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News & Views Curation

January 31, 2009

No Place For The N-Waste

A Greenpeace study finds few options to safely handle the toxic waste of next-generation French nuclear power plants. Industry: no comment

January 30, 2009

Solar Austin

Texas' capital city mulls a solar scheme big enough to power 5,000 homes. Concentrate

Cash For Your Trash

The Senate economic stimulus bill could contain a tax credit for consumers who trade in their old cars for energy efficient vehicles. Stay tuned

Speculators Could Sour EU's ETS

Alarm is raised over the potential for speculators to ruin the EU's CO2 trading system. Sub-prime disease?

From Lemons To Lemonade

Suggestion for greener, lower cost supply chains in these sour times. Sweet!

January 29, 2009

Arming The Arctic

As Arctic seas melt and open to navigation, NATO plans to be there. WSJ

Needs Improvement

US DOE starts a rule making for greener light bulb standards that would save 9.6 quads of electricity, but it could do better. Attention EEs!

Follow The Money

The Senate Appropriations Committee okays upping loan guarantees by $50 billion for nuclear power plants and other 'advanced alternative energy' technologies. E&E Daily [Subscribers only]

No More Excuses

The soaring GHG emissions rates of countries like Indonesia, Israel and South Korea means it's time for them to sign on to the next global warming treaty. Learn more

EU To US - Grow The Market

The EU wants the US to join it's CO2 emissions market and expand funds for poorer countries to cope with climate change impacts. Stay tuned

Blowing Hot, Blowing Cold

Iowa's wind power numbers are soaring, California's sagging. What's the story?

Billions For Mass Transit

NY Congresmember Nadler put $3 billion for transit funding in the House economic stimulus bill. E&E News [Subscribers only]

California Data

Green job growth, investment and energy productivity are booming in California, but numbers are small compared to the newest economic data. Media here Report here [8.9 MB]

January 28, 2009

Down The Drain

The consequences of failing to slash GHG emissions are poorly understood by the public. Just stabilizing emissions is no solution. Serious stuff

Give 'Em A Break

$31 billion in tax credits for energy efficiency and alternative energy approved by the Senate Finance Committee. Stay tuned

Shovel Along

The shovel-ready stimulus mantra is shortchanging mass-transit and research on clean energy development and deployment. Get it right

The Media Climate

Get the back story on reception of the media's attention to findings about Antarctic warming. Hear here

January 27, 2009

Climate Friendly Potato Chips?

Can environmental responsibility translate into rising consumer sales and corporate profits? Dig into the potato chip business. Crunch


With a warming Antarctic, Emperor penguins could go extinct by 2100. Not adapting

Win With Wind

Tired 1980's vintage wind turbines are being modernized and resold, not scrapped. How eco-logical!

Meet The Climate Envoy

Catch these profiles of Todd Stern, the State Department's new climate change envoy. Hugs & Hisses

January 26, 2009


Get the latest thinking on what the tax code can do for the halting alternative energy sector. QED

Green Collar Jobs, Lots & Lots

A proposed $69 billion in federal funds for energy efficiency, renewable, transit and fuel economy could create 459,000 jobs by the end of 2010. Stay tuned

UK Wind Power In Peril

The proposed 1,000 MW London Array wind farm is threated by low oil and carbon emission permit prices. Watch out

Lighten That Plugload!

McKinsey studies data centers and serves up ways to cut both costs and carbon footprints. Centralized responsibility and a single efficiency metric are key. Good advice

Emissions Outstrip Predictions

Despite treaties and talk, global GHG emissions are set to climb faster than recent predictions. Learn more

January 23, 2009

No Stopping It!

Experts: Downturn Won't Stop Green Movement

By Paul Bubny NEW YORK CITY — The greening of real estate may be the wave of the future, but is the business case for it still viable in the tough business climate of 2009?

At a panel organized by Schulte, Roth & Zabel, Sallan's Nancy Anderson agreed with real estate insiders — there's no going back. Green, energy efficient building will become New York's new normal.

