10 August 2010

Tougher EPA, warming hurts rice, Hyundai bets on green and other sustainability news

Top Stories

2,100 enterprises with dated production capacity to close.reliability high.
"A total of nearly 2,100 enterprises must eliminate backwards production capacity in 18 different industries before September 2010 or face closure, according to a public announcement released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Aug. 8. The enterprises mainly involved are 760 cement plants, 280 paper mills, 200 printing and dyeing mills, 175 coke factories, 175 ironworks, 140 ferroalloy works and 80 tanneries." See People's Daily Online.

However: Devil is in the details of China's new energy-cutting drive.reliability high.
"On paper, the order given on Sunday raises the specter of a sharp cut in industrial output growth, even as the robust economy shows modest signs of cooling. In practice, several firms on the government's black list said they had either already shut the offending facilities or were planning new, bigger replacements." Several examples, and discussion of difficulties the central government faces in controlling growth of polluting industries. From Reuters. [Welcome to capitalism, comrade. The five year plan meets the business cycle.]

E.P.A. Cracks Down on Cement Pollution.reliability high.
The U.S. EPA "put 100-plus cement kilns on notice that they will have to spend almost $1 billion annually to clean up the pollution they put into the atmosphere. ... The E.P.A. estimates that the new rules will eliminate 92 percent of the mercury and fine-particulate emissions from cement kilns (more than 10 percent of the national total). The rule will also save somewhere from 960 to 2,500 lives annually starting in 2013, not to mention avert hundreds of cases of bronchitis and 1,500 heart attacks, the agency said." The rules will raise the cost of cement. See New York Times Green blog. [EPA continues to get serious.]

Rice yields falling under global warming.reliability high.
"Global warming is cutting rice yields in many parts of Asia, according to research, with more declines to come. Yields have fallen by 10-20% over the last 25 years in some locations. The group of mainly US-based scientists studied records from 227 farms in six important rice-producing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, India and China. ... 'We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop.'" Story at BBC News. Abstract of paper here. "Looking ahead, [these results] imply a net negative impact on yield from moderate warming in coming decades. Beyond that, the impact would likely become more negative, because prior research indicates that the impact of maximum temperature becomes negative at higher levels." [The question is whether rice research can keep ahead of the yield-reducing effects of continued warming.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik commits to 50 mpg fleet average by 2025.reliability medium.
"Hyundai America CEO John Krafcik became the first executive to commit to a 50-mile-per-gallon fleet average and plans to achieve that goal by 2025. That goes well beyond the 35.5 mpg already mandated under corporate average fuel economy rules for 2016. ... To get to 50 mpg in 2025, Krafcik plans to ramp up hybrid availability with as much as 20 percent of the lineup being partially electrified. Another five percent will be either full battery or fuel cell electric vehicles." From Autoblog Green. [Betting there will be a lot of buyers for efficient vehicles, and that Hyundai can succeed by specializing in serving them.]

Monitoring Greenhouse Gases.reliability high.
"companies face a dilemma on how they will gather the data [to comply with EPA GHG monitoring requirements next year]. Broadly speaking, they can choose between GHG-monitoring instruments and software that generates estimates based on energy consumption. Given the regulatory uncertainty of GHG regulation, most firms are in a quandary over the best way to proceed." More about the market for GHG monitoring equipment. See Chemical and Engineering News.

Government and Regulation

Portugal Gives Itself a Clean-Energy Makeover.reliability high.
"Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal's grid will come from renewable sources this year ... 'The experience of Portugal shows that it is possible to make these changes in a very short time.'" Portugal has high electricity rates and little domestic fossil fuel. More on Portugal's experience. From The New York Times.

Science and Economics

Analysis: Pakistan floods, Russia heat fit climate trend.reliability high.
"Devastating floods in Pakistan and Russia's heatwave match predictions of extremes caused by global warming even though it is impossible to blame mankind for single severe weather events, scientists say. ... 'We will always have climate extremes. But it looks like climate change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes,' said Omar Baddour, chief of climate data management applications at WMO headquarters in Geneva. ... Reinsurer Munich Re said a natural catastrophe database it runs 'shows that the number of extreme weather events like windstorm and floods has tripled since 1980, and the trend is expected to persist.'" See Reuters story. [Not news, but worth a reminder.]

Russia's fires cause 'brown cloud,' may hit Arctic.reliability high.
"Smoke from forest fires smothering Moscow adds to health problems of "brown clouds" from Asia to the Amazon and Russian soot may stoke global warming by hastening a thaw of Arctic ice, environmental experts say. ... For the climate, 'the main concern ... is what impact the Russian smoke would have on the Arctic, in terms of black carbon and other (particles) in the smoke settling on the sea ice,' Ramanathan said." More on knock-on effects of fires. Another Reuters article. [Potential positive feedback: soot melts ice, ice-free sea absorbs more solar heat, warming causes more fires.]