Saturday, September 12, 2009

Climate Bill Will Save Each US Household $5600 Due to Reduced Oil ... Treehugger

Global powers face big problems to win climate deal Reuters

Reuters Summit-Obama has world's confidence on climate Reuters

2009, Apocalypse Now Huffington Post

2009, Apocalypse Now
Huffington Post

Report: Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change San Francisco Chronicle

Stern: Rich nations must break link between growth and emissions

Obama to Give First Big Climate Change Speech Treehugger

Fw: Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Climate Progress

Energy and Global Warming News for September 11: New York City braces for risk of higher seas; EU environment chief sees 100% chance of deal in Copenhagen

Posted: 11 Sep 2009 09:10 AM PDT

On a day of remembrance for that epic tragedy to hit New York, here's a story about how New York is preparing for the tragedy ever knows is coming..

NY flooding

New York City Braces for Risk of Higher Seas

When major ice sheets thaw, they release enough fresh water to disrupt ocean currents world-wide and make the planet wobble with the uneven weight of so much meltwater on the move. Studying these effects more closely, scientists are discovering local variations in rising sea levels — and some signs pointing to higher seas around metropolitan New York.

Sea level may rise faster near New York than at most other densely populated ports due to local effects of gravity, water density and ocean currents, according to four new forecasts of melting ice sheets. The forecasts are the work of international research teams that included the University of Toronto, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., Florida State University and the University of Bristol in the U.K., among others.

Scientists are laboring to make their predictions more reliable. While they do, New York has become an urban experiment in the ways that seaboard cities can adapt to climate change over the next century. For their part, the city's long-term planners are taking action but are trying to balance the cost of re-engineering the largest city in the U.S. against the uncertainties of climate forecasts.

"We can't make multibillion-dollar decisions based on the hypothetical," says Rohit Aggarwala, the city's director of long-term planning and sustainability.

Still, prompted by a possibility of floods from higher seas, some university-based marine researchers and civil engineers are debating whether New York ought to protect its low-lying financial district, port, power grid and subways with storm surge barriers like the mobile bulwarks that safeguard London, Rotterdam, Netherlands, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Engineering concepts for multibillion-dollar barriers around New York harbor were discussed here this week during the H209 Water Forum, an international conference on coastal cities and climate change, held by the Henry Hudson 400 Foundation at the Liberty Science Center.

EU Environment Chief Sees 100% Chance Of Deal In Copenhagen

There is no alternative to a global agreement on fighting climate change, so the chances of securing a deal at a meeting in Copenhagen later this year are 100%, European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said Thursday.

"This is what common sense tells us. We need to have an agreement, there is no alternative," Dimas said during a press conference at which he presented a commission blueprint for financing the fight against climate change in developing countries.

The European Union wants to lead negotiations at the Copenhagen summit in December to reach an international agreement on limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial temperatures.

The deal would be the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, negotiated more than a decade ago.

Climate deal should not drive jobs offshore: U.N.

The world must devise a climate change treaty that will allow all countries to contribute to cutting emissions and not drive companies and jobs to other nations, the U.N.'s top climate official said on Thursday.

Negotiations on a new global accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are set to conclude in the Danish capital Copenhagen in December, but officials are struggling to come up with a division of responsibilities that will satisfy all sides.

The United States is committed to reducing its own carbon dioxide (CO2) output, but many legislators are worried that an emissions trading scheme will give a competitive edge to Chinese industries.

"There's a huge concern on the part of employers and labor unions in the United States that an agreement that distorts economic relations is going to have a damaging effect on the United States economy," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The challenge is to craft a way forward in Copenhagen, to craft an agreement which does not result in economic activity shifting from one country to another. That doesn't make sense at the end of the day," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Dalian.

Solar fab2farm™ Model Offers a Blueprint for Affordable Clean Energy and Local Economic Development

To help meet the world`s critical need for renewable energy, Applied Materials, Inc. has developed an innovative fab2farm™ business model for solar deployment designed to bring cost-effective, utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation capability to local areas and stimulate economic development.
The fab2farm model represents a complete regional ecosystem, bringing together communities, utilities and solar panel manufacturers to drive down the cost of solar electricity, create green jobs, and spur local economic activity — while delivering a supply of clean energy for decades to come.

Key to the fab2farm model is a locally-sited solar panel factory built by a solar module manufacturer using Applied`s revolutionary SunFab thin film production line. The SunFab line produces the world`s largest and most powerful solar PV panels, which are optimally suited for utility-owned solar farms. Since electricity generation is sited for distribution near load centers, a solar farm can be quickly deployed without the need for extensive, costly transmission lines. This utility-scale solar farm would not only generate cost-competitive, clean, renewable energy for the community, it can help the utility avoid up to 170,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.

"Applied`s fab2farm model unlocks a low-risk, cost-effective opportunity to integrate solar PV electricity into a community`s energy portfolio," said John Antone, vice president, Energy and Environmental Solutions, Applied Materials. "This approach enables a significant share of solar PV investment dollars to remain in the community, in contrast to fossil fuel based power generation sources. It would create a regional economic engine generating a steady supply of skilled jobs and a path to achieving the lowest installed solar energy cost."

Five EU states vow to step up climate diplomacy

Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden and Finland agreed Thursday to intensify "green diplomacy" to rescue an ambitious global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December, officials said.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said the European Union had shown leadership by committing itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 or by 30 percent if other countries make comparable cuts.

"Now it is time to show the same leadership on ensuring an ambitious financial package that can assist the poorest countries to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change," Moller told a news conference.

"We today have agreed to work together to secure an ambitious deal in Copenhagen," Moller said after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the Swedish and Finnish foreign ministers Carl Bildt and Alexander Stubb in the Danish capital.

With less than 100 days until the December 7-18 Copenhagen conference, Moller said the momentum toward a climate deal risked fading away if the opportunity were not seized now.

Differences between rich and poor countries over funds for dealing with the consequences of climate change have emerged as the main stumbling block to a new U.N. climate treaty which world leaders hope to agree in Copenhagen in December.

U.S. must lead at G20 on climate, says group

The United States should show decisive leadership at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh this month and rally heads of state to prepare for the next global crisis — climate change.

In a speech before the G20 meeting on September 24-25, Nancy Birdsall, president of the Washington-based Center for Global Development, said preparing for climate change was key because it was a new issue and because the world's poor will be severely hurt by it.

Influential think tanks in Washington typically schedule briefings and speeches ahead of big international gatherings in a bid to influence the agenda. This week, G20 ministers are meeting in Washington to finalize the agenda for Pittsburgh.

"To make this summit a success the heads of government must look beyond the current (financial) crisis and begin to prepare for the crisis next time," said Birdsall.

She proposed G20 leaders pledge to work together, before the next summit in Seoul, South Korea, on reaching agreement on ways to implement a future global climate pact.

New Ad Campaign Promotes Climate Legislation

A newly formed alliance pushing for passage of climate legislation used President Obama's prime-time speech on health care yesterday to launch an advertising campaign that asks people to lobby lawmakers for action on global warming.

Clean Energy Works — a coalition of environmental, labor, veteran and hunting and fishing advocacy groups — is footing the bill for the campaign that will run for a week on broadcast and cable television stations. The ad appeared during breaks in coverage of Obama's speech and on NBC's "Tonight Show."

"We want to remind people that while health care is important, clean energy also is on the agenda," said Josh Dorner, spokesman for Clean Energy Works. "It's an issue that's of equal if not greater concern to the American people than health care reform."

The campaign launches as the Senate gets back to work after its August recess, with energy legislation on its plate along with health care.

The ads mark the latest salvo in a series of efforts to sway public opinion and Congress on climate legislation. The National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Businesses teamed up for ads that ran in late August in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia. Those were intended to drive opposition to climate legislation. Last month, coal's biggest lobbying group launched a television ad campaign featuring ordinary people talking about the importance of low-cost electricity.

Poland sees lower shortfall of CO2 permits

"Poland's shortfall of pollution permits under the European Union's climate plan may reach a lower-than-expected 50 million tons between 2008 and 2012, Deputy Environment Minister Bernard Blaszczyk said on Thursday.

"The figure is lower than previous estimates because the economic crisis has crimped industry emissions and energy demand in the coal-reliant country and biggest ex-communist EU member.

""The deficit should not top 50 million tons for the whole economy, but given the technology innovations and the crisis in particular, it could also be somehow lower than that. It should not amount to hundreds of millions of tons," Blaszczyk said at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.

"Warsaw originally opposed the bloc's climate package aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, arguing less pollution rights would hurt its expanding economy. Poland eventually agreed to the plan after getting concessions.

"Until the end of 2012 many installations under the scheme receive some carbon dioxide (CO2) permits for free, but in the next phase of the plan the vast majority of them will be sold on market tenders.

House Passes Bill to Encourage Hybrid Trucks

The House on Wednesday passed a bill to encourage research and production of hybrid-powered commercial vehicles. The bill, passed by voice vote, would create a grant program for research and development of hybrid heavy-duty trucks. A similar bill passed the House in the last Congress but was never taken up by the Senate.

The bill, passed by voice vote, would create a grant program for research and development of hybrid heavy-duty trucks. A similar bill passed the House in the last Congress but was never taken up by the Senate.

"Hopefully we can get some movement on this measure this time around," said Paul Tonko , D-N.Y. "By enhancing the Department of Energy's research program in heavy duty hybrid trucks, this bill draws much-needed focus to a very critical component of the transportation sector — that being commercial trucks."

