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Monday, April 30, 2007

Wave Energy News: Projects Move Forward in Oregon and the UK

Finavera Granted Preliminary Permit for 100 MW Oregon Wave Park and UK Wave Hub Project Receives $43M Investment

Two pieces of wave energy news came over my RSS reader today:

Oregon Wave Energy Project Granted Preliminary Permit

First, Finavera Renewables, Inc., who acquired wave energy technology developers AquaEnergy Group, Ltd. last year, has received a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) to explore a 100 MW wave energy project off the coast of Coos County, in southern Oregon. The preliminary permit is valid for a period of three years, and allows Finavera Renewables to conduct various studies, including analyses of oceanographic conditions, commercial and recreational activities, and other impacts potentially associated with the planned project.

The proposed Coos County wave project would use interconnected clusters of the company's patented AquaBuOY wave energy devices (pictured right being deployed from a ship). The project would have a generating capacity of 100MW, and total annual generation from the project is estimated to be approximately 175 gigawatt-hours per-year, which is sufficient electricity to power approximately 15,000 American homes.

According to Finavera, the company also plans to deploy one second generation AquaBuOY wave energy device this summer off the coast of Newport, Oregon, in partnership with Oregon State University (OSU). During the test deployment, OSU scientists and engineers to explore the technology's potential. OSU has emerged as the leading national research institute for wave energy technology.

Alla Weinstein, Director and General Manager, Ocean Energy said:

"The Coos County project is part of the next step along our path to the commercialization of wave energy. Permitting activities for this project will be based on our experience gained in the Makah Bay pilot project, which is the first wave energy project to file for a FERC operating license. This project is designed to meet the State of Oregon's policy to invest in and support the growth of clean and renewable energy sources for the people of Oregon. We look forward to working closely with the local community to ensure a successful project."
AquaEnergy/Finavera have been moving steadily towards deployment of the first operating wave energy park in Makah Bay off the northwestern tip of Washington's Olympic Penninsula for several years (see previous post).

Finavera competitors, Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (OPT), has also received a preliminary permit from FERC to explore a wave energy project off the coast of Reedsport in Douglas County, Oregon (see previous post). OPT recently partnered with the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative (PNGC) to develop the project (see previous post), which would initially consist of 2 MW of OPT PowerBuoy wave energy conversion devices and could eventually feature up to 50 MW of buoys.

Finavera/AquaEnergy's approved preliminary permit can be found here.

UK Wave Hub Project Secures Necessary Funding

The United Kingdom's 'Wave Hub' project received $43 million (US) in funding, moving the project much closer to completion. The Wave Hub project will be the first large scale wave energy project in the UK and is being publicly funded and constructed by the South West of England Regional Development Agency (RDA).

The wave farm will feature a high voltage cable on the seabed and be connected to the National Grid via an electricity substation on the mainland. Wave energy companies to connect clusters of their wave energy conversion devices to the cable, allowing wave energy developers to test new technology, assess how well their devices work and how much power they will generate before going into full commercial production.

Matthew Spencer, chief executive of Regen SW, the renewable energy agency for South West England said:
"This is public sector investment at its best -- taking the long view, taking risks the private sector can't take, and making significant investment in the technology we need to tackle climate change. Wave Hub will help make the UK the location of choice for companies developing wave energy, and should see British and overseas businesses making long term investments in Cornwall."
Three wave-energy companies are already working with the RDA to use Wave Hub, and a fourth will soon be selected. The companies involved include, Ocean Power Technologies Limited, Fred.Olsen Renewables Limited and WestWave, a consortium of German-based international oil, power and gas company E.On and Ocean Prospect Limited, using the Pelamis technology of Ocean Power Delivery Ltd. (the Pelamis device is pictured at right, being towed to sea).

The investment means Wave Hub could be operational as early as summer 2008, subject to final UK Government and EU approval.

The Wave Hub project is an evolution of the ocean energy incubator model demonstrated by the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. The EMEC wave energy site consists of four pre-permited interconnection berths located approximately 2km off shore and in 50m of water. The berths are connected by cables to the national grid via the substation which is set into the cliff and allow wave energy technology developers to connect their devices to the berths for testing and at-sea verification. (EMEC is also finishing construction of a tidal energy test site expected to be ready by the end of 2007).

The EMEC center helped Pelamis deploy, test, and validate their Pelamis design which is now being deployed commercially in Portugal, at the Wave Hub site and in the WestWave project.

Wave Hub will follow up on EMEC's model, allowing wave energy developers to deploy commercial-scale clusters of wave energy conversion devices.

Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Energy, with the backing of Governor Ted Kulongoski, would like to establish a National Wave Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Center near Newport, Oregon (see previoust poast) which would likely feature a facility similar to EMEC's wave test site, with pre-permitted interconnection berths to test wave energy conversion devices at sea. OSU, ODOE and the governor are seeking federal funding to establish the center (and if I'm not mistaken, the governor's 2007-08 budget included a line item to fund a portion of the center... Perhaps the announcement by Finavera that they plan to deploy one second generation AquaBuOY device with the help of OSU researched is a sign that this concept is moving forward).

Oregon, the UK (and Scotland) and Portugal have emerged in recent months as the epicenters of the developing wave energy industry. All three have pilot-scale and commercial wave energy projects at some stage of development, and buoys will likely be in the water in all three locations within the next year.

Update (5-15-07):

Oceanlinx Limited (formerly Energetech), an Australian wave energy company has entered the picture in both Oregon and the UK in the past two weeks. Renewable Energy reports that Oceanlinx has been selected as the fourth wave energy company to participate in the WaveHub project in the UK discussed above. Oceanlinx also recently applied for a preliminary permit to explore a wave park off the coast near Florence, Oregon. Oceanlinx would install their Oscillating Water Column ("OWC")-based units at both sites.

Read more!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canadian Environment Minister Announces 20% Mandatory Cut in Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2020

The government plan also targets a 50% decrease in industrial air pollutants by 2015

[From Green Car Congres:]

John Baird, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, today unveiled Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, which imposes greenhouse gas and toxic air pollution reduction targets on industry.

The government’s goal is an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 150 megatonnes by 2020—about a 20% cut from current levels and an approximately 300 megatonnes reduction from projected 2020 levels—and cutting air pollution from industry in half by 2015.

In addition to measures to reduce air emissions from industry, the government has committed to addressing emissions from transportation by regulating—for the first time in Canada—the fuel efficiency of cars and light duty trucks, beginning with the 2011 model year. (Earlier GCC post.)

"Canada needs to do a U-Turn, because we are going in the wrong direction... We are serving notice that beginning today, industry will need to make real reductions."
—Minister Baird

Industry produces about half of Canada’s greenhouse gas and air pollution. Under the new plan, it will account for about 40% of the reductions.

Cuts will be based on emissions intensity—allowing industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they increase production. Companies will be able to choose the most cost-effective way to meet their targets from a range of options: in-house reductions, contributions to a capped technology fund, domestic emissions trading and offsets and access to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism. Companies that have already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions prior to 2006 will be rewarded with a limited one-time credit for early action.

The flexibility in mechanism provides some breathing room for oil sands companies, who, with the growth in the oil sands industry, are contributing heavily to the growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

Baird also announced a ban on energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs. Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said the ban will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than six million tons a year, saving homeowners about $54 annually in electricity costs. [Australia also recently banned incandescent bulbs and a bill in the California legislature would have the Golden State due the same by 2012. The bill is humorously titled the "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act!"]

The new program does not bring Canada into compliance with its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol—a reduction of emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. Canada’s emissions are currently 30% above 1990 levels, and the new goal puts Canada 11% above its Kyoto targets. Under the new plan, Canada will meet its Kyoto targets in 2025, 13 years late.

