar “” that are almost certainly cleaner than the old ones.

In New York State, as in about half of the rest of the country, big utilities that used to build and operate power plants and power lines as well as deliver the electricity to customers and send them bills have been ordered to specialize. Most have sold their generating stations to independent producers and now buy their power in auctions conducted by a neutral system operator.

To a large extent, they are buying electricity from precisely the power plants they sold, so that a person walking through the system would see little change except for the company names affixed to the fence out front.

Huge Turnout for E.P.A. Fracking Hearing

The Environmental Protection Agency will probably be getting an earful at a public meeting in southwestern Pennsylvania, part of its recently opened re-examination of hydraulic fracturing.

Many Green readers will already know that gas drillers rely heavily on the practice, often called “fracking,” which involves the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals designed to create fractures in rock formations deep underground so that gas can be released.

Environmentalists have long complained “” often in vain “” that the industry in general and fracking in particular are too loosely regulated and that all manner of environmental and health impacts could be at stake. Groundwater contamination ranks high on their list of concerns.

The industry, meanwhile, has maintained that its drilling and fracking practices are safe, and that there is little hard evidence to the contrary “” although this, critics say, is only for want of careful study.

Kinks in the Ethanol Message-Machine?

The ethanol industry is feverishly lobbying lawmakers in an effort to hang onto billions of dollars in subsidies that are set to expire “” although there appears to be some discord on the message front.

Growth Energy, a leading ethanol industry association, threw some fuel makers for a loop last week by suggesting that they would be willing to trade tax credits for incentives aimed at making more cars and more gas stations ethanol-ready.

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, which naturally abhors the tariffs, was only too keen to point out the apparent discrepancy in a YouTube video published on Wednesday and embedded above for your viewing pleasure.

In China, an oil spill and a low-tech cleanup

Hundreds of firefighters and civilian volunteers used bare hands, chopsticks and plastic garbage bags Thursday to wage a low-tech battle against a giant oil slick spreading off China’s northeastern coast.

The slick, near the oil port of Dalian, in Liaoning province, was caused when two pipelines exploded last Friday as crude was being unloaded from a Libyan tanker. Government officials said the accident released about 1,500 tons — or 400,000 gallons — of oil into the Yellow Sea, where the slick now covers up to 170 square miles, according to news reports, making it China’s largest recorded spill.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is estimated in the tens of millions of gallons. “I used small wood planks to scoop up the oil and put it into big plastic garbage bags,” said Liu Jia, a worker at the Dalian beach resort. “Some of my colleagues used chopsticks. . . . It works, because the oil is quite sticky. Sometimes, we just used our hands to pick up the sand that is covered with oil.”

Australian prime minister lays out climate-change plan

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday embraced the same policy on climate change that her predecessor failed to pass, but said in a campaign speech that any action would be delayed until at least 2012.

“The price of inaction is too high a price for our country to pay,” she said at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. “Because the price of inaction is price rises, job losses and innovations lost.”

The topic helped topple her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, whom Gillard had served as deputy prime minister until the Labor Party transferred its support to her last month. With elections less than a month off, Gillard laid out her plans to address the issue if the party retains power. Gillard said she would embrace the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) that Rudd delayed after the conservative coalition and the Greens Party failed to sign on.

United Nations Proposes Stopgaps as Global Talks Fail to Renew Kyoto Pact

A United Nations climate group said it may be possible to extend emission caps included in the Kyoto Protocol for two years after they expire in 2012, preventing an interruption in the supply of offset credits.

Extending the targets may help stop a “gap” in the Clean Development Mechanism, the world’s second-biggest carbon market, should nations fail to agree on a treaty to replace or permanently extend the 1997 protocol, a committee for developed nations said in a July 20 discussion paper on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change website.

UN talks in Copenhagen last December failed as developing nations called for richer countries to adopt tighter targets on the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said last month that nations are unlikely to agree on a global climate accord at this year’s talks in Cancun, Mexico.

Puerto Rico unveils green energy strategy

The government of Puerto Rico needs to march toward energy diversification to deal with its over-reliance on oil for electricity, the governor announced. Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno signed new measures that outline ways to encourage the use of renewable energy on the island state.

“We need to aggressively encourage the development of renewable energy sources for the benefit of all that reside and work in Puerto Rico,” the governor said in a statement. “Establishing the right public policy will be the anchor to make it happen.”

Part of the measure calls on retail energy providers to use renewable energy for 15 percent of their energy resources by 2020 and 20 percent by 2028.

US announces climate change help for Mekong region

The United States on Thursday announced a three-year programme to help countries in the Mekong River basin adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources, food security and livelihoods.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the pledge at a Hanoi meet with Southeast Asian countries of the lower Mekong region, whose waterway is also under threat from rapid economic development and expanding populations.

“Managing this resource and defending it against threats like climate change and infectious disease is a transnational challenge,” she told the foreign ministers of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

“Regional cooperation is essential to meeting that challenge, to preserving the ecological diversity and fertility of the Mekong region.”

