Environment Forum

from Reuters Investigates:

BP – Tough to price in the consequences

Two graphs tell an apparently conflicting story: analysts forecast a steady recovery in BP's dividends, but its valuation remains weak. Tom Bergin's close look at the potential costs facing BP as a result of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill helps explain the latter, but less so the former.

dividendsrange  pricebook

How to make communities see green over REDD?

A villager collects rattan among rubber trees near a village in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's part of Borneo island. Rubber and rattan provide good incomes to villagers and represents a key way to support livelihoods for investors in a large forest preservation project nearby, who are working with local communities to make the project a success. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

A villager collects rattan among rubber trees near a village in Central Kalimantan province on Indonesia's part of Borneo island. Rubber and rattan provide good incomes to villagers and represents a key way to support livelihoods for investors in a large forest preservation project nearby, who are working with local communities to make the project a success. Credit: Yusuf Ahmad

Forests are the lifeblood for millions of people around the world. Murniah, a 40-year-old mother of one in Mentaya Seberang village in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan Province, knows this only too well.

Large areas to the west of her village on the Mentaya river have been converted to palm oil. Good for a short-term boost in incomes but not so good for the environment.

Environmentally conscious consumers to spend less this holiday season

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So what will the environmentally conscious consumer be buying this holiday season?

Not much, according to a new survey by BBMG, a New York brand innovation firm that focuses on sustainability.

Environmentally conscious consumers in the United States “are spending less but giving more this holiday season, focusing on local, homemade, organic, and donations to good causes as top gift choices that prize unique, memorable experiences over more stuff,” BBMG said in a statement.

from Gregg Easterbrook:

What we should be taxing: greenhouse gases


Bravely, international diplomats, United Nations officials and environmentalists are meeting in Cancun this week to demand that other people use less fossil fuel. Bravely they met in Copenhagen a year ago to make the same demand, after also bravely meeting in Bali, Montreal and similar resort locales in prior years.

I will skip the obvious point about the greenhouse gases emitted by the jets and limos that bring the participants to these annual confabs, where preaching-to-the-choir is the order of the day.

Most of what happens at the annual international conference on climate change has been decided on in advance, so the greenhouse emissions could be avoided by a tele-meeting. But then the delegates won’t get a paid trip to Cancun!

Report: U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic industry set to boom


With NRG Energy’s announcement on Tuesday that it will invest $450 million investment in a California photovoltaic project, the New Jersey-based power provider has pledged a total of $750 million for big solar plants in the past two months.

A new report from GTM Research indicates why NRG sees such sunny prospects for the solar business. According to the researchers, utilities in the United States already have signed contracts for 5,400 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic power plants that will be built by 2014 with another 10,100 megawatts in negotiation.

The U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic market is expected to grow from $1 billion in 2010 to $8 billion by 2015, the report said.

NRG Energy to acquire SunPower solar farm for $450 million

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A subsidiary of NRG Energy on Tuesday said it will invest up to $450 million in a 250-megawatt photovoltaic power plant to be built by Silicon Valley’s SunPower on the central California coast.

The New Jersey-based power provider, which operates a fleet of fossil fuel and nuclear plants, has emerged as significant investor in solar projects.

In October, NRG agreed to invest $300 million in BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant now under construction in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. The company has also struck a partnership with eSolar, a Pasadena, Calif., startup, to build solar power plants in the desert Southwest. And NRG owns a 20-megawatt photovoltaic farm in Blythe, Calif., and has other solar projects under development in Arizona, California and New Mexico.

Nevada’s solar building boom


Over the past three months, California regulators have made headlines by licensing seven huge solar thermal power plants that would generate nearly 3,500 megawatts of electricity if all were built in the Southern California desert.

Garnering far less attention is a solar building boom that is getting under way in neighboring Nevada, which eventually could build plants that send electricity to California as well.

In October, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the  Silver State North Solar Project, a 60-megawatt photovoltaic power plant to be built by First Solar on 618 acres of government-owned land near the casino town of Primm 40 miles south of Las Vegas.

Environmentalists to use new Google 3D Trees mapping tool to preserve forests


Environmentalists have long used Google Earth to keep tabs on mountaintop mining and to monitor deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Now with the release Monday of the latest version of Google’s virtual world maps, they’ll be able to literally see the trees in the forest  — in 3D.

Among other new features, Google Earth 6 has initially mapped more than 80 million trees in seven cities, from olive groves in Athens to the flowering dogwoods of Tokyo. Viewers can also fly through a section of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil.

“Google wants to create a more accurate and real model of the world and we want to make sure we’re adding in more information to make the planet more alive and more complete,” Peter Birch, product manager for Google Earth, said in an interview. “Trees provide context wherever you go and this allows you to tell the story of forestlands.”

San Francisco to build U.S.’ first LEED Gold airport terminal

virgin terminal

Upping the ante in the greener-than-thou sweepstakes, San Francisco is building what would be the nation’s first LEED Gold-certified airport terminal.

LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a program run by the United States Green Building Council that awards certification to buildings that meet criteria for sustainability, energy efficiency, water use and other factors.

The revamped Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport, which will be home to Virgin America when it opens next spring, is designed to cut energy use by 20 percent and will feature a reclaimed water system.

Sage-grouse map could help avoid wind farm fights

sage grouse

In an effort that could help avoid conflicts between wind energy developers and environmentalists, the United States Department of the Interior this week released a map that identifies breeding densities of the imperiled sage-grouse in 11 Western states.

The chicken-sized bird with a white breast and a plumage of brown, black and white feathers is dependent on a sage-brush habitat that also is favored by developers of wind farms in high-wind areas of the Western United States.

“This map and initiative will help advance our collaborative efforts with states and stakeholders to develop smart policy to enhance the sustainability of our sage-grouse populations,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.  “The final map will give Interior a strong foundation to identify land uses that do not compromise areas that are so critical to the greater sage-grouse.”