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News & Views Curation

May 30, 2007

Tipping Points & Feedback Loops

NASA on climate change: Earthlings, act now. Cap that


If failure on climate change is not an option, what will work? Five ideas

Gee Whiz-G8

Will the US and Germany find common ground on climate change in time for the G8 summit? Stay tuned

Energy & Environmental Reality Check

Transforming an advanced industrial economy takes time. Too often, we lack patience, since there are no quick fixes to our energy and environmental problems. It took decades to create them and will take decades to ameliorate them. Time is necessary to develop, deploy and scale environmentally benign technology. What we need is not the Silicon Valley IT solution. It is “iron in the ground” and advanced engineering solutions that are needed and the nascent carbon trading markets may become the “missing link” in accelerating clean energy technology deployment.

From this historical and institutional perspective the trendy focus on biofuels, particularly ethanol, is not the answer we need and frankly, it’s misguided. While a palliative to politicians, biofuels do not offer a long-term solution on how the US uses energy and how it needs to transition to a less carbon intensive economy.

The United States is not Brazil, and its biofuels industry is not analogous to the US situation, despite the photo opportunities. Brazil has a sugar cane based ethanol industry that has taken 30 years to mature. Brazilian ethanol consumption is 200,000 barrels/day or 5% of US gasoline consumption. (The US burns up 9.5 million barrels per day of gasoline in the summer). A saner solution would be to create more market-based incentives for the rapid deployment of hybrid cars and trucks as well as next generation plug-and-play hybrids. This would clip gasoline demand by 4 million barrels per day instead of pushing a listless “alternative fuels” platform that is more hype than reality

The Infrastructure Gap
Let’s recall that these same flawed arguments for alternative fuels were heard about compressed natural gas (CNG) in the late 1980s. Advocates for CNG crowed about how CNG would power America’s cars and trucks, but that didn’t move the needle. CNG today is used mostly for buses and fleet vehicles totaling 150,000 vehicles compared to 250 million vehicles in the US using gasoline and diesel fuel. CNG failed to capture the fuel market because there wasn’t any credible distribution infrastructure. This “infrastructure gap” is also the fatal flaw for both the “hydrogen highway” and biofuels. Without the infrastructure the product can’t be moved and marketed. The reality is that we have a gasoline and diesel fuel infrastructure in place that cost hundreds of billions to build and maintain. Deal with it or alterative scenarios won’t fly.

Delving more deeply to US infrastructure problems we bump into the reality that today the US is underinvesting $1.6 billion in our energy, water and telecommunications infrastructure. Only Senator Dodd has paid attention to this issue. It is just not sexy in Washington to talk about the basics. Our infrastructure is crumbling and needs reinvestment. Why not marry that opportunity to greener technology choices? Moreover such a reinvestment strategy will create jobs and new businesses for Americans in engineering, construction, financial services and other venues. This would be a good way to close many gaps.

Incenting Green
To get our economy greener, we first need a regulatory policy framework on climate change. We are finally coming closer to that goal at the federal level. The next step will be to let the markets work their magic by incenting innovation. Mandatory carbon “Cap and Trade” will do that, while credible financial penalties need to be in place for confronting noncompliance.

We did exactly this with acid rain and it worked. We took a financial instrument from the mortgage-backed securities market and applied it to air quality. We created a commodity called SO2 allowances. Carbon dioxide emissions are now following that commodization path but on a global scale this time. The same is beginning with water markets.

Establishing viable markets take time; most energy projects take 4 to 7 years to implement. We also need to look seriously at making significant energy efficiency improvements in buildings, which also have a significant carbon footprint. However, since most energy efficiency in building design and green buildings is associated with new construction, we need to incent the building retrofit market once again to deploy more existing, energy efficient technology.

