Environment Forum

from Photographers' Blog:

A global view of Earth Hour

The world turned off its lights on March 26 for an hour from 8.30 p.m. local time as a show of support for tougher action to confront climate change.

A global celebration of Earth Hour 2011 from Nicky Loh on Vimeo.

I was given the assignment to not only photograph the event from Taipei, Taiwan, but to produce a multimedia video that showcased the world's landmarks without lights as part of the fifth annual Earth Hour.

The Taipei 101 building is seen before Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Taipei 101 building is seen during Earth Hour in Taipei March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

The Reuters online team in Toronto and I had decided to produce a video to illustrate the event with pictures by our photographers around the world. The idea was to fade before pictures with the lights turned on into the exact same image without the lights on.

The most challenging part of this was coordinating with the chief photographers around the world to advise their staff photographers of exactly what I needed in the pictures to make the transitions in the video seamless.

The temple of the Parthenon is pictured after Earth Hour in Athens, March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/John Kolesidis

The temple of the Parthenon is pictured during Earth Hour in Athens, March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/John Kolesidis

These were the instructions given out to everyone:

- No Verticals. It's hard to fit a vertical photograph into a video production. You often have to crop it into a horizontal or have large spaces of black on the two sides.

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."

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.

from Tales from the Trail:

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington's scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances -- energy vampires, he called them.

"Garlic doesn't work against these vampires," Chu wrote. "But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet." Then he linked to the Energy Department's "energy star" page .

Surprise ending to director’s oil sands visit

James Cameron did not meet expectations with his high-profile visit to Alberta’s oil sands, and that’s probably to the Canadian-born filmmaker’s credit.

An earlier contention by the director of “Titanic” and “Avatar” that development of the massive energy resource was a black eye for Canada had industry supporters in a tizzy.

Surely, his trip to oil sands plants and native communities in the region would be just another example of some celebrity seeking to burnish his green cred without knowing the real story, they said.cameron

The Green Gauge: Shale developers hit speed bumps

A pedestrian walks near a no drilling sign in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania, September 5, 2010. In the rush to develop America's biggest new source of domestic energy, one community is fighting to protect its rural way of life from the environmental strains that accompany shale gas drilling.  REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Development of shale gas has attracted myriad fans and enemies in recent months: those who cheer a source of natural gas on the home turf of the U.S. and environmentalists who warn the process to release the gas underground risks contaminating drinking water.

This month, Chesapeake Energy, Denbury Resources and Southwest Energy Co. each made headlines for environmental mishaps, and share the top spot in this issue of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines Sept. 6 to Sept 19 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

‘Friendly’ push for Facebook to dump coal

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, delivers a keynote address at the company's annual conference in San Francisco, California July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White

With half a million signatures backing it up, Greenpeace fired off a letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg today calling for the world’s largest social network to cut ties to coal-fired power at its new data center in Oregon.

“Other cloud-based companies face similar choices and challenges as you do in building data centers, yet many are making smarter and cleaner investments,” executive director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, writes. He points to Google and its a recent agreement to buy wind power from NextEra Energy for the next 20 years to power its data centers.

The letter adds to what’s turning into a miserable week for Zuckerberg, who is also fighting a civil lawsuit by a man who claims to own a huge chunk of the social network site and is seeking to uncover “unnecessary details” about Zuckerberg’s private life.

Scottish scientists brew up whisky biofuel

Professor Martin Tangey, Director of Edinburgh Napier University Biofuel Research Centre, holds a glass of whisky during a media viewing in Edinburgh, Scotland August 17, 2010. The University, which has filed a patent for a new super butanol biofuel made from whiskey by-products, 'pot ale' - a liquid taken from the copper stills, and 'draff' which is the spent grain, claims the bio-fuel gives 30 percent more output power than ethanol. REUTERS/David Moir

Scientists in Scotland have unveiled a new biofuel made from whisky byproducts that they say can power ordinary cars more efficiently than ethanol.

A research team from Edinburgh’s Napier University spent two years creating the biofuel butanol that can be used in gas tanks either as a stand-alone fuel or blended with petrol or diesel, they announced Tuesday. It is derived from distillation byproducts pot ale (liquid from copper stills) and draff (the spent grains).

Is this the answer for critics of corn-based, energy-intensive ethanol?

“While some energy companies are growing crops specifically to generate biofuel, we are investigating excess materials such as whisky by-products to develop them,” Professor Martin Tangey, director of Napier’s Biofuel Research Center told the Financial Times.

R.I.P. cap and trade? Not just yet

– Valerie Volcovici is a Washington, DC-based journalist for Point Carbon, a Thomson Reuters company that provides news and intelligence on environmental and energy markets. Any views expressed here are her own. —

The architects of the Western Climate Initiative couldn’t have asked for better timing for the release of the blueprints for their planned cap-and-trade system on July 27.

With national headlines the week before calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s legislation to set up a federal greenhouse gas emissions trading system “shelved”, “jettisoned” or even “dead”, the release of the highly technical details of the WCI’s cap-and-trade plans drew more attention than would have otherwise been expected.

Utilities may win big from energy bill

The sun rises over electric power lines in Encinitas, California in this file photo from September 4, 2007.   REUTERS/Mike Blake

–Andrew Leckey is President of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Any views expressed here are his own.-

Having spent the past two weeks in record high temperatures in Beijing and Shanghai, with global warming being noted publicly by Chinese officials as the primary cause of severe weather, I find the situation faced by U.S. companies somewhat ironic.

The now-grounded U.S. climate legislation, rather than clearing a general or modest environmental path for U.S. companies and emerging nations, underscored the significant differences of opinion over the environment and the economic impact of regulation.

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