Article Extended Excerpt

Douglas Durst, co-president of the Durst Organization, was a key figure in the retreats and brainstorming sessions that culminated in 4 Times Square. Given that know-how of green building practices is still being acquired, sometimes on a project-by-project basis, he said the most useful step New York State could take in promoting sustainable real estate would be to establish a depository of information on the subject. "It could be easily done and would be extremely helpful."

Nearly 15 years separate 4 Times Square and 1 Bryant Park, and green building has evolved in that time. Asked whether older eco-friendly projects are in danger of becoming obsolete, Douglas Durst responded that it is a concern but "that's true with any technology."

As yet, the Bloomberg administration's PlaNYC, the sustainability program announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Earth Day in 2007, hasn't been codified into actual laws. However, that's changing, said Nancy Anderson, founder of the Sallan Foundation. The revamping of the city's building code is one example, as is the fact that the code will now be updated every three years rather than once in four decades, as was the case before PlanNYC. Read Paul Bubny's article »

Pay Attention

Pollsters find Americans are less alarmed about a climate crisis than in the past, but their concern over energy is near the top of the list. Learn more

A Stimulating Question

Will governments invest big stimulus bucks to promote low-carbon, high-efficiency economies? Ask again

D.C. Green Build Law Challenged

Insurers who are required to issue bonds that guarantee project completion under Washington D.C's green building law have filed a complaint with the City. Look into it

Climate Skeptics, Wrong Again

Compelling evidence about Antarctic warming undermines climate change deniers. It's also bad news for the planet. Get the facts

New Yorkers Ideas For Obama

New Yorkers have suggestions for President Obama to put our economy back on track with sustainable planning and green-collar jobs. Start clicking

January 22, 2009

Obama Watching

What will President Obama do now and then do next on the climate change front? One vision

From The IRS

Learn about Clean Renewable Energy Bonds from this IRS circular. (To readers: Is the CREB program operational now?) Tax man

Kyoto Spurs New Technology

Based on analysis of new patents, researchers find that the Kyoto Protocol has spurred 13 types of new climate abatement technologies, with the US and Australia lagging. Fine print

Carbon Market Aid

Development banks to support the swooning EU carbon market. Price that

Sacrifice Is No Solution

The Sierra Club sees market reforms and public investment of carbon auction proceeds, not sacrifice and austerity, as the straightest path a a climate friendly planet. See here

Cap & Trade It!

The debate ranges on over cap & trade or tax as the key to saving the climate Get a summary of NRDC's position. Read up

What's The Green State of Your State?

Check out this list of California cities with high performance building laws. Rate your state

It's The Law - In California

A new California law requires commercial property owners to collect data on energy use in a Energy Star Portfolio Manager-compatible format. Next year, they will have to share their records with prospective lends, buyers and renters. Get the facts

January 21, 2009

Carbon Prices Collapse

The current collapse of European carbon emissions prices could be catnip to US carbon tax advocates. What's up?

Greens Want Cleaner Solar Power

Solar panel makers are urged to go greener in manufacturing, installing and recycling their products. Learn more

Producing A Policy That Pays Off

Public finance will be a necessary part of meeting clean energy goals, but which policy would work best? WSJ

January 20, 2009

The White House Web

The new White House web site has a redesigned page for energy and the environment. Take a tour


Federal funds will be targeted for new information and infrastructure high tech capacity. Other funds should go to low-tech home weatherization and energy retrofits. Follow the money

Infrastructure Hijacking

Will 'shovel-ready' projects shut out infrastructure planning in the race for federal finding? Stay tuned

Climate Economics For You & Me

This book review about climate economics for non-economists has a lot to say, not all of it positive. Go figure

German Green Fuel At Risk

With new green fuel taxes, German biofuel makers may shut down. Learn more

January 16, 2009

Romm Rips The CAP

Joe Romm tears into the USCAP's proposed climate bill and he's merciless on the lessons learned from the EU's Clean Development Mechanism experience. Stomp & shred

