Does GDP really correspond to happiness? Is our happiness ...
THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Thursday, 29 July, 2010
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
• Reuters: UN Environment Programme Chief congratulates Plastiki crew on boat's arrival
• ISRIA: UN environment chief lauds marine adventurers as they end anti-pollution voyage
• Nine to Five (Australia): Plastiki adventurer David De Rothschild to speak in Sydney
• The City Fix (Blog): Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo Exposes Challenges for China’s Cities
• Care 2 (Blog): Monstrous Waste: Citizens Unite to Ban Plastic Bags in California
• The Ecologist (UK): What is a sustainable lifestyle?
• Green Prophet (Middle East): Will AFED’s Documentary “Wet And Dry” Catalyze Arab
• CSR Digest (Malaysia): Guess what we saw at Yves Rocher Subang Parade?
• YES (Blog): 2010 a Tipping Point for Renewable Energy
• El Periodico (Spain): Cartas de los lectores
• Il Giornale (Italy): Ahmadinejad ha fatto il nido al Palazzo di vetro
Other Environment News
• Telegraph (UK): BP oil spill in Gulf of Mexico disperses quicker than was feared
• Guardian (UK): BP petrol stations have pumps closed by Greenpeace activists
• New York Times (US): Another Oil Leak Hits Gulf of Mexico
• AFP: US hit by new oil spill
• AP: EPA: 1M gallons of oil may be in Mich. River
• Reuters: Water cut to north China city after chemical spill
• BBC: Plankton decline across oceans as waters warm
• Guardian (UK): Global warming pushes 2010 temperatures to record highs
• Reuters: Indonesian Sinar Mas-linked firms wrecked forest: report
Environmental News from the UNEP Regions
UNEP and the Executive Director in the News
Reuters: UN Environment Programme Chief congratulates Plastiki crew on boat's
arrival in Australia
28 July 2010
I would like to express my admiration and communicate my congratulations to David de
Rothschild and the courageous crew of Plastiki for their epic, around 8,000 nautical mile
voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
David, you and your shipmates have achieved not only a journey but a milestone in
terms of raising global awareness of human-kind's increasingly serious impact on the
Through the novel and inspiring design of Plastiki-with its innovative use of recycled
materials- to the informative, daily blogs and tremendous media coverage, you have
engaged the heads but also the hearts of millions upon millions of people.
The message- indeed the multiple metaphorical messages contained in the 12, 500
plastic bottles used as buoyancy- is simple.
If collectively we carry on using the seas and oceans as a dustbin, human-beings will
soon have turned the once beautiful and bountiful marine environment from a crucial life-
support system into a lifeless one.
UNEP has, at the requests of governments, been chronicling and compiling accelerating
change and degradation.
More than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are now floating on every square kilometre of
the world's oceans
Some 8 million items of marine litter are thought to enter the oceans and seas every day,
about 5 million (63 percent) of which are solid waste thrown overboard or lost from ships
100,000 turtles and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals, are killed by
plastic marine litter every year around the world
Over two billion tones of wastewater, a cocktail of sewage, heavy metals, fertilizer,
pesticides and other pollutants, are discharged into rivers, estuaries and coastal waters
An estimated 200 temporary or permanent de-oxygenated 'dead zones' now exist in the
world's seas and oceans as a result
Three quarters of marine fisheries are exploited up to, or beyond their maximum
About one fifth of all coastal mangroves-natural sea defenses and fish nurseries-have
been lost since the 1980s
Climate change is beginning to acidify the seas with real threats to shellfisheries, coral
reefs and the food chain
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ISRIA: UN environment chief lauds marine adventurers as they end anti-pollution
29 July 2010
The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, has
congratulated the adventurer David de Rothschild and his crew for completing a voyage
across the Pacific Ocean in a boat fashioned from recycled plastic bottles to raise
awareness about pollution of the seas.
The boat, named the Plastiki, was constructed from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles. It
reached Sydney Harbour in Australia yesterday after a four-month voyage that started
from the United States city of San Francisco in March.
“David, you and your shipmates have achieved not only a journey but a milestone in
terms of raising global awareness of human-kind's increasingly serious impact on the
marine environment,” Mr. Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, told Mr. de Rothschild by
video link from UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.
“Through the novel and inspiring design of Plastiki – with its innovative use of recycled
materials – to the informative, daily blogs and tremendous media coverage, you have
engaged the heads but also the hearts of millions upon millions of people,” Mr. Steiner
“If collectively we carry on using the seas and oceans as a dustbin, human beings will
soon have turned the once beautiful and bountiful marine environment from a crucial life-
support system into a lifeless one,” he added.
According to UNEP, more than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are now floating on every
square kilometre of the world’s oceans and some 8 million items of marine litter are
thought to enter the oceans and seas every day, about 5 million (63 per cent) of which
are solid waste thrown overboard or lost from ships.
An estimated 100,000 turtles and marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales and seals,
are killed by plastic marine litter every year around the world, according to the agency.
UNEP research has also shown that more than 2 billion tons of wastewater – a cocktail
of sewage, heavy metals, fertilizer, pesticides and other pollutants – are discharged into
rivers, estuaries and coastal waters each year. Climate change is also beginning to
acidify the seas with real threats to shellfisheries, coral reefs and the food chain.
“If society can begin to turn the tide [of sea pollution] in 2010 and beyond, then I am sure
that David and the Plastiki crew will have played their part in helping humanity to chart a
new and transformational course towards the low carbon, resource efficient green
economy so urgently needed,” Mr. Steiner added.
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Nine to Five (Australia): Plastiki adventurer David De Rothschild to speak in
28 July 2010
UK-based environmentalist David de Rothschild will speak about his groundbreaking
expedition on a vessel made from plastic at the University of Sydney on Thursday (July
David de Rothschild is the founder of Adventure Ecology and a modern-day
environmentalist who seeks to raise awareness of the human impact on the
environment, whilst driving innovative real-world solutions.
In his Sydney Ideas lecture, co-presented with the University‚s Institute for Sustainable
Solutions, de Rothschild will discuss his four-month journey from San Francisco to
Sydney on board The Plastiki, an 18-metre vessel created from 12,500 reclaimed plastic
„It‚s about re-thinking waste as a resource,‰ said de Rothschild, who will also address
the impact of pollution on the ocean. „We need to move on from just articulating the
problem and actually inspire action for solutions.‰
David de Rothschild conceived the idea for the voyage after reading a report issued by
the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) called „Ecosystems and Biodiversity in
Deep Waters and High Seas.‰ He was also part inspired by Thor Heyerdahl‚s epic
1947 expedition, The Kon-Tiki, which questioned the treatment of waste materials.
„The expedition is not only influenced by the Œcradle-to-cradle‚ design but also brought
together a team from various fields to create The Plastiki as a truly unique vessel,‰ de
The Plastiki is engineered almost entirely from plastic bottles, which provide 68 per cent
of the vessel‚s buoyancy. The sail is hand-made from recycled PET cloth and the mast is
created from aluminium irrigation pipe.
De Rothschild argues waste, principally plastic, can be transformed into a valuable
resource, which can help lesson the human footprint on the natural world. „Almost all of
the marine pollution in the world is comprised of plastic materials,‰ remarks Rothschild.
„Scientists estimate that every year at least one million seabirds and 100,000 marine
mammals and sea turtles die when they entangle themselves in plastic pollution or
David de Rothschild is a UK-based environmentalist and the author of “The Global
Warming Survival Handbook”, “The Boy, the Girl and The Tree” and is the editor of
Dorling Kindersley‚s “Earth Matters”. In 2006, he spent more than 100 days crossing the
Arctic and became the youngest British person to reach both geographical poles. He has
been named as a National Geographic Society ŒEmerging Explorer‚, the World
Economic Forum ŒYoung Global Leader‚ and a UNEP ŒClimate Hero‚.
Also appeared in: North Side (Australia), Central News Magazine (Australia), The
Mosman Daily (Australia), North Shore Times (Australia), Wentworth Courrier (Australia)
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The City Fix (Blog): Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo Exposes Challenges for China’s
27 July 2010
Cities in China are “becoming ever less habitable,” and their future will depend on an
“urban awakening” that includes the Chinese government’s support of public
participation in urban planning and decision-making, says Zhang Song, a professor at
Tongji University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning, in a two-part interview
China is a country of superlatives. It has the world’s fastest train. It uses the most
energy. It even has the world’s highest cocktail bar. It’s no wonder, then, that Chinese
cities are now feeling the burden of having to deal with astronomical rates of sprawl,
motorization and population growth.
ALL SHOW, NO SUBSTANCE?
The “Better City, Better Life” theme of the 2010 World Expo (another superlative: the
biggest world’s fair) seems to signal an urban sustainability future for China. Indeed,
many of the pavilions on display (here are some pictures of the coolest ones) use
modern and environmentally conscious design elements, like energy-efficient heating
and cooling systems, recycled building materials, and a “green wall” (another world’s
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report last August to
assess Shanghai’s efforts in nine key areas: air quality, transport, energy, solid waste,
water, green coverage, protected areas, climate neutrality and the overall situation of the
Expo Site. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “The Shanghai Expo…is
offering us a glimpse of a greener future.”
But only a glimpse. The UNEP report applauds many of the city’s efforts, but also
outlines several key areas for improvement. This includes developing renewable energy
sectors to move away from coal-powered electricity, promoting public transportation,
reducing waste, cleaning up rivers, and encouraging public participation from NGOs and
Some critics have flat-out accused the Expo for being “insultingly hypocritical,” for being
organized more like a utopian theme park than a true testament to sustainability. There
are 192 countries and 50 organizations involved in the massive construction of pavilions,
many of which won’t have any lasting benefit to the city.
