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Desalination No Silver Bullet for California's Water Woes

Measures such as conservation and water reuse could better meet the state's future water needs, experts say

By Sara Stroud

Dec 16, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on the development of seawater desalination plants in California and other drought-prone regions, looking at the environmental and economic challenges involved.

Water has been called the lifeblood of the American West. Nowhere is this more true than in California, where dwindling water resources and a swelling population are pushing water agencies, businesses and nonprofits to find new ways to slake the state's growing thirst. Some say the state only needs to look west to the Pacific Ocean for a partial solution to its problem.

About 20 seawater desalination plants are in various stages of planning and development along the coast.

"It's kind of like the Gold Rush," said Paul Choules, vice president for desalination and reuse for , one of the world's biggest desalination companies, of the potential desalination market in California. "Unfortunately, there's no gold there yet."

Desalination Boom Nears for Arid California, but Obstacles Remain

Despite lengthy approval and permitting processes, California is the likely bellwether for the future of seawater desalination in the United States

By Sara Stroud

Dec 15, 2010

Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the development of seawater desalination plants in California and other drought-prone regions, looking at the environmental and economic challenges involved.

When the tiny coastal town of Sand City, Calif., fired up its desalination plant earlier this year, it became the first city in the state to tap the Pacific Ocean to provide drinking water for its residents through a full-scale desalination plant.

And it won't likely be the last. About 20 proposed plants up and down the California coast are wending their way through lengthy approval and permitting processes, as municipalities and water districts look for ways to meet future water needs of a thirsty state.

California Climate Law Details to Get Grand Unveiling

Answers to key questions about state's cap and trade and energy efficiency programs to come out of separate meetings tomorrow

By Robert Collier

Dec 15, 2010

As politicians around the nation become increasingly hesitant about taking action against global warming, California is pushing ahead this week with two much-awaited steps that will have broad implications for climate policies at home and elsewhere.

The decisions by state regulators in separate meetings Thursday amount to the grand unveiling of California's climate strategy after years of debate and exhaustive policy-crunching.

The is scheduled to answer the central question of the state's previously announced cap-and-trade emissions program – whether the largest polluting industries are to be given emissions credits for free, whether they must buy them at auction, or some combination of the two.

The will decide whether to grant large subsidies to the state’s utility companies for cutting their customers’ energy use even though those savings appear to have been far less than projected.

Spotlight on Clinton Ties to Pipeline Lobbyist in Permit Battle

TransCanada lobbyist once worked for her presidential campaign; company says permit review will unavoidably be based on the merits

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 15, 2010

WASHINGTON—Nebraska’s senior senator might now be convinced that the U.S. State Department is adhering to appropriate protocol before deciding on a thumbs up or down for a multi-billion dollar, controversial Canada-to-Texas tar sands oil pipeline.

In a statement issued Friday, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson a Dec. 9 letter from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured him that "the department won't consider the pipeline permit application until the environmental study is done and the department has taken into account all state and federal views about the proposal."

But the environmental community is far less confident. Green organizations are calling for the Secretary of State to recuse herself from the decision—expected in 2011. Public statements she made in California in October indicate Clinton was already inclined to approve TransCanada's Keystone XL project, and the groups also now claim there's a potential conflict of interest involving a TransCanada lobbyist who previously worked for her presidential campaign.

London Black Cabs Will Be Electric by 2020

Mayor Boris Johnson's plan includes a £1m pot designed to offer a reduction in the purchase price for taxi drivers upgrading to low-emission vehicles

by Hélène Mulholland,

Dec 14, 2010

All new London black cabs will be electric by 2020 as part of London mayor Boris Johnson's drive to improve London's poor air quality – now considered to be one of the biggest public health issues facing the UK, with the capital being the worst offender.

The target of a universal fleet of emission-free black cabs within 10 years is outlined in the Conservative mayor's final air quality strategy, . It comes as the government today details of 4,000 new charging points for electric cars across the UK.

With No Policy Incentives, Turkey's Solar Entrepreneurs Wait Out in the Cold

Government’s inaction could permanently stunt solar industry in a nation sunnier than California, advocates warn

By Julia Harte

Dec 14, 2010

On Nov. 14, after working for ten days to convert their mosque to run on solar power, residents of a village in the Turkish district of Akkuyu assembled outside the building and unfurled a banner that read, “The sun is rising on Akkuyu.”

