This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


Green batteries, Microloas, EU emissions down, US building emissions up, and China in the lead

Big Blue dreams of a big green battery

AFP, 27 August 2009 - Spike Narayan watched a Tesla electric sports car rocket from zero to 60 mph (100 kph) in less than four seconds and knew batteries would be the next big thing.

"It's hard to understand you're not in a gas powered Porsche," Narayan said as he recalled the demonstration outside IBM's Almaden Research Center in the heart of Silicon Valley.

"Your head snaps back from the speed."

The vision underscored the importance of battery power to Narayan and other IBM researchers who led a future-of-batteries conference that ended Thursday at the center.

Scientists spent two days discussing potential new ways to store electricity and chart paths for research.

IBM is focusing on Lithium-Air batteries, which the company said has the potential to pack up to 10 times the power stored in Lithium-Ion batteries commonly found in cell phones and laptops.

The US technology giant and its partners expect to invest approximately 10 million dollars in the project during the next three years.

Narayan said that the time is right to strive for battery breakthroughs.

A Chevrolet Volt car poised for release in the United States has batteries that can power it for 40 miles (64 kilometers) without help from a gas engine built into the vehicle.

Toyota will soon launch a third-generation of the Japanese auto titan's popular hybrid gas-electric Prius, sporting even more energy efficiency.

Tesla Motors just recently received a 465 million dollar loan from the US Department of Energy to build an electric family sedan to accompany the Roadster sports car that is the young US company's sole offering.

IBM believes Lithium-Air could be the next big thing when it comes to providing batteries for those and other such innovations.

Big Blue's big green project has skeptics, some of whom debate whether consumers will be interested in energy efficient cars.

"Consumers are not willing to pay for fuel-efficient technology if they don't know the future of fuel prices, or even their own job," said Daniel Sperling, who co-authored the book 'Two Billion Cars' about the challenges of fuel efficiency.

While some electric car backers are encouraged by the success of a US "Cash for Clunkers" program which subsidized purchases of fuel-efficient cars by those trading in gas guzzlers, Sperling believes that more needs to be done.

"Consumer behavior is a big part of this," he said. "We need to do our best to align market forces to encourage them."

Some conference attendees claimed that a lack of guidelines at the US Environmental Protection Agency was leaving car makers free to promise mileage performance that vehicles aren't likely to deliver on.

Nissan announced its coming Leaf car will get 367 miles (590 kilometers) per gallon of gasoline, while Chevrolet says the Volt will squeeze 230 miles (370 kilometers) from each gallon of fuel.

"I would have never announced those numbers," Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter said of General Motors, which owns Chevrolet. "It was a stupid thing to do."

Richter and other conference-goers suspected that the performance by the cars may not be as spectacular as the companies claim, which could sour the consumers' tastes for alternative energy technologies.

Since hydrogen fuel cells aren't yet practical, Richter said, battery power is the best alternative to oil.

"The stars are aligned between national security freaks and climate change freaks," the Stanford University professor said of increased interest in oil independence.

"The world is eager for this stuff."

For conference speaker Ted Miller of Ford Motor Company's research division, better batteries go far beyond cars to better performing devices such as smaller iPods and longer lasting laptops.

"But these things take time," Miller said.

In the mean time, Miller was just glad to see progress.

"It's delightful to see 100 miles (161 kilometers) per gallon," he said with a smile. "It's a phenomenal feeling."

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Agence France-Presse (AFP) For more news and articles visit the AFP website.

Microloans becoming a big business, with risks

The International Herald Tribune, August 28, 2009 Friday - Companies like PlaNet Finance and BlueOrchard attract not only public investors, but private ones seeking a ''double bottom line'' of socially responsible returns.

From a warehouse in this scruffy suburb outside Paris, Jacques Attali has been building what he calls the ''McKinsey'' of the microfinance world, a one-stop consulting shop for the sector.

A consummate French insider, Mr. Attali, a former banker and presidential advisor, has recruited big names as board members and advisors, including Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of the Nobel prize-winning Médecins Sans Frontières, now the French foreign minister; and Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel-winning founder of Grameen Bank, a pioneer in the field of microfinance. He has attracted a host of corporate partners, like SAP, the German software company, and BNP Paribas, the largest bank in France.

The result - PlaNet Finance - now has a staff of 700, about 10 percent based in Saint-Ouen, active in more than 60 countries. Since 1998, it says it has provided help to 140,000 entrepreneurs and set up $80 million in financing.

It also has an investment arm and offers technical assistance to donors and recipients. Some services, like ratings, have become benchmarks; others, like insurance, are less successful.

The expansion illustrates just how microfinance - the providing of small business loans to individuals, usually in developing countries - has become big business. Companies like PlaNet Finance and BlueOrchard, based in Geneva, attract not only public investors, but private ones seeking a ''double bottom line'' of socially responsible returns.

Intermediaries, including major investment banks like Citigroup and J.P. Morgan, have jumped on the bandwagon, finding investors and offering services like bond issuance, initial public offerings of shares, ratings and insurance.

But the growth and hoopla has some in the field worried that the industry, awash in liquidity despite the financial squeeze of the past year, may become overly driven by profit and lose sight of its original aim - reducing poverty. There are also persistent questions about debt burdens and regulation.

''Wall Street became very excited a few years ago,'' said Elizabeth Littlefield, chief executive of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, or CGAP, an independent research institute that is based at the World Bank. ''There were elements of a bubble. In some countries, institutions were probably growing too fast.''

Some in the industry privately chide Mr. Attali, for example, of exaggerating PlaNet Finance's achievements for publicity purposes - but they decline to do so on the record because of his stature.

The company itself concedes it has gone through a bit of a learning curve.

''We burned a bit our fingers'' in Mexico, where microfinance ''developed extremely quickly, with many players entering the field very aggressively,'' said Arnaud Ventura, vice president of PlanNet Finance. The results were defaults and a pullback.

During an interview, Mr. Attali agreed that ''some people'' in the industry ''are using microfinance as a way for advertising themselves.'' He did not name anyone in particular.

The aim of microfinance should be creating products that improve lives, Mr. Attali added, so it is not ideally suited to a purely commercial model. But he said that because PlaNet Finance had ''very patient shareholders'' the group did not have to chase profits.

