Is There a Link Between Climate Change and Poverty?

3659752199_8831062b10Oxfam International released an interesting report yesterday called, “Suffering the Science: Climate Change, People and Poverty”. The crutch of the report is to demonstrate how the effects of climate change are impacting people in poor communities much harder then in developed regions. Issues that are linked to poverty and development include access to food and water as well as health and security. The report warns, “without immediate action 50 years of development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost.”

The study was released in tandem with the G8 Summit being held in Italy beginning tomorrow. Climate change and poverty issues are expected to be high on the list for discussion.

“Climate change is the central poverty issue of our times,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International Executive Director. “Climate change is happening today and the world’s poorest people, who already face a daily struggle to survive, are being hit hardest. The evidence is right in front of our eyes. The human cost of climate change is as real as any redundancy or repossession notice.”

Another issue the report focuses on is the impact of erratic weather on agriculture. Without the ability for poor farmers to rely on seasons, they are losing multiple crops due to sudden heat waves or heavy rains. The report also accusess “rich countries” of creating the climate crisis. Oxfam wants these countries to fund more aid programs as well as adopt tougher climate policies. It will be interesting to see what “calls to action” come from the G8 Summit relating to climate change and poverty.

Y-12 National Security Complex Wins Energy Award

y12The Y-12 National Security Complex was a big winner in the Dept. of Energy’s program recognizing environmental sustainability. The complex, located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is a premier manufacturing facility dedicated to making our nation and the world a safer place.

Y-12 received three of the eight EStar awards presented this year. One of the awards was for use of mass transit, adding options for bikers and pedestrians, and other efforts — such as use of alternative fuels, such as E85 — to save energy on commuting and vehicle use at the Oak Ridge plant. Another award was for pollution prevention projects that eliminated more than 275,000 kilograms of waste and saved $542,000. The third award was for identifying historical railroad items and donating them to organziations for future use, rather than discarding them and creating additiional waste burdens at taxpayer expense. The project reportedly saved over $40,000 and preserved a number of historical artifacts.

More than 150 projects from the DOE complex were nominated for the awards.

GHG Worse than Thought from Foreign Crude

A press release by Growth Energy highlights a new study that shows greenhouse gas emissions of gasoline from foreign oil are at least twice what was previously thought when the indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to military operations in the Middle East are taken into account. The study is published in “Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining”.

The study comes as indirect GHG emissions has been made a major issue by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) as it prepares to approve regulations for its Low Carbon Fuel Standard. In a CARB staff report submitted to the board for adoption, biofuels are the only fuel that has indirect effects included in their carbon accounting. Despite this new study, no indirect effects are included for petroleum-based fuels. Critics of California’s regulations have argued that applying an indirect penalty to biofuels is unfair as it sets different standards for determining a fuel’s carbon intensity. California currently imports more than 45 percent of its oil from foreign sources.

“This research is the latest example of significant indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions that the ARB has either overlooked or ignored. It is incomprehensible that ARB staff would suggest penalizing biofuels for indirect effects, when it is clear gasoline – ethanol’s primary competitor – has a whole host of indirect effects that have not been accounted for,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “In light of this important research, ARB has to delay the adoption of an indirect penalty for biofuels until the indirect effects of all other fuel pathways have been determined so that the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is fair and equitable.”

To view the entire study, click here.

Zoi Appointed to DOE as Assistant Sec. for EERE

zoiPresident Obama announced the nomination of Cathy Zoi as the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Ms. Zoi has a history of working in the energy sector including: being the founding CEO of the Alliance for Climate Protection; Chief of Staff in the White House Office on Environmental Policy; and manager at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency where she pioneered the Energy Star Program.

Zoi will face the task of helping President Obama deliver on a promise that was central to his campaign: ending American dependence on foreign oil by focusing on renewable energy sources that in the bargain can help create thousands of new, “green” jobs. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama vowed to increase the emphasis on renewable, clean energy. That is a goal the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has been pursuing for years, trying to wean the country from dependence on fossil fuels and find cleaner ways to satisfy its energy needs.

