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Earth Equity News, from the Climate Crisis Coalition (10/12/08)

Banking Crisis

A 'Green New Deal' Can Save the World's Economy, Says UN.
By Geoffrey Lean, London Independent, October 12, 2008. "Top economists and United Nations leaders are working on a 'Green New Deal' to create millions of jobs, revive the world economy, slash poverty and avert environmental disaster, as the financial markets plunge into their deepest crisis since the Great Depression. The ambitious plan -- the start of which will be formally launched in London next week -- will call on world leaders, including the new US President, to promote a massive redirection of investment away from the speculation that has caused the bursting 'financial and housing bubbles' and into job-creating programmes to restore the natural systems that underpin the world economy. It aims to convince them that, far from restricting growth, healing the global environment will be a desperately-needed driving force behind it. The Green Economy Initiative -- which will be spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)... and is already being backed by governments -- draws its inspiration from Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, which ended the 1930s depression and helped set up the world economy for the unprecedented growth of the second half of the 20th century. It, too, envisages basing recovery on providing work for the poor, as well as reform of financial practices, after a crash brought on by unregulated excesses of the free market and the banking system."

Will Tight Credit Offset Huge Boost to Solar Industry from Tax Credit Extension?
By Matt Nauman, San Jose Mercury News, October 11, 2008. "In what promises to be a huge boost for Silicon Valley's solar industry, the extension of the solar tax credit bundled into the recent $700 billion financial rescue package will create thousands of new clean-tech jobs while slashing the cost of solar panels for homeowners and businesses, industry leaders say. Companies such as San Jose's SunPower had lobbied Washington for nearly a year to get the measure approved. Now that the credit has been extended for eight years, SunPower has a much clearer view of what the world will look like for solar energy well into the next decade. 'We may not be quite at solar nirvana, but we're going to be getting close,' said Julie Blunden, SunPower's vice president of public policy and corporate communications. But Blunden and others warned that the crisis on Wall Street could threaten the industry's potential gains. Companies often need credit to pay for solar installations, and the current credit crunch has severely limited its availability. Tight credit and fears of a deep recession also could keep homeowners from taking advantage of the removal of a tax credit cap that lowers the cost of solar panels by thousands of dollars. SolarTech, an initiative of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group that advocates for the solar industry, had predicted huge gains deriving from tax-credit extension but is now merely 'cautiously optimistic,' said Doug Payne, its director of business operations. Still, most remain bullish on solar because of its potential to replace traditional sources of electricity generation, its growing appeal to businesses and homeowners, and its ability to generate green jobs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere."

Losses in Nature 'Dwarf' International Banking Crisis.
By Richard Black, BBC, October 10, 2008.
"The global economy is losing more money from the disappearance of forests than through the current banking crisis, according to an EU-commissioned study. It puts the annual cost of forest loss at between $2 trillion and $5 trillion. The figure comes from adding the value of the various services that forests perform, such as providing clean water and absorbing carbon dioxide. The study, headed by a Deutsche Bank economist, parallels the Stern Review into the economics of climate change. It has been discussed during many [of this weeks] sessions [in Barcelona] at the World Conservation Congress. Some conservationists see it as a new way of persuading policymakers to fund nature protection rather than allowing the decline in ecosystems and species, highlighted in the release on Monday of the Red List of Endangered Species, to continue. Speaking to BBC News on the fringes of the congress, study leader Pavan Sukhdev emphasized that the cost of natural decline dwarfs losses on the financial markets. 'It's not only greater but it's also continuous, it's been happening every year, year after year,' he told BBC News... The review that Mr Sukhdev leads,The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity[PDF, 68 pp], was initiated by Germany under its recent EU presidency, with the European Commission providing funding. The first phase concluded in May when the team released its finding that forest decline could be costing about 7% of global GDP. The second phase will expand the scope to other natural systems."

U.S. Shoppers Cut Spending.
NYTimes, October 5, 2008. "Cowed by the financial crisis, American consumers are pulling back on their spending, all but guaranteeing that the economic situation will get worse before it gets better. In response to the falling value of their homes and high gasoline prices, Americans have become more frugal all year. But in recent weeks, as the financial crisis reverberated from Wall Street to Washington, consumers appear to have cut back sharply. Even with the government beginning a giant bailout of the financial system, their confidence may have been too shaken for them to resume their free-spending ways any time soon."

Food

Farmer in Chief.
By Michael Pollan, NYTimesMag, October 12, 2008. "Dear Mr. President-Elect, It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food... You will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on -- but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain..."

A Green Revolution for Africa?
By David Rieff, NYTimesMag, October 12, 2008. "The Gates Foundation is donating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve agriculture on the continent. But is technological change enough? Critics worry about accountability and its confidence in technology and market-based solutions."

Poland's Organic Farms Prove to be Fruitful Ventures.
By Marynia Kruk, CSMonitor, October 8, 2008. "The number of organic farms in Poland has burgeoned during the past 12 years, from 300 in 1996 to some 13,500 today, according to EkoConnect, a German nonprofit think tank that studies organic agriculture. EkoConnect defines organic farming broadly as farming that works with nature instead of against it. Farming has always been a small-scale enterprise in Poland, the only former Soviet satellite country to resist agricultural collectivization under communism... 'The structure of agriculture in Poland, where the average size of a farm is about 7-hectares [17 acres], is well-suited to organic farming,' says Bernhard Jansen, who heads EkoConnect. Small-scale farmers are less likely to have ever used costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or to have given their livestock hormone-infused feed, a plus for farmers who wish to convert their farms."

