U.S. proposes to double auto fuel economy by 2025
November 17, 2011 06:01 AM - John Crawley, Reuters, WASHINGTON
The Obama administration proposed on Wednesday doubling auto fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a White House energy priority that has come under scrutiny in Congress. The plan grew out of an uneasy agreement between the administration, automakers and environmental groups to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and cut tailpipe emissions. Regulators hope to finalize the proposal by summer following a 60-day public comment period. The administration wants to give industry five years to develop fuel-saving technologies further and plan products before the rule would start taking effect in 2017. "We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Current standards require automakers to raise efficiency from 27 mpg today to 35.4 mpg by 2016. Targets beginning in 2017 would require a 5 percent annual efficiency gain for cars and 3.5 to 5 percent for light trucks, which include SUVs, pickups and vans.
Chevrolet's Carbon Initiative Program, Part Two
November 16, 2011 04:05 PM - R Greenway, ENN
In the U.S., the best wind resources are in the Northern Plains — but it’s virtually impossible for a single individual to build a multi-million dollar turbine. But if a group of individuals come together, they can work with an enterprising electric company to create a community- supported wind farm. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Crow Lake Wind Project, a 108 turbine, 162 MW wind project owned by the Basin Electric Cooperative, a public power entity serving rural cooperative power customers principally in the north central plains states. The project was built utilizing a first-of-its-kind community wind investment partnership. In addition, this is the largest project currently operational in South Dakota. The first 100 turbines, owned by Basin Electric Cooperative, enabled the two smaller projects to be developed. Seven turbines are owned by a group of around one hundred local community investors (farmers, ranchers, local businesses). The last turbine is owned by the Mitchell Technical Institute, a school providing vocational education to local students — including training in construction, operations and maintenance of wind farms. Fully operational since February 2011, the Crow Lake Wind Project introduces wind energy into a system heavily dependent on conventional coal combustion, diversifying the resource base. It also supplies and supports rural consumer-owned electric cooperatives and creates community jobs in construction and operations.
Alaska considers aerial wolf kills in tourist area
November 12, 2011 07:51 AM - Yereth Rosen, Reuters, ANCHORAGE, Alaska
Alaska state officials on Friday were considering a controversial plan to shoot wolves in an effort to boost moose populations in one of the state's top tourist and recreation areas. An estimated 90 to 135 wolves range across the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, where under the proposal hunters would shoot the animals from aircraft. Officials have not settled on the number of wolves they might kill under the plan, which was on the agenda for discussion at a meeting on Friday of the Alaska Board of Game. By decreasing attacks on moose from a major predator, the proposal would allow for a rebound in the moose population, which now stands at about 5,000 and is well below targets, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Ted Spraker, an Alaska Board of Game member from the region, said on a statewide public radio program recently that the public is "disgusted" with the low number of moose. "They want the board to start doing something," he added.
U.S. postpones Keystone XL pipeline decision past 2012 election
November 11, 2011 06:50 AM - Arshad Mohammed and Timothy Gardner, Reuters, WASHINGTON
The U.S. government on Thursday delayed approval of a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline until after the 2012 U.S. election, bowing to pressure from environmentalists and sparing President Barack Obama a damaging split with liberal voters he may need to win reelection. The decision to explore a new route for TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL oil pipeline to avoid fragile territory in the Sand Hills of Nebraska dismayed the Canadian government, which had lobbied assiduously for the $7 billion project. It also drew a harsh reaction from the oil industry and from Republicans in Congress who accused Obama of sacrificing jobs for the sake of his reelection. The State Department suggested that looking at new routes for the pipeline within the state of Nebraska would take until at least the first quarter of 2013, well beyond the November 6, 2012 U.S. election. The department had previously said it hoped to make a final decision by the end of this year.
Thai PM pledges flood relief as fight for Bangkok goes on
November 9, 2011 07:04 AM - Alan Raybould and Prapan Chankaew, Reuters, BANGKOK
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged more than $4 billion on Wednesday to help Thailand recover from the worst floods in half a century, as workers slowed the flow of water threatening the commercial heart of the capital, Bangkok. Evacuation orders have spread to a third of Bangkok's districts, mostly in the north of the densely populated city of 12 million people, since late October, as floodwater strewn with trash slowly seeps in from northern and northeastern provinces. Yingluck, a political novice elected this year, said about 120 billion baht($3.9 billion) had been set aside for a flood recovery effort, a figure that rises to 130 billion baht ($4.2 billion) when local government funds are added. On the streets of Bangkok, few see an end to the slow-moving disaster that began after tropical storm Nock-ten battered Southeast Asia in late July. Since then, at least 529 people have been killed, many electrocuted or drowned, in floods that have affected 63 of Thailand's 77 provinces.
International Sustainability Standards: Pros and Cons
November 8, 2011 05:07 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Sustainability is an economic, social, and ecological concept. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire globe. With that said how do you specifically define what is sustainable? Economic needs are fairly easy to figure out; ultimately it is do you make a profit or not. Social needs will depend on the society involved and every society is different. There is a difference between urban and rural needs for example much less North Africa, China, and the US. Ecological standards will also vary because it is far from clear how much resilience that an ecosystem has and as a result there will be constant and shifting debate on those standards. Over the past two decades a growing number of voluntary sustainability initiatives and other multi-stakeholder alliances have emerged to improve the livelihoods of the millions of commodity-dependent producers and manufacturers around the world. The growth of such initiatives represents an important opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the greening of global supply chains and improvement of producer livelihoods. The multiplication of these initiatives makes it increasingly challenging for all stakeholders to stay abreast of the latest developments and best practices across the voluntary sector. Moreover, it is exceedingly difficult to assess their utility and performance, let alone the steps required to mainstream best practice.
Australia passes $23.78 a ton carbon tax, trading, and permits
November 8, 2011 06:41 AM - James Grubel, Reuters, CANBERRA
Australia passed landmark laws on Tuesday to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade and injecting new impetus into December's global climate talks in South Africa. Tuesday's vote in the upper house Senate made Australia the second major economy behind the European Union to pass carbon-limiting legislation. Tiny New Zealand has a similar scheme. Its impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners and liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to airlines and steel makers, and is aimed at making firms more energy efficient and push power generation toward gas and renewables. The vote is a major victory for embattled Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who staked her political future on what will be the most comprehensive carbon price scheme outside of Europe, despite deep hostility from voters and the political opposition. "Today Australia has a price on carbon as the law of our land. This comes after a quarter of a century of scientific warnings, 37 parliamentary inquiries, and years of bitter debate and division," Gillard told reporters in Canberra.
Climate change imperils global prosperity, UN warns
November 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Population Matters
A new report from the United Nations Development Program warns that if drastic measures are not taken to prepare nations for the impacts of climate change, the economic progress of the world's developing countries could stall or even be reversed by 2050. This year's annual report, approaches the issue of climate change and environmental degradation from the standpoint of economic development and the eradication of poverty. "Even if someone's a climate skeptic, this report says, 'Put that aside for a second,' " said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. "If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems." Each region of the world faces unique challenges between now and 2050, the report warns, but most are linked to environmental complications arising from climate change.
Democrats block Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act
November 4, 2011 06:15 AM - Timothy Gardner, Reuters, Washington, DC
Democrats on Thursday blocked the first major bill in the Senate that would have delayed the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air rules. The bill, which needed 60 votes to pass, got only 47 votes. Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who faces reelection next year, was the lone Democrat to vote for the bill. His state is rich in coal, the fuel that could see added costs from a raft of upcoming EPA rules on power plants and industry. The lone Republican to vote against the bill was Olympia Snowe of Maine. The bill, called the Long-Term Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 and sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch, was promoted by Republicans as a jobs measure that would have allowed businesses to hire by reducing regulatory uncertainty. Democrats disagreed. "This is not a jobs bill," said Senator Barbara Boxer, the chairman of the chamber's Committee on Environment and Public Works. "If you can't breathe, you can't work."
Shale gas fracking 'probable' cause of Lancashire quakes
November 3, 2011 11:48 AM - Juliette Jowit and Hanna Gersmann, guardian reporters, Ecologist
Controversial 'fracking' technique to extract gas from the ground was the 'highly probable' cause of earth tremors, report finds Two earthquake tremors in north-west England earlier this year were probably caused by controversial operations to extract gas nearby, a report by the company responsible has concluded. The two tremors, which were felt by people just outside Blackpool, but did not cause any known damage, were reported in April and May, measuring 2.3 and 1.5 on the Richter scale. Since the second event, Cuadrilla Resources has stopped "fracking" operations — where water is injected into rocks at high pressure to extract gas from the cracks. The report, by a team of European seismic experts not usually employed by the company, concluded it was 'highly probable' that the two main tremors and a series of aftershocks were caused by Cuadrilla's operations at the Preese Hall-1 Well in Lancashire.