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New Oil Sands Legislation Would Strip Clause From 2007 Energy Act

Section 526 prohibits federal agencies from buying unconventional oil. Sens. Graham and Chambliss propose killing it

By Stacy Feldman

Oct 5, 2010

Environmentalists are bracing for a renewed fight with lawmakers and the petroleum industry over whether the U.S. military should be allowed to meet its massive fuel needs with Canadian oil sands.

At issue is Section 526, a tiny clause that was tucked into the . The measure forbids all federal agencies, except for space agency NASA, from purchasing carbon-heavy unconventional fuels that belch more emissions than traditional oil.

It was supposed to close the long-running debate over the future of oil sands in the U.S. armed forces, the nation's largest gas consumer. But now, new legislation is being pushed by two senators to remove it from the larger bill.

China Calls on Rich Nations to Improve Emission Targets

Hosts of latest round of UN climate talks say emission reduction goals of developed countries must be focus of negotiations

by Jonathan Watts,

Oct 5, 2010

China today called on wealthy nations to dramatically increase the rate at which they plan to cut their carbon emissions at international climate negotiations in Tianjin.

The more forthright rhetoric from the hosts broaches a crucial topic that has been notable mainly by its absence at the talks, which began yesterday.

"The emissions reductions goals of developed countries should be dramatically increased," said China's chief negotiator, Su Wei. "We can't discuss other elements and not discuss emissions reductions. It's unavoidable."

Study: Miscanthus Guzzles More Water Than Corn but Soaks Up More Nitrates Too

Research emerging from the University of Illinois paints an ambiguous picture of the grass's biofuel potential

By Lisa Song

Oct 4, 2010

Miscanthus, a potential bioufuel crop, uses more water than corn or soybeans but is better for water quality, reported scientists from the University of Illinois.

This picture of Miscanthus’ pros and cons comes during a period of increasing interest in the U.S. in the perennial grass. Originally from Asia, Miscanthus has been studied in Europe for over 20 years but only gained popularity in the U.S. in the last decade. In particular, Miscanthus giganteus (often referred to as simply "Miscanthus") has been the focus of biofuel research. Field tests have shown that Miscanthus giganteus produces two to three times as much biomass as corn.

The researchers' findings, published in the September-October issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, further revealed the pros and cons of Miscanthus as a biofuel.

CA's Clean-Tech Potential Draws Venture Capitalists Into Fight Against Prop. 23

Investors see Global Warming Solutions Act as a catalyst for innovation

By Michael Keller

Oct 4, 2010

Financiers and venture capitalists are joining California environmentalists in an unlikely alliance ahead of a major climate change referendum on November’s ballot. The dispute is a new phase in the climate change fight that is increasingly being framed as old economy versus new, and may forecast what lies ahead.

Proposition 23 is a referendum that seeks to indefinitely halt AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which is aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions, until unemployment levels drop to 5.5 percent for four successive quarters.

Not surprisingly, the Sierra Club, the NRDC, CREDO Action and the Environmental Defense Fund, among other green groups, are opposing Prop. 23. What’s new is that they’ve been joined by major investors and speculators drawn by a market in clean technologies and alternative energies that has grown into its adolescence. They’re using the power of market instruments to back environmental change—whether that’s their intention or not.

Coal Ash Cloud Looms Large Over China

A new report from Greenpeace argues that China's biggest industrial waste threatens public welfare—but is ignored

by Meng Si,

Oct 3, 2010

Fly ash, a residue generated by the combustion of coal, is China’s single biggest source of solid industrial waste and, according to Greenpeace, one of its gravest problems. The international campaign group has brought out a new report on the substance, also known simply as coal ash, in which it argues that China has severely underestimated the extent of the crisis. Not only are the quantities rising, it says, but there is no control over the long-term pollution the ash creates.

“China’s fly-ash problem is unique,” says Yang Ailun, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace. “It is an inevitable consequence of coal-fired power generation, since every four tons of coal burned produces one ton of ash. Since 2002, when China started a rapid expansion of its coal sector, coal ash production has gone up two and a half times.”