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Call for Urgent Review of Biofuel Subsidies.
Press Release, FAO, October 7, 2008. "Biofuel policies and subsidies should be urgently reviewed in order to preserve the goal of world food security, protect poor farmers, promote broad-based rural development and ensure environmental sustainability, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Tuesday in a new edition of its annual flagship publication The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2008. 'Biofuels present both opportunities and risks. The outcome would depend on the specific context of the country and the policies adopted,' said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. 'Current policies tend to favour producers in some developed countries over producers in most developing countries. The challenge is to reduce or manage the risks while sharing the opportunities more widely.' Biofuel production based on agricultural commodities increased more than threefold from 2000 to 2007, and now covers nearly two percent of the world's consumption of transport fuels. The growth is expected to continue, but the contribution of liquid biofuels (mostly ethanol and biodiesel) to transport energy, and even more so, to global energy use will remain limited. Despite the limited importance of liquid biofuels in terms of global energy supply, the demand for agricultural feedstocks (sugar, maize, oilseeds) for liquid biofuels will continue to grow over the next decade and perhaps beyond, putting upward pressure on food prices."

Wood

A New Wave of Wood-Burning Generating Plants Being Proposed.
By Jay Lindsay, AP, October 12, 2008. "The push for more power from renewable fuels has renewed interest in one of the oldest energy sources: wood. While airwaves have been permeated by advertisements for solar and wind power, last year wood generated more net electricity in the U.S. than those two up-and-comers combined. New wood-burning electricity plants are again being proposed from Massachusetts to New Mexico as the nation finds itself in a third energy shock. Using wood for electric power generation grew rapidly during the energy crises of the 1970s and 1980s, but fell away when the price of coal and fossil fuels dropped. Wood as a power source has garnered renewed interest as commodity prices spiked. That developers are again looking to forests for fuel has many worried. 'We don't want to mine our forest for energy,' said Bryan Bird, of WildEarth Guardians, a Santa Fe, N.M. environmental group. There were 196 wood burning electricity plants in the United States as of January 2007, including 72 with 40 megawatt capacity or larger, according to the Department of Energy. The bulk of today's wood power comes from plants that mainly serve the onsite lumber or paper mills that supply their fuel. Developers say they wouldn't need to cut down trees to power plants because there is a surplus of wood currently available."

Outdoor Wood Boilers Stir the Pot.
By Dan McDonald, Metro West (MA), October 12, 2008. "They dot the New England countryside as boxes of contradictions. Both a cost-saving heating measure and neighborhood nuisance, alternative energy source and environmental pollutant, outdoor wood boilers produce a type of non-traditional heat that the green community has yet to warm to. Seen more in rural communities, some towns... have outlawed the furnaces, citing environmental concerns. The furnaces typically have short smokestacks that emit plumes of particulates that are linked to health problems, to say nothing of community complaints... On the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging the industry to make the heaters more efficient. The agency tags units that meet an emissions standard that is 70 percent cleaner than traditional models... Michael Kuehner, vice president of Greenwood Technologies, a West Coast-based company that sells units in the Northeast, acknowledged the industry is moving toward a more efficient and greener production. 'Historically it's been the Wild West, people building these things out of their garage and whatnot,' he said. Traditional outdoor wood heaters worked at a 30 percent to 35 percent energy efficiency rate. Now, heaters are being produced with a 70 percent to 85 percent energy efficiency rate, resulting in less wood burned and less smoke, said Kuehner. The demand for the furnaces is there, said Kuehner. He mentioned his business has grown by 400 percent in the past year."

Solar and Wind

Wind Turbine Makers Struggle to Keep Up With Demand.
By Erin Ailworth, BGlobe, October 8, 2008. "For all the talk about renewable energy and heated debates over the siting of wind turbines, the reality is the turbines can't be made fast enough to meet growing demand. As a result, projects are being delayed for up to two years. The problem is particularly acute in the United States, the world's fastest growing wind-power market. GE and Vestas Wind Systems, two of the world's leading turbine makers, say wind projects worldwide are being delayed by a lack of parts for the machines, which have about 9,000 components, including blades, computers, safety brakes, and an assortment of gears."

McCain's 'Support' for Solar Energy Was Not There When It Was Needed.
By John Dougherty, Needs Publisher, October 7, 2008. "Michael Neary, president of the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association, a non-profit trade association, said McCain frequently says he supports renewable energy development, but his deeds do not match his words. McCain, Neary said, has skipped many important votes or voted against measures that would spur alternative sources like solar and wind. 'If he was truly an ally of alternative energy, he would have taken the time to get out there and vote and maybe rally some of the troops on the Republican side to get [measures] passed,' Neary said. 'That's something he hasn't done, and this is extremely important to Arizona.' McCain's underwhelming support of alternative energy is well known to Arizona's solar industry leaders, several of whom were surprised to hear the GOP presidential candidate proclaim his strong support for solar during the first debate. McCain's campaign and Senate office did not return numerous phone calls and emails seeking comment. Vivian Harte, chairwoman of the Arizona Solar Energy Assn., a statewide solar-advocacy group, said McCain's backing was needed last winter when a renewable energy tax-incentive bill came within one vote of clearing the Senate. McCain, however, failed to go to the Senate floor and cast a vote -- though he was in the Washington area."

New Jersey Governor Pushes Plan to Become World Leader in Wind Power.
By Wayne Parry, AP, October 7, 2008. "New Jersey is powering up an ambitious plan to become a world leader in the use of wind-generated energy. Gov. Jon Corzine wants the Garden State to triple the amount of wind power it plans to use by 2020 to 3,000 megawatts. That would be 13 percent of New Jersey's total energy, enough to power between 800,000 to just under 1 million homes. 'We want to create this generation's race to the moon, but this time, a race to the sea, to harness this potential wind source off of our coasts, and bring economic development, environmental benefits, and new, green jobs to the Garden State,' Corzine said Monday. Environmentalists hailed the plan. Dena Mottola Jaborska, executive director of Environment New Jersey, termed it 'a gale force for change, moving us away from dirty power and towards a new energy future. It is the most visionary plan to promote offshore wind energy in the nation.' Last week, Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint venture of PSE&G Renewable Generation and Deepwater Wind, was chosen to build a $1 billion, 345 megawatt wind farm in the ocean about 16 miles southeast of Atlantic City. That plant would be able to power about 125,000 homes."

