Environment Forum

Clean energy conference shows efficiency means savings

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-Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. The views expressed are her own.-

While policymakers in Washington debate the best path forward for dealing with climate change, a growing number of U.S. businesses have discovered a simple technique that can lower costs, increase productivity, and slash greenhouse gas emissions.  What’s more, it can work for any business no matter what they make – whether it’s potato chips or computer chips.

It’s called energy efficiency, and a growing number of U.S. businesses are starting to get it.

What does it mean to be efficient? Seven habits of highly efficient companies as identified in the Pew Center’s new 176-page report From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, lists designating full-time staff to be accountable for energy performance, communicating externally the company’s successes in reducing energy costs and emissions and – perhaps most importantly – integrating sustainability as a core part of corporate strategic planning and risk assessment.

The results of this two-year study, featured this week at our Corporate Energy Efficiency Conference in Chicago attended by 260 representatives from 120 companies and universities, speak for themselves.

from The Great Debate:

States see pushback against carbon trading

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-- John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own --

Efforts to implement cap-and-trade programs at state level are faltering, just as policymakers in Washington are struggling to generate enough support to put in place a comprehensive national system.

Recent setbacks in California and Arizona point to growing headwinds against the policy. As cap-and-trade loses momentum and becomes embroiled in bigger political disputes about the size and role of government, opponents are becoming emboldened to try to block the policy completely.

Carbon market supporters have repeatedly expressed the hope that state and regional initiatives can provide at least a temporary substitute as hopes for a national program have dimmed in the wake of last year's failed summit in Copenhagen and a string of election defeats that have thrown the progressive wing of the Democratic Party onto the defensive.

Grass-fed beef packs a punch to environment

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First it was slow. Then local, then organic. Now it is firmly grass-fed.

As a rare geophysicist studying diet’s environmental consequences, I am asked daily by my colleagues – a bit bemused by my new field yet quantitatively astute and environmentally concerned – about the latest claim made about impacts of food production on the physical environment.

In this role, I get to keep a sensitive finger on the envirofood pulse. Unambiguously, grass-fed beef is all the rage now. Even the New York Times Op-Ed page featured a recent piece extolling the virtues of grazing cattle.

Depending on your guiding environmental objectives, grass-fed beef may indeed be the greatest thing since Guns n’ Roses or the environmental equivalent of entrusting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with military preparedness.

Burning tires is most definitely renewable

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– Rich Trzupek is a chemist and principal consultant at Mostardi Platt Environmental. He also writes for bigjournalism.com and frontpagemag.com on science, the environment and politics. The views expressed here are his own. –

Thanks to federal and state incentive programs, renewable energy is more prized and more profitable than ever.

Wind and solar energy are the best known forms of renewable power, but they don’t wholly define this particular universe.

Tire incineration is not renewable energy

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– Brian Schwartz and Cindy Parker are both physicians and faculty in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. They are also both Fellows of the Post Carbon Institute. The opinions expressed are solely their own. –

How do you solve a problem like David Miller?

According to the Chicago Tribune, he is the Illinois representative who last month, with little fanfare and notice at the time, attempted to modify legislation to include tire burning in the state’s definition of renewable energy.

The bill failed to pass initially but it isn’t dead yet – supporters may attempt to add it to another bill before the General Assembly adjourns.

from Tales from the Trail:

U.S. reveals nuclear target: oceans

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The new U.S.  nuclear weapons doctrine released on Tuesday had stern warnings for Iran and North Korea, with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explaining that it left "all options on the table" for dealing with atomic renegades despite its broader goal of restricting the U.S. use of its nuclear stockpile.

But Gates also let slip a bit of information that may give pause to environmentalists: most U.S. nuclear missiles are now targeted at the world's oceans.

"Our ICBMs are all targeted right now on the oceans, so that if, God forbid and for the first time in 60 years, there were an accidental launch or a problem ...it would put a missile right into the middle of the ocean, rather than targeted on any country," Gates told a news briefing.

Why subsidize the surfeit of wind turbines?

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With an oversupply of wind turbines, why are governments subsidizing new manufacturing plants?

In recent years, China has ramped up its efforts to become a world leader in manufacturing and installation of wind turbines.

But the other side of the story is that China has also idled 40 percent of its industrial wind turbine manufacturing capacity as a result of oversupply and plummeting prices.

from The Great Debate UK:

Bringing a new perspective to World Water Day

van lier- Dr. Ir. Jules B. van Lier is a professor at Delft University. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The international observance of World Water Day, this year on March 22, is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.  This year’s theme -- ‘Clean Water for a Healthy World’ -- reflects the fact that population and industrial growth are adding new sources of pollution and increased demand for clean water across the world.

Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake, yet water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue.

from Summit Notebook:

Economic security or environmental destruction?

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The Oil Sands, the world's second-largest proven reserves after Saudi Arabia, hold out the promise of energy security for the United States and economic security for Canada. But environmentalists fear the destructive, energy intensive process of extracting the oil will carry direct consequences for the planet. Despite the doubts, new oil sands projects are again springing up after the financial crisis halted development. How will oil companies balance the quest for more oil with environmental concerns? Mar. 22-23 we'll put those questions to the oil companies, environmental groups and government officals at the first Reuters Canadian Oil Sands Summit in Calgary.

from The Great Debate UK:

Managing catastrophic risks and climate change

Graciela Chichilnisky-Graciela Chichilnisky is the Architect of the Carbon Market of the Kyoto Protocol and the author of 'Saving Kyoto', New Holland Publishers, UK, 2009.  Chichilnisky is a Professor of Mathematics and Economics at Columbia University in New York, Director of Columbia Consortium for Risk Management and Managing Director of Global Thermostat Inc. The opinions expressed are her own.-

We live surrounded by uncertainty. Tsunamis, the eruption of super- volcanoes, violent floods and storms, asteroid impacts that eliminate entire species as the dinosaurs that went extinct 60 millions years ago, the recent 8.8 earthquake in Chile, not to mention the global financial crisis.  Some disasters are worse than others, but they all have one thing in common. They are catastrophic risks.    This means risks that occur very rarely – but when they happen they have truly major consequences.

How should we prepare for the unknown catastrophe - how should we manage catastrophic risks?

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