The plan also targets industrial air pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain and other maladies. According to the Globe and Mail:
"The new plan also takes aim at air pollution, setting fixed caps on the emission of four gases that cause smog and acid rain. And it promises to regulate products and commercial activities that reduce the quality of indoor air."
It is very relieving to see this real change of direction for the Harper Government. One of the first things Harper's Conservative Party ("Torie") government did upon taking power in 2006 was slash budgets for environmental programs, including those aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions (see previous post). Harper has also been a proponent of expanded oil sands development, the major contributor to rising greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

Now it seems, after years of allowing emissions to climb, Harper and his Environment Minister, Baird, seem ready to start reversing course and charting a path to reduced emissions. Sadly, it means our neighbor to the north will no longer be able to hit their Kyoto targets - any hope of hitting the 6% reduction below 1990 levels by 2012 has long since passed - and will be roughly 13 years behind in emissions reductions. Still they look to be moving ahead of the United States; let's hope we follow suite soon!

The GCC post above doesn't have a lot of details on the emissions reduction plan, and more can be found in the Globe and Mail article here. While the government plan sets the goal of an absolute emissions reduction of 20% by 2020, the mandatory reduction targets set on industry are based on carbon intensity, not absolute emissions, meaning the policy is not guaranteed to achieve absolute reductions of 20%. As the Globe and Mail writes:
It relies on the intensity-based targets that allow industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they increase production. Those types on controls have been repeatedly panned by environmental experts who have demanded absolute reductions.
Additionally, it appears that while industry is responsible for roughly half of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions (see image above), and is the fastest growing sector (due to oil sands development), the plan only makes industry responsible for about 40% of the emissions reductions. The rest will come from better fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks [see previous GCC post], other federal initiatives such as the program that will help Canadians retrofit their homes, and provincial efforts to increase energy efficiency.

According to the Globe and Mail, of the 150 megatonne emissions reduction target:
industry is expected to account for 60 megatonnes, fuel efficiency for cars and trucks is expected to account for 40 megatonnes, improvements in home fuel efficiency and other measures for 10 megatonnes, and the provinces will be responsible for eliminating the final 40 megatonnes.
Good to see a real plan to cut emissions though. I'm sure it could probably be stronger, but considering how Harper began his term, I'm just excited to see this change of direction for Canada.


  • Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions (Environment Canada)

  • Ottawa to cut emissions 20 per cent by 2020” (Globe and Mail)

  • Read more!

    News From My Backyard: Efficient Oregon

    Oregonians use less energy and water than national average and previous years

    [From the Oregonian:]

    Maybe it's the Northwest conservation ethic or more energy-efficient homes and appliances. Or maybe it's the benefit of living closer together in well-planned areas like the Pearl District, using space and everything else more efficiently.

    Whatever it is, we're each using less electricity on average in the Portland metro area -- and less natural gas and less water. And Oregonians on average drive less than the rest of the country.

    [Image: Oregonians have improved their efficiency in energy and water use. (Click to enlarge) Image Source: the Oregonian]

    We may not be perfect -- California, for instance, uses less electricity (and more natural gas) per household -- but we're getting better. It's a bit of green news on this Earth Day that shows we're finding ways to cut our appetite for key resources that threaten to suck dollars from our wallets as those resources grow scarcer and more expensive.

    That holds true even as we plug in more and more electronic gadgets and our homes get bigger on average.

    The report card:

  • Water: Homes in Portland consume about 100 fewer gallons of water a day than they did 20 years ago. Over the course of a year, that's enough to fill a large backyard swimming pool.

    We have cut our thirst enough that our total water use has dropped even though more people are using the water, according to figures from the Portland Water Bureau.

  • Electricity: Each household served by Portland General Electric uses about 10 percent less electricity on average than it did 10 years ago, according to PGE figures.

    We do use more electricity overall, since there are so many more homes drawing on the supply today. But the average energy saved per home is enough to power seven compact fluorescent light bulbs every hour of every day for a year.

  • Natural gas: Each home served by Northwest Natural Gas Co. burns an average of 12 percent less natural gas than it did 10 years ago, according to NW Natural figures.

    The amount each home saves over a year is more than enough to serve another entire home for a month.

  • Gasoline: Every Oregonian burned less gas -- 31.4 gallons -- last year on average than the rest of the country. At today's prices, that translates into $90.12 you didn't have to spend on fuel. Oregon's gasoline use spiked last year compared with previous years, but still remains lower than the rest of the nation's.

  • "It means you're putting less of your family income into those resources, and you're polluting less at a time when there are more and more of us," said Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder.

    Technology plays big role

    We owe some of the savings to more energy-efficient appliances that fill our homes. Refrigerators manufactured today may consume less than half as much energy as one produced 15 years ago. As home electronics have gotten smaller -- think of shifting from a 1980s "boom box" to a tiny iPod -- they use less energy.

    "People's enjoyment of their music is probably greater, because of the convenience factor, but their energy use is less," said John Karasaki, an energy efficiency engineer with PGE.

    The energy savings have continued even though many more homes are installing power-hungry air-conditioning systems as summers warm.

    But is it just that we're using more efficient light bulbs, or are we also more careful to turn them off when we're not in the room? It's tough to tell. Energy experts say it's probably some of both.

    Even the best energy-saving technology doesn't help much if people don't make good use of it.

    "Behavior will always trump technology," Karasaki said. "You can have the most efficient windows in the world, but if people leave them open all winter long, there's not much value in having them."

    New homes, with their insulation and energy-saving windows, are roughly 25 percent more efficient when it comes to using energy than older, drafty homes that leak heat like sieves, said Bill Edmonds, director of environmental policy and sustainability at Northwest Natural.

    They're also outfitted with water-saving toilets and more efficient dishwashers that reduce demand for water.

    Drought spurs change

    The savings have come relatively easy; it's unlikely they would have come at all had they cost people cash or comfort.

    For example, the turnaround year in the region's water use was 1992, when a severe drought brought prohibitions on washing cars and watering lawns. Nighttime patrols nabbed homeowners who tried to illegally water their gardens under cover of darkness.

    Water consumption fell by more than 5 billion gallons amid the dry spell. It bumped up again for several years but, to this day, has never climbed back to pre-1992 levels. Residents found ways to use less water when they had to, and then kept it up afterward.

    From about the mid-1990s on, water use fell steadily even as Portland's population rose. Last year, the total volume of water drawn from the Portland system was smaller than it was during the severe clampdown of the 1992 drought, though the system serves roughly 115,000 more people.

    It offers proof that residents can quickly reduce their use of vital resources if they have to, and it reinforces a secret of energy efficiency: Once people find they can make do with less, they often keep using less.

    Cities often make do with less water and power per person as they grow, especially if more people live closer together in condominiums or other dense housing. For one thing, buildings with many housing units are more efficient to heat and cool because there are fewer outside walls exposed to the elements.

    "It's a more efficient way to house people -- to stack them," said Loren Lutzenhiser, a professor at Portland State University's school of urban studies and planning. Efficiency also pays off very quickly in cities because their populations make them vast consumers.

    For another thing, though, housing in parts of the city such as the Pearl District often replaces heavy industrial operations that once consumed much more water and power.

    The same patterns of people living closer together -- and closer to the necessities of life: grocery stores, restaurants, work -- may also contribute to Oregon's declining thirst for gasoline.

    Taking the bus

    As for gas savings, it's possible that drivers may be reacting to higher gas prices by planning their travels more carefully and conservatively.

    As recently as 1991, each Oregonian burned more gasoline than the national average. But every year since, we have burned less than the rest of the country.

    That's probably at least in part because we're driving less. The number of miles that vehicles cover on state-owned highways peaked in about 2002. Cars now travel about 200 million fewer miles on state highways, even though the number of cars in the state has risen.