EERE leads the Federal government’s R&D efforts on energy efficiency and manages what it calls “the Department of Energy’s (DOE) diverse energy efficiency and renewable energy applied science portfolio. The mission is to develop and deploy renewable energy sources and conversion technologies, as well as identify efficiency best practices, regulations and technologies that collectively strengthens our economy, protects the environment and increases national security.”

Corn Growers Establish Climate Task Force

The National Corn Growers Association Ethanol Committee has established a task force of corn farmers to focus on climate issues, such as land use change, greenhouse gas emissions, cap-and-trade policies, carbon sequestration and low carbon fuel standards. The team includes farmers from Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Ohio.

NCGA“There is a wealth of information and research on climate change that we need to gather and communicate to our members and policymakers,” said Steve Ruh, chairman of the task force and a farmer in Sugar Grove, Ill. “We also know there is a need for more research to fill the gaps for policy and legislative initiatives that will help us maintain economic and environmental sustainability.”

One immediate project for the task force is a response to the controversial low carbon fuel standard proposed by the California Air Resources Board.

New York Plans for Sustained Renewable Fuel Production

nyserdaThe New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced with a press release that The Pace Energy and Climate Center has been selected to develop a renewable fuels roadmap and sustainable biomass feedstock study that will help guide New York State policy on renewable fuels. The Roadmap was one of several recommendations from Governor David Paterson’s Renewable Energy Task Force report issued in 2008. The project is co-sponsored by the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Agriculture and Markets; who along with NYSERDA will oversee the development of the Roadmap.

“With federal and state policy calling for increased use of renewable fuels to diversify our fuel mix, it is vital that we have a better understanding of the sustainable feedstock resources for continued in-state renewable fuel production,” said NYSERDA President and CEO Francis J. Murray Jr. “The Roadmap will put forth a plan that assesses the economic, environmental, and energy impacts of renewable fuel production while identifying pathways in which energy dollars can be retained within the State.”

The goal of the initiative is to identify the renewable fuels, feedstocks, pathways, and applications that would be sustainable and provide the most benefit to New York State by reducing lifecycle greenhouse gases and dependence on imported fossil fuels. Once the state has a firm understanding on the types of fuels that are sustainable, policymakers can determine how best to bring them to market. Because the renewable fuel industry is changing rapidly, the Roadmap is intended to be updated periodically to identify more economical and sustainable sources of renewable fuels progressing towards carbon neutrality. The Roadmap will address renewable fuels that are currently being used, near-term renewable fuels that are close to contributing to the reduction in fossil fuel use within a three to ten year time horizon, and promising future renewable fuels that may make significant contributions to fossil fuel reductions in more than 10 years.

The Roadmap is scheduled for completion in September, 2009.

New Ethanol Studies Released

The Illinois Corn Growers Association today unveiled two landmark studies on ethanol that conclude production of the biofuel leaves a smaller carbon footprint than gasoline and has substantial room for growth without affecting corn supply to the food and feed sectors.

ICGADr. Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Energy Resources Center, studied the carbon footprint of the Illinois River Energy facility near Rochelle, Illinois which produces 55 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“We looked at the global warming and land use impact of corn ethanol produced at the Illinois River Energy ethanol plant — which is a modern, natural gas fueled facility — on a full life-cycle basis,” said Mueller. “We found conclusively that the global warming impact of the modern ethanol plant is 40 percent lower than gasoline. This is a sizable reduction from numbers currently being used by public agencies and in the public debate. The study also documents the significant net energy benefits of ethanol when compared to gasoline. And, additional opportunities exist to expand that margin even more through technological improvements and on farm changes in corn production that reduce green house gas emissions. Furthermore, corn supply for the ethanol plant was primarily met through yield increases in the surrounding area and, as documented with satellite imagery, without conversion of non agricultural land to corn.”