It was a bright moment in what has been an otherwise discouraging year for Büyükeceli, a picturesque Mediterranean village in Akkuyu. In July, the Turkish government authorized Russia to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in Büyükeceli. Averse to the risks posed by the plant, Büyükeceli locals asked the government to let them build a photovoltaic panel array instead.

When the government rejected that proposal, the people took matters into their own hands and installed a 2.25 kilowatt-capacity system on their mosque — enough to meet all of its energy needs, and then some.

In Remote Town in Mali, Africa's Climate Change Future is Now

The debate around Africa and aid will shift from charity to environmental justice

by Madeleine Bunting,

Dec 13, 2010

Ten years ago, I ended up on the mud flats of the Nile delta with a water engineer. He explained how everything we could see around us would be under water if sea levels rose as they are predicted to do – the nearby city of Alexandria is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.

It was just before a major conference on climate change, and the aim had been to find stories – and images – of global warming that got beyond the cliche of a melting ice cap. But as a journalist it was hard to bring this future to life; this sleepy bit of coastline hardly evoked the sense of urgency required to mobilise the international attention needed.

This is the central paradox of climate change politics, argued the sociologist, , that electorates can't grasp the significance of climate change because it is too abstract, and not dramatic enough (they need catastrophe footage), and won't – until it's too late. By the time we are experiencing massive floods, freak weather, sea-level rises and higher temperatures, we will be well past the point of doing anything about it. He christened it Giddens paradox.

Ten years on, the impact of climate change is frighteningly more concrete. In the remote town of Anakila in , west Africa, I find what we were looking for in the Nile delta 10 years ago. Campaigners know the power of images to drive the message home, and that's why the aid agency Tearfund took me on a 1,000km journey from the capital, Bamako.

A Carbon Tax in 2011 for Fiscal Conservatives?

The tax can be revenue-neutral if the money raised is returned to citizens by reducing other taxes

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 13, 2010

WASHINGTON—The grassroots side of Charles Komanoff wasn’t exactly dancing in the streets of New York City Nov. 2 when Republicans drop-kicked Democrats from their majority perch in the House of Representatives.

But the number-crunching, energy-policy-geek part of him sniffs an unusual opportunity for his beloved carbon tax to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

“Maybe this is totally wishful thinking, but one possible halcyon effect of Tea Party ascendancy might provide greater latitude for Congress and its ability to tolerate real mavericks instead of phony mavericks,” the 63-year-old founder of the Carbon Tax Center told SolveClimate News in an interview.

Komanoff’s “Exhibit A” is Democratic Rep. John Larson of Connecticut.

The congressman, elected to a seventh term, has written one of several carbon tax bills elbowed aside by what emerged as the bully of the Hill—a failed cap-and-trade measure. When the 112th Congress convenes in January, Larson has vowed to reintroduce a proposal he rolled out in 2009.

Under the Eternal Sky, Mongolia on Edge of Mining Boom

Multinational mining hordes eye Mongolia’s Earthly fortunes

by Brian Awehali,

Dec 12, 2010

After spending several months in the epic clamor of industrializing China, I went to Mongolia looking for open spaces and unspoiled nature, for clean air, for hiking and horseback riding, and for nights still dark enough to terrify.

In the countryside (and most of it remains countryside) the Eternal Sky held sacred by Mongolians since well before the time of Genghis Khan levitates with majesty over wide-open grassland prairie, steppe, subarctic evergreen forest, wetland, alpine tundra, mountain, and desert. It stretches above yak, goat, reindeer, camel, wolf, bear, marmot, squirrel, hawk, falcon, eagle and crane, and above some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on Earth.

The seemingly infinite Mongolian sky also hangs over the largest mining boom on the planet.

Climate Talks End With Modest Deal and Standing Ovation

"Cancún has done its job," UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said of the 41-page deal. "The beacon of hope has been reignited."

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 11, 2010

CANCUN, MEXICO -- Difficult talks in Cancun ended on Saturday morning with a highly praised "balanced" framework for a future climate pact, exceeding the low expectations established for the outcome and paving the way for a legal deal next year.

"Cancún has done its job," said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. "The beacon of hope has been reignited and faith in the multilateral climate change process to deliver results has been restored."