Richard Brubaker, an expert on environmental sustainability and corporate social
responsibility, was quoted by NPR as saying, “the Expo, by its nature, is the very
opposite of sustainable development,” and in a separate email to TheCityFix, he adds an
important caveat: “If you are ONLY focused on the buildings. There are a number of
very sustainable elements that exist, and this Expo will be the only site where up to
600,000 people will be sustained for 6 months in a sustainably designed site.” (Read
more about why Brubaker thinks “this Expo should be given some green credits” on his
blog, Cleaner Greener China.)
Nonetheless, the Expo does reveal China’s market-led mentality of rebuilding, rather
than restoring or preserving, for the sake of maximum profit, as Zhang points out in his
chinadialogue interview. “The Expo has many showy buildings,” he says, “but it doesn’t
seem like any of them will become classics.”
Part of problem, Zhang says, is that many of the old factory space that used to be on the
Expo site was demolished. “If that had been made full use of, perhaps things would have
been simpler, or have better embodied environmental principles.”
TOWARDS AN URBAN AWAKENING
To fight its “urban disease,” China needs to focus more on human society, Zhang says.
He outlines several recommendations, paraphrased below:
Preserve, don’t destroy: “Protecting and changing the use of old buildings is better for
the environment and saves resources and energy – and also touches on hidden issues
such as social structure.”
Be narrow-minded, at least when it comes to roads: “The marker of liveability for a
city is its human scale…In Shanghai’s [major financial district], the roads are too big, the
huge buildings leave people feeling alienated, the space is badly organised and living
and travelling are extremely inconvenient.”
Think green: “You need to remember that greenery and landscaping aren’t just to look
nice, they actually improve the ecological environment.”
Don’t be a copycat: “There is a misconception that bigger cities are better cities. But it
isn’t a question of size, it’s a question of comfort, efficiency, environmental quality,
liveability and, in particular, suitability for different types of people to flourish. The
government needs to recognise the nature of cities, rather than treat them as a source of
prestige or as a copy of other urban centres like New York”
Involve the public: “Urban planning is a social activity that citizens can get involved
in….The future of the Chinese city depends on the citizens waking up, not just a few
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Care 2 (Blog): Monstrous Waste: Citizens Unite to Ban Plastic Bags in California
28 July 2010
Assembly Bill 1998 goes to the California State Senate in mid-August; if passed, the bill
will outlaw plastic bags at large retail outlets throughout the state. Passage would be a
major victory for environmentalists and the planet, and hopefully would set the trend for
other states to follow.
TAKE ACTION: NO MORE PLASTIC BAG POLLUTION!
What harm can a little plastic bag do? A lot. Californians dispose of 19 billion plastic
bags a year. Those bags don't dissolve into air…they end up in landfills and, even
worse, in the ocean, where many become part of the swirling mass of plastic garbage
known as the Pacific Garbage patch. The 'patch' is the size of Texas, a swirling vortex of
plastic and other waste that persists in the ocean and in some patches now outweighs
the plankton in the water by a ratio of 6:1.
According to Greenpeace, about 10% of the 100 million tons of plastic produced each
year ends up in the ocean; while about 20% of this waste comes from ships and
platforms, the rest is from land. The durable plastic does not degrade, but accumulates;
the UN Environmental Program reports that plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds,
100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year. UNEP has called for a global ban
on plastic bags; Mexico City and other countries and municipalities around the world
have nixed them, and China banned free plastic shopping bags in 2008.
Plastic bags are often used for mere minutes, but they persist in the environment for
centuries. Those "free" bags cost us a lot: they are derived from costly and finite
petroleum; they kill wildlife, and they clog our landfills. The City of San Francisco, before
passing a ban on plastic bags in retail outlets in 2007, estimated that the city spent 17
cents per bag to clean up, recycle or landfill plastic bags. Recycling is not the answer;
Californians recycle only 5% of plastic bags currently; recycling them is costly and
Californians have been agitating to get rid of plastic bags for years. One particularly
creative anti-bag campaign is carried out by the BagMonster. Created by the inventor of
a brand of reusable bag, BagMonsters are volunteers in costumes made of 500 plastic
bags, representing the 500 bags that Americans use on average every year.
BagMonsters turn up at rallies, farmers markets and other green events, wafting along,
covered in 15 pounds of plastic baggery, a visible and visceral demonstration of an
expensive waste that could so easily be avoided.
Sometimes making the best sustainable, green decision is a tough choice, but living
without mountains of single-use plastic bags? I think we can do this!
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The Ecologist (UK): What is a sustainable lifestyle?
28 July 2010
Does GDP really correspond to happiness? Is our happiness tied up with ''stuff''?
And what is a sustainable lifestyle? A UNEP video helps explain
Next to demands for international climate agreements and government targets for
carbon emissions and biodiversity, the way we live our lives often gets lost or forgotten.
'The area of lifestyle choice has often been regarded as too subjective, too ideological,
too value laden, or simply too intractable to be amenable to policy intervention,' argues
Tim Jackson, author of 'prosperity without growth'.
The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) have produced a report and this
video to look more closely at ideas about sustainable living from around the world and
how more of us could achieve them.
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Green Prophet (Middle East): Will AFED’s Documentary “Wet And Dry” Catalyze
Arab Environmental Action?
28 July 2010
Even as they sound an important climate change alarm for Middle Eastern
viewers, AFED’s endorsement of MASDAR and KAUST deserves its own alarm.
At Green Prophet, we have lamented environmental inaction in the Middle East for a
long time. Ridiculous artificial island schemes and dying rivers, such as the Jordan, are
only 2 examples from a long list that both reveal and threaten the region’s stability. The
Middle East does not spew the kind of emissions seen in the United States, China, or
India, but many countries in the region are blinded by fossil fuel wealth, which obscures
the attendant environmental decay. The Arab Forum for Environment and Development
(AFED) released a powerful 12 minute documentary that finally sounds the alarm.
The wave of the future: higher temperatures and higher seas
Called Wet and Dry, the documentary launches deep into the crux of climate change: the
potential that human activities could lead to a 5 degree Celsius temperature increase by
2100 and a sea level increase of 59cm, according to statistics published by the
International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A “1m rise [in sea levels] will directly affect 3 – 4% of the population in Arab countries,”
according to Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, the former Executive Director for the United
Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), and overwhelm an area 4 x the size of
Despite these pressing issues, the narrator draws attention to the irony that while the
Maldives is moving their population in land, to prepare for future sea level increases, in
the Middle East, Arab countries are “racing to build artificial islands.”
The nightmare scenario
Najib Saab, AFED’s Secretary General, narrates the importance of fresh water, which
will become increasingly scarce, and food production, which is expected to drop by 50%
if new crops are not introduced.
Infectious diseases will increase. Malaria will spread. And there will be more cases of
dyspnea and sun stroke as temperatures continue to rise.
All of these statistics and images generate a frightening momentum for even the most
dissident viewer, and then culminates in the typical bottom line for all economies in the
throes of globalization: money.
Economics – the bottom line
“Tourism is one sector of the economy highly vulnerable to climate change,” according to
Saab. Rising temperatures will make many Middle Eastern destinations unbearably hot,
subject to extreme weather and scarce water supplies, as well as ecosystem
degradation. As such, tourism should push for inland activities centered more on culture
Biodiversity is addressed as well, noting that after only a 2 degree rise in temperatures,
40% of species are already likely to become extinct. Another serious issue is land use
and urban planning regulations.
“Choices for construction materials used for buildings and roads do not take into account
the risk of rising temperatures,” according to Professor Hamed Assaf from the Faculty of
Engineering and Architecture, AUB. As a result, “75% of buildings, roads, and other
infrastructure could be destroyed as climate change continues to morph our planet.
Is there an upside?
There is if governments take the hint and introduce serious measures to at least keep
temperatures from surpassing a 2 degree increase. And they should ditch short-term
thinking in favor of long-term planning.
Wet and Dry draws attention to the absence of concerted research, which is good, as
well as programs such as MASDAR and KAUST as anecdotes – not good. Both
MASDAR and KAUST are flashy efforts to maintain the status quo, a cultural model that
has to be reigned in if our quality of life is ever to be restored.
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CSR Digest (Malaysia): Guess what we saw at Yves Rocher Subang Parade?
29 July 2010
In conjuction with its 50th anniversary, Yves Rocher has pledged to one million of the
proposed one billion trees under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
initiative, “Plant for the Planet: Billion Trees Campaign”.
According to its statement:
When the Yves Rocher Brand celebrates its 50th anniversary, this is the Planet which is
celebrated. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, to never forget what we owe to nature, to
restore and preserve biodiversity, the Yves Rocher Brand is committed in planting 50
million trees across the globe over the next 5 years.
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YES (Blog): 2010 a Tipping Point for Renewable Energy
28 July 2010
100 days into the BP disaster, it's time to quit claiming that an economy based on fossil
fuels is our only option.
It’s been a tough summer for the oil industry—or so you’d think.
BP’s geyser of oil has now made headlines for 100 days, each one a reminder that oil
extraction poses dangers we can’t control.
Even with the temporary cap on the well providing a respite from new oil, there’s been
little time for the industry to breathe a sigh of relief, much less burnish its image: A
second well, even closer to shore, ruptured after being struck by a barge and began
spilling more oil into the Gulf. In Michigan, 800,000 gallons of oil poured into the
Kalamazoo River from a broken pipeline. In China, an explosion at an oil terminal
caused a massive fire that took 15 hours and 2,000 firefighters to extinguish, as well as
a nearly 300-mile large spill of thick crude oil, one of the worst in that country’s history.
And in the Arctic, May and June broke records for the fastest ice melt of any summer
since recording began.
The truth is that there not only is an alternative to oil dependence, it’s already being built.
But even with the dangers of oil so clearly and horrifyingly illustrated, this summer is
unlikely to end with any major constraints on the oil industry in the U.S.—the main
responses will likely be a temporary moratorium on new offshore wells (not offshore
drilling itself) and a stripped-down energy bill that tries to hold BP accountable for the
costs of its spill.
