Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Methane, a greenhouse gas, rises ‘sharply’ for the first time in a decade; CO2 is up too

(Photo of Arctic marshes and tundra from Flickr and photographer Royal Olive/G. Oliviera)

News Update: Methane in the atmosphere rose last year for the first time since 1998, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors such things. Methane is a concern because it’s 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas, though there’s much less of it in the atmosphere. The increase last year was 27 million tons. NOAA speculated that it’s probably coming from the economic boom in Asia and from wetlands uncovered by melting ice in the Arctic and also in the tropics. The main worry about methane is that thawing permafrost in the Arctic will release huge amounts of it. NOAA also announced that CO2 rose 2.4 parts per million last year, to 385 ppm. That compares with 280 until the mid-19th century. A safe level is between 350-450 ppm, depending on who you ask. In the ’60s the annual increase was 1 ppm, in the ‘80s 1.5 ppm, and since 2000 about 2 ppm each year. So last year’s jump may show it’s going to another level. CO2, we know, comes primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. For more, and a chart of recent annual CO2 growth, see Science Daily.)

Wind farm developers eyeing Lake Michigan

(Photo of wind farm way offshore in Britain. You can hardly see it from shore. Photo from Flickr and photographer dpicker/David P)

News Update 2: Three wind developers are considering building hundreds of wind turbines in Lake Michigan. One would like to put up 390 turbines 18 miles off Milwaukee, where the water is relatively shallow. The U.S. has no offshore or water-based wind turbines to date, though they have been proposed for Nantucket Sound and Lake Erie. In Europe, Denmark and the U.K. have offshore turbines. I saw the ones off Denmark while cruising the Baltic Sea a few years back and thought they looked quite graceful. Talks are at the preliminary stage in Wisconsin, where state agencies have been studying the feasibility of turbines in both Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. (Sources: Greenwire and

Moose, wolves feeling the heat at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior

(Photo of young moose at Isle Royale from Flickr and photographer Templarion/Paul Huber.)

News Update 3: In other Great Lakes news, scientists at Michigan Technological University are concerned global warming is causing stress on moose and wolves at Isle Royale National Park. The moose have been there more than a century, after several swam to the island from the mainland in 1900. The wolves followed later, crossing a rare ice bridge around mid-century. The wolves feed on the moose, but the moose have been thinner of late and both populations seem to be down. (Sources: Greenwire and

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Photo Gallery: Things that won't be there anymore -- if we don't act quickly on global warming

Weekly angst: My husband has a video, "Things That Aren't There Anymore," about places he remembers from his youth in Pittsburgh -- like an ice cream shop, an amusement park and a shopping arcade. The grandkids -- Bryan, Evan and Sabrina -- laugh at the title and the concept. But they won't be laughing if they end up showing their own grandkids video of all the natural things from their youth that won't be there anymore, thanks to global warming and our unwillingness to stop it. Here are some of the things they may find only in captivity at a zoo, dead and stuffed in a museum or on a video -- if we don't get serious about greenhouse gases.

Snows of Kilimanjaro
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Tambako The Jaguar.)

King penguins
(Photo from Flickr and photographer nao-cha.)

Miniature Key deer in Florida Keys
(Photo from Flickr and photographer key lime pie/anna wiz.)

Glaciers at Glacier National Park
(Photo from Flickr and photographer rbeforee.)

Staghorn coral
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Stuart Hamilton.)

Australian Koala bears
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Dabe Murphy.)

Polar bears
(Photo from Flickr and photographer davipt/Bruno Rodrigues

Rare narwhal whales in the Arctic
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Chris Corwin.)

Maldive Islands, just 3 feet above sea level
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Merlin_1/Simon.)

Summer Arctic sea ice
(Photo from Flickr and photographer Tunde Pecsvari.)

Harp seals
(Photo from Flickr and photographer yeimaya/Gale.)

(Photo from Flickr and YukonWhiteLight/Amanda Graham.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gas tax holiday? It’s politics versus curbing global warming and guess who will win?