    In rural reaches of the state, it's probably because struggling economies curtail the number of people on the road. But in more urban areas, it's likely for other reasons: People may be living closer to where they work and using alternative transportation such as walking or bicycling.

    Residents of the Portland metro area drive less than people in other large cities. Since 1999, the number of miles people here drive on average has stayed about level, while people in other comparable cities are driving farther.

    And public transportation use is growing. The number of people boarding TriMet buses and trains has nearly doubled since 1991, rising much faster than the population. Census figures show more people use public transportation to get to work.

    It's not to say that Oregon is immune from factors that push gasoline use up, or won't suffer setbacks in conservation progress. Last year, for instance, Oregonians burned more gas than the year before.

    But we still consumed less than the national average, and we're on track to use even less in coming years as efficiency standards improve for cars, appliances and more. Much of that will come without a whole lot of effort and probably will save money by saving energy.

    And a little effort can save even more.

    [A hat tip to Sightline/Tidepool]

    Read more!

    News From My Backyard: Idaho's Green Shift

    Perhaps the nation's most conservative state shares in nation's green shift.

    [From the Idaho Statesman:]

    Idaho has turned green this Earth Day, but not just because it's spring.

    The most conservative state in the union is a part of a remarkable cultural shift toward environmental values.


  • Al Gore attracts 10,000 people to his slide show on global warming at Taco Bell Arena in January.

  • Bill Moyers highlights Boise's evangelical Vineyard Fellowship for its environmental message and acts in the PBS special "Is God Green?" last fall.

  • Former Gov. Jim Risch gets a standing ovation from a largely Republican crowd when he announces in Twin Falls last year that Idaho plans to opt out of a mercury pollution trading program, keeping coal-fired power plants out of the state.

  • Two years ago, national environmental groups and academics were wringing their hands over an essay, "Is Environmentalism Dead?"

    But today Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the cover of Newsweek as a green hero. Companies like Wal-Mart are racing to earn the green label and investors are spending billions on alternative energy companies.

    Suddenly, green is cool.

    "There's no doubt what concentrated people's minds, were the reports on climate change," said Boise native Karl Brooks, a professor of environmental history at the University of Kansas. "It cut through a lot of chatter."

    It's about choices

    Environmentalism has not been as prominent in American culture since the first Earth Day in 1970, Brooks said. That one-day, nationwide event focused two decades of concern over extensive pollution triggered by the post-war boom.

    The laws that provide the foundation of environmental protection in the U.S. — the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act — were all passed by Congress and signed by Republican President Richard Nixon in the day's wake.

    But environmentalism became tied closely with the counterculture, hippies, organic foods, and demonstrations, said Doug StanWiens, a history teacher at Timberline High School.

    The new environmental culture he sees growing in popularity with his students is very different.

    They didn't have to stand in line to buy gas as Baby Boomers did in the 1970s. The experience of the Depression is now two generations back, not a reality for their parents.

    "It's not about scarcity or sacrifice," StanWiens said. "The kids haven't seen that. It's about choices."

    Timberline senior Sarah Uehling took a class on environmental science on a whim. But she got so into it that she helped convince her parents to take courses in voluntary simplicity.

    "I never realized until this class how much one person can make a difference," she said.

    Conflicts with industry

    For most of the past 30 years, the major way for environmental activists to make a difference was in Congress, state capitals and the courts. They often came in conflict with industries and the communities that depended on them.

    Moore Information of Portland, Ore., in a poll released April 12, found 60 percent of Americans think environmental groups are too extreme.

    Idaho Conservation League Executive Director Rick Johnson uses Moore for his own polling, and he's seen the numbers.

    "When you're picking the people you invite into your home for dinner you would not pick an environmentalist," he said, paraphrasing the polls. "They're stereotyped as whining, shrill, they won't eat the food, they stuff themselves with the vegetables and tell you to turn down the thermostat."

    Companies and political opponents worked hard to develop that stereotype, Johnson said. But there was some truth to it.

    The new environmental culture is not just generated by environmentalists. It's organic, like StanWien's students who are making new choices.

    Getting more concerned

    Despite their views on environmental groups, Americans have become even stronger environmental advocates in the past two years, the Moore poll showed.

    Forty-nine percent are more concerned about protecting the environment compared to 40 percent who said protecting jobs was more important.

    In 2005, the numbers reversed, with 54 percent more worried about protecting jobs to 30 percent for protecting the environment.

    StanWiens said many of his students don't see jobs and environment as competing interests. He was at a career fair with students recently and many of the business jobs were environmentally related.

    "Increasingly it's jobs and environment," StanWiens said.

    Expression of values

    The environment nationwide and locally has improved because of the environmental laws passed more than 35 years ago, said Betty Munis, executive director of the Idaho Forest Products Commission, which sponsors an environmental education curriculum used in Idaho schools. People express their environmental values now by buying local and using sustainable materials.

    "I think the average person has been taking environmentalism out of the hands of advocates and incorporating it into their lives," Munis said.

    [A hat tip to Sightline/Tidepool]

    [Image credit: Idaho State University]

    Read more!

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    New Hampshire Senate Unanimously Passes Renewable Energy Standard

    The bill now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

    [From Renewable Energy]

    After years of hard work from advocacy groups, utilities and legislators, New Hampshire finally passed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) Thursday, which will require state utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

    The RPS passed the Senate unanimously, following an overwhelming victory in the House on April 5th. When Governor John Lynch signs the bill in the coming weeks, New Hampshire will become the 22nd state in the U.S. to pass such a standard.

    "Clearly there's a commitment now in the state to move ahead with renewable energy," said Senate Energy Committee Chair Martha Fuller Clark. "We've been able to learn from all of the other states, and I believe put together an excellent piece of legislation that will stimulate economic development as well as renewable energy development."

    New Hampshire currently has a rated renewable energy generation capacity of 14% of total electricity. Actual generation is more like 8-10%, depending on how much electricity is exported to neighboring states. The RPS will increase that generation by about 15% in the next 18 years.

    The new standard will support technologies such as biomass, hydro, wind, solar and geothermal. The legislation also allows for a review of the standard so that the state can adjust "carve-outs" for various technologies if needed.

    "All of us had our own particular thing that we wanted in [the RPS] and it really was like herding cats, getting all of us to realize that we just had to compromise," said Carolyn Demorest, Legislative Coordinator for the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association. "But this is a great bill and there will be room in the future do adjust it if needed."

    The RPS has been a long time in passing. Similar bills have been introduced over the years, but there wasn't enough support to get them through either chamber of Congress. New Hampshire has the largest legislature in the country besides the U.S. Congress, so there were many competing interests involved in the process.

    "It took time and a lot of listening, and I have to credit all the legislators and stakeholders who knew they wouldn't get everything they wanted, but they wanted to get a good bill that's balanced," said Joanne Morin, Technical Programs Manager at the NH Department of Environmental Services. Morin worked for over 5 years to get the RPS passed.

    "We're very excited about this. We really felt that everyone who had a say was able to make a compromise that would benefit as many as possible and be good for New Hampshire," Morin said.

    New Hampshire is the last state in New England to pass a RPS. 12 other states around the country are considering passing similar legislation. According to Senator Fuller Clark, the RPS represents a broader acceptance of renewable energy and an understanding of the serious environmental and economic problems associated with climate change.

    "All of these things have converged together at a time when we're also seeing the marketplace invest in renewable energy in a way that they never have before. So I just think the stars lined up," she said.

    New Hampshire is one of several states pursuing new Renewable Energy Standard policies this year, and several more are expanding existing successful standards. See this previous post for more on state and federal RES policy activity this year.

    I hope to announce the passage of a new 25% by 2025 RES in Oregon sometime next week. The Oregon RES bill passed the Senate 20-10 a couple weeks ago and should head to the House floor next week where passage is expected. Stay tuned...