Why? Why can't we muster the political will for a real response—one that would help us
avoid future disasters by breaking our dependence on fossil fuels? Because of the belief,
strongly held even in the midst of our shock and outrage, that there is no alternative to
our current oil-based society, dangerous though we must all now recognize it to be.
A new UN-backed study of renewable energy worldwide declared that the world has
reached a “clear tipping point” for green power. In Europe and the U.S., renewable
energy grew faster than fossil fuel energy in 2009—for the second year in a row. Sixty
percent of new electricity generation in Europe and more than half of new energy in the
U.S. came from renewable sources. China built more than 37 gigawatts of renewable
power generation capacity, more than any other country.
“If this trend continues,” the report notes, “then 2010 or 2011 could be the first year that
new capacity added in low-carbon power exceeds that in fossil-fuel stations" on a global
The report also found that more than 100 countries, half of them in the developing world,
now have policies to promote renewable energy.
Achim Steiner, the UN’s undersecretary general, noted that there is “a serious gap
between the ambition and the science in terms of where the world needs to be in 2020 to
avoid dangerous climate change. But [this research shows that] this gap is not
"Indeed," he said, "renewable energy is consistently and persistently bucking the trends
and can play its part in realizing a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy if
government policy sends ever harder market signals to investors.”
That’s a big "if," considering the failure of the U.S. Congress to turn this summer’s oil
disasters into strong climate legislation. But at least now, neither industry nor
government can continue to claim that an economy based on fossil fuels is our only
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El Periodico (Spain): Cartas de los lectores
29 July 2010
Siendo congruentes con la prohibición de los toros en Catalunya, habría que prohibir
también los correbous, la matanza del cerdo, la caza, la pesca, cerrar los zoos, acabar
con la comercialización del fuagrás y vetar las langostas, las almejas, los filetes de
ternera, los mejillones, el lechón y el corderito lechal. También es curioso que se dé
libertad de voto a sus señorías para votar el asunto de los toros y no para el aborto.
Parece ser que los seres humanos importan mucho menos. ¡Cuánta hipocresía!
Eugeni del Castell
Sant Andreu de Llavaneres
La polémica en torno a la abolición de los toros es el paradigma de la sociedad catalana
actual, una sociedad adocenada, acrítica, manipulada por una mesocracia inepta,
demagógica y populista. Así nos va.
Reses bravas libres
Juan Diego Escartín
El toro bravo ha existido en todo el continente europeo desde hace siglos. Hoy en día,
solo hay toros donde se celebran corridas: España, Portugal y el sur de Francia. En el
resto de Europa fue erradicado por ser un animal peligroso y económicamente
improductivo. Tras la prohibición en Catalunya, ¿qué vamos a hacer con esa masa de
reses bravas que ocupan nuestros campos? Los dueños de las ganaderías querrán
ganarse el pan de otra manera. Me temo que con la desaparición de las corridas
haremos desaparecer también al toro.
Se acabó la tortura
Siempre he optado por el voto útil en Catalunya, pero los dos grandes partidos
catalanes me decepcionaron ayer profundamente al dejar una cuestión tan importante
como la prohibición de la tortura de los toros al libre albedrío de cada diputado. En
cambio, felicito a los partidos pequeños, que han demostrado su responsabilidad y
coherencia al votar a favor del fin de las corridas.
Para mí, sería una verdadera animalada votar por un president que no está en contra de
estas torturas. Ahora solo falta acabar con esta vergüenza de tener que esperar aún
hasta enero del 2012 para que se acaben estas carnicerías en público.
Montse G. P.
Vaya por delante que soy catalana y que no me gustan los toros, lo cual soluciono no
acudiendo a ninguna corrida, pero ¿y a los que si les gustan? ¿Qué harán? Pues
fastidiarse, igual que los fumadores y tantas otras personas que se ven rodeadas de
prohibiciones. Eso sí, ahora se sumarán al paro los ganaderos, toreros, banderilleros y
la inmensa mayoría de gente que vive de los toros bravos, animales que toda la vida se
han criado en España.
Por esta regla de tres, también tendrían que cerrar los mataderos donde sacrifican los
animales que luego nos comemos. Con la cantidad de cosas urgentes que tenemos por
arreglar en Catalunya (sanidad, educación, delincuencia, paro...), nuestros gobernantes
se dedican a estos temas, que no hacen más que atraer más antipatías por una
comunidad que no es como los políticos insisten en demostrar que es.
Fernando Delgado López
Santa Perpètua de Mogoda
El gobierno municipal de Santa Perpètua de Mogoda (PSC, ERC y CiU) ha cambiado la
gestión de los tributos a través de la Diputación de Barcelona. Ya se ven las
consecuencias para los contribuyentes: una denuncia por estacionar mal ha pasado de
48 a 200 euros. Y en tres años el IBI me lo han subido un 110%.
EL CUIDADO DEL MEDIOAMBIENTE
Jordi Serrano Alcaraz
Hacía tiempo que no se daba una posición tan rotunda en un organismo de la ONU: el
director ejecutivo del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente
(PNUMA), Achim Steiner, acusa a las grandes empresas de explotar los recursos
naturales de manera desenfrenada, sin protección de la naturaleza. Steiner añade que
un porcentaje bajísimo de empresas se dedica a la conservación de los ecosistemas.
El informe del PNUMA se centra en las grandes compañías mundiales, aunque
deberíamos preguntarnos qué hacen las empresas españolas por la naturaleza, y de
dónde y cómo extraen los recursos que luego transforman. Deberíamos plantearnos
también si las administraciones deberían incentivar y bonificar a las empresas más
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Il Giornale (Italy): Ahmadinejad ha fatto il nido al Palazzo di vetro
29 July 2010
Dell’Onu, dei suoi paradossi, abbiamo già volte tentato di ridere per non piangere, e
tuttavia non si può fare a meno di soffrire: nata per preservare il mondo da dittature,
persecuzioni, guerre è divenuta spesso la più ipocrita e aggressiva cassa di risonanza
antioccidentale e antidemocratica. Causa ne sono le maggioranze automatiche
cosiddette “non allineate” e islamiste. Adesso a misurare in maniera intelligente e
particolare il danno ci aiuta la giornalista Claudia Rossett su Forbes, e lo diciamo per
non derubarla del difficile computo da lei operato sulla presenza dell’Iran dentro le
È formidabile a dir poco quanto il Paese che oggi rappresenta una delle maggiori
minacce per tutto il mondo con il suo programma atomico che procede, conformemente
alla politica iraniana, contro Israele e la civiltà ebraico-cristiana; ormai colpito da quattro
round di sanzioni obbligatorie del Consiglio di Sicurezza; macchina organizzatrice e
ideologica di terrorismo internazionale; violatore senza remore di diritti umani… quanto
questo Paese si sia insediato all’Onu in lungo e in largo. Ad aprile, dopo che avevamo
rischiato di vederlo nel Consiglio per i Diritti Umani, l’Iran ripiega sulla Commissione per
lo Status delle Donne. Questo, mentre escono via internet le immagini delle sue donne
costrette in palandrane totali e sottoposte a regole di segregazione sotto la sorveglianza
delle Guardie della Rivoluzione, o peggio mentre si diffondono immagini di fedifraghe
fustigate, sottoposte a lapidazione, impiccate.
Ma questo è solo un incipit: l’Iran è uno dei 36 membri della maggiore organizzazione
Onu, l’Undp, programma per lo sviluppo. Lo ha presieduto l’anno scorso, e essere nel
direttivo gli dà l’accesso anche al direttivo che governa l’Unfpa, il fondo per la
popolazione, e l’Unifem, il fondo di sviluppo per le donne. I tre anni nel direttivo
dell’Undp si concluderanno alla fine del 2010, ma l’Unifem dà diritto a far parte del
direttivo dell’Unicef (che si occupa dell’infanzia) fino alla fine del 2011 e del Wfp (il
programma per il cibo) fino al 2012.
Altrettanto pervasiva la presenza iraniana nel settore delle armi, dello spazio, del crimine
globale. Fino alla fine del 2012 infatti l’Iran di Ahmadinejad, che si pregia di una
minaccia di sterminio al giorno, sarà vicepresidente del consiglio esecutivo dell’Opcw,
l’organizzazione per le armi chimiche; inoltre, siederà in due commissioni dell’Unodc,
l’ufficio Onu per la droga e il crimine, e la sub commissione di 20 membri della
commissione per la Prevenzione del Crimine e la Giustizia Criminale, di cui fa parte dal
2009 per la durata di tre anni. Da questo aprile l’Iran è entrato per 4 anni nella
commissione con base a Ginevra per la Scienza, la Tecnologia e lo sviluppo. L’Onu
consta anche di un sub comitato legale del Copuos, Comitato per l’Uso Pacifico dello
Spazio, ed esso è presieduto da Ahmad Talebzadeh dell’Iranian Space Agency. L’Iran
siede anche nel consiglio dell’Unhcr (l’Agenzia per i rifugiati) e fa parte del comitato
direttivo delle sue centrali di Nairobi. Manca alla nostra lista ancora l’Unep, il
programmna per l’ambiente, e l’Un Habitat, il Programma per gli insediamenti umani.
Ahmadinejad è anche là. Dice la Rossett inoltre che il mandato dell’Iran alla Fao come
presidente del consiglio direttivo è scaduto, ma ne è già prevista la candidatura per il
periodo 2011-13 e intanto siede nella commissione finanze fino alla fine del 2011.
