28 December 2010

Tonight our program is entitled “Auld Lang Syne,” the traditional New Year’s Eve hymn with lyrics by Scotsman Bobbie Burns. WikiPedia helped us remember what that phrase actually means: “The song’s Scots title may be translated into English literally as ‘old long since’, or more idiomatically, ‘long long ago’, ‘days gone by’ or ‘old times.'”  But we’re not going to be particularly nostalgic for the year 2010. We’re going to open with a particularly unsentimental review of some of the worst and most discouraging environmental news from the past twelve months. Then we’ll grow a little more positive and remind us all of some of the positive achievements on the Ecotopian front during the last calendar year. We’ll also take a candid view of prospects and environmental priorities for 2011. We’ll close, not with Auld Lang Syne, but with our usual theme song, Peter, Paul, and Mary’s perpetually upbeat: “Weave me the sunshine, out of the falling rain,” a pretty good metaphor for ecotopian dreams and possibilities.

Listen to the Program

The Mostly Bad News:

This is Ecotopia on KZFR , and tonight we are reviewing environmental news from 2010, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’ll start with the obviously ugly: the Gulf Oil Spill. Here’s an December 26 reflection on that disaster by Rob Edwards of the Herald Scotland newspaper. He writes:

 It started around 9.45 pm on April 20.

Methane gas came shooting out of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, then ignited and exploded. The ensuing fire engulfed the rig, killing 11 workers. And then the oil started gushing into the sea, becoming the largest accidental marine oil spill in history, and the worst environmental disaster so far faced by the US.

For the next three months it kept on gushing, and estimates of the volume of oil escaping every day kept rising. BP initially suggested it might be 1000 barrels day, but then US authorities said it could be 5000, then 30,000, then 60,000 barrels a day.

In total, nearly five million barrels of oil are now thought to have spilled into the sea between April 20 and July 15, when the well was eventually capped. That’s more than 200 million gallons – a massive amount of the black stuff, which has resulted in huge pollution problems.

In May, 6814 square miles of water were closed to all fishing by the US Government, an area that was increased to nearly 87,000 square miles in June. That covered more than a third of all the federally-controlled waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The costs to the fishing industry were estimated at $2.5 billion. The federal government officially declared a fisheries disaster in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Although the fishing bans were gradually relaxed, as late as November some 4200 square miles had to be re-closed to shrimping after balls of tar were found in nets. In the same month the length of Louisiana shoreline affected by the oil was said to extend to 320 miles.

The damage to wildlife has been widespread. By November more than 6800 dead animals had been collected from the area, including 6100 birds, 600 sea turtles and 100 dolphins and other mammals.

Dolphins were reported to be spouting oil from their blowholes, and some were said to be “acting drunk”. The Gulf of Mexico is very rich in animal life and hundreds of endangered species are at risk, including five kinds of turtle.

But the consequences have resounded far beyond local fishing and wildlife, rocking boardrooms and governments. Estimates of the total economic losses due to the disaster have varied from $3 billion to $30bn – and someone is going to have to pay.

BP took an immediate hit, losing more than $105 million from its market value a month after the accident. It agreed to put $20bn into a reparation fund, and reported a second-quarter loss of $17bn, its first in 18 years.

The company’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, was widely vilified and lost his job because of the disaster. He never really recovered from telling a reporter in May: “There’s no-one who wants this thing over more than I do – I’d like my life back.”

Earlier this month the US Government announced it was going to sue BP and other companies involved in the disaster. The total amount for which the company will end up being liable is unknown, but some estimates suggest it could run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

“I’ve seen the devastation that this oil spill caused throughout the region, to individuals and to families, to communities and to businesses, to coastlines, to wetlands, as well as to wildlife,” said the US Attorney General, Eric Holder. “We will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this spill.”[…]

Friends of the Earth Scotland pointed out that it was the poor communities that bore the brunt in the US. “It was only when oil started to reach Florida, rather than Louisiana, that the US took it seriously,” said the group’s head of campaigns, Juliet Swann.

