Weekly Climate: July 6-10, 2009

Jul 11, 2009

This week on SolveClimate, we looked at the start of climate change talks in the U.S. Senate and a hearing that suggested nuclear power could play a greater role in climate legislation, to the dismay of some clean energy advocacy groups.

We asked how the proposed federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), severely weakened by the U.S. House before it passed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill, might get strengthened in the Senate.

But would an improved RES be enough to give the bill real teeth? Not according to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who explained why the ACES bill was "no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon."

The hurdles to any climate bill passing the Senate remain huge. At least 15 Democrats from coal-reliant states are on the fence and likely to demand serious concessions for their votes, just as their counterparts did in the House. With that in mind, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed back the deadline for committee votes to Sept. 28 to allow more time to negotiate deals.

We analyzed how planet-cooking hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have become one of the most important sleeper issues in the international climate arena and asked why White House policy on the issue is shrouded in secrecy (see also here, here and here).

With the G8 summit under way in Italy, Greenpeace activists were out in force. Dozens of activists occupied four coal-fired power plants in Italy, while another group draped a climate-action banner next to Lincoln's face on Mount Rushmore.

In other news, the Sierra Club celebrated its 100th victory in the fight to stop construction of new dirty coal plants in the United States. A number of green groups sued the federal government over Bush-approved plans for new transmission line corridors in the West that the groups say were drawn to carry power from coal plants rather than renewable energy. And insurance CEOs began calling on the industry to get proactive in preventing the destructive effects of climate change.

We tackled America's coming transition to a "smart" electrical grid. Question is, can competing smart grid models complement one another, or will infighting over standards, regulations and dollars waste more opportunity and time?

On the solar energy front, a new study showed how "Project Desertec" in the Sahara could deliver 240,000 jobs to cloudy Germany. Lux Research revealed that widespread "grid parity" for solar is probably a decade away, but it noted that some markets are already there. The key to solar reaching grid parity: sustained government subsidies.

We spotlighted a seldom-discussed global warming solution: climate-friendly land use, which includes drawing CO2 back into the soil where it belongs.

We also profiled Terry Tamminen, the world's one-man climate fixer.

Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, delivered a stark message to President Obama about the president's focused on health care reform: Climate change is the ultimate public health issue.

And Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, had his own words of wisdom for the president. He called on the administration's farm team, headed to the Midwest on a summer listening tour, to engage rural America in an exchange of ideas about its role in a clean energy economy. "In his climate and energy policies, Obama is sowing the seeds for that new era of rural prosperity," he writes, "but it will be up to rural America to bring in the harvest."

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