Energy and Global Warming News for October 4th: California sets 33% renewable electricty standard; Deforestation risks $5 trillion a year loss to humankind; Boeing solar plane could circle Earth for years

California Sets 33% By 2020 Renewable Energy Standard

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has taken matters into its own hands after Senate Bill 722 failed to pass last month. The ARB unanimously voted last week to set a new standard that mandates 33 percent of the state’s energy be renewable by 2020.

California currently utilizes more than 14 percent renewable energy, but the new standards will target 20 percent as early as 2012. The ARB is hoping that new regulation will promote jobs in California-based renewable energy facilities while also reducing air pollution and lessening the state’s dependence on natural gas.

“The Renewable Electricity Standard means cleaner energy for California’s households and businesses,” said ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols. “This standard is going to further diversify and secure our energy supply while also growing California’s leading green technology market, which will lead to cost savings for consumers.”

Renewable energy comes in numerous forms, including solar, wind and biofuel power. It involves generating electricity from sources that are naturally replenished, instead of a limited-supply resource like petroleum.

Though the state previously set renewable energy goals for publicly-owned utility companies, the new regulation will tie in all energy providers, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which is the largest public utility company in the U.S.

Companies can meet the 33 percent target by purchasing renewable energy credits (similar to carbon offsets), meaning an investment in renewable energy projects, however, the electricity provided to consumers may not be renewable.

SB 722 would have held the same target as the ARB’s standard, but it would have been a state law that would hold more weight. This could come into play if California voters pass Proposition 23, which would stall state environmental initiatives until the state unemployment drops below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. The state’s current rate is 12.4 percent.

$5,000,000,000,000: The cost each year of vanishing rainforest

British researchers set out the economic impact of species destruction – and their findings are changing world’s approach to global warming

British scientific experts have made a major breakthrough in the fight to save the natural world from destruction, leading to an international effort to safeguard a global system worth at least $5 trillion a year to mankind.

Groundbreaking new research by a former banker, Pavan Sukhdev, to place a price tag on the worldwide network of environmental assets has triggered an international race to halt the destruction of rainforests, wetlands and coral reefs.

With experts warning that the battle to stem the loss of biodiversity is two decades behind the climate change agenda, the United Nations, the World Bank and ministers from almost every government insist no country can afford to believe it will be unaffected by the alarming rate at which species are disappearing. The Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, later this month will shift from solely ecological concerns to a hard-headed assessment of the impact on global economic security.

The UK Government is championing a new system to identify the financial value of natural resources, and the potential hit to national economies if they are lost. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project has begun to calculate the global economic costs of biodiversity loss. Initial results paint a startling picture. The loss of biodiversity through deforestation alone will cost the global economy up to $4.5trn (£2.8trn) each year – $650 for every person on the planet, and just a fraction of the total damage being wrought by overdevelopment, intensive farming and climate change.

The annual economic value of the 63 million hectares of wetland worldwide is said to total $3.4bn. In the pharmaceutical trade, up to 50 per cent of all of the $640bn market comes from genetic resources. Anti-cancer agents from marine organisms alone are valued at up to $1bn a year.

India to Launch Satellite to Monitor Deforestation/Afforestation in Real Time

The Indian space agency plans to launch a satellites dedicated to monitor deforestation activities and afforestation efforts in 2013.

The minister of Environment and Forests, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, had earlier announced the plans of launching a satellite which would measure India’s greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions. This satellite is scheduled for launch in 2012. Both the satellites would help India achieve important international and domestic goals.

India has its own climate change study forum known as the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) which comprises of scientists from various fields and institues from around the country. The network has been tasked with the job of studying and publishing peer-reviewed findings on the impact of climate change on the Indian ecosystem.

This group of scientists was established in order to get specific information about the impact of climate change on the health of the Himalayan glaciers, on the agricultural output and on the coastal areas of the country. Also, Indian government can also use the information gathered at the international climate change treaties to strengthen its case for opposing mandatory GHG emission targets.

SolarEagle rendition by Boeing

Boeing Solar Plane (SolarEagle) Could Circle Earth for Years

Apparently, Boeing’s new solar plane could fly around the world for years without stopping. And if you thought (like I did), “Well, what about the need for food and drinks?,” that’s not an issue, since this baby can fly without a human pilot. SolarEagle is the name of this new clean tech creation, and while it may not be as birdlike as Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter, it is definitely one of the sweetest flying machines I’ve ever seen.

A few details:

SolarEagle is a solar/electric-powered high altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle system that can provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and communications.

SolarEagle is designed with highly efficient electrical motors and propellers, and a high-aspect-ratio wing spanning more than 400 feet for increased aerodynamic performance. The highly-efficient propulsion system and long wingspan will allow SolarEagle to stay aloft for up to five years at altitudes above 60,000 feet.

