Monday, April 30, 2007
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.
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.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
[From Renewable Energy Access.com:]
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]
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
[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]
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
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:
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:
The bill includes the following other provisions:
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]
Monday, April 23, 2007
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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 previou s 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.
[From Renewable Energy Access.com:]
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Bills recently signed four significant renewable energy bills: SB 994 (Advanced Energy Tax Credit); SB 489 (Biodiesel Blend Required by 2012); HB 318 (Power plant mercury emissions control); SB 463 (Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Amendments).
"New Mexico is showing that we can create jobs through spurring significant investment in electricity generation from our world-class solar and wind resources," Richardson said, "promoting advanced coal technologies, building more efficient homes and offices, and increasing the production and use of biodiesel."
"These vital pieces of legislation will work hand in glove with the other major clean energy bills I enacted earlier this session -- the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and the quadrupling of the Renewable Portfolio Standard -- to continue to make New Mexico the nation's Clean Energy State," said Governor Richardson [see previous post on those two bills].
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Nanoexa Delivers Disruptive Battery Technology to Korean Manufacturer Strong Partnership Enables Rapid Commercialization of Advanced Batteries
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., April 19, 2007 Nanoexa, a nanotechnology-based clean energy company, today announced that the company has delivered new technology to Decktron, Nanoexa¹s publicly traded subsidiary in Korea, as a result of a Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) agreement. Decktron, an advanced technology manufacturing company, will apply the nanotechnology to the development of a new generation of lithium ion batteries.
³This new nanotechnology will enable Decktron to create the best batteries on the market,² said S. S. Kim, Chief Strategy Officer of Decktron. ³Since we partnered with Nanoexa last fall, we have been confident in the company¹s continued ability to provide Decktron with the kind of technology that will secure our position as the battery industry leader.²
To be used in combination with existing intellectual property from Argonne National Laboratory, the technology is based on a positive electrode material that is comprised of a unique nano-crystalline layered-layered composite structure. This cathode technology will give Decktron¹s batteries the ability to deliver more than 3000 W/kg, making Decktron¹s lithium batteries among the best-performing on the market today. In addition to the technology, the intellectual property transfer includes a description of low-cost, scaleable methods to manufacture positive electrode material in high volume.
³This rapid IP output and subsequent technology transfer affirms Nanoexa¹s commitment to commercializing the next wave of battery advancements,² said Michael Pak, CEO of Nanoexa. ³The layered-layered design of the battery will ensure its stability and safety. We are confident that this agreement with Decktron will result in a safe energy storage solution perfect for the power tool and HEV markets.²
Nanoexa is an international clean energy company focused on bringing innovative clean energy storage products to market. With a rapid systems-level approach to commercialization, Nanoexa is has assembled an extensive IP portfolio, initially focused on lithium ion batteries. Through its novel materials and computational modeling platform, it improves material performance while dramatically reducing time to commercialization.
In 2006, Nanoexa acquired a controlling interest in Decktron, a South Korea-based company offering highly efficient, environmentally sustainable battery technologies. Nanoexa is based in South San Francisco, California.
For further information, visit www.nanoexa.com .
Decktron is an advanced technology and manufacturing company focused on delivering next generation lithium batteries that deliver exceptional performance and safety levels. In addition to lithium batteries, Decktron is a leading supplier of flat panel displays, including LCD and PDP, generating revenues of $100 million in 2005. Decktron will continue to grow its flat panel display business while becoming a global supplier of advanced lithium batteries for high end professional and consumer applications. Decktron is publicly traded on the Korean Stock Exchange (KOSDAQ:053070) and is headquartered in Seoul, Korea. For further information, visit www.decktron.com .
CHICAGO, April 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- ComEd received the Peak Load Management Alliance's Outstanding Achievement in Demand Response award today for its portfolio of energy reduction programs designed for residential, commercial and industrial customers.
The PLMA, an association of leading energy organizations dedicated to developing and promoting consumer participation in power reduction programs, presented the award to ComEd executives today at the group's annual awards ceremony in Toronto, Ontario.
"We are very pleased to have received the PLMA's recognition for our customer participation energy reduction efforts," said Sharon Hillman, ComEd vice president of resource adequacy and environmental programs.
"ComEd has taken an active approach regarding the development of its demand response programs, which have been one of the strongest in the nation for nearly three decades."
Demand response programs are a critical component to ensure the reliability of the regional electrical distribution network and reduce the need to add additional generation load during periods of peak customer demand.
