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News & Views Curation

September 30, 2009

EPA Proposes GHG Limits

EPA issues its first proposed rule to limit large-scale GHG emissions from industrial facilities . Get the facts

Urban Wind

San Francisco reports on a plan to promote urban wind installations. Turn here

Nike Leaves Chamber Board

Nike steps down from the Board of the Chamber of Commerce because of fundamental disagreements over climate change and the Chamber's opposition to EPA regulation. Keep going

Fighting Climate Change With ICT

Get the latest on the role of information and communications technology in cutting GHG emissions in many economic sectors. Read on

Green Cool For School

The Calhoun School in Manhattan installs a green roof that's good for learning, eating and the environment. Come on up

Curbing China's Carbon Giants

With overcapacity problems in industrial sectors like steel, aluminum and cement, China looks to support clean tech industries instead. Learn more However, wind energy makers are at risk

September 29, 2009

Storage Solutions

Viable electric storage technologies will be key to large-scale use of intermittent energy sources. Where are we now?

German Election Could Boost Nuclear Power

The re-election of Prime Minster Merkel could mean a more pro-nuclear, less pro-solar power policy for Germany. Here's why

Supers' School

Now, a thousand NYC building superintendents can study how to make their buildings more energy efficient by using green operating strategies. Learn more

Thorium Power For India

By 2050, India plans to build nuclear power plants with a thorium fuel technology used nowhere else. Plug in

Wouldn't It Be Nice

With dramatic climate changes just over the horizon, a call for US action at December's Copenhagen meeting. Stay tuned

Global Investors Go For Green

2009 has seen a surge of global investments in clean technologies, rising from $836 million to $1.2 billion by mid-year. Learn more

Exelon Exits The Chamber

Exelon Energy leaves the Chamber of Commerce over the Chamber's opposition to policies that put a price on carbon. It's the third power utility that will not renew its membership. Going and Going

Story Of The Year

In case you missed it, Tom Friedman sums it up, "The most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China." Catch up

Cool Green

Ben & Jerry's might convert to ice-cream freezers with a smaller carbon footprint and Coca Cola is using refrigerators that are more climate-friendly than conventional models. Sweet

September 28, 2009

CFL's, Don't Like Them!

Sales of compact fluorescent bulbs are on the skids in the US. Why?

Bangkok Climate Talks

A lead US negotiator at the Bangkok round of UN climate meetings would see Congressional progress as a key to global agreement. Stay tuned

Making Climate Models

Predictions about climate changes are based on scientists' models, but what should go into them and what should be measured are open to constant refinements. Work hard

Philly Soaks It Up

Philadelphia has a $1.6 billion plan to soak up it's storm water on green roofs and through porous pavements instead of mixing it with sewage. What a splash!

India's Own Energy Plans

India announces plans for a domestic energy efficiency trading market and appliance efficiency standards, but offers nothing new on global climate actions. Plug In

Carbon's Catch-22

Getting climate policy and investment in carbon technology in synch is the challenge. Start here

$4.5 Billion Smarter

US smart grid work gets $4.5 billion in federal support. Resistance is melting. WSJ

September 25, 2009

California: $3 Billion x 3 Years

California will make $3.1 billion available over the next three years to improve energy efficiency in homes by 20%, upgrade government offices and fund zero net carbon buildings. Plug in

Burying Progress

Get an update on the West Virginia power plant being built with CO2 sequestration capacity. Dig in

Eyes On Electric Battery IPO

Will next week's initial public stock offering for a company that makes electric batteries for powering electric cars and storing alternative energy be a financial winner? Stay tuned

Looking For The Right Light

The Department of Energy will award $10 million to the inventor of LED light bulbs that meet strict performance standards. Who's ahead?

Paint It!

