Friday, February 26, 2010

Reps Question Power Association Position On Endangerment Finding

Feb 25: House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Environment and Energy Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Mark Crisson, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association (APPA), regarding the association's letter urging Senators to overturn U.S. EPA's scientific finding on greenhouse gases (i.e. the endangerment finding). In the letter, the chairmen express concern that APPA appears to be "actively misinforming its members" and request clarification regarding the association's position.
    The chairmen said, "This scientific finding is supported by an overwhelming amount of scientific research that has been produced, reviewed,and validated over a period of decades. Numerous APPA members have informed us over the last 24 hours that they do not support APPA's position."
    They continue, ". . .when APPA informed its members that the association had taken a position on SJ. Res. 26, the Murkowski resolution [See WIMS 1/22/10], APPA stated that whether the resolution would prevent EPA from issuing tailpipe standards for automobiles 'remains a point of debate between the lawyers.' APPA's staff knows this is not the case. . ." The chairmen then referred to EPA Administrator Jackson's February 22, 2010, letter to Senator Rockefeller where she stated that, "One result [of the Murkowski resolution] "would be to prevent EPA from issuing its greenhouse gas standard for light-duty vehicles." [See WIMS 2/23/10].
    Waxman and Markey request APPA to "clarify what exactly" their position is on EPA's endangerment finding; and to indicate weather the association  opposes "the regulation of carbon pollution from automobiles? If so, why?" Finally, they say, "we request that you update your members with accurate information that explains the effect that S.J. Res. 26 would have, if enacted, upon EPA's pending greenhouse gas standard for light-duty vehicles."
    However, the Chief Counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said in a February 19 letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) regarding the "Potential Impact of Murkowski Resolution on NHTSA's CAFE Rulemaking" that, "As a strictly legal matter, the Murkowski Resolution does not directly impact NHTSA's independent statutory authority to set fuel economy standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), as amended. . .  However, passage of the Murkowski Amendment would have profoundly adverse effects on the national economy, national environmental and energy security objectives, and the economically distressed automobile manufacturing industry. While NHTSA's promulgation of independent, stand alone CAFE standards would make important contributions, its standards could not avoid those adverse effects."
    U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has released several statements regarding EPA's response to Senator Rockefeller and her disapproval resolution (SJ. Res. 26) recently. She said the announcement that EPA will adopt greenhouse gas regulations this spring, but delay implementation regarding stationary sources until January "is a small forced step in the right direction," but, she said, "the Clean Air Act continues to be the wrong tool for the job, and EPA's timeline continues to create significant and ongoing uncertainty for a business community. Congress is the appropriate body to address climate policy. Until the specter of command-and-control regulations goes away, it will remain a counterproductive threat hanging over the work that must be done to find common ground. The EPA has restated its commitment to regulating greenhouse gases, down to the smallest emitters, regardless of the economic consequences."   
    Access the complete letter from Representatives Waxman and Markey (click here). Access releases from Senator Murkowski (click here); (click here); and (click here). Access the letter from NHTSA (click here). Access legislative details for SJ. Res. 26 (click here).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

President On Business, Government, Smart Energy & Climate Policy

Feb 24: President Obama gave a major address to the Business Roundtable to encourage cooperation from business leaders to promote economic recovery. He said, "I want to spend most of my time talking about the specific steps we need to take to build this more competitive America. But before I do, I want to talk a little bit about the relationship between business and government in promoting economic growth. Now, contrary to the claims of some of my critics and some of the editorial pages, I am an ardent believer in the free market. I believe businesses like yours are the engines of economic growth in this country. You create jobs.You develop new products and cutting-edge technologies. And you create the supply chains that make it possible for small businesses to open their doors. So I want everyone in this room to succeed. I want your shareholders to do well, I want your workers to do well, I want you to do well -- because I firmly believe that America's success in large part depends on your success internationally. . .
    He indicated, "I also believe this: Government has a vital, if limited, role to play in fostering sustained economic growth and creating the foundations for you to succeed.  Throughout our history, government has done so in three ways." He outlined: (1) "government has set up basic rules of the marketplace. . . these rules have been good for business, not bad, for they ensure honest competition and fair dealing and a level playing field." (2) "only government can make those investments in common goods that serve the general welfare but are too expensive for any individual or firm to purchase on their own." e.g. the Armed Forces is the most obvious example.  (3) "government has also provided a social safety net to guarantee a basic level of security for all our citizens." He said this function has become controversial in the last several decades and highlighted programs like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and unemployment insurance but said, they "haven't just saved millions from poverty, they've helped secure broad-based consensus that is so critical to a functioning market economy."
    He said, "I take the time to make these points because we've arrived at a juncture in our politics where reasonable efforts to update our regulations, or make basic investments in our future, are too often greeted with cries of 'government takeover' or even 'socialism.' Not only does that kind of rhetoric deny our history, but it prevents us from asking hard questions about the right balance between the private and public sectors. . . So rather than hurling accusations about big-government liberals or mean-spirited conservatives, we're going to have to answer those tough questions.  And getting that balance right has less to do with big government or small government than it has to do with smart government. . ."
    He pointed out that, "One year ago, we were looking at the possible end of General Motors. Today, GM has increased production, is paying us back ahead of schedule. Yesterday, we learned they're hiring 1,200 more workers in their Lordstown, Ohio plant. One year ago, there was a chance we would lose most of the $700 billion we were given to rescue the financial system. Today, most of that money has been repaid. The financial fee we've proposed would recover the rest and close the books on government's involvement. . . "
    The President talked about laying the foundation for a more competitive America in part by investing in a 21st century infrastructure by expanded broadband access and health information technology, clean energy facilities and the first high-speed rail network in America. He also reminded that in the State of the Union, he set a goal of doubling our exports over the next five years, an increase he said will support 2 million jobs.
    On the issues of energy and climate change, the President said, "A competitive America is also America that finally has a smart energy policy. We know there's no silver bullet here. We understand that to reduce our dependence on oil and the damage caused by climate change, we're going to need more production in the short term, we're going to need more efficiency, and we need more incentives for clean energy. And already, the Recovery Act has allowed us to jumpstart the clean energy industry in America -- an investment that will lead to 720,000 clean energy jobs by the year 2012. To take just one example, the United States used to make less than 2 percent of the world's advanced batteries for hybrid cars.  By 2015, we'll have enough capacity to make up to 40 percent of these batteries.  