    [Image credit: State of New Hampshire]

    Read more!

    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    Maryland Adopts California Tailpipe Standards, Joins Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

    Maryland becomes the twelfth state to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from light vehicles and the eleventh Northeastern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initative.

    [From Green Car Congress:]

    Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a number of environmental bills into law, including the Maryland Clean Cars Act. This makes Maryland the 12th state to adopt the California Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) standards which include the greenhouse gas reduction targets for new cars.

    [Image: Twelve states (dark green), including California, are now under the California emissions standards with their greenhouse gas limits. Five more (yellow) are actively considering joining. (Click to enlarge).]

    The signing came on the same day that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that the agency had opened the public comment process for the waiver that would enable California and the other states to move ahead with regulating greenhouse gas emissions from future new vehicles.

    [The EPA has moved forward with granting California and the other LEV states waivers after the recent Supreme Court ruling found that greenhouse gases should be considered criteria pollutants under the Clean Air Act and thus subject to regulation. See previous post.]

    Under the regulations, auto manufacturers would be required to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by their fleets by around 30% over a period of time. In California, the CO2 reductions are due to begin in 2009. Maryland’s implementation of the standards begins with the 2011 model year.

    The week prior, the governor brought Maryland into line with ten neighboring states by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The governor also signed an Executive Order that establishes a Climate Change Commission charged with developing an action plan to address climate change in Maryland and rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay.

    [Image Source: Green Car Congress]

    Read more!

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    New Senate Bill Aims at Reducing American Energy Consumption

    Senate Bill Targets More Than $12 Billion in Efficiency Savings in Transportation, Lighting, Appliances and Buildings

    U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici introduced legislation last week to reduce our nation's use of fossil fuels by improving efficiency in vehicles, buildings, home appliances and industrial equipment - saving consumers more than $12 billion annually. Bingaman and Domenici are chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    According to a press release, Senate Bill 1115 (S.1115), called the Energy Efficiency Promotion Act, would save at least 50 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, or enough energy to power 4.8 million U.S. households. It also would save 170 million therms of natural gas per year, or enough to heat about 750,000 U.S. homes and targets a 45% reduction in gasoline consumption.

    "The Energy Efficiency Promotion Act will reduce consumers' future energy bills by getting more from the energy we produce," Bingaman said. "High energy prices and the threat of global warming are very much on Congress's agenda this year. This bill is an effective step toward addressing both problems."

    "This bill is part of a broader attempt by our committee to provide incentives that will encourage Americans to embrace more energy efficient homes and businesses," Domenici said. "Our bill will allow consumers to save money by reducing energy usage. We think the federal government can set an example by improving the energy efficiency of its own facilities."


    The bill sets the goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20% by 2017; by 35% by 2025; and by 45% by 2030.

    The bill also includes a number of specific provisions designed to accelerate the development and deployment of efficient vehicle technologies, including advanced battery development for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The other transportation measures of the bill include:

  • Authorization of $60 million for the Department of Energy to research and develop light-weight materials such as advanced carbon composites and light-weight steel alloys for the construction of vehicles.

  • Amendment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to authorize the Secretary of Energy to issue loan guarantees for facilities for the manufacture of parts for fuel-efficient vehicles.

  • Authorization of federal awards to manufacturers and suppliers for 30% of qualified investment for incremental costs incurred to re-equip, expand or establish a manufacturing facility to produce advanced technology vehicles.

  • Authorization for an R&D program for electric drive transportation technology, including "plug-in hybrid electric vehicles".

  • Authorization of $500 million over 10 years for basic research for batteries, and $800 million to transition the basic research to first-of-a-kind batteries the automobile and electric utility industries can use to improve energy storage.

  • Authorization of $1 billion over ten years for four centers to work with the industries to develop advanced manufacturing technologies for batteries to be globally competitive.

  • Appliance Efficiency Standards

    The bill also expedites new energy efficiency standards for appliances by enacting into law efficiency standards developed by the Department of Energy for residential boilers, dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators and dehumidifiers, and electric motors. It also provides the Department of Energy with expedited rulemaking authority and increased flexibility to issue new energy efficiency standards in the future.

    Federal Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

    The Energy Efficiency Promotion Act is also designed to make the federal government a leader in energy efficiency and renewable energy use, using the purchasing power of the federal government to drive markets forward.

    The legislation sets the following goals, targets and programs for federal government energy use in fleets and buildings:

  • Promotes advanced lighting technologies by accelerating the use of efficient lighting in federal buildings. The bill authorizes a $10 million 'Bright Tomorrow Lighting' program to replace the 60 watt incandescent light bulb, and a $5 million award for replacing flood lights in federal buildings with more efficient lighting. Once sufficient advancements in lighting technology are made, the federal government will require the use of these light bulbs in federal buildings.

  • Requires the federal government, including the Capitol Complex, to increase its purchases of renewable electricity to 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2015.

  • Requires a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption in existing federal buildings by 2015 and requires new and renovated federal buildings to meet standards for reducing fossil fuel consumption, with a goal of eliminating fossil fuel consumption in new buildings by 2030.

  • Permanently authorizes and makes improvements in the federal Energy Savings Performance Contracting program, an initiative that requires all new federal buildings to be built in the most energy efficient way, and energy savings to be applied to improving the efficiency of existing federal buildings.

  • Requires both state and federal government fleets of civilian vehicles to reduce petroleum consumption by 30 percent by 2016.

  • Other Provisions

    The bill includes the following other provisions:

  • Authorizes nationwide media campaign to increase energy efficiency.

  • Assists state and local governments in energy efficiency by reauthorizing the Weatherization Assistance Program and State energy program at $750 million, a $50 million increase over the current authorization.

  • Authorizes a grant program for energy efficiency and innovative energy technology projects at colleges and universities.
  • Authorizes a job training program for workers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

  • The bill was the subject of a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing yesterday.

    This sounds like a good bill. Targeting a broad range of energy efficiency improvements, this bill is a great step forward in reducing Americans' energy consumption, bringing the corresponding reductions in energy bills, environmental impacts (including global warming pollution) and dependence on imported fuels.

    While the goals for vehicle energy efficiency improvements are simply goals and lack the increased CAFE standards or new 'fee-bate' system that might ensure those goals are realized, it's at least a good first step. More importantly, the appliance efficiency improvements will accrue real savings and the increased focus on energy efficient vehicle technology development is long overdue. It's time to stop throwing money down the bottomless 'hydrogen economy' pit and start focusing on near-term technologies that can greatly improve the efficiency of our vehicle fleet, including advanced battery research to support the deployment of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

    Additionally, the provisions requiring the government to lead the way will have major market transformation effects. The fleet fuel consumption reduction targets alone will help drive the market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and other efficient vehicle technologies, perhaps as effectively as the increased research and development funding. These reduction targets could drive hundreds of thousands of fleet vehicle purchases of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and other efficient vehicles. The US Postal service alone has over 280,000 vehicles, for example. If that kind of purchasing power committed to efficient vehicles isn't enough to get Detroit off their butt, I don't know what is ...

    ... ok, that's a lie, I do know what would be enough to get them off their butts: implementation of a reformed and increased CAFE standard requiring average fuel economy to hit 40 mpg by 2030. That's the one component that this bill really is missing. A 'fee-bate' system/gas guzzler tax would also help drive consumer demand for efficient vehicles and support the CAFE requirement. However, there are several other bills that have been introduced proposing increased fuel economy standards, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them passes this year or the next, perhaps eventually rolled into a bill similar to this one.

    There's a lot of good bills floating around Congress right now that would help get America on a path to a sustainable energy future. It's refreshing to at least see Congress talking about real solutions. Now it's getting time for them to pass something (this fall should be really interesting!)...