Although PlaNet Finance is a nonprofit organization, he did not rule out going to the market with some products in the future

Modern microfinance took root during the 1980s, although experiments in Bangladesh - with Mr. Yunus and Grameen - and in other countries occurred earlier. It differed from traditional aid by insisting that loans be repaid, charging interest and seeking poverty reduction via enterprise-building.

The basic model involves the establishment by governments or investors of microfinance institutions, which channel money, directly or via funds, to local banks and credit offices to lend on.

According to research by the CGAP, to be published soon, financing from public and private investors passed $10 billion in December.

More than half is managed by specialized funds, known as microfinance investment vehicles, run by players ranging from private equity to specialized managers.

Assets under management grew 16 percent in the first quarter, to $6.6 billion, after rising 31 percent in 2008, and 72 percent in 2007. And fund managers are reporting few redemptions, the institute said.

BlueOrchard, the largest commercial microfinance intermediary, estimates that to meet projected demand over the next five years, microbankers will need $10 billion to $20 billion.

Most of the funds are based in Europe for tax and regulatory reasons.

BlueOrchard co-manages the largest specialized fund, the $500 million Dexia Micro-Credit Fund. It has added about $100 million this year.

Triodos Bank of the Netherlands, another large player, announced a new fund in March, bringing its microfinance funds to (EURO)185 million.

Yet returns are moderating.

The Symbiotics microfinance index, tracking six of the largest funds, has returned over 2 percent so far this year, compared with about 6 percent last year and in 2007.

Over all, the sector is weathering the financial storms ''chastened but intact,'' according to a CGAP report in February.

Jean-Pierre Klumpp, BlueOrchard's chief, said, ''We have disbursed in the first half of the year a lot less than before.'' But he added that ''we actually have funding available. After the crisis in the third or fourth quarter, investors stopped investing.''

The financial storm has had other side effects.

A report in July from the Center for the Study of Financial Innovation, based in London, concluded that lenders were now focusing on credit risk and liquidity; a year ago, management and regulation concerned them.

''This very rapid growth put a huge strain on branches and management,'' Mrs. Littlefield said. ''Now there is some pullback'' on funds coming in, she said, allowing more focus on improving delivery, which she called ''a healthy adjustment.''

More broadly, there are lingering questions about how funds are channeled and tracked.

Loïc Sadoulet, a professor of economics at Insead, a French business school, said new rules might be needed to limit risk for the most vulnerable. Some recent reports have found that high rates are being charged - up to 60 percent in countries like Zambia and Bangladesh - and cite aggressive tactics in recouping loans.

Mr. Attali said his company had been pushing two or three years for an international treaty to regulate microfinance.

Others, like Mrs. Littlefield, are not sure that more regulation is the solution. The sector has become more professional, most institutions are fully audited based on internal accountancy norms and nearly 1,000 of them are rated, she said.

Further out, work needs to be done on the sector's effects, as most studies so far have been inconclusive, said Dean Karlan, an economics professor at Yale University.

Microfinance ''didn't transform people's lives to the extent suggested by the hype,'' he said. ''We need to know more about how to target and how to design programs.''

The ultimate benchmark, reducing poverty, suggests ''very much a mixed picture,'' he said, adding the emphasis should be on savings, rather than lending.

Still, Mr. Ventura, of PlaNet Finance, points to ''many tiny indicators'' - surveys and anecdotal reports - ''that tell us that the situation is better because of microcredit.''

August 27, 2009

EU greenhouse gas emissions fell by 1.5% in 2008

ENDS Europe Daily, 31 August 2009 - Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU declined for the fourth year running last year, according to preliminary data released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) on Monday. Emissions were down by 1.5% across the bloc and 1.3% in the old EU-15.

This brought EU-27 emissions to 10.7% below 1990 levels, more than halfway to the EU's legally-binding target of a 20% cut by 2020. In the EU-15, emissions in 2008 were 6.2% below 1990 levels. This confirms the region is well on track to reach its Kyoto target, said environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.

But Mr Dimas acknowledged that part of the reduction comes from the economic slowdown, which significantly brought down production levels and related emissions. He urged member states to swiftly implement the EU's climate and energy package to continue this downward trend.

Earlier this year, the European Commission reported a 3% drop in industrial emissions of greenhouse gases in 2008. Analysts primarily attributed the decrease to the recession. Last week, a report showed the world's largest companies are unlikely deliver cuts recommended by scientists.

This is the first time the EEA has published provisional data for the previous year so early. Emissions data for 2007 were only published three months ago. EU emissions fell by 1.2% that year compared to 0.3% in 2006. A final report on the 2008 data will be published in June 2010.

Internationally, ongoing climate negotiations are making slow progress.During a meeting in Bonn in August, the UNFCCC released figures showing pledges made by rich nations would only amount to a 15-21% cut. Governments will continue their discussions at a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, the US, on 24-25 September.

Japan's Democratic Party, which swept to power on Sunday, has pledged to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. The previous government had proposed an 8% reduction .

Energy-gulping U.S. buildings ripe for savings

Reuters, 3 September 2009 - New York's Empire State Building is doing it, Chicago's Willis Tower is about to start and many more landlords and companies are expected to undertake building retrofits to reduce energy costs.

Spurred by steadily rising utility bills, the need to rein in costs in the recession, a host of government tax incentives and increasing awareness of carbon footprints, energy-saving building renovations are in vogue.

"Things are thriving," said Terry Singer, executive director of the National Association of Energy Service Companies. "There have been a lot of drivers to increased investment," among them new government funding, volatile energy prices and new technology that can reduce energy consumption.

Energy conservation is an unsung hero in the global effort to burn less fossil fuels and buildings account for roughly half of global energy consumption.

Several successive U.S. presidents have championed conservation which is at the center of the Obama administration's proposals to combat climate change.

The energy services industry has grown by at least 22 percent a year since 2004. Additionally, billions of dollars were allocated in the federal stimulus package to retrofit and weatherize government buildings.

"There's this huge untapped potential," said Maria Vargas, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decade-old "Energy Star" program. The agency had put its energy-efficient tag on 6,300 U.S. buildings by the end of 2008, which was 57 percent more than a year earlier.

"More will start doing it, as they realize their competitors are doing it and they realize it makes good business sense," said Branko Terzic of consultant Deloitte's Energy & Resources Group.

The energy services industry, which has a myriad of large and small players, is expected to triple in size by 2013 and there is a reservoir of untapped projects valued by a Pike Research report at $400 billion, he said.

The number of "green" jobs is growing, with the sector one of the few to add positions during the recession, said employment expert John Challenger.