A SolarEagle “demonstrator” will test SolarEagle’s flight characteristics and is to be built and ready to go by 2013, according to Boeing. It will fly for 30-90 days at the same altitudes as SolarEagle would. SolarEagle is supposed to then be ready for 5-year flights by 2014.

SolarEagle will carry payloads of up to 1,000 pounds, and its potential customers are the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and various telecommunications operations.

Activists across the globe prepare for 10:10 day of action

Last year it was hailed as the “most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”. This year’s 10:10 celebrations look like they will be even bigger.

US-based, run by environmental activist Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature and other books) had, by Friday, signed up 5,249 events in all but 14 countries for their big campaign day next week on 10 October.

The milestone, which broke last year’s record number, was met by somebody named only as Biljana from Serbia who registered an “eco field trip for school children for her local community in Belgrade to volunteer at a sustainable farm, participate in green workshops, and do a trash clean-up”. Like others, they will finish their event by forming into 350 figure for a group photo to go on’s website, a message of support for the campaign’s ambition to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts per million (from the current 390 and rising).

Regional cap and trade is working

New Jersey helped mark a milestone in climate-change policy in 2008 with the launch of a 10-state program to control carbon dioxide emissions from power producers.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative set up a form of “cap and trade” that requires power producers to pay for every ton of greenhouse gas emitted by buying allowances at quarterly auctions. Two years in, experts say, RGGI is working. Sort of.

The complex auction is functioning well – a feat in itself – and has provided $729 million in new revenue to the states, including all of New England, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. (Pennsylvania dabbled in early discussions about the program, but never joined.) Most of the money is earmarked for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and ratepayer assistance.

Top Four Ways Clean Energy Alleviates Poverty

Around 1.7 billion people live in poverty around the world.

That’s a quarter of the world’s population; more than the US and China combined and over three times the population of the EU.

Of that 1.7 billion, a full 700 million live in India; over 60% of the country’s population.  If want to alleviate poverty, India seems like a good place to start.

This is why a recent report by the World Resources Institute and the Institute for Financial Management and Research is of great importance.  It’s looked at India’s poverty stricken population and identifies four key clean energy strategies which should go a long way to alleviating poverty and suffering in the country.

China hopes ‘eco-city’ will prove a model alternative

TIANJIN, China “” At a construction site in northern China, a billboard boasts of a “livable city” where residents can drink tap water, travel on clean energy public transport and enjoy acres of parkland.

For now, the ambitious “eco-city” covering 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles) of non-arable salt pans and former fishing villages has more cranes than wind turbines and will not be finished for at least another decade.

But its developers hope the settlement near the port city of Tianjin will serve as an ultra-efficient alternative to ill-planned and heavily polluting mega-cities not only elsewhere in the country, but around the world.

“We hope to influence our neighbors,” said Goh Chye Boon, chief executive of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Investment & Development Co.

“With the right ingredients, with the right eco mindset, I think together we can change the environment.”

EU climate chief insists coal aid to end 2014

The European Union’s executive Commission is determined to stick to its new target of ending state subsidies for coal mines by October 2014, Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said on Friday.

“European taxpayers cannot continue to pay a lot of state aid to unprofitable mines,” she told Reuters in Berlin.

State aid for loss-making mines was due to be phased out this year but the Commission in July allowed the industry an additional four years.

Hedegaard’s defense of the 2014 exit date pits her against Germany, where coal mining and coal-to-power generation play a big part in the current energy mix, which is why the country has held out for an even longer extension up to 2018.

Thousands of jobs in populous North-Rhine Westphalia state depend on hard coal mining and politicians at local and federal level have urged the government to persuade Brussels to relax its proposal.

Green-Tech Investment drops

Global venture capital investment in green technology companies fell 30 percent, to $1.53 billion, in the third quarter of 2010, according to a preliminary report issued Friday by the Cleantech Group, a San Francisco-based research and consulting firm.

The amount invested in North America, Europe, China, India and Israel in the third quarter was also 11 percent below the year-ago quarter, when investment tanked amid the recession.

The numbers are striking, given that investment in green-tech start-ups soared in the first half of this year, surpassing records set in 2008 at the height of the clean technology boom.

“Much like we see globally, I think businesses and investors are grappling a little bit with a recovery that hasn’t yet taken off, and I think people are trying to figure out how quickly will the growth occur,” Sheeraz Haji, president of the Cleantech Group, said during a conference call Friday. “I think we’re seeing a little bit of the same in clean tech.”

California, an epicenter of green technology innovation, suffered a precipitous decline, with investment falling 61 percent.

Global warming may be harming Pacific walrus, scientists say

For the third time in four years, large crowds of walruses have congregated this summer on shorelines of the Chukchi Sea instead of spreading over chunks of floating ice.

