Environment Forum

Carbon market: many projects, many clouds

Amanda Sutton looks over a wheat field in northern Colorado and sees a potential project that could help curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

“This is a patch of highly-cultivated land that could provide potential carbon offsets,” she said, standing by the field which is owned by the city of Fort Collins and the surrounding county.

“What we would do is take this wheat field and restore it to a native grassland which would sequester carbon from the atmosphere which we could potentially sell,” said Sutton, an environmental specialist with the city.

(See more Sutton comments in the video below)

Potential projects in the emerging carbon market are sprouting like wheat after a good rain across the United States in anticipation of “cap and trade” provisions in a climate bill that has narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives but could see significant revision in the Senate.

They could be part of a strategy to meet the bill’s current target to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. A cap and trade inspired market in Europe has been in place since 2005 and is the biggest by far.

Sarah Palin’s new focus

Admit it: we all wondered just what Sarah Palin would turn her time and talents to after she announced her resignation from the Alaska governor’s job, and now she’s given what looks like an answer. In an op-ed column in The Washington Post, Palin took a swipe at Washington insiders and the mainstream media for ignoring the economy, and then tipped her hand.

“Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges,” she wrote. “So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be: I am deeply concerned about President Obama’s cap-and-trade energy plan, and I believe it is an enormous threat to our economy. It would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage.”

In a brief story about this, we noted that Palin’s plans for spurring the U.S. economy include offshore drilling, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and exploring the possibility of nuclear power in every state.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. conservative Christians sound “cap and trade” alarms

America's social and religious conservatives are turning up the heat as they galvanize heartland opposition against the latest example of President Barack Obama-inspired "socialism" -- a climate change bill that aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which most scientists have linked to climate change.  

USA/

The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday. It would require large companies, including utilities and manufacturers, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. It must still go through the U.S. Senate, where its ultimate fate remains uncertain despite the Democratic majority there.

Conservative Christians, a key base -- if not THE base -- for the out-of-power Republican Party, are among the biggest skeptics of human-induced global warming. In the eyes of many environmentalists, they were part of an "unholy alliance" with the energy industry that enjoyed its zenith under former president George W. Bush, who pulled America out of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting emissions in the developed world. The Bush administration was widely seen as hostile to any attempt to cap emissions as well as the science behind it.

New ‘gold rush’ buzz hits Germany over Sahara solar

A “gold-rush-like” buzz has spread across Germany in the last week over tentative plans to invest the staggering sum of 400 billion euros to harvest solar power in the Sahara for energy users across Europe and northern Africa. Even though European and Mediterranean Union leaders have been exploring and studying for several years the idea of using concentrated solar power (CSP), the Desertec proposition suddenly captivated the public’s attention a week ago when German reinsurer Munich Re announced it had invited blue chip German companies such as Deutsche Bank, Siemens and several major utilities to a July 13 meeting on the project. The 20 companies aim to sign a memorandum of understanding to found the Desertec Industrial Initiative that could be supplying 15 percent of Europe’s electricity in the decades ahead.

Germany’s deputy foreign minister, Guenter Gloser, has been the government’s point man for the project. I had the chance to talk to him about it.

Question: How did this project to turn the sun in the Sahara into electricity for Europe and north African countries get started?
Guenter Gloser: About 15 months ago Germany and France proposed including the solar plan into the list of projects for the Union for the Mediterranean. There were institutions that had already done research and we thought: ‘Why don’t we use this sun belt where there is such an abundance of sunshine as a source of renewable energy?’ Together Germany, France and Egypt put forth this solar plan as one of the six projects for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and underscored the fact that it could benefit both sides. It was not an idea where just countries north of the Mediterranean will benefit but rather those countries south of it as well as across the EU would also benefit.

IBM supercomputer reuses heat to warm buildings

IBM’s latest green venture is a highly efficient supercomputer that uses water to siphon off  waste heat, and then uses the excess energy to warm up a building.

