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Energy and Global Warming News for April 7: New Poll of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Finds Overwhelming Support For Clean Energy and Climate Legislation

By Climate Guest Contributor on April 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

"Energy and Global Warming News for April 7: New Poll of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Finds Overwhelming Support For Clean Energy and Climate Legislation"

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Poll shows vets back energy bill; cite national security

A compelling new poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans finds that 73 percent of them support Clean Energy Climate Change legislation in Congress, 79 percent believe ending our dependence on foreign oil is important to national security, and 67 percent support the argument that such legislation will help their own economic prospects.

The poll was conducted by Lake Research Group for VoteVets.org In February, and is made up of 45 percent self-identified Republicans, 25 percent Independents, and 20 percent Democrats.  The full memo detailing the results is below.

“This poll confirms what we always knew was true – veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know, first-hand, the destructive effect our dependence on oil has on our national security, and on the battlefield,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org.  “They are well aware of arguments made in favor and against bi-partisan clean energy and climate change legislation, and firmly fall into the group of Americans supportive of passing that comprehensive legislation.  Veterans of the wars we’re fighting want legislation passed now.”

Indeed, an overwhelming majority of veterans said that they supported the view that our national security was adversely affected by our dependence on foreign oil – by a 79-14 percent margin.

Yet, veterans do not believe that the answer is just more drilling.  When asked the question, “Do you favor or oppose a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill that invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America and limits carbon pollution in the atmosphere?” Seventy-three percent of veterans supported the bill, while only 22 percent opposed.

VoteVets.org also announced today that it is running new television and internet ads, nationally, and in Alaska, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and North Dakota supporting energy reform policies as a matter of security.  The ads are co-sponsored with Operation Free.

The ad can be viewed here: www.billiondollarsaday.com

The ad features Iraq War and US Army Veteran Christopher Miller, who earned a Purple Heart as the result of an explosion from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Miller then highlights the destructive potential of a newer and more powerful explosive device, the Explosively Formed Projectile (EFP), which was brought to Iraq from Iran and then used against our troops.  Photos and news clips show the deadly capability of the weapon.

Miller notes that every time the price of a barrel of oil increases $1, Iran makes another $1.5 billion, enhancing their ability to create weapons to be used against our troops. The world oil market depends greatly upon Iranian supply and the United States, as the top consumer of oil in the world, significantly drives up oil prices.

The ad concludes by telling our leaders, “It’s time stand up for America’s Security.”

VoteVets.org is a pro-military organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, dedicated to the destruction of terror networks around the world, with force when necessary.  It primarily focuses on education and advocacy on issues of importance to the troops and veterans, and holding politicians accountable for their actions on these issues.

European satellite to watch ice for climate change

Scientists’ hope of pinning down more precisely the effects of global warming on the globe’s ice packs are riding with a satellite that the European Space Agency will launch this week.

The CryoSat 2 mission is to start Thursday. It is designed to pinpoint details of changes in polar ice and help fill in gaps in an alarming picture of retreating ice caps. Though most scientists agree global warming drastically affects the Earth’s ice shields, many also say too little is known with certainty.

CryoSat 2 will use radar technology from 720 kilometers (447 miles) above Earth’s surface to measure the thickness of land and floating ice and pinpoint changes to within 1 centimeter (0.4 inch).

“Adaptation requires a large population. Otherwise they’ll go extinct,” he said.

Nevada tree plantation to help fight deforestation

An international forestry company embarking on a global effort to accumulate carbon credits while slowing deforestation has picked an unlikely site for the first of up to 100,000 acres of tree plantations it intends to grow on U.S. soil in the coming years.

ECO2 Forests Inc. announced plans Tuesday to plant up to 3 million trees over the next seven years at irrigated tree farms in northern Nevada’s high desert covering a total of up to 21 square miles north of Reno, an area about the size of the island of Bermuda.

The Sacramento, Calif.-based company, in conjunction with land owners collectively named Jaksick Entities, has acquired the water rights needed to launch the first of seven, 2,000-acre plantations in May to grow kiri trees.

The kiri (pronounced kih-REE’) is a fast growing, broad-leafed hardwood that is native to China and naturally regenerates from the stump after harvest, EC02 Forests officials said.

It grows up to 20 feet the first year, up to 80 feet tall and 20 inches thick by the end of the seven-year harvesting cycle and captures as much or more carbon than any other tree currently known, said Collie Christensen, ECO2 Forests’ chief executive officer.

