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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.

Director James Cameron Says Oil Sands Will Become "Curse" Without Science-Based Regulations

Hollywood mogul declares "lifelong" commitment to help Canadian First Nations fight mining pollution

By Stacy Feldman

Sep 29, 2010

James Cameron said today that the Canadian oil sands industry "will be a curse if it's not managed properly" and urged an independent review of the mining "gold rush" that will "shape the energy policy of the future."

"The world is looking," the Ontario-born film director told a news conference in Edmonton. "What is critical here is for everyone to really take a look at what the fallout from all this is—and what it could be. Only 2 to 3 percent of the tar sands deposits are currently being mined. Imagine what that could look like going forward."

Cameron called on peer-reviewed science in his quest to influence the creation of a greener oil sands industry. "We need funding to do an impartial study," he said.

Oil and Water in Nebraska: Elected Officials Ducking Pipeline Issue

This multipart series explores 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 first in a series.

LINCOLN, Neb.—As a rule, oil and water don’t mix. And Nebraska environmental advocates would like to keep it that way.

That’s why they are trying to capitalize on this election season to halt—or at least redirect—TransCanada’s proposal to construct an Alberta-to-Gulf Coast pipeline and its most eye-catching and fragile landscape.

But it’s not especially easy to gain traction while going up against the promise of hundreds of jobs and millions in tax revenue for depleted state coffers from a well-heeled oil corporation, weak state laws and politicians who rely heavily on donations from the fossil fuel industry.

With oil from tar sands, conservationists know they are challenging a legacy created in 2001 when newly elected Vice President Dick Cheney organized secret meetings with a select cadre of insiders to forge a closer-to-home energy policy for the 21st century. Plus, as Midwesterners, they suspect international companies and decision-makers in the nation’s capital expect them to be compliant instead of combative.

DOE: Big Utilities Can Get Reliable Power from Small Solar PV Arrays

A Berkeley Lab study says when PV plant arrays are spread out over a range, output variability is largely eliminated

By Sara Stroud

Sep 28, 2010

Massive utility-scale solar projects under development in the deserts of California and the Southwest have been in the spotlight in recent months as they win slow approval from state and federal regulators. But released in September by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that smaller solar photovoltaic (PV) installations may collectively offer similar promise for increasing the amount of renewable power on the grid.

Traditionally, the reliability of small PV systems’ power output has been a concern for utilities, project developers and grid operators, since all it takes is a few clouds to disrupt the power flow of a small array. But the Berkeley Lab study suggests that when PV plant arrays are spread out over a geographic area, the variability in power output is largely eliminated.

This means that for utilities, the distributed generation of small PV arrays could mean increased efficiency, reduced costs and a quicker path to a cleaner energy portfolio.