Energy


Asks Green.

I’ve already posted about Sweden’s attempt to lower their carbon footprint through food policy.  And while I remain a bit skeptical of some biomass energy sources, this article describes efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for heating in a Swedish city.

I’ve been reading various articles trying to figure out what have been the successes and failures at COP16 in Cancun so far, and came across this nice summary of happenings so far.

Green reports that the InterAcademy Medical Panel is urging a low-carbon diet and lifestyle.  This should come as no surprise, but perhaps is long overdue.  Many things that are ‘low-carbon’ are much healthier than the alternatives (and both healthier for your personal biology and the environment).  Examples abound: red meat v. chicken, chicken v. vegetable, walk v. drive, etc.  Sometimes the choices aren’t so clear.

Sweden, with it’s new dietary guidelines that take the environment into account, is on the cutting edge.  These recommendations have been suggested for a whole host of environmental reasons in addition to acknowledged health benefits.  For example, the guidelines account for the high climate impact of beef due to methane released in cattle digestion, the depletion of many fish stocks, the energy-heavy refrigerated transport required by delicate fruits and vegetables,  the fact that fiber-rich root vegetables are more likely to be grown outdoors than in greenhouses requiring fossil fuels, that water-soaked rice fields produce more greenhouse gases than potato farms, that oil palms are often cultivated on former rainforest lands, and even the high carbon footprint of plastic water bottles.

In the article “Importing Coal, China Burns It as Others Stop,” the Times reports:

Even as developed countries close or limit the construction of coal-fired power plants out of concern over pollution and climate-warming emissions, coal has found a rapidly expanding market elsewhere: Asia, particularly China.

I just finished my talk on “Climate Policy and US-China Relations” in downtown Salt Lake City.  I really didn’t know what to expect in terms of discussing climate change at a law firm in Utah.  All in all it went OK, and the view of the mountains from the 22nd floor offices of Holland & Hart was absolutely spectacular.   I had anticipated at least one climate skeptic and had prepared a response but no such questions arose.  Instead most folks seems interested in (1) my argument that the Chinese have accepted a cold and Darwinist reality that only economic powers will have the resources to adapt to climate change and thus China sees no need to curb their emissions or limit economic growth, and (2) whether China, and the U.S., are actively preparing climate adaptation measures and projects.

All is all, I’m very much enjoying my time at the University of Utah and the Stegner Center.  It’s great to meet environmental law professors at another school, and I’ve been able to catch up with some old friends as well.

Greenwire is reporting that “[t]he leading candidate to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today boosted his conservative credentials, laying out a plan to cut federal government spending levels including freezing programs that support energy efficiency retrofits in homes and efficiency labeling for appliances.”  This is unfortunate given the continued democratization of carbon emissions and the need to make such sources more energy efficient (e.g., homes, cars), and the need to influence individual behavior that impacts the envirionments by providing consumers with better information (e.g., eco-labeling, Energy Star labeling).

I have been chosen as the 2010 Stegner Center Distinguished Young Scholar.  See here (page 8).  The announcement is here about my CLE presentation in Salt Lake City on ‘Climate Policy and U.S.-China Relations’ on Nov. 17.  I’ll also be presenting on ‘The Environment, Law, and Food’ on Nov. 16 at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law next week as well.  See schedules here.

Two issues that make me nervous were blogged about on the NY Times Green Blog today.

(1) Fracking and its impact on groundwater, and exemption from the Clean Water Act.

(2) The energy demands of China.  The IEA is predicting that “that Chinese energy demand will soar 75 percent by 2035, accounting for more than a third of total global consumption growth. While China today accounts for 17 percent of the world demand for energy, it should account for 22 percent in 25 years, while India and other developing countries will also expand their energy use.”

Three days ago, I wrote:

For many years, no trains.  Then progress and trains.  I was happy.  Then they wanted to stop the trains.  I was annoyed.  Then no trains.    I was in disbelief.

Now trains AND no trains.  Now, I’m just confused.  The Governor-elect of Wisconsin is against high speed train service, but wants the train maker to keep making trains in Wisconsin for said train service.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Now this:  Canceling rail line will cost $100 million, cut 400 jobs.

This is all getting very silly.  The state will receive $810 in federal money to create high-speed rail, and the state only has to pay the $7.5 million a year operating costs.  And “federal aid could cover as much as 90% of that amount, as it does with Amtrak’s existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago Hiawatha line.”  Given the job creation, the cost to stop the rail line compared to the operating costs, and the need for alternatives to motor vehicles, this project should proceed.  That said, most of the $100 million is already sunk, and I’m unclear as to what the state has already paid for or might have to reimburse the federal government for.

UPDATE: Despite GOP hopes to keep the $ in WI if not used for rail, there is “little hope for using train money for roads.”

UPDATE 2: In this Greenwire article (subscription required), the Obama Administration makes clear the money will go to other states if not used for high speed rail, and NY has already requested the money.

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