    "We've also launched an unprecedented effort to make our homes and businesses more energy efficient. We've announced loan guarantees to break ground on America's first new nuclear plant in nearly three decades. We're supporting three of the largest solar plants in the world. And I've said that we're willing to make tough decisions about opening up new offshore areas for oil and gas development. So what we're looking at is a comprehensive strategy, not an either/or strategy but a both/and strategy when it comes to energy. But to truly transition to a clean energy economy, I've also said that we need to put a price on carbon pollution. Many businesses have embraced this approach -- including some who are represented here today. Still, I am sympathetic to those companies that face significant potential transition costs, and I want to work with this organization and others like this to help with those costs and to get our policies right. 

    "What we can't do is stand still. The only certainty of the status quo is that the price and supply of oil will become increasingly volatile; that the use of fossil fuels will wreak havoc on weather patterns and air quality. But if we decide now that we're putting a price on this pollution in a few years, it will give businesses the certainty of knowing they have the time to plan for the transition.  This country has to move towards a clean energy economy. That's where the world is going. And that's how America will remain competitive and strong in the 21st century. . ."

Access a White House blog post summarizing the President's speech (click here). Access the President's complete speech (click here).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Launch Of The "Bloom Box" - Solid Oxide Fuel Cell

Feb 24: Bloom Energy Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based company committed to changing the way people generate and consume energy, launched the availability of the Bloom Energy Server™, a patented solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology that it says provides a cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable alternative to both today's electric grid as well as traditional renewable energy sources. The Bloom Energy Server provides distributed power generation, allowing customers to efficiently create their own electricity onsite. The company introduced what it is calling "groundbreaking technology" at an event hosted today at eBay Inc. headquarters along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, General Colin Powell, and several of its early customers.
    According to a release the technology is built using abundant and affordable materials, and the company indicates Bloom's fuel cell technology is fundamentally different from the legacy "hydrogen" fuel cells most people are familiar with. The Bloom Energy Server is distinct in four primary ways: (1) it uses lower cost materials; (2) provides unmatched efficiency in converting fuel to electricity; (3) has the ability to run on a wide range of renewable or traditional fuels; and (4) is more easily deployed and maintained. Unlike traditional renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, which are intermittent, Bloom's technology can provide renewable power 24/7.
    Each Bloom Energy Server provides 100 kilowatts (kW) of power in roughly the footprint of a parking space. Each system generates enough power to meet the needs of approximately 100 average U.S. homes or a small office building. For more power, customers simply deploy multiple Energy Servers side by side. The modular architecture allows customers to start small and "pay
as they grow". Bloom's customers have deployed the solution to lower and/or fix their energy costs, while significantly cutting their carbon footprint and enhancing their energy security by reducing their dependence on the grid.
    The company said that customers who purchase Bloom's systems can expect a 3-5 year payback on their capital investment from the energy cost savings. Depending on whether they are using a fossil or renewable fuel, they can also achieve a 40-100% reduction in their carbon footprint as compared with the U.S. grid. Bloom's customers that were announced include: Bank of America; The Coca-Cola Company; Cox Enterprises; eBay; FedEx Express, an operating company of FedEx Corp.; Google;
Staples; and Walmart. The company said that since the first commercial customer installation in July 2008, the Energy Servers have collectively produced more than 11 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, with CO2 reductions estimated at 14 million pounds -- the equivalent of powering approximately 1,000 American homes for a year and planting one million trees.
    Dr. KR Sridhar, principal co-founder and CEO of Bloom Energy said, "Bloom Energy is dedicated to making clean, reliable energy affordable for everyone in the world. We believe that we can have the same kind of impact on energy that the mobile phone had on communications. Just as cell phones circumvented landlines to proliferate telephony, Bloom Energy will enable the adoption of distributed power as a smarter, localized energy source. Our customers are the cornerstone of that vision and we are thrilled to be working with industry leading companies to lower their energy costs, reduce their carbon footprint, improve their energy security, and showcase their commitment to a better future."
    Founded in 2001, Bloom Energy can trace its roots to the NASA Mars space program. For NASA, Sridhar and his team were charged with building technology to help sustain life on Mars using solar energy and water to produce air to breath and fuel for transportation. They soon realized that their technology could have an even greater impact here on Earth and began work on what
would become the Bloom Energy Server. The Bloom Energy Server converts air and nearly any fuel source -- ranging from natural gas to a wide range of biogases -- into electricity via a clean electrochemical process, rather than dirty combustion. Even running on a fossil fuel, the systems are approximately 67% cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant. When powered by a renewable fuel, they can be 100% cleaner. Each Energy Server consists of thousands of Bloom's fuel cells – flat, solid ceramic squares made from a common sand-like "powder."
    Access a release from Bloom Energy (click here). Access a second release with customer background and comments (click here). Access the Bloom Energy website for complete information and background (click here). Access a server data sheet for product specifications (click here). Access 2/21 CBS 60-Minutes feature on the Bloom Box (click here).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EPA Responds To Senate Dems Call To Stop EPA GHG Regs

Feb 22: Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, lead a group of coal state Senators in sending a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson challenging EPA's potential regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. The letter requests that Administrator Jackson clarify the EPA timetable and suspend EPA regulations for industrial facilities so Congress can consider comprehensive energy and climate legislation. According to a release from Senator Rockefeller, "EPA regulation of GHGs from stationary sources has far-reaching implications for the economy as a whole and the energy sector in particular.  These affected industrial facilities are significant job generators in coal states, including West Virginia, and can ill-afford ad hoc regulations."

    Senator Rockefeller was joined by Senate Democrats Mark Begich (AK), Sherrod Brown (OH), Carl Levin (MI), Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Robert Byrd (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Max Baucus (MT) in sending the letter, demanding a response to their concerns for the workers and industries affected in their states. Senator Rockefeller said, "At a time when so many people are hurting, we need to put the decisions about our energy future in to the hands of the people and their elected representatives -- especially on issues impacting clean coal. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency." Senator Rockefeller indicated that he is drafting legislation to suspend EPA's regulatory authority to allow sufficient time for Congressional consideration of the nation's larger energy policy and economic needs.

