Other big story below: Top Ten Clean Energy Breakthroughs?
With a decision expected by the end of the year from the Obama administration on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, members of Congress have sent two letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raising concerns over the State Department’s handling of a critical environmental review of the project.
A letter sent late last week by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and two Vermont senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernard Sanders, criticized the State Department for assigning the review of Keystone XL to a consulting firm with financial ties to the pipeline’s operator and urged the federal government to start the process all over again.
The letter cited a New York Times article published this month that said the State Department used Cardno Entrix, a Houston-based consulting firm, at the suggestion of TransCanada, which is seeking to build the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
As arranged with the State Department, Cardno Entrix was paid by TransCanada to conduct the study. TransCanada has also paid the company to conduct previous environmental reviews of its projects, one of which Cardno Entrix did not disclose to the State Department.
Although such practices have become commonplace over the years, some experts in environmental law have said the State Department should have been more cautious about whom it hired it for the environmental study to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest on a project that has created so much controversy.
A new South African climate change policy curbing industry emissions will give the country leverage when it hosts the next round of global climate talks, the environment minister said Tuesday.The National Climate Change Response Policy, which was approved by cabinet last week, cuts “business as usual” emissions growth by 34 percent in the next decade and 42 percent by 2025, and will introduce limits on heavy polluters in two years.
“The policy as concluded now… is really going to give us quite a whole lot of leverage,” minister Edna Molewa told journalists.
“We are not necessarily going to be waving that document in there but just to illustrate … that as a country we are being really very serious as one of the high emitters, amongst the high emitters of the world, taking action.”
Specific reduction targets will follow within two years for big emitters such as the electricity and liquid fuel sector and users in mining, industry and transport.
The department did not say if the limits would be binding.
“We mustn’t see these as a stick or a carrot. It’s a target for action. So this is not a case of applying a stick to anybody, its providing them with direction of where we want to go,” said Peter Lukey, acting deputy director general of climate change.
The emergence of the low-carbon economy has witnessed business entities actively participating in climate change negotiations, and South African businesses have slowly caught up with the realities of getting involved, University of South Africa’s Professor Godwell Nhamo said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Institute for Global Dialogue climate change conference in Pretoria, he said business, which would probably carry much of the burden in the transition to a low-carbon economy through a new climate deal, were slowly becoming “genuine” in their approach to climate change.
However, Nhamo also alluded to some businesses being skeptical and “hunting for opportunities” rather than moving towards a collective solution to the challenges resulting from negative impacts of climate change.
Overall business would try to influence negotiations for a favourable position that would sustain operations.
1. Algae biofuels
If economic cutbacks do not intervene then 12 per cent of aviation fuel could come from algae by 2030. Mexico hopes to reach 1 per cent within four years. The first algae-fuelled car was put on the road in 2009. Algae fuel, a liquid looking similar to vegetable oil, releases only a fifth of the carbon emissions of fossil fuels and could be made in efficient coastal ponds. The big problem is money: production costs need to come down by 90 per cent.
2. Zinc-air batteries
With world zinc resources being 100 times more plentiful than lithium ion, a move to zinc-air batteries has the potential to make laptops more portable, electric vehicles more affordable and hearing aids more reliable. Zinc is recyclable, relatively cheap and has a high energy density. Currently used in non-rechargeable form in hearing aids, zinc batteries are expected to be launched in a rechargeable, longer-lasting version in a few years, with an extension of use to computers and cars later.
3. Organic solar cells
The UK’s Carbon Trust believes that low-cost organic solar cells can be made efficient enough to win commercial success. It is backing a project which aims to use printed rolls of these cells to provide safe lighting in parts of Africa and India. However, hopes have been repeatedly disappointed as manufacturers have struggled to get above 9 per cent light-to-energy conversion efficiency (15 per cent is more typical for average silicon- based solar panels). But, if breakthroughs do occur, many of us will start wearing solar clothing, carrying solar umbrellas and using portable solar chargers.
Geothermal energy presents baseload clean energy at a lower cost than many other renewable energy alternatives. Despite this compelling value proposition, long development horizons and the risks associated with exploration and drilling activities present hurdles to developing the country’s rich geothermal potential. Financing projects that use conventional geothermal technology remains challenging in the uncertain economic environment.
In the past year, geothermal project developers used alternative strategies to overcome three common challenges to geothermal project finance. While the challenges for raising capital at the project level are consistent with those faced in previous years, they have become even more pronounced as investors’ risk-tolerance remains low and capital constraints continue.
Three key challenges to raising capital for geothermal project investment have adversely affected developers in the past year.