(Gas pump photo from Flickr and photographer Frank Shapiro)

Washington Report 1: High gasoline prices are good for the environment, right? People drive less and buy more fuel-efficient cars. Hybrid purchases were up 38% last year while overall new auto sales slumped 3%. So high gas prices do have some impact on curbing carbon omissions. Then why are so many of those who champion cutting greenhouse gases favoring a price cut, not a tax hike, on gasoline? Ask John McCain, GOP presumptive nominee for president, who has offered a bill creating a gas-tax holiday – removal of the 18.4% federal tax during the summer. And who’s co-sponsoring his idea? None other than Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who follows McCain around like a puppy, and his partner on the global warming bill in the Senate, Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). This is a case where short-term political gain clearly outweighs long-term planetary goals. Some of the key environment-championing Dems are getting in on the act too – like Senate Environment Chair Barbara Boxer (Caif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (Mass.), who also want to bring down gas prices. The Dem proposals are different, though. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would like to resurrect legislation passed by the House but not the Senate, to penalize gasoline price-gouging and repeal oil subsidies. Some other Dem ideas floating around are temporarily stopping oil transfers to the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (Boxer and Markey), and blocking arms sales to OPEC countries until they increase the oil supply. These measures aim to calm the speculation frenzy in the oil market and thus reduce prices. Different approaches but with the same goal: to cut prices so Americans can be free to use more gas. When will we learn? (Source: E&E News PM)

Union of Concerned Scientists survey finds political interference with EPA scientists

(Photo of EPA building from Flickr and photographer Rocky A)

Washington Report 2: Are we surprised? No, but it's still outrageous. Nearly 900 EPA scientists (2/3 of those surveyed) said political appointees interfered with their work, in a Union of Concerned Scientists survey released Wednesday. 225 said they were directed to "inappropriately exclude or alter" technical information from an EPA scientific document. The EPA “is an agency in crisis,” said Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS scientific integrity program. House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said the report “suggests a pattern of ignoring and manipulating science” and plans to raise questions about it with the agency at a hearing about possible White House interference in ground-level ozone regulations. (Source: E&E News PM)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

North Atlantic absorbing only half the CO2 it did in the ‘90s, spurring global warming fears

(Photo of Atlantic Ocean from Flickr and Desi Zavatta Musolino)

News Update: The North Atlantic Ocean, one of the world’s major carbon sinks, is absorbing less carbon dioxide, a project funded by the European Union revealed last week. Three years of research show the ocean is sopping up only half as much CO2 as it did in the last decade. The amount fluctuates, however, so it’s hard to be sure to what extent the trend will continue. Oceans normally soak up about one-quarter of the carbon emissions released into the air, so a sharp decline would accelerate GHG in the atmosphere and global warming. Scientists speculate whether the cause is carbon over-saturation or shifting weather patterns. Whatever the cause, they said we can solve the problem by reducing GHG emissions 75%. “We must act now,” said project leader Christoph Heinze. (Source: PlanetArk.)

Governors to push Congress, new president for quick, aggressive action to cut CO2 emissions

News Update: Eighteen states signed a pledge Friday to pressure the federal government to quickly adopted limits on greenhouse gases. “Washington is asleep at the wheel and we can’t wait for them,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) told a climate conference at Yale that included 3 other governors, 2 premiers of Canadian provinces, and representatives from Europe, Mexico, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In addition to Schwarzenegger, Govs. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and Kathleen Sebelius (D-Kan.), and representatives from 14 other states signed the pledge. The 18 states hold more than half the population of the United States. They include Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico,New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. Sebelius said the federal government should build on regional cap-and-trade agreements already in process. The Western Climate Initiative, with 7 states and 2 provinces, has a goal of cutting 15% (from 2005 levels) by 2020. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with 9 states in the East, is ready to officially launch its carbon-trading plan next year. And Illinois and several other Midwestern states recently reached agreement to cut emissions. The group expects to get more signatures (28 states either have or are close to plans to cut emissions) and counteract President Bush’s pressure to go slow, as Congress deliberates a cap-and-trade bill in June. (Sources:
, Reuters)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cook County (Chicago) is No. 3 CO2 emitter and Chicago is No. 9 'greenest' city in U.S. -- Huh?

(Photo of Chicago from Flickr and photographer Giant Ginkgo)

Weekly Angst: How can Chicago/Cook County be one of the top carbon polluters in the country and at the same time Chicago be one of the “greenest” cities? That’s what two recent studies say.