Ahmadinejad, oltre a primeggiare in conferenze Onu come quella di Ginevra contro
Israele detta “Durban 2”, dal 2005 ogni settembre, in occasione della inaugurazione
annuale, è volato a New York per tenere un suo discorso: sempre ha lasciato gli
ascoltatori senza fiato per la smodata aggressività anti occidentale e per la promessa
ripetuta del genocidio degli ebrei. Possiamo dire che l’Iran si è impossessato del
discorso pubblico internazionale e l’ha tutto quanto volto verso sé stesso: Ahmadinejad
è il grande capo di un movimento mondiale, il suo comportamento ci dice se si mette
bene o male per tutti. La forza diplomatica dell’Iran gli ha certo fatto da scudo simbolico
contro le sanzioni votate dall’Onu stessa. Esse sono sempre state sbeffeggiate. Adesso
l’Ue ha scelto a sua volta di adottare dure sanzioni che riguardano gli scambi
commerciali, i servizi finanziari e l’energia. Solo un paio di settimane fa il Consiglio di
sicurezza dell’Onu aveva adottato una quarta tornata di sanzioni, e l’Ue, pressata dagli
Usa, l’ha battuta in severità. Lo shock sembra aver indotto Ahmadinejad a riproporre uno
«scambio di carburante senza precondizioni». Sarà saggio guardare a questa proposta
con scetticismo. L’Iran ha sempre usato i negoziati per guadagnare tempo: vuole
raggiungere l’arma atomica prima che la pressione economica diventi intollerabile.
Dunque l’Europa deve tener fede alla sua intenzione: l’Iran deve essere bloccato. Anche
per l’Onu è venuto il tempo dell’intransigenza: date le sanzioni del Consiglio di
Sicurezza, sarebbe logico anche in uno stop alla nidificazione in tutti gli angoli del
Palazzo di Vetro.
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Other Environment News
Telegraph (UK): BP oil spill in Gulf of Mexico disperses quicker than was feared
28 July 2010
The Gulf of Mexico slick is disappearing far more quickly than expected, leaving clean-
up workers struggling to find oil to remove.
Two weeks after BP finally managed to plug a hole that had leaked 200 million gallons of
crude oil, officials said the pollutants were dispersing and evaporating.
Adm Thad Allen, the national incident commander, said: "It's becoming a very elusive
bunch of oil for us to find."
Local communities have begun asking if fishermen who are being paid to help with the
clean-up will soon be out of pocket.
By some estimates, up to 40 per cent of the oil may have evaporated as soon as it
reached the surface.
Experts said that warm surface water and weeks of sunlight had broken up the crude,
along with strong winds and waves during storms last week.
The Gulf's waters also contain bacteria that have always degraded oil that seeps
naturally from the ocean floor.
Since the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, the effort by the US
government and BP, which involved 4,000 boats and an army of workers skimming,
scooping and burning the oil, has also played a significant part in shrinking the slick.
Early on in the crisis, fishing was suspended in about a third of the Gulf, while there was
extensive damage to wildlife. The tourism industry was hit as holiday-makers stayed
away, with a fifth of the 253 beaches in four affected states were subject to closure or
Officials remain wary about the effects of the 86-day leak, partly because the damage to
the ecosystem below the surface is not yet fully understood.
"Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn't oil beneath the surface, however,
or that our beaches and marshes are not still at risk," said Jane Lubchenco of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Louisiana politicians are concerned that even when shrimp, oysters and fish have been
declared safe the industry could suffer from negative publicity.
"It's a matter of making everyone realise that our fish and shrimp are edible," said
Louisiana Congressman Charlie Melancon.
At its peak, the leak tested relations between Washington and the Government as
President Barack Obama made hostile remarks which were seen as detrimental to BP's
share price. He then persuaded the company to set up a $20 billion escrow account to
deal with claims from the public.
A US Senate panel meanwhile postponed a hearing due to be held today on BP's
alleged role in the Lockerbie bomber's release after British and Scottish officials
including Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, and Alex Salmond, the First Minister
of Scotland, refused to appear.
Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive who will be stepping down in October, also declined
to accept the invitation from the Senate foreign relations committee.
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Guardian (UK): BP petrol stations have pumps closed by Greenpeace activists
27 July 2010
Protesters shut down 46 outlets to highlight environmental promises made by oil giant
BP petrol stations across central London were temporarily shut down by activists today
in a move they said was designed to make the troubled oil company adopt greener
Greenpeace claimed supporters had at one time stopped the pumps at 46 outlets by
stealing parts of safety switches in forecourts – action the company said was "childish
The protests, coinciding with the replacement of BP chief Tony Hayward by Bob Dudley,
was meant to encouraged the public to help speed-up the end of the oil age.
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "The moment has come for BP to
move beyond oil. Under Tony Hayward the company went backwards, squeezing the
last drops of oil from places like the Gulf of Mexico, the tar sands of Canada and even
the fragile Arctic wilderness ... They're desperate for us to believe they're going 'beyond
petroleum'. Well now's the time to prove it."
About 50 protesters were involved in the action today, including three teams of 12 who
moved between BP sites attempting to remove pieces of safety equipment which they
intended to return later.
Greenpeace said it had been unable to halt the flow at a handful of stations and some
had got services back on line quickly because of back-up equipment. The action is not
thought to have led to any arrests by police, whom a Greenpeace spokesman described
as "relatively friendly and reasonable".
But BP said the protesters had interfered with safety systems that allowed emergency
services to switch off power to the pumps. "To interfere with them is just childish and
irresponsible," a spokesman said.
The company believed up to 30 stations had been affected.
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New York Times (US): Another Oil Leak Hits Gulf of Mexico
27 July 2010
A wellhead in southeastern Louisiana was spewing a mist of oil and gas up to 100 feet
into the air after being hit by a tug boat early Tuesday morning, officials said. It is at least
the third unrelated oil leak in the area since the Deepwater Horizon spill began 99 days
The well is about 65 miles south of New Orleans in Barataria Bay, which is surrounded
by wildlife-rich wetlands and was a fertile area for fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen
before the BP spill. By Tuesday afternoon, a reddish brown sheen 50 yards by one mile
long was spotted near the well, according to a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard said the well was owned by Cedyco, a company based in Houston.
The wellhead burst at 1 a.m. local time Tuesday after being hit by a tug boat, the Pere
Ana C, that was pushing a dredge barge, Captain Buford Berry, though details were still
A cleanup crew from a company in nearby Houma that was already involved in the
Deepwater Horizon spill response was sent to the area. A Coast Guard strike force team
was also sent.
About 6,000 feet of boom was placed around the spill, and the Coast Guard was
surveying the scene from the air.
The Coast Guard said it would use the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, financed by a
tax on oil companies, to pay for the response.
No specific flow rate has been determined, officials said.
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AFP: US hit by new oil spill
29 July 2010
A new oil spill is sullying US waters in the northern state of Michigan after a pipeline leak
sent more than a million gallons of crude into a river tributary, officials said Wednesday.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the spill began Monday when a
30-inch (76-centimeter) pipe in Marshall, Michigan burst, spewing the crude into
Talmadge Creek, a waterway which feeds into the Kalamazoo River.
Officials said the pipeline belongs to the Canadian company Enbridge Inc.
The agency said it is directing and monitoring all aspects of oil spill clean-up and
containment efforts over 30 miles (48 kilometers) of the Kalamazoo River, including
marshlands, residential areas, farmland, and businesses.
"This is a serious spill that has the potential to damage a vital waterway and threatens
public health," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.
"Staff from EPA's regional and headquarters office are on the scene and ensuring the
leaked oil is contained and cleaned up as quickly and effectively as possible."
On Tuesday, the environmental agency requested that the US Coast Guard make two
million dollars available for the federal response to the spill, and said the money
eventually will be reimbursed by Enbridge.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm however criticized both EPA and Enbridge
Wednesday for what she described as a slow response so far.
"The situation is very, very serious," Granholm said in a conference call with the news
media, adding that oil could reach Lake Michigan if more intensive containment
measures are not put in place.
The Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge said in a statement that it views the incident "very
"We're treating this situation as a top priority," the company statement said.
"We are committed to thoroughly cleaning up the site as quickly as possible. The safety
of people and the protection of the environment are our highest priorities during the
Enbridge said that the faulty pipeline has been shut down and isolation valves closed,
stopping the flow of oil.
An investigation is underway into the cause of the leak, it added.
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AP: EPA: 1M gallons of oil may be in Mich. river
29 July 2010
Federal officials now estimate that more than 1 million gallons of oil may have spilled
into a major river in southern Michigan, and the governor is sharply criticizing clean-up
efforts as "wholly inadequate."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the update Wednesday night,
shortly after Gov. Jennifer Granholm lambasted attempts to contain the oil flowing down
the Kalamazoo River. She warned of a "tragedy of historic proportions" if the oil reaches
Lake Michigan, which is still at least 80 miles downstream from where oil has been seen.
Granholm called on the federal government for more help, saying resources being
marshaled by the EPA and Enbridge Inc., which owns the pipeline that leaked the oil,
were "wholly inadequate."
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge said earlier Wednesday that it had redoubled its efforts
to clean up the mess. Chief executive Patrick D. Daniel said the company had made
"significant progress," though he had no update on a possible cause, cost or timeframe
for the cleanup. The company didn't return messages for comment after Granholm's
The overall work force on the spill Wednesday was likely more than 400 people.
EPA officials said they're ramping up efforts with air and water testing. Local officials
said they weren't concerned about municipal water supplies.
Tom Sands, deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security,
said during a conference call with Granholm that he had seen oil past a dam at Morrow
Lake. The lake is a key point in the river near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo,
the largest city in the region.
But his report could not be immediately confirmed. The company's latest update
statement Wednesday said oil was about seven miles short of the opening to Morrow
Lake. A press conference scheduled for late Wednesday, which was to include company
and EPA officials, was canceled for what a company spokesman called scheduling
State and company officials previously said they didn't believe the oil would spread past
"It's going to hit a Superfund site unless somebody like the EPA and the company get
very serious about providing significant additional resources," Granholm said.
The spill has killed fish and coated wildlife as it made its way westward about 35 miles
downstream past Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of
Both company and EPA officials have said oil is no longer leaking.
Enbridge has been working to clean up the spill since the leak was reported early
Before the EPA announced its new estimate, Enbridge reiterated its belief that about
819,000 gallons of oil spilled into Talmadge Creek, which flows into the Kalamazoo
River. State officials said they were told during a company briefing Tuesday that about
877,000 gallons spilled, but company officials disputed the number.