Carbon Markets Today
The global carbon footprint today is 26 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions and that is growing by over 1 billion tonnes per year as more fossil fuels are consumed. The Kyoto Protocol was the start of an attempt to limit greenhouse gases to 5.2% by 2012 but we know now that this target will not be met. The US emits 23% of the world’s greenhouse gas with China second at 18%. On January 1, 2008, we will see the beginning of the real global greenhouse gas market, the EU ETS. US multinationals will be taking part in that market in 172 countries under the Kyoto Protocol. This should help to speed up the development and introduction of the kinds of technologies and infrastructure improvements outlined above.

Turning to the US, in 2009, the Northeastern states will launch RGGI, their own CO2 trading regime, California will follow in 2012 and there is hope for federal mandates on greenhouse gases Recall that both acid rain and urban ozone programs began at the state level and eventually were federalized. The same could now happen with carbon. Federal mandation on greenhouse gases would bring the regulatory certainty that is needed to create a market with common rules and standardization, and bring an uplift to clean energy technology investment in the capital markets. On the investment side of the equation, there will be an “environmental or carbon kicker” will reduce capital costs and generate greater deployment of clean technology across the energy value chain. {What’s an “environmental or carbon kicker”?}The monetization of carbon and other emissions reduction credit streams i.e. carbon finance projects are long-term and will generate credits for several decades. This helps reduce the cost of capital for cleaner energy projects.

There are now over forty hedge funds trading carbon as well as all banks in the EU. Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan Chase, and hedge fund are also major trading players in the SO2 market where these traders provide that market with liquidity. They will do the same in carbon trading and finance. To go a step further, they are needed liquidity providers for markets, and cannot be banned from participating in markets as some advocate.

The rationale for investing hundreds of billions of dollars on clean energy technology will be pushed forward by formal US carbon standards. The capital is already there. What’s lacking is the regulatory framework to make this market soar. Going further, emissions trading will prove to be the “missing link” in cleantech investment. The point is that marrying cleaner technology with carbon is where the markets are heading. Today cleantech investment in the US is $9 billion and rising. Carbon trading globally is $30 billion and rising. We are going to see a $3 trillion carbon commodity market in trading and probably a larger market in energy investment of $20 to $30 trillion in the next 25 years estimated by the International Energy Agency in Paris. This is just the beginning of a major market transformation. It is the “greening” of the $5 trillion energy business and will take decades to implement. But we have to start now!

Peter C. Fusaro, is best selling author of “What Went Wrong at Enron” and Chairman of Global Change Associates, a New York energy and environmental financial market advisory. He runs the online portal the Energy Hedge Fund Center.

May 29, 2007

Green Markets

Sustainability still isn't a strong selling point for consumers. Buy that?

Atomic Futures

Finding willing host communities in the UK is not the only challenge to a nuclear future. Look ahead

The Efficiency Experts

While alternative energy gets more media attention, efficiency may save the day. Learn more

Carbon: Tax or Trade?

Spend some time with a free-market, pro-tax answer and the LA Times

May 24, 2007

Silver Buckshot

We can't wait for cap and trade to save the planet. It may be necessary, but it's not sufficient. Take aim

Rules Of The Game

Time to change the rules that underwrite Big Carbon. Got game?

California Nixes Coal Power

California's municipal utilites banned from buying energy from coal-burning power plants. Just say no now

Capturing Carbon-Not Now

Plans for a carbon capture/storage facility linked to a gas-fired power plant in Scotland are shelved for now. Later?

Sustainable Winners

Ten green projects around the US honored by AIA COTE Celebrate

Snide But True

In the UK, who wins the carbon comparison, Ashton Hayes or London? Click for answer

Just The Facts

Catch up with current Chinese climate mitigation measures. Click here

May 23, 2007

US TO G8-No Worries

The US is pushing the G8 to stop calls for concerted internation action on climate change in the post-Kyoto era. Worried?

60 x 30

While NYC aims for 30% CO2 emission cuts by 2030, according to the EIA, without changes in climate policy, the planet is headed for a 60% increase. Going up?

What's Left Is Right, Right?

