Monday, September 29, 2008

Launch of US Carbon Market

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) had its very first auction for CO2 allowances last week. All allowances offered in Auction 1 were sold at $3.07.

RGGI (commonly pronounced "Reggie") is the first mandatory, market-based effort in the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will cap and then reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector 10% by 2018. In cap-and-trade, global warming pollution is limited to an agreed-upon cap that declines over time. The governing authority issues "permits", also called "allowances", corresponding to the cap, with one allowance equal to a ton of CO2 or its equivalent in greenhouse gases. Companies must have allowances for any global warming pollution they emit.

Under RGGI, states will sell emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in consumer benefits: energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other clean energy technologies. RGGI hopes to spur innovation in the clean energy economy and create green jobs in the participating states.

Learn more here:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cleanup Design

In Italy, a Redesign of Nature to Clean It
Elisabeth Rosenthal, NY Times, September 21, 2008

In many parts of the affluent coastal region southeast of Rome and northwest of Naples, canals dumping effluent into the Mediterranean from farms and factories coexist with fishermen and beachgoers. There is little doubt that this area would need considerable work to return to a more pristine state. For places as far gone as this one, however, a new breed of landscape architect is recommending a radical solution: not so much to restore the environment as to redesign it.

“It is so ecologically out of balance that if it goes on this way, it will kill itself,” said Alan Berger, a landscape architecture professor at M.I.T. who was excitedly poking around the smelly canals on a recent day. Instead of simply recommending that polluting farms and factories be shut, Professor Berger specializes in creating new ecosystems in severely damaged environments: redirecting water flow, moving hills, building islands and planting new species to absorb pollution, to create natural, though “artificial,” landscapes that can ultimately sustain themselves.

Two thousand years of “water management” have turned the once-malaria-infested Pontine Marshes into a region, Latina Province, that is among Italy’s most prosperous. It is home to industrial parks, resorts filled with weekend homes, and farms. Professor Berger, who is the founder of P-Rex, for Project for Reclamation Excellence, at M.I.T., recently signed an agreement with Latina Province to design a master ecological plan for the most polluting part of this region.

He wants the government to buy a tract of nearly 500 acres through which the most seriously polluted waters now pass. There, he intends to create a wetland that would serve as a natural cleansing station before the waters flowed on to the sea and residential areas. Better regulation is also needed, to curb the dumping of pollutants into the canal, but a careful mix of the right kinds of plants, dirt, stones and drainage channels would filter the water as it slowly passed through, he said.

Professor Berger was quick to acknowledge that the approach was vastly different from the kind normally advocated by established environmental groups like the World Wildlife Fund or the Nature Conservancy, which generally seek to restore land or preserve it in its natural state, often by closing down or cleaning up nearby polluters.

Read the complete story here:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Siemens Supports Students to Support Sustainability

Siemens Sustainability Challenge
September 19, 2008

Middle school students across the US are being encouraged to "go green" and team up for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge.

The Siemens Foundation, Discovery Education, and the National Science Teachers Association have partnered on this initiative to educate, empower, and engage students, teachers, and communities to become "agents of change" in improving their community. Student teams from sixth through eighth grade can register for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge at

Beginning in fall 2008 through March 15, 2009, teams composed of a teacher or other adult mentor and two or three students will be challenged to create sustainable, reproducible environmental improvements in their local communities. Top prizes will include a chance to appear on Discovery Network's Planet Green, a share in thousands of dollars in cash prizes, a Discovery Adventure trip and more. The mentors of the first 100 teams to register and complete a project for the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge will receive an award-winning Planet Earth series DVD set.

Submissions from middle school students will be accepted through March 15, 2009. The initiative expands to elementary schools in 2009 and to high schools in 2010.

Learn more at

PUC Wants Green Buildings

Big PUC push for energy-efficient construction
David R. Baker, SF Chronicle, September 19, 2008

A plan adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday expands on an idea that has already become a guiding principal of the state's energy policy - that finding ways to use less electricity is cheaper than building power plants and will help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Housing developments built according to the plan's guidelines would use far less energy than they do today. Almost all their power would come from their own solar panels, windmills, or small electrical generators. Under the plan, new residential developments in the state would need to be "zero net energy" by 2020. That means they would generate most of their own power and feed any excess to the state's electrical grid. The same standard would apply to commercial construction starting in 2030.