Heavy-duty trucks typically rely on diesel or gasoline engines for power, and have lower fuel economy and higher emissions than cars or SUVs because of their size and weight.

Carbon trading needs to be transparent, lawmakers told

If the Senate passes a cap and trade bill, it needs to be regulated so that trading of carbon credits is transparent and not subject to manipulation, members of the Senate Agriculture Committee were told Wednesday. "If we're serious about a cap and trade system, that means we must get the trading part right," Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) said when he opened the hearing. He added that he's concerned about the potential for excessive speculation in carbon credits to distort their value.

Under a bill passed by the House, emitters of greenhouse gases will have to buy offsets, which could include carbon sequestered in the soil of farms that practice no-till, or on land planted to trees.

Gary Gensler, chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), told the panel that the CFTC aleady has experience monitoring the trading of offsets for sulfur dioxide, a regulated byproduct of coal burning that causes acid rain. And the CFTC monitors trading of carbon credits under a voluntary program run by the Chicago Climate Exchange.

For a carbon market to work properly, Gensler said, it will need 5 things: uniform standards, record keeping, oversight of trade, clearing of the trades and prevention of fraud.

Dirty coal group's 14th forgery impersonated American veterans. Real vets support strong efforts to action on climate and clean energy — as does GOP Senator John Warner, former Armed Services Committee chair

Posted: 11 Sep 2009 07:01 AM PDT

American Legion forgeryClimate change is a major threat to U.S. Security.  The clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill would enhance our security by reducing oil dependence and environmental harm.  That's why the conservative Virgina Republican, John Warner, is pushing hard to pass the bill — because he is a former Navy secretary and former Senate Armed Services Committee chair and because he is a former Forest Service firefighter now "just absolutely heartbroken" because "the old forest, the white pine forest in which I worked, was absolutely gone, devastated, standing there dead from the bark beetle" thanks in large part to global warming (see interview below).

So it's no surprise the deniers and delayers spread disinformation to try to undercut this core message.  As Brad Johnson reports at Think Progress:

Congressional investigators have discovered that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity's (ACCCE) astroturfing effort has impersonated American military veterans in a forged letter sent to Congress. Thirteen other forgeries purporting to be from organizations representing blacks, Hispanics, women and senior citizens. This latest letter, sent in June to influence a swing Democratic legislator on his vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, impersonates a local American Legion official in Rocky Mount, VA:

As the Washington Post reported:

The letter, sent to the office of Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA), asks Perriello to "make sure the Waxman-Markey bill includes provisions to promote American energy independence, while protecting already cash-strapped constituents from increases in electricity prices." It concludes, "Thank you for listening to concerns of vets in your district."

Download the forged letter.

Also yesterday, we saw Alstom quit the scandal-ridden coal industry front group, ACCCE, joining Duke and Alcoa.

Real veterans of the  Iraq War explain their support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act in this new advertisement from

Yesterday, more than 150 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — real ones — visited the White House and the Congress to argue that "climate change legislation is absolutely critical."   E&E Daily (subs. req'd) has the full story:

President Obama welcomed to the White House yesterday some 150 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are lobbying members of Congress for passage of a comprehensive energy and global warming bill.

The former soldiers and officers met with top Obama administration aides in the Old Executive Office Building as part of a broader messaging campaign aimed at taking the climate debate beyond its traditional audience.

"What you bring is what is vitally needed," former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) told the group. "I don't mean to disparage environmentalists who've carried the torch on this for so many years."

But Warner, a former secretary of the Navy, said the war veterans add a human face to the global warming debate as military leaders take into account the increased risks of famine, human migration and water shortages that come with climate change.

Robert Diamond, a Navy lieutenant, urged his fellow former soldiers to write op-eds for their local newspapers and to get on the radio for interviews about energy issues.

"People listen to you," Diamond said. "People instantly give you credibility. You are the most powerful messenger out there."

Several veterans now serving in the Obama administration also spoke at the event, including Thomas Paul D'Agostino, the administrator for the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, Joe Riojas of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Mike Parker from the Labor Department.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) also sought to link climate change with national security threats during a speech yesterday at George Washington University.

The former Democratic presidential nominee said there is a connection between the scientific alarms raised about global warming and the intelligence that U.S. officials had warning them in the days leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.

"The real lesson of the day before, ladies and gentlemen, is that when we see a threat on the horizon, we can't afford to wait until it arrives," Kerry said. "Unless we take dramatic action now to restrain global climate change, we risk unleashing an aggressive new challenge to global stability, to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions, and yes, to America's national security."

Warner's is a remarkable story — a hard-core conservative Republican aggressively supporting the climate and clean energy bill.  He is "trying to build grass-roots support for congressional action to limit global warming," as Politics Daily reports.  "He is traveling the country to discuss military research that shows climate change is a threat to U.S. national security, and this fall he'll testify to Congress on the issue for the fourth time."  PD has a long interview with him, which I excerpt below:

PD: How did you get involved in this cause and what are you hoping to accomplish?
JW: There are two events. In 1943 I was 16 years old. . . . I got a job with the U.S. Forest Service as a firefighter on the border of Montana and Idaho. I worked that summer for three months in the most beautiful, pristine forest you've ever seen in your life. Five or six years ago I went to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, to give a speech. I asked the Forest Service to take me back to those camps. I was just absolutely heartbroken. The old forest, the white pine forest in which I worked, was absolutely gone, devastated, standing there dead from the bark beetle. I said to the forest ranger, "This is such an emotional, distressing trip for me — what is the problem?" He said, "Our climate has changed so much out here. We don't have the cold winters which used to curtail the level of the bark beetle. So it's decimating the white pine and many valuable species." That sparked my interest.
PD: Does the responsibility fall to us to respond to the consequences of climate change?
JW: Not exclusively, but we're often in the forefront of response to these things. We're the nation with the most sealift. The most airlift. We have more medical teams which are mobile, more storehouses of food and supplies to meet emergencies. And throughout our history, from the beginning of the republic, America's always had to respond to certain humanitarian disasters.
PD: What are some examples of destabilization due to climate?
JW: One clear case of it is Somalia. [In the early 1990s] the prolonged drought began to tie up the economy, the food supplies. There was a certain amount of political and economic instability. Where you have fragile nations .. . . a serious climactic problem will come along, with a shortage of food or water, and often those governments are toppled. And then they fall to the evils of . . . terrorism or others who try to exploit these fallen governments. You saw it in Darfur. You saw it in Somalia. This political instability and weakness is given the final tilt by a problem associated with climactic change.
PD: Is your purpose to get national security into the forefront of the debate on climate change?
JW: Two years ago I teamed up with Joe Lieberman. The Lieberman-Warner bill was the only climate-energy bill that got out of a committee and actually got to the floor of the Senate. We debated it for three or four days. It had a cap-and-trade system [to limit carbon pollution]. . . . It was a very broad-based bill, a 500-page bill. The Bush administration felt they did not want to support it on their watch and it collapsed.
PD: What is your sense of the Senate at this point?
JW: The leadership of the Senate, primarily [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid, made a very wise decision at this time. All the committees that have a part of the jurisdiction are putting in their own recommendations for legislation. Therefore six committees are now preparing a bill to be submitted to Senator Reid the last week or so in September.
PD: Will senators give this issue the level of attention that you think is warranted?
JW: We just got back from Florida. They are very responsive there for two reasons. They have so many military bases. The men and women on those bases are affected by the additional missions they could be called on. . . . Public awareness should be raised. This is not just a private debate among environmentalists. The Department of Defense is really beginning to shoulder a good deal of the responsibility.
Here's the second thing that got Florida's attention, and that is sea rise. You raise the mean level of the oceans about two to three inches and it has a profound multiplying effect on hurricanes and other violent storms, and Florida is in the path of these storms. Also you've got so many military bases in South Carolina and Virginia. If there's a significant rise of the sea, you put military installations at risk.
PD: Are senators paying attention to you?
JW: I think so. Very much so. Certain chairpersons [John Kerry of Foreign Relations and Barbara Boxer of Environment and Public Works] are very interested. I haven't been as successful as I had hoped to engender the military committees to get involved. I have no means whatsoever under the ethics law to even call a senator or staffer. There is an Iron Curtain. But I can testify.
PD: With environmentalists already on board, are you trying to interest other types of people?
JW: That's quite true. People think climate change is solely an environmental campaign. And I . . . consider myself strongly in support of the environmental goals of this country. But a lot of people look with a different view on that. This says, "Hey, wait a minute, irrespective of your feeling about environmental concerns, here's a practical effect. Your sons or daughters or next door neighbor might be sent out on a military mission."
PD: Are you trying to reach out to conservatives?
JW: I'm not trying to identify them as conservatives, liberals or independents. I'm basically trying to tell the American public that if we're going to make progress with regard to climate change, it's got to start at the grass-roots level. President Obama is quite committed. Certain elements of Congress are quite committed. But it's going to take a significant grass-roots education program so the American public can decide: Is this something we should do for our nation? And I think there's going to be a price tag. There's going to be some cost, and I want to make sure people understand what's behind the need for it.
At the same time I was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. More and more [retired military] people would say to me, "We've got to take a look at this climate change. If it continues as it is and worsens, we're going to be called on in more incidents to provide troops for humanitarian causes . . . or where governments are toppled as a consequence of lack of food or water or energy or all the other things associated with natural disasters." I said all right. I studied it.
It's knowledge of the facts that makes people climate science realists.

Obama to speak at U.N. special session on global warming; Todd Stern testifies "Nothing the U.S. can do is more important for the international negotiation process than passing robust, comprehensive clean energy legislation as soon as possible…. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue."

