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January 08 2014


NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather

Hammered by an unprecedented nine federally declared disasters since he took office three years ago and with much of the state now frozen solid as a result of the southward drifting polar vortex, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled details of a far reaching rebuilding plan that aims to enhance New York state’s resiliency to climate change and its emergency preparedness.

Dubbed “Reimagining New York for a New Reality,” the $17 billion plan will see the state invest a wide range of projects “that will transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management system to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather,” the governor’s office explained in a press release.

Credit: New York State Office of the Governor

Extreme weather is “The New Reality”

Along with its own funds, the state government is putting federal disaster funds granted in response to 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and 2011′s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee to work to implement the far reaching plan to enhance New York’s climate change resiliency and emergency preparedness. Its key aspects include:

  • Building the most advanced weather detection system in the nation, with 125 interconnected weather stations to provide real-time warnings of local extreme weather and flood conditions;
  • Launching the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity;
  • Replacing and repairing 104 older bridges at risk due to increasing flooding;
  • Implementing the largest reconstruction of the state’s transit system in 110 years with $5 billion of federal funds;
  • Creating a statewide Strategic Fuel Reserve, and statewide gas station back-up power on critical routes throughout the state;
  • Hardening the state’s electric grid and creating 10 “microgrids” (independent community-based electric distribution systems);
  • Building new natural infrastructure to protect the New York’s coastline, and provide advanced flood control for inland waterways;
  • Training a new Citizen First Responder Corps to make New York residents the best prepared in the nation to deal with emergencies and disasters; and
  • Expanding the $650 million NY Rising Community Reconstruction program to allow 124 communities around the state to create their own individualized storm resilience plans.
  • Issuing special license plates for first responders

Avoiding climate change catastrophe

Besides enhancing New York’s emergency preparedness and climate change resiliency, carrying out the $17 billion plan is sure to provide the state economy with a big, much needed, economic boost.

Unveiling the strategic plan at a press conference in Albany, the state capitol, Governor Cuomo highlighted the new reality of more frequent extreme weather events and recounted the unprecedented disruption and devastation that resulted, both downstate, in and around New York City, as well as across the length and breadth of upstate New York.

Of the one-year process that resulted in creation of the plan, the governor stated,

“This was a special challenge for us, because it called for us to literally reimagine the state in light of what we went through with Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, storms Irene and Lee, and taking those lessons, and taking really that trauma, and reshaping our vision of New York through that experience. We call it ‘Reimagining New York’ because we are now facing a new reality after what we went through.”


“Extreme weather is the new reality, like it or not. What caused it is a separate discussion for a separate day, but the reality is extreme weather and we have to deal with it.”

The governor also acknowledged that the plan couldn’t have come to fruition without extraordinary support and assistance from the Obama Administration and federal government, as well as local leaders throughout New York State.

Joining Governor Cuomo at the press conference, Vice President Joe Biden praised the plan and Governor Cuomo. “Governor, I am delighted to be able to be here with you today,” the vice president began.

“I think you rebuilding New York, reimagining a future is exactly what we have to do in this country. And once again, in the tradition of this state and the tradition of Andrew Cuomo, you’re leading. You’re not just leading in New York, you’re leading the country. And I think a lot of governors and a lot of folks can learn an awful lot from what they see and what you do here.”

For more on this, check out the Office of the Governor’s press release or watch the press conference below:

Image credit: New York State Office of the Governor

The post NY Governor Launches $17B Plan to Enhance Resiliency to Extreme Weather appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

December 19 2013


All I Want for Christmas is a Price on Carbon

As 2013 winds down, there are promising signs that we may actually see a price on carbon in the U.S. In 2010, the cap-and-trade bill was killed in the Senate by the fossil fuel industry’s ubiquitous misinformation campaigns. However, a confluence of events have renewed hopes that we may yet see carbon pricing legislation that could significantly reduce U.S. carbon emissions.

Implementing a carbon tax is no longer a pipe dream but understood as a coming - and much needed - realityWhy we need a carbon tax

Paying for carbon pollution is the best way to put free markets to work to reign in emissions that cause global warming. There is a virtual consensus among economists who say that putting a price on carbon is the most effective way to fight global warming. The case for carbon pricing is strong, this point has been repeatedly made by the World Bank and a number of economists including a team from the London School of Economics.

According to most analyses, carbon pricing is the most powerful regulatory mechanism we have to bring down emissions without wreaking havoc on the economy. Putting a price on carbon will allow market forces to drive down demand for carbon rich industries like fossil fuels and help to buoy cleaner low carbon technologies like renewable energy.

On a very pragmatic level, carbon pricing could enable the U.S. to achieve the pledges it has made at UN climate talks. This includes carbon emissions cuts of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050.

Corporate juggernauts are onboard for putting a price on carbon

One of the reasons to be hopeful comes from a Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) report which indicates that at least 29 big American corporations are actively preparing for a carbon tax. The companies in the CDP report include powerhouses like American Electric Power, ConAgra Foods, Delta Air Lines, Duke Energy, DuPont, Google, General Electric, Microsoft, Walmart, Walt Disney and Wells Fargo.

What is most surprising is that this list also includes five major oil companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell). While they can hardly be called champions of a low carbon economy, they are, if nothing else, economic realists. They see the writing on the wall, and their actions are a strong indication that they see some form of carbon tax as inevitable.

Make no mistake about it, fossil fuel companies are not embracing the common good, they are acting in their own best interest. Preparing for the expense of a carbon tax is simply good business and for many, it represents a great opportunity. To illustrate the point, ExxonMobil, America’s wealthiest corporation supports a carbon tax because it has a vested interest. As the nation’s biggest producer of natural gas, it would profit from carbon pricing. Such a scheme would inflate the costs to the coal and crude oil industries far more than natural gas.

Republicans may be left out in the cold

Support for a carbon tax from corporate interests including fossil fuel companies could be a real problem for the GOP’s political future. Republican opposition is a salient reason for the failure of cap-and-trade legislation in 2010. The GOP’s climate denial was underscored during the 2012 presidential elections and they continue to beat the climate denial drum to this day. As recently as Wednesday December 11, their ignorance was on display for all America to see. On this day, Republicans in the House of Representatives held sham hearings that called upon climate change denying scientists to reinforce their subterfuge.

Corporate interests are the traditional support base for Republicans, but as they embrace a carbon tax, Republicans will be left out of the cold if the companies responsible for global warming are seeking a carbon tax.

The Koch brothers may be the only friends that the GOP has left. The only U.S. supporters from big oil still onside with climate denial is Koch Industries, who continues to pressure Republicans to stay onboard the denial train. In 2012, all of the GOP’s presidential candidates had ties to the owners of Koch industries. Koch continues to use its various front groups to oppose science and resist any form of carbon tax. However, this oil company has repeatedly been exposed as the nation’s biggest purveyor of misinformation. Koch industries is a pariah even in the dirty and destructive fossil fuel industry. Republicans who embrace Koch may undermine their own election hopes and further tarnish the GOP’s already badly battered brand.

According to the latest research, Americans, including supporters of the Republican party, embrace the veracity of climate change and want government to do something about it. A Stanford University study showed that all states, even traditionally Republican states, acknowledge global warming and would like government to find ways to reduce climate change causing emissions. Recent election and ballot initiatives may also signal a change in American attitudes.

Republicans have effectively painted themselves into a corner. Changing public and corporate attitudes are stranding GOP policy positions. If Republican support is eroded they may not have enough political representation to thwart progress and this could in turn pave the way for carbon pricing.

Carbon trading in place and calls for emissions reduction from U.S. state governments

Carbon trading is increasing around the world with emissions trading schemes now operating in 35 countries, 13 states, provinces and cities. Europe already has the world’s biggest emissions market and China is launching its own schemes. In North America, new additions to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) doubled carbon trading in 2012. There are now 48 schemes internationally and when added to the 7 in China, a total of 880 million people, representing about 20 percent of global emissions will be part of some form of carbon pricing.

As reported by Reuters on December 16, fifteen U.S. states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington) are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt their carbon-cutting policies.

As part of President Barack Obama’s climate change strategy announced in June, the EPA has been directed to develop federal emissions standards for existing power plants. Now a coalition of states have told the EPA that they would like to see a “system-wide” approach to cutting emissions rather than working on individual power plants.

The Clean Air Act has stipulated that states must develop their own plans to meet EPA standards. States have been asked to provide feedback ahead of a planned June 2014 proposal which is scheduled to be finalized a year later. States that are part of carbon pricing schemes want to make sure that the EPA gives them credit for being early adopters.

Benefits of price on carbon far outweigh cost

The most frequently cited argument against carbon pricing and carbon taxes is the cost. According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the introduction of a carbon tax could cause fossil fuel companies to lose between $9 trillion an $12 trillion in profits by the end of the century. That is because a carbon tax would drive up costs and decrease demand, as the demand was reduced the prices would fall.

However, the Potsdam Research indicates that the cost to fossil fuel companies would be more than compensated for by carbon taxes (or carbon auction revenues). Their analysis reveals that such taxes would generate revenues equaling $21 trillion to $32 trillion by the end of the century. That translates to a net economic benefit of around $20 trillion, in addition to potentially staving off the worse impacts of climate change and providing citizens with cleaner air and water. The profits from carbon taxes could be used for green-energy projects and climate adaptation efforts.

There was a time in the recent past when putting a price on carbon was dismissed as a utopian dream, however, the overwhelming logic is becoming increasingly undeniable, even in the most unlikely places.

The introduction of a carbon tax is unlikely to occur without a political fight, but the weight of the evidence will inevitably triumph over ignorance.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Gustavo Madico, courtesy flickr

The post All I Want for Christmas is a Price on Carbon appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

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November 12 2013


Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw?

A sunny day in Beijing

A sunny day in Beijing

For all their potential promise, apparent earnestness and gravity – not to mention their possible effects and potential ramifications – it’s hard at times not to be cynical about high-level political negotiations. Such might be felt of the United Nations (UN) climate treaty negotiations which got under way this week in Warsaw, Poland.

People have good reason to be skeptical of the climate treaty process, not because global warming and climate change are based on faulty science or because viable options aren’t in hand, but because governments and societies around the world are so invested in fossil fuels that the thought that political leaders would collectively take aggressive action to phase out carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is nigh unthinkable.