The Vulcan Project, out of Purdue, released last week the names of the Top 20 carbon polluting counties, based on 3 years of research. The data are a bit old but Vulcan says it will soon update the findings.

Top 10 carbon emitters, in millions of tons in 2002
1. Harris County (Houston) 18.6
2. Los Angeles County (LA) 18.6
3. Cook (Chicago) 13.2
4. Cuyahoga (Cleveland) 11.1
5. Wayne (Detroit) 8.3
6. San Juan, N.M. 8.2
7. Santa Clare (San Jose) 8.0
8. Jefferson, Ala. (Birmingham) 8.0
9. Wilcox, Ala. (Camden) 7.6
10. E. Baton Rouge (Baton Rouge) 7.3

Suffolk County in metro New York City is 19th.

Houston is tops largely because of its oil and natural gas plants, and LA ranks high because of its freeways, the study says. The authors note blame cannot necessarily be attributed to the source because, for instance, New Mexico provides so much electricity to Southern California and Nevada. (Chicago, BTW, is home to the filthy Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants that send their electricity out of state.)

The Vulcan Project, the work of researchers at Purdue, Colorado State and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, is funded by NOAA and the Department of Energy. It will now be able to track progress in cutting carbon emissions in the U.S. and is starting work in Canada and Mexico in order to cover all North America.

To see a really cool YouTube video of where emissions come from, go to the Vulcan home page and scroll down. You can also read about #11-20.

The other study – Top 50 greenest cities

Popular Science released a list in February naming the 50 greenest cities, based on electricity, transportation, green buildings, recycling and views of residents. Their data came from the U.S. Census Bureau and National Geographic Society’s Green Guide.

Top 10 green cities
1. Portland, Ore.
2. San Francisco
3. Boston
4. Oakland, Calif.
5. Eugene, Ore.
6. Cambridge, Mass.
7. Berkeley, Calif.
8. Seattle
9. Chicago
Interesting, how many are university towns.

To see the other 40 and read how each city scored on a point system, go to the PopSci Web site.

So, what about Chicago?
Chicago won high points for its ample green space – 12,000 acres of parks and waterfront. It also got attention for being among the first cities to try cogeneration, a system that produces electricity and heat together so the heat doesn’t escape. It’s considered twice as efficient as separating the two. The Museum of Science and Industry uses the system, as do several other buildings. Chicago also got high marks for public transit. And a number of buildings have the highest, platinum energy efficiency rating from the U.S. Green Buildings Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

Clearly, the cities in each list were chosen on different criteria and cover different areas (city versus county). Which may explain how Chicago can be such a global warming dichotomy. Chicago has its out-dated Fisk and Crawford power plants spewing C02 and God knows what else, while a major portion of the city's power comes from nuclear. Its blue-bag recycling program is pure trash, and efforts to expand a new and much better cart system have been slowed by budget woes. But there are lots of parks, and the buses (though old) and EL pretty well cover the city, reducing the number of cars. Also there’s been a push to get buildings certified LEED.

Chicago, which prides itself on being a “green city,” is about to release its long-overdue Climate Action Plan. We’ll know a lot more about the true state of affairs when we see it.

(Sources: The Daily Green, Reuters, Vulcan Project,

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rapid climate change likely to erase Ireland’s green and may even threaten potatoes

(Scenic photo of Ireland near the Atlantic coast from Flickr and photographer Pierrette Wiseman)

Ireland’s signature emerald landscape may fade to brown in the next few decades because of global warming, according to a new report by Irish scientists. Since 1980 the temperature in Ireland has increased 3 times faster than the world average. The scientists predict wetter winters and drier summers, which will drastically change the look and feel of the country, the Irish American Climate Project said. About 60% of Ireland is grassland and that will turn dry in summer and fall. The change in climate could even affect the country’s staple, the potato, which needs a steady amount of rain throughout the year. And cattle won’t be able to get by grazing only on grass. Meanwhile, the Irish State Utility has vowed to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2020. (PlanetArk and ClimateWire)

A global warming art exhibit, "Melting Ice / A Hot Topic," opens today at the Field Museum in Chicago. The globe-trotting exhibit, co-sponsored by the UN Environment Programme, is making Chicago its only U.S. stop. Read about it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What planet is he on? Bush comes up with too little, too late in his plan for greenhouse gases

(Photo of President Bush from Flickr and talkradionews.)

Washington Round-up: President Bush today called for stopping the growth of greenhouse gases by the year 2025 and halting such growth in the power sector within 10-15 years.

As expected, his announcement set the goal way too late, “dangerously late,” as Senate Energy Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) put it.

Scientists say the world needs to cut GHG 15-20% by 2020 to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said if CO2 peaks in 2015 the earth’s temperature will rise 4.3 degrees above pre-industrial times. Bush would allow the growth to continue 10 years beyond that.

By comparison, the European Union has vowed to cut carbon emissions 20% (below 1990 levels) by 2020.

And the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill in the Senate asks for a 19% cut by 2020.

The Bush announcement shows he’s even more out of touch on this than we thought he was. His position is laughable. He also offered no specifics on how to reach the goal, other than new technologies and market solutions.

The president took the occasion to signal his intent to oppose the Lieberman-Warner bill. (Sources: Reuters, E&ENewsPM, ABCNews)

Tax credit extensions for wind, solar and efficiency pass Senate but await uncertain future

Although the Senate voted 88-8 last week to add $6 billion in tax credit extensions for renewable energy and efficiency to a housing bill, the future of the plan is still in question. The House passed a larger bill in February that was paid for by the repeal of oil subsidies, but it narrowly failed in the Senate. The bill passed last week did not include offsetting revenue and House leaders object to that. Because of the uncertain outcome, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.)his writing his own energy tax-credit bill, which he plans to unveil next week. The tax credits are due to expire the end of the year. (Source: Greenwire)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Add Australian koala bears to the list of animals threatened by global warming

(Photo of koala bear in Australia from Flickr and photographer Dey Alexander)

News Update: Koala bears, who totally depend on eucalyptus leaves for their diet, may become yet another victim of climate change, according to a professor at Australian National University. The leaves could become inedible, he said, as they absorb more CO2, which boosts tannins and makes the leaves leathery. At a minimum, they will be less nutritious. “Life will become extremely difficult” for these animals, professor Bill Foley warned. Increased CO2 also reduces nitrogen and other nutrients in the leaves, according to another researcher, Ivan Lawler, at James Cook University. And the poor little fellows already sleep 20 hours a day because of their low-protein diet. Some wallaby and possum species also have a diet heavy in eucalyptus. (PlanetArk and New Zealand Herald )

Coal demand from abroad sparks U.S. and UK exports, despite impact on global warming

(Photo of coal loader in West Virginia from Flickr and photographer OZinOH)

News Update: Growing demand from the Third World, and the subsequent rise in prices, has turned coal into a major export for the U.S. for the first time in years and has sparked a revival in Britain, where shuttered mines are reopening. (Carbon emissions be damned. There’s money to be made!) The export boom here is helping the coal business grow at a time when environmentally wary communities have delayed or stopped more than 50 new coal-fired plants in the U.S. Environmentalists criticize both countries. “Any rise in coal use around the world is bad news for the environment,” said Alice McKeown of the Sierra Club. Both countries insist that “clean coal” must be part of the mix to meet the energy demand of the future, but so far no system is operating on a commercial scale that can clean up or capture and store the carbon emissions that cause global warming. (For more, see the New York Times. and PlanetArk)

Etc.: Warming oceans, wind power, rental cars and other recent global warming news

(Photo of ocean from Flickr and Ibrahim Adeeb)

Warming in one-third of the nation’s oceans is 2-4 times greater than projected in last year’s IPCC report. Climate change, overfishing and pollution are endangering marine animals and fisheries, according to the UN. (PlanetArk)

Global wind power is up 27% from last year. Germany still leads, with 25% of the total, but the U.S. came in second, showing a 5,244 MW increase. Experts attribute the jump in U.S. wind power to federal tax credits and renewable electricity standards in half the states, which require a percent of electricity to be generated from renewable sources. Iowa leads among the states, with 5.5% of its power coming from wind. (Greenwire)

Enterprise Rent-A-Car opened 4 “green” branches in Atlanta because of consumer demand, with 60% of the cars being hybrids, the company said. The nation’s largest rental car agency will have 4,000 hybrids out of a total fleet of 1.1 million. Hertz says it will soon have 3,500 hybrids; Avis 2,500. (Greenwire)

Clean technology investment slumped the first quarter of this year for North America, Europe and Israel. Total investment of $1.25 billion was up 42% over the same quarter last year, but down for the second quarter in a row. The peak was $1.74 billion last summer. (Greenwire)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Southeast Asia worries about dry conditions and forest fires causing heavy haze

(Photo of Indonesia-caused haze in Malaysia from Flickr and photographer KeWynn Lee)

Xtreme Weather Watch: Each year since 1997, heavy smog has been created by arid conditions resulting in peat and forest fires in Indonesia. That smog, or haze, has spread across the region, especially to Malaysia and Singapore, causing respiratory illness and costing tourist dollars. Environment ministers from the area have warned that as La Niña subsides the second half of this year, the smog is likely to return. (PlanetArk)

Flooding in Brazil, hailstorm in China

Xtreme Weather Watch: Unusually strong rains in Brazil have resulted in flooding that killed at least 34 and left close to 200,000 homeless. Livestock and crops were destroyed. Officials fear an onset of dengue fever as floods retreat leaving pools of water where mosquitoes will breed. (PlanetArk)

A freak half-hour hailstorm in Central China, with 60 mph wind gusts, has killed 5, injured at least 66, and destroyed more than 4,600 homes in central China. (PlanetArk)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Will Lieberman-Warner global warming bill pass the Senate? Should it pass the Senate?

(Photo of Capitol Building from Flickr and photographer Eamonn O'Brien-Strain)

Weekly Angst: A “compromise” global warming bill (S. 2191) will head to the Senate floor for debate the first week in June. It has a fine line to tred between those who want to make it weaker and those who think it must be stronger.

Sponsors Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) are working hard to get more converts, so it can pass the 60-vote test to avoid a filibuster. Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is working with them, even though she proposed a stronger bill herself. But Boxer vows to pull the bill from the floor if it is weakened further.

Lieberman said last week he has 45 firm votes and 15 leaning heavily toward approval. That means he needs every single one of those votes, and he suggested there would need to be changes to win them. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lieberman’s Republican buddy whom he’s supporting for president, is a “leaning” vote because he wants more money for nuclear energy in the bill.

Cap-and-trade system
Lieberman-Warner (America’s Climate Security Act) is a cap-and-trade bill. That means a cap will be placed on overall greenhouse gas emissions and will steadily be lowered each year. Companies that do not cut emissions that much must buy credits from those that exceed their goal.

The bill calls for:
*A 4% reduction of GHG emissions in 2012, steadily increasing to 70% (from 2005 levels) by 2050. (Boxer would like to see that amended to 80%)
*An auction for 26.5% of the credits in 2012, rising to 79.5% by 2031. The rest of the credits would be given away free. (Boxer wants more credits paid for.)
*Distribution of auction income for jobs, deploying advanced technology, helping low- and middle-income people with increased energy costs, and mitigating negative impacts of climate change abroad.

The bill covers electric utilities, transportation, most manufacturing and natural gas, the sources of 87% of GHG. That means the actual total reduction will be 66% by 2050.

Efforts to weaken the bill
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who famously called global warming a “hoax,” says he will propose 40 amendments and lead a filibuster against the bill if he can. Inhofe has support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth.

The National Mining Association wants more money to research carbon capture and storage.

Some want the bill to pre-empt action by the states that want to do more. Boxer, from a state that is already doing more, said she will pull the bill before she lets that happen.

Others are asking for a “safety valve” if carbon prices get too high, or for more money for nuclear energy.

A coalition of energy companies and other businesses are on a 17-state blitz to undermine the bill, citing loss of jobs and higher energy prices.

Environmental groups
Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace oppose the bill as not going far enough. The National Wildlife Federation supports it. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and World Wildlife Fund appeared with Boxer at a news conference last week, but some of them are saying the bill must be strengthened.

The dilemma for many environmentalists (in and out of Congress) is whether it’s better for the Senate to pass something, even if it’s just a first step.

The bill, of course, has two more hurdles. Passage of a similar bill in the House, which Energy Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) says needs more deliberation and likely won’t get through the House until the end of 2008. Then there’s a likely veto from George Bush, who never has bought into the cap-and-trade idea.

An optimistic Lieberman gives his bill a 50-50 chance of becoming law, but says a new president in 2009 will increase those chances to 90%.

So some are saying why not just wait, and get a stronger bill. Others say let’s take the first step.

Frankly, I’m torn. I'd like to see 80% by 2050 and 100% auctioned credits, but we’re so far overdue in taking action I hate to put it off another year. And doing so could affect international negotiations for a climate treaty. We have been the largest cause of global warming up to now, so most of the stuff up there is ours. Maybe passing a bill, even if it doesn’t do it all, is a show of good faith and something to build on.

What do you think?

(Sources: E&E Daily, Greenwire,, E&E PM, and America’s Climate Security Act. )
For a one-page description of the act go to Lieberman’s Web site.

Friday, April 11, 2008

'An Inconvenient Truth' update with Al Gore

(Photo of Al Gore giving his original talk in "An Inconvenient Truth" from Flickr and photographer Juampe Lopez.)

Watch a 20-minute video of Al Gore’s most recent and updated slide show and talk on global warming at The Daily Green, a Hearst Web site.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Newest effort to extend renewable tax credits is quick fix tied to housing bill in Senate

Congressional Round-up: The Senate is expected to approve any day an amendment to the housing bill that would extend tax credits for renewable energy and efficiency. The $6 billion amendment by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) is an effort to provide short-term extensions for the credits that will expire this year. The amendment provides:
• a 1-year extension of the renewable power production credit
• an 8-year extension of the solar energy investment tax credit
• 1- and 2-year extensions on credits for building efficiency and some energy-efficient appliances.
Because of opposition in the Senate to paying for the credits by repealing benefits on oil and gas, this amendment shows no balancing source of revenue. That could cause problems in the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she wants to adhere to a pay-as-you-go rule. The House in February passed a much larger bill that included oil tax credit repeal, but it was narrowly rejected by the Senate and the White House threatened to veto it. A veto could be a problem here as well, because President Bush has problems with the housing bill to which it would be attached. In case this doesn’t work out, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is busy preparing yet another alternative energy tax package. Renewable energy companies have been lobbying hard, fearful that the tax breaks fueling their boom will go away. Renewables need all the help they can get to make a dent in the nation's dependency on carbon-emitting fossil fuels.(E&E News PM)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

German official says U.S. at competitive disadvantage in renewable energy race

(Photo of German wind farm from Flickr and photographer Dirk Ingo Franke).

News Update: We’ve gotten ourselves into quite a bind. Reluctant to embrace alternatives to fossil fuels, the U.S. now lags far behind Europe in renewable energy technology. The German deputy environment minister said this competitive disadvantage makes America less likely to welcome international agreements to fight global warming. Last year the European Union produced 10% of its electricity from renewable sources, double the percentage in the United States. Germany, a world leader in use of renewables, got a record 18% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2007. We may find ourselves falling further behind instead of grabbing a piece of the alternative energy business. Time to wake up. For starters, extend renewable tax credits to encourage investment. Then we can pass that RES (renewable electricity standard) the Senate squelched by 1 vote last year. (PlanetArk)

Martha’s Vineyard alternative to Nantucket’s long-delayed controversial Cape Wind farm

(Photo of Martha's Vineyard from Flickr and photographer Federico Chi.)

News Update: Blue H, a subsidiary of a Dutch company, wants to put an offshore wind farm in deep water 23 miles from Martha’s Vineyard. The floating turbines would be out of sight from land, which makes the plan much more palatable than the controversial Cape Wind project, just 5 miles from shore in Nantucket Sound. Either plan could supply about 75% of the electricity used by Cape Cod, Nantucket and the Vineyard. The main problem with the new plan is the technology of floating turbines in 167 feet of water is untested and could be many years in the future. Cape Wind has already bounced around for years from one government entity to another because some summer residents, including Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) are fighting it, but it could get final federal approval this year. The new proposal is for 120 turbines to produce 328 megawatts, similar in scope to Cape Wind. (For more and a map, see

Monday, April 07, 2008

Excessive snow this winter will lead to more flooding in Midwest and Northeast -- NOAA

(Photo of recent flooding in St. Louis from Flickr and Dave Thompson)