An 800,000 gallon spill would be enough to fill 1-gallon jugs lined side by side for nearly
70 miles. It also could fill a wall-in football field including the end zones with a 14-foot-
high pool of oil.
Granholm has declared a state of disaster for some areas along the river, and President
Barack Obama called Granholm to offer federal support.
An oily reflective sheen could be seen in patches along the Kalamazoo, and the affected
area still had a strong odor, although not as strong as on Tuesday.
Anil Kulkarni, a mechanical engineering professor at Penn State University, said a quick
response was vital to the river's ecology. Snails, frogs, muskrats and even birds eat, live
and nest on or near the riverbank.
"The river banks are nearby. It has more potential to inflict damage because of the
proximity to land. Anything that comes in contact with oil is going to be affected badly. It
prevents the natural life of species, whether it's collecting food or anything else."
Enbridge affiliates have previously been cited for skirting environmental regulations in
the Great Lakes region.
Houston-based Enbridge Energy Co. spilled almost 19,000 gallons of crude oil onto
Wisconsin's Nemadji River in 2003. Another 189,000 gallons of oil spilled at the
company's terminal two miles from Lake Superior, though most was contained.
In 2007, two spills released about 200,000 gallons of crude in northern Wisconsin as
Enbridge was expanding a 320-mile pipeline. The company also was accused of
violating Wisconsin permits designed to protect water quality during work in and around
wetlands, rivers and streams, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said. The
violations came during construction of a 321-mile, $2 billion oil pipeline across that state.
Enbridge agreed to pay $1.1 million in 2009.
The Michigan leak came from a 30-inch pipeline, which was built in 1969 and carries
about 8 million gallons of oil daily from Griffith, Ind., to Sarnia, Ontario.
The river already faced major pollution issues. An 80-mile segment of the river that
begins at Morrow Lake and five miles of a tributary, Portage Creek, have unsafe levels
of PCBs and were placed on the federal Superfund list of high-priority hazardous waste
sites in 1990. The Kalamazoo site also includes four landfills and several defunct paper
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Reuters: Water cut to north China city after chemical spill
29 July 2010
Water supplies were cut in parts of the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin on Thursday,
after a flood washed thousands of barrels of a dangerous chemical from a factory into
the area's main river, state media said.
After the accident tap water supplies were stopped in Jilin, the official Xinhua agency
said, though residents reached by telephone on Thursday morning said water had been
restored to some districts.
Local officials said it was merely an unexpected technical suspension unrelated to the
accident, but by Thursday afternoon supplies had not resumed.
Downstream in Harbin city -- where the barrels could arrive in the next day if they are not
picked up first -- "panicked residents" were buying up bottled water, even as the
government assured people water supplies were uncontaminated, Xinhua added.
"No chemicals had been detected in the river water," it quoted environment ministry
spokesman Tao Detian as saying.
In Jilin a "small quantity" of two pollutants produced by the plant were found in the
Songhua River, and a reporter smelt a strange odor as he watched dozens of the metal
containers float through downtown, Xinhua said.
It was not clear how well the barrels were sealed. But the environmental protection
ministry said late on Wednesday that tests showed nothing abnormal about the water
quality. It would monitor the river closely, it added in a statement.
Jilin city suffered a major chemical spill in November 2005, when an explosion at a
petrochemical plant released tonnes of hazardous chemicals into the river.
That was covered up for over a week. In the face of widespread panic, officials were
forced to cut water supplies to millions of people, including the city of Harbin in
neighboring Heilongjiang province.
The latest incident was triggered when a flood surged through a chemical plant on
Wednesday morning, carrying off barrels.
Around 3,000 barrels contained 170 kg (375 lb) of chemicals, and another 4,000 were
empty, Xinhua said, citing a government official speaking at a news conference in Jilin.
Some 2,500 contained trimethyl chloro silicane, a colorless, flammable liquid with a
pungent smell, and another 500 contained hexamethyl disilazane, another colorless but
Altogether as much as 500 tonnes could potentially be floating down river.
The government of Jilin, which has a population of 4.5 million, said it had acted quickly.
"The city government paid great attention, and immediately reported the incident to the
provincial government and rapidly put in place an emergency plan," it said in a faxed
The Songhua River is a major tributary of the Heilongjiang or Amur River, which forms
China's border with Russia for several hundred km (miles) before crossing fully into the
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BBC: Plankton decline across oceans as waters warm
28 July 2010
The amount of phytoplankton - tiny marine plants - in the top layers of the oceans has
declined markedly over the last century, research suggests.
Writing in the journal Nature, scientists say the decline appears to be linked to rising
They made their finding by looking at records of the transparency of sea water, which is
affected by the plants.
The decline - about 1% per year - could be ecologically significant as plankton sit at the
base of marine food chains.
Algal blooms can be imaged from space
This is the first study to attempt a comprehensive global look at plankton changes over
such a long time scale.
"What we think is happening is that the oceans are becoming more stratified as the
water warms," said research leader Daniel Boyce from Dalhousie University in Halifax,
Nova Scotia, Canada.
"The plants need sunlight from above and nutrients from below; and as it becomes more
stratified, that limits the availability of nutrients," he told BBC News.
Phytoplankton are typically eaten by zooplankton - tiny marine animals - which
themselves are prey for small fish and other animals.
The first reliable system for measuring the transparency of sea water was developed by
astronomer and Jesuit priest Pietro Angelo Secchi.
Asked by the Pope in 1865 to measure the clarity of water in the Mediterranean Sea for
the Papal navy, he conceived and developed the "Secchi disk", which must be one of
the simplest instruments ever deployed; it is simply lowered into the sea until its white
colour disappears from view.
Various substances in the water can affect its transparency; but one of the main ones is
the concentration of chlorophyll, the green pigment that is key to photosynthesis in
plants at sea and on land.
The long-term but patchy record provided by Secchi disk measurements around the
world has been augmented by shipboard analysis of water samples, and more recently
by satellite measurements of ocean colour.
The final tally included 445,237 data points from Secchi disks spanning the period
"This study took three years, and we spent lots of time going through the data checking
that there wasn't any 'garbage' in there," said Mr Boyce.
"The data is good in the northern hemisphere and it gets better in recent times, but it's
more patchy in the southern hemisphere - the Southern Ocean, the southern Indian
Ocean, and so on."
The higher quality data available since 1950 has allowed the team to calculate that since
that time, the world has seen a phytoplankton decline of about 40%.
The decline is seen in most parts of the world, one marked exception being the Indian
Ocean. There are also phytoplankton increases in coastal zones where fertiliser run-off
from agricultural land is increasing nutrient supplies.
However, the pattern is far from steady. As well as the long-term downward trend, there
are strong variations spanning a few years or a few decades.
Father Secchi's simple disk has been used for more than 100 years
Many of these variations are correlated with natural cycles of temperature seen in the
oceans, including the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the North Atlantic Oscillation
and the Arctic Oscillation.
The warmer ends of these cycles co-incide with a reduction in plankton growth, while
abundance is higher in the colder phase.
Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of the marine programme at the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN), suggested there could be other factors involved -
notably the huge expansion in open-ocean fishing that has taken place over the century.
"Logically you would expect that as fishing has gone up, the amount of zooplankton
would have risen - and that should have led to a decline in phytoplankton," he told BBC
"So there's something about fishing that hasn't been factored into this analysis."
The method of dividing oceans into grids that the Dalhousie researchers used, he said,
did not permit scrutiny of areas where this might be particularly important, such as the
upwelling in the Eastern Pacific that supports the Peruvian anchovy fishery - the biggest
fishery on the planet.
If the trend is real, it could also act to accelerate warming, the team noted.
Photosynthesis by phytoplankton removes carbon dioxide from the air and produces
In several parts of the world, notably the Southern Ocean, scientists have already noted
that the waters appear to be absorbing less CO2 - although this is principally thought to
be because of changes to wind patterns - and leaving more CO2 in the air should
logically lead to greater warming.
"Phytoplankton... produce half of the oxygen we breathe, draw down surface CO2, and
ultimately support all of our fisheries," said Boris Worm, another member of the
"An ocean with less phytoplankton will function differently."
The question is: how differently?
If the planet continues to warm in line with projections of computer models of climate, the
overall decline in phytoplankton might be expected to continue.
But, said, Daniel Boyce, that was not certain.
"It's tempting to say there will be further declines, but on the other hand there could be
other drivers of change, so I don't think that saying 'temperature rise brings a
phytoplankton decline' is the end of the picture," he said.
The implications, noted Dr Lundin, could be significant.
"If in fact productivity is going down so much, the implication would be that less carbon
capture and storage is happening in the open ocean," he said.
"So that's a service that humanity is getting for free that it will lose; and there would also
be an impact on fish, with less fish in the oceans over time."
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Guardian (UK): Global warming pushes 2010 temperatures to record highs
28 July 2010
Scientists from two leading climate research centres publish 'best evidence yet' of rising
long-term global temperatures
Global temperatures in the first half of the year were the hottest since records began
more than a century ago, according to two of the world's leading climate research
Scientists have also released what they described as the "best evidence yet" of rising
long-term temperatures. The report is the first to collate 11 different indicators – from air
and sea temperatures to melting ice – each one based on between three and seven data
sets, dating back to between 1850 and the 1970s.
The newly released data follows months of scrutiny of climate science after sceptics
claimed leaked emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA) suggested temperature
records had been manipulated - a charge rejected by three inquiries.
Publishing the newly collated data in London, Peter Stott, the head of climate modelling
at the UK Met Office, said despite variations between individual years, the evidence was
unequivocal: "When you follow those decade-to-decade trends then you see clearly and
unmistakably signs of a warming world".
"That's a very remarkable result, that all those data sets agree," he added. "It's the
clearest evidence in one place from a range of different indices."
Currently 1998 is the hottest year on record. Two combined land and sea surface
temperature records from Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and the
US National Climatic Data Centre (NCDC) both calculate that the first six months of
2010 were the hottest on record. According to GISS, four of the six months also
individually showed record highs.