Take, for example, that even as representatives from the 195 UN member nations party to the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet to establish the framework of an agreement to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that G20 governments doled out $523 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers in 2011, the latest year such figures are available. What’s more, fossil fuel subsidies are rising, even as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just last week reported that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2012.

To say such subsidies are counterproductive would be gross understatement. Perverse would be a better modifier. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would remove a perverse incentive that stands in the way of leveling the energy markets “playing field,” putting a true cost on carbon in an attempt to address global warming and climate change.

Releasing a report entitled Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) documents “the scale of fossil fuel subsidies and sets out a practical agenda for their elimination in the context of the global goal of tackling climate change.”

Climate treaty negotiators convene in Warsaw

Against the backdrop of devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan – reportedly one of, if not the largest and strongest, typhoon ever recorded – the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UNFCCC is convening November 11-22 in (ironically enough) Warsaw, Poland, a nation with a government that has steadfastly resisted efforts to shift off coal and fossil fuels toward a more diversified energy mix centered on cleaner, renewable alternatives.

Convening at COP 19 in Warsaw over the next 11 days, representatives from the 195 UN member nations that are parties to the international climate treaty (the U.S. included) and the 192 that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. excluded) will attempt to hammer out the framework of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Full details of a new accord to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are to be ready for signing by 2015 to go into effect in 2020.

Trying to make the negotiations as inclusive as possible, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) has become a major public event. At COP 19 in Warsaw, representatives of 195 UN member nations will be joined by a host of NGOs, civic groups, other public and private sector organizations, the press, and, more than likely, large numbers of demonstrators.

Enhancing the efficacy and credibility of global climate change action

The UNFCCC’s public credibility – not to mention its efficacy – would be greatly enhanced if the national governments party to the international treaty were to take one expedient, cost-effective step: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, ODI asserts, and they are by no means the first to advocate taking such a step.


Source: “Time to change the game,” ODI, 11/2013

Straight from the executive summary of “Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate,” here are ODI’s key points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive. They were at over $500 billion globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.
  • These subsidies are increasing and are a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermine attempts to put a price on carbon.
  • In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20 percent of households.
  • Domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would enable the triple win of inclusive green growth.

Perverse incentives indeed, and the above is only a short list. According to ODI’s study, “international financial institutions (IFIs) also support carbon-intensive energy systems.

“Over 75 percent of energy-project support from IFIs to 12 of the top developing-country emitters went to fossil fuel projects. There has been no significant shift in this trend: in the last financial year alone (2012-13), the World Bank Group increased its lending for fossil fuel projects to $2.7 billion, including continued lending for oil and gas exploration (Oil Change International, 2013).”

As ODI goes on to state:

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.

“Coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel of all, is taxed less than any other source of energy and is, in some countries, actively subsidized (OECD, 2013a). For every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies (IEA, 2013).”

Following, in summary form, are the key actions ODI is urging G20 UNFCCC climate treaty delegates take in Warsaw:

  •  G20 countries use the Warsaw CoP meeting to agree a broad timeline for action
  • G20 governments call on technical agencies to agree a common definition of fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 governments commit to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, with early action by rich-country members on subsidies to coal and to oil and gas exploration by 2015
  • that governments and donors work together to ensure that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from the impact of subsidy removal.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would be one of the most straightforward, cost-effective and effective steps world governments could take to address the profound threats and rising costs of addressing global warming and climate change. Will they muster the will and toughness to do so? Not likely, but one can at least hope for the best.

The post Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw? appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 07 2013


Recent Elections and Ballot Initiatives May Suggest A New Era of Environmental Interest is Dawning In U.S. Politics

The recent elections indicate a shifting momentum for environmental awareness in the electorateIn previous U.S. Elections, environmental concerns were largely absent, but this changed on Tuesday November 5, 2013. Ecological issues were an important part of Virginia’s Gubernatorial race, they were also the primary focus of a county council election in Washington and several ballot initiatives.  Taken together, these results may be indicative of changing attitudes. Voters showed their support for renewable energy, and better water management, they also stood up to the fossil fuel industry and won.

Virginia Gubernatorial Race

In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe’s win over Ken Cuccinelli bodes well for the state’s environmental efforts. These candidates presented two diametrically opposed visions of the environment and climate change. The differences between these two candidates underscores the contrast between Republicans and Democrats.

The policy differences between the two candidates for governor could not be more stark. McAuliffe expressed his support for the President’s climate change offensive, and repeatedly talked about the need to address environmental concerns. Conversely, Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli received most of his financing from the fossil fuel industry and he ran on a platform that doubts the veracity of climate change.

While McAuliffe raised about $34 million, Cuccinelli was only able to raise $20 million. However, the real story here is not the discrepancy between the funds raised by these two men, it has more to do with where the funding came from. McAuliffe’s campaign was financed by environmental groups and concerned citizens.

Cuccinelli has enjoyed the support of the dirty energy industry for more than 12 years. In 2012, Cuccinelli’s office was accused of impropriety for helping a coal company which provided a $143,544 donation. The case was so egregious that the people of southwest Virginia launched a class-action lawsuit in which a state judge called the conduct of a senior member of Cuccinelli’s staff shocking. Even the State’s inspector general deemed the behavior to be inappropriate.

When a reporter from NBC Washington asked McAuliffe if he supported the new proposed guidelines on carbon pollution for new power plants, McAuliffe said: “I do. You bet. What I’ve looked at I support, what we need to do to protect our air and water.”

Rather than support the EPA, Cuccinelli sued them over their finding that carbon pollution posed a danger to human health. In 2012, the D.C. Court of Appeals found the EPA to be “unambiguously correct.”  This was not the only time Cuccinelli used the courts to advance an anti-environment agenda.

Cuccinelli is infamous for using his powers as attorney general to launch an unjustified attack against University of Virginia (UVA) climate scientist Michael Mann. During the campaign, McAuliffe railed against Cuccinelli’s attacks on Mann saying, “the fact that UVA was forced to spend $600,000 to defend itself from its own Attorney General is outrageous.”

While McAuliffe wants clean air and water and sees the economic merits of renewable energy, Cuccinelli denies basic climate science. A report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund suggested that Cuccinelli’s climate denial could have cost the state $45 billion and 314,000 Virginians jobs, if he were to have been elected.

Although Virginia is a conservative-leaning swing state, a Fall poll showed Cuccinelli was out of step with voters’ views on climate change and a range of other issues. Another poll found that 85 percent of Virginians think climate change is happening. A July poll found that 73 percent of young voters (18-35) associated people who deny climate change with words like “ignorant,” “out-of-touch” or “crazy.” That included 53 percent of Republican respondents. In the same poll, 80 percent of respondents supported President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and 79 percent reported they were more likely to vote for a candidate who wanted to take action on climate change.

In response to the election, Virginia LCV’s executive director Jeff Painter said, “Voters sent a strong message tonight in support of Terry McAuliffe’s vision for Virginia’s renewable energy future and trusting him to appoint strong conservation leaders to his administration.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement, “the voters have spoken and a climate denier has been denied. By electing Terry McAuliffe, Virginians are sending a clear message: they want a leader who will stand up for good jobs and climate action, not an extremist who will stand with big polluters.”

Climate scientist Michael Mann succinctly summarized the sentiments of many when he wrote that he is “pleased that Virginia voters rejected his [Cuccinelli's] dangerous brand of politics & his contempt for science & rational thought.”

New Jersey Gubernatorial Race

In New Jersey, Republican Chris Christie won as expected easily defeating Democratic nominee Barbara Buono. His take on climate change is far more nuanced than the GOP’s typical denial. Despite Christie’s exit from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), in June 2011, he said that “climate change is occurring and that humans play a contributing role it’s time to defer to the experts.”  A point which he reiterated in the last campaign debate. However, Christie also said he does not believe there is any proof that Hurricane Sandy was caused by climate change. It would appear that Christie is playing politics with the climate issue as he knows that many in his base are deniers. It has been widely reported that Christie will seek the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016. He may be straddling the fence on the climate issue in anticipation of a change in public attitudes. This may also explain why he regularly distances himself from his Republican colleagues.

New York City Mayoral Election

Bill de Blasio was elected in New York City making him the first Democratic mayor of that city since 1993. This bodes well for action on climate adaptation efforts in one of the world’s largest cities. While neither candidate focused on climate change during the campaign, de Blasio is very progressive and as such he is expected to continue Mayor Bloomberg’s proactive stance on adaptation.

County Council Election in Washington

Four candidates opposed to coal exports defeated their Republican aligned opponents and won seats on the seven member Whatcom County Council in Washington State. The newly elected County Council will resist the proposed building of a gateway that would have shipped 48 million tons of coal to Asia. Anti-coal forces won in the county despite opposition from coal umbrella groups like the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports.

“Tonight, the people of Whatcom County stood up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in big polluter cash to secure a victory for a healthy future for our communities, our families and our planet,” said Natalie McLendon, a Sierra Club volunteer leader in Bellingham, WA.

Colorado’s Fracking Ballot Initiative

Three out of four towns in Colorado said no to fracking. Colorado voters in Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins agreed to impose a fracking moratorium despite almost one million dollars spent on city specific campaigns by Colorado Oil and Gas Association. In Broomfield, the anti-fracking measure failed by just 13 votes.

Boulder, Colorado Utility Ballot Initiative

In two ballot initiatives, voters in Boulder cleared the way for the city to take control of its own electric grid. One ballot initiative enables the city to incur debt to buy Xcel Energy’s infrastructure and the other kept the city on the path to municipalization which will enable the city to create its own utility and increase its reliance on renewable energy. The win for renewable energy comes in spite of a million-dollar campaign waged by Xcel.

“We made it really clear that this issue is about our environmental and economic future,” Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said.

Texas Water Ballot Initiative

A Texas Water Ballot initiative gave the state the right to amend the constitution and invest in better water management. The $2 billion investment will come from the state’s rainy day fund and be poured into a water bank that will finance water planning projects.