Snapshot author Charles Komanoff navigates the rapids of climate change alliances. Ahoy

May 22, 2007

Sundance & YouTube

Sallan Foundation Featured as an Eco Biz on Sundance Channel

(PRLEAP.COM) NANCY ANDERSON, Executive Director of the SALLAN FOUNDATION will be a featured ECO BIZ on THE GREEN, a primetime environmental destination for getting people to tune in and take action. Turn on the Sundance Channel Tuesday June 5, 9 pm (E/P) and get creative for a new green world.

"Create" is the theme for June 5 and it drives ANDERSON’S vision of making high performance building New York City’s new normal.

Now she’s looking to transform the Big Apple into a green, granite forest because she is convinced — and wants to convince everyone — that there is no better way for cities to combat climate change.

See what ANDERSON sees when she looks at the Bank of America Tower going up at One Bryant Park and find out how the attention-getting Hearst Tower hides its greenest features in plain sight.

THE GREEN is broadcast every Tuesday night at 9 pm. It leads off with the original program "Big Ideas for Small Planet", a documentary series presenting forward-thinking designers, products and processes.

Each episode is paired with a complimentary documentary premiere. On June 5, environmental, site-specific sculptor ANDY GOLDSWORTHY, will be the creative focus.

Hosted by Emmy Award winning journalist Alison Stewart, ECO BIZ is an interstitial series of short interviews exploring the people and businesses that represent the new wave of environmental innovation.

THE GREEN is presented by Robert Redford, Citi Smith Barney and Lexus.

Sundance & YouTube

Sallan was featured on the Green. The ECO Biz segment aired on the Sundance Channel Tues., June 5th at 9 pm. Get creative for a new green world and watch the video stream (click on Eco Biz under playlists). Visit Anderson's Profile on The Green

Posted on YouTube August 17th

Apollo Alliance's $300 Billion Solution

We need a new national energy policy and we need alliances for forging a national good jobs policy. Look into it

Global CO2 Emissions Soaring

Scientists find the rate of increased CO2 emissions is nearly three times higher than a decade ago. Get a grip

May 21, 2007

Govs To EPA-Stop Stonewalling

Facing glacial EPA action, two Republican governors take the lead on cutting tailpipe GHG's. The time is now

Free Software to Reduce Carbon Emissions

At the recent C40 conference, the Clinton Foundation and Microsoft launched a partnership for developing new software and web applications to help cities quantify and cut CO2 emissions. Microsoft will provide the software and services for free and they should be ready by the end of 2007. Calculate that

Energy Costs Soar, Business Notices

A survey of US business executives finds increased attention to cutting energy use, but demand for quick payback time has not changed. Read more

Photos Of A World In Flux

View images of a world where ice and forests disappear while deserts grow. But, it's still not too late to change. Click here

Energy Rivals Talk

China and the US, global energy resource competitors, seek stress reduction. Take technology transfers

May 19, 2007

Everyone Into The Carbon Pool

Can the UK proposal for a post-Kyoto carbon reduction scheme get all nations involved? Jump in

Keep Cooler With Soot!

Traveling plumes of sooty Asian air are the largest pollution events on Earth. They may be masking the impact of GHG warming. Unmask that

May 18, 2007

What, Me Worry?

The Bush Administration seeks to quash momentum on climate change policy at the G8 meeting. Take note

May 17, 2007

Sinking Ocean Sinks

Oceans, the planet's great "sinks" for soaking up CO2, aren't keeping pace with emissions from human activity Get absorbed

A New Apollo Mission

Presidental contender Bill Richardson issues an energy call to action, 80 x40. Plug in

Biofuels Need Money Fuel

Latin American agribusiness seeks private investors to expand biofuel production. Find out more

May 16, 2007

NAS To World Leaders: Lead The Way

With C40 in NY and the G8 in Germany, the National Academy of Sciences issues an energy and climate call to innovation and action. Listen up, Read on