That ice has largely disappeared. This year, summer sea ice levels reached their third-lowest point since satellite measurements started in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

As many as 15,000 walruses began crowding the shore near Point Lay, Alaska, in August and are just starting to disperse as ice forms in chilly fall weather, federal biologists said.

Such congregations place walruses far from the best sources of clams and other food they pluck from the icy waters and, if they are young and small, at risk of sudden and grisly death.

Last year, at another Alaska shore site where a few thousand walruses had converged, biologists found the carcasses of 131 calves, apparently trampled to death in a stampede.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was to announce last month its recommendation for an Endangered Species Act listing. The deadline was extended to Jan. 31 to give the agency time to evaluate two new studies.

Both reports warn of a grim future. One predicts that the Chukchi Sea will be ice-free for three months a year by mid-century and up to five months by the end of the century, and that ice-free periods in the Bering Sea also will expand.

The other study calculates that the ice-dependent walruses have a 40 percent chance of being extinct or in danger of extinction by century’s end.

Oregon Charges Ahead With World’s Largest EV Network

Oregon electric vehicle fleet is getting a boost with the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations. The northwestern metropolitan areas of Portland, Salem, Corvallis and Eugene are playing host to what is deemed the “largest rollout of EV infrastructure in the world” and will include more than a thousand publicly available chargers.

“Oregon is ready to emerge as a pioneer in electric vehicle adoption,” said Jonathan Read, president and CEO of ECOtality, the company in charge of the installation of the stations it calls Blink. “The support of our advisory group has provided invaluable research, and allowed us to develop a smart plan for the installation of EV infrastructure that suits the needs of Oregon’s future EV drivers. By coupling our plans with the capabilities of Blink, we are creating the rich charge infrastructure needed to make electric vehicles a reality.”

13 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for October 4th: California sets 33% renewable electricty standard; Deforestation risks $5 trillion a year loss to humankind; Boeing solar plane could circle Earth for years

  1. Bill W says:

    Re Solar Eagle, are there runways and taxiways wide enough for a 400-foot wingspan?

  2. Lorien says:

    re: deforestation, the 9/23/10 issue of the Economist had a great special report on forests, and the deleterious effects of deforestation:

  3. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Bill W… With that wingspan the take off roll is probably so short you’d launch it perpendicular to the runway. (Joking)

  4. GFW says:

    Rob – or wait for the right wind and take off vertically :-)

  5. riverat says:

    Certainly the runways at a place like Edwards Air Force Base are big enough for the Solar Eagle.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    Indeed, and that’s where it’s being tested.

    I include this because it starts with a story about solar cells. The SolarEagle article is about halfway down.

  7. Michael T says:

    October 4, 2010

    Weather and feedbacks lead to third-lowest extent

    “An eventful summer sea ice melt season has ended in the Arctic. Ice extent reached its low for the year, the third lowest in the satellite record, on 19 September. Both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route were open for a period during September.”

  8. _Flin_ says:

    33% in 2020?! That is bold! But if anyone can do it, it’s probably Californians.

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Bill W — Every runway originally built to accomdate B-36s. Not only Edwards AFB but off the top of my head Kirkland AFB (Albuquerque Airport) and Moses Lake International come to mind.

  10. Roger says:

    Re the upcoming October 10th Global Day of Climate Action, the tally of events has now exceeded 6,120, in 184 countries.

    I hope all Climate Progress readers will find, and participate in, an event near them–simply go to and plug your nearest large city into their search function. Numbers count at these events.

    For example, Washington DC has a large number of events being coordinated among a group of 30 organizations, the DC 10/10 Coalition.

    A White House Work Party, beginning at 1 pm in Lafayette Park, will be the centerpiece of the day. DC 10/10 Partner the Global Warming Education Network will spearhead the White House Work Party – a symbolic and non-violent effort to help President and Michelle Obama “green up” the White House. GWEN will bring insulation, CF and LED light bulbs, and a wind turbine. We’ll also be suggesting bike racks, more bike lanes, geothermal power and MORE to President and First Lady Obama. Suggestions are welcome.

    Beyond getting the White House green, to serve as an example for other Americans, our key request of President Obama is to please be a strong, protective, proactive leader, informing misinformed citizens about the very real, serious and urgent need to deal with climate change. In a democracy, citizens must understand why we need to aggressively shift to non-fossil fuels now, in order to forestall very serious, hell and high water consequences for us all in the coming years.

    Our star speaker line up includes climatologist Dr. James Hansen, Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm, Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown, DC Councilwoman Mary Cheh, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, Phaedra Ellis Lamkins of Green for All, and Bush Administration climate whistle blower Rick Piltz.

    Everyone within commuting distance is most welcome to attend. More details are available at and on the links found there.

    Warm regards,