July 27, 2006
Here's a Nonstarter: Individual Carbon Allowances
This proposal is not only political suicide, it would lead to wild economic inefficiencies. It is far more efficient to internalize the social cost of carbon emissions in vehicles, at the pump and in the power grid.
Last week, UK environment secretary David Miliband suggested issuing all British adults with an annual carbon allowance. Advocates say the system is fair and would focus people's attention on conserving energy. But could it ever succeed?
Here is how the system would work. For transactions that involve direct purchases of energy, such as buying petrol or paying fuel bills, a person would hand over money and some of the carbon credits he or she had been allocated by government. If those credits ran out, the person would have to buy extra when paying for the fuel or electricity. By regulating the amount of personal credits handed out each year, the government could cap total carbon emissions and help tackle climate change.
"Instead of banning particular products, services or activities — or taxing them heavily — a personal carbon allowance enables citizens to make trade-offs," said Miliband as he floated the idea on 19 July.
Civil servants will look into the proposal and report back to government next year. Researchers who have studied the idea say domestic quotas are a sensible way to extend emissions trading to the personal level — such trading is already used to limit emissions from some European industries. And unlike a blanket carbon tax, it encourages individuals to think about their emissions. "It makes carbon more visible," says Richard Starkey, a carbon-policy expert at the University of Manchester, UK. Starkey also points out that low-income families, which tend to use less energy than higher earners, could save and then sell carbon credits. At current UK emission levels, he reckons each individual would receive around 1.25 tonnes of carbon. For an idea of scale, a 200-km journey in a car that uses petrol would use about 1% of that. The allowance would be worth only a few tens of pounds (or US dollars) at today's prices, but if policies are enacted to meet the ambitious UK target of reducing emissions to 60% below 1990 levels by 2050, that would rise significantly.
Bird Flu Blues: Ain't No Cure, But Perhaps a Vaccine
Record Heat Wilts Europe, Strains Power Supply and Hurts Crops - New York Times
Record Heat Wilts Europe, Strains Power Supply and Hurts Crops
By THOMAS CRAMPTON
Published: July 27, 2006
PARIS, July 26 — With Paris, London and Berlin experiencing peak temperatures, matching those of Bangkok, Hong Kong and New Delhi, Europe’s heat wave this summer has already headed for the record books. The severe and prolonged heat has prompted the authorities across Europe to issue advice on everything from personal safety to power use.
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Russia and the Post-Soviet Nations
Russia and the Post-Soviet Nations
Wide-ranging coverage of Russia and the former Soviet republics, updated by The Times's Moscow bureau.
A 1911 record for the highest July temperature in Britain was broken last week when Wisley, a village in Surrey, hit 97.7 degrees.
Mark Vance, an entertainer at Warwick Castle who wears a full suit of armor and was named the man with the hottest job in Britain by The Daily Express, was photographed frying an egg on the breastplate of his outfit.
In the Netherlands, July will probably qualify as the hottest month since temperatures were first measured in 1706, the Dutch meteorological institute, KNMI, said Tuesday.
Many parts of Germany have hit the highest July temperatures since records began to be kept.
The French health minister, Xavier Bertrand, urged that medical students and retired doctors volunteer for hospital work as more than half the country was placed under the second-highest level of heat-wave alert.
Most of the 40 heat-related deaths in Europe in the last two weeks were in France, recalling the 2003 heat wave, in which 15,000 died in the country.
“The temperatures have not been so high in France as they were in the first weeks of August 2003, but the heat wave has lasted much longer,” said Bernard Strauss, head of forecasting for M�t�o-France. “In the last six weeks we have had one of the longest stretches of higher than normal temperatures since we started records.”
Temperatures along the west of France will probably rise in coming weeks, Mr. Strauss added.
The newspaper Le Parisien dedicated five pages to the heat wave, including tips for keeping cool, like wetting feet and hands as often as possible while walking the city.
A second type of warning was also issued in Europe — about strained electricity supplies, along with destroyed crops and forest fires.
Europe’s increased demand for air-conditioning could make summer a greater challenge than winter for electricity suppliers, a report by the Datamonitor Group warned.
Nuclear power stations in France and Spain have been forced to cut output because the river water normally used to cool reactors is too warm.
Low water levels in the Po River in northern Italy affected hydroelectric supplies, prompting power shortages in Rome that knocked out air-conditioning and left people trapped in elevators.
Scorching temperatures and drought could destroy up to 20 percent of Poland’s grain harvest, warned the country’s agriculture minister, Andrzej Lepper. “It is quite simply dramatic, and if the weather does not change we could have a disaster,” he said on Polish Radio.
Germany is facing crop losses of up to 50 percent in the worst-hit regions, according to Gerd Sonnleitner, the president of the national farmers association.
Forest fires affected regions as far afield as Corsica, in the Mediterranean, where homes near the capital, Ajaccio, were threatened, and the Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden.
July 25, 2006
NPS takes heat for putting conservation first in National Parks
The NPS responded to the outcry about its draft policy (8/05 draft NPS policy post ) by restoring conservation as its fundamental mission. But no good deed ever goes unpunished:
Latest NPS management policies draft examined
Serious questions remain over what NPS views as its fundamental mission
Washington - The House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks today held an oversight hearing on the final draft of the National Park Service Management Policies.
"I believe the development of these management policies are critical to the vitality of the National Park System," Subcommittee Chairman Stevan Pearce (R-N.M.) said. "I am very concerned that the final draft, while making some notable improvements, appears to retreat back to the 2001 management policies, which failed to provide an effective balance between enhancing visitor enjoyment and conservation. Achieving such a balance remains a critical priority."
The primary purpose of the management policies is to help direct National Park Service (NPS) managers in their day-to-day operations. In October of 2005, the NPS released a new draft of the policies for public comment. The subcommittee held a hearing on that version in March 2006. Today's hearing was called in reaction to the changes made in the final version of the draft.
Chairman Pearce called attention to many of the sections and themes in the current version that differed from that of 2005, especially those that recognized the mission of the NPS to conserve and provide for enjoyment in the 2005 draft, but reverted to the 2001 language that focused only on conservation.
Peer Review for Corps Projects
Lithium buckyballs provide nano storage of hydrogen
Researchers have identified, in theory, a new storage system to hold large quantities of hydrogen fuel, which could power cars in a more cost-effective, consumer-friendly, and environmentally sound way. The new system is described in the Bulletin of the American Chemical Society to be published August 6th (published online July 6). Science Daily posted this from Virginia Commonwealth University's press release: SD post
A lithium-coated fullerene, also known as a C60 cluster, as a potential material for hydrogen storage. Yellow represents lithium atoms, and black represents carbon atoms. (Photo courtesy of Qiang Sun, Ph.D., and Puru Jena, Ph.D. / VCU)
Researchers have identified, in theory, a new storage system to hold large quantities of hydrogen fuel, which could power cars in a more cost-effective, consumer-friendly, and environmentally sound way. The new system is described in the Bulletin of the American Chemical Society to be published August 6th (published online July 6).
Science Daily posted this from Virginia Commonwealth University's press release: SD post
This theoretical research moves scientists another step closer in the exploration of alternative fuel sources and methods to store hydrogen fuel.
"We are going to face an energy crisis at some point in the future. It's not a question of if, but when. There is a high demand on oil, particularly due to a growing global population," said lead author Puru Jena, Ph.D., a professor of physics at VCU.
"We need an energy source that is abundant, cost effective and renewable, burns clean and does not pollute," he said. "Today, approximately 75 percent of the oil currently available is used for transportation alone. Any solution to the energy crisis has to take into account the amount of energy we spend on transportation."
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and considered an ideal energy carrier. When hydrogen burns, it produces only water and thus, does not pollute the atmosphere. For this reason, it is considered an ideal alternative when discussing theoretical alternatives to fossil fuels.
... Jena and his team describe the theoretical composition of a material -- a lithium-coated buckyball -- that may have the potential to serve as a storage vessel for hydrogen atoms. A buckyball is a soccer ball-shaped nanoparticle containing 60 carbon atoms. Essentially, the lithium buckyballs absorb the hydrogen, which means that one lithium atom can store five hydrogen molecules. According to Jena, the theoretical buckyball, which was designed using computer modeling, has 12 lithium atoms and can store 60 hydrogen molecules.
"The biggest hurdle in a hydrogen economy is to find materials to store hydrogen," Jena said. "The storage materials in question need to have the ability to store hydrogen and allow us to take it out, which means the system must be reversible and operate under moderate temperatures and pressures."
Theoretical and experimental work by other researchers has proposed using titanium-coated buckyballs for hydrogen storage. However, those researchers observed that the titanium atoms had a tendency to react with each other and form clusters on the surface of the buckyball. Once clustering takes place, the properties of the buckyball are no longer effective for storing hydrogen in large quantities.
Industry standards require materials that store hydrogen to have a high gravimetric density of 9 weight percent, and high volumetric density of 70 grams/liter.
"The material that we have designed is capable of storing hydrogen at a gravimetric density of 13 weight percent -- so it exceeds the industry target. Also, the volumetric density is approximately twice that of liquid hydrogen. This theoretical work has promise, provided one can make it in large enough quantities," said Jena.
....Jena is currently collaborating with scientists who will conduct experiments to prove that hydrogen can be stored in the lithium buckyballs. Furthermore, these investigators will determine the necessary temperature and pressure conditions for storage and removal of hydrogen from the lithium buckyballs, and how to produce these materials in large quantities.
July 24, 2006
Leadership Wanting, Leadership Wanted
Weather-related disasters like Hurricane Katrina—or the intense heat wave now hitting the United States—are on the rise. The toll of these catastrophes is exacerbated by growing ecological stresses and the future health of the global economy. The stability of nations will be shaped by our ability to address the huge imbalances in natural systems that now exist. While governments and businesses around the world are beginning to take action to stem the damage, our future demands more aggressive responses.
Earlier this month, we at the Worldwatch Institute released a new report, "Vital Signs 2006-2007," examining trends that point to unprecedented levels of commerce and consumption, set against a backdrop of ecological decline in a world powered overwhelmingly by fossil fuels. In 2005, the average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased 0.6 percent over the high in 2004, representing the largest annual increase ever recorded. The average global temperature reached 14.6 degrees Celsius, making 2005 the warmest year ever recorded on the Earth’s surface.
Our report shows that some 40 percent of the world’s coral reefs have been damaged or destroyed, water withdrawals from rivers and lakes have doubled since 1960, and species are becoming extinct at as much as 1,000 times the natural rate. While ecosystems can be overexploited for long periods of time with little visible effect, many ultimately reach a “tipping point” after which they begin to collapse rapidly, with far-reaching implications for all who depend on them.
Abrupt change was evident in southern Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. For decades, the flow of the Mississippi River had been altered, the wetlands at its mouth destroyed, and massive amounts of water and oil extracted from beneath the delta. Only an unheeded minority noticed that this gradual destruction of natural systems had left New Orleans as vulnerable as a sword-wielding soldier on today’s high-tech battlefields. Thanks to a combination of human and geological causes, a city that was at sea level when the first settlers arrived in the 18th century had sunk as much as a meter below that level when the hurricane season began in 2005.
Weather-related catastrophes have jumped from an average of 97 million a year in the early 1980s to 260 million a year since 2001. This mounting disaster toll has several causes, including rapid growth in the human population and the even more dramatic growth in human numbers and settlements along coastlines and in other vulnerable areas.
Climate change may be contributing to the rising tide of disasters as well, according to several scientific studies published in 2005. Three of the 10 strongest hurricanes ever recorded occurred last year, and the average intensity of hurricanes is increasing, recent research concludes. This is not surprising, considering the main “fuel” driving hurricanes is warm water. Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico were at record-high levels in the summer of 2005, turning Hurricane Katrina in just over 48 hours from a low-level Category 1 hurricane to the strongest Atlantic storm ever recorded. (In September 2005, Hurricanes Wilma and Rita each broke Katrina’s record as the strongest storm ever in that region.)
Yet all of this is merely a foreshadowing of what is to come. The concentration of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that is driving climate change, has reached its highest level in 600,000 years, and the annual rate of increase in cardon dioxide levels is accelerating, according to atmospheric measurements taken in 2005.
Scientists are beginning to shed their usual reserve in the face of ever-more alarming evidence. In early 2006 James Hansen, the lead climate researcher at NASA, and five other top climate scientists warned that “additional global warming of more than 1 degree C above the level of 2000 will constitute ‘dangerous’ climate change as judged from likely effects on sea level and extermination of species.”
If either the Greenland or the West Antarctic ice sheet were to melt, hundreds of millions of coastal residents would be displaced—effects a thousand times the scale of the New Orleans evacuations. In the Shanghai metropolitan area alone, 40 million people could lose their homes. Large sections of Florida’s peninsula would simply disappear.
If melting ice and catastrophic storms are not enough to bring on an energy transition, the oil market is offering a helping hand. Oil prices in 2005 and early 2006 gyrated wildly, flirting several times with over $70 a barrel, the highest prices in real terms in more than 20 years. The cause is simple: geologists are no longer finding enough oil to replace the 83 million barrels being extracted each day. However, the reality of a new energy era has begun to sink in. In the United States, sales of large sport utility vehicles have plummeted, while those of hybrid-electric cars have doubled in little more than a year. And in China, government leaders have responded to rising fuel prices by increasing the tax on large vehicles and mandating higher levels of efficiency.
None of this has yet been sufficient to bring energy markets into balance. But signs are now growing that the world is on the verge of an energy revolution. The already-rapid growth of renewable energy industries has accelerated in the past year, with ethanol production increasing 19 percent, wind power capacity 24 percent, and solar cell production 45 percent. The energy technology growth surge is propelled by scores of new government policies and by surging private investment. And it is attracting major commitments by multinational companies such as General Electric, Siemens, and Sharp, while also becoming one of the hot¬test fields for venture capitalists, who are financing scores of small start-up firms. Even oil companies are getting into the act: BP and Shell are both investing in solar energy and wind power. These developments are impressive and are likely to provoke far-reaching changes in world energy markets within the next five years. But the change is still not fast enough to bring on the broader changes in the global economy that could stave off imminent ecological and economic crises. Government leaders and private citizens will have to mobilize in an unprecedented way if we are to have any chance of passing a healthy and secure world on to the next generation.
|IMHO, it is the height of political irresponsibility for members of Congress to continue publishing the lie that global warming is not real or that it is not caused by human actions. Just in case anyone has missed the last year or two of scientific evidence confirming those facts, here is an article published in the LA Times today, written by Naomi Oreskes, discussing the scientific consensus on this issue:|
Moving biodiversity to the front burner
A group of 19 preeminent biodiversity scientists are seeking to move biodiversity off of the environmental back burner and engender public appreciation of the catastrophic loss of biodiversity that is occurring. They recently published a compelling joint statement in Nature: Biodiversity Crisis
One suggestion is creating a global biodiversity science panel akin to the IPCC or the Millenium Project:
One of the reasons the issue of biological diversity remains on the back burner of environmental concern is perhaps linked to the fact that that it is more complex than issues such as the stratospheric ozone hole or global climate change. Scientists say they understand that biodiversity cannot be measured by simple universal indicators such as temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide because it involves several levels of organization, such as genes, species, and ecosystems. On the other hand, however, statistical facts on the loss of biodiversity suggest the imminent dangers of inaction, as two thirds of the services provided by nature to humankind are already in decline, with 12 percent of bird species, 23 percent of mammals, 25 percent of conifers, 32 percent of amphibians, and 52 percent of cycads (a type of evergreen plant similar to palms and ferns) continuing to face serious threats of extinction. Moreover, according to scientific calculations, within the next 50 years, it is quite likely that up to another 37 percent of currently existing species might be gone due to climate change.
About 14 years ago, the world community created a treaty on biodiversity setting out three main goals that include the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources. Under the treaty, which has been signed by 188 countries, governments are required to take certain steps that would "significantly reduce" the biodiversity loss by the year 2010. But many countries continue to lag behind in implementing plans on biodiversity protection, in large measure because their policy makers have no close and coordinated links with the scientific researchers in the field. Though comprehensive in various ways, the treaty on biodiversity has no clear-cut structural means to organize scientific opinion on a global level, according to the group that is currently engaged in efforts to create unity among its own rank and file first.
"For the sake of the planet, the biodiversity science community has to create a way to get organized," says Dr. Robert Watson, chief scientists at the World Bank, who led the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Millennium Ecosystems Assessment (MEA). Watson thinks that the global panel on climate change and other similar forums on international environmental issues could prove to be good models for biodiversity experts to help policy makers with advice on how to halt the catastrophic loss of species. "Each model has strengths and weaknesses," he says, "but essentially they all serve as a reliable source of information and advice for the public, their government and decision makers." Michel Loreau, a biology professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and one of the leading members of the group, fully agrees with Watson's proposal, but for other reasons as well. "We need diversity of opinions and approaches," he says, "but we also need unity behind this collective effort, to speak with one voice collectively when it comes to recognizing key issues and how they can best be addressed." Additionally, "biodiversity provides ecosystem services such as disease and climate regulation, storm protection, and habitat for useful species," says Charles Perrings of Arizona State University, who also signed the statement issued by the group. In his view, since biodiversity imposes "real economic costs on society, we need to develop clear science guidance for policy options accordingly."
For their part, officials in some parts of the world, it seems, have no objection to the idea that Watson and his colleagues are floating. The French government, for example, has not merely agreed, but also provided funds for talks to create a global panel. The ongoing consultations are likely to be concluded shortly before the ninth international conference of the parties to the treaty on biological diversity takes place in Berlin, Germany in 2008. The ongoing talks will determine what kind of biodiversity information is needed by decision makers in many relevant areas, including fisheries, transportation, industry, and parks management, in order to design a panel that addresses those requirements. The group says it wants the panel to be objective, independent, transparent, and representative, which includes official experts, as well as independent scientists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector representatives. Source: OneWorld HT Common Dreams
Unfortunately, such a panel seems less likely to achieve the visibility and the attention it deserves, as compared to the Millenium Assessment project or the IPCC. First, the Millenium project created a scientific baseline that did not previously exist, while we already have a good notion that we are sustaining major biodiversity losses. Similarly, with the IPCC, there was a real need to achieve scientific consensus about the science of global warming, due to widespread doubt about the existence, extent, and human contribution to global warming. There seems to be less scientific uncertainty about biodiversity losses.
Second, the major question with biodiversity is "who cares?" Many, if not most, biodiversity issues boil down to value conflicts. Do we want to restore wolf populations to the American west? Do we want to create African animal reserves at the seeming expense of indigenous peoples? Do we want to protect whales even if they might be hunted "sustainably?" Why do we need tigers? Unless and until we care either about the rest of God's creation in a spiritual way or we recognize dangers to humanity from massive biodiversity losses, policy makers simply lack the political incentives to pay attention to advice from a global biodiversity science.
Responsible Investing: Goldman Sachs remains firmly in the green
Greenwire reported that since Goldman Sachs announced the banking industry's most aggressive environmental policy less than a year ago,it has invested more than $1.5 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects:
... And with big plans to become a major liquidity provider in emerging energy markets, reduce its carbon footprint and support a federal emissions cap-and-trade regime, Goldman appears to be just warming up.
Wall Street is watching closely just how far Goldman's new Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein will take the world's largest investment bank in an unprecedented green direction. While environmental and free-market advocates are divided whether Goldman should stay the course and whether other investment banks should follow, Goldman's most recent investments are clearly in the black. For the second quarter that ended May 26, Goldman reported net earnings of $2.3 billion, up from $865 million in the year-earlier quarter, but off slightly from a record first quarter.
The strong performance this year puts Goldman first in worldwide announced and completed mergers and acquisitions; equity and related offerings; public common stock offerings and initial public offerings, according the New York-based firm. Investment banking produced net revenues of more than $1.5 billion last quarter, Goldman's best quarterly performance in six years, according to the company's balance sheet. Net revenues from the firm's Trading and Principal Investments unit, which reflects a slew of investments in alternative energy companies, were $6.96 billion -- up a robust $4.15 billion from the year-earlier quarter. Also notable, net revenues from the firm's Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities trading unit soared to a record $4.3 billion, up 15 percent from the previous record level set in the first quarter of 2005. Revenues from the unit were boosted by a $700 million gain from the sale of East Coast Power LLC, which operates a 940 megawatt gas cogeneration power plant in Linden, N.J. Goldman still has major stakes in more than two-dozen power-producing entities and operates an energy-trading unit, spurring the online magazine Slate to ask whether Goldman was "the new Enron."
....The firm, which is the nation's second-largest U.S. securities firm by market value, can inflame market passions easily. Such was the case last November when Goldman published its environmental policy framework that said the company would invest up to $1 billion in renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects, as well as encourage its employees and clients to promote activities that guard against climate change and environmental degradation. The policy followed a media campaign by the Rainforest Action Network to persuade Goldman and other large investment banks to develop comprehensive environmental policies. A mere eight months after unveiling its sustainability manifesto, Goldman has invested upwards of $1.5 billion in such projects, confirmed Lucas van Praag, a managing director with Goldman and head of its global corporate communications. "We saw opportunity beyond the $1 billion, so we pursued it," added van Praag, who would not specify which investments for competitive reasons. What is clear is Goldman has invested heavily during the past year in wind farms, biofuels and solar energy.
<>....Just months before unveiling its environmental policy, Goldman announced plans to buy Houston-based Zilkha Renewable Energy, one of the nation's largest wind-energy developers. Zilkha -- renamed Horizon Wind Energy after the deal closed last summer -- owns, builds and operates a turbine portfolio of about 4,000 megawatts. Earlier this month, Idaho Power picked Horizon to build a 66 MW wind farm in Oregon. At the same time, Horizon said it had begun construction of a 400 MW wind farm in Illinois. Both projects are expected to come online next year, according to Horizon. The Horizon announcements come as the wind energy industry is on track this year to install a record 3,000 MW -- enough electricity for approximately 600,000 homes -- according to the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group.
<>Goldman is also investing in solar energy...Goldman was the lead investor in a $26 million private equity round of investment completed last month for SunEdison LLC, a Baltimore-based company that designs, installs and finances solar photovoltaic systems for large commercial customers. The investment round came almost a year after SunEdison announced a $60 million fund, financed by Goldman and Hudson Bank United, to oversee BP Solar's installation of photovoltaic systems atop Whole Foods Market and Staples Inc. stores. In announcing the most recent partnership, SunEdison CEO Jigar Shah hailed Goldman as no less than "Wall Street's leader in alternative energy investing." Securing an equity partnership with Goldman Sachs ... speaks volumes about the strength of our energy offerings and Goldman Sachs' commitment to the sector," Jigar added.
Like wind energy, the solar power industry is enjoying rapid growth. The market for all solar technologies, including photovoltaic, space heating and pool heating, grew from 34,000 installations in 1998 to 67,000 in 2005, according to the Solar Electric Industries Association, an industry trade group. Photovoltaic installations, alone, grew at an average rate of 52 percent annually during the past five years.
<>Perhaps Goldman's biggest roll of the dice is in cellulosic ethanol, a not-yet-commercialized fuel derived from woody biomass. In May, Goldman became the first major Wall Street firm to invest in the technology. Goldman sunk more than $26 million in Iogen Corp., an Ottawa-based company that operates the world's first and only demonstration facility that converts straw, corn stalks, switchgrass and other agricultural materials to ethanol. Goldman's investment gives the company a minority stake in privately held Iogen, which will use the money to accelerate its plans to commercialize its ethanol, said Tania Glithero, Iogen's marketing and communications manager. Iogen hopes to break ground on North America's first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant next year. Locations for the refinery have been narrowed to two sites amid Canada's wheat belt and a site in southern Idaho, Glithero said. While not sold yet at a single pump, cellulosic ethanol is the subject of considerable buzz in the United States. In his 2006 State of the Union address, Bush praised the fuel's potential to curb the nation's addiction to foreign oil. A joint study by the departments of Agriculture and Energy concludes that U.S. biomass feedstocks could produce enough ethanol to displace 30 percent of the nation's gasoline consumption.
Outside the realm of investing, Goldman's environmental policy commits the firm to walk a fine green line with its clients. By promoting business activities that guard against climate change and environmental degradation, Goldman says it would not outright reject clients that engage in questionable environmental practices. Instead, the investment firm will analyze how and where clients get their raw materials, as well as encourage clients to offer "full disclosure" with respect to the environmental effects, company officials have said. Externally, Goldman said it supports federal government policies that create long-term value for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and new technologies. "Voluntary action alone cannot solve the climate change problem," the document concluded.
Internally, Goldman vowed to cut its indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent from its leased and owned offices by 2012, using 2005 as a baseline. To that end, the company is building a global headquarters in Lower Manhattan that is designed to achieve gold LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Goldman is striving for LEED Gold certification for all of its renovation and construction projects, according to the policy.
<>Goldman's stance on climate change is what sets the firm's policy apart from environmental policies promulgated by Citigroup, Lehman Bros. and other large financial institutions, said John Sohn, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute.
"They've gone the extra step to say that to solve this issue, we need a federal market-based cap-and-trade system," added Sohn, who helped Goldman develop its policy. "Clearly, that sends a signal to other investment banks that this is an important issue."
Global Warming Solutions: Khosla on ethanol
Khosla's kause: ethanol<>
Vinod Khosla is a highly successful venture capitalist who is betting on next-generation ethanol. Khosla supports>
tax and regulatory policies to persuade people to adopt ethanol. He advocates (1) requiring car manufacturers to provide more flex-fuel vehicles, (2) requiring large gasoline distributors to make ethanol available, and (3) a variable ethanol subsidy that falls as oil prices increase. Khosla's policy fixes are cheap: flex-fuel cars do not cost appreciably more than gas cars, ethanol could be available at every tenth gas station for $ 1 billion, and a variable subsidy could cost no more than the current subsidy.
Interestingly enough, Khosla's ethanol advocacy comes at a time when the market seems likely to achieve his goals even without policy reforms. Car makers are flocking to flex-fuel vehicles and gas distributors seem likely to meet the demand for ethanol -- it's just a matter of time. And if oil prices stay high, the current ethanol subsidy seems likely to fuel conversion to ethanol.
How does Khosla's ethanol proposal rate on the criteria for a serious global warming solution?
(1) dramatic and attention-compelling
For a US program to have the desired global leadership effect, it must convince the rest of the world of the magnitude of the crisis and the US commitment to an effective response. Imposition of ethanol related requirements on car manufacturers and gasoline distributors and reform of the ethanol subsidy are hardly dramatic and attention compelling. They are little more than priming the already functioning ethanol pump. In addition, the proposals address only the vehicle problem.
(2) contains incentives for global responses that mirror the level of US commitment
Khosla's solutions do not include such incentives
(3) market based
Khosla's solutions are command and control requirements and subsidies. They do not meet the market-based criterion -- and they privilege one technological solution over others -- which does not encourage innovation or provide a relatively
economically efficient regulatory system.
(3) grandfathers portions of existing emissions through allotments or entitlements
This criterion need not be met because the proposal is not based on marketable rights or taxes.
The proposal is easy to understand, so it meets the transparency criterion.
(5) effectively monitored and enforced
The proposal would be extremely easy to monitor and enforce. We can readily count flex-fuel cars and ethanol pumps.
(6) politically sustainable
The proposal is politically attractive because it doesn't do much and doesn't cost much. But is it sufficiently effective in addressing the problem that it can withstand political pressures down the road? I think not. It is not sufficiently broad to effectively deal with the problem. Its just another subsidy program, privileging ethanol and flex-fuel vehicles. When entrepreneurs seeking support for another emerging fuel mobilize, ethanol may well lose its privileged status under the proposal.
July 23, 2006
Baby, Its Hot Out There III: The European Heat Wave 2006
According to the U.S. National Climate Data Center, hot weather enveloped much of Europe during mid-July, with temperatures surpassing 32°C (90°F). In Britain on the afternoon of the 19th, temperatures reached 36.3°C (97.3°F) at Charlwood, or the hottest temperature ever recorded in Britain in July." (NCDC link). Temperatures on London's underground reached 47-52C (117-126F) and the drought in the south of England is the worst in a century. For a great graphic, see MSN News European Temperature Map Reuters reported today that the heatwave in France has killed 21 people. Additional heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Bosnia. Temperatures in Italy reached over 39C (102F). Temperatures were expected to rise over the weekend and continue well into next week. Madrid forecast; London forecast; Paris forecast Some scientists make the standard disclaimer that no one weather event can be tied to global warming. See Reuter foundation analysis But, on the other hand, Stott reported in Nature on the risk that human induced global warming added to the probability of extreme heat waves such as the European heat wave of 2004 -- it doubled the risk of such events and Stott predicted then that by 2040, over half of the European summers would include heat waves as severe as 2003. Well, 2006 appears likely to break the 2003 record.