BP, meanwhile, is busy trying to repair its damaged reputation. It has said sorry, taken responsibility for the clean-up and ploughed untold public relations resources into “making it right”. The question is, could it happen again?

http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/guest-commentary/the-bp-oil-disaster-1.1076517 

 Could the Gulf Oil Spill happen again? A new report on the perils of offshore drilling reminds Earth Justice of the old saying that “today’s generals are always preparing to fight yesterday’s wars.” Earth Justice is less than sanguine about a new report on what would happen in an oil spill in the Arctic:

The report, by Pew Environment Group, warns that the lessons learned in fighting the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill are not good guidelines to make drilling in Arctic waters safe. Says Pew: “the risks, difficulties and unknowns of oil exploration and development are far greater in the Arctic than in any other U.S. ocean area.”

In other words, [says EarthJustice], let’s not be fooled by oil industry assurances that the Gulf spill has prepared us to face down a spill in the Arctic. It’s a different battleground. What barely worked in the warm waters of the Gulf will surely fail in a sea of ice. Here’s how Pew puts it:

Industry and government plans for oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic Ocean have been rushed, relying on a cursory environmental analysis of the potential impacts of a catastrophic oil spill. They also rely on inadequate and unproven oil spill response plans and techniques.

These plans have been pushed forward despite the lack of information on Arctic marine ecosystems and the effects of climate change and a lack of understanding of the impacts that oil and gas drilling would have on the Arctic Ocean’s unique species.

Pew Recommends:

Federal resource management agencies must complete a comprehensive science plan, including research and data collection on the Arctic marine environment, before oil and gas exploration and development proceed.
• Oil spill risk assessments and spill prevention technologies must reflect Arctic conditions.
• Spill response must be tailored to Arctic conditions, and response planning standards must be strengthened.
• Review and oversight of oil and gas drilling must be enhanced.

EarthJustice also reports that some strategies used in the Gulf were largely innefectual. They write:

Miles of sand berms built to protect the coastline during the
Gulf oil spill that cost millions of dollars were a huge waste of money, according to a presidential oil spill commission. During the spill, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal strongly insisted on having the berms, despite scientists and federal agencies raising concerns over the berms’ potential effectiveness. Yet, as the Associated Press quoted coastal scientist Rob Young as saying, the berm effort has so far done little more than draw “a pencil line of sand.”

“Ouch,” concludes EarthJustice.

http://earthjustice.org/category/tags/oil?gclid=CILGrq6xiqYCFQUSbAodR1P9nw

Much closer to home in our parade of less-than-good news stores comes a December 25 LA Times article by Michael Mishak weighing the positive and negative aspects of Governor Schwarzenegger’s performance as governor.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s efforts to give a boost to corporate California are colliding with his image as an environmental crusader in his final days in office.

Administration officials say their moves are needed to protect jobs in a fragile economy. But environmentalists are dismayed by what they see as a feverish push to limit restrictions on toxic chemicals in retail goods, ease key air pollution rules, and permit the use of a known carcinogen to treat soil in strawberry fields.

[Listeners will recall that we covered the strawberry story with members of Pesticide Watch and the Butte Environmental Council just three weeks ago. We learned that the use of Methyl Iodide on strawberries is environmentally unsafe and the approval is clearly a business decision that will endanger human health.]


The administration’s maneuvering highlights a tension present at the outset of Schwarzenegger’s tenure: the environmental activist versus the business executive.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor’s environmental record is indisputable, citing big strides he has made in curbing greenhouse gas emissions under the landmark global warming law, AB 32, signed by Schwarzenegger in 2006.

McLear said, “This governor has implemented the most historic aggressive environmental regulations in the country and sometimes the world. It’s just not credible to argue otherwise.”

But activists say they are sorely disappointed by some of the governor’s recent moves.

Bill Allayaud, director of government affairs for Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization focused on toxic chemicals says, “I think they’d rather take heat from some environmental groups and some scientists than they would from Dow, DuPont and Exxon Mobil.”

Last-minute actions on the state Green Chemistry Initiative were a particular letdown to environmental activists.

The program is meant to remove dangerous chemicals from retail products. But a recent loosening of the regulations by the administration prompted 33 environmental, health and community groups to warn that they had become “so ineffective and burdensome that they should be jettisoned altogether.” The groups accused the administration of putting the industry-friendly changes on a fast track before the inauguration of Jerry Brown, who may not be as business-friendly.

