Environment Forum

Renewables investor Khosla: “I’m a Republican, but…”

khosla.jpgVinod Khosla is a card-carrying Republican. But, the billionaire venture capitalist and alternative energy entrepreneur said, Democrat Barack Obama would be better for green businesses.

“I am a Republican, but I do believe Barack Obama will be a much bigger supporter of clean tech and renewable energy than John McCain will,” Khosla said at the Reuters Global Environment Summit in San Francisco. To see a video of the interview, click here.

Khosla stopped short of saying whom he would be casting a ballot for on November 4th, but added of McCain: “Unfortunately over the election cycle he’s gotten very beholden to some of the traditional energy interests. ”

Still, Khosla said renewable energy and climate change legislation was slowly garnering support from his party, too.

“A Democratic majority would be very good for renewable energy, but  it is a bipartisan issue — there are many many Republicans who support it also,” Khosla said. “I think we are headed in the right direction. Maybe too slowly for my liking, but I think we are heading in the right direction.”

Sarah Palin makes few friends among U.N. climate experts

Sarah Palin in her vice-presidential debate against Joe Biden U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is making few friends among U.N. climate experts with her view that natural swings, along with human activities, may explain global warming.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N. Climate Panel, says that evidence is mounting that human activities are the main cause of warming. The panel reported last year that it was at least 90 percent certain that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, were heating the planet.

He predicted in a telephone interview that Palin’s influence would be limited on climate change if Republican John McCain won the presidency.

Will the financial storm blow climate action off course?

This National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image, taken August 28, 2005 and released August 28, 2006, shows Hurricane Katrina as the storm’s outer bands lashed the Gulf Coast the day before landfall. Katrina hit on August 29, 2005 and killed more than 1,500 people in four states, flooding 80 percent of New Orleans, where entire neighborhoods are still nearly empty. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/NOAA/HandoutIt took Hurricane Katrina’s battering of New Orleans in 2005 to alert many people to the risks of climate change.  Will the storm in financial markets make them forget all about global warming again?

The financial crisis that may cost the United States $700 billion to fix is likely to shift actions to fight climate change towards cheaper, sure-fire winners such as energy efficiency — such as better insulation for buildings – rather than more exotic long-term projects such as trapping and burying carbon dioxide from power plants. Read the story  here.

The U.N. Climate Panel insists that the world has to act now to avert ever more droughts, floods, heatwaves, more powerful cyclones and rising sea levels. Fixing the problem now will be a lot cheaper than suffering the consequences. A man walks past an electronic board displaying share price movements in Tokyo September 30, 2008. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell nearly 5 percent on Tuesday to touch a three-year after U.S. lawmakers rejected a $700 billion financial bailout plan, fuelling fears about lasting damage to markets and the economy. Exporters and banks were particularly hard hit, as Tokyo followed the lead of the Dow Jones industrial average, which posted its largest point decline ever and its biggest daily percentage slide since the 1987 stock market crash. REUTERS/Issei Kato (JAPAN)

Save money, cut CO2 and lose weight cycling to work

Peter Jebautzke cycles to workBy Peter Jebautzke

Getting caught speeding changed my life — for the better.

It inadvertently turned me into a devoted bike commuter, has saved me lots of money, aggravation — and even saved the world a little bit of carbon dioxide to boot. Since giving up the car for my daily commutes by bike to work in August, I’ve also lost about 2 kilos and now look forward to my daily 16 km journeys each way to and from the office.

Other colleagues who cycle to work had long tried to encourage me to try out commuting by bike. We’ve even got a little shower here where I work in the centre of Berlin. But it was always so much easier to jump into the car.

In April, I jumped into the car and stepped on the gas a bit too hard. I got a late-night call from the office and had to get there in a hurry. The motorway was clear so I got up to 117 kph. That was 37 kph over the 80 kph limit. The police caught me — and I lost my driver’s licence for a month.

Carbon emissions soar, despite curbs

Southern Company's Plant Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia is seen in this aerial photograph in Cartersville in this file photo taken September 4, 2007. One of the biggest coal-fired plants in the country, it generates about 3,300 megawatts of electricity from four coal-fired boilers. Democrats in U.S. Congress are pressing ahead with legislation to limit emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and plants like this are squarely in their cross hairs. Picture taken September 4, 2007. To match feature USA-UTILITIES/SOUTHERN REUTERS/Chris Baltimore (UNITED STATES)Emissions of the main greenhouse gas are rocketing — despite international efforts to slow them down, according to a study today.

Read my colleague David Fogarty’s worrying article about carbon dioxide emissions — China has definitely overtaken the United States as top emitter, India is catching up with third placed Russia.