He projects annual revenue of $225 million at the Nevada site: $12 million in carbon credit sales and $213 million in sales of sustainable lumber.

“By growing our sustainable forests we can help stop the logging of forests that have existed for hundreds of years and enjoyed by thousands of families every year,” Christensen said.

“Due to the specific regenerative nature of the kiri tree being planted and its ability to regrow from the stump after each harvest, the project should endure for approximately 50 years and then can be extended again by replanting,” he said.

What Is Geoengineering and Why Is It Considered a Climate Change Solution?

When a report on climate change hit the U.S. president’s desk, the suggestion was not to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, scientific advisors counseled intervention via technology in the climate system itself””a practice now known as geoengineering. And the president was not Barack Obama, George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton””it was Lyndon Johnson in 1965.

“This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through”¦a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels,” President Johnson told Congress in February of that year. To address the problem, his science advisors suggested spreading reflective particles over 13 million square kilometers of ocean in order to reflect an extra 1 percent of sunlight away from Earth.

Today, with climate change accelerating and little being done to curb the greenhouse gas emissions, some scientists have resurrected the idea of “deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment,” as the U.K.’s Royal Society puts it. After all, it’s an idea nearly as old as the understanding of the physical principles behind global warming itself. Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius thought that global warming would be a boon to humanity and therefore fossil fuel burning should be encouraged, after calculating by hand the likely temperature impact of continued coal-burning and rising carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the late 19th century””roughly matching the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their computer models more than a century later.

That’s why 175 scientists and other interested folks (including companies looking to profit from geoengineering) gathered in the Asilomar conference center near the end of March to try to repeat the success of molecular biologists who gathered there in 1975 to reassure a skeptical public about genetic engineering. Ultimately, the gathered would-be geoengineersreleased a statement calling for, among other things, “further research in all relevant disciplines to better understand and communicate whether additional strategies to moderate future climate change are, or are not, viable, appropriate and ethical.”

The list of unintended consequences of human manipulation of natural systems is long: concrete jungles creating urban heat islands, vast oceanic dead zones resulting from fertilizer use on inland agricultural fields, and intentionally introduced species, such as the cane toad in Australia, that then wreak havoc on ecosystems, among others. Whether the idea is to mimic a volcano’s cooling impact on climate by continuously pumping sulfates into the stratosphere or to brighten clouds via crewless ships spewing water vapor, possible problems range from shutting down rainfall in certain regions to unilateral declarations of war.

As the Royal Society noted in its 2009 report on geoengineering: “The safest and most predictable method of moderating climate change is to take early and effective action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. No geoengineering method can provide an easy or readily acceptable alternative solution to the problem of climate change.”

Study Says U.S. Waterways Are Warming

Many streams and rivers in the United States are getting warmer, with the greatest increases in urbanized areas, according to research to be publishedin an upcoming edition of the journal Frontiers of the Ecology and the Environment.

Twenty major streams and rivers, including the Colorado, Potomac, Delaware and Hudson Rivers, are warming at statistically significant rates, the study found.

Increases in water temperature were often directly correlated to increases in air temperature and high levels of urbanization, said Sujay Kaushal, the paper’s lead author and a professor at University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science.

“We found the most rapid rates of increase in urban areas “” this may be related to ‘urban heat island effects,’ from buildings, parking lots and pavements,” he said.

The researchers compiled all the historical data they could find, which in some cases included 50 to 90 years of water measurements. The vast majority of data was from the last 10 years. They found that the annual mean water temperature increase is between 0.02 to 0.14 degrees per year.

Midsize Energy Companies Focus on North Sea

Midsize independent energy companies are looking to boost their investments in the North Sea by taking advantage of areas put up for sale by international oil companies, even as overall oil and gas output in the region is expected to keep falling.

Production from U.K. waters fell 5.1% to just over 1.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2009, including a 14.3% fall in natural gas production to its lowest level since 1993, according to the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Rahall to probe ‘inadequacies’ in law and enforcement after mining tragedy

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday pledged to “look for inadequacies in the law and enforcement practices” following the West Virginia mining accident that killed 25 workers.

Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch Mine, site of the explosion Monday, is in Rahall’s district. Rahall, noting West Virginia is in mourning, vowed to review health and safety violations at the mine to see whether laws were “circumvented.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) has dispatched two committee investigators to the scene, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Massey Energy has litany of critics, violations

Massey Energy, owner of the coal mine where at least 25 miners died this week, and its outspoken chief executive, Don Blankenship, have long been lightning rods for critics of the coal industry.

And although the company says that its safety record is better than the industry average, Massey has frequently been cited for safety violations, including about 50 citations at the Upper Big Branch mine in March alone. Many of those 50 citations were for poor ventilation of dust and methane, failure to maintain proper escape ways, and the accumulation of combustible materials.

The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the mine for 1,342 safety violations from 2005 through Monday for a total of $1.89 million in proposed fines, according to federal records. The company has contested 422 of those violations, totaling $742,830 in proposed penalties, according to federal officials.

Blankenship has called congressional Democrats seeking climate change legislation “greeniacs” and “all crazy.” He’s said, “I don’t believe that climate change is real,” and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) “don’t know what they’re talking about.” And in a video promoting a Labor Day music and political event last year, he said, “We’re going to have Hank Williams and a very good time, but we’re also going to learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your job.”

He has also thrown his weight around West Virginia, shelling out more than $3 million of his own money for ads to help defeat a West Virginia state Supreme Court justice. Blankenship expected the justice to rule against Massey in an appeal of a $50 million award for a small coal company owner, who convinced a jury that Massey had driven his company into bankruptcy. The new judge cast the deciding vote against the $50 million award. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that the new judge should have recused himself.

EPA rules on smokestack greenhouse gases out soon

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon issue rules that will determine which power plants and factories will face greenhouse gas regulations, an agency official said on Tuesday.

The measure, known as the “tailoring rule,” will set emissions thresholds for the big emitters of gases blamed for warming the planet, such as coal-fired power plants and plants that make cement and glass.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said earlier this year that only plants that emit 75,000 tonnes per year or more of carbon dioxide are likely to be regulated under the rule in the next two years. The EPA wants to limit U.S. Clean Air Act regulations, or “tailor” them, so they apply only to larger polluters to avoid overwhelming federal and state agencies with paperwork.

“We’re expecting that rule to be done very shortly, hopefully by the end of the month,” said Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, told a conference.

Regulated plants would be required to hold permits demonstrating that they are using the latest technology to pare back emissions. They could also face other future EPA greenhouse gas regulations if Congress fails to pass a climate bill.

The Obama administration has long said it prefers that Congress pass legislation to limit greenhouse gases.

But with climate legislation stalled in Congress, the EPA has begun to issue rules that are expected to help cut emissions — which has angered some U.S. lawmakers and industry.

The 75,000 tonne threshold could lead to a rash of lawsuits against the EPA as it pits big power plants against small ones, said Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners.

Companies such as Calpine Corp, Southern, Dynegy Inc may benefit because they have “peaker” power plants that only run during times of heavy demand. The plants rake in profits during high times of high power demand but they may escape regulations because their annual emissions are small.

But any company that owns huge power plants that are on most of the time, including the above ones, could face additional costs that small plants would avoid, Book said.

Nonprofit Group Will Prod Companies to Report Their Water Use

The Carbon Disclosure Project, an investor-backed nonprofit organization that has persuaded some of the world’s largest corporations to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, will announce on Wednesday that it is asking 302 global companies to begin issuing detailed reports on their water use.

The move begins a campaign to put water consumption on par with carbon emissions as a concern of company shareholders. Scientists predict climate change will aggravate worldwide water shortages in the coming decades.

“For investors, it’s a material issue,” Marcus Norton, head of the new project, called C.D.P. Water Disclosure, said in an interview by phone from London. “It matters because long-term investors in particular see that water scarcity is going to impact companies’ operations and supply chains.”

Companies increasingly are running into water-related obstacles. Last week, New York State denied a permit forEntergy‘s Indian Point nuclear power plant because of its enormous consumption of cooling water.

A few days earlier, the Environmental Protection Agencyissued new water quality rules that could limit mining company operations. And in California, regulators recently pressured the utility giant FPL Group to use more water-efficient technology in a solar power plant project while denying access to water supplies to other developers.

Norges Bank Investment Management in Oslo has identified 1,100 companies in its portfolio facing water risks, according to Anne Kvam, global head of ownership strategies for the bank, which manages $441 billion.

