Energy and global warming news for January 14, 2011: China sets goals to reduce emissions of pollutants and leads world to record global spending on clean energy

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"Energy and global warming news for January 14, 2011: China sets goals to reduce emissions of pollutants and leads world to record global spending on clean energy"

China sets goals to reduce emissions of pollutants

China said Friday it would cut emissions this year by rejecting construction projects that pollute too much and developing new technologies that curb greenhouse gases.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection set a target to cut emissions of major pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, ammonia nitrogen and nitrogen oxide by 1.5 percent in 2011 compared to last year, a report on the ministry’s website said.

China is the world’s largest polluter, with energy demands growing sharply every year. The consumption boom reflects the country’s transformation from a nation of subsistence farmers to one of workers increasingly trading bicycles for cars and buying energy-hungry home electronics.

Environmental Protection Minister Zhou Shengxian said in the report that construction projects that fail to meet environmental standards will not be approved or suspended.

New technologies, such as treatment plants for waste recycling and wastewater treatment, are also in development, Zhou said. Other measures include developing technology to remove sulfur, nitrogen and other polluting materials from industrial manufacturing.

2010 Was a Kick-Ass Year for Clean Energy Investments “” Thanks, China!

Global investment in clean energy rocketed to a record $243 billion in 2010, largely on the back of China’s rabid spending and solar rooftop installations in Europe, according to figures released this week from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Meanwhile, the Americas region “” which includes the U.S. “” brought up the rear. And the way things are shaking out, the U.S. won’t make any headway in 2011 either.

If anything, the U.S. is headed backwards. For instance, HBSC said in a research note Thursday the uncertainty that marked global investment in low-carbon energy tech has been replaced with optimism “” except in the U.S.

Uncertainty rulez in the U.S. “” thanks, Congress!

It’s not that the U.S. is at a standstill, while every other country busily slaps up solar panels and invests in wind power. New clean energy investments in the Americas region rose 35 percent to hit $65.8 billion, the BNEF said. And the U.S. was among several countries, led by Germany, that helped investment in small-scale, distributed generation projects surge 91 percent to $59.6 billion. BNEF even highlighted the $400 million financing for wind developer Pattern Energy Group and $350 million for Better Place as two notable U.S. private equity deals.

The U.S. is just slower, which is significant considering our wealth, size and resources. The problem stems from policy uncertainty, meaning Congress has punted repeatedly on climate-change legislation and even a narrow energy bill.

Duke, Progress Energy Merger Provides Bigger Clout to Energy Efficiency, Nuclear

The giant merger between the utilities Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc. may have a telling impact on the congressional debate over U.S. energy policy during the new session.

The more than $13 billion utility merger announced earlier this week would provide electricity service to upward of 7 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, if approved by federal and state regulators and the Justice Department. It would have the third largest fleet of nuclear plants. Both companies have made moves away from their coal generation to natural gas, although coal still provides more than half of the generation in the combined fleet.

The companies aim to complete the merger by the end of this year.

Leading the unified utility will be Jim Rogers, current CEO of Duke Energy and slated to be executive chairman of the new company, also to be called Duke Energy. Rogers has been a vocal leader on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency as the “fifth fuel.” Bill Johnson, Progress’ chairman, president and CEO, will become president and CEO of the new company.

Rogers’ sphere of influence will expand with the new company and on the level with other utility giants: Exelon Corp., Southern Co. and American Electric Power Co. Inc., utility lobbyists say.

EU May Consider Taxing Energy, Commissioner Says

The European Union may consider taxing energy resources to curb wasteful consumption and ensure the bloc follows its strategy of low-carbon growth, the EU’s Climate Commissioner said today.

The 27-nation EU is already running the world’s largest carbon market and wants to remain a global leader in combating climate change.

“If we tax more what we burn and less what we earn, there’s really room for a paradigm shift there,” Connie Hedegaard told a seminar organized by the Lisbon Council in Brussels. Hedegaard declined to say which resources might be taxed, nor did she specify the type of tax that might be introduced.

The bloc’s cap-and-trade emissions program, known as ETS, covers more than 11,000 installations that must have a permit for each ton of carbon dioxide they discharge. Those emitting more than their quota must buy more allowances.

“We need some pricing mechanisms. That’s what the ETS is basically about,” she said. “But we also need them outside the ETS to be able, to a higher degree, to price energy resources.”

EU tax laws and changes to them require the unanimous approval of member governments.