The study by Ross Korves, economic policy analyst at ProExporter Network, analyzed the consequences of a technology-driven revolution that is occurring throughout America agriculture which would see average corn production increase from 155 bushels an acre today to 289 bushels over the next two decades. The study suggests that sufficient amounts of corn will be available to increase ethanol production from the current level of 7.1 billion gallons last year to 33 billion gallons by 2030 with current technology. The study also factors in increased future demand for corn from both export and livestock (feed) sectors. Korves also looked at the environmental impact of ethanol production, predicting that the global warming impact (GWI) of the average ethanol plant would decline dramatically through increased efficiencies in coming years.

“The GWI of the average ethanol plant is expected to decline 27 percent by 2030,” said Korves. “By that year, the GWI of corn ethanol processed in a plant using a biomass combined heat and power system will be less than one-third of the GWI of gasoline.”

The Illinois Corn Growers Association also announced that the state has become a technological and commercial leader in corn-based ethanol.

Questions, Discussions Dominate Transition Conference

How do we meet carbon reduction goals?
How do we reduce our carbon footprint with biodiesel and ethanol without actually creating more carbon from the production of those biofuels?
What are the trade-offs and benefits we could see between securing our food supplies and our energy security?
And how do we make all these things work while not damaging the environment we seek to save through the use and production of biofuels?

These are all good questions that came out the first session this morning as panelists and audience members at the Farm Foundation’s Transition to a Bioeconomy: Environmental and Rural Development Impacts Conference here in St. Louis.

One of the presenters, John Reilly from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says we must be careful we’re not expanding one environmentally-friendly source just to infringe on another area of the environment.

“Biofuel could be a major, major supplier of fuel in the future and, in principle, could be a low carbon source. But the indirect effects on land use is a large concern.”

Reilly says we must make sure that we don’t convert forests into farmland and lose any benefit that we gain from the production and use of ethanol and biodiesel.

You can hear more of my conversation with Reilly here:

BioDiesel Powers Tracy Lyons ‘Mercury Rising Tour’

Great RaceIt seems even entertainers can’t escape the momentum behind the growing renewable and alternative energy movement. Singer-songwriter Tracy Lyons is launching her ‘Mercury Rising Tour,’ a tour that will highlight alternative and clean energy technologies. Her tour will also operate on biodiesel.

Singer-songwriter, veteran environmental activist and National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) advocate Tracy Lyons launches her 2007-2008 Mercury Rising Tour on October 25 with a concert at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. Lyons’ vision for the tour is to draw additional attention to the issues of global warming, alternative/clean energy solutions and the negative effects that pollution has on our health. A longtime spokesperson for clean and sustainable energy technologies, Tracy Lyons’ call to action regarding environmentalism first came through health issues that she personally experienced related to toxicity poisoning from heavy metals including mercury and lead.

The Eco-Stage for Tracy Lyons’ Mercury Rising Tour will be powered off the grid by environmentally-friendly bio-diesel and will feature a state-of-the-art hydrogen fuel cell. As well, information will be provided on the latest clean energy technologies and education about critical initiatives driving environmental action. The tour’s carbon footprint will be offset by the purchase of carbon credits for anything that can’t be accomplished directly using clean energy technologies.

Announcing WIREC 2008

The United States will host the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference March 4-6, 2008.

WIRECThe conference, which has been held previously in Bonn and Beijing, is an opportunity for government, private sector, and non-governmental leaders to jointly address the goal of advancing renewable energy.

Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky hosted stakeholders in the renewable energy industry last week to announce the conference and discuss their goals.

“This conference will play a key role in addressing energy security and climate change,” she said. “WIREC will also provide a platform to promote strategies for the development and rapid adoption of renewable energy systems worldwide,” Dobriansky says.

USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Tom Dorr also attended the WIREC kickoff to talk about USDA’s involvement in the conference. “It is important in this discussion to remember that renewable energy is in large part rural energy—ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and biomass technology all rely primarily on farm and forest resources, and wind because of its siting requirements is also largely a rural resource,” said Dorr.

