Archive for May, 2013

Apple – or more specifically Steve Jobs, when he was alive – has been criticized in this space for not doing enough to help the environment. Google has championed many causes and for a time helped create a program to monitor smartmeters. Bill Gates and Microsoft have looked to nuclear waste as a possible way to change energy use in the world. But Apple – well, until a year or two ago, its product was hardly the most environmental-leaning.

Then Apple got around to cleaning up its factories and putting a greater emphasis on its environmental impact. And now word that former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has been hired by Apple is welcome news. It coincides with the company’s pledge to use more renewable energy to run its operations. And it also makes you wonder if part of its many new gamebreakers could be something along the lines of an easy to use smartmeter.

While Jackson left the administration earlier this year, her getting a new job shines a light on the still-to-be-filed EPA vacancy. President Obama’s nominee, Gina McCarthy, has been stonewalled by Republicans during her nomination process. But in her stead, deputy Bob Perciasepe has taken charge of the agency and some believe that could be bad for the GOP – and good for the environment.

“Senate Republicans may be stepping on their own big feet by blocking McCarthy’s appointment,” said Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “EPA’s acting boss, Bob Perciasepe, is no less a skilled professional manager than McCarthy. In fact, some believe McCarthy is actually more willing to compromise with industry.”

It will be interesting to see if Jackson’s hire will lead to even more focus on McCarthy, but for now the EPA remains functional. I sense a McCarthy-run EPA might have higher hopes than simply being functional. And I would think that Perciasepe might not have the clout for such lofty goals.

 

The solar plane continues its journey (BBC).

Romania may cut back on renewable energy subsidies (NY Times).

Canadians fear more pipelines (Bloomberg).

Condor supporters worry about wind turbines (NY Times).

Parks suffer from budget cuts (Stateline).

The world’s largest commercial wave farm is approved (BBC).

The power of spoiled food (LA Times).

 

Homeowners hit by Sandy want to return to the coast (NY Times). Meanwhile, New York scrambles to have the Rockaways ready for Memorial Day weekend (NY Times).

Temperature changes may be slower in the short term (BBC).

Melting from Greenland may cool the North Atlantic (Bloomberg).

Rain actually set the stage for the recent Southern California wildfires (LA Times).

The Energy Department approves expanded LNG exports (Washington Post).

 

Sea level rise projections aren’t looking good (BBC, also see here).

The administration takes its time on power plant emission rules (LA Times). Its proposed fracking rules draw criticism from both sides (Washington Post).

Climate change is real for insurers (NY Times).

Tesla may be riding a bubble (Washington Post).

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere directly relates to global warming, and so it’s with a heavy heart that carbon dioxide last week reached 400 ppm in the atmosphere.

The carbon level of ppm has often ranged from 180 ppm to 280 ppm, but it reached 350 ppm in the 1990s. Now, we have reached 400 ppm, which foretells lots of trouble ahead. One climate scientist summed it up:

 The last time the atmosphere had 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide was most likely between 3 and 5 million years ago, long before humans like us inhabited the earth. It was a geological epoch known as the Pliocene. The planet was many degrees warmer and scientists estimate sea level was about 80 feet higher.
Reaching 400 parts per million for the first time in human history is a wake up call for all of us. The science is clear. It’s high time we addressed the fundamental drivers of climate change — heat-trapping emissions from fossil fuels as well as deforestation practices which emit carbon and reduce the uptake of carbon dioxide.

And lots of trouble is coming – we might have just passed the tipping point where we can actually stop permanent damage.

Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, with 450 parts per million seen as the maximum level compatible with that goal. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said.
Yet many countries, including China and the United States, have refused to adopt binding national targets. Scientists say that unless far greater efforts are made soon, the goal of limiting the warming will become impossible without severe economic disruption.

Carbon dioxide levels haven’t been this high for 3 million years (NY Times).

Warming temperatures affect bird migration patterns (BBC). Habitat ranges may also decline (BBC).

Cleaning tap water proves to be a vexing challenge (NY Times).

Democratic donors want Obama to reject Keystone XL (Washington Post).

China struggles with air polluters (Washington Post).

 

The vice president opposes the Keystone XL pipeline (Washington Post). Pipeline approval could be couple with some action on climate change (NY Times).

The EPA proposes 30% ethanol fuel (NY Times).

Republicans block a committee vote on the EPA administrator nominee (Washington Post).

The Arctic Ocean is rapidly acidifying (BBC).

To great fanfare, the European Union rolled out a carbon market last decade. A price was put on carbon and it was to be traded as any commodity would be, allowing the government to regulate it and restrict its use. The ideal end result being that carbon would cost so much that companies would have no other choice but to cut back on the use of it.

It started out with a price near $40 in 2008, but it has fallen to $3.60 in the recession-stuck continent, where less production means less demand. The drop in prices led one analyst to opine that coal was now the best bargain and companies would be incentivized to use it. Yikes – it’s safe to say the carbon market, which was proposed as part of a larger environmental bill in 2010, now looks like a failure.

The good news is that while, no evidence shows the carbon market helped cut emissions, that’s only because the cut in use occurred as well in the unregulated United States. And, it hasn’t failed everywhere as the price of carbon in a similar-style California market is $10. It just failed when the economy failed. But down the line, this could have a negative effect in Europe:

A failure to tackle the glut of carbon permits may discourage utilities from switching to natural gas and other less-polluting energy sources from coal, the commission said in November. That may curb the spending needed in non-fossil fuel generation, estimated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance at about 400 billion euros, to meet the EU’s 2020 goals.

So, does a carbon market work? Well, maybe. But a far safer solution is a carbon tax that reinvests some of the money in clean energy and gives the rest back to taxpayers in a refund. It’s simple and doesn’t create exposure to the free market. But make no mistake — carbon market or no carbon market — we need to increase government spending on clean energy and we need to shoulder individual responsibility to cut back our own carbon emissions.

 

Nicaragua’s cloud forest is under siege (BBC).

Hydropower threatens a region in China (NY Times).

Ford pushes eco vehicles in Thailand (Bloomberg).

The solar-powered plane completes it’s first leg (BBC).

Scientists map invasive species routes (BBC).

Southern Illinois debates fracking (Washington Post).

Climate change may bring drought to temperate areas (LA Times).