IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Bush EPA secretly acknowledged climate change; Saudi Arabia's oil reserves --- overstated?; Obama boosts high-speed rail funding, GOP cuts it ... PLUS: The Republican war on the EPA ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Palm oil giant to halt Indonesia deforestation; Georgia forests worth more than $37 billion annually; Search for wind-related grid problems finds a bigger concern; IBM hunting for lithium-air car battery; Sea lice from salmon farms infect wild salmon; CDC won't study effects of Chinese drywall exposure; Chevron wins restraining order in Ecuador oil pollution case; Fighting for water in CA's arid Imperial Valley; Tribes push OR to adopt strict water pollution rules; Virginia State Water Control Board loses authority over coal mine waste water; NJ Gov. vetoes LNG operation; Stupid Republican budget tricks as insurers get slammed by extreme weather ... PLUS: What Obama should know about ending oil subsidies...
STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...
- Gingrich: EPA Is "Made Up Of Self-Selected Bureaucrats Who Are Anti-American Jobs" (MediaMatters.org)
- Breakthrough in Solar Panel Power:
- Solar goes Hyper in the U.S.: HyperSolar magnifying film can increase solar panel efficiency by up to 300%, making solar competitive with fossil fuel power. (Karl Burkhart, Mother Nature News):
The company does not manufacture solar panels. It makes them ultra-efficient using a field of science called photonics. Similar to a microchip that moves individual bits of data around at hyperspeed, HyperSolar's thin magnifying film routes and separates specific light spectrums, delivering them exactly where they're needed to make an array of PV solar cells ultra-efficient.
- A Breakthrough Technology that Magnifies the Power of the Sun (Hypersolar US)
- WIKILEAKS: Saudi Arabia's Oil Reserves Overstated?:
- WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices: US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world's biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40% (Guradian UK):
The cables, released by WikiLeaks, urge Washington to take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom's crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.
- Leaked Cables Reveal U.S. Concerns over Saudi ‘Peak Oil’ (NYT Green):
One cable written during the 2008 oil shock, when crude prices spiked to nearly $150 per barrel, warned that Saudi Aramco, the Saudi state oil company, no longer appeared to have the ability to raise production sufficiently to affect global oil prices.
- Peak oil: We are asleep at the wheel: Revelations that the Saudis have overstated their oil reserves are a timely reminder of the huge threat to the global economy (Guardian UK)
- Datablog: Are we running out of oil? The world in energy statistics:
Fascinating insight into how we consume power - and how much of it we have left (Guardian UK)
- Extreme Weather Events Are Expensive:
- Food costs at records, U.N. warns of volatile era (Reuters)
- Droughts, Floods and Food (Paul Krugman, NYT) [emphasis added]:
[T]he evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.
- Storms batter towns' snow removal budgets (Newsday)
- As Weather Disasters Push Up Food Prices, Some See Harbinger of Things to Come (International Center for Trade & Development)
- France, FAO see food crisis risk as prices soar (Reuters)
- Wheat prices spike as China prepares for drought: UN’s food agency warns the months-long drought is driving up China’s wheat prices. (Business Day)
- Airline Losses May Top $600 Million on Cancellations (Bloomberg News)
- 'Record' cancellations to cost U.S. airlines more than $600 million (USA Today)
- Ethanol pumping up food prices (USA Today):
A combination of natural calamities and congressional mandates has come together to drive world food prices to levels that make some governments in developing nations nervous, because higher costs can mean political instability.
- Obama Administration Boosts Rail Funding, While GOP Guts Transporation Funding:
- WATCH: VP Joe Biden On Building a 21st Century Infrastructure (White House):
Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the Administration's plan to build a 21st century infrastructure with investments in roads, bridges and high-speed rail as he visits Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. February 8, 2011.
- VP Biden Announces Six Year Plan to Build National High-Speed Rail Network: Plan Lays Out Vision for Long Term Infrastructure Investments Needed to Win the Future (White House.gov):
[T]hese investments will focus on developing or improving three types of interconnected corridors:
•Core Express: These corridors will form the backbone of the national high-speed rail system, with electrified trains traveling on dedicated tracks at speeds of 125-250 mph or higher.
•Regional: Crucial regional corridors with train speeds of 90-125 mph will see increases in trips and reductions in travel times, laying the foundation for future high-speed service.
•Emerging: Trains traveling at up to 90 mph will provide travelers in emerging rail corridors with access to the larger national high-speed and intercity passenger rail network.
- House Republicans' proposed budget cuts would slash Amtrak, high-speed rail: Deep budget cuts that House Republicans are drafting would slash Amtrak and high-speed rail projects, casting doubt on whether the current Congress would "investing" in new rail projects, including a Hudson River tunnel. (NJ Record)
- Biden Announces $53 Billion Rail-Funding Plan (Wall St. Journal):
"In a global economy, we can't forget that infrastructure is also the veins and the arteries of commerce," Mr. Biden said. He frequently travels between his home state of Delaware and Washington on Amtrak trains.