The Empire State Building undertook a renovation designed to save $4.4 million, or 38 percent, on its yearly energy bill. Those savings will repay the cost within a few years.

In June, the owners of Chicago's Sears Tower, since renamed the Willis Tower, unveiled a $350 million retrofit that included replacing the 110-story tower's 16,000 single-pane windows.


The high cost of energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, improved and automated lighting, high-quality windows, and variable speed motors on equipment may deter executives aiming to preserve capital during an economic slump.

For others, conservation may lack the cachet of tapping into renewable power sources such as solar and wind.

But experts said investment in energy conservation can often be recouped fairly quickly in lower utility bills -- usually in five years or less. Retrofits also allow building owners to attract tenants by marketing them as "green," a designation known to reap higher rents.

Of about 70 billion square feet (6.5 billion sq metres) of U.S. office space, as little as 1 billion square feet (93 million sq metres) have been retrofitted, Terzic said.

To illustrate the potential, McKinsey & Co projected that U.S. investments of $520 billion in building efficiency through 2020 would yield $1.2 trillion in energy savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons annually -- the amount emitted by the entire current fleet of U.S. vehicles.

Existing players in the field of energy conservation are Honeywell International Inc, Johnson Controls Inc, Siemens AG, Ingersoll-Rand Plc, and United Technologies Corp. Recent entrants are Chevron Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, IBM Corp, and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Massachusetts-based Bluestone Energy Services Ltd is among dozens of expanding privately-held companies tapping into the demand, having doubled in size last year and again this year.

"Our forte is we work with the utility companies to qualify those solutions for incentive money. We also bundle tax incentives," said Bluestone Vice President Adam Fairbanks.

Future energy savings can collateralize the financing for the retrofit, and utility grants and government tax credits can help defray the initial cost, he said.

A growing number of utilities add a fee to customer bills and then issue grants to businesses for energy-saving projects. Customers who install solar, wind, geothermal or other power-saving systems and appliances can also get rebates.

Vying for the Willis Tower windows contract is Serious Windows, a Sunnyvale, California-based manufacturer of high-quality windows that have insulating capabilities that can rival a building's exterior walls.

CEO Kevin Surace said his windows are the most cost-effective retrofit available, offering up to 50 percent energy savings in buildings in which cheaper windows were installed to save on construction costs.

"Every building I can see from this vantage point needs new windows, every single one," Surace said in an interview conducted next to the Willis Tower. "They could save $1 million a year. As energy costs go up, it becomes $2 million a year."

(Editing by Alan Elsner)

China leads the pack in the race to go green-report

GLOBE-Net, 31 August 2009 - China is taking advantage of the green technology revolution that the challenge of climate change provides, according to a new report launched recently by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Beijing. 

The report from The Climate Group shows that China is leading the development and commercialization of a range of low carbon technologies. With a new breed of entrepreneurs and ambitious government policies, Chinese businesses are amongst the top producers of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar panels and energy efficient appliances. 

Tony Blair, speaking at the launch event in Beijing, said: "China is already playing an important role in producing and consuming those technologies needed to solve the climate change challenge."

"A new global climate agreement will set a route map for this to happen and for our journey to a prosperous low carbon 21st century. As one of the world's major economic powers, China will have to be at the forefront of this journey. This report shows that it can be." 

This new report - 
China's Clean Revolution II: China's opportunity for a low carbon future - is a synthesis of the latest information on China's progress towards a low carbon economy and aims to keep a-pace with the rapidly evolving green agenda in China, as well as expanding to cover new industries including geothermal power. 

The report examines four key areas of China's low carbon economy: low carbon vehicles, energy efficiency in industry, renewable energy and low carbon buildings and urban design. In each of these areas Chinese businesses, supported by the Chinese government, are demonstrating solid progress: 

1. Low carbon vehicles: China is now the world's largest auto market, in January this year car sales in China exceeded those in the US for the first time. 13 Chinese cities have signed up to a government scheme to buy 13,000 electric vehicles this year. The aim is to manufacture half a million electric vehicles in China by 2011.

2. Energy efficiency: the energy intensity of the Chinese economy has fallen by 60% since 1980 and the government has set a goal of reducing it by a further 20% between 2005 and 2010. China is well on the way to achieve this target.

3. Renewable energy: China is driving rapid growth in renewable energy. Internationally China supplies 40% of the world's solar PV technology; domestically China is the largest wind power generator in Asia and fourth in the world. Between 2007 and 2008 China's wind power capacity doubled and it is likely to double again in 2009 accounting for one third of the world's new capacity.

4. Low carbon buildings: China has set a 50% energy conservation standard for all new buildings and a 65% standard for new buildings in some major cities by 2010.

Changhua Wu, Greater China Director at The Climate Group, said: "It's a 70-30 situation. We have 70% of the solutions today, but they are not all proven technologies and none are at the scale we need. 30% of the solutions will be found in the future. Therefore we still need foreign investment to drive the revolution." 

Tony Blair, founder of the 
'Breaking the Climate Deadlock' initiative, said: "A major part of the solution to tackle climate change and make the necessary reductions in carbon emissions will be achieved through new technologies.

"Although there are major challenges ahead, China has demonstrated that it has the capacity and determination needed to achieve a rapid, large-scale transformation to low carbon ways of building, producing, and consuming. Achieving such a transformation will take continued leadership from China's government and the support of a global deal on climate change. The benefits, in terms of avoided climate change as well as economic development and energy security, will be tremendous."

Download the full China's Clean Revolution II report HERE

Information Is Power - Using SCADA and GIS technologies for leak detection adds muscles to your decision tree.

Elements 2010
Information Is Power
Using SCADA and GIS technologies for leak detection adds muscles to your decision tree.

Photo: Hawk
Level interface and management products allow utilities to track usage data.