The changes so disturbed the author of the legislation creating the program, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D- Los Angeles), that he no longer supports the regulations.

http://www.google.com/search?q=Environmentalists+deplore+Schwarzenegger%27s+corporate+turn+la+times&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-

The Sacramento News and Review pretty much agrees with the assessment of Swarzenegger’s performance as an environmental governor as mixed and often inconsistent:

[…]California’s Jolly Green Governor is an ardent champion of ratcheting down greenhouse gases, known worldwide for his championing of Assembly Bill 32 to lower California’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. But, in 2006, he was the chief cheerleader for a $20 billion bond measure to ease congestion on state roads and highways, making it easier for commuters to drive. And he has gutted funding for public transit—a key way to get solo commuters out of their vehicles and, thereby, improve air quality.

Schwarzenegger signed 2004 legislation creating the Sierra Nevada Conservancy—at 25 million acres stretching from Kern County to the Oregon border, by far the state’s largest—and inked a deal with the Tejon Ranch in Southern California preserving roughly 90 percent of the 270,000 acre property. But Schwarzenegger routinely put the state park system on the budget chopping block and declined to reappoint his brother-in-law Bobby Shriver and Clint Eastwood to the State Park & Recreation Commission after their opposition to the GOP governor’s plan to allow a six-lane toll road to cut through San Onofre State Beach. Budget cuts, albeit necessary to close the state’s massive cash shortage, have also curtailed the state’s ability to enforce environmental laws. California’s Department of Fish and Game wardens cover a larger area per warden than those in any other state. Schwarzenegger opposed drilling off California’s coast, then backed an expansion of it, saying that royalties paid by oil companies would help reduce the 2009 state budget shortfall. After the BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, he returned to opposing an expansion of drilling.

http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/content?oid=1890583

Also in the mixed news category are reports coming out of the most recent global climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico. A year ago, the Copenhagen climate change conference disappointed just about everyone and fell well below expectations. Perhaps the publicists and politicians learned some lessons, for they were far less optimistic about the Cancun meeting and its possible outcomes, which, in our view, were quite small and certainly not enough to limit climate change. Nevertheless, most of the articles we reviewed were at least mildly positive. Here’s one from The Australian, published on December 27, an op-ed by Connie Hedgaard, European Commissioner for Climate Change, who says that Cancun puts climate change agreements “back on track”:

What’s in the[Cancun] package? [she asks rhetorically, and she answers,] Quite a bit. The key points of the agreement concluded in Cancun are based on the results we achieved in Copenhagen last year.

That includes the 2 centigrade target and the reduction pledges that countries took on in the run-up to Copenhagen. It includes the commitment of developed nations to provide finance for developing countries: $US30 billion in the short term (2010-12) and $US100bn annually by 2020. […] The package also includes agreement on the rules for transparency — how countries measure and report their emissions — which had proved to be a stumbling block in Copenhagen.

Besides tightened rules on transparency, the agreement contains detailed decisions for improved co-operation on technology between north and south, an agreement on climate adaptation in developing countries and a mechanism to reverse deforestation in the tropics.

 But, Commissioner Hegard also owns up to the obvious fact that:

Cancun did not solve everything. The reduction commitments are not enough to keep the temperature increase below 2 centigrade and there are other outstanding issues, such as the legal form of the agreement and how to provide the long-term finance.

But [, she continues,] Cancun proved the multilateral process can deliver results. Without an agreement the UN process would have been in imminent danger. Politicians and the public might well have lost faith in the process and discarded it, with nothing to put in its place.

Now we have a deal. But there is still much work ahead of us, both internationally, where we must still deal with the outstanding issues, and domestically, where we have to deliver on what has been decided. In Europe we are already working on it.

Like Copenhagen, the Cancun conference seems to be more of a future promise than a direct achievement, and Commissioner Hedgaard concludes her report in The Australian with a peroration that sounds to us a lot like corporate-speak. She says:

Next year we will present a road map for how we can create an intelligent, innovative low-carbon economy by 2050. We do this for the environment, but we also do it for the sake of competitiveness and energy security.

