A line from a New York magazine article from three years ago has stuck with me: "We spend more time talking about what we think we’ll think than what we thought." Or: Speculation prior to an event is nearly limitless; reflection afterward, brief.
And so, with six days until the president's State of the Union address, speculation has begun. What will he say? What should he say? How strong or weak will what he says be? What’s the over/under on number of times Obama says “climate,” and how many times would he have to say it to fix the warming globe?
President Barack Obama in next week's State of the Union speech will lay out a renewed effort to combat climate change that is expected to include using his authority to curb emissions from existing power plants, people who have talked to the administration about its plans said. …
Meet your likely new secretary of the interior, Sally Jewell. Those of you who have been reading Grist since 2007 have met her already.
Jewell is the CEO of REI, which is a company that I will bet $2.6 million you are familiar with. But more relevantly, Jewell is also a recognized environmentalist. From The New York Times:
Ms. Jewell, a native of the Seattle area and a graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in mechanical engineering, has been a lifelong outdoors enthusiast. As a child she sailed in Puget Sound and camped throughout the Pacific Northwest, according to a 2005 profile in the Seattle Times. ...
She received the 2009 Rachel Carson Award for environmental conservation from the Audubon Society; the 2008 Nonprofit Director of the Year award from the National Association of Corporate Directors, and The Green Globe-Environmental Catalyst Award from King County, Wash., among others.
She is expected to face vigorous questioning during confirmation hearings about her approach to resource development on public lands.
Which reminds me. I should also mention what Jewell did before working at REI. She was a banker. And before that? Take it away, Politico.
Now the movement's graduated and moved on to lobbying municipal governments to do the same. So far Seattle and San Francisco's city employee pension funds are both looking at divesting from fossil fuel companies.
If the Seattle retirement scheme were to divest from such companies completely, it would be the first to take such a step, said Stephanie Pfeifer of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which represents some of Europe's largest pension funds and asset managers.
Mindy Lubber, president of the US-based Ceres investor advocacy group, agreed, saying the move underlined the mounting push for investors to acknowledge the long-term risk of investing in fossil fuel companies, as policies to curb climate change keep emerging.
"The divestment movement without question is re-raising the question of whether fossil fuel companies are the best investment and I think over time they're not going to be," she said.
Two of the most popular shows on cable television right now are about digging for gold. Exciting! Gold! One of these shows, the Discovery Channel's Bering Sea Gold, focuses on the human difficulties and dangers of digging for gold under the sea floor off the coast of Alaska.
This pursuit of material mineral riches seems like it might be a bad idea for these individuals, especially that dude with the bloody hand. But when the gold is even deeper under the sea, digging it up could be an even worse idea. And at today's inflated gold prices, digging up the ocean will be as lucrative as it could be destructive.
[A] fledgling deep-sea mining industry faces a host of challenges before it can claim the precious minerals, from the need for new mining technology and serious capital to the concerns of conservationists, fishers, and coastal residents.
The roadblocks are coming into view in the coastal waters of Papua New Guinea, where the seafloor contains copper, zinc, and gold deposits worth hundreds of millions of dollars and where one company, Nautilus Minerals, hopes to launch the world's first deep-sea mining operation ...
Samantha Smith, Nautilus's vice president for corporate social responsibility, says that ocean floor mining is safer, cleaner, and more environmentally friendly than its terrestrial counterpart.
"There are no mountains that need to be removed to get to the ore body," she says. "There's a potential to have a lot less waste ... No people need to be displaced. Shouldn't we as a society consider such an option?"
Over the last 20 years, a third of the forest cover on the Indonesian island of Sumatra -- home to endangered tigers and orangutans -- was destroyed. The clear-cutting of the rainforest helped make Indonesia the world's fourth-biggest carbon emitter. And much of it was done in the name of paper -- Asia Pulp & Paper, to be exact. But not anymore. From The Washington Post:
Asia Pulp & Paper, the third-largest pulp and paper company in the world, announced Tuesday that it is halting operations in Indonesia’s natural rain forests, a victory for advocates who have been negotiating with the company for the past year.
The Singapore-based company, which controls logging concessions spanning nearly 6.4 million acres in Indonesia, said it also has agreed to protect forested peatland, which stores massive amounts of carbon, and to work with indigenous communities to protect their native land. ...
Aida Greenbury, the firm’s managing director for sustainability, said that a coalition of environmentalists, customers and some of the firm’s own employees had pushed for an end to native forest logging.
“We heard very loud and clear what they want us to do,” she said. “It is an investment for the sustainability of our business, not only an investment in the environment and the social impact we’re creating.”
Here's more from the righteous rabble-rousers at Greenpeace, who worked with the World Wildlife Fund and the Rainforest Action Network to shove APP's clear-cutters out of the forests:
In 2011, American industry produced the equivalent of 3.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions -- 10.5 tons for every resident of these United States. Two-thirds of those emissions were from power plants, by which we of course mean fossil fuel power plants.
In all, 8,000 facilities across nine industry sectors put 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions into the air in 2011. Power plants accounted for about 2.2 billion of those tons.
EPA said that was a 4.6 percent decrease from power plants compared with 2010, which it attributed to growing reliance on natural gas and renewable energy for electricity generation.
Those emissions could drop even more in the future, as low natural gas prices, expanded renewable electricity generation and an abnormally warm winter last year curbed coal-fired generation. …
EPA released its first report from the program last year, when it considered 2010 emissions from 29 sources. Emissions from those sources fell 3 percent in 2011.
Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second greatest emitters, clocking in at 225 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. Refineries ranked third, at 182 million tons.
What's really cool is the EPA's interactive map, which lets you zoom in to regions and see what polluters are in any given neighborhood. You can also see where certain types of polluters are more common. Here is pollution from refineries, by state:
Black Hawk's ban forced cyclists to walk their bikes through the city's casino-lined streets on the southern end of the famed Peak to Peak Highway, a high-country scenic by-way popular with road cyclists. ...
Black Hawk had argued that its home-rule status allowed it to script its own traffic laws. The city said the 2009 state law that required vehicles to give cyclists a 3-foot berth was unmanageable for gambler-toting tour buses and casino delivery trucks navigating Black Hawk's narrow streets. So the city's leaders chose to ban bikes. ...
The Supreme Court ruled the issue was not just local but impacted state residents. The court noted that municipalities can ban bikes -- Denver prohibits pedalers on the 16th Street Mall, as does Boulder on a stretch of Pearl Street -- but it must provide alternate routes within 450 feet, as required by state law.
The city's statement on Monday said it would "look for alternatives" to address safety concerns but would not develop an alternate bike path. "The city has no plans to construct any special accommodations to address this issue."
"The relationship between [shorter work hours and lower emissions] is complex and not clearly understood, but it is understandable that lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions," writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study. Rosnick says some of that reduction can be attributed to fewer operating hours in factories and other workplaces that consume high levels of energy. ...
Oil companies in Alberta have learned a key lesson about the tar-sands business. Namely: Extracting tar-sands oil is one thing. Getting it refined and sold is another.
Tar-sands oil prices continue to fall as companies struggle to figure out how to get it to customers. There are three routes to do so, shown above. The route headed west (in blue) represents the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline -- a project that is on the brink of being cancelled. Heading south into the United States (in red), Keystone XL, the tribulations of which are legendary. Headed east (yellow), a possible pipeline to the St. Lawrence Seaway which, as far as I know, exists only in theory.
But there's another possibility, one previously unmentioned -- and previously impossible: Build a pipeline due north, to the formerly frozen Arctic Ocean. From Bloomberg:
Alberta’s landlocked oil producers facing pipeline bottlenecks to the south, west and east are welcome to ship their product north, according to Northwest Territories leader Bob McLeod.
McLeod, 60, said the territorial government would consider proposals to ship crude from Alberta oil sands producers, which include Suncor (SU) Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources, to the Arctic. The territory would consider piggybacking on any new infrastructure to ship its own oil and gas, he said. ...
“The reality is, it’s doable,” McLeod said. “With climate change, the Arctic ice pack has melted significantly.” Asked if Alberta’s difficulties getting oil to market presents an opportunity for his region, McLeod said: “We think so.”
California's Monterey Shale is full of sweet, sweet crude -- maybe upwards of 400 billion barrels of the stuff. It's also full of earthquake-prone faults and fertile farmland. I have an idea: Let's frack the hell out of it! From CNN:
Running from Los Angeles to San Francisco, California's Monterey Shale is thought to contain more oil than North Dakota's Bakken and Texas's Eagle Ford -- both scenes of an oil boom that's created thousands of jobs and boosted U.S. oil production to the highest rate in over a decade. ...
"Four hundred billion barrels, that doesn't escape anyone in this businesses," said Stephen Trammel, energy research director at IHS [Cambridge Energy Research Associates].
The trick now is getting it out.
That will require convincing residents of the Golden State to hack up the land North Dakota-style. And by "convincing," I mean "bribing."
Several oil companies have put together research teams to work on the Monterey, said Katie Potter, head of exploration and production staffing at NES Global Talent, a company that recruits oil industry professionals.
If the Monterey takes off, Potter said the impact on jobs in the state would be huge, saying the shale boom has already created 600,000 jobs nationwide over the last few years.
"It could potentially solve the state's budget deficit," she said.
The Monterey Shale is not as easy to frack as other shale areas because it's not flat -- it's been crunched up by years of earthquakes. While there are 400 billion barrels in there, only about 15 billion could be drilled out with current technology; most would require "more intensive fracking and deeper, horizonal drilling," The New York Times reports. Currently, according to the Western States Petroleum Association, 628 of California's 47,000 active wells are fracking. From the Times:
Severin Borenstein, a co-director of the Energy Institute at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, said technological advances and the high price of oil were driving interest in the Monterey Shale, just as elsewhere.