Saturday, July 1, 2006

Nanotechnology and energy

Nanotechnology advances may provide breakthroughs in fuel cells, batteries, solar production, transport and storage, and hydrogen storage to mainstream alternative energy according to the scientists at the first Energy Nanotechnology International Conference held at MIT June 26-28.  2006 Energy Nanotechnology International Conference  From my perspective, wind, biofuels/biomass, hydropower, and nuclear power should be regarded as transitional energy sources, since they tend to be intrusive, resource consumptive, and fraught with environmental problems.  The long-term future belongs to solar and hydrogen once we solve the technical issues -- because they may be less intrusive, less resource consumptive, and may ultimately be more sustainable.  So, we need to keep an eye on these sorts of developments.  The Green Car Congress reported on the conference: Green Car Congress report

Solar. Researchers described a number of approaches to developing solar photon conversion systems that have an appropriate combination of high efficiency and low capital cost.

MIT’s Vladimir Bulovic, for one, said that nanotechnologies such as nanodots and nanorods are potentially disruptive technologies in the solar field. Bulovic is fabricating quantum dot photovoltaics using a microcontact printing process.

I think we’ll see the peaking of oil and natural gas sooner than most of those in the fossil fuel industry think. By 2035 photovoltaics could produce about 10 percent of the world’s electricity and play a major role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

—David Carlson, chief scientist at BP Solar

Thermoelectrics. Thermoelectric devices are able to increase the efficiency of current technology and processes by transforming typical waste heat in combustion processes into electrical energy without the production of any environmentally harmful by-products.

There is a strong incentive to develop novel thermoelectric materials for power generation with a vastly improved thermoelectric performance. Nanomaterials have a role to play in meeting this challenge because of expectations for enhanced power factor and greatly reduced thermal conductivity in suitably chosen systems. Therefore general, convenient synthetic routes to bulk nanostructured materials, designed to be thermodynamically stable and thus practically permanent, are needed.

—Mercouri G. Kanatzidis, Michigan State University

Hydrogen. Mildred Dresselhaus gave a plenary talk titled “Addressing Grand Energy Challenges Through Advanced Materials” in which she focused on the large gap between present science/technology knowhow and the requirements in efficiency/cost for a sustainable hydrogen economy.

The hydrogen initiative involves an effort to greatly increase our capability to produce hydrogen using renewable energy sources such as photons from the sun and water from the oceans, since hydrogen is an energy carrier and not a fuel found on our planet.

The hydrogen storage problem has been identified as the most challenging since neither liquid hydrogen nor solid hydrogen have enough energy density to meet the DOE requirements for hydrogen storage for automotive applications.

The third element of the hydrogen initiative involves the development of fuel cells with a much enhanced performance and lower cost, that would come about through the development of more effective catalysts in the anode and cathode of the fuel cell and more efficient membranes operating at elevated temperatures allowing proton flow but inhibiting hydrogen gas flow.

For each of the three components of the hydrogen initiative, hydrogen production, storage and utilization, it appears that the special properties of materials at the nanoscale can be utilized to enhance performance in a way that cannot be done with bulk materials.

—Mildred Dresselhaus, MIT

Energy storage. Speakers in this track focused on fuel cells, batteries and supercapacitors.

Many significant efforts are being made to identify and utilize new energy sources, to increase production of existing sources, to increase conversion and storage efficiency, and, equally important, to reduce pollution. However, incremental improvement will not be sufficient. What is needed are new approaches.

At the same time, we are entering an exciting era where we now have the technology to engineer materials on a nanometer scale, i.e. at dimensions comparable to the size of individual atoms and molecules. But what does nanotechnology have to do with the world’s massive energy needs? In my keynote address, I will explore nanotechnology as an “outside the box” technology that has the potential to “re-invent” (transform) some long-known but little-used technologies to the point that they may offer significant improvement over the accepted ways of converting and storing energy.

One such transformation would be to use capacitors rather than batteries for regenerative energy storage. Ridiculous? Perhaps not. In MIT’s Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems (LEES), we are exploring a nanostructured ultracapacitor electrode that has the potential to increase a capacitor’s energy storage density to equal that of a chemical battery.

Another technology that we are exploring is the use of nanostructured emissive coatings and filters to significantly increase the efficiency of direct thermophotovoltaic (TPV) generation of electricity from heat.

—Joel Schindall, MIT

There is widespread effort and excitement in new materials for storing and releasing lithium or hydrogen. New materials are needed if rechargeable batteries and fuel cell systems are to be more competitive in the transportation sector, for example.

—Brent Fultz, California Institute of Technology

July 1, 2006 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Geological carbon sequestration and storage: recipe for leaks and toxic contamination?