By Dan Rafter

Phil Roosa wouldn't dream of trying to serve the water-drinking customers of northeast New Jersey without the help of his water district's data monitoring and automation software and hardware. This equipment makes up the Passaic Valley Water Commission's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system—better known as SCADA. And Roosa considers it a lifesaver.
Roosa, chief of water quality at the Clifton, NJ-based water commission, relies on his district's SCADA system to provide him with real-time information that can alert him to possible leaks in the miles of pipes that serve both residential and commercial customers. The SCADA system also alerts him when certain clients are consuming an abnormally high amount of water or an equally inappropriately low amount.
It gives him important trend data that can help Roosa and his fellow commission officials decide if any pipes or equipment need to be replaced. And if the district one day decides it needs to expand its network of pipes and facilities, the SCADA system can provide the trend data that can help officials determine exactly how the water system should grow.
Roosa, in fact, says he can't imagine trying to operate and maintain the water system and its 426 miles of pipes without the help of automated software and data management tools.
"Without it, it'd be like driving blindly," he says. "You need SCADA. You need real-time data to give you information to really optimize your system and run it most efficiently."
The Passaic Valley Water Commission relies on SCADA to provide historic trend information that allows the commission members to decide where best to spend its money, a priority now that government agencies, like businesses, are struggling to spend their dollars wisely in a down economy.
"We rely more on instrumentation to give us the information we need to make intelligent decisions about where to spend our money efficiently to get the most out of it for our customers, who are ultimately paying the bill," says Roosa.
Roosa and the Passaic Valley Water Commission are far from alone in relying more on data integration and automation software to better manage and maintain their water systems. An ever-growing number of water district managers are realizing that though the cost to automate may be high, the price of not doing it—spending money unwisely, not discovering leaks for weeks, repairing equipment without a detailed plan behind the decisions—is even higher.
SCADA systems, which are basically a network of automation and data monitoring software and hardware, provide a host of data to both wastewater and drinking water districts. SCADA systems can not only pinpoint unusual water pressure in a system, they can also tell plant officials how long the pressure's been too high or too low. They can help plant managers forecast periods of peak demand. They can identify possible leaks or malfunctions long before human engineers can find the same problems.
But SCADA systems aren't the only tools districts have. Managers at water districts are using a wide range of data management technology, systems that provide them with real-time information on how their pipes and equipment are actually performing. For instance, district managers can use geographic information systems—better known by the acronym GIS—to track customer complaints more efficiently, keep closer tabs on repairs, and guarantee that they will send out work crews only when absolutely necessary to the exact locations. These are all dollar-saving benefits.
According to the industry pros that manufacture and distribute this impressive technology—everything from GIS to ground-penetrating radar (GPR)—the demand for it is only increasing. They say that SCADA systems, and other tools that allow district managers to use live data to better handle repairs, operations, and customer concerns, is quickly becoming a necessity at even the smaller water districts across the country.
"There is a tremendous demand right now for this type of equipment," says Howard Crothers, team leader within the water and wastewater practice of ESRI, a manufacturer of GIS modeling and mapping software and technology. "Utilities are looking to GIS as a solution to help them contain costs. When we are looking at water efficiency, GIS is a solution that water utilities use to reduce non-revenue water."
Live Data, Real Savings
As an example of how clients can use GIS software to save money, Crothers points to usage data. Using GIS, water district managers can pinpoint customers who are consuming significantly more water than they historically have. Customer service representatives can then contact those customers to tell them that they may have a leak in their homes or businesses.

District officials can also use GIS to determine when customers are consuming less water than they historically have. In such a case, the customers may be benefiting from a faulty meter that is not recording the amount of water they are actually using.
In both instances, districts can quickly send out crews to correct a problem, preventing future water or revenue loss. Without GIS, it will take district officials much longer to discover either problem.
"It's incredible what you can do with this technology," says Crothers. "We see districts using GIS as a tool for field crews. They'll have a large water main break, and they can lift all the data in GIS and put field crews in action faster. They can save thousands of dollars in potential damage if they do this. The data in the GIS tells them where valves are, how deep they are, and how many turns it takes to close them. They can use GIS to isolate a leaky pipe before it washes a road away, or before it starts to flood basements. We are seeing more demand for this technology, because people are seeing it as a real tool to save money."
The water and wastewater treatment industries, of course, aren't the only ones relying on SCADA, GIS, radar, and other systems for gathering and analyzing real-time data. The systems can be found in the energy, oil, gas refining, and telecommunication industries, too, among others.
At its most fundamental level, SCADA and other data integration technologies are computer systems that monitor and control an entire plant or select equipment within that plant. Such systems can tell plant managers where leaks are springing in their systems, when unusual amounts of energy or water are being consumed, and if chemical levels have risen too high.
In SCADA, the system then sends this information to a central site. Plant officials can analyze this information and decide what action, if any, to take to resolve a problem.
SCADA systems come in all shapes and sizes. Some are simple, perhaps monitoring energy use in a single commercial building. Others are highly complex, such as the ones that monitor data for entire water systems.
There are several reasons why SCADA systems and other automation and data technologies have grown so popular. For one, federal regulations have become stricter when it comes to water treatment and delivery. Utilities commonly face budget pressures, too, being asked by their municipalities to deliver quality service at lower costs. Automated systems can help municipalities lower their labor costs as fewer employees are needed to monitor outlying plants. SCADA systems that can pinpoint problems before they become big ones can help utilities further lower their bills.
Then there is the trending information that data software provides. By monitoring their systems and analyzing the data they provide, water officials can pinpoint times of peak use and plan their budgets and any system expansions accordingly.
It's why water districts across the country are willing to spend what can be a large amount of money in upfront costs to purchase software and equipment that provides them with better data, data they can rely on to operate their systems more cost effectively.
Roosa and the Passaic Valley Water Commission provide a good example. The system operates several bulk chemical tanks. One of the instruments that the district is using to measure elevation levels in the tanks isn't working reliably. Commission officials are now looking at an alternative device to more accurately measure elevation levels and provide better data to feed into the district's SCADA system.
The drawback? The new equipment is expensive. But that drawback isn't enough to prevent the commission from purchasing the new equipment.
"We are willing to spend money on reliability," says Roosa. "That is the key. Without it, it is easy for operators to make mistakes about how high the tank is; reliability is the key. If you can't rely on the data instruments that you are using for process control, you are spitting out bad decisions."
Intergraph Corporation, which manufactures engineering and geospatial software, is benefiting, too, from the increased hunger that water districts have for real-time data solutions, says Tony DiMarco, director of global utilities and communications for the company.
This is not only good for the water industry, he says, but for both residential and commercial customers, too.
"When customers turn on the tap, they're not going to understand how geospatial software helps them," says DiMarco. "The benefits are more back-end based. It benefits customers at the tap if the water utility has an asset management system. If the utility has the tools to be more proactive when making capital improvements, if it has the tools to reduce the cost of expansion by better managing demand, it can save its customers money by better managing its own costs. Those kinds of benefits pay off for everyone."
Spending Money to Save Money
There are times when water districts have to spend money to save money. The purchase of data integration technology is an example of this.

