Trends for the Energy & Environment Sectors

According to survey results published by global growth consultancy Frost and Sullivan, the following are seen by industry players as among the key trends for the energy and environment industries for 2012:

  • efficient generation, distribution and use of energy
  • digital technologies for smart grids, smart water and smart buildings
  • technology and market convergence is attracting new players to the energy and environment arena
  • efficient localization of best in class services is a key growth challenge

Hot industry topics include wastewater treatment, water monitoring, smart water, industrial waste management, waste re-use, materials recovery, decentralized water and wastewater treatment, and waste recycling.

There is much more information at http://www.slideshare.net/FrostandSullivan/frost-sullivan-whats-hot-in-the-energy-and-environment-industry-in-2012-12668643

and information about Frost & Sullivan at http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/about-us.pag

Obama on climate change

As we predicted yesterday, President Obama is stating that he suspects that climate change will become part of this year’s US Presidential election campaign.

In an interview published in Rolling Stone magazine today, Obama states that Keystone has received so much attention because those who study climate change are scared and concerned “about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem”. The President says that “I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way.” He states that he sees that there is a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation and cites building retrofits as one of the components of a renewed climate change strategy.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/ready-for-the-fight-rolling-stone-interview-with-barack-obama-20120425#ixzz1tBzhhPdy

Obama campaign launches Environmentalists for Obama website

green.barackobama.com is an official part of the Obama re-election campaign. On the website the President is inviting environmentalists to organize and speak out in support of his environmental accomplishments.

There are two ways this may be important to Canada.

First, the Harper government is currently launching a tirade against environmentalists, especially including American environmentalists who want to have a say on Canadian issues that may have cross-border implications. President Obama is going to want to keep a very big distance between himself and that particular Harper initiative.

Second, President Obama is claiming that he has “taken unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our environment.” A list of his claimed accomplishments can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/our-environment . Many of his claimed accomplishments have not yet been mirrored in Canada. To maintain his claimed environmental record,  President Obama is likely to want to be seen associating primarily with leaders who have a similar environmental objective. If the Prime Minister of Canada wishes to remain on the good side of President Obama he may well feel pressure as this year unfolds to mimic some of the President’s environmental progress. After all, the relationship will hardly be furthered if our Prime Minister states that Obama’s environmental record is so much greenwash.

If you visit green.barackobama.com , or any other US campaign site, please remember that only US citizens and organizations are allowed to donate to US election campaigns.

Wells Fargo announces $30 billion in green investments

Wells Fargo, the 23rd largest company in the US with $1.3 trillion in assets and a major player in the financial services sector, has just announced that it plans to provide $30 billion in loans and investments by 2020 to promote a greener economy. It also plans to provide $100 million in community grants and increased volunteerism for grassroots environmental initiatives and $1 billion for low- to moderate-income communities to prove the added value of community investments with environmental benefits over the same time frame.

The Company has also announced that it will achieve a list of measurable environmental performance goals in its own operations by 2020.

The Wells Fargo announcement, along with links to its Corporate Social Responsibility reports and other aspects of the Company’s environmental business can be found at https://www.wellsfargo.com/press/2012/20120423_WellsFargo30Billion

Wells Fargo operations in Canada are relatively limited and at press time there is no information as to whether the greener economy financing will be of assistance to Canadian companies.

Climate change threat to coastal US energy facilities

The US science-based analytical organization Climate Central has published a report identifying 287 energy facilities located within 4 feet of the high tide line in the 22 coastal states of the lower 48. This includes 96 electric facilities, 56 oil and gas facilities, and 130 natural gas facilities.

Climate Central has previously identified areas of the US at risk of ocean inundation by about 2030. The four foot level is an alternate way to express that risk. Nearly five million people live within the area at risk of coastal inundation. Extensive areas of industrial properties are also at risk.

Climate Central’s sea level rise analysis can be found at http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/research/reports/surging-seas-brief-energy-infrastructure/

 

Farm group asks US EPA to conduct additional research on some new GMOs

North American farm organizations have usually been eager adopters of new genetically modified crop varieties but opposition to some new GM corn, soybean and cotton varieties introduced by Dow and Monsanto might be a game changer.

The new varieties are resistant to 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides. The US farm group, Save Our Crops Coalition, organized for the specific purpose of fighting these new crop introductions, claims that 2,4-D and dicamba are dangerous and “are known to cause extensive yield damage to non-target crops” even at extremely low rates of exposure. Spray drift and volatilization are projected by the Coalition to increase as a result of a 600% increase in 2,4-D and dicamba use resulting from the introduction of the new 2,4-D and dicamba resistant GM crops.

Herbicide resistance is designed into some GM crops in order to allow farmers to use a specific herbicide on the growing crop. The herbicide will kill weeds but not the crop because of the herbicide resistance introduced into the crop plant by the genetic modification.

Save our Crops Coalition states that it is not opposed to GM crops in general but is concerned about the increased use of these pesticides that will occur because of the introduction of these particular GM crops that are awaiting regulatory approval.  The Coalition has told the press that its members include more than 2,000 U.S. farmers and food companies.

The status of introduction of these herbicide resistant crops into Canada is not currently known. Details of the Save Our Crops Coalition opposition to the new GM crop introductions is available at http://saveourcrops.org

US Gov involves energy service companies to save energy

The US Government’s General Services Administration is using a mechanism to reduce energy use in buildings that GallonDaily believes should be used much more widely by governments and businesses in Canada. Offered by “energy service companies” and sometimes known as “performance-based contracting”, the approach puts the onus for energy savings on the contractor and achieves significant energy savings with no additional cash outlay to the building owner or operator.