Portland, Maine Tar Sands Ballot

By a slim margin of only 200 votes, South Portland, Maine residents narrowly defeated (4,453 to 4,261) a ballot initiative intended to prevent the export of Canadian tar sands oil. A grassroots coalition was defeated by a group of oil companies and affiliates who outspent them by a margin of nearly six to one.

“It is clear to all of us why this vote played out why the vote was so close: oil companies and the American Petroleum Institute poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into South Portland, in one of the biggest expenditures on a local referendum in Maine history,” Pohlmann continued. “This money was used to fund a relentless campaign that spread misinformation and fear.”

Despite the loss, they are not yet ready to capitulate to big oil. Led by Mayor Blake, the council voted for a 180-day moratorium banning new construction on the piers.

Adirondacks Land Swap Ballot Initiative

Voters across New York state approved amendments to the state Constitution clearing the way for land swaps in the Adirondack Park. The ballot initiative authorized the state to exchange a 200 acre old-growth forest preserve for land of equivalent value from mining company NYCO Minerals. After NYCO’s mining of wollastonite is completed, the land will then be returned to the state.

With voters showing their support for a wide range of ecologically themed initiatives, the environment was the big winner on Tuesday night.  Overall, these elections and ballot initiatives suggest that there is growing support for environmental concerns in the U.S.  These results give us reason to believe that democracy can withstand the powerful influence of the old energy interests. We may very well be witnessing the beginnings of changing public attitudes.

“Public opinion polls across the country show that the call from voters for clean energy and climate action is loud and clear—now, its time our political leaders listen,” Brune said. ”Those running for office now must choose whether they stand with solutions or whether they stand in the way. The climate crisis won’t wait, and neither will we.”

These elections and the outcomes of the ballot initiatives can be interpreted as a referendum on the changing environmental attitudes of American voters.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Steve Wall, courtesy flickr 

The post Recent Elections and Ballot Initiatives May Suggest A New Era of Environmental Interest is Dawning In U.S. Politics appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 30 2013


74 Percent Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation

74% Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation (via Clean Technica)

Fighting emissions regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency must be a winning national electoral issue, right? Otherwise why would so many politicians fight so hard to allow power plants to keep spewing pollution into the air? Um, not so much…

The post 74 Percent Of Voters Back EPA Power Plant Emissions Regulation appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 26 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Ignorance Doesn’t Stop Journalists Misleading Public on Environment; Climate and National Security, more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • It’s because of article like this one by Jennifer Hickey published in NewsMax that so many Americans are confused about environmental issues and renewable energy. The article’s main qualms with wind power are that it does not produce enough energy, has unanticipated effects (killing birds) and costs more than originally thought. The article implies that every other energy source (oil, gas, coal) kills no animals, has no extra costs and only took a couple of years to develop. We need real, honest, balanced journalism if common non-expert citizens are going to understand complex issues like renewable energy.
  • Then, there is Richard Lindzen who says that we should just continue polluting and hope that clouds take care of the single issue of global warming. Best quote from Richard starts with, “if I’m right.” I am not counting on Richard to be right, and what about all the other effects of massive amounts of pollution? What about top soil loss, human health effects, species extinction, dead zones?
  • Too many pundits are commenting on environmental issues without any education. Meanwhile the situation is getting worse and worse.
  • I think one of the main problems is that global warming is a phenomenon we are not psychologically prepared to deal with. First of all, to admit that there is a problem is to admit that you have been part of the problem, who can take this burden on in a healthy emotional way? Then, the problem is systemic and not apparent in the daily lives of everyone. Humans are prepared to deal with immediate, visible problems, not mostly invisible problems of the future. This is why humans wait for a disaster before addressing issues that we have seen coming from miles away. The issue with global warming is that when the issue is in your face you are only able to adapt instead of prevent. Hmm, I am seeing the parallels between global warming and the American healthcare industry. For both, we will spend a lot of money and effort on crisis management and almost nothing on prevention.
  • Military and national security experts consider climate change as a major national and global security threat - and have for some time now. The US Military is quite serious about this threat, this should be very surprising and confusing to conservatives in America.
  • In the currently weak American economy of 2013, renewable energy jobs are growing faster than the rest of the economy. Texas is taking on many of these jobs and now Texas has more renewable energy workers than ranchers.
  • Innovation in the renewable energy industry will bring it into the mainstream more than lower equipment prices. Solar Mosaic is trying to do just that; innovate solar into the mainstream.


The post Enviro News Wrap: Ignorance Doesn’t Stop Journalists Misleading Public on Environment; Climate and National Security, more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 15 2013


ALEC Must Die

ALEC seeks to thwart open democracy and progress on clean energy and climate actionThere is a sinister force that is corrupting American politics by giving the most environmentally destructive elements of Big Business significant control over state legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) turns 40 this year. This organization is composed of large corporations and state lawmakers. They draft environmentally harmful model laws that have been adopted in state legislatures across the country.

ALEC describes itself as “nonpartisan public-private partnership” and is registered as a not for profit organization. While the organization enjoys 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, many groups see it as little more than a front for one of the most powerful and influential lobby groups in America.

The threat to America’s democracy from ALEC should not be underestimated as this is a well-funded and well-coordinated organization that has a proven track record of successfully manipulating state legislatures.

According to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ALEC continues to hold sway over statehouses across the country. In total, CMD identified 466 ALEC bills that were introduced in state legislatures during the first seven months of 2013. At least eighty-four of these measures have become law.

As reviewed in PR Watch, ALEC’s real mission in state legislatures is, “to allow dirty energy companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas and coal interests,” says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at Greenpeace.

Fossil fuel lobby

One of the most egregious threats to the public interest comes from the fossil fuel industry’s involvement with ALEC. “Disregarding science at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil fuel industry,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

Corporate sponsors of ALEC include the leaders of the fossil fuel industry. Companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy, Peabody Energy, BP, Shell, Chevron, TransCanada and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, as well as industry trade associations and large corporate foundations provide almost all of ALEC’s funding.

ALEC’s goals are clear, they seek to provide financial rewards and protections to the companies that they work with.

According to Calvin Sloan, a legislative researcher with People for the American Way, corporations pay $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC. The purpose of the ALEC meetings is to instruct lawmakers on policy initiatives, which according to Sloan is “a fossil fuels-funded agenda.”

“They [ALEC] have participating corporations like fossil fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states within a year,” Sloan said. “It’s part of an overall framework of corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”

ALEC supports some of the most destructive fossil fuel legislation ever tabled including bills supporting coal, fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.  It should come as no surprise that TransCanada Corp., the company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is also a member of ALEC. The company even sponsored an expense-paid trip called “ALEC academy” for nine ALEC-member state legislators. Following the trip, some of those in attendance introduced resolutions backing the pipeline in their state legislatures.

According to CMD, 77 ALEC bills promoting fossil fuels and undermining environmental protections were introduced in 34 states in 2013. At least seventeen of these measures have become law.

Climate change denial

ALEC’s activities extend beyond support for fossil fuel interests and encompass climate change misinformation. The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act which passed in at least four states, teaches children that climate change is a “controversial theory.” (The truth is that with 98 percent support, there are few theories that have garnered more support from scientists than anthropogenic climate change).

ALEC is a leading organization that actively denies the veracity of anthropogenic climate change and opposes limits on climate change causing emissions. At the 2013 meeting of ALEC, climate change was one of the items on the agenda.

One of the speakers at this year’s ALEC meeting was Joe Bastardi, he is a leading climate change denier and television weather forecaster who frequently comments on Fox News. He has called human-caused global warming an “obvious fraud.”  This year, Bastardi was the speaker at a plenary breakfast meeting misleadingly titled “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” In 2011, he spoke about “The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2″ at ALEC’s annual meeting.

As reported in a May 2013 Forbes article, Bastardi says that “blaming turbulent weather on global warming is extreme nonsense.” While many have speculated as to whether he is willfully ignorant, willful, or just plain ignorant, as a meteorologist Bastardi should know better.

Opposition to renewable energy

ALEC does not only work in support of dirty hydrocarbons, it also is working to snuff out renewable energy. “ALEC’s long time role in denying the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a necessary part of global warming mitigation,” says Gibson.

Through legislation called the Electricity Freedom Act, ALEC sought to prevent states from requiring energy companies to increase electricity production from renewable energy sources. Because the Electricity Freedom Act failed to gain the support of state legislatures, ALEC is modifying its plan of attack against renewable energy standards. At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC introduced a bill called the Market Power Renewables Act, which seeks to undermine the Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.

As explained by PR Watch, this legislation “would phase-out a state’s RPS and instead create a renewable “market” where consumers can choose to pay for renewable energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy investment necessary to continue developing the technology and infrastructure that will drive costs down.”

Opposition to emissions reduction

ALEC has drafted laws that seek to oppose state efforts to reduce emissions. This includes a model bill titled, “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”, which opposes limiting climate change causing carbon emissions.

ALEC bills have not only opposed efforts from state agencies to regulate pollution, they even tried to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In essence, ALEC’s goal is to undermine emissions reduction efforts and to continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Resistance to limiting atmospheric CO2 represents a serious threat to global health as it is widely understood that failure to reign in carbon emissions will have catastrophic consequences.

Control of water, land and information

An ALEC bill titled “Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act” would give for-profit companies control over wastewater treatment and drinking water. Another ALEC law titled “Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act” would give states access to resources in federal lands that are protected as wilderness preserves.

In addition to promoting anti-environmental bills, and seeking control over resources, they also craft legislation to control information and help industry escape public accountability. ALEC’s Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act would quash the First Amendment rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder for them to document issues associated with food safety and animal cruelty.  This is similar to Utah’s ag-gag law of 2012, which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who filmed the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. This ALEC model bill could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience.

Click here to view the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bills.

Growing resistance

The American public is increasingly aware of ALEC’s activities. As ALEC gathered for its 40th annual meeting in Chicago on August 7, they were met by protesters who marched outside the Palmer House Hotel where the meeting was held. The thousands who demonstrated included environmentalists, union members, civil rights activists, and social justice campaigners. Although this was not the first protest against ALEC, it was the largest to date.

Groundbreaking news coverage has helped to expose ALEC. Some of the most inclusive coverage of ALEC was provided by the CMD in the 2011 piece titled “ALEC Exposed.” Another was a documentary from Bill Moyers & Company titled “United States of ALEC.

