Thursday, 13 May 2010

New global warming bill depends on drilling compromise

By: Susan Ferrechio Chief Congressional CorrespondentMay 12, 2010
As Senate lawmakers grilled executives about the cause of a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Kerry, D-Mass., prepared to unveil a bill to address global warming that would allow expansion of offshore drilling, despite threats of opposition from coastal-state Democrats.
The gravity of the situation in the Gulf, where hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil continue to pour into the ocean, have greatly complicated efforts to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill this year, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to guarantee the Senate will take up a bill at all before Congress adjourns.
Reid said he plans to "let this bill be seen by everyone that is interested in the subject, and I think the week that we get back after the Memorial Day recess I'll get all the chairmen together and take a look at what we need to do with energy for this year."
A draft of the proposal circulating around Capitol Hill showed Lieberman and Kerry tried to find a compromise between the Democratic opponents to new drilling in the wake of the Gulf disaster and the Republican and Democratic lawmakers who will not vote for an energy bill unless new drilling is included.
Kerry and Lieberman propose expanding offshore drilling but allowing some states the power to opt out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores and to void any project if they stand to suffer "significant adverse impacts" from an oil spill.
Such a proposal could help win over Democrats such as Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who has threatened to filibuster an energy bill that expands offshore drilling. Nelson declined to comment on the plan Wednesday, telling the Washington Examiner that his staff is researching the proposal.
The Lieberman-Kerry proposal is designed to lure moderate Democrats, such as Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska, who have long sought expanded drilling and profit sharing, and perhaps a few moderate Republicans, such as Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine.
The global warming component of the bill calls for reducing carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 and allowing states to sell the right to emit carbon dioxide.
"If we leave drilling out, it would be very problematic for me," Begich said. "Anyone who thinks that it's not going to be part of the next 50 years is dreaming. It's part of the mix. I think they tried to craft something that is a balanced approach."
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., said the global warming component, more than the drilling provisions, threatens the bill's passage because senators from coal-dependent states will likely refuse to back a bill that is bound to raise energy prices.
"I think many of the other Midwestern senators feel the same way, when you are as reliant on coal at the present time as we are," Nelson said. "Anything that has a trade in it or a carbon tax is bound to raise rates in a place like Nebraska, and I'm very concerned about it."

Biofuel combustion chemistry more complex than petroleum-based fuels

LIVERMORE, Calif. - Understanding the key elements of biofuel combustion is an important step toward insightful selection of next-generation alternative fuels.
And that's exactly what Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories researchers intend to do.
In a new paper on the cover of the May 10 edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie, Sandia researcher Nils Hansen and Lawrence Livermore scientist Charles Westbrook take a look at the vastly diverse and complex chemical reaction networks of biofuel combustion.
The paper, "Biofuel Combustion Chemistry: From Ethanol to Biodiesel," examines the combustion chemistry of those compounds that constitute typical biofuels, including alcohols, ethers and esters.
Biofuels such as bioethanol, biobutanol and biodiesel are of increasing interest as alternatives to petroleum-based transportation fuels. According to Hansen and Westbrook, however, little research has been done on the vastly diverse and complex chemical reaction networks of biofuel combustion.
In general, the term biofuel is associated with only a few select chemical compounds, especially ethanol (used exclusively as a gasoline replacement in spark-ignition engines) and very large methyl esters in biodiesel (used as a diesel fuel replacement in diesel engines). The biofuels are oxygenated fuels, which distinguishes them from hydrocarbons in conventional petroleum-based fuels.
While much discussion surrounding biofuels has emphasized the process to make these alternative fuels and fuel additives, Hansen and Westbrook for the first time examined the characteristic aspects of the chemical pathways in the combustion of potential biofuels.
In collaboration with an international research team representing Germany, China and the United States, Westbrook, Hansen and former Sandia post-doctoral student Tina Kasper used a unique combination of laser spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and flame chemistry modeling to explore the decomposition and oxidation mechanisms of certain biofuels and the formation of harmful or toxic emissions.
"To understand the associated combustion reactions and to identify recurring reaction patterns, it is important to study prototypical variants of potential biofuels," Westbrook said.
The work leading to the paper was funded in part by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, which supports fundamental research, including research aimed at understanding, predicting and ultimately controlling matter and energy at the electronic, atomic and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment and national security.
Angewandte Chemie is the weekly, peer-reviewed scientific journal of the German Chemical Society.
Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ( is a national security laboratory that develops science and engineering technology and provides innovative solutions to our nation's most important challenges. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

India's greenhouse gas emissions rise by 58%

Energy sector responsible for over half of India's rise in emissions, says a new government report

From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Wednesday 12 May 2010 15.06 BST

