Environment Forum

State-by-state rules best for US carbon from cars?

President Barack Obama set in motion a process on Monday that may eventually allow California and other states to set tougher greenhouse gas pollution and efficiency standards on cars than those mandated by the federal government. 

 Obama’s move sends a signal to the world that the United States is beginning to join the rest of the developed countries to act on emissions blamed for warming the planet.

But some say allowing the states to take control of car emissions could lead to complications within the auto industry by forcing them make two sets of cars.  Consumers in California and as many as 18 other states would have to buy one set of cars built according to a set of guidelines and regulations and the other states would have another set of cars that are built differently.

Certainly U.S. car companies have fallen behind in making clean cars that consumers want and the federal government should push them to get on track. But are two sets of rules what the ailing car industry needs right now? 

Bill Bumpers, the director of the climate change practice at the law firm Baker Botts in Washington, D.C. doesn’t think so. “These are requirements that would be better off implemented on a national scale,” said Bumpers, who does not represent car companies.  He wonders if state-by-state regulations would add expenses for them to comply with the rules.

Environment falls as priority for Americans – Pew

2009 may not be such a green year in America after all.

According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, environmental protection has fallen off sharply as a priority issue among Americans. You can see the whole survey here.

Of the 20 issues people were asked to rate in both January 2008 and January 2009, five have slipped significantly in importance as attention to the economy has surged. Protecting the environment fell the most precipitously – just 41 percent rate this as a top priority today, down from 56 percent a year ago,” Pew said.

It said green concerns and others such as illegal immigration had been overtaken by growing anxiety over the souring economy.

Obama is just the facts on environment

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on “the facts” as it put together policy.

“We understand the facts demand bold action,” he said.

In case listeners didn’t get the point that the new administration thinks it’s different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

“There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science — welcome doctor,” he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.

Obama honeymoon short-lived at U.N. climate talks

After one of the briefest honeymoons in history, developing nations at U.N. climate change talks in Poland are saying that President-elect Barack Obama’s goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions don’t go far enough.

Delegates from China and India told Reuters at the Dec. 1-12 talks that they welcomed Obama’s plan to cut emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 compared to less ambitious goals set by President George W. Bush. (Emissions are now about 14 percent above 1990 ).

But they say Obama isn’t going far enough. See story here.

Developing nations want all developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by far more. That, they say, is the condition for the poor to start slowing their own rising emissions from factories, power plants and cars.

Vatican gets solar power; should White House follow?

 The Vatican (left) is going green from today with a new solar energy system on some roofs to help boost renewable use.

If Pope Benedict can have solar panels, are they something for the White House (right), after Barack Obama takes over as President on Jan. 20?

Former President Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the White House during the oil crisis of the 1970s — his successor Ronald Reagan took them down when the roof was being repaired in 1986 (…a year when oil prices tumbled to below $10 a barrel).

Green Obama Dreams: Environment Bloggers Weigh in on The Historic Day

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone. 

Tim Hurst of Ecopoliticology blog posts an entertaining video titled ’5 Green Obama Dreams’. The video mentions his posts on high resolution energy resource maps and the solar powered lawnmower.

On the DotEarth blog, Andrew Revkin muses on the significance of Obama’s election, writing

Renewables investor Khosla: “I’m a Republican, but…”

khosla.jpgVinod Khosla is a card-carrying Republican. But, the billionaire venture capitalist and alternative energy entrepreneur said, Democrat Barack Obama would be better for green businesses.

“I am a Republican, but I do believe Barack Obama will be a much bigger supporter of clean tech and renewable energy than John McCain will,” Khosla said at the Reuters Global Environment Summit in San Francisco. To see a video of the interview, click here.

Khosla stopped short of saying whom he would be casting a ballot for on November 4th, but added of McCain: “Unfortunately over the election cycle he’s gotten very beholden to some of the traditional energy interests. ”

Bush speech to U.N.: “terror” 32, “climate” 0

U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the 63rd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York September 23, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)U.S. President George W. Bush upset some delegates by failing to mention “climate change” or “global warming” in his final speech to the United Nations — in which he referred to terrorism 32 times.

Exactly a year ago, the United Nations held a special summit about climate change – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls fighting global warming his “signature issue” and many governments see it as the biggest long-term challenge.

Bush clearly has a lot to worry about such as the global financial crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Yet while he spoke a lot about terrorism in his speech on Tuesday, he did also refer to other problems such as human rights in Burma, violence in Darfur, the Doha trade round and the fight against malaria.