While Mayor Bloomberg calls on New Yorkers to cool the city by painting their roofs white, he hasn't gotten any municipal roofs a new coat of paint. Some coverage

September 24, 2009

Hudson River Electric

Could floating platforms capture the power of Hudson River currents to light up NYC? Find out

More Than Hope

Thumbing through a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine, I was riveted by the full-page ads trumpeting "A planet of smarter cities" courtesy of IBM, "You have the chance to power your own city" as Chevron introduces its online game called Energyville, and "1 billion people to feed. A changing climate. Now what?" Monsanto muses. "If 41 MPG doesn't charge you up, its battery will" Ford assures me. Of course, this is advertising tailored to attract a New Yorker reader, but the sociologist in me was alert to the cultural status signal that climate change and energy brightly blared across glossy magazine pages. And it's a signal with value for right now.

So, what is New York doing right now, to capture this value? A summertime posting on the City's own website calls for volunteers to paint 5-10 roofs in Long Island City a cooling white. OK, what else? The Greener Greater Building Plan exhorts New Yorkers, "We need your help to GreeNYC. New York City can't reach the target of reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 without you. You can make a difference. We all can. By following some easy tips, you can save money while you save the environment, and make New York City a healthier place to live." Scroll down the page to find tips to follow about smarter use of air conditions. Reasonable, but compare this to the wealth of climate and energy-efficiency consumer information found on a London website dedicated to the Mayor's low carbon zone initiative. Want more information about energy saving washing machines, the best way to insulate your home, or a do-it-yourself home energy audit? It's there. A tour of London's website makes it clear that New York City government can be doing much more to help its residents GreeNYC.

What else is the City doing? The annual progress report on Local Law 86, the 2005 statute that requires the City to green its own construction, is due out in November. For the moment, the latest sign of the progress in the City's effort to "lead by example" by upping the energy efficiency of municipal buildings is its Request for Information related to the search for a firm to design, install and maintain solar power systems on the rooftops of City-owned buildings. This kind of search suggests that solar panels won't appear on municipal roofs any time soon. Granted, it takes time for government to undertake something new and get it right, but PlaNYC was launched in April 2007 and money is there now to green light work on City-owned properties. Success in efforts that take less time to start up, like training building operators to conserve energy and establishing incentives for improving building efficiency — efforts that would have year-in-year-out paybacks — would be smart investments because even with extended term limits, time will run out for this Administration.

As Torchlight readers know from previous columns on "the deep green quartet", the most ambitious product of PlaNYC is the package of four bills introduced in the City Council at the request of Mayor Bloomberg. The major element of what is dubbed the "greener, greater building plan" by the Mayor's office, this legislation aims at transforming the energy efficiency standards and the demand for energy efficient buildings for thousands of New York's standing structures. After lengthy public hearings in June, negotiations over the legislation are still taking place exclusively behind closed doors, so what the final content will be is impossible to say. Still, word is to expect a City-Council vote this fall.

In the meantime, building professionals debate the energy efficiency and climate-change fighting contribution of LEED-certified buildings. A recent multi-part article in New Solutions argues that that truly climate-friendly buildings do cost more to construct, but over time will save money by using much less energy to operate. As well, other experts continue to write about the importance of measuring and verifying the energy efficiency of buildings that call themselves green. Some of these buildings are not making the grade. For example, a federal building in Youngstown Ohio is proving to be an energy-hog. Had it been a privately owned building, such information might not have come to light and now, the US Green Building Council is revising LEED ratings to require all new buildings to provide several years worth of energy and water bills. But as one knowledgeable wag said, "The plaque should be installed with removable screws, (o)nce the plaque is glued on, there's no incentive to do better."

Despite setbacks and reservations, or perhaps because of them, the best design, construction and operations practices are rapidly evolving while approaches to energy auditing and performance standards are also the subject of intense professional and regulatory interest. After all, what get's measured gets managed and today locally and nationally, the market for energy efficient building is on the rise. The Empire State Building and the Willis Tower are just two of the most iconic older buildings that are going green. Mayor Bloomberg's pending legislation would require property owners to amass and file data on their buildings' energy efficiency to create a benchmark. More complex audits would also be required. The great benefit of these efforts would be to provide a body of information, based on experience, not theory, to owners, developers, banks, insurers and tenants about the real value of high performance buildings. To go a step further than the current bills go, New York City should have a law that requires owners whose buildings fall into the bottom quartile of energy efficiency to develop plans to upgrade their performance.