High-tech giants from Microsoft to Google are eager to cut the huge amounts of power used to run their data centers, particularly now that the recession has companies leaving no stone unturned to slash costs and global warming is driving them to think green.

Developed by IBM jointly with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) — a sort of Swiss version of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — the new supercomputer’s microchips avoid cooling with energy-sucking air conditioning.

from MacroScope:

More than green shoots

MacroScope is pleased to post the following from guest blogger Stewart Armer. Stewart is head of socially responsible investing at Fortis Investments. He outlines here how huge stimulus plans could boost sustainable economic development. His team blogs on this issue at SRI Blog.

While we are still debating if the worst is over, it has become clear that economic crisis has turned into an opportunity for sustainable economic development.

Our recent analysis of the fiscal stimulus packages of G-20 countries shows that almost half of the announced spending will be spent on the environment and social sectors.  The major recipients include healthcare ($333 billion), sustainable transport ($209 billion), education ($151 billion), social housing ($95 billion), clean and efficient energy ($84 billion), and clean water and air ($68 billion).

from Shop Talk:

The greening of Wal-Mart

walmartsustainable Wal-Mart, which helped promote the adoption of those funny-looking "green" lightbulbs, is making more room in its Sam's Club warehouse stores for environmentally friendly products -- including a water-saving toilet that has one button for flushing liquids and another for flushing solids.

Employees at a Sam's Club in the discounter's home town in Bentonville, Arkansas, have emptied shelves of things like power tools to make way for a variety of green products. Similar efforts have taken place in Sam's Clubs across the United States.

"Our members need and are looking for things that will help them mitigate their energy bills," said Joel Heiligenthal, buyer of home efficiency products at the club store chain.

Green Portfolio: Pacific Ethanol plummets

A gas station worker fills a car's tank with ethanol in Rio de Janeiro April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Shares in Pacific Ethanol lost almost half their value in morning trading after the biggest West Coast-based producer and marketer of ethanol announced that it had put its production facilities in California, Oregon and Idaho into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company said on May 12 that it would likely need to file for bankruptcy if it was not able to restructure its debt.

A string of energy firms have filed for Chapter 11 recently, suffering from weak U.S. demand that has depressed prices and margins. VeraSun Energy, once the largest publicly listed U.S. ethanol maker, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Starting big, thinking small in batteries

Carmakers and regulators look at the adoption of electric vehicles, which draw their power from the electric grid rather than engines and thus emit no carbon dioxide from their tailpipes, as a necessarily gradual process, limited by battery technology.
 
But General Electric thinks its new battery technology, based on sodium, could radically speed up that process.
 
“The way the roadmap has been laid out as I’ve seen it is a lot of evolutionary steps,” with technological development taking years if not decades to replace traditional gasoline powered cars with hybrids, followed by plug-in hybrids, followed by pure electric vehicles said Glen Merfeld, who runs the chemical energy lab at GE’s global research center in Niskayuna, New York.
 
The reason for that long timeframe is that current battery technology limits the range of a car that draws its power solely from an internal battery.
 
“The sodium battery is potentially disruptive to that evolutionary look,” Merfeld said. The technology that we are commercializing will solve some of those problems.”
 
GE on Tuesday said it plans to build a new factory outside Albany, New York, where it will initially focus on producing sodium-metal halide batteries for railroad locomotives. That technology differs from the lithium-ion batteries being developed for the next generation of hybrid autos in that it is better suited for releasing small amounts of energy over time, rather than a lot at once.
 
Eventually, by pairing the sodium battery with a lithium-ion one, such as those made by A123 Systems, which GE owns a stake in, the company could design a power train for an all-electric car that would allow a range of hundreds of miles and cost 30 to 40 percent less than a single-battery power train, Merfeld said.
 
“You’d probably want to start with larger (vehicles) because that’s where you need to store more energy than in the smaller ones,” added Mark Little, a GE senior vice president who runs its research center. “We could imagine a day where you could go to the future and have a small lithium-ion system for the power side and a larger sodium battery for the energy side. But that will take some time to get to.”
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

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.

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