One of the ways that ALEC has managed to wield so much power is by virtue of the fact that they have always functioned in the shadows. However, people are increasingly coming to terms with the nefarious ways in which ALEC threatens democracy and efforts to combat climate change.

The normally clandestine activities of ALEC are no longer hidden under a blanket of secrecy. Companies are increasingly understanding that involvement with ALEC is a PR liability.  Already, there have been a number of big multinationals that have withdrawn from the organization. Over the past year-and-a-half, almost 50 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership and national campaigns are encouraging others to abandon ALEC.

After four decades of covert operations, ALEC is starting to feel the pressure from public scrutiny. Although ongoing resistance can be expected from the fossil fuel industry, public awareness can divest ALEC of its influence over state legislatures.

Shinning a spotlight on ALEC’s activities will kill the succubus that is draining the lifeblood of America’s democracy.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Main image credit: DonkeyHotey, courtesy flickr
Featured image credit: Light Bridgading, courtesy flickr


The post ALEC Must Die appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 05 2013


Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 3

obama-climate-speech-2013This is the third of a three-part series on energy, environment and US law in light of the launch of President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan. Here in Part 3, we conclude our discussion regarding US climate change legislation with Robert B. McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative, and move on to discuss the ramifications of the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan for the US energy industry with Darin Lowder, Associate in Ballard, Spahr’s Energy and Project Finance practice.

Limiting carbon, greenhouse gas emissions from existing, as well as new, power plants

Back in April 2012, the Obama administration EPA issued a proposed new rulemaking for federal standards to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, an action that the EPA had refrained from taking during President GW Bush’s two terms in office. Though required to issue a final rule within one year, the EPA, inundated with with more than 2 million comments, has yet to do so.

Legal actions from opponents also factored into the delay, McKinstry recounted.

“EPA got a lot of adverse comments from coal industry and coal state interests. They didn’t take action on existing source standards, and sat on the new source standards published in the Federal Register. When they missed the deadline, environmental groups filed suit to force their hand.”

The President took executive action on June 25, seeking to put the EPA’s initiative back on track with the launch of his National Climate Change Action Plan. Part and parcel of the national strategic plan, a Presidential Memorandum was issued directing the EPA “to work expeditiously” to finalize carbon and greenhouse gas emissions limits not only for new, but for reconstructed and existing power plants, as well.

Setting a definitive timeline for issuing new rules governing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, in the memorandum the President directs the EPA “to issue a new proposal by no later than September 20, 2013…and further direct you to issue a final rule in a timely fashion after considering all public comments, as appropriate.”

Furthermore, McKinstry noted, the President’s memorandum directs the EPA to:

  • issue proposed carbon pollution standards, regulations, or guidelines, as appropriate for modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014;
  • issue final standards, regulations, or guidelines for modified, reconstructed, and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2015; and
  • require states to submit implementation plans required under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act to the EPA no later than June 30, 2016.

The establishment of target dates for new EPA limits on carbon and greehouse gas emissions – which are also to include new limits on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – will result in another surge of legal activity on the part of coal and fossil fuel power plant owners and operators, according to Darin Lowder, Associate in Ballard Spahr’s Energy and Project Finance practice.

Spurring action across government and industry

The President’s National Climate Change Action Plan will spur and renew momentum not only at EPA, but across federal government departments and agencies, and not only when it comes to reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but in terms of fostering further gains in renewable and clean energy, energy efficiency and clean technology, Lowder told GWIR.

“I’d expect HUD (the Department for Housing & Urban Development) to quickly come up with a policy to incentivize all this. The Department of Defense (DoD) has 3-gigawatts (GW) of clean energy installed on military installations.”

The military’s situation is a particularly interesting one, he continued, “because of additional value off-grid redundancy renewables provide. They’ve had a very robust discussion in the military about benefits of diversifying the energy supply chain, not only on bases and other facilities, but in the field as well.

“Grid power plus renewables makes life a whole lot easier and safer, even in the case of catastrophic attacks. The benefits are worth the additional cost, and though they don’t like to, they are authroized to pay the additional costs. Plus, they have some locations that are great for renewables.”

Fundamental shifts in mindset

The President’s climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives have spurred a shift in the military’s mindset and attitude when it comes to energy and the environment, he continued. In traditional fashion, branches of the US Armed Forces, and units within them, are now competing to see who can be the most energy efficient, who can best minimize resource use and ecological impacts, and who can deploy the most in the way of renewable energy resources, Lowder continued.

“All of a sudden, you see competitions over who’s the most energy efficient. It’s a very fundamental shift. The way they had it done in past, you had facilities that had just one meter for an entire base. That’s changing radically now, and for a lot of reasons. One of the mechanisms pushing this is the things we’re discussing. Things like energy performance contracts push that change. Measurement is the first step.”

That fundamental change in values and attitudes towards energy and the environment needs to be replicated across the energy, industrial, financial, government and public sectors if the President’s vision of building a greener, sustainable low-carbon society and economy are to be realized. Stakeholders across the economy and society need to come together in a genuine spirit of collaboration, overcome their differences and join forces in identifying and aggressively implementing practical solutions, Lowder said.

Such movement is already well under way, he added.

“There are huge opportunities in all this, and there are numerous examples of people trying to understand each other’s view and aggressively pursue common goals…You’re seeing a blending of diverse views and interests taking place around these opportunities. Housing authorities, for instance, have to satisfy banks and investors’ requirements. It’s not completely foreign to them, but it’s set in a new and different context.

“It’s similar with the military regarding contracting with private housing developers to install solar and renewable energy systems, which entails bringing project developers and banks into the picture as well, familiarizing them with federal procurement and compliance requirements, as well as raising their overall comfort level to the point they’re willing and able to move forward.”

Despite all the gains of the past decade and more, the entire movement toward building a sustainable, low-carbon society is still in its infancy, Lowder pointed out.

“Housing authorities, especially in New England have been using co-generation – capturing and using heat as well as using electricity. You can do that with natural gas. Some facilities are replacing old heating systems, fuel oil boilers that are literally 50-60 years old with new equipment and combined heat and power (CHP) systems. There are tax credits available for that. They’re less than that for solar, but the same potential exists for private developers to enter the field.

“Energy mangement, demand management, even fostering changes in behavioral patterns — like showing people how much power they’re using – there’s growth potential in all these areas. The same is true in the military. It seems basic in retrospect, but a fundamental shift in awareness and information availability is helping spur all this forward.”

Read part 1 and part 2 of this series

The post Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 3 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 03 2013


Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 2

Part 2 of a discussion from expert attorneys and policy advisors on the course of climate and environmental policy in light of president Obama's National Climate Action PlanThis is the second in a three-part series on energy, environment and US law in light of the launch of President Obama’s National Climate Action Plan. In it, we continue our discussion with Robert McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard, Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative.

In Part 1, McKinstry began recounting the long, arduous path of three major federal initiatives via which the Obama Administration aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions across society and the economy: the issuance of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), issuance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS), and the EPA’s efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Having discussed CSAPR, we move on to the second and third of these federal regulatory initiatives.

MATS: the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule

Finalized by EPA in December 2011, the Utility MACT or “Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule” (MATS) requires existing and new coal-fueled power plants to limit emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as mercury, arsenic and metals, by installing the best available emissions control technology by 2015.

Initially enacted in 1990, the Clean Air Act  (CAA) empowers the EPA to establish the standards and guidelines via which state governments develop plans to regulate toxic air pollutants. However, though proven technologies existed, no federal standards requiring power plants to limit their emissions of toxic air pollutants had been established until the MATS ruling.

MATS finalizes standards to reduce power emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants under sections 111 and 112 of the CAA. Setting emissions limits based on the best available control technology (BACT), it requires the EPA to set emissions standards for existing sources “that are at least as stringent as the emissions reductions achieved by the average of the top 12 percent best controlled sources.”

Though CSAPR and MATS imposes additional costs on polluters, the EPA’s new source performance standards (NSPS) apply only to new and modified power plants. The omission of existing power plants actually creates a perverse market incentive, McKinstry explained. Excluding existing coal and oil-fueled power plants from NSPS provides an incentive for power utilities to keep older, more polluting plants up and running rather than modifying or decommissioning them or replacing them with new, cleaner power generation capacity.

Massachusetts vs. EPA: A landmark ruling

As opposed to mercury and air toxic emissions, the EPA has not and said it doesn’t intend to set ambient air quality standards for carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, standards which typically precede the establishment of emissions limits (national performance standards), reduction targets and state implementation plans to realize them. More fundamentally, the EPA’s effort to deem CO2 a pollutant has been vociferously challenged in the courts for some 13 years’ running.

Concerned with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the Clinton Administration determined that the Clean Air Act could be applied to CO2 and other greenhouse gases back in 1998. Opponents thwarted any attempts to move forward, however.

That changed in April 2007 in Massachusetts vs. the EPA, wherein the US Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision that was deemed “a sharp rebuke to the Bush administration,” ruled that not only does the EPA have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from new automobiles and light-duty vehicles, but that it could not avoid doing so without providing a scientific basis for inaction. It also gave the EPA the leeway to move forward without having to establish national ambient air quality standards for carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, McKinstry noted.

By concluding that the EPA could consider CO2 and other greenhouse gases pollutants, the Supreme Court’s ruling was a precedent-setting milestone in the effort to regulate US carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. It paved the way for the EPA to not only establish standards and guidelines for mobile sources of CO2, but for also for stationary sources, such as power plants, oil refineries, other industrial plants, and factories. It would not go unchallenged.

As the EPA began the long, arduous process of developing a broader, more comprehensive institutional framework and mechanisms to limit and reduce CO2 emissions, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc. and other plaintiffs challenged the Supreme Court ruling. Of even greater import, the Bush administration issued an advance notice of rulemaking that delayed implementation.

The situation changed radically when President Obama took office. EPA began “providing a number of opportunities for stakeholders to have a say in how it should actually implement this,” McKinstry recounted. “They reached a settlement, agreeing to regulate mobile sources under rule 202 [of the CAA] and for heavy duty vehicle emissions, which the Bush admin refused to do,” as well as agreeing to limit carbon and greenhouse gas emissions limits and standards to new, not existing or even modified, power plants.

