Energy and Global Warming News for July 29th: Electric carmakers focus on incentives; China, India shift to gas in quest for clean growth; New CA poll shows steady support for state’s climate-change law

New poll shows steady support for state’s climate-change law, while opposition to drilling shoots up

The state’s climate-change law, AB 32, has been a hot topic on the campaign trail this year “” with the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate branding it as a “job-killer,” as opponents of the law marshal support for a November ballot measure that would suspend implementation until the state’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for a year.

Advertisement

But despite the controversy over the 2006 law, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a new poll shows that two-thirds (67%) of California residents continue to back it “” about the same level as last year.

Given the controversy over AB 32, Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, said he was somewhat surprised by the steady level of support. The findings stand in contrast with last year, when backing for AB 32 dropped to 66% from its high of 78% in 2007.

“We’ve had a very poor year in terms of the economy and the budget in California, and this doesn’t seem to have impacted it,” Baldassare said. Despite a flurry of competing studies looking at how the law might affect jobs, “People aren’t necessarily connecting climate-change policy and economic performance,” he said….

In the survey’s most dramatic finding, the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be hardening opposition to more drilling off the California coast, which shot up to 59% from 43% last year. Most voters expressed little confidence that the federal government would be able to prevent a future spill.

Electric Carmakers Focus on Incentives, Not Carbon Prices

With climate legislation seemingly dead in Congress, many clean-energy advocates are going back to the drawing board. But the electric-car industry, which is relying on other federal incentives to get ahead, remains upbeat.

Advertisement

Industry officials have met just outside Detroit for the past two days to discuss the state of the growing industry: whether the United States can build enough batteries, at a low enough price, to compete globally. Michigan has enjoyed much of the early investment, initiating battery-manufacturing plants and starting to set up the supply chain for electric cars.

Those at the conference agreed that federal investment has set up a formidable amount of manufacturing and research in just two years. Yet in assessing what needs to come next, they called for more such investment — not a price on carbon.

U.S. Navy contracts for solar power

The U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command has tapped AECOM Technology Corp. to develop solar power installations at Navy and Marine bases in six states.

Under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, AECOM will provide engineering, procurement and construction services for solar power systems at sites in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

AECOM’s partner, Solar Power Partners, will finance and own the systems, AECOM said in a news release.

China, India Shift to Gas From Oil in Quest for Clean Growth: Chart of Day

Asia is boosting consumption of liquefied natural gas relative to oil as nations from China to India try to pollute less while driving economic growth.

Advertisement

The CHART OF THE DAY shows demand for LNG in China and India is growing as much as nine times faster than that for crude, according to calculations based on data compiled from Facts Global Energy, BP Plc and the International Energy Agency. Oil use is shrinking in Japan and stagnant in South Korea. LNG use will rise 45 percent in China and 12 percent in India in 2011 from this year, said Facts, an energy consultant.

“This strong demand growth will not purely be driven by gross domestic product,” Gavin Thompson, China gas study director for Wood Mackenzie Consultants Ltd., said in an e-mail from Edinburgh. “The gas demand story is about displacing oil products, not coal, in the industrial and residential sectors.” The energy consultant this week raised by 48 percent its forecast for China’s LNG demand in 2020.

Government’s energy policies ‘a huge disappointment’

Mr Miliband accused the Tories and Lib Dems of employing the same “rhetoric without substance” in office that they used in opposition.

He was responding to a statement by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, who said the government was taking “three big steps forward” by creating a market for energy savings through the “green deal”, ensuring the electricity market worked “properly”, and “strengthening” the carbon price.

Mr Huhne told MPs that “the cheapest way of closing the gap between energy demand and supply is to cut energy use”, setting out the government’s aims to improve household energy efficiency by installing “smart meters” in more homes.

Advertisement

He announced that ministers would implement a “transitional regime for offshore wind farms”, re-affirming the government’s commitment to harnessing renewable energy sources. The energy secretary added that there would be a “comprehensive” review of the electricity market, including the role of its watchdog Ofgem.

He also said the government was “clear” new nuclear power could go ahead providing it did not receive public subsidy. But Mr Miliband said: “Any fair-minded person looking at this statement will conclude that it is a huge disappointment — a huge disappointment to industry, to the country as well.

Earth’s climate future may be etched in Greenland bedrock

Scientists hit Greenland bedrock this week after five years of drilling through 2.5 kilometres (1.6-mile) of solid ice, a 14-nation consortium announced Wednesday.

Ice core samples from Eemian period 130,000 to 115,000 years ago — the last time Earth’s climate was a few degrees warmer than today — could help forecast the impacts of current global warming, the researchers said.

“Our findings will increase our knowledge on the climate system and increase our ability to predict the speed and final height of sea level rise,” said Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, an ice expert at the University of Copenhagen and head of the project.

