Posts tagged ‘Energy’

Climate bill abruptly put on hold

Reporting from Washington

Two of President Obama’s top domestic policy initiatives — energy and immigration — appeared on the brink of collapse on Saturday after a Republican senator at the center of both efforts threatened to jump ship in a dispute with Democrats over timing.

Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Saturday afternoon that they would postpone the introduction of their long-anticipated energy and climate bill, which they had planned to roll out on Monday. The announcement came after their third partner, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, abruptly pulled out of the effort — at least temporarily.

Graham was irate that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unexpectedly told fellow Democrats this week that he planned to move an immigration bill in the Senate before the climate bill, an action widely seen as a nod to Latino voters who could make or break Reid’s reelection bid, and which Graham said would cripple the energy bill’s chances.

In a scathing letter on Saturday, Graham blasted Reid and the Obama administration for putting “partisan, political objectives” ahead of the energy bill, and he warned that “moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy.”

Graham said he would reengage on the energy bill if Reid backed off his plan to move immigration first. Reid did not directly commit either way, issuing a statement saying immigration and energy “are equally vital to our economic and national security.”

Losing Graham’s support could effectively doom both issues this year. Along with months of work with Kerry and Lieberman on the climate bill, Graham has joined with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to draft an immigration bill.

Republican votes are essential to pass either measure, and Graham was seen as the White House’s beachhead in a GOP caucus that has widely opposed Obama’s initiatives.

The Senate calendar is already strained in the wake of the marathon healthcare debate. With midterm elections looming, few analysts expect the Senate to accomplish much after July.

Once a climate bill was introduced, its drafters had planned to send it to the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency to model its effects on the federal budget, the economy and the environment — a process that was expected to last more than a month. Only after those analyses came back could a bill move toward a vote.

Schumer and Graham do not appear close to producing an immigration bill or lining up the votes for one. But Kerry, Graham and Lieberman had scheduled a morning news conference Monday to announce their plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions and spur domestic energy production. A host of environmental and business leaders were set to fly in to Washington to appear with them.

Kerry postponed the announcement in a news release, saying he and Lieberman “deeply regret that [Graham] feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended…. Joe and I will continue to work together and are hopeful that Lindsey will rejoin us once the politics of immigration are resolved.”

The White House appealed for calm, with Obama’s top climate advisor, Carol Browner, saying Obama still supports a bipartisan push on both immigration and energy.

“We have an historic opportunity” on climate, Browner said, adding: “We’re determined to see it happen this year, and we encourage the Senators to continue their important work on behalf of the country and not walk away from the progress that’s already been made.”

Close observers of the climate negotiations were stunned.

“This is a bizarre and crazy implosion,” said Frank Maisano, an energy lobbyist for Bracewell and Giuliani in Washington. “It certainly leaves the process in disarray at a time when we thought they were about ready to move to the next level.”

Opponents of the bill were giddy. Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the free-market Institute for Energy Research, said: “Chalk this up as a win for the American people.”

Click HERE for article


April 26, 2010 at 9:31 AM Leave a comment

Obama pledges $8 billion for new nuclear reactors

Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington – Seeking common ground with Republicans on energy and climate issues, President Obama on Tuesday pledged $8 billion in loan guarantees needed to build the first U.S. nuclear reactors in nearly three decades.

The move, along with a tripling of nuclear loan guarantees in the president’s budget, represents a new federal commitment to the low-carbon-emitting, but highly controversial, nuclear power sector long championed by the GOP.

Industry groups and Republican leaders praised the announcement, which has been expected for months, but some environmentalists and free-market think tanks protested.

Speaking at a training center at the Lanham, Md., headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26, the president spoke favorably of nuclear power as part of a mix of energy alternatives to oil.

“In order to truly harness our potential in clean energy, we’ll have to do more,” Obama said. “In the near term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’ll have to make tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. We’ll need to make continued investments in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies, even as we build greater capacity in renewables like wind and solar.

“And we’ll have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America,” he said.

Obama said his administration would supply about $8 billion in loan guarantees to build two new reactors at an existing nuclear power plant in Burke, Ga., providing thousands of construction jobs in the next few years and about 800 permanent jobs in the years to come.

Free-market groups complained that the loan guarantees could leave taxpayers on the hook for projects too risky for the private sector to finance.

Many environmentalists echoed the concerns and warned that the administration had not mapped a strategy for safe, long-term storage of radioactive waste.

“We’re not really seeing anything but drawbacks to another corporate bailout that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘toxic asset,’ ” said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace. “It is a dirty and dangerous distraction from the clean energy future the president promised America.”

Obama noted environmentalist opposition in his remarks but insisted that clean, safe nuclear power was environmentally preferable to burning coal in outdated plants.

Many environmental groups were muted or subdued in their criticism Tuesday — a reflection of the delicate politics surrounding ongoing efforts to pass energy and climate legislation in Congress.

Many large conservation groups appear to be tacitly accepting the need to increase federal nuclear support — along with offshore oil and gas drilling, another environmentalist anathema — to attract Republican votes for a measure to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Click HERE for source

February 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM Leave a comment

Now’s the Time to Benefit from Green Tax Incentives

Residential Energy Efficiency
A common theme among green-related Recovery Act programs is the importance of weatherization projects. When homeowners can create a more energy efficient property, they save money on energy bills as well as reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-saving and weatherization products must be installed on an existing, primary residence.

Although 2009 is coming to a close, these tax credits are valid for projects completed through December 31, 2010.

Click HERE to read full article.

November 30, 2009 at 2:20 PM Leave a comment

Using Enzymes from Termites To Make Biofuel from Wood Waste

Biofuel startup ZeaChem has begun building a biofuel pilot plant that will turn cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol via a novel approach that uses microbes found in the guts of termites. The company says the ethanol yields from the sugars of its cellulosic feedstocks are significantly higher than the yields from other biofuel production processes. ZeaChem says its process also has the potential to produce a plastic feedstock.

ZeaChem employs a hybrid approach that uses a combination of thermochemical and biological processes. It first uses acid to break the cellulose into sugars. Then, instead of fermenting the sugars into ethanol with yeast, as is typically done, the company feeds the sugars to an acetogen bacteria found in the guts of termites and other insects. The bacteria converts the sugar into acetic acid, which is then combined with hydrogen to form ethanol.

“It’s a little more complicated than a conventional process. It’s not the obvious, direct route, but there is a high yield potential,” says Jim McMillan of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO.

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November 23, 2009 at 3:12 PM Leave a comment

Greening the Las Vegas Strip- Resorts sprinkle sustainability in with sizzle, splash

The resorts along Las Vegas Boulevard sit not just in the middle of a desert, but at a crossroads where conspicuous consumption meets scarce resources.

Las Vegas wouldn’t be what it is if not for Hoover Dam and the Colorado River water impounded behind it. On average, the city receives just four inches of rainfall a year, relying instead on Lake Mead for 90 percent of its water needs.

Making matters worse, the city and surrounding region have been gripped by drought for much of the last decade. In October 1999, the elevation of Lake Mead at Hoover Dam stood at 1,212 feet; 10 years later, it barely reached 1,093, a drop of almost 120 feet.

Las Vegas also sucks up an inordinate amount of energy — in July, electricity usage hit 5,586 megawatts, a peak for 2009. Approximately 90 percent of the city’s power is generated from non-renewable resources, including oil and natural gas.

The Las Vegas Strip

So, when it comes to sustainable design, the Strip is not likely the first place that comes to mind. The flashing lights, the flowing fountains, the air conditioning by the acre — the place doesn’t exactly scream conservation.

Leading the charge
And yet, sheer size aside, the resorts along the Strip are actually leading the conservation charge.

Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns Bally’s, Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas, among others, has spent $60 million on conservation projects over the last six years. In Las Vegas, major efforts include a multi-resort laundry facility that cuts water use by 30 percent — despite a 40-percent increase in capacity — and a five-megawatt cogeneration plant at the Rio that generates enough electricity to power one of the hotel’s two towers.

“We’re an unusual suspect for conservation efforts,” admits Gwen Migita, Harrah’s director of corporate social responsibility. “People come here for the gaming and the experiences, so we take care of the bigger impact issues behind the scenes.”

CityCenter, MGM Mirage’s 67-acre resort complex set to open two weeks from now, was built green enough that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has declared four of its properties LEED Gold certified, its second-highest designation. The property will feature, among other things, a cogeneration plant that will provide 10 percent of electricity needs and use the waste heat to warm the resort’s water supply, low-flow fixtures that will cut indoor water usage up to 45 percent, and glass and sunshades that let in light but deflect the desert heat, cutting down on lighting and air-conditioning.

Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Mirage, said even the biggest projects can be good for the environment: “Yes, we could’ve built it smaller and stayed within the same code and had the same environmental impact. Or we could’ve pursued LEED certification, made it harder on ourselves and built it the way we did. That’s what we chose to do.”

Ultimately, the issue comes down to what constitutes true sustainability.

“Is sustainability about being less bad than you might have otherwise or is it about being regenerative?” asks Jim Nicolow, director of sustainability at the architecture firm of Lord, Aeck & Sargent. “I don’t doubt that [MGM Mirage] is making legitimate improvements to what would be practice as usual, but is developing 70 acres in the desert the direction the world needs to go?”

Best of both worlds
Philosophical debates aside, the resorts along the Strip have all made major moves to improve energy efficiency. “If they can have that spark and sizzle with less energy consumption, you get the best of both worlds,” says Mark Severts, project communications director for NV Energy, the state’s primary supplier. “It’ll still look like, ‘Wow, Las Vegas,’ but they’re not spending as much money as people think they are.”

Which, it turns out, plays directly into the idea that the Strip wastes natural resources willy-nilly. “The Strip is a place of images and illusions,” says Nicole Lise, public information coordinator for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, “but the illusion isn’t limited to the clubs and the shows; it’s also about the use of water and energy. The reality is that the resorts on the Strip only use about six percent of our water.”

As for building bigger rather than smaller, both Nicolow and Ortega agree that big projects, and by extension big business, play a crucial role in the evolving arena of sustainability.

“If you want to change markets and have a faster and more comprehensive solution, then big business is the answer,” says Ortega. “CityCenter has fundamentally moved the needle on sustainable design.”

November 17, 2009 at 10:34 AM Leave a comment

Tidal Power Turbines Producing More Energy Than Expected

Peter Fraenkel, Technical Director and co-founder of Marine Current Turbines, the UK-based company that designed and developed SeaGen, the world’s only commercial scale tidal stream turbine, announced at the Lisbon International Ocean Power Conference that he is “delighted with SeaGen’s performance. It is running reliably and delivering more energy than originally expected in an extremely aggressive environment.”

Tidal Power Turbines

The turbines are powered by a consistent tidal current that surges back and forth with every tide through the Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour. The generators typically produce enough energy to meet the average electricity needs for 1500 UK homes during each ebb and each flood tide.

“We are getting more energy than expected mainly because the resource is more energetic than originally predicted during earlier surveys,” added Fraenkel.

Full Story HERE

November 17, 2009 at 10:28 AM Leave a comment

IEA puts $500bn a year cost on Copenhagen failure

Each year of delay in cementing a global post-2012 climate deal will add $500 billion to the cost of the low-carbon energy revolution, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

As international negotiators seek to manage expectations that the UN climate talks this December will result in a finalised Copenhagen protocol or treaty, the IEA said in its World Energy Outlook 2009 that the $10.5 trillion energy investment needed between 2010 and 2030 will increase by $500 billion for each year of delay “before moving to a more sustainable emissions path”.

A delay of “just a few years” would make it impossible to reach the IEA’s scenario for stabilising carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million. Keeping greenhouse gas concentrations at this level will produce a 50% chance the global temperature rise can be kept below the crucial 2°C threshold.

Speakers at the Environment 09 conference in London on Monday were doubtful a comprehensive legally-binding deal would be reached in the Danish capital, however. Japan’s head negotiator Kuni Shimada said that the “most probable” outcome now is that Copenhagen will “agree on the elements for key issues which must be within the outcome. We can still negotiate the nitty gritty details next year.” A final protocol or treaty could be hashed out in 2010 or even 2011, he added.

“[Copenhagen] won’t solve all the issues,” agreed Chris Smith, chairman of the UK’s Environment Agency. “Some of the most significant emitting countries aren’t yet ready to conclude a deal – not least the US, where the Senate won’t have made its decisions until the New Year.”

“What we have to aim for, though, is a number of clear ‘in principle’ decisions, agreed by the participating nations, with a commitment to agree actions arising from those principles in the course of the following nine months,” he added.

But José Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, told delegates: “I’m absolutely certain we can still achieve a high quality agreement at Copenhagen.”

“If we can’t get the [key] elements by the end of this year, we can’t get these kind of elements ever,” Shimada said.

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November 12, 2009 at 12:16 PM Leave a comment

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