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Category: Environment

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U.S. airlines blast court ruling on European emissions plan


The Court of Justice of the European Union upheld an emissions-reduction plan for airlines Wednesday, prompting an outcry from airlines and cheers from environmental groups.

The European emission plan would impose taxes on airlines that exceed strict emission limits when flying in and out of European countries.

U.S. airline representatives say the emission plan violates international agreements and have hinted that the tax could force airlines to increase airfares for travel to Europe.

“Today’s court decision further isolates the EU from the rest of the world and will keep in place a unilateral scheme that is counterproductive to concerted global action on aviation and climate change," according to a statement by the U.S. trade group Airlines for America, formerly known as the Air Transport Assn.

The association estimates the emission plan will cost U.S. airlines more than $3 billion through 2020.

Meanwhile, environmental groups applauded the ruling.

"It is high time airlines actually live up to their green claims and comply with the EU law, which will cut pollution and spark low-carbon innovation," said Annie Petsonk, international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

The Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, ruled on the emission plan in response to a challenge by the U.S. trade group and several individual airlines.

The European Commission launched the cap-and-trade emission plan in 2005, targeting utilities, manufactures and airlines. Starting next year, greenhouse gas emissions from airlines will be capped at 97% of their average 2004-06 levels and 95% in 2013.

Airlines that don't use all their allowances can sell the excess to those carriers that exceed the limits. The cost for violating the plan is 100 euros, or about $142, for every ton of greenhouse gases that airlines emit above the limit.


Airlines fight EU law capping greenhouse gas emissions

Some flight attendants want '30 Rock' off American Airlines

Business travelers hate Houston and the middle seat, survey says

— Hugo Martin

Photo credit: Getty Images

L.A., Long Beach port truck fleet to get younger, cut pollution

PoLB_Clean Trucks_0228
One of the newest major seaport truck fleets in the U.S. will get even younger Jan. 1, when the last of about 1,100 older rigs are banned from operating at the harbor.

Every truck that enters the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on that day will be no older than the 2007 model year, said officials for both ports. This was the latest phase of an overhaul that began Oct. 1, 2008, when 1,500 trucks at least 20 years old were barred from the harbor.

Some of the rigs were so old then that the running joke around San Pedro Harbor was that it was the place where old trucks went to die. Today, the ports claim a reduction of pollution from trucks of between 80% and 90% since 2008.

“We set an example for the entire industry,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Susan E. Andersen Wise. “We helped replace more than 10,000 pollution spewing trucks with newer, less polluting ones and the bottom line is that our communities can breathe better."

Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, said, "The Port of Los Angeles, along with our business partners, has made the business of moving cargo more healthy. The results speak for themselves, and we couldn’t be more proud of reaching this milestone."

Officials at both ports said the current fleet, which includes 880 natural gas vehicles, will reduce diesel particulate matter by more than 40 tons a year versus the old fleet.

Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the harbor is still the biggest single source of air pollution in Southern California, adding that more work remains to be done at a port complex that anticipates significant cargo growth in coming years.

But Perrella said "these ports were first in the nation to adopt a clean truck program. They should be commended for the policy they put in place."


Export gains at Port of Los Angeles

China air pollution disrupts transportation

Pollution traced to tar pits

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: Trucks line up for business outside the Long Beach Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. Credit: Port of Long Beach






California invests in 'green' bonds

Mirrors in mojavepbspic

California is buying $400 million worth of so-called green bonds from the World Bank.

The purchase is a good deal for the state's taxpayers and also for financing of needed environmental projects in dozens of countries, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer said.

The short-term bonds, which mature on Dec. 16, 2013, will be used by the international financial institution to pay for reforestation, alternative energy and water purification projects, among others.

"These bonds are a great investment for California and its taxpayers," Lockyer said. "We're earning an excellent return, strengthening our portfolio and backing our policies with money in the fight against global warming."

The bonds have a 0.51% yield, roughly double the current rate on two-year U.S. Treasury bonds, 0.26%, Lockyer said.