Under ComEd's demand response programs in 2006, more than 61,000 residential, commercial and industrial participants reduced their electric load during times of peak power demand by up to 1,295 megawatts, which represents about 5.5 percent of ComEd's total peak distribution load of 23,613 MW. In one program for example, residential customers participating in the company's Nature First initiative can receive up to a $40 seasonal bill credit for allowing ComEd to cycle off their central air conditioning unit for brief periods during peak summer demand times.
ComEd customers, no matter what company they purchase their electricity from, can receive additional information on the company's demand response programs by visiting the ComEd Customers' Affordable Reliable Energy (CARE)
Solar Integrated Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) roofing systems, announced that it has won two contracts in Italy totaling U.S. $10 million to provide 2 MW of solar systems at two sites outside of Rome, Italy. The project includes a ground-mount system and a BIPV system at the Malagrotta Landfill. The project, which is the Company’s largest European contract to date as well as one of the largest announced solar deals in Italy, is expected to be completed in late 2007. In addition to the initial revenue for the project, the Company also expects to receive annual bonus revenue and cash payments based on a revenue sharing arrangement from the power produced by the solar systems.
R. Randall MacEwen, President & CEO of Solar Integrated, said: “Winning this project in Italy is a real mark of our success in expanding our geographic reach. We have already completed over 50 projects in Germany, Spain and France, so this move into the attractive Italian market is the logical next step. In addition, this is our first ground-mount system, demonstrating our ability to continue innovating and expand our target market applications and product offering.”
“The flexible nature of Solar Integrated’s solar solution was very important to securing this project at the in-use Malagrotta Landfill site,” stated Manlio Cerroni, President and owner of Colari Consorzio Laziale Rifiuti and Sorain Cecchini S.p.A. “Their solar product is able to effectively conform to our site layout and unique landfill terrain, including moving ground. In addition, we are now able to transform a previously unutilized hillside into a valuable revenue-generating asset. We are thrilled to have a renewable power generating capability that is expected to produce over 54 million kilowatt hours of power and displace over 45,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years.”
The project is a significant landmark for Solar Integrated to be entering the Italian market, following its early success in several other key European countries. With recent changes to the Italian feed-in tariff program, BIPV projects are likely to become more attractive in the country, and Solar Integrated plans to pursue this market opportunity.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Portfolio 21 is a global equity mutual fund investing in companies designing ecologically superior products, using renewable energy, and developing efficient production methods. Portfolio 21 companies seek to prosper in the 21st Century by recognizing environmental sustainability as a fundamental human challenge and a tremendous business opportunity.
"Electricity supply has to be equal to the demand all day; otherwise there are blackouts. Solar is intermittent -- even a cloud blowing by can push solar sources off the grid quickly," Erin Baker, the study's author, told United Press International in a telephone interview.
Using current technologies, solar can only account for a maximum of 20 percent of the electricity on the national grid, Baker said.
"In order to push solar beyond the 20 percent limit, the electricity (produced at peak sunlight hours) has to feed into batteries that can later feed into the grid," she said.
Baker is an assistant professor of industrial engineering and operations research at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"The report by Baker and colleagues explores the viability of sun-fueled technologies through a combination of evaluations by experts and economic modeling, allowing the researchers to look at solar power's role in the electricity sector in 15-year chunks through 2095," according to a university statement announcing the research project's findings.
"Even if there are research breakthroughs that made the costs of photovoltaics comparable to or less than that of fossil fuels -- roughly 3 cents per kilowatt hour by 2050 -- there would still be a limited impact on emissions unless the advances are combined with improvements in low-cost storage," the statement said.
"The development of complementary technologies, in particular low-cost storage of electricity, is critical. Current technologies do not have good, cheap storage options, and putting all the power into the grid may make it unstable."
At the moment, feeding extra solar energy back onto the grid, and getting paid for it, is just the help homeowners and businesses need to make the big up-front investment involved in installing photovoltaic panels. These payments, generally called feed-in tariffs, are combined with federal and, in many states, state tax breaks to form an incentive package offsetting solar's high costs.
The study focused more on solar's effect on carbon emissions than its effect on people's energy bills.
"When technological breakthroughs are combined with improvements in storage, using solar technology could lower emissions by 20 percent at no additional cost to the economy -- taking a serious bite out of the (world's) carbon problem," the statement said.
