Energy and global warming news for January 25, 2011: China leapfrogs U.S. wind power industry; U.K. report warns of global food shortages, price increases
"Energy and global warming news for January 25, 2011: China leapfrogs U.S. wind power industry; U.K. report warns of global food shortages, price increases"
Chinese turbines are now harnessing more wind power than machines installed in the U.S., according to a trade group Monday.
For the first time ever, the Asian giant’s capacity — the amount of electricity that can be generated using wind — blew past the U.S. to soar 62% to 41,800 megawatts. American-based turbines can produce up to 40,180 megawatts, a 15% jump from the beginning of 2010, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Assn.
The U.S. wind market had a rough year overall, ending 2010 with 5,115 megawatts of new installations — just half of the record amount put up in 2009. The fourth quarter saw just 3,195 megawatts erected, a slide from the 4,113 installed in the same period in 2009.
The association blamed short-lived government subsidies.
But after a key incentive, the 1603 federal Treasury grant program, was extended for a year in December, the wind industry began to perk up. As 2011 begins, roughly 5,600 megawatts of wind power capacity is under construction, the trade group said.
Global food supplies may not be enough to feed an expanding population and resources are being consumed more quickly than they are being replenished, a study commissioned by the British government said.
Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington said halving the amount of food waste by 2050 could boost today’s annual production by a quarter while lowering trade barriers for poor countries would help minimize future price shocks.
“Urgent change is required throughout the food system to bring sustainability center stage and end hunger,” Beddington said in a statement in London today. “It is also vital for other areas, such as climate change mitigation, conflict, and economic growth.”
The report said efforts to end hunger in the poorest parts of the world are “stalling” and prices may rise “substantially over the next 40 years” unless governments and producers take action. A billion people today are going hungry while another billion people are over-consuming.
Beddington said the sustainability of food production also needs to improve so that water and energy are used more efficiently. Steps to mitigate climate change are also needed to prevent food supplies being too small to feed a projected 9 billion people by 2050.
The United States would derive no meaningful military benefit from increased use of alternative fuels to power its jets, ships and other weapons systems, according to a government-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation scheduled for release Tuesday.
The report also argued that most alternative-fuel technologies were unproven, too expensive or too far from commercial scale to meet the military’s needs over the next decade.
In particular, the report argued that the Defense Department was spending too much time and money exploring experimental biofuels derived from sources like algae or the flowering plant camelina, and that more focus should be placed on energy efficiency as a way of combating greenhouse gas emissions.
The report urged Congress to reconsider the military’s budget for alternative-fuel projects. But if such fuels are to be pursued, the report concluded, the most economic, environmentally sound and near-term candidate would be a liquid fuel produced using a combination of coal and biomass, as well as some method for capturing and storing carbon emissions released during production.
Natural disasters caused $109 billion in economic damage last year, three times more than in 2009, with Chile and China bearing most of the cost, the United Nations said on Monday.
The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February cost $30 billion. Landslides and floods last summer in China caused $18 billion in losses, data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) showed.
Although Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake was the deadliest event of 2010, killing 316,000 people according to the government in Port-au-Prince, its economic toll was $8 billion. The July-August floods in Pakistan cost $9.5 billion.
Margareta Wahlstrom, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, said fast-developing countries were facing increasing price tags from natural disasters.
“The accumulated wealth that is affected by disaster events is growing,” she told a news briefing in Geneva, where most of the U.N.’s emergency and aid operations are based.
From his perch as chief economist for the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol is virtually shouting his global warming predictions from the Paris rooftops.
Unless the United States, Europe, China, India and the other emerging economies get on a crash course to slash greenhouse gases, Birol contends, world leaders can simply forget about one of their oft-talked-about goals: stabilizing the average global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius.
“As we stand now,” Birol said on Friday, “we’re only a few meters away from saying goodbye to the 2-degree target.”
In speeches in London and Abu Dhabi last week, and in an interview with ClimateWire, Birol said he’s trying to reach the energy markets. Oil prices are heavy on the minds of the world’s largest oil consumers. The U.S. economy is picking up, and China is lapping up as much oil as it can, as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries considers, once again, the prospect of $100 crude and faces pressure to boost production. Crude prices in Africa and Asia topped $100 a barrel Friday.
As economies churn, the push to limit emissions is faltering.
“The later we move, the more difficult it will be, especially in the United States,” Birol said. “There is a lot of infrastructure being built, lots of power plants. The later we move, the more expensive it will be.”
President Obama is likely to announce “major initiatives” on energy and climate change in his State of the Union address, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Monday.
Kerry, the informal leader of the Senate effort to pass legislation to rein in global warming, encouraged the president to announce ambitious plans on energy and climate policy during Tuesday’s speech, and said he expected Obama to do so.
“I hope that the president tomorrow, in his SOTU address, will embrace major initiatives “” I expect him to,” Kerry said on WBUR radio in reference to energy and climate legislation.