Ethanol and Energy Security

e-podcast Weather-related problems that have caused damage to refineries in the Midwest have highlighted the need to diversify our nation’s transportation fuel needs. This issue is not only important for consumers who are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, but also for our country’s overall energy security.

This edition of “Fill up, Feel Good” discusses ethanol’s benefits in terms of energy security and the environment, featuring comments from a Midwest fuel supplier, the organizer of a national summit on energy security and climate change, and a world-renowned explorer and environmentalist.

The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link)
or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:30 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Florida Follows California Energy Lead

CristFlorida Governor Charlie Crist signed three Executive Orders Friday initiating Florida’s energy policy. The signing ceremony concluded the Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change held in Miami this week.

According to the governor’s press office, the Executive Orders carry out Governor Crist’s commitment to reducing Florida’s greenhouse gases and increasing energy efficiency. As a result, Florida will pursue renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, as well as alternative energy such as ethanol and hydrogen.

Governor Crist said, “During the next few months, Florida’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change will develop further recommendations for our state’s long-term climate-friendly efforts.”

Among the provisions in the orders, any purchased state vehicles should be fuel efficient and use ethanol and biodiesel fuels when available. Florida will also adopt the California motor vehicle emission standards, pending approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Crist at the Summit in hosting a roundtable discussion among chief executive officers of business corporations and non-government organizations and also as the luncheon keynote speaker.

Summit on Energy Security

LugarThe 2nd Annual National Summit on Energy Security is taking place today at the National Press Club in Washington DC, presented by 2020 Vision.

This year’s summit has the theme of “National Security and America’s Addiction to Carbon: Solutions to Oil Dependence and Climate Change” and features Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), among many other distinguished speakers.

The event kicked off this morning with a presentation of the first annual Energy Security Leadership Award to Sen. Richard Lugar.

StegerThe day will wrap up with a reception for and presentation by Arctic explorer Will Steger. Mr. Steger has recently finished a four month journey across the Canadian Arctic’s Baffin Island to experience and document how the Inuit culture is coping with global warming. He will present photos and information about this trip, as well as three upcoming trips, at a special VIP reception.

The event has been organized by 2020 Vision, which was formed in 1986 to promote global security and protect the environment. I spoke with executive director Tom Collina about the summit.

Listen to that interview here:

Assist. Secretary of Renewable Fuels Suits Up

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy KarsnerThe agenda for the Ethanol Summit changed at the last minute and just 24 hours before the event, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Andy Karsner, announced he would attend. Andy said ethanol is a key part of the solution to combating global warming. He said ethanol isn’t the silver bullet, but rather part of the silver buck shot. For Andy, it’ll take a number of committed strategies to establish a more green America. It wasn’t all business for the Assistant Secretary though. Andy strapped on an official Ethanol flame-repellent suit and hopped into the hot seat of a replica Ethanol car.

2007 Indy 500 Photo Album

Arctic Explorer On Ethanol and Global Warming

Arctic Explorer Will StegerFortunately, the longest presentation at the Ethanol Summit was one of the most interesting. Will Steger narrated a slide show of his various expeditions across frozen ice lands in Antarctica, the North Pole and the Greenland ice cap. He spoke of temperatures 30 degrees below freezing with 30 mile an hour winds. But, amidst all that freezing cold Will said he witnessed evidence that suggests the reality of global warming. Will said significant climate changes are causing large remnants of ice from the last ice age to break up and begin to melt. He said one ice shelf took him 21 days to cross and in 2002 the entire shelf disintegrated in just a matter of four weeks, and another ice shelf was completely gone a night after he crossed it. Will said these are real affects of global warming – a global warming he says the human population is contributing to and altering. For Will, the diminishing summer sea ice suggests the earth is experiencing what he calls “unnatural climate changes.” I stopped Will just after the summit for a personal interview and asked him why, exactly, these examples are evidence of something more than a cyclical climate change:

2007 Indy 500 Photo Album