A third leading monitoring programme, by the Met Office, shows this period was the
second hottest on record, after 1998, with two months this year – January and March –
being hotter than their equivalents 12 years ago.
The Met Office said the variations between the figures published by the different
organisations are because the Met Office uses only temperature observations, Nasa
makes estimates for gaps in recorded data such as the polar regions, and the NCDC
uses a mixture of the two approaches. The latest figures will give weight to predictions
that this year could become the hottest on record.
Despite annual fluctuations, the figures also highlight the clear trend for the 2000s to be
hotter than the 1990s, which in turn were clearly warmer than the previous decade, said
"These numbers are not theory, but fact, indicating that the Earth's climate is moving into
uncharted territory," said Rafe Pomerance, a senior fellow at Clean Air Cool Planet, a
US group dedicated to helping find solutions to global warming.
The Met Office published its full list of global warming indicators, compiled by Hadley
Centre researcher John Kennedy. It formed part of the State of the Climate 2009 report
published as a special bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by the US
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the NCDC temperature
Seven of the indicators rose over the last few decades, indicating "clear warming
trends", although these all included annual fluctuations up and down. One of these was
air temperature over land – including data from the Climatic Research Unit at the UEA,
whose figures were under scrutiny after hacked emails were posted online in November
2009, but the graphic also included figures from six other research groups all showing
the same overall trends despite annual differences.
The other six rising indicators were sea surface temperatures, collected by six groups;
ocean heat to 700m depth from seven groups; air temperatures over oceans (five data
sets); the tropospheric temperature in the atmosphere up to 1km up (seven); humidity
caused by warmer air absorbing more moisture (three); and sea level rise as hotter
oceans expand and ice melts (six).
Another four indicators showed declining figures over time, again consistent with global
warming: northern hemisphere snow cover (two data sets), Arctic sea ice extent (three);
glacier mass loss (four); and the temperature of the stratosphere. This last cooling effect
is caused by a decline in ozone in the stratosphere which prevents it absorbing as much
ultraviolet radiation from the sun above.
One key data set omitted was sea ice in the Antarctic, because it was increasing in
some areas and decreasing in others, due to reduced ozone causing changes in wind
patterns and sea-surface circulation. This data set showed no clear trend, said Stott.
These figures were also in the last report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.
"It's not that the IPCC didn't look at this data, of course they did, but they didn't put it all
together in one place," he added.
The cause of the warming was "dominated" by greenhouse gases emitted by human
activity, said Stott. "It's possible there's some [other] process which can amplify other
effects, such as radiation from the sun, [but] the evidence is so clear the chance there's
something we haven't thought of seems to be getting smaller and smaller," he said.
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Reuters: Indonesian Sinar Mas-linked firms wrecked forest: report
29 July 2010
Greenpeace said on Thursday it had fresh evidence that palm oil firms linked to
Indonesian agribusiness giant Sinar Mas have bulldozed rainforest and destroyed
endangered orangutan habitats in Kalimantan.
The charges were denied by palm oil firm PT SMART Tbk, part of Sinar Mas, which has
already said it would stop clearing critical forests.
The accusations, leveled by Greenpeace in a new report, is the latest chapter in a long
and bitter dispute between the conservationists and a key player in one of Indonesia's
biggest industries, palm oil.
The high stakes battle has already led to top palm oil buyers Unilever and Nestle
dropping PT SMART as a supplier.
Industry giant Cargill on Thursday reiterated that it may also delist the Indonesian
producer if the allegations of wrongdoing are borne out in an audit due to be released
It also has implications for Indonesia, which competes fiercely with neighboring Malaysia
for dominance of the lucrative palm oil market and which is also under intense
international pressure to curb deforestation, seen as fuelling dangerous climate change.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions
by 2020 by as much as 41 percent from business-as-usual levels, and agreed to a
moratorium starting in 2011 on issuance of new permits to clear primary forest.
The ban is part of a $1 billion climate deal signed with Norway earlier this year.
SMART has already promised to stop clearing high conservation value (HCV) forests,
which refers to forests that shelter endangered species or provide valuable natural
services such as trapping climate-warming greenhouse gases.
It said it will publish an audit of its operations on August 10.
SMART manages Indonesian palm oil firms PT Agro Lestari Mandiri (ALM) and PT
Bangun Nusa Mandiri (BNM). The parent company for SMART, ALM and BNM is
Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources, which is part-owned and led by the Widjaja
family that controls Sinar Mas.
Greenpeace said in a report released on Thursday that aerial photographs taken in July
by their own photographers, as well as by a Reuters photographer, showed that ALM
was still clearing carbon-rich peatland forests in Ketapang district, in Indonesia's West
"What we found was that, despite their commitment, high carbon destruction is still going
on," said Greenpeace forest campaigner, Bustar Maitar. "This is still happening, even
while their auditor is writing the report."
Greenpeace also published photographs which it said showed BNM clearing in an area
in Ketapang that was identified by the United Nations Environment Program as habitat
for highly endangered orangutans.
SMART released a press statement the firm did not clear virgin or primary forest and
that it complied with Indonesian laws and regulations.
"We are not responsible for clearing primary forests, which are the natural habitats for
orangutans, and High Conservation Value areas. On the contrary, all our concession
areas do not contain primary forests and we conserve High Conservation Value areas,
creating sanctuaries that will continue to preserve biodiversity," said Daud Dharsono, PT
SMART's president director. Areas of untouched greenery in the aerial shots were proof
that parts of their concession areas are being set aside for preservation, the statement
Enormous amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted when peatland forests are cleared
and drained. Their preservation is seen as crucial to preventing runaway climate change.
SMART's spokesman, Fajar Reksoprodjo, told Reuters that in the past, aerial
photographs that appeared to show clearing in peatlands had been misinterpreted and
showed mineral soil.
SMART initially planned to release its audit in July but delayed it to August 10 because it
was not yet finished.
The auditors are paid by SMART and were selected in collaboration with Unilever, which
chairs the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry body made up of
producers, consumers and non-government organizations.
The Greenpeace report also called on fast food chains Pizza Hut -- a unit of Yum Brands
Inc -- and Burger King to stop buying palm oil from firms linked to Sinar Mas.
Back to Menu
RONA MEDIA UPDATE
THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE NEWS
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
UNEP or UN in the News
Reuters: Executives See Biodiversity as Key to Business Growth
Executives See Biodiversity as Key to Business Growth
Reuters, 28 July 2010, By Yale Environment 360 (Re-printed)
An increasing number of corporate executives, particularly in biodiversity-rich nations of
Latin America and Africa, view declines in biodiversity as a challenge to business
growth, according to a new study by the United Nations Environment Programme
More than 50 percent of chief executive officers surveyed in Latin America and 45
percent in Africa expressed concerns about the loss of "natural capital," the study found.
Only about 20 percent of executives in Europe share those concerns. The report says
business leaders who do not address sustainable management could see profits suffer
as consumers become increasingly concerned about the loss of ecosystems and
According to the study, more than 80 percent of consumers surveyed said they would
stop buying products from companies that do not use ethical practices when sourcing
materials. Yet despite increasing corporate awareness - and some successful regional
responses - rates of biodiversity loss worldwide have not slowed, the study said.
Reprinted with permission from Yale Environment 360 [e360.yale.edu]
General Environment News
Reuters: Obama Says Will Keep Pushing For Climate Bill
The New York Times: Cap and Trade Is Dead. Long Live Cap and Trade
The New York Times: The Chevy Volt’s Sticker: $41,000
Los Angeles Times: Western Climate Initiative: California, New Mexico and 3
Canadian provinces push greenhouse gas controls
Los Angeles Times: Wind farm 'mega-project' underway in Mojave Desert
ClimateWire: Electric carmakers focus on incentives, not carbon prices
ClimateWire: Foundering U.S. industry calls for Senate lifeboat
ClimateWire: Congress debates easing forest restrictions
The Aspen Times: Aspen Enviro Forum panel: Urbanized world is developing ‘nature
The Toronto Star: Three millions litres of oil spill from Enbridge pipeline into Michigan
Montreal Gazette: Michigan declares pipeline spill a disaster area
The Globe and Mail: Michigan oil spill Enbridge’s ‘highest priority’
The Globe and Mail: Biggest provinces push plan to cap emissions
Obama Says Will Keep Pushing For Climate Bill
Reuters, 28 July 2010, By Jeff Mason
President Barack Obama pledged on Tuesday to keep pushing for legislation to fight
climate change despite a move in the U.S. Senate to focus energy reform more narrowly
on offshore drilling.
Senate Democrats unveiled a bill on Tuesday that omits setting caps on carbon
emissions -- the key element of a more comprehensive energy and climate bill that failed
to gain sufficient support in the Senate.
The Senate bill would require oil companies to cover all oil spill costs by removing the
$75 million cap on liability, and provide rebates for purchasing vehicles that run on
alternative fuels and making existing homes more efficient.
Obama said it was "an important step in the right direction" but it was not enough.
"I want to emphasize it's only the first step and I intend to keep pushing for broader
reform, including climate legislation," he told reporters in the White House Rose Garden
after meeting with congressional leaders.
"If we've learned anything from the tragedy in the Gulf, it's that our current energy policy
Obama, who spoke before details of the Senate proposal were disclosed, did not set out
a timetable for a future climate push and it is very unlikely that any legislation on the
subject will be passed this year.
If likely Republican gains in November elections change the balance of power in
Congress, climate change legislation would face an even more uncertain future.
With that in mind, the White House indicated on Tuesday that climate provisions could
be added back into a bill once negotiators from the Senate and the House of
Representatives hammer out differences between their respective versions during
The House bill, passed last year, includes climate provisions to cut greenhouse gas
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, when asked whether the administration would
seek to do a separate climate bill later after getting a narrow energy-focused bill first,
said: "No, I think the process is you get an energy bill through the Senate then you can
conference that legislation with the House."
