New Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill in Congress

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation that would enact a national energy efficiency strategy. Gallon Letter does not often report on the introduction of Bills into Congress because, under the US system, what comes out often bears little resemblance to what went in! But this Bill appears to have a high degree of bipartisan support and good potential for being passed in a recognizable form.

Among the initiatives contained in the Bill are the following:

- strengthens national building codes and creates a goal of achieving net-zero-energy building by 2030.
- allows rural electric utilities to provide loans to customers for energy efficiency upgrades to their homes.
- expands the existing Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program for commercial, industrial and municipal building energy retrofits.
- expands energy efficiency standards for household appliances, outdoor lighting, and residential HVAC systems based on agreements between energy efficiency advocates and manufacturers.
-  helps states establish a revolving loan program for energy efficiency improvements in manufacturing.
- encourages the DOE to work with private sector partners to invest in the research, development and commercialization of innovative energy efficient technology and processes for industrial applications.
- establishes a DOE program to help make companies’ supply chains more efficient.
- requires the federal government to adopt energy saving techniques for its own computers.

Details of the Bill are available at http://shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/release/?id=52fbb7ba-d513-4482-a7a2-1aa57f40a76f

Renewable Energy Becoming More Competitive

“In various settings Renewable Energy is already economically competitive”. “The cost of most Renewable Energy technologies has declined and additional expected technical advances would result in further cost reductions.” These are among the conclusions of a Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation released in summary form this week by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The full report is expected to be released on May 31st.

According to data presented in the summary report (Gallon Letter’s interpretation), some of the better economic performers include biomass electricity, geothermal electricity, hydropower, wind electricity, biomass heat, solar thermal heat, geothermal heat, and biofuels.

According to the Report, “Examples of important areas of potential technological advancement include: new and improved feedstock production and supply systems, biofuels produced via new processes (also called next-generation or advanced biofuels, e.g., lignocellulosic) and advanced biorefining; advanced PV and CSP technologies and manufacturing processes; enhanced geothermal systems; multiple emerging ocean technologies; and foundation and turbine designs for offshore wind energy. Further cost reductions for hydropower are expected to be less significant than some of the other RE technologies, but R&D opportunities exist to make hydropower projects technically feasible in a wider range of locations and improve the technical performance of new and existing projects.”

Gallon Letter regular monthly edition will be commenting in greater detail following release of the full report.

The Summary for Policy Makers of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation can be accessed at http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report .

PAH Concerns: Pavement Sealant Ban

Last week Washington State became the third major US jurisdiction, after the City of Austin and Washington DC, to ban the use of coal tar based sealants on roads and driveways. The concern arises from the high level of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, a family of substances which includes known or suspected carcinogens and mutagens, which is contained in such sealants. There is some evidence that the PAHs can flush from treated surfaces into nearby surface waters.

The decision to ban coal tar sealants was made by the State Legislature when it passed House Bill 1721 An Act Relating to Preventing Storm Water Pollution  From Coal Tar Sealants.

The legislation bans the wholesale or retail sale of coal tar pavement products after January 1st, 2012 and bans the use of such products after July 1st 2012.

The Bill was introduced by Washington State Representative David Frockt (Democrat), first elected to the Legislature in 2010 with support from the Sierra Club and Conservation Voters.

The text of the short bill may be found at http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/WA/HB1721

Evidence from the United States Geological Survey against coal tar based sealcoats can be found at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/asphalt_sealers.html

Sustainably Produced Bananas

Dole Food Company, Inc., which claims to be the world’s largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, announced last week that it has introduced bananas grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms in Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of leading conservation groups that links responsible farmers with conscientious consumers. Rainforest Alliance certification promotes sustainable farm management and incorporates a range of environmental, social and economic standards, including water and soil conservation, wildlife protection, decent wages, housing and healthcare for farm workers, and access to education for farm children.

Unfortunately the Rainforest Alliance certified bananas are so far available only in the US and the UK, though if enough people ask their grocer perhaps they will also be introduced to Canada.

More details at http://www.dolecsr.com/PressSection/PressReleases/April272011/tabid/5963/Default.aspx

and at http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/

Corruption Potential in Climate Change Strategies

Transparency International, the highly respected global ngo working against corruption, recently released a very detailed report entitled Global Corruption Report: Climate Change.

The report notes that the changes needed to resolve the climate change issue will involve huge amounts of money, perhaps as much as $700 billion by 2020, and thousands of agencies at the local, national, and international level. The report notes that where huge amounts of money flow there is almost always the opportunity for corruption. To address this risk TI recommends:
- Generating and making publicly available accurate information.
- Tracking, benchmarking and comparing the capacity and performance of emitters, regulators, funders and governments.
-  Matching capacity at all levels to the scale of the challenge.
-  Anchoring climate governance firmly in existing frameworks for integrity and accountability.