    [A hat tip to Green Car Congress]

    Read more!

    Monday, April 23, 2007

    State Renewable Energy Standards Move Forward - Is a Federal RES Next?

    2007 is shaping up to be an active year for Renewable Energy Standard (RES) policies, with RES legislation moving forward in several states this year and both chambers of Congress considering federal legislation.

    As reported previously, several states, including Minnesota, New Mexico and Colorado all recently passed legislation increasing their existing, successful state Renewable Energy Standard Policies. In addition, RES policies are moving forward in several new states, including Oregon, Virginia, Indiana and New Hampshire.

  • Oregon's Senate passed SB 838, the Oregon Renewable Energy Act with a bi-partisan 20-10 vote on April 10th. SB 838 requires Oregon utilities to get 5% of their electricity from new renewable energy sources by 2011, 15% by 2015, 20% by 2020, culminating in a 25% by 2025 standard. Small utilities are only required to get 5% of their electricity from renewables by 2020 (currently the cut-off is for utilities serving less than 5% of state load).

  • SB 838 moved to the House last week were the House Energy and Environment Committee heard testimony on the bill during three public hearings. The committee is expected to hold work sessions this week to hear amendments before passing the bill on the House floor. A floor vote is expected by the end of next week.

    See a series of previous posts here at Watthead for more on the Oregon Renewable Energy Act.

  • Virginia became the first state in the South to enact a RES policy on April 4th. Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly passed an electricity “re-regulation” bill that includes a utility-endorsed, non-binding RES “goal” for 12% of electricity to come from renewables by 2022.

    While a non-binding goal (similar to RES goals currently in place in Vermont and
    Illinois), the policy is notably for being the first in a Southern state setting renewable energy generation goals [excluding Texas I suppose].

    Additionally, Dominion Energy, the state's largest utility has said they plan to meet the goals, and while non-binding, the policy does including financial incentives to meet the goals, which could ensure an effective policy. Every time a utility hits one of the incremental targets, it can increase its base rate of return on equity by 0.5%, increasing the likelihood that utilities will work toward the goals and buy more wind and other renewables.

  • Just one day after Virginia enacted their RES legislation, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a Renewable Energy Standard bill with an overwhelming margin of 253-37.

    The RES would require New Hampshire to generate 16 percent of the state's energy from new renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydro by 2025. Because the state already generates about 6 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, the final share of renewables will be about 22-25 percent by 2025.

    New Hampshire is currently the only state in New England without an RPS, but that looks like it will change soon. The bill now moves on to the state Senate where it is expected to pass with a strong majority. The RES bill also has the support of Governor John Lynch who is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

  • Indiana is also considering a 10% by 2025 Renewable Energy Standard. The RES bill passed the Indiana House by a vote of 77-20 last week, according to this blurb.

    [Unfortunately, I don't know much more than that about Indiana's bill... Anybody have any more details?]

  • Together, the wide variety of state action on Renewable Energy Standard bills this year should redraw the map of states with mandates supporting for renewable energy development. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have mandatory RES policies in place, while two others have non-binding goals. The inclusion of Oregon, Virginia, New Hampshire and Indiana would push this number to 24 states with mandatory RES policies and 3 with non-binding goals, representing a majority of U.S. states and a vast majority of the United States population and energy consumption (see map below).

    [Image: Current and Proposed State Renewable Energy Standard Policies - April 2007 (Click to Enlarge)]

    And with Congress considering a federal RES policy this year, we could be entering the end game for Renewable Energy Standard policies in the U.S. On the House side, Congressman Tom Udall (D-NM) has introduced a 20% by 2020 national RES bill [see previous post] and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (also D-NM) has indicated his committee is planning to discuss a 15% by 2020 standard. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have circulated a letter of support for a "strong" federal RES policy which has now been signed by 50 senators.

    The success of state RES policies has clearly proven that an RES is an effective policy for driving renewable energy development and has paved the way (finally) for federal action.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    News From My Backyard: University of Oregon President Pledges to Reduce Campus Carbon Footprint

    [From my alma matter!:]

    EUGENE, Ore.--(April 17, 2007)-- University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer will announce Wednesday during campus Earth Day festivities that he has signed a commitment to reduce and ultimately eliminate the university's carbon footprint.

    The announcement is slated for 2 p.m. in the amphitheater of the Erb Memorial Union, 1222 E. 13th Ave. The University of Oregon has invited Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy to the news conference to make an announcement about how Eugene residents can begin to curb climate change. Also scheduled to speak are Mary Wood, a professor in the UO School of Law and an expert on anti-global warming legislation, and Jared Axelrod, president of the Associated Students of the University of Oregon.

    Frohnmayer recently signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, committing the University of Oregon to a broad effort by the nation's higher education institutions to address global warming by neutralizing their greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating research and educational efforts to equip society to re-stabilize the earth's climate. The heads of more than 150 institutions across the country have signed the pledge.

    "Addressing climate change in our curriculum as well as campus operations is an urgent and integral part of our mission," Frohnmayer said. "Higher education plays a critical role in preparing the new workforce and creating the knowledge that will help society create the strategies, technologies, policies and economic opportunities that will allow humanity to thrive while protecting our life-supporting environment."

    The University of Oregon has a history of supporting sustainability through administrative commitments and academic programs. For example, the university hired a hired a sustainability coordinator in 2004 to identify and implement pilot projects and educate the campus community about the importance of sustainability. Major lighting retrofits save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy consumption each year.

    The School of Law's environmental and natural resources law program was recently ranked among the top 10 such programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. More than 100 faculty members from 30 campus programs and departments take part in the university's environmental studies program. See the attached fact sheet for more information about the university's commitment to sustainability.

    Contact: Phil Weiler, 541-346-3873, pweiler[at]

    Source: Steve Mital, environmental studies department, 541-346-0591,


  • American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment;
  • Fact Sheet: Examples of UO's commitment to sustainability

  • Read more!

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Alaska's Governor Starts Exploring Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

    New subcabinet on global warming created - Governor Palin's desire to curb contributions to global warming represents shift in emphasis

    [From the Anchorage Daily News:]

    Gov. Sarah Palin plans to explore ways Alaska can reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions as part of a global-warming strategy to be developed by a new subcabinet of top administration officials.

    State officials said this week that Palin's new subcabinet will develop policies to help the state adapt to climate changes that have been more pronounced in Alaska than elsewhere.

    For the first time, the state will also begin looking for ways to curb Alaska's own contribution to the global atmospheric problem, officials said.

    [Image: The phenomenon of 'drunken forests' seen above is just one of the many effects of global warming visible in Alaska. As permafrost melts and soil sags, trees lose their 'footing' and end up tilting 'drunkenly' and frequently falling.]

    One of the state's first tasks: respond to a petition filed two weeks ago by an environmental coalition urging mandatory reporting by large Alaska industries of their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The environmental groups said self-reporting, even without mandatory emission limits, would spur companies to cut pollution.

    The state's interest in curbing emissions represents a new emphasis for Palin, who pronounced herself unconvinced about global warming science during her campaign for governor last year.

    "From my first meeting with her on this topic, I could tell she was interested in it and in the new information that was coming out," said Larry Hartig, Palin's commissioner of environmental conservation, who will be chairman of the new subcabinet.

    An international report released in February by the United Nations' main scientific panel concluded there was no longer reasonable doubt that human activities were the main cause behind the documented increase in global temperatures.

    Because of Alaska's northern latitude, the state is already seeing bigger impacts of climate change than most of the world. Dealing with those changes, some of them severe, will remain the state's first priority, Hartig said.

    "That doesn't mean we shouldn't be doing our fair share on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," he added.

    If anything, the state government has been on the other side of global warming politics until now.