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34 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for July 23rd, 2010: Vets vs. Big Oil on Prop 23 in California; MD, DE governors ask feds to join wind energy pact; U.S. funds efforts to turn CO2 emissions into products

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    A Fracking War: Industry Tries – and Fails – to Debunk “Gasland” Film http://www.truth-out.org/a-fracking-war-industry-attempts-debunk-gasland-film61598

  2. Prokaryotes says:

    July 2010 becomes hottest month in Moscow history
    A heat wave has gripped Moscow since mid-June and there are no signs the temperatures will fall below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in the near future.

    “Temperatures like this have not been recorded in 130 years,” the source said adding that next week temperatures may reach 38 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit).

    The worst drought in almost three decades came to the Moscow Region, which is also suffering from forest fires.
    http://en.rian.ru/Environment/20100723/159925062.html

    The record breaking month is not even over yet …

  3. Prokaryotes says:

    As Cap and Trade Dies, It’s Time To Bury Offsets With It
    Greenhouse gas offsets — also known as carbon offsets — allow polluters to exceed their emissions cap by helping to finance projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions somewhere else. Sounds reasonable, right? After all, it’s one big atmosphere, so what’s the difference if reductions are made in one place or another? … a whistleblower disclosure calling on Congress to investigate the unfixable flaws of greenhouse gas offsets http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-valk/as-cap-and-trade-dies-its_b_656560.html

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    British deal to preserve Liberia’s forests ‘could have bankrupted’ impoverished West African nation
    Investigation launched over forest-saving carbon scheme in Liberia http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/23/uk-liberia-carbon-forest-bankrupt

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    Severe Drought in Southern Russia
    Severe and persistent drought held southern Russia in its grip in June and July 2010. Low rainfall and hot temperatures damaged 32 percent of the country’s grain crops, said Russian Agriculture Minister

    The vegetation index is a reflection of photosynthesis. The index is high in areas where plants are dense, with plenty of photosynthesizing leaves. The index is low when plants are thin or not present. This image is a vegetation index anomaly image that compares photosynthesis between June 26 and July 11, 2010, to average conditions observed in late June and early July between 2000 and 2009. Below-average plant growth is shown in brown, while average growth is cream-colored. If there had been above-average growth in the region, it would have been represented in green. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=44743

  6. Prokaryotes says:

    How Does a Heat Wave Affect the Human Body?
    Some might like it hot, but extreme heat can overpower the human body. An expert from the CDC explains how heat kills and why fans are worthless in the face of truly high temps http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=heat-wave-health

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Broad Coalition Backs Renewable Electricity Standard http://www.awea.org/blog/index.php?mode=viewid&post_id=427

  8. Prokaryotes says:

    ‘Doubters’ of Climate Change Lack Scientific Expertise
    The small number of scientists who are unconvinced that human beings have contributed significantly to climate change have far less expertise and prominence in climate research compared with scientists who are convinced, according to a study led by Stanford researchers. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/07/23/doubters-of-climate-change-lack-scientific-expertise/

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    US Wastes $200 Billion on Environmentally Damaging Subsidies
    A new report by the Green Scissors Campaign details some $200 billion worth of yearly US government subsidies that the coalition says are “wasteful to taxpayers, harmful to the environment and bad for consumers.” Green Scissors 2010 [PDF] covers four broad areas in which these subsidies occur– energy, agriculture and biofuels, infrastructure, and public lands. Here are some of the more egregious examples of how we hand out money to destroy the environment:

    Big Coal & Big Ag Get Billions in Unnecessary Public Assistance http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/07/u-s-wastes-200-billion-environmentally-damaging-subsidies.php

  10. Prokaryotes says:

    China to Start Carbon Trading While U.S. Senate Fiddles Around
    The irony could hardly be stronger: amid reports that an obstructionist minority has blocked US Senate action from moving on clean energy and climate legislation that would create real incentives for clean energy, news reports from China indicate that top government officials met this week to discuss how China can start its own carbon trading program. http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jschmidt/china_moves_while_us_fiddles.html

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    The Next US Climate Strategy: Celebrate the EPA http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/011422.html

  12. Prokaryotes says:

    Amid Heat Wave, Senator Talks ‘Global Cooling’
    His Al Gore Igloo Melted, Sen. Jim Inhofe Not Convinced of Warming Trend

    “We’re in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period,” he said. Inhofe may not have many supporters for his cooling theory on Capitol Hill. But it is not likely he will have to vote on any legislation to deal with global warming any time soon.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/amid-heat-wave-senator-talks-global-coolilng/story?id=11237381

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious …

  13. Prokaryotes says:

    Indiana Gas Well Fire Still Burning; Explosion Kills 2 Workers
    Officials said they were able to shut the gas off to the well after the initial explosion, but residential gas lines blew, which they said is keeping the massive fire burning.

    Crews said they are stationed 50 yards away from the site because of the intense heat from the flames. http://www.wpxi.com/news/24366436/detail.html

    Since stoneage we use fire for heating, science and technology offer now NEW stuff – isn’t it about time to advance?

