By Ramez Naam
Published: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am
China is an environmental mess. Smog in Beijing is so bad it's literally broken the air-quality index. In Shanghai, it's at times turned the city into a scene from "Blade Runner."
Meanwhile, thousands of dead pigs – cause of death not yet known – have been floating down a river that cuts through Shanghai and provides part of the region's drinking water. More than half of China's water is so polluted that even treatment plants can't make it safe to drink.
And China is now responsible for almost half the world's coal consumption. That coal burning not only contributes to climate change – it has also saddled China with severe cases of acid rain, something the United States dealt with a generation ago.
All of that makes what I'm about to say sound even crazier: China may one day be the world's leader in combating climate change. In almost every way you cut it, China is already taking a much more aggressive approach toward climate change than the United States.
This is important for two reasons. First, China is seeing the world's fastest growth in energy consumption and in CO2 emissions. In the United States and Europe, by contrast, energy usage is nearly flat and CO2 emissions are down. So China's policies exert a huge lever on future CO2 emissions. Second, one of the prime arguments against U.S. action on climate change has been that it doesn't matter what the United States does if China isn't on board.
Well, China already is on board in a number of ways that the United States isn't. Consider the following:
• China is launching a cap-
In the United States, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade plan fizzled in the Senate in 2009. In China, authorities have moved forward with pilot cap-and-trade systems covering seven regions, including the manufacturing-hub provinces of Guangdong and Hubei, as well as the cities of
National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image Loop
... USDA’s first price projections for the new marketing year pegs the season-average farm price at $4.30 to $5.10 per bushel, down sharply from the record $6.70 to $7.10 for 2012-’13...
... Corn use for ethanol in 2013-’14 is projected at 4.85 billion bushels, up from the estimated 4.6 billion bushels for 2012-’13, but below the 2011-’12 use of 5.011 billion bushels...
Susanne Retka Schill | May 10, 2013
Slow planting progress and the likelihood that progress by mid-May will remain well behind the 10-year average reduced the USDA’s corn yield projections for the upcoming marketing year. The USDA adjusted its corn yield projection in the May 10 supply/demand report to 158.0 bushels per acres, down 5.6 bushels from earlier projections. Record feed grain production is still being projected, however, both domestically and in world supplies. As a result, the USDA’s first price projections for the new marketing year pegs the season-average farm price at $4.30 to $5.10 per bushel, down sharply from the record $6.70 to $7.10 for 2012-’13.
In the May 10 report, the USDA projects total feed grain supplies for 2013-’14 at a record 400.5 million tons, up 25 percent from last year with higher area and yields expected for corn, sorghum and oats. Corn production for 2013-’14 is projected at 14.1 billion bushels, up 3.4 billion from 2012-’13 when extreme drought and heat reduced yields to their lowest levels since 1995-’96.
U.S. corn exports are expected to rebound, but the USDA is expecting stiff competition, with projection for the fourth straight year of record foreign corn production. “Large crops in South America and the FSU-12 will provide substantial competition for the United States. U.S. corn ending stocks are projected at 2.0 billion bushels, up 1.2 billion from 2012-’13,” the report said.
U.S. corn supplies for 2013-’14 are projected at a record 14.9 billion bushels, up 3.0 billion from 2012-’13. U.S. corn use for 2013-’14 is projected up 16 percent from 2012-’13. Feed and residual use for 2013-’14 is projected up 925 million bushels reflecting a sharp rebound in residual disappearance with the record crop and an increase in feeding with lower corn prices.
Projected corn use for ethanol is increased 250 million bushels from
Maine votes to ban ethanol in gasoline, takes stand against E15
Posted May 10th 2013 7:14PM
If it can go in your gas tank, it's potentially controversial up in Maine. A few years ago, out-of-spec gas pumps were a problem. Today, the issue is the corn-based biofuel ethanol, which the state legislature is taking a strong stand against. Citing potential engine and environmental damages, Maine's state legislature has taken another step to potential rid itself of ethanol blends into its gasoline inventory.