A great deal of energy is being expended these days to see how close to "business as usual" we can remain and still deal with the climate change crisis.  Ford's decision to abandon hybrids for "flex fuel" cars (i.e. defer reduced emissions another decade or so while ethanol 85 becomes available) and power companies eager embrace of geological carbon storage and sequestration are just a couple of examples. The latter has hit a bit of a bump in the road: a recent study by Kharaka suggests that CO2 increases pH and mobilizes toxic metals creating a potential for contamination of nearby aquifers.  Geology study
Richard Kerr of Science reported:

Scientists testing the deep geologic disposal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are finding that it's staying where they put it, but it's chewing up minerals. The reactions have produced a nasty mix of metals and organic substances in a layer of sandstone 1550 meters down, researchers report this week in Geology. At the same time, the CO2 is dissolving a surprising amount of the mineral that helps keep the gas where it's put. Nothing is leaking out so far, but the phenomenon will need a closer look before such carbon sequestration can help ameliorate the greenhouse problem, say the researchers.

             Drillers often inject CO2 into the ground to drive more oil out, but researchers conducting the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Frio Brine Pilot Experiment northeast of Houston, Texas, pumped 1600 tons of CO2 into the Frio Formation to see where the gas went and what it did. "We're the first looking in this huge detail so that we can see what's going on," says geochemist and lead study author Yousif Kharaka of the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California. He and colleagues found that the CO2 dropped the pH of the formation's brine from a near-neutral 6.5 to 3.0, about as acid as vinegar. That change in turn dissolved "many, many minerals," says Kharaka, releasing metals such as iron and manganese. Organic matter entered solution as well, and relatively large amounts of carbonate minerals dissolved.

The loss of carbonates worries Kharaka particularly. These naturally occurring chemicals seal pores and fractures in the rock that, if opened, could release CO2 as well as fouled brine into overlying aquifers that supply drinking and irrigation water. Perhaps more troubling, says Kharaka, is that the acid mix could attack carbonate in the cement seals plugging abandoned oil or gas wells, 2.5 million of which pepper the United States. The lesson is that "whatever we do [with CO2], there are environmental implications that we have to deal with," he says.

Geologist Julio Friedmann of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is less concerned about corrosion eating away the seals on a sequestration site. "The crust of Earth is well configured to contain CO2," he says. He points to 80 U.S. oil fields injected with CO2 for up to 30 years. "We've seen no catastrophic failures." Nevertheless, the Frio results do "suggest an aspect of risk we hadn't considered before," says Friedmann. There is a "new potential risk should CO2 leak into shallow aquifers."

June 30, 2006 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

A New Commodity Symbol: H2O???

Blue gold.  Yes, in case you didn't know: water really is blue. Why is water blue?   And, as population and water demand grow,  blue gold may replace the black gold of oil, especially if biofuel and biomass become the substitute for oil.

So where are the water markets?  Sure, we all know about western US water marketing and about moves by international companies to invest in privitized water development in developing countries.  But where's the commodity market?

Myra Saefong of Marketwatch reported on that today:

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Water is about as precious as a commodity can get and it still hasn't been graced with an official trading platform of its own. It's necessary for survival, only about 1% of the water on earth is suitable for consumption and people in the United States use about 1,000 times more water each day than gasoline.

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"Fresh water is certainly a more valuable commodity than crude oil, but crude oil doesn't fall out of the sky either," said Jim Wyckoff, a commodities analyst at TradingEducation.com.

And at much less than a penny per gallon at the tap compared with gasoline's nearly $3 a gallon, water is a real steal. In fact, you can refill an 8-ounce glass of water approximately 15,000 times for the same cost as a six-pack of soda, according to the American Water Works Association.

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"Clean, fresh water is not only the most vital commodity -- it is also the most undervalued," said Bernard Savaiko, an economist at the New York Board of Trade. Despite the nearly-free cost of the resource, people dish out billions of dollars each year to buy bottled water, making it the fastest growing drink choice in the nation, according to a late 2005 report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Bottled water can cost as much as 10,000 times more than tap water, according to the Earth Policy Institute, and the U.S. is the world's leading consumer of it, at around one 8-ounce glass per person every day. 

All told, U.S. consumers withdrew about 408 billion gallons of water per day for all uses in 2000, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Freshwater use, which includes ground and surface water, ran at about 340 billion gallons per day....

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Water is "the first and last great commodity," said Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.  Even so, it still doesn't have a publicly-traded market -- nothing similar to the oil futures which help dictate market prices -- and that probably won't happen anytime soon, analysts add. But with the U.S. population headed for the 300 million mark later this year, and the world figure above 6.5 billion, "people theorize that the next great competition over supplies will be for fresh water," said Flynn, adding that the supply of drinkable water is becoming tighter and tighter.

At some point, "it's going to be the oil market of the future," he said.

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Oil's twin? Indeed, the similarities water has with oil are striking.

  Fresh water is "a commodity that is a necessity and the supplies are finite," said Wyckoff.  It's in demand, potentially in tight supply with limited sources, domestically produced and its price fluctuates based on market conditions," said Flynn. It's also deliverable -- "you could sell it from a solid source where you could guarantee delivery."....

And the cost and nature of production differs from oil, he said.

"Different places have different costs of production," he said, pointing out that Los Angeles gets its water from the Colorado River, while Iowa can, for example, drill 30 feet and have a virtually unending supply of water. In Saudi Arabia, the fresh water has to go through desalination plants that make the process costly, but it's the country's only source of fresh water.