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Making Climate Progress with the Tools We Already Have http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ddoniger/making_climate_progress_with_t.html

  15. Prokaryotes says:

    “We’ve said since news first broke and the extent of the gulf tragedy became known that it was certainly going to affect how people in the United States and California view offshore oil,” said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association. “It’s a game-changing event.” http://na.oceana.org/en/blog/2010/07/oil-spill-quote-of-the-day-13

  16. Prokaryotes says:

    Communicating Science, with Stephen Schneider (Friday, February 19th, 2010)
    http://www.sciencefriday.com/program/archives/201002191

  17. Prokaryotes says:

    China oil spill after pipe blast ‘worse than thought’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-10710888

  18. Prokaryotes says:

    Against backdrop of gulf spill, other nations move forward with deep-water drilling http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/20/AR2010072003142.html

  19. Prokaryotes says:

    Warming climate means harsher smog season for California
    Rising temperatures from climate change will increase ozone levels in California’s major air basins, according to a new report to the California Air Resources Board from scientists at UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

    The new study provides evidence of what is becoming known as the “climate penalty,” in which rising temperatures increase ground-level ozone and airborne health-damaging particles, despite the reductions achieved by programs targeting smog-forming emissions from cars, trucks and industrial sources. http://www.physorg.com/news199107947.html

  20. Prokaryotes says:

    The Big Picture Stormy skies
    In the past several months, powerful storms have wreaked havoc in many places, torrential rains in central Europe and parts of China, tornadoes in Australia, Montana and the American Midwest, and strong thunderstorms across the northeast. http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/07/stormy_skies.html

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    This is huge

    Satellite spies vast algal bloom in Baltic Sea http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-10740097

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Heat wave warms frigid Baltic Sea waters
    A heat wave searing the Baltic region has warmed the usually frigid waters of the Baltic Sea to temperatures usually seen in more tropical climes, experts said Friday.

    “The highest sea temperature recorded recently along the Polish Baltic coast was 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 Fahrenheit) at the Pucka Bay http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j22OeQ_Sbdx-m62Mj44YFQbOKPcg

  23. Prokaryotes says:

    Methane Emission from the Coastal Area in the Southern Baltic Sea http://bit.ly/b221mo

  24. Prokaryotes says:

    The significant correlation between methane emission and temperature in the water and sediment demonstrated that diurnal and long-term variations of emission rates during each season were mainly regulated by temperature.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    On the long-term average, the Baltic Sea is ice covered for about 45% of its surface area at the maximum annually. – wikipedia

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Obama signs bill to reduce government waste

    President Obama put the U.S. government on a fiscal diet Thursday, signing a bill designed to cut down on government waste, fraud and abuse and ensure the most efficient use of American tax dollars. http://blogs.america.gov/obama/2010/07/23/obama-signs-bill-to-reduce-government-waste/

  27. Prokaryotes says:

    British researchers feeding animals spices to reduce methane gas
    They said it reduced the amount of methane produced by bacteria in a sheep’s stomach by up to 40 percent.

    They expect the same results when the spices are fed to other slow digesting animals like cows and goats. http://www.14wfie.com/Global/story.asp?S=12861170

  28. Prokaryotes says:

    Blast hits Siberian coal mine, at least two people injured http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100724/159930558.html

  29. Prokaryotes says:

    Emmylou and the EPA Take on Big Coal
    Tough new standards may save Appalachia’s mountaintops. http://inthesetimes.com/article/6193/emmylou_and_the_epa_take_on_big_coal

  30. mattlant says:

    “Ontario faces U.S. challenge in developing Great Lakes wind power”

    The stakes are huge. Emerging Energy Research estimates more than 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy will be developed in North America by 2020, representing billions of dollars of investment and up to 2,000 turbines. Much of that capacity could be developed in the Great Lakes using equipment and skills from Ontario.

    “Ontario is an awakening renewable energy giant,” said John Kourtoff, president of Trillium Wind Power, which has ambitious plans to develop in Lake Ontario. “It has this enormous inland of fresh water that can be developed exclusively on the Canadian side.”

    On the U.S. side eight states border the Great Lakes. Ontario, by comparison, borders all lakes with the exception of Lake Michigan and has by far the greatest shoreline exposure of any jurisdiction. “Nobody else can play that card,” Kourtoff said.

    He compared the opportunity for offshore wind development to the development of hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls during the early 1900s that to this day supplies a large share of Ontario’s electricity needs. “I see this as a reset; as creating Ontario 2.0.”

    You know its crazy all the talk about how green energy is going to kill jobs and the economy yet I continue to read stories such as this all the time. Green energy is creating jobs NOW. We all need to jump on the bandwagon and support green energy.

    http://www.thestar.com/business/article/839471–ontario-faces-u-s-challenge-in-developing-great-lakes-wind-power

  31. Daniela says:

    $100 million to Iran every day!!? How is this possible? You’d think at some point as a country we’d start rationing but instead we’re fighting through politics with half baked energy bills.