Energy and Global Warming News for June 10: Jumpstarting offshore wind; The best and worst of times for China’s environmen

On World Oceans Day, a U.S. Plan for Wind

The Obama Administration has launched a new initiative to “jumpstart the offshore wind industry.”

Speaking on World Oceans Day at the opening of this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the governors of ten Atlantic states — Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina — to create an offshore wind energy consortium.

The purpose of the consortium is to develop a “coherent, coordinated” program of wind energy along the eastern seaboard; to help implement that program, the Department of the Interior will establish an office, based in Virginia, that will “be dedicated to doing nothing but work on renewable energy in the Atlantic.”


Salazar said that Cape Wind — the first offshore wind farm in the United States, to be located in Nantucket Sound — “will hopefully become the project that shows we can develop wind energy along the outer continental shelf.” Salazar announced his approval of Cape Wind in April, after a near-decade-long review; it is partly to streamline that review process, said Salazar, that the consortium has been developed.

The Best And Worst Of Times For China’s Environment

It is the best of times for China’s environment.

Chinese officials are determined to clean up their air, land and water. This month Beijing said it would subsidize purchases of electric cars and plug-in hybrids in a pilot program in five cities. The central government already offers a tax break for purchasers of smaller-engine vehicles and will follow up this year with a nationwide subsidy for gasoline-powered cars with engines no larger than 1.6 liters. These programs, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, will cover more than 4 million vehicles by 2012. The finance ministry, in recent days, announced it will also subsidize the manufacture of high-efficiency electric motors and power generators.

While cap-and-trade legislation is stalled in the swamp we call “Congress,” the Chinese are racing ahead. At the end of last month Beijing said it would start a domestic market for trading carbon emissions by 2014. Just about half of the credits granted pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism are for projects in China. The Chinese government is committed to reducing, by 2020, carbon emissions intensity — the amount of energy used per unit of gross domestic product — by as much as 45% over 2005 levels.

Even Beijing’s social engineering programs are helping Mother Earth. The one-child policy, for example, saves 1.83 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year according to official estimates.

Countries in process of rebuilding trust, new UN climate chief says

The ongoing session of the UN climate talks here has witnessed progress in rebuilding trust as countries are considering each other’s interests, the incoming UN climate chief said Wednesday.

“Yes, there is a deficit of trust (in climate talks), but we are already in the progress of rebuilding trust here as parties are talking to each other in a very respectful tone,” Christiana Figueres told Xinhua in an interview after an informal talk with other reporters.

The ongoing climate session that runs from May 31 through June 11 in the Germany city of Bonn, is “such a trust-building session that it will become a platform from which countries can built into concrete solutions,” Figueres said.

The 53-year-old veteran diplomat from Costa Rica is to succeed Yvo de Boer, a Dutchman, as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) next month. As a negotiator, she has experienced all the ups and downs of UN climate talks over the past 15 years.

Fungus Among Us Could Become Non-Food Source for Biodiesel Production

In the quest for alternatives to soybeans, palm, and other edible oilseed plants as sources for biodiesel production, enter an unlikely new candidate: A fungus, or mold, that produces and socks away large amounts of oils that are suitable for low-cost, eco-friendly biodiesel.

That’s the topic of a study in ACS’ journal Energy & Fuels.

Victoriano Garre and colleagues point out that manufacturers usually produce biodiesel fuel from plant oils — such as rapeseed, palm, and soy. However, expanded production from those sources could foster shortages that mean rising food prices. In addition, oilseeds require scare farmland, and costly fertilizers and pesticides. To meet growing demand for biodiesel fuel, scientists are looking for oil sources other than plants. Microorganisms such as fungi, which take little space to grow, are ideal candidates. But scientists first must find fungi that produce larger amounts of oil.

In the study, scientists describe a process for converting oil from an abundant producer called Mucor circinelloides into biodiesel without even extracting oil from the growth cultures. The resulting fungus-based biodiesel meets commercial specifications in the United States and Europe and production could be scaled to commercial levels, they note.

Global Warming Deniers and Their Proven Strategy of Doubt

In recent months, a group called the Cooler Heads Coalition “” a creation of the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) “” has fostered a public image of climate science as a criminal conspiracy. The CEI itself has accused NASA, the largest funder of climate science, of faking important climate data sets. In February, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, whose positions are frequently cited and promoted by CEI, called for a criminal investigation of 17 climate scientists from a variety of institutions for allegedly falsifying or distorting data used in taxpayer-funded research.

The recent shift in the community of global warming deniers from merely attacking mainstream climate scientists to alleging their involvement in criminal activity is an unsurprising but alarming development in the long campaign to discredit the established scientific fact that burning fossil fuels is causing the world to warm. This latest escalation fits seamlessly into a decades-old pattern of attempts to deny the reality of environmental ills “” smoking, acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming. Similar or even identical claims have been promoted for decades by other free-market think-tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Heartland Institute, and, most persistently, the George C. Marshall Institute. These think tanks all have two things in common: They promote free-market solutions to environmental problems, and all have long been active in challenging the scientific evidence of those problems.

MiaSol© Sets Bar for Efficiency in CIGS and Aims at First Solar

Propped against the wall in the office of MiaSol©’s CFO Merle McClendon sits a solar panel made by the wildly successful First Solar, which makes cadmium telluride solar cells. After he became MiaSol©’s CEO, Joseph Laia asked customers what they didn’t like about it.

It was too small, some said, and required too much cable and hardware to install. Installation costs were higher than expected. Some also said First Solar’s panels operated at too high a voltage.

That feedback was folded into the design of the MiaSol© CIGS panels: they are larger (about a square meter), operate at a lower voltage and their junction boxes require less cabling because they are located on the corners of the panel. MiaSol©’s panels also weigh about half as much for easier installation, and future ones will weigh even less because MiaSol© will sputter its solar cells onto metal instead of glass.

Laia’s comments, though, don’t come across as executive trash talk. The more he speaks, the more you get the idea that Laia likes First Solar and even admires what the company has accomplished. He just wants to beat them, too.