As is the case with virtually any law, budgeting, implementation and enforcement will prove to be the strong links or the weak ones in meeting intended goals. Whatever the specifics of the final legislation, the NYC Department of Buildings will be responsible for its success. Public attention must remain keen to see if the Department will have enough plan reviewers trained in the specifics of the Energy Efficiency Code and a field staff able to carry out new responsibilities on top of such urgent obligations like heat, lead paint or elevator safety inspections. And that's just the half of it. As I've written before, based on the draft legislation circulated last spring, the specific penalties for violating the provisions of the deep green quartet are hard to figure out. Other provisions of the Building Code require the signature of architects or engineers who are licensed to practice by the State of New York. The possibility of losing this license in relation to false filings is said to foster rigorous compliance with Code standards. But in the case of compliance with provisions of the Energy Efficiency code for building retrofits or alterations, where often a contractor works without architects or engineers, the presumed guarantor of full compliance is murkier.

And of course, the business of government and the business of business are slower and messier than the utopias of advertising. But those New Yorker ads articulate exactly what some of the world's best-known corporations think that we aspire to. And now New Yorkers have the chance to do something more than hope.


Sallan | News and Views | Torchlight | Nancy Anderson, Ph.D. | Comments

More Than Hope
Sallan Readers weigh in


October 2, 2009

It turns out that Energyville, a SimCity-like game but without the need to maintain the happiness of its citizens, was developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, built by Mediaedge:cia and paid for by Chevron back in 2007.


Why would Chevron take out a full page ad in the September 21, 2009 Issue of The New Yorker to promote an interactive online game that launched two years ago?

Pointing my browser away from the simulated environment of Energyville and out onto the world wide web, I found some news items regarding Chevron's business practices which may result in a significant loss of market value for the supermajor oil company.

  1. Chevron's Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, David J. O'Reilly, announced a surprise retirement effective September 30, 2009. The announcement seems related to growing publicity around the potential liability for environmental destruction of the Ecuadorian Amazon by Texaco, which Chevron purchased under O'Reilly's watch in 2001.
  2. An investigation opened by New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo lends credence to plaintiffs' allegations: It seeks to determine whether Chevron misled shareholders about its financial liability in the Ecuador case. In the company's SEC disclosures, it claims the lawsuit is "frivolous" and refuses to estimate a potential loss.
  3. In a last ditch effort to avoid paying damages Chevron stepped up its offensive in its long-running legal battle and filed an international arbitration claim against Ecuador's government citing treaty violations on September 24, 2009.
  4. Crude, the Real Price of Oil a film by Joe Berlinger opened on September 9, 2009 and runs through January of 2010. Judging by the reviews this documentary is racking up it just might receive an academy award — a nightmare scenario for Chevron.

Should Chevron lose before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, perhaps they should be told to retool Energyville to include both the happiness of the people who are the end users of their product and the people who are living at the point of extraction. For those amongst us who actually spent untold hours playing the real SimCity 2000 when it was released back in 1993 — the same year the lawsuit was originally filed, we know the well being of citizens was built into the game.

— Karen Casamassima

EU Carbon Limits Limited

A court ruling will not allow the EU to determine the allocation of emissions permits in Poland and Estonia. A climate change?

Nine Tipping Points

Scientists identify nine crucial tipping points toward catastrophic global change. We've passed three of them already. Going, going...

Green Ranks

Newsweek ranks the 100 greenest large corporations in the US. Get the list

Japan: Going Nuclear?

The new Japanese government sees more nuclear power as a key to meeting its climate targets. Stay tuned

China: Could Be A New Climate

Chinese President Hu Jintao's UN speech on cutting the nation's carbon intensity signaled a new level of action on climate change. Look into it

Utilities Plug In

Duke Power and FPL will shift their new car and truck fleets to plug-in hybrids or all electric by 2020. Go!

