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Obama Taps Bingaman to Build Bipartisan Consensus for Clean Energy Standard

Bingaman's Oval Office meeting sends a signal that Obama is counting on the senator's savvy to pass a measure that both business and enviros can support

By Elizabeth McGowan

Feb 3, 2011

WASHINGTON—When describing Sen. Jeff Bingaman, observers on Capitol Hill are quick to utter such accolades as considerate, thoughtful and practical.

The lanky and cerebral New Mexico Democrat's pragmatism is now under the political microscope of the nation's capital as he warms up to the idea of crafting a clean energy standard that the business world can embrace and the green movement won't shun.

Plus, with a GOP-heavy 112th Congress, the chairman of the knows he has to engage in new math. With 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans serving on his own rearranged committee, he first has to win a majority there before any measure can advance to a Senate where the Democratic caucus has just a 53 to 47 edge.

Bingaman's Wednesday afternoon meeting in the Oval Office sends a signal that President Obama is counting on the senator's savvy.

Smart Grid Acquisitions by ABB, GE, Siemens Point to Coming $20 Billion Boom

Nearly 75% of the smart grid money will come from utilities updating their grids, while industrial giants work to secure their piece of the pie

By Maria Gallucci

Feb 3, 2011

No one doubts that any big renewables push — like President Obama's call to get 80 percent of U.S. power from cleaner sources by 2035 — will demand an upgrade of the nation's electrical systems to digital "smart" grids. But is it happening?

New research by suggests that the answer is yes. The firm predicts a $20 billion spending surge in smart technologies in the next ten years, led by electric utilities and global grid giants like ABB, who are ready to cash in on the power revolution.

The finds that the new digital grid networks will pump out 900 percent more data to electric utility companies by 2020, as they install millions of smart meters, the in-home devices that report energy usage.

Forests Are More than Sinks that Inhale Carbon, Study Warns

Well-meaning efforts to save the world's trees ignore forests' contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine and the livelihoods of local people

By Catherine M. Cooney

Feb 2, 2011

With their ability to soak up heat-trapping gases from the atmosphere, forests are front and center in international discussions about slowing climate change. But a growing chorus of researchers says the planet's trees have plenty more to offer the world beyond acting as sinks that inhale carbon.

This point was borne out by a new report presented in New York this week during the (UNFF).

Discussions at the meeting will feed into UN talks on the formal forestry agreement taking shape, known as REDD, or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, said Jeremy Rayner, a professor at the .

"Forest governance, although it covers most of the issues, is very complex and badly coordinated," Rayner told SolveClimate News. "And as a result, it is difficult to find a specific instrument that is forest-related, instead of forest-focused."

By "forest-focused," Rayner is referring to international pacts that narrowly focus on forests as carbon sinks. Most of the well-meaning efforts intended to protect forests, including the and the global boycotts of tropical timber, ignore forests' contributions to agriculture, energy, medicine, and the livelihoods of millions of indigenous individuals, Rayner said.

In the Wake of Severe Floods in Australia, Political Irony and Fresh Contention

Australia's record flooding creates a space for climate change scientists and skeptics to fight it out afresh

By David Wilson

Feb 2, 2011

The flood-ravaged Australian state of Queensland faces a rebuilding task of "post-war proportions," with swathes of it still underwater. But floating on the surface of the catastrophe is a refreshed debate about climate science and a government response that some say is nothing short of ironic.

Observers note that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has decided to divert climate-mitigation money to pay for the damage, and the country's clean energy industry is reeling from the blow to its potential finances.

State Premier Anna Bligh has described the flooding as the worst natural disaster in the state's history. Australia's farming and mining sectors were left in disarray. The crisis looks set to cost the nation about $30 billion, to be covered by a "flood tax."

Scientists say that man-made global warming is one likely cause of the extreme weather that pounded the country. Given that, is there any sign that climate-skeptical politicians and pundits may be yielding even a bit on the issue?

China Wins Approval for Giant Dam Project in World Heritage Site

Hydroelectric power company Huadian will build a cascade of 13 dams, similar to the Three Gorges Dam, in the "Grand Canyon of the Orient"

Jonathan Watts,

Feb 1, 2011

China's dam builders will press ahead with controversial plans to build a cascade of hydropower plants in one of the country's most spectacular canyons, , in an apparent reversal for prime minister Wen Jiabao.

The move to harness the power of the pristine Nu river – better known outside of China as the Salween – overturns a suspension ordered by the premier in 2004 on environmental grounds and reconfirmed in 2009.

