19 July 2010

Military emissions part of oil footprint? Low-carbon building ranking, Spain tops in solar and other green business news

Top Stories

Britain trails China in dash to low-carbon economy, warns Tim Yeo.reliability high.
"Britain and other western countries are in danger of being left behind by China which is investing "furiously" in low carbon technology, aiming to profit from tough climate change targets in the next 20 years, a leading Tory warns today." The conservative UK politician says that China's obstructionism on international climate agreements may be a smokescreen for aggressive domestic efforts to be the low-carbon technology leader in years to come. Story in The Guardian.

Does Middle East Oil Get a Carbon Subsidy?reliability medium.
"two professors at the University of Nebraska counter that gasoline is an even bigger source of heat-trapping gases than previously believed. While most attention focuses on the obvious sources of gasoline-related emissions — drilling wells, transporting oil, refining it into gasoline and finally burning it in a car engine — they argue that the military activity that goes into protecting and acquiring oil imports from the Middle East takes an emissions toll that doesn't get factored into comparisons of gasoline and ethanol." Paper says "In this article, we assert that military activity to protect international oil trade is a direct production component for importing foreign oil—as necessary for imports as are pipelines and supertankers—and therefore the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from that military activity are relevant to U.S. fuel policies related to climate change." From The New York Times Green blog. Read the paper here. [A new twist on the bioethanol debate. Note that Nebraska is a major corn-producing state and a major beneficiary from government support for bioethanol. And this line of argument invites questions about how much military expenditure is for dealing with, for example, Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or Al-Qaeda as opposed to just assuring access to oil.]

China's CO2 emissions need to peak by 2020: IEA.reliability high.
"China's emissions of carbon dioxide need to peak by 2020 if the world is to meet its 2050 targets aimed at curbing climate change, the head of the International Energy Agency said on Thursday. ... Chinese academics in attendance responded critically to the remarks, saying the 2020 peak target -- together with a projected 36 percent cut in coal consumption by 2050 -- would force China to sacrifice economic growth. ... Tanaka said CCS was already mature, but required more government support, including new pricing policies that truly reflect the cost of emitting carbon dioxide." More on Tanaka's remarks. From Reuters. [This is indeed a conundrum. Can China shift to lower-carbon energy production technologies, or implement CCS broadly, in time to prevent substantial global temperature overshoot?]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Report: Fiat developing 500 TwinAir hybrid that could eclipse 100-mpg mark.reliability medium.
"Fiat's TwinAir engine will be coupled to an advanced twin-clutch transmission that also houses a 5 kW electric motor. The electric motor will provide additional low-end grunt to help the 500 scoot away from stoplights without consuming much fuel. The Fiat 500 TwinAir hybrid will emit just 70 grams per kilometer of CO2 and should be capable of eclipsing the 100-mpg mark. And here's the big news: this ultra-efficient hybrid gem could be U.S.-bound by late 2012". From Autoblog Green. [More than 60 mpg. This is one of several recent reports of progress toward much more efficient IC engines. Note that hybrid feature here is for more low-end torque--essentially to make the car more fun to drive, and thus to sell more, while remaining efficient with its tiny engine. More on the engine here.]

UK takes bronze in green building league.reliability high.
"The UK has climbed to third in a global league table of green buildings, according to a major new report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) that highlights Norway and Brazil as the two countries that have made the greatest progress towards developing a zero-carbon built environment. The 2009 RICS Global Zero Carbon Capacity Index draws on data from the International Energy Agency to analyse the energy efficiency of households, offices and domestic transport, as well as investments in renewable energy and the development of effective policies for promoting low-carbon buildings." From story at BusinessGreen. PDF of RICS report here.

Spain overtakes US with world's biggest solar power station.reliability high.
"Spain has opened the world's largest solar power station, meaning that it overtakes the US as the biggest solar generator in the world. ... The new La Florida solar plant takes Spain's solar output to 432MW, which compares with the US output of 422MW. The plant, at Alvarado, Badajoz, in the west of the country, is a parabolic trough." Story at The Guardian. [Spain beats whole U.S. with land area only 75% the size of Texas.]

Government and Regulation

EIA Analysis: Economywide Carbon Cap Reduces GDP by 0.2%.reliability high.
"The Senate's plan for an economywide carbon cap would probably reduce gross domestic product by 0.2 percent from 2013 to 2035, reducing household consumption by about $206 dollars a year, according to an Energy Information Administration analysis released today." Other highlights of the analysis. From The New York Times. Access EIA report here. Another take on the same report from the NRDA blog says "modest household costs and dramatic reduction in oil imports". [Of course the Kerry-Lieberman bill is a dead letter.]

Regional Carbon Cap Gets Second Look as 'Template' for National Plan.reliability high.
"The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, operating in 10 states from Maine to Maryland, restricts emissions just from the utility sector, like one of the leading ideas to address climate change now percolating on Capitol Hill. ... 'Cap and trade has been vilified, and the fact that's it working well shows a system can be designed that will implement serious carbon reductions in a low-cost manner,' said David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and chairman of RGGI's board of directors. Critics, on the other hand, say that the regional regime raises some red flags about cap-and-trade systems generally and has done little to change behavior for the 209 power plants covered by the plan." More about the RGGI. See The New York Times from ClimateWire.