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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.

EPA Ethanol Expansion Hardens a Divide

The divide between pro- and anti-ethanol forces is widening now that EPA has approved E15 gas for 2001-06 cars, and it's spilling over to Capitol Hill

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 27, 2011

WASHINGTON—A fracture between pro- and anti-ethanol forces seems to be widening into a gorge now that the EPA has expanded the fuel's reach in the transportation sector.

On one side, business, environmental, budget watchdog and public interest organizations are castigating the Environmental Protection Agency's to allow vehicles manufactured between 2001 and 2006 to use gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. On the other side, the won't be content until even older-model cars, trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles are included in the E15 mix.

The vituperative back-and-forth has spilled over to Capitol Hill where Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the , is seeking an oversight hearing.

"EPA's latest action continues to push too much ethanol too fast," in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, Congress has done little to exercise appropriate oversight of such decisions, despite growing bipartisan concerns over ethanol's mechanical problems and its economic and environmental impacts."

Obama's State of the Union: Mum on Climate, Loud on a Clean Economy Future

Obama adopted a more centrist tone during his State of the Union, avoiding any mention of climate change but embracing the promise of clean technology

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 26, 2011

WASHINGTON—President Obama's commitment to lessening the nation's carbon footprint hasn't likely changed. But the manner in which he's pursuing that ideal has definitely shifted.

That became abundantly clear when he avoided any mention of climate change or heat-trapping gases but embraced the promise of clean technology during his Tuesday night . As Democratic and Republican legislators parted with the tradition of separate seating and listened side-by-side during the speech, Obama adopted a more centrist tone now that the GOP is wielding far more power in the 112th Congress.

All of that nuance wasn't lost on several dozen clean technology innovators who gathered at a downtown Washington watering hole to listen to Obama’s words on a television screen so gigantic that the president appeared life-sized.

They didn't erupt into applause as often as attendees in the House of Representatives chamber — at least 75 such interruptions occurred there — but they did clap, hoot and stomp at the 15-minute mark of the 62-minute speech when Obama called for ditching billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded oil subsidies and steering the United States toward producing 80 percent of its electricity from clean energy by 2035. He also repeated a goal of putting a million electric vehicles on the roadways by 2015.

Green Growth, South Korea's National Policy, Gaining Global Attention

A new economic paradigm is arising out of the ashes of the global financial crisis. Could it take hold?

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 26, 2011

When the global financial crisis rippled through economies around the world in 2008, experts warned that global warming would slide down on the list of the world's priorities. In part, they were right.

Trillions flowed to resuscitate teetering economies, which were based on fossil fuels. Money pledged to address climate change was never mobilized.

But something else happened at the same time: Many nations' fiscal-stimulus packages included billions to finance clean energy projects.

No nation was as bullish on the idea as South Korea. Asia's fourth-largest economy poured 80 percent of its $38 billion stimulus program into what it calls "green growth." Later, it committed 2 percent of its annual GDP over five years to the same national cause.

Now, both rich and poor nations are turning to Seoul for lessons in green-powered development, and the new economic approach that was born out of financial mayhem. 

Could it take hold?

Court Order Could Cause EPA Feud with GOP Congress to Boil Over

A recent court decision ordering EPA to speed up industrial boiler regulations could set the agency and the U.S. House on 'a real collision course.'

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 25, 2011

WASHINGTON—Tension between a Republican-led House and the EPA is already palpable enough during this nascent 112th Congress. And an order from a federal judge issued late last week has likely exacerbated the pending friction festival.

Washington-based District Court Judge Paul Friedman told officials Thursday that the makes it indisputably clear they need to speed up a final rule setting standards for toxic emissions from industrial boilers by meeting a new Feb. 21 deadline.

Back in early December, the EPA mollified the manufacturing sector and disappointed conservationists by saying it needed more time — 15 months — to review the science to establish long-awaited limits on such large-scale heating equipment. The EPA's original, court-ordered deadline was Jan. 16.

Agency authorities wanted to extend that to April 2012 partially because they were concerned some factories wouldn’t be ready to adapt to updated regulations. But Friedman said that wasn't a valid argument.

Solar Acquisition Paying Off for Powertool Giant Hilti

In taking over New Mexico solar parts manufacturer Unirac, tool powerhouse Hilti has become a sudden competitor in the clean energy economy.

By Maria Gallucci

Jan 24, 2011

When powertool giant was looking to expand its North American presence last year, it didn't beef up its old industrial production base. Instead, Hilti followed a growing and lucrative trend in manufacturing: solar power parts.

The 70-year-old, Lichtenstein-based company, known for hammer drills, firestops and power saws, spent $140 million nine months ago . It is now selling the New Mexico company's solar racking systems as part of the Hilti product portfolio.

In taking over Unirac, the tool powerhouse is doing for itself something it could not possibly have accomplished alone — becoming an instant competitor in the clean energy economy.

Albuquerque-based Unirac came with 13 years of experience in making aluminum and steel mounts for rooftops and ground arrays, as well as a client list that includes some big solar spenders, such as the Google Campus in Mountain View, Calif. and Universal Studios in Hollywood. 

Hilti insists its solar business is already paying off. In a released last week, the company said that its mounting systems for PV panels made "a considerable contribution" to its total sales of around $4 billion in 2010, up 7 percent from 2009 results.

To Green Oil Sands Mining, Solvent Instead of Steam?

Cutting steam from the mining process could slice emissions, but the new process may not be ready in time to matter

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 24, 2011
Syncrude oil sands mining

WASHINGTON—In their Canadian laboratories, engineering professors Murray Gray and Zhenghe Xu can demonstrate the science necessary to minimize the bulky carbon footprint of extracting fuel from Alberta’s abundant oil sands.

It’s putting it into practice in the field that will prove more difficult—but not out of the question within a five- or six-year timeframe.

Right now, the mining industry heats enormous quantities of water and uses the resulting steam to draw up the coveted oil buried deep beneath northeastern Alberta’s boreal forests. Eliminating or dramatically reducing that need for heated water, the researchers say, would drastically curb emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Environmental advocates told Solve Climate News the concept certainly has merit. However, they are concerned that such advanced technology will stay trapped in university labs unless Canadian global warming regulations pack enough punch to force industry to become greener.

Plus, they stress that a still-on-the-drawing-board idea would not staunch the flow of emissions from existing mining operations or those opening anew during the current oil sands boom.