June 3 Energy and Climate News: Experts Weigh Stimulus’ Impact on the Economy; Rising Temperatures Increase Smog

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As Stimulus Funding Ends, Experts Weigh Law’s Impact on ‘Green Economy’

The debate over whether the stimulus created jobs is heated and endless, with lawmakers continuously arguing the merits of economic projections and clean energy investments.

But one thing is clear: As federal agencies run out of stimulus funds, temporary workers are seeing their jobs come to an end.


“As soon as the money stops, one imagines jobs stop being supported,” said Josh Bivens, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “My guess is we’ve passed the peak effect of the Recovery Act on jobs.”

In recent months, many of the layoffs have been in education, as school districts announce reductions in the number of teachers they can afford without stimulus support. But green jobs are affected as well: Contractors at the Savannah River Site recently announced impending layoffs as they complete the stimulus-funded part of the nuclear facility cleanup. The Department of Energy also is expected to cut by two-thirds the cleanup team for a uranium-waste pile in Moab, Utah.

Barack Obama, Detroit on collision course

Detroit’s major automakers are ready for Round Two in their battle with the Obama administration over fuel economy standards, and this time, they’re hoping new leverage will give them the punching power they need.

In 2009, President Barack Obama pushed through the first increase in gas mileage standards in decades, signing a rule that will raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. Now he’s back for more, with plans that could raise standards for cars and light-duty trucks as high as 62 mpg by 2025.


But when Obama had his way with the automakers two years ago, the federal government still had an ownership stake in General Motors and Chrysler. Now the companies are inching back into the black, and they’re pressing on everyone from White House chief of staff Bill Daley to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in a late lobbying blitz to make their voices heard in any new rulemaking process.

Rising temperatures will increase smog-related illness — study

Rising temperatures will counteract efforts to cut smog, exacerbating lung problems like asthma and pushing up health care costs, the Union of Concerned Scientists said yesterday.

A new analysis by the group warns that climate change will worsen ground-level ozone pollution and exact a heavy toll on Americans’ health and wallets.

By 2020, the UCS study says, increased ozone pollution could cause 2.8 million additional cases of serious respiratory symptoms in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Treating those illnesses will cost up to $5.4 billion, the group says.

By midcentury, the number of cases of severe respiratory symptoms caused by the rise in ozone pollution could jump to 11.8 million.

Prospects For Reaching CO2 Benchmark And Curbing Global Warming Grow Dimmer

United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres is calling for world leaders to aim for an even lower threshold of global average temperatures, even as new figures suggest that the prospects for preventing temperatures from rising beyond a key benchmark grew dimmer in 2010.


According to estimates released this week by the International Energy Agency, global emissions of energy-related carbon dioxide in 2010 were were the highest ever measured at 30.6 gigatonnes — a 5 percent jump over the previous record year of 2008.

The increase follows a decline in global emissions in 2009 that accompanied the economic downturn.

The sizable leap in emissions suggests that limiting the planet’s global temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), a threshold that many scientists believe is crucial for preventing runaway and irreversible impacts of climate change, will be an increasingly elusive goal.

A Google for Air Conditioners: Advanced computing concepts are coming to your air conditioner.

To improve efficiency in a 10,000-square-foot datacenter managed by NTT in San Jose, Vigilent shut off nine of the 14 air conditioners.

Power consumption went down dramatically. But so did the ambient temperature.

The counterintuitive effect — you’d think the temperature would rise at least a few degrees with fewer AC units — derives from the way that air flow changes for the worse as the number of AC units rises.

“An air conditioner is a heater in a crowded environment,” said president and founder Clifford Federspiel.

Diagnostics and analytics will likely be the two most popular buzzwords in the rapidly growing building management market over the next few years. Although building management systems have been around for years, it has only been in the last several that we’ve started to see more sophisticated software for mining all the disparate data that will also automatically tweak machinery to conserve power consumption.

Congo-Brazzaville to ban plastic bags: Decree to outlaw bags blamed for causing floods and landslides by blocking drains

Congo-Brazzaville is to ban the production, import, sale and use of plastic bags in a move to fight environmental pollution in the central African nation, the government has said.

Spokesman Bienvenu Okiemy Okiemy said the government adopted a decree following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. It prohibits the use of plastic bags to pack food, groceries, water and other beverages.

“For some years now, particularly in urban areas, Congo has witnessed major environmental pollution caused by discarded plastic bags which block drainage systems, causing floods and landslides,” Okiemy said.