Production Tax Credits: RIP

With a tanking economy, production tax credit investments in wind and solar power have vanished. Plan B

EU Carbon Price Sinks

The price of CO2 emissions allowances in European markets is down to $15.71. In turn, this slashes funds for low-carbon projects in developing countries. More here

New Climate In Congress

Powerful Congress members Henry Waxman and Edward Markey aim for quick action on climate change legislation. Stay tuned

Lone Star LEED

The world's first LEED Platinum-level hospital opens in Texas. Salud!

January 15, 2009

Who's On First?

EU infighting and domestic politics could open the way for Obama to be the game-changer on global warming. Up next


Get the story behind NYC's first LEED townhouse. Going for gold

UK: Nuclear Fusion

Former rivals join up to cut the financial risks of building nuclear reactors in the UK. Plug in

Saved By Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley thinks it can lead the way on technologies to save the planet and the economy, with some help from Washington. Look into IT

Wind Turbines Not Windmills

Despite some skeptics, VAWT's (vertical axis wind turbines) could work in urban settings. Learn more

New York's Ticket To Ride

The MTA's in transit to 21st Century transit sustainability. Synopsis here

January 14, 2009

Going Places

Here's why more rail freight capacity would be a good thing. Get on board

A 42x30 Plan

CAP, an industry and environmental group with a 42% GHG reduction goal by 2030, will present its latest cap and trade ideas to Congress. Find out more

Energy Sector: Pulse Detected

Investment and sales figures are up for energy efficiency and alternative fuel firms in anticipation of federal action. WSJ

January 13, 2009

Wind Power Makes Financial Sense

Buying wind power is a good business choice because of its predictable price. Count on it

Apple Snubs Greenpeace

Apple refuses to take part in an annual Greenpeace survey of green electronics. Think differently?

Federal $ For NJ Green Jobs

A federal grant pays for green collar job training in Newark, NJ to make homes more energy efficient. Learn more

Obama Taps Sunstein

Legal scholar Cass Sustein will lead the regulatory reform drive for President Obama. What's in store?

UK: Green Growth Ahead

Booming capital investments in alternative energy, stimulated by government carbon cutting goals, predicted for UK. Plug in

January 12, 2009

Won For Green

Korea will invest 50 trillion won in green projects and jobs over the next four years. That's big

Solar Economics

Learn who's investing in solar power and who's buying into it. Adds up

Obama Trends Greener

President-elect Obama will add more money to his economic stimulus package for green works like alternate energy. Get invested

Baked Cyprus

Cyprus could become a desert by the end of the century, a victim of climate change. Learn more

The ABC's of Green Home-Electronics

A friendly reminder that what you do at home can change the world. Start here

The Office Carbon Footprint

Australia is working to shrink the carbon footprint of commercial buildings and their tenants. Here's how

What Can Chu Do?

The heavily earmarked budget of the Department of Energy is the starting point for Obama's incoming appointment, Steven Chu. WSJ

January 10, 2009

And Then There Were None

Central Brooklyn could become a "net-zero" source of CO2 emissions. Down please

January 09, 2009

Who Can You Trust?

Energy watchdogs charge the International Energy Agency with bias in underestimating the potential of renewable power. Learn more

Chrysler Gets US Contract for EVs

Chrysler will supply US Army bases with 4,000 electric vehicles which are cheaper than comparable gas powered models. Get moving

Smart Stimulus=Smart Grid?

