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"US Mulls Climate Policy" - TCE Today/the Chemical Engineer (iChemE, UK)

"US Mulls Climate Policy" - TCE Today/the Chemical Engineer (iChemE, UK)

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Published by Laurie Wiegler
Story for TCE Today/The Chemical Engineer (UK) regarding the upcoming administration's likely plan for reducing carbon emissions including consideration of nuclear power expansion. (Dec 2008).
Story for TCE Today/The Chemical Engineer (UK) regarding the upcoming administration's likely plan for reducing carbon emissions including consideration of nuclear power expansion. (Dec 2008).

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Published by: Laurie Wiegler on Dec 15, 2010
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DETAILS OF THE future US climate policy are still hard to come by, but industry and regulatorsare preparing for a dramatic change in direction, which will have implications for NorthAmerican and global carbon markets. For the first time in years, environmentalists have reasonto hope: While George Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, his successor Barack Obama isfar more climate-friendly.
Thus, in December, 2009 at the ClimateConference in Copenhagen – where Kyoto Protocol participants meet to decide upon how to extendthe original agreement beyond 2012 – Obamacould ratify US participation. He could of coursesign on beforehand, but that’s consideredunlikely, given the current US financial crisis andsubsequent world economic fallout.
Obama’s environmental advisor
“I can tell you I am absolutely firm in thecommitment to tell you nothing firm,” quippedJason Grumet, one of Obama’s environmentaadvisors at a recent conference on US carbonmarkets. Yet, he said the new administration iscommitted to hitting the ground running on 21January, adding that the Obama team is anxiousto reverse the present US federal policy, whichhas worked counter to environmental interests.“He [Obama] comes with a tremendous depth of information to draw from. He will move quickly onclimate change,” Grumet said.While the advisor would not commit to beingmore substantive, others could and were moreforthcoming.For example, Senator Jeff Bingaman, whochairs the Senate Energy and Natural ResourcesCommittee, said: “We need to make every effortto enact major energy change and climatechange. [We will] begin with energy legislation…a renewable portfolio standard.” He went on todiscuss increased efficiency. “I believe we’vedemonstrated in Congress that we can gettogether [on this cause].”When
asked Bingaman to commenton the upcoming administration’s nuclearpolicies – a hot button topic with many of theenvironmentalists who elected Obama – Bingamanpointed to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, whichhe co-authored and which includes a stipulationto expand nuclear capacity. The Energy PolicyAct of 2005
authorises loan guarantees forrevolutionary technologies, such as advanced
www.tcetoday.comdec 2008/ jan 2009
nuclear reactor designs, clean coal and renewableenergy.“President Elect Obama is not opposed toexpansion. Whether he’d embrace additional expansion, I just don’t know,” said Bingaman.Meeting moderator Eileen Claussen, presidentof the global climate change organisation PEWCenter, was even more specific. She said that61% of US voters, according to PEW statistics,are concerned about capping carbon emissions.Claussen is a member of the Council on ForeignRelations and is former director of the USEnvironmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s)atmospheric programme.“Building a new green economy must be atop three priority for the new administration, ”Claussen said. Then she highlighted five reasonsto believe that change is imminent: “Americanssupport action on climate [change] – there is agrowing public understanding that the climate isin crisis, that it’s reached a tipping point.”Secondly, there is growing pressure oncorporations and states to mandate morestringent carbon emissions controls. 44companies, she said, approve mandatoryrequirements for the US, and there is a growingmovement for strong national legislation to putthis forward. 24 states involved in regulatorycap-and-trade schemes are presently onboard,Claussen cited, pointing to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, called“Reggie” colloquially) as an example. RGGI isthe first initiative in the US that would makethe reduction of greenhouse gas emissionsmandatory. Ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlanticstates are on target to cap and then reduce CO
 emissions from the power sector 10% by 2018.Thirdly, there are very high expectationsaround the world for the US to step it up. “Theglobal community has been very frustrated. If Obama wants to start off on [the right] foot, itis imperative to craft environmental policy.”Fourthly, the Supreme Court decisionMassachusetts
EPA, which proved that “inactionis no option,” demonstrated that reducinggreenhouse gas emissions fell under the scope of the
Clean Air Act 
.And finally, the Obama advisors and Congressunderstand the connection between economic,climate and energy policy, Claussen said.