    The letter begins, "We write with serious economic and energy concerns relating to the potential regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. Ill-time or imprudent regulation of GHGs may squander critical opportunities for our nation, impeding the investment necessary to create jobs and position our nation to develop and produce its own clean energy. We need a clear understanding of how you view your agency's responsibilities and the processes by which you intend to carry them out in order to represent the workers, industries, taxpayers, and economic interests or our states. . ."
    The letter continues, "We remain concerned about the possible impacts on American workers and businesses in a number of industrial sectors, along with the farmers, miners, and small business owners who could be affected as your agency moves beyond automobile emissions standards to implement regulations to curtail GHG pollution from stationary sources. . . We have a responsibility to the workers and industries in our states to address both your agency's timetable for the implementation of these stationary source regulations, and what you intend the exact requirements for businesses to be. . ."  
    The letter concludes, "The President and you have been explicit in calling on Congress to pass comprehensive legislation that would enhance our nation's energy and climate security.  We strongly believe this is ultimately Congress' responsibility, and if done properly, will create jobs, spur new clean energy industries, and greatly advance the goal of U.S. energy independence.   If done improperly, these opportunities could be lost."
    On February 22, Administrator Jackson responded to the Senators and issued a news release and copy of the letter. In the release, EPA said the Administrator outlines several of the decisions she has made for 2010-2011 including: (1) "No facility will be required to address greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permitting of new construction or modifications before 2011. (2) For the first half of 2011, only facilities that already must apply for Clean Air Act permits as a result of their non-greenhouse gas emissions will need to address their greenhouse gas emissions in their permit applications.

    "(3) EPA is also considering a modification to the rule announced in September requiring large facilities emitting more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year to obtain permits demonstrating they are using the best practices and technologies to minimize GHG emissions. EPA is considering raising that threshold substantially to reflect input provided during the public comment process. (4) EPA does not intend to subject smaller facilities to Clean Air Act permitting for greenhouse gas emissions any sooner than 2016."

    Regarding a question posed by the Senators about the result of passage of Senator Murkowski's resolution of disapproval of EPA's endangerment finding, Jackson responded, "One result would be to prevent EPA from issuing its greenhouse gas standard for light-duty vehicles, because the endangerment finding is a legal prerequisite of that standard. The impacts of that result would be significant. In particular, it would undo an historic agreement among states, automakers, the federal government, and other stakeholders. California and at least thirteen other states that have adopted California's emissions likely would enforce those standards within their jurisdictions, leaving the automobile industry without the explicit nationwide uniformity that it has described as important to its business." Jackson went on to say that EPA is planning to issue greenhouse-gas emissions standards for Model Year 2012-2016 light-duty vehicles late next month."
    Jackson also concluded that enactment of Senator Murkowski's resolution "would be viewed as a vote to reject the scientific work of the thirteen U.S. government departments that contribute to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It also would be viewed by many as a vote to move the United States to a position behind that of China on the issue of climate change, and more in line with the position of Saudi Arabia." Jackson also said that she believes that any legal challenges to the so-called "tailoring rule" will fail.
    Following the EPA response, Senator Rockefeller issued a statement saying, "I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation in to the future -- this is good progress but I am concerned it may not go far enough. I believe we need to set in stone through legislation enough time for Congress to consider a comprehensive energy bill. EPA actions in this area would have enormous implications on clean coal state economies and these issues need to be handled carefully and appropriately dealt with by the Congress, not in isolation by a federal environmental agency. We cannot gamble on our future especially at a time when so many people are hurting. As I evaluate the EPA's letter, I remain committed to presenting legislation that would provide Congress the space it needs to craft a workable policy that will protect jobs and stimulate the economy."
    Access a release from Senator Rockefeller (click here). Access the complete letter from the Senators (click here). Access a release from EPA (click here). Access the 6-page response letter from EPA (click here). Access the statement from Senator Rockefeller in response to EPA's response (click here).

Monday, February 22, 2010

UN Report "Recycling - From E-Waste To Resources"

Feb 22 A report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at a meeting of Basel Convention in Bali, Indonesia indicates that hazardous waste from electronic products is growing exponentially in developing countries, sometimes by as much as 500 per cent. The report, Recycling - From E-Waste to Resources, used data from 11 representative developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation which includes old and dilapidated desk and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photo and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions. The United Nations called for new recycling technologies and regulations to safeguard both public health and the environment. For the first time, the three global chemicals and wastes conventions -- Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions -- are meeting from February 22-24, 2010 [See WIMS 2/17/10].

    UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP said, "This report gives new urgency to establishing ambitious, formal and regulated processes for collecting and managing e-waste via the setting up of large, efficient facilities in China. China is not alone in facing a serious challenge. India, Brazil, Mexico and others may also face rising environmental damage and health problems if e-waste recycling is left to the vagaries of the informal sector. In addition to curbing health problems, boosting developing country e-waste recycling rates can have the potential to generate decent employment, cut greenhouse gas emissions and recover a wide range of valuable metals including silver, gold, palladium, copper and indium  [transparent conductive layers in LCD glass], -- by acting now and planning forward many countries can turn an e-challenge into an e-opportunity."

    According to the report, a variety of sources to illustrate growth of the e-waste problem: Global e-waste generation is growing by about 40 million tons a year; Manufacturing mobile phones and personal computers consumes 3 per cent of the gold and silver mined worldwide each year; 13 per cent of the palladium and 15 per cent of cobalt; Modern electronics contain up to 60 different elements -- many valuable, some hazardous, and some both.

    Additionally, carbon dioxide emissions from the mining and production of copper and precious and rare metals used in electrical and electronic equipment are estimated at over 23 million tonnes -- 0.1 percent of global emissions (not including emissions linked to steel, nickel or aluminum, nor those linked to manufacturing the devices); In the US, more than 150 million mobiles and pagers were sold in 2008, up from 90 million five years before; Globally, more than 1 billion mobile phones were sold in 2007, up from 896 million in 2006; Countries like Senegal and Uganda can expect e-waste flows from PCs alone to increase 4 to 8-fold by 2020.

    Finally, given the infrastructure expense and technology skills required to create proper facilities for efficient and environmentally sound metal recovery, the report suggests facilitating exports of critical e-scrap fractions like circuit boards or batteries from smaller countries to OECD-level, certified end-processors. The report assesses current policies, skills, waste collection networks and informal recycling in 11 representative developing economies in Asia, Africa and the Americas: i.e. China, India; South Africa, Uganda, Senegal, Kenya, Morocco; and Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Peru. It also outlines options for sustainable e-waste management in those countries. The data includes equipment generated nationally but does not include waste imports, both legal and illegal, which are substantial in India, China and other emerging economies.