The administration has already devoted $10.5 billion to passenger-rail programs, with the bulk of the funds going toward California and Florida high-speed rail projects that are currently in the planning stage.
- Republicans Call For Defunding Half-Finished Stimulus Projects They Once Supported And Took Credit For (Think Progress)
- GOP Assault on the EPA, Clean Air Act, Science:
- US air rules seen adding 1.5 mln jobs through 2015 (Reuters):
Looming U.S. rules that power utilities face on air pollution could create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years, according to a report.
[T]he report, produced by researchers at University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, said investments to comply with the Clean Air Act have been good for the economy. It quoted the Office of Management and Budget, which said in 2003 that every dollar spent on compliance with the act since 1970 has led to $4 to $8 in economic benefits.
"The bottom line: clean air is a worthwhile investment," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres.
- GOP Proposes $1.6 Billion Cut to EPA Budget, Defends $4 Billion in Oil Subsidies (Pro Publica)
- Congress, climate change and incompetent grandstanding (The Economist):
What was surprising, given how long Congress has debated this subject, is how incompetent the grandstanding was. I’m reconciled to the fact that America’s congressmen are not all silver-tongued Ciceros. Indeed, most of them seem to have trouble following a train of thought, finishing a sentence or getting noun and verb to agree.
Several appeared not to know that the heinous acts they were complaining about were committed not by Mrs Jackson and her staff, but by the courts, or by the administration of George W. Bush. ... Another did not seem to know that Congress had the power to overturn executive regulations. A third proudly declared the he was an engineer, and so knew a thing or two about science, only to have Mrs Jackson retort that she too was an engineer (oops!), and so knew the importance of deferring to experts in a given field. A fourth made a fart joke, and then proudly declared, “That’s humour!”
- Republicans Launch Assaults on Obama Administration's Climate and Clean Energy Programs (ClimateWire)
- EPA Must Be Free to Pursue Its Legal Mandate to Clean Up Air Pollution, BICEP Coalition Representative Timberland Company Tells Congress (Business For Innovative Climate & Energy Policy):
“More specifically,” [Timberland Senior Manager Betsy] Blaisdell said, “in 2010 alone, Clean Air Act protections helped avoid 13 million lost work days, thereby helping maintain or increase our nation’s economic productivity. EPA must be allowed to continue to exercise its authority and move forward with its recent actions. “
- EPA chief criticizes GOP assault on greenhouse gas regulation: Republicans on the House energy committee have drafted a bill that would take away the agency's ability to curb such emissions. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says such a move is a threat to public health. (LA Times)
- Attacks on EPA misrepresent regulations' effects on economy (SF Gate)
- Republicans bash EPA over greenhouse gas rules (Reuters)
- House panel plans to overturn EPA's finding on climate change (McClatchy DC)
- Texas officials, EPA clash over greenhouse gas: Lots of sparks fly in U.S. House hearing on a bill to overturn the agency's policy. (Houston Chronicle)
- Issa Hearing Spotlights Regulations U.S. Companies Say Hinder Job Growth (Bloomberg)
- Tea Party's Congressional Allies Diverge on How to Gut EPA (GreenWire)
- E.P.A. and Carbon Dioxide: The Prequel (NYT Green)
- New House Energy Chair: Global Warming Not Man-Made (CBS)
- GOP Announces New Climate Strategy: Abandon Earth (Wonk Room) [emphasis added]:
Republicans have a new idea: instead of wasting time protecting this planet, let’s figure out how to escape it.
Republicans in Congress find the clean energy pathway unreasonable, arguing the costs of reducing our toxic dependence on coal and oil would be too great. Perhaps stung by accusations that they are simply the Party of No, a group of House Republicans have now put forward an alternate strategy to avoiding disastrous global warming: the first step being to scrap NASA’s world-leading climate science research funding, and direct it instead into sending people into unpolluted outer space.
- WATCH: Vice Chairman Sullivan Questions EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (YouTube)
- Global Warming Skeptic Milloy Urges Republicans To Defund EPA (Media Matters.org)
- Fox Escalates War On Climate Science As House GOP Readies Attack On EPA (Media Matters.org)
- Bush EPA Secretly Acknowledge Climate Change
- Bush EPA Recognized Global Warming Threat (Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones):
In the letter, Johnson outlined a plan that he argues is "prudent and cautious yet forward thinking," one that "creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective and practical actions." This is the first time this particular letter has been made public, though it was pretty well known that the EPA had made an endangerment determination but was blocked by the White House from following through on it. The White House reportedly went so far as to refuse to open an email that contained the endangerment finding and related materials so that it wouldn't have to act.
- Waxman Cites Bush EPA Chief to Combat GOP's Climate Bill (ClimateWire)
- Bush EPA chief prepped climate plan (Politico) [emphasis added]:
In a 2008 investigation, the now-defunct Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming found that Johnson was ready to advance on greenhouse gas pollution limits but Bush overruled him after hearing counter-arguments from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Office of Management and Budget, the Transportation Department and Exxon Mobil Corp.
- READ THE REPORT: New Jobs - Cleaner Air: Employment Effects under Planned Changes to EPA’s Air Pollution Rules (CERES)
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...
- Palm oil giant vows to spare most valuable Indonesian rainforest: Golden Agri-Resources – the world's second highest palm oil producer – bows to pressure from the west (Guardian UK)
- Georgia's forests are worth more than $37 billion annually, according to study: Privately owned forests provide an array of ecosystem 'services,' including climate control, water safety, recreation and pollination. (Mother Nature Network)
- Search for wind-related grid problems finds a bigger concern --- conventional generation (ClimateWire):
A national laboratory report targeted at wind power integration has found unexpected evidence of the electricity grid's vulnerability to potential blackouts due to the current operations of conventional --- not renewable --- generation.
The study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, issued last month, reports that frequency levels are dropping further than realized on the nation's two largest grid systems, particularly at the start of the day when electricity demand ramps up and when it ramps down in the evening.
- IBM on the hunt to perfect the lithium-air car battery (ClimateWire):
As the Obama administration searches for a breakthrough battery, it will have company --- a 100-year-old U.S. company doing the research on its own dime.
IBM, better known for its computers and mainframes, has spent two and a half years researching lithium-air batteries, a technology that could eliminate the gap between gasoline cars and electric cars, if it works.
- CDC Won't Study Effects of Chinese Drywall Exposure (CNN):
An extended study of the long-term effects of exposure to defective Chinese drywall on people whose homes contained it is not necessary, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has determined.
- Chevron Wins Restraining Order in $113 Billion Pollution Case (GreenWire):
Chevron Corp.'s fight against plaintiffs seeking damages for crude oil pollution in Ecuador continued yesterday when the oil giant won a temporary restraining order against its opponents."
- Fighting for Water in CA's Arid Imperial Valley (NPR):
Southern California's Imperial Valley produces about 80 percent of the nation's winter vegetables. But years of drought, and a population boom in the Southwest, now threaten the water supply in the desert region - and all those cheap winter greens.
- Sea Lice From Salmon Farms Infect Fraser River Sockeye (Environmental News Service):
The first link between salmon farms on the British Columbia coast and elevated levels of sea lice on juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon has been demonstrated by new research published today.
While there has been speculation that lice from captive salmon has been transferred to wild salmon, the new study is the first to show a potential role of salmon farms in sea lice transmission to juvenile sockeye salmon during their critical early migration to the sea.
- Tribes Take Aim at Stronger Water Pollution Rules (East Oregonian):
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are leading the drive to push Oregon to adopt the nation's strictest rules against toxic pollution of the state's waters.
- Virginia State Water Control Board Loses Authority Over Coal Mines (Environmental News Service):
Virginia is about to limit state regulators' ability to protect public health and the environment from toxic discharges entering state waters from surface coal mines.
The Virginia Senate today passed legislation (SB 1025) that limits the ability of state regulators to use water quality testing to make permitting and enforcement decisions involving polluted discharges from coal strip mines under the Clean Water Act.
- NJ Governor Chris Christie vetoes liquefied natural gas operation (The Trentonian):
"I take very seriously our obligation to protect the environmental health of our coastal waters," Christie said. "Offshore LNG poses unacceptable risks to the state's residents, natural resources, economy and security. We must ensure that our (127) miles of shoreline remain an economic driver for tourism, and that our fishing and shellfish industries remain healthy and productive now and for future generations."
- Stupid Republican budget tricks: As insurers get slammed by extreme weather and peak oil draws near, the GOP targets the EPA and energy efficiency (Salon):
House Republicans will release a slate of proposed budget cuts on Thursday. High on their list of priorities, reports the New York Times, is the goal of crippling Obama's energy and environment initiatives. Republicans want to cut $900 million from energy conservation and efficiency programs and $1.8 billion from the EPA.
- Life is hard, and then you subsidize: What Obama should know about ending oil subsidies (Grist):
One word of warning to the president: Finding these subsidies is a lot harder than you might think.
Not long ago, I helped the nice people at the Environmental Law Institute work on a project to identify and quantify federal subsidies to various energy industries. The end result was a very good report and this nifty graphic to go with it...