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 03:15 PM PDT

Obama's (first) big speech on global warming is going to come sooner than expected.

And all the nonsensical media reporting on how the administration is supposedly backing away from a sense of urgency on the climate issue — urgency on passing the clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill and getting a global deal — should be dispelled by reading today's House testimony from our top climate negotiator, Todd Stern (here, excerpted below).  Every word in that testimony is signed off on by the administration, so when Stern presses Congress for a bill ASAP and says Obama is committed to action, that comes from the White House.

E&E News PM reports:

President Obama will speak on global warming later this month during a special U.N. summit in New York where world leaders will try to jump-start talks on a deal that succeeds the Kyoto Protocol.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs today confirmed Obama's role in the Sept. 22 event that comes on the eve of general debate in the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called presidents and prime ministers together for the climate meeting in an attempt to "mobilize the political will and vision needed to reach an ambitious agreed outcome based on science at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen."

Obama's role in the U.N. session is sure to spark widespread international attention, especially after eight years of resistance to significant steps on climate change under former President George W. Bush's administration.

Obama is expected to appear alongside a handful of other government leaders and climate activists during a morning session that opens the U.N. climate meeting.

I think he'll still need to give a more political speech before the Senate vote. When will that vote be? A key administration witness testified in front of a House Committee today that it really needs to be before a certain big international climate conference in Europe this December:

Also today, Obama's top climate change diplomat urged Congress to keep working toward passage of a comprehensive climate law, saying it would be a useful tool for U.S. diplomats as they try to reach agreement in Copenhagen.

"The most important thing is Congress send the president legislation," Todd Stern told the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "It gives us the kind of credibility and leverage that'd be useful in the context of these negotiations."

Stern, the special envoy for climate change at the State Department, praised the House-passed global warming bill for the leverage it gives the United States as it talks to more than 180 other countries, including developing powerhouses China and India.

But Stern said that a final law would be even better, given the amount of interest focused on Obama as he sends his team to its first U.N. climate summit. "It'd be extremely helpful for the Senate to pass legislation before Copenhagen," Stern said. "I'm certainly doing everything I can to help make that happen."

At the same time, Stern said the Obama administration would adapt if Congress can't get through with its bill. "If legislation is moving on a good track that isn't passed yet, there will undoubtedly be ways to try and accommodate that," he said.

Stern's remarks to the House panel, and reporters afterward, reflect the difficult position the administration is in as officials push Congress on global warming at the same time as its full-court press on health care legislation. Senate action on the climate bill is expected to pick up later this month, though it is unclear how quickly senators will move.

The slow-going nature of the Senate debate was not lost on several House Democrats.

"The House has already acted," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). "We're three months away from Copenhagen. So I think it'd be important to either close the Senate down or get them to do something they don't like to do, which is vote on legislation."

Oh, snap!

Worth noting is that Stern doesn't pull his punches on the cost of inaction or the historical .  As he testified:

Moreover, the national security threats posed by climate change are real. As detailed in a recent front page story in the New York Times, discussing the rising concerns of the national security community, a world of uncontrolled climate change – with ever worsening storms, droughts, floods, the increased spread of disease; melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and more severe shortages of food and water – means a world of new and intensified security threats as millions of people are displaced, states are destabilized, and competition for resources intensifies.

In short, we have a lot of work to do this fall. The Congress has a crucial role to play on the domestic front. And internationally, we will be engaged full-out on all three of our fronts – the UN talks, the Major Economies Forum, and bilateral consultations with every relevant country and country block. President Obama and the Secretary of State, along with our entire Administration, are committed to action on this issue.

We are approaching this issue with the sense of urgency that it demands and are determined to do all we can to make the progress that is necessary to have a successful outcome in Copenhagen. Mr. Chairman, the world is going to make history over the course of the next months and years. We will either make it for the right reasons – because we found common ground and set ourselves on a path toward a new, sustainable, low-carbon model; or for the wrong reasons – because we blinked at the moment of truth and left our children and grandchildren to face the consequences. We have to get this right.

Hear!  Hear!

Energy and Global Warming News for September 10: Nukes will be part of Senate energy bill, Boxer says

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 02:40 PM PDT

File this under Duh!

Nukes Will Be Part of Senate Energy Bill, Boxer Says

Barbara Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate's Committee on Environment and Public Works, said today "there will be a nuclear title in the bill," reports our colleague Siobhan Hughes at Dow Jones Newswires.

While nuclear power may not be the make-or-break issue for the Senate bill—the health care debate probably takes that honor—it is a crucial part of attracting Republican support for new energy measures. Whether it's enough is still anybody's guess.

Led by Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, Senate Republicans have been clamoring for more federal support for nuclear power. Indeed, Sen. Alexander doesn't miss a chance to tout nuclear power as an emissions-free power source on par with wind or solar power.

Ms. Boxer didn't elaborate on her comments, Dow Jones notes. Previously, she'd said that a higher cost for carbon–which would make coal-fired plants less attractive and nuclear plants more attractive–would do the trick. More support for nuclear power could take many shapes such as expanded federal loan guarantees or the inclusion of nuclear power in renewable-energy standards.

Yes, the nuclear title will mostly be MDT (Money Down the Toilet) stuff, but other than the taxpayers actually doling out $10 billion (or more!) per plant, I can't see many nukes being built no matter what is in the nuclear title because they just cost too damn much (see "Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost — $10,800 per kilowatt! — killed Ontario nuclear bid") — no matter what EPA and some other models say.  Nukes appear to be the minimum price for admission for some moderate Democrats and a few Republicans ("Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls nuclear "the cheap clean energy solution," renews GOP call for 100 new nukes, which would cost some $1 trillion") — particularly McCain.

I take this as a good sign that Boxer is it really trying to start with a bill that could ultimately be passed.  I'd also expect a modified 'price collar', which could be both a useful addition to the bill and a key way to get more votes, depending on how it is written.

I don't, however, think you are going to see nuclear power included in the renewable energy standard — but you might see an addition to the standard that goes beyond the renewable and efficiency standard and includes low carbon energy.

$4.1 Billion in Orders for Thin-Film Solar

Since its founding in 2002, Nanosolar has raised a lot of money – half a billion dollars to date – and made a lot of noise about upending the solar industry, but the Silicon Valley start-up has been a bit vague on specifics about why it's the next big green thing.

On Wednesday, Nanosolar pulled back the curtain on its thin-film photovoltaic cell technology — which it claims is more efficient and less expensive than that of industry leader First Solar — and announced that it has secured $4.1 billion in orders for its solar panels.

Martin Roscheisen, Nanosolar's chief executive, said customers included solar power plant developers like NextLight, AES Solar and Beck Energy of Germany.

The typical Nanosolar farm will be between 2 and 20 megawatts in size, Mr. Roscheisen said in an e-mail message from Germany, where he was attending the opening of Nanosolar's new factory near Berlin. "This is a sweet spot in terms of ease of permitting and distributed deployment without having to tax the transmission infrastructure."

Spanish Fly: Iberdrola Raises $2 Billion for U.S. Clean-Energy Investment

Iberdrola, the big Spanish renewable-energy company, got plenty of U.S. government money to help its clean-energy push. Now, Iberdrola's got even more–$2 billion from a bond issue yesterday with institutional investors that's earmarked for even more clean-energy investment in the U.S.

The cash will strengthen Iberdrola's push to build more wind farms in the U.S., already the world's biggest market for wind power and where Iberdrola is the second-biggest operator after FPL's NextEra Energy.

The "principal objective" of the bond issue is "to keep growing in a market which [Iberdrola] considers strategic," the company said.

The money might also help Iberdrola fight off grumblings that foreign companies are scooping up U.S. taxpayer money meant to jumpstart the clean-energy revolution; Iberdrola snagged more than half of the first $500 million in clean-energy grants announced last week.

Iberdrola chairman Ignacio Sanchez Galan said in a video interview that the operation "closes the circle." "American capital, supported by the government's plans, is being invested in America and creating wealth and jobs in the country, thanks to Iberdrola."

According to a regulatory filing with the Spanish stock-market watchdog, Iberdrola sold two bond tranches to institutional investors. The first is a 5-year note paying 3.8% interest and the second is a 10-year note paying 5% interest. Iberdrola said the issue was more than three times oversubscribed.

Chicago Climate Exchange Seeks D.C. Muscle on Climate Bill

The Chicago Climate Exchange has hired its first Washington, D.C., lobbyists in an apparent effort to influence climate legislation.

According to congressional lobbying disclosures, the exchange this summer secured (pdf) both McLeod, Watkinson & Miller and Patton Boggs to play a role in climate legislation now pending in the Senate. Those looking out for the exchange's interests include former Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs Robert Green.

Officials with the Chicago Climate Exchange, also known as CCX, declined requests for an interview.

"We're advocating for a well-designed cap-and-trade system in the United States," CCX spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said in an e-mailed statement regarding the lobbying hires.

But the political move by North America's largest trading system for greenhouse gas credits is sparking concern among analysts who say CCX might provide a blueprint for a mandatory federal cap-and-trade system. Many said they are worried by three years of news reports that the exchange often relies on inadequate methods of measuring and verifying emission reductions, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Farm groups and other supporters say the exchange does an excellent job of protecting the environment. But critics fear that the lobbying push, if successful, could weaken the integrity of any global warming bill emerging from Congress.

"The Chicago Climate Exchange could substantially undermine the value and accomplishments of an entire cap-and-trade program," said Kenneth Richards, an associate professor at Indiana University who has written about the exchange. "They could help create a system where we spend a lot of money and not get many reductions."