Legislators have approved a bill by more than a 3-to-1 margin that would ban ethanol blends in Maine – as long as two other nearby states do the same, the Bangor Daily News reports. State leaders also supported a resolution urging the government to ban gasoline with a 15 percent ethanol blend (known as E15), altogether. Most gasoline in the US contains up to 10 percent ethanol blend.
Maine regulators started talking about a statewide E15 ban early this year. The state said at the time that at least two other New England states would have to go along so that Maine refiners wouldn't have to make a custom blend for the state only, which would cause the state's fuel prices to jump.
On the federal level, the word is that E15 is fine. Last June, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially allowed for public sales of E15 as part of an effort to cut foreign-oil dependency. Groups such as AAA have since been critical of the EPA's decision, saying that E15 would cause engine damage as well as food shortages. E15 has been sold in some states since the middle of 2012, starting in Kansas, and there have not been any widespread reports of problems with the biofuel but it's not being sold just like any other fuel.
Solar & Wind Energy Overview
Here are parts 1 and 2 of a presentation I gave to a class of renewable energy graduate students yesterday (reposted from CleanTechnica):
Renewable Energy Big Pic: Part 1 (Including 34 Charts & Graphs)
As I mentioned in my article covering the latest US Solar Market Insight report (which I just published a few hours ago), I was “out of the office” today giving a presentation on solar power growth. But the presentation was actually on much, much more than that, as you’ll see in the article below and in the one to follow tomorrow.
It’s a Small World
Unbeknownst to me until a few months ago, there’s a renewable energy graduate program at a university here in Wrocław (the city where I live). Turns out that at least one of the students currently in the program is a CleanTechnica reader. He noticed that I was living in Wrocław, and decided to reach out to me. We met up at a coffee shop one day to talk solar energy (for several hours), and not long after that I was invited to give a guest lecture to his class.
Knowing that the students were more focused on the science and engineering side of things, I decided to focus my presentation on the solar and wind energy markets and key policy topics. I gave the presentation earlier today, and figured it would also be worth sharing it with you all (with plenty of text added in place of my vocal commentary, and with some chart switcharoos and additions, including a few from the new US Solar Market Insight report, which was released less than an hour after my presentation ended).
So, anyway, that’s the story; let’s get rolling….
... “We may have big oil reserves, but our government sees encouraging electric vehicles as an investment in reducing pollution, raising air quality and improving public health, I hope other countries will learn from this.”
May 11, 2013
Sales of the Nissan Leaf are booming in Norway. The popular electric vehicle was the second best-selling car, of any type, in the country during the month of April.
The Nissan Leaf sold 455 units in April, which represents a 3.3% share of total sales that month. The top spot was held by the Volkswagen Golf, which sold 903 units and had a 6.5% share.
As of right now, the Leaf is the fifth best-selling car of 2013 in Norway, up from the thirteenth best-selling in 2012. Sales of the Leaf there only began about 18 months ago, and since then, impressively, more than 4,500 of the EVs have been sold. That makes it the best-selling car in the Nissan range for Norway.
No doubt part of the vehicle’s success in Norway stems from the strong incentives that the government there has in place for EVs — “national and local governments in the Nordic nation have reduced VAT to zero, installed electric car only car parks and allowed the use of bus lanes.”
Because of the rapid rate of EV adoption in the country, the government in Norway’s capital, Oslo, recently decided to increase the rate of EV charging point installations from about 100 per year, as it is now, to over 200 per year. That rate will be kept up for at least the next four years.
The President of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, Snorre Sletvold, had this to say, as quoted by Green Car Congress: “It is clear that Norway leads the world in electric vehicle sales per capita and as a people we are very proud of this. We are clearly demonstrating to other countries in Europe and across the globe that if you build infrastructure and put some smart incentives in place people buy zero emission cars and use them everyday.”