The purchase is the state's second since April 2009, when California became the first U.S. buyer of the international green securities, acquiring $300 million worth in an investment that matures next April.

The bonds were bought by the state Pooled Money Investment Account, which manages $65 billion for the state, local governments and school districts.


Arnold Schwarzenegger challenges candidates to champion green energy 

Green technology investments lead third quarter venture funding 

Less government meddlling could unlock green energy's power

-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: A solar power plant in the Mojave Desert. Credit: PBS photo

California ratepayer advocate complains of high solar power costs

Mirrors in mojavepbspic

California consumers will be paying too much for electricity generated by a large solar-thermal power plant being built in the Mojave Desert, the state's independent ratepayer watchdog agency said.

The Division of Ratepayer Advocates questioned the California Public Utility Commission's 4-1 vote Thursday to approve the Mojave Solar Project's 25-year power contract with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

"The commission has the power to keep the cost of renewable energy reasonable," said the division's acting director, Joe Como. The commission, he said, "is signaling to the market that California will accept overpriced renewable energy and that it is willing to lock customers into higher rates for decades to come."

In a statement, the PUC confirmed that the contract "is more costly than other procurement opportunities available to PG&E," but said it "determined that the value of adding the Mojave Solar Project to California's fleet of renewable energy generation capacity warranted approving the project."

The contract had to be renegotiated higher because of an expected delay in upgrading the transmission network, the PUC said.

 PUC Commissioner Mark J. Ferron said he has "high confidence" that the Mojave plant will get built.

"The technology is tried and true, the financing is all wrapped up with the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee," he said, "and we're told that the hard hats are on and the bulldozers are ready to roll."


U.S. launches probe into China solar panels

State gets mixed reviews on solar power

Obama administration announces desert solar energy zones

-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Mirrors concentrate solar power at Mojave Desert power plant. Credit: PBS

More green goes to green projects

Venture capitalists are pouring money into clean technology even as investors scale back funding in many other areas.

Firms in the green sector raised almost $1.2 billion in the third quarter – up 73% from $684 million collected in the same period last year, according to a report released Wednesday by Ernst & Young.
The number of deals in the quarter grew to 76 from 56, according to the report, based on data from Dow Jones VentureSource.

“Confidence in cleantech investing continues despite the challenging investment market,” said Jay Spencer, a director at Ernst & Young.

It was the first time the sector had an increase in funding since the third quarter of 2008.
California pulled in an overwhelming majority of the deals and dollars.

The state lead the pack with 32 deals -- second was Massachusetts with nine. And California’s clean-tech companies received more than half of all the money raised, collecting $583 million in the quarter, up 74% from the same period last year.

Most of that money is going to Northern California, but Southern California is home to some new projects, said Mark Sogomian, a partner at Ernst & Young. He pointed, in particular, to the launch of the clean-tech business incubator in Los Angeles last month.

“It’s really setting the groundwork for early stage companies to grow and thrive here in Los Angeles,” Sogomian said, “and hopefully garner venture capital investment down the road.”

-- Angel Jennings

White House orders loan review to avoid more Solyndras

The White House, shifting its position on the Energy Department's loan guarantees, said it will now review the entire program for such ill-fated decisions as the much-publicized $535-million loan guarantee for California solar equipment maker Solyndra, which later fell into bankruptcy.

The step aims to defuse the embarrassing Solyndra episode, which has given rise to criticism that the Obama administration has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

In a news conference this month, the president asserted that "the overall portfolio has been successful." He said: "It has allowed us to help companies, for example, start advanced battery manufacturing here in the United States. It’s helped to create jobs."

Obama’s defense opened him to charges that he has been tone-deaf to Solyndra’s implications. With the economy still weak and deficits topping $1 trillion, the White House can’t afford to be seen as lax overseers of taxpayer dollars.

