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Ontario's Green Energy Push Draws Fire From Japan, U.S. and E.U.

In a WTO complaint, leading cleantech countries say policies violate international trade agreements

by Jennifer Pinkowski

Oct 12, 2010

In the lull between United Nations climate talks in Tianjin, China, and Cancun, Mexico, another international body is hosting a cross-border dispute over energy and the environment: the World Trade Organization. That’s because in one Canadian province, clean energy is replacing coal, and some foreign governments say they’re entitled to a piece of the clean energy action.

Since Oct. 1, in Ontario four more coal units have been shuttered, and the world’s largest solar PV farm began production. It’s all part of the province’s aggressive plan to completely eliminate coal-fired power plants, which provide about 20 percent of its energy production, by 2014. Since the Liberal government of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty came into power in 2003, coal use in the province is down 70 percent, while 8,000 megawatts of cleaner electricity have been added, according to the province’s Ministry of Energy.

But countries that lead the world in clean-energy R&D, policy and manufacture aren’t exactly embracing these successes. Japan, the United States and the European Union say Ontario’s green energy policies violate international trade agreements because of local requirements, and they’ve taken their case to the Geneva-based body that handles such disputes.

Some Nebraska Landowners Won't Make Way for Oil Sands Pipeline

TransCanada is offering buyouts—and threats of eminent domain proceedings—to farmers and ranchers

by Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 12, 2010

Editor's Note: In late September, SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Nebraska to find out more about the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada plans to build to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. This is the sixth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 here.

HORDVILLE, Neb.—Randy Thompson points with a tanned and well-muscled forearm to one of the hundreds of sturdy cedar fence posts ringing his family’s 400-acre farm in central Nebraska’s Platte River Valley.

“We’ve tried to dig holes in the spring and the posts would just float away,” he explains, laughing at the memory. “The holes fill up because the water table is just three- to four-feet deep. We’ve learned to do our fencing in the fall around here.”

10/10/10 Global Warming "Work Party" in 140 Characters or Less

Participants worldwide flooded the Internet with excited tweets over the largest day of climate-change action ever

by Stacy Feldman

Oct 11, 2010

Thousands rallied on Sunday in what organizers are calling the single largest day of action yet in the global climate change fight—and several documented the day in 140 characters or less.

Social media platform Twitter erupted with tweets of flickr photo links and commentary as more than 7,300 events took place in 188 countries in support of the "10/10/10 Global Work Party." The self-praising tweets came mainly from participants and organizers expressing awe.

Report: Business Groups Say Clean Air Act Has Been a "Very Good Investment"

Economic benefits of clean-air reforms have outweighed costs by up to 40 to 1

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 8, 2010

U.S. businesses large and small have seen economic gains from EPA's use of the 40-year-old federal , according to an analysis released this week that aims to counter arguments by industry groups that the law is anti-business.

The financial benefits of clean-air reforms have outweighed their costs by a margin of up to 40 to 1, according to commissioned by the and the .

The report, carried out by environmental consulting firm , is based on data from previous EPA and independent calculations on the costs and benefits of Clean Air Act compliance.

It cites from global firm that 1.3 million jobs were created in pollution-control industries between 1977 and 1991 as a direct result of the rules.

"The Clean Air Act has proven to be a very good investment," the authors concluded.

John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, a small business advocacy group, said he felt it was time to air the figures, now that Congress has failed to pass a climate bill and attention has turned to the EPA to use its power to slow global warming.

Freshwater Flow Into Oceans Steadily Rising

An 18% increase found between 1994 and 2006 may indicate an acceleration of the global water cycle

By Lisa Song

Oct 8, 2010

The amount of water flowing into the oceans has slowly but steadily increased in recent years, signifying a possible speeding up of the water cycle due to climate change.

These results came out of a research paper published on Oct. 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It marks the first time satellites were used to quantify global river flows.

Between 1994 and 2006, the scientists measured an 18% increase in freshwater discharge into the oceans. The source of that water included river runoff and melting ice caps. It averaged out to an additional 540 cubic kilometers of water per year.