As Arctic Sea Ice Melt Season Ends, Sharp Downward Trend Continues

Extent of sea ice shrinks to third-lowest ever in the satellite record

by Andrew Freedman,

Oct 1, 2010

After a false alarm earlier this month, the 2010 Arctic sea ice melt season has come to a close, with sea ice extent reaching the third-lowest in the satellite record. This continues the steady and steep decline in sea ice cover during the past few decades, which scientists have traced mainly to emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as natural climate variability. Underscoring the rapid changes sweeping the Arctic, both the Northwest and Northeast Passages were open for a time, and two sailboats set new records for transiting both of them in just one season — a feat that would have been impossible throughout modern history.

Latest "Dirty Dozen" Inductees in Good Position to Win Senate Seats

Angle, Buck and Johnson called a “triple threat to a clean energy economy” by League of Conservation Voters

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 1, 2010

WASHINGTON—All three of the newest Republican inductees into the League of Conservation Voters’ list are either leading or running neck and neck with their Democratic opponents for U.S. Senate seats.

The advocacy organization labeled Tea Party candidates Sharron Angle of Nevada, Ken Buck of Colorado and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin as a “triple threat to a clean energy economy” in a statement sent to reporters this week.

During the campaign season, all three candidates have made statements during public appearances or interviews that question the science of global warming.

Oil and Water in Nebraska: In Congress, Cornhuskers Take Wait-and-See Approach to Pipeline

Third in a series exploring the election-season dynamics of a plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska

By Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 1, 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 third in a series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

LINCOLN, Neb.—Thus far, no elected official in Nebraska has come out for or against TransCanada’s that will stretch close to of the Cornhusker State.

Perhaps wary of backlash from labor unions or oil companies, they seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach. 

This attitude vexes the advocacy coalition Bold Nebraska and other environmental organizations that want the pipeline nixed or relocated. It also perplexes many of the 470 landowners who would receive lump sum payments from TransCanada if they agree to allow the pipeline to cross their property.

If Gov. Dave Heineman and other state officials keep claiming it’s a federal issue, they are asking, then why is Nebraska so quiet on the congressional front? 

Fight to End Corn Ethanol Subsidy Creates Strange Bedfellows

Cato Institute and Friends of the Earth unite against a $6 billion boondoggle

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 30, 2010

In a "strange bedfellows" story of sorts, some environmental groups have moved to cement ties with free-market conservatives on energy policy.

Their goal: to end a lucrative subsidy for corn ethanol they contend is a colossal waste of money and producer of greenhouse gases.

A joint being held today on Capitol Hill by the , a libertarian think tank, and environmental group (FOE) is the latest evidence. The unlikely partnership is an indication of just how wide and deep the disdain for the corn ethanol tax credit has become.

FOE is a long-time defender of federal intervention to clean up fossil fuel pollution. It backs subsidies for third-generation cellulosic biofuels that come from nonfood crops—but not corn. Cato, in contrast, believes all ethanol feedstocks must stand on their own; it frowns upon government regulation in energy markets.

Oil and Water in Nebraska: One Voice on the Campaign Trail Piping Up

Second in a series exploring the election-season dynamics surrounding a plan to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska

By Elizabeth McGowan

Sep 29, 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 second in a series. Read Part 1.

TransCanada's plan to construct a , a portion of which would cross Nebraska's Ogallala Aquifer, recently entered the governor's race. In early September, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman told a Nebraska reporter that he hadn't focused on the pipeline "because it’s a federal regulatory issue. So I’ve let our congressional delegation deal with that.”

On the campaign trail, Democrat Mike Meister, an attorney challenging Heineman this fall, is calling his opponent on the carpet for his attitude about Keystone XL.

It’s the governor’s responsibility to be a bulldog on this issue, he said in a phone interview between campaign stops near the Niobrara River, adjacent to the proposed pipeline’s route.