The next phase of research, which is just beginning now, is to look at specific battery technologies with an eye on finding the next generation of electricity storage, Baker told UPI.
"I'll be able to comment on specific technologies when you call back in a year," she said jokingly.
She stressed that the study looked at the impact made by relatively small-scale homes and commercial solar photovoltaic users. "We did not focus on (solar thermal) concentrator technology," which can more easily and cheaply be adapted to power-plant scale, Baker said.
Energy Economics is a journal with a mostly academic audience, but the information from the study should eventually disseminate to think tanks and others who can influence policy decisions, Baker said.
"The study is preliminary, but ... the analytic method, which is commonly applied in industry, can be applied at the public policy level," the university statement said.
She said she hopes policymakers and the U.S. Department of Energy can eventually "use the data for (research and development) portfolio analysis," to help them decide which technology projects to support.
"There is definitely potential out there," Baker said of solar energy. "It's well worth making the R&D investment ... (in a) whole portfolio that includes solar, batteries, and even other technologies like wind."
The plant is expected to generate approximately 4.8 megawatts of peak power.
The project will cover an area of approximately 19 hectares, and will employ proprietary solar tracking technology developed by PowerLight, which increases annual energy production by up to 22 percent compared with fixed- tilt systems. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of this year. Solarpack is the project developer.
"PowerLight offers today's most advanced solution for maximizing both solar energy production and financial project returns on large-scale solar projects," said Jose Galindez, chief executive officer of Solarpack. "We are looking forward to working with PowerLight to complete this project and deliver emission-free, renewable solar power to the people of Llerena and the surrounding area."
"Spain has one of the best solar resources on Earth and we applaud the government's active leadership in bringing solar power to market," said Marco Antonio Northland, PowerLight general manager, Europe. "With excellent partners like Solarpack, we look forward to responding to Spain's power needs with reliable, clean and affordable solar energy."
But a new solar panel unveiled this month by the Georgia Tech Research Institute hopes to brighten the future of the energy source.
The difference is in the design. Traditional solar panels are often flat and bulky. The new design features an array of nano-towers — like microscopic blades of grass — that add surface area and trap more sunlight.
It allows more opportunities for the photon to hit the part of the cell that creates electricity, said Jud Ready, the senior research engineer who invented the panel.
And that has resulted in a big jump in current generated. Ready said the three-dimensional panels produce about 60 times more than traditional solar cells.
But current is only half the equation. To generate electricity, a cell has to churn out voltage as well.
And so far, thats where Readys invention has fallen short. Theres still too much resistance within the cell to produce the type of electricity thats needed. But he said hell now focus on reworking the interface to smooth out the kinks.
The research is funded in part by the Air Force, which hopes smaller, more efficient panels can be used to power satellites and spacecraft in the future.
But Ready said the technology could also eventually earn more widespread use as a lightweight and more efficient alternative.
Weve demonstrated that it works pretty well, he said. Now we must tweak it and make it better.
EAST HANOVER -- Shares of Comverge Inc., a New Jersey company that helps utilities reduce electricity use when demand is strongest, jumped 24 percent in their first day of trading after an initial offering that raised $95.4 million.
The stock rose $4.31 to $22.31 in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading after the company sold 5.3 million shares to the public for $18 each. Comverge is a former division of Mahwah-based Acorn Factor Inc.
Comverge and competitors attracted investor interest by offering better ways to manage electricity demand amid mounting concern over the role of power plant emissions in global warming. The company said its demand-reduction products are 40 percent cheaper than building new plants and don't pollute. Rival EnerNOC Inc. of Boston also plans an initial offering.
"The potential here is huge," Jon Wellinghoff, a Democratic member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said Friday at an investor conference on energy efficiency in New York. "It can be done all the way down to small-commercial and residential customers."
Venture-capital investment in companies that make environmentally friendly systems related to electricity, transportation and water rose to $2.9 billion last year from $1.6 billion in 2005, according to the Cleantech Venture Network.
Comverge makes devices that enable utilities to wirelessly disable high-power-use appliances such as air conditioners to avoid blackouts and other disruptions during periods of peak electricity demand. Customers who agree to have their service temporarily interrupted at such times generally are rewarded with lower rates.
As power prices rise, homeowners and businesses are "going to be motivated to find ways to shave" consumption, said Joel Serface, director of the Clean Energy Incubator at the University of Texas at Austin and a former venture capitalist.
Comverge, which markets itself as a "clean energy" company, also manages demand-reduction programs for utilities and markets equipment for electric meters that provides data about power consumption.
Spending to reduce electricity consumption when demand is highest is forecast by the U.S. Department of Energy to reach $1 billion annually by 2020, the company said in the filing.
The company, which has yet to have a profitable year, lost $6.16 million in 2006 on sales of $33.9 million, compared with a loss of $7.98 million on sales of $23.4 million the year before, according to the filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Friday, April 13, 2007
[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...
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 stepitup2007.org 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!
[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.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
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:
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.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
This New York Times article presents the implications of the Massachusetts v. EPA ruling:]
Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on carbon dioxide emissions largely shredded the underpinning of other lawsuits trying to block regulation of the emissions and gave new momentum to Congressional efforts to control heat-trapping gases linked to climate change.
Environmental groups and states that have adopted controls on carbon dioxide emissions from vehicle tailpipes responded with jubilation, while the auto industry and some of its backers, like Representative John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, offered statements of resigned disappointment.
“This is fantastic news,” said Ian Bowles, the secretary of environmental affairs for Massachusetts, the state that had petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to control the emissions from cars and trucks, which represent slightly less than one-quarter of the country’s total heat-trapping gases.
The E.P.A. had argued that it had no authority to do so under the Clean Air Act, and that even if it did, such regulation would run afoul of other administration plans to combat climate change. The Supreme Court rejected those arguments.
“You’ve seen the Bush administration hiding behind this argument to avoid action, and this puts that to rest,” Mr. Bowles said.
Pennsylvania’s secretary of environmental protection, Kathleen McGinty, added, “We hope it means any further opposition and challenge to the legal standards will go away and we can get about the job of cleaning up the auto fleet and making a dent in greenhouse-gas pollution.”
The arguments rejected by the court have been invoked in other legal challenges, including a case pending in California in which auto industry trade groups argue against that state’s law controlling carbon-dioxide emissions from cars, and one in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where electric utilities are fighting the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate their emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
Both cases had been stayed awaiting yesterday’s ruling.
Some companies may now find new affection for proposals in Congress for a cap-and-trade system to aid emissions control. Under this type of system, companies that had reduced emissions beyond a set limit could sell credits earned by their excess reductions to companies that failed to meet emissions limits.
“This flips the debate from an environment in which Congress must act if there is to be federal action,” said Tim Profeta, the director of the Nicholas Institute for the Environment at Duke University, “to one in which the E.P.A. can act as soon as an administration friendly to the concept is in power.”
“If there is a President Clinton or President McCain,” Mr. Profeta added, “he or she doesn’t have to go to Congress to get action.”
The reaction from Capitol Hill underscored this point.
“While I still believe Congress did not intend for the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court has made its decision and the matter is now settled,” Mr. Dingell said in a prepared statement. “Today’s ruling provides another compelling reason why Congress must enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation.”
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California and a sponsor of the most stringent of the global-warming proposals currently before Congress, said in a statement: “This decision puts the wind at our back. It takes away the excuse the administration has been using for not taking action to deal with global-warming pollution.”
Another prod for federal action is the likelihood that California will be able to use the new ruling to parry legal challenges to its new law calling for a cut of nearly 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions on passenger vehicles sold in the state starting in 2016. A dozen other states, including Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, have enacted laws adopting the California standard. These states are home to more than a third of the vehicles sold in the United States.
But before those standards can take effect, the environmental agency must grant the states a waiver.
“I am very encouraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today that greenhouse gases are pollutants and should be regulated by the federal government,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican. “We expect the U.S. E.P.A. to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver.”
The prospect of separate state and federal emissions standards is one of Detroit’s worst nightmares.
Walter McManus, director of automotive analysis for the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan, argued that the environmental agency was best suited to regulate automotive emissions and fuel economy.
“They are the ones who really have the expertise about fuel economy and greenhouse gases,” Mr. McManus said.
[Sorry for being late to the game on this one. I haven't had time to post in a few days. This is obviously big news! Here you go, from the AP/New York Times:]
The Supreme Court ordered the federal government on Monday to take a fresh look at regulating carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a rebuke to Bush administration policy on global warming.
In a 5-4 decision, the court said the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars.
Greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the landmark environmental law, Justice John Paul Stevens said in his majority opinion.
The court's four conservative justices -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- dissented.