In a world with ever more people and fewer fossil energy resources, the winners will be the ones who are independent of oscillating oil prices and who can provide energy efficient and innovative solutions. […]

http://http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/cancun-deal-puts-climate-action-back-on-track/story-e6frg6zo-1225976418201

We could go on at length with the less-than-good news about environmental accomplishments in 2010. For example, Science Daily has reported new studies that show unexpectedly large hypoxic or “dead” zones in the Atlantic Ocean and, quite predictably, the Gulf of Mexico.
And the New Scientist has an appalling report that “A handful of Chinese and Indian chemicals companies seemingly have the world over a barrel – or rather a large number of barrels of a super-greenhouse gas called HFC-23, which is 14,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide.” These companies have been granted millions of carbon credits [for this stored gas, which they threatened to release into atmosphere if they didn’t get credits. They can then sell those same credits] to western companies that want to offset their obligations to cut emissions of other greenhouse gases, under a Kyoto scheme known as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

http://http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/cancun-deal-puts-climate-action-back-on-track/story-e6frg6zo-1225976418201

http://http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19878-carbon-trading-tempts-firms-to-make-greenhouse-gas.html

The Mostly Better News

Late last year, we interviewed Alexander Ochs, Director of the Climate and Energy Program of Worldwatch, as he was on his way to the Copenhagen climate talks. Ochs explained that many countries were resisting the kinds of dramatic changes necessary to have an impact on climate change. Feeling discouraged about the prospects for the conference, we asked Ochs if he was similarly downcast. To our surprise, his answer was no. On the contrary, he was feeling optimistic, because he said, the will is there among the people. We’ll circumvent the government, he insisted, because people want change.

One strong piece of that evidence came from California in 2010, where we the people (including local activist Jessica Allen soundly trounced Proposition 23, the effort to roll back California’s pioneering climate control actions. Here’s an op-ed from the Seattle Times, published on December 23, holding up California and its voters for praise. Guest columnist K.C. Golden, policy director for Climate Solutions, a Northwest nonprofit, writes:

Gaping budget deficits. Record foreclosures. High unemployment. Surely, this would be the perfect time to choose jobs over the environment.

That’s what two Texas oil companies figured when they put Proposition 23 on the California ballot in November. The measure would have suspended California’s Global Warming Solutions Act until unemployment fell below 5.5 percent. But the oil companies miscalculated. California voters rejected Prop. 23 overwhelmingly.

Do you think Californians, with 12.4 percent unemployment, were saying, “We want climate solutions, not jobs”? Of course not. They were saying something much more positive: “Climate solutions are jobs, and we’ll have both.”

Difficult economic conditions are a signal to accelerate this clean-energy economy, not to go back to the old-think that created our economically and environmentally devastating fossil-fuel dependence. With a sputtering economy and a deepening climate crisis, we can’t afford to freeze in the headlights of the broken, polarized, special-interest politics that pits jobs against the environment.

The West Coast clean-energy economy is a bright spot on a cloudy economic horizon. Renewable energy is a powerful job driver. Energy-efficiency programs are putting people to work in their communities, while keeping energy dollars circulating through their local economies. Cleaner cars and better transportation choices are reducing our crippling dependence on oil.

California’s business community — from Silicon Valley to small-town chambers of commerce — united against Prop. 23 to protect the clean-energy job engine against the oil interests who see reduced fossil-fuel dependence as a threat to their profits. Oil companies tried to sing the tired old “jobs vs. environment” song, but they were way off key.[…]

An economic crunch is a time to advance together, not retreat into opposing camps whose lobbyists battle each other to a standstill to accomplish nothing — as they did when Congress failed to pass a national climate and energy policy this year. Let’s be clear: If we keep burning fossil fuels at our current rate, and ship what we don’t use to Asia, we’re toast. Our economy will decline and we’ll leave our kids a future of catastrophic climate disruption. (It’s considered risky for climate advocates to use scary words like “catastrophic.” But it’s riskier and scarier to avoid these words when they are true.)

This is not an “evironmental” thing; it’s not a political thing; it’s not cable-news partisan football. It’s a science thing, a reality thing, a moral crossroads — an epic human tragedy that we’re well on our way to creating. There’s no good future — for business, people, or the planet — if we keep stoking the climate crisis with more fossil fuels.