Clinton's Billion Dollar Solution

Bill Clinton's foundation will provide $1 billion to transform city government buildings around the world into high performance, energy efficient 21st century leaders. That's news! and The Clinton Foundation

Decongestion Remedy

London's congestion pricing expert shows us how to do it. NYAS eBriefing

May 15, 2007

Molasses in Winter

Some things don't move fast. That would include the Presidents's proposal to lower autos' gas use. Feel the heat

Bright Lights/Green Cities

Mayors from big cities around the world gather in NY to swap ideas and share solutions about urban sustainability. C40

High Tension Over Cheap Coal Power

Will RGGI's impact of cutting CO2 emissions from northeast power plants be doomed by a plan to send cheap, midwest, coal-fired power over new transmissions lines? Look into it

In Praise of Voluntary Offsets

Despite the skeptics, CO2 voluntary offsets get support. It's transparent

Chinese Coal

Is China making progress on mine safety and advanced coal technology? Find out

May 14, 2007

Coal In the Countryside

Rural electic co-ops will get $35 billion in public funds to build old-fashioned coal-fired power plants. What a cash cow

May 12, 2007

I Spy Global Warming

The director of national intelligence urges Congress to fund a spy agency study of the national security implications of global warming. 007

May 11, 2007

GE's Ecomagination: Two Years After

Launched in May 2005, GE aimed high at developing market transforming environmental technologies. Get a progress report

Come Clean on Carbon

"Proper financial reporting is a no-brainer. Carbon reporting must be the same."Ian Pearson

May 10, 2007

Bridal Registry? No, Carbon Registry!

Figures on carbon emissions in 31 states will be captured in a Climate Registry requiring third party verification. A toast!

May 09, 2007

Cleaning Up on CDM

Last year, $4.8 billion went into the EU-ETS Clean Development Mechanism for reducing GHG emissions in developing countries. China got the lion's share. What about Africa?

Beyond Congestion Pricing

London's new Low Emissions Zone aims for clean air by doing away with dirty diesel. Cheerio

Green Money

Citigroup announces a commitment of $50 billion for environmental projects that include clean and alternate enegy technologies, while investing to reduce its own GHG emissions. Read more

Putting A Cost On Carbon

Here's what a carbon permit costs today on the EU-ETS and here's what it will cost next year. Going up

The Green Violet

NYU, a large urban university, announces 15 Sustainability Fund grants that will reduce campus environmental impacts and raise awareness. Study this

May 08, 2007

Allons Verts!

New French President Sarkozy commits to fighting climate change and urges the US to join in. Just say oui

State Sues Feds

Massachusetts filed a law suit to compel federal regulators to improve efficiency standards for HVAC systems. Get energized

UN To US: Be Prepared

In the age of carbon-constraints, winners in the global market place must innovate-or else we'll all lose. Listen to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri's audiocast

Wonder Down Under

Australia's gobbling energy and increasing its GHG emissions. What's up with that?

Cars & Oil Take The Pledge

USCAP, a business-environmental climate change coalition, has two new members, GM and Shell Oil. Read the press release

Green Building Boom

Green building in the US is a growth industry. Construction costs go down and building value rises. Get the goods

Tools & Rules for The Carbon Age

Curtailing carbon emissions will entail both pricing tools and government rules. Carpe diem

May 07, 2007

EU Calls For Post-Kyoto Agreement

IPCC findings add urgency to solving the climate crisis and the EU is responding. Look into it

Feds For State Leadership on CO2 Cuts

State regulations to control autos' CO2 emissions praised by US IPCC negotiators. That's news

The Fight Over 445

With the atmosphere measuring 380 ppm of CO2 today, the US, India and China sought to raise the IPCC cap of 445 pmm, but the the IPCC stuck to its number. Will the world?

$100 Million For Asian Clean Development

Japan supports regional development with a grant for renewable energy that fights poverty by promoting sustainable economic growth. Get the greens

May 04, 2007

Summer In The City

Here's one direct action to save electricity on those dog days of summer. Close the door.