While the technology may not be cheap, and may require significant upfront spending, it will more than pay for itself over time in providing district managers the information they need to operate and maintain their pipes and equipment in as efficient a way as possible over the long run.
SCADA systems, for instance, can reduce the amount of labor costs that municipalities have to pay to maintain and operate their wastewater and drinking water facilities. This is important as residential and commercial customers ask their utilities to do more with less revenue.
SCADA systems, in fact, provide so many benefits that it will soon become more fiscally irresponsible to not have them than it is costly to install them, say industry analysts.
Although Kansas City, MO-based Black & Veatch Corporation is known mostly as a global engineering, consulting, and construction company, the company also runs its own GIS services for water utilities. The company, like others that provide data management services, is seeing a greater demand for its GIS services.

Photo: Hawk
Water districts rely on usage and system data to run more efficiently.

These GIS services use computer applications to capture, manage, analyze, and display geographic information that municipalities can use for water-related planning, infrastructure management, and business strategies.
Paul Ginther, GIS department head at Black & Veatch, says that GIS provides a more efficient way for water utilities to manage and analyze system information, something that can provide them with significant time and cost savings.
"In today's economic climate, utilities and local governments have no choice but to get the most from their limited budgets," says Ginther. "They can no longer afford 'reactive management' in which facilities are repaired only after failure or customer complaints. Technical alternatives now provide the tools and information to manage infrastructure, work crews, and budgets proactively, resulting in reduced costs, failures, and risks."
Many water districts are working around an aging infrastructure. GIS-related technology, though, can help district officials evaluate the health of their infrastructure and create more efficient preventative maintenance plans, he says.
Utilities can rely on a number of data integration tools to access as much information as possible about the health of their infrastructures. Districts can mine data from their utility's asset management/work order management system, leak history reports, customer billing system, customer complaint logs, SCADA system, hydraulic modeling reports, and their existing GIS or CAD systems, Ginther says. Then, using GIS tools, missing data, such as the date when certain equipment was installed, pipe sizes, or the material of which specific pipes are made can be deduced by assessing nearby facilities and their records. This can often reduce the need for expensive field studies.
Black & Veatch's GIS division helps its clients answer several important questions, Ginther says. Some may want to know more information about the soil and groundwater characteristics of the area surrounding specific pipes, while others may be more concerned about what other utilities have pipelines in the area. Other customers may want to know if a major highway, hospital, school, or environmentally sensitive area may be at risk should a system failure occur in a specific location, he adds.
Ginther notes that water districts operate more efficiently when they rely on data sets that can be used more than once. With GIS, SCADA systems, and other tools, districts can create data sets that can be used multiple times, again saving money.
"Relying on single-use data sets is an inefficient practice that leads to work redundancy, accidental use of outdated versions, and problems with accessibility," says Ginther. "Just as our raw materials must be recycled, our data must also be available for reuse. By design, GIS integrates data from multiple sources and applications."
Black & Veatch has worked directly with its clients to help them better understand how to use data sets multiple times and use the information in them to craft better operating solutions, he says.
As one example, the consultant has helped clients replace paper forms with GIS/GPS-based mobile field data collection units, Ginther says. This gives field crews immediate access to important imagery and location data, he adds. This information is then validated directly in the field, eliminating the need for field sketches and time-consuming data re-entry.
Districts can also use these data sets to coordinate work orders for pipeline repairs with those for street pavement maintenance. By doing this, field crews only have to report to an area, cutting into the streets and tying up traffic, just once instead of multiple times.
As data integration software and technology becomes more common at water districts, managers are using these tools in ever more innovative ways. Ginther says that he's seen districts rely on GIS-based tools that use the power of geometric networks, linear reference, and hot-spot analysis to run their water systems more efficiently than ever.
Districts, for instance, can use these data tools to quickly determine the quality of the system's tap water, identify fire flow deficiencies in a distribution system, and uncover patterns of sewer system problems—such as roots or grease—by accessing customer complaint data.
"The identification of statistically significant customer complaint clusters or inspection data can pinpoint problem hot spots, such as leaks or sewer backups," says Ginther. "The integration of hydraulic model results with land-use data can help determine whether a water distribution system meets fire flow requirements. By combining the numerous data sets into a collective spatial knowledge base, engineers, GIS analysts, and utility managers can now determine the 'what,' 'where,' 'how much,' 'which one,' 'when,' 'why,' and even the 'what if,' in a more holistic and sustainable solution for asset management."
Barriers Exist
With all these advantages, it might seem that every water utility should be using data integration software and technology.
But some districts have not yet added the equipment, or haven't added as much as they would like. The main barrier, of course, is cost. Some districts just can't afford expensive GIS, SCADA, or other data integration systems. Others may fear that the systems are too complex to master.

