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Global News: Australia Passes Carbon Credit Law, CO2 Price is Next; Solar Could Match Coal’s Price by 2015 in China

By Energy Interns  

"Global News: Australia Passes Carbon Credit Law, CO2 Price is Next; Solar Could Match Coal’s Price by 2015 in China"

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Australia passes CO2 offset laws, carbon pricing next

Australia’s parliament endorsed the world’s first national scheme that regulates the creation and trade of carbon credits from farming and forestry on Monday, to complement government plans to put a price on carbon emissions from mid-2012.

The laws, the first major bills passed by the government with Greens support in the Senate since the Greens took the balance of power on July 1, are a precursor to the carbon price legislation to be put before parliament later this year.

Known as the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), the new laws allow farmers and investors to generate tradeable carbon offsets from farmland and forestry projects. Land use including agriculture accounts for 23 percent of Australian emissions.

“Green carbon is one of the four pillars of the climate package, alongside putting a price on pollution and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said.

“The passing of this bill augurs well for passing of the whole package.”

Report: Solar energy could match coal’s price by 2015 in China; globally by 2020

A new report from the Chinese government notes that the cost of solar power in that country could drop below 0.80 yuan (12.5 cents) per kilowatt-hour by 2015. At that price, solar matches up favorably with the current go-to source for cheap energy, coal. How? Well, China already expects to double its solar-electric capacity by the end of the year and is providing incentives for further growth.

This follows a report issued last April in which Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected that solar power could be price competitive with coal around the world by 2020. Both large-scale installations and rooftop solar have seen a steady decrease in cost that is expected to continue for several years. According to Bloomberg’s numbers, the true cost of retail electricity from solar may already rival that of coal.

Over the next two years, the rate of solar panel installation is expected to surge as prices continue a steady decline while performance and availability improve. For decades, coal has been cheap to use, but the high initial cost of constructing coal plants, the current low cost for natural gas, and plunging prices for renewables have made building new coal plants a risky proposition. As a result, many proposed coal plants in the United States have been canceled. China has constructed hundreds of new coal plants to feed that nation’s rapidly increasing demand for electricity, but the result has been high levels of pollution (and high numbers of mining deaths). With the parity in prices, China may now move its power demand toward solar.

Report: Electricity consumption up 12.2% in China in 2011

China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced on Sunday that the nation’s total consumption of electricity from January 2011 through the end of July shot up approximately 12.2 percent when compared to the same time frame in 2010. It’s estimated that China consumed nearly 2.69 trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in the first seven months of 2011. In July alone, electricity consumption was up a staggering 11.8 percent year-over-year, coming in at 434.9 billion kWh, according to the NEA.

With consumption of electricity rising rapidly, some analysts doubt China’s grid could support an influx of plug-in vehicles and, with the vast majority of the nation’s energy coming from coal, we’d question whether plug-in vehicles should even play a role in the moving forward of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Apparently, we’re not alone on this one.

ConocoPhillips finds 9 new leaks in China oil spill

US oil giant ConocoPhillips, already facing legal action and mounting public anger over a huge oil spill off China’s northeast coast, has found nine new leaks in the same area, authorities said.

The State Oceanic Administration said on Saturday ConocoPhillips had reported the leakages near a platform in Bohai Bay jointly owned by the American company and China’s CNOOC. Further details were not provided.

ConocoPhillips has said more than 2,100 barrels of oil and oil-based mud — a substance used as a lubricant in undersea drilling — have leaked from two platforms, reportedly polluting beaches and killing marine life in the area.

The SOA — which supervises and manages China’s seas — said last week it planned to sue ConocoPhillips over the spill which was first detected in early June.

Fishermen in the Shandong, Hebei and Liaoning provinces that border Bohai Bay, east of Beijing, allege that oil from the leaks has killed a large part of their harvest of such seafood as scallops.

Hopes low before South Africa climate change talks

South Africa’s foreign minister said Monday she is hoping for compromise but expects only incremental progress in climate change talks she’s hosting, further lowering hopes the Durban meeting will produce a dramatic agreement to stop global warming.

There are fears that “politics cannot deliver on what science requires,” Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told South African business leaders in a speech Monday.

She was speaking three months before talks in Durban that follow a failed round in Copenhagen in 2009 that undermined confidence the world could produce a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto provisions capping greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries expire in 2012.

Talks in Mexico last year ended with a sense progress could be made.

“I will need to find compromises that will protect the integrity of the process,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

She added that developing countries in Africa and elsewhere also expect her to champion their calls for industrialized nations to deliver money and technology to help them develop clean industries and cope with the droughts, floods and other disruptions associated with global warming. The developing world is seen as suffering disproportionately from climate change because of poverty and other weaknesses.

Difficult questions were left after Mexico, Nkoana-Mashabane said.

“It is now left for us to solve all this in Durban, or at least set mechanisms in motion” to address challenges that touch on economics and politics.

Plan to sacrifice forest for sugar puts economy before ecosphere in Uganda

As Uganda grapples with an acute shortage of sugar that has caused prices to more than double in a year, President Yoweri Museveni has deemed the timing perfect to resurrect his plan to convert a quarter of a major natural forest into a sugarcane plantation.

Underlying Museveni’s plan is an obvious conflict of economic and environmental imperatives. Environmental authorities say that Uganda, with the world’s third-fastest growing population, loses 2% of its forest cover annually; 10% of this vanishes from protected areas like Mabira, thanks to logging and human settlement. The National Forestry Authority (NFA) highlights warnings by some experts that, at the current rate, the country could have no forests by 2050.

But Museveni last week told local leaders that the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), owned by the Mehta family, would be given about 7,100 hectares of the 30,000-hectare Mabira forest to expand its cane plantations. The move, which has been condemned by conservation groups and the political opposition, is not new. In 2007, three people died during demonstrations against Museveni’s intention to turn over the land, located 55km east of the capital Kampala, to SCOUL.

Vietnam’s rice bowl threatened by rising seas

Sitting amid buckets of rice in the market, Nguyen Thi Lim Lien issues a warning she desperately hopes the world will hear: climate change is turning the rivers of the Mekong Delta salty.

“The government tells us that there are three grams of salt per litre of fresh water in the rivers now,” she says. “Gradually more and more people are affected. Those nearest the sea are the most affected now, but soon the whole province will be hit.”

The vast, humid expanse of the delta is home to more than 17 million people, who have relied for generations on its thousands of river arteries. But rising sea water caused by global warming is now increasing the salt content of the river water and threatening the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers and fishermen.

Vietnam is listed by the World Bank among the countries most threatened by rising waters brought about by higher global temperatures, with only the Bahamas more vulnerable to a one-metre rise in sea levels. Such a rise could leave a third of the Mekong Delta underwater and lead to mass internal migration and devastation in a region that produces nearly half of Vietnam’s rice.

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