Friday, January 26, 2007
Today I participated in a conference call with Ken Cohen, Exxon's VP for Public Affairs. Exxon is undertaking a concerted PR campaign to resuscitate its reputation as a reasoned voice in the climate change policy debate, reaching out to both the conventional media and to the blogosphere.
Exxon has, of course, been scorned for its financial support of climate change skeptics long after consensus converged in the scientific community that dangerous global warming (1) is already occurring and (2) results in large part from greenhouse gases generated by fossil fuel use. Until recently, Exxon funded Competitive Enterprise Institute -- perhaps most infamous for its "Carbon Dioxide...they call it pollution...we call it Life" television campaign CEI Energy TV spot CEI Glacier TV spot Exxonsecrets.org lists more than another 100 organizations funded by Exxon, many active in opposing GHG and other environmental regulation. Funding list
Exxon has been spurned by green investment advisors and investors. For example, CERES, which coordinates the Investor Network on Climate Risk with 50+ institutional investors with $ 3 trillion in assets, stated Exxon has a
"corporate plan and mindset unprepared to lead in a carbon-constrained world. ExxonMobil's statements, plans, actions, and investments on climate change and clean energy lag behind competitors like BP and Royal Dutch Shell. ExxonMobil's shareholders bear a substantial financial and competitive risk as a result of the company's lack of strategic focus on R&D and deployment of clean, renewable energy technologies...[it is] unmistakably clear that Exxon's fundamental business approach has not changed. The company still firmly believes that oil is the future and that there is no reason to invest meaningfully in clean energy and alternative fuels."
The Investor Responsibility Research Center evaluated companies with respect to proactive governance addressing climate change: Exxon scored 35 compared to 90 for BP and 79 for Shell. Goldman Sachs' Energy Environmental and Social Index in 2005 ranked Exxon Mobil as the worst of the major oil companies on climate change -- running behind BP, Shell, and Chevron Texaco as well as behind BG, ENI, OMV, Repsol, and Amerada Hess.
Exxon wants to change public perception...and today's call was part of the plan. So what did it say? Stay tuned
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Bush's energy proposal in tonight's State of the Union address seeks to reduce projected growth in gasoline use by 20% in the next 10 years. How far short does that fall? Way short!!! We need to cut current emissions; cutting projected growth is not cutting current GHG emissions. We need to cut all GHG emissions associated with transportation, not just gasoline use. Ethanol use may substitute diesel use in growing ethanol sources for gasoline use. We need to cut GHG emissions from electricity generation, not just transportation. The Bush proposal falls way short. Bush has given the Democrats a huge opening here to pass serious global warming legislation and score electoral points. Bush stubbornly refuses to take global warming seriously. He refuses to admit that his policies have been based on bad science. He refuses to admit the severity of the climate crisis. He refuses to endorse mandatory GHG emissions caps, policy initiatives that states are prepared to take, that industry endorses, that the American people understand are necessary, and that will demonstrate to the world, especially China and India, that we are serious about reducing global warming.
But, for the little its worth, here's Bush's proposal:
Twenty In Ten: Strengthening America's Energy Security
Tonight, President Bush Will Ask Congress And America's Scientists, Farmers, Industry Leaders, And Entrepreneurs To Join Him In Pursuing The Goal Of Reducing U.S. Gasoline Usage By 20 Percent In The Next Ten Years – Twenty In Ten. For too long, our Nation has been dependent on oil. America's dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists – who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.
America Will Reach The President's Twenty In Ten Goal By:
- Increasing The Supply Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels By Setting A Mandatory Fuels Standard To Require 35 Billion Gallons Of Renewable And Alternative Fuels In 2017 – Nearly Five Times The 2012 Target Now In Law. In 2017, this will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use.
- Reforming And Modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards For Cars And Extending The Current Light Truck Rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.
According to Reuters, Bush will call for more U.S. usage of home-grown supplies of ethanol. Bush may call for over 60 billion gallons a year of ethanol to be mixed into U.S. gasoline supplies by 2030, an admittedly "massive" increase from 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol use by 2012 required by current U.S law. Now, I wonder if we can find out who bought Archer Daniels Midland stock in the last few days.>
Despite international media speculation (e.g.Energy Bulletin snips Sydney Herald) and pressure to act on mandatory GHG caps from the British, media, large corporations, and environmentalists,(Climate Action Partnership calls for action ), the White House continues to deny reports that Bush will reverse course in the State of the Union address. BBC and others report that Bush instead will propose more federal research money, stress ethanol use, and seek to enlarge the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to achieve "energy security." How disappointing -- Bush could steal the thunder from Democrats on this issue just as his health care proposal does.
The Democrats will have a golden opportunity to respond on Wednesday and Thursday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give the plenary address on Wednesday morning and the U.S. Mayors Council on Climate Protection will have a special plenary session on Thursday morning(with Greg Nickels of Seattle, Doug Palmer USCOM President, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Ed Markey, and the producer of An Inconvenient Truth). The CEQ chair's speech on the administration's environmental priorities has been consigned to a concurrent session committee meeting early Thursday morning.
Monday, January 22, 2007
As always, the ABA SEER Keystone Conference promises to be fun and interesting:
The 36th Annual Conference on Environmental Law promises to be stronger than ever, featuring insights from leading policymakers and practitioners. In addition to an ambitious agenda that addresses some of the toughest challenges in the field of environmental law, the conference will devote particular emphasis to international issues and incorporate new elements that should enhance the value of the program for newer practitioners. Conference breakout sessions will explore a broad range of areas at the leading edge of practice, offering practical guidance to lawyers involved in litigation and complex regulatory counseling, as well as transactions and major projects. Topics include environment-energy nexus in business transactions, the evolution of environmental criminal enforcement, signal trends in solid and hazardous waste law, regulatory strategies to address emerging nanotechnologies, issues at the forefront of Clean Air Act jurisprudence, Clean Water Act compliance and environmental challenges associated with energy development. Friday's plenary session will examine the long-term strategy and direction of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). On Saturday, the plenary will focus on the role of multinational companies in addressing global environmental challenges.
All Things Considered, January 21, 2007 · A group of leading scientists and evangelicals have chosen to put aside their differences on how the world came to be and join forces to protect its future. They've formed a coalition and are lobbying Capitol Hill on environmental issues.
Richard Cizik is the vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He believes God made the world in matter of days. Eric Chivian is a biochemist from Harvard University who maintains that man evolved from matter over billions of years.
Chivian says that, before meeting each other, Cizik may have thought of him and other scientists as "latte-sipping, Prius-driving, endive-munching, New York Times-reading snobs. And we might have seen them as Hummer-driving, bible-thumping, fire-breathing…"
"…snake-handling fundamentalists," Cizik finishes.
Unlikely allies? Perhaps. But that's exactly what they've become in their mutual quest to fight global warming. The two men have launched what they're calling a dialog between leading figures in science and religion, specifically evangelical Christianity. They're not pushing any specific legislation, but they're trying to raise the public profile of environmental issues.
Both men are actually sipping lattes at a restaurant a couple of blocks from Capitol Hill. Sitting across the room is Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), someone who could help their cause in a big way. She's finishing up a breakfast meeting in a booth in the back. It's an opportunity the men can't pass up. They introduce themselves and she says she recognizes and admires their work.<>
Five years ago, Cizik would
never have been seen lobbying a Democratic senator on environmental
issues. Like many evangelicals, he saw the environment as a "liberal"
cause that prioritized the needs of plants and animals over those of
human beings. But after attending an environmental conference at Oxford
University in 2002, Cizik says he had a revelation.
"I came away absolutely convinced not only of the science but that I should do my part in this, in helping to persuade other evangelicals of their rightful role," Cizik says.
Over time, Cizik says he began to see the connections between so-called life issues that are so important to evangelicals and preserving God's creation.
"If coal-burning utility plants emit nitrous oxides, mercury, which is then transmitted into our rivers and lakes, ingested by fish eaten by pregnant women who then pass it along to their unborn children and babies, then isn't that a sanctity-of life-issue?" Cizik says.
Cizik and Chivian say the alliance is a win-win situation. Evangelicals get the scientific credibility they need to bring this message to their worshippers. Environmentally concerned scientists get their message to tens of millions of evangelicals.<>
those embracing this new alliance is Edward Wilson, a Harvard biologist
and famed secular humanist. He says this kind of collaboration is only
happening now because both sides have been afraid of each other.
"The secularists are afraid of the power and the potential bigotry as they see it, of the religiously dedicated," Wilson says. "The religious conservatives see the secularists as the enemy, wanting to carpet bomb their most basic beliefs. Now we're both discovering otherwise."
But not everyone is on board. Other leading evangelicals have heavily criticized Cizik, saying that he is diluting the Christian agenda with his environmental crusade.
Even so, Richard Cizik and Eric Chivian say that if more people from science and religion would sit down together as they are doing here, they will discover surprising common ground, and, as Chivian describes it, a universal, even divine, truth.
"We all breathe the same air, we all drink the same water," Chivian says. "And our children, if we leave them in an impoverished world, then we will have committed not only something that's foolish, but it's deeply ignorant and morally inexcusable. And we're saying that together."
Agreeing, Cizik adds, "And to all of that… I say, Amen."
Industry executives call on Bush to accept mandatory action against climate change
By Associated Press
Monday, January 22, 2007 - Updated: 03:07 PM EST
WASHINGTON- The chief executives of 10 major corporations, on the eve of the State of the Union address, urged President Bush on Monday to support mandatory reductions in climate-changing pollution and establish reductions targets.
New ideas from old Europe
How an American carbon-trading system should work
IN RECENT weeks, a rush of climate-change bills has started circulating in America’s new Congress. Eminent names are behind them: in the Senate, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have sponsored one, Dianne Feinstein another and Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the energy committee, a third. A national cap on emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, looks closer than ever.
But how should American regulations work? Part of the approach is likely to be a carbon-trading system, which companies prefer because it is more flexible than a carbon tax. The basic idea is that power plants and manufacturers will be allowed to emit a certain number of tons of carbon dioxide. If they exceed that amount, they must buy “credits” from companies that pollute less than their allowance. One day the price of a tonne of carbon may be as widely quoted as that of a barrel of oil.
At a conference last week in Houston, the heart of the energy world, traders and energy companies gathered to discuss the shape of carbon markets to come. America has two models to work from. The European Union (EU) has been trading carbon-dioxide credits since 2005, in an effort to meet its obligations under the United Nations’ treaty on climate change, the Kyoto protocol. It has had plenty of blips, including last April, when prices of carbon plunged by more than half as traders realised that some countries had emitted less than believed. But now, hedge funds and speculators are joining the trading—a sign of a liquid and robust market.
Another model for America is closer to home. America was the first country to be involved in emissions trading. Ironically, credit goes partly to George H. W. Bush—father of the current climate-change sceptic in the White House—whose signing of the Clean Air Act in 1990 authorised trading in sulphur-dioxide emissions to combat acid rain. The effort was hugely successful, and nitrogen oxide was added later.
Some lessons are immediately clear. First, predictability is crucial. One downside of the EU’s system is that companies do not know what will be required after 2012, when Kyoto’s provisions expire. That makes it difficult to plan power plants or factories with long lifespans.
Traders should also be prepared for early jumps in prices. This happened at the start of America’s nitrogen-oxide trading, and during the first year of the EU’s scheme. Scary as they may seem, the rises are a logical result of adjusting to a new market. Companies may be reluctant to sell their credits, in case they become needed later, and buyers are eager to make quick purchases lest the price rise further.
The most important thing is putting a trusted trading structure in place initially. That includes an accurate tally of emissions, and a sensible allocation of permits. Mason Henderson, who heads the emissions-credit desk of Cantor Fitzgerald, a securities-trading company told the conference in Houston, “If you don’t get it right from the start, you’re not going to catch up.”
If Congress does not act, that could be the worst case of all for businesses. Several states are looking into developing emissions-trading schemes, creating a potential patchwork of conflicting regulations. California’s green governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, last year signed legislation to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in his state by 25% below their current trajectory in 2020. This will probably involve trading, though details are scant. In the north-east, seven states have banded together to reduce emissions from power plants. Trading is scheduled to start in 2009.
Notwithstanding Mr Schwarzenegger’s plans to partner with the north-eastern initiative, companies would far prefer a consistent national system. “You don’t want someone to move their business from the Houston area to Louisiana because it’s cheaper,” says Mr Henderson of Cantor Fitzgerald. That is part of why even oil companies are signalling openness to a national emissions-trading scheme, and the industry is awaiting word on whether President George Bush will make any carbon-related announcements in his state-of-the-union address this week. In the long run a global scheme linking American and European markets and beyond—with accompanying improvements in technology that reduces emissions—will be an even better way to address a global problem.
Copyright © 2007 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
Forest Resources, Environmental Impact Assessment
and Public Land and Resources Committees
“Quick Teleconference” program Register
Excluding Forest Plans Under NEPA – A New Forest Service Directive Adds a Categorical Exclusion (CE) for Forest-Planning Decisions
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. ET/ 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. PT
The Forest Service has revised its procedures for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations. Pursuant to a final directive published in the Federal Register, 71 Fed. Reg. 75481 (Dec. 15, 2006), the Forest Service has added, for forest-planning decisions, a new categorical exclusion (CE) – a category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the environment and, therefore, do not normally require further analysis and documentation in either an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. The new CE applies to agency decisions to develop, amend, or revise land management plans for national forests.
James Ustasiewski, Senior Counsel, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the General Counsel, Juneau, AK
Jim Angell, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice, Denver, CO
Daniel Mandelker, Professor, Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, MO
William R. “Chip” Murray, Natural Resources Counsel, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC
David Tenny, Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Ecumenical News International reports:
Canadian Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham has entered a national debate about climate change, giving support to environmentalists currently pressuring the British Columbia and Canadian governments to take action. "Care of the Earth has become one of the most pressing, ethical, moral and spiritual issues of our time," Vancouver-based Ingham wrote in a letter to the premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, calling on the provincial government to set binding provincial targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
USDA Should Improve Its Management of Key Conservation Programs to Ensure Payments Promote Environmental Goals
Highlights of GAO-07-370T, testimony before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, U.S. Senate full GAO report
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Security Program (CSP), administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are designed to promote conservation goals. In recently issued reports on these programs, GAO assessed (1) NRCS’s process for allocating EQIP funds to the states to optimize environmental benefits, (2) NRCS’s measures to monitor EQIP’s performance, and (3) the legislative and regulatory measures available to prevent duplication between CSP and other conservation programs, such as EQIP.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommended that NRCS (1) ensure that the factors and weights used in EQIP’s general financial assistance formula are documented and linked to program priorities, and data sources are accurate and current, (2) continue to analyze and use information from its performance measures to revise the financial assistance formula, and (3) develop a comprehensive process to preclude and identify duplicate payments between CSP and other conservation programs. USDA agreed that the EQIP financial assistance formula needed review and said it has improved oversight to cross-check payments to determine if duplicate payments have been made. USDA did not agree that the EQIP funding process lacked a clear link to the program’s purpose.
Because farmers and ranchers own and manage about 940 million acres, or about half of the continental United States’ land area, they are among the most important stewards of our soil, water, and wildlife habitat. EQIP provides assistance to farmers and ranchers to take new actions aimed at addressing identified conservation problems, whereas CSP rewards farmers and ranchers who already meet very high standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations. In fiscal year 2006, EQIP and CSP provided about $1 billion and $260 million, respectively, in financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers. Efficient and effective management of these programs by NRCS is especially important in light of the nation’s current deficit and growing long-term fiscal challenges. GAO found the following weaknesses in the management of EQIP and CSP:
• NRCS’s process for providing EQIP funds to states is not clearly linked to the program’s purpose of optimizing environmental benefits; as such, NRCS may not be directing funds to states with the most significant environmental concerns arising from agricultural production. To allocate most EQIP funds, NRCS uses a general financial assistance formula that consists of 31 factors and weights. However, NRCS does not have a documented rationale for how each factor contributes to accomplishing the program’s purpose. In addition, some data that NRCS uses in applying the formula are questionable or outdated.
• NRCS has begun to develop long-term, outcome-oriented performance measures for EQIP. Such measures can provide information to better gauge program performance and also help NRCS refine its process for allocating funds to the states by directing funds to areas of the country that need the most improvement. However, NRCS did not have plans to link these measures to the EQIP funding allocation process.
• Despite legislative and regulatory provisions, it is still possible for producers to receive duplicate payments through CSP and other USDA conservation programs because of similarities in the conservation actions financed through these programs. However, NRCS did not have a comprehensive process to preclude or identify such duplicate payments. In reviewing NRCS’s payments data, GAO found a number of examples of duplicate payments.
Ensuring the integrity and equity of existing farm programs is a key area needing enhanced congressional oversight. Such oversight can help ensure that conservation programs, such as EQIP and CSP, benefit the agricultural sector as intended and protect rural areas from land degradation, diminished water and air quality, and loss of wildlife habitat.
Voluntary Offsets For Air-Travel Carbon Emissions
Evaluations and Recommendations of Voluntary Offset Companies
Tufts Climate Initiative report
This paper examines the rapidly growing market for voluntary carbon offsets. As TCI describes it: "The report focuses specifically on how to evaluate offsets companies to offset air travel emissions. Voluntary offsets are of limited value to solve the increasing threat of climate change. They should not be seen as a way to buy “environmental pardons.” In most countries, jet fuel is currently not taxed. Yet to internalize some of the environmental cost and to more accurately reflect the true costs of air travel, such a tax is vital. In December 2006, the E.U. will unveil draft rules for capping airline emissions. The E.U. is proposing to regulate intercontinental flights that use European airports for takeoff or landing. Under these plans, there will be a cap on CO2 emissions – airlines would get a certain number of pollution allowances each year. The U.S. is opposed to such legislation and is threatening legal action against the proposed rules on the grounds that such legislation would violate trade rules. To successfully avert the looming catastrophes that we are facing with global climate change, very strong and swift regulatory action is needed on the state, national and international level. No voluntary approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be allowed to delay or replace a mandatory federal cap on carbon emissions or a worldwide tax on jet fuel. Yet voluntary carbon offsets do have their place in spurring innovation and financing carbon-reducing projects that would otherwise not have happened. They are especially appropriate for individuals who have done their best to reduce their personal emissions but would like to neutralize some of the unavoidable emissions that they are responsible for. Air travel is a good example for this. First and foremost, we all should work on minimizing our air travel. But some flying might be unavoidable, for example for academics who need to attend professional conferences, for musicians who tour internationally or for expatriates who wish to visit their relatives. As is to be expected with new business opportunities, the quality and standards of voluntary offset companies vary widely – or as one of our reviewers put it: “It’s the Wild West!” Some offset companies are run by very seasoned carbon trading experts who are well versed in all the issues that surround carbon trading, others are much less experienced and are either using carbon offset to further promote their environmental or humanitarian missions or see the emerging market as a financial opportunity. Neither of these objectives is inherently bad, if the offsets that are sold meet high standards, yet unfortunately that is not always the case. This report and the 2-page pamphlet ‘Flying Green: How To Protect the Climate and Travel Responsibly’ offer guidelines for consumers wishing to offset their emissions. It takes a look at 13 companies and organizations that sell offsets to individuals. The report does not provide final answers but is meant as a think piece to raise the many questions that still need to be addressed in this newly emerging field. We hope that this paper, together with other reports that have recently been published, will help catalyze discussion and will ultimately help steer the market towards offering high quality carbon offsets to concerned citizens.
Two other reports on this subject are Consumers Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers, December 2006 report, Clean Air – Cool Planet and the Carbon Trust three stage approach to developing a robust offsetting strategy Carbon Trust.
Companies reviewed by Tufts:
atmosfair. Available online at: http://www.atmosfair.de/index.php?id=9&L=3 Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Better World Club. Available online at: www.betterworldclub.com/links/offsets.htm and
http://www.betterworldclub.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.
CarbonCounter. Available online at: http://www.carboncounter.org/index.php Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Carbonfund. Available online at: http://www.carbonfund.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Clean Air Pass. Available online at: https://www.cleanairpass.com/cap/home.jsf Last
accessed on 12/12/06.
Climate Care. Available online at: http://www.climatecare.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
climate friendly. Available online at: http://www.climatefriendly.com Last accessed on
myclimate (Swiss site). Available online at: http://www.myclimate.org/index.php?lang=en
Last accessed on 12/12/06.
myclimate (US site). Available online at: http://www.my-climate.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.
NativeEnergy. Available online at: www.nativeenergy.com Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Offsetters. Available online at: http://www.offsetters.ca Last accessed on 12/12/06.
Solar Electric Light Fund. Available online at: http://www.SELF.org/cnc.asp and
http://www.SELF.org Last accessed on 12/12/06.
TerraPass. Available online at: http://www.terrapass.com/ Last accessed on 12/12/06.