Back then, conservation groups hailed the reprieve as a rare victory against Big Hydro in an area of southwest Yunnan province that is of global importance for biodiversity.

Controversy over Burning Trash for Power, and Carbon Credits, in India

A proposal for a waste-to-energy plant in New Delhi has opponents up in the arms over pollution, but developers insist it will be cleaner-burning

By Ranjit Devraj

Feb 1, 2011

NEW DELHI—India is going full-steam ahead with plans to build a type of power plant that converts garbage to power, despite fears by some that it could amount to a pollution disaster in a country without strong air quality regulations.

Construction of cleaner-burning waste-to-energy facilities is gathering pace across Europe. But the situation in India is different, opponents say.

Maine Governor Proposes 63 Clean Energy and Environment Reversals

The new Tea Party governor says businesses are on the endangered species list, but opponents say his proposals will harm the state's nature-based economy

By Maria Gallucci

Jan 31, 2011

Maine's new Tea Party governor is drawing the ire of environmental groups and health advocates, who charge that his proposed set of 63 regulatory rollbacks would threaten the state's nature-based economy and hamper its bold climate change efforts.

"Maine has been a real leader when it comes to these issues … and [the proposals] would put us at the back end," Nathaniel Meyer, a field associate with , told SolveClimate News.

Gov. Paul LePage unveiled his on Jan. 21, after conducting a series of " with businesses and chambers of commerce to single out government rules that could be holding back business development in Maine.

"Job creation and investment opportunities are being lost because we do not have a fair balance between our economic interests and the need to protect the environment," LePage said in accompanying the proposals.

UK Group Brews Up Solution to Help Save Coffee Crop from Warming

The Fairtrade Foundation hopes to mitigate the impacts of climate change on coffee by connecting small farmers and retailers

Sarah Butler,

Jan 30, 2011
coffee plant

The is hoping that new links between British retailers and small farmers can help tackle the impact of climate change on supplies of some of the world's tastiest coffee.

In the past year, coffee prices have soared to an all-time high as production of the most aromatic and widely used type of bean, arabica, has suffered from unusual weather conditions worldwide.

Toby Quantrill, head of public policy for the foundation, which aims to guarantee a fair price for farmers in developing countries, said: "We are very concerned. The small-scale and poorer farmers we work with are the most vulnerable, and they need support."

The organization wants to act as a broker between retailers, which can buy carbon credits as a way of offsetting their energy use, and small farmers who can create credits to earn money by planting trees or using more environmentally friendly ways to light or heat their homes.

Illinois Lures Wind Farm Away from Missouri with Bold Energy Policy

Affinity Wind is building its first wind farm in Illinois, not home state Missouri, because of a wind-friendly RPS there — and it's not alone

By Maria Gallucci

Jan 28, 2011

When St. Louis University (SLU) business professor Trey Goede and his students sought to turn their  plan for a $250 million wind facility into reality, they headed to neighboring Illinois, where the wind is powerful and so is clean power demand.

They aren't alone. Once known only for coal and nuclear, a robust renewable energy policy is making Illinois a magnet for commercial wind farm developers of all stripes.

The SLU classroom project, which became in 2007, will break ground this spring on the first 36 megawatts of a 150 megawatt-plan. The second phase is slated for 2012. The 75-turbine project in the state's western Pike County is on par with other utility-scale wind farms cropping up across the industrial Midwest.

Goede, Affinity Wind's founder and CEO, said his decision to set up the facility out of state was fairly simple.

"At the time, Illinois had a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and Missouri did not," Goede told SolveClimate News. "Illinois has been the benefactor of a strong RPS."

Like Obama, Ban Ki-moon Shifts from Climate to Clean Economy Focus

The UN secretary general will redirect efforts to making more immediate gains in clean energy and sustainable development

By Suzanne Goldenberg,

Jan 27, 2011

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general who made global warming his personal mission, is ending his hands-on involvement with international climate change negotiations, the Guardian has learned.

In a strategic shift, Ban will redirect his efforts from trying to encourage movement in the international climate change negotiations to a broader agenda of promoting clean energy and sustainable development, senior UN officials said.

The officials said the change in focus reflected Ban's realization, after his deep involvement with the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009, that world leaders are not prepared to come together in a sweeping agreement on global warming – at least not for the next few years.

"It is very evident that there will not be a single grand deal at any point in the near future," said Robert Orr, UN assistant secretary general for strategic planning and a key adviser to Ban.