Gibbs said that process could happen in September.
Obama's comments were likely meant as a nod to the international community and
environmentalists, who are counting on U.S. action to help advance U.N. talks to form an
international pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming.
Obama said climate change legislation would create high-wage U.S. jobs in the
renewable energy sector.
"We can't afford to stand by as our dependence on foreign oil deepens, as we keep on
pumping out the deadly pollutants that threaten our air and our water and the lives and
livelihoods of our people," he said.
Cap and Trade Is Dead. Long Live Cap and Trade.
The New York Times, 28 July 2010, By Felicity Barringer
Hard on the heels of the Senate Democratic leadership’s decision to put aside climate
legislation intended to cap carbon dioxide emissions, another carbon-capping precinct
was heard from this week.
On Tuesday, representatives of some of the Western Climate Initiative, a group of seven
states and four Canadian provinces, unveiled a rough blueprint for a cap-and-trade
program that would begin operating in 2012.
A subgroup — California, New Mexico, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia — intends
to move first in limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Each is writing its own rules, but all are
working from the same template, with a shared understanding of how to count emissions
accurately and a shared value for the allowances that emitters will be awarded in each
And to prevent a utility in, say, New Mexico from buying electricity from a coal plant in
Texas to skirt the cost of compliance with the emissions limits (in policyspeak, this is
called leakage), the emissions associated with imports of electricity are included in the
total cap for a given state or province.
But there is one significant difference between the emissions profile of this core group
and that of the United States as a whole. Whereas the electric power industry, with its
huge fleet of coal-fired power plants, is the biggest single source of carbon dioxide
emissions in the country over all, in California and the three provinces, the transportation
sector — think passenger cars — creates the preponderance of emissions.
Yet planners anticipate that emissions related to transportation fuels and fuels for home
heating or commercial use will not fall under the emissions cap until 2015, three years
into the program.
And a more tangible threat to the system is on the horizon. Proposition 23, on the
California ballot this fall, is intended to derail the state’s signature climate-change law.
And California accounts for one-third of the full Western Climate Initiative’s total
Finally, even as the Western states and Canadian provinces announced that they can
act regardless of what the United States Congress does, the value of the emissions
allowances being traded under the auspices of a different coalition — the Regional
Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a coalition of 10 states in New England and the mid-Atlantic
— are dropping in the absence of a federal law that could bolster their value.
Point Carbon, a ThomsonReuters publication that follows the carbon market, reported on
Friday that activity in the RGGI (pronounced Reggie) market had come to a near
standstill. “Fading hopes for passage of a federal climate bill that would give value to
RGGI allowances” has also deterred financial speculators from participating in what the
creators had hoped would be an inspiration for a nationwide carbon market, it said.
Based on their statement on Tuesday, the architects of the Western Climate Initiative still
hope to produce a model market that could join with the smaller market on the East
Coast, which covers only the electrical sector. That is, if California is still a leader in the
group after the November election.
The Chevy Volt’s Sticker: $41,000
The New York Times, 27 July 2010, By Todd Woody
General Motors began taking orders for the long-awaited Chevrolet Volt on Tuesday,
pricing the plug-in hybrid car at $41,000.
A federal tax credit can reduce the net cost of the Volt to $33,500, and a 36-month lease
will be available for $350 a month with $2,500 due at the signing.
Production of the Volt will begin in September, and the car will initially be sold in
California, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Texas, New Jersey and the nation’s
capital, G.M. said.
The car’s suggested starting price is $8,220 higher than that of the all-electric Nissan
Leaf, which will also go on sale this year.
With the Volt ready for the assembly line, executives began a full-court press to
persuade consumers that the car’s cutting-edge technology and features are worth a
BMW price tag.
“It’s a real car — it just happens to be electric,” Joel Ewanick, G.M.’s vice president for
North America marketing, said at a dinner Monday night at the Plug-In 2010 conference
in San Jose, Calif. “This car is designed for the majority of Americans. This is a car that
the average person can drive on a daily basis. It’s not something that’s a unique little
“The marketing challenge is communicating how different this is than what they’re used
to,” he added.
The Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack gives the car an emissions-free range of 40 miles.
When the battery is depleted, a small gasoline engine kicks in to run a generator that
supplies electricity to the motor, extending the Volt’s range by 300 miles.
Mr. Ewanick said that a Volt driven 15,000 miles a year would use 550 fewer gallons of
gasoline than a comparable gas-only car.
G.M. executives, however, insist on calling the Volt an “extended range electric vehicle,”
underscoring the balancing act between promoting its green credibility and its utility as
competitors roll out all-electric cars.
The Leaf will go up to 100 miles on a charge, according to Nissan, which has been
touting the car as “100 percent electric, zero emissions.” During a test drive in San Jose
on Monday, a Nissan representative pointed out that the car’s interior is made of
recycled water bottles and cited the availability of a solar panel that serves as a spoiler.
If Nissan appears to be targeting the Prius set, G.M. is emphasizing that the Volt comes
packed with whiz bang technology that lets drivers use their smartphones to do things
like turn on the car’s air-conditioner or control when the vehicle is charged. As a
sweetener, OnStar, the G.M. subscription service that provides driving directions and
allows cars to be remotely controlled, will be included free with the Volt for five years.
A fully loaded Volt, with specialized wheels, paint and other options, will cost $44,600
before tax credits.
Executives said the company plans to manufacture 10,000 Volts in the 2011 model year,
with 30,000 cars produced the following year, when it will begin selling the plug-in hybrid
G.M. chose the initial markets to show that the Volt can operate in a range of climates,
from frigid Northeast winters to hot Texas summers, said Tony DiSalle, director of
product marketing for the Volt.
In Texas, the Volt will first available only in Austin, and in New York, the car can only be
bought in New York City for now, Mr. DiSalle said.
Beginning Tuesday, buyers can go to a Web site, getmyvolt.com, to find Volt dealers
who can take orders. Those 600 dealers have received special training on handling Volt
orders and customers.
“Lots of those will be people we haven’t seen in Chevrolet dealerships before,” Mr.
Western Climate Initiative: California, New Mexico and 3 Canadian provinces push
greenhouse gas controls
Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2010, By Margot Roosevelt
California, joined by New Mexico and three Canadian provinces, outlined a detailed plan
Tuesday to curb greenhouse gas emissions in a regional cap-and-trade program by
The Western Climate Initiative, two years in the making, comes as Congressional
legislation for a federal climate legislation has stalled and the focus of U.S. action to curb
global warming shifts to the states. A Northeastern cap-and-trade program is operating,
covering power plants, but the economy-wide Western program, if enacted, would be
three times larger, eventually encompassing most industrial and transportation sources
of carbon dioxide and other gases that have begun to alter the global climate. Europe
has been operating under a cap-and-trade program for industry for several years.
But the future of the Western initiative is up in the air: California’s push for statewide
controls are under challenge in a ballot initiative, as well as by gubernatorial candidate
According to a news release from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office Tuesday the
California-led plan “will be the most comprehensive carbon-reduction strategy adopted
anywhere in the world.” While international and federal climate controls are needed,"
Schwarzenegger said, “California and the rest of the Western Climate Initiative partners
are not waiting to take action.”
Wind farm 'mega-project' underway in Mojave Desert
Los Angeles Times, 27 July 2010, By Tiffany Hsu
It's being called the largest wind power project in the country, with plans for thousands of
acres of towering turbines in the Mojave Desert foothills generating electricity for
600,000 homes in Southern California.
And now it's finally kicking into gear.
The multibillion-dollar Alta Wind Energy Center has had a tortured history, stretching
across nearly a decade of ownership changes, opposition from local residents and
transmission infrastructure delays.
But on Tuesday, the project is officially breaking ground in the Tehachapi Pass, a
burgeoning hot spot for wind energy about 75 miles north of Los Angeles. When
completed, Alta could produce three times as much energy as the country's largest
existing wind farm, analysts said. It's slated to be done in the next decade.
The project will probably be a wind power bellwether, affecting the way renewable
energy deals are financed, the development of new electricity storage systems and how
governments regulate the industry, said Billy Gamboa, a renewable energy analyst with
the California Center for Sustainable Energy.
"It's a super-mega-project — it'll definitely set a precedent for the rest of the state and
have a pretty large impact on the wind industry in general," he said.
The project's developer, New York-based Terra-Gen Power, plans to coax three
gigawatts of power from the wind farm over the next eight years. It has led some industry
experts to predict that California might have a shot at reclaiming the wind energy crown
from competitors such as Texas and Iowa.
"Alta's an absolutely enormous project in probably the most promising wind resource
area that remains in the state," said Ryan Wiser, a renewable energy analyst at
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "It's the single biggest investment in California
wind project assets in decades and is likely the largest the state is ever going to see."
Southern California Edison agreed in 2006 to buy 1,550 megawatts of electricity from
Alta over 25 years, one of the heftiest power purchase agreements ever signed. That
would be enough energy to serve 275,000 homes and is twice the capacity of the
country's largest existing wind farm, a 735-megawatt project in Texas.
Terra-Gen is building Alta as a collection of wind farms; it has finished funding and
started building the first group of five. The cluster's 290 turbines will be scattered across
9,000 acres, most of which are leased from private landowners. As early as next year,
executives said, the turbines could start producing enough power to boost California's
wind energy output more than 25% while creating thousands of local jobs.
By 2015, another batch of farms, with roughly 300 turbines — some with blades
spanning nearly the length of a football field — is expected to be producing an additional
830 megawatts. Beyond that, details are scarce.
"The first Alta phases are very real, but future phases might be a little less tangible," said
Matt Kaplan, a senior analyst with IHS Emerging Energy Research. "We've seen
California utilities sign a lot of power purchase agreements for not necessarily the most
For years, Alta seemed to some like just another ambitious pipe dream tied up in red
tape and stymied by a lack of transmission lines to carry the energy to customers.