More in Europe Look to Carbon Tax to Curb Emissions

Economists have long seen a carbon tax as a good idea because of its simplicity: Polluters pay at a level that is set by decree.

But the idea never caught on widely in the United States or Europe, where governments jealously guard their autonomy on taxes. Industries lobbied for a market-based system called cap and trade instead, which they helped to design and from which some have profited handsomely.

Now, with only modest progress so far in meeting goals set for greenhouse gas reduction, the carbon tax may be making a comeback.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, on Thursday unveiled details of a carbon tax that would raise the cost of driving a car or heating a home, all with the aim of encouraging conservation and thus reducing France's overall emissions. The tax was initially set at 17 euros, or $24.70, per ton of carbon dioxide emissions, Reuters reported.

The plan, widely previewed in recent weeks by French ministers, still must be debated by lawmakers. But it has already ignited a political storm among heavily taxed consumers, in a country that is just starting to emerge from recession.

Climate insecurity: Military implications must be part of Congress' discussion of climate change legislation

The debate over climate change legislation is beginning to heat up. The American Clean Energy and Security Act was passed by the House and is now before the Senate. The debate on this issue typically takes the form of environmental concerns about global warming pitted against economic fears about the cost of reducing greenhouse gases.. It is often framed in left-right terms. But as Americans think about whether to support this legislation, they should ponder the national security implications of climate change.

The recognition that global warming will increase the threats to our national security and place ever greater demands on our military is not new. The Bush administration acknowledged the issue in the 2006 National Security Strategy. A national security think tank comprising retired military officers, including Marine General Anthony Zinni, issued a report on the subject in 2007, identifying the various ways in which man-made climate change will directly affect national security.

Areas of the globe will be increasingly ravaged by drought, on the one hand, and flooding from extreme storms and rising sea levels on the other. These will cause mass migrations of refugees, the breakdown of societies and resulting conflict over reduced arable land, living space and other resources. The conflict in Sudan today is in part caused by the prolonged drought in the region. The massive movement of refugees that followed both the recent flooding in Bangladesh and the typhoon that hit Myanmar are other examples of such climate-related disruption. Climate change is seen as a "threat multiplier" that intensifies instability and sows the seeds of conflict.

Such instability and conflict will affect the United States. Armed conflict and massive political upheavals pose the risk of ever-wider hostilities and thus draw the world powers into the fray if only to contain it. Dislocation and instability will also lead to the failure of states, which become incubators for the development of other threats.. Consider Somalia in the 1990s and again today. The failed state of Afghanistan in the 1990s provided a base for the planning and launching of the Sept. 11 attacks. The initial failure of Afghanistan was not caused by global warming, but a study conducted for the National Intelligence Council predicts that climate change raises the risk of many more failed states in the future.

The Pentagon and the State Department increasingly factor these expected ramifications of man-made climate change into their strategic planning and policy development. But the impact on national security should also be part of the broader debate on emissions policy. The greater and more rapid the climate change, the more quickly these threats will emerge – and the greater will be the impact on our national security.

Groups want stronger rules in environmental bill

Two leading environmental groups and a large labor union joined in Trenton yesterday, urging New Jersey's congressional leaders to push stronger energy efficiency provisions in proposed federal climate change legislation, citing a new report that claims such measures could create 539,000 jobs in the next 20 years.

Simply making houses and businesses more energy efficient by 2030 would create 34,500 jobs in the Garden State alone, according to a study released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy or ACEEE, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit energy group that also said household energy costs will be reduced along with carbon emissions blamed for inducing global climate change.

The study was embraced by members of Environment New Jersey and the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, who said more incentives for weatherizing homes and businesses should be included in provisions of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a controversial energy bill which passed Congress in June and is before the Senate.

"This report is groundbreaking. It supports everything many of us have been saying about energy efficiency being the quickest and cleanest way to conserve energy, lower our use of fossil fuels and slow global warming," said Doug O'Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey. "We don't have to dream up a moon shot. We only need people and businesses to use better building materials and to make sure homes and business are more energy efficient."

Climate clean-up not up to developing states only: OPEC

Oil-producing and developing countries should not bear the brunt of efforts to clean up the environment, the OPEC crude producers' cartel insisted on Thursday, ahead of a major climate conference in December.

Developed countries "cannot shift the responsibility of cleaning the world or cleaning the environment on developing countries," OPEC secretary-general Abdullah El-Badri told a press conference following a late-night meeting of the cartel at its Vienna headquarters.

Ministers of oil-producing countries met in the Austrian capital late Wednesday night — due to the Muslim fast of Ramadan — to review oil production, but also discussed the upcoming UN climate change conference in Copenhagen in December.

"We don't want them to penalise us because we are oil-producing countries," El-Badri said of the other world powers taking part in the landmark summit.

"Yes, the environment is important, we are concerned about the environment, we are living in the same world and the environment also concerns us but we don't want to be penalised," he added.

Environmental interests have long been at odds with those of oil producers, promoting renewable energies over the more polluting fossil fuels.

Brazil says U.S. climate goal unacceptable

Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc said on Wednesday that U.S. targets for greenhouse gas emissions are unacceptably weak and that Brazil will place new restrictions on its huge farm sector to cut deforestation.

Brazil would also soon announce targets to substantially curb carbon emissions before a crucial global climate summit in Copenhagen in December, he said in an interview as part of the Reuters' Climate Change and Alternative Energy Summit.

Criticizing the U.S. administration's stated target of returning to its 1990 level of emissions by 2020, Minc said: "We don't accept that, it's very poor."

"They have to come closer to something beyond a 20 percent reduction," he said.

The South American nation is expected to play a key role in negotiations at the Copenhagen summit that will seek to frame a new international treaty on climate change. The United Nations climate talks aim to reach agreement on a post-Kyoto pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which are blamed for global warming.

Minc said he was moderately optimistic but that a deal would not be easy.

EIA: Clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill would make America more energy independent, cutting U.S. foreign oil bill $650 billion through 2030, saving $5,600 per household

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 10:37 AM PDT

EIA Oil dollar savings

Although the House-passed clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill doesn't have a big focus on the transportation sector, it does achieve real benefits in oil savings at low cost (see "EIA analysis of climate bill finds 23 cents a day cost to families, massive retirement of dirty coal plants and 119 GW of new renewables by 2030 — plus a million barrels a day oil savings").  Some people have asked me for more detail on this, which I provide courtesy of this guest post from Jeremy Symons, Senior Vice President, Conservation and Education, National Wildlife Federation (bio here).

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA's) recent analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) includes the first government estimates of the legislation's impact directly on oil imports.  A number of models, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have determined that ACES would save significant amounts of oil, but EIA is the first to project the specific impact on oil imports so that we can more directly assess the security and financial implications.

Overall oil imports would decline by 590,000 barrels per day by the year 2020 under ACES, according to EIA .  This is roughly equivalent to the total amount of oil we imported from Iraq in 2008 (620,000 barrels per day).  Over the next twenty years, America would save $650 billion on foreign oil (cumulatively through 2030).  This is in constant 2007 dollars, and is calculated by applying EIA's forecast of oil prices to EIA's projected savings in oil imports.

ACES has many features to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, including strong investments to promote vehicle battery technologies and household smart grid connections to power our cars with electricity.  EIA acknowledges that it wasn't able to model a number of these features, so the actual oil savings would likely be larger.

[JR:  I'd add that EIA, unlike the IEA doesn't get peak oil (see World's top energy economist warns peak oil threatens recovery, urges immediate action: "We have to leave oil before oil leaves us").  So it lowballs future prices.  You can probably increase the numbers in this psot 50% for actual savings.]

In the meantime, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has reached new heights in misinformation by claiming that oil imports of refined oil products would go up under ACES.  That is, we might import less crude oil but we will have to import more diesel or gasoline.  Let's set the record straight:  EIA's study of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act determined that the bill would reduce imports of refined oil products by 20% by the year 2025.  Environmental Defense Fund has valuable information on this topic at — see also (see "Even fantasy-filled API study finds no significant impact of climate bill on US refining").

EIA Oil savings

Boston Globe Report: Senate passage of climate bill will save homeowners money Boston Globe

The cap-and-trade bill Waiting for the other shoe to drop Economist Joe Romm

The right gains ground - UK

China's Windswept Plains Called Key to CO2-Free Power Bloomberg

Nations Remain Divided on Global Warming Policy, US Negotiator Says New York Times

As Hill Debate on Climate Flounders, EPA Plows Ahead on Emission Rules New York Times

Fw: Climate Progress

Climate Progress

100 clean energy jobs at closed auto plant? Looks good to Michigan

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 07:46 AM PDT

Pretty much the only bright spot in the Michigan job market is clean energy jobs, as the NYT reported today:

Since 2005, the number of green jobs in Michigan has grown by 8 percent, while construction jobs have declined 20 percent and manufacturing jobs have fallen 14 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And that explains the excitement over even a seemingly modest piece of good news:

The announcement of a new plant employing just 100 workers might seem like a long shot to attract the chief executive of General Motors, two senators and a raft of state and local officeholders from across Michigan.But in a state that has lost 800,000 jobs this decade, 18 percent of its work force, the Aug. 13 official opening of a G.M. factory to build electric-car batteries in Brownstown, about 20 miles southwest of Detroit, was a can't-miss event.

The picture on the right is GM's CEO Rick Wagoner introducing the Chevrolet Volt battery pack at the North American International Auto Show on Monday.

