Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The REAL issues at stake in Massachusetts v. EPA

Respecting the pros and cons of today's oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the closely-watched greenhouse gas case, "Massachusetts v. the Environmental Protection Agency," a major legal issue is "standing." For non-lawyers, the question is this: will federal courts be available to people with claims about damages cause by climate change? Are they equipped to deal with claims over how carbon emissions are speeding up global warming?

Whatever the legalities, one must ask how can the EPA all but ignore changes affected by greenhouse gas emissions? Perhaps more interesting: how can EPA maintain this posture overall while the widely-respected Energy Star and related initiatives at EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy spend so much time and resources focusing on -- guess what -- reducing carbon emissions?

Massachusetts has been joined by at least 11 other states, 13 environmental-advocacy groups and three states in arguing that EPA has shirked its responsibility and is ignoring the Clean Air Act. If anything, today's arguments and the resulting media coverage should help illuminate what can and should be done without the courts.

Here's a little-known fact: the case originates from an application over emissions by new passenger vehicles in 1999, while Bill Clinton was president.

What do you think?

greenhouse gases, Supreme Court, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star, global warming, vehicle emissions, Department of Energy

Monday, November 27, 2006

Eco-advantage reaching a tipping point

Although The Economist declares the rush to clean energy to be a "risky boom," INC magazine this month declared that actions to create and operate more sustainable companies are "being driven as much by markets as morality." Not far behind them are The Washington Post, capturing the growing chorus of energy executives, led by Shell's John Hofmeister and Duke Energy's John Stovwell, acknowledging the need to do something about climate change (they might as well be a part of the solution) AND the erstwhile voice of free enterprise, The Wall Street Journal, pushing a lengthy feature story on to its front page about a maker of silicon photovoltaic materials, Stanford Ovshinsky and his six-month backlog of orders.

Will policymakers respond with credible incentives, laws and regulations designed to capitalize on the enormous brain power and capital standing ready to fuel a greener future and at a much faster pace? The latest hints could be found at this Thursday's policy summit by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) on Capitol Hill.

ACORE, solar power, climate change,
Shell, Duke Energy, renewable energy, Ovshinsky,

clean energy

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prop 87's failure: impact on alternative energy investments?

The defeat of California's Proposition 87, by far the most expensive ballot initiative in the state's history, is a blow to national alternative and renewable energy and efficiency advocates and will almost certainly derail a lot of venture capital that would have pursued the $4 billion in revenue generated by the proposed tax on in-state oil production.

The apparent 55% to 45% defeat shifts the focus to what the now Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, and perhaps the U.S. Senate, might do with the upcoming farm bill alongside of a stab at addressing pressing issues that didn't make the cut in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Perhaps more important for the environment is the penchant for Congress and the White House do take action on climate change, which a growing number of insurance companies and energy-intensive corporations would like to see from the next President, if not from Congress starting in January.

Many eyes will be on Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Andy Karsner for how he is championing alternative energy projects already in the pipeline and helping to focus private sector capital - intellectual and financial - on programs, products and new technologies that can improve efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and stabilize America's dependence on unreliable supplies of crude oil and natural gas. Are DOE and the White House up to the task of going beyond what many analysts are privately asserting has been, overal, a 'timid' commitment to alternative energy and renewables?

If you didn't see this spoof via Yahoo Video of a 'debate' between a Prop 87 proponent and opponent, it's worth seeing.

Proposition 87, Karsner, alternative energy, renewable energy, climate change, Energy Policy Act of 2005, Department of Energy

Friday, November 03, 2006

Corn and ethanol prices catching up with importance of oil prices

As corn futures prices pushed up to a 10-year high this week, estimates of corn production by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's market information unit, and their resulting impact on futures trading on the Chicago Board of Trade, are taking on growing importance as ethanol's role as a significant biofuel gains traction. The December contract on the CBOT hovered around $3.43 per bushel as this week came to a close, breaking the price in September 1996.

BUT, while the U.S. is projected to harvest the third largest corn crop in history and as a dozen or so ethanol plants are slated to open in 2007, ethanol prices are falling from their recent peak of $4.23 per gallon in June due to concerns about too much supply flooding the market. Just as the ethanol industry starts accelerating, the looming market correction -- dare anybody say 'bust" -- will test the resolve of farmers, vehicle manufacturers and policy makers alike to maintain a strategic focus on ethanol as a source for lessening our dependence on unreliable crude supplies and improving economic prospects throughout the Farm Belt. Stay tuned.

ethanol, ,
U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn prices,