India's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose by 58 per cent between 1994 and 2007 with the energy sector contributing over half of the emissions, a new government report said.But India's emissions per unit national wealth (or gross domestic product), a measure of GHG intensity, declined by 30 per cent during this period, the report showed.India released its last emissions estimate in 1994. Minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, who released the new report yesterday, said India was the first developing country to release 'updated' estimates.India's emissions are up from 1.2 billion tonnes in 1994 to 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2007.
The country now ranks fifth globally in total GHG emissions, behind the United States, China, the European Union and Russia in 2007. The emissions of the United States and China are four times that of India in 2007.
India's energy sector contributed 58 per cent of emissions followed by industry with 22 per cent and 17 per cent by agriculture.
In November 2009, ahead of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, India announced it would reduce its 'GHG emission intensity' — amount of gases released per unit growth in national wealth — by 20–25 percent between 2005 and 2020.Ramesh said India would continue to improve its methods for emission estimates, bridge data gaps and develop country-specific GHG emission estimate models.In October 2009, India announced setting up a new climate research centre and building climates satellites to improve data collection.

Helicopter sows moss on moors

By Emily Beament
Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A rare moss was scattered across remote moorlands from a helicopter yesterday in an effort to help regenerate the moors.
The project is attempting to use sphagnum moss, which is able to hold many times its own weight in water and allows new peat to develop, to restore the peatlands of the Peak District.
The scheme's organisers said sphagnum moss maintained the high level of moisture needed to allow vegetation to flourish and protect peatlands from erosion. The moss was hit by acid rain and is in danger of disappearing from the national park.
Scientists have been able to propagate the tiny plant in a laboratory. If the trial by the Moors for the Future partnership is successful, the plan is to restore more than 2,000 acres of Peak District and South Pennine moorland.
Jon Stewart, from Natural England, said: "England's moorland peatlands are a crucial buffer against climate change through their role as a carbon store, but have been damaged by centuries of inappropriate management and pollution. We have to stop the rot and ensure that peatlands are properly looked after."

Coalition government: Could blue plus yellow equal green?

The Tories and Lib Dems agree that we need a low-carbon economy and the parties have common ground on environmental initiatives, says Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth

Andy Atkins, Wednesday 12 May 2010 17.03 BST
As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats inched towards a coalition government over the past few days, much was made of the issues they differ on.
But one of the key things they agree about is the urgent need to develop a low-carbon economy and reap the huge economic benefits this will bring the UK.
With a coalition representing more than half of those who voted and 362 of 650 parliamentary seats, there is a clear mandate and opportunity to deliver a greener, safer future.
The possible appointment of Chris Huhne as energy and climate change secretary would be an encouraging development. Huhne championed green issues in his bid to lead the Lib Dems, and their manifesto made the most ambitious and integrated environmental commitments of the main parties.
An examination of the Lib Dem and Tory election manifestos and recent policy pledges shows significant common ground on green initiatives which could form the basis of a programme to cut emissions.
Based on this, the Queen's speech should contain at least two new green laws.
A new energy bill would deliver on pledges to boost green energy development, with both parties agreeing similar 2020 targets – the Conservatives want 15% of UK energy to come from renewable sources by this date, the Lib Dems 40% of electricity.
There is agreement on the need for new rules to limit climate-changing pollution from fossil fuel power stations and develop a smart electricity grid.
Nuclear is less clear – but if new legislation guarantees the Conservative commitment not to provide public money for new nuclear plants, it will be economically very difficult to build new reactors.
And a housing and local government bill would help deliver on pledges for more energy-efficient homes. It would also ensure local councils play their part in meeting UK climate targets by establishing local carbon budgets and thus limiting the carbon emissions their area can emit.
The emergency budget must have the development of a low-carbon economy at its heart. New green jobs and industries could be created by developing the UK's vast renewable energy potential – one of Europe's best – and slashing energy waste. This would also help tackle fuel poverty and increase fuel security by reducing our reliance on overseas fossil fuels.
The budget must deliver the promised green investment bank and create a fund to further boost the creation of new green jobs.
Opposition to Heathrow expansion was another common policy between the blue and yellow parties - the plan has now been scrapped
Of course other policies are clearly needed. Friends of the Earth is calling for new laws to tackle the greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation caused by the UK's dependence on imported feeds for meat and dairy.
The UK must also play a leading role in securing a strong and fair international agreement to cut global emissions – with the richest countries making the deepest cuts first.
And there must be a much stronger 2020 UK climate change target. Scientists have warned that the current policy, to curb UK emissions by 34%, is inadequate – and must be increased to at least 42% if the UK is to play its fair part in tackling climate change.
The Liberal Democrats backed this new target in the previous parliament – they must now do all they can to make it a central plank of the coalition's approach to curbing emissions.
Both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives must show that a new approach to politics will also deliver a new approach to delivering the low-carbon future we all need.
And if this government is successful in creating a greener future, it will set a powerful international example – and help kick-start real action to combat global warming and the devastation of our planet's natural resources.
• Andy Atkins is the executive director of Friends of the Earth

Coalition pledges to cut central government emissions by 10%

Commitment by new government will account for 1% of all UK emissions - equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road