“We may have big oil reserves, but our government sees encouraging electric vehicles as an investment in reducing pollution, raising air quality and improving public health, I hope
WASHINGTON | Fri May 10, 2013 5:35pm EDT
(Reuters) - President Barack Obama launched a campaign to promote his signature 2010 healthcare overhaul on Friday in the face of harsh criticism from congressional Republicans who say the program will raise costs and hurt hiring.
"If you're one of the tens of millions who don't have health insurance, beginning this fall you'll finally be able to compare and buy quality, affordable private plans that work for you," he said at an event at the White House.
"If you've already got health insurance, this is just enhancement. And if you don't, you're going to be able to get it," he said.
Ahead of the Mothers' Day holiday on Sunday, the president focused his remarks on how the plan could benefit women, who the administration believes will be less stuck on partisan objections to the plan and provide support that will make what has become known as "Obamacare" a success.
"Mothers are the number one validator for the young and uninsured and will be critical in the effort to encourage their kids to enroll for insurance in the fall," a White House official said.
Republicans say the law will raise the costs of healthcare for all Americans, spawn a welter of new regulatory burdens on businesses and inhibit hiring.
"There are many women in their 20s and 30s who will be unable to afford the law's massive premium increases," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday. "And there are many mothers who won't be able to get by if their employers cut their hours due to Obamacare. Or if they lose their jobs because of it," the Kentucky Republican said.
Obama aides plan to use the same micro-targeting strategies that helped the president win re-election in November to sign up enough enrollees. Their outreach efforts will be central to the success of Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aims
May 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm by Jennifer Hiller
The Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in the first quarter saw a 60 percent jump over the same period last year in the sale of Eagle Ford Shale “liquids” — which includes both crude oil and natural gas liquids.
Anadarko sold about 28,000 barrels per day, the company said in its first-quarter earnings call with analysts this week.
The company says its Eagle Ford operations are getting strong results, and at low operating costs.
Eagle Ford: Anadarko’s plant nears completion
Anadarko has drilled a number of Eagle Ford wells in less than 10 days. “So if you put everything in play and look at the completion cost, we are now filling, completing and equipping those wells in the order of $5.5 million to $6 million,” said Charles Meloy, senior vice president of U.S. onshore exploration and production.
Anadarko will get its new day gas processing plant south of Cotulla online in the second quarter, which may cause some downtime in the field.
“That’s just going to be an up and down deal and we are going to do it safely and carefully, and we are taking a very conservative approach to how we put all that together,” Meloy said. “It’s just it’s part of the drilling plans we talked about a couple of quarters ago as we start this infrastructure build out, you get into these spots from time-to-time that you throw a lot of downtime in, and this quarter is going to be one of those as we significantly enhance our infrastructure position …”
South Texas boom: Eagle Ford oil production hits record high
Anadarko holds about 400,000 acres in Dimmit, La Salle, Maverick and Webb counties, where natural gas liquids are abundant. Its plant will separate natural gas liquids — methane, ethane, propane and butane — and have the capacity to process 200 million cubic feet of gas per day.
Anadarko also said it had record sales in the
Zack Colman - 05/10/13 07:48 PM ET
Democrats will try to advance Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Gina McCarthy to the full Senate again next week after a GOP boycott thwarted attempts to do so Thursday.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who has been in ill health, will make the trip to the Capitol for the May 16 hearing, Caley Gray, a spokesman for Lautenberg, told The Hill. That would give the Senate Environment Public Works Committee a quorum for a vote.
The GOP’s absence and two missing Democrats — Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also wasn’t present — left the committee two members shy of a quorum Thursday, thwarting a vote on McCarthy, EPA’s top air quality regulator.
Republicans are blocking McCarthy’s nomination because they want EPA to hand over more information about the data it uses to design regulations that the GOP and industry oppose. They say McCarthy has not fully answered inquiries about transparency at the agency.
Democrats contend McCarthy has answered more than 1,000 questions. They — along with President Obama — say Republicans are being “obstructionist.”