putting policy into action
While the carbon market is a profitable one forcompanies cashing in on others’ complianceneeds – and could possibly account for why thisparticular conference was so heavily attended,as banks and other businesses struggle tomeet regulatory standards for a new, more pro-environment administration – how it will all playout is unclear. If Grumet keeps mum at this stage,it’s to be expected; but if Obama does not meetthe world’s, let alone most Americans’ expectationsfor curbing CO
emissions, it’s hard to imagine hispopularity continuing its ascent.In no industry are policies of the newadministration being more carefully monitoredthan in the energy and chemical sectors, whilecompanies such as Dow Chemical and Pacific Gas& Electric (PG&E), are already adapting businessstrategies to meet environmental demands andfuture mandates. Melissa Lavinson, directorof federal environmental affairs and corporateresponsibility at PG&E, said that the utilityis pursuing new infrastructure and innovativetechnology investment. She added that electricityand energy companies should play a role beyondthe power plant and take a more ‘holistic’ approachthat encompasses delivery, consumption andinfrastructure support.
what’s at stake?
According to the 2007 report issued by theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)global atmospheric concentrations of carbondioxide, nitrous oxide and methane emissions haveincreased dramatically since 1750.One state leading the way in reversing climatechange is California, as famously representedby its headline-grabbing governor, ArnoldSchwarzenegger. Speaking at a session on evolvingregional and world markets, Margret Kim of theAir Resources Defense Board in Sacramento talkedabout how the governor’s Global Warming SolutionsAct paved the way for other states to follow.The legislation established the first statewidegreenhouse gas regulation in the US, mandatingemission cuts to the 1990 level by 2020, with aclear view that that is not the end point.Kim told
after the event that California will continue to implement the Act “and we are startingour rule making.” As for unconditional supportof the new administration, she said California issupportive but it would be premature to offer moredetails before Obama even takes office.Perhaps, but the new president might wantto heed an example set by the Golden State: arecent National Resources Defense Council studypoints out that if the US were to follow California’sexample, this alone would ensure that Kyotoguidelines are met.
Laurie Wiegler is a US-based science writer 
States and industry plan for carbon caps
US mulls climate policy
World hopes for climate policy change
dec 2008/ jan 2009www.tcetoday.com
BHP withdraws RioTinto takeover offer
BHP BILLITON has called off its hostiletakeover of mining rival Rio Tinto, sayingthe immediate financial outlook, fallingcommodity prices, and possible divestmentdemands from regulatory competitionauthorities risk shareholder value.BHP chairman Don Argus says: “Whilewe have not changed our view of the basicindustrial logic of the combination [...]we have concerns about the continueddeterioration of near-term global economicconditions, the lack of any certainty asto the time it will take for conditions toimprove and the risks that these issuesimply for shareholder value.”In February, BHP offered 3.4 BHP sharesfor every Rio share in an offer worth $147b.Subsequent falls in available capital,commodity demand and prices, and theresultant loss in shareprice has eroded theoffer’s value to below $70b.BHP ceo Marius Kloppers says thatantitrust rulings also forced the company’shand as the European Commission wouldrequire divestments in iron ore andmetallurgical coal. Other fears include thesize of the deal’s inherited debt; Rio has$40b on its balance sheet compared toBHP’s $6.5b; and Rio’s failure to divestnon-core assets including Rio Tinto AlcanPackaging and Rio Tinto Alcan EngineeredProducts. Kloppers is sceptical of sellingthese units in the current economicenvironment.
Glass cartel smashesprice-fixing record
AN automotive glass cartel has beenslapped with a
1.38b ($1.7b) fine – theEU’s largest ever price-fixing penalty.The four-company cartel met at hotelsand airports across Europe and controlled90% of the European automotive glassmarket for five years.Of the fine, Saint-Gobain will pay
896m, Pilkington
370m, Asahi Glass
113.5m, and Soliver
4.4m.Saint Gobain’s fine is the largest singlecompany fine in the EU’s history and well above the
560m the company had setaside to cover a worst-case ruling. TheEU increased its fine by 60% for previouscartel activity. Saint Gobain says it will appeal. Asahi co-operated with the cartel investigation so its fine was reduced by50%.Neelie Kroes, EU competitioncommissioner, says: “[They] cheated the carindustry and car-buyers for five years in amarket worth
2b in the last year.”