Republicans have seized on the issue. As Obama crisscrosses the country pressing for his $447-billion jobs plan, Republicans have been citing Solyndra as an example of stimulus spending that backfired.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, speaking at the Values Voter Summit this month, said: "I welcome renewable energy. But as an old venture capitalist myself, I can tell you this: There will be no more Solyndras."

White House chief of staff William Daley ordered the 60-day evaluation and asked for recommendations about "how to improve the loan monitoring process," according to the White House.

Leading the inquiry is Herb Allison, a former Treasury official who oversaw the federal bailout program for the financial sector.

In a statement, Daley said that "while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars."

Investigators are poring over the Solyndra deal. The Justice Department and congressional Republicans have been investigating the loan since the company filed for bankruptcy. At the request of Republican-controlled congressional committees, the White House has turned over thousands of emails, some of which showed administration officials rushing to approve the deal in time for a glitzy photo op.

The White House has balked at releasing everything in its possession, including the president’s BlackBerry messages. Republicans are threatening to use subpoenas to get more information even as the administration prepares to release thousands more email communications in the coming months.

They aren’t stopping at Solyndra. Congressional investigators have recently turned their attention to loan guarantees granted by the Energy Department to two automakers -- Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors -- and to the U.S. subsidiary of a steel company owned by a Russian firm.


Solyndra's collapse is a tale of too much dazzle

Solyndra-linked fundraiser still boosting Obama campaign

Unlike Solyndra, other California solar projects appear on track

-- Peter Nicholas and Neela Banerjee

Photo: Solyndra's headquarters in Fremont, Calif. Credit: Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Solar energy jobs growing in U.S. and California, study says

One in every four solar energy jobs in the United States is held by a Californian, a new study said.

One in every four solar energy jobs in the United States is held by a Californian, and growth in the clean-tech industry is burgeoning nationwide, a new study said.

In August, California had an estimated 25,575 of the 100,237 solar-related jobs nationwide, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2011, scheduled for release Monday by the Solar Foundation, a research and education organization in Washington.

The total for California was four times greater than the runner-up, Colorado, with 6,186 solar jobs as of last summer.

California ranked first in the nation for generating electricity from both photovoltaic solar panels and concentrated solar power systems that use mirrors to focus the sun's energy to create steam to run turbines, the study said.

"This report shows that the solar industry is not only creating green jobs across California but that the industry is forecast to continue growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. economy," said MIchelle Kinman, a clean-energy advocate for Environment California. "California industry and policymakers have a tremendous opportunity to build on this solid foundation and make solar a centerpiece of the state's energy policy."

Nationally, employment in all parts of the solar industry -- including manufacturing, installation, residential, commercial and large-scale power generation -- grew 6.8% in the 12 months prior to August, the study said. Overall U.S. job growth was less than 1% for the same period, it said.

Growth is expected to accelerate by 24%, creating 24,000 jobs over the next year, based on a survey of solar employers.

The industry's momentum is expected to continue despite bad publicity it received from a political scandal surrounding the bankruptcy of Northern California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra. The Fremont-based company recently closed after getting a $535-million federal loan guarantee.

"We have to look beyond the failure of one company and see the tremendous success that's occurring here," said Arno Harris, the chief executive of Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco solar developer.

Solar, added David Hochschild, vice president of another Fremont solar panel maker, Solaria Corp, "is on the cusp of playing a large role in mainstream markets."

Here's the census' list of the top 10 states by the number of solar industry jobs:

1. California          25,575

2. Colorado             6,186

3. Arizona               4,786

4. Pennsylvania       4,703

5. New York            4,279

6. Florida                4,224

7. Texas                 3,346

8. Oregon                3,346

9. New Jersey           2,871

10. Massachusetts    2,395


Google to finance rooftop residential solar installations

Obama administration approves two solar loans worth $1 billion

New addendum could help appraisers give credit for green fixtures

-- Marc Lifsher

Photo: Solar panels on the roof of a Fontana warehouse in 2008. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Next-generation cargo ships will be the largest ever

Emma Maersk During slow economic times, on-road freight haulers park trucks and rail lines idle locomotives. If the need is for greater efficiency, standard operating procedure might be to convert to smaller and lighter transports, but ocean freight lines have a different response to both: They build bigger ships.

