Friday, February 15, 2013

News Roundup for the week Feb 15

  • Mongabay: The big story of the week was the State of the Union address and Obama's strong words on climate change. "The President surprised many by giving climate change a central role in his inauguration speech last month, and he followed-up in his State of the Union speech last night when he called on congress to 'pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change;' but added that the administration would take action itself if congress failed. 'For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,' Obama said."
  • WRI: Since climate legislation is a political impossibility with climate deniers controlling the House, the question becomes: what can Obama do via executive order? According to WRI, the four greatest opportunities are: establish emissions standards for power plants, establish emissions standards to reduce methane leakage from natural gas, boost energy efficiency, and limit hydrofluorocarbons. Standards for power plants is the biggest game changer here, but I also like the methane leakage issue. While everyone is talking about fracking's positive impact on CO2 emissions, the change in methane emissions has been virtually ignored (which could offset fracking's climate benefits).
  • Grist: Another take on what Obama can do without Congress. Dave Roberts adds onto the WRI report with two more items: quit selling powder river basin coal for pennies on the dollar and stopping coal exports on the West coast. We'll likely be covering the latter in a post.
  • National Journal: Coral Davenport, the best climate reporter at the moment, gives her take on Obama's options: "So the administration’s energy and environment officials are gearing up to use the president’s executive authority to roll out powerful new EPA rules controlling carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. Sources close to the EPA say they expect a proposed rule will be issued by the end of this year, and EPA officials are already thinking about how it can be crafted to have the biggest environmental impact, cause the least economic harm, and stand up to the tsunami of legal, legislative, and political attacks that are sure to follow. Obama and his team know full well that environmental regulations on energy are deeply politically unpopular – throughout his reelection campaign, he fought off a fusillade of attacks from Republicans slamming him for supporting so-called 'job-killing regulations.'”
  • Grist: Just when you started to get excited, the Whitehouse goes and bums you out. In an interview, deputy assistant to the President for energy and climate, Heather Zichal, responds to a question about using the EPA to regulate power plants: “We’re not in a position to say, ‘These are the 15 things we’re going to do,’” Zichal said, “but I think the point here is that we have demonstrated an ability to really use our existing authority — permitting-wise, what we can do through the budget — to make progress.” I recommend the whole article if you want to feel a little less hopeful.
  • The Hill: With Bill McKibben, the Sierra Club, Jim Hansen, and a bunch of other important people getting arrested at the Whitehouse today, protesting KXL, there is a great article justifying the need for civil disobedience. "Yet the power, wealth, and enormous political influence of the fossil fuel industry have kept our government from acting. And although President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone. Worse, he could make decisions, such as allowing the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. -- that would make it virtually impossible to stop climate disruption from spinning out of control and 'betray[ing} … [his word] future generations.' This is the moment that has chosen us. We must seize it. Though at times it tested his leadership to the utmost, Martin Luther King, Jr., successfully set the standard for effective civil disobedience: peaceful, principled, dignified, determined, and strategic. To stand before one's fellow citizens and declare, 'I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong,' remains the most powerful expression of free speech we have. The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less." Powerful stuff.
  • Media Matters: Continuing with the KXL theme, a great article laid out the most thorough defense I've seen of blocking the pipeline. Amongst many debunked arguments, here's one: "Energy experts agree that the Keystone XL pipeline would have little, if any, impact on gasoline prices. UC Berkeley's Severin Borenstein told Media Matters that the pipeline would 'bring additional oil to the world market, starting around 2020. The effect on oil prices then will be miniscule, the effect in the next couple years nonexistent.' Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, agreed that the impact of Keystone XL on gas prices 'would be very small.'"
  • Think Progress on IEA Report: Admist all the natural gas hype, a sobering analysis of where fracking will get us on climate. The modeling scenario that includes massive natural gas expansion "puts CO2 emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilising the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse-gas emissions at around 650 parts per million, a trajectory consistent with a probable temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius (°C) in the long term, well above the widely accepted 2°C target."
  • Mongabay: Last week Indonesia's largest pulp and paper company, APP announced a zero deforestation policy. This week Mongabay discusses the broader impact on the industry. "On Tuesday, WWF echoed Greenpeace's call for Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) to eliminate deforestation from its supply chain. Like APP, APRIL has been linked to large-scale conversion of Sumatra's endangered rainforests for industrial tree plantations to produce pulp and paper."
  • Aurora Munoz: Finally, writing on Valentine's Day, I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a link for the funniest climate humor I've seen in a while. Kudos, mi amor. 

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