The good news is that the cost of the components that make up SCADA systems, the remote terminal units, or programmable logic computers and human-machine interfaces, is dropping. The same can be says of GIS technology and other data management equipment.
Faced with lower costs and a host of benefits, it becomes more difficult for municipalities to justify not boosting the automation of their water systems.
There are still some barriers, of course, for municipalities hoping to more completely rely on data integration technology to better serve their customers. Training is one. The staffers at water districts new to this technology or at those looking to add an updated, more efficient automation solution, may resent or fear having to learn a new way of operating their systems.
The good news, though, is that such technology has become easier to learn and run, says James Higgins, manager of ESRI's US water and wastewater practice.
District officials can tailor their data integration technology to work specifically with their plants and equipment. This means they can eliminate the features that they don't need and focus instead on the ones that they do, reducing the perceived complexity of the technology.
"We've worked to build a GIS platform that adheres to industry IT standards," says Higgins. "We ensure that districts can easily integrate our technology with their current systems. This way, a customer can get the full benefit of all the technologies working together to help them make the best decisions."
Other technologies present their own hurdles. For instance, Sensors & Software Inc., based in Ontario, Canada, manufactures GPR technology. Districts can use this technology to quickly locate utility lines to better service and rehabilitate them. It's a non-destructive testing method that requires no digging.
However, there are certain areas of the country where ground-penetrating radar doesn't work well, says Ron Lester, sales executive with the company. In Texas, for instance, with its dense clay soil, GPR does not work well. In Florida, though, with its sandy soil, GPR works extremely well.
But when the soil conditions are right, more utilities are turning to GPR to help maintain their pipes more efficiently, Lester says.
"It increases productivity and decreases costs," he states. "That's the benefit. Work crews are able to quickly locate the exact location of a pipeline; there is less disruption to the surface. They can keyhole to that pipe knowing the exact depth of it. It decreases the time it takes them to rehab something."
Jack Evans, president of Hawk Measurement Systems—which provides clients with level measurement and interface management products—says that he, too, is seeing a greater demand for products that allow water districts to rely on usage and system data to run more efficient wastewater and drinking water systems.
"There are still some municipalities that are a little behind," he says. "For the most part though, I'm pleased at the number of municipalities that have really grasped this concept of using technology to better control the operations of their utilities. I've seen so many more districts go to an automated approach, and I think that's good for the industry."
Jeff Hobbs would agree. He's the GIS supervisor for the San Jose Water Company. Several years ago, the utility began using GIS as a way to replace its handheld maps. Eventually, the utility purchased Field View, a desktop product offered through Intergraph that allowed district officials to take the information from 700 maps and put it all in one electronic location.
The utility then installed Field View onto laptops used by its field crew. That allowed crew members to more quickly and efficiently, enter data into the system. Today, utility workers can use Field View to determine just about anything they need to know about the water system.
"You can click on a water main on the map and see what drove the installation of the main," says Hobbs. "You can see the underlying engineering information behind it."
Now the San Jose Water Company is working to add the locations of all hydrants, meters, and valves to the Field View maps. This will allow the water company to better share its data with other entities. The company is also working to integrate GIS data with its SCADA system, its asset-management system, and its customer information system. By doing this, company officials will be able to run and maintain the water system more efficiently.
"We are interested in modernizing our system," says Hobbs. "We don't want to fall behind the times. Our systems are still functional, but it's not as easy as it should be to integrate with other systems."        

Data Integration,
Leaks and Audits

Jean-François Barsoum, MBA
Senior Managing Consultant & Practice Leader, Green + Innovation Strategies
ibm +1.514.964.4192  ::  fax +1.845.491.2412  ::
IBM Canada: Suite 400, 1360 boul. René-Lévesque Ouest, Montréal (QC) H3G 2W6

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Green newsclips for 3 September 2009: 5 stages to sustainability, Europe (unsurprisingly) push for deeper GHG cuts, and firms not so concerned with energy efficiency any more.

France Sees Initial Carbon Tax At 14 Euros Per Tonne

Date: 03-Sep-09
Tamora Vidaillet

PARIS - France plans to set a proposed carbon tax at 14 euros ($19.9) per tonne of carbon dioxide starting from next year, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said in an interview to be published by Figaro magazine.
A special advisory panel, headed by former Socialist Prime Minister Michel Rocard, had recommended billing 32 euros for every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted in 2010 and lifting the levy gradually to 100 euros per tonne by 2030.
"We have decided to apply the tax in a progressive manner. Starting with the price per tonne on the market, that is to say 14 euros," Fillon said in the article set to appear in the magazine's Saturday edition.
The proposed tax has sparked heavy criticism from intensive users of fuel such as farmers and fishermen who will see the cost of a liter of petrol rise as a result.
The impact of a new carbon tax would be offset for companies through provisions to reduce the tax burden related to investment and the government was studying ways to soften the blow for the country's poorest households.
"It is out of the question that we will apply this uniformly to those French people that have choices and those who don't," said Fillon.

The Five Stages of Adopting Corporate Sustainability

sustainability-circles2Adopting sustainability as a goal now will help corporations develop business models that will leave competitors scrambling to catch up, according to a new report from the Harvard Business Review.

The report, "Why Sustainability is now the Key Driver of Innovation (PDF)," lays out five stages for successfully adopting corporate sustainability. Authors came to their conclusions by looking at best practices at companies such as HP, Wal-Mart, Clorox and others.

Stage 1 - Viewing compliance as opportunity.

The stick is sometimes more compelling than the carrot, but companies should not view sustainability in this light. Instead, develop the internal ability to anticipate and help shape regulations. This requires working with other companies, including rivals, to develop industry standards.

Stage 2 - Making value chains sustainable.

By learning how to address carbon management and life-cycle assessments, and designing operations to use less energy and water, companies can discover sustainable sources of raw materials, components and energy. By addressing waste throughout the supply chain, a company will reduce its costs.

Stage 3 - Designing sustainable products and services.

Companies should conduct a full product review to determine which ones are most harmful to the environment, then work to improve the product or phase it out. Effectively doing so helps a company be seen by the public as a true "green" company, and not one that is engaged in greenwashing. Developing compact and eco-friendly packaging is a good first step, but companies also should consider the notion of biomimicry in product design.

Stage 4 - Developing new business models.

By adopting more sustainable practices internally, a company begins to better understand what today's eco-minded consumer wants to purchase. Opportunities include developing new delivery methods or technologies to save costs and creating monetization models that relate more to services than to products. Companies also are urged to develop business models that combine digital and physical infrastructures.

Stage 5 - Creating next-practice platforms.

By looking beyond its current core competencies with an eye toward sustainability, a company can begin to redefine itself as a next-generation operation that may even involve expansion into new and different industries. One of the key drivers in this stage is creating business platfroms that enable customers, suppliers and partners to manage energy in radically improved ways. Another opportunity is to develop products that require less or no water, as compared to similar products that are water-intensive.

EU Pushes U.S. for Deeper Cuts in Carbon Emissions

unfcccestimatesThe European Union is urging U.S. lawmakers to make deep cuts in carbon emissions, as the U.S. Senate drafts a new climate bill, reports the Taragana blog. The UK is also kicking off a new effort to involve businesses and the public to cut emissions by 10 percent.

Sweden's Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren said in the article that the European Union, the United States and other developed countries, should cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050, from 1990 levels. Carlgren is leading the EU team at U.N. negotiations to reach a new global climate change accord in December.

Carlgren also said in the article that rich countries should offer financial aid to help poorer and undeveloped countries adopt more environmentally friendly economic plans. EU nations are pushing for an agreement by October on how much they will offer as part of their share to fund poor countries, according to Taragana.

The cost won't be cheap. A new report, which estimates the costs of adaptation made by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2007, finds that the total global funding needed for adaptation by 2030 would amount to $49 billion to $171 billion annually. The study, Assessing the Costs of Adaptation to Climate Change, also indicates that the largest cost is for infrastructure investment.