[…]We have a long way to go, but we have begun to demonstrate that a new, sustainable prosperity is possible. We know it’s necessary. A tough economy means it’s time to rise to that challenge, not duck it.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2013753270_guest26golden.html#loop

 But we in the Northstate don’t have to look to Seattle for inspiration. There’s plenty right here in town. We were delighted to see Chris LaPrado’s article in this week’s Chico News and Review describing an award granted to Sierra Nevada brewery and its CEO Ken Grossman:

In honor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 40th anniversary, the agency held an awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Dec. 2 recognizing a dozen environmental leaders in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. Of the 12 people and businesses presented with the prestigious awards, nine were from California, including outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the Climate Change Champion award for his groundbreaking efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and promote solar power, including signing the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

 Also weighing in for California was Chico’s own Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which was named Green Business of the Year for its “environmental leadership in the brewing industry,” as an EPA press release put it. Among other stellar green feats aiming for zero waste, the brewery keeps 99.5 percent of its solid waste out of the landfill through such means as recycling and composting, and 85 percent of Sierra Nevada’s electricity comes from renewable power (you’ve seen SNB’s many solar panels, no doubt). The brewery also was recently recognized by the Platinum Sacramento Area Sustainable Business program for its green transportation policies.

Grossman took [Christine Laprado] on a tour of his business’ newest green innovations, [and said modestly] “It’s nice to be acknowledged [by the EPA]. We appreciate it. We’ve always had the feeling that we try to do the right thing.”

http://www.newsreview.com/chico/content?oid=1894307

We are constantly amazed and impressed by the Butte Environmental Council’s many, positive actions on behalf of the environment and our northstate ecosystem. The most recent issue of BEC’s Environmental News reports on a range of activities:

  • a project at Creekside 6 Academy in Paradise, with Carol Perkins helping kids understand the endangered ecology if Little Dry Creek.
  • the ongoing BEC lawsuit concerning drought watewr usage in Butte County.
  • advocacy after the General Plan update, with a focus on a legal challenge based on water and zoning ordinances.
  • and for the historically minded, a review of BEC’s 35 years of environmental protection projects.

Check them out at becnet.org

Another group doing great work locally is Aqualliance, which continues to defend the northstate and California water supply while advocating for comprehensive, systematic, ecological sound, area wide water and natural resources plan. Check out therir website: http://www.aqualliance.net/

Jumping to national and global good news, we found encouraging words on the Environmental News Network’s site including stories about:

  • A BBC celebration of the Wright Brothers’ first flight that emphasized the incredible flying abilities of birds, way advanced over human flight.
  • Successful ooperative international efforts to control the flow of hazardous wastes across borders.
  • Discovery of a new nesting ground in Belize for the Harpy Eagle, which is now a bit less endangered than thought.
  • A new Walgreen’s in Oak Park, Illinois based on geothermal powers.

The Environmental News Network is at www.enn.com/

And we were heartened to read about the international Goldman Awards, that give prizes and support for grassroots community environmental efforts. The 2010 awards included:

  • A lawsuit in Swaziland, Africa, to challenge forced evictions and violence perpetrated against poverty-stricken communities living on the edges of conservation areas.
  • A Cambodian project to to mitigate human/elephant conflict by empowering local communities to cooperatively participate in endangered Asian elephant conservation.
  • A Polish effort to preserve one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas from a highway project that would have destroyed the region’s sensitive ecosystems.
  • A Cuban program to promote sustainable agriculture by working with farmers to increase crop diversity and develop low-input agricultural systems that greatly reduce the need for pesticide and fertilizer.
  • And the efforts of Lynn Henning, a Michigan farmer, to challenge the pollution practices of concentrated animal feeding operations , prompting state regulators to issue hundreds of citations for water quality violations.

Read more of this good news at www.goldmanfund.org

The Prospects for 2011

 We’ll wrap up this show by reading from an article that appeared in the International Herald Tribune on December 27, where Kate Galbraith speculates on what is likely to happen on the global front in the coming year. She writes that the year 2010:

[…] began with gloom, after the collapse of the Copenhagen climate meetings in December 2009. The mood darkened further as it became clear that cap-and-trade legislation to combat greenhouse gas emissions would not pass the U.S. Congress.

[Editorially, we have to add that we are not personally convinced that cap-and-trade carbon trading is a solution to emissions problems.] 

A sliver of hope came from a modest agreement at climate meetings in Cancún, Mexico, earlier this month, on a more solid multinational commitment to finding ways to cut emissions. Another development, bringing perhaps more relief than hope, was the rejection by California voters of an effort, backed by oil companies, to suspend the state’s landmark law to combat global warming.  

The year 2011 may not bring too much improvement, from environmentalists’ perspective. Budget deficits and a still-sluggish economy in the United States and elsewhere may complicate investments in clean-energy technologies. And international negotiators have plenty of tough work ahead, the progress at Cancún notwithstanding.