Utilities wants federal stimulus funds for a smart national electric power grid. Look into it

Tell Me Why

Why is gathering information on green building performance hard and what can be done to make it easier? Find out

January 08, 2009

Harness The Energy

Strategic investments in a smart electric power grid and clean fuel generators will drive the nation's economic recovery says venture capitalist. Here's how

Markey Gets Energy Chair

Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey will chair the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. This could be a good sign for higher CAFE standards and legislative climate action. Stay tuned

January 07, 2009

Down But Not Out

Green building investment could be shifting from equity to debt strategies. Look up

Wireless Electric

This is not science fiction (I think). Look into it

Japan Targets Green Growth

Japan wants to create green businesses and green-collar jobs to revive its economy and combat climate change. Aim high

Picture This

Green, Inc.

Cities Use Creative, Targeted Lending to Speed Energy Projects

Excerpt from Libby Tucker's post
One challenge to getting energy-saving initiatives off the ground is that the presumed social benefits arising from improved energy efficiency (fewer greenhouse gases, for instance) are often at odds with the rational economic calculus of homeowners on the ground. From solar panels to efficient window systems, the capital costs of such projects can be prohibitive — and take years, sometimes decades, to pay for themselves.

Faced with that reality, a number of municipalities across the country are getting creative and experimenting with incremental, neighborhood- or district-based lending programs that help homeowners pay the up-front capital costs.

Under what are called "geographic targeting" or "renewable energy community" programs, a lender — be it a city, utility or bank — effectively goes door-to-door, offering homeowners or businesses within designated neighborhoods low-interest loans to complete efficiency or renewable energy projects. NYT Green Inc. Blog Full Post »

Nancy's Comment
Liked the text but not the photo. Although caulk guns and insulation aren't as eye-catching as solar panels, they're a reliable and inexpensive way to make buildings more energy efficient. Adding low-cost options to a city's program would go a long way toward resolving "The biggest challenge to large-scale community energy projects is demonstrating a consistent return on investment that attracts the right mix of public and private financing".

By offering property owners a choice, for those who see solar as the better choice — with its ability to generate power on-site and potential to sell power back into the grid — fine. But good economics and good policy dictate the inclusion of low-tech energy efficiency solutions that are easy to install, effortless to maintain and suitable to almost all structures in all locations. Nancy's Comment on Green Inc. »

Own A Building? Plan Ahead

Now is the time for building owners to consider what CO2 regulations will mean for their portfolios. Start here

Platinum Audubon

NYC's Audubon Society gets a top Platinum LEED rating for interior renovations at its new headquarters. Bravo!

January 06, 2009

Watch Out For Water Vapor

Second installment of our 2009 climate science tutorial. Get acquainted with new concepts and refinements of old ones. Read on

Banned by LSSU

Green, Inc.

Lake Superior State University says environmental buzzwords were the scourge of the English language over the past year.

Excerpt from James Kanter's post
Do blogs like Green Inc. (and its predecessor, The Business of Green) have something to answer for?

People and companies employing the word "green" in environmental contexts are guilty of "misuse, overuse, general uselessness," according to Lake Superior State University in Michigan, which last week unveiled its results from an annual survey — its 34th — of words that should be banished.

"Environmental buzzwords are getting the axe this year," the university said in a statement. "'Green' and 'going green' received the most nominations," the university announced on New Year's Eve.

Nancy's Comment
There's nothing wrong with color-coded language, as long as we can define what we mean and communicate precisely enough so we can be understood. Then, if someone disputes the facts or disagree with our conclusions, fine. But, if we don't say what we mean or know what we mean when we say it, the babble-police should nab us. Until then, in a world of 140 character Twitter limits, I'll stick with "green". There's nothing to be gained from "eco-ing" everything.

Paramterisation And More

First day of our 2009 climate science tutorial. Get acquainted with new concepts and refinements of old ones. Fine print


Federal economic support that funds infrastructure projects needs to be strategically sustainable. Start here

January 05, 2009


Ultra-energy efficient LED street lights are coming to NYC. Plug in

When Brighter Is Dimmer

New thinking about how to light your way at night. See here

Cut Soot To Cool The Climate

Scientists report that slashing soot emissions is a fast-acting way to cool the planet. It's clear

Rising Risk For Dirty Oil

As US oil refiners plan to expand capacity, opponents seek to stem Canadian tar sand oil extraction. Learn more

Words Matter

Reporters on the climate beat must understand their subject and write accurately about it. Get it right

Chaos Is Here

Climate scientist says 'I do believe we are entering a new state'. WSJ

Making Choices

Pursuing carbon capture and sequestration would have very different consequences than expanding renewable energy in the struggle against climate change. Look ahead

January 02, 2009

End Intermittency!