Committee Republicans might disagree that Democrats can proceed with a vote, citing committee rules.
Ranking member Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) cited committee rules that two members of the minority party must be present for a vote in a Thursday memo to committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).
Staff members for committee Democrats maintain that Senate rules trump committee policy for such votes. Senate rules require one more lawmaker than half the total body — in this case, 10 lawmakers.
Even if the committee does advance McCarthy to the full Senate, confirming her could be difficult.
Republicans have floated the idea of employing a filibuster on her nomination, and it is unclear whether Democrats could escalate the 60-vote threshold.
Vitter’s office did not respond to requests...
Brian Vastag and Jason Samenow,
Friday, May 10, 3:09 PM
Human influence on the Earth’s atmosphere touched what climate scientists called a dire milestone Friday as concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide nudged up to a level unseen in about 3 million to 5 million years — long before modern humans.
A monitoring station in Hawaii recorded carbon dioxide concentrations of 400 parts per million Friday, dramatically up from the 316 parts per million recorded when the station made its first measurements in 1958. The monitor, high atop the Mauna Loa volcano, offers the longest-running record of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured directly from the air.
Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas, efficient at trapping heat from the sun. The colorless gas is released from power plants and vehicles as they burn coal, oil and gas.
“[The] increase is not a surprise to scientists,” said Pieter Tans, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global [carbon dioxide] emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”
Climate scientist Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London said the particular figure reached Friday — 400 parts per million — holds no particular significance except as a milestone. “It gives us the chance to mark the ongoing increase in [carbon dioxide] concentration and talk about why it’s a problem for the climate.”
Scientists have firmly linked rising atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher global temperatures, which have increased nearly a degree Fahrenheit, on average, since 1950.
Larger temperature increases have occurred in the Arctic. In 2009, an international agreement sought to limit temperature increases to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) by...
May 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm by Jennifer Hiller
The Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. has drilled 600 Eagle Ford wells so far. How good are they?
The company thinks it might ultimately recover an average of about 570,000 barrels of oil equivalent from each.
I’ll save you the calculator. That’s 342 million barrels of oil equivalent, a measure that includes both crude oil and natural gas liquids.
Legal issues: Chesapeake sues Cameron over fracking equipment
The company gave the estimate in its third-quarter call with analysts last week. Here are some other Eagle Ford highlights:
Chesapeake expects to sign agreements this quarter to sell its northern block of Eagle Ford acreage, around Zavala County.
The company expects to produce an additional 1 million barrels of oil this year. Jeffery Fisher, executive vice president, said, “This is largely attributable to outstanding results in the Eagle Ford, where we are drilling longer laterals, achieving better than expected well performance, and benefiting from increased gathering system and processing capacity.”
It’s Eagle Ford wells are costing around $7 million (but is aiming ultimately for a well cost of $6.5 million – that’s for a well with a 6,300-foot horizontal reach).
In the first quarter, Chesapeake’s Eagle Ford production averaged 61,600 barrels per day, up 44,100 barrels, or 251 percent, from the year before.
South Texas boom: Eagle Ford oil production hits record high
The company says by the end of the year it will produce around 71,000 barrels of liquids (crude oil and natural gas liquids like propane and butane) daily in the Eagle Ford.
By the second half of this year, about half of Chesapeake’s Eagle Ford wells will be drilled on multi-well pad sites. And in 2014, 75 percent will be drilled on multi-well pads. (That means fewer trucks on the roads for residents, and cheaper wells for the company...
Obama to tout health law's benefits for women
By Sam Baker - 05/09/13 08:00 PM ET
President Obama will make a public defense of his signature healthcare law Friday, using Mother's Day as a backdrop.
Obama will highlight popular pieces of the healthcare law, such as the provision allowing children to stay on their parents' insurance policies through age 26, a White House official said. He'll be flanked by "women and families" who have benefitted from the law.