    The report recommends countries establish e-waste management centers of excellence, building on existing organizations working in the area of recycling and waste management. Existing bodies include those supported by the United Nations including the more than 40 National Cleaner Production Centers established by the UN Industrial and Development Organization and the regional centers established under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

    Access a lengthy release from UNEP with numerous links to additional information (click here). Access the complete 120-page report (click here). Access complete information on the three conventions' conference including meeting documents (click here).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Draft Guidance On Climate Change & NEPA And More

Feb 18: The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed four steps to modernize and reinvigorate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), in conjunction with its 40th Anniversary. According to an announcement, the measures will assist Federal agencies to meet the goals of NEPA, enhance the quality of public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the environment, increase transparency and ease implementation. 

    Enacted in 1970, NEPA is a cornerstone of the Nation's efforts to protect the environment and a fundamental tool to harmonize economic and environmental aspirations. It recognizes that many Federal activities affect the environment and mandates that Federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions before acting. NEPA emphasizes public involvement in government actions affecting the environment by requiring that the benefits and the risks associated with proposed actions be assessed and publicly disclosed.

    To modernize NEPA, CEQ has issued draft guidance for public comment on: (1) when and how Federal agencies must consider greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in their proposed actions; (2) clarifying appropriateness of "Findings of No Significant Impact" and specifying when there is a need to monitor environmental mitigation commitments; (3) clarifying use of categorical exclusions; and (4) enhanced public tools for reporting on NEPA activities. The following is a brief summary of the four issues.

    Consideration of Greenhouse Gases - CEQ is releasing draft guidance for public comment on when and how Federal agencies must consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change in their proposed actions. CEQ has been asked to provide guidance on this subject informally by Federal agencies and formally by a petition under the Administrative Procedure Act.  The draft guidance explains how Federal agencies should analyze the environmental impacts of GHG emissions and climate change when they describe the environmental impacts of a proposed action under NEPA. It provides practical tools for agency reporting, including a presumptive threshold of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the proposed action to trigger a quantitative analysis, and instructs agencies how to assess the effects of climate change on the proposed action and their design.  The draft guidance does not apply to land and resource management actions and does not propose to regulate GHG. CEQ is receiving public comment on this guidance for 90 days.
    Clarifying "Finding of No Significant Impact" - Many Federal actions receive an environmental review, known as an Environmental Assessment. In those instances, NEPA compliance is usually completed with a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) on the environment, thus a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement is not required. The draft guidance clarifies that the environmental impacts of a proposed action may be mitigated to the point when the agency may make a FONSI determination.  When the FONSI depends on successful mitigation, however, such mitigation requirements should be made public and be accompanied by monitoring and reporting. The draft guidance also applies to monitoring and reporting of mitigation commitments agencies make in an EIS and Record of Decision. CEQ has released this draft guidance for 90 days of public comment. 
    Clarifying Use of Categorical Exclusions - Many Federal actions do not have significant effects on the environment. When these actions fall into broad categories of activities, agencies may apply a "categorical exclusion" from further NEPA review. The draft guidance clarifies the rules for categorical exclusions and ensures that there is a concise public record when agencies apply them.  While CEQ previously has sought public comments on this matter, this guidance provides additional clarifications, so additional public comment will be received for 45 days.
    Enhanced Public Tools for Reporting on NEPA Activities - Technology has greatly enhanced the government's transparency and accountability and these tools have improved the quality of governmental decision-making, including decisions made following a NEPA analysis. CEQ has updated its public NEPA website, and is providing a wide range of information about NEPA through this portal.  CEQ continues to upgrade this site to include the status of reviews of agency NEPA guidance, Recovery Act NEPA reporting, and real-time NEPA review status.  These upgrades are designed to improve public participation and the quality of Federal agency administration of NEPA.
    Access an announcement with links to the full text of the guidances and links to commenting procedures (click here). Access the NEPA website (click here). Access links to various CEQ initiatives (click here).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top UN Climate Change Official Resigns

Feb 18: The top United Nations climate change official, Yvo de Boer who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that he has made the "difficult decision" to step down from his position, citing his desire to pursue new opportunities to advance progress on the issue in both the private sector and academia. De Boer has led the organization since September 2006. The announcement comes just two months after the Copenhagen Accord was reached at December's UN conference in the Danish capital.
    De Boer will be joining the consultancy group KPMG as Global Adviser on Climate and Sustainability, as well as working with a number of universities. He said, "Working with my colleagues at the UNFCCC Secretariat in support of the climate change negotiations has been a tremendous experience. It was a difficult decision to make, but I believe the time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector and academia. I have always maintained that while governments provide the necessary policy framework, the real solutions must come from business. Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming. This calls for new partnerships with the business sector and I now have the chance to help make this happen."
    According to an announcement, de Boer will remain in his current position until July 1, and help negotiations move forward ahead of the Climate Change Conference in Mexico in November this year [November 29 - December 10]. He said, "Countries responsible for 80% of energy related CO2 emissions have submitted national plans and targets to address the climate change. This underlines their commitment to meet the challenge of climate change and work towards an agreed outcome in Cancun." The Copenhagen Accord aims to jump-start immediate action on climate change and guide negotiations on long-term action, pledging to raise $100 billion annually by 2020. It also includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and efforts to reduce or limit emissions.

    Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new high-level advisory group, headed by the leaders of the United Kingdom and Ethiopia, intended to mobilize financing swiftly to help developing countries combat climate change [See WIMS 2/12/10]. The Advisory Group is charged with creating practical proposals to boost both short- and long-term financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries. The Group is expected to produce a final report containing recommendations before the next Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Mexico.