September 22, 2009

For What It's Worth

The Cooperator

Saving Money While Saving the Planet
Going Green for Good
by Liz Lent

theCooperator-Sept-NY-09.png

Nancy Anderson talks with The Cooperator about how New Yorkers can invest in their apartments to save money and the planet too. Everybody look »

Build A Better Brick

Great hopes for greener buildings rest on new generations of building materials. Nice work

Eco-Tourism In NY

New York launches a program to certify sustainable hotels in the Empire State. 43 and counting

$100 Million For A Smart Grid

DOE announces $100 million for worker training to make and operate smart electric grids. Another $44 million will go to state public utilities commissions to hire new employees.Plug in

China, US & Climate

Without an international treaty, how could China cooperate on climate change? Learn more

Will It Fly?

The international airline industry pledges to cut carbon emissions 50% by the year 2050, based on its 2005 levels. Take off

Hu & Obama Make Remarks At UN

No specific promises were made by China's President Hu Jintao or President Obama when speaking about climate change at the UN. NYT & UK Guardian

Proposal For A Chinese Carbon Registry

Getting serious about climate in China means developing a carbon registry that's up to the task. Start here

What A Nuisance!

No time to read the full Second Circuit decision on CO2 emissions as a public nuisance?
Read the news report. NYLJ

September 21, 2009

Court Finds CO2 Is A Nuisance

In a long awaited decision, the Second Circuit finds on behalf of plaintiffs who argue in Connecticut v AEP that CO2 emissions are a public nuisance. Read the decision.

The 'Age Of Stupid'

New York Times reporter Andy Revkin flags the opening of a film set in 2055 that imagines the consequences of the way we live now. Look ahead

We're Screwed!

The New York Post
NOT is a must read for Climate Week. Grin & groan

Wave Hello To Money

A Scottish offshore wave power project meets its investment target. Dive in

September 18, 2009

Green Collar Apprenticeships

Apprentice programs can be the key for low-income workers to move into good green-collar jobs according to a San Diego study. Open here

Finland's French Connection

Despite huge cost overruns and delays, Finland proceeds with a nuclear power plant being built by French firm Areva. Plug in

September 17, 2009

What RGGI Funds

NYSERDA reports on program funding that comes from RGGI carbon emissions permit auctions. Follow the money

Get Smarter

Dubuque Iowa is the first US city to join IBM's 'smarter cities' program. Just think!

The Conservation Of Matter

What happens to dead electric-car batteries and what parts of them can be recycled? Find out

Try Gas

Natural gas producers, feeling overlooked by the Waxman-Markey bill, join together to get some Congressional appreciation. Learn more

Scotland's Got A Carbon Budget

Scotland's national budget will calculate the carbon emissions linked to government activities. A first

China: Wind Conversion?

Scientists report that by 2030 China could get all its electricity from wind farms. Turn turn

Shift In Wind Direction

BP sells off its Indian wind power business to concentrate on the US. Why?

London's Low Carbon Zones

London's Mayor launches projects in ten communities to cut carbon emissions. Explore

September 16, 2009

Paying for Progress In NY

If signed by the Governor, New York's energy efficiency legislation could use $112 million from the sale of carbon emissions permits to underwrite $5 billion in loan guarantees. Climate Wire[Subscribers only]

Grist Disses Obama Oil Idea

Grist uses a leaked letter from the Obama administration to cast doubts on the value of ending certain domestic oil subsidies. Click here

Dangerous To Your Health

Eighteen professional medical associations warn that failure to limit global heating will have devastating human health impacts. Look ahead

Use Ozone Treaty To Fight Climate Change

The US, Canada and Mexico agree to seek changes in the Montreal Protocol ozone agreement to cut worldwide manufacture and use of HFCs, potent greenhouse gases. Re-purpose

Listed?

DOE has awarded $323 million of an available $2.7 billion in Energy Efficiency and Conservation block grants to states, localities and tribes. Check it out

Invented Here Made There

Tom Friedman visits Advanced Materials and asks why its new solar panel factories are opening everywhere except the US. There, there

Going Going

Watch the ice melt.
Balog-at-TED.png
Going Going...

September 15, 2009

The Solution Not The Problem

A federal climate bill will cure - not cause - fuel price volatility. No price caps or collars needed. Read Romm

GE Turns To Turbines

GE plans to manufacture offshore wind turbines at several European sites with prospects of government incentives. Turn here

Not Great Expectations

US Energy Secretary Chu has low goals for GHG cuts but high hopes for wide participation in a Copenhagen climate agreement. Oh

Offsets? Forget It!

