When businesses dip a toe in the rising sea of corporate action on climate change, the first box they check before diving in involves tabulating their own greenhouse-gas inventory. In getting your corporate house in order, the first step is defining where your yard ends and your neighbor's begins. The good news: There is a clearly accepted international standard providing guidance to companies sorting "what's in" and "what's out" for their GHG inventory. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard is the playbook everyone is working from. The bad news: Some issues are more clearly defined in the guidance than others, leaving individual companies to sort out their own best way forward. Emissions from employee commutes are one such gray area. In these early days, how leading companies come down on this issue is critically important in setting a precedent. The GHG Protocol does provide general guidance on this issue, but more specific direction is needed.
John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company, was on Charlie Rose Tuesday night. About 22 minutes into the segment, he says the following [my own transcription]: If we don't drill more in this country, I am quite concerned about civil disturbances in our urban areas because of the price of fuel. ... I was meeting in Los Angeles with mayor Villaraigosa and I asked him a specific question because I lived there during the Rodney King civil disturbances. [I] said, "How is the mood in the hood based upon the price of gasoline compared to the mood in the hood at the time of the Rodney King disturbances?" He said it's threshold. Let us drill or those people will act all crazy again! You know how they can be when it comes to things like this. And they say environmentalists are alarmist.
Two large solar-power projects were proposed in Southern California this week that together could provide up to 500 megawatts of power, just over half the state’s current solar capacity and enough to provide electricity to about 300,000 homes. One of the projects, proposed by utility Southern California Edison, aims to put solar panels on 65 million square feet of commercial buildings across Southern California. It’s expected to cost $875 million and could be completed in five years, pending approval by the state’s utility regulators. The other project, to be sited in the Mojave Desert, is a solar thermal power plant …
This is a guest post by Monica Prasad, who wrote an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times called "On Carbon: Tax, Don't Spend." It elicited responses from David Roberts and Charles Komanoff.
The first follow-up to my recent post on carbon policy details. First, a note to non-carbon-wonks: "Additionality" is a term of art in the world of carbon policy. It describes the degree to which a given activity causes additional carbon reductions -- the idea being that we shouldn't pay for carbon reductions that were going to occur anyway. As a fantastic oversimplification, suppose your car broke down and you had to ride your bike to work. The principle of additionality says you shouldn't be paid for the carbon you didn't emit. (You would have ridden anyway -- what choice did you have?) But if there's an increment of money that would tip you over into getting rid of your car and always riding your bike, that's additional. Theoretically, great idea. Practically? Stupid. To understand why, go back to the test I posited in my earlier post: Does the metric increase or decrease the rate at which we invest capital to lower GHG emissions? The answer for additionality is not what you'd expect, for rather subtle reasons. First off, let's note a couple truths:
Well lookie here! A series of manufacturing process improvements could make the cost of electricity from silicon-based solar cells comparable to today’s prices for coal generation within about four years, according to a company emerging out of stealth today. The company, 1366 Technologies, will be using technologies developed in MIT labs to reduce the manufacturing costs of standard-issue multi-crystalline silicon solar cells. They say they can ultimately reduce costs by about 50%, bringing the cost per watt of solar cells down to $1 (the same cost point Nanosolar is claiming it can hit). They plan on licensing the tech to …
Xerox is offering a new software calculator to help companies reduce the energy suckage of printers, copiers, and other newfangled technology. The calculator will consider factors including type of print cartridge, print color, speed, number of pages printed per month, and Energy Star rating, then create bar graphs demonstrating energy consumption, greenhouse gases, and solid waste produced from use of the machine. Graphs comparing funniness-of-butt-copying to chances-of-being-fired not included.
The city of Boston is looking to build an urban, indoor composting facility. Most cities, if they compost at all, transport food and yard waste in gas-guzzling trucks to dumps outside the city limits, where energy and methane from decomposing biomass get lost to the atmosphere. The first-of-its-kind proposed Boston facility would generate electricity from rotting leaves and fruit, enough to potentially power 1,500 homes. The project would create green jobs, make fertilizer available to sell, and, of course, put all of those colorful New England leaves to good use. The facility is still in planning stages, but Mayor Tom …
My recent exchange with Gar has made it clear that there is a wide gulf between those details of carbon policy that are theoretically optimal and those which actually impact carbon reductions. Or, to be blunt, those that come up in our weekly staff meetings as actually affecting our decision to consider potential carbon reduction projects and those which simply elicit groans around the conference room of the "great intent, why did they screw up the execution?" variety.* From our perspective, the good news is that our policy does finally appear to be moving not only toward putting a price on CO2 emissions, but getting the really important details (like auction vs. allocation) right. The bad news is that most of the other details are still wrong.
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