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a second release from UNFCCC (click here). Access the UNFCCC website for additional information (click here).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reactions To The President's Nuclear Policy Proposals

Feb 16: There was mixed reaction to President Obama's announcement of the $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to operate two new nuclear reactors at a plant in Burke, Georgia [See WIMS 2/16/10]. The President said it would be the first new nuclear power plant in nearly three decades and was expected to create approximately 3,500 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. The President also reaffirmed the role of nuclear energy and said, "To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It's that simple. "
    U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) an outspoken advocate for accelerating nuclear power development who has called for 100 new nuclear plants in 20 years said he was "encouraged" by the announcement. He said, "This first loan guarantee for the first new reactors in more than three decades are a welcome change from an energy policy that was looking like a national windmill policy, the equivalent of going to war in sailboats. We wouldn't think of mothballing our nuclear navy but that's exactly what we have done with nuclear plant construction -- America's best weapon against climate change, high energy prices, polluted air and energy insecurity. All Republican senators -- and a growing number of democrats -- support building 100 nuclear plants as the first step in a clean energy policy. President Obama deserves credit for moving ahead with these guarantees as well as for recent superior appointments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."
    Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) president and chief executive officer issued a statement saying, "The nuclear industry commends the Obama administration and the Department of Energy for having reached this major milestone in implementing the clean-energy loan guarantee program authorized by Congress in 2005. This first conditional commitment demonstrates the Administration's recognition that new nuclear power plants must be part of America's clean energy portfolio. . . "
    NEI also indicated in a release that the announcement of the conditional commitment with Southern Co. is "one of a number of steps taken by the Obama Administration to support nuclear energy expansion." Other steps include: the FY11 budget proposal to triple DOE's loan guarantee authority for new reactors, adding $36 billion to last year's $18.5 billion appropriation; a change to the regulations governing the loan guarantee program, which allow clean-energy projects to tap other sources of financing side-by-side with the DOE-guaranteed debt; and the recent award of investment tax credits to Shaw Modular Solutions and Alstom to build new facilities to manufacture components for advanced-design nuclear power plants.
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming issued a statement saying, "President Obama continues to look to the energy sector as the vehicle for driving job creation." said Rep. Markey, adding, "The President made it clear that passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, like the House passed Waxman-Markey clean energy bill, is critical to American leadership in developing new technologies and industries to compete with China, India and other nations. The United States has not built a new nuclear power plant in three decades, due to huge cost overruns, safety concerns, and waste disposal problems that made nuclear power economically uncompetitive -- leading investors to shun nuclear power due to its high risks and poor financial performance. Recognizing the ongoing financial challenges facing the nuclear industry, the Waxman-Markey legislation included a Clean Energy Bank to help provide financing support for new reactors, as well as other non-carbon energy sources such as wind, solar, and efficiency. 
    "In recognition, the Nuclear Energy Institute supported the Waxman-Markey legislation's key provisions when the bill was debated on the House floor last June. . . While nuclear energy will play a competitive role in a low carbon economy, the issues of waste disposal and the inherent uncertainties in putting taxpayer dollars on the line for a nuclear power plant design that hasn't yet been deemed to be safe to the public must be dealt with. The process needs to be closely monitored to ensure public safety so that public dollars are responsibly provided only when the reactor is truly safe and shovel-ready."
    Ralph Nader, Consumer Advocate issued a release calling the Administration's actions and policy a "monumental mistake" and saying, "It is a decision that is bad for consumers and taxpayers, and it is wrong-headed from an environmental and national security perspective." He said, "It is deplorable that President Obama has called for more so-called "safe, clean nuclear power plants." Adding insult to injury, he requested from Congress another $54 billion in taxpayer loan guarantees on top of the $18 billion previously approved under Bush. Wall Street financiers will not loan electric companies money to build new nuclear plants, which can cost $12 billion and up, unless Uncle Sam guarantees the loans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nuclear companies will default on loans for new reactors 50 percent of the time. . ."

    Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director issued a statement saying, "We are pleased that President Obama reiterated the need to put a price on carbon and build a clean energy economy with more renewable energy and greater energy efficiency. While we remain wholeheartedly behind the president's overall vision for America's energy future, there are areas of disagreement and loan guarantees for new nuclear power plants are one of them. We need to prioritize the cleanest, cheapest, safest, and fastest ways to reduce emissions and nuclear power is neither clean, cheap, nor fast, nor safe.  Putting taxpayers on the hook for billions, particularly when the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office puts the risk of default at over 50 percent, is not the best use of limited government resources. . . Studies also show that investments in outdated energy sources like oil, coal, and nuclear power create far fewer jobs per dollar than investments in energy efficiency and clean energy. The loan guarantees announced today may ease the politics around comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, but we do not believe that they are the best policy." 
    Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen's (PC) Energy Program issued a statement saying the President's actions, "takes us entirely in the wrong direction. Proven efficiency and renewable energy technologies that can benefit millions of households are more cost-effective public investments than financially risky and uncertified nuclear technology. . . In 2005, the nuclear industry estimated that building a new reactor would cost $2 billion. In the five years since nuclear power was included as a recipient of federal loans, costs have ballooned fourfold. . . Not only is the final price tag for Southern Company's two new reactors unknown, but the reactor design that has been tapped for federal backing, the Westinghouse AP1000, has yet to receive design certification from the NRC. . . the government should scrap the loan guarantee program and instead develop and deploy small-scale renewable energy sources such as rooftop solar, wind and geothermal. . ."
    There were also some interesting non-reactions to the President's announcement as well. The following key energy policy decision makers did not issue any statements or comments on the President's nuclear energy announcements. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV); Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee; Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Chair of the Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH).
    Access a release from Senator Alexander (click here). Access the statement from NEI (click here). Access the statement from Access a release from Representative Markey (click here). Access the release from Nader (click here). Access a statement from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from PC (click here).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The President's Economic Report & Climate And Energy Policy