Many scientists believe greenhouse gases, flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, are leading to a warming of the Earth, rising sea levels and other marked ecological changes.
The politics of global warming have changed dramatically since the court agreed last year to hear its first global warming case.
"In many ways, the debate has moved beyond this," said Chris Miller, director of the global warming campaign for Greenpeace, one of the environmental groups that sued the EPA. "All the front-runners in the 2008 presidential campaign, both Democrats and Republicans, even the business community, are much further along on this than the Bush administration is."
Democrats took control of Congress last November. The world's leading climate scientists reported in February that global warming is "very likely" caused by man and is so severe that it will "continue for centuries." Former Vice President Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth -- making the case for quick action on climate change -- won an Oscar. Business leaders are saying they are increasingly open to congressional action to reduce greenhouse gases emissions, of which carbon dioxide is the largest.
Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. One way to reduce those emissions is to have more fuel-efficient cars.
The court had three questions before it.
The court said yes to the first two questions. On the third, it ordered EPA to re-evaluate its contention it has the discretion not to regulate tailpipe emissions. The court said the agency has so far provided a "laundry list" of reasons that include foreign policy considerations.
The majority said the agency must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.
"EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change," Stevens said. He was joined by his liberal colleagues, Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter, and the court's swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The lawsuit was filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups that had grown frustrated by the Bush administration's inaction on global warming.
In his dissent, Roberts focused on the issue of standing, whether a party has the right to file a lawsuit.
The court should simply recognize that redress of the kind of grievances spelled out by the state of Massachusetts is the function of Congress and the chief executive, not the federal courts, Roberts said.
His position "involves no judgment on whether global warming exists, what causes it, or the extent of the problem," he said.
The decision also is expected to boost California's prospects for gaining EPA approval of its own program to limit tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Federal law considers the state a laboratory on environmental issues and gives California the right to seek approval of standards that are stricter than national norms.
The case is Massachusetts v. EPA, 05-1120.
My friends over at Energista posted a good analysis of this landmark decision. I'll refer you to the Energista post for more, rather than duplicate their effort.
Here's a summary of the ruling's implications:
I want to first note that the Supreme Court has not ruled that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs). The EPA must reconsider its decision not to regulate them. Regardless of what happens next, no one expects it to happen quickly. I doubt if anyone expects the Bush Administration to move on this issue before leaving office.As Christopher notes, while this ruling will likely have no tangible effect on the Bush Administration's "do nothing" stance on Global Warming, it has important other consequences.
More importantly, the next administration will enter office with an understanding that the EPA has the authority to regulate GHGs. This may not be the best way to regulate them but it will be an option. Most importantly, this case removes a hurdle from California's efforts to develop a forward-looking energy policy (hat tip to MoJo Blog for reminding me of this). The Supreme Court, speaking with a split voice, has now resolved the question of whether the Clean Air Act (CAA) allows for greenhouse gas regulation. It does. A ruling in the opposite direction would have opened many of California's new energy initiatives to challenge.
In particular, this is great news for California, Oregon, Massachusetts and other states that have enacted auto emissions standards for greenhouse gases and are currently facing a court challenge from the auto industry and the Bush Administration. This seems to spell the end of that court challenge. Implementation of the new tailpipe emissions standards has been stalled, pending court decisions.
As Joseph Romm of Climate Progress writes:
In 2002, California passed AB32, or the Pavley law, setting standards for automobiles (starting model year 2009) that would cut emissions 30%. The decision was approved by the California Air Resources Board but was put on hold when car industry leaders filed a claim against the state’s authority. (Both Grist and the New York Times go into a little bit more detail.)This will also bolster Congress' efforts to enact comprehensive climate change legislation. As Romm continues:
The California judge has been delaying his decision in anticipation of Supreme Court’s ruling, and similar cases are pending in several states across the Union. Now that the ruling has been made, their decisions are expected to rapidly fall in sync.
How does this translate into action? Well, it doesn’t necessarily. It means that states wanting automobile emission standards more strict than those set by the federal government are allowed to pursue them. So it removes an obstacle. They have to receive a waiver from the EPA, but are now more likely to be granted one. States do not have to act, but ones that want to, will (and have).
It also may fare well for climate legislation. For example, Sen. Dingell (D-Mich.), who has always kept Detroit’s auto interests a priority, said about the verdict: “Today’s ruling provides another compelling reason why Congress must enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation.”All in all, great news!
[Photo Credit: US Supreme Court website]