    Polar bears are one example. On Tuesday, the Palin administration released its official opposition to a federal proposal to declare polar bears a "threatened" species. The state asserted that Alaska populations of polar bears are healthy and said worries about the bear are based on questionable projections of a shrinking polar ice cap.

    The state also sided with the auto industry before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case heard last year, opposing efforts to push the Bush administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

    Meanwhile, Alaska has seen increased erosion, melting of permafrost, dying forests and receding glaciers. The state Legislature finally got involved last year, creating a commission to assess the impacts of climate change in Alaska. That commission, which meets in Anchorage today and Friday, is not looking at causes of global warming or ways to begin solving the problem.

    Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, expressed the state's past ambivalence in an interview aired on National Public Radio on Tuesday when he said, "We see the results. We want to deal with the results now and let other people argue about the causes."

    That national debate over causes and solutions appears to be moving toward limiting greenhouse gas emissions by industry, utilities and automobiles.

    Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against the Alaska side in the Clean Air Act case. That decision could lead someday to a stronger federal role in regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Stevens himself introduced legislation this year to improve fuel economy in automobiles, saying this could reduce greenhouse gases.

    But the state can do something about the problem right away by requiring industry to report emissions, Trustees for Alaska said in a petition representing 13 Alaska organizations. The environmental groups said a similar reporting program for toxic emissions, instituted nationally in 1986, led to substantial voluntary reductions by industry.

    "Alaska is ground zero for the impacts from global warming, and it should be leading the nation in seeking solutions to it," said Randy Virgin, executive director for the Alaska Center for the Environment.

    Some other states have imposed reporting requirements, which seem to be gaining acceptance from industry. Exxon Mobil has been reporting its emissions worldwide for four years, said company spokesman Dave Gardner.

    Conoco Phillips went farther this week, announcing it is joining BP in support of a federal emissions cap -- in part to avoid a patchwork of state-imposed limits.

    Hartig said no decision has been made on the environmentalists' March 29 petition, which legally must be answered in 30 days. But he said their proposal is generally in line with steps already under way by the state to figure out where greenhouse gas emissions in Alaska are being generated.

    A preliminary consultant's report, done with eight other Western states, found that air transportation and oil and gas production were major sources in Alaska. The DEC is planning a more detailed follow-up report, Hartig said.

    The new Palin subcabinet on climate change will include the heads of the Fish and Game, Natural Resources and Commerce departments, along with the state's Washington, D.C., office chief John Katz and a representative of the University of Alaska, Hartig said.

    The group's first steps will involve gathering information, he said.

    "Some states have set goals about reducing emissions by a certain percentage," Hartig said. "I don't think we have enough information in Alaska at this point to do that."

    Good to see Alaska's government starting to come around on climate change. Given how significantly the state will be (and already is) affected by climate change, you'd think the Alaska would be at the forefront of state's taking action to curb global warming pollution. Instead, Governor Palin and the state government have tended to be on the wrong side of the issue, but perhaps they are starting to come around. Progress...

    Read more!

    Step It Up Tomorrow - Join the Largest National Day of Climate Action in History!

    [From Siteline/The Daily Score:]

    What do Washington Congressional Rep. Jay Inslee, the AFL-CIO, a car-sharing company, and a radio DJ have in common? What about swimmers doing a polar bear dip in the Willamette River, a Unitarian Church, and Portland Commissioner Eric Sten ? They and thousands of others are, for the first time in history, united on climate change.

    Founded by writer Bill McKibben [and college students at Middlebury College in VT, I might add], Step It Up is the largest and most diverse citizen day of action on climate change the U.S. has ever seen. With 1300 gatherings in cities and small towns across the U.S., could Step It Up be the climate movement’s turning point, its “Selma” or “bus boycott” as one activist suggested in yesterday’s Oregonian? Step It Up organizers hope so, as the events catch a wide net of supporters—companies, churches, national labor associations, peace groups, local governments, conservation organizations, and thousands of citizens collectively urging Congress to take action on climate.

    In Seattle, nearly 50 partner groups—including the AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers; coalitions of peace activists and churches; Sightline Institute; the League of Women Voters; and the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations—are bringing Rep. Jay Inslee together onstage with Presbyterian minister Lisa Domke, student activist Emily Duncanson, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and King County Executive Ron Sims. Organizers are expecting thousands from the Puget Sound area to turn out for one-mile march ending in a rally and sustainability fair.

    In Portland, citizens can hear Commissioner Eric Sten speak at a downtown rally; attend the Mazamas Melting Mountains Conference on the plight of Northwest glaciers; join a bike ride; or plunge into the Willamette River.

    Boise residents can join Mayor David Bieter at a concert for climate action with singer-songwriter Steve Eaton and others. And in Montana, rallies are gathering in places like Glacier National Park and downtown Helena.

    Beyond the Northwest, Salt Lake City is planning the “grandest Step It Up event in the nation,” as reported by New West , with headliner band Los Lobos. In Los Angeles, activists will drop melting ice on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks. Key West’s Step It Up features scuba divers. A Wyoming event will send mountaineers to climb and ski the state’s highest peak. And Boston, New York , Philadelphia, Chicago, and other major cities are rallying thousands.

    Visit to join a Step It Up event near you.

    And in Washington state, residents can celebrate that the state is on the brink of becoming one of the few states with a law setting targets for cutting greenhouse gases [see previous post].

    With over 1,000 Step it Up events planned across the country tomorrow, you're pretty much guaranteed that there's a fun event near you! So what are you waiting for? Step it Up and get involved tomorrow.

    I'll be attending the Polar Bear Plunge into the Willamette River in Lake Oswego and the Face it Oregon rally in Downtown Portland tomorrow. What events are you going to attend?

    Tomorrow could be an historic day. Don't miss out!

    Read more!

    News From My Backyard: Washington State House Passes Global Warming Legislation

    Legislation Banning New Pulverized Coal Plants and Establishing Statutory Global Warming Pollution Reduction Goals Passes State House

    [From Associated Press/Forbes:]

    The state House has passed a measure that would prohibit utilities from entering into long-term contracts with coal-fired power plants that produce excessive greenhouse gases.

    The measure passed late Thursday night on a bipartisan 84-14 vote, but it must go back to the Senate for concurrence on language changes. Senate leaders have said they will agree to the language, which will ensure the bill will reach the governor's desk.

    The measure is "putting Washington state at the forefront of cleaning up our own backyard," said Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon.

    The measure finally came up for a vote after much negotiation between House and Senate leaders, as well as among environmentalists, utilities and industrial companies.

    "We definitely have a deal the environmental community is comfortable with," said Clifford Traisman, a lobbyist for Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington Environmental Council.

    Any new coal-fired plant would have to be able to inject into the ground any emissions of greenhouse gases - primarily carbon dioxide - in excess of 1,100 pounds of gas per megawatt hour. And utilities would be prevented from entering into contracts with plants in other states that don't meet the same cap.

    There are two exceptions: two coal plants that have already begun the process, one in Kalama, and another in Wallula. If they are unable to inject their excess emissions underground, they would be allowed to offset them, by buying another high-emitting power plant and closing it down so that there is no net gain of emissions.

    "This will stop construction of pulverized coal plants in Washington state," said Sen. Erik Poulsen, chairman of the Senate Water, Energy & Telecommunications Committee, who has negotiated extensively with the House and other stakeholders on the measure. "This is one of the biggest steps our state has taken on climate change."

    In February, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order setting goals that would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington over the next 43 years.

    The measure puts her goals into state statute, setting targets to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020; to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2035; and to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 - or 70 percent below what is currently predicted for 2050.

    By putting the goals into statute, it ensures that "a future governor can't undo or weaken our efforts to combat climate change," Poulsen said.