Feb 11: Last week during the near-shutdown of Washington, DC due to blizzards and record-breaking snowfalls, the White House released The Economic Report of the President, an annual report written by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, Dr. Christina Romer. An important vehicle for presenting the Administration's domestic and international economic policies, it provides an overview of the nation's economic progress with text and extensive data appendices. Somewhat buried and under-reported are 27-pages within the 462-page report entitled, Chapter 9: Transforming the Energy Sector and Addressing Climate Change. This chapter, provides some significant information relating to facts and policy considerations in the Administration's strategy on energy and climate change.
    In the President's message which accompanies the report, the President sets the stage and says, "It's not enough to move the economy from recession to recovery. We must rebuild the economy on a new and stronger foundation. . . we have begun to build a new clean energy economy. The Recovery Act included the largest investment in clean energy in history, investments that are today creating jobs across America in the industries that will power our future: developing wind energy, solar technology, and clean energy vehicles. But this work has only just begun. Other countries around the world understand that the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. I want America to be that nation. that is why we are working toward legislation that will create new incentives to finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America. It's not only essential for our planet and our security, it's essential for our economy."
    While the President's message does not address climate change specifically, Chapter 9 addresses it in great detail. That chapter begins by stating, "The President has called climate change 'one of the defining challenges of our time.' If steps are not taken to reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, scientists project that the world could face a significant increase in the global average surface temperature. Projections indicate that CO2 concentrations may double from pre-industrial levels as early as 2050, and that the higher concentrations are associated with a likely long-run temperature increase of 2 to 4.5 °C (3.6 to 8.1 °F). With temperatures at that level, climate change will lead to a range of negative impacts, including increased mortality rates, reduced agricultural yields in many parts of the world, and rising sea levels that could inundate low-lying coastal areas."
    Considering the above information the report indicates, ". . .policy should take steps to ensure that the market provides the correct signals to greenhouse gas emitters about the full cost of their emissions. Second, policy should actively promote the development of new technologies. One way to accomplish these goals is through a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gases combined with government incentives to promote research and development of new clean energy technologies. Once policy has ensured that markets are providing the correct signals and incentives, the operation of market forces can find the most effective and efficient paths to the clean energy economy. The Administration's policies in this area are guided by these principles."
    The level of detail of the discussion is revealed by the titles of the various sections and subsections of the "must-read" chapter including the following: Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Climate, and Economic Well-Being (Greenhouse Gas, Temperature Change, Impact on Economic Well-Being, with sidebars on Climate Change in the United States and Potential Impacts and Expected Consumption Loss Associated With Temperature Increase); Jump-Starting the Transition to Clean Energy (Recovery Act Investments in Clean Energy; Energy Efficiency, Renewable Generation, Grid Modernization, Advanced Vehicles and Fuels Technologies, Traditional Transit and High-Speed Rail, Carbon Capture and Storage, Innovation and Job Training, Clean Energy Equipment Manufacturing, Total Recovery Act Energy Investments); Short-Run Macroeconomic Effects of the Clean Energy Investments; Other Domestic Actions to Mitigate Climate Change; Market-Based Approaches to Advance the Clean Energy Transformation and Address Climate Change (Cap-and-Trade Program Basics, Ways to Contain Costs in an Effective Cap-and-Trade System [Banking and Borrowing, Price Ceilings or Floors, Offsets], A significant sidebar on the European Union's Experience With Emissions Trading, Coverage of Gases and Industries, The American Clean Energy and Security Act [Projected Climate Benefits, Projected Economic Costs]; International Action on Climate Change Is Needed (Partnerships with Major Developed and Emerging Economies, Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies); and Conclusion.
    The chapter concludes saying, "Today's economy is dependent on carbon-intensive fuels that are directly linked to an increase in global average temperature. Continued reliance on these fuels will have a range of negative impacts, including increased mortality rates, reduced agricultural productivity in many locations, higher sea levels, and the need for costly adaptation efforts. For these reasons, a clean energy transformation is essential. Through his comprehensive plan, the President has set the country on course to achieve this goal. He has taken several significant and concrete steps to transform the energy sector and address climate change through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and through targeted regulation. To address externalities associated with greenhouse gas emissions, the President has proposed a market-based cap-and-trade approach. These combined efforts will stimulate the research and development necessary to advance new clean energy technologies. Because of the global nature of the climate change problem, the Administration is also actively pursuing partnerships with other countries to advance efforts to transition the world to clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

    Access a White House press release (click here). Access the complete Chapter 9 (click here). Access links to the complete report and individual chapters (click here).

Monday, February 15, 2010

WIMS Publishing Notice

Subscribers & Readers Note: We will not be publishing today, February 15, 2010, in observance of the Washington's Birthday/President's Day holiday. We will return on Tuesday, February 16, 2010.

Friday, February 12, 2010

UN Head Launches Advisory Group On Climate Change Financing

Feb 12: The leaders of the United Kingdom and Ethiopia will head up a new high-level group launched by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that is intended to mobilize financing swiftly to help developing countries combat climate change. The Copenhagen Accord reached at December's United Nations conference in the Danish capital called for jump-starting immediate action on climate change and guiding negotiations on long-term action, with pledges to raise $100 billion annually by 2020. It also includes an agreement to working towards curbing global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and efforts to reduce or limit emissions.

    At a press conference In New York, Ban announced the new Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, to be chaired by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown saying, "There will be an even balance between developing and developed countries." According to a release, the body's other members, who will be appointed for 10 months and whose names will be announced soon, include heads of State and Government, senior ministers and officials from central banks and experts on finance and development. The Advisory Group will be charged with creating practical proposals to boost both short- and long-term financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies in developing countries. The Group is expected to produce a final report containing recommendations before the next Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Mexico this December.

    UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a statement saying, "I very much look forward to working with Prime Minister Meles and the members of the advisory group in the task that believe is one of the most important we face - combating climate change by ensuring that the poorest countries have the finance that is necessary to do so. If we can resolve this problem, then I believe many of the other challenges of climate change can be resolved. So the task before us, while daunting, is a very important one to the future of the environment of the world."

    Last week, the UNFCCC announced that by the January 31 deadline specified in the Copenhagen Accord, some of the world's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide -- including the United States and China -- have formally submitted their national targets to cut and limit greenhouse gases by 2020. It said that it had received specific pledges from 55 countries that together account for 78 per cent of global emissions from energy use. The pledges to the Accord are purely voluntary and there are no enforcement provisions for the signing countries. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC issued a statement saying, "This represents an important invigoration of the UN climate change talks [however,] Greater ambition is required to meet the scale of the challenge. But I see these pledges as clear signals of willingness to move negotiations towards a successful conclusion."

    On February 2, the World Resources Institute (WRI) issued a working paper entitled, "Comparability of Annex I Emission Reduction Pledges." [See WIMS 2/3/10]. As negotiated in the Copenhagen Accord provides a mandate for Annex I Parties that choose to associate themselves with the Accord to register their emission reduction pledges by January 31, 2010 [See WIMS 2/1/10]. The WRI analysis indicated that emission reduction pledges "will not be enough to meet even the lower range of emission reductions required for stabilizing concentrations of CO2e at 450 ppm and certainly fall very short of goals to reduce concentrations below that level." WRI has developed an Interactive Chart: Analyzing Comparability of Annex I Emission Reduction Pledges.