Major bank calls US ‘significant outlier’ on greenhouse-gas action

One of the world’s largest banks said Thursday there is “positive momentum” in 2011 for climate change-related investments. But the bank says there’s one exception to that rule: the United States.

The global research arm of HSBC, the world’s sixth-largest bank, said Thursday in an investment note that the uncertainty that marked climate investments in 2010 will be replaced this year by optimism.

But HSBC warns that the United States is a “significant outlier” in the world’s move toward policies that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and encourage investment in low-carbon energy technology.
The prediction comes as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for policies that will help build a so-called “clean energy economy” in the United States. But lawmakers have largely been unable to come to a consensus on the best path forward. The investment note is the latest indication that the United States is falling behind other countries in this effort.

“[L]ast year’s failure to pass federal climate legislation is set to be followed by efforts in the new Congress to roll back existing climate measures,” HSBC notes, a reference to efforts by Republicans and some Democrats to block

To save the planet and the budget, cut energy off the dole

President Obama promised in the fall that a top priority of his legislative program for 2011 would be an energy policy “that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way.” With global warming deniers now in charge of the House of Representatives, there would seem to be little hope for major legislation on clean energy or climate in this Congress. Even a member of his own party, West Virginia’s new senator, Joe Manchin, has boasted of extracting “a deep commitment and personal commitment” from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “that cap and trade is dead”

But all is not lost. If Obama wants to set us on a path to a sustainable-energy future – and a green one, too – he should propose a very simple solution to the current mess: eliminate all energy subsidies. Yes, all of them – oil, coal, gas, nuclear, ethanol, and wind and solar. Energy subsidies are the sordid legacy of more than 60 years of politics as usual in Washington. It would be better for national security, the balance of payments, the budget deficit and even, yes, the environment if we simply wiped the slate clean and let all energy sources compete for the future.

And with anti-pork Tea Partyers loose in Washington and deficit-cutting in the air, it’s not as politically inconceivable as one might think.

As an investor in clean and green energy, I don’t make this suggestion lightly. But as environmentalists are realizing, the energy providers of the last century (oil and coal), and a few politically wired new energy interests (such as corn-based ethanol and nuclear), always seem to come out the big winners in the $20 billion annual energy subsidy game. As long as current energy subsidies stay in place, and K Street lobbyists have sway over what interests deserve congressional favoritism, American tax dollars will continue to retard the market forces that are pushing the United States toward energy independence and a greener future.

Green Energy Opponents Are the Real Job Killers

Listen to how we discuss clean energy in this country, and you’ll note that the conversation is exactly upside down. To hear the mainstream discourse tell it, clean energy may be a nice idea but it’s prohibitively expensive. Going green, it’s said, will cost jobs and strangle growth at a time when America must do whatever it takes to get our economy and people working again. Environmentalists are going to raise everyone’s energy bills. We’re the “job killers.”

This framing of the issue runs 180 degrees counter to the actual facts of life in the year 2011. Clean energy transformation is the best””perhaps the only””path to economic and job growth, including rebuilding our industrial base and competitiveness. As British economist Nicholas Stern has said of clean energy, “These investments will play the role of the railways, electricity, the motor car and information technology in earlier periods of economic history.”

Renewable energies, if properly financed and combined with energy-saving investments, will lead to lower net energy bills for Americans, cheaper transportation and price stability. With a smart grid, the savings from new refrigerators, cars, lights and air-conditioners that use far less energy will more than compensate for the relatively small increases in electric rates needed to discourage carbon and switch to wind and solar. McKinsey & Company’s 2009 report “Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy” shows that for every dollar spent making buildings and appliances more efficient, we’ll get two in return. What other investment can match that? The same report estimates that the United States could reduce annual energy consumption by 23 percent with net dollar savings (not counting savings in transportation from vehicles, which would add more). And this is based on the price of fossil fuels remaining constant, which it won’t.

Kerry, other Dems say hottest year on record a wake-up call on global warming

Sen. John Kerry and other advocates for climate change legislation say data showing that 2010 was tied for the hottest year on record should prompt action.

“How many times do we have to be smacked in the face with factual evidence before we address global climate change? Report after report keep confirming it’s getting worse every year,” Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement Wednesday.

Kerry added: “Will we find common ground and adult leadership or keep piling the science on a shelf to collect dust?”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, citing temperature data that date back to 1880, reported Wednesday that last year was tied with 2005 as the warmest on record.

