Environment Forum

from Reuters Investigates:

Solar energy vs wildlife

Sarah McBride reports on brewing battles between environmentalists in her special report: "With solar power, it's Green vs. Green."

It turns out the perfect place to build a big solar plant is often also the perfect place for a tortoise or a fox to live. This means developers of large-scale solar plants are running into legal challenges from people who one would expect to be natural allies of alternative energy providers.

Here's a map of some of the more contentious projects.

One local resident of the Panoche Valley, Sallie Calhoun, had this to say:

"I am passionate about preserving open space," she says, adding she believes the solar plant achieves that goal. "The idea that we're going to protect every lizard, every drainage, seems counterproductive."

 

It's a tough dilemma for environmentalists. Tell us what you think?

To read the special report in multimedia PDF format, click here.

California takes top spot in clean energy leadership rankings

IMG_1342.JPGAs the end of the year approaches, everyone seems to be making their lists. And, today, comes another one — U.S. states ranked for “clean energy leadership.”

Not surprisingly, California took the No. 1 spot, followed by Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington and Colorado. The bottom half of the Top 10 are New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey.

Clean Edge, a West Coast research and consulting firm, compiled the list based on 80 indicators, including a state’s renewable energy production, transportation systems, regulatory policies and incentives and financial and intellectual capital.

Passage of little-known initiative may disrupt California climate plan

While California’s election results offered plenty for state environmentalists to cheer, the passage of a so-called “stealth” ballot initiative could undermine its proposed carbon market.

Last Tuesday, voters rejected Proposition 23, which sought to halt California’s landmark environmental law, AB 32, which mandates the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. They also elected climate hawk and AB 32 champion Jerry Brown governor.

But with little fanfare, voters also approved Proposition 26 by a margin of 52.8% to 47.2%. Proposition 26, officially called the “Stop the Hidden Taxes Initiative,” requires two-thirds of legislators to approve fee increases, as opposed to just a simple majority – a difficult political hurdle given the makeup of the state legislature.

Campaign ad equating global warming with weather gets “pants-on-fire” rating

MILKEN/By now, almost everybody — with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina — realizes there’s a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being “worried about the weather” when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.

Take a look here:

A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn’t say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was “one of the very important national security issues” — a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it’s not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer’s record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.

“Fiorina casts climate change as something you need to pack an umbrella for, or that prompts you to curse at the TV weatherman — which strikes us as not only a trivialization of climate change but also a failure to distinguish between two well-established scientific specialties,” Politifact said. “She also ignores Boxer’s lengthy record supporting bills against terrorism. So we have to light up the meter (the site’s Truth-o-Meter): Pants on Fire!”

Ted Turner returns to solar

tedturnerU.S. billionaire Ted Turner is taking a shine to solar power — again.

Back in 2007, Turner sold solar developer Turner Renewable Energy to solar panel maker First Solar for $34.4 million — which has since ramped up its push into developing its own solar power projects.

Now Turner is teaming up with Atlanta-based utility Southern Company to develop renewable energy in the United States. To start, they will focus on large-scale solar farms in the U.S. Southwest, where solar development is already heating up in states like California and Arizona.

Some of the projects could end up on Turner’s land. He is the largest individual land owner in North America with more than two million acres.  

Major California port sees greener trucks

cleantruckOne of California’s biggest ports has cleaned up its fleet of 8,000 trucks.

The Port of Long Beach has cut nearly 80 percent of emissions from truck engines at the port since it started its ban of old diesel-fueled trucks. That’s roughly 200 tons less of soot — known as particulate matter — in the air at the port annually.

In 2008, the port of Long Beach, together with its sister port in Los Angeles started to green their truck fleets, targeting trucks built before 1989. Together the ports make up the busiest cargo hub in the United States.

Obama gets high marks for green record: environmental group

obama_solarPresident Barack Obama came into office with climate change and the environment on his list of top priorities.

Nearly a year later, one of the top environmental groups in the United States says that Obama has made the grade so far.

In a review of his green record, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) highlighted dozens of moves by Obama at home and abroad. They cited the $50 billion the president put in the stimulus package for cleaner energy and energy efficiency; an executive order for federal agencies to set targets to cut emissions by 2020; and the adoption of strict auto emissions standards, modeled after environmental trendsetter California.

California looks to catch a wave, of energy

surferBesides surfing, tourism and the ocean views, California may get another benefit from its famed coast: energy.

With shores that stretch for 745 miles along the Pacific Ocean, California could harness more than 37,000 megawatts of ocean power, or enough to supply a fifth of the state’s energy needs, according to the California Energy Commission.

On Friday, California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co, or PG&E, took a dive in that direction. The company said it signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to study a wave energy project near a base and off the coast of northern Santa Barbara County. The utility is also seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.

Which U.S. states make the grade on net-metering?

Advocates for renewable energy hail net-metering as a key policy so that electricity from solar and wind is generated at the same place where it is consumed.

Supporters refer to it as the policy that lets the electric meter spin backwards. It allows people who own solar power systems, for example, export electricity to the grid and earn credits — at retail prices — on their utility bill.

In a new report called “Freeing the Grid,” advocates with several groups grade each state on their net-metering policies.

Biggest California CO2 emitter is…

The biggest greenhouse gas emitter in California isn’t in California.

A string of PacifiCorp power plants are the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide included in the state’s 2008 inventory of carbon sources tied to state use.

California aims to start a cap-and-trade system for carbon pollution in 2012, if it is not preempted by a federal plan, and emissions reports by big power plants and the like represent a step toward that goal.

In-state and out-of-state power plants are roughly equal in the amount of carbon dioxide they produce, and together account for about a quarter of the state’s emissions. A weak economy has raised the stakes for California’s energy plans, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently vetoed legislative renewable power goals that would have limited out-of-state supply. Instead he set a target with an administrative order that was less restrictive.

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