As the global economic crisis has made all too clear, there is one choke point for almost any business: its source of financing.
Rainforest Action Network activists were thinking about that this morning as they hung a banner outside the Toronto offices of RBC, Canada’s largest bank and the nation’s biggest financier of efforts to extract oil from the Alberta tar sands.
The banner had its own unusual pressure point: It called on Janet Nixon, wife of CEO Gordon Nixon and a known environmental supporter, to persuade her husband to stop RBC’s financial support of the energy-intensive tar sands.
In a personal video plea to Janet Nixon at the Web site PleaseHelpUsMrsNixon, RAN Executive Director Mike Brune says:
“Your husband can make history. RBC can lead Canada towards a clean energy future, and you’re our best hope, Janet.”
Tar sands extraction and production are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing two to three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil, polluting water supplies, and making it difficult for Canada to meet its climate commitments.
RAN sees a better way to power North America, but to get the Shells and Suncors of the world to move on to clean energy, it needs to turn off the funding taps for the tar sands.
That’s easier said than done
Turn on the TV in Washington, D.C., and you'll see the familiar face of now-former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in a new role: poster child for opposition to a clean energy economy.
The grassroots advocacy group MoveOn.org launched a television ad this week that bills Palin as the “new face of Republican opposition to clean energy” and, just as importantly, to the clean energy jobs the Obama administration hopes to create.
“Now that Palin has more free time, she has a new pet project: standing in the way of millions of new American green jobs,” the ad says. “Tell Congress, don’t side with Sarah Pain, stand up for our clean energy future.”
The TVA failed for more than 20 years to heed warnings that might have prevented a massive coal ash spill in Tennessee, then allowed its lawyers to stifle a $3 million study into the disaster's cause to limit its legal liability, an inspector general's report says.
Inside a Coal Confab: Global Warming Just a Scare (Coal Tattoo)
The coal industry presentation was billed as a “pursuit to better understand the overwhelmingly complex issue of ‘cap & trade’,” but it came off as a pep talk urging officials to continue denying global warming is real and keep fighting any limit on emissions.
Large electric utilities that rely heavily on coal poured money into re-election campaigns as the House shaped landmark climate legislation that helps those businesses partly sidestep the toughest provisions.
The U.S. point man on climate change voiced optimism at reaching a new global treaty this year, saying top polluters China and the U.S. are serious about taking action.
The world faces record-breaking temperatures as the sun's activity increases, leading the planet to heat up significantly faster than scientists previously predicted for the next five years, according to a new study.
India to Unveil 20GW Solar Target (Reuters)
India will unveil its first solar power target as soon as September, pledging to boost output from near zero to 20 gigawatts by 2020 as it creates a national plan for global warming, draft documents show.
Europe Discovers the Challenges of CCS (Financial Times)
The challenges and possibilities of CCS are coming into greater focus as world leaders prepare to discuss a global climate-change treaty.They are already apparent in the EU, which has made CCS central to its efforts to stop global warming.
US, China Continue Climate Change Talks in Washington (Los Angeles Times)
The United States and China today kick off talks in Washington that are expected to include the need for both sides to reach consensus on tackling climate change.
The head of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, favored to win next month’s election, aims to lower the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.
Hydropower Booms Pits Fish v. Power (Los Angeles Times)
Armed with the possibility of powerful new cap-and-trade financial bonuses, the National Hydropower Association has set a goal of doubling the nation's hydropower capacity by 2025. Expanding hydropower is fraught with controversy, though, involving fish.
4 Reasons Natural Gas Prices Will Stay Low (Globe & Mail)
Four trends have emerged that could keep natural gas prices near current levels for several years to come, in contrast to many published forecasts, writes a McKinsey & Co. analyst. That could throw into question elements of energy policies and environmental legislation.
UK Plans £1B Loans for 1 GW of Wind Farms (Guardian)
The UK plans 1 billion pounds in loans to kick-start 1 gigawatt of onshore wind projects that have been delayed by the credit crunch – enough to power 2 million homes.
Greenpeace is threatening to take legal action against E.ON and other nuclear power companies for rushing ahead with plans to build new reactors before they have got the proper consents.
Energy Companies Opened Wallets Wide to Sway Climate Bill (New York Times)
Electric utilities boosted lobbying in the second quarter of 2009, narrowing the gap with oil and gas companies that had dominated spending on persuasion by a wide margin earlier this year.
Slow Shift to Renewables Undermines UK Electric Rail Plan (Business Green)
Environmental groups are warning that, without a concerted shift to generate power from renewable energy sources, the UK government's £1.1bn rail electrification scheme will have only a limited impact on greenhouse gas emission targets.
High-speed rail projects would receive a $2 billion boost under a bill passed by the House. The money for high-speed, intercity rail projects was twice what President Obama requested and would come on top of $8 billion from the stimulus bill.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on China today to exercise greater leadership in world efforts to curb climate change, saying a new global framework deal cannot be reached this year without Beijing.
Judges Discuss Challenges of Climate Legislation (Monterey Herald)
If Waxman-Markey passes, it will no doubt keep federal judges very busy. "There will be a burgeoning amount of climate change legislation in the federal courts," said Richard Frank, director of the California Center for Environmental Law & Policy.
The U.S. Senate's failure to hold to its early August deadline to pass a major healthcare bill could complicate another of President Barack Obama's top policy priorities: the fight against climate change.
The Caribbean’s vibrant coral reefs could be in for another devastating year as the world's oceans experience some of their warmest surface temperatures on record, scientists warn.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2009 outlook for the world's coral reefs this week, and the results are disturbing.
The temperature patterns and heat stress that scientists are seeing, particularly in the Caribbean, are reminiscent of 2005. That year set records for coral deaths. Across the Caribbean, 25 to 95 percent of the coral colonies were affected. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, nearly 52 percent of the corals died. In Trinidad and Tobago, 73 percent of all Colpophyllia and Diploria brain coral colonies were wiped out.
The damage goes beyond the corals themselves. Reefs provide habitats and ecosystems for tens of thousands of organisms, and they support the fisheries and tourism that some 100 million people worldwide depend on for their livelihoods.
“There’s a lot of similarly between what we’re seeing now and what hindcasts of 2005 showed,” said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch. “We can’t say whether it’s going to be worse or how they’re going to compare, but we’re looking at the potential for conditions that could lead to coral bleaching.”
Rich nations providing $10 billion in aid for climate adaptation would be a "good beginning" to launch a U.N. climate treaty, the United Nations' top climate official said today.
GOP Questions Locke on China Emissions Stance (Wall Street Journal)
In a letter, the GOP wants to know what the commerce secretary was thinking when he said consumers should pay for some GHG emissions from China. What’s interesting is that the idea could provide a way around one of the thornier problems in climate talks.
Talks between India and the United States this week, seen as an opportunity to narrow differences on climate change, made little headway on carbon emission cuts, but saw some movement on technology innovation.
U.S. business groups warned Congress it could start a "green trade war" by passing a climate bill that threatens other countries with tariffs on energy-intensive goods.
Following a report by Greenpeace calling out companies whose supply chains have been connected to rainforest deforestation, Nike has created a policy requiring its suppliers to create leather tracing systems.
Vilsack: Climate Bill Good for Farmers (Des Moines Register)
The administration released a report saying farmers would profit overall from controls on greenhouse gases despite paying higher prices for fuel and fertilizer, but they don't now a key detail: how much land would be taken out of production and converted to forests.
Politico reports that some Senate staffers are privately worried that Barbara Boxer won’t be as willing to make deals like the House did. “People don’t look at her as the person who’s going to make a deal and bring both sides to the table,” says one.
Amid the trade-offs that went into the writing of the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill, someone took a hammer to a crown jewel of U.S. environmental law: the Clean Air Act.
The climate bill’s fate is in the Senate’s hands now, and the progressive grassroots movement MoveOn.org, other environmental groups and members of Congress are ramping up the pressure on senators to save the Clean Air Act from being shut down when it comes to CO2.
Buttressed by three rounds of amendments over the decades, the Clean Air Act has been effectively battling smog and other air pollution since 1970, providing the rulebook for the Environmental Protection Agency’s work.
Its New Source Performance Standards for Hazardous Pollutants have cut health-damaging emissions from power plants and industries, and its New Source Review has forced polluters to scrub acid-rain causing gases from smokestacks.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the venerable law's authority could extend to CO2. This year, with a new administration in power, the EPA determined that greenhouse gases pose a danger to human health and welfare and is considering how to develop rules to use the Clean Air Act to regulate them.
But the House version of ACES would prevent EPA action on CO2, and that's got at least one senator up in arms.
Senate Democrats' Prep Team Girds for Climate Battle (ClimateWire)
One committee wrote last year's failed cap-and-trade bill. This time, six are working as a team. "The more committees that are involved, the ... more colleagues that get to understand it," Sen. Boxer says. The big challenge may be Finance Chairman Baucus.
The head of the IPCC warns that trade tariffs in a House-passed bill to limit greenhouse gases have only served to irritate international negotiations and could undermine efforts to persuade developing countries to join a new global warming treaty.
The impact on U.S. farms and ranches from climate-change legislation will be bearable, partly because of the chance to earn money for controlling greenhouse gases, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson tells soybean farmers.
How much did opponents of the federal climate bill really spend in the run-up to the House vote last month? A coal lobby front group offers a peek at the real numbers, before revising them.
NYT Editorial: Close the Climate Bill Loopholes (New York Times)
In all the last-minute wheeling and dealing, the House climate bill acquired two big loopholes that the Senate must close. One involves coal-fired power plants, the other offsets.
The United Nations has given a green light to the first of a new generation of carbon offset programs designed to bring carbon reductions to a mass market in developing nations.
Genetic modification may be the only viable way to produce sufficient quantities of rice in the future as drought, climate change and dwindling acreage impact yields, the International Rice Research Institute says.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body of scientists drawn from around the world, will use its next assessment due in 2014 to look at how the impact of global warming is falling unequally on the poorest developing countries.
China and other developing nations must help "pay" for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, backing off a recent statement that put a greater burden on the United States.
Lobbies Adopt Tone of Accord With Obama (New York Times)
Industry has calculated that it stands a better chance of achieving its ends by negotiating with the White House than by fighting it. The way that collaboration turned to industry concessions in the climate bill should serve as a cautionary tale.
The National Association of Governors announces its support for the American Institute of Architects' goal of zeroing out new and renovated buildings' greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Sacramento is so desperate to erase the state budget's $26.3 billion shortfall that Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature are poised to end decades of prohibition on off-shore oil drilling so that they can tap new revenue.
Coal Giant in Hostile Bid for Top Clean Power Developer (Toronto Star)
Canada's biggest generator of dirty power has launched a $1.5 billion hostile bid for the country's leading developer of clean power, including Ontario's largest wind farms.