Dirty Fuels

1Sky to Obama and McCain: Get Off Misleading Call for 'Clean Coal'.
1Sky.org, October, 2008. "During the Vice Presidential debate, both Senator Biden and Governor Palin touted their support for 'clean coal'.But both presidential campaigns and Congress are missing the point:Conventional coal-burning power plants are the leading cause of global warming pollution in the United States. 'Clean Coal' is a myth--a contradiction in terms. Coal companies claim they can develop coal plants at some point in the distant future that will capture and sequester carbon pollution.But carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is unproven and exorbitantly expensive. We need real solutions, not coal industry myths. Use the form below to send a message to both Presidential campaigns: We need clean, green energy now!" The 1Sky letter campaign calls for "1) Enacting an immediate moratorium on new coal-fired power plants that emit global warming pollution; 2) Dedicating resources to renewable energy such as solar and wind; 3) Setting strong, science-based targets for the reduction of global warming emissions of least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050; 4) Creating 5 million new green jobs and pathways out of poverty with a sweeping national mobilization for climate solutions and investment in a new energy economy."

BLM Accused of Running Roughshod Over Federal Laws to Expedite Oil Shale Development.
By Thomas Burr, SaltLakeTrib, October 9, 2008. "The Bureau of Land Management is running roughshod over federal laws to push out oil shale development without a chance for public comment, The Wilderness Society charged Tuesday. The Washington-based environmental group alleged in a letter that the BLM ignored federal law to expedite commercial development of oil shale without allowing the public a chance to object to land management plans in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming... Utah BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall says the Interior Department approved the land management plan amendments without a protest period because of a congressionally mandated timeframe in the 2005 Energy Policy Act... Congress had barred the BLM from finalizing rules on leasing federal lands for oil shale extraction in previous years, but did not renew the ban this fiscal year. That development opens the possibility of leasing federal lands for oil shale extraction, though that is expected to take a long time."

The Cost of Dirty Fuels.
By Kate Galbraith, NYTimes, October 8, 2008. "Producing fuel in unconventional ways, such as from oil sands or coal, would significantly increase carbon emissions relative to conventional oil production, according to a study [Unconventional Fossil-Based Fuels: Economic and Environmental Trade-Offs, PDF, 98 pp; report summary, PDF, 9 pp] released on Wednesday by the RAND Corporation, the nonpartisan research institute based in Santa Monica, Calif. The study... found that crude derived from oil sands is already cost-competitive, and would likely remain so even if policymakers introduced a cap on carbon emissions that drove up the price of the fuel. However, the economics of coal-to-liquids are less certain, RAND found, because the technology is largely untested and its viability would be significantly affected by fluctuation in oil prices... The study avoided a determination on the emissions profile and price of oil-shale production, another unconventional domestic energy source, due to technological uncertainties... It found that producing synthetic crude oil from oil sands had 10 to 30 percent higher emissions than conventionally produced crude. (Oil-sands production also requires a huge amount of water, another environmental concern.) Coal to liquids carried more than twice the emissions of conventional crude... Because of the concerns about emissions, carbon capture and storage 'would basically have to be a pre-condition' of coal-to-liquid fuels, said Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy, which sponsored the report. 'It's clearly going to take a good deal of government demonstration projects as well as significant tax incentives for commercial-scale application to begin,' he said. The study found that carbon capture and storage could add 25 percent to the cost of coal to liquids production. The RAND study was concluded before President George Bush signed into law last week's bailout bill [PDF, 451 pp], which included incentives for dirty fuels such as oil shale and coal-derived airplane fuel, as [NYTimes reporter] Jad Mouawad wrote last week. The law also includes incentives for carbon capture and storage."

Oil Sands Will Pollute Great Lakes, Report Warns.
By Martin Mittelstaedt, Toronto Globe and Mail, October 8, 2008. "The environmental impacts of Alberta's oil sands will not be restricted to Western Canada, researchers say, but will extend thousands of kilometres away to the Great Lakes, threatening water and air quality around the world's largest body of fresh water. In a new report, the University of Toronto's Munk Centre says the massive refinery expansions needed to process tar sands crude, and the new pipeline networks for transporting the fuel, amount to a 'pollution delivery system' connecting Alberta to the Great Lakes region of Canada and the U.S. It warns that the refineries will be using the Great Lakes 'as a cheap supply' source for their copious water needs and the area's air 'as a pollution dump.' The report, which is being released today [Wednesday] at a conference at the university, says that as many as 17 major refinery expansions around the lakes are being considered for turning the tar-like Alberta bitumen into gasoline and other petroleum products. While not all will be undertaken, enough of them will be to have a regional environmental impact. Proposed pipeline and refinery projects around the lakes are expected to lead to total investments of more than $31-billion (U.S.) by 2015, spending similar in scale to expenditures at many oil sands projects. For this reason, the report says the various projects, when taken together, threaten to 'wipe out many of the pollution control gains' achieved around the lakes since the 1970s."

Are Houston's Petrochemicals Safe from Hurricanes?
By Cain Burdeau, AP, October 6, 2008. "When Hurricane Ike was on its trajectory for the petrochemical industry clustered here, the storm had the makings of an environmental nightmare unlike anything in U.S. history. Of course, that didn't happen. Ike's storm surge was less severe than feared and the floodwalls, levees and bulkheads built around the region's heavy industry generally held. Some hazardous material spilled, but nothing to cause the widespread environmental damage some feared. But many of the plants and refineries are protected by a 1960s-era, 15-foot-high levee system built by the Army Corps of Engineers that is strikingly similar to the one around New Orleans that failed catastrophically during Katrina... For Tom Smith, an environmental advocate with Public Citizen in Austin, Texas is in denial. 'The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria County area has the highest concentration of toxins in the United States on a per-square-mile basis,' he said. 'There has not been a great deal of thought to the vast volume of toxins that might be released in a substantial hurricane and what that might do to the bays, estuaries and the entire Gulf.'"