“If the Eemian was unstable, then the models of future change due to increased greenhouse effect are wrong as they cannot handle sudden changes,” she told AFP by email from the site. Greenland’s temperatures were 3.0 to 5.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) higher during this last interglacial period.

Today, without steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the global thermometer could rise 6.0 C compared to pre-industrial times, making large swathes of the planet unlivable, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned.

With the global climate pact dead, China gets hungry for U.S. factory pork

Now that we’ve figured out why the climate bill died, it’s time to start thinking about the consequences. The failure doesn’t just mean that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will continue inching up. It also means that we probably won’t see a global climate deal anytime soon. And that means untold years of ever-increasing emissions — and likely dire consequences for human habitation on Earth.

Think about a global climate pact from China’s perspective. Why should it take leadership, now that the U.S. has refused to act? Sure, China stands as the globe’s most prodigious greenhouse gas emitter, and its annual emissions are growing rapidly. But in terms of emissions per person, China stills lags behind us dramatically — the average Chinese person has less than a fourth of the carbon footprint of her U.S. counterpart. Moreover, we prosperous consumers in the post-industrial global north are deeply implicated in China’s voracious and growing demand for dirty fossil fuels. According to one study, fully one-quarter of China’s GHG emissions stem from its export trade to Europe and the United States. Think about that next time you reel in goodies (including iPhones and other tech gadgets) at the nearest Big Box.

India Seeks $21 Billion Investment in Gas Network

India’s gas distribution regulator expects companies including Reliance Industries Ltd. and GAIL India Ltd. to invest 1 trillion rupees ($21 billion) in the next five years to build pipeline networks connecting cities.

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board invited bids for eight areas in July and plans to hold monthly auctions for another 305 cities, Chairman Labanyendu Mansingh said in an interview at his office in New Delhi. Pension funds and hedge funds are interested in buying stakes in companies building the networks, he said, declining to name the potential investors.

“We are working closely with state governments to ensure these projects come up on time,” Mansingh said yesterday. “India has been fortunate enough to have major gas discoveries and this trend is going to continue for several years.”

The government is encouraging households, factories and vehicle owners to switch to the cleaner-burning fuel from coal and diesel to reduce pollution. The auction is India’s third. The board first awarded rights for six cities last year while the second for seven cities was stalled due to a lawsuit.

Malaysia may close more dive sites hit by coral bleaching

Malaysia may close three more popular dive sites in the South China Sea which have been hit by coral bleaching blamed on global warming, an official said Wednesday.

Last week authorities announced the closure of nine dive sites on the tropical islands of Tioman and Redang until the end of October in an attempt to relieve stress on the fragile marine ecosystems. The two islands are located off the east coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea.

Marine authorities said they were studying a proposal to shut down three more sites on Redang island after resort operators said they detected coral bleaching and wanted the diving spots closed.

“We have received the proposal, we will study it and verify the matter,” a marine park official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The dive sites will only be closed if more than 60 percent of the coral has been damaged, she added. The closure would give the coral a chance to regenerate and would remove stress caused by tourism-related activities such as diving.

Climate Study: Expect Refugee Inflow to U.S.

Every time governments fail to take serious steps on climate change, it seems the parlor game of predicting what our warmer world will look like heats up.

And the newest of those predictions, appearing this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pokes at what is presently one of the country’s most sensitive spots: immigration.

Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton published a study that estimates that between 1.4 and 6.7 million people could become climate refugees emigrating from rural Mexico to the United States between now and 2080. That’s 2 to 10 percent of the present Mexican population, and it doesn’t include people who would make the move for other reasons.

Is it a major concern? Yes. How much stock should you put in those statistics? Not much. Oppenheimer and colleagues used projections of decreased agricultural output driven by rising temperatures to get these figures.

Vital Marine Plant Life at Risk

Rising sea temperatures can harm the tiny plant life that forms the base of the oceans’ food chain as well as affect the diversity of marine life, two new studies have found.

Over the years, humans have affected the oceans by pollution and over-fishing and through habitat alteration caused by dredging and other activities. Less understood is the role of higher sea temperatures, which many scientists believe is linked to global climate change. Scientists estimate that the oceans have warmed a total of roughly half a degree Celsius on average over the past 100 years.

Researchers have long debated whether phytoplankton concentrations have increased or declined. The algae have flourished in many coastal areas because increased runoff from rivers brings nutrients that the algae gorge on. However, no one has properly assessed whether the global oceans are losing or gaining phytoplankton, which forms the base of the marine food chain, from crustaceans to fish and ultimately to humans.

Consistent satellite-based measurements exist only from 1997, so scientists at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada instead used data obtained with a simple oceanography device known as a Secchi. Used by scientists since the late 1800s, a Secchi is a disk lowered into the water to provide an estimate of water clarity and thus serves as a proxy measure of phytoplankton abundance.

