17 August 2010

Greening transport, tightening CER standards, solar Ford and other sustainability news

Top Stories

Bicycle E-volution.reliability high.
Battery-powered scooters ("e-bikes") are catching on in China, driven by the growing young middle class's demand for mobility. "Recent figures estimate that there are approximately 120 million e-bikes on the streets [of China], up from just 50,000 a decade ago, and half the world's e-bike manufacturers are located in China. The US has an estimated 200,000 e-bikes on the roads. ... The country produced 23.69 million electric bicycles in 2009, up by 8.2% compared with 2008" Article discusses the pros and cons of e-bikes. Since they are still thought of as bicycles no license is required, and the industry is lightly regulated. They can also use bicycle lanes. "Over 1,000 companies are estimated to be operating in the e-bike business in China, and many do not have the necessary permits to design and manufacture motor vehicles. These operations will be forced to shut down if the new laws come into effect." And China exports more e-bikes than the rest of the world produces. From China International Business. [Many worry about the environmental impact of China's middle class as it aspires to own cars. But e-scooters are obviously an attractive, cheaper alternative that may put off car ownership for millions for a few years. This is possible because of China's established bicycle culture. The same thing might not be possible in India where bicycles are much less common.]

Sustainable packaging promises to deliver $140bn market.reliability high.
"Demand for sustainable packaging is set to grow exponentially over the next five years, according to new figures that suggest the global market for packing materials that have a minimal impact on environment will reach $142bn (£89bn) by 2015. The report from research firm Global Industry Analysts (GIA) predicts that while Europe and the US currently account for 70 per cent of the market for packaging that is either biodegradable or recyclable, growing demand from Asian markets will lead to an explosion in demand over the next few years." Article at BusinessGreen.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Report: Transport sector's green efforts stuck in the slow lane.reliability high.
"The report, from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), found that only 36 per cent of transport firms have implemented carbon-reduction plans, compared to 51 per cent of Global 500 firms across all sectors. The CDP said the failure of transport firms to address climate change risks is startling, given that the transport industry accounts for 13 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 60 per cent of oil consumption in high-income countries. ... "There really is quite a big spread between the leading companies' understanding of carbon reductions and the broader group which has quite a long way to go," CDP chief partnerships officer Joanna Lee told BusinessGreen.com." See BusinessGreen. PDF of report here. [But see EPA item under Government below.]

Three China HFC projects face U.N. CO2 offset probe.reliability high.
"A UN panel will review carbon offset issuances requests by three Chinese greenhouse gas destroying projects, a UN spokeswoman said on Tuesday, a sign the most lucrative projects under the Kyoto Protocol may face more scrutiny. ... There are around 20 HFC projects registered under the CDM and they account for around half of the 428.5 million CERs issued by the UN to date." Such projects have been accused of 'gaming the system' to inflate the number of CERs claimed. Tightening standards for such projects could cut CER supply and drive up prices. Reuters article.

Ford installing 500 kW solar array at Focus assembly plant.reliability medium.
"When Ford's re-tooled Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne starts building the Focus Electric  next year, a chunk of the electrical energy used in the plant will be provided by one of the largest solar arrays in Michigan. Detroit Edison, Xtreme Power and the state of Michigan are partnering with Ford to install a 500-kilowatt solar array along with a 750-kilowatt battery system with 2 megawatt-hours of capacity. The solar power system will be used to power production of the Focus and Focus Electric and feed excess energy back into the electrical grid. The solar power system will save Ford about $160,000 per year in energy costs with the nearly $6 million cost being funded by DTE Energy, the Michigan Public Service Commission and Ford." From Autoblog Green. [Large spaces (flat roofs) and generous subsidies make solar systems pay off in many places.]

Government and Regulation

EPA seeks to regulate carbon from trucks, buses.reliability high.
"U.S. environmental regulators sent draft rules to the White House on Friday that would for the first time cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks and buses, a government website showed. ... The administration hopes to finalize the regulation by July 2011 covering truck fuel standards for the 2014 to 2018 period." From Reuters.

Malaysia's 2011 Proposed Solar, Biomass, Biogas, & Hydro Tariffs.reliability high.
Malaysia has announced proposed feed-in tariffs for some renewable energy technologies with a view to quintupling renewable energy supply by 2015. The tariff structure is sophisticated, hoping to avoid some of the problems encountered with other programs, as in Spain. Tariffs for wind and geothermal power were not announced. More details. See Renewable Energy World.

Science and Economics

Workers say 'green' buildings boost productivity.reliability high.
"The researchers, who looked at two case studies in the Lansing area, found that moving to LEED-certified buildings contributed to noticeable reductions in self-reported absenteeism and stress. It also improved the workers’ productivity as a result of perceived improvements in health and well-being. 'These preliminary findings indicate that green buildings may positively affect public health,' the researchers write." See Michigan State University site. Abstract of paper here (paper behind pay wall).

But on the other hand: LEED Building Standards Fail to Protect Human Health.reliability medium.
Opinion piece. "LEED is now the most prominent and widely adopted green building certification program in the country, with architects and developers striving to earn LEED’s coveted platinum or gold rating, and an increasing number of local, state, and federal regulations beginning to incorporate LEED standards into official building codes. But LEED — sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, an industry group — has a glaring and little-known drawback: It places scant emphasis on factors relating to human health, even as the largely unregulated use of potentially toxic building materials continues to expand." More on challenges of indoor air quality in tightly sealed energy-efficient buildings. From Yale environment 360.