"The phrase 'new plant' isn't one we're used to hearing these days," said John Cherry, Michigan's lieutenant governor, as he stood inside the sprawling, empty building in this industrial town about 20 miles south of Detroit.

Any new factory would be celebrated in this state, which has been hit harder than most by the recession.

But the one in Brownstown held particular significance because it was another small step in Michigan's efforts to revive its economy with "green" manufacturing.

The state has moved aggressively to offset the drain of traditional auto manufacturing jobs by promoting Michigan as the place to invest in alternative energy projects.

Of course, in the not too distant future the only jobs left will be green.  That's why smart states like Michigan — and smart presidents like Obama — are pushing to ensure that the United States becomes the world leader in what will certainly be the biggest job creating industrial sector of the century.  Here's more on what the state is doing:

By the end of July, for example, Michigan had already exhausted its full year's budget of $725 million in tax credits to attract new companies to the state.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has been asking state legislators to allocate more tax credits, specifically to help redevelop an old Ford Motor Company plant in the town of Wixom into a $1 billion green manufacturing center. The legislature is expected to approve an additional $100 million in credits as soon as this week.

Three companies, Clairvoyant Energy from California, Xtreme Power from Texas and Oerlikon Solar from Switzerland have committed to moving into the vacant Wixom plant if tax credits are available. Executives from the companies plan to join Ms. Granholm and Ford's executive chairman, William Clay Ford Jr., at the plant Thursday to celebrate the redevelopment project, which the state sees as a centerpiece of its green-oriented revival effort.

["Clairvoyant Energy, one of two companies invested in a $725 million project to refurbish an abandoned Ford plant in Woxom, has artist's renderings of what the company wants to do with the site."]

The chief executive of Clairvoyant Energy, David Hardee, said Michigan was an ideal location for his solar-energy company because of the availability of so many skilled workers and its manufacturing background.

Mr. Hardee said he also had been impressed by the state's determination to reinvent itself as an incubator of alternative-energy companies.

"Maybe I'm just rooting for the underdog," Mr. Hardee said of Michigan. "This is exactly what renewable energy is all about."

The Wixom project is expected to create about 4,000 jobs, which would be one of the biggest green-energy developments in the state so far.

There have been other successes. A solar-panel manufacturer has resurrected a closed refrigerator plant in the small city of Greenville in western Michigan. Earlier this summer, General Electric said it would build a research center near Detroit, employing 1,100 workers on wind-turbine technology.

Now if only GE would quit the coal industry front group that is trying to block our clean energy future

The Obama administration is supporting Michigan's efforts. Last month, the president announced $2.4 billion in financing for advanced battery and electric-vehicle projects across the country, with more than half of the money going to companies in Michigan.

State officials project that battery projects will create almost 7,000 jobs in the next 18 months, and 40,000 by the year 2020.

The plant in Brownstown, while small, is G.M.'s first venture into assembling batteries for its own vehicles. With most battery production now concentrated in Asia, the G.M. facility is considered a step toward building a manufacturing base in the United States.

Let's hope GM's new 230mpg Chevy Volt succeeds.

Related Post:

It looks like this new plant will be building batteries for the Chevy volt:

NOAA: "El Niño is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2009-2010″

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 07:19 AM PDT

NOAA's National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center released its monthly El Niño/Southern oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion:

A weak El Niño continued during August 2009, as sea surface temperature (SST) remained above-average across the equatorial Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). Consistent with this warmth, the latest weekly values of the Niño-region SST indices were between +0.7°C to +1.0°C (Fig. 2). Subsurface oceanic heat content anomalies continued to reflect a deep layer of anomalous warmth between the ocean surface and the thermocline, particularly in the central Pacific. Enhanced convection over the western and central Pacific abated during the month, but the pattern of suppressed convection strengthened over Indonesia. Low-level westerly wind anomalies continued to become better established over parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. These oceanic and atmospheric anomalies reflect an ongoing weak El Niño.

A majority of the model forecasts for the Niño-3.4 SST index suggest El Niño will reach at least moderate strength during the Northern Hemisphere fall (3-month Niño-3.4 SST index of +1.0°C or greater). Many model forecasts even suggest a strong El Niño (3-month Niño-3.4 SST index in excess of +1.5°C) during the fall and winter, but current observations and trends indicate that El Niño will most likely peak at moderate strength. Therefore, current conditions, trends, and model forecasts favor the continued development of a weak-to-moderate strength El Niño into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2009, with the likelihood of at least a moderate strength El Niño during the winter 2009-10.

This should be enough to drive us to record temperatures, but there is typically a few month delay between an El Niño and the full global temperature impact.  So if this is only a moderate El Niño but it lasts through the winter, then it may be 2010 that is the record.  For more details on the implications, see here.

Clean Energy Works launches: New grassroots effort unites faith, labor, veterans, environmental, sportsmen, business, youth, farm, and community groups to fight for for clean air, clean water, clean energy job bill

Posted: 10 Sep 2009 06:18 AM PDT

The progressive and clean energy has finished putting together a major effort to fight for clean air, clean water, and clean energy jobs.  I had first reported the first green shoots of this effort at the end of July.  As the Washington Post now reports:

A coalition of environmental, labor, veterans and religious groups formally launched a national lobbying campaign Tuesday aimed at mobilizing grass-roots support for passage of a Senate climate bill this fall.

The group — dubbed Clean Energy Works — marks perhaps the most ambitious effort yet to enact legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. The coalition has enlisted organizers in 28 key states to help build support for a cap-and-trade bill, and is scheduled to launch paid television ads this week.. It also plans to bring 100 veterans to Washington this week to lobby, and has held town halls and rallies in several states.

"Public support for clean energy legislation is overwhelming," said David Di Martino, the group's spokesman. "Unfortunately, an army of special interests are doing everything they can to block comprehensive energy reform. This campaign will mobilize the voices of those millions of Americans who want to put us back in control of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet."

Many in the status quo media remain eager to spin even positive stories negatively.  Here is the Politico:

Unions, environmentalists, hunters, farmers, veterans, and religious groups launched a major new campaign on Tuesday to push for congressional action on global warming this year.

The powerful coalition forms as prospects for passing a climate bill have dimmed. The contentious health care debate is expected to take center stage in the Senate through the fall. And the Obama administration has signaled that passing health care reform should take precedence over a climate and energy bill.

Again, I don't see any evidence that prospects for passing a climate bill have dimmed.  Still the same tough job it always was given the massive disinformation and lobbying campaign from Big Oil and the big corporate polluters.

But now the side of clean air, clean water and clean energy jobs has a major champion to compete with those who don't want clean air, clean water, and clean energy jobs.  Here is the press release:

The Clean Energy Works campaign launched today, signaling a major new push for a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan that delivers more clean energy jobs, less pollution, and greater national security.  The new coordinated campaign builds on the effort that passed the American Clean Energy & Security Act through the House of Representatives by assembling a broad array of organizations representing more than 12 million Americans.  This unprecedented grassroots coalition includes faith, labor, veterans, environmental, sportsmen, farm, business, youth, and community groups.

"Millions of Americans want more clean energy jobs, less pollution, and greater national security," said David Di Martino, Clean Energy Works Communications Director.  "We send a billion dollars a day overseas to pay for our oil. It's time to invest that money here – in secure, renewable energy sources that are made in America, provide jobs for Americans and work for America."

The Clean Energy Works campaign has deployed grassroots organizers in 28 key states to mobilize the tens of millions of Americans calling for urgent Congressional action on a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan..  The campaign's many activities at the state and national level include paid television, radio, print, and online advertising; contacting concerned citizens; grassroots organizing online and on the ground; an aggressive earned media campaign; public events; and bringing concerned citizens to Washington to speak to legislators.

"Public support for clean energy legislation is overwhelming," said Di Martino.  "Unfortunately, an army of special interests and their Washington lobbyists are doing everything they can block comprehensive energy reform.  This campaign will mobilize the voices of those millions of Americans who want to put us back in control of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet."

The organizations coming together to coordinate under the common campaign have committed to getting comprehensive clean energy legislation passed this Congress and will work with Clean Energy Works to galvanize public and political support for action in Congress.

Alliance for Climate Protection * American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) * American Federation of Teachers, American Hunters and Shooters * American Values Network * Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) * Audubon * Blue Green Alliance * Business Forward * Campus Progress * Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good * Catholics United * Center for American Progress Action Fund * CERES * Chesapeake Climate Action Network * Clean Economy Network * Communications Workers of America * Defenders of Wildlife * Earth Ministry * Earthjustice * Economics for Equity and the Environment * Environment America * Environmental Defense Fund * Faithful America * Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund * Green Faith * Green for All * Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA) * League of Conservation Voters * League of Rural Voters * Live Earth * Marianist Environmental Education Center * My Rural America * NAACP * National Security Network * National Wildlife Federation * Natural Resources Defense Council * Ohio Interfaith Power and Light * Progressive Future * Restoring Eden * Service Employees International Union * Sierra Club * Sierra Student Coalition * Southern Energy Network * SustainUS * The Regeneration Project * The Wilderness Society * Truman National Security Project * Union of Concerned Scientists * United Steel Workers of America * Utility Workers Union of America * Veterans and Military Families for Progress * Veterans Green Jobs * VETPAC * Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy * Virginia Interfaith Power and Light * Virginia Organizing Project * VoteVets * Working America

Yes, CEW includes CAPAF, which supports my work.  So I do have first hand knowledge that this is already a first-rate organization that will make a key contribution to the effort to pass the clean energy jobs bill that will clean the air, protect clean water, and preserve a livable climate while starting to take back control of this country from the greedy corporate polluters.

