Energy and Global Warming News for April 16

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Emissions treaty will protect U.S. jobs, Obama admin tells GOP

The Obama administration understands that an aggressive international climate treaty is needed to reduce global carbon emissions. Now they are working to convince legislators that such a treaty would not damage American competitiveness [ — which it wouldn’t, quite the reverse, see Why the United States REQUIRES a strong climate bill to remain competitive, Part 1 and Climate competitiveness 2: When the global Ponzi scheme collapses (circa 2030), the only jobs left will be green].

Without committing to any specific measures”””we will evaluate the various options,” said U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk””the White House argues that strong limitations on carbon emissions are needed to build a clean-energy economy and stimulate domestic economic growth. Kirk’s letter can be found here. Here are excerpts from the Greenwire story (Subs. Req’d):

The Obama administration is trying to assure House Republicans that a muscular international climate agreement won’t spark an exodus of energy-intensive U.S. companies to countries with weak emissions rules.

“The Administration believes that the best approach to address concerns with carbon leakage is to negotiate a new international climate change agreement in the United Nations that ensures that all the major emitters take long term, significant action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in letters to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, and other key ranking members.

Barton and Republicans Ralph Hall of Texas, Greg Walden of Oregon and Paul Brown of Georgia expressed concern in a letter to Kirk last month about the administration’s interest in using import tariffs to spur emission reductions in China, India and other developing countries.

‘”Any emissions-related trade policy will be extremely complicated,” the Republicans wrote. “Poor decisions can lead to destructive trade wars that could put tens of thousands of U.S. workers out of a job, and severely harm our economy.”

Kirk’s response: The administration is sensitive to those worries.

“I acknowledge some of the concerns of certain U.S. manufacturers, particularly in those sectors that are energy and trade intensive, that increased costs associated with carbon reductions could lead to competitive disadvantages vis- -vis producers in countries that do not take action to reduce their carbon emissions,” he wrote.

By transforming the United States to a low-carbon economy and negotiating a meaningful global climate agreement, Kirk said, the administration would stimulate domestic economic growth while avoiding circumstances in which carbon emissions are exported abroad….

The issue of protecting U.S. jobs in the wake of U.S. action on climate has been a key concern of lawmakers discussing the draft emissions bill introduced last month by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA)….

To address that issue, the Waxman-Markey draft includes a proposal from Reps. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) that would set aside some cap-and-trade emission allowances for giveaways to industrial sectors likely to be hit hardest by international competition — manufacturers of iron and steel, aluminum, cement, glass, ceramics, chemicals and paper.

E&E Daily (Subs. Req’d)

‘Cash for clunkers’ won’t solve Detroit’s problems — analysts

Obama administration plans to entice Americans to turn in gas-guzzling trucks for smaller, fuel-efficient cars won’t be a boon to the U.S. auto industry, an Arlington, Va.-based investment bank said today.

FBR Capital Markets’ report says President Obama’s backing of the ‘cash for clunkers’ program is unlikely to spur significant new auto sales at a price that won’t dampen its political support.

“Proposals that are impactful enough to be effective are likely to be prohibitively expensive, while a frugal approach is unlikely to generate significant participation,” FBR analysts wrote.

As part of his plan to rescue the U.S. auto industry, Obama last month called on Congress to create a program to give cash rebates to Americans who scrap an older car or truck and replace it with a newer, more fuel-efficient one.

One such program, which has backing in both the House and the Senate, would provide up to $4,500 to consumers who scrap a late model vehicle with a fuel economy rating of 18 miles per gallon or worse, providing they use the cash to pay for public transit or to purchase a new car that beats the federal fuel economy standard by 25 percent.

But FBR analysts said the fuel economy requirement for the trade-in is too strict and would end up severely limiting the number of U.S. automobiles that are eligible for scrapping. They said the 18 mpg standard would narrow the pool of eligible vehicles to roughly 11 million pickup trucks and SUVs, or an estimated 5 percent of the total vehicles on U.S. roads.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has estimated that the proposal would retire nearly 575,000 vehicles per year. But FBR said those projections are based on unrealistic assumptions, such as that more than 5 percent of eligible vehicles will participate in the program.

