Environment Forum

Chevron CEO sees smoke and mirrors in cap and trade

“If you liked credit derivatives swaps, you’re going to love cap-and-trade.”

One can presume that Chevron Chief Executive David O’Reilly is not a fan of the current deep worldwide recession — which was worsened by a credit-market lockup blamed in part on hard-to-value securities.

And, he made it very clear on Thursday that he is not enamored of the system the Obama administration hopes to use to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, which are produced through the burning of fossil fuels sold by the No. 2 U.S. oil and gas company.

“It’s smoke and mirrors,” O’Reilly told a Boston business group. “Personally, I think it’s going to be a difficult system. I don’t think the American people trust it.”

A proposal working its way through the U.S. Congress would put in a place a cap-and-trade system that would give individual U.S. companies the right to emit certain quantities of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change. Companies whose emissions are below their allotment could sell their extra rights to other companies.

A scheme by any other name…

It was a discussion that would have made George Bernard Shaw smile. The British Nobel Prize-winning writer said America and England were separated by their common language.

Such was evident recently during a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills. The panel focused on the effort to limit carbon dioxide emissions by trading carbon credits, commonly called a cap-and-trade scheme, and creating such a system in the United States.

That’s the rub, said Elizabeth Kanna, a marketing professional who said that “scheme” is an awful choice because, for most Americans, it means something sinister.

Antarctica warms; scientists say we’re to blame

New research shows that both Antarctica and the Arctic are getting less icy – and the best explanation is mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

But will that convert anyone who doubts that global warming is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels?

The scientists, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, say that a study of temperature records from Antarctica (there aren’t many of them) shows a slight rising trend over recent decades that can be best explained by a build-up of greenhouse gases led by carbon dioxide.

Planet sick; do the doctors care?

Children run on a dried lakebed in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad June 5, 2008. The United Nations urged the world on Thursday to kick an all-consuming addiction to carbon dioxide and said everyone must take steps to fight climate change. World Environment Day, conceived in 1972, is the United Nation’s principal day to mark global green issues and aims to give a human face to environmental problems and solutions. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder (INDIA)    The UN’s climate surgery opening hours this week in Bonn, Germany, are 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm.

    Several times they’ve finished early — lack of demand?

    “That’s good. Often they just go on and on. Next week it may be a bit later,” a UN spokesperson told me.

    Welcome to a new round of talks to find a successor to the UN-administered Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Bonn is the second of eight meetings of 190 countries and 2,000 people or so to agree a new climate pact by December 2009.

Way better than the subway

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There are plenty of ways to get around New York City, not all of them savory — subway, bus, car, taxi, bike, shoe-leather — but few offer the environmental cachet of the plug-in electric motorbike. Sleek, slim and silent, the Vectrix two-seater owned by filmmaker Michael Bergmann is definitely preferable to rocketing around town under almost any other kind of power. The ride from the East Side to the West Side one recent evening was an absolute pleasure, with less ambient noise than a golf cart as we zoomed across Central Park.

“I’ve always felt that enjoying life in New York to the fullest requires a way to get around New York,” Bergmann said later in an e-mail. “A way that’s quiet and up on the surface so you can enjoy the varied life and changing neighborhoods as you travel. That requires a vehicle that’s street legal (so I don’t worry about being stopped or having it confiscated), always available, that isn’t hard to park, that doesn’t contribute to congestion or pollution (air or noise), that can carry the amount of stuff one ordinarily carries, and carry a passenger as well. So as soon as I found out about the Vectrix I wanted one.”

Vectrix, headquartered in Rhode Island, first started selling its electric plug-in motorbikes in Europe and is now expanding in the U.S. market. The company bills its plug-in model as “an advanced zero-emission, battery-powered motorcycle,” with comparable performance to a 400cc gas-powered motorcycle.

Substance trumps style at climate talks

bento21.JPG   It was like a scene from the future. A carpark brimming with fuel-cell and hydrogen-powered cars, while fuel-cell buses ferried delegates to lunch near the modern conference centre outside Tokyo.

   Japan was determined to display its green credentials at weekend G20 talks, one of the biggest meetings of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters since last December’s Bali gathering. Even conference staff were given chopsticks and traditional “bento” boxes that could be reused instead of the usual throw-away items.

    Inside the conference hall, though, delegates were more interested in substance than style as they discussed ways to agree on a global pact by the end of 2009 to curb growing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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