Other stories below: India Solar Power Costs Could Fall 40% by 2015; BP Takes Center Stage on Capitol Hill
From the cotton field in rural India to the local rag bin, a typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycle, Levi Strauss & Company says, or enough to fill about 15 spa-size bathtubs. That includes the water that goes into irrigating the cotton crop, stitching the jeans together and washing them scores of times at home.
The company wants to reduce that number any way it can, and not just to project environmental responsibility. It fears that water shortages caused by climate change may jeopardize the company’s very existence in the coming decades by making cotton too expensive or scarce.
So to protect its bottom line, Levi Strauss has helped underwrite and champion a nonprofit program that teaches farmers in India, Pakistan, Brazil and West and Central Africa the latest irrigation and rainwater-capture techniques. It has introduced a brand featuring stone-washed denim smoothed with rocks but no water. It is sewing tags into all of its jeans urging customers to wash less and use only cold water.
JR: Ironically, the place where cotton is most at risk today from a changing climate is Texas.
The European Union pledged to impose carbon curbs on flights to and from the region’s airports as of next year in the face of protests from non-EU nations including Russia and the U.S., which plan to lodge a formal complaint today.
“We won’t modify our plans,” Isaac Valero-Ladron, climate spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm in Brussels, said by e-mail.
China, Russia and the U.S. will urge Europe to exempt non- EU airlines from its emissions trading system at today’s meeting of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization’s governing council in Montreal, Canada. The rift highlights the challenge of forging a global agreement to put a price on carbon just four weeks before a United Nations summit on post-2012 climate-protection rules.
The EU, which wants to lead the battle against climate change, decided in 2008 that aviation should become a part of its cap-and-trade carbon program after airline discharges in Europe doubled over two decades. Carriers including American Airlines and Continental Airlines are already challenging the law in an EU court, and China’s airline association said earlier this year the European initiative may prompt trade conflict.
India’s solar power costs could fall by more than 40 percent by 2015, allowing the industry to compete against domestic oil and gas firms without the help of state subsidies, the head of Lanco Solar told Reuters on Wednesday.
Solar technology could provide a kilowatt hour of power at about 7 to 8 rupees a unit in the next few years, down from the current 11 to 12 rupees, due to surging global capacity, said Lanco Solar CEO V. Saibaba.
That would enable solar power to become a more viable option to coal, which costs around 2 rupees a unit, in fueling Asia’s third largest economy and the world’s third-worst carbon polluter.
“The most important thing is the economics of scale are coming,” Saibaba said on the sidelines of an industry conference. “In the next three to four years, I see the solar power costs coming down to 7 to 8 rupees a unit.”
A D.C.-based political advocacy group that backs Republican causes says it’s launching a multi-media campaign Wednesday demanding that the White House provide “real answers” over the administration’s decision to issue federal loan guarantees in 2010 to Solyndra, a solar energy company that has since filed for bankruptcy.
The organization, Americans for Prosperity, says it will start running a 60 second television commercial that accuses the president of “risking billions of taxpayer dollars to help his political donors.”
The spot, which the group says it will spend $2.4 million to run over the next two weeks in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, New Mexico and Virginia (with the possibility of expanding to Nevada), ends with the narrator urging voters to “tell President Obama that you shouldn’t use taxpayer dollars for political favors.”
Americans for Prosperity, which supports many tea party movement causes and which also pushes for reducing government regulation in the oil and gas industries, was co-founded by industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Koch brothers are major supporters of conservative and libertarian causes.
Mitt Romney faces an inconvenient truth on climate change.
While the former Massachusetts governor often touts his decision not to sign up for a regional cap-and-trade compact, he also glosses over a six-year-old set of carbon dioxide rules that his aides touted at the time as the first in the country for electric utilities.
Under Romney’s regulations, finalized in September 2006, Massachusetts’s six largest power plants faced mandatory CO2 limits with several market-friendly compliance options designed to help keep the costs down.
Democrats and environmentalists panned Romney’s rules as weak tea. Many felt burned by the governor’s decision not to join then-New York Republican Gov. George Pataki and other neighboring state leaders in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
But Romney’s problem is now on the other side of the political spectrum as critics on his right said they are troubled by a decision to implement the CO2 limits in the first place.
About a year and a half after the BP oil spill devastated much of the Gulf of Mexico, the House will examine offshore drilling and lessons learned from the disaster at three separate hearings Wednesday.
Former Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, the national incident commander during last year’s spill, will discuss what lessons can be applied to the future of offshore drilling at a hearing of the House Transportation Committee’s Coast Guard subcommittee.
Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft — assistant Coast Guard commandant for marine safety, security and stewardship — and others will also testify at the hearing.
Also Wednesday, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich will testify before a panel of the House Natural Resources Committee on the risk new offshore drilling in Cuba and other nearby countries poses to the United States.