Carbon: Tax v. Trade

The debate continues over the tools and rules for cutting carbon emissions. Think more

May 03, 2007

What If The Sink Overflows?

Trees, soils and oceans are nature's "sinks" for absorbing the CO2 we pump out-and they have capacity limits. Catch up

What If The Sink Overflows?

Not Just California Dreamin'

Now that California's committed to get GHG emissions down to 2000 levels by the year 2010 and slash them 80% below 1990 levels by mid-century, this scholarly analysis of cap and trade programs is a must read. Get serious

May 02, 2007

In Dreams Begin Accountability

In the Italian Renaissance, the Ideal City, or Città Ideale, was a utopian vision of urban life, with blue skies, no traffic, litter-free streets, and spotless marble walls. The only thing missing was people. Today, we have Mayor Bloomberg’s urban vision, PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York. He sees a city filled with people, 9,000,000 of them by the year 2030. They will live, work and play in buildings that no longer emit 79% of the City’s carbon dioxide inventory. This city will reduce its contribution to global warming by 30%. It will adequately house everyone, maybe even on cleaned-up brownfields. There will be one million more trees around town and many fewer vehicles in Manhattan south of 86th Street. The Mayor’s plan makes many promises and his Città Ideale is to be the product of over one hundred separate initiatives.

In the Mayor’s words “This Plan is an attempt to sustain our city’s success and our momentum forward… In it we have sought to solve a series of distinct challenges.” He deserves applause for putting real time and effort into this plan and for unequivocally committing his administration to the long-haul fight against climate change. As a coastal city with vast tracts of infrastructure, real estate and human capital vulnerable to the severe storms and flooding that scientists associate with climate change, this commitment is more than good citizenship; it’s good sense. By creating PlaNYC, both as a tool for mobilizing public support and as a way to jump-start an ambitious agenda, he has earned our praise. His oratorical challenge, “If we don’t act now, when? And if we don’t act, who will?” was meant to be stirring, and it is.

The deep seriousness implied in this call to action and to engaging in the tasks before us demand a sustained public exploration of the structure and the details of Bloomberg’s plan. And this exploration should have as its goal support of the good, improvement of the iffy, and deletion of some non-starters. Of course, the execution of PlaNYC, starting with its Earth Day launch, will take place in the contested and conflict -laden arena known as City and State politics. It also starts out with a term-limited Bloomberg administration that has fewer than 1,000 days left in office. These are givens, but they must not be used as excuses for failed execution of the Plan’s broad outlines.

Over the coming months, we will visit and revisit PlaNYC, its content and its trajectory. Here, let’s consider its structure and identify certain key themes. It’s apparent structure can be taken as either the PlaNYC Report’s six chapter headings: Land, Water, Transportation, Energy, Air and Climate Change or as the 127 bulleted initiatives listed in the Mayor’s press release. What matters, from the perspective of understanding PlaNYC as a plan, is the fact, as expressed in the Mayor’s own terms, that these are “distinct challenges” and “separate initiatives”. To speak metaphorically, what we have here is a field strewn with Big Apple seeds that might grow into sturdy, fruit-bearing trees. Doubtless, some of these Big Apple seeds will take root and flourish others won’t. But which ones will bear fruit and will they meet PlaNYC’s lofty goals? It’s too soon to say but it’s not to soon to start asking. When we look at this field of opportunity, do we see a robust plan, one designed to effectively meet its sustainability goals or is it just a rag-tag heap of hopes? I have difficulty sensing a strategy in this PlaNYC and this troubles me.

Consider the acreage in PlaNYC’s Land, Energy and Climate Change chapters. Starting from the last chapter on climate change - using the year 2005 a baseline - its explicit goal is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by the year 2030. This translates into an annual reduction of 33.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, with another 15.6 million tons of “avoided” emissions because nearly one million new residents will live in this sustainable metropolis. Meeting the 30% reduction target will require major improvements in NYC’s electric energy supply to save 10.8 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings will save another 16.7 million metric tons. So far, so good.

