Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama Promises Climate Leadership

Calling climate change an urgent challenge, President-elect Barack Obama promised Tuesday that Washington would take a leading role in combating it in the United States and throughout the world. "My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change," Obama said in a video message to governors and others attending a Los Angeles summit on the issue.

Said Obama: "I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who's willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that's willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that's willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America." Read more Here.

In the video message addressed to the Summit's attendees, Obama emphasized his enthusiasm for the upcoming Climate Conference in Poland, acknowledging he wouldn't attend since he won't be president at the time of the meeting and the U.S. has only one president at a time.

Through a cap and trade system, he pledged to reduce carbon emissions and to make investments that would "help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced." The video is below.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Green Jobs: Stabilizing the Economy

Facing the challenges of global warming and climate change will create new economic opportunities, as the nation shifts from burning fossil fuels that generate global warming pollution, to clean, renewable energy sources. The shift to clean energy, and a rising awareness of the need to conserve energy and use it efficiently, are creating new jobs: green-collar jobs, or simply, Green Jobs.

­Investment in energy efficiency and in clean energy can create new businesses and Green Jobs, and at the same time curb climate change. A program to retrofit offices, manufacturing plants and homes with energy-efficient technologies will create a large demand for electricians, carpenters, and many other workers, skilled and unskilled. Expanding mass transit and improving freight rail will save energy and spark the demand for civil engineers, bus drivers, rail track layers, welders, locomotive engineers, conductors, and dispatchers. Incentives to develop wind, solar, geothermal power, next-generation biofuels, smart electrical grid transmission systems, and hybrid-electric vehicles will have enormous job-creation potential. One study showed that a $100 billion investment in these areas over two years would result in 2 Million new jobs across the nation, as illustrated in the US Map from a Green Jobs report by

[click image to enlarge]
This energy saving investment program will benefit both rural and urban America. An independent study concluded that 5 Million jobs would be created in rural areas alone by 2030 with the right incentives.

A business as usual approach to generating energy will only negatively affect the environment and the economy. Replacing old coal plants with new ones creates no new job opportunities and does nothing to address climate change, and neither does relying on oil. By capping global warming pollution and providing incentives for clean energy sources and energy efficiency, a fast-growing Green Job sector will more than make up for the fossil fuel jobs lost by phasing out coal and oil, and will stabilize the economy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

EPA: Coal Plants MUST limit CO2


Sierra Club
press release: November 13, 2008

In a move that signals the start of our clean energy future, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) ruled today EPA had no valid reason for refusing to limit from new coal-fired power plants the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming. The decision means that all new and proposed coal plants nationwide must go back and address their carbon dioxide emissions.

“Today’s decision opens the way for meaningful action to fight global warming and is a major step in bringing about a clean energy economy,” said Joanne Spalding, Sierra Club Senior Attorney who argued the case. “This is one more sign that we must begin repowering, refueling and rebuilding America.”

“The EAB rejected every Bush Administration excuse for failing to regulate the largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. This decision gives the Obama Administration a clean slate to begin building our clean energy economy for the 21st century,” continued Spalding.

The decision follows a 2007 Supreme Court ruling recognizing carbon dioxide, the principle source of global warming, is a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act.

“Instead of pouring good money after bad trying to fix old coal technology, investors should be looking to wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies that are going to power the economy, create jobs, and help the climate recover,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. Read more HERE.

Associated Press reports: "All permits in the pipeline are now stymied," said Jason Hutt, an attorney representing a number of utilities, merchant energy developers and refineries seeking permits. He said it also would affect permits for oil refinery expansion.

David Bookbinder, a Sierra Club attorney, the court ruling will "stop permitting of any coal burning power plants "while EPA mulls over what to do next" about how the federal Clean Air Act is to be used to control carbon dioxide. He said as many as 100 coal power plant permits — both those in process and others under appeal — will now be decided by the EPA, or state agencies that closely follow EPA's direction, after the Bush administration leave office. Read more HERE.

Proposed NY Pet-Coke Gasification Plant

This is a guest post by Walter Simpson of the Western NY Climate Action Coalition.

Lackawanna Clean Energy (LCE) is proposing a petroleum coke gasification plant to be constructed at the Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna, NY, adjacent to the Steel Winds wind farm. For those of us concerned about greenhouse gas emissions and the serious problem of global warming and climate change, the impact of this plant deserves serious study.

The project is in the draft environmental impact study stage of the State Environmental Quality Review Act process and appears to be moving along at a rapid rate. Petroleum coke is a refinery waste product which is more carbon intensive than coal. According to literature provided by LCE, their proposed gasification plant will convert 6,000 tons of pet coke a day to 85 million cubic feet per day of pipeline quality natural gas that could heat 450,000 homes a year. The project is being presented as good for our local economy. LCE says as many as 1,500 jobs will be created during a two year construction period and operating that plant will require up to 200 jobs. Local tax-base benefits are also touted. LCE would like to have the plant built and in operation by 2012.

According to documents supplied by LCE, conventional pollutants would be addressed with the best available control technology (BACT). GHG emissions from the plant are estimated to be 4,257,000 tons if CO2e/year. For comparison, consider that the proposed new Jamestown NY coal plant would emit approximately 300,000 tons of CO2e/year without carbon capture and storage (CCS) and approximately 150,000 tons per year with the level of CCS required by Governor Paterson. UB’s recently conducted greenhouse gas inventory indicated that total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from UB’s both campuses is 142,000 tons of CO2e/year. Thus the LCE gasification plant would produce 28 times the emissions of the Jamestown plant with CCS and 30 times those associated with operating UB. 4,257,000 tons of CO2e/year represents a full 2% increase in GHG emissions for all of New York State.

The above numbers are striking and suggest environmental groups should be very concerned about this plant. However, proponents of the project argue that it will use clean energy technology and that they are responsibly addressing the plant’s environmental impact, including GHG emissions.

According to LCE’s CO2 Management Plan (dated July 2008 and obtained from the NYS DEC through a Freedom of Information request), LCE’s gasification plant would actually produce a net reduction of GHG emissions of 2,466,000 tons of CO2e/year. They arrive at this figure by considering the fossil fuel energy and GHG emissions which will be avoid by (a) transporting pet coke to Lackawanna instead of other locations where it would be burned, (b) eliminating GHG emissions associated with producing natural gas through other means, and (c) creating less GHG emissions by gasifying pet coke compared to burning it. In addition, LCE is proposing to purchase carbon offsets for 432,000 tons of CO2e/year, create a CO2 emissions research center, and demonstrate carbon capture and geo-sequestration (burying emissions underground) for some portion of the plants GHG emissions.

Would the LCE pet coke gasification plant be an environmental benefit or cost? Is it part of the solution to climate change or a potentially very large contributor to the problem? Clearly it depends on the accuracy and fairness of LCE’s analysis and one’s perspective. Minimally, we can say this is a very interesting proposal deserving of careful public scrutiny.

On November 18, here will be a presentation of the proposal for petroleum coke gasification by Lackawanna Clean Energy, followed by a panel discussion open to the public. For further information, click here.