Nuclear Power

NYTimes' Tierney: Nuclear Foes Should Get with the Times.
Commentary by John Tierney, NYTimes, October 6, 2008. "The presidential candidates claim to see America's energy future, but their competing visions have a certain vintage quality. They've revived that classic debate: the hard path versus the soft path. The soft path, as Amory Lovins defined it in the 1970s, is energy conservation and power from the sun, wind and plants -- the technologies that Senator Barack Obama emphasizes in his plan to reduce greenhouse emissions. Senator John McCain is more enthusiastic about building nuclear power plants, the quintessential hard path. As a rule, it's not a good idea to revive anything from the 1970s. But this debate is the exception, and not just because the threat of global warming has raised the stakes. The old lessons are as good a guide as any to the future, as William Tucker argues in Terrestrial Energy, his history of the hard-soft debate... It would be risky to bet everything on nuclear power as the answer to global warming. But it seems even riskier to bet on just the soft path, as so many greens are doing, either by flatly opposing nuclear power or by setting so many conditions that no plants could be built for decades, if ever. 'The nuclear debate is still stuck back in the 1980s,' says Mr. Tucker... If people started associating nuclear plants with natural radioactive processes in the Earth instead of atomic bombs, he says, they might be persuaded that it's the most environmentally benign form of energy, particularly compared with wind farms that cover scenic ridges and the vast solar arrays proposed for 'empty' land in deserts... He argues that the risks of terrorist attacks and nuclear waste have been exaggerated... If there's already a proven technology that doesn't spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, why fiddle while coal burns?" [Editor's note: CCC finds absurd the notion that nuclear power is the "the most environmentally benign form of energy." We are strong advocates for the "soft path."]

Nuclear Power Back on German Political Agenda.
By Madeline Chambers and Vera Eckert, Reuters, October 7, 2008. "The [nuclear power] industry is growing globally and other European nations including Britain and Finland are reviving nuclear. But Germany -- where about half the power comes from coal -- has so far stuck to a 2001 law to phase out nuclear reactors by 2021. The ground is shifting, however: oil prices which have risen fivefold since 2001, fears about energy supply security and the need to curb carbon dioxide emissions have boosted support for nuclear in Europe's biggest energy-consuming state. The issue will be significant in September 2009's election, when nuclear-friendly conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel will fight the anti-nuclear Social Democrats (SPD) with whom she has shared power since 2005."

Bush Signs Landmark US-India Nuclear Legislation.
By Deb Riechmann, AP, October 8, 2008. "President Bush on Wednesday signed legislation that reverses three decades of U.S. policy and allows American businesses to enter India's multibillion-dollar nuclear market. The U.S. agreement on civil nuclear cooperation permits American businesses to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India in exchange for safeguards and U.N. inspections at India's civilian -- but not military -- nuclear plants. Critics in India argue the constraints compromise their country's right to conduct nuclear tests. Some private U.S. arms control experts say the deal is likely to speed up nuclear arms competition in Asia. The Bush administration, however, considers the deal a key achievement of the president's second term... The signing of legislation, which approves U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation, is the result of three years of work by Indian officials and the Bush administration. The president said the measure would build on the growing ties between the world's two largest democracies, the United States and India... U.S. opponents of the nuclear agreement say lawmakers rushed consideration of a complicated deal that could spark a nuclear arms race in Asia. The extra fuel the measure allows India to purchase, those critics say, could boost India's nuclear bomb stockpile by freeing up its domestic fuel for weapons."

Transportation Alternatives

Bicycle Commuter Tax Break Is a Bittersweet Victory for Measure's Sponsor.
By William Yardley, NYTimes, October 9, 2008. "People who pedal to work each day have long sought a kind of commuter equality: a federal tax break for biking similar to those given for parking or riding public transit. Last week, after years of rejection, the credit suddenly became law. Scheduled to take effect in January, the credit was among a range of energy and tax provisions quickly added to the $700 billion financial rescue. Yet... in the district of the congressman who first pushed for the bicycle bill, Representative Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who wears a bicycle lapel pin and founded the Congressional Bike Caucus, no party is being planned... Even with his cycling tax credit attached to the financial rescue bill, Mr. Blumenauer voted against the measure. After all, thousands of constituents had contacted his office to oppose the $700 billion rescue bill and he was frustrated that it did not do more to help individual homeowners, according to an aide... Come January, bike commuters will receive a monthly credit of up to $20 that can be spent on maintaining, repairing or buying bicycles... Employers will be able to deduct the credit from their corporate taxes."

Bicycle Recyclers Empower Riders.
By Matthew Shaer, CSMontitor, October 8, 2008. "The nuts-and-bolts approach is something Recycle-a-Bicycle has always done particularly well. The organization was founded in 1999 with a straightforward mandate: Repair abused, remaindered, broken, or worn bikes and funnel them back to consumers. At the time, New Yorkers were wary, says Lisa Stein, the executive director. Used bicycles were something for the junk pile, and most experienced riders preferred the security of a brand-new aluminum frame. But over the past decade, Recycle-a-Bike has gained an enormous amount of local ballast. A crew of employees and volunteers now runs a pair of New York stores... Got an old bike that needs a new home? Consider donating it to one of these organizations. (You'll find others online.) Or, if you're in the market for a new ride, think green -- and buy recycled: Bikes Not Bombs, Boston (Jamaica Plain); Recycle-a-Bicycle, New York; Bikes for the World, Arlington, Va.; Recycle Bicycles, Pine, Colo.; Working Bikes Cooperative, Chicago."