US climate legislation should not count on access to an adequate supply of cheap carbon credits from developing nations. Set off

Can The CDM Be Saved?

Harvard researchers propose fixes for the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism. Learn more

Turning Offshore

Q: What has 91 turbines and can create 209 MW of electricity? A: Horns Rev 2

September 14, 2009

China Closes In On Carbon Targets

Climate researchers find that China is on track to cut its carbon intensity 50% over the next decade. Here's how

The Most Inconvenient Truth

There will be no global ban on burning coal for electricity. Now what?

Does a Dow Green Rating Matter?

Dow Jones has a tool for rating corporate sustainability. There are at least two schools of thought on whether it works. Learn more

A Higher Performing New York

It's official. New York joins the building energy retrofit movement with a bill going to the Governor's desk. Sign on

Cheers or Jeers in California?

Governor Schwarzenegger is set to issue an Executive Order requiring a third of the electricity generated in-state to come from renewable resources, including nuclear and big-hydro. Look into it

September 11, 2009

Smart Grid Needs Green Light

A senior federal energy regulator urges Congressional action on a smart electric transmission grid that need not wait for resolution on a climate bill. Plug in

Nothing If Not Persistent

The US Chamber of Commerce joins with auto distributors in a federal appeal against adoption of California's tailpipe emissions standards. Move along

Sarkozy Seeks 2nd Carbon Tax

French President Sarkozy calls for a carbon duty on goods imported into Europe to complement the country's domestic carbon tax. Stay tuned

September 10, 2009

China: Wind-Power Woes

While installation of new wind power is booming in China, getting a targeted and steady energy output remains a challenge. Learn more

Commissioning: Get Smart!

A report finds real savings and quick payback times in 643 new and existing buildings that went through commissioning. Problem solving [5.3MB]

Adaptationn Beats Apocalypse

A hotter climate will force changes on NYC. What's on the Adaptation Task Force agenda? Wade in

India: Catch More Wind

An industry study finds that India could generate five times more on and off-shore wind power than projected by government figures. Look into it

Google Sun

Google scientists are working to build better mirrors and bring down costs for solar thermal power systems. Reflect on that

Efficiency Tops To-Do List

California's top air quality official taps energy efficiency as the smartest investment in fighting climate change. Here's why

No Grid, No Go

No 21st century, climate friendly energy policy is possible without overhauling the nuts and bolts of the nation's electric power grid. Plug in

Meteorologists At Work

A proposal to provide 'climate services', information for planning responses to climate change at the regional and local scales, was spelled out at a gathering of meteorologists. Learn more

Sunstein Confirmation Closer

A Senate vote moves Cass Sunstein closer to a top economics job in the White House. E&E Daily [Subscribers only]

September 09, 2009

Count On It

The value of avoiding the costs of climate change far exceeds the price of carrying out Waxman-Markey requirements according to an NYU Law School report. Fine print

Green Abroad

The US Mission in Geneva gets an energy make-over with solar screens and high efficiency chiller system. It's retrofit!

Wht Kind Of Green Is NATO

NATO's new-found environmental interest raises eyebrows. Look into it

North Sea Storage

UK geologists propose renting space deep under the North Sea to power plants for storing at least 60 billions tons of GHG emissions. Drill down

September 08, 2009

Van's Her Man

Huffington shouts out for Van Jones. Take that Glenn!

Make it Here, Trade It There

Barclays Bank moves its RGGI carbon-emissions trading desk from New York to London. Why?

Greenworks Philadelphia

New York's not the only city with a plan. Dig in [10.3MB]

Sunshine For US In Mongolia

A US-China project will build a 2,000 MW solar PV plant in Inner Mongolia as part of an11,950 MW renewable power goal. Plug in

Abu Dhabi After Oil

Sovereign wealth funds in Abu Dhabi plan for a post-oil economy. New directions

The Four Degree Danger

The UK warns of a world made unrecognizable by global heating in 2100. The immediate risk would be failure to agree on a new UN climate treaty this year. Start sweating

Singapore: It Depends

Singapore says it will do more to fight global warming, but exactly what depends on a new UN treaty. Stay tuned

In Case You Missed It

Climate legislation will have to wait for Congressional action on health care. WSJ

Japan Prods Climate Debate

Incoming Japanese Prime Minster Hatoyama, promises steep cuts in GHG emissions by 2020, but only if other nations make the same pledge. Learn more

Make An IMPACT

IMPACT, passed as part of the Climate bill in the House, grows new green jobs and supports current jobs too. Consider the numbers nationwide and for NY. Work it out

September 04, 2009

Scapgoating China?

Doubts about China's commitment to combating climate change could be unwarranted. Look into it

Anywhere But Here

Siting renewable power works faces the same fierce local opposition as most new developments. WSJ

Prius Imports In Peril

A patent infringement case could result in a ban on the import of Prius hybrid cars. Look under the hood

NYS: Not Cleaner Or Greener

An audit by the New York State Comptroller finds that government agencies fail to comply with requirements to purchase more environmentally friendly cleaning products. Scrub that!

Poll: Voters Energized

A poll of likely voters finds strong support for 2010 Senate candidates who would vote for climate legislation because of its national security impact. Stay tuned

September 03, 2009

Banking On Cities

Cities from around the globe gathered at a World Bank Roundtable to talk shop and lessons learned about urban energy policy. It adds up

EAT It

Cities can lead the way on climate change with comprehensive energy consumption taxes and fees. (EAT=Environment Added Tax, my acronym). Dig in

Rosy Future For Green Building

As proof of rising interest in making older buildings greener, the US energy services industry has grown 22% a year since 2004. Learn more

India: Progress Or Peril?

India projects that economic growth will quadruple its GHG emissions over the next two decades but stresses per person emissions would remain lower than in developed nations. Oh

Stop Drilling!

Drilling failures, on top of earthquake fears, put a California geothermal energy project on indefinite hold. Start here

Solar Subsidies Suspects

Spain's solar power industry is shrinking. Are smaller government subsidies the cause? WSJ

September 02, 2009

Sovereign Wealth For The Planet

Norway's $83 billion sovereign wealth fund will be making sustainable investments, with $1.2 billion promised to India. Spend some time

Sarko Slammed On Carbon Tax

President Sarkozy's carbon tax proposal encounters stiff opposition in France. Stay tuned

Moving Clean Power

A Duke University report looks at obstacles to growth of an electric transmission system that supports renewable energy, not expanded fossil-fuel use. Fine print

Billions For Clean Energy

A UN report projects the cost of building a world of clean energy users at $500-600 billion a year for the next decade. Who'll pay?

September 01, 2009

Geo-Engineering Gets The Razz

The British Royal Society takes a stand against geo-engineering as the way to save the globe from overheating and calls for less risky measures like emissions cuts.Look into it

EPA Targets Biggest Polluters

Only the largest sources of GHGs, with 25,000 tons or more of emissions, would be covered by draft Clean Air Act rules that EPA has sent to the White House. Greenwire [Subscribers only]

Choose A Plan That's Best For You

In a climate and fossil-fuel constrained world, countries must adopt energy plans that fit their physical, demographic and life-style facts, but they must start now. Opt in

New World Record

Researchers create the most efficient PV cell yet made, which turns 41.6% of sunlight into electricity. How bright!

Green For Gold & Platinum

Kings County, Washington offers up to $35,000 for construction seeking LEED Gold or Platinum ratings. So far, twelve grants were awarded. Heavy metal!

Global Trade Plugs In

A Chinese all-electric car, backed by investor Warren Buffet, will go on sale in the US in 2010. Small world

China Plunges Into Canadian Oil

China will buy a $1.7 billion, 60% stake in Canada's oil sands development. Drill down

What's In It For Agriculture?

The issue of carbon offsets in federal climate legislation is vexing for farmers and ranchers. Learn more

Heath Politics As Warm-up For Climate Bill?

When the Senate considers a climate bill, the hedging dynamic of health reform is likely to be repeated. Stay tuned