James Randerson, Wednesday 12 May 2010 17.34 BST

The new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition has pledged to cut central government emissions by 10% in the next 12 months - equivalent to taking more than 200,000 cars off the road. The commitment is the most high-profile success to date for the 10:10 climate change campaign, which launched in September last year.
Emissions from central government are about 1% of total UK emissions - as much as the city of Liverpool. A 10% cut is amounts to 600,000 tonnes of CO2.
"This is the first announcement the coalition has made, and the inclusion of their 10:10 commitment bodes well for the importance they'll place on carbon reduction this term," said Eugenie Harvey, campaign director of 10:10. "We're glad to see they're walking the walk."
The campaign, which is supported by the Guardian, calls on individuals, businesses and other organisations to make similar 10% cuts and has signed up over 65,000 people, 2,610 businesses and 3,100 organisations and educational institutions.
The movement includes Royal Mail, Lovebox music festival, Tottenham Hotspur football club and the Tate Modern as well as celebrities such as Delia Smith, Colin Firth and Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox.
Within days of the launch of the campaign, the members of all three front bench teams signed up on an individual basis. So far 158 local authorities have signed up. When they made the commitment, 50 councils were Conservative held, 32 Labour, 40 Lib Dem and 36 with no overall control (the balance of some of these councils will have changed in last week's elections).
In October, the Liberal Democrats brought legislation before parliament to sign up government and public sector bodies to 10:10. The Conservatives supported the measure but it was defeated by the Labour government.
The 10:10 movement has also spawned sister groups in France, Ghana, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal and Germany.

Too much coal in this coalition, but I was expecting worse

New government's green policies are progressive, but onshore wind and nuclear could prove stumbling blocks for Lib Dem-Tory coalition• Read the full text of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition deal

Perhaps it's just as well that the environment was shoved to the bottom of the coalition agreement: by the time they got there, it seems, the Neanderthal wing of the Conservative party was too exhausted to oppose it. It's sketchy and covers only some of the issues the new government will have to deal with, but it could have been a lot worse.
Possibly the most important measure it contains is the commitment to create "a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of emissions trading scheme (ETS) permits". The government can't act alone on either issue, but if it's serious about this it could help turn the ETS from a useless, nobbled programme, governed by the demands of pollutocrats, into a system that forces companies to clean up. Whether you like carbon trading or not, if we're going to have it, it's got to work.
But as if to show that they haven't really thought this through, they've decided to supplement the ETS belt with braces and suspenders: as well as creating a functioning emissions trading system, they intend to maintain feed-in tariffs and the renewables obligation system. This could be an insurance policy, in case a sensible ETS doesn't materialise. But if it does, they will end up with three separate and incompatible systems.
Sorry, make that four. Like the renewables obligation, the proposed emissions performance standard – forcing power stations to produce no more than a certain amount of carbon – is a good idea in its own right, but it would become redundant if the ETS really kicks in. Which policy do they intend to prioritise?
There's nothing in the document about the supply of fossil fuels, but judging from both parties' manifestos they'll be seeking to maximise production, even as they are trying to minimise consumption.
They say that the emissions performance standard will prevent new coal-fired power stations from being built unless they use sufficient carbon capture and storage.
But they don't tell us what the standard will be, so at the moment we don't know what proportion of their CO2 power stations will have to capture.
In either case, without a constraint on fossil fuel supply and without any mention of stopping opencast mining, it looks as if there'll be too much coal in this coalition.
None of this really distinguishes the new government from the last one. But that's the problem. You might have thought that some fresh thinking would have identified and tackled the contradictions.
Another gap is the absence of policy on onshore renewable energy. There's an intention "to increase the target for energy from renewable sources" and introduce "measures to encourage marine energy", but nothing about onshore developments.
Keep an eye on this issue: there could be some big bust-ups as the Lib Dems insist that onshore windfarms are needed to help meet the government's targets, while the shire Tories fight them tooth and nail. Expect plenty of aggro over nuclear power too, even though they have politely agreed to disagree.
The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow and the refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted is a definite improvement.
It would have been even more cheering if the agreement had said no new airport space in the UK.
The danger is that flights are displaced from the south-east to other parts of the country. If the government is serious about this issue, why not introduce a moratorium on all new runways or runway extensions?
But the measures which might do more than any others to change environment policies aren't listed in the environment section. Who would have thought that a majority Tory government would introduce "the restoration of rights to non-violent protest"? Or, to be more accurate, that 13 years of Labour government would have made this restoration necessary?
If the coalition is serious about this, and if it repeals outrageous measures such as powers to stop peaceful protests under the Protection from Harassment Act, 2000 Terrorism Act and 2005 Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, we'll be better able to make our voices heard if politicians don't protect the environment.
We must push them to get these measures repealed as quickly as possible.
So it's better than I had expected. The agreement's environmental policies are more Lib Dem than Conservative, and more progressive than most of the other proposals in the document. Let's see how it works in practice.