Environment Forum

Betting on climate change

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Clive Thompson is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired.  This piece was produced by the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last year, Beluga Shipping discovered that there’s money in global warming.

Beluga is a German firm that specializes in “super heavy lift” transport. Its vessels are equipped with massive cranes, allowing it to load and unload massive objects, like multi-ton propeller blades for wind turbines. It is an enormously expensive business, but last summer, Beluga executives hit upon an interesting way to save money: Shipping freight over a melting Arctic.

Beluga had received contracts to send materials on a sprawling trip that would begin in Ulsan, South Korea, head north and west to the Russian port city of Archangelsk—located near the border with Finland—and wind up in Nigeria.

Normally, this route requires Beluga’s ships to navigate an 11,000-mile route through the Suez Canal. But in 2008, its executives decided that global warming had eroded the Arctic’s summer sea ice significantly enough that their ships could travel the Northeast Passage along the north coast of Russia.

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.

Why subsidize the surfeit of wind turbines?

WINDMILL FARM SUNRISE

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.

Can the U.S. compete with China in the green economy?

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Fred Krupp is president of the Environmental Defense Fund. The views expressed are his own.

It’s as though three mammoth challenges facing America are intertwined like the strands of a rope: reducing our dependence on Mideast oil; creating new American jobs from clean energy; and reducing pollution responsible for climate change.

Together, those strands are a lifeline to the future.

While the House of Representatives passed comprehensive energy and climate legislation last summer, polarization has created gridlock in Washington, paralyzing most major legislative initiatives, including clean energy.

Senator Graham shouts “Play Ball!”

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Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.

It should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the politics of climate legislation to hear Senator Lindsey Graham pronounce, “the cap-and-trade bills in the House and Senate are dead.” The truth is that they’ve been dead for quite some time. It’s just that now we finally have the coroner’s official report.

Many proponents and opponents of climate legislation have had one thing in common for some time now—they hate the American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Waxman-Markey bill which passed in the House by a narrow margin back in June).

Is Bloom Energy the next GE?

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Updated on Feb 24.

The blogosphere is rumbling with anticipation of the  “Bloom Box”, a pint-sized “power plant” that could change the way we power our homes and offices forever.

The buzz began Sunday when 60 minutes aired an exclusive profile of the alternative energy fuel cell developed by startup Bloom Energy and its CEO K.R. Sridhar (a former rocket scientist) in Silicon Valley. After eight years in the making, the power plant in a box is set to be released Wednesday with California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell on hand.

“You’ll generate your own electricity with the box and it’ll be wireless. The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop and cell phones supplanted landlines,” reports CNet News.

Shale Gas Valuation Index

Following is the Thomson Reuters North America Shale Gas Valuation Index, based on closing share prices from Feb. 18.

The data comes from StarMine, a Thomson Reuters company, using the 12-month forward SmartEstimate, a measure that selects estimates from only the most accurate analysts.

StarMine Intrinsic Value is a variation on the dividend-discount model methodology that adjusts for biases uncovered in analyst forecasts.

Goldilocks and the three fuels

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– Richard Heinberg is the author of eight books, including “Peak Everything”, “Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis” and “The Party’s Over”. He is also a senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute. The views expressed are his own. –

Recent shale gas projects, including those involving the massive Marcellus Shale in several northeastern states, have been yielding significant quantities of fuel. Reserves of the stuff are enormous. But drilling costs and per-well decline rates are high, so producers can make a profit only if gas prices are near historic highs.

Where are oil prices headed in 2010? Forecasts for the year are all over the map, from more than $100 a barrel to under $50.

Shale Gas Valuation Index

Following is the Thomson Reuters North America Shale Gas Valuation Index, based on closing share prices from Feb. 17.

The data comes from StarMine, a Thomson Reuters company, using the 12-month forward SmartEstimate, a measure that selects estimates from only the most accurate analysts.

StarMine Intrinsic Value is a variation on the dividend-discount model methodology that adjusts for biases uncovered in analyst forecasts.

from The Great Debate:

California tilts towards cap and refund


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

California is set to auction all or almost all allowances under its emissions trading programme, and rebate up to 75 percent of the proceeds to households through a lump sum payment or reductions in income and sales taxes.
The proposals, contained in a draft recommendation from the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee (EAAC) to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), are in sharp contrast to the proposed federal programme, stalled in Congress, which would give away most permits to utilities and other energy intensive industries.
Since California's proposed programme is one of the most advanced, and would be the largest and most comprehensive in the country, with links to other states through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the decision gives significant impetus to proponents of the cap and refund approach, now emerging as a credible alternative in Congress.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MANDATE

California's Global Warming Solutions Act 2006 (AB 32) requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. CARB has developed a "Scoping Plan" detailing how the state will achieve this using a mix of direct regulations and an over-arching cap and trade programme.
In May 2009, CARB established an Advisory Committee, consisting of technical experts, to make recommendations on two key elements: (a) how to put allowances into circulation (via auctions, free distributions, or some combination of the two); and (b) how to allocate free allowances or the revenues from permit auctions.

In making recommendations, the Advisory Committee must take account of various statutory objectives, among them to "ensure no disproportionate impact on low-income communities" and design the regulations "in a manner that is equitable, seeks to minimise costs and maximise the total benefits to California". The draft recommendations therefore carry weight as an expert opinion of which system best meets both equity and efficiency criteria.

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