California Voters to Decide on High-Speed Rail System.
By Russell Clemings, FresnoBee, October 10, 2008.
"Voters decide Nov. 4 whether to build a statewide high-speed rail system... Proposition 1A provides... $9 billion for a system estimated to cost $33 billion for the first phase alone, which will run from San Francisco to Southern California. It also includes $950 million for local transit connections to the high-speed tracks... Current plans call for the high-speed system -- modeled after those already operating in Europe, Japan and China -- to start carrying passengers a decade from now... Building enough new freeway lanes and airport runways to accommodate the state's travel needs in coming decades could cost $82 billion, the authority calculates. In contrast, it says, a high-speed rail system serving all of the state's major cities would cost around half as much. For that money, the state would get a fleet of sleek bullet-nosed electric trains... at maximum speeds of 220 mph. Although speeds would be only half that over mountain grades and in congested big cities, the authority still says a nonstop trip from Union Station in Los Angeles to the Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco would take only two hours and 38 minutes."

Alternative Vehicles for Commercial Delivery Displayed at Massachusetts Festival.
By Gregory M. Lamb, CSMontitor, October 8, 2008. "AltWheels Day [on September 29, 2008, was] the largest gathering of alternative-power commercial vehicles on the East Coast. The autumn event in Framingham, Mass., showed off 45 alternative-powered vehicles to hundreds of corporate fleet managers and government officials from 28 states. The vehicles, which range in size from an electric scooter to a large Class 6 (25,000 lb. gross weight) truck, used a variety of alternative-power schemes, including hybrid electric, plug-in all-electric, hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, and 85 percent ethanol... Smith Electric Vehicles, based in Britain, showed off a large all-electric plug-in delivery truck that recharges in 4-1/2 to 6 hours. Designed for urban streets, it has a range of 130 to 150 miles per charge and a top speed of 50 m.p.h. Smith plans to begin selling the battery-powered vehicles in the United States beginning next year... Alison Sander conceived of the AltWheels event after visiting a rain forest in Ecuador several years ago. The tribal chief told her he had dreamed that his rain forest, and all rain forests, would disappear unless something changed. 'You need to go back to your native place' and figure out how to change that vision, he told her. By bringing innovative companies together with fleet managers, Sander expects many ways will emerge to cut petroleum use."

Electric Car Fueling Stations Planned for Hawaii.
AP, October 7, 2008.
"A California company is planning to build a network of charging stations on four Hawaii islands to fuel electric-powered cars. Electric vehicles are expected to be available in Hawaii's auto showrooms in 2011, and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Better Place intends to power them by tapping into the state's growing renewable energy industry. Hawaii is an ideal market for electric vehicles because of its geographical containment and the relatively short distances traveled by most motorists, said Pete Cooper, in charge of global development for Better Place… The company is already developing an electric recharge grid for Israel, where it will install 500,000 charging stations and 150 battery-exchange depots. Officials in Denmark have agreed to a similar program… [In Hawaii] car owners would sign up with Better Place for a monthly plan providing recharge and battery exchange services for unlimited miles. Other options would allow subscribers to pay as they go. Then electric car drivers could charge up in parking garages, shopping malls and street curbs. Better Place says it would remove depleted batters and install a fresh battery in under three minutes. The company says its service removes a major drawback to electric cars: their heavy and costly batteries, which weigh about 500 pounds and cost $11,000. Better Place would own the batteries, substantially reducing the purchase price of the car, and the company's charging and exchange systems would relieve owners of the need to handle them."

Falling Oil Prices Has Detroit Second-Guessing Their Newly-Found Emphasis on Efficiency.
By Ken Bensinger, LATimes, October 7, 2008. "Costly gasoline has pummeled vehicle sales in the U.S. this year and forced automakers to dramatically rejigger their lineups. They are closing truck factories, racing out small cars and investing in expensive alternative-fuel vehicles like hybrids and electric cars. Much of that planning was based on projections that gas would cost $5 to $6 a gallon for the foreseeable future. Those forecasts were made in the spring, when gas soared past $4. But in the last three months, oil prices have bucked automakers' expectations and steadily gone south. Now, auto company executives and experts are wondering whether carmakers will profit off the situation or take it in the teeth. Some fear that a prolonged downturn in gas prices could cause the industry to abandon plans to develop fuel-efficient vehicles."

Climate Legislation

Dingell, Boucher Release New Climate Bill.
By Jim Snyder, The Hill, October 8, 2008. "The darkening economic outlook may force lawmakers to delay some public policy priorities, but two House Democrats indicated Tuesday that curbing global warming won't be one of them. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Energy and Air Quality subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) released a 461-page bill that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 80 percent over the next four decades. Environmental groups welcomed that target, but criticized the bill, which Dingell and Boucher refer to as a 'discussion draft,' for delaying dramatic emissions reductions until after 2020... But perhaps more important than any particulars at this point is the fact that Dingell and Boucher, two members with whom environmental groups have clashed, have set down on paper their broad goals for climate change, a month before an election in which the economy is paramount on voters' minds. That signals a shift in the old debate of environment versus the economy, which was often won by pocketbook issues."

Cut the Sprawl, Cut the Warming.
Editorial, NYTimes, October 7, 2008. "For years, while Washington slept, most of the serious work on climate change has occurred in the states, and no state has worked harder than California. The latest example of California's originality is a new law -- the nation's first -- intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by curbing urban sprawl and cutting back the time people have to spend in their automobiles... The measure is the latest in a string of initiatives from the California Legislature, including a 2002 law that would greatly reduce carbon emissions from automobiles, and a 2006 law requiring that one-fifth of California's energy come from wind and other renewable sources... Given California's size, these and other initiatives will help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Even more progress would be made if others follow. New York and 15 other states have already said they will adopt California's automobile emissions standards when the federal government gives them the green light -- which the Bush administration has stubbornly refused to do. There is, of course, no substitute for federal action or for American global leadership on climate change, both of which the next president will have to deliver."