Declining algae threatens ocean food chain: study

A century-long decline in tiny algae called phytoplankton could disrupt the global ocean food chain, including the human consumption of fish, according to a study released Wednesday.

The microscopic organisms — which prop up the pyramid of marine animal life from shrimps to killer whales — have been disappearing globally at a rate of one percent per year, researchers reported.

Since 1950, phytoplankon mass has dropped by about 40 percent, most likely due to the accelerating impact of global warming, they reported.

“Phytoplankton is the fuel on which marine ecosystems run,” said lead author Daniel Boyce, a professor at Dalhousie University in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. “A decline affects everything up the food chain, including humans.”

The pace of the decline — heaviest in polar and tropical regions — matched the rate at which surface ocean temperatures have increased as a result of climate change, the study said.

U.S. wind energy popular, but lacks investment

Despite public approval, U.S. wind energy investment is slowing down instead of growing, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support a renewable electricity standard, and wind energy investment in particular, according to a poll of 600 likely voters conducted in March by Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Bennett, Petts & Normington.

Specifically, 89 percent of Americans said increasing the amount of energy the U.S. gets from wind is a good idea. Broken down by ideology, 84 percent of Republicans, 93 percent of Democrats, and 88 percent of independents support increasing the use of wind energy in the U.S.

But that bipartisan enthusiasm for wind has not translated into real-world investment or public policy, according to a detailed report released this week by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

California launches massive wind farm

The California groundbreaking ceremony for the world’s largest wind farm is a sign of the state’s leadership in green energy, the governor said.

California leaders joined engineers at renewable energy company Terra-Gen Power for the groundbreaking ceremony for a 1,500-megawatt wind farm.

The project will provide enough power for 1.1 million California consumers and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 52 million tons, the company said in a statement.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said state policies in the renewable energy sector were to thank in part for the launch of the project.

“Having the world’s largest wind project break ground in our state is tangible evidence that our pioneering policies are drawing investment, improving the economy and creating jobs now when we need them most,” he said.

Pickens, Home Depot Beat Wind-Turbine Makers in Energy Measure

T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire energy hedge-fund manager, and Home Depot Inc., the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, are winners in energy legislation that fails to help solar-panel and wind-turbine makers.

The measure proposed yesterday by Senate Democrats would give Pickens victory in his lobbying campaign for more use of natural gas, providing $3.8 billion in rebates for cars and trucks powered by the fuel. Home Depot would benefit from provisions to channel $5 billion in rebates to homeowners who upgrade to more efficient appliances or add insulation that reduces energy use.

The provisions were the main survivors among proposals to reshape U.S. energy use under the measure that would also set tougher rules for offshore drilling after BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst in U.S. history. Absent from the measure were limits on carbon dioxide or requirements that utilities add solar and wind power to their portfolios.

Update on the Oil Spills””All of Them

Michigan is not the first place that comes to mind when you think of oil spills. But as of Monday, add the state to the list of those laying booms, scrambling cleanup teams and otherwise trying to stanch the flow of thick crude leaking from a busted oil pipe. And add that spill to yet another new gusher the Gulf of Mexico””this one just 65 miles south of New Orleans””the third such incident to occur on a drilling platform other than BP’s lost Deepwater Horizon since that rig exploded and sank on April 20.

If you’re tempted to write your senator about the sudden spate of spills, don’t bother. The new leaks are occurring just days after Harry Reid and his timorous Democratic majority walked away from their year-in-the-making energy bill, under threat of filibuster from Mitch McConnell and his snarling GOP minority.

The Michigan incident has a lot of similarities to the BP disaster””albeit writ small. Once again it’s an international company that’s to blame””this time Canada’s Enbridge Energy Partners. Once again, it’s a body of water at risk””this time the Kalamazoo River and perhaps Morrow Lake, which lies in the path of the spill. And once again, a CEO is promising to make things right.

California Republicans shunning one traditional path to victory: the environment

For decades, Republicans who won statewide office in California found success, at least in part, by showing sensitivity to voters’ commitment to protecting the environment. But with state unemployment hovering at more than 12%, the two GOP candidates at the top of the ticket this year are betting that voters’ concerns about jobs and economic uncertainty will trump any desire for environmental crusades.

Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina has spent months charging Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer with driving an extreme environmental agenda instead of tending to jobs. She has been sharply critical of national and state climate change legislation “” deriding Boxer’s concern as being about “the weather” “” and has argued that the state should expand oil drilling off its shores.

Gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman has been more equivocal than Fiorina, but she also has cast the state’s landmark climate change measure as one that kills jobs. She favors delaying its execution for a year to allow further study of its effect.