Sure Obama ended the Bush depression, cut taxes for 98% of working families, and jumpstarted the shift to a clean energy economy with a $100 billion in stimulus funds — but what has the green FDR done lately?

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 03:42 PM PDT

The Washington Post has yet another dubious spin on Obama today, "Environmental Groups Wait to See Definitive Action From Obama":

The abrupt resignation Saturday of White House "green jobs" adviser Van Jones has focused new attention on one of the Obama administration's top priorities: the environment.

While Jones was criticized as a left-wing zealot, the Obama team's record so far on the environment has been far from radical.

The White House's main effort has been to undo several Bush-era policies on climate control, air pollution and the regulation of roadless forests. Those actions, combined with court decisions that have struck down other rules, have given President Obama a relatively blank canvas on which to redraw U.S. environmental policy. But the administration has been cautious, leaving key issues in limbo and questions unanswered about the way it would balance environmentalism and the economy.

Uhh, no, no, and no.  Van Jones was the green jobs advisor.  He was an ardent advocate for reducing pollution and poverty together with clean energy.  So a media story that starts with his resignation can't utterly ignore the staggering achievements in both clean energy and greenhouse gas emissions that Obama has already attained — gains that exceed his four predecessors combined.  Well I should said a story "shouldn't utterly ignore" since this story does.

Obama's record so far on clean energy and the most important environmental issue — global warming — may not be politically radical, but it is unparalleled in U.S. history.

Let's remember, for instance, that Obama will raise new car fuel efficiency standard to 39 mpg by 2016 — The biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken to cut CO2. And the Obama EPA declared carbon pollution a serious danger to Americans' health and welfare requiring regulation.  The final EPA announcement should come this month, leading to the first ever national global warming regulations (at least for new power plants) — no matter what Congress does.  Of course Obama helped get through the House of Representatives its first ever climate bill, which is also the first clean air bill in two decades — see The U.S. House of Representatives approves landmark (bipartisan!) climate bill, 219 – 212. Waxman-Markey would complete America's transition to a clean energy economy, which started with the stimulus bill.

And then we have that amazing stimulus.  Nate Silver of, in his post "Obama Has Cut Taxes for 98.6 Percent of Working* Households**" asserts, "One thing I don't quite get has been the White House's reluctance to highlight the non-infrastructure parts of the stimulus package."  In fact, the White House hasn't done a very good job of touting the $100 billion in clean energy benefits of the infrastructure or most of its other energy and environmental achievements.  Since the media, among others, seems to have forgotten, let me excerpt from my April 26 post, "The Green FDR: Obama's first 100 days make — and may remake — history":

Obama has clearly demonstrated he has a serious chance to be the first President since FDR to remake the country through his positive vision.  Indeed, if Obama is a two-term president, if he achieves even half of what he has set out to, he will likely be remembered as "the green FDR."

As an interesting side note, President Reagan, who is held in some esteem with historians these days, will almost certainly be relegated to a second-tier, if not third-tier, president by the painful dual realities of global warming and peak oil.  After all, it was Ronald Reagan who put conservatives strongly and permanently on the pro-pollution, anti-efficiency, anti-clean-energy side, where they remain today (see "Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan" and "Why is our energy policy so lame? Ask the three GOP stooges" and "Hill conservatives reject all 3 climate strategies and embrace Rush Limbaugh").  It is Reagan, more than anyone else, who put the GOP on the self-destructively wrong side of scientific reality (though Newt Gingrich is a close second).

Here is a partial list of what Obama has achieved in his first 100 days, laying the groundwork for him becoming the Green FDR:

  1. Obama began the process of blocking the vast majority of new coal plants. The EPA has stopped one new coal plant in South Dakota (Obama EPA blocks South Dakota Coal Power Plant), reversed the Bush EPA's effort to ignore the Supreme Court decision that determined carbon dioxide was a pollutant (and hence that CO2 emissions from new coal-fired power plants needed regulating), and initiated the process of regulating greenhouse gases for the first time in U.S. history.
  2. He began the process of dramatically increasing the efficiency of our vehicles, by ordering EPA to quickly give California and a dozen other states the right to put in place tough emissions requirements for tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases — and by ordering the Department of Transportation to quickly issue and phase-in toughrt fuel economy standards to comply with the 2007 Energy Bill, the first overhaul of the nation's fuel efficiency standards in over three decades (see here).
  3. He appointed a first-rate Cabinet and then unleashed them to start inconvenient-truth telling to the public after 8 years of Administration denial and muzzling of U.S. scientists (see Steven Chu: "Wake up," America, "we're looking at a scenario where there's no more agriculture in California," and "This is a real economic disaster in the making for our children, for your children").
  4. In every single major speech, he has focused on the urgent need for the clean energy transition, for a price for carbon (cap-and-trade and "closing the carbon loophole"), and the unsustainability of our current economic system (see Obama gets the Ponzi scheme: "The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.")
  5. He signed into law the tax credits needed to achieve his ambitious goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids by 2015 — the key alternative fuel vehicle strategy needed to avert the worst consequences of three decades of successful conservative efforts to stop this country from dealing with the energy/economic security threat of rising dependence on imported oil and the inevitably grim impacts of peak oil (see "Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence").  He also enacted into law $2 billion in grants and loans for R&D into advanced vehicle batteries, a tenfold increase over current funding.  Plug-ins and electric cars, of course, are a core climate solution, since electric drives are more efficient, easily powered by carbon-free energy and indeed far cheaper to operate per mile than gasoline, even when running on renewable power. In the longer term, plug ins and electric cars can also help enable the full renewable revolution.
  6. He signed into law a massive investment in mass transit and train travel — and laid out an aggressive vision for a high-speed rail network. The 70% boost in funding is a crucial effort needed to prepare this country for a time when air travel simply becomes too expensive for most people (and then a slightly later time when air travel is seen as simply too destructive of a livable climate) — a time not very far away — one that the vast majority of readers of this blog will live to see.
  7. He signed into law the tax credits needed meet his ambitious goal of doubling renewables in his first term (see "Another big win for renewables in the stimulus bill").
  8. He signed into law the funding needed to jumpstart a 21st smart grid that is critical to enable the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and plug-in hybrid revolution. He also made what may be his most important appointment, Jon Wellinghoff for Energy Commission Chief, who understands the future is not filled with new coal and nuclear plants (see "We may not need any, ever"), and who has already begun jumpstarting the new, green grid ("Huge 'Green Power Express' wind grid gains federal rate incentives").
  9. He signed into law the single biggest investment in the deployment of energy-efficient technology in U.S. history, along with strong incentives for state governments to fix their inefficiency-promoting utility regulations.
  10. For the first time in three decades, he more than doubled the annual budget for advanced energy efficiency, renewable energy, and low carbon technology after Reagan slashed federal efficiency and renewables investments 80% to 90%, which launched decades of vehement ideological opposition to clean tech by even so-called moderate and maverick conservatives (see "Is a possible 60th Senate seat worth a not-very-green GOP Commerce Secretary?" and "The greenwasher from Arizona has a record as dirty as the denier from Oklahoma").
  11. He put forward, the first sustainable budget in U.S. history, one that invests in clean energy, included cap-and-trade revenue, and seeks repeal of fossil industry subsidies.  Yes, he made a serious tactical mistake by tentatively pursuing the possibility of trying to pass a climate bill through reconciliation, which allowed conservatives to score some meaningless tactical political victories and thereby confuse the media into thinking Obama was himself not serious about this issue (see George Stephanopoulos, Nate Silver, and Marc Ambinder all seem confused about global warming and budget politics and Obama says his energy plan and cap-and-trade "will be authorized" even if it's not in the budget "and I will sign it" — Washington Post confused. In fact his budget and every thing he has done as president shows the reverse is true, that he understands the fate of his presidency and the health and well-being of the American public rests on his success in passing serious energy and climate legislation.

Years from now, long after the economy has recovered, this may well be remembered as the time that progressives, led by Obama, began the climate-saving transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy built around green jobs.

Of course, it's entirely possible that this history-making first 100 days won't remake history. It's more than possible that we won't stop catastrophic warming. But if we don't stop the 100s of years of misery, of Hell and High Water," that will almost certainly be because the conservative movement threw their entire weight behind humanity's self-destruction (see "Anti-science conservatives must be stopped") — because conservative in both chambers refuse to conserve anything, including a livable climate, and willingly sacrificed the health and well-being of the next 50 generations of Americans for their ideology.

But even if we fail to stop the catastrophe, there is no escape from Americans, indeed, all humans, ultimately having a low-carbon, low-oil, low-water low-natural-capital lifestyle.  And thus the vast majority of Obama's initiatives will be recognized by future generations and future historians as the point at which the U.S. government embraced the inevitable and started down the sustainable path that presidents either chose to embrace voluntarily in time to avoid the worst impacts or were forced to embraced by the collapse of the global Ponzi scheme.

Obama is the first president in history to articulate both the why and how of the sustainable vision — and to actively, indeed aggressively, pursue its enactment.  And that is why he is likely to be remembered as the green FDR.

The Post claims the administration has left "questions unanswered about the way it would balance environmentalism and the economy."  I don't think so.  Obama has reiterated his view at every chance — and followed through with serious policies:

"The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline…  We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects….  The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy."

Obviously, if Obama fails to get a serious climate and clean energy bill through the Senate and onto his desk in 2010 — and thus fails to get a global climate deal — then he won't be remembered as the green FDR.  So that must remain a top priority, and I expect it will.