Taxing and Trading Carbon

Carbon Tax Endorsed by Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University.
By Timothy Gardner, Reuters, October 9, 2008. "Climate taxes, not cap and trade markets alone, will lead to the vast technological changes the world's energy system needs to fight global warming, a top U.S. economist said on Thursday. Cap and trade has emerged as the dominant attempt to slow global warming. Global deals in permits to emit greenhouse gas emissions have hit nearly $65 billion a year. The European Union, under the Kyoto Protocol, has embraced cap and trade since 2005 and voluntary markets have developed in the United States, the developed world's top carbon polluter. But a straight carbon tax on energy production -- at an oil wellhead or refinery for instance -- would be simpler and cheaper than putting a cap on tens of thousands of polluters, Jeffrey Sachs, a special advisor to the U.N. secretary general and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University told a panel on Thursday. As the world prepares to form a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol by the end of next year, focus is sharpening on how well cap and trade markets are fighting emissions. Carbon taxes would quickly cut emissions across all sectors of the economy, including vehicles and manufacturing, said Sachs. It could also be more efficient than spreading the trade of permits across the financial system." Debate over Climate Change at Columbia University. By Kate Galbraith, NYTimes, October 9, 2008. "In a wide-ranging debate at Columbia University on Thursday morning, Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia's Earth Institute, faced off over how best to address climate change. (A Webcast of the forum is available here.)"

Canadian Liberal Party's Green Shift, Promising but Unlikely.
By Stephen Marche, The Nation, October 7, 2008. "The upcoming [Canadian] election, called for October 14th of this year, has put one of the boldest and most important policy initiatives in global politics on the table: the Liberal Party's 'Green Shift.' The policy would make carbon taxation the principal source of government revenue. And though Stéphane Dion, the Liberal party leader, claims the new tax would be revenue neutral -- involving deep cuts to corporate and personal income tax--the shift would completely restructure the Canadian economy around its environmental policy. Al Gore could ask for no more. What makes such a profound change possible is that the Liberals would only need a minority government to make it a reality--the Greens and the New Democrats, the parties to its left, have even more radical environmental policies on their platforms. Dion's opponent on the right, however, is the current Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper... [whose] environmental troglodytism can in part be attributed to the fact that he's from Alberta, Canada's answer to Texas, which has been booming during the recent rise in oil prices due to huge resources in its tar sands and its proximity to insatiable American markets. He also clearly believes that, in the end, Canadians will choose doing nothing over fundamentally altering their way of life... Harper thinks it's good politics to bet on dirtiness, largely because he sees Dion [, correctly, as an ineffective partly leader and]... nobody knows what, exactly, would happen if instead of taxing income we started taxing carbon emissions; predicting the future behavior of 34 million people to a completely different way of life is impossible. The specifics are wooly exactly because no one has ever attempted such a thing before. And given the current economic crisis, a dive into fiscal uncertainty may have less appeal that it might otherwise."

Leading Canadian Economists Petition Partly Leaders for Carbon Tax.
By Joanne Laucius, Ottawa Citizen, October 7, 2008. "More than 230 academic economists have signed an open letter open letter to the leaders of the federal political parties, urging them to acknowledge that putting a price on carbon is 'the best approach' to combating climate change. In a rare show of agreement, the economists say public policy needs to protect the environment 'because in the absence of policy, individuals generally don't take the environmental consequences of their actions into account'... The signatories include the godfather of Canadian economics, Richard Lipsey, whose name is familiar to generations of university economics students as lead author of the classic text Economics, now in its 13th edition... Prices have to increase to provide incentives to change behavior, said Nancy Olewiler, an environmental economist at Simon Fraser University who was one of the originators of the letter, along with Ross Finnie of the University of Ottawa and David Green of the University of British Columbia... The three originators of the letter came up with the idea about three weeks ago, then e-mailed a draft to other economics professors last Wednesday. By Friday, they had about 200 signatures, with more trickling in over the weekend. That's an astonishing number for academics not typically inclined to act collectively and quickly on policy issues, Mr. Finnie said."

The European Union

European Legislators Back Emissions Rules.
By James Kanter, NYTimes, October 7, 2008. "European Union legislators voted Tuesday in favor of laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but frustrated some environmental advocates by taking steps to ease the burden on industry. The European Union created the world's largest emissions trading market in 2005 to require heavy industries to cap their pollution levels. So far, that initiative has not helped cut emissions by much, leading policy makers to propose changes. The most contentious changes would make it more expensive for heavy industries to continue to pollute, by requiring them to buy more of their carbon permits after 2012. European governments currently award the majority of the permits free. On Tuesday, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted to support proposals that would require most electric utilities to buy all their permits starting in 2013. Countries like Poland that rely heavily on coal seek a more gradual introduction. But legislators also added proposals that could exempt utilities that feed heating systems or use high-efficiency technologies for heating and cooling. They also voted in favor of subsidies worth about 10 billion euros, or $13.6 billion, to help utilities develop technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide from coal plants."

Poland Leads Charge to Delay European Climate Reforms.
By James Kanter, NYTimes, October 6, 2008. "The EU created the world's largest emissions trading market in 2005 to force heavy industries to cap their pollution levels. Next on the EU agenda: switching to 20 percent renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gases by 20 percent by the end of the next decade... Unsurprisingly, European industries for which this would be most costly -- like steel manufacturers --have been strenuously lobbying to water down the measures. But what is more ominous for the future of European climate leadership is that some countries, led by Poland, are now putting up a fight themselves... Poland generates almost all its electricity from highly polluting coal. If the price of emitting goes up dramatically, that would force Polish utilities to spend more on complying with the regulations than utilities in, say, France, where the majority of electricity comes from nuclear power, which produces little C02. A week ago, Poland reached an accord with Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania that called for a more gradual approach to the reforms. In a joint statement, ministers from those five countries said that making it too expensive to use coal (which can be mined domestically in some EU countries) would only serve to weaken their energy security by pushing them to use natural gas. While natural gas may be less polluting than coal, it would make these countries -- former Soviet bloc states -- more reliant on gas imports from Russia."