    Gregoire's Climate Advisory Team, made up of more than 20 people representing environmental groups, business, labor, agriculture and others, had its first meeting last month. It will meet every few months, to determine actions the state can take.

    Preliminary recommendations are expected to be made to the governor later this year. Final recommendations are expected by January.

    Supporters said the standards would complement measures already in place, such as an initiative approved by voters in November that requires large utility companies to increase their renewable energy sources to 15 percent of their supply by 2020.

    And in 2005, lawmakers adopted a version of California's emission standards for cars and light trucks. The new standards will start taking effect in 2009, and by 2016 all new cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in Washington will have to comply with the tougher standards.

    Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and other gases, essentially trap energy from the sun, which warms the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere. Many scientists believe human activity that increases those gases is contributing to global warming.

    But opponents questioned whether global warming is a reality.

    "I think the basis of this bill is philosophically different from what I believe in," said Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee.

    "If you think there's an issue, come to Wenatchee sometime in January and we'll talk. I'd love to have a visit."

    This is good news. An emissions performance standard is a great next step for Washington to rein in its global warming pollution. The compromise allowing the Kalama and Wallula IGCC projects to move forward is a bit of setback, given that the plants do not plan to sequester their emissions, but it will also provide an opportunity to demonstrate IGCC technology in the West and will still require the plants to offset their emissions, so it's not a bad compromise in my book.

    Washington joins California who enacted an emissions performance standard (EPS) last year and this will add momentum to efforts to enact an EPS in Oregon, either through the legislature (a bill is expected later this session) or through Public Utility Commission regulation (a docket exploring an EPS will be opened later this year and a docket just opened yesterday on modeling of carbon risk in utility Integrated Resource Planning Processes that will take up aspects of this issue. [I am working on the carbon risk docket and will likely work on the EPS docket as well]).

    Enacting Governor Gregoire's emissions reduction goals statutorily is also important. So far, there is no integrated plan for meeting those goals, but putting them in statute ensures that they will have a lot more force than an executive order.

    The West Coast states are pushing forward on a variety of global warming and clean energy solutions, and I'm proud of the steps we've taken. There's always more to do, but these are important first steps, and the Western States are rolling forward now.

    Congratulations to those in Washington who helped pass this important legislation.

    The bill will return to the Senate for concurrence, so it's not a done deal yet, but it's prospects look good. A stronger version of the bill already passed the Senate earlier this session.

    Read more!

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    News From My Backyard: Oregon Senate Passes Renewable Energy Standard With Two-Thirds Majority

    Landmark Renewable Energy Bill Passes Senate Floor Vote With Bipartisan Support

    [Please see full disclosure at end of post]

    The Oregon Renewable Energy Act, SB 838, passed the Oregon Senate yesterday by a vote of 20-10. The bill received bipartisan support with Republican Senators Jason Atkinson (Grants Pass) and Bruce Starr (Hillsboro) joining all but one Senate Democrat in support of this landmark clean energy legislation. Senator Joanne Verger (D-Coos Bay) was the lone Democrat to vote "no" on the bill.

    SB 838 now heads to the House of Representatives for hearings beginning as early as next week.

    Despite this landmark success in the Senate, the effort to pass the Oregon Renewable Energy Act is not over.

    Although the Act has received overwhelming support from investor owned utilities, municipal utilities, cities, counties, labor, advocates, tribes, businesses, farmers, students, the Public Utility Commission, and the Governor, the few remaining opponents continue to try to weigh the bill down.

    If you are an Oregon voter, I strongly encourage you to contact your State Representative and ask them to vote yes for SB 838 when it comes to floor in the House.

    Stay tuned for continued coverage as the Oregon Renewable Energy Act progresses through the Oregon Legislature...


  • Powering Oregon's Future - Information and Resources on SB 838, the Oregon Renewable Energy Act
  • Summary of SB 838
  • Previous post on SB 838 passing out of committee
  • Previous posts here and here on Senate Committee Hearings for Oregon Renewable Energy Act

  • [Full disclosure: I work for Renewable Northwest Project, key advocates of the proposed Renewable Energy Standard. I am responsible for maintaining the Powering Oregon's Future website and am responsible for most of it's content. I should be no means be considered an 'unbiased party' but have done my best to report in a factual and balanced manner the events that have transpired during the hearings on SB 838.]

    Read more!

    Warnings From a Warming World - UN Releases Bleakest Global Warming Report Yet

    [From the Associated Press' coverage of the latest IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability:]

    BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — As the world gets hotter by degrees, millions of poor people will suffer from hunger, thirst, floods and disease unless drastic action is taken, scientists and diplomats warned Friday in their bleakest report ever on global warming.

    All regions of the world will change, with the risk that nearly a third of the Earth's species will vanish if global temperatures rise just 3.6 degrees above the average temperature in the 1980s-90s, the new climate report says. Areas that now have too little rain will become drier.

    Yet that grim and still preventable future is a toned-down prediction, a compromise brokered in a fierce, around-the-clock debate among scientists and bureaucrats. Officials from some governments, including China and Saudi Arabia, managed to win some weakened wording.

    Even so, the final report "will send a very, very clear signal" to governments, said Yvo de Boer, the top climate official for the United Nations, which in 1988 created the authoritative climate change panel that issued the starkly worded document.

    And while some scientists were angered at losing some ground, many praised the report as the strongest warning ever that nations must cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

    The report is the second of four coming this year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations network of 2,000 scientists. The new document tries to explain how global warming is changing life on Earth; the panel's report in February focused on the cause of global warming and said scientists are highly confident most of it is due to human activity.

    All four reports must be unanimously approved by the 120-plus governments that participate, and all changes must be approved by the scientists.

    That edict made for a deadline-busting contentious final editing session that was closed to the public. However, The Associated Press witnessed the hectic final 3 1/2 hours of objections and conflict.

    At one point, Chinese and Saudi Arabian delegates tried to reduce the scientific confidence level about already noticeable effects of global warming. They lower the confidence level from 90 percent to 80 percent. Scientists objected, and one lead author from the United States, NASA's Cynthia Rosenzweig, left the building after filing an official protest.

    "There is a discernible human influence on these changes" that are already occurring through flooding, heat waves, hurricanes and threats to species, she said.

    Under a U.S.-proposed compromise, the final report deleted any mention of the level of confidence about global warming's current effects. And that may have saved the day, according to some scientists who said the report had appeared doomed over that issue.

    There were other disputes where scientists lost out:

  • Instead of saying "hundreds of millions" would be vulnerable to flooding under certain scenarios, the final document says "many millions."

  • Instead of suggesting up to 120 million people are at risk of hunger because of global warming, the revised report refers to negative effects on subsidence farmers and fishers.

  • Often it was the U.S. delegation who stood with scientists and helped reach compromise, said Stanford University scientist Stephen Schneider, a frequent critic of the Bush administration's global warming policies.

    British scientist Neil Adger said he and others were disappointed that government officials deleted parts of a chart that highlights the devastating effects of climate change with every rise of 1.8 degrees in temperature.

    Some scientists bitterly vowed never to take part in the process again.

    Still, Adger and other scientists and even environmental groups hailed the final report as the strongest ever.

    "This is a glimpse into an apocalyptic future," the Greenpeace environmental group said of the final report.

    The tone of the report is urgent, noting those who can afford the least get hit the most by global warming.

    "Don't be poor in a hot country, don't live in hurricane alley, watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic, and it's a bad idea to be on high mountains with glaciers melting," said Schneider, the Stanford scientist who was one of the study author's.

    [Image: Click on the image above to see an interactive New York Times graphic on the winners and losers in the effort to adapt to climate change.]

    Africa by 2020 is looking at an additional 75 million to 250 million people going thirsty because of climate change, the report said. Deadly diarrheal diseases associated with floods and droughts will increase in Asia because of global warming, the report said.

