Environment Forum

Muddled up in climate politics

Piero Quinci handles his dog as Monique Johnson (R) looks on near a beach front polling place at the Los Angeles County lifeguard station in Hermosa Beach, California November 2, 2010. REUTERS/David McNew

Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.

For those of us hoping for substantive climate or energy legislation in the near future, Tuesday’s election was a mixed bag at best.

And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.

If Democrats couldn’t muster the votes or political capital with majorities in both houses of Congress, there was little chance following a mid-term election that was sure to weaken their hold.

Tuesday’s bright spot came out of California, where the state’s 2006 landmark climate legislation (CA AB32) was upheld by voters who either didn’t buy the argument made by Proposition 23 proponents that AB32 would hurt the economy or didn’t take well to out-of-state oil companies telling them what to do. Yet even this “victory” is a mixed bag.

The quest to put solar power back on the White House

betterbill

Bill McKibben, founder of the green group 350.org, is on a quest to convince President Barack Obama to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

He’s at the end of a journey to Washington from Maine in a van fired by biodiesel carrying one of the 32 panels Jimmy Carter unveiled in 1979 during the first press conference on the White House roof.

Also in the van are students from Unity College, which got the the panels some time after President Ronald Reagan, no fan of alternative energy, had workers remove the panels during “roof repairs” in 1986.

Clean energy conference shows efficiency means savings

USA-ECONOMY/

-Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The views expressed are her own.-

While policymakers in Washington debate the best path forward for dealing with climate change, a growing number of U.S. businesses have discovered a simple technique that can lower costs, increase productivity, and slash greenhouse gas emissions.  What’s more, it can work for any business no matter what they make – whether it’s potato chips or computer chips.

It’s called energy efficiency, and a growing number of U.S. businesses are starting to get it.

from Summit Notebook:

Awaiting the alternative energy sukuk: Innovation vs conservatism

MANAMA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Dubai’s debt fiasco and real estate bubble bust pushes investors to look out for alternative assets underlying Islamic finance products – could renewable energy provide a way-out?

Predominantly, Islamic finance and investment products have been backed by infrastructure or commodities assets. But executives at the 2010 Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit said product diversification was needed to cut the over-reliance on real estate in the Gulf.

“Sharia scholars are eager to support the renewable energy initiative, but the Islamic banking industry (in the Gulf) does not seem to be overly interested in this area although I am aware of a couple of deals involving acquisitions of clean tech companies in the U.S. and wind farms in the UK," said Ayman Khaleq, partner at the Vinson & Elkins law firm in Dubai.

Goldilocks and the three fuels

ENERGY-MARCELLUS/

– Richard Heinberg is the author of eight books, including “Peak Everything”, “Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis” and “The Party’s Over”. He is also a senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute. The views expressed are his own. –

Recent shale gas projects, including those involving the massive Marcellus Shale in several northeastern states, have been yielding significant quantities of fuel. Reserves of the stuff are enormous. But drilling costs and per-well decline rates are high, so producers can make a profit only if gas prices are near historic highs.

Where are oil prices headed in 2010? Forecasts for the year are all over the map, from more than $100 a barrel to under $50.

Bring on the green energy investment

GLOBALWARMING/

By Professor Danny Harvey

- Danny Harvey is a geography professor and energy policy expert at the University of Toronto. He is author of A Handbook on Low-Energy Buildings and District Energy Systems: Fundamentals, Techniques and Examples, and  the forthcoming Energy and the New Reality, Volume 2: C-free Energy, now available in preprint form here.

The world is facing the prospect of massive climatic change during the coming decades, and we’re already seeing the beginnings of this all around us and much faster than predicted – dramatic melting of sea ice, thawing of permafrost, increased loss of ice from Greenland, and drier conditions in many parts of the world.

Climate scientists are nearly unanimous in saying that dramatic and strong action is needed to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy as rapidly as possible.

from Summit Notebook:

60-hour work weeks, all in the name of climate change

Some politicians may be accused of dragging their heels when it comes to dealing with climate change, but you can't say members of the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism's executive board aren't clocking in the hours.

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an emissions trading scheme under the Kyoto Protocol worth $33 billion last year according to the World Bank, allows companies and countries to outsource their greenhouse gas reduction efforts by investing in clean energy projects in emerging countries like China and India, where making emissions cuts costs less.

Projects are submitted to the CDM for registration and a staff of over 100 examine and scrutinize each one to ensure environmental integrity.

from Summit Notebook:

Enviro-boxer Britain needs to spend more on climate cure

Scientists may face an uphill battle in trying to warn the world about the looming perils of global warming, but one of Britain's top academics wouldn't trade places with the politicians tasked with negotiating a new global treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

"Although the science (of climate change) is difficult and still uncertain, it's a doddle compared to the politics," said Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, Britain's science academy.

Thousands of international delegates will convene at UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December. All early indications suggest those talks, seen as critical to agreeing a successor to the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012, will be anything but a cake walk.

from Summit Notebook:

Silver Spring Networks shows grid smarts

Scott Lang, the Chief Executive of Silver Spring Networks, sat down at Reuters' Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco to talk about building and expanding within green tech sector.

Here Lang discusses how his company's technology for reporting power consumption to utilities also finds problems quickly.

(Editing/video by Courtney Hoffman)

from Summit Notebook:

BrightSource CEO talks about building carbon-free future

John Woolard, the chief executive of solar thermal energy company BrightSource, sat down at Reuters' Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco to talk about energy efficiency, project financing and the future  of carbon-free power.

His advice: build fast!

(Editing/video by Courtney Hoffman)

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