Don Chambers, an associate professor of physical oceanography at the University of South Florida and a co-author of the study, calculated that the volume was the equivalent of the Great Lakes losing six feet of water every year.

Sun's Role in Warming the Planet May Be Overstated, Study Finds

The discovery could help explain why Europe can have cold winters while the world as a whole is heating up

by Damian Carrington,

Oct 7, 2010

Researchers have found that the waxing and waning of the sun affects our planet's temperature in exactly the opposite way scientists had thought. The work suggests, counterintuitively, that when the sun is at the dimmest point of its 11-year solar cycle, as it was in December 2009, it warms the Earth most, and vice versa.

"When I first saw the results I thought we had done the calculations wrong," said the physicist Prof Joanna Haigh, at Imperial College London, who led the research published on Oct. 6 in Nature. While they only have three years of satellite data so far, Haigh said the discovery could have far-reaching consequences. "If further studies find the same pattern over a longer period of time, [then] we may have overestimated the sun's role in warming the planet," she said. The re-think comes from a better understanding of how the mixture of light emitted by the sun changes as its intensity shifts.

Tribal Councils in U.S. and Canada Uniting Against Oil Sands Pipeline

In D.C., pipeline safety organization schools Congress on seven measures still needed to minimize potential hazards

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 7, 2010

Editor's Note: In late September, SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Nebraska to find out more about the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada plans to build to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. This is the fifth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.

LINCOLN, Neb.—Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States are singing the same tune in opposition to TransCanada’s .

Last week, representatives from Canada’s First Nations traveled to Washington, D.C., to explain how mining of tar sands for heavy crude oil is causing severe health problems and environmental upheaval across their communities. They’ve also joined forces with Native American groups in the U.S., calling on tribal councils along the Keystone XL’s route to come out against the proposed pipeline.

Their concerns are being echoed on Capitol Hill by a pipeline safety organization that recently recommended to a congressional subcommittee specific safety measures to include in any potential pipeline legislation.

China's Global Dominance in Green Jobs Growing, Report Says

Houston is rising U.S. star in green jobs race; Mexico quietly competes with Asian giants as solar factories sprout south of the border

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 6, 2010

China is prevailing in the global race for green jobs in sectors from solar panels to advanced lighting, and appears to be on an unstoppable upward path, an annual report by cleantech research firm said on Wednesday.

The Chinese government spent $34.6 billion last year to propel its low-carbon economy, more than any other nation and almost double what the U.S. invested. The country is now headquarters for six of the biggest renewable energy employers—up from three in 2008—according to .

Ron Pernick, managing director of Clean Edge and a report author, called the economic giant's "meteoric" surge "very striking." But, he said, it is "not a fait accompli that China will dominate" across the entire industry.

There is "serious competition on the global playing field," Pernick told SolveClimate News.

The White House Goes Solar. Why Now?

Do solar panels at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue indicate an 11th-hour push for climate legislation?

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 6, 2010

WASHINGTON—With all the attention lavished on a Tuesday announcement about the White House going solar, observers might have thought President Obama had single-handedly passed comprehensive climate legislation.

Not quite.

Clearly, founder Bill McKibben and other advocates of renewables are elated to know that the residential quarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be outfitted with solar panels and a solar hot water heater soon after a competitive bidding process is completed.

But why this small sun-powered step took so long—and if it indicates that “No Drama Obama” is ready to borrow President Lyndon B. Johnson’s arm-twisting swagger in an 11th-hour push for climate and energy legislation—is muddier territory.

House Passes Pipeline Oversight Bill, First Nations Reps "Educate" D.C.

Fourth in a series exploring the plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 6, 2010

Editor's Note: In late September, SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Nebraska to find out more about the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada plans to build to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. This is the fourth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

LINCOLN, Neb.—Even though TransCanada is vowing that its Alberta–to-Gulf Coast Keystone will be unparalleled on the safety front, that promise still makes opponents wince after reviewing the arithmetic.

How can anybody guarantee that a 36-inch diameter, 1,702-mile pipeline buried four feet deep and delivering up to 900,000 barrels of heavy crude per day won’t leak, environmental organizations keep asking?

And they are not alone.