    Access a release from the UN (click here). Access a statement released by the UN on the Advisory Group (click here). Access a release from the UK Prime Minister (click here). Access the WRI Interactive Chart (click here).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Global Launch Near For New e-Stewards Certification & Standard

Feb 9: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) announced its endorsement of the first-ever certification program for electronics recycling created jointly by the environmental community and business leaders. NRDC said the new e-Stewards Certification and Standard, held by the Basel Action Network (BAN), is seen as essential to stem the tide of hazardous old computers, TVs, monitors and other electronic waste currently flooding African and Asian countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and China. Jim Puckett, BAN Executive Director said, "NRDC recognized that we have finally created a principled yet practical solution to e-waste recycling that environmentalists, businesses and consumers can all embrace. We are thrilled to receive NRDC's coveted endorsement in the lead-up to our global launch."

    NRDC said it is joining with BAN to call on all electronics recyclers to become e-Steward Certified recyclers, and at the same time is asking all businesses to become designated "e-Steward Enterprises" by agreeing to give priority to e-Steward recyclers for their old electronic assets. The e-Stewards recyclers are a group of leading North American electronics recyclers and asset managers who have been qualified as upholding the highest standard of environmental and social responsibility. Environmental and social justice advocates urge you to make use of these recyclers for all of your e-waste disposal/recycling/asset management.

    By March 1, 2010, accredited certifying bodies will independently assure conformity to the revised e-Stewards Standard, thus providing the highest level of assurance that they meet the world's most responsible environmental and social justice criteria for electronics recyclers. The criteria include no toxic e-waste dumped in landfills or incinerators, exported to developing countries, or sent to prison labor operations and accountability for the entire recycling chain of toxic materials.

    NRDC Senior Scientist Dr. Allen Hershkowitz said, "This initiative is sorely needed. Many e-waste recyclers claim to be green, but in reality they rely on unsafe and ecologically damaging methods like dumping millions of tons of toxic waste each year in China, India and Africa. E-Stewards provide businesses and consumers with a first-of-a-kind seal to identify the truly responsible recyclers." In 2008, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report roundly criticizing the US EPA for not doing more to promulgate and enforce rules to control the e-waste trade. Unfortunately, to date little has changed and a market-based solution is seen as more necessary than ever." [See WIMS 10/28/09].

    Businesses that agree to make best efforts to use e-Steward recyclers will be rewarded as designated e-Stewards Enterprises. The first global companies to receive these e-Steward Enterprise designations as well as the first Certified e-Steward recyclers will be announced in March. Already there are about 50 North American recyclers that are considered "Pledged e-Stewards" which have been vetted by BAN and are licensed and committed to becoming certified in the next 18 months. These companies include some of the largest electronics recyclers in North America. Due to the widespread fraudulent or unscrupulous exportation and irresponsible practices now plaguing the electronics recycling industry, consumers are urged to use only these Pledged e-Steward recyclers.

    Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access the complete list of Pledged e-Stewards (click here). Access the e-Stewards website for complete information on certification and related information (click here). Access the BAN website for more information (click here).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

API Counters Improved Health Benefits From Ozone Standard

Feb 2: In testimony delivered in Houston, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said U.S. EPA's proposed new ozone pollution standards would exact significant costs on consumers, jobs and the economy without delivering commensurate benefits.  It said there was no scientific justification for imposing the more stringent standards. API policy advisor Ted Steichen, who presented the association's testimony said, "Without a clear certain scientific basis for selecting a different numeric standard, the ozone standard need not be changed now. We urge the Administrator not to pursue this proposal. He said EPA's own studies failed to support a lowering of the ozone standards.  
    Yesterday, WIMS reported on the testimony of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) which indicated that strengthening the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone pollution from 75 to 60 parts per billion (ppb) would reduce premature death rates by 60-fold and reduce asthma cases 50-fold, according to analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The testimony was given at an the EPA public hearing in Sacramento to reconsider the adequacy of a controversial national ozone air quality standard adopted by the Agency in 2008. The Agency held three public hearings on the proposal: Feb. 2, 2010 in Arlington, VA and in Houston; and Feb. 4, 2010 in Sacramento. Written comments are being accepted until March 22, 2010 [See WIMS 2/9/10].

    API's Steichen emphasized that tremendous progress has been made improving the nation's air quality, in large part through oil and natural gas industry efforts, and said more improvements will follow -- under the existing ozone standards -- because of pollution controls in place or soon to be implemented. He testified, "Thanks to implementation of the Clean Air Act our air quality has demonstrably improved. Since 1990, the oil and gas industry invested more than $175 billion -- that's billion, with a 'B' -- towards improving the environmental performance of its products, facilities, and operations."

    Both cleaner vehicles and cleaner fuels will contribute to further improvement, he explained, with "annual emission reductions from the use of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel with cleaner technology engines … equivalent to removing the pollution from more than 90% of today's trucks and buses by 2030." Steichen said moving forward with the proposed new standards could "impact citizens while they are still suffering from a severe recession, in the very communities where we need to be creating jobs."

    On January 7, U.S. EPA proposed the strictest health standards to date for ground-level ozone or smog -- proposing a rule to set the "primary" standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The current primary 8-hour standard is 0.075 ppm [See WIMS 1/7/10]. EPA is also proposing to set a separate "secondary" standard to protect the environment, especially plants and trees -- proposing to set the level of the secondary standard within the range of 7-15 ppm-hours. The current secondary standard is the same as the primary standard -- 0.075 ppm.

    Despite contrary testimony from EDF and others and information from EPA, Dr. Robyn Prueitt testified on behalf of API indicating that "controlled human exposure studies do not support an association between ozone exposure and adverse respiratory effects below 0.08 ppm. . . The epidemiological evidence for short-term health effects of ozone is weak and does not support causality at levels below 0.08 ppm. . . Health effects are attributed to ozone exposure when PM-related associations are not accounted for. . . [and] There are many issues with EPA's scientific method."