    The first few degrees increase in global temperature will actually raise global food supply, but then it will plummet, according to the report.

    "The poorest of the poor in the world — and this includes poor people in prosperous societies — are going to be the worst hit," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "People who are poor are least able to adapt to climate change."

    But even rich countries, such as the United States say that the report tells them what to watch for.

    James Connaughton, the head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality noted that food production in North America would rise initially, but so will increased coastal flooding.

    The head of the U.S. delegation, White House associate science adviser Sharon Hays, said a key message she's taking home to Washington is "that these projected impacts are expected to get more pronounced at higher temperatures," she said in a conference call from Brussels. "Not all projected impacts are negative."

    Schneider said a main message isn't just what will happen, but what already has started: melting glaciers, stronger hurricanes, deadlier heat waves, and disappearing or moving species.

    It all can be traced directly to greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, according to the report.

    Martin Parry, who conducted the tough closed-door negotiations, said that with 29,000 sets of data from every continent include Antarctica, the report firmly and finally established "a man-made climate signal coming through on plants, water and ice."

    "For the first time, we are not just arm-waving with models," he said.

    But many of the worst effects aren't locked into the future, the report said in its final pages. People can build better structures, adapt to future warming threats and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said.

    "There are things that can be done now, but it's much better if it can be done now rather than later," said David Karoly of the University of Oklahoma, one of the report authors.

    "We can fix this," Schneider said.

    Read more!

    News From My Backyard: Global Warming May Split Oregon In Two

    Water may split state into 'haves,' 'have-nots'

    [From the Oregonian's coverage of the latest IPCC report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability:]

    The Pacific Northwest faces an intense tug of war over vanishing water supplies if the region continues to warm as forecasts show, dividing people west of the Cascades from those east as water "haves" and "have-nots." And even abundant water west of the Cascades may be stretched as people fleeing from drier, hotter regions of the U.S. find refuge here.

    Scientists base this warning on findings to be released today in Brussels, Belgium, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a consortium of more than 2,000 climate scientists from 130 countries.

    Among other things, the American Southwest will face dust bowl conditions as hotter temperatures rob as much as 20 percent of annual rain. But in the Northwest, dwindling mountain snowpack is expected to make summer water scarce especially east of the Cascades, challenging agriculture, river use and human habitation.

    [Image: Projected climate change impacts in the United States]

    Devastating wildfires throughout the West are expected to increase. And sea levels will rise everywhere, in Oregon and Washington eroding and undermining the rugged coastline. These scenarios are coupled, strangely, by extreme winter rainstorms, particularly west of the Cascades.

    The scientists assess the potential impacts of global warming in a summary today of "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability," a 1,500-page report to be released later by the organization, set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program.

    Scientists interviewed by The Oregonian who have seen drafts of parts of the report agree that for the Northwest, snowpack, which holds two-thirds of the region's stored water, poses the most serious problem.

    The slow melting of snowpack through the long summer months is vital: It fills rivers, driving hydropower, irrigation, salmon runs, recreation and expanding cities. But snowpack has been shrinking in recent decades and is expected to continue its decline.

    Worse, warmer winter temperatures cause earlier snowmelt in the spring, "so you can expect to have both an increase in flooding and an increase in drought in the same year," said Edward Miles, a researcher with the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. Earlier snowmelt means lower summer river flows at a time of peak demand, especially in the irrigation-dependent eastern portions of Oregon and Washington.

    "We now have the basis for social conflict in which the difference between the haves and have-nots grows much wider," Miles said. "People on the east side will be the have-nots in this case."

    Similar conflicts and declines could occur throughout the world, the scientists familiar with the report say:

    Coral reefs and other marine systems likely are suffering from higher temperatures and shifting ocean chemistry, and coral will probably enter a major decline.

    Satellite evidence shows a trend of plants and trees greening earlier in the year as higher temperatures expand growing seasons and extra carbon dioxide feeds plants. But that may not continue as higher temperatures also have a drying effect.

    About one-third of the world's plant and animal species will either move from their present range or vanish.

    Rising sea levels will drive millions of people inland from flooded coastal and low-lying regions, particularly in heavily populated coastal areas in China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia. U.S. coastal wetlands and low-lying areas of the Southeast and Northeast could be hit hard.

    By 2020, between 400 million and 1.7 billion people worldwide will not get enough water.

    The bleakness of the findings today are underscored by a February Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that stated people "very likely" have played a role in global warming.

    Managing water

    Determining how to best allocate limited water resources is the main challenge facing the Northwest, said Michael Scott, a natural resources economist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., who co-authored a draft of the report's North American chapter.

    Although he declined to give details about the report before its release today, Scott said the ongoing struggle about how best to manage water "certainly will get no better and maybe worse."

    Steven Running, a professor of ecology at the University of Montana and also a co-author of the draft North American chapter, said northern latitudes from about Portland north into Canada would see longer agricultural growing seasons.

    "Areas that are not water-limited that get enough natural rainfall will do better," Running said, "but areas that have this longer growing season but get less rainfall could be in real trouble. For example, as you go off into eastern Oregon and are really out in the desert, the last thing they need is more heat and less water."

    Western wildfires are expected to accelerate. A recent study found that higher temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt caused a dramatic surge in large wildfires across the Western United States in the past two decades.

    "There's no reason to be optimistic that the wildfire frequency is going to do anything but become more regular," Running said.

    Although coastal residents might escape high temperatures, they will face the prospect of a sea-level rise caused by global warming. Oregon and Washington's beaches and low-lying communities would be more vulnerable to erosion from storm surges and high tides.

    Societal issues

    The social issues presented by global warming -- such as the conflict between those who will have water and those who won't -- are gaining the attention of climate specialists in Oregon and Washington.

    "We expect more contention over water resources much like what we have seen in the Klamath Basin," said Mark Abbott, co-chair of the Governor's Climate Change Integration Group, which is examining what steps Oregon can take to prepare for a warming climate.

    Abbott, the dean of the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, said many people are concerned about a large migration of people into Oregon from areas that will be more heavily affected by climate change, such as the U.S. Southwest. Other questions include whether there will be "disproportionate impacts" on human health, such as more heat-related deaths and higher electricity costs among the elderly.

    Eban Goodstein, an economics professor at Lewis & Clark College who is studying global warming's economic impacts, anticipates that migration into the region from cities such as Los Angeles and Phoenix will accelerate. "They're unsustainable communities right now in terms of their water supplies. And as temperatures warm up, I would imagine we would see more and more in-migration driven by climate," he said.

    "In the Northwest, we're going to see snowpack loss leading to water shortages, an increase in catastrophic forest fires and sea-level rise as the dominant impacts," Goodstein said.

    "We need to prepare. It's going to be a rough century."

    After reading the dire reports on global climate change’s potential impacts on our state and our planet, I am comforted by one thing: we can still avoid this bleak future.

    Despite the fact the world’s scientific community has come together to issue a remarkable consensus report detailing a future drastically altered by climate change, I still have hope that we can avoid this future – if we act now!

    Luckily, Congress is considering legislation right now that could prevent such a bleak future for Oregon and the world. Comprehensive, science-based climate change legislation introduced by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) in the House and Senators Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Senate will put the United States on a path to rein in our global warming pollution and avoid the scary future described in the latest IPCC Report.

    Scientists tell us we need to cut our global warming pollution by 80% by 2050 in order to avoid the worst affects of climate change. Of all the proposals before Congress this year, only the bills sponsored by Waxman and Sanders/Boxer get the job done.

    We still have time to avoid the dark future described in Friday’s article, but time is running out. We need to enact comprehensive, science-based global warming legislation now and get our country on a path to a sustainable energy future. We simply can’t afford to not get this right!

    [Image credits: The Oregonian]

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