"Mothers are the number one validator for the young and uninsured and will be critical in the effort to encourage their kids to enroll for insurance in the fall," the White House official said.
Obama's address comes at the early stages of a massive effort to promote the healthcare law and encourage people to enroll in its new coverage options, which will become available later this year.
Many Democrats are worried about the rollout, saying the White House has done too little to overcome deep misconceptions about the law. Without a massive public-relations campaign, they say, the implementation could turn into a "train wreck" that threatens Democratic prospects in 2014.
Obama hasn't talked about his healthcare law much since the campaign, when he highlighted specific benefits as part of a broader push to win over female voters. He will apparently emphasize many of the same policies — most of which are politically popular — at Friday's event.
The White House highlighted provisions of the health law that have expanded access to preventive services, including birth control, and allowed children to remain on their parents' plans.
Thu May 9, 2013 5:04pm EDT
* House, Senate panels plan to draft farm bill next week
* Split on food stamps widens from last year
* Food stamps make up largest part of farm bill spending
By Charles Abbott
WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) - Lawmakers are preparing for a second run at writing the new U.S. farm law that ended in a stalemate in 2012, and the biggest obstacle is not likely to be soil conservation or crop subsidies, but the billions spent mostly in cities and towns.
Analysts say food stamps for the poor, the biggest Agriculture Department program at an estimated $79 billion this year, is the make-or-break issue. Republicans are demanding far larger cuts than Democrats will entertain, and the debate is becoming increasingly partisan.
Enrollment in the program has doubled in a decade and costs have tripled. Critics say spending is out of control when only the neediest should get aid. Defenders say the weak economy is the culprit - enrollment is highest during economic turmoil - and that food stamps are targeted to avoid cuts in farm subsidies.
Food stamps "is the key to getting a final farm bill done. Not that there won't be plenty of other fights," said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI), a think tank at the University of Missouri.
"It seems like there is going to be some trimming and a battle between the House (of Representatives) and Senate over how much," said analyst Mark McMinimy of Guggenheim Securities. "I think a lot of heat is going to be around nutrition assistance."
The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to start drafting its bill on Tuesday, with its House panel likely to follow on Wednesday. "On food stamps, they're going to be 10 miles apart," said a farm lobbyist.
Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, is aiming for $4 billion in food stamp cuts over 10
McDermott shares fall after earnings miss
May 9, 2013 at 5:20 pm by Bloomberg
Shares of McDermott International, a Houston-based maker of pipelines for offshore oil fields, fell the most in more than two months after quarterly earnings missed analysts’ estimates and the company said it sees “near-term challenges.”
McDermott declined 13 percent to $9.59 at the close in New York, the biggest drop since March 1. The shares have decreased 3.1 percent in the past year.
First-quarter net income decreased 67 percent to $20.6 million, or 9 cents a share, from $62.8 million, or 26 cents, a year earlier, the company said in a statement issued Wednesday after the close of regular trading. Excluding one-time items, per-share profit fell below the 14-cent average of 16 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
The profitability drop represented “another disappointing” quarter, Michael Marino, an analyst at Stephens Inc. in Houston, wrote in a note to investors Thursday. “This quarter the disappointment was in the Middle East where several projects experienced profitability adjustments.”
Operating margins, which were 7 percent in the first quarter, may be at break even levels or a loss for the second and third quarters after its largest project was completed in Australia and with continuing losses forecast for its Atlantic division, Chief Financial Officer Perry Elders said on an investor conference call Thursday.
The company has about $1.8 billion in backlog work that will “roll off” in 2014, Chief Executive Officer Stephen M. Johnson said on the call. “We still have work to do to book additional business for 2014.”
Tesla Motors Earns First Quarterly Profit Ever
May 9, 2013 by Nicholas Brown 1 Comment
Tesla Motors has been operating for about 10 years without turning a profit, out of the sheer determination from its founder Elon Musk. But finally, Tesla has earned its first quarterly profit ever, and going forward the outlook for Tesla looks bright.