2010 was also the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average, the agency reported.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) also flagged the NOAA report Wednesday. “The hottest year on record is a difficult fact to deny,” said Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee.

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16 Responses to Energy and global warming news for January 14, 2011: China sets goals to reduce emissions of pollutants and leads world to record global spending on clean energy

  1. As long as the Republicans are in control of Congress we will not be able to do much to fight GW in the US. We do not want to accept reality.
    So allow me to jot down a few thoughts about the US inability to accept scientific facts:

    Polls indicate that only 6% of US scientists consider themselves Republicans!

    That can explain why the Republicans members of Congress and most Republicans, can not accept the reality of global warming. They are afraid of reality.

    To be a scientist you need to be open to reality, understand and accept facts, separate your personal bias from your research, and be willing to be found wrong if the evidence indicates so.

    Scientific inquiry is generally intended to be as objective as possible, to reduce biased interpretations of results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, giving them the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method)
    The open scientific method is unacceptable to most Republicans. This is why so few scientists are Republicans.

    Most Republicans are unable and unwilling to accept facts that do not agree with their ideology. And this ideology is based on the dreams of the inherent superiority of the US, and our “ability” to rule over nature.
    We all fear change. Our world was so secure. We won WWII, the “good war”. We were respected around the world. We went to the moon in a few years. We destroyed the Evil Empire. We were the center of the universe in our minds. We were Americans.

    All of these are changing rapidly; many of the things that formed the core of our everyday life are no longer able to hold us up. Terrorism shows our military weakness, our currency is weaker than the Euro, and the Chinese are the biggest producers in the world. Our wealth is flowing overseas in big chunks yearly. Our financial systems nearly collapse. Our homes are no longer our source of wealth. These are just some examples why we are so fearful.

    We try to hold on to the past to reduce our fear of the unknown future. Too many Republicans reject reality.
    Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
    Aldus Huxley

    We can not hold on to the past. It has never worked. Humans were able to leave their caves and create modern societies by rejecting superstition and accepting facts and using reason. This openness to facts eventually progressed to develop the scientific method which accepts the physical reality of our universe.

    Let’s be clear: Too many Democrats are also unable to fully grasp the danger and reality of Global Warming. If they did their Congresspersons would not be so reluctant to fight GW on the scale it must be fought.
    Of all advanced countries, only the US is refusing to do anything about GW!

    Our self centeredness is deteriorating the global climate and increasing human suffering day by day.

  2. Michael T. says:

    NOAA/NCDC reports on 2010 U.S. climate:

    U.S. State of the Climate National Overview – Annual 2010
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/

    In 2010, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average annual temperature of 53.8 degrees F (12.1 degrees C) was 1.0 degrees F (0.6 degrees C) above normal, and was the 23rd warmest year on record. Since 1895, the CONUS has observed a long-term temperature increase of about 0.12 degrees F (0.07 degrees C) per decade. Precipitation across the CONUS in 2010 was 1.02 inches (25.9 mm) above the long-term average (LTA). Over the long-term, precipitation averaged across the CONUS, is increasing at a rate of about 0.18 inches (4.6 mm) per decade.

    U.S. State of the Climate National Overview – December 2010
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/2010/12

    •The national temperature, when averaged across the contiguous U.S., was near normal in December, only 0.4 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) below the long-term average.
    •Regionally, temperatures in the Southwest (2nd warmest) and West (10th warmest) climate regions were much above normal. In contrast, much below normal temperatures dominated the Southeast (3rd coldest) and Central (9th coldest) climate regions.

    U.S. Temperature/Precipitation Time Series graphs
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/temp-and-precip/time-series/

    U.S. Climate at a Glance
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/cag3.html

  3. fj3 says:

    #1. Matania Ginosar, “. . . Republicans are in control” is an oxymoron!

  4. Ziyu says:

    Forget investing in renewable energy. The US is still subsidizing fossil fuels!
    http://solveclimatenews.com/news/20110114/obama-can-cut-fossil-fuel-subsidies-and-save-39-billion-will-congress-go-along
    This issue needs to be addressed immediately. Will the TP follow through on its deficit reduction pledges or will they bow to their pollutocrat masters? A removal of fossil fuel subsidies could reduce emissions by 10% by 2050. This is by far the most fossil fueled Congress ever but hope on some kind of action is not lost.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Far better to eliminate all forms of subsidies, preferences and tas breaks for all forms of energy production and transportation.

    Also, add a FCOAD fee. Use the proceeds to finance air capture of CO2.