Changes in building standards would need to be approved by the California Energy Commission. But an energy commission spokeswoman on Thursday said her commission supports the plan.

Read the complete article here:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Going Green Will Boost California's Economy

Increase in jobs and income by reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Jane Kay, SF Chronicle, September 18, 2008

Taking strong measures to reduce greenhouse gases to combat global warming would help California's economy, boost employment, and increase household savings and personal income, according to a new analysis. Under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), the state must impose a limit on the amount of pollutants companies emit and expand renewable energy.

The Economic Evaluation Supplement to CARB's Draft Scoping Plan, released Wednesday, predicts that implementation of the Scoping Plan will benefit California’s economy above and beyond the business-as-usual projections by:
- Increasing production activity by $27 billion
- Increasing overall Gross State Product by $4 billion
- Increasing overall personal income by $14 billion
- Increasing per capita income by $200
- Increasing jobs by more than 100,000

Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), said the analysis shows that going ahead with the state plan is good for the economy and the environment. "Our historic effort here in California to deal with the crisis of global warming will also have the benefit of saving families and citizens money," she said.

So far, investors have shown an interest in creating new technologies that would replace outdated fossil-fuel plants and inefficient buildings and appliances, the study says. The new analysis shows an increase in venture capital investment in the state over the last decade. In 2007, there was $1.2 billion in investments for energy innovation.

A separate analysis showed that the measures designed to curb greenhouse gas and save energy also would improve public health. In 2020, the measures would avoid an estimated 300 premature deaths, nearly 9,000 cases of asthma and other respiratory symptoms and the loss of 53,000 workdays.

Read the complete article here:

Read the Economic Evaluation Supplement to CARB's Draft Scoping Plan here:

Coastal Cleanup Day This Saturday

24th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day is September 20, 2008

Coastal Cleanup Day is the highlight of the California Coastal Commission's year 'round Adopt-A-Beach program and takes place every year on the third Saturday of September, from 9 a.m. to Noon. In 2007, more than 60,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 900,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from our beaches, lakes, and waterways.

Coastal Cleanup Day is a great way for families, students, service groups, and neighbors to join together, take care of our fragile marine environment, show community support for our shared natural resources, learn about the impacts of marine debris and how we can prevent them, and to have fun! Coastal Cleanup Day is also the kick-off event for Coastweeks—three weeks of coastal and water-related events for the whole family.

For more information, contact (800) COAST-4U or, or visit the Coastal Cleanup website to find a location to volunteer near you.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Doing More With Less

California farmers could save the equivalent of three to 20 dams' worth of water annually
Kelly Zito, SF Chronicle, September 8, 2008

In a study released today, researchers at Oakland's Pacific Institute say that before Californians take on costly new dam and reservoir projects, state and federal policymakers need to build on existing methods for reducing agricultural water use. The report, titled "More with Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California - A Focus on the Delta," stresses that agriculture remains an important part of California's economy. However, with farmers using about 80 percent of the water drawn from the critically ill Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, agricultural water conservation must expand quickly.

While water use in California has been a historical source of conflict between urban and agricultural consumers, the issue has taken on new urgency in recent years amid predictions of a drier climate, booming population growth and ecological damage to the delta. The agriculture industry, however, bristles at the notion that its operations are wasteful. "The idea that farmers are not seeking more efficient ways to do business is an insult to California agriculture," said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. "Changes are occurring when it's cost-effective and when the technology is available."

The researchers suggest that dams, or a proposed peripheral canal - which would route water around the delta, where certain fish populations are crashing - may be necessary. But first the state must create a better system for tracking water use. The study also recommends that the state develop a more rational water rights system aimed at cutting waste. Under the law, users with the earliest water claims have the highest priority for receiving water. Experts say it may be time to re-evaluate how and to whom water is allocated.

Read the complete article here:

Download the report here: