Climate & Energy

Fewer zero-emission vehicles will be required on California roads by 2014

California’s Air Resources Board has voted to reduce the number of zero-emissions vehicles required to be sold in the state by 2014 from 25,000 to 7,500. It’s a hefty reduction, though less dramatic than the recommendation by CARB staff that the requirement be cut to 2,500 vehicles. Not-quite-zero-but-still-relatively-less-emissions vehicles, like plug-in hybrids, will make up the rest of the quotient, the board decided.

Windfalls

Why consumer protection means selling carbon permits

One of the thorniest problems in cap-and-trade programs is deciding how to distribute the carbon permits. Should the public sell pollution privileges or give them away for free? Some folks worry that if we make polluters pay for carbon permits, they'll just raise prices for consumers. That's a perfectly legitimate concern. Unfortunately it turns out to be true, whether we sell the permits or give them away for free. Prices rise by the same amount in either scenario. (The only difference is whether polluters reap windfall profits or whether the public earns revenue from selling the permits.) It may be counterintuitive, but it's true. It's also very hard to explain why this is the case without resorting to a lecture on economics. So in an attempt to clear things up, Sightline has put together this easy-on-the-eyes summary. It comes in four parts: A simple explanation. A slightly more detailed explanation. A look at Europe's carbon trading market. A review of the (basically unanimous) economic literature. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Another urban legend is spawned

Prius ‘proven’ to get worse gas mileage than BMW 520d

This story in the U.K.'s Times Online is racing around the interwebs. Google "BMW 520d" and note how many pages deep it goes. Two goofballs journalists took a road trip, one in a Prius and the other in a BMW 520d. The BMW purportedly got about 4 percent better gas mileage than the "gas guzzling" Prius, which amazingly only managed a dismal 40 mpg. Coincidentally, that is exactly what our Prius got on a road trip last summer, which was not only jammed with people and camping gear but also had a giant cargo carrier strapped to the roof! Odd how the Prius always manages to lose these contests ... unless they're performed by independent third parties like Consumer Reports (Prius: 44 mpg, TDI Jetta: 34). The Prius has set the bar and competitors are finally going after it. This is how homo sapiens are. This is what motivates them to build skyscrapers and airliners. For the first time in human history, they are finally competing over green issues, which is all good. The following story carefully orchestrated farce is, in reality, a tribute to the Prius engineering that kicked this whole show off. Somebody has a serious case of mileage envy.

EPA will request public comment on GHG regulation this spring

SCOTUS decreed that the U.S. EPA must decide whether the climate-change effects of carbon dioxide endanger public health, and, at long last, the agency is moving on that decision — kinda. In a letter to U.S. lawmakers Thursday, chief Stephen Johnson wrote that the EPA is writing proposed rules for regulation of CO2 emissions “from stationary and mobile sources” and will sometime this spring “present and request comment on the best available science including specific and quantifiable effects of greenhouse gases relevant to making an endangerment finding.” We can hardly wait.

Down the rabbit hole with Roger

L.A. Times mischaracterizes Pielke Jr.’s arguments in such a way as to make them newsworthy

Early in this L.A. Times piece, reporter Alan Zarembo characterizes Roger Pielke Jr.’s views as follows: His research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it. Instead of spending trillions of dollars to stabilize carbon dioxide levels across the planet — an enormously complex and expensive proposition — the world could work on reducing hunger, storm damage, and disease now, thereby neutralizing some of the most feared future problems of global warming. Got that? Adapt to climate change instead of attempting to lower emissions. The one rather …

Don't look now, but clean tech is contributing to climate progress

New report on massive growth of renewables last year

Climate Progress is the title of my blog posts' main home, as much as the "progress" part strains credulity at times. I only see two major quantitative areas of sustained progress: clean energy deployment (especially in Europe) and private sector clean-tech funding. Those folk at Clean Edge, who wrote the best 2007 book on clean tech, The Clean Tech Revolution, have quantified these gains -- and made predictions about the future -- in a new report you can read here. Some interesting factoids:

Commute conundrum

Should emissions from employee commutes be included in company GHG inventories?

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.

Mood in the hood

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 proposed solar projects to boost California’s solar capacity by half

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 …

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