    Access a release from API with links to Steichen's complete testimony and Dr. Robyn Prueitt's testimony on behalf of API analyzing the scientific research on the impacts of ozone on health (click here). Access a release on the EDF testimony and link to related information (click here). Access links to extensive background information including a fact sheet, hearing recordings, and the proposed rule from EPA's website (click here). Access the EPA docket for background and to review & submit comments (click here).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Caterpillar & Exelon Join FutureGen Alliance

Feb 8: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that Caterpillar, a global leader in the manufacturing of heavy machinery, will join the FutureGen Alliance. This is the second major new Alliance member signed up in just over a week. Caterpillar's move signals critical support ahead of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) pending decision to move ahead on FutureGen construction in Mattoon, Illinois. On January 30, Illinois-based Exelon, one of the nation's largest electric utilities and energy providers, added its support to the project by becoming a member of the FutureGen Alliance partnership.

    On July 14, 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Record of Decision (ROD) to move forward on FutureGen toward the first commercial scale, fully integrated, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) project in the country. At the time, DOE said its decision was "based on careful consideration of the proposed project's potential environmental impacts, as well as the program goals and objectives." The ROD and a cooperative agreement signed by DOE and the FutureGen Alliance allowed the Alliance to proceed with site-specific activities for the project. The Department and the Alliance will decide very soon whether to continue the project through construction and operation. 

    Governor Quinn said, "I welcome Caterpillar's investment in FutureGen and in Illinois," said The company's support -- just over a week after another major Illinois-based company, Exelon, signed on to the project -- is a clear sign that momentum for this project is gaining. This shows that the private sector stands alongside my administration and our local partners to move quickly and effectively once we receive the final 'go' from DOE." FutureGen is designed to be the cleanest coal-fueled power plant in the world. The 275 megawatt facility will convert coal into hydrogen and electricity, while capturing and safely storing the carbon dioxide in sandstone formations a mile beneath the site. It will lay the groundwork for developing similar plants around the country and the world, pioneering the capture, rather than release of greenhouse gases.

    FutureGen would also create jobs and economic growth. Initial estimates state that 1,300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs would be created through FutureGen. In addition, a study conducted by Southern Illinois University showed that during the four-year construction period, there would also be 1,225 indirect and induced spin-off jobs created and more than $1 billion in economic impact statewide as a result of FutureGen.

    Senator Durbin said, "In just a little over a week, the FutureGen Alliance has added another strong partner with a deep connection to Illinois. U.S. Caterpillar will bring a great deal to the table as the FutureGen Alliance and the Department of Energy continue in the final stages of negotiations. I look forward to welcoming many new FutureGen Alliance members -- from Illinois and around the world." Last week, President Obama moved decisively to support the mission of FutureGen and clean coal projects to follow. Governor Quinn sent a letter to the President on Thursday praising his decision to establish an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) [See WIMS 2/4/10].

    According to a release from the FutureGen Alliance, the final go-ahead depends on increasing Alliance membership and dollar contributions from the private-sector support, as well as reducing total project costs. At stake is $1.1 billion through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to re-launch the FutureGen project. The State of Illinois has put together a comprehensive investment package that includes direct grants, financing incentives and tax-related savings, to help ensure that FutureGen comes to Illinois.

    DOE's total anticipated financial contribution for the project is $1.073 billion, $1 billion of which would come from Recovery Act (ARRA) funds for CCS research. The FutureGen Alliance's total anticipated financial contribution is $400 million to $600 million. The total cost estimate of the project is $2.4 billion, consequently, the Alliance, with support from DOE, are pursuing options to raise the additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility.

    Access a release from Governor Quinn's Office (click here). Access the FutureGen Alliance website (click here). Access the DOE FutureGen website for more information (click here).

Monday, February 08, 2010

NOAA's New Office & Web Portal To Address Climate Issues

Feb 8: Individuals and decision-makers across widely diverse sectors -- from agriculture to energy to transportation -- increasingly are asking NOAA for information about climate change in order to make the best choices for their families, communities and businesses. To meet the rising tide of these requests, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the intent to create a NOAA Climate Service line office dedicated to bringing together the Agency's strong climate science and service delivery capabilities.
    Secretary Locke said, "By providing critical planning information that our businesses and our communities need, NOAA Climate Service will help tackle head-on the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change. In the process, we'll discover new technologies, build new businesses and create new jobs." Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator said, "Working closely with federal, regional, academic and other state and local government and private sector partners, the new NOAA Climate Service will build on our success transforming science into useable climate services. NOAA is committed to scientific integrity and transparency; we seek to advance science and strengthen product development and delivery through user engagement."

    Leaders from numerous public and private sector entities support the creation of NOAA Climate Service. A NOAA release included supporting quotes from Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy; Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change; the Navy's Task Force Climate Change; and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Additionally, NOAA include a link to comments from other leaders from government, business, science and environment.

    NOAA said that unifying its climate capabilities under a single climate office will integrate the Agency's climate science and services and make them more accessible to NOAA partners and other users. Planning has been, and continues to be, shaped by input from NOAA employees and stakeholders across the country, with close consideration given to the recommendations of the NOAA Science Advisory Board, National Academies and National Academy of Public Administration.

    NOAA Climate Service will encompass a core set of longstanding NOAA capabilities with proven success. The climate research, observations, modeling, predictions and assessments generated by NOAA's top scientists -- including Nobel Peace Prize award-winners -- will continue to provide the scientific foundation for extensive on-the-ground climate services that respond to millions of requests annually for data and other critical information. Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, will serve as transitional director of NOAA Climate Service. New positions for six NOAA Regional Climate Services Directors will be announced soon and will provide regional leadership for integrating user engagement and on-the-ground service delivery within the Climate Service.

    NOAA also unveiled its new website -- -- that will serves as a single point-of-entry for NOAA's extensive climate information, data, products and services. Known as the NOAA Climate Portal, the site addresses the needs of five broadly-defined user groups: decision makers and policy leaders, scientists and applications-oriented data users, educators, business users and the public. Highlights of the portal include an interactive "climate dashboard" that shows a range of constantly updating climate datasets (e.g., temperature, carbon dioxide concentration and sea level) over adjustable time scales; the new climate science magazine ClimateWatch, featuring videos and articles of scientists discussing recent climate research and findings; and an array of data products and educational resources.

    Access a release from NOAA with links to various comments and related information on the new office (click here). Access the NOAA Climate Service office website (click here). Access the new NOAA Climate Portal (click here). Access a separate release on the Climate Portal (click here).