At the same time, the UK is starting a new campaign to cut the country's carbon emissions by 10 percent, reports the Telegraph. The campaign also calls on all rich countries to make significant cuts in carbon, according to the newspaper.

Organizers of the 10:10 campaign are asking everyone to cut carbon emissions by making a few simple lifestyle changes in order to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the article.

Fanny Armstrong, founder of 10:10, told the Telegraph if all 61 million people in the UK reduced their emissions by 10 percent the savings would be approximately 85 million tons of CO2.

Supporters include large organizations such as Tottenham Hotspur, the NHS Trusts and the Women's Institute, and celebrities including Colin Firth, Delia Smith, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Ian McEwan and Zac Goldsmith, reports the Telegraph.

Citing Cost, Firms De-emphasize Energy Efficiency in IT Purchases

cdw3Focusing on short-term cost reductions, companies increasingly are overlooking the promise of long-term savings that come with more expensive but more energy efficient computer equipment.

Instead, firms are emphasizing lower cost as a means of realizing short-term benefits to the bottom line, according to the 2009 Energy Efficient IT Report (PDF) from CDW.

After cost, reliability and compatability with existing equipment also rank as high motivators in IT purchase decisions.

In fact, the percentage of IT managers who say energy efficiency is a very important consideration when purchasing new equipment is on the decline, with just 26 percent of IT managers agreeing with that statement, versus 34 percent in 2008.

Yet CDW estimates that companies can save 17 percent in IT energy costs by adopting energy efficiency initiatives.

That would translate to annual savings of $1.5 million a year for companies with an average annual IT budget of $74.6 million and average annual IT energy costs of $8.9 million.

Just 47 percent of organizations have someone in the IT department who receives, reports, authorizes payment or otherwise has responsiblity for amount and cost of energy used in the IT department. That leads to less ownership when it comes to producing energy savings, as the following chart illustrates.

cdw4The report examines where energy efficiency ranks in IT decision-making priorities, and identifies top strategies for IT energy reduction across business, K-12 and higher education, and Federal, state and local government organizations.

Respondents reduced energy costs by focusing on several energy-efficiency measures including buying equipment with low-power/low-wattage processors, using network-based power management tools and software tools within uninterruptible power supplies to monitor power demand and energy use, and monitoring data centers remotely to keep lights off when employees are not on site. They also manage cable placement to reduce demand on cooling systems and implement server and storage virtualization to reduce the number of servers and storage devices drawing power.

The survey also finds that organizations that have increased their IT energy efficiency by asking their IT departments to reduce energy, assigning responsibility of the cost of energy to their IT departments, and giving them incentives (financial, performance or other awards) to improve IT energy efficiency.


Rich countries will suffer unless they help poor on climate change

Rich countries will suffer unless they help poor on climate change

The world's rich countries need to embark on a huge transfer of funds to developing countries in order for both groups to grow richer and reduce their carbon emissions significantly, a United Nations report urges today.

Delaying spending on mitigating climate change in the developing world "runs the real danger of locking in dirtier investments for several more decades", says the annual survey from the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

Ahead of this weekend's meeting of G20 finance ministers in London, the report estimates that developed countries need immediately to transfer around 1% of world gross product (WGP), or $500-600bn (£300-370bn), to poor countries.

Carrying on with business as usual, or making only minor changes, could lose 20% of WGP so doing nothing would be an expensive mistake, it argues.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon says the report "makes the case for meeting both the climate challenge and the development challenge by recognising the links between the two and proceeding along low-emissions, high-growth pathways".

The report adds, using unusually strong language, that "by any measure, the amounts currently promised for meeting the climate challenge in the near term are woefully inadequate".

It continues: "The failure of wealthy countries to honour long-standing commitments of international support for poverty reduction and adequate transfers of resources and technology remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the climate change challenge."

The survey estimates that about $21bn (£13bn) in official development funding is set aside to addressing climate change, mostly for fighting problems such as drought or flooding. The total amount of climate financing that is required is a large multiple of that figure, it says.

"If the international community is serious about a 'global new deal', it should be just as serious about committing resources on the same scale as was needed to tackle the financial crisis and defeat political extremism."

The report challenges the thinking that the climate problem can simply be addressed by across-the-board emission cuts by all countries or by relying exclusively on market-based solutions to generate the required investments. Its central point is that developing countries can only make a meaningful contribution tocombating climate change if their economies continue to grow strongly.

In turn that would require satisfying the growing energy needs of developing countries, which are projected to double that of the developed world over the coming decades.

"This raises the question for climate change negotiators of how poor countries can pursue low-emissions, high-growth development," it says, with an eye on the Copenhagen climate change conference in December.

The report argues that the technologies that would allow developing countries to switch to a sustainable development path do exist. These include low-energy buildings, new drought-resistant crop strains and more advanced primary renewables.

But they are often prohibitively expensive and, the report says, such a transformation would require "a level of international support and solidarity rarely mustered outside a wartime setting".

Poor countries, the report says, are facing "vastly more daunting challenges than those confronting developed countries and in a far more constrained environment".

Economic growth remains a priority for them, not only to reduce poverty but also to bring about a gradual narrowing of the huge income differentials with wealthy countries.

"The idea of freezing the current level of global inequality over the next half century or more (as the world goes about trying to solve the climate problem) is economically, politically and ethically unacceptable," the report says.

The study's authors believe that they could be pushing on a door that is starting to open with world policymakers becoming increasingly aware of the dangers posed by rapid climate change.

Professor Nicholas Stern, who carried out a seminal study into the economics of climate change three years ago, recently published a book arguing for speedier action on a bigger scale than before.

Hopes dashed for geo-engineering solutions


Hopes dashed for geo-engineering solutions
By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: September 2 2009 03:00 | Last updated: September 2 2009 03:00

Hopes of averting a climate catastrophe by investing in space-age technologies such as mirrors in orbit were dashed yesterday by a Royal Society report that found serious drawbacks with nearly all the methods proposed.

In the first comprehensive report by an influential science academy into the costs and benefits of "geo-engineering" technologies - those intended to compensate for the warming effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate by reflecting sunlight or removing carbon from the air - the Royal Society said the ideas were "dangerous and unproven".

John Shepherd, chair of the study group and professor of earth science at Southampton University, said: "We are not advocating geo-engineering. It is not an alternative to emissions reductions."