World Conservation Congress

World Conservation Congress Convenes in Barcelona.
Press Release, IUCN, October 6, 2008. "The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) forum World Conservation Congress started on Sunday, with more than 800 events scheduled to take place over the following four days...In his welcome address at the forum opening, Ted Turner, President of the United Nations Foundation, said that dealing with nuclear disarmament, global warming, the effects of over-population and ensuring equal rights of women need to be addressed if we want to make the Congress theme of 'a diverse and sustainable world' a reality. The forum addresses the world's most pressing sustainable development challenges. It offered four days of debates, workshops, dialogues, art and film, roundtable discussions, training courses, music and exhibitions. Split into three streams, the events covered how to tackle climate change, how to safeguard the diversity of life in all its forms, and how to make sound environmental management the foundation of healthy people and economies... Every four years, IUCN organizes the World Conservation Congress, the biggest and most diverse conservation-related event in the world. Its objective is to improve the way we manage our environment for human, social and economic development... IUCN used the platform offered by the World Conservation Congress to organize the International Women Environmental Entrepreneurs Fair... [to] make visible the economic, social and environmental inputs that women entrepreneurs bring to their countries and the world through their 'green enterprises.'"

IUCN Presses Developing Countries to Step Up to the Plate on C02.
By James Kanter, NYTimes, October 6, 2008. "Valli Moosa, a former environment minister in South Africa and the president of IUCN, told a packed auditorium of delegates at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona on Sunday evening that poorer nations could no longer maintain that their emissions of planet-warming gases were insignificant compared to industrialized nations. (The developing world's carbon dioxide emissions now surpass those of industrialized countries, by one assessment.) 'It is not good enough for big developing countries to take absolutely no responsibility just because the biggest contributors to climate change are the developed countries,' Mr. Moosa said at the opening ceremony of the congress."

IUCN Releases New 'Red List' of Endangered Mammals.
Press Release, IUCN, October 6, 2008. "The most comprehensive assessment of the world's mammals has confirmed an extinction crisis, with almost one in four at risk of disappearing forever, according to The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, revealed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The new study to assess the world's mammals shows at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since 1500. But the results also show conservation can bring species back from the brink of extinction, with five percent of currently threatened mammals showing signs of recovery in the wild."

Wildlife Gives Early Warning of 'Deadly Dozen' Diseases Spread by Climate Change.
By Lewis Smith, London Times, October 8, 2008. "Scientists have nicknamed them the 'deadly dozen': 12 diseases, lethal to humans and wildlife, that are increasing their geographical range. Ebola, cholera, plague and sleeping sickness were among those identified yesterday by veterinary scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) as spreading across the planet because of climate change... Researchers called for wildlife monitoring systems to be set up around the globe to watch for signs of disease among animals before it spreads and kills people. Monitoring networks have already been introduced in parts of the world and have proved successful in saving lives. William Karesh, of the WCS, told the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in Barcelona that there was increasing concern about the impact that climate change would have on the spread of disease. Changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures were known to have an effect, though the reason was not always clear, he said at the launch of the report, The Deadly Dozen [PDF brochure]."

Forests and Wildlife

California, Nonprofits Form Coalition to Protect Sierra.
By Tom Knudson, Sacramento Bee, October 10, 2008.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the creation of a private, non-profit coalition -- the Northern Sierra Partnership-- to work with government to protect open space, forests, watersheds and step up efforts to respond to climate change... The governor said $25 million has been raised for the partnership, including commitments of $10 million each from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Morgan Family Foundation. The partnership is an alliance of five organizations - the Feather River Land Trust, Truckee Donner Land Trust, Sierra Business Council, the Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy. Eventually, the group hopes to raise $100 million, which, combined with public funds, will protect more than 100,000 acres. Historically, the northern Sierra, from south of Lake Tahoe to Lassen Volcanic National Park, has not garnered as much conservation attention as other parts of the range. Yet rapid population growth and the spread of second homes, golf courses, resorts and other development are putting pressure on the area's wildlife, watersheds and working ranches. Besides trying to safeguard open space and ranch land from development, the partnership plans to devote more attention to climate change. 'The West, more so than any other region in the continent outside the Arctic, will face the most profound impacts from climate change - and we clearly have already seen them here in the high Sierra,' Rhea Suh, conservation and science program officer for the Packard foundation, told the group. In the Sierra, researchers have tied climate change to a wide range of impacts, including a diminishing snowpack, catastrophic wildfire, receding glaciers and retreat of small mammals upslope. In August, Schwarzenegger unveiled a state effort called the Sierra Nevada Climate Change Initiative to develop ways to mitigate and adapt to global warming across the 25 million-acre mountain range. He put the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and California Tahoe Conservancy in charge of it."

Hundreds of Penguins Take the Quick Way Home, Riding Air Force Jet to the South Atlantic.
By Tales Azzoni, AP, October 7, 2008. "More than 370 penguins that mysteriously washed up on Brazil's equatorial beaches were flown south on a huge air force cargo plane and released closer to the frigid waters they call home, animal advocates said Monday. Onlookers cheered as the young Magellanic penguins were set free on a beach in southern Brazil and scampered into the ocean, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement. It called the penguin release the largest ever in South America. The penguins were among nearly 1,000 that have washed up on Brazil's northeastern coast in recent months, said group spokesman Chris Cutter. About 20 percent of the penguins died and the rest were not healthy enough send back… Experts hope a small group of older penguins released along with the young ones will help guide them south to the Patagonia. Magellanic penguins breed in large colonies in southern Argentina and Chile and migrate north as far as southwest Brazil between March and September. Environmentalists say it is not know why the penguins were stranded so far north, but suggest they could have been carried beyond their usual range by a flow of warm water."