I’m pessimistic about this international process,” said Jürgen Weiss, a principal at Brattle Group, a consulting firm based in Massachusetts. The Cancún agreement was not legally binding, so while vows to limit the planet’s warming to a modest amount are all very well, Mr. Weiss said, it would be “utterly shocking if these things remain more than just words.”

Next year, some big milestones are set to be reached. The United States is to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in January. The rules at first will be mild and will apply only to new or expanding big plants. But last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a timetable for issuing rules to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries — two major sources of the heat-trapping gases — in 2012. (The E.P.A. also declared last week that it would take over the issuing of greenhouse gas permits for big plants in the one state, Texas, that has made clear its unwillingness to carry out the regulations.)

Among other 2011 developments, international climate talks are scheduled to take place in South Africa late in the year. They are intended to build on the Cancún accords, which spanned a range of good intentions, including assistance from wealthy countries to poorer ones.

Indeed, two of the major players in Cancún — China and the United States — will have an opportunity for further discussion on climate, as the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, is scheduled to visit the United States next month.  

Much of the focus for 2011, however, is likely to remain on the race to develop a clean-energy economy. The European Union is to begin work on a new “energy savings directive” to help with financing and other issues related to energy efficiency. A proposal from the European Commission is likely to be released in the third quarter of 2011, with additional negotiations and discussions to follow, according to Bendt Bendtsen, a Danish member of the European Parliament and a draftsman of the Parliament’s position on energy efficiency.

China, too, is likely to focus on its burgeoning wind and solar sectors.

With or without international agreements, Asian countries are taking action to promote renewable energy,” Yotam Ariel, an independent solar consultant based in Shanghai, said in an e-mail.

 However, the promotion of renewable energy by China in particular is likely to be a big issue next year in Washington, as U.S. officials continue to scrutinize Chinese clean-energy exports and potentially complain to the World Trade Organization about trade practices.

Earlier this month, the administration of President Barack Obama brought a case to the trade group alleging that the Chinese government had illegally subsidized production of wind-turbine equipment; that case was strongly backed by the United Steelworkers, a U.S. labor union. The Chinese have defended their policies.

The United States is still investigating other aspects of Chinese green technology practices, so further action by Washington could be coming.  

How strongly the United States moves forward next year to support clean energy on the home front remains to be seen. The White House says it is committed to doing more. The press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said in a Twitter question and answer session last week, “We have to focus on dealing with our lack of energy independence — continue to push for renewable standards and more.” […]

However, given states’ budget concerns, renewable energy development could experience some resistance, according to Mr. Weiss of Brattle Group. He said it would be interesting “to see whether the United States — primarily the states — can maintain momentum on the renewables side.”

My observation is that there is increasing resistance to the payments that are necessary to build the renewable projects” to meet the clean-energy requirements now in place in many of the states, he added.

Clean energy aside, efforts to combat climate change legislatively in the United States next year are likely to stall. The new Congress, which will include many more conservatives, will almost certainly be disinclined to take action on global warming and may even hold hearings to question the Environmental Protection Agency and international climate science.

For the next two years, and perhaps longer, it will be “utterly impossible” to pass national cap-and-trade policies, Mr. Weiss said — although he noted that California, the country’s most populous state, would spend the next year readying for a cap-and-trade system of its own. It is scheduled to begin in 2012. (Northeastern states also have an emissions trading system in operation to counter greenhouse gases.)

Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb. As Justin Gillis reported last week in The New York Times, measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed carbon dioxide levels at 390 parts per million — a number that has risen dramatically in recent decades and shows no sign of stopping.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/business/energy-environment/27green.html

Playlist for Ecotopia #116

1. Auld Lang Syne 2:36 Straight No Chaser Holiday Spirits (Bonus Track

Version)

2. Supernova 4:42 Liquid Blue Supernova

3. Black Moon (Album Version) 6:59 Emerson, Lake & Palmer Black Moon

4. Clear Blue Skies (LP Version) 3:07 Crosby, Still, Nash & Young

American Dream

5. Life Uncommon 4:57 Jewel Spirit

6. Weave Me the Sunshine 4:28 Peter, Paul And Mary The Very Best of

Peter, Paul and Mary