Kerry had sought, with the Obama administration’s support, to craft bipartisan legislation with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that addressed energy and climate issues. But those talks eventually collapsed, and Republican senators refused to agree to move ahead with a much more scaled-down energy bill toward the end of last year.
“I’m very frustrated that we weren’t able to achieve that,” Kerry said of last year’s stalled efforts.
Since that point, the elections put the House in GOP control and strengthened Republicans’ hand in the Senate, where they now control 47 seats. Those changes have led outside observers to conclude that new regulations would only be more difficult to pass through Congress. Nonetheless, Kerry said he was optimistic.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will introduce Tuesday a placeholder energy bill, the substance of which will be filled in later.
The bill will be one of 10 placeholder bills Reid will introduce Tuesday as he kicks off the legislative work of the 112th Congress. The energy bill will get the honor of being S.4, the fourth bill introduced in the new Congress. A Reid spokesman said the placeholders are “Senses of the Senate that highlight our priorities for the year.”
The introduction of the placeholder bill indicates that energy will have a significant place in this year’s policy debate in the chamber, despite last year’s failed attempt to pass a climate bill in the Senate. All the major players from last year’s climate talks – Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – say they want to be involved in this year’s energy debate.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), whose committee has jurisdiction over the issue, will be a co-sponsor of the placeholder legislation. Bingaman’s committee passed both a broad energy bill and an oil spill response bill in the last Congress, both with Republican support. It’s unclear what provisions from those bills will make their way into energy legislation. But Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker told The Hill that the senator has “a pair of other energy-themed bills that are almost ready for prime-time.”
Now that 2010 has gone down as one of history’s hottest years, many states are choosing not to wait for Congress to tackle global warming and are taking their own steps to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
States are increasingly adopting stricter, energy-saving building codes, spending more money (partly federal) on energy efficiency and prodding big polluters to cut heat-trapping emissions.
“This is ground-breaking work the states are doing to provide leadership,” says Kevin Kennedy of the California Air Resources Board, a state agency that approved rules in December to cut the state’s current carbon dioxide emissions 15% by 2020. This month, California began to require new TVs be more energy efficient, to phase out incandescent light bulbs (one year ahead of the national phase out) and to enforce a green building code for homes and businesses.
These efforts come as last year’s Democratic-controlled Congress failed to approve a climate change bill and the new GOP-led House of Representatives seeks to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions. They also come as data released this month by the National Climatic Data Center show 2010 tied with 2005 as the world’s warmest on record. Records began in 1880.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) formally unveiled a legislative package Monday that contained few surprises, is fairly modest in scope and seeks to bolster the administration’s job-creation efforts and “green energy” credentials.
The marquee legislation in the 15-bill package is a $100 million venture capital fund called InvestMaryland. The initiative, which O’Malley previously previewed, provides incentives for insurance companies to pay their tax liabilities in advance, providing capital for other Maryland businesses.
Another relatively high-profile bill announced Monday would seek to spur investment in offshore wind farms. The bill, which the administration held off on introducing, will direct state regulators to require Maryland’s five distribution utilities to award long-term contracts to procure specified amounts of wind energy.
Other environmentally forward-looking bills in O’Malley’s package seek to promote electric vehicles and solar water heating systems, through tax credits and other measures.
For an indication of whether China or the U.S. will lead the way in alternative energy capacity like windmills, it helps to check which way the wind is blowing – in Washington.
Last year China pulled ahead of the U.S. in installed wind power generating capacity, holding a margin of about 4%, according to figures published this month by industry associations in each country.
Policies in Washington may dictate how long China’s reign sustains. President Barack Obama is widely expected to ask Congress to fund renewable energy programs during this week’s State of the Union address. A significant, and consistent, push from Washington to support renewables””a major portion of which would inevitably come from wind-could be enough to erase China’s slim lead.
China had momentum last year, lifting wind power installations 62% by adding some 16,000 megawatts worth of windmill turbine power, for total installation of 41,800 megawatts, the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, or CREIA, said in a joint press release with Greenpeace.
President Barack Obama “vastly overestimated the support” for the climate-change legislation that failed last year and should now focus on the risks in U.S. dependence on foreign oil, Senator Richard Lugar said.
Obama should set a goal for producing competitively priced biofuels and promoting conservation to lower oil imports and save consumers money, Lugar, an Indiana Republican, said today at a conference in Washington sponsored by the Clean Economy Network Education Fund. Lugar said he’s working on legislation modeled after a bill he introduced in 2010 that called for more fuel-efficient vehicles and support for nuclear power.
The president’s “cap-and-trade” plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions never caught on with the public worried about the economy, Lugar told reporters after his address. Stressing security and cost savings may build support for energy proposals that would also have environmental benefits, Lugar said.
A bill to set U.S. caps on emissions and establish a trading market in pollution allowances passed the House of Representatives in 2009. The Senate dropped the measure in 2010.