But it is absurd to say today that Obama has been anything less than a top tier president on both clean energy and the most important environmental issue we face.

Huge wind and ocean energy project planned for offshore North Carolina

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 02:56 PM PDT

While some are still building new climate-destroying coal plants in North Carolina, the Outer Banks Ocean Energy Corp. sees clean energy potential in the windy "First in flight" state..  The Energy Daily (subs. req'd) reports:

Feeling the wind at its back following its recent formal chartering as a new company, the Outer Banks Ocean Energy Corp. announced plans Tuesday to develop a giant wind- and ocean-powered renewable energy project off North Carolina's coast..

The Outer Banks Ocean Energy Corp. (OBOE) said it is in the early stages of developing the North Carolina Hybrid Energy Preserve, a predominantly wind-based project planned to generate between 200 and 600 megawatts of renewable energy in federal waters up to 25 miles offshore of the Tar Heel State.

But OBOE sees more opportunity for clean energy that never runs out than just offshore wind:

OBOE says it plans to eventually supplement the project's wind turbines with underwater turbines and other technology to alternately harness steady Gulf Stream wave and current power.

In the meantime, the newly incorporated company says it is preparing to apply by early 2010 with the Energy Department's Minerals Management Service to initially site the project as an offshore wind farm to be built on four federal lease blocks covering about 24,000 acres.

North Carolina ranks third among states (after Louisiana and Florida) that have the most area in jeopardy from a 5 foot sea level rise — and would lose the equivalent of a Delaware, including, of course, Kitty Hawk where "the Wright brothers made the first controlled powered airplane flights December 17, 1903."

So perhaps wind and wave and current power might be better for the state.

EPA blocks permit for giant mountaintop removal mine

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 02:31 PM PDT

Mountaintop removal blastIn a letter issued last week, the Environmental Protection Agency "moved toward revoking the largest mountaintop-removal permit in West Virginia history." Citing "clear evidence" of likely damage, the EPA has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to "suspend, revoke or modify" the permit it granted in 2007 to Arch Coal to dig a 2,278-acre coal stripmine and fill six valleys and 43,000 linear feet of streams with the toxic debris:

The EPA asked the Army Corps to "suspend, revoke or modify the permit," for the Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine in Logan County, according to the letter. "Recent data and analyses have revealed that downstream water quality impacts have not been adequately addressed."

Obama's EPA has granted most of the mountaintop removal permits it has reviewed. "It's not the death of mountaintop coal mining," said Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director of the Sierra Club's campaign to limit the use of coal, told Bloomberg News. "But it's clear that it's not just going to be blanket approval of anything the Corps wants to do, which was essentially the case under the Bush administration."

This is a Wonk Room repost.

NSIDC: Arctic sea ice extent falls below 2005 minimum, now third lowest on record

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 01:11 PM PDT

NSIDC 2009 Sept

The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports:

Atmospheric circulation patterns in August helped spread out sea ice, slowing ice loss in most regions of the Arctic. NSIDC scientists expect to see the minimum ice extent for the year in the next few weeks. While this year's minimum ice extent will probably not reach the record low of 2007, it remains well below normal: average ice extent for August 2009 was the third-lowest in the satellite record. Ice extent has now fallen below the 2005 minimum, previously the third-lowest extent in the satellite record.

Not a big surprise — see "NSIDC: Record low Arctic ice extent unlikely in 2009."  Since the 2009 arctic extent AREA is no longer that close to 2008 levels, which set the record for minimum ice VOLUME, it seem unlikely 2009 will set a volume record (see "Will we see record low Arctic ice VOLUME this year?").

The long-term trend remains the same (see "Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, 'seminal' study finds") and hence the medium-term also remains the same (see North Pole poised to be largely ice-free by 2020: "It's like the Arctic is covered with an egg shell and the egg shell is now just cracking completely").

NSIDC has some good analysis of the summer 2009 melt seasons to put this in some context:

Conditions in context

In the beginning of August, the rate of ice loss was fairly slow. In the middle of the month, the loss rate sped up, and then slowed again. On average, the decline rate was close to the 1978 to 2000 average for past Augusts. Ice extent declined by 55,000 square kilometers (21,000 square miles) per day during August, compared to 66,000 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) per day in August 2007 and 79,000 square kilometers (31,000 square miles) per day in August 2008. But because of the higher-than-average rate of ice loss in July, average ice extent for August 2009 was still far below the 1978 to 2000 average extent for the month.

On September 2, Arctic sea ice extent dropped below the minimum extent for 2005. This year is now the third-lowest ice extent in the satellite record, with one to two weeks left in the melt season.

The minimum ice extent for the year will probably occur in the next two weeks. NSIDC scientists are closely monitoring conditions and will report the minimum when it occurs.

average monthly data from 1979-2009 for July

August 2009 compared to past years

Arctic sea ice extent for August 2009 was the third lowest August since 1978, continuing the downward trend observed over the last three decades. Only 2007 and 2008 had lower ice extent during August. The long-term trend indicates a decline of 8.7% per decade in August ice extent since 1979….

Winds spread ice, enhance melt

The pattern of high pressure over the Beaufort Sea that had characterized much of the summer broke down in early August. The August atmospheric pattern was dominated by low pressure over the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, and high pressure over Greenland and the Atlantic side of the Arctic. This pattern led to winds blowing from the south and southwest into the Beaufort Sea, contributing to melt and poleward ice motion in this area. By contrast, winds from the north favored a drift of ice towards the Siberian coast.

Studies by Mark Serreze, Masayo Ogi, and other researchers have shown that low-pressure patterns promote spreading of the ice pack, a process known as divergence. While ice divergence increases extent, it can also accelerate melt because there are more dark, open-water areas between the floes to absorb the sun's energy, promoting melt on all sides of the floes.

Nicholas Stern, world's top climate economist, endorses 350 ppm as "a very sensible long-term target."

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 11:32 AM PDT

The great environmental writer and founder of, Bill McKibben, is the guest blogger.

Nicholas Stern is the most important climate economist in the world. After a stint as chief economist at the World Bank, he was asked by the government in his native Britain to conduct the most thorough review of the economics of global warming yet undertaken.

Released in October of 2006, the Stern Review drew praise from many of his brethren in the field–and it also drew gasps of shock and horror from anyone who bothered to read it. It laid out, quite clearly, the cost of doing too little or moving too late on climate change: economic damage that would be greater than WWI, WWII, and the Great Depression combined. In April, he published a powerful popular account of his work, Blueprint for a Safer Planet, and he's been one of the leading forces preparing for the Copenhagen meeting.

So that's the background. Today in Berlin, a reporter from one of the city's papers, Daniel Boese, asked him about the 350 target–which goes well beyond the numbers he was using in his book even in April.It's a sign of how quickly the tide is shifting, and also of Stern's intellectual integrity, that he said:  "I think it's a very sensible long-term target."  He went on to explain: "People have to be aware that is a truly long-term target. We have already passed 350ppm, we are at 390 ppm of Co2 and at 435 ppm of Co2-equivalents right now. It is most important to stop the increase of flows of emissions short term and then start the decline of flows of annual emissions and get them down to levels which will move concentrations of CO2 back down towards 350ppm."

Stern is right, of course–even if we do everything right at Copenhagen, we won't be back at 350 soon. But unless we do everything right we'll be back at 350 never ever. His call will help stiffen the push for real measures at the conference.

And in case you're keeping score, here's where we are at the moment. The world's foremost climatologist, James Hansen, first calculated this number with his NASA team. The world's foremost climate politician, Al Gore, endorsed it nine months ago. The UN's chief climate scientist, and with Gore the only other man to win a Nobel for work on climate, India's Rajendra Pachauri, endorsed it late last month. And today the world's foremost climate economist.

But here's the thing: none of this would have happened if you hadn't endorsed it–if you hadn't worked to build the largest movement about climate change ever. Onward!

Related Posts:

JR:  For the science behind 350, see "Stabilize at 350 ppm or risk ice-free planet, warn NASA, Yale, Sheffield, Versailles, Boston et al." Since the science is preliminary and it is not not yet politically possible to get to 450 ppm, let alone 350, my basic view, as expressed in that post, is Let's start working now toward stabilizing below 450 ppm, while climate scientists figure out if in fact we need to ultimately get below 350.  Either way, this is what needs to be done technology-wise:  "How the world can (and will) stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm: The full global warming solution (updated)."  The difference between the two targets is that for 450 ppm, you need to do the 12-14 wedges in four decades.  For 350 ppm, you (roughly) need 8 wedges in about two decades plus another 10 wedges over the next three decades (and then have the world go carbon negative as soon as possible after that), which requires a global WWII-style and WWII-scale strategy (see "An open letter to James Hansen on the real truth about stabilizing at 350 ppm").

ACCCE takes on water: Alstom quits scandal-ridden coal industry front group, joining Duke and Alcoa — time for GE and Caterpillar to jump ship, too

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 10:47 AM PDT

When we last left the flagship of the coal industry efforts to stop the clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill, it was fast taking on water (see "Duke Energy quits coal front group over climate bill").  Sure some otherwise sane passengers had joined the crew's efforts to patch up the holes (see "GE fights for change from the inside … of a scandal-ridden coal industry front group!") — for now (see below).  But the smart ones, like Alcoa, had quietly gotten on one of the few remaining lifeboats.

Today Greenwire (subs. req'd) reports:

Another member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is leaving the coal-and-utility trade group, citing concerns about whether the alliance wants to obstruct legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

Alstom Power, a French company that makes parts for power plants and is working on carbon sequestration, said it is leaving ACCCE immediately.