The reason, say the shipping lines: better economies of scale. It costs less to send a string of three or four big ships across the oceans instead of a larger fleet of smaller vessels. The new ships also will have more efficient engines and lower emissions, which means lower fuel costs as well.

Danish shipping giant AP Moller Maersk, for example, is spending $1.9 billion on 10 new ships that will carry 18,000 cargo containers each. The new ships will have a cargo capacity 16% greater than the world's biggest cargo ship currently afloat, the Emma Maersk. They will be more than 1,312 feet long, more than 193 feet wide and will stand 239 feet tall.

The new ULCS, or Ultra Large Container Ships, could hold an NFL football field, a standard NHL hockey rink and an NBA basketball court, laid end to end, and still have room to spare.

Maersk is not alone in the shipbuilding binge. AXS Alphaliner, the Paris-based maritime research firm, released a report Wednesday that said: "It appears that the container carriers’ answer to the challenges of sustainable shipping and the reduction of emissions is to build ever-larger ships. Compared to a decade ago, the average container ship size has doubled."

To give a sense of the scale of this transition, Alphaliner says that 48% of all new ships built in the coming years will be able to carry 10,000 or more cargo containers. Just five years ago, the world's largest container ship, the Gudrun Maersk, had a capacity of 9,500 containers.

Maersk said the new ships will help it achieve its goals of reducing costs and lowering emissions, while hopefully impressing customers.

"It is not only a top priority for us, but also for our customers, who depend on us in their supply chain, and also for a growing number of consumers who base their purchasing decisions on this type of information," said Maersk Line chief executive Eivind Kolding.


Short rail line gets greener

Port cargo declines in August

Justices request opinion in California clean air case

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: The Emma Maersk can hold 15,500 containers, but her days as the world's biggest cargo vessel are numbered. Credit: AP Moller Maersk.


Energy Department expects solar energy project to create 900 jobs

Rendering-of-the-Mojave-Solar-Project-800x463 The U.S. Energy Department hopes that a new solar energy project will result in about 900 construction and permanent operations jobs.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today that his department had finalized a $1.2-billion loan guarantee to Mojave Solar for the development of the Mojave Solar Project. When complete, the 250-megawatt solar generation project in San Bernardino County will increase the nation’s currently installed concentrating solar power capacity by approximately 50%. 

Abengoa Solar Inc., the project sponsor, is the source of the estimate on construction and permanent operations jobs. 

“Investments in solar generation facilities like the Mojave Solar Project are critical to our effort to create good, clean energy jobs in America and compete with countries like China in the global clean energy race,” Chu said. “This project will supply local utilities with energy, help drive down the cost of solar power and fund more than 900 American jobs, all at minimal risk to the taxpayer.”

The Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office administers the Title XVII Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

The Energy Department said that the Title XVII loan guarantee programs "support the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, while the ATVM loan program supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies."

The Department has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States.

Not all of those investments pan out. Federal agents recently executed a search warrant at the Northern California headquarters of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection last week despite receiving $535 million in federal stimulus loan guarantees.


FBI raids solar panel manufacturer's offices

SolarCity plans 160,000 solar energy systems on military bases

-- Ronald D. White

Image: Artist's rendering of the Mojave Solar Project. Source: California Energy Commission.


Pollution from cargo ships drops in wake of new California rules

Maersk ship At some point in the journey from factory to store shelves, as much as 90% of the world's shipped goods  spends time on board a ship. For places like Los Angeles and Long Beach, the good news about this supply chain reality is that the biggest seaports handle the most cargo and get the greatest number of generally well paying jobs.

The bad news is also sizeable. Cargo ships at sea burn what can only be described as the -- in the words of one research chemist -- "bottom of the barrel" grade of fuel, also known as bunker.