Proponents of 'Assisted Migration' Try to Rescue the Torreya Pine, Threatened by Climate Change.
By Chris Berdik, BGlobe, October 12, 2008. "Only several hundred Torreya pines remain in the wild, clinging to a few ravines by Florida's Apalachicola River, less than 1 percent of the stock a century ago. Most of the survivors are stunted and unable to produce seed. The most common explanation for the tree's downfall is the repeated disease infestations that set upon it in the second half of the last century. But [others] have their eyes on another culprit: Florida is too hot... They are trying to save the species from global warming... This mission of the Torreya Guardians, as they are known, represents the first deliberate implementation of a radical conservation idea known as 'assisted migration.' As the planet warms, many plants and animals are pushing toward the poles, or to higher elevations, in search of comfortable habitat... Some species may not be able to find their way over, around, or through all of this to cooler climes, and so some scientists are entertaining the idea of giving them a hand."

Looking at Climate Change

Global Warming Grips Greenland.
By Tom Henry, Toledo Blade, October 12, 2008, 1st of 4 parts. "Symptoms of the planet's warming pop up everywhere in Greenland. The summer fishing season is longer. Crops are being grown in areas never thought possible. Tourism is booming. But Greenland's long-term problems from global warming will likely overshadow such short-term gains."

Copenhagen Needs More Dikes to Ward Off Higher Seas.
By Christian Wienberg, BloombergNews, October 8, 2008. "Copenhagen, built largely on land less than a meter (39 inches) above sea level, is ground zero in Scandinavia for global-warming research. The Danish capital, founded in the 12th century, is now the Nordic region's largest city, with a population of 1.2 million. Those are reasons municipal officials should build more dikes and other protection against higher sea levels that may result from global warming, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report [PDF, 51 pp] today. 'There's no need to panic, but it's necessary to prepare already now for rising sea levels to limit economic loses,' Danish Climate and Energy Minister Connie Hedegaard said on the agency's websitein a response to the findings."

NOAA Administrator to Step Down.
Posted by Ashley Yeager, Nature.com, October 2, 2008. "Conrad Lautenbacher, who has led the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for almost seven years, will step down on 31 October... During his time at NOAA's helm, the retired Navy vice admiral guided the US effort to create the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, an international network that links Earth-monitoring systems. That project started as a 'gleam' at the beginning of Lautenbacher's tenure and has now actualized into a global collaboration among 75 countries and 50 intergovernmental organizations. The goal is to understand and provide to decision makers information about climate, water and natural disaster cycles, he says. Lautenbacher also advocated that the US develop a stronger tsunami warning system in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans after the devastating 2004 tsunami." See Protest at NOAA HQ Over Alleged Suppression of Info Connecting Hurricanes to Climate Change. USAToday, October 23, 2006.

Trend Setters

Architecture Makes Life and All Its Sciences Feel Grandly Transparent in a Green Museum.
By Ann Parson, BGlobe, October 12, 2008. "Most museums, Italian architect Renzo Piano says, are 'kingdoms of darkness.' Sunlight fails to penetrate them, with exhibits protruding from windowless walls. The California Academy of Science [in San Francisco] belonged in this category, until a 1989 earthquake shook its foundation, literally and figuratively. Given the opportunity to rebuild, officials pondered how to reinvent the institution, the oldest science museum in the West, and transport its millions of specimens... into the future... Both the architecture and the exhibits embrace sustainability. The Academy's design goes so far in this direction that it has received an LEED Certification at the Platinum level, the top mark handed out by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is the largest museum in the world to have earned the distinction. (According to the council, there are currently 90 Platinum projects completed in the United States, with California's 950,000-square-foot Environmental Protection Agency building so far the largest.) The Academy building itself serves as an exhibit about sustainable practices. Ninety percent of the old Academy was recycled. Altogether, 11 million pounds of recycled steel went into the new building as well as 137 million pounds of locally-sourced concrete, which was mixed with fly ash and slag, two normally discarded materials left over from making steel, so that less new concrete was needed. Museums apparently consume twice the energy used by office buildings because of their extended hours and controlled climates, a trend this museum fights. Numerous features help with conservation. There are louvers that let in sea breezes on warm days, plentiful skylights but also sun shades, a canopy of 60,000 photovoltaic cells bordering the living roof, radiant floor heating, and insulation composed of shredded discarded blue jeans. Even the piazza's high glass ceiling cranks open to the sky to let in fresh air. Asked what pleases him most about the design, Gregory Farrington, executive director, responded, 'I love the fact that you can open the windows; what an extraordinary concept!'"

MoveOn Turns Ten.
By Jose Antonio Vargas, WashPost, October 9, 2008. "MoveOn, the enfant terrible of online politicking, is growing up, turning 10 years old last month. And it has become far more than a purveyor of vituperative e-mail blasts. During the 2006 midterm elections, for instance, the online organization -- with a full-time staff of 23, most of whom work from home -- spent $28 million advocating for Democratic candidates through its political action committee, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In contrast, the National Rifle Association, with a staff of about 500 housed in its expansive headquarters in Fairfax, spent $11 million through its PAC. As the battle between Obama and McCain heated up this summer, MoveOn witnessed its largest increase in membership -- adding a million new members in three months, bringing its total to 4.2 million. Not bad for a group that started off as an online petition to stop the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Created in September 1998 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, the petition asked Congress to censure Clinton and 'move on' to other domestic issues."


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