Five face Buncefield prosecution
Kashagan dispute ends
KazMunaiGas doubles its equity, eyes 2013 startup
AFTER 15 months of taut negotiations theKashagan oil field dispute has concluded withKazakhstan arranging an early productionagreement and its state-oil companyKazMunaiGas doubling its equity.Kashagan’s production delays and increasingcosts threatened to shelve the project, whichis billed as the world’s largest and mostcomplex oil project. Production at the1.6m bbl/d project was originally scheduled tobegin in 2005. Under the latest agreement theearliest possible start is now pencilled in forOctober 2013.To date the project consortium, includingConocoPhillips, Eni, ExxonMobil, Inpex, Shell,and Total, has invested $12b and, keen toresolve the conflict, the consortium settled fora reduced share. As a result KazMunaiGas will double its equity share to 16.81% (at a costof $1.78b, to be paid once production begins),the same as the major project partners.Additionally, Kazakhstan will take 12.5%of Kashagan oil production even before theconsortium recovers its costs.The negotiations have given the majorpartners new responsibilities in an effortto speed up and optimise Kashagan’sdevelopment. ExxonMobil will manage thedrilling of oil containing high volumes of sulphur that is under huge pressure in watersthat freeze; Shell will oversee offshoreconstruction; Eni will take on onshoreconstruction; and Total will be responsible forcoordinating oil transport.Eni will continue to operate phase one of the project. A committee of representativesfrom all the companies will operate the nexttwo phases.Despite reaching an agreement, Kazakhstanis not resting on its laurels and warns theconsortium that further delays will result inheavy penalties.FIVE companies face criminal charges over the2005 explosion of an oil depot at Buncefield,UK. The December 2005 accident – the biggestexplosion in Europe since the end of World WarII – was caused by an overflowing fuel tankleaking 300 t of fuel and forming a vapourcloud which then ignited.Total UK, Hertfordshire Oil Storage, theBritish Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering, andMotherwell Control Systems will all stand trial at West Hertfordshire Magistrates Court inWatford from 23 January 2009.Hertfordshire Oil Storage is the site’soperating company, a 60:40 joint venturebetween Total and Chevron. It facesprosecution on two charges, including failingto take all measures necessary to preventmajor accidents. Total UK, as the site’soperator, is also separately named in thelawsuit, because it “failed to ensure, so far asis reasonably practicable, that persons not intheir employment were not exposed to risksto their health or safety”. It is also chargedwith failing to ensure the safety of peopleit did not employ, and of causing groundpollution as a result of fuel and chemicalsused by the firefighters leaking through thebunds at the site – a charge also levelledagainst Hertforshire Oil Storage and the BritishPipeline Agency.TAV Engineering, which provided thealarm switches which failed to automaticallyshut down the pipeline when the tank wasoverflowing, is charged with failing toadequately protect the health and safetyof members of the public, as is Motherwell Control Systems 2003, which fitted TAV’scontrol switch and connected it to themonitoring system at Buncefield.The prosecution is jointly brought by theEnvironment Agency and the Health andSafety Executive after what they describeas a “thorough and complex” criminal investigation.Total and Hertfordshire Oil Storage arealso facing a separate civil lawsuit over theblast, brought by local residents, businessesand insurance companies, which are seekingdamages totalling £700m ($1.1b).