"Bottom of the barrel is literally what bunker fuel is. It's what the refineries have left after all of the cleaner burning fuels -- aviation, gasoline, diesel -- has been produced. It's the sludge at the bottom where all of the bad stuff concentrates, all of the sulfur and the heavy-metal compounds," said chemist Dan Lack, who works with with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.

But Lack and his associates have some data that might literally help those who live near California's major seaports breathe a little easier: When cargo ships slow down and switch to a cleaner-burning fuel as they approach shore, the reduction in pollution levels is startling.

Their study of a Maersk cargo container ship operating under California's 2009 near-shore, low-sulfur fuels regulation and the state's voluntary slowdown policy found that emissions of several health-damaging pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, fell dramatically. The ship was the Margrethe Maersk.

Sulfur dioxide levels fell 91%. Sulfur dioxide emissions can lead to the formation of particulate matter in the atmosphere that poses serious public health concerns. Particulate matter pollution, which can damage people’s lungs and hearts, dropped 90%.

Lack said the study was important because it involved a case in which a regulation wasn't ignored after it was enacted.

"It’s important to know that the imposed regulations have the expected impacts. The regulators want to know, the shipping companies want to know, and so do the people,” Lack said.


California joins suit against Inland Empire project

Terminal operators at ports agree to cut diesel emissions

-- Ronald D. White

Photo: The container ship Margrethe Maersk steams toward California in May 2010. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences


Chinese oil giant's shares tumble in spill controversy

An oil platform in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in the Bohai Bay
Shares of Chinese oil giant CNOOC Ltd. continued to tumble Tuesday as the fallout from a pair of June oil spills off the country's northern coast continued to weigh heavily on the company's performance.

Shares were down 2.1% in midday trading in Hong Kong after falling 8.9% Monday.

The sell-off comes amid growing criticism about the handling of the oil spills in China's northeastern Bohai Sea by CNOOC's partner, ConocoPhillips.

The U.S. oil company operated two platforms in an offshore oil field named Penglai 19-3, where an estimated 3,200 barrels of crude oil and drilling fluids were released into the sea in early June. The company, which co-owns the oil field with CNOOC, is accused of waiting weeks before disclosing the incidents. 

Last Wednesday, ConocoPhillips told the State Oceanic Assn., China's coastal regulator, that it had met an Aug. 31 deadline for cleaning up the spills and sealing the leaks. But regulators ordered a shutdown two days later after a government investigation found that ConocoPhillips had done neither, according to a statement on CNOOC's website.

The controversy has received growing coverage in Chinese media, focusing largely on ConocoPhillip's role in the incidents.

On Monday, an editorial in the People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, accused ConocoPhillips of attempting to cover up the spills.

"Only by shouldering social responsibilities and being honest with the public and the environment can you truly solve this public relations crisis," the paper said.
ConocoPhillips dismissed the allegations.

"We have a longstanding commitment to comply with the law where we operate and to conduct all business activities with the highest ethical standards," the company told Bloomberg.
CNOOC said Friday that suspending operations in China's largest offshore oil field would reduce production by about 40,000 barrels a day.

Credit Suisse said CNOOC's total 2011 production would be diminished by 8 million barrels, or 2.3% of its projected net production for the year, according to Agence France-Presse.

Pollution caused by the spills has reportedly spread to coasts in three provinces, prompting fears that it will harm the area's tourism and fishing industries. On Aug. 25, the State Oceanic Assn. announced plans to file a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips seeking compensation for damages caused by the spills.
Wang Yamin, a professor of oceanography at Shandong University, said damage from the spills may be long-lasting.

"This is different from the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico, because there the oil was only leaking from one point," he said. "In this case, the whole geological segment was damaged, making it very difficult to repair."

The BP spill was significantly larger, having released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the sea.


China seeks to stem Bohai Sea oil spills

 -- Jonathan Kaiman

Photo: An oil platform in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield in the Bohai Bay. Credit: Guo Xulei / Xinhua /  Associated Press


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