Energy and Global Warming News for May 27th — GE plans $1.5 billion in cleantech R and D by 2010

GE eyes $1.5 billion in cleantech research by 2010

General Electric Co aims to boost its investment in clean-tech research and development to $1.5 billion a year by 2010, the largest U.S. conglomerate said on Wednesday in its annual “Ecomagination” report.

The maker of products ranging from electricity-producing wind turbines to energy-efficient compact-fluorescent lights, wants to grow green-business revenues to what it called a “stretch” target of $25 billion next year, up from $17 billion in 2008 and $6 billion in 2004….

GE said it expects stimulus spending in the United States, China and elsewhere around the globe to create about $400 billion of new demand for green technologies and clean-energy products, including wind turbines and solar panels.


The company earlier this month said it was building a plant near Albany, New York to build a new generation of high-capacity batteries that would power its upcoming hybrid railroad locomotive. Last month, it said it was working with Florida utility company FPL Group on the roll out of a “smart grid” system intended to encourage homeowners to lower their electricity consumption during peak demand times.

Global CEOs back greenhouse gas cuts, carbon caps

Global business leaders added momentum to prospects for a new U.N. climate treaty by agreeing Tuesday that the world must cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by mid-century by setting specific limits on carbon.

Government officials reported little progress in setting such limits, however, showing how distant a new treaty remains.

Some 500 CEOs and other top business experts said at the conclusion of the three-day World Business Summit on Climate Change in Denmark that “immediate and substantial” emissions cuts were needed by 2020, followed by cuts of at least 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. They said governments should use the marketplace to set a global price on carbon instead of taxing it, according to a statement from conference organizers.

Carbon allowances — the glue in House energy package

A massive climate bill has taken its first step forward in the House, its path paved by the giveaway of allowances — free greenhouse gas emission permits designed to mute the economic impact of a carbon cap-and-trade program.

Free allowances — each conveying the right to pump a ton of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — were the glue that held the sprawling bill together for Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and fellow Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee last week.

The “cap” of cap and trade would impose steadily tightening limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Companies covered by the bill whose emissions exceeded their caps would have to purchase emission allowances, or buy offsets — for example, by investing in rainforest preservation. Some allowances could be banked or borrowed to ease transitions. But the decisions would affect firms’ choices of fuels, introduction of new technologies, and decisions to hire, fire, expand, shrink or move operations overseas.

State Energy News Round-up

With the legislative season winding down in some states, lawmakers have been getting busy on the energy front. Here is a roundup of state news in the past week”¦

Oil Sands Project Moves Forward

Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, has broken the oil sands investment slump with an announcement on Monday that the company will proceed with a $7.1 billion project to mine bitumen from the Kearl Lake project, located about 44 miles northeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Imperial says the Kearl project, which is expected to operate for half a century, will eventually yield a daily average of 300,000 barrels of bitumen “” a thick, sticky substance that can be processed into fuel oil. Site preparation actually began last year, and the mining operation will commence in 2012.

Big Oil Warms to Ethanol

For decades, the big oil companies and the farm lobby have been fighting about ethanol, with the farmers pushing to produce more of it and the refiners arguing it was a boondoggle that would do little to solve the country’s energy problems.

So why are technicians for BP, the giant oil company, now working at an experimental ethanol plant in this old Louisiana oil town, helping to make it more efficient?

The erstwhile enemies, it turns out, are gradually learning to get along, as refiners increasingly see a need to get involved in ethanol production. Ethanol, made chiefly from corn, now represents about 9 percent of the country’s market for liquid fuels. And the percentage is growing year after year because of federal mandates. With the nation’s thirst for gasoline, and the ethanol that is blended into it, expected to revive when the economy does, the oil companies want to be in a position to take full advantage.

Australia Faces Further Carbon-Scheme Delay

Plans for the world’s most comprehensive carbon-trading scheme face defeat or parliamentary delay after Australia’s opposition said on Tuesday it will try to postpone a vote on the laws this year.

The decision by the Liberal-National coalition during a party meeting adds uncertainty over the final shape and start date of the scheme. It also adds to the confusion on investment decisions for some big polluters trying to figure out future carbon costs.

Emissions trading is central to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s promise to fight global warming, but his government has been unable to find seven extra votes it needs in the Senate, where conservative opponents hold the largest bloc.

Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten