23 July 2010

U.S. climate bill dead, lessons from spill, China's $trillion and other green business news

Top Stories

Democrats abandon comprehensive energy bill.reliability high.
"Senate Democrats on Thursday gave up plans to attempt to pass an energy-global warming bill that caps greenhouse gases, abandoning a priority of President Barack Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said no Republican was willing to back a comprehensive energy bill, a development he called 'terribly disappointing.' ... Instead, Reid and other Democrats said they would focus on a narrower bill that responds to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and improves energy efficiency." See MSNBC from AP. [This will further weaken the USA's negotiating position in UN climate talks, since it can't even commit to the modest reductions it promised at Copenhagen. This is probably worth one additional degree of warming this century. Or will grass-roots actions, state initiatives and the EPA do what the Senate could not?]

BP and the gulf--After the leak.reliability high.
"On July 15th a 75-tonne cap closed off the Macondo well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. ... the chances of BP going on to seal the well permanently by mid-August, with little or no oil seeping out in the meantime, look good. ... Things could still go wrong." "This may not mark a turning-point in BP’s fortunes: it still faces payouts of tens of billions of dollars, and reports and inquiries that could damage its reputation and finances yet further. But it will make it clearer that the company’s wounds are unlikely to be fatal." More on financial and other consequences for BP. From The Economist. [Increased regulation usually favors bigger companies with deeper pockets . . . such as BP. This disaster may cost it $100 billion over the next few years, but the pattern of the assets it is selling to meet those costs indicate it will be betting even more heavily on deepwater drilling for its future earnings.]

Six lessons from the BP oil spill.reliability high.
Long feature article. "For years to come, the United States and the oil industry will be absorbing the lessons of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Regulators will toughen inspections. Oil companies will adopt more rigorous safeguards. New cleanup technologies will emerge from university and corporate laboratories. And spill drills could become a regular part of coastal communities' emergency planning." But drilling will continue. "Even as brown goo gushes from the Gulf floor 5,000 feet below the surface, and cleanup crews struggle to halt the slick from befouling beaches and shorebirds, companies are already developing the technologies to drill twice as deep off South America, Africa, and in the Gulf itself." Lessons discussed include: "Improve the offshore police ... design a better drill rig ... Find something better than a boom" "The overarching lesson may be to beware of technological hubris." From The Christian Science Monitor. [These lessons, and others, to the extent they are absorbed, will help with the next similar crisis. And there will be other crises. It's just part of the cost of oil.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

The green suits--The economics of biodiversity and business.reliability high.
About "the current development of an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services" and "the equally inelegantly named TEEB process (it stands for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity)" Discussion of challenges of getting businesses to align their goals with environmental needs. Article in The Economist. [More at GBOB site.]

Government and Regulation

Japan seeks consumer burden to push renewable energy.reliability high.
"Japanese consumers will have to pay higher electricity bills under a government plan to help triple the generating capacity of renewable energy in the next decade and cut CO2 emissions. Utility firms will be required to buy at a fixed rate [high feed-in tariff] electricity generated from renewable sources of energy -- mega solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and small hydro power -- from as early as 2012, the trade ministry said on Friday." See Reuters article.

China May Spend $738 Billion on Clean Energy Projects.reliability high.
"China, the world’s biggest polluter, may spend about 5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) in the next decade developing cleaner sources of energy to reduce emissions from burning oil and coal, a government official said. The government will submit plans to develop cleaner energy, including nuclear power and gas from unconventional sources, in 2011 to 2020 to the State Council, or Cabinet, for approval, Jiang Bing, head of the National Energy Administration’s planning and development department, said in Beijing today." Story at Bloomberg Businessweek. [A trillion here, a trillion there . . . pretty soon you're talking real money. Since my rough estimate of the cost of getting GHG emissions under control is only a few trillion dollars, maybe we can do it after all. And see next item for where another trillion can come from.]

U.N. urges investment policy to foster low-carbon growth.reliability high.
"The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) urged developing country governments to harness investments by multinational companies to ensure that economic growth does not drive up carbon emissions. Multinationals can help cut emissions by improving production processes in their operations and along their value chains and by making and marketing cleaner goods and services, UNCTAD said in its annual World Investment Report on Thursday." From Reuters. Access report here.

Science and Economics (and Politics)

China 'leapfrogs US to become biggest energy user'.reliability high.
"China has overtaken the United States to become the world's top energy consumer for the first time, a new report says. Provisional figures from the International Energy Agency indicate that China's energy demand has doubled in a decade. The IEA said China had taken first place because it was hit less hard than the US by the global financial crisis." From BBC News. Access report here. [It's worth looking at the IEA's graph: China's energy use matches the U.S.'s while China's per capita use is less than one-third that of the U.S.]

And in reply: China denies IEA label as world's top energy user.reliability high.
"China on Tuesday denied a report that it had surpassed the United States last year to become the world's largest energy user. The Financial Times, citing the International Energy Agency, reported that China last year consumed 2.252 billion tonnes of oil equivalent of energy from sources including coal, oil, natural gas, hydro and nuclear power, about 4 percent more than the United States. But Zhou Xian, spokesperson for China's National Energy Administration, said on Tuesday that the IEA's estimate of China's energy consumption was too high, although he declined to give an alternative estimate." Story at Reuters. [China can quibble about the numbers, and last year's figures are affected by recession in the U.S. while there was none in China, but the inexorable rise in China's energy appetite continues. Efficiency moves can slow that rise, but non-fossil energy technologies are the only way to disconnect it from "leadership" in GHG emissions.]