“As investors, we need to know if companies are in industry sectors or regions where water supplies are scarce and how they are managing those supplies,” Ms. Kvam said. “It’s a challenging thing to get good information about water management.”

The Carbon Disclosure Project has sent an 11-page questionnaire on behalf of 137 international financial institutions to major corporations involved in water-intensive industries, like auto manufacturing, electric utilities, food and beverages, mining, oil and gas production, and pharmaceuticals.

Among other questions, the survey asks companies to identify the percentage of their operations in the world’s water-stressed areas and the portion of their water use that comes from those regions. The project also wants corporations to detail their water use, recycling and discharges into or near wildlife habitats as well as list water-related risks and opportunities and the policies or strategies they have put in place.

“Please describe any detrimental impacts to business related to water your company has faced in the past five years, their financial impacts and whether they have resulted in any changes to company practices,” states one question.

Wind energy needs uniform laws, group says

Congress should make renewable energy standards uniform and give federal regulators the power to oversee the building of a multistate transmission line eastward from Iowa and the Upper Midwest, the head of the nation’s largest wind energy group said Tuesday.

“We can’t have all the state regulators saying grace over what should be a federal policy,” said Denise Bode, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association, at a wind conference Tuesday in Ames sponsored by the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation.

She said that traditionally, states have had the right to oversee transmission networks within their borders through their utility regulators.

Electricity transmission grids seldom cross state lines, except in sparsely settled states west of the Rocky Mountains and parts of New England.

“But we need an upgrade of the transmission system along the lines of the interstate highway system,” Bode said. “Our transmission system now in use was built mostly in the 1940s and is just a blackout waiting to happen.”

Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota are promoting a transmission line that would carry the surplus of wind-generated electricity from the Great Plains to Chicago and points east.

“We stand ready to be a net exporter of energy,” Gov. Chet Culver told the conference.

Iowa is second nationally in wind electricity generating capacity, with 2,300 megawatts. An additional 1,000 megawatts has been approved by the Iowa Utilities Board.

Culver and other Iowa wind boosters envision Iowa reaping the benefit of sales of surplus electricity in a manner similar to the benefits long enjoyed by oil- and gas-rich states.

But governors and utility executives along the Atlantic seaboard resist being asked to pay for such a line. Officials in many Atlantic states want to tap the potential of offshore wind near the Atlantic coast, rather than buying electricity from the Midwest.

Migratory Birds’ New Climate Change Strategy: Stay Home

Birds may have an unexpected strategy for adapting to climate change. In addition to migrating at different times to newly hospitable locales, they may also shorten their migrations, expending energy on breeding and eating rather than flying.

“There’s lots of data on bird arrival and bird breeding times, and that gives the impression that these are the most important phenomena,” said zoologist Francisco Pulido of the Complutense University of Madrid. The basic impulse to migrate is likely just as important, “but it’s been much more difficult to show, and so it hasn’t been appreciated,” he said.

Pulido and Max Planck Institute ornithologist Peter Berthold describe patterns found in 13 years of data from a southern German population of blackcaps, a common migratory songbird, in a study published April 5 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As temperatures in central Europe have risen, blackcaps have arrived earlier at summertime breeding areas and departed later for their winter homes. Some researchers have predicted blackcaps would also migrate over ever-shorter distances, and in some cases stop altogether, allowing them to save energy and concentrate on finding food and mates. But this hadn’t been tested.

To gauge the birds’ migratory energies, Pulido and Berthold removed a few hundred blackcaps from the local population each summer. As captive birds are restless during the time they would typically be migrating, the researchers used them to measure the duration of wild migrations. These dropped slowly but steadily between 1988 and 2001, in keeping with predictions.

(Most of the captured birds were released at the end of each season, eventually catching up to their compatriots.)

In a second part of the study, Pulido and Berthold bred the most sedentary blackcaps. They wanted to accelerate the natural trend, seeing in a few years what would normally take decades. From this, they extrapolated that some blackcap populations could stop migrating altogether within 40 to 50 years. Other birds may do the same.

The next step in the research is connecting changes in migratory impulse to other adapations. Pulido speculates that shorter distances facilitate earlier arrivals, which in turn alter patterns of reproductive development.

However, shorter distances may only be an option for some species. Blackcap migration spans a relatively modest 1,000 miles, and sometimes less. For birds that travel thousands of miles, with no hospitable territory between their destinations, there may be no middle ground.

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