Turning to the Energy chapter, which contains the bulk of the initiatives to transform the City’s built environment, we find an array of innovative ideas on energy planning, demand reduction, new clean supply, and the electricity delivery infrastructure. Some of the ideas in this array can be carried out directly by City government, for instance cutting its own energy consumption and committing 10% of its own annual energy bill to investments in energy-saving City operations. The Mayor deserves applause for his announced intention to amend the City Charter, thereby ensuring that this commitment will live on past his tenure in office. In addition, changes to the City’s energy and building code are recommended. But reading the fine print uncovers an acknowledgement that the soon-to-be-completed overhaul of the local building code “While the new code will include a number of green elements – including rebates for some green building features…. more can be done.” And here the vision for our Città Ideale starts to blur.

Since any Building Code revisions will take place on a three-year cycle, progress in further greening it must be carried over onto the wish list for New York’s next Mayor. For now, this cycle, in combination with the Plan’s prose style, makes it hard to understand exactly what the Mayor promises to do and how he will do it. To cite just one ambiguous mouthful, “In many cases, such as the energy upgrades for large commercial buildings, we will incent behavior to encourage early adoption and then mandate compliance by 2015.” Does this mean that we can expect Mayor Bloomberg to rapidly roll-out an energy upgrade incentive program and then, some time before he leaves office on December 31, 2009, do whatever it takes to have new legislation on the City’s books with phase-ins that run to 2015?

There are other shadowy areas too. PlaNYC 2030 is virtually silent about the role for Local Law 86 that applies to the government’s own buildings, in accelerating the CO2-reduction learning curve, for government, business and labor alike. Does this mean that the City’s existing green building law is a dead end? This Energy chapter also proposes the creation of an Energy Efficiency Authority that would be responsible for meeting the plan’s electricity demand reduction targets. Empowering this Authority requires action by the State legislature and governor, and this would be no small achievement. (A future Torchlight will revisit this issue.)

Working our way back, we finally arrive at the first chapter on Land. It launches the Mayor’s vision for creating homes for nearly one million more New Yorkers by 2030 and exhorts us to “weigh the consequences of carbon emissions, air quality and energy efficiency when we decide the patterns that will shape our city over the next coming decades.” That’s it, so far, for a plan able to integrate carbon dioxide cuts and smart energy efficiency into its sweeping housing goal.

The point of this close consideration of these particular elements of the Mayor’s proposal is not to take issue with them. Rather, it is to understand that meeting or eventually exceeding the 30% carbon dioxide reduction goal will require more than good intentions and dozens of Big Apple seeds. It will require hard work and a willingness to struggle in the technical and political arenas over setting standards for New York City’s built environment. It will require mandates and money. It will require legislation, regulation, funding, effective sticks and imaginative carrots, and it will require follow through. It will need a public that supports this agenda and demands even more. It will gain strength from a mass media that reports on more than the slugfests. It will require accountability.

16 Gallons/Day/Soldier

A study conducted for the Pentagon raises concerns, looking at spiraling US military fuel consumption in Iraq and Afghanistan, that this operational addiction to oil will impact on national security. Read more

Willets Point-The "2030" Make Over

NYC announces a major green make over for 61 acres of industrial Queens. Hurrah?

More Green Apple Seeds

Competing for a green Gotham, the Public Advocate gives airtime to a dozen grassroots voices on sustainability. 12 for 2030

May 01, 2007

Carbon Cuts-It's Not Just Academic

Students at Brown University are creating a climate positive plan. Read more

States Lead The Way

While Washington won't act, states are set to slash carbon emissions. Press on

Will Plankton Offsets=Euros?

A Silicon Valley company hopes to make plankton an oceanic carbon sink that will make money on the EU-ETS. Just wave

Put Your Food On A Carbon Diet

Fossil fuels are consumed to produce, package and ship food to your table-so slim down that CO2 bulge. Dig in