"We have resigned from ACCCE because of questions that have been raised about ACCCE's support for climate legislation," said Tim Brown, an Alstom spokesman. The French company, which is partnering with U.S. utilities on power-plant projects, said that it wants to "remove any doubt about our full support" for a climate bill.

The move comes less than a week after Duke Energy Corp. said it was withdrawing from ACCCE because of powerful members of the group that are unwilling to support climate legislation. Alstom's decision also shrinks ACCCE's membership as the Senate returns and ACCCE lobbies the Senate on its version of climate legislation….

Both Alstom and Duke belong to the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an alliance of businesses, environmental groups and other organizations lobbying Congress to mandate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. CAP in its blueprint for action urges Congress to "quickly" enact legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

There are now just two companies that belong to both ACCCE and U.S. CAP: Caterpillar and General Electric Co.

C'mon Caterpillar and GE — do you really want to go down with the ship?  Like the Titanic, the good bad ship ACCCE is coal-powered and steaming too fast in the wrong direction:

The whole effort should be sunk to Davey Jones Locker.

Greenwire has more on Alstom, Caterpillar, and GE:

Alstom had been considering leaving ACCCE "for a while," Brown said, but decided now based on "the questions about ACCCE's support that have been raised over the last several weeks." The decision by Duke, Brown said, "is part of the reason why we looked at it, why we looked at the pros and cons" of staying in ACCCE.

Alstom now will put more energy into its U.S. CAP involvement, Brown said.

"We can focus our resources on supporting groups that are 100 percent aligned with our policy objectives, such as U.S. CAP," Brown said.

Caterpillar did not respond to a request for comment.

GE, which is involved in energy production, transmission and distribution, said there are differences between its goals on climate legislation and those of ACCCE. But for now, the company is keeping its membership in the trade group.

However, the company is "looking at our membership in ACCCE on a regular basis," GE spokesman Peter O'Toole said. "If it's not in the best interest of shareholders for us to be a member, then we won't be a member.

"We're having discussions within GE and ACCCE right now," O'Toole said.

O'Toole would not say specifically how GE's goals on climate policy differ from those of ACCCE but said that "ACCCE doesn't reflect our view on climate legislation."

"We want something done now," O'Toole said. "Maybe it's an issue of urgency."

ACCCE does "want something to happen," O'Toole added. "It's a very difficult operation with very different constituencies that represent mammoth parts of the economy. Getting it right for all those different sectors is very difficult."

Yes, ACCCE does "want something to happen" — it's called catastrophic global warming, dirty air, polluted water, ruined climate, and loss of clean energy jobs to China.

Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner said the rejection of ACCCE by Alstom shows that "their extreme policies are making them too radioactive for these corporations. They're using questionable tactics and are outside the mainstream of the debate."

It is also "more evidence," Dorner said, that ACCCE does not want a climate bill. "The right bill for ACCCE is no bill at all. It's hard to envision a bill that they'd support."

Energy and Global Warming News for September 9th: Salazar says U.S. climate bill remains high on agenda; Boxer vows to introduce bill by month's end; First Solar to build 2000 Megawatt plant in China

Posted: 09 Sep 2009 10:11 AM PDT

Salazar says U.S. climate bill remains high on agenda

Despite Washington's nearly single-minded focus on healthcare reform, the Obama administration still expects the U.S. Senate to pass climate change legislation, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on Tuesday.

"Right now we are focused on this crusade for healthcare reform for the country and that's where our time and energy will go for the days ahead," Salazar said during an interview at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.

Even so, he added, "We want both (healthcare and climate bills). The president has been very clear that these are two big issues for the United States and for our time"….

If Congress fails to produce a climate bill for President Barack Obama to sign into law, Salazar noted, the White House could direct executive-branch offices to go ahead with new regulations controlling carbon pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency already has started that process.

But Salazar also pointed out: "It (climate change) will not be addressed in a complete and long-term manner unless there is congressional action."

While public support for healthcare reform has slipped in recent weeks, polls indicate that the public still backs Obama's efforts to expand solar, wind and other alternative energies and to wean the United States off its reliance on foreign oil….

Without tough new steps, environmentalists fear worsening droughts and floods, the spread of disease and melting ice caps that would contribute to dangerously rising sea levels.

For the media, it's always "environmentalists fear worsening droughts."  How about "Without tough new steps, the top scientists of the world and every major government project worsening droughts and floods, the spread of disease and melting ice caps that would contribute to dangerously rising sea levels"?  But even Reuters prefers the political drama to straight reporting.

Boxer Vows to Introduce Energy Bill by Month's End

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, insisted Tuesday that her panel will introduce sweeping energy reform legislation by the end of the month.

"The bill will be introduced this month, and we're going to be marking it up shortly thereafter," Boxer said.

The Californian, who has been working alongside Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) on the bill, tossed aside suggestions that the Senate's overwhelming focus on health care reform will curtail its ability to also tackle energy policy this year.

Boxer and Kerry were originally slated to introduce a bill this week, but the Aug. 25 death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), coupled with Kerry's hip surgery in August, contributed to the delay. Kerry is also a member of the Finance Committee, which is expected to take up a massive health care bill in the coming weeks.

Six Senate committees have jurisdiction over climate change: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; Finance; and Foreign Affairs. Boxer maintained Tuesday that jurisdictional issues over which committee is responsible for certain portions of the energy bill will not be an issue.

"I think all the committees will do their work. We'll do our bill, the others will do their bill and the [Majority] Leader will marry it," she said.

First Solar To Build 2-Gigawatt Solar Power Plant in China

Solar-panel maker First Solar is cracking open the Chinese market, which could become one of the world's most promising for solar power.

Arizona-based First Solar said today it signed a deal with Chinese officials to build a 2,000 megawatt solar-power plant in Inner Mongolia over the next decade at an estimated cost of $5 billion to $6 billion.

UPDATE: That figure is apparently what it would cost to build a similar plant in the U.S. today; building a large plant in China in the future would likely cost less, due to labor costs especially, say First Solar spokesmen.

For First Solar, which already has contracts to build smaller, though still utility-size, solar-power plants in the U.S., the Chinese deal could be a game-changer. "If you have two gigawatts, it could change the image of solar power from niche to nuclear-plant-size installations," said First Solar chief executive Mike Ahearn in an interview.

State predicts bright future for jobs in solar energy

The number of jobs in the state's solar energy industry nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008 – and the numbers are on pace to grow sharply again this year, according to Massachusetts officials.

Ian A. Bowles, secretary of the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said he would disclose the numbers today at the trade show Cleantech Forum XXIII. The two-day show opened today at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

A survey of nearly 100 solar energy employers in Massachusetts showed the number of jobs in the sector grew from 1,086 in 2007 to 2,075 in 2008, Bowles said. The growth is "indicative of the health and welfare'' of the local solar energy industry, he added.

Green Force: U.S. Military's Interest in Algae Fuel Grows

Here's a future checklist for a military deployment: rations, boots, camouflage, bullets … algae?

Solazyme Inc. said today it had a contract from the Defense Department for 20,000 gallons of algae-derived diesel fuel for testing.

What is the Pentagon doing? Dreaming some more about cutting its own supply lines, perhaps. Imagine a mobile army that can take an algae farm that can produce diesel fuel along with it, reducing the need for fuel convoys.

Governor Rendell Announces Federal Funding for Diverse, Renewable Energy Technologies

Governor Edward G. Rendell today announced the first in a series of competitive grant programs to help fund large-scale renewable energy projects.

Green Energy Works! is now accepting applications for $11 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for combined heat and power projects, which generate power and thermal energy from a single source. All projects must create jobs, be able to start work within six months, and be completed within 24 months and before April 30, 2012.

EU cuts funding for post-Kyoto climate deal

The European Union has scaled back plans to give billions of euros to poor countries to persuade them to help battle climate change, a draft document shows.

Funding from rich nations to the developing world has emerged as the main stumbling block to progress in climate negotiations ahead of international talks in Copenhagen in December.

Ethiopia warned last week that Africa would veto any deal at Copenhagen that was not generous enough.

Climate cash could create "Copenhagen stimulus"

Climate talks could draw on global recovery spending to smooth a deal in Copenhagen in December to replace the Kyoto Protocol, said Nick Robins, head of HSBC's climate change research center.HSBC analysts estimate the green portion of a $3.1 trillion fiscal stimulus at about $512 billion.

Those funds to boost renewable energy, efficiency, public transport and water treatment so far exclusively focus on domestic economies and jobs, but could be turned to the aid of faltering U.N. talks meant to agree a new climate treaty.

"If we're anywhere near the $500 billion we've identified, then one should hope there is some scope for governments to think about a contribution that would be the Copenhagen stimulus," Robins said at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.

"The missing element in the stimulus debate is that all the stimulus angles, unsurprisingly, have been very domestically focused, stimulating our economy, our sectors."

Denmark to help Maldives attend climate talks: minister

Denmark on Tuesday said it was ready to help the Maldives, whose fight against rising sea levels has become a cause celebre for environmentalists, to attend key climate talks in Copenhagen."In the past two years we have allocated 2.5 million euros to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change so that the poorest states and islands can attend the Copenhagen summit with three delegates each," Cooperation Minister Ulla Toernaes told AFP.

It is "clear that the Maldives, which is one of the worst affected nations by climate change, must take part in the Copenhagen summit as their future depends on it," Toernaes said of the December summit.

The Indian Ocean atoll nation said Monday it would have to skip UN climate change talks because of lack of funding.