Xtreme Weather: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting more of the deadly flooding we’ve seen in recent weeks in the Midwest. This winter has seen an unusual amount of snow, and as that snow melts, flooding is likely in the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri river basins. Some relief will come to the parched Southeast. Atlanta’s reservoir, Lake Lanier, now 12-14 feet below normal, will be replenished this summer, as will Lake Okeechobee in Florida, the National Weather Service said. The long-term drought in the Southwest won’t be affected, however. (ClimateWire)

Despite cold start, 2008 could be one of warmest years ever, because of global warming

(Photo of skier in Norway from Flickr and photographer Marika)

Xtreme Weather:
The deniers are giddily blogging up a storm about the cold, snowy winter, believing it proves global warming is a hoax. But word from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (which supplies data to the UN) is that this year could be one of the 10 warmest on record. Once La Niña, the cooling of the Pacific, gets behind us, temperatures could turn nice and toasty, like they did in 1998 and 2005, two of the hottest years. They too started off cold. There was plenty of snow this winter, making skiers happy, but burying China with the worst winter storms in a century and dropping rare snowflakes on Florida, Iraq and Greece. Despite deep snow, Norway had its third warmest winter, and Finland the warmest on record. Predictions before the year began were for the year to be similar to last year, because La Niña would counteract some of the warming trend. But don’t be surprise if we have a hot summer. (Reuters)

Worldwide, the UN predicts a 2008 cooler than 2007.
the Daily Green

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Low Carbon Diet book can help individuals join in fight against global warming

Weekly Angst: You know how hard it is to lose 5 or 10 pounds. How would you like to lose 2 1/2 tons? That’s the minimum amount we American energy hogs can lose in 30 days, with help from the Low Carbon Diet Book, to start doing our part to stop global warming.

The average American household is responsible for releasing 55,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Germans emit only half that amount (27000 lbs.) and Swedes just half that amount (13,000 lbs.), according to the book, written by David Gershon and published by the Empowerment Institute. In many U.S. communities, 85% of carbon emissions come from residences, so together we really can make a difference.

In fact, it’s going to be essential for Americans to cut their personal energy use, so why not start now? It can be contagious.

Support group
This diet offers support, like Weight Watchers, where 6-8 or more dieters can lose together and be accountable to one another.

It’s pretty easy. The workbook tells you how many pounds of CO2 you can lose for each of many actions. Then you can choose and check off what you’ve lost.

One ton (2,000 lbs.) can be lost, for example, by:
* replacing 4 light bulbs with CFLs (condensed fluorescents) – 600 lbs.
* washing your clothes in warm or cold water instead of hot – 600 lbs.
* reducing use of your dishwasher by 1 time a week by loading it up more – 175 lbs.
* turning your thermostat down 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer – 500 lbs.
* installing one low-flow shower head – 250 lbs.

Of course if you are reading this blog you may already be doing all these things. The book has many other actions you can take, like timing your showers to keep them under 5 minutes, unplugging electronics when they’re not in use, and eating one less meal of meat a week .

Giant steps

And if you’ve already been really good about taking all the easy steps, you can try some of these larger ones:
• Call your electric company and say you want to buy only green power. Many of them can accommodate you.
• Get an energy audit from your utility company to see where you can save and set up a 3-year plan to invest in energy-efficient appliances, new windows and improved insulation. (If your refrigerator is 10 years old, you can save 500 lbs. a year by getting a new one.)

Spread the word
Or you can get your workplace, your community or club or organization to join the cause. The Empowerment Institute says it has helped more than 250,000 people reduce their carbon footprint by 25%.

The Institute trains Low Carbon Diet leaders to facilitate small groups, or eco-teams, which meet in “cafes” 4 times over 4-6 weeks. You can sign up for the next free online training session on May 1, at 9 p.m. EST, and then start leading your own groups.

In Chicago, the Nuclear Energy Information Service is training leaders to run small groups, with a goal of 250,000 households by Dec. 31. The next training meeting they’ve scheduled is this Tuesday, April 8, at 3411 W. Diversey, #19, from 6:30-9 p.m. RSVP to I know leaders who are planning cafes in the Hyde Park and Rogers Park neighborhoods, and there are probably others in Chicago, as elsewhere around the country.

To buy the book and learn more about how you can participate, go to the Empowerment Institute Web site. Wherever you are, you can be part of the solution.

One household tip from The Daily Green is to avoid buying plastic shower curtains or liners – for a number of environmental and health reasons.