The project was originally conceived as the Alta-Oak Creek Mojave initiative in the early
2000s by Australian infrastructure fund Allco Finance Group. But when the firm went
bankrupt in 2008, Terra-Gen bought control of Alta for $325 million.
The permitting process took about three years, said Steve Doyon, vice president and
head of development for Terra-Gen.
Along the way, Terra-Gen had to abandon several proposed sites because of
landowners' concerns about noise and frosty turbine blades slinging chunks of ice. Some
worried that the skyscraping structures could malfunction and collapse or impede
Last year, a petition opposing part of the project collected more than 1,000 signatures.
The Federal Aviation Administration also jumped in, saying that some of the proposed
turbines would interfere with flights at the nearby Mountain Valley Airport.
"We're not against green energy in any way, but there just comes a time when you say
that this is my community and I don't want turbines encroaching in full view," said Merle
Carnes, president of the Old West Ranch Property Owners Assn. "There's room
The Alta project had other big hurdles. California has been falling behind in the wind
power race, increasing its capacity just 7% in 2008 while Texas and Iowa each doubled
Pockets where high wind is common — such as the Altamont Pass in Northern
California and the San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs — ran out of space early on,
crammed with small turbines using inefficient old technology, analyst Wiser said. That
has led to just "dribs and drabs" of installation over the last two decades. The Tehachapi
area is one of the few windy regions left with room to grow, he said.
Edison has been making headway on its Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project,
connecting alternative-energy projects such as Alta to electricity-hungry city centers. The
utility is trying to meet a statewide goal for investor-owned utilities to use renewable
energy for 33% of all power supplied to customers by 2020.
Previously tight-fisted investors also are more confident about financing renewable
energy projects. Terra-Gen recently secured $1.2 billion in funding for the Alta project.
Vestas-American Wind Technology said last week that it would deliver 190 turbines to
Alta, the largest order ever for the turbine-making company. It was unable to land any
contracts last year because of the credit crunch.
The industry is not out of the woods yet: In the first half of 2010, newly added wind
capacity in the U.S. tumbled 70% compared with the same period last year to just 1,200
megawatts, the American Wind Energy Assn. said Monday.
But for now, experts said, the Alta project seems to be on track.
"I'm not seeing any great big red flags there," Wiser said.
Electric carmakers focus on incentives, not carbon prices
ClimateWire, 28 July 2010, By Saqib Rahim
LIVONIA, Mich. -- With climate legislation seemingly dead in Congress, many clean-
energy advocates are going back to the drawing board. But the electric-car industry,
which is relying on other federal incentives to get ahead, remains upbeat.
Industry officials have met just outside Detroit for the past two days to discuss the state
of the growing industry: whether the United States can build enough batteries, at a low
enough price, to compete globally. Michigan has enjoyed much of the early investment,
initiating battery-manufacturing plants and starting to set up the supply chain for electric
Those at the conference agreed that federal investment has set up a formidable amount
of manufacturing and research in just two years. Yet in assessing what needs to come
next, they called for more such investment -- not a price on carbon.
In a recorded video address, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) said, "We need help
from Congress," namely, renewing the clean energy manufacturing tax credit and the tax
incentives that make plug-ins cheaper to buy for consumers. She did not mention
climate or energy legislation.
To be sure, the electric-car industry has never made a collective push for climate
legislation. That may be because the climate bills were unlikely to cause an electric-car
breakthrough by themselves.
Some modeling of the economywide bills suggested carbon prices would only add a few
cents to the price of gasoline, widely considered short of what's needed to change fuel
A substantial price difference would be necessary to bring the economics in line with an
electric car. Yesterday, General Motors Co. announced its Chevy Volt will cost $41,000
when it debuts this November.
Carbon prices 'don't move the ball' for vehicle sales
"It may not be as much of a driver or a benefit in the short term as we would like it to be,"
said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president with CALSTART, a group promoting hybrids
and electric-drive in trucks. He said some carbon markets trade at about $3 a metric ton
today, which has a negligible effect on fuel prices. "That doesn't really move the ball for
Even prices around $30 to $40 may fall short of some of the cheaper fixes in the
transportation industry, Van Amburg said. He said when fuel prices spiked in 2008, that
really got drivers' and truckers' attention -- they all began to watch their driving as well as
the cars they drove.
"I've encouraged companies as they've looked at this, don't build your business case
around the carbon price. Make that an add-on to your business case," he said. "Really
focus on what you're delivering, and then if you get some additional benefits from the
carbon reduction, that's good. But it may not totally move the market, and that's what
we've been concerned about."
Those in the industry, and in Michigan, are feeling better about the manufacturing side.
The state estimates it's had almost $6 billion in battery-related public and private
investment since 2008, and 16 battery companies have ongoing projects there. Officials
speak of becoming the "battery capital of the world."
The White House, meanwhile, has taken credit for putting a down payment on the U.S.
battery industry that may reduce battery prices in the coming years, thanks to the scale
of the investment (ClimateWire, July 15).
Some of that investment will help General Motors, which is aiming to release a partly
electric car in the next few months. The Volt's 40-mile battery will be built in Michigan.
A GM spokesman said a carbon price would advance alternative-fuel vehicles, and that
GM formally supports the policy, but he disputed whether it was "essential" for the Volt to
In an e-mail, GM's Greg Martin said, "Policy makers can do their part to speed the
market acceptance of these vehicles as part of a much broader energy policy that sends
a market/economic signal that places a premium on fuel efficiency. Could a carbon price
be a part of such a policy? Yes. As well as consumer tax incentives."
Cautious optimism from the 'battery capital of the world'
At the Detroit-area conference, the general sense was that manufacturing has been kick-
started, so now the industry wants to be sure there's a market for the cars.
Even if the batteries get cheaper, they warned, investors will turn sour if no one buys the
One battery manufacturer, Boston-based A123Systems, has received hundreds of
millions in government aid to set up a new plant in Livonia. Les Alexander, the
company's general manager of government solutions, said federal spending on
manufacturing and research is helping, but "if we do not have the vehicles being built, or
customers buying those vehicles, it's a risk that this industry will go away."
Alexander's job is to convince the federal government to be a first market for electric-
drive vehicles, such as the U.S. Postal Service and other government fleets.
The U.S. Army also sent several representatives to the conference -- it has roughly
400,000 vehicles, and leaders have begun to push for electric vehicles that can handle
Even so, others called for sweeter incentives that promote electric cars among civilians,
since they're the bulk of the several hundred million cars that are on the road today.
Yesterday, Nissan announced that its Leaf, an all-electric car with a 100-mile range, will
debut in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee this December. It will
have rolled out to nine more states and Washington, D.C., by April of next year; the car
will be available nationwide in fall of 2011.
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) provided more encouragement that
when those cars hit the streets, there could be more refueling stations waiting for them.
Unveiling the latest version of his slimmed-down energy bill, Reid included more aid for
"electrification deployment communities," or towns and cities that make a push to
develop the infrastructure needed to convince people that pioneering the return of the
electric car won't be as difficult as some imagine.
Robbie Diamond, president of the Electrification Coalition, said the bill, if passed, will
ensure that electric cars will be successful beyond early adopters of the technology.
Foundering U.S. industry calls for Senate lifeboat
ClimateWire, 28 July 2010, By Joel Kirkland
Wind power installations in the United States plummeted 71 percent in the first half of
2010 as compared with the same period last year, according to an industry analysis,
triggering an eleventh-hour push by the industry to bring a proposed national renewable
energy standard before the U.S. Senate.
"The numbers are dismal, and they're getting worse," Denise Bode, CEO of the
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), said in a call with reporters. "We're going to
see jobs lost and see manufacturing facilities not getting built in the U.S."
Senate Democrats yesterday rolled out a limited energy bill that did not include a 15
percent renewable energy standard (RES) by 2020 for utilities. The national requirement
won bipartisan support in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last
The original sponsor of the RES, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), had given up on
pursuing the measure once Senate Democratic leaders indicated their intention last
week to narrow the energy bill to bare essentials. Election-year concerns about partisan
brawls over energy policy and a shrinking legislative calendar also played into the
decision to kick major initiatives to a lame-duck session or into next year.
Still, the jobs that come with wind power projects benefit both blue and red states. Sen.
Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) on Monday said he plans to push for an RES, but that could
run into problems if the Democrats decide not to allow amendments.
The fate of any lingering RES proposals rests on the extent to which Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is willing to consider amendments. So far, he's been unwilling to
open the door to a messy energy debate before the congressional recess begins in early
"Why do we even need a special agreement? We have an amendment process that
works," said Robert Dillon, Republican spokesman for the Energy and Natural
Resources Committee. "Reid just doesn't like to use it."
U.S. becomes less attractive for wind turbine investments
The committee's top Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted in favor of
Bingaman's RES proposal when it passed out of committee, but she did so primarily
because there were other sweeteners in the overall bill that could attract broader
Dillon couldn't say exactly how Murkowski would vote if presented with the option during
floor debate, but he said she's not a big fan of an RES. "If we put a price on carbon, she
sees it as a redundancy," he said. "She agreed to it, but her inclination is that supporters
of the RES would try to increase it to 25 percent."
AWEA's Bode put it all in stark terms. She warned that the U.S. wind industry is about to
walk off a cliff, led by the paltry 700 megawatts of wind generation added in the second
quarter and the significant drop-off in manufacturing facilities coming online. It indicates
utilities are less willing to sign long-term contracts with wind power providers and turbine
manufacturers are looking to China and the European Union, both of which have
national policies in place to build out wind power.
In the United States, Bode said, the 30 or so states with renewable energy requirements
aren't enforcing those rules consistently. Litigation in California and elsewhere has
slowed full implementation. She said a federal standard would send the message to
utilities and global turbine manufacturers that the United States is safe for investment
and has a long-term policy to develop wind power.
"Utilities make short-term decisions in terms of purchasing natural gas or coal because
they are waiting for the long-term policy," said Bode, a former state regulator in