Nevertheless, the scientists warned, these costly experimental technologies would become necessary if we failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions as deeply as necessary to avert the worst of the warming effect.
"Unless we can succeed in greatly reducing CO 2 emissions, we are headed for a very uncomfortable and challenging future, and geo-engineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases," Prof Shepherd said.

Geo-engineering has attracted greater attention in recent months as some scientists have concluded that the world on its current path has little chance of holding global warming to no more than 2°C. They regard that level as the limit of safety, beyond which the effects of climate change become catastrophic and irreversible.
Some scientists have warned that if emissions exceed the level at which such warming becomes probable, the world will need a "plan B". So far, thinking has focused on two ways of cooling the planet: schemes that reflect heat away from the earth's surface; and ways of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere once it has been emitted.
Reflecting heat could be achieved by spraying aerosols, such as tiny sulphur particles, into the air, or by whitening clouds with seawater sprayed into the air. But these could have unintended damaging consequences, the panel found.

One much-publicised idea, of painting roofs white to reflect sunlight, espoused by Steven Chu, science adviser to President Barack Obama, was quashed by the Royal Society panel. It found the area of land covered by human habitation too small to make a difference.

The cheapest option studied by the panel was also the most seemingly straightforward: preserving the world's existing forests and regrowing forests that have been cut down. Forestry will be discussed at the Copenhagen climate change talks in December, intended to forge a successor to the Kyoto protocol when its main provisions expire in 2012.
Other ways of removing carbon from the air include encouraging plankton growth in the ocean, but that could result in damaging "dead zones", while seeding the oceans with lime would require vast amounts of energy.


Aveda, McDonald’s, Motorola, Caterpillar to share climate strategies

For our friends in the Midwest

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ASA Chicago: Corporate Climate Regulation

Corporate Climate Regulation (Formerly Corporate Climate Response)

October 27-28, Chicago

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Dear Colleague,

The list of companies set to share their latest innovations in carbon and energy savings at Corporate Climate Regulation this October 27-28 continues to grow. Representatives from Aveda and McDonald's recently joined the event program which includes 36 experts in corporate sustainability and climate policy.

Other speakers include senior executives from ArcelorMittal, Caterpillar, MillerCoors, Motorola, SAP, Herman Miller, Mars, Mohawk Fine Papers, Kimberly-Clark, GreenChoice Bank, InterfaceRAISE, US Department of Energy, Chicago Climate Exchange, US EPA, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Midwest Greenhouse Gas Accord, and more.

To hear from two of our speakers, please click below:

Mark LaCroix discusses the major issues related to national cap-and-trade schemes

Bill Olson reveals the latest updates to Motorola's latest GHG management strategy

This event offers the very latest updates in voluntary actions in carbon reduction and energy management from corporate leaders in climate response. It also provides insight into the most critical regulatory developments impacting businesses including Waxman-Markey. To register, and ensure you take advantage of our early booking discounts, please click here.

Topics to be covered include innovations in carbon accounting and reporting, energy savings updates, climate regulation development, and preparing for national cap-and-trade.

Corporate Climate Regulation is the must-attend event for those charged with developing corporate environmental strategies and their advisers. This is the premier networking forum for sustainability, environmental, energy, climate change and CSR managers.

Plus, this year we are introducing a post conference training course - GHG & Sustainability Reporting. This invaluable and practical training day will show attendees how to go beyond mere compliance, to instead deliver profitability, brand loyalty, and other eco-advantages - click here for more information.

I look forward to hearing from  you.

Kind regards,
Jody Reynard
ASA Account Manager

ps, remember there is still time to book onto the next ASA event - ASA:Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement. Last minute booking discounts are available - enquire now!

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Green enwsclips for 1st September 2009: EPA's endangerement finding, and how consumers view environmental impacts

Consumers Identify with Environmental Impact Issues

nmi1Consumer awareness of the environmental impact generated by various products has risen significantly since 2004. In particular, more consumers have begun to realize that the impact of appliances, electronics, and electricity is important, according to the Natural Marketing Institute.

Consumers have been exposed to more information regarding the environmental concerns associated with these product categories through the media, as stories about the need to recycle electronics and the potential dangers of chemicals in consumer products have become commonplace. In addition, recent communications for many of these products leverage dual messages: the financial rewards of resource-efficiency and the reduction in environmental impact. Resource efficiency may come through conservation in appliances, electronics, and vehicles or via alternative products such as home-filtered water.

With these growing concerns about damaging the environment, manufacturers will find more eager consumers of green alternatives, and continued innovation of green products is needed to meet the changing landscape.

EPA Uses 'Endangerment Finding' Stick to Spur Climate Change Legislation

emissions4The Environmental Protection Agency's plan to declare carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant in the upcoming months may help push climate-change legislation as top senators delay plans until late September to set new limits on carbon dioxide emissions, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The House narrowly passed an energy and climate-change bill in June.

On Aug. 31, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said a formal "endangerment finding," which would trigger federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act even if Congress doesn't pass a final climate-change bill, probably would "happen in the next months," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. In April, the EPA proposed to regulate carbon dioxide along with five other greenhouse gases as pollutants that jeopardize public health and welfare.

If Congress fails to pass a climate change bill by the end of the year, the EPA is ready to mandate limits on carbon emissions, reports Reuters.

But for now, the fate of U.S. climate change legislation is in the hands of the Senate where several legislators including California Democrat Barbara Boxer, are making "tweaks" to the bill, reports Reuters.

There is speculation that Boxer might opt for a slightly higher goal for reducing carbon emissions such as 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, instead of the 17 percent in the House bill, and Senator John Kerry wants stronger controls to deter abusive financial market speculation on trading of pollution permits, reports Reuters.

In addition, there are a host of scenarios for deal-making among the senators that range from a lower target — 14 percent — for reducing emissions and more breaks for coal states to passing legislation already approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that requires utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity by 2021 from renewable sources like solar and wind power, according to Reuters.

Outside of government discussions, some corporations are using scare tactics to influence consumers against a climate-change bill that significantly reduces carbon emissions.

As an example, San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. is posting signs at its gasoline stations warning customers about the projected price hike in fuel if the House-approved bill on carbon cap-and-trade becomes law, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Valero, the largest U.S. independent refining company, said its costs for carbon emissions would total $6 billion to $7 billion a year, depending on the auction costs of the permits, reports the Houston newspaper.