The water industry has talked about the development of a tradable market

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Not Likely. Why? Simply put, "from a practical standpoint, it's not really cost-efficient to move it long distances or to store it," said Nybot's Savaiko. Oil is about $70 a barrel, or $1.67 a gallon, and we're paying about one-third of a cent per gallon of high-quality water from our taps, said Dr. Peter Gleick, president of Pacific Institute, an independent think-tank based in Oakland, Calif.  If you

fill a tanker with oil, you have something worth money; you fill up a tanker with water, and you don't," he said. "Very quickly, your shipping costs kill you."  Given that, "water is unlikely to ever be a global commodity," he said.  The U.S., particularly California, is becoming more efficient in water use and water use is leveling off, even as the population and economy grows, he said. The nation uses less water for everything than it did 20 years ago.

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  "It's cheaper to save a gallon of water than to go and find a new gallon from the environment," he said.  And besides looking at the technical issues involved with any commodity, such as delivery and storage, the basic question, according to Savaiko, is: where do you find the sellers?

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"There's plenty of demand, but where would the sellers come from? Would you want to be short water?"

.... Still....

it wouldn't be a surprise to see water traded as a commodity.  "After all 98% of the world's water is salt water [and] the world's lakes, rivers and streams account for just 1% of the fresh water," said Sean Brodrick, an editor at Weiss Research.  But instead of seeing the resource traded on an American exchange, he'd "look to one of the foreign exchanges with real vision to start trading water." And standards for water would have to be set, he said, much like the Brent standard for crude.  On a global scale, "supply and demand are on a decisive collision course here, whereby the world supply of drinkable or potable water is quickly shrinking," said Savaiko.  There's going to be more emphasis on desalination to make up for the shortfall created by the finite supply of water, so the price of water may eventually rise to meet the cost of that process, which ranges from $2 to $3 per 1,000 gallons, he said.

Currently, on a local scale, there actually is a market for water.  Farmers in California, for example, are marketing water to cities because farmers pay very little for water and cities are willing to pay a lot more, said Gleick. If farmers in California pay 20 to 40 cents per 1,000 gallons of water, they can sell it to cities for 10 times that amount, he said.

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And on a transaction-to-transaction basis, water is sold or leased in states where the legal structure allows this, and most delivery is made in close proximity to the source," said Coy.  Where water is sold, it's sold as the "right to pump a certain amount of water from an aquifer or the right to take a certain amount from a stream or river," she said.

June 30, 2006 in Economics, Governance/Management, International, Law, Sustainability, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

UK Takes the Lead on Reducing Carbon Emissions

Yesterday, David Miliband, UK Environmental Secretary, and Alistair Darling, UK Trade and Industry Secretary, spoke to Parliament regarding Britain's commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  The UK will limit permits to electric power generators to 238m tonnes of annual CO2 permits for 2008-12, representing a 3% reduction from the first Kyoto implementation period, which ends next year.  The Financial Times Limited reported their statement:  FT report

On Thursday the government made a critical decision on Britain’s contribution to tackling climate change. The decision reflects three principles: our ambition to be world leaders in creating a low-carbon economy and to balance environmental and economic objectives; our commitment to do this through collective action at a European level; and our determination to use market mechanisms to enable businesses to find the cheapest way possible of meeting our objectives.

Our ambition to reduce emissions is balanced alongside the need to enable Britain’s economy to do business. We faced a clear choice over our contribution to the European Union’s emissions trading scheme – the most innovative attempt to reduce carbon emissions in the world. In March we began a consultation on how far we should reduce our emissions, setting out a range from 3m-8m tonnes of carbon a year.

We could have taken the easy option. In the first phase, we set tighter limits than other countries. While they struggle to meet their international obligations to reduce carbon emissions under the Kyoto treaty, our emissions of greenhouse gases are projected to fall by 23-25 per cent by 2010, nearly double the target set by Kyoto.

However, the human suffering that will result in the next 100 years from climate change could be greater than the suffering yet seen in this world. We owe it to humanity in the future to act. Across the globe, we have to be far more ambitious. That is why we have decided to adopt a carbon cap that will reduce emissions by 8m tonnes – the most ambitious figure within the range discussed. This is roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions produced by 4.5m households each year. It is a significant step towards our long-term objective of a 60 per cent reduction by 2050.

We have also decided to auction 7 per cent of our carbon allowances. The final amount raised by the auction cannot be determined in advance, as it depends on the price of carbon, but it will be substantial. We believe there is an opportunity for the UK not just to invest in renewable energy, other non-nuclear low-carbon technologies and energy efficiency, but also to build successful businesses in these fields. We will establish a new environmental transformation fund to help grasp this opportunity. The final details of the fund will be announced in the spending review for implementation, like the emissions trading scheme, in 2008.

Our decisions on emissions trading give business a framework in which long-term clean and greener investment decisions can be made. They highlight not only the level of our ambition, but the distinctive means by which we can achieve our objectives.

It is clear we must act within European institutions. The EU could be as important to the environment in the next 50 years as it has been to European peace and economic growth in the last 50. By negotiating as one block, the EU is a powerful driver of change. By creating an emissions trading scheme across Europe, we can create a framework that gives member states the confidence to act together. By enabling member states to buy project credits from outside the EU we are providing financial investment to help developing countries develop low-carbon economies and bind them into a global climate change policy framework. That is why we will support the European Commission in its efforts to enforce tough caps on member states.

But while governments and international institutions must specify the outcomes we seek in relation to carbon, we must allow businesses to find the most innovative ways of achieving these cuts. Indeed, when the Corporate Leaders Group, which represents businesses such as Shell and Tesco, met the prime minister recently, it argued that business could gain a first-mover advantage in new global markets for low-carbon technology. That is why we believe the best way to cut carbon emissions is through market mechanisms such as the emissions trading scheme.

In the twentieth century, social democrats demonstrated that greater ambition in tackling social justice must be pursued through two principles: collective action through the state and international action; and individual freedom through markets. In the 21st century, the social justice challenge is the environment – the potential human suffering we will cause to other countries and to future generations. The same combination of more ambitious goals delivered through collective action and markets will be needed. It is one we are determined to apply.

June 30, 2006 in Climate Change, Energy, EU, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

So Much for the Kinder, Greener Image of Ford

Ford will do hybrid R & D in Sweden, but apparently it won't produce hybrids for the US. 

I'm a little confused.  I think Ford believes that Americans don't want hybrids, but Europeans do. 

At any rate, American car manufacturers seem to have their heads firmly in the sand. 

HT Green Car Congress. 

Ford to Establish Hybrid Development Center in Sweden; Volvo Cars to Invest $1.4 Billion in Environmental R&D

30 June 2006

Ford Motor, through its subsidiary Volvo Cars, announced it will establish a development center for hybrid systems in Gothenburg, Sweden, to serve Ford’s Premier Automotive Group and Ford of Europe business units.

In a related announcement, Volvo said that it will invest SEK 10 billion (US$1.4 billion) in environmental R&D to improve fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of its global fleet.

Hybrid development center. The hybrid development center will have overall responsibility for the application of hybrid systems into Volvo Cars vehicles globally as well as for ensuring Ford of Europe and brands from Ford’s Premier Automotive Group are able to apply core hybrid systems into their own product plans.

The center will be staffed initially by a mix of 20 leading engineers from both Volvo Cars and other brands from the Ford Motor Company group.

Part of a global initiative by Ford Motor Company to speed the introduction of more fuel-efficient vehicles, the new hybrid development center will build on the experience and expertise that Volvo Cars has built up over many years in developing advanced environmental technology systems, including some of the early hybrid systems, that eventually made their way into the world’s first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape.

We are very pleased that Ford Motor Company has decided to establish a development-center for hybrid technology in Gothenburg. This shows a strong belief in Volvo Cars and our ability to deliver results in future advanced technologies and underline the fact that Sweden has all the pre-requisites for research and development excellence.

“The hybrid cars of tomorrow will be more sophisticated and much further developed compared with what we see on the road today. And it is likely that we will find high-performance hybrids running on diesels and renewable fuels.

—Fredrik Arp, President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation

The center’s location will ensure that hybrid technology development at Ford Motor Company takes into account different market trends and customer preferences in regions around the world. While the new center will be located in Gothenburg, each brand within Ford European operations will be responsible for applying new technologies to their own product portfolios.

The team at the new hybrid center will also work closely with Ford’s hybrid development team in Detroit, Michigan, to ensure optimum global alignment and economies of scale.

Environmental R&D. In a linked announcement, Volvo Cars announced the investment of SEK 10 billion (US$1.4 billion) in environmental research and development. The aim is to reduce the total fuel economy and tailpipe emissions of the global Volvo Cars fleet.

The investment initiative will focus primarily on:

  1. The development and deployment of cleaner, more efficient diesel engines, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles;

  2. The use of light, strong materials like magnesium, aluminium and lighter high-strength steel; and

  3. The introduction of smaller vehicles, while continuing to meet customer expectations for safety in Volvo Cars.

At the Challenge Bibendum 2004, Volvo introduced the 3CC electric concept car, a 3-seater prototype electric vehicle powered by a lithium-ion battery. (Earlier post). At the Challenge Bibendum 2006, Volvo introduced the Multi-Fuel, an extremely clean engine offering high performance, which can run on five fuels (bio-methane; bio-ethanol; natural gas; gasoline and hythane, a mixture consisting of 10 percent hydrogen gas and 90 percent methane gas). (Earlier post.)

Previously, we were able to solve several major environmental problems ourselves with the help of skilled engineers and advanced technology. Today however, our biggest environmental problems—increased carbon dioxide emissions and climate change—require much more than just technical solutions from individual car manufacturers.

All of society has to be involved: decision-makers the world over must pursue sustainable policies, the production and distribution of renewable energy must be improved and last but not least, consumers must to an ever-increasing extent dare—and want—to invest in environmental technology.

Volvo Cars will be an active partner in the highly complex challenge facing society. Our role is to be a premium supplier of sustainable mobility solutions.

—Fredrik Arp

The Volvo Car Corporation, with its head office in Gothenburg, Sweden, has been a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company since 1999. Volvo has approximately 27,000 employees around the world.

Sierra Club Statement by Dan Becker, Director, Global Warming Program

WASHINGTON - June 29 - Yesterday, Bill Ford announced in an email to Ford Motor Company employees that Ford was walking away from its promise to produce 250,000 hybrid vehicles annually by the end of the decade. Instead, as Ford also announced yesterday in a letter with GM and DaimlerChrysler to Congress, it intends to focus on doubling its production of flexfuel vehicles.

“We were pleased to applaud Ford when it made a promise to build 250,000 hybrid vehicles annually by 2010. Today we are appalled that Ford is abrogating this promise. Ford is rapidly becoming the automaker that cried wolf. In 2000, Ford promised to increase the fuel economy of its SUVs by 25% over five years; it walked away from that promise in 2003. By swapping out more clean and efficient hybrids for more flexfuel vehicles, Ford is engaging in a classic bait and switch. Even the Bush administration admits that flexfuels run on regular gasoline 99% of the time, since E85 is only available at an infinitesimal .003% of the nation’s gas stations. Instead of taking concrete steps to save consumers money at the pump by giving them efficient hybrids, Ford is saddling consumers with the same gas guzzlers that will run on the same gasoline they have for the past 100 years.

“Ford already has the least efficient fleet of the Big 6 automakers and it can and should do better than simply using clever marketing to disguise its exploitation of the SUV-sized flexfuel vehicle loophole in the CAFE law. This loophole allows Ford and other automakers to make more gas guzzlers than the already weak CAFE law would allow if they simply make a certain number of flexfuel vehicles—even though the vast majority of these vehicles never actually run on E85.

“I am particularly disappointed that Bill Ford himself delivered this unfortunate news. He and his company have repeatedly claimed—using multi-million dollar ad campaigns—to be environmental champions that were working toward cleaner and more environmentally sound choices for consumers. We now know that Ford Motor Company cannot be relied upon to tell the truth or even to compete effectively with the more efficient fleets of foreign competitors like Honda and Toyota. It is also becoming clear that Bill Ford himself is either unable or unwilling to live up to his own commitments to the environment.

June 29, 2006 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Better Living Through Chemistry: The "Fruitchemical" Industry

Robert Service reports in Science on research reported by chemical engineer James Dumesic and colleagues on a new process for turning fructose, the sugar in fruit, into a compound called 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), which can replace key petroleum-derived chemical building blocks. Science report on HMF process 

Unlike previous schemes for turning sugar into HMF, the new process is efficient, easy, and potentially low cost. "It looks real good to me," says Thomas Zawodzinski, a chemical engineer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. "This is the direction things need to go in."
....
The changes doubled the percentage of fructose that gets converted into HMF, to 85%. With that boost and related improvements, "now you can make some pretty compelling arguments" for producing HMF commercially, says Todd Werpy, an expert on producing bio-derived chemicals at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. Producing commodity chemicals from renewable feedstocks "is really in its infancy," Werpy says. But with top research groups now training their sights on the problem, he adds, "renewables could make a major contribution to the chemical needs in the United States."

 


 

 

                                                      

June 29, 2006 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, International, Physical Science, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sierra Club Sues DOD to Complete Wind Farm Study

  Newsday reported today that Sierra Club has sued to remove a major obstacle to the development of windpower in the United States -- the failure of DOD to complete a Congressionally mandated study on the effects of wind farms on military radar. HT Common Dreams.  Here's the complaint:
Download sierra_club_v. DOD wind farm suit.pdf

 

SAN FRANCISCO - The Sierra Club sued the Department of Defense on Wednesday, saying its failure to complete a key study has stopped construction of more than a dozen wind farms in the Midwest.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon missed a May deadline for a study on whether the wind farms interfere with military radar, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.


Windmills are seen Wednesday, June 28, 2006, near Livermore, Calif. The Sierra Club sued the U.S. Department of Defense in federal court Wednesday for allegedly halting construction of new wind farms across the United States by failing to complete a study on whether they interfere with military radar. The suit filed in U.S. District Court claimed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon missed a deadline for completing a study that is holding up permits for more than a dozen wind farm projects in the Midwest. 'The end result is the wind industry is being crippled,' said attorney Kristin Henry of the Sierra Club. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
       

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The Federal Aviation Administration has halted projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota until the agency can determine their impact on the radar.

"The end result is the wind industry is being crippled," said Kristin Henry, attorney of the Sierra Club.

The departments of Defense and Homeland Security announced in March they would contest any proposed wind turbines that fell within the "radar field-of-view" of long-range air defense systems.

"Our goal is not to put up roadblocks to these wind farms but to preserve the safety of our airspace," spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said.

Delayed construction on wind farms could make developers ineligible for federal tax credits available until the end of 2007, Henry said.

Concern over the study has created an "uncertain situation" for developers considering new wind farm projects, said Christine Real de Azua, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association.

Wind became the second-greatest source of new power generated in the United States last year after natural gas, according to the group.


 
   
   
 

June 29, 2006 in Cases, Climate Change, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ABA SEER teleconference on natural resources damages at Hanford

If you are interested in the results of federal facility pollution, you might want to tune into this ABA SEER teleconference:

American Bar Association ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

 

Superfund and Natural Resource Damages Litigation Committee

Presents a “Quick Teleconference” program

Natural Resource Damages in the Pacific Northwest

Tuesday, July 25, 2006
  2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time / 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Central Time
  12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time / 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time

Program Overview:
An update on the latest developments in the Natural Resource Damages claims arising from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Site and the Commencement Bay Nearshore/Tideflats Site.

The State of Washington has intervened in the Natural Resource Damages lawsuit over the Hanford Nuclear Reservation Site. This program will look at the State’s anticipated role in this litigation and the path forward.

At Commencement Bay, the Trustees have entered several significant settlements relating to the Hylebos Waterway Problem Area. The program will look at the innovative approach used by the Trustees to reach these settlement agreements, and anticipated future actions regarding the remaining claims at the overall Site.  

Click here to Register

 

June 29, 2006 in Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Self-fertilizing plants would boost biofuel

One of the difficulties with using biofuel/biomass as a transition out of a petroleum economy is the damage done to water resources by fertilizers. A promising biotech development may help surmount that obstacle: genetic modification of plants to provide their own nitrogen so that chemical nitrogen need not be applied, thus cutting the fossil fuel use of the agriculture industry in half and protecting scarce freshwater resources from agricultural pollution.  Studies by Oldroyd and Stougaard published today in Nature that modify a plant gene allowing a crop to be self-fertilizing.   The same technique could potentially develop self-fertilizings wheat, maize and rice.  Nature article

June 29, 2006 in Agriculture, Climate Change, Energy, Governance/Management, Physical Science, Sustainability, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TIAA-CREF and the Principles of Responsible Investment: Stay Tuned

I believe that on the whole we, as law professors and educators, support the principles of responsible investment launched at the NYSE in April by the UN Secretary-General.  The principles call for integration of environmental, social, and corporate governance issues into mainstream investment decision-making.  If we support those principles, it seems that our primary financial investor, TIAA-CREF, should endorse those principles and follow them.  See original post 6/5/06

On June 19th, I posed some questions to TIAA-CREF.  My questions were:

Has TIAA-CREF pledged to follow the Principles of
Responsible Investment released in April?  If not,
why not?  What is the procedure for urging adoption
of those principles?

TIAA-CREF response of 6/27 was:

Dear Ms. Smith, 

Thank you for your inquiry.  It is a pleasure to be
of assistance.

We think a financial strategy should stand the test
of time. At TIAA-CREF, our ability to spell out
long-term objectives and pursue them in a systematic
and dependable manner has been crucial to our
success. Unlike many companies that rely heavily on
outside investment managers, we manage our funds
in-house, so that our approach remains consistent
across different accounts and market cycles.

Our long-term investment philosophy, our low-cost*
structure, our commitment to investor choice and
guidance, and our policy of managing risk through
diversification have proven successful again and
again, through technological upheavals,
entrepreneurial shifts, and market swings.

Every financial analyst has his/her own way of
selecting investments. And that strategy comes
greatly into play when evaluating whether or not you
want to invest with a particular company for the long
term. While past returns are obviously important to
assessing an investment company, they do not, in
themselves, give the full picture. Shifting economic
and market conditions, as well as the effect of new
and emerging industries, can radically alter the
financial landscape. So what seemed like a winning
strategy at one point won't necessarily stand the
test of time. That's why you should know how past
returns were achieved and whether an investment
company has a long-term strategy that can respond
effectively to change.

Basically, an investment fund can try to meet its
financial objectives in one of two ways. It can
invest actively -- having its analysts seek out
specific stocks, bonds and other instruments that
they feel are good investments to meet the goals of
the portfolio. The downside here is that the managers
might simply choose wrong -- at least part of the
time. What's more, the fund may not be able to find
enough attractive investments to make full use of the
money it's taking in. So an inordinate amount of cash
may be invested in a "parking place" like the money
market while fund analysts either scramble to uncover
more opportunities and increase their investments in
current holdings. Alternatively, the fund can use a
passive approach -- by simply finding an index for
funds similar to itself and then trying to match the
performance of that index by buying all or many of
the securities it holds. With this approach, the risk
of underperforming the market may be minimized --
you're going with somewhat of a "surer thing" -- but
there's also less potential for the kind of success
that can be achieved by putting all your money in a
stock that may be undervalued and under recognized,
but turns out to be a real winner.

TIAA-CREF has developed a uniform investment
approach for its stock accounts (except for those
which are fully indexed or use social screens). Its
Dual Investment Management Strategy® integrates two
equity management techniques: Active Managers select
specific stocks that they believe represent more
potential for growth, while Quantitative Managers
build an overall portfolio designed to reflect the
basic financial and risk characteristics of the
fund's benchmark index. Quantitative Managers may
also attempt to boost performance by slightly varying
the amount of certain holdings versus the index,
based on proprietary scoring models designed to
identify over- and underperforming stocks. The Dual
Investment Management StrategySM seeks to achieve
higher returns over each Fund's benchmark index,
while attempting to maintain a risk profile for each
Fund similar to its benchmark index.

Using the Dual Investment Management StrategySM, we
have the flexibility to allocate between active and
quantitative management based upon investment
opportunities that we perceive to be available at any
particular time. Team members seek to create value
and limit the additional volatility usually
associated with active stock selection.

Overall, the approach enables the Funds to remain
fully invested when investment opportunities for
active management are limited, and more diversified
than active management alone would typically provide.

My 6/29/06 follow-up was:
Obviously, you didn't answer my questions.  Could you try again?

Stay tuned!!!

June 29, 2006 in Economics, Governance/Management, International, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bottom trawling ban in Aleutians

The Hawaiian reserve and the Aleutian bottom trawling ban are two great examples of the substance of sustainability law: in both we used "hard" law to draw a clear line protecting biodiversity.  The Aleutians example may be even more impressive than the Hawaiian reserve -- it was accomplished through a transparent participatory process and relied upon prevention or the precautionary principle.  Katherine Unger of ScienceNOW Daily News reports:

June is proving to be a good month for oceans. Two weeks ago, U.S. President George W. Bush set aside 360,000 square kilometers of the northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a marine reserve. And today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced that more than 950,000 square kilometers of sea floor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska are now protected from bottom trawling, a fishing method that can destroy coral reefs and other marine habitat. The new reserve will be the largest protected area in the United States and the third largest in the world. The ban, published today in the Federal Register, will go into effect on 28 July.In 2002, NOAA scientists discovered "coral gardens"--beds of colorful, varied corals and sponges--up to 350 meters deep in the waters around the Aleutians. Thought to be unique to the area, the diversity of life seen in these gardens rivals that of tropical coral reefs. Like those reefs, the gardens are also vulnerable to trawling, in which fishers drag huge, weighted nets across the ocean floor. Wiping out coral communities and other sea-floor life eliminates habitats for many fish species, including those species that are commercially important such as rockfish and mackerel.  NOAA's decision to close the Aleutian waters to bottom fishing follows a recommendation by the organization's North Pacific Fishery Management Council in 2005. NMFS Director Bill Hogarth characterized the protection as a "precautionary measure," as current evidence indicates that Alaskan fisheries have yet to significantly affect marine life on the sea floor.  Jennifer Washburn of the Alaska Groundfish Data Bank, which represents trawlers, says that the new proposal shouldn't harm the industry significantly. "A lot of the active fishing grounds have been active for the past 20 years," she says. "So it seems like if they haven't gone there yet, they're not going to be interested."  Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist at environmental nonprofit Oceana in Washington, D.C., whose group lobbied for the closure, says that NOAA's action "epitomizes a shift in perspective," as the protection was enacted before any real damage was done. "What really is transformational is to have the fishermen and the council and the conservationists agreeing that enough is enough."

June 28, 2006 in Biodiversity, Governance/Management, Law, North America, US, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Extreme Hurricane Season Blamed on Global Warming

Noreen Parks reported yesterday in ScienceNOW Daily News that Trenbarth and Shea have published a study in Geophysical Research Letters indicating that global warming was the culprit driving the extreme 2005 hurricane season:
It's no secret that 2005 was a ferocious hurricane season. A record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes--including four category-5s--lashed through the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean, leaving an appalling toll of death, misery, and destruction in their wakes. A new analysis shows that global warming was largely responsible for the number and intensity of the hurricanes. As global temperatures continue upward, we can expect more of the same, the authors warn.

Scientists have identified a 60-to-80-year cycle of warming and cooling ocean temperatures--the causes of which are unclear--called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). This cycle appears to correlate weakly with the frequency and strength of hurricanes, which are fueled by heat released when moist air over water rises and condenses. During much of last year's hurricane season, sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical Atlantic, the birth zone of many hurricanes, exceeded the 1901-1970 average by a record 0.9 degrees Celsius. Two previous studies found that hurricane frequency, duration, and intensity have spiked since the 1970s in concert with rising SSTs, but whether the AMO or global warming was the prime culprit for warmer water remained unclear.

To sort things out, climatologists Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, used data on SSTs, collected worldwide since the early 1900s. They subtracted the global average SST from the elevated temperature in the tropical Atlantic hurricane zone--effectively separating the global warming fraction from the AMO. They found that global warming accounted for about 0.45 degrees Celsius of last year's unusually high SST, while the AMO explained less than 0.1 degrees Celsius of the rise. (The aftereffects from the 2004-2005 El Niño and year-to-year variability accounted for the rest.) The results show that the AMO is actually much weaker now than it was during the 1950s--another active hurricane period--when SSTs were lower than they are now.

June 28, 2006 in Climate Change, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Milled Coal Could Be Solution to Hydrogen Storage and Transportation

Kim Krieger reported today on a study by Leuking of Penn State published June 21 in Journal of the American Chemical Societys.  Leuking has found that milling coal with cyclohexene produces hydrogen, stores it in a non-explosive form, is relatively cheap, would be easy to transport, and may be reusable. ScienceNOW Daily News

June 28, 2006 in Air Quality, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Physical Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Big Oil Goes on the Road

Reuters reports that top Shell executives have begun a 50-city tour across the United States this summer to persuade us that Shell and other big oil companies are not ripping us off -- a (futile) attempt to "dampen a U.S. political firestorm over soaring gasoline prices and record earnings for the companies that sell fuel products."  Can you say "oligopoly?"

June 27, 2006 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Movie Review: Gore's Inconvenient Truth

Seth Borenstein of AP reported today: AP story

The nation's top scientists give An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy. The former vice president's movie — replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets — mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.  The AP contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by e-mail and phone for their opinion. Among those contacted were vocal skeptics of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.But those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.  "Excellent," said William Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "He got all the important material and got it right."  Robert Corell, chairman of the worldwide Arctic Climate Impact Assessment group of scientists, read the book and saw Gore give the slideshow presentation that is woven throughout the documentary. "I sat there and I'm amazed at how thorough and accurate," Corell said. "After the presentation I said, `Al, I'm absolutely blown away. There's a lot of details you could get wrong.' ... I could find no error."

June 27, 2006 in Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, North America, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Oregon State Rules!

US Supreme Court grants review of EPAs failure to regulate carbon dioxide under Clean Air Act

In 1998, Jonathan Cannon, then General Counsel of EPA under President Clinton, issued a legal opinion determining that carbon dioxide was a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  1998 Cannon General Counsel opinion Download CO2 memo.pdf When environmental groups petitioned EPA under section 202 to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted from new motor vehicles, Cannon's successor Gary Guzy confirmed Cannon's opinion both in Congressional testimony and correspondence during 1999 and 2000. 

When the Bush administration took over in 2001, it decided to avoid regulation of carbon dioxide.  In July 2002, 11 states attempted to force the Bush administration to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  States' letter  EPA still did not act. 

In June 2003, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine filed a lawsuit arguing that EPA's failure to regulate carbon dioxide violated its mandatory duty to list carbon dioxide as a criteria air pollutant that endangers human health and the environment, which would trigger EPA's duties to issue a criteria document and National Ambient Air Quality Standards. This section 108 lawsuit relied on EPA’s prior official statements that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, including Gary Guzy's General Counsel opinion.

The Bush Administration subsequently withdrew and reversed its earlier position that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.  Instead, EPA concluded that it lacks legal authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the CAA. 2003 Fabricant General Counsel opinion  Based on that opinion, EPA then denied the 1999 petition for rulemaking.EPA Denial Notice

Twelve states, the District of Columbia, two major cities, and environmental groups petitioned for review of EPA's decisions in the D.C. Circuit.  In 2005, a sharply divided panel of the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA's decisions. D.C. panel opinion  See also Harvard Law Review note  Judge Randolph ruled in EPA's favor on the merits without addressing standing.  Judge Sentelle concurred, but wrote separately to argue that petitioners lacked particularized injury in fact sufficient to provide Article III standing.  Judge Tatel dissented on the merits and would have held that petitioners had standing.  A divided panel and a sharply fractured full court denied rehearing, setting the stage for a petition for cert by Massachusetts.

Today, the Supreme Court granted cert.  Some believe that the Court will address the merits when it hears arguments in Massachusetts v. EPAScience, for example, reported hopefully:

Science has played a central role in the lawsuit. EPA has cited incomplete knowledge on the health impacts of climate change, and in rejecting the states' arguments, one of the appellate judges last year ruled that EPA should use required "judgment" to weigh various other uncertainties surrounding climate change. But last month, in a filing to the High Court, a group of climate scientists including Nobelist Sherwood Rowland of the University of California, Irvine, and James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City asserted that carbon emissions from human activity are "likely or very likely" causing global climate change.

Proponents of regulating carbon hope the case will kick-start their cause. "The Supreme Court taking jurisdiction in this case gives the science community an opportunity to make clear what the science says about climate change," says John Dernbach of Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

However, the skeptic in me believes that cert was more likely granted to give the court a chance to fence federal courts out of the politically charged issue of climate change, by denying standing.

Continue reading

June 26, 2006 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

ABA SEER Teleconference on Rapanos

American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
Water Quality and Wetlands Committee
Presents a “Quick Teleconference” program
Rapanos and Carabell: What Do They Mean To Your Practice?
Thursday, July 6, 2006
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time / 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Central Time
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time / 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time
Program Overview:
On June 19, 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the much anticipated cases of Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States Army Corps of Engineers. Join our experts who will discuss what the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision means to Clean Water Act (CWA) / Wetlands practitioners and their clients. In its third-ever substantive review of CWA 404, the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed issues of crucial importance to the conservation and regulated communities. The Court’s decision will impact numerous entities from all persuasions, from government regulators and municipalities to environmental groups and land trusts, to farmers and agribusiness, to quarries, oil and gas companies and drillers, real estate developers and construction contractors. In addition, this decision may be a harbinger of things to come in environmental cases from a new Supreme Court.

Moderator:
Professor Richard J. Lazarus, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
Panelists:
John Cruden, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC
Jan Goldman-Carter, Attorney Representing National Wildlife Federation and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Edina, MN
M. Reed Hopper, Principal Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation (representing John Rapanos), Sacramento, CA

Thursday, July 6, 2006
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Eastern 
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Central
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Mountain 
11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Pacific
Registration

June 26, 2006 in Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)