Significantly, one of the first, and fundamental, things the Obama Administration EPA did in the wake of Massachusetts vs. EPA was make an endangerment finding, concluding that carbon dioxide (CO2) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can threaten the health and well-being of the American public.

Setting limits on fossil fuel power plants’ carbon emissions

As McKinstry elaborated, the EPA in March 2012 proposed a limit on carbon and GHG emissions of 1,000 tons per megawatt-hour (MWh) for new source coal-fired power plants of greater than 25 MW capacity. Based on the emissions vented to the atmosphere by current commercial natural gas combined cycle power plants, the EPA watered this down, reasoning that new coal-fueled generation capacity may be desirable for reasons of national energy security, drastic changes in market conditions or other factors.

The EPA said it will maintain the new standard, but gave fossil fuel power plant operators the option of meeting it based on 30-year averaging, McKinistry noted.

“New coal-fired or pet coke-fired units could meet the standard either by employing carbon capture and storage (CCS) of approximately 50 percent of the CO2 in the exhaust gas at start up, or through later application of more effective CCS to meet the standard on average over a 30-year period,” the EPA wrote in its proposed rulemaking.

Meanwhile, opponents were mustering their resources. In total, “a cluster of four rulings was appealed by opposing interests,” McKinstry explained: the EPA’s endangerment finding, the “Tailpipe Rule” in which it set emissions standards for car and light-duty vehicles, and the “Timing Rule” and Tailoring Rule,” which ease requirements for major stationary sources of greenhouse gases to obtain construction and operating permits.

Initially rebuffed in December 2011, the Coalition for Responsible Regulation and other plaintiffs’ appeal of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA was heard in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last year. The Appeals court in June 2012 upheld the Supreme Court’s decision and subsequently, in December, denied a petition to rehear the case.

The Coalition of Responsible Regulation hasn’t quit yet. In April, it  filed a petition requesting the Supreme Court rehear to review the Appeals court’s ruling. Word in the legal community is that the petition is unlikely to be accepted, according to McKinstry.

The tale doesn’t end there, however…To be continued

The post Making Good on Obama’s Climate Change Action Plan, Part 2 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 02 2013


Making Good on Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan

Part one of interview with attorneys from Ballard, Sphar on climate policy and president Obama's National Climate Action PlanBypassing Congress in a bid to set the US firmly on course in developing a low-carbon society and green economy, President Obama on June 25 launched his administration’s National Climate Change Action Plan, a more comprehensive and fully realized version of a climate change strategy that builds on and adds momentum to long-fought-over and hard-won legal and legislative efforts that stretch back at least two decades.

President Obama’s National Climate Change Action Plan marks a major milestone in a long line of historic marking posts in US environment and energy law, one that charts the course for the federal government not only to mitigate and adapt to climate change by spurring the creation of a healthier, greener, and more sustainable US economy and society, but to actively promote and foster the realization of these ends around the world.

Aiming to offer our readers a longer term and more in-depth perspective on what’s been achieved to date and how efforts to implement the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan might play out in future, GWIR interviewed leading members of Washington, D.C.-based Ballard, Spahr’s environmental and energy practices.

Turning the Ship of State to address climate change

Creating and weaving together all the diverse elements of a coherent, cohesive national strategy to address climate change has proven to be no simple, easy, smooth, or short-lived, task. It entails turning the massive ship of state by enacting fundamental, often bitterly contentious changes to the vast web of government policies, legislation, and regulations that have favored, subsidized, and created an economy and society dependent on fossil fuel production and use, one in which ecological health and integrity have typically been sacrificed for the sake of short-term economic and financial gain, leaving the public – either through taxes or increasing public debt – to pay the costs.

It also entails transcending the well-established boundaries of longstanding energy, environmental, economic, and social policy and politics, crossing over lines and surmounting barriers in order to bring together and marshal the resources of stakeholders throughout society – private sector and civil society groups and organizations, as well as federal, state, and local government levels. Once again directing national attention to his administration’s ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to tackle climate change, President Obama and his administration appear to be aiming for nothing less.

Ballard, Spahr attorneys Robert B. McKinstry, Jr. and Darin Lowder have been working at the cutting edge of US environmental and energy law for decades. They’ve witnessed, and often been a part of, initiatives that have brought about fundamental changes and helped established a legal and public-private institutional framework for the development of a low-carbon US society and green economy.

In doing so, they’ve worked with clients from across government, the private sector, and civil society to help forge agreements on groundbreaking pollution, carbon, and greenhouse gas emissions legislation, policies, standards, and governance mechanisms, and they have helped played key roles in bringing copious amounts of clean, renewable energy generation capacity online. This includes pioneering efforts that helped establish the two regional carbon and greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade systems up and running in the US, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and the Western Climate Initiative.

The work they and others like them do will be key, pivotal factors if the goals set out in the president’s National Climate Change Action Plan – curbing US carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, boosting renewable energy development and energy efficiency improvements, and taking the lead in forging international agreements that call on national governments around the world to take actions to adapt to, as well as mitigate, climate change – are to be realized.

The US and climate change: Hard-won progress

Speak to Robert McKinstry, Jr., Practice Leader for Ballard, Spahr’s Climate Change and Sustainability Initiative, about climate change, environmental governance, and efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and you can’t help but come away with a better understanding and appreciation of the tremendous amount of time, effort, and resources stakeholders across US society have dedicated to advancing the climate change agenda even this far forward, and the tremendous amount of opposition and variety of obstacles that have had to be overcome.

The US government effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change can be traced back to 1992 and the UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, when then President George HW Bush signed and Congress subsequently ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the treaty in which 195 parties — national and regional governing authorities — have pledged to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change throughout society.

Real progress in the US, particularly at the federal level, has been slow and difficult to come by. The George W. Bush administration, for instance, stonewalled efforts that would have enabled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, not only in the power sector, but in transportation, agriculture, forestry, waste and the built environment.

In contrast, it has been the inability of Congress to agree to take sustained, meaningful action to address climate change that has thwarted progress during President Obama’s tenure. With his June 25 speech and launch of the National Climate Change Action Plan, the President has decided to take executive action, moving forward with or without Congress’s support.

Establishing the legal framework to address climate change

Accounting for some 40 percent of national carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and as much as 80 percent from the energy sector, reducing emissions from large power plants offers the biggest bang for US society’s climate change buck. The legal road forward toward regulating power plant emissions and environmental impacts has been filled with obstacles, however. As McKinstry pointed out,

“Existing coal-fired power plants have been exempt from a whole raft of environmental regulations for a long time. Finally, the EPA is acting to regulate those emissions…The Obama Administration is now moving forward, but there are lots of interests that can comment on the regulations, in particular, on the application of Section 111 (b) of the Clean Air Act in regulating carbon, greenhouse gas, and other power plant emissions.

“Anything that causes the fossil fuel industry to bear the costs of the pollution it emits is going to benefit non-emitting sources of energy, basically renewable energy sources, including hydro and nuclear power,” he added.

McKinstry ticked off and recounted the long, arduous path of three major federal initiatives that aim to significantly reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions across society and the economy: the issuance of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), issuance of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule (MATS), and the EPA’s efforts to regulate and reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

Finalized by the EPA in July, 2011, CSPAR is designed to help US states reduce air pollution and meet 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). It “requires states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that cross state lines and contribute to ozone and fine particle pollution in other states,” the EPA explains on its website.

CSAPR would require reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions in the eastern U.S. by January 1, 2012 (Phase 1) and January 1, 2014 (Phase 2). In sum, CSAPR requires a total of 28 states to reduce annual SO2 emissions, annual NOx emissions and/or ozone season NOx emissions to assist in attaining clean air standards.

CSAPR is still being challenged in the courts, however, McKinstry pointed out. The EPA ruling was vacated by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court in August 2012. The full D.C. Circuit refused to hear the case in January. In March this year, EPA and environmental groups appealed the decision on up to the Supreme Court, which on June 24 agreed to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision.

To be continued…

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June 25 2013


President Turns Up the Heat On US Carbon Pollution, Revealing Details of National Climate Change Action Plan

Obama outlines his National Climate Action Plan. Photo credit: AP

President Obama once again raised the bitterly, politically divise issues of US fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change to the forefront of the national political agenda today, revealing new aspects of his administration’s national climate change action plan during a speech given at Georgetown University.

The president characterized US efforts “to lead the global fight against carbon pollution as a moral obligation to act on behalf of future generations.” The president’s plan centers on taking action on three broad fronts: cutting carbon pollution across the US; preparing the US for the impacts of climate change; and leading international efforts to address climate change.

“Climate change represents one of the major challenges of the 21st century, but as a nation of innovators, we can and will meet this challenge in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health all at the same time,” according to the White House.

Obama sets the stage for the US to lead the global effort to reduced carbon pollution, combat climate change

Taking action to both mitigate and adapt to climate change throughout society, President Obama’s laid out his agenda for tackling climate change in his speech at Georgetown University. The comprehensive strategic plan takes action to:

  • Cut Carbon Pollution in the US:
    In 2012, U.S. carbon pollution from the energy sector fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution—just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic —so we protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills. For example, the plan:
    • Directs EPA to work closely with states, industry and other stakeholder to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants;
    • Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies;
    • Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project—like wind and solar – on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting; and sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations;
    • Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge, focusing on helping commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings cut waste and become at least 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020;
    • Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards set over the course of the Administration for appliances and federal buildings;
    • Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018; and
    • Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; directs agencies to develop a comprehensive methane strategy; and commits to protect our forests and critical landscapes.
  • Prepares the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change:
    Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country. Building on progress over the last four years, the plan:
    • Directs agencies to support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs; and establishes a short-term task force of state, local, and tribal officials to advise on key actions the Federal government can take to help strengthen communities on the ground;
    • Pilots innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts; and building on a new, consistent flood risk reduction standard established for the Sandy-affected region, agencies will update flood-risk reduction standards for all federally funded projects;
    • Launches an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change through a public-private partnership with the healthcare industry;
    • Maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners; and helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership and by expanding and prioritizing forest- and rangeland- restoration efforts to make areas less vulnerable to catastrophic fire; and
    • Provides climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralized “toolkit” and a new Climate Data Initiative.
  • Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change:
    Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally. America must help forge a truly global solution to this global challenge by galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepare for climate impacts, and drive progress through the international negotiations. For example, the plan:
    • Commits to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries;
    • Leads global sector public financing towards cleaner energy by calling for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world’s poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and
    • Strengthens global resilience to climate change by expanding government and local community planning and response capacities.