Report highlightspollution problems
A TOP ten of the world’s most damagingsources of pollution finds that many of themost damaging industrial activities around theworld are fairly small-scale.The listing was compiled by the USBlacksmith Institute – which has alreadymade headlines for its compilation of themost seriously-polluted places in the world– and Swiss environmental group Green Cross.It lists, in no particular order, artisanal goldmining, contaminated surface water, indoorair pollution, industrial mining activities,groundwater contamination, metals smeltingand processing, radioactive waste and uraniummining, untreated sewage, urban air quality,and the recycling of used lead acid batteries.Small-scale operations are often themost polluting because they lack the filtersand safeguards routinely installed at largefacilities. For example, the BlacksmithInstitute cites mercury released by small-scalegold mining, which affects up to 15m minersworldwide, including 4.5m women and 600,000children.Miners combine gold-carrying silt withmercury to form a hard amalgam that absorbsthe gold from the silt. The amalgam is thenheated with blow torches to evaporate themercury, to leave the gold. Because thisis often done near the miners’ homes, theevaporated mercury is not only inhaled bythe miners, but their families too. Mercurythat isn’t inhaled settles in the surroundingenvironment, where it is absorbed by variousplants and bacteria.“As much as 95%of all mercury usedin small-scale mines is released into theenvironment. Hundreds of pounds are usedevery day. It only requires less than onemicrogramme per cubic metre to cause serioushealth effects,” the report states.Small-scale gold mining also appears on asub-list of the report detailing the “four least-addressed pollution problems in the world”,listing pollution problems that are rarely seenon public health policy radar. The other threeare lead battery recycling, chromium, and oldand abandoned chemical weapons.The report points out that pollution playsa major role in making people susceptible toillnesses and is directly responsible for millionsof deaths each year, yet its role in disease ispoorly understood and the problem is oftenoverlooked in favour of more immediate causessuch as hunger and diseases like AIDS andMalaria.
www.tcetoday.comdec 2008/ jan2009
THE European Council has formally adopted adirective to incorporate the aviation industryinto the European Union Emission TradingScheme (EU ETS) from 2012.Carriers taking off or landing at Europeanairports from 1 January 2012 will purchasepermits to cover their emissions regardless of their nationality. The move is seen as the firststep in reducing emissions from the global aviation sector which is projected to emit2% of total anthropogenic carbon dioxideemissions (1999).In 2012, the aviation scheme aims tocap emissions at 97% of the sector’s outputbetween 2006–2008. In 2013 this cap will lower to 95%, with 85% of permits issuedfree of charge and 15% auctioned off. Airlineindustries say the cap-and-trade system will only compound the sector’s financial troubles.Carriers are reporting falling profits and aheightened susceptibility to the global creditcrisis.However, other news may lift their spirits.General Electric Aviation and Rolls Royceare developing open rotor technology forthe engines of the aircraft being developedby Airbus and Boeing to replace their A320and 747 respectively. Wind tunnel trials areannounced and GE predicts it will increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions on commercial flights by 18% by 2018.Virgin Atlantic, Airbus and Air New Zealandare all investigating aircraft biofuels (see alsop9), while BASF says it plans to trial a high-temperature polymer electrolyte membranefuel cell in an Airbus A320.
Aviation permits in EU ETS from 2012
Additives “threatenresearch results”
USING plastic lab equipment can skewexperimental results because plasticadditives sometimes leach into solutions,Canadian researchers have found.Andy Holt, professor of pharmacologyat the University of Alberta’s Facultyof Medicine & Dentistry, says thatquaternary ammonium biocides andoleamides – commonly used as slip agentsand lubricants – can leach from plasticlaboratory equipment into experimental solutions and give false test results.Holt and his team used massspectrometry to analyse experimental solutions at the molecular level, and foundquaternary ammonium, oleamides andrelated chemicals present. The oleamidesused as plastic additives are very similar tooleamides that occur naturally in the bodyand therefore can lead to very misleadingresults, Holt says. The team traced theproblem back to plastic tubes they hadused to prepare reaction solutions. Ina different experiment, which had beenprepared using similar tubes, additivesleaching from the plastic pipes affectedthe behaviour of brain receptors in apharmacological experimentHolt’s team tested pipette tips,Eppendorf tubes and Multiwell plates fromseveral manufacturers. The contaminantsleached from all of these items in themajority of cases. But the specificcontaminants, and the degree to whichthey leached out, varied across differentproducts.The news could have “significant andfar-reaching implications for the integrityof scientific work,” Holt says. The researchwas published in a recent edition of 
Pfizer plans stem cellresearch centres
PFIZER HAS SET up a research unit todevelop pharmaceuticals based on adult andembryonic stem cells, supported by two newresearch labs to be built in the UK and theUS at a total cost of $100m.The Global Regenerative MedicineResearch unit will be the first of several small independent research units emulatingthe innovativeness of small biotechnologycompanies. The unit will work with leadingacademic, biotech and pharmaceutical partners around the world.It will operate from two bases, GrantaPark in Cambridge, UK, and Pfizer’s ResearchTechnology Centre in Massachusetts inthe US. In total it will employ around 70researchers working in small, flexible teams.
Lists top ten activities most urgently in need of cleanup

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