Xcel Energy uses batteries to store 7 MW hour of wind power for later use. Next challenge, bring down costs. Plug in

A New Carbon Tax Champion

The Financial Times calls on Washington to create a carbon tax, not a cap and trade scheme, as the keystone for combating climate change. Look into it

Get Mapped

Explore the planet by way of a green, social mapping platform. Start traveling

Plan Ahead Again

A 2002 road map for a national sustainable development strategy is more relevant than ever in 2009. Onramp here

January 01, 2009

Green To Some

Nuclear power is being marketed as green power in Germany, Finland and Sweden. Plug in

Don't Get Lost In Translation

If the science of climate change is on target, our policies and our actions will soon determine whether global warming becomes a calamity. The stakes couldn’t be higher and this means the collective margin for error is slim while we’re just beginning to learn how to do what needs to be done. At the same moment, New Yorkers are in the midst of a global economic crisis whose impact is already painfully clear although the solution to the crisis is far from obvious. What better time to examine the impact of New York City’s sustainability headliner PlaNYC 2030 and the supporting role, played by Local Law 86!

With the publication of the first Local Law 86 of 2005 Annual Report, issued three years after the law was passed, readers can delve into this statute’s progress-to-date on the construction and renovation of energy efficient buildings that are municipally owned or receive certain levels of taxpayer dollars. Although the law stipulates that the annual report cover only completed projects, the City’s Office of Environmental Coordination wisely decided, since just one project has been completed that is subject to Local Law 86, to include “all projects that have started design since the law took effect” and it “documents projected reductions in energy cost and potable water use, as well as estimates of additional cost related to achieving the required LEED or the Green Schools standard.” The report also instructs readers that, “the law supports the goals of PlaNYC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2030, as well as its goals to reduce energy costs”.

The Local Law 86 Annual Report merits close reading because it contains energy-efficiency projections used in final project designs that can be tracked as the projects come on-line. The School Construction Authority, for instance, proposes to achieve the mandated minimum of 10% energy cost savings by installing more efficient boilers and replacing existing steam traps. With a total annual estimated cost saving of some $1.3 million, the lions’ share should come from low-tech, low cost steam traps, which translates into a very attractive payback period of two years. If these design projections are regularly tracked and reported they will make an invaluable contribution to the learning curve to achieve high performance building and energy efficiency.

In all, the report offers information on eighty-three projects with total “project costs” about $4.8 billion of which nearly $4 billion “is related to fulfillment of Local Law 86. (Of these projects, thirteen are covered solely by Green School regulations.) These costs translate into almost 6.5 million square feet of space subject to the law. The report also offers the projected completion date for each project. And that’s pretty much it. Want to know about project specific energy consumption reduction numbers and how they compare to baseline figures for energy consumption in buildings of comparable size and use category? You won’t find the answers in the Annual Report.

Readers will find projected energy efficiencies and energy savings for two projects with completed designs. Here’s some good news: the incremental cost of energy efficiency is projected at just over $400,000 out of total project costs of almost $83 million. Energy efficiency gains in these projects are anticipated to come from lower consumption of electricity, natural gas and purchased steam, which should mean an annual reduction of 330 metric tons of greenhouse gases. In turn, associated cost savings should translate into a seven-year payback period for the additional incurred compliance costs.