The White House has put together an excellent, visually rich infographic that summarizes the President’s national climate change action plan.

And then there’s this video of the president’s speech:


Main image: Associated Press

The post President Turns Up the Heat On US Carbon Pollution, Revealing Details of National Climate Change Action Plan appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 07 2013


Rising Temperature, Sea Level On Track to Wipe Out Major World Cities Former Shell Exec Tells UN

Global community risks catastrophic sea level rise if current fossil fuel and c02 emissions stay on trackConsensus among the world’s leading climate scientists has established a 2°C rise in global mean temperature as the tipping point for runaway climate change, but even that could result in catastrophic rises in sea level of as much as 6-7 meters (23 feet), energy expert Ian Dunlop and policy planner and scholar Tapio Kanninen told audiences at packed meetings and panel discussions at UN headquarters in New York City organized by the Finnish Mission to the United Nations, the Club of Rome, the Temple of Understanding and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Sea level rises of 6-7 meters would wipe out coastal cities, including London, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo, and that’s even if we could somehow manage to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C this century, Dunlop and Kanninen told shocked audiences at the UN, according to a Club of Rome report.

On track for 4C rise in global temps; 230-foot rise in sea level

If current trends in fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions continue, global temperatures would rise as much as 4°C or more. That would lead to sea level rises of up to 70 meters (230 feet), Dunlop and Kanninen stated as they “presented new evidence demonstrating the severity of the crisis of global sustainability and global survivability,” the topic of discussion for the mix of diplomats, political decision makers, sustainable development experts and NGOs who attended the meetings.

Dunlop’s experience in the field includes over 30 years working as an engineer and senior executive at the Royal Shell Group. He also is the former leader of Australia’s Emissions Trading Panel.

Commenting on the latest scientific evidence, “Today’s leaders refuse to accept that climate change science and the concept of Peak Oil condemns the international community to a catastrophic future,” Dunlop said.

“Why are we still exploring for fossil fuels since we can only burn 20-30% of reserves if we wish to keep climate change to the 2°C limit, while current policies will result in warming of 4-6°C?”

Perhaps even more shocking a 4°C rise in temperature results in a global human carrying capacity of 0.5-1 billion as compared to a present-day human population of 7 billion.

Urgently needed: drastic economic restructuring, emergency response mechanisms

Scientists have identified a number of climate change tipping points the reaching of which “exponentially and dramatically accelerate global warming trends,” Kanninen, a fomer long-time UN staff member and policy planner, pointed out. These will be reached in “a matter of years, not decades. We must take action before it is too late to avert a catastrophe,” he was paraphrased as saying.

Current policy measures and institutional frameworks are incapable of avoiding or preventing these scenarios from playing out, the pair emphasized. What’s needed, they said, is “a change in the entire system plus an emergency response.

“If runaway climate change leads to rising sea levels the next move has to be to urgently overhaul the UN and our global governance system so it is capable of dealing with rapidly changing global and regional conditions.”


Image credit: Cherrylynx, courtesy flickr

The post Rising Temperature, Sea Level On Track to Wipe Out Major World Cities Former Shell Exec Tells UN appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 29 2012


Mitt Romney’s Love Affair with the Fossil Fuel Industry

Romney's energy plan is made by and for the fossil energy industryRepublican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s “new” energy plan, relies on 19th century fossil fuel technology. It is but the latest incarnation of a longstanding Republican obsession with oil and gas. Romney’s energy strategy is reliant on Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands. He wants to expedite the Keystone XL pipeline, reduce regulations on hydraulic fracturing and ease the permitting process for offshore oil and gas. Romney wants to take regulatory power away from the federal government and give it to individual states. He wants to amend the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and weaken the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution.

While Romney is pushing for more oil and gas, his plan does not advocate either conservation or efficiency. Instead he would end subsidies for renewable sources of energy like solar and wind.

The Republican convention in Florida was delayed due to concerns about Hurricane Isaac. The timing of Isaac is ironic given that GOP appears oblivious to the relationship between global warming and extreme weather. They do not see the powerful symbolism of four hurricanes, Andrew, Katrina, Irene and now Isaac, all landing at roughly the same time and in the same place.

The Republican presidential hopeful’s support for fossil fuels ignores the overwhelming price of extreme weather. With a cost of $81 billion and 1,836 dead, Katrina was the most expensive natural disaster in American history. About 20 years ago this week, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida; it cost $25 billion and killed 15 people. Hurricane Irene struck one year ago and caused an estimated $15 billion in damage while killing at least 67 people.

Romney continues to push for more offshore oil despite the fact that Hurricane Isaac will likely stir up oil left over from the massive Gulf spill of 2010. The remnants of that spill take the form of large tar mats that lie submerged just off the coast.

It appears nothing will deter Romney from pursuing his wanton desire to increase America’s reliance on oil and gas. As reviewed in a Grist article by Lisa Hymas, Mitt Romney’s 21 page energy strategy mentions oil a total of 154 times and natural gas 36 times. The document references coal more often than solar or wind energy and efficiency only gets mentioned once. His plan completely ignores the smart grid, sustainability and climate change.

Romney claims his fossil fuel fixation will create jobs and he eschews government support for renewable energy. However, clean energy has been a great jobs creator, in many cases far more than the fossil fuel industry. In Iowa alone, 7,000 jobs have been created in the wind power industry. Thanks to the wind production tax credit (PTC), the wind industry now employs more people than the coal sector. The US solar energy industry currently employs 100,000 workers at 5,600 companies.

The Republican nominee wants to kill support for renewable energy while continuing to give oil companies $4 billion in annual subsidies. In addition, the Romney plan would provide a $2.3 billion tax cut for the big five oil companies through cuts in the corporate tax rate. Over the next 9 years, the U.S. coal industry is expected to receive $8 billion in taxpayer support.

Romney claims oil is more economical, but his plan does not factor the massive health care costs associated with the burning of fossil fuels. According to a Harvard Medical study, these costs amount to $345 billion. When health issues are factored into the equation the cost of coal per kilowatt is more than 3x the cost of wind.

Romney’s emphasis on oil and gas and resistance to support renewable energy should come as no surprise as his top advisors are closely affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. Harold Hamm is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental Resources Inc. (CLR). Hamm is one of the richest people in America and the chairman of Romney’s Energy Policy Advisory Group. Romney’s other advisors are also oil industry insiders. David Wilkins is a Canadian lobbyist for tar sands oil and Andrea Saul was formerly with the DCI Group, a public affairs and lobbying firm that has worked with Big Oil to undermine the facts on global warming.

At one time, Romney was a strong supporter of action on climate change. Now in his bid to be President, he is leading the climate deniers with a strategy that seems to invite climate change. Romney is a political opportunist who is depending on the oil and gas industry to help fund his campaign. According to the Center for Responsive PoliticsRomney has directly received more than $1 million from the oil and gas industry and the Koch brothers are expected to spend up to $200 million to help get their man elected.

Romney’s love of fossil fuel is at odds with the sentiments of most Americans. Americans hate the oil and gas industry and want global warming and clean energy to be national priorities. According to an August Gallup poll, a total of 61 percent of Americans gave the fossil fuel industry a negative rating, the worst of any industry in the U.S. Romney’s opposition to clean energy is also at odds with the views of the American public. A March Gallup poll had found that people were twice as likely to support solar and wind energy than coal or natural gas. The same poll found that 69 percent of Americans favored spending more government money on developing renewable energy.

As reviewed in a press release from the Sierra Club, greenhouse gas emissions are down to their lowest level in 20 years, Americans are using less oil, and new fuel standards will double efficiency and slash CO2. Over the last four years U.S. wind power has doubled and solar has grown by a factor of five. All of these advances would be reversed by Romney’s energy plan.

Romney’s intention to double down on oil and natural gas is a policy position that is incompatible with a 21st century economy. Romney’s resistance to renewable energy and support for fossil fuels is nothing short of reckless. His plan would result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the clean energy industry and unleash pollutants that would harm Americans.

Romney’s energy strategy is a blueprint for increasing emissions and a roadmap for runaway climate change. America simply cannot afford a President who is so willfully ignorant on energy and the environment.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: TerranceDC, courtesy Flickr

August 27 2012


Enviro News Wrap: Big Oil Subsidies; North Dakota Gas Flares; Romney’s Pandering Energy Policy, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:


August 16 2012


Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, Exxon Mobil began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

For years, Michaels has taken to the pages of “reputable” papers like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal in an attempt to paint climate change as fraudulent and uncertain, without the public realizing that his primary source of funding was the dirty energy industry and their front groups. One of his most recent crusades has been to convince the American public that fracking is perfectly safe, and we should all be singing the industry’s praises for providing us with cheap natural gas.

But Michaels isn’t the only one trying to convince us that fracking is safe and harmless – The industry itself has decided to jump on the science-buying bandwagon. NewsInferno has the story, based on an initial report by WIRED.com:

As the debate continues and local municipalities look to block fracking expansion in many areas, the energy industries have constantly countered, either mounting their own legal battles or now through influencing researchers to produce studies focusing on fracking’s benefits and safety.

WIRED reports that last week, the provost at University of Texas said it would have to “re-examine” a recent university report from one of its professors that declared fracking was safe on groundwater supplies when it was revealed that professor had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single gas developer in the state.

Nationwide, Americans are being influenced by seemingly unbiased research but not being told who is influencing the authors of these studies. Case in point, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also recently published a report, according to WIRED, entitled “Shale Works for US” that was directed at Ohioans caught in the crosshairs of the fracking safety debate.

