"Energy and global warming news for January 31, 2011: Deep recession fails to reverse rising global emissions, as China’s CO2 surges 13%; Eco-friendly 7-Elevens"
China now surpasses U.S. emissions by over 40%!
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The deepest recession since the 1930s has failed to reverse rising global carbon emissions, as plummeting industrial output in the west was offset by the continuing rapid expansion of China and a handful of other emerging economies, new statistics for 2009 show.
While US emissions fell substantially in 2009, to levels not seen since 1995-96, China surged ahead with an increase of more than 13% on the previous year – the equivalent of adding the yearly emissions of Germany, Greece and Peru combined.
Europe, Russia, Canada and South Africa saw their emissions dip, and India has risen to third place in the league table, with the strong growth in its carbon output driven by a ramping-up of coal burning to generate power.
Overall, by these estimates, global emissions fell by a tiny 0.1%. For short periods in the wake of less severe recessions, such as those in 1981-83, and 1991-92, emissions fell more steeply only to continue their upward trend shortly afterwards.
These statistics, from the US Energy Information Administration, track only carbon dioxide emitted by energy use – such as from coal and gas power stations, and motor vehicles. They exclude emissions from other sources such as methane from livestock, and deforestation.
The map reveals how heavily future emissions trends depend on China, which overtook the US as the world’s biggest emitter in 2006-07. China’s emissions have so far risen just as fast as its runaway economic growth, but the government is hoping to “decouple” the two in the next decade, reducing the country’s emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45% by 2020, compared with 2005 levels. Doing so will be essential if global greenhouse gas emissions are to fall in line with scientific warnings.
After taking a months-long break from energy negotiations, senators appear poised to restart debate on some of President Obama’s so-called bite-sized pieces of energy legislation.
The “chunk” of energy policy that has gotten the most buzz in recent days is the proposal for a “clean energy” mandate, which Obama touted high up in his State of the Union speech last week.
The idea would require utilities to generate a certain percentage of their electricity from low-carbon sources, like renewables, nuclear or “clean coal.” The president’s promotion of such a policy in his prime-time address buoyed the hopes of many environmentalists and renewable energy advocates who had all but given up on seeing substantial energy legislation move through the closely divided Senate or Republican House this year.
But such a proposal still has naysayers. And the details are far from finalized.
For one, the White House and Congress have yet to firmly establish which energy sources would be considered “clean” under such a mandate. And Obama’s proposal to produce 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean sources by 2035 is seen by some would-be champions on Capitol Hill as being too aggressive.
At the 7-Eleven across from the Shusse Inari shrine here, the glare of fluorescent light bulbs that is synonymous with convenience stores has been replaced by the soft glow of light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, that consume half the energy and last much longer.
The store, which opened a year ago here in the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol, is the prototype of the latest eco-friendly 7-Eleven, one of 100 that will be open in Japan by the end of February.
An ambitious green project calls for the company to build 100 more such stores in the country this year and to convert another 100 existing outlets into “eco-konbinis” “” the Japanese term for convenience store “” powered by solar energy and equipped with electric-vehicle chargers. The plan is to continue that pattern in the years ahead.
At that rate, it would take more than half a century to turn the 12,000 7-Elevens in Japan green, but the company says that as the costs of outfitting a store come down, the number of conversions is expected to go up.
And refitting a mere 100 stores as eco-konbinis will cut carbon emissions significantly “” the equivalent of taking about 600 cars off the road, according to Ken Zweibel, director of the Institute for Analysis of Solar Energy at George Washington University in Washington.
States say electric grid tops their priority list (subs. req’d)
The country’s electricity transmission system is the top issue in the energy and environment arena facing states in 2011, according to the Council of State Governments.
With the end of Recovery Act dollars and state budgets still facing gaping holes, the council recently released a study highlighting the top five issues in various policy areas affecting states.
“States face a variety of challenges in the energy and environment arena in 2011, many of them long-standing issues that are now reaching a critical stage where action is needed to prevent worsening impacts,” the council’s study begins. “Many, however, also present an opportunity for states to stimulate job creation and create clean energy. Since many of the issues interlink, action taken in one area will often affect the others.”
Like the country’s outdated electricity transmission system, many of the problems are longstanding and require cohesive and comprehensive solutions, CSG officials said.
Of the electricity transmission system, the council said that current estimates show that it will take at least $55 billion to maintain and expand the grid to meet just current and short-term energy needs.
“These are long-standing issues impacting the environment and energy sector,” said John Mountjoy, CSG’s director of policy and research. “States are having to balance how to generate the revenue it would take to upgrade the grid with the nation’s ailing economy. If states succeed in growing more manufacturing, more businesses, that naturally will require a greater demand on energy. But without the income provided by those new industries, it’s hard to come up with funding to improve the grid. It’s a real Catch-22 and another example of how we are struggling across the country with an aging infrastructure.”
EPA’s Jackson summoned to discuss chemicals in tap water (subs. req’d)
With the Obama administration moving toward stricter rules on a pair of toxic chemicals that have been found in public water supplies, the head of U.S. EPA has been summoned to Capitol Hill to explain the agency’s plans to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
That issue has emerged as a priority for EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) early in the new Congress. Last week, she introduced bills that would require EPA to set standards for perchlorate, a rocket-fuel component that is believed to have contaminated water supplies in at least 35 states, and chromium-6, a chemical that is suspected to cause cancer and was recently found in the water of about 30 U.S. cities.
Boxer’s bills would force the hand of the Obama administration, which is already considering limiting the two chemicals.
For three months now, the White House has been reviewing an EPA decision on perchlorate. The agency is expected to reverse the George W. Bush-era decision not to regulate the chemical under the Safe Water Drinking Act.
EPA is also planning to release a peer-reviewed analysis of chromium-6, which was classified as a probable carcinogen in a draft report last September. Based on staffers’ findings, “it is likely that EPA will tighten drinking water standards to address the health risks” of the toxic chemical, according to a summary of a meeting last month between Jackson and 10 senators (E&ENews PM, Dec. 22, 2010).
High-profile reports on the spread of both chemicals have recently prompted action in Boxer’s home state of California. One study came from the Environmental Working Group, which found that U.S. cities including Los Angeles have elevated levels of chromium-6 in drinking water.