This is a real opportunity, but it must be compared to the overall 1.68 million metric ton cut in greenhouse gas emissions the City projects will be needed to meet its 30x2017 target for its own operations, as detailed in the Long-Term Plan to Reduce Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Municipal Buildings and Operations. Of this targeted reduction, increased energy efficiency in its structures will account for a hefty 953,606 tons. (More on this below.)

Yet, even with all the first Annual Report’s facts and figures, something crucial gets lost in translation: the ability to measure and verify how Local Law 86 “supports” the 30x2017 goal of PlaNYC 2030. As of now, even the most careful readers can’t compare and coordinate these bureaucratically distinct efforts and neither can anyone else. This is not a desiccated quibble about a definition, real money’s at stake. The City, as part of a long-term energy plan that’s an outgrowth of PlaNYC 2030, has launched an $80 million a year program to upgrade the energy efficiency and cut the energy costs of operating its building stock. Since the PlaNYC 2030 Progress Report doesn’t provide data on the progress of Local Law 86, let’s look next into the City’s specific plan to boost its own energy performance.[i]

The Long-Term Plan to Reduce Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Municipal Buildings and Operations, issued in July 2008, provides the dominant narrative for how the City’s municipal operations -- which produce “approximately 3.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year and consumes about 6.5% of New York City’s total energy use” -- will slash these emissions 30% by 2017 and save tax-payer dollars on its energy and fuel bills.” The City proposes to meet these goals by “investing” 10% of the City’s annual energy budget, and this could add up to more than $900 million. What’s not made clear is how the energy-efficiency achievements of Local Law 86 will be factored in.[ii] For instance, the Long-Term Plan recommends building audits to identify energy-savings opportunities. It also recommends upgrading building management systems and enhancing staff operations and maintenance capacities. None of these are actions stipulated by Local Law 86.

As the Sallan Foundation routinely advocates, the Long-Term Plan calls on the City to institute performance measurement and verification programs and to develop a performance tracking and information management database. These are estimable aspirations, but who is thinking about how to deliver on them in the new and existing buildings designed to meet Local Law 86 requirements? The policy challenge that must be faced is how best to take verifiable credit for lower energy use and reduced greenhouse gas emissions in all City buildings regardless of the name of the policy, plan or statute. Even if we don’t know what we’re doing, Mother Nature does and the more greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere, the hotter and more turbulent our planet will become.

Furthermore, in these depressed economic times it’s not yet clear what financial resources will be budgeted to boldly pursue the City’s overall climate change campaign. Dollars could be scarce for the foreseeable future and it’s a safe bet that there will be many continuous and compelling needs clamoring for support. Under these circumstances, the City must have a full and accurate grasp of its green building, energy-efficiency campaign so it can best compete for resources and thrive. That remains true even if the Obama administration commits major green funding to New York. If municipal momentum is lost or it turns out that “investments” and regulations don’t produce significant results, it’s easy to predict that the City’s sustainability programs would be shelved and their funds redirected.

This is a bleak but hardly inevitable scenario. For starters, next year’s crop of annual reports and progress prognoses could easily be made more systematically informative and provide the map for understanding the relationship between Local Law 86 and PlanNYC 2030. Then, as programs mature, reports should adopt evidence-based methods to assess outcomes. In these ways, supporters of sustainable development can acquire the information they need to defend and deepen these core green commitments. If the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability and his Office of Environmental Coordination learn to speak in common language, perhaps we all will be able to understand just what’s happening.

[i] The Progress Report does outline ambitious projects for future development such as the “greening the code” work currently in development by the USGBC-NY and refers to the Energy Efficiency Partnership responsible for the City’s Long Term Energy Plan that grapples with setting priorities for targeting incentives to reduce energy demand on the part of large consumers. Good stuff!
[ii] As the owner of many of the buildings in which municipal employees work, the City has an green advantage not available to private landlords; it controls the purchases of all the computers, lighting fixtures and other “plug loads” typical of commercial office occupants. In this regard, the City’s purchasing decisions can help to lower a municipal building’s energy demand more directly than a private landlord.