Much important detail is contained in the body of this important report. For example, about the Clean Development Mechanism, one of the key and most important elements of the current Kyoto Protocol process and one in which Canada played a key role, TI states:

“At the board level of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Adaptation Fund, there is no room for any independent oversight of decision-making. In terms of funding, developed states are accused of failing to account for the source of ‘new and additional’ pledges, leading to accusations that they are diverted from official development assistance (ODA) commitments and double-counted as both development and climate funding.”

“Conflict of interest is a pervasive corruption risk in climate governance at the international and national level.”

“At the international level, CDM Executive Board members are not excluded from occupying conflicting positions, such as membership of national approval boards,  for example. Validators of CDM or REDD projects may have a potential conflict of interest as they are required to be paid by project developers, rather than out of a common pool, thus raising the risk of actually increasing emissions. In the CDM, designated national authorities (DNAs) can, for instance, serve in ministries for industry or finance.”

About carbon markets, TI states:

“Policy capture and undue influence are fundamental risks. The scale of the transition has created powerful national lobby groups, which can adversely affect progress through undue political influence, media manipulation and the funding of front organizations.  .  .  .  .  Where carbon markets have been established, market players are seen seen to be involved in setting the rules to their benefit. As a result of lobbying activities, the power sector, for example, has a surplus of permits far above its actual emissions in Europe.”

The Report can be downloaded from http://www.transparency.org/publications/gcr/gcr_climate_change2#Full

Prince Charles promotes Sustainable Agriculture at US Conference

Speaking today at  “The Future of Food” conference at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, H.R.H. Prince Charles said that a long hard look is needed in the way public subsidies are geared in the food system. He said that his concern is that we seek to provide the healthiest food possible from the healthiest environments possible. He pointed out that sustainable management of fisheries, such as the North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, can provide much greater economic returns than unsustainable fishery practices.

Prince Charles asked whether it is responsible in the long term to have much of our food supply coming from highly centralized production systems.

Arguing in favour of smallholder production he urged strengthening economic and environmental diversity to protect from potential food system shocks. There are alternative ways to growing our food that could strengthen the resilience of our agriculture, marine and energy systems. He urged including in the bottom line the true costs of food production and the full costs of environmental services: Accounting for Sustainability. His presentation drew on several UN studies on the capacity of organic production systems to meet the world’s need for food and on the ways to avoid market failures in food production systems. He said that we have to do more today to avoid the catastrophes of tomorrow and this means putting nature at the heart of our food production system.

The Prince’s speech can be seen and heard at http://washingtonpostlive.com/conferences/food/live

Greenpeace alleges Dow spy activities

Last Fall Greenpeace USA filed suit in federal court in the District of Columbia alleging that Dow Chemical Company, Sasol North America, and their public relations companies Ketchum Inc. and Dezenhall Resources, Ltd., as well as various individuals, had engaged in corporate espionage activities against the environmental group. The suit is currently working its way through the court.

Greenpeace alleges that “between 1998 and 2000, defendants conspired to and did surveil, infiltrate and steal confidential information from Greenpeace with the intention of preempting, blunting or thwarting its environmental campaigns. These unlawful activities included trespassing on the property of Greenpeace, infiltrating its offices, meetings and electronic communications under false pretenses and/or by force, and by these means, stealing confidential documents, data and trade secrets from Greenpeace.”

The suit is brought under the The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Greenpeace USA is seeking an injunction to prevent such activity by the defendants in the future as well as an amount of damages to be established.

Greenpeace suggests that the infiltration and theft of documents may have taken place so that the companies could gather information about, and attempt to influence, its environmental campaigns against vinyl chloride and genetically modified organisms.

Greenpeace USA also alleges that other groups and individuals, including Center for Food Safety, Friends ofthe Earth, GE Food Alert, and the National Environmental Trust were targeted in a similar way. The suit does not mention any Canadian groups and does not present any evidence that Canadian groups, activists or scientists were similarly targeted.

Gallon Environment Letter will be following the court case and will report on the outcomes.

There is additional background information pertinent to this case in Mother Jones magazine at http://motherjones.com/environment/2010/11/greenpeace-sues-dow-sasol-dezenhall-ketchum-spying

and at http://motherjones.com/environment/2008/04/exclusive-cops-and-former-secret-service-agents-ran-black-ops-green-groups

The Greenpeace USA complaint can be found at http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/Global/usa/planet3/PDFs/SpyGate/GP%20Complaint,%20final%20revised%2010%2029%2010.pdf