  6. Ziyu says:

    I have an upcoming debate. I need some impact evidence that says how many people could die if global warming is not stopped. Preferably a worst case scenario evidence. If anyone has the evidence, please post it.

  7. Solar Jim says:

    RE: Ziyu

    You ask an unknowable question (for your debate) about a worst case scenario. Given the perspective of a large exponential response and observations of other planets, I’m afraid there are no known upper bounds with our present understanding. For example, grain crops will fail to germinate when exposed to relatively short periods of hot temperatures.

    We will all die some day. The question is the immorality of not passing on a livable planet for people and much of the millions of other species on Earth (the result of some 3.5 billion years of evolution, and which are completely unique in the universe).

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Ziyu @7 — Dr. Dai’s study only used a moderate growth scenario but even that brings an end to civilization by around 2050 CE; nothing to eat. See
    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/20/ncar-daidrought-under-global-warming-a-review/

    We hafta start putting the carbon contamination back underground.

  9. Solar Jim says:

    “always seem to come out the big winners in the $20 billion annual energy subsidy game.”

    It is possible to make the case, on an economic basis, that this figure could be increased by as much as a factor of ten, or even a factor of one hundred. Without a reference the author makes a valid, but somewhat timid, argument. If we have subsidized CONG with trillions over the past century, why not subsidize conservation, efficiency and renewables with the same for “fairness?” Energy policy is quite subjective.

    Of course, for those of us who want “clean energy” this rules out fossil gas and atomic uranium. It seems clear these resource costs will increase with time. Most utilities do not understand this.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    All told, that means thermal energy storage at Andasol 1 or power plants like it costs roughly $50 per kilowatt-hour to install, according to NREL’s Glatzmaier.
    from
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-use-solar-energy-at-night

    Doesn’t matter how one energizes the storage unit. For example, excess power at any time, but typically at night, could be stored for use during periods of high demand.

  11. mike roddy says:

    China’s recent announcements are better than nothing, but they must stand up to their own coal industry, and soon.

  12. Re. 12- Mike roddy.
    China can’t do very much to reduce its GHG emissions since its first priority is to provide stable economic growth to its 800 millions poor majority.We need to work together to develop highly cost-effective solutions such as low-cost energy conservation, which they ignore in their massive housing construction, higher energy efficiency, which they try, but on a too small scale.
    The green energy sources must be low costs per kWh since there is no way they can supply enough energy to their growing economy at high costs.
    Wind energy in high wind locations is economical but grid costs and right-of-way are serious problems. Not only that, the wind power would change as GW changes our global weather.
    Silicon panel- based Photovoltaic systems are not cost effective by a wide margin and are mostly for show and make profit from selling it to the wealthy West. Nuclear at even the a costly $12 B per 1000 MW plant is cheaper per kWh by far from all green alternatives, as much as we wish we did not need it. But we do need nuclear.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Solar Jim #8, if I might quibble. Destroying the planet and causing the sixth great mass extinction of species including our own is not simply ‘immorality’. It is evil, and we’d better recognise what we are up against. The sin against the Holy Spirit, for which there can be no forgiveness, is the sin against life itself.

  14. Solar Jim says:

    Mulga,

    It seems the final cost for the “sin” of our societal “evil” (substantially from centralized nation-states and their contrived entities) will be Biblical fire, drought, rain and flood during this century. Almost as if the four horsemen have recently been loosed and are marching forth (pestilence, famine, war, death).

    These are times of corrupt “economics” as religious dogma and plutocracy (and financial dictatorship) labeled as democracy. Mined explosive materials are economically defined as “energy” making our economy based on explosives and contamination, which are leveraged by private indemnifications and public liabilities sanctioned by the state.

    Start sourcing your food locally and hope it doesn’t get washed out to sea.

    Regards, Solar Jim

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Solar Jim, I’ve just been watering the tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, zucchinis, capsicums and marrows and the carrots are coming up. I’ve taken Epicurus’ sage advice and am tending my own garden. The choko vines are beginning to climb the bushes and I’m thinking of doing something with all the crab apples and rose hips. Still, when the collapse comes, in the next few years, it will be dire if only because so many people have turned feral in recent years. For example, I’ve not yet replaced our chooks, the previous tribe having been killed by our tenant’s Rottweiler while we rented the place out. They also ran over one of our pear trees with their trail-bikes, and left the garden overgrown with weeds and littered with glass, plastic and other rubbish. No respect for life, you see.