Nikos Tornikidis, a trader of carbon emissions permits in the Czech Republic, was used to the ups and downs of Europe’s Emissions Trading System, a euro90 billion ($122 billion) online market splintered across 30 nations.
But the news last week that hackers had stolen euro7 million in emissions permits from his firm revealed just how vulnerable the market “” and his company’s money “” was.
“No one had any clue,” said Tornikidis, a portfolio manager at emissions permits trading company Blackstone Global Ventures, after alerting national authorities on Wednesday morning.
By evening, the emissions trading system “” the main tool in the continent’s fight against climate change and a role model for similar schemes in California, China and elsewhere “” had been shut down.
For at least a week, until Jan. 26, no trading can take place on the spot market. While investors can still buy and sell carbon futures and derivatives, which make up the vast majority of trades, no permits can be moved from one account to another.
The heart of the problem, experts say, is that security systems at some national registries, which manage companies’ accounts, are pervasively lax, that there is no hub for the market, no central clearing house, not even a single set of laws to define the legal status of emissions permits.
Spurred by huge natural-gas discoveries in the U.S., two companies are developing terminals along the Gulf Coast to export gas to Asia and, possibly, the Middle East.
If the plans go forward, the U.S. could become a major energy exporter, putting a dent in the U.S. trade deficit. While the U.S. is still the world’s largest importer of energy, mostly crude oil, it has also emerged in the past year as a growing exporter of coal, diesel and other fuels.
But some individuals and groups argue that the new facilities to export gas aren’t in the U.S.’s interest and don’t …
Shortly after it lifted off in February 2009, NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Antarctica. With that, a $250 million investment became scrap metal on the ocean floor and an effort to begin using satellites to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide and trace emission-reduction actions was dealt a huge setback.
Scientists say the information the OCO was intended to collect is a crucial piece of the data needed not only by those monitoring the Earth’s environment but also by federal officials struggling to understand possible national security implications of those climate changes.
But the OCO’s failure highlighted an even broader problem: Understanding climate change requires a breadth of information on variables from atmospheric carbon dioxide to the condition of Arctic ice, and scientists say that satellites are vital for this. Yet at a time where the massive Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica seems intact one day and then collapses into the sea the next, the system of continuous, reliable satellite observation of Earth is at risk, with some aging satellites in dire need of replacement.
The OCO was “the only satellite in the world that will do the kind of global collection we need,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and one of the authors of a 2010 report on satellite monitoring of climate change. “And we haven’t thought about how to replace it.”
Berrien Moore III, an earth scientist who co-chaired a National Research Council committee several years ago on space-based observation of Earth, said climate change predictions based on mathematical models have failed to capture how quickly sea ice would decline. “Thank God for the [satellite] observations, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known this is going on,” said Moore, vice president for weather and climate programs at the University of Oklahoma.
California and federal regulators will buddy-up when they release new clean car standards this fall, three state and national agencies said Monday.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation will coordinate with the California Air Resources Board when they simultaneously release proposed rules for vehicle fuel economy and carbon emissions on Sept. 1.
California has long been an early adopter of similar guidelines and is known for regulations that are often the strictest in the country. By agreeing to reschedule its announcement from the original March date, the state could be hoping to influence how the federal standards are developed, industry experts suggested.
“The vehicle manufacturers would certainly prefer a single national standard,” said John Boesel, chief executive of Calstart, a clean-transportation technology trade group based in Pasadena. “The California policymakers, if they agree to a single standard, would want to ensure it’s demanding enough to address the state’s very serious air pollution challenges.”
A suggestion floated this fall from the Obama administration that new cars be required to reach 62 miles per gallon by 2025 met with backlash from the auto industry.
The EPA and the DOT had originally aimed for Sept. 30 to release their proposals, which will affect cars and light trucks in the 2017 to 2025 model years. The federal agencies say that the current standards for the 2012 to 2016 model years, adopted in April, will eventually save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and avert 960 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
This week President Obama will deliver his State of the Union. The most remembered addresses are the ones that inspire and challenge us. Today, America needs to be challenged and inspired. I believe today’s challenge rests in clean and affordable energy and the inspiration to achieve it can come through a speech coupled with a call to action.
The key to prosperity lies in innovation and invention.
In the 1800s with the invention of the internal combustion engine, (one that runs on fossil fuel) and the adaptation of that engine to people moving, the world was forever changed.
By 1896, an American inventor and automobile pioneer named Henry Ford had built his first horseless carriage. In 1903 he incorporated the Ford Motor Company. He saw that this new invention of moving people by engine had the potential to revolutionize America and the world. He knew that a people mover that most Americans could afford and was able to be powered by cheap and abundant fuel would create a new and vast market almost overnight. Henry Ford’s application of the assembly line process of car building was as revolutionary as the invention of the internal combustion engine itself. By 1914, the assembly of a Model T was so effective that it took a mere 93 minutes to build a car.