Tesla managed to make a profit of $15 million on sales of $562 million in the first quarter of 2013, delivering an estimated 4,900 Model S units to customers. Tesla also earned $63 million by selling zero-emissions credits to automakers in California, and going forward the electric auto maker could earn as much as $250 million from selling environmental credits. Tesla is apparently on pace to meet their target of 20,000 vehicle sales in 2013, and it receives up to $35,000 of environmental credits for each Tesla Model S electric car it sells.
These ZEV credits can be sold to automakers in California, whether or not they sell zero emissions vehicles, to help these automakers meet California’s strict environmental laws. This helped offset the some $200 million in company investments Tesla is expected to make in the next year, opening new stores and installing supercharger stations. These investments will go down over time, leading to even higher profit margins.
This profit helped bolster Tesla Motors stock, which briefly jumped to over $70 before settling around $55. Tesla stock has been growing stronger, and the fact that the company has finally made a profit is sure to make investors happy.
Elon Musk has defied the odds, and made money with a pure electric car. There are even brighter days
Source: Tesla Motors via Autoblog Green
Amie Parnes - 05/09/13 04:01 PM ET
President Obama on Thursday declared that the nation is “poised for progress” but called on Congress to help strengthen the middle class by promoting economic polices he proposed in his State of the Union address in February.
In a 20-minute speech at a technology school outside of Austin, Texas, Obama — who has been focused on the gun control and immigration debates in recent days — promoted his idea of raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, as well as increasing spending on education, worker training programs and manufacturing-innovation centers.
Those proposals have gained little traction in the GOP-held House, which is revving up for a new fight with Obama over the debt ceiling in the fall.
Given the difficulty in moving anything legislatively, Obama sidestepped Congress on Thursday by announcing two executive actions that he claimed will help strengthen the economy: launching competitions for three innovation centers and a separate order requiring government data be made freely available so that entrepreneurs can access “troves of previously inaccessible data.” The White House said the files can be used to generate new products and services to help build businesses and create jobs.
Obama’s trip on Thursday marks the second time he has traveled to the Lone Star state in two weeks. And it comes as lawmakers will begin to take up a comprehensive immigration bill that bears strong significance for the state. Roughly 38 percent of the border state's population is Hispanic.
The trip to Texas has broader significance for the Democratic Party, which would like to see what has been a red state turn blue. Obama visited Texas a couple of times on the campaign trail last year.
For the second day in a row, White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday downplayed the notion that Obama’s appearance in Texas was part of a
Ryan Koronowski on May 9, 2013 at 11:53 am
PHOTO - Zero Republicans show up to vote on Gina McCarthy's nomination to be EPA Administrator.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was scheduled to vote today at 9:15 on the nomination of Gina McCarthy to be the next EPA Administrator. Despite the fact that she has answered more than a thousand of the committee’s questions, Senate Republicans announced just before the hearing that they would be boycotting the vote, denying the committee quorum and postponing the confirmation hearing.
The committee rules require that at least two members of the minority party be present during a vote. Not a single Republican bothered to show up.
Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the committee, still held a meeting, allowing the Democrats in attendance to try to explain to the American people why they still have no EPA Administrator. The ostensible reason that the Republicans boycotted today’s vote was because they said she did not satisfactorily answer their questions. Senator Boxer reminded those present that Gina McCarthy has already answered more than a thousand questions from the committee and moreover is eminently qualified with an excellent track record of working with the business community and and both parties to do her job. Boxer later floated the idea of changing the rules of the committee so that a boycott such as this would not gum up the works. She urged her GOP colleagues to listen to the many “mainstream” Republicans who support Gina McCarthy’s nomination and “get out of the fringe lane.” If senators oppose a nominee, they should show up and vote against the nominee, not hold the process hostage for ideological reasons.
In 2009, the Senate easily confirmed the highly qualified McCarthy by a voice vote to head the Clean Air division of the EPA. With nearly three decades of experience