Climate & Energy

Oil company Conoco agrees to offset carbon emissions from refinery project

California has reached a settlement with oil giant ConocoPhillips that requires the company to spend $10 million to offset greenhouse-gas emissions from a proposed refinery expansion in the state’s East Bay area. As part of the deal, the company will spend $7 million on as-yet-unspecified environmental projects in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as $2.8 million on reforestation in California, and about $200,000 on local wetland restoration. The projects are meant to offset an anticipated emissions increase of carbon dioxide at the refinery of about 550,000 tons. State attorney general Jerry Brown said the deal was the first …

Energy storage in the field

American Electric Power to install large battery banks to store wind energy

Sweet. A utility called American Electric Power is going to set up a huge bank of batteries to store wind power. The short write-up in the NYT is both exciting, in that it’s good to see storage moving to the deployment phase, and sobering, in that it highlights the limitations of current battery technology. Here’s the setup: The batteries can each deliver one megawatt of power — enough to run a medium-size shopping center — for a little more than seven hours. Replenished nightly, they give back about 80 percent of the electricity put into them. Each is the size …

New rules for action

Advice for political leaders on how to deal with climate change

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. I'd like to propose a few new rules our political leaders might keep in mind as they figure out their role in addressing global climate change.

Markey and the FTC

Rep. Markey asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate voluntary carbon offsets

Rep. Markey has asked the FTC to investigate whether or not the sale of voluntary carbon offsets violates the Guides for the Use of Evaluating Environmental Marketing Claims, as laid out by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has responded and agreed to commence an investigation, noting that: The FTC staff has been monitoring this nascent market as part of the Commission's ongoing consumer protection programs in the energy and environmental areas. The carbon offset market poses potential consumer protection challenges. Carbon offset claims may present a heightened potential for deception because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to verify the accuracy of the seller's claims. At the same time, the sale of carbon offset products afford interested consumers the opportunity to participate in the market for products and services that may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the benefits that this developing market may provide, we want to better understand the market to avoid acting in a way that could restrain innovation or harm consumers. For full details, see here. There is clearly a potential for fraud and cause for investigation, but my personal guess is that this is also a good example of the cost of not participating in Kyoto. The accounting for GHG offsets is really complicated, and the formal, audit-worthy work on that topic is now being done in London and Brussels. Voluntary markets are an attempt to bridge that gap, but will never carry the rigor of a Big-4 audited statement. In any event, this will be worth following to see how the story develops.

Will polar bears go extinct by 2030? Part II

Loss of summer ice in the Arctic will threaten polar bear survival

We've seen the USGS predict that two-thirds of the polar bear population will be wiped out by 2050. But that analysis assumes the Arctic will still have summer ice then. The USGS acknowledges (PDF) their projection is "conservative" since it is based upon an average of existing climate models and "the observed trajectory of Arctic sea ice decline appears to be underestimated by currently available models." In fact, the Arctic now is poised to lose all its ice by 2030 -- and possibly by 2020, as I discuss below. What will happen to the polar bears?

Colbert does the Borg

Lomborg never stood a chance:

Big Coal, anti-wind

Coal industry insider tapped to kill Cape Wind

Those trying to stop what would be the nation's first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, have just hired (another!) coal industry insider to lead the charge. Glenn Wattley is the new director of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, and as Wendy Williams details in her blog, he's a longtime coal and coal-gasification proponent. She says that this fits with her past reporting: Big Coal is behind many anti-wind efforts. In a news report on Wattley's new role (rich reading), a spokesman for Cape Wind said that "Wattley is another example of an Alliance CEO connected to coal and oil interests ... Is this really the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound or the alliance to protect coal and oil?" I wonder.

'OECD warns against biofuels subsidies'

Biofuels subsidies will only lead to increased food costs and habitat destruction

This, courtesy of the Financial Times, is a welcome development. Hopefully, the Doha Round of the GATT will get restarted, and this can be addressed in addition to the more general discussion of agricultural subsidies.

Edwards not as green as you thought: When a ban isn't a ban

Why Edwards’ ‘ban’ on coal plants does little good against climate change

John Edwards. Photo: kk+ via flickr One of the most meaningful steps the U.S. can take to fight climate change is to forbid construction of new coal plants unless they capture and sequester their carbon emissions. If we allow more dirty coal plants, all our other efforts will be in vain. That’s why James Hansen and Al Gore return to the subject so often. Dem presidential candidate Chris Dodd has called for such a policy in blunt language: "The Dodd Plan requires all new plants to capture and sequester CO2. No exceptions." Most enviros seem to think that John Edwards …