What’s alarming is that the rate of growth of gases blamed for stoking global warming is quickening. And the fastest growth is in the developing world.   A man looks at 100-metre-tall (328-foot-tall) wind turbines during sunset at the Electric Power Development Co., Ltd's Nunobiki Plateau Wind Farm in Koriyama, north of Tokyo November 8, 2007. Overlooking a mountain lake a few hours drive from Tokyo, dozens of tall wind turbines spin in the breeze creating carbon-free power for the world's fifth-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Picture taken November 8, 2007. To match feature JAPAN-WIND/ REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN)

Bush speech to U.N.: “terror” 32, “climate” 0

U.S. President George W. Bush addresses the 63rd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York September 23, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid (UNITED STATES)U.S. President George W. Bush upset some delegates by failing to mention “climate change” or “global warming” in his final speech to the United Nations — in which he referred to terrorism 32 times.

Exactly a year ago, the United Nations held a special summit about climate change – U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls fighting global warming his “signature issue” and many governments see it as the biggest long-term challenge.

Bush clearly has a lot to worry about such as the global financial crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Yet while he spoke a lot about terrorism in his speech on Tuesday, he did also refer to other problems such as human rights in Burma, violence in Darfur, the Doha trade round and the fight against malaria.

Poor polar bears, but what about the people?

             polarartist.jpg                                Native Alaskan artists visited New York this week with a message not so much about art, nor a species that’s struggling as rising temperatures melt its habitat from under its paws.

“With so much attention on polar bears, where’s the concern about the people? What about fellow Americans?” said Alvin Amason, an artist and member of the coastal Alutiiq people, who lives in Anchorage.

Amason and other Alaskan artists hit New York to celebrate the opening of the Alaska House , a nonprofit cultural center that aims to teach people about the challenges and opportunities the state faces.

Sarah Palin: glaciers, wolves and global warming

US Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) waves to the crowd alongside Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R), during an outdoor rally in Fairfax, Virginia, September 10, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)A 1917 sign in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska shows where the end of the Exit Glacier used to be — a mile from the current edge of a receding wall of ice.

Read my colleague Ed Stoddard’s fascinating tale from the park about the U.S. ‘environmental wars’ since Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Would a Vice President Palin sway a President McCain away from his long-standing drive for tougher action on climate change if the Republican pair win November’s election?

A Silver Bullet or just ‘Greenwash’?

A truck with a CO2 tank stands in front of the mini plant “Schwarze Pumpe” before the first official run in Spremberg SeptemberCan carbon capture and storage (CCS) save the world?

Is this the silver bullet everyone’s been waiting for? Or just pie in the sky? Is capturing and storing carbon dioxide the technology breakthrough to cut greenhouse gas emissions without getting in the way of economic growth and industry’s “addiction” to fossil fuels? Or is it just a “greenwash” — a token gesture by some of the utilities responsible for so much of the world’s CO2 to try to persuade an increasingly green public that the great emitters are doing something to fight climate change?

Those are the questions that were hurled at Vattenfall executives on Tuesday when the Swedish-based utility opened the world’s first CCS plant in a small town south of Berlin called Schwarze Pumpe. The company believes it will be economically feasible before long to capture carbon, liquify it, and store it permanently on a large scale underground. This is only a small pilot plant producing enough power for a town of 20,000. But if it works, Vattenfall plans to build two conventional power plants 10 times larger in Germany and Denmark by 2015 and from 2020 they hope CCS will be a viable option for large-scale industrial use.

Proud as Vattenfall CEO Lars Josefsson and other executives from one of Europe’s largest utilities were at the inauguration of the 30-megawatt lignite-burning plant on Tuesday that cost 70 million euros and removes 95 percent of the CO2 emissions, they were nevertheless pummeled by journalists from across Europe wanting to know about the economics of it (and were told they’re not bad but could be better), whether they have the permits to store the CO2 underground (not yet but expected soon) and whether it was just more “greenwash” (a definite no).

Rainier at the weekend than during the week?

Members of the Spanish Air Force acrobatic group ‘Patrulla Aguila’ fly over San Lorenzo beach in Gijon, northern Spain, during an aerial exhibition July 27 (a Saturday!), 2008. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso (SPAIN)It seems there may be some truth to the awful thought that it’s wetter at the weekends in summer than on weekdays — at least in Spain.

Many people know the feeling — after being stuck inside an office block at work during the week, you look forward to going outside or visiting the beach at the weekend….only to find it starts pouring.

Of course you normally write off that niggling feeling that the weather was better on Wednesday as unreasonable gloom – but researchers at the University of Barcelona studying Spain’s weather say it may be true.