“These assumptions are likely to lead to an overestimation of participation in the program,” FBR said. “A review of the costs of a fuel-efficient vehicle shows that even after the voucher and fuel savings, the marginal benefit of participating in the program is less than clear, especially given the consumer preferences of drivers who own 10–18 year old SUVs and pickup trucks.”

The report grants that the cost-benefit equation would likely change if the owners of older trucks opt to replace them with smaller, cheaper cars, but says that is unlikely. “On the whole, we believe that with gas prices below the $2.50 range, there is maybe a little incentive for large numbers of SUV/pickup drivers to adopt a wholly different approach to their vehicles, which would appear to have significant lifestyle implications,” the report says.

Lawmakers will face a host of other problems, as well, in crafting the policy, the analysts said. They pointed to a battle over whether foreign-made cars and trucks would be available for the rebate, a dispute that will likely pit union interests against international trade advocates, and possibly stir debate over the level of fuel economy improvement required.

FBR said that the issue is ‘not yet ripe’ in Congress and put the chances of a program being enacted in the next six months at less than 45 percent. Still, the report left the door open for the program to be pushed through Congress, possibly by being tacked onto a fast-moving piece of legislation.

“If the Administration can forge a consensus between labor interests who want the bill to focus on less efficient American vehicles and environmentalists who want higher energy improvements, rapid enactment of the bill remains a possibility,” FBR said.

New York Times

Tax vs. Trade in British Columbia Election

While British Columbia has a provincial Green Party, the larger, left-of-center New Democratic Party is also closely associated with environmental issues. By contrast the British Columbia Liberal Party, a center-right group which is independent of the federal party of the same name, is generally viewed as a friend of business interests.

When the Liberals began a provincial election on Tuesday, however, those roles were reversed. Three major environmental groups attacked the New Democratic Party for its plan to eliminate carbon taxes introduced by the Liberals last year.

New York Times

Florida ‘Sustainable City’ Inches Forward

The state’s largest utility company, Florida Power & Light, which has previously invested in local solar projects, plans to build a $350 million, 75-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant with smart-grid technology for the planned city’s six million square feet of commercial and civic space.

Other planned features of the ranch: solar recharging kiosks for electric cars; a ‘dark skies’ plan that aims to save energy by lighting up the ground instead of the sky; and rainwater harvesting.

Brainstorming the Greenest of Buildings

Some of Portland’s most celebrated thinkers in green design gathered last week with city and state officials at the Gerding Edlen Development Company offices to dream up features for the city’s proposed Sustainability Center of Excellence “” a state-of-the-art high-rise that would function both as an emblem of hyper-green design, and as a locus for green-building research and education in the region.

Telegraph (UK)

New warning over ‘catastrophic’ sea level rise, scientists claim

Sea levels could rise by a “catastrophic” 10 feet by the end of the century — putting millions of people at risk of flooding with coastal cities such as London, New York, Tokyo and Calcutta submerged, according to a new study.

Miami Herald

Stopping climate change “” and starvation

The struggle against nature’s extremes has never been easy, but global warming seems poised to make things even harder for many farmers. Indeed, according to a new study, global warming-induced changes in rainfall and temperature averages could hit some of the world’s most fertile agricultural areas hard — potentially taking bread, by whatever name, off the plates of millions.

In the summer of 2003, a heat wave hit Europe, leaving roughly 52,000 people dead and farmers across the region reeling. Stressing crops and livestock alike, the extreme heat was responsible for precipitous drops in crucial food stocks such as corn, maize and wheat compared with the year before. Indeed, in Italy alone, maize yields declined 35 percent, while France saw fruit and wheat production fall by 20 and 25 percent respectively. This scenario, while not directly attributable to global warming, serves as a preview of possibilities to come.

Business Green

Global Carbon Market to hit $669bn by 2013

Investors are being urged to take advantage of the ‘exceptional opportunity’ presented by the low price of carbon credits after a new report predicted the global carbon market is poised to enter a five year long period of rapid growth as the world’s economy recovers.

The report from US-based research firm SBI predicts that while the global carbon market will contract 29 per cent this year to just $84bn it will recover quickly over the next four years, growing at an average of 68 per cent a year to be worth $669bn by 2013.

Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten