Friday, July 31, 2009

"Cash for Clunkers" - Economic Stimulus That Works

Jul 30: Less than five days old, the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS, aka Cash for Clunkers) was supposed to stimulate the buying of about 250,000 new, more fuel-efficient cars and last until November 2009. However, the $1 billion program has become perhaps the most successful economic stimulus effort yet, as the "cash" is nearly gone and auto dealers are warning of limited choices due to shortages in inventory. Under the program consumers receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from the car dealer when they trade in their old, low mileage vehicle and purchase or lease a new, more fuel-efficient one.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) issued a statement saying, “It is amazing that ‘Cash for Clunkers’ would be this successful this quickly. Many people talk of the need for a short-term stimulus for the economy. Well, we have found it in the CARS program. With over 200,000 cars sold, thousands of employees on the job serving customers, millions of dollars in advertisement spending, and sales tax income flowing into struggling states, CARS has injected money into communities across America. From Maine to California, from Michigan to Texas the impact is dynamic. It took a lot of hard work to get the votes to pass this program into law, so I am grateful that consumers love it.

"I am delighted to hear dealers say that all of their salespeople are busy and they are selling more cars in a day than they had been selling in a month. That is terrific news and I hope the sales continue even though the initial funding for the CARS program has been suspended. This program has helped bring people back to showrooms to see what incredible cars and trucks we make in this country. I urge Congress and the Administration to provide additional funding so that ‘Cash for Clunkers’ may continue under its original authorization until November."

On July 27, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance) joined Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood and other auto industry representatives to officially launch the “Cash for Clunkers” program. The Alliance worked with DOT to ensure what they hoped would be a "successful implementation of the program." Alliance President and CEO Dave McCurdy said, "The 250,000 vehicles this program is designed to sell will be a needed to boost to the entire industry. Automakers will continue working with DOT and Congress to meet the goals of stimulating vehicle sales, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from autos and enhancing energy security.”

A "funding available meter" on the CARS website which still indicated substantial funding available earlier today (July 30), was taken down by 9:30 AM ET. Friday morning, the White House reportedly indicated that it would assure that the CARS program operates through this weekend and would attempt to find funds to continue the program.

On July 31, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) urged the Department of Transportation (DOT) to promptly provide Congress with a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of the CARS program. In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood the Senators renewed their request for a detailed analysis of how the program has worked to date, including the make and model of the vehicles purchased, the fuel efficiency of purchased vehicles, and the condition of vehicles traded-in. The two Senators along with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Thomas Carper (D-DE), previously authored an alternative “Cash for Clunkers” proposal that they say would have achieved 32 to 38 percent greater oil savings and emissions reductions than the enacted “CARS” program. The Senators have said that any extension of the program must adhere to higher fuel efficiency and greater emissions reductions.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) issued a brief statement mid-day on July 31, saying, “The cash for clunkers program has proven hugely successful in its first week. We have been told by the White House that people can keep buying cars under the program until further notice. We don’t know how long it will last, so people should go to their car dealers now if they want to take advantage of the program. We’re also going to seek additional funding to hopefully make the program last longer.”

In unprecedented fashion, the House voted 316 to 109 this afternoon (1:24 PM, July 31) to extend the program with an additional $2 billion in funding. The funding authorization is included in H.R. 3435, a bill to provide supplemental appropriations for fiscal year 2009 for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Program. The Senate will not take up the bill until next week, but it is not without controversy. Fox News is reporting that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) "will oppose any move to take up the House bill." McCain told Fox earlier today, "I not only wouldn't vote for the extra two billion, I was opposed to the initial billion." McCain, reportedly said, "I can't imagine that any taxpayer of America would have thought that the TARP, the financial recovery money, would be used now to subsidize the sale of automobiles in America."

Access a release from Senator Stabenow (
click here). Access a 7/27 release from the Alliance (click here). Access the CARS website for additional information (click here). Access a release and the DOT letter from the two Senators (click here); and another release (click here). Access a release from Senator Levin (click here). Access a lengthy release from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with videos of floor speeches and links to additional information including the roll call vote (click here). Access the Fox News report (click here).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senate Hearing On Climate Change & National Security

Jul 30: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing entitled, Climate Change and National Security. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included former Senator John Warner (R-VA); Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn USN (Ret.) Member, Military Advisory Board, Center for Naval Analyses; and representatives from the Truman National Security Project; and Baker Hostetler.

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) said, "I’m going to stipulate that the central finding in your reports -- that climate change poses serious national security threats -- is true. I’m even going to stipulate that all of the science informing your reports is true. What I am going to focus on is the link between developing American resources and America’s national security. And I’m going to explain why passing cap-and-trade won’t solve any of the legitimate issues . . ." Inhofe said that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson agreed that unilateral action to address global warming is futile without meaningful participation from China, India, and other developing countries and that Waxman-Markey "would reduce global temperatures by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by 2050."

Senator Inhofe concluded that "passing cap-and-trade will do great harm to our economic security, to our energy security, and therefore to America’s national security. We cannot on the one hand de-industrialize America and on the other hope that America will remain a great power. The sensible solution here is to free ourselves from Middle East oil by producing more of our resources -- all of our resources -- right here at home, and to pursue policies to encourage manufacturing here in the United States."

Senator Warner testified that, "During my fifth and last Senate term, I was privileged to Chair the Armed Services Committee and serve on this Committee [EPW]. Many retired military officers, and concerned citizens visited with me to discuss the concepts of how America’s military policy, energy policy, and climate policy were interrelated. Unquestionably, they are!" Senator Warner quoted a number of high-ranking public officials and experts and said, "As the testimony of this panel today will confirm, it is the men and women in uniform who will likely be called upon by the President to address adverse situations brought on by erratic climate changes."

Senator Warner recommended that the Armed Services Committee, compile a more detailed record on the security issue and said the "Armed Services Committee has a reputation for achieving consensus on vital issues with a high degree of bipartisanship. History records this record over a half century, for that level of bipartisanship is a duty owed on matters relating to our nation’s security, and, especially to the uniformed personnel and their families." He said, "Bipartisanship is key to today’s public acceptance and endurance and implementation in the future of proposed legislation. The challenges and problems must be addressed by all nations – it’s a global problem with consequences and burdens to be shared by all people. . ." He concluded saying, "The United States must lead, and now. Our nation is among the major emitters of pollution. Only if we lead, stepping forward with a long."

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn testified that the CNA Military Advisory Board has produced two reports, the first in April, 2007 and the latest in May of this year, focused on the topic of this hearing. The first examined the national security threats of climate change, and the most recent analyzed the national security threats of America’s current and future energy posture. He said, "I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. We are in the midst of the most serious global financial crisis of our lifetimes. After a year of examining our nation’s energy use, it is clear to all members of our military board that our economic, energy, climate change and national security challenges are intertwined and co-dependent. Our past pattern of energy use is responsible, in no small measure, for our economic situation today. If we do not adequately address our nation’s growing energy demand and climate change now, in wise and visionary ways, future financial crises will most certainly dwarf this one. . .

"Without bold action now to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, our national security will be at greater risk. Fierce global competition and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuel will be a major part of the future strategic landscape. Moving toward clean, independent, domestic energy choices lessens that danger and significantly helps us confront the serious challenge of global climate change." He concluded, ". . .if we act with boldness and vision now, future generations of Americans will look back on this as a time when we came together as a Nation and transformed daunting challenge and worry into opportunity, a better quality of life and a more secure future for our world."

Jonathan Powers, Retired U.S. Army Captain and Chief Operating Officer Truman National Security Project testified that , "When it comes to climate change, we as a nation have been trying to lead by rank for too long. It is time we begin to lead by example. America is at a critical point, and our security relies heavily on how we address this growing threat. A recent report from the Center for New American Security rightly points out that 'Climate change… may not be a threat that soldiers can attack and defeat, but it is likely to affect the safety and prosperity of every American, both through its effects on global stability and on our local environments.' . . This committee will play a critical roll in once again establishing America as a nation that leads by example. It is vitally important that you develop domestic legislation that will protect our environment and ensure our national security. We can only accomplish this by reducing greenhouse gases, providing clean energy incentives, freeing us from foreign dependence, and growing our economy."

David B. Rivkin, Jr. a Partner with Baker & Hostetler LLP and Co-Chairman of the Center for Law and Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified that, "advocates of the unilateral cap-and-trade approach must rely on either the moral example of the United States’ imposing emission limits on itself, or on the threat or use of trade penalties, to induce other countries to reduce their emissions. These strategies are unlikely to work. . . If climate change is really an issue of national security, it must be treated like one. The United States should approach issues of climate change with the same prudence and realism as any other national security issue. A unilateral cap-and-trade regime which would do nothing for the climate is a huge leap in the wrong direction. . ."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access Senator Inhofe statement (click here).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NAS Project Says Deployment Of Energy Options Is "Urgent"

Jul 28: The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council released the capstone report of the America's Energy Future project entitled, Technology and Transformation, which indicates that with a sustained national commitment, the United States could obtain substantial energy-efficiency improvements, new sources of energy, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through the accelerated deployment of existing and emerging energy technologies. According to the report, initiating deployment of these technologies is urgent; actions taken -- or not taken -- between now and 2020 to develop and demonstrate several key technologies will largely determine the nation's energy options for many decades to come.

A release on the report says that deploying existing energy-efficiency technologies is a near-term and low-cost way to reduce U.S. energy demand. Fully deploying the technologies in buildings alone could save enough power to eliminate the need for new electricity generating plants to meet growing U.S. demand. However, some new plants would likely still be needed to address regional supply imbalances, replace obsolete technology, or present more environmentally friendly sources of electricity. Deployment of efficiency technologies in the building, industrial, and transportation sectors could reduce projected U.S. energy use by 15 percent in 2020 and by 30 percent in 2030. Even greater energy savings would be possible with more aggressive policies and incentives.

The report indicates that the United States has many promising options for obtaining new sources of electricity over the next two to three decades, especially if carbon capture and storage and evolutionary nuclear technologies can be deployed at an adequate scale. However, the deployment of these new technologies is very likely to result in higher consumer prices for electricity. In addition, the nation's electrical grid will require expansion and modernization to enhance its reliability and security, accommodate changes in load growth and electricity demand, and to enable the deployment of new energy efficiency and supply technologies, especially intermittent wind and solar energy.

In the transportation sector, petroleum will continue to be an indispensable fuel in the coming decades, but maintaining current rates of domestic petroleum production (about 5.1 million barrels per day in 2008) will be challenging. There are limited options for replacing petroleum or reducing petroleum use before 2020, but there are more substantial long-term options that could begin to make significant contributions by 2030 or 2035. Reductions in petroleum use could be obtained through increased vehicle efficiency, production of alternative liquid fuels such as cellulosic ethanol or coal-and-biomass fuels, and expanding deployment of battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

The report says that substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors are achievable over the next two to three decades. In both cases, adopting a portfolio approach -- deploying a variety of alternative technologies aimed at reducing emissions -- would be necessary. For the electricity sector, enabling this portfolio approach will require demonstrating, within the next decade, that carbon capture and storage technologies are technically and commercially viable in both new and existing power plants and in liquid fuels production. It will also be necessary to demonstrate the commercial viability of evolutionary nuclear plants.

The report indicates that to begin accelerated deployments of new energy technologies by 2020, and to ensure that innovative ideas continue to be explored, the public and private sectors will need extensive research development and demonstration over the next decade. A broad portfolio approach, supporting basic research through the demonstration stage, will likely be more effective than targeted efforts aimed at identifying technology winners and losers. At the demonstration stage, high-priority technologies include carbon capture and storage, evolutionary nuclear technologies, cellulosic ethanol, and advanced light-duty vehicles. The more long-term research and development needs include new technologies for producing liquid fuels from renewable resources, advanced batteries and fuel cells, large-scale electricity storage, enhanced geothermal power, and advanced solar photovoltaic technologies. Finally, the report recommends that because many barriers exist that could delay or prevent technology deployment, sustained policy and regulatory actions, as well as other forms of incentives, should be employed to drive adoption.

The report is the third and final in a series of reports from the National Academies' America's Energy Future project, which was undertaken to stimulate and inform a constructive national dialogue about the nation’s energy future. The first report dealt with the extensive R&D necessary for liquid fuels from biomass and coal [
See WIMS 5/29/09]. The second report dealt with electricity from renewables [See WIMS 6/17/09].

The America's Energy Future project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, BP America, Dow Chemical Company Foundation, Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation, GE Energy, General Motors Corp., Intel Corp., and the W.M. Keck Foundation and a number of endowed funds which perpetually support the work of the National Research Council.

Access a release from NAS (click here). Access the America's Energy Future project website for links to all report and related information (click here).

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Energy & Climate Focus Of U.S.-China Dialogue Meeting

Jul 28: President Barack Obama addressed the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington on Monday, July 27. The President laid out a framework of his vision for yet another critical aspect of American foreign policy -- the U.S. relationship with China, which he called "as important as any bilateral relationship in the world." The President identified President Nixon’s visit as a pivotal moment, he described how the Cold War era had limited the relationship between the two countries to a narrow set of issues, but that it was now time to seek cooperation on mutual interests on a much broader scale.

Following a discussion of the importance of U.S.-Climate relations on critical economic issues, the President listed the number two priority issue as energy and climate change. He said, "Second, we can cooperate to advance our mutual interest in a clean, secure, and prosperous energy future. The United States and China are the two largest consumers of energy in the world. We are also the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. Let's be frank: Neither of us profits from a growing dependence on foreign oil, nor can we spare our people from the ravages of climate change unless we cooperate. Common sense calls upon us to act in concert.

"Both of our countries are taking steps to transform our energy economies. Together we can chart a low carbon recovery; we can expand joint efforts at research and development to promote the clean and efficient use of energy; and we can work together to forge a global response at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and beyond. And the best way to foster the innovation that can increase our security and prosperity is to keep our markets open to new ideas, new exchanges, and new sources of energy."

President Obama said, "Let us be honest: We know that some are wary of the future. Some in China think that America will try to contain China's ambitions; some in America think that there is something to fear in a rising China. I take a different view. And I believe President Hu takes a different view, as well. I believe in a future where China is a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations; a future when our nations are partners out of necessity, but also out of opportunity. This future is not fixed, but it is a destination that can be reached if we pursue a sustained dialogue like the one that you will commence today, and act on what we hear and what we learn. . ."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also commented on energy and climate change and her opening comments. She said, "As the world’s two biggest emitters, we must demonstrate to the developed and developing world that clean energy and economic growth can go hand-in-hand. We are already involved in promising partnerships. In Beijing, I toured a geo-thermal plant that is a true U.S.-Chinese collaboration. General Electric has provided high-tech equipment to produce heat and power with half the emissions, and far less water usage than the coal plants that are typically relied on. And Chinese businesses build the steam turbines that help to power the plant. This plant saves costs and provides clean energy -- including heat for the U.S. Embassy."

In a State Department briefing on the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change Issues described further details of subsequent meetings where there was substantial focus on climate change and clean energy. He said in a plenary session, Secretary Chu gave compelling PowerPoint presentation that focused both on the science and technology aspects of climate change. On the Chinese side, two vice premiers from the NDRC -- Vice Premier Zhang Guobao spoke on energy issues and Vice Premier Xie Zhenhua talked about the substantial steps that China is taking to limit CO2 emissions.

Following the plenary session, there was a special session on climate change, and the conversation between the two sides continued. On the U.S. side, John Holdren spoke on what the science is telling us -- noted the scientific view that temperature increase ought to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial times, and talked about the impacts of climate change. Carol Browner described the Obama Administration’s domestic efforts on clean energy and climate change, and Stern talked about the state of U.S.-China cooperation and efforts on the international front. Mr. Xie spoke again for China, as did Mr. Zhang, and also Madame Ye. She spoke on forest efforts in China.

Overall, Stern said, "I think it was a quite constructive day, which, of course, had the unusual feature of bringing together many cabinet and sub-cabinet level officials on each side in a way that allowed them to hear the perspectives from the other. I think the level and the breadth of Chinese and U.S. participation highlighted the importance of the issue to both countries and the degree to which climate and clean energy are becoming increasingly seen as interrelated to both economic and national security issues facing both countries."

Today (July 28) the U.S. and China signed the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Cooperation in Climate Change, Energy, and the Environment. Secretary Clinton said, "This memorandum builds on past efforts, including the Ten Year Framework for Energy Environment Cooperation, and highlights the importance of climate change in our bilateral relationship by creating a platform for climate policy dialogue and cooperation. It also provides our countries with direction as we work together to support international climate negotiations and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. During the last two days, we’ve had extensive discussions at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue about what the United States and China are doing to reduce emissions, how we can move forward in advance of the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December, and the steps we intend to take to promote sustainable low-carbon economic growth."

July 29, 2009: Update: Access the full text of the U.S.-China Memorandum of Understanding (click here). Access a summary and links to documents from the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (click here).

Access an overview of the President's remarks and link to a video and the full text (click here). Access Secretary Clinton's comments (click here). Access the full text of the State Department briefing (click here). Access the full text of the memo signing ceremony (click here). Access the State Department China website for links to more information (click here). Access the China Daily coverage of the Dialogue meetings (click here).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Role Of Agriculture & Forestry In Global Warming Legislation

Jul 22: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and other Administration officials and agriculture interests testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) on, The Role of Agriculture and Forestry in Global Warming Legislation. Witnesses testifying included representatives from the: National Farmers Union; American Farm Bureau Federation; Forest Climate Working Group; the Bipartisan Policy Center; and key Administration officials including: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of ; Lisa Jackson, U.S EPA Administrator; and Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology.

In an opening statement, Chairman Harkin said, "The challenge ahead of us is daunting, and yet if we are to honor our responsibility to future generations we cannot sidestep it. . . While this overall transformation strategy is clear, the task is far from simple. Our production, delivery, and use of energy are incredibly large and pervasive in our lives. We need to drastically increase efficiency throughout our energy economy, and we need to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to energy derived from domestic renewable energy resources. . .

"Agriculture and forestry can play a central role in this energy transition and earn economic rewards for doing so. . . With good reason, we hear a lot of concern expressed about projected costs to consumers, farmers, ranchers, and other businesses from proposed energy and global warming legislation. I share those concerns, and that is why I believe we must do our best to analyze costs and find the most economical, commonsense ways to achieve critically important results. . . I am convinced that this energy transformation holds the key, not only to economic recovery today, but to major job growth and economic development for decades to come. . . The energy and global warming challenge ahead is unlike anything we have faced before, and yet experience shows America is up to the task of leading the world in solving it."

Ranking Member Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), raised many concerns in his opening statement. Senator Chambliss outlined several concerns with the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) and the "tremendous costs associated with its provisions." He said the cap and trade program will "undoubtedly raise production costs for farmers and ranchers." He called for more hearings on the legislation. He said he has asked USDA and Texas A&M University to conduct economic analyses of the bill, with special attention to the effects at the farm gate level and to consumers.

Chambliss said according to the Farm Bureau, full implementation of the bill will cause farm income to drop $5 billion compared to the baseline. Also, the National Cotton Council says cotton producers will see $300 to 400 million in increased production costs, rice producers will see their costs increase $80 to $150 per acre and Farm Bureau estimates corn and soybean farmers will see their costs increase over $20 per acre by 2020.

Senator Chambliss said, “Like most of my Senate colleagues, I want to support a bill that provides greater energy security for Americans and addresses climate change. Unfortunately, the House bill is not the answer. I want to support a bill that creates all kinds of jobs, not just green jobs. That bill should also reflect the realities of producing food, fiber, feed, and fuel in the United States and recognize the unique aspects of rural America. I support greater energy conservation and efficiency. I support the development of nuclear energy, renewable and alternative energy sources, and new drilling. We can do all of these things while addressing the environmental aspects of energy production and use. I’m ready to work with any of my colleagues who share similar goals.”

In his testimony, USDA's Vilsack released the results of USDA economic analysis showing that the economic benefits to agriculture from the cap and trade legislation will likely outweigh the costs in the short term, and that the economic benefits from offsets markets will easily outpace increased input costs over the long term. Vilsack said, "Although we realize there are a variety of specific approaches that can be used to achieve clean energy and climate goals, over the last several weeks, USDA has analyzed costs and benefits of the House-passed climate legislation for agriculture. Our analysis demonstrates that the economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers can potentially outpace -- perhaps significantly -- the costs from climate legislation.

Contrary to other testimony and statements, Vilsack said, "The agriculture sector will benefit directly from allowance revenues allocated to finance incentives for renewable energy and agricultural emissions reductions during the first five years of the H.R. 2454 cap and trade program. Funds for agricultural emissions reductions are estimated to range from about $75 million to $100 million annually from 2012-2016. H.R. 2454's creation of an offset market will create opportunities for the agricultural sector. In particular, our analysis indicates that annual net returns to farmers range from about $1 billion per year in 2015-20 to almost $15-20 billion in 2040-50, not accounting for the costs of implementing offset practices."

Vilsack continued, "So, let me be clear about the implications of this analysis. In the short term, the economic benefits to agriculture from cap and trade legislation will likely outweigh the costs. In the long term, the economic benefits from offsets markets easily trump increased input costs from cap and trade legislation. Let me also note that we believe these figures are conservative because we aren't able to model the types of technological change that are very likely to help farmers produce more crops and livestock with fewer inputs. Second, the analysis doesn't take into account the higher commodity prices that farmers will very likely receive as a result of enhanced renewable energy markets and retirement of environmentally sensitive lands domestically and abroad. Of course, any economic analysis such as ours has limitations. But, again, we believe our analysis is conservative -- it's quite possible farmers will actually do better."

The American Farm Bureau, completely countered the testimony of Secretary Vilsack and concluded, ". . .we remain very concerned about the broad potential adverse impacts of cap-and-trade on agriculture. Even though some say agriculture will benefit, that will depend to a great degree on where the producer is located, what he or she grows, and how his or her business model can take advantage of any provisions in the legislation. Not every dairy farmer can afford to capture methane – it is a capital-intensive endeavor. Not every farmer lives in a region where wind turbines are an option. Not every farmer can take advantage of no-till. Not every farmer has the land to set aside to plant trees. . . Yet, every farmer has production costs to meet. Nearly all of us rely on fertilizer. We all drive tractors. We all use energy in our production. We know our costs will rise. And frankly, we are very concerned about the impact of this legislation on our livelihood."

The Farm Bureau also emphasized the importance of an international agreement and stated, "Unless other countries, such as China and India, adopt similar emissions restrictions, the United States, if it adopts this legislation, will be imposing tremendous costs on our economy and our children and grandchildren and all for very little if any benefit. . . A ton of GHG emitted in China is the same as a ton of GHG emitted in Virginia. Regulating emissions in Virginia without regulating emissions in China will have little or no effect on the environment. Most experts agree that if the House legislation worked exactly as planned, it would not lower temperatures by more than a few tenths of a degree by 2050. Most experts agree that the United States cannot solve this problem alone. . . "

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access a statement from Senator Harkin (click here). Access a statement from Senator Chambliss (click here). Access the 13-page USDA Preliminary Analysis of the Effects of H.R. 2454 On U.S. Agriculture (click here).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Local Views On Climate Change & Clean Energy Jobs

Jul 21: As part of the continuing series of climate legislation hearings, the Senate Environment and Pubic Works (EPW) Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a hearing entitled, Clean Energy Jobs, Climate-Related Policies and Economic Growth -- State and Local Views. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Governors from Colorado; Washington; North Dakota; and New Jersey and Mayors from Burlington, Vermont; Alexandria, Virginia; and Trenton, New Jersey; an Arkansas State House Representative.

In an opening statement Chairman Boxer said, "We are facing two historic challenges today -- the current recession, and the dangers of unchecked global warming. And we have the opportunity to address both with a single solution that will create millions of clean energy jobs in America, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and protect our children and grandchildren from pollution.

"I agree with President Obama, who said: 'We can remain one of the world's leading importers of foreign oil, or we can make the investments that would allow us to become the world's leading exporter of renewable energy. We can let climate change continue to go unchecked, or we can help stop it. We can let the jobs of tomorrow be created abroad, or we can create those jobs right here in America and lay the foundation for lasting prosperity.' Legislation that provides incentives for clean energy will create jobs, increase our energy efficiency, save families and businesses money in energy costs and drive technological innovation."

EPW Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), with a completely opposite view said, "As I’ve stated before, cap-and-trade benefits the coasts at the expense of the heartland. Cap-and-trade divides rather than unites America behind a sensible, workable energy policy." Senator Inhofe cited the testimony of Arkansas State Representative John Lowery, a Democrat, who said, "When it comes to Waxman-Markey, unfortunately this bill will devastate my region. It will kill jobs, harm our school system, throw back our economic progress gained the last few years, and imposes a disproportionate burden on Arkansans."

Inhofe continued saying, "Rep. Lowery also speaks eloquently about a 'way of life' that would perish under cap-and-trade. He is referring to life in Arkansas and rural America. Cap-trade supporters see rural America as wasteful and environmentally backward. They see those in rural America as mere contingencies in the battle to save the planet. But these are real people with real jobs and real families. And for them, cap-and-trade will spell economic disaster. The debate over cap-and-trade does is not partisan; it’s regional. And I can tell you, when it comes to energy policy, Democrats in the Midwest and the South think differently than Speaker Pelosi and Henry Waxman."

Access the hearing website for links to testimony, Senator Boxer's statement and a webcast (
click here). Access the complete statement from Senator Inhofe (click here).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

EPA Administrator Jackson Speaks Out On Environmental Justice

Jul 21: U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson delivered a major speech on environmental justice to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). NEJAC is conducting a Public Meeting in Arlington, Virginia from July 21 – 23. The Council is participating in discussions about EPA priorities related to environmental justice, school air toxics monitoring, recommendations for goods movement impacts on air quality, and other topics.

The following is an excerpt from the Administrator's speech and a reaction from the Sierra Club. Jackson said, "Earlier this year we also provided $800,000 in grants to fund environmental justice projects. Those will address environmental and public health issues in 28 states. And we’ve also been working hard to expand our message to new communities. I just returned from the 80th annual meeting of the League of United Latin American Citizens, where we discussed the unique challenges their community faces. Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking to a tribal group. And I’ve had several meetings with many of your local Environmental Justice partners across the country.

"But let me say loud and clear: this is just the beginning. The inauguration of the first African American president, and my subsequent confirmation as the first African American Administrator of this Agency, has forever changed the face of environmentalism in this country. I hope it sends a clear signal that environmentalism does not come in any one shape, size, or look. And if anyone lives out this truth on a daily basis -- it’s you. Environmentalism is not only about protecting wilderness or saving polar ice caps. As important as those things are, environmentalism is also about protecting people in the places where they live, and work, and raise families. It’s about making our urban and suburban neighborhoods safe and clean, about protecting children in their schools, and workers at their jobs. . .

"We have to go to every community – especially those that have been left out and left behind – and impress upon them that the issues of environmental protection are their issues, their work is our work, and their struggles are our struggles. I want you to know that I get that. I also want to be sure we’re not only talking about downsides. We have in President Obama a leader who rejects the false choice between a green environment and a green economy. That opens up opportunities to create green jobs in the places where both the 'green' and 'jobs' are absolutely vital. . .

"In the years ahead, I want to see a full-scale revitalization of what we do and how we think about environmental justice. This is not an issue we can afford to relegate to the margins. It has to be part of our thinking in every decision we make. And not just at EPA. We need the nonprofit sector. We need the academic sector. And we need the private sector. It’s absolutely essential that we have a wide range of voices raising these issues. . . My friends, the EPA is once again guided by a broad vision of public health protection and environmental preservation. Environmental justice is central to that vision. I look forward to making real progress in the months and years ahead, and continuing this important partnership."

Sierra Club applauded Administrator Lisa Jackson's call for greater diversity in the environmental movement and indicated it "takes pride in our leadership on these issues." Sierra Club President Allison Chin said, "Now, with the leadership of a diversity council and my election as our first Asian-American president, Sierra Club is committed to becoming an even more welcoming and inclusive organization."

Leslie Fields, Director of the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships program said, "The environmental movement should belong to anyone who wants clean air, clean water and a healthy planet for their families. All too often people face disproportionate risks of harm because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition, and we applaud Administrator Jackson for her sincere leadership in supporting more diversity in the environmental movement so all people can have a voice."

Access the complete text of Jackson's speech (
click here). Access a release from Sierra Club with links to additional information (click here). Access the agenda for the NEJAC meeting (click here). Access the NEJAC website for additional information (click here). Access EPA's Environmental Justice website for more information (click here).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

U.S. & International Auto Makers Oppose E15 Fuel Waiver

Jul 20: Despite the recent support announced by 10 Midwestern governors supporting the proposal [See WIMS 7/17/09] that ethanol blending levels be increased from 10 to 15 percent (i.e. E15 Waiver), the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) filed comments to U.S. EPA opposing the waiver request. EPA extended the comment period by 60 days to July 20, 2009, on a waiver application submitted by Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers on March 6, 2009 [See WIMS 5/15/09].

Michael Stanton, President and CEO of AIAM, issued a statement saying, "AIAM and its member companies have long recognized the importance of addressing climate change and have supported efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while significantly increasing fuel economy. With so much progress made by government and industry in recent months to meet these goals, we believe it would be premature for EPA to approve the near-term distribution and sale of fuels containing more than 10% ethanol without further testing to prevent unintended negative consequences.

"The Clean Air Act requires producers of any new fuel or fuel additive to show that those fuels will not contribute to the failure of vehicles or engines to meet emissions standards. Most vehicles currently being driven by American consumers were not designed to operate on ethanol blends greater than E10. If EPA were to approve the sale of such fuels, we believe a range of problems would result that could jeopardize the control or reduction of automotive emissions. These problems include the potential for immediate harm to, or failure of, highly calibrated emissions systems that were not designed to operate on such 'mid-level' fuels as E15. Further, many vehicles today are equipped with onboard diagnostic (OBD) systems as part of an integrated emissions control system. Testing to determine how E15 may negatively affect the proper operation of OBD systems is insufficient at this time.

"The consequence of potential equipment malfunctions caused by the use of E15 extends beyond failure to sufficiently control emissions. It will also create a high risk of consumer dissatisfaction due to drivability problems which would needlessly damage product reputation and imperil customer satisfaction with dealer service. Such drivability problems may also tempt consumers to tamper with emission controls in an effort to improve performance. Owner satisfaction may be further jeopardized by the reduction of fuel economy they will experience as a consequence of switching from E10 to E15.

"Another issue yet to be sufficiently studied is the potential negative impact E15 would have on the fuel production, distribution and marketing infrastructure. In particular, EPA should fully evaluate how the addition of a new blend of fuel will affect service station storage and pump systems and the ability of customers to select the right fuel for his or her vehicle. AIAM and other industry groups whose products and customers would be affected by the introduction of E15 are working cooperatively with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the needed studies to assess the impacts of introducing mid-level ethanol blends to the market. These studies have been identified and stakeholders are moving ahead to fill gaps in current knowledge about the practical consequences of increasing the ethanol content in gasoline. To approve a waiver before these studies are completed would be premature. We encourage EPA to delay approval of the waiver until sufficient testing has been conducted."

AIAM represents 13 international motor vehicle manufacturers who account for 40 percent of all passenger cars and light trucks sold annually in the U.S. Member companies include Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

Similarly, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Alliance), representing 11 vehicle manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz USA, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen; also opposes the waiver. The Alliance said specifically, "The Alliance asks EPA to deny this waiver application, in whole and in part, because insufficient data are available to determine whether the proposed fuel blend(s) can satisfy the legal requirements under the Clean Air Act section 211(f)(4). The Alliance intends these comments to be read in conjunction with comments being submitted separately by the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment (AllSAFE), of which the Alliance is a member. The AllSAFE comments discuss more fully our concerns regarding the concept of a partial waiver. We incorporate the AllSAFE comments here by reference."

The Alliance said further in its details comments, "Historically, EPA has never allowed conventional vehicles to use gasoline blends with more than 10% ethanol. Until very recently, neither auto manufacturers nor others had a reason to design, test or warrant conventional vehicles (intended for the U.S. market) for use with higher ethanol blends. As a result, the public and private data bases are very limited. The application presents a serious concern for automakers and consumers. It is asking for approval of ethanol blends for which the vast majority of the current fleet and the near term future fleet have not been designed or validated. Flexible Fueled Vehicles (FFVs) can handle any ethanol blend from E0 to E85, and while their numbers are growing rapidly, they still represent a minority of the fleet."

In announcing their support for the waiver, the Midwest Governors indicated that allowing greater blending levels would increase demand for conventional ethanol, an entirely domestic energy source. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, chair of the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) said, “The Midwest has vast natural resources, the scientific know-how, and the skilled workforce necessary to lead the world in the production of climate-friendly biofuels. We must capitalize on these strengths in order to promote the use of low carbon fuels across the country.”

Access a release from AIAM (
click here). Access AIAM's 35-page comment submission (click here). Access the detailed 76-page comments from the alliance (click here). Access the EPA Docket for the E15 Waiver for all documents to review all comments (click here). Access the release from the Governors (click here). Access additional information from EPA's website (click here).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Grants & New 2008 Wind Technologies Market Report

Jul 16: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced the selection of 28 new wind energy projects for up to $13.8 million in funding -- including $12.8 million in Recovery Act (ARRA) funds. The projects will help address market and deployment challenges including wind turbine research and testing and transmission analysis, planning, assessments. Along with the new awards, Secretary Chu announced the release of DOE’s 2008 Wind Technologies Market Report, detailing $16 billion in investment in wind projects made in the U.S. in 2008 -- making the U.S. the leader in annual wind energy capacity growth, as well as cumulative wind energy capacity.

DOE’s new report, a comprehensive overview of developments in the U.S. wind power market found that wind power capacity increased by 8,558 megawatts (MW) in 2008. This $16 billion investment in wind projects made the U.S. the fastest-growing wind power market in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Wind power contributed 42% of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2008; for the fourth consecutive year, wind power was the second-largest new resource added to the U.S. electrical grid in nameplate capacity.

The report, which has been issued annually since 2007, analyzes a range of developments in the wind market, including trends in wind project installations, turbine size, turbine prices, wind project costs, project performance, and wind power prices. The report also details trends in project financing, a key concern for the wind industry in the current economic climate, as well as trends in project ownership, public policy, and the integration of wind power into the electrical grid. DOE’s report provides the wind industry, state and local policy makers, and the general public with valuable information on the state of wind power in the United States.

Some of the key findings of the report include:
  • The U.S. continues to lead the world in annual capacity growth and overtook Germany to take the lead in cumulative wind capacity. For the fourth straight year, the United States led the world in wind capacity additions, capturing roughly 30% of the worldwide market.
  • The cumulative wind capacity installed in the U.S. at the end of 2008 would, in an average year, be able to supply roughly 1.9% of the nation’s electricity consumption.
  • Soaring demand for wind has spurred expansion of wind turbine manufacturing in the U.S. As a result of this continued expansion, the American Wind Energy Association estimates that the share of domestically manufactured wind turbine components has grown from less than 30% in 2005 to roughly 50% in 2008, and that roughly 8,400 new domestic manufacturing jobs were added in the wind sector in 2008 alone.
  • Texas led all states with 7,118 MW of total wind capacity installed, followed by Iowa (2791 MW) and California (2517 MW). Seven states now have more than 1,000 MW installed, and 13 have more than 500 MW.
  • Iowa and Minnesota have the highest levels of wind penetration (in-state wind generation as a percentage of all in-state generation). Seven states have wind penetration levels greater than 5%; six utilities have in excess of 10% wind on their systems.
  • Wind power remained competitive in wholesale power markets in 2008, with average wind power prices at or below the low end of the wholesale power market price range, although upward pressure on wind power prices looks set to continue.

Access a release listing the grants and link to the complete 2008 Wind report (click here).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Parties At Odds On Climate Legislation Competitiveness Impacts

Jul 16: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works (EPW) Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held another in a continuing series of meetings on various aspect of climate change legislation. The hearing was entitled, “Ensuring and Enhancing U.S. Competitiveness While Moving Toward A Clean Energy Economy.” Witnesses testifying included representatives from: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB); GE Energy Infrastructure; the Center for American Progress Action Fund; and the National Black Chamber of Commerce.

In an opening statement, Chairman Boxer said, "we must ensure that our existing industries receive fair treatment as we transition to a clean energy economy. We need to make sure that our industries that require a lot of energy operate on a level playing field with manufacturers in other countries of the world. The legislation recently passed in the House contains several provisions to assist industries that are energy intensive and that are subject to international competition, and we are carefully reviewing these provisions as we develop our bill here in the Senate. . . Other countries, especially China and Germany, are already building their clean energy industries. I believe that when we pass strong clean energy legislation that cuts our dependence on foreign oil and protects our children from pollution, we will also provide the impetus that will restore American leadership in the world economy."

Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) said the climate change legislation is based on ". . .faulty logic, which goes as follows: if government imposes taxes and mandates, increases bureaucracy, and spends without restraint, then government can transform the economy and create jobs. This is the faulty logic of cap-and-trade, designed to hide what cap-and-trade truly is -- a massive new tax on American families -- and what it would do -- destroy jobs here at home and send them to China and India. . . In total, Waxman-Markey would cause a net reduction of 2.3 million to 2.7 million jobs. Again, that’s a net reduction, including green jobs. . . This bill hands out pink slips to workers and then promises the unemployed that they will get assistance from the government. Message to the Waxman-Markey unemployed: don’t hold your breath. If this bill actually created jobs, then there would be no need for any of this. . ."

KPCB, a venture capital firm that has launched over 500 companies including Amazon, Google and AOL, testified urging the legislators to "put a price on carbon and a cap on carbon emissions." The company said, "Think of Copenhagen as an opportunity to create world markets and momentum for a low-carbon future, just as the internet set the world on information-rich future. Some say we shouldn't move until China moves. In fact, China is moving full speed ahead -- with or without us. Senators, there is still time for us to get into this global race. But we need low-carbon policies to exploit America’s strengths -- innovation and entrepreneurs. I know that building such a policy is a heavy political lift. But I can tell you, without doubt, that bad energy policy has cost our country dearly, and the costs of continuing it are incalculable."

The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) testified that it was concerned about its 95,000 business members of and that any legislation Congress enacts must consider the impact that costs will have on small and minority-owned businesses. NBCC said the House Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454) "will negatively impact the most vulnerable of our society. . . the bill doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, and it does so at a very high cost -- especially high for working families and small business owners." NBCC used the same CRA International analysis that Senator Inhofe cited and said that, "Green jobs gained would be swamped by jobs lost in old industries and businesses, leading to a net loss of 2.3 million to 2.7 million jobs." Countering the testimony of KPCB, NBCC said the, "House bill would limit our ability to compete internationally. Our study found that there is no environmental impact to justify this loss of income and siphoning away our nation’s wealth as long as developing nations such as China and India aren’t part of the program. They’ll be happy to open the factories and the businesses we can’t afford to build here."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, opening remarks and a webcast (
click here).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ozone & Climate Experts Meet To Rectify Treaties

Jul 16: An historic meeting, bringing together experts on the ozone layer and ones on climate change has been concluded this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting centered on how to maximize action on hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) -- industrial gases that are ozone-friendly replacements but whose increased use over coming years could have serious impacts on global warming. The meeting, attended by national and international ozone and climate experts, was facilitated by the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and its Montreal Protocol in cooperation with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol.

The delegates looked at how the two treaties can work together to best address HFCs -- replacements for foams, air conditioning units and fridges -- as a contribution to meeting the climate change challenge. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director said, "In a financially constrained world, facing a climate-constrained one, governments need to maximize the economic and social benefits of action across the many environmental challenges of our time. The ozone treaties and the climate convention are natural allies in the push to combat climate change and are thus natural allies in assisting the world to realize a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy -- I welcome this closer collaboration and look forward to hearing at first hand how this can be taken forward for the benefit of the climate and the global environment as a whole."

The Report by the Secretariat on the environmentally sound management of banks of ozone-depleting substances sets the stage for the meeting saying, "Over the past 20 years the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has reduced the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances by more than 97 per cent from historic baseline levels. Because most ozone-depleting substances are potent global warming gases, the Protocol has also eliminated at least 11 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents, making it a significant contributor to efforts to combat climate change.

"While the Protocol has reduced production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances, such substances have historically been used in various types of user applications such as refrigeration and fire-fighting equipment and foam products currently in use. In addition, many companies and countries hold virgin, recovered, contaminated or confiscated ozone-depleting substances in discrete stockpiles. Together, the total amount of substances contained in existing equipment, products and stockpiles are referred to as “ozone-depleting substance banks”. The Protocol does not control ozone-depleting substance banks and, in the absence of legislation or incentives, they are likely to be vented or disposed of with little regard for the consequences for the ozone layer and climate change. Given this context, the Parties to the Montreal Protocol adopted decision XX/7, which called for, among other things, the present study on funding opportunities for the destruction of ozone-depleting-substance banks."

Access a release from UNEP (
click here). Access complete information and documents from the meeting (click here).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UN Head Presses For "Ambitious" Mid-Term Targets & Baselines

Jul 14: Five top United Nations officials have added their names to a petition urging world leaders to "seal the deal" in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December on an ambitious new climate change pact aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Joining the growing list of names (5,622 to date) are Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Pascal Lamy, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO); and Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

The officials signed the online petition, which will be presented to leaders at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Conference of the Parties (COP15) gathering in Copenhagen, where negotiations are expected to wrap up on a successor pact to the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012. The campaign calls for binding targets to be set on cutting emissions by 2020 and help for vulnerable countries so they can adapt to the effects of climate change. It also highlights the urgent need for a new deal that will spur ‘green’ growth, protect the planet and build a more sustainable and prosperous global economy that will benefit all countries and people. The interim binding targets issue has remained particularly contentious with major parties still far apart on the percent of greenhouse gas reduction and on the base year (i.e. 1990 or other) upon which to measure such reductions [See WIMS 7/13/09].

Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the cuts in emissions proposed by the world’s largest economies are not deep enough, warning that greater efforts must be exerted by governments if a meaningful agreement on climate change is to be reached in the Danish capital. The Secretary-General said the climate change commitments made by the leaders of those countries and other participants during the G8 and Major Economies Forum (MEF) meetings in L’Aquila, Italy, “while welcome, are not sufficient. The time for delays and half-measures is over. The personal leadership of every head of State or government is needed to seize this moment to protect people and the planet from one of the most serious challenges ever to confront humanity.” Ban said that the long-term 2050 target agreement [i.e. 80% by 2050] was not credible without “ambitious mid-term targets, and baselines.” Ban is calling for firm commitments to reduce their emissions by 2020 on the order of the 25 - 40 per cent below 1990 levels which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is required.

He said, with G8 countries responsible for more than 80 per cent of global emissions, “that is why they bear special responsibility for finding a solution to the political impasse. If they fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again… We stand at a historical crossroads. Business as usual is no longer viable.”

Access a release from the UN with links to the various organizations (click here). Access the Seal the Deal website for the petition, list of signers and campaign information (click here).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

UN Report On ESG Legal Responsibility Of Institutional Investors

Jul 14: A release from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) indicates that a powerful group of asset managers, representing around $2 trillion (USD) in assets under management, are arguing that integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into investment decisions is no longer just a luxury, but a legal responsibility. The case, outlined in a new report with the UNEP, underlines how the world's largest institutional investors -- such as pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, mutual funds and foundations -- have a central role in assisting the transition to a low carbon and resource efficient Green Economy.

The report indicates that professional investment advisors and service providers -- such as investment consultants and asset managers -- to institutional investors may have a far greater legal obligation to incorporate ESG issues into their investment services or face "a very real risk that they will be sued for negligence" if they do not. The 120-page report has been produced by the Asset Management Working Group of UNEP Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), a unique partnership between the UN's environmental arm and over 180 financial institutions worldwide. The report also provides indicative legal language that can be used to embed ESG considerations in the investment management agreements and related legal contracts between institutional investors and their asset managers.

The new 2009 report -- UNEP FI "Fiduciary II" - Fiduciary Responsibility - Legal and Practical Aspects of Integrating Environmental, Social and Governance Issues into Institutional Investment -- is a follow-up and update to an earlier 2005 report (i.e. Fiduciary I).

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said, "The significant environmental investments underpinning the current multi-trillion dollar stimulus packages are signaling the determination of some governments to make a transition to a more sustainable, 21st century economy. As investors return to the markets, the question remains whether the funds will only go to the brown economy of yesterday -- or to a new Green Economy. Market signals, creative market mechanisms and other signals and incentives can play a transformational role. This report also makes a powerful legal case for leadership in this area, underscoring the considered opinion of an influential group of asset managers that ESG issues are not peripheral but should be part of mainstream investment decision-making processes across the industry."

The report contains a message from the Asset Management Working Group which indicates, in part, ". .. with times of unusual crisis often come extraordinary moments of opportunity. For this reason, many of us in the field of responsible investment believe that the financial meltdown actually represents a unique opportunity to ‘recast’ some of the most basic tenets of fiduciary investment. After the fallout of the crisis, many fiduciaries will wisely look at the impact of the crisis on their investments, and look for new approaches to steward and allocate their assets."

The new UNEP FI report is released the day before the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Annual Event in Sydney, Australia, which will convene many of the world's largest institutional investors and where the report's findings will be deliberated. Over 560 institutions from the global investment community, representing more than US$18 trillion in assets, have now signed on to the PRI, an initiative incubated by UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact between 2003 and 2006. The PRI was launched in 2006 by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and endorsed in 2007 by current UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The PRI is an investor initiative in partnership with UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact. Convened by UNEP FI and the UN Global Compact, the PRI was established as a framework to help investors achieve better long-term investment returns and sustainable markets through better analysis of environmental, social and governance issues in the investment process and the exercise of responsible ownership practices (See contact below).

Access a lengthy release from UNEP with extensive quotes from report authors and links to additional information (
click here). Access the new Fiduciary II report (click here). Access the Fiduciary I report (click here). Access the PRI website for more information (click here). Access the PRI conference website for further details (click here).

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Breakthrough" & "Missed Opportunity" Of Climate Meetings

Jul 10: According to releases from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the organization sees both "breakthrough" and "missed opportunity" in the recent climate change meetings of the G8 and the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate held last week in L’Aquila, Italy. UCS saw a breakthrough in the July 9, MEF meeting and "missed opportunity" in the G8 summit [See WIMS 7/9/09]. In a press statement summing up the international meetings, even President Obama acknowledged that, "We did not reach agreement on every issue and we still have much work ahead on climate change. . ."

UCS noted that while the G8 leaders recognized the important benchmarks of holding global temperature increases below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) limiting their own emissions 80 percent by 2050, ". . .the failure to make any progress towards resolving the deep split among the G8 countries on the emissions cuts needed by 2020 is troubling. . . This lack of progress on 2020 targets and on financing led China, India, and other developing countries to refuse to agree to the goal of reducing global emissions 50 percent by 2050 in the MEF declaration. . . In short, the G8 summit represents a tremendous missed opportunity. With just five months to go, the heat is on the G8 leaders to inject political momentum into the climate negotiations. The limited progress made here in L'Aquila is nowhere near what's needed to get an ambitious and equitable climate deal in Copenhagen."

Regarding the MEF meeting, UCS said the leaders of the 20 largest world economies offered hope that at least one of the longstanding sticking points may be seriously addressed in the next few months. UCS indicated, "Financial and technology support to developing countries to limit their emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change is one of the most critical issues in the climate negotiations. The G-20 summit in September is the last time before Copenhagen that all of these leaders will be in one place together. If the initiative announced today by President Obama results in serious action on these issues by leaders at the G-20 meeting, it could be a real game-changer. The need for more ambitious near-term emissions reductions by industrialized countries, as well as the need for additional actions by major developing countries to constrain their emissions must also be addressed to get a strong climate agreement this December in Copenhagen. But today's announcement gives us hope that with sufficient political will, such an agreement is not out of reach."

Specifically, the MEF declaration said in part, "There is a particular and immediate need to assist the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to such effects. . . Further support will need to be mobilized, should be based on need, and will include resources additional to existing financial assistance. We will work together to develop, disseminate, and transfer, as appropriate, technologies that advance adaptation efforts. . . Financial resources for mitigation and adaptation will need to be scaled up urgently and substantially and should involve mobilizing resources to support developing countries. . . An arrangement to match diverse funding needs and resources should be created, and utilize where appropriate, public and private expertise. We agreed to further consider proposals for the establishment of international funding arrangements, including the proposal by Mexico for a Green Fund."

However, as WIMS discussed previously, the language included with the G8 and MEF declarations was extremely general and allusive [
See WIMS 7/9/09]. For example, while the developed countries agreed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 the base year upon which to make the measured reduction is indicated as "1990 or more recent years." The G8 nations also say they will "undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions," but again remain unspecific regarding a baseline year from which to measure reductions and instead say "baselines may vary" but "efforts need to be comparable." Further, the G8 calls for "major emerging economies" to collectively reduce emissions "significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year."

The MEF statement is even more general in some regards saying the countries "recognize the scientific view" that global average temperature "ought not to exceed 2 degrees C," and they will work between now and Copenhagen, with each other and under the Convention, to identify a "global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050."

In his statement following the MEF meeting President Obama outlined the difficulties ahead. He said, "We've made a good start. But I am the first one to acknowledge that progress on this issue will not be easy. And I think that one of the things we're going to have to do is fight the temptation towards cynicism, to feel that the problem is so immense that somehow we cannot make significant strides. It is no small task for 17 leaders to bridge their differences on an issue like climate change. We each have our national priorities and politics to contend with, and any steps we agree to here are intended to support and not replace the main U.N. negotiations with more than 190 countries.

"It's even more difficult in the context of a global recession, which I think adds to the fears that somehow addressing this issue will contradict the possibilities of robust global economic growth. But ultimately, we have a choice. We can either shape our future, or we can let events shape it for us. We can fall back on the stale debates and old divisions, or we can decide to move forward and meet this challenge together. I think it's clear from our progress today which path is preferable and which path we have chosen. We know that the problems we face are made by human beings. That means it's within our capacity to solve them. The question is whether we will have the will to do so, whether we'll summon the courage and exercise the leadership to chart a new course. That's the responsibility of our generation, that must be our legacy for generations to come, and I am looking forward to being a strong partner in this effort."

Access two release from UCS (click here); and (click here). Access the MEF July 9 Declaration (click here). Access the detailed 40-page G8 document (click here). Access the President MEF statement (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on the MEF meeting (click here). Access further information from the State Department MEF website (click here).

Friday, July 10, 2009

$3 Billion For 5,000 Renewable Energy Projects & Guidance

Jul 9: As part of an innovative partnership aimed at increasing economic development in urban and rural areas while setting the nation on the path to energy independence, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Energy announced an estimated $3 billion for the development of renewable energy projects around the country and made available the guidance businesses will need to submit a successful application. Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, Recovery Act), the program will provide direct payments in lieu of tax credits in support of an estimated 5,000 bio-mass, solar, wind, and other types of renewable energy production facilities.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, “The renewable energy program provides another important avenue for the Recovery Act to contribute to economic development in communities around the country. It will provide additional stimulus to economies in urban and rural America by helping to develop domestic sources of clean energy. This partnership between Treasury and Energy will enable both large companies and small businesses to invest in our long-term energy needs, protect our environment and revitalize our nation’s economy.”

The Recovery Act authorized Treasury to make direct payments to companies that create and place in service renewable energy facilities beginning January 1, 2009. Previously, these companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the renewable energy project’s cost; under the new program, applicants would agree to forgo tax credits down the line in favor of an immediate reimbursement of a portion of the property expense. This direct payment program allows for an immediate stimulus in local economies.

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu said, “These payments will help spur major private sector investments in clean energy and create new jobs for America's workers. It is part of our broad effort to double our renewable energy capacity in the next few years and make sure that America leads the world in creating the new clean energy economy of the future.”

In previous years, the tax credit has been widely used. It is considered a successful incentive for encouraging the development of renewable energy. In 2006, approximately $550 million in tax credits were provided to 450 businesses. The rate of new renewable energy installations has fallen since the economic and financial downturns began, as projects had a harder time obtaining financing. The Departments of Treasury and Energy expect a fast acceleration of businesses applying for the energy funds in lieu of the tax credit.

The Treasury Department emphasized that it is not accepting applications for this program at this time. However, to help facilitate the timely flow of program funds to eligible businesses, the Department is publishing several key documents in advance in order to give ample time for businesses to prepare applications and expedite implementation of this program. Three documents are being posted: (1) guidance document; (2) terms and conditions; and (3) sample application form. Treasury notes that a notice, with further instructions, will be posted when it is ready to begin receiving applications via a web-based application designed to further expedite program implementation.

As provided in Section 1603 of the ARRA tax title, funds are provided for payments to persons who place in service specified "energy property" during 2009 or 2010 or after 2010 if construction began on the property during 2009 or 2010 and the property is placed in service by a certain date known as the credit termination date (described more fully below in the Property and Payment Eligibility section). Treasury will make Section 1603 payments to qualified applicants in an amount generally equal to 10% or 30% of the basis of the property, depending on the type of property. Applications will be reviewed and payments made within 60 days from the later of the date of the complete application or the date the property is placed in service. Qualified property includes expansions of an existing property that is qualified property under section 45 or 48 of the IRC.

Specified Energy Property includes: Large Wind; Closed-Loop Biomass Facility; Open-loop Biomass Facility; Geothermal under IRC sec. 45; Landfill Gas Facility; Trash Facility; Qualified Hydropower Facility; Marine & Hydrokinetic; Solar Geothermal under IRC sec. 48; Fuel Cells; Microturbines; Combined Heat & Power; Small Wind; and Geothermal Heat Pumps.

Access a release from DOE and link to the documents (click here). Access further information from the Department of Treasury (click here).

Thursday, July 09, 2009

G8+ Members Adopt Climate Change & Energy Documents

Jul 8: The G8 Summit is in full swing dealing with the international economic crisis, climate change and food security in L’Aquila, Italy. The "expanded" formats adopted for the Summit in L'Aquila provides for meetings of the G8 member countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) on the first day, and for the involvement of the G5 group of countries (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa) plus Egypt (which has received a special invitation from the Italian Presidency) on the second day. On the same day, the debate will be opened up to include a further three countries (Australia, Indonesia and South Korea) representing the MEF (Major Economies Forum) to discuss the issues of climate changes and of food safety and security. Finally, a number of other countries, including the African countries and the six most important international organizations, will be brought into the debate on the last day, bringing the grand total to 39 countries all sitting down at the same table at once.

Specifically on climate change and energy matters, in a section entitled, Sustainable use of natural resources: climate change, clean energy and technology, of an overall 40 page document entitled, "Responsible Leadership For A Sustainable Future," dealing with the "interlinked challenges of the economic crisis, poverty and climate change," the G8 members indicate:

- The interlinked challenges of climate change, energy security and the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources are amongst the most important issues to be tackled in the strategic perspective of ensuring global sustainability. A shift towards green growth will provide an important contribution to the economic and financial crisis recovery.

- Science clearly shows that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – mainly produced by the use of fossil fuels - are provoking dangerous climate change, putting at risk not only the environment and ecosystem services but the very basis of our present and future prosperity. The costs of inaction far outweigh the costs of moving towards low-carbon societies.

- We emphasize the paramount importance of technology development and diffusion on a global scale in meeting these challenges and accelerating the economic recovery, while moving towards a low-carbon society.

Specifically, in a subsection on Climate change and environment, the G8 heads state, "This is a crucial year for taking rapid and effective global action to combat climate change. We welcome the decision taken within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznan to enter full negotiating mode, in order to shape a global and comprehensive post-2012 agreement by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen, as mandated by the Bali Conference in 2007. We must seize this decisive opportunity to achieve a truly ambitious global consensus.

"We reconfirm our strong commitment to the UNFCCC negotiations and to the successful conclusion of a global, wide-ranging and ambitious post-2012 agreement in Copenhagen, involving all countries, consistent with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. In this context we also welcome the constructive contribution of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate to support a successful outcome in Copenhagen. We call upon all Parties to the UNFCCC and to its Kyoto Protocol to ensure that the negotiations under both the Convention and the Protocol result in a coherent and environmentally effective global agreement. . ."

And, specifically, in item #65 of the document, the G8 heads indicate, "We recognize the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C [3.6°F]. Because this global challenge can only be met by a global response, we reiterate our willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050, recognizing that this implies that global emissions need to peak as soon as possible and decline thereafter. As part of this, we also support a goal of developed countries reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050 compared to 1990 or more recent years. Consistent with this ambitious long-term objective, we will undertake robust aggregate and individual mid-term reductions, taking into account that baselines may vary and that efforts need to be comparable. Similarly, major emerging economies need to undertake quantifiable actions to collectively reduce emissions significantly below business-as-usual by a specified year." [emphasis added]

The document also provides some further commitments to be carried forward to the Copenhagen negotiations [Item #69]. The G8 heads indicate: "We support flexible, economically sound market-based approaches to emission reductions. In particular, cap & trade schemes, where implemented, have proved largely successful and improved understanding of the potential advantages, critical issues and indicators. The use of market mechanisms, including those under the Kyoto Protocol, provides opportunities to reduce emissions cost-effectively, while facilitating technology diffusion, low-carbon development and the involvement of emerging and developing countries. With a view to building on these experiences and to facilitate action under the global post 2012 agreement, we commit to:

a) further explore, taking into account national circumstances, the potential of carbon trading systems and their possible linkages; b) cooperate among us and with other countries to expand carbon markets to the extent possible and reduce costs and align emission allowance trading schemes, with a view to developing transparent carbon markets which would expand to involve emerging and developing countries, including on a sectoral basis; c) support the development, reform and enhancement of project, programmatic and policy-based offset mechanisms, including the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), in order to encourage their use, enhance their effectiveness and environmental integrity, and facilitate actions from developing countries under the global, post-2012 agreement; d) work with others to further develop market mechanisms under the Copenhagen agreement to possibly include sectoral trading and sectoral crediting mechanisms, to enhance the participation of emerging economies and developing countries in the market ensuring environmental integrity."

Importantly, the document also contains sections on Technology development and research; Financing; Adaptation; Natural disasters; Forests and land degradation; Biodiversity; Education for Sustainable Development; Clean and accessible energy;
Energy efficiency, diversification of the energy mix and technology; and Combating energy poverty.

The Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate consisting of Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States met today (July 9) and adopted an even more general statement. The MEF statement simply says, among other statements, "We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees C. In this regard and in the context of the ultimate objective of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan, we will work between now and Copenhagen, with each other and under the Convention, to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050."

Access the day one press release (
click here). Access the detailed 40-page document (click here). Access links to other documents of the G8 Summit 2009 (click here). Access the G8 2009 meeting website (click here). Access various media report of the G8 and climate change (click here). Access the MEF statement (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on the MEF (click here).