Environment Forum

from Hallie Seegal:

A local obstruction in the fracking pipeline

 

There are high hopes that the natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will boost the economy and bring the United States closer to energy independence, but if the energy industry expects to break new ground and fulfill a growing demand anytime soon, they need to make friends with the people who reside near the drilling rigs.

Two new reports out last week point to the potential of how fracking, the process whereby a highly-pressured mixture of water, sand and chemicals is blasted through underground shale rock formations to release natural gas, could positively benefit our economy. One study projects that natural gas will account for nearly one-third of total U.S. energy produced by 2040, and the other one, a government commissioned report which the Obama administration is expected to partially base its shale gas policy on, shows natural gas exports providing revenue to the struggling economy under every condition considered.

Fracking well

A natural gas well is drilled near Canton, in Bradford County, Pennsylvania January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

The Obama administration has largely left regulation of private land up to the states, and for many landowners, the impacts of hydraulic fracturing don’t just hit close to home… they drill right into their backyards. Last month, voters in Longmont, Colo. became the latest in the country to ban fracking within town limits. The ballot initiative was passed via a bipartisan vote and the town will likely follow in the footsteps a handful of other municipalities, including the upstate New York towns of Dryden, Middlefield and Avon, that already passed bans or moratoriums and are in the midst of legal challenges to uphold them. While local ordinances may not typically make national news, the precedent set by these local governments cannot be overstated. At the most micro level, local residents came together and threw a wedge into the plans of private industry -- industry that by the way, already have allocated millions of dollars to harvest these towns’ natural resources.

In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that shale gas development would not only create 50,000 new jobs in the state, but may also raise New York wages by nearly $2.5 billion. So why then, is there resistance to industry moving into the neighborhood? It seems that aside from landscape degradation -- think oil rigs and waste pits in the midst of green pastures – local residents aren’t sure this bright, green economic future prioritizes their health and safety.

Idea dearth at big money sustainability summit

Tom Rand, P.Eng., Ph.D., is Cleantech Lead Advisor at MaRS Disovery District and author of Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit. Any views expressed are his own.

Curious about new financial innovations to accelerate the global transition to a low-carbon economy, I attended the recent United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) summit in Washington, D.C. This was a gathering of big money and those who shape its flows – pension funds, insurance companies, policy wonks and political negotiators.

Not surprisingly, I found nothing mind-blowing.

Our intentions are good, but we move – as always – incrementally. Catastrophic climate change still doesn’t fit our spreadsheets. Pension funds still rely on voluntary principles of risk avoidance.

A clear and fair incentive to pollute less


Connie Hedegaard is EU Commissioner for Climate Action. Any opinions expressed are her own.

This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a rather unusual bill directly addressed to Europe.

Through the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act H.R. 2594, America’s legislators want to tell American airlines not to respect an EU law.

Finalists named for “Nobel of Sustainability”

 

 

If the Nobel society had an award for sustainability, it would resemble the Katerva awards, a new international prize for the most promising ideas and efforts to advance the planet toward sustainability.

Minus the money.

Katerva, the new UK-based charity, today announced winners for 10 individual categories, who are now shortlisted for a single grand prize to be awarded in New York on Dec. 7.

Awards are for “game-changers and industry breakers; ideas that leap efficiency, lifestyle, consumption and action bounds ahead of current thinking,” their website says.

D.C. dawdles, California leads on climate

Becky Kelley directs the Climate and Clean Energy Agenda at the Washington Environmental Council. Any opinions expressed are her own.

We could smell the sweet winds of change all the way up in Washington State last week, when California adopted final rules to implement a cap and trade program to reduce climate pollution across its economy, beginning in 2013.

California got it right. Cap and trade is a policy at the scale of the problem: big, complex policy to deal with a big, complex problem.

Back to the Future goes electric

The DeLorean Motor Co. announced it will launch an all-electric version of its Back to the Future gull-winged car in 2013, but aficionados are debating whether or not it will fly.

Texas-based DeLorean has partnered with Epic EV (and its sister battery company Flux Power) to bring to market the prototype DMC-12 EV, with a top speed of 125 mph driven by a 260 horsepower electric motor. Range is between 70 and 100 miles and the battery has an expected lifespan of 7 years.

It will sport a price tag from between $90,000 to $100,000.

Critics are concerned about the weight of stainless steel.  “I’m not sure you know the DeLorean – it is a very large, very, very heavy car and I couldn’t imagine making an EV version of it.  $100 says the range blows,” writes AMouth, one of 294 comments on the subject at techie hub slashdot.org.

Newsweek’s green giants

Newsweek today released its third annual Green Rankings, a leading benchmark for rating the largest publicly owned companies in the United States and around the world. Again this year they divided the rankings into two surveys, the top U.S. companies and the top global companies, this year increasing the number of global companies to 500 from 100. By far it’s tech companies leading the packs, from IBM (who scored #1 and #2 on U.S. and the Global lists respectively) to Hewlett-Packard, BT Group and Infosys among others.

Newsweek’s comprehensive online package includes articles to mull including Cary Krosinsky’s report that companies and their shareholders “make out like bandits when they’re environmentally responsible” and a closer look at “Obama’s Big Green Mess” by Daniel Stone and Eleanor Clift as well as other nuggets on the state of green business in faltering economies and abandoned plans for policy reform at the governmental level.

“Big companies have decided that this is a long-term play,” Thomas Lyon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is quoted as saying in Ian Yarett’s intro.

Is Michelle Obama strumming along with Gibson Guitar?

It’s not often that a U.S. first lady’s gift makes news — years after the fact — but Michelle Obama’s 2009 present to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has sparked some comment among free trade boosters and guitar pickers. The gift in question: a Gibson Hummingbird guitar.

Gibson Guitar Corp. has been making some news of its own this week, which is why those in Washington with long memories recalled the gift to the music-loving French first lady. Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz was in town to raise awareness about a problem he has with a long-standing U.S. law aimed at curbing illegal trafficking in tropical hardwoods, among other materials. Federal agents raided two of his Tennessee factories and confiscated more than $1 million worth of rosewood, ebony and finished guitars. No charges have been filed but Gibson’s chief says he is being investigated for possible violation of the Lacey Act of 1900. Read more about that here.

At a lunch with reporters and others, Juszkiewicz said he favors using sustainably harvested wood for Gibson instruments, and because guitars need such a small amount of tropical hardwoods for their fingerboards — the wooden top of the guitar’s neck — that’s well within the realm of possibility. But he says a 2008 amendment to the act is more protectionist than environmentally friendly. And he says the seizure of the materials his company needs to make the instruments makes it harder for Gibson’s hundreds of U.S. employees. The Justice Department has refused to comment on the ongoing litigation.

from The Great Debate UK:

Pakistan floods show Asia’s vulnerability to climate change

By Lord Julian Hunt and Professor J. Srinivasan. The opinions expressed are their own.

It is more than a year since the devastating July and August 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected about 20 million people and killed an estimated 2,000. Many believe that the disaster was partially fuelled by global warming, and that there is a real danger that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, could become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding.

Indeed, right now Pakistan is again experiencing massive flooding.  The UN asserts that, already, more than 5.5 million people have been affected and almost 4300 are officially reported dead, 100 of them children.

Steve Jurvetson on clean tech innovation that will change the world

(This article by Felicity Carus first appeared on Clean Energy Connection and has been edited for length. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

What venture capitalists really think and what they say aren’t always the same thing.

Steve Jurvetson, from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, last week gave his overview of disruptive innovation in clean tech at the Always On Going Green conference in San Francisco.

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