In brief, the energy service company pays for and implements energy savings throughout the building. The building operator continues to pay for energy used at the rate paid prior to the energy savings being implemented. The energy service company recoups its costs and fees from the cost difference between the higher energy use before efficiency measures and the lower energy use after efficiency measures. This continues until the contractor has been repaid in full, at which point the building operator starts receiving energy bills based on the lower energy use achieved by the efficiency measures.

Through its Deep Retrofit Challenge, the US GSA is entering into at least $2 billion in performance-based contracts over the next two years to achieve substantial energy savings and to create jobs. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, more than 60 private companies, hospitals, cities, states, and colleges in the US have collectively committed to $2 billion in energy efficiency retrofits to 1.6 billion square feet of property.

Energy service contracting takes knowledge and skill to avoid a few pitfalls but if done well GallonDaily can see few better ways for government and business to reduce energy use and create jobs. GallonDaily’s parent company Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment at 1-416-410-0432 can provide advice to clients.

Information about the GSA program is at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/129983

Subway restaurants now use 95% recycled PET salad containers

The SUBWAY® chain has announced that the salad bowls and lids now used in most of its 36,634 restaurants [their term for what many of us call 'submarine shops'] around the world are now made from 95% post-consumer recycled PET, mostly from used water and soft drink bottles. PET is one of the most easily and cost-effectively recycled plastic packaging materials. Recycling of PET [though apparently not for SUBWAY®] is taking place in Canada, at least 20 round trips can be achieved when using recycled PET, and Health Canada has approved used of recycled PET in food contact applications – in fact it is already used for a number of brands of bottled water produced in Canada. PET is polyester, the same material used in the form of fibre to make clothing, textiles, shopping bags, and other commonly encountered consumer goods.

SUBWAY® claims that by using the 95% PCR PET it is keeping 2.62 million pounds of plastic from hitting the landfills, which represents about 500,000 gallons, or 10,000 barrels, of petroleum needed to make the plastic bowls and lids.

The SUBWAY®  announcement is at http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/subway-restaurant-chain-continues-to-live-green-with-salad-bowls-made-from-95-percent-recycled-materials-147592125.html

GallonDaily also found pretty impressive the information about the SUBWAY® environmental and social responsibility program presented at http://www.subway.com/subwayroot/about_us/Social_Responsibility/default.aspx

Electric cars a valuable but variable option

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a US-based organization, has just published a report on electric cars that tells us, surprise, that the environmental benefits of electric cars depend on where you live.

The good news is that the study finds that “Driving on electricity is a reality; it provides global warming benefits today and throughout the United States”.  It reports that “Nearly half of Americans live in regions where driving an electric vehicle means lower global warming emissions than driving even the best hybrid gasoline vehicle available.”

On the other hand, the U.S. “reliance on coal-powered electricity limits electric vehicles from delivering their full potential. Only by making improvements to our electricity grid—by decreasing the use of coal and increasing the use of clean and renewable sources of electricity—will electric vehicles deliver their greatest global warming and air pollution benefits”.

The report presents a great deal of useful analysis, including, for example, the Fueling Costs and Savings of Today’s Electric-Drive Vehicles across most major US cities. Savings range from something over $600 per year with a Chevy Volt and a San Diego, California, utility, to over $1200 per year with a Mitsubishi “i” or a Nissan Leaf in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Potential purchasers of electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles need to know more about what to expect. Watch a future edition of the Gallon Environment Letter monthly edition  for more on how hybrid vehicles can save environmental and fuel costs in Canada.

The UCS report entitled State of Charge: Electric Vehicles’ Global Warming Emissions and Fuel-Cost Savings across the United States is available at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/technologies_and_fuels/hybrid_fuelcell_and_electric_vehicles/emissions-and-charging-costs-electric-cars.html utm_source=SP&utm_medium=link1&utm_campaign=EV%2BReport , with an Executive Summary and appendix or http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

Insurer Lloyd’s of London cautions arctic developers

Lloyd’s of London has partnered with independent analysts at Chatham House on a new study  of the opportunities and risks of arctic development. The 53 page report addresses both government and private sector responsibilities and concludes, among other aspects, that:

  • Further research is required to ensure future development takes place sustainably and does not cause irreparable damage to the environment.
  • Full-scale exercises based on worst-case scenarios of environmental disaster should be run by companies with government involvement and oversight to provide a transparent account of the state of knowledge and capabilities, to foster expertise and to assuage legitimate public concerns.
  • Companies have a responsibility and interest in establishing industry-wide standards and expectations for safety and stewardship, through the Arctic Council, through the International Maritime Organisation or through industry associations. Failure by one company will have impacts for others.
  • Integrated ecosystem-based management, incorporating the full range of economic factors, is needed in order to avoid one activity harming and displacing others and to take full account of the cumulative impacts of development. Long-term viability should be a key policy consideration for governments, business and other stakeholders.
  • The mosaic of regulations and governments in the Arctic creates a multi-jurisdictional challenge for investment and operations in the Arctic. Working through the Arctic Council to promote high and common regulations for Arctic economic activity is key. Both domestic legislation and international agreements should adopt a safety-case analysis rather than a prescriptive approach to risk management. States should provide strong and transparent oversight through appropriate government agencies, aligning risks and incentives for private companies with the broader public interest, and ensuring that private economic interests do not overcome legitimate public concerns.
  • Governments should be clear about the purpose and scope of military activities in the Arctic, so as to prevent misunderstanding or miscalculations from developing.
  • Given the extreme and fast-changing risks facing companies in the Arctic, robust risk management approaches will be vital to allow sustainable economic development and to ensure that all stakeholders can benefit from economic opportunities. In addition to embedding a risk culture throughout the organisation, adopting best practice standards and implementing practical risk mitigation measures, any comprehensive risk management approach is likely to consider transferring risks as a key part of the strategy.

The report and a summary is available at http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/182839