One of the authors of the study, Robert Chase, has been identified as one person who’s been greatly influenced by the energy industries and was even employed as a consultant for companies like Halliburton and Cabot, leaders in the fracking industry. His influence was likely part of a Penn State University study that also found fracking to be safe and ultimately led state lawmakers there to allow some of the most unchecked fracking drilling in the U.S.

Just as the Exxon story made international headlines, so too should this story. Credible, honest studies have already been made public that show that there is nothing safe about the process of unconventional gas development. DeSmogBlog’s “Fracking The Future” report is a great source of information on the dangers that fracking and other risky industry practices pose to the health of human beings as well as the environment.

But this is hardly the first time that the industry has been on the wrong side of science. In May of this year, I reported on how the fracking industry was trying to keep doctors in the dark about the chemicals being injected into the ground, and also attempting to get gag orders on doctors to prevent them from speaking with patients and the public about drilling-related illnesses.

The only thing currently holding back a wave of new fracking wells in America is public opinion and opposition from elected officials. But even with those hurdles in place, the industry continues to operate with almost no oversight, and drilling activities are still expanding. If scientists are willing to tell the American public and our elected leaders that fracking is safe, that could easily be enough to expand this dirty practice to areas that, at least for now, have been off limits to the industry.

August 10 2012


Republican Ohio Governor Kasich's Trillion Dollar Shale Gas Lie

About the only positive thing you can say about industry-funded astroturf groups is that they at least base their misinformation campaigns on phony “studies” and “reports.” Their lies are based on SOMETHING.

The same cannot be said of Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has come up with a whopper based on absolutely nothing. Kasich recently told the press that his state of Ohio is sitting on top of $1 trillion worth of natural gas that’s just ripe for fracking.

Obviously, this would be quite an economic boom for not just Ohio, but the entire United States. The only problem is that, again, Kasich isn’t basing his estimate on any studies, reports, documents, surveys, or anything even remotely credible. It appears that Kasich is telling reporters that this trillion dollar bonanza number is what he overheard from members of the natural gas industry.

CityBeat explains the story:

Arthur Berman, a Texas-based petroleum geologist and independent energy consultant, says there is no way to verify Kasich’s number.

“No one knows what the reserve number is,” he says. “It takes longer before we know.”

Berman says a true analysis would take at least 18 months and, more realistically, eight to 10 years. This is because geologists need to wait until they “have enough months of production to see a trend,” Berman says.

Even when enough time has passed and geologists get a real estimate, Berman says there will still be a lot of uncertainty about how much of the oil and gas can actually be obtained. He says that although there might be a lot of oil and gas, it could be inaccessible due to technological and practical constraints. After all, if oil and gas reserves are found beneath a city, it’s unlikely operators will actually try to drill there.

Another question for Berman is whether Kasich expects the $1 trillion to come over time or immediately. With the way Kasich has been presenting the number to the media, Berman is worried Ohioans might be getting the impression that the $1 trillion would come as an “immediate windfall.” The reality, Berman says, is that “it takes a long time to produce natural gas and oil.” That means even if Kasich’s number was somehow right, it would take years — Berman estimates longer than Kasich’s gubernatorial terms — to see that $1 trillion.

Kasich claims he heard the number from an unnamed CEO at an energy company. That brings up some concerns for Berman. In his experience, oil and gas operators tend to overestimate production potential by about double, relative to Berman’s own data. Berman says they could be overestimating because it makes the venture seem more profitable to investors.

To truly understand how much oil and gas is underground, Berman would like to see an independent, objective opinion. More importantly, he hopes that Kasich would demand a higher standard of analysis before promoting any policy.

“I hope the governor would make decisions based on more than a lunch conversation,” Berman says.

Berman is absolutely correct – the head of a state needs a little bit more information than can be gathered through eavesdropping in order to come up with policies for his state.

So why the trillion dollar lie? Kasich isn’t a member of the industry, and as a whole, Follow the Money tells us that Kasich received a meager $50 from the energy industry during his last campaign. But things aren’t always what they seem. The fracking industry has been much more generous to Kasich than the reports would have you believe.

A Truth-Out report from last year reveals that Kasich actually received more than $213,000 from the natural gas industry, more than any other Ohio politician in the last 10 years. The Truth-Out report also tells us that Kasich was the recipient of an additional $127,000 from Koch Industries.

Not only does this money explain Kasich’s trillion dollar lie, but it also helps us understand why he has opened up state parks and other protected lands for natural gas companies to frack.

In the era of Super PACs, political money flowing to candidates is going to become harder and harder to trace. But when you’re making the rounds on the media, telling lies worth one trillion dollars, honest and hard working investigative journalists like those at Truth-Out and elsewhere are going to do their homework and figure out the truth.

May 09 2012


European Elections and Sustainable Development in America

European voters rejected austerity in favor of growth. What will that mean for sustainable development in the US?In Europe, voters have chosen growth over austerity and this has implications for the U.S. economy and sustainable development. The Greek and French electorate’s rejection of austerity will have a dramatic effect on European spending, including investments in sustainability. These changes can also be expected to reverberate across the Atlantic.

In France, Francois Hollande’s presidential victory has derailed Nicholas Sarkozy’s austerity policies and in Greece, the parties supporting the international rescue package have lost control of parliament. In both countries, voters decisively said no to austerity and yes to growth.

France and Greece Choose Growth over Austerity

Both France and Greece appear to be doing a 180 on austerity. Hollande has been critical of the austerity policies central to European bailout deals. He promises to ease austerity measures and increase taxation on the wealthy. Hollande has pledged to renegotiate the European fiscal pact that was signed in December 2011 and he wants to issue common European bonds to finance growth through investment in sectors like renewable energy.

Investment in renewable energy is only one of several commitments that have pleased France’s Green Party (which received 2 percent of the French vote). During the campaign, Hollande promised to diversify France’s energy, including promises to cut the country’s nuclear dependence in half by 2025. He also vowed to increase renewable energy and respect France’s international engagements to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will help France reach and perhaps even surpass its EU-backed sustainability goals of 20 percent by 2020. Greenpeace France notes that the newly elected President of France has called for the EU to increase its GHG emissions target to 30 percent by 2020.

Prior to the election, France’s right leaning Sarkozy government was criticized for doing little for the environment. In an October, 2011 article published in the French daily Le Monde, MPs from the “ecological” wing of the Socialist party derided the center-right’s environmental record. They chided the “environmental passivity of the right” saying that after 10 years of leadership, “France invests nine times less than Germany and five times less than China in clean energy.”  They further drew attention to the fact that there are no French businesses among the top 10 producers of wind turbines or photovoltaic panels. They also pointed out that in terms of wind production per inhabitant, France was in thirteenth place in Europe and the country had no offshore wind developments.

The fate of Greece is much less certain. The results of Greek parliamentary elections are inconclusive, fueling fear that Greece will become the first developed nation to default on its debt.

If a coalition government cannot be formed, Greece will go back to the voters some time in June, but this will be too late for the bailout package being offered by the EU. If Greek political leaders cannot form a government, the country will default on its debt and cease to be part of the EU. This will have a calamitous impact on the economy of the entire continent and the wider world. Whatever the future holds, it is now clear that Greeks have refused austerity.


All of this intrigue takes place just ahead of the Rio+20 conference, which will take place on June 20 – 22, 2012. This is the fourth major summit on sustainable development since 1972. The summit brings together at least 100 global leaders and 50,000 participants from around the world, including corporate executives and representatives of various social movements. Participants will focus on growth, and address specific concerns as they relate to oceans, food, energy, biodiversity and climate. The summit aims to find ways to support sustainable development.

U.N. Secretary General Bank Ki Moon wants to bring sustainable energy to even the most remote corners of the planet and 3,000 scientists will present a new science for Planet Earth at Rio 20 known as the State of the Planet Declaration.

However, some of Europe’s key players will not be attending the Rio Conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not attend nor will British Prime Minister David Cameron. Despite rearranging the summit’s dates so they would not coincide with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Cameron announced he will not be attending Rio. US President Barack Obama is also likely to stay on the campaign trail rather than go to Rio.

Whatever happens in Rio, the elections in Europe have changed the political map and this has implications for the forthcoming American election.

Sustainable Development in America

Austerity in Europe was not good for the growth of sustainability or the American economy and social unrest born of economic hardship compounded the problem. The end of austerity is good news for advocates of sustainable development and those who want to see more growth in the American economy.

In Europe, government investment to stimulate growth will benefit the American economy. It may also make it easier for the Obama administration to increase its commitment to sustainable development. As should be obvious to all with even a passing interest in American politics, when it comes to sustainable development, the Democrats are the only game in town.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has an economic strategy that has austerity at its heart. Events in Europe may encourage Americans to question the Republican vision for America. According to the European narrative, spending cuts further slow the economy and actually increase debt. This puts Republicans squarely at odds with the new economics sweeping across Europe.

As stated by Richard Eskow, a senior fellow at the liberal Campaign for America’s Future, this should bode well for the Democrats:

“This should be the Democrats’ moment, a time to make political gains in the most honorable way possible: by fighting for what’s right. Today’s radical Republicans want to destroy government and slash the very spending that’s needed to rescue the economy. The GOP is even rejecting the common sense spending on roads and bridges embraced by past Republicans from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. As austerity measures eviscerate Europe’s economy and undermine the political popularity of its leadership, this should be the Democrats’ finest hour. Unfortunately, too many Democratic leaders have preferred to echo the austerity rhetoric of their Republican opponents — and of Europe’s embattled leaders. The president’s last debt deal with John Boehner was a milder version of European austerity, and it slowed our country’s tentative growth. And yet he’s reportedly pushing for another “Grand Bargain,” leaving him with a muddled economic message, and Americans in a prolonged state of fear.”

There is reason to believe that Americans may support government spending at least until there is stronger growth and more jobs. Americans may very well follow the French and the Greeks who have chosen to abandon austerity in favor of growth.

The near term fate of sustainable development hinges on governments adopting a policy of growth rather than a policy focused on austerity.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: National Post/Getty Images

April 16 2012


Enviro News Wrap: Solar Struggles in the U.S.; NASA’s Climate Skeptics; Koch Bros. Want Control of Cato Institute, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • 49 former NASA astronauts and scientists have voiced dissent over NASA’s belief in global warming. Their letter argues that the science is not settled on global warming. The most important part about the letter is that of these 49 people none of them are climatologists. These 49 NASA employees include people who held titles such as “Chairman, Shuttle Pogo Prevention Panel, Chief, Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Branch, Mgr. Motion Simulators, Asst. Manager, Quality Assurance.”
  • Guar Gum: “Its in everything from snack foods to shampoo…” is the favored line by news reporters. The reason why they are reporting on Guar Gum in April 2012 is that the Natural Gas industry is using it in their frickin’ Fracking. This has caused the price of Guar Gum to skyrocket.  Only the Natural Gas industry can buy Guar Gum at the new price so everyone else has to figure out how to adapt. Natural Gas is not a sustainable fuel, Fracking is dangerous and it is impacting our market in unforeseen and negative ways. All that capital going to this industry with no future should switch over to renewable energy.
  • The Pentagon (Army, Navy, Air Force) just set a 3 gigawatt goal by 2025 for renewable energy in its portfolio.
  • The Koch Brothers try to take over the Libertarian think tank Cato Institute  in a lawsuit. Here is an open letter to the Koch Brothers that explains that if they do win the lawsuit then they will in effect own the Cato Institute thus ruining its credibility. Wow, I hope the Koch Brothers do win the lawsuit. The Cato Institute may produce some good arguments but the Cato Institute also supports abolishing food stamps and letting everyone go back in time to the land of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield where the poor are all dependent on Charity Houses. The Cato Institute believes that many of our problems will be magically solved by the Free Market, but we have many environmental problems that are just not being solved by Invisible Hands or Job Creators.
  • OPEC is the global oil price-fixing organization, and they want the price of oil to stay steady at $100/barrel for now. High enough to constrict the US economy, but low enough to keep consumers from quickly switching to other fuel sources. Fox News misreported this situation by truthfully saying that oil prices are declining, but they don’t point out that they are only declining a little bit in a dance that generally moves upwards. Its like boiling a frog by first putting the frog in cold water before you turn on the stove.
  • In the natural gas industry prices are staying low, a warm winter in the US has decreased demand while production is steadily increasing. The low prices are crowding out investment in renewable energy. This means that once again America is making itself dependent on a finite fuel that starts out cheap and then becomes increasingly expensive as supply decreases and extraction and refinement costs increase. Its all just an economic game that we are playing with ourselves.
  • China has created a stable environment for its renewable energy industry to grow, while America and Europe have decided to both support and harass theirs. I wonder which model will prove to be the most successful in the long term? Japan could be the winner with a Free Market Economy and low private debt.
  • BrightSource Energy cancelled its initial public offering (IPO)! This is a symptom of the decrease in private funding for the US renewable energy industry in 2012. This scarcity of investment is occurring during a period of low-priced and over-supplied solar panels. The manufacturing industry is just waiting for the installation industry to pick up, in the meantime the manufacturing industry will consolidate. Reuters.com argues that the consolidation will occur around non-Chinese companies like Kyocera and Hanwa. Maybe the real problem is that without strong investment in installation, manufacturer’s are forced to reduce prices thus undercutting American companies and favoring Chinese companies that can sell at a loss. If the installation industry was healthy then all price-points for panels would be desired. Then there would be no need for a tax on solar panels imported to the US, which is not going to fix the problem for American Solar Manufacturers.
  • Global Agreements on climate change are unlikely, there are too many conflicting interests between countries. Right now India is claiming that there can be no deal in the next round of United Nations talks if the European Union continues to push its support for an airline carbon tax.
  • If the US halved the amount of meat it eats the global environment and health of the American populace would greatly improve. One of the main effects would be the reduction of nitrous oxide emissions (a potent greenhouse gas).

April 09 2012


Enviro News Wrap: Koch Bros., Climate Change, and the Cost of Oil

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Momentum is building in Washington D.C. to end oil subsidies. Write your federal representative and tell them to stop subsidizing companies that don’t need the help.
  • The Koch brothers are among the largest contributors to the Anti-Obama campaign.
    These two have endless pockets to influence politics with the goal of making America as friendly as possible for big business and as unfriendly as possible for consumers. The problem with this is that in the long run our consumer economy will dwindle down (as it is currently doing) to what China’s is like today and American businesses will no longer be able to survive off of focusing on American consumers.
    If Americans can not consume then products will be designed, made, and sold elsewhere with all the profits circulating through other countries. American consumers need support too, the consumer as an input into the economy is quite delicate despite how rough we treat them. The environmental connection is that an amply funded consumer has the funds to spend wisely, whereas poor consumers just need to survive and often are forced to buy products that contribute to their poverty (like heating your home with coal fired power plants for cheap, but your kids get asthma and you spend all your money on healthcare).
  • So, what does it cost to prevent climate change? Apparently it doesn’t cost much money. The real cost is the effort to change the power structure behind dirty energy. See the Koch brothers article above for an example of the true barriers to change.
  • Sapphire Energy is going big with algae pools that they hope can produce barrels of oil for $85. With the cost of oil expected to stay above $100 it is profitable to do crazy things like try to develop an industry on oil-pooping-algae. Algae would lessen the impact of extracting the fuel, but do we still want to burn fossil fuels?
  • The economics of the cost of oil is crazy. One of the big influences is that some oil-producing states subsidize the price of oil for domestic consumers almost 100%, causing inefficiency and overuse which raises the global price. Once again, why should we be dependent on an energy source that has an unstable and ever-increasing price?
  • Romney is attacking Obama over the high cost of oil. It is not working too well because, as usual, you can only take Romney seriously if you ignore everything he has said in the past.
    As of 2010 Romney was for persistently high oil prices as a way to stabilize the price for oil companies (they like predictability) and to pave the way for a renewable energy industry. Well, now that Romney needs to beat Obama he is throwing out good policy and honest debate and will slander Obama any way he can.
  • One of Romney’s main lines of attack is that we need more domestic production, well Obama has increased domestic production and decreased exportation. I guess for Republicans any idea is only a good idea if a Republican can take credit. It is the same way with the Individual Mandate for National Health Care, Republicans said that the Individual Mandate was a good economic fix to the problem (During and after the Clinton Presidency), but when Obama did it then the Individual Mandate turned into an attack on Liberty.
  • The outspoken NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, spoke recently about climate change as a great moral issue because if we continue as we are with carbon emission we will be handing our children a climate that they cannot control and cannot thrive in.
  • Learn more about the changes that global warming will bring to our ecosystems.






April 03 2012


Broadband Report Highlights ICT’s Role in Low-Carbon Economy Transformation

A new Broadband Commission report illustrates “the kind of transformative solutions” information and telecommunications (ICT) and broadband technology can provide to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. “The Broadband Bridge: Linking ICT with Climate Action for a Low-Carbon Economy” report includes ten recommendations that information and communications (ICT) and other government policy makers can use to “strengthen and hasten the ability of ICT and broadband to accelerate global progress towards the low-carbon economy.”

A new and global policy framework is required in order to address climate change, which the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Climate Change deems “one of biggest challenges humankind has ever faced.”

“No country will remain untouched: some may experience extreme weather events, others severe drought, or sea level rises resulting in the loss of coastal areas…To contain the most severe risks and consequences…will require substantial reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs), in particular CO2– a daunting task that can only be achieved with transformation to a low-carbon economy.”

ICT as a Key Enabler

ICT and broadband technology can, and already are contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation by reducing CO2 and GHG emissions, increasing energy and resource efficiency– thereby conserving increasingly precious natural resources, and reducing human waste. “Broadband can deliver vastly enhanced energy efficiency, mitigation, adaptation, real-time monitoring and emergency response, as well as broader benefits such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and job creation, social inclusion and improved governance and wider access to education and health,” the report authors’ write.

In addition to ten recommendations for policy makers, the report “showcases best government practices in mobilizing ICT to reduce GHGs and build inclusive societies,” according to Hans Vesterberg, Ericsson president and CEO, who chaired the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Climate Change, which produced the report.

Top Ten Areas for Action

The report’s authors reference a 2008 report in which WWF and Ecofys identified 10 key areas where ICT ‘could help deliver up to 1 billion metric tons of strategic CO2 reductions.’ All of them revolve around employing ICT to make “things” environmentally aware and intelligent. They are:

  1. Smart city planning
  2. Smart buildings
  3. Smart appliances
  4. Dematerialization services
  5. Smart industry
  6. i-optimization
  7. Smart grid
  8. Integrated renewable solutions
  9. Smart work
  10. Intelligent transport

A follow-up report, Smart 2020, produced by the Boston Consulting Group, Climate Group and GeSI estimated reductions from ICT-enabled energy efficiency at between 13-22%, while a 2008 American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy showed that overall US energy savings increased by a factor of 10 for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity consumed by ICT, the authors note.

ICT in Action

The report illustrates how ICT is already being used to mitigate and adapt to climate change. One example of climate change adaptation included in the report is China Mobile’s Rural Communication and Information Networks program, which as of year-end 2010 had connected some 89,000 remote villages to its mobile telecoms network.

More than 19 million rural customers were sending out an average 19.5 million SMS a day on the network’s Agricultural Information Service. Among the ICT applications related to climate change mitigation and adaptation are automated, machine-to-machine (M2M) monitoring and control systems, automatic drip irrigation, wireless water quality monitoring of fresh water aquaculture and water conservancy.

For all the promise ICT and broadband technology hold out in terms of mitigating and adapting to climate change, there are significant challenges and obstacles to realizing its full potential, the report authors write, particularly when it comes to government policy and regulatory environments.

Current regulatory environments are organized and promote an isolated “silo” approach to gathering data and information and solving problems, according to the report, with separate communications networks built in parallel. “High licensing fees, spectrum charges and high tariffs also inhibit market development and discourage investment and expansion,” the authors state.

In terms of government policy, there’s a glaring lack of policies specifically tailored for and targeted to adopt “greener ICT solutions,” while at the same time “dismantling barriers to implementation like the subsidization of CO2-intensive industries.”

The report is produced by a global industry association and it does promote its self-interest. Climate change is real and human activity is accelerating